Photo: Waubonsee Community College Assistant Professor of Art and Ceramics Doug Jeppesen has been named Outstanding Faculty Member for 2011. He is seen here demonstrating his craft at the 2009 Aurora ArtWalk. Courtesy Photo
SUGAR GROVE—College faculty are responsible for “building” programs in a variety of ways, from helping recruit students to developing coursework. It’s only a select few, however, who get to actually build lasting physical structures and learning facilities, and Waubonsee Community College Assistant Professor of Art and Ceramics Doug Jeppesen falls into that elite category. For all of the tangible and intangible ways he has built Waubonsee’s ceramics program, Jeppesen, of Sugar Grove, has been named the college’s Outstanding Faculty Member for 2011.
While an undergraduate student at the University of Tulsa, Jeppesen was not on the path to becoming a teacher — until he met visiting artist and professor Jim Tanner.
“He was prolific in his career as an artist while also being a teacher,” Jeppesen said. “The idea of giving the information and knowledge you had gained back was something I really liked. Plus, I’d get to be in the studio all the time.”
Jeppesen’s path to the classroom was confirmed for him shortly after he started teaching ceramics courses for children at Waubonsee.
“The first day I walked into the building, my mouth dropped open and I decided teaching here full-time was the job I wanted.”
He got it in 1998 and feels like he hasn’t really worked a day since.
“I really, really enjoy what I do,” Jeppesen said. “For my wife (a high school Spanish teacher) and me, our jobs are not jobs; they’re what we do for our lives.”
The other thing Jeppesen does for his life is to create artwork. His pieces have been exhibited across the country, at such shows as the Teapot Invitational at the College of Lake County; the San Angelo National Ceramic Competition in San Angelo, Texas; and Muddy’s Annual Wood Fire Classic in Santa Ana, Calif.
“I have to continue to make artwork and be that example for my students,” Jeppesen said. “If I’m not doing it, how can I expect them to do it?”
And when it comes to ceramics, there isn’t much Jeppesen and his students can’t or won’t do, including designing and building kilns. In fact, the Sugar Grove Campus’ extensive outdoor kiln yard is one of Jeppesen’s proudest achievements. He and his students have grown it from a 20’ x 20’ shed with just a few kilns to a large outdoor structure housing six kilns, including an extremely unique Anagama kiln that is one of just three in the state.
According to Jeppesen, the kiln yard has become a showpiece thanks to the support of the Waubonsee administration and the help of the Campus Operations staff.
“They’ve been great about letting me borrow and training me on all their equipment, like forklifts and bobcats,” he said. “I’ve been able to teach my students that you have to be willing to get in there and do things yourself.”
Jeppesen wants his students to become familiar not only with the equipment and tools used by modern-day ceramics artists, but also with the artists themselves. He has worked hard to maintain a thriving visiting artist program that draws at least one professional artist each semester.
“That is the most important thing I can do — expose my students to as many people out there working in this field as possible,” Jeppesen said.