Memorial set to remember art professor and his work

A memorial service for Richard Beckman, a respected artist and USF professor, will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday in the Phyllis P. Marshall Center Ballroom. Beckman died Christmas Day, much to the shock of his students and fellow faculty members, who are still trying to cope with the loss.

He was 47.

“It should always be an exciting thing to come to school and to participate in new art projects, but I think that now there is a kind of sadness around,” said Elena Vee, a former student of Beckman’s.

A graduate of the University of New Mexico with a master’s in fine arts, Beckman came to the Tampa area in 1991 with his wife Colleen and joined the USF art department.

“Beckman was extremely popular, dedicated and (a) devoted teacher,” said Wallace Wilson, director for the School of Art and Art History. “His highlights focused on interaction with students, faculty, staff and teaching.”

Even students who did not always see eye-to-eye with Beckman respected the man and his art.

“He and I did not always have the best working experiences, but as a teacher on the whole, I would say nothing (bad) about him, because I have seen him get great results out of most of his students in general,” said Nick Sebetto, art student and director of the USF Centre Gallery.

Beckman received several awards including three Outstanding Teacher Awards, the President’s Award for Faculty Excellence and two research and creative scholarship awards.

“I think he was probably one of the most-loved faculty (members) this program has ever had,” professor of 3-D art Rozalinda Borcila said. “He was always revising his course work, he was always dissatisfied with what he was teaching and was always reinventing himself as a teacher.”

Coupled with the accolade received as a teacher, Beckman has been honored as an artist by having his pieces displayed in several prominent cities around the United States, including Chicago, New York, Atlanta, Miami and Albuquerque.

In anticipation of the impact that Beckman’s death was going to have on the USF art community, Dean of the Visual and Performing Arts Ron Jones contacted Dr. Olga Skalkos at the Counseling Center for Human Development and asked her to hold meetings with his faculty and staff to address Beckman’s death.

“There seemed to be a need for having the public record information as well as an opportunity to address whatever concerns they had in terms of the student body and those who worked closely with Richard,” Skalkos said.

The Counseling Center is providing assistance to anyone in need and Skalkos said that the support staff has been asked to be extra sensitive to those seeking help in relation to Beckman’s suicide, which the Hillsborough County Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed as the cause of death.

“It seems to me what is really important is to focus on how this community is now coming together to remember him and to actually keep what we have gained from having him around with us,” Borcila said. “That has to do with the memorial service. It also has to do with how his students are regrouping. Even though they are highly impacted, they are being extremely professional. They are working very hard to create a very good working environment in our shop.”

The students of the College of Visual and Performing Arts have set up a scrapbook of Beckman’s work, located in the Visual Resource Center, FAH 236 or at .

A scholarship fund has also been established by Beckman’s family. Donations should be made payable to USF FAH 110, Tampa, FL  33620-7350.

Kimberleigh Rice, Brad Bautista and Thomas Pedicini contributed to this report.