Rodney (Rod) Welling Jr. had a strong influence in the Visual Arts community in the Michael C. Rockefeller Arts Center. Though a Graphic Design major, he was passionate about all the arts and was particularly well known for painting and music. He died, quite tragically, in an automobile accident just a few years after receiving his Fredonia degree in 2001.
In the more than dozen years since his passing, Welling’s legacy in the Department of Visual Arts and New Media endures through the endowment that his own family and friends at Fredonia created through the Fredonia College Foundation and the Rodney W. Welling Memorial Scholarship that it supports to benefit future Visual Arts students. Though they’ll never know him, today’s aspiring artists can appreciate how Rod touched the lives of so many people while succeeding in the arts, and know that they can, too.
For Hannah Shea, an Animation/Illustration major from Ithaca, N.Y., the Welling scholarship helps to fund tuition and lessen the student debt load she’ll incur. “I was honored and grateful to receive the award,” Hannah said.
Sean Welling says his older brother was destined to become an artist, even at a very young age, in a family that was already musically inclined. “He enjoyed going to school and learned how to tap into his talent and make it a whole lot better. He was always a phenomenal artist, but by going to Fredonia and in the classes that he took he learned how to enhance his artistic ability a lot,” Sean said.
“Artistic sketches, paintings, music – he was really big in music – you name it. Photography, videography – he basically did them all.”
The breadth of Rod’s influence in the region was underscored by the turnout at a benefit concert held in his memory at the Village Casino in Bemus Point, N.Y., in May 2006. It was a resounding success, thanks to the hard work done by Rod’s parents, Rodney Sr. and Cyndi; his stepmother, Deirdre Welling; and Sean, along with Visual Arts and New Media Department Secretary Dawn Geary and many friends. Over 600 people attended and successfully raised enough money to fully endow the scholarship.
“We had a lot of bands, a lot of friends. It was very easy to get people involved, as he was so well known,” Sean said. “It was a good way for people to get together and remember him.”
The Welling Scholarship is given to a well-rounded student leader, in his or her junior year, who contributes to the exciting and challenging environment that characterizes Fredonia. It recognizes a student who has a positive work ethic, leadership ability and demonstrated concern for his or her fellow students.
“Art is not just about pictures, it is about understanding the world around us. We are all artists, we each leave a wake that is unmistakably ours,” Rod once said.
Like Rod, Hannah was destined to become an artist, but she was focused on animation. Hannah was initially drawn to Fredonia by tuition rates that were lower than those at other schools that she also applied to and was accepted. But she visited only Fredonia, which her father attended in the 1980s.
“When I stepped foot on campus for the accepted students’ reception, I fell in love with Fredonia and the animation program,” she said. “I still feel the same way today.”
Among many professors, Jill Johnston, head of Animation and Illustration, has been a particularly strong influence on Shea.
“She's always pushed me to carefully consider the technical details of whatever project I'm doing before moving forward with stylistic choices. She cares a lot about the students in her classes and works her hardest to help each one improve.”
One of Hannah’s fondest memories was having an illustration accepted to the Southern Tier Biennial Exhibition in Olean, N.Y. Just 16 artists were accepted. Of note, Hannah was thrilled that works by film Professor Phil Hastings and Ms. Johnston were also chosen, saying that it was an honor to be in an exhibition with two professors.
Hannah has also drawn inspiration from other faculty, such as Dr. Natalie Gerber, Eric Neunfeldt and Joshua Kalscheur, all from the Department of English. Her writing developed a deeper, more serious tone in Advanced Fiction Writing taught by Mr. Neuenfeldt. Through Mr. Kalscheur, Hannah fell in love with poetry. Her professional writing side became more persuasive and concise in Dr. Gerber’s Writing for the Professions course.
“All of these professors influenced my visual and storytelling style, which go hand-in-hand as an animator,” she said. “In order to have a great film, you need a great story. Without these professors spurring me on, I don't think my work would have improved as dramatically as it has since freshman year.”
The Welling scholarship – one of nine awarded each year to Visual Arts and New Media students – provides at least $1,000 for tuition, room and board or miscellaneous expenses. Hannah's also been fortunate to also receive the Fredonia Dean’s Scholar Award, Children of Alumni Award, Carl J. Nordell Memorial Scholarship and Walter Gotowka Family Scholarship.
Having graduated in May, Hannah plans to launch her career in animation at a film studio before branching out on her own.