Nearly every current student and graduate passing through Art Center’s doors has encountered the mentorship and teaching of Stan Kong. While that may be a slight exaggeration, Stan (his chosen moniker over ‘Mr. Kong’) has been responsible for shepherding more students to Art Center than any other. He is a living embodiment of Art Center as both an alumnus (BS 83 Product) and long-time faculty member. Wednesday night over 150 alumni, parents and children of former students, current students, friends and past and present colleagues came together with raised glasses and warm embraces to celebrate Stan’s lasting impact on the institution. The reception included attendees both young and old, as well as legendary (Syd Mead, BS 59 Transportation) and influential (Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard). The student dining room filled with laughter, shouts of, ‘I love you Stan,’ and even a few tear-filled moments. Speeches were given, which included an announcement from Provost Fred Fehlau (MFA 88 Art) awarding Stan the well deserved title of Adjunct Professor.
Stan Kong was recognized for being the definitive mentor. He has been the College’s primary link to the critical pathway from K-12, to community college to Art Center. Throughout the last 30 years, he’s helped guide an average of 100 students each year to reach their educational and professional goals. Over 2,000 individuals have reached their dreams thanks to Stan’s advocacy and mentorship.
Usually a celebration of this sort happens when a person retires or otherwise leaves an institution. But Stan Kong isn’t going anywhere. Kristine Bowne, executive director of Art Center’s Alumni Relations office decreed, “it’s time to recognize the impact and sacrifice of many of our iconic alumni while they are still here, continuing to make an impact.” Alumni Relations organized the celebration to let Stan know how much he is appreciated, admired and loved by the Art Center community.
The outpouring of love started weeks before the event, with the RSVPs.
- “Wow! This could not be more deserved!!!! Way to go Art Center for recognizing Stan’s contribution to the professional lives of COUNTLESS Art Center Alumni. He has been instrumental in the formative years of my design education. Thank you for celebrating and giving him the recognition he deserves.” -Hrag Nassanian (BS 00 Product), Senior Product/Bag Designer at Nike and former faculty member.
- “Stan has the amazing capacity of motivating, educating, inspiring and distilling the best from his students. He has been a true gift to Art Center and Pasadena City College, and I hope he realizes how important his contribution has been to the lives of so many alumni.” -Tom Capiau (BS 96 Transportation), Manager Energy & Sustainability, Egemin Automation, Belgium.
- “My heart is extremely proud and happy to know that Stan is receiving this well deserved recognition for his many years as a dedicated teacher and mentor to young designers. He belongs to the league of ‘great teachers’ at Art Center.” -Rosa Maria Farrer, former Art Center colleague.
Similar sentiments were left in a memory book at the event, including one that perhaps echoes everyone’s feelings about Stan, “I always feel better after I talk to you.” Gary Meyer (BFA 59 Illustration).
Stan’s career in education began at Art Center’s Saturday High, where he was in charge of teaching and revamping an industrial design class for high school students. Based on his success with that class, he moved on to teaching at Art Center at Night (ACN), and eventually transitioned to the college’s undergraduate program. Today, in addition to teaching at ACN, Stan teaches in the Graduate Industrial Design program and is the head of the Product Design program at Pasadena City College. “It’s funny, because after graduating from Art Center, teaching was way down on the list of what I thought I would end up doing,” Stan told the Dotted Line a few years ago. “I’m not even sure it was on the list at all. But it ended up being something I enjoyed and that was really good for me.”
As a teacher, Stan focuses on working with students who find themselves in a similar situation to his own three decades ago—a creative kid with no idea of what to do with his life. As the son of a grocer, he empathizes with young people who are not aware of the variety of career opportunities for artists and designers, as well as those whose parents haven’t supported them entering creative fields.
Fighting the bias against creative careers is a major focus for Stan these days. He wages the battle on several fronts: as a member of the executive board of directors at the community-based arts institution Armory Center for the Arts; as a founding member of Art Center’s Legacy Circle, an alumni-led group of volunteers who support students through financial contributions; as a founding member of the 120 Group, an Art Center alumni-based organization that promotes awareness of art and design educational and career opportunities to underrepresented populations; and as member of the advisory board and career development committee for the Pasadena Visual Arts & Design Academy (VADA), an organization building bridges between the Pasadena Unified School District and Pasadena-based art and design institutions, including Art Center.
Every college deserves a Stan Kong. We are lucky enough to have the real thing.