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Photo: Fran Ho

Fran Ho

Giving back from the heart

Fran Ho provides students, community with the opportunity to learn from visiting artists

By Phyllis Shier, College of Liberal Arts

As a professor of fine arts at WSU, Fran Ho believed that learning from students was as important as teaching them. With that philosophy at the foundation of his 37-year teaching career, it is no surprise that former students often cite him as a favorite professor.

"I believe that being a student of higher education anywhere is to experience the best of what any major field of research is capable of providing," said Ho, who served as area coordinator of WSU's fine arts photography curriculum before he retired to Seattle in 2004.

An award-winning photographer in his own right, Ho is humble about the impact he made on his students and focuses instead on connections made with them and with his colleagues.

"I viewed my students and colleagues of the Department of Fine Arts and staff of the WSU Museum of Art as an extension of my family."

Shared inspiration

Ho developed his teaching philosophy from his family in Hawaii, and from a few exemplary educators and friends who inspired him.

"Throughout my student years and career, I was fortunate to have good guidance and encouragement by my family, former teachers, colleagues, friends, and former students," he said. "I was constantly discovering new thought and directions in ways of seeing."

The Francis T. Ho Endowment will encourage collaboration between the Department of Fine Arts and the Museum of Art. It will fund an annual public lecture and exhibition at the museum by a single artist or group of artists, preferably featuring photography or photo-based art. Funds to the fine arts department will support workshops, demonstrations, and student meetings with the visiting artists.

Teaching as a two-way street

Teaching the mechanics of photography and its short history was a critical part of his job, Ho said, but it was also the part that was mainly routine.

"The only major shift in photographic image making occurred within the past 15 years, when technology evolved from a wet chemical process—that continues to be embraced by the world since its widely accepted invention in 1839—to the digital images of today."

The fun and creative aspect of teaching courses like wet process of film and printing, he said, was working with those students who shared his interest in perfecting technique, translating artistic vision into the expression of a visual idea.

"I attempted to practice and teach photography in this manner and always felt like I had infinitely more to learn than I could possibly teach," Ho said. "I am grateful to any student who left with a favorable impression of me. My effort to become an effective teacher made my whole career worthwhile."

A great place to learn

Ho said the WSU fine arts department attracts many gifted students, locally and worldwide, because it maintains good facilities, a strong curriculum, and a dedicated faculty of distinction.

His endowment will help to ensure that outside professional influences are also core to future learning experiences, even during difficult economic times.

"Students as well as the community can experience a high level of art each year because of carefully planned exhibitions and invited state and national guest artists," he said of his hopes for his gift.

Giving back: A spiritual journey

By providing incoming students opportunities to learn from visiting artists, Ho will continue to influence art education at WSU in perpetuity.

That knowledge provides him with a sense of well-being that can be traced back to ancient times.

"The Hindu celebration of Kumbh Mela is a holy pilgrimage from the mouth of the Ganges River to its source in the Himalayas made by millions of people as a single act of faith to seek the majesty of God," he said. "In a humble and grateful way, I want my endowment to be what the spirit of Kumbh Mela implies—to be a part of something big while doing something small.

"Funding the endowment is my way of saying 'thank you,'" Ho said. "I wish WSU and the community continued interest in fine arts."

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Leaving a legacy at WSU

Many people choose to leave a legacy at WSU through a bequest. By including a provision in their will or living trust that benefits WSU, they can continue to support the programs they care about, often making a larger gift than is possible during their lifetime.

More than one-third of the University's endowment has come in the form of bequests, creating new scholarships, fellowships, professorships, research funds, support for faculty and student travel, discretionary funds for deans and program directors, and more.

These endowed funds provide a permanent and stable source of support for faculty, students, and programs at WSU.

"If you are interested in including WSU in your estate plan, we want to talk to you," said Ellen Jampol, senior director of development for CLA. "We can discuss the use of your intended gift, give you language to share with your financial advisor, and develop a gift use agreement to ensure that when your gift comes to WSU, it is used as you envisioned."

To begin a conversation about leaving a legacy at WSU, please call Ellen Jampol at 206-448-1331.


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