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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

St. Joe’s art department loses faculty member


Susan Fenton, M.F.A, inspired students to “think outside the box”

Susan Fenton, M.F.A., associate professor of art, died on Nov. 23 of brain cancer at the age of 69.

A Philadelphia native who earned a masters degree in art education from the Tyler School of Art at Temple University and an M.F.A. from Rutgers University, Fenton joined the St. Joe’s staff in 1997 as an adjunct professor and gallery coordinator. She later became a tenured associate professor in 2011, teaching courses in traditional photography.

Fenton took over as chair of the art department at St. Joe’s in June 2018, only a few months before her passing.

Fenton’s death came as a shock to her students and colleagues, as she was diagnosed with brain cancer only three months before her death.

“Susan was very committed to her colleagues, to the department, to her students and to St. Joe’s,” said Emily Hage, Ph.D, interim chair of the art department. “She was not an easy teacher, but the students liked working hard for her.”

Fenton’s students said she was an inspiration to them and helped them discover new talents.

Bethany Zaccaria ’19 said she knew nothing about photography prior to excelling in Fenton’s class, and Fenton inspired her students to be different.

“Her legacy will be just interesting art,” Zaccaria said, “to always think outside the box, and to always be different about it.”

Fenton taught at several universities prior to working at St. Joe’s, including St. Mary’s College in Rome and Temple University, Japan Campus. Her work has been exhibited locally and globally, including in the James A. Michener Art Museum in Doylestown and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, England.

It was not just Fenton’s “mysterious” artwork, as Hage described it, that charmed her colleagues and students. They were charmed by the person she was.

Alexis Yurgin ’19 said Fenton had the ability to brighten a room.

“She was so vibrant,” Yurgin said. “She is what brought Boland [Hall] to life, the light of Boland.”

Fenton’s former office in Boland Hall. PHOTO: MATT BARRETT ’21

Aedan Accardi ’19, another student of Fenton’s, said he admired Fenton’s humility and selflessness.

“She is someone like I’ve never met at St. Joe’s,” Accadi said. “She was more established than I even realized, but she never brought that into class. It was always about you. It was never, ‘My work’s better than yours, you’ll never get there.’”

Jeanne Bracy, gallery coordinator for the Merion Hall and Boland Hall galleries, said Fenton was a kind and generous colleague with a passion for teaching and a fiery spirit.

“Susan was a dynamic person and professor,” Bracy said. “She had a spunky personality that drew colleagues and students to her.”

Hage said the art department plans to have an exhibit of Fenton’s work and the work of her students in the fall.

A memorial Mass will be held on Feb. 5 at 11 a.m. in the Chapel of Saint Joseph, and an exhibition of student photography dedicated by Fenton, “Inspired by Susan,” will be on display in the galleries from Feb 1-June 30.


Mitchell Shields ’22 contributed to this article.

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