This past August, Dallas College honored its longest-serving employees — those who have been with the college for 30 years or longer — by welcoming them into the Blue Diamond Club. At the top of the list is Jim Stover, who has been teaching art at Dallas College for 56 years.
Initially hired at El Centro shortly after the campus opened, he applied for a position at Richland as soon as it opened in 1972.
He’ll tell you his reason for the change: “Parking was outrageous downtown.”
At Richland, he was responsible for putting together the fledgling art department. Today, his mark on Richland is evident as his paintings and artwork can be found all over the campus, from the president’s office to Fannin Hall.
From Brazil to Dallas
Stover’s journey to Dallas College, and to art, is a unique one. Born to American parents in Maceio, Brazil, he grew up speaking Portuguese until age 15 when his parents sent him to study in the United States until he was ready to go to college.
College is where he discovered a love of art and found that it was something he was naturally good at.
“The fact that I communicated different was an asset in the fine arts. Everything that was an asset in the fine arts, I had it.”
He went on to earn his Master of Fine Arts (MFA) from Columbia University in New York, and then started his career as a teacher in Texas. That’s when Stover learned that Dallas College was having a hiring fair. He attended, met Carol Zion and told her he was interested in a teaching position in the art department.
“She hired me right there.”
The rest, as they say, is history.
A How-To Person
When it comes to art, Stover believes that there are three distinct types of people: “I call it the ‘what,’ ‘why’ and ‘how,’” he says.
“What” people, according to Stover, are the artists who design and innovate new items, whether it’s fashion or technology.
“Why” people are the art historians who study and write about art history. They study and explain the “why” behind the art.
“How-to” people, Stover explains, are the ones you contact to help you figure out how to do something. In other words, they’re the teachers.
So, which one is Stover? “I’m a ‘how-to’ person. People come up to me and say, ‘I’ve been trying to do something and can’t get it to work. Can you help me?’”
Reflections On Teaching
Helping people create art is just one of the reasons why he enjoys teaching. His favorite part about teaching, in fact, is learning. Being able to continue learning is what has kept him in the classroom for more than 50 years.
“Anytime I’m learning something and trying to explain it to someone, I get it better. In other words, I’ve known a lot of people who learn, learn, learn but never try to explain it to anyone. They quickly forget it. [Teaching] serves as a way of taking it in, adjusting it, so you can present it to someone else. When you do that, it becomes clear to you what you think you know.”
“As long as I’m needing to explain to students what I’m learning, it’ll keep me in there learning. That’s why I teach.”
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