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Jules Heller, Class of 1935

Jules Heller, founding dean of the Penn State College of Arts and Architecture (1963-68) and the first chair of the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts, passed away Dec. 28, 2007, due to complications from cancer. He was 88.

Born in the Bronx and raised in Brooklyn, Heller was a groundbreaking artist, art educator, author and arts administrator who wrote several classic textbooks on printmaking and papermaking. In addition to his position at Penn State, he was the founding dean of the faculty of fine arts at York University in Toronto (1968–73) and served as dean of the College of Fine Arts at Arizona State University from 1976 until his retirement in 1985.

Heller first learned to make prints while in high school, and during the following seven decades experimented with all the traditional printmaking techniques, producing wood and linoleum cuts; lithographs, etchings and serigraphs; and a large variety of monotypes, including one-of-a-kind images created via computer. His prints have been displayed in solo and group exhibitions in more than a dozen states and in several foreign countries.

Heller earned his bachelor’s degree at Arizona State University and master’s degree at Columbia University. After serving for five years in the military during World War II, he earned his doctorate at the University of Southern California in 1948. Before he was invited to come to Penn State, he served as head of the fine arts department at the University of Southern California. His teaching career also included visiting professorships in Thailand and Argentina.

Heller’s textbook "Printmaking Today" (1958; second edition 1972) was the first studio handbook ever published on the graphic arts. Another textbook, "Papermaking," was published in 1978. Heller also wrote books about Mexican printmaker Leopoldo Mendez and Uruguayan artist Antonio Frasconi, in addition to an extensive manuscript about the history of female artists, which he began preparing in the 1950s, long before the subject had achieved academic credibility.

After his retirement in 1985, Heller continued exploring new areas of creativity, including learning to use new kinds of software and putting together an outdoor event that combined outsize projections of his prints with music he had composed for the occasion. He received many honors, including the College Art Association’s Distinguished Teaching of Art Award, a Fulbright Fellowship and the Southern Graphics Council’s Printmaker Emeritus Award.

Heller, who also was a professional jazz pianist and an avid fisherman, is survived by his wife, Gloria, two daughters and two grandchildren.

Source: Penn State News