Professor Appreciation Week: H. Alexander Rich, Ph.D.

May 5, 2022

by FSC Staff

Business Administration major Katelynn Caruthers ‘22 had no problem identifying a teacher who has had an impact on her at FSC.

“My favorite professor I have had during my time at Florida Southern College has been Dr. Rich,” said Katelynn. “Dr. Rich has been my favorite professor since I took my first Western Art History class with him my freshman year.”

As the George and Dorothy Forsythe Endowed Chair in Art and Museum Studies and the Executive Director of the Polk Museum of Art, Dr. H. Alexander Rich, Ph.D., has a strong presence in the Art History Department.

After her initial art class with Dr. Rich, Katelynn jumped at every opportunity to take whatever classes Dr. Rich offered. In addition to minoring in Marketing, Katelynn added a minor in Art History because of how much she fell in love with learning about the subject from Dr. Rich. Katelynn said his classes have always felt like a welcoming space for ideas and discussion, and he has given her a place to be both creative and learn so much about history through learning about the art of the time.

“My favorite class taken with Dr. Rich was Modern Art, just because that period contains my favorite artists to learn about, and it takes place during a time in history that I am most familiar with,” Katelynn said.

Katelynn is currently enrolled in Contemporary Art, her fifth and final course with Dr. Rich. She has also taken Survey Western Art, History of Photography, and Modern Art and 18th and 19th Century. She loved each class.

“When I arrived at Florida Southern to head the art history program, I could never have imagined the growth of the program itself, diverging into its own dedicated department of Art History and Museum Studies, nor the incredible opportunities we would be able to foster and offer experientially for our students in the space of our college’s academic museum, an affiliation that came to be only in 2017,” said Dr. Rich, who joined the FSC faculty in 2014.

Dr. Rich believes teaching is the greatest profession of all, and the best part about it is the students. He cannot imagine his life as anything other than as a teacher or a professor. Dr. Rich believes one of the most fulfilling parts of being a teacher is seeing those “epiphanic moments” of realization from a student.

“…when something just clicks, or a student suddenly sees a work of art or learns about an artist they have never learned about before, falling in love with a masterpiece or hidden gem or its history immediately. It’s those ‘aha’ moments, those smiles, those giggles at a silly joke or weird anecdote I tell, those unforced humanizing opportunities to connect, that make everything about this job the greatest possible career path imaginable,” he said.

Dr. Rich sees everything he does through a professorial lens, even when he is working as the director of the Polk Museum of Art, or as its curator. He says he tries to wear a professorial hat, envisioning everything with education and positive intellectual growth in mind. He focuses on the importance of collegiality, tolerance, and treating one another well in his classroom, and hopes his students can appreciate his appreciation for them and for the diversity of experiences, identities, and backgrounds they represent.

“I love being an educator for the enormous privilege of helping to enrich peoples' lives and build their knowledge for the better,” Dr. Rich said. “I cannot think of anything more rewarding than being granted that opportunity to work with eager learners within the classroom — and without.”

Professor Appreciation Week is held in the first full week of May of each year. The week provides an opportunity for students and school officials to show their appreciation for the hard work professors do. Several Florida Southern College students shared who their favorite professors are and why they appreciate them.