Plymouth, N.H.—The route to graduation has been somewhat circuitous for Tamara and Brad White, but both say it has been worth the twists and turns in the road.
Brad had attended Plymouth State a number of years ago, but had to drop out and go to work when his old car died. Living in the Plymouth area, he worked as a baker’s helper and then head baker for the dining contractor at Plymouth State, and moved on to several other jobs in the restaurant industry. He knew he could always make a living.
Tamara, a dozen years his junior, came to New Hampshire to work at Rockywald-Deephaven Camp where Brad also was working that summer, and she says, “We really did fall in love on Golden Pond.” After they married in 1988 the two moved to California and Florida to pursue work opportunities, but New Hampshire always beckoned. Tamara and Brad moved back to New Hampshire in 1996 with their 4- and a 6-year-olds because they knew it would be a good place to raise children.
Now those children are in college, and so are their parents. Tamara and Brad graduated with honors from Plymouth State University May 22 with Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) degrees and minors in anthropology.
Son Aaron will follow in another year with a degree in English, also from PSU. And then there’s Brad’s older daughter, Rachel Belmont. She graduated from PSU in 2006 with an M.Ed. in Integrated Arts and taught art history in the Department of Art as adjunct faculty. Rachel has ties to PSU from both sides of her family.In addition to Brad, her mother and numerous aunts, uncles and cousins are Plymouth State alumni. She remembers living in family housing at PSU as a toddler.
Rachel’s interest in art developed through conversations with her father and Tamara in her high school years and early 20s that helped to shape her direction. She says the role reversal of teaching in the same department where her parents were students was an interesting experience. “Our interests are very similar, but they are better at making art than I am. I love reading and studying and talking about the world through an artistic lens, more than through a political perspective, and I believe that experience will make me a better teacher,” she says.
Only the youngest daughter, Zoe, left the fold and is attending Bryant University in Rhode Island. But she was with with the family on Saturday to celebrate her parents’ graduation.
The tangible representation of Tamara and Brad’s PSU career was on view at the Karl Drerup Art Gallery at PSU, where both had senior capstone projects in the 2010 BFA exhibition. And the Whites have just been notified that BFA works by each have been selected for PSU’s upcoming Presidential Juried Exhibition, a biannual juried show of student works selected specifically for exhibition in the President’s Office.
While Tamara’s pieces for the BFA are whimsical and anthropomorphic to illustrate the human connection with pottery, her first passion is functional pottery, which she says, “enhances people’s lives.” For several years she and others in the department have made bowls for Empty Bowl fundraisers in Plymouth, and sold pieces at the biannual Art Department pottery sales.
For two summers she has taught in the PSU Arts in Education Summer Institute. She has participated in numerous art exhibitions and juried shows, and in 2008 one of her works received a PSU President’s Award and was selected for the university’s permanent collection. She also had a piece selected as Best in Show in the 2008 and 2010 Juried Student Exhibitions at PSU. Tamara is a member of Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society and Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges. She expects to continue on to an MAT degree beginning in the fall. She says, “Plymouth has been just right for our family—the size of the University, the intimacy of the classroom and the individual attention from faculty is a perfect mix.”
Brad works in two- and three-dimensional form, and his capstone project enabled him to experiment in abstract two-dimensional art featuring strong contrasts and color hues on surfaces ranging from board to stretched canvas and paper. With more than 160 academic credits on record in sociology, psychology, anthropology, first aid, art history and math for design during his several forays into higher education, Brad is proudest of the work he has done toward his BFA.
With Tamara, Brad coordinated the Sandwich Fair Art Exhibition from 2006-2008, serving as a judge two of those years, and has exhibited and sold his own work in multiple venues, including a digital print of a drawing selected by a panel of judges for the National Coalition of Artists of Democracy exhibition at PSU’s Lamson Library and Learning Commons. He also had a solo exhibition of his paintings at the library in 2008 and a Plexiglas etching print in the 2008 Poetry and Art exhibition at the library. He says, “You are never too old to sharpen the pencil—education keeps it from getting dull.” He plans to continue his studies at the graduate level with an ultimate goal of teaching drawing and painting in college.
Department of Art Chair Cynthia Vascak says, “Brad and Tamara are two extremely dynamic individuals who truly exemplify a lifelong love of learning, enduring curiosity and passion for art making that permeates their lives and enriches the lives of those who work with, learn with and create with them. So too, their love of service and giving and their generosity of spirit. Their family and our PSU family have become inextricably intertwined throughout our mutual learning journey … a journey filled with many obstacles and challenges, multiple sources of inspiration, great compassion, vision, perseverance, hope, incredible achievement and great love.”