Don Kubly passed away yesterday at the age of 93.
He was an alumnus, our second president, an influential leader, a colleague, mentor and friend.
A native of Pasadena, Kubly came to Art Center to study Advertising, quickly earning a reputation as one of the school’s best students.
“We wanted to be leaders in the field, so it wasn’t a matter of training, but a matter of truly understanding,” Kubly said in a 2010 interview. “A school like ours was unusual back in those days.”
Kubly met his wife, Sally, while both were students at the College’s first campus on Seventh Street in Los Angeles.
“When Don asked my father if he could marry me, my father told him that if we did, he would have to take on my Art Center tuition,” Sally remembered in a 2010 interview. “That’s what motivated Don to begin teaching, that tuition payment.”
After graduating in 1949, he landed a job at N.W. Ayer & Son in Philadelphia, one of the country’s leading advertising agencies. Serving as a senior art director for more than 16 years, Kubly won numerous gold medals and other top awards for his creative work.
In 1963, Kubly returned to Art Center to work with College president Tink Adams as assistant to the director, teaching and managing the school’s day-to-day operations.
In 1969, Kubly was named the second president of the College, a position he held until retiring in 1985.
The time during which he spent as College president was one of great growth and change at Art Center. Kubly oversaw significant growth in enrollment—expanding from 700 full-time students to more than 1,200 in a short period of time.
One of his biggest accomplishments at the College was the creation of the Hillside Campus in Pasadena. Kubly spearheaded the school’s 1976 move from Hancock Park to its present location, hiring the architectural firm of Craig Ellwood Associates to design a building that reflected Art Center’s educational philosophy.
“I admired Ellwood’s work,” Kubly said in a 2010 interview. “He had terrific taste, but he also was very practical. He was an easy guy to work with designing our own house, and we thought that he would be perfect for what Art Center wanted to do. Hillside Campus was a great accomplishment. It turned what was a really keen little school into a full-fledged college of art and design.”
The result was a steel and glass structure that produced a minimum impact on the hills of Linda Vista. The building is an official historic landmark in the city of Pasadena.
“I have a great sense of having accomplished something worthwhile in helping this institution come to be one of the most respected institutions of its kind in the world,” Kubly said in a 1999 commencement address.
“But most of all, I take great pride in the quality of the young people that graduate from Art Center.”
A public celebration of Kubly’s life will be held at Art Center on Saturday, July 30, at 5 p.m. in the Ahmanson Auditorium. More information will be coming soon.
In lieu of flowers, gifts may be made to the Kubly Family Scholarship at Art Center College of Design.