A lengthy legacy comes to a close

By Caroline Lanni

Staff Writer

After getting back from Japan in the fall of 1988, Derrick Te Paske received a book, “Introduction to Media Studies,” that changed his life.

While in Japan, Te Paske and his mentor Jeff Baker from Framingham State University worked on the film, “MISSION OF MERCY.” This was an hour documentary about Charles Stevenson which drove Te Paske into the media industry.

Te Paske, a professor of communication arts, is now 74 and will retire this spring from the job he has done for 31 years. Te Paske is also the chair of the Communication Arts Department.

He moved from Iowa to New England in the late 1960s. Te Paske said he graduated and walked across the stage at Grinnell College in Iowa to receive his diploma in 1968 with a bachelor’s degree in English.

Between 1968 and 1969, Te Paske got his master’s degree in education from Boston College. After this, he knew he wanted to pursue teaching.

At the time, Baker was chair of the Communication Arts Department and Te Paske eventually ended up becoming Baker’s apprentice.

After Baker and Te Paske wrapped up their film in Japan together, he said Baker turned to him and said, “Let me know on Monday if you wanna teach.”

Then, the small-town boy met the big city – “I fell in love with Boston,” said Te Paske.

Three weeks later, he walked into Whittemore Library room 221 ready and eager to teach his first photography class at FSU.

While also teaching, he got his Ph.D. in 1994 and soon after became chair of the Communication Arts Department. He has served as chairman for 19 years, he said.

He once aspired to be a biologist, then a photographer, and ultimately became a communication arts professor.

As time went on, he immersed himself into the role of department chairman by getting to know his students, which is the department’s main goal. 

Semester after semester, frantic students went to Te Paske’s office, not only to ask for help, but to be guided to the solution for their future.

Students lined up outside of his office with their override forms ready. “The best part of being a chair is doing the retail stuff, helping students when they are jammed up,” he said.

Professor of Communication Arts Christopher Bowen said, “I would love to emulate that, to see how he thinks of students, and how we’re all here to help the students the best we can.”  

Over his career, Te Paske has taught Senior Seminar, Creative Process, Photography, Media/Society/Self, and Media Criticism.

Te Paske said he will miss his career because he has done it for so long, “It goes by like that.” 

Bowen said he realized he won’t have a valuable senior leader available to assist him anymore after the spring semester is over, “Him being the chair is a great resource,” said Bowen.

The Communication Arts Department will look for similar structural ways of doing things especially when Te Paske leaves, due to losing such a “good resourceful member” of this department, said Bowen.

He said, “He’s very creative, and it’s really great to have that outside professional existence.” 

“It’s the question everyone asks,” said Te Paske – “What will you do when you retire?”

Grinning from ear-to-ear, he said he will “very happily fill my days and make art.”

Te Paske said he escapes into his basement – his artistic world. He enjoys working on sculpture art and photography. He even owned a gallery for four years.

Te Paske is currently a member of the American Association of Woodturners and the New England Sculptors Association. His work has been shown in many New York galleries.

Junior Michaela Cronin said, “Professor Te Paske brings in his art to show the class and it shows how passionate he is about art.”

Te Paske said, that in his Creative Process class, many students have said, before taking this course they didn’t think they were creative, but now they know they are.

“He is invested and funny, as he cares about the class he is teaching,” said Cronin.

Te Paske said he is saddened to leave FSU, but believes it is time. 

As the leaves change colors next fall, he will ask himself, “Why am I not heading to campus?”

“I’ve gotten so used to what I do. It will be a new change for sure,” he said.

Looking around his office, visitors will see a plaque for the Faculty of the Year Award from 1997-1998.

Te Paske’s lengthy teaching career at the University lasted 31 years, five months, and a few days.

He said, “You need to prepare to be lucky.”

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