Western Nevada College faculty are taking time to remember one of their own, Harold LaVigne. The collegeâ€™s first professor of fine arts and humanities, died recently at age 80. Intellectual and insightful, LaVigne left an impression on students and faculty members in 25 years at the college.
LaVigne spent much of his time teaching art classes, but his expertise and interests covered a wide range of topics.
â€œHarold was the only true Renaissance man (I) knew. His expertise was in no way limited to art history and painting,â€ said retired English professor Jim Kolsky, who joined the college at about the same time as LaVigne. â€œHis knowledge of literature, for example, was certainly greater than mine, and then add philosophy, astronomy and even astrology. He thought deeply, asked the right questions and devoted his life to the humanities. He chose teaching to share his insights into the human condition.â€
Dr. Winnie Kortemeier, a WNC professor of geosciences, recalled recalled LaVigneâ€™s housekeeping suggestion to her at the end of the semester.
â€œHarold came by when I was cleaning and grumbling and told me I should do what he did: wait until the beginning of the next semester and just sweep it all into the trash can and start over. Sage advice!â€
Julie Lewis-Dewitt, an assistant in the Admissions and Records office, remembers how students gravitated to his easy-going demeanor and teaching style.
â€œHarold’s drawing class in the far northwest upstairs classroom in the Aspen Building was my favorite class ever,â€ she said. â€œ8 a.m., we walked in to that gorgeous view of our mountains, and KUNR playing on the radio, so soothing and civilized a way to start a day. His manner was so mellow and the whole room seemed to just embrace you. I think he just oozed that â€˜Hakuna Matataâ€™ vibe!â€
Lewis said LaVigne gave students the confidence to express themselves through art.
â€œHe issued each student a card which said, â€˜Artistic License.â€™ I still have mine. I will always remember him fondly. I’m glad he’s part of my memory, and I know my life is richer for having experienced him.â€
Stephanie Arrigotti, who launched the collegeâ€™s music program in 1977, remembers the contributions LaVigne made during the time they worked together.
â€œHarold touched many lives in this city. He worked alongside many current WNC faculty for more than a decade,â€ Arrigotti said. â€œI join with all who worked with him in sending warmest thanks and blessings for all he did for this college and for this community.â€
In his retirement, LaVigne was part of a small group of fellow former WNC professors who met regularly to discuss politics, education, art, war, etc.