Terry Eiler stands in front of a crowd during his surprise retirement party at the Dairy Barn April 27. Eiler, a 28-year educator at Ohio University, will return in the fall to teach graduate courses in the School of Visual Communication. / Photos by Megan Westervelt
Eiler steps down as director of VisCom, will continue to teach
Alumni, friends honor longtime educator with reception, book
By Erin Roberts
ATHENS, Ohio (May 20, 2013)—Terry Eiler, a longtime professor of visual communication at Ohio University, stepped down as director of the School of Visual Communication earlier this spring. Faculty, students, alumni and friends of the school honored him at a surprise party held in conjunction with the opening of the VisCom student exhibit opening at the Dairy Barn Art Gallery on Saturday, April 27.
Eiler stated that he stepped down as director of the department on April 15 but retired as professor.
"Chuck Scott is the only director emeritus," Eiler said. Eiler and Scott, also Eiler's father-in-law, started the program together 38 years ago, and Scott retired 10 years ago at the age of 78, when Eiler took over as director.
Scripps College of Communication Dean Scott Titsworth says Eiler has been instrumental in the College’s success.
“Professor Eiler is truly one of the individuals upon which the Scripps College of Communication has built its reputation of excellence,” Dean Titsworth said. “His work with students, both at the graduate and undergraduate level, has echoed a legacy by which we always be held accountable. Terry cares deeply about the School, College, University, and most importantly, the students. His values helped drive a standard of success in the School of Visual Communication that is nearly unmatched.”
Eiler received his undergraduate degree from Ohio University in 1966, and then began a graduate program at University of Missouri, where he met his wife, Lyntha Scott Eiler. The two returned to Athens, where Eiler received his Master of Fine Arts Degree at Ohio University before he and Lyntha were hired to cover an assignment about Havasupai Indians for National Geographic magazine. After completing the assignment he returned to Athens to collaborate with Chuck Scott and found what would become the prestigious School of Visual Communication at Ohio University.
Throughout the years since, Eiler has mentored numerous students, raised the prestige of the School of Visual Communication and founded and run the Scotland Field School, a popular 32-day summer photography program for Ohio University students.
The retirement celebration at the Dairy Barn brought alumni from the original "Dirty Dozen" graduate student class (the first graduate class to complete the two-year program), members of Eiler's family, and much reminiscing among faculty and current students about all the lives that Eiler has transformed since helping to start the program.
Michael Christopher Brown, a photographer currently working on a book of the images he captured during the Libyan conflict, said Eiler “facilitated a process of personal and photographic maturation” for him when he came to the graduate program at the age of 23.
“With an experienced hand and humorous wisdom, Terry helped to shape the lives of thousands of students who passed through his hallways, including myself, for the better - and this great service will be remembered always,” he said.
Dean Titsworth says he is thankful for Eiler’s work as a member of the faculty and of the leadership team.
“His influence extends far beyond Athens, Ohio,” he said. “In fact, our primary competition from other schools is generally from those led by people trained at Ohio University. His vision for excellence not only established a legacy, but also a course for the future as the School extends its expertise into digital, mobile, and social media. As a result, the positive influence of Terry will be continued for many years to come. “
An entire book of stories and images to honor Eiler has been compiled from the submissions of alumni and friends who attest to his influence on their lives. One of the submissions, from Milbert O. Brown, Jr., MA ’82, ends powerfully: “Terry Eiler’s finishing school at Ohio University took us in like raw metal and refined us into shiny steel swords.”
Eiler will return in the fall to continue teaching graduate classes. For more on Eiler’s career and influence in the industry, visit https://nppa.org/node/55879.