I had the honor and privilege of helping to present the Star of Texas Award on behalf of the Association of Texas Photography Instructors to Sherri Taylor this past weekend. You can see some photos from the event and read more about Sherri below.
It’s not often that a person comes along that has such a striking impact on so many people.
I first became aware of Sherri when she was an adviser at Irving High School, a school I later taught at. The program at Irving and the program that I was a part of as a student at Westlake High School were friendly competitors and both turned out some amazing photographers. Some of the books she advised, books with themes like “It Suits us to a T” or “Picture This” still rank among the finest high school yearbooks ever produced — especially in an age before desktop publishing.
Then Sherri left to work on her master’s degree at Syracuse University and later joined the faculty. I randomly taught with her at workshops all over the country at Ball State University, the University of Texas and even at Syracuse University where she directs the Empire State Scholastic Press Association. And I enjoyed hanging around with her and her dog, Ollie, while I was working on my master’s degree at Syracuse.
So, on the surface, I knew the impact Sherri had on students and professionals over the country from high school students to professionals in the military photography program at Syracuse.
But when I started preparing to present the award, her impact became even more clear. People were coming out of the woodwork. Photographers who had been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Military photographers of the year. Past presidents of the National Press Photographers Association. Designers. Editors. Educators. Spread out over more than 30 years. Spread out over the entire country.
Sherri represents the ideal educator. Caring. Passionate. Committed. Dedicated.
We tried to keep the award a secret. I’m not absolutely convinced we succeeded. But it was so much fun watching Sherri react as her college roommate and former students came to recognize her achievement.
I’m proud I could play a small part in that.
And I’m proud to call Sherri Taylor a friend.
I hope that, as an educator, I can follow in her lead in some small way.
Syracuse U instructor named Star of Texas
ARLINGTON, TEXAS — In recognition of her contributions to photographic education in Texas for more than 30 years, the Association of Texas Photography Instructors awarded Sherri Taylor the Star of Texas at its annual convention Feb. 26.
Bradley Wilson, a 1997 graduate of Syracuse University’s Maxwell School, now works as an assistant professor at Midwestern State University. He serves as a senior consultant for ATPI but said he remembers attending workshop classes that Taylor taught back when he was in high school.
“Sherri has been inspiring photojournalists, designers and educators for as long as I can remember,” Wilson said. “It was so much fun honoring a person that has truly changed the lives of hundreds if not thousands of people —including me. She has, literally, changed our profession and the way we look at the world.”
And Deanne Brown, ATPI president, said the impact Taylor has had on high school and college students is impossible to measure.
“Early in her own teaching career, she set the gold standard in Texas for building and maintaining outstanding photography and journalism programs,” Brown, newspaper adviser at Westlake High School in Austin, Texas, said. “Despite her successful career move to Syracuse, she has always returned to her roots for summer workshops and annual conventions to help guide and educate students and teachers ‘back home.’ Her wealth of knowledge, approachability and genuine desire to help others coupled with her overall contributions to photography education in Texas embody the spirit of the Star of Texas award. Sherri has been a ‘star’ in many of our hearts for a very long time.”
The 300 or so people present at the awards ceremony at the University of Texas at Arlington included Taylor’s Baylor University roommate, Vivian Jones, Mike McLean, now a professional photographer in Dallas but a former student of Taylor’s at Irving High School, Jeremy Locke, who was named the Military Photojournalist of the Year seven times and who worked with Taylor at Syracuse University but is now based in Dallas.
Taylor, who became only the 16th recipient of the award since ATPI began giving it in 1995, teaches beginning, intermediate and advanced graphic arts classes and develops and coordinates software workshops for beginning graphics courses at Syracuse University. She was an award-winning publications adviser in Irving, Texas and has taught numerous workshops all over Texas.
It was at one of those workshops when she met Jennifer Steele who works in content marketing for Netscout in Plano, Texas.
“While I don’t even remember the courses I signed up for that weekend, I can tell you that I remembered meeting a spunky lady from Irving who opened my eyes to the fact that a story is often more than words and in some cases devoid of them altogether,” said Steele who was also present at the awards ceremony.
Steele later chose to go to Syracuse University to major in magazine journalism.
“She, as many of you know, or will have the pleasure to find out, has a way of inspiring people to try something they may not be sure they are ready for,” she said. “Without a doubt Sherri knows what it takes to prepare young people for the world.”
David Sutherland, an associate professor in the Newhouse School, also acknowledge Taylor’s commitment to education.
“Because she cares about her students, she sets a high standard of achievement for them,” Sutherland said. “Sherri won’t let the students quit until their work meets her expectations. I can’t quit until I’ve met her expectations either. Sherri has made me a better teacher by setting a superior example.”
The compliments didn’t stop there, coming from former students and co-workers, including Bruce Strong, associate professor and chair of the multimedia photography and design department at Syracuse University.
Strong said, “Sherri Taylor is an exceptional teacher and more importantly, an wonderful human being. She cares deeply about her students. Her no nonsense approach in class keeps our students, especially our military students, on their toes. She pushes students to excel, often setting the bar higher than even the students believe is possible, and then patiently (and sometimes not so patiently) propels them over the bar through her teaching and encouragement. She is a one of a kind.”
And Lorraine Branham, dean of the Newhouse School said, “Sherri Taylor is beloved by her students at Newhouse, even the ones who believe she is ‘tough and demanding.’ When I talk to our undergraduate, graduate and military students, no matter what their major, they never fail to mention that her course in graphic design is one of the ‘most useful’ classes they have taken. Students describe her variously as patient, knowledgeable, creative, kind and passionate about design. And they always talk about her wit and sense of humor. To a person they have told me that she makes learning fun. Most of us would agree that is high praise in deed.”
ATPI, a Texas non-profit organization, works to help the photography instructors of all disciplines work to achieve a higher quality of knowledge and teaching of photography.
Photos by Mike McLean, Leah Waters, Rob Mattson and Mitchell Franz
Comments from some of Sherri’s friends
Bruce Strong, associate professor and chair, Multimedia Photography & Design Department
Sherri Taylor is an exceptional teacher and more importantly, an wonderful human being. She cares deeply about her students. Her no nonsense approach in class keeps our students, especially our military students, on their toes. She pushes students to excel, often setting the bar higher than even the students believe is possible, and then patiently (and sometimes not so patiently) propels them over the bar through her teaching and encouragement. She is a one of a kind and I, as the chair of our department, am truly thankful to be working with her here at Newhouse. WE LOVE SHERRI! 🙂
David Sutherland, associate professor, Newhouse School, Syracuse University
Earlier this year one of my freshman photo students came to my office wanting more information about depth of field. Because digital camera lenses won’t stop down when they are off the camera, I picked up my old Nikon F which was on my shelf of antique cameras. I said let me show you with this old film camera.
She said, “What’s film?”
Like many of you, I’ve known Sherri Taylor for a long time. I’ve known Sherri since we were teaching photo workshops with film!
I’ve been so lucky to be able to teach with Sherri for so many years. Sherri has an amazingly broad set of journalism skills. She is an excellent photographer. She is an excellent writer. She is an excellent designer. She is an excellent typographer. She is an excellent editor. She is an excellent picture editor. I don’t know any other person who has such an array of skills. And best of all, she is a superior teacher.
I have worked with Sherri at SU and at summer photo workshops for years and have seen what a wonderful teacher she is and how effective and caring she is with her students.
Because she cares about her students, she sets a high standard of achievement for them. Sherri and I have for many years guided a Syracuse University senior level class through magazine production. The students choose a concept, shoot and write stories and design and produce the magazine. Over the years those magazines have won dozens, if not scores, of awards in scholastic competitions. They have won awards for the entire magazines, and separate awards for design and photography.
Sherri won’t let the students quit until their work meets her expectations.
I can’t quit until I’ve met her expectations either. Sherri has made me a better teacher by setting a superior example.
John Moore, Getty Images photographer and former student
Sherri Taylor, quite simply, started my career in photojournalism. As a junior at Irving High School, I took her Photo 1 class, mostly because I thought it would be fun and easy. With Sherri as my advisor, I very quickly found my passion for pictures and, just as importantly, for journalism. Her standards for me were exacting and I adopted her own work ethic, which was unrelenting. Telling stories was fun, but never easy. By my senior year I was photo editor of both the newspaper and yearbook and my last yearbook was themed “Now Picture This,” which was heavy on the photography. I think I took almost half of the photos in the publication, and most of the other half I reprinted at the end of the year, so that the contrast would be consistent throughout the book. Sherri introduced me to Bob Malish, the 2012 Star of Texas award winner, who also became a mentor and close friend, as did former ILPC chief Bobby Hawthorne. Sherri also encouraged me to study at the University of Texas, where I became a Longhorn and graduated with a degree in Radio, Television, Film, with a dubious record 11 semesters working at UT’s newspaper The Daily Texan. At UT Austin, they say, “What starts here changes the world.” That was true and still is, but my world had changed even earlier due to Sherri Taylor. More than 25 years later, photojournalism is still my passion. Thank you Sherri.
Lorraine Branham, dean, Newhouse School
Sherri Taylor is beloved by her students at Newhouse, even the ones who believe she is “tough and demanding.” When I talk to our undergraduate, graduate and military students, no matter what their major, they never fail to mention that her course in graphic design is one of the “most useful” classes they have taken. Students describe her variously as “Patient, knowledgeable, creative, kind, and passionate about design.” And they always talk about her wit and sense of humor. To a person they have told me that she “makes learning fun.” Most of us would agree that is high praise in deed.
Casey Nichols, California yearbook adviser
I know if Jeff Nardone there, he would say it with me: “Dodge me, burn me.” Sherri was our original American Idol. Our muse. Anything we’ve accomplished was due to Sherri’s guidance. “We love you Sherri.”
Jim Michalowski, upstate New York photographer
My most memorable item (alas, not photo-related) was a Newhouse graphics student being arrested for producing and selling counterfeit licenses to under-aged students to get into bars. The student was quoted as saying “Professor Taylor taught me everything I know!”
Judy Walgren, editorial director at ViewFind, and former director of photography at the San Francisco Chronicle
Sherri Taylor has been building some of the most incredible visual communicators since I can remember! She is a true gem for all of us in the photography/visual communications community.
Margaret Sorrows, retired scholastic media adviser
Sherri is an expert teacher, great motivator of students, has spent a lifetime teaching workshops for student photographers to improve photo skills and develop their photo eyes. Even after workshops are over, Sherri continues to coach and critique students’ work and has been directly involved in writing photo curriculum for classroom teachers.
John Cutsinger, creative account manager with Jostens
There is nothing like a love/hate relationship. I adore Sherri because she allowed herself and her students to show their true colors when Westlake would beat Irving when we were both Texas advisers. What made the relationship so terrific is that the feelings were mutual! Love Sherri’s passion.
Gary Lundgren, associate director, National Scholastic Press Association
How appropriate for ATPI to present Sherri Taylor with its Star of Texas Award. This award suits Sherri to a T — pun intended. Sherri launched her career as an award-winning adviser at Irving High School, and decades later as visual communications professor at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School, she continues to contribute to photographic education deep in the heart of Texas.
In the 1980s, the Irving student newspaper and yearbook were trailblazers in outstanding photojournalism. Sherri rolled up her sleeves and taught photojournalism from the trenches, not the adviser’s desk in the journalism room. From playing fields to classrooms, the Irving photographers were on the scene and Sherri was right there with them, coaching the young shooters on camera usage, lighting and composition and enjoying every minute of it. And after assignments were shot, she followed them into the darkroom for more coaching on film processing and printing.
The results were incredible. Not only were the Irving publications consistently named the best the Texas and America, many of those Irving High School photography students are now legendary and accomplished professionals.
Decades ago, while teaching in Texas, Sherri began tirelessly teaching photography and journalism to high school students and advisers at workshops across Texas and the nation. This dedication and passion continues as Sherri teaches Texas student journalists each summer at the ILPC and Gloria Shields workshop. In 2017, just like in 1983, you’ll find Sherri sleeping in a dorm room at the University of Texas and teaching the photography sequence.
Indeed, a Rising Star still shining brightly after decades of contributing to photographic education in Texas.
Jennifer Steele, Content Marketing, Netscout
I first met Sherri in the summer of 1989. As the Editor-in-Chief of the Lamar High School Valhalla yearbook staff, I attended a journalism workshop on the University of Texas campus with a dozen or so of my writers and photographers, under the direction of then photography teacher, Mark Murray. While I don’t even remember the courses I signed up for that weekend, I can tell you that I remembered meeting a spunky lady from Irving who opened my eyes to the fact that a story is often more than words and in some cases devoid of them altogether.
That weekend, I challenged myself to step away from my core strengths as a writer and dabble in the basics of photo selection, purposeful cropping and reader-friendly layout techniques. Aldus PageMaker was just coming on the scene and Sherri was my first introduction to the technology that would carry me from Quad-Packs and photo lab developing to the digital age.
Flash forward three years later.
I am a sophomore at Syracuse University sitting in a classroom at S.I. Newhouse. It’s the first day of GRA 217.
The instructor, who looks not too much older than most of us 19year olds is making the rounds with her roster while we students are filling out information cards (before the days of email, online forms, tablets and smartphones). She gets to me and I tell her my name.
Immediately she smiles looking at a star she has placed by my name on the roster. “You’re Will Travis’ from Lamar High School.”
While I am not 100 percent sure that she remembered meeting me back in Austin, we bonded instantly over the harsh winters we’d be facing together and our yearning for all things Texan including Whataburger and Tex-Mex.
Over the next 4 years Sherri was my Graphics professor guiding me through the desktop publishing technology turns from PageMaker to Quark and teaching me just enough to be dangerous in Photoshop – a skill that still serves me in my career today.
She, as many of you know, or will have the pleasure to find out, has a way of inspiring people to try something they may not be sure they are ready for.
Under Sherri’s guidance, I became design lab proctor then as I stayed on for graduate school, the GRA 217 Teaching Assistant. Both roles provided critical experience in planning, presentation and software proficiency. These skills landed me near-immediate employment upon graduation and soon-after, my first “real” job with benefits taking over a marketing role vacated by one of her other her dear friends, Mr. Bradley Wilson. Life truly takes a strange path sometimes.
Without a doubt Sherri knows what it takes to prepare young people for the world and I am honored to be a part of recognizing such a wonderful teacher and dear friend.
Mary Pulliam, former media adviser, Duncanville High School
Sherri has been a superstar since she was on the Lair staff at Irving High School. After college, she returned to our alma mater where the yearbooks she advised won Tops in Texas honors. When Gloria Shields created the All-American Publications Workshop, Sherri was one of the first teachers invited to join the faculty, and she is still a beloved member over three decades later. Since those early years, Sherri has served as a teacher, mentor and role model for hundreds of Texas students and advisers through her classes at conventions and summer workshops. Students leave her classes excited to use their newly learned skills and motivated to strive for excellence. I can’t think of anyone more deserving of the Star of Texas Award than Sherri.
Ron Lubke, director, digital ad products, Scripps Networks Interactive
I owe much to Sherri Taylor.
I was a shy, quiet, easy to pick-on kid when I entered B205 in 1984. That room on the second floor of Irving High School became my haven. I could escape reality and be myself rather than trying to fit in with a group of people that I didn’t understand outside those doors.
She saw something in me – still not sure what, but she saw something. She pushed me more than I thought I could be pushed.
The first-time story assignments went out, I had more than double then number of articles than anyone else. I must have had a “what the hell” look on my face when she turned to me and said “don’t miss the deadline.” Those words gave me confidence. She knew I could do it.
Of course, she taught me basic journalism skills I still have with me today, but it goes way beyond that. She’s one of those teachers you bond with beyond the subject matter.
On those late nights putting the Tiger Rag to bed, we laughed, cried in exhaustion, did some fine work and learned new curse words waiting on a persnickety type-setting machine. I am sure I lost hundreds of thousands of brain cells to all the rubber cement we used.
Ms. Taylor, still uncomfortable calling her Sherri, made us all believers in accepting nothing but our best. It didn’t have to be perfect just the best we could at the time.
I slowly crawled out of my shell to become more outgoing while in that magical room. From those days in B205, I built up the courage to walk into the Daily Texan in the summer of 1988 to try out for a job and eventually run for editor of the paper. That courage also pushed me to get out of my comfort zone. For better or worse, I get antsy when I get comfortable to this day.
Ms. Taylor is someone I think about almost daily. She pushed my limits beyond what I thought I could accomplish; taught me that 100% cotton clothing is the only way to go; comforted me when my Dad died unexpectedly and put me in an environment to succeed.
Thanks, Sherri. That still sounds weird so Thanks Ms. Taylor.