For 30 years, David Korff walked the halls of St. Clair County Community College’s Fine Arts building as a dedicated professor and chair for the visual and performing arts department.
Korff’s style of teaching was like an art form. His classrooms came alive, showing students that art has a place in whatever field they go into. He wanted students to experience art in a way that could impact their lives.
He loved teaching and never took his job for granted.
David Korff, or as so many of his students referred to him as, “Mr. Korff,” retired from teaching at SC4 this spring. Honored by the school and his colleagues, he leaves with pride.
Teaching hadn’t always been Korff’s first choice.
Even though he was born in Indianapolis, his parents moved a lot.
“I grew up in a lot of different kinds of places,” said Korff, “it wasn’t just one place.”
In his parent household, education was number one priority.
“We had to save every nickel to go to college,” commented Korff. Originally interested in architecture, Korff studied the field in high school and planned to pursue it in college. Once he entered college he found that he hated architecture, but loved art.
Korff told his parents’ that he wanted to change his major to art, which they were okay with, but worried on how he would make a living at it. They recommended teaching. Korff reluctantly said he would look into it. Education became his minor in college.
With his parent approval he transferred to the University of Buffalo in New York. After completing his degrees in Art and Education, Korff became a certified teacher in New York. Able to teach grades K-12. He started student teaching at a high school level and hated it.
“Everything about it was wrong. I didn’t like it at all,” said Korff. “The art room was set up in rows of desks. Who does art like that?”
Korff went on to graduate school with a fellowship in painting. A semester into second term, he asked his professor if he could trade his fellowship for a teaching assistance-ship.
Korff found his calling with teaching at a college level.
Upon finishing his education, Korff taught part time at the University of Ohio while searching for a full time job. He found a job in Sarnia, Canada, where they were building a new Lambton College and in need of professors to start an Art Department. Korff talked it over with his wife Katherine, who was also a teacher and accomplished artist, her specialty was metalsmithing, painting and figure drawing.
Together they expanded the faculty. In those days, about 30 years ago, Lambton College and SC4 had a good relationship; collaborating their English and Art Departments on exhibits.
Katherine Korff was the first to transfer to SC4, teaching a class on metalsmithing. David Korff followed at a later date, when a spot opened. He came over to teach visual arts, and later became chair for both the visual and performing arts departments.
Korff’s goals when coming to SC4 was to open the eyes and minds of a small community whose boundaries were often the county lines. A lot of the students that attended and still do came with a limited background in art. Korff wanted to get them ready to see what was out there in the world through art and Art History.
Korff loved working with beginner student in his foundation classes. Seeing where they started and how much they progressed in 16 weeks, it was like magic.
”This college I believe is an excellent beginning or stepping stone into something much bigger, no matter what area they are going into,” said Korff.
No challenge was too much for Korff. He would adapt to the needs of students, no matter how difficult they may be.
In Art History, students that had little knowledge, or interest, in art found themselves challenged.
“They thought it was a horrible class, but it was required. Or they thought it was going to be an easy class, but they didn’t pay attention to the history part,” Korff commented.
By teaching them to understand art, he opened students’ eyes to the reality of art. And by taking them to see it, opened up new worlds for many.
As he retires, Korff hopes the college will continue their great support for the art department.
“The department would be healthier by having more full time faculty, there would be mentors and an opportunity for somebody to be a spokes person for the arts,” commented Korff. “I believe it is not like any other department. The adjunct professors are here because they love what they are doing and they continue to give and give, and they don’t leave when class is over. They stay because it is their life.”
Korff believes that this community is very fortunate to have a building that says “Fine Arts” on it. It’s a beautiful facility for the theater, and has wonderful studios and gallery spaces.
As David Korff says good bye to SC4 and goes into retirement, he is looking forward to spending time in his studio, and more time with his family.