My good friend Ray Prince has died

Raymond J. Prince

Ray was a man among men in the graphic arts industry. He worked tirelessly for decades to make our lives better through technological advances in printing and publishing.

Though I had known him casually for many years, Mr. Prince became a more important part of my life in 2014. We were at McCormick Place in Chicago at PRINT/GraphExpo (don’t remember which). He invited me to have coffee with him. I was happy to accept the offer.

During that conversation, Ray asked about Cal Poly (where I teach). He asked about my thoughts on Cal Poly becoming the site of the world’s largest library of printing and graphic arts books and magazines. At the time, the Wadewitz Library was housed at the headquarters of Printing Industries of America in Sewickly, Pennsylvania. They had to move, and the library had to go. Mr. Prince took it as his personal challenge to find a new home for that library.

I learned during our conversation that he was shopping around for the proper location for the books (50,000 volumes) to be housed and made available to the industry.

He was looking at Clemson University, Rochester Institute of Technology (his alma mater), and Cal Poly. He had tested the waters at each institution, and he wanted to get a sense from me if I felt that Cal Poly had the academic importance to become the new home to this extraordinary collection.

I remember the conversation. He challenged me: What makes Cal Poly the best place for this library? I told him that we have the best students; we have the best facilities; we have the best faculty. I told him that we have the best program of graphic communication education in the world.

I suppose that he liked my answers, because after he consulted with others from my department and my university, he chose Cal Poly to become the home of this library of books and magazines.

Mr. Prince came to Cal Poly, and together with my Department Head, Harvey Levenson, they made the announcement about the library. The trucks showed up the next year, and literal tons of books were unloaded into an unused classroom.

Steel shelves were erected in the backs of all of our classrooms, our meeting rooms and our storage rooms. A hole was cut in a concrete wall on the ground floor of our building and a large storage area was added to our warehouse – just for the books.

Professor Emeritus Gary Field took on the task of sorting, identifying and shelving the books at Cal Poly. He broke them into various categories: rare books went to the university’s Kennedy Library Special Collections Department, complete collections were housed in shelves in our classrooms. Duplicate books were shipped to other universities to fill out their collections.

Over the next five years Cal Poly absorbed and presented the Wadewitz Library, the GATF Collection, and many other books that were collected by Mr. Prince and Dr. Levenson. They wanted Cal Poly to be the absolute go-to library for researchers and scholars, and to be a valuable resource to our current students.

It has been a tremendous success.

In 2015, Mr. Prince asked me to attend a meeting in the conference room in our department office. He was in town for a major announcement.

I was there, joined by my colleagues Dr. Harvey Levenson, Dr. Ken Macro, Gary Field and our Dean, Dr. Douglas Epperson. I was puzzled by the request for me to attend the meeting.

Ray Prince gave a short speech about his career and his effort to find a new home for the library of books for our industry. He talked about the meeting that he and I had had in Chicago. He told us that he had planned to make a significant donation to Cal Poly Graphic Communication, and that he also wanted to establish two scholarships for our students:

The Gary Field Scholarship and the Brian Lawler Scholarship.

I was brought to tears (and am tearing-up now as I write this). I had no idea!

He handed two checks to Dean Epperson, and asked him to establish those scholarships.

He also announced that some of his other donation funds should be earmarked for the continued development and operation of the Shakespeare Press Museum (I am the faculty advisor). That donation made it possible for me to expand the museum’s collection and to repair some of our equipment in the years since. His contribution made it unnecessary for me to beg for money every year, an event that was, at times, exhausting.

Never again would I have to worry about how to pay for paper and ink for the museum. It was all covered – from now on.

In the years since then I have added to the scholarship that bears my name.

This year, on the announcement of my retirement (June), my fellow professors, and members of our Industry Advisory Board added a significant amount to the scholarship.

And at my (surprise) birthday party this year, my friends added several thousand dollars to the fund. The scholarship is now valued at about $35,000.

So, this year, for the first time, our faculty will be able to award one or two scholarships to students in our program. I am looking forward to that experience. It will be a reward to those who deserve our support to help them as they study graphic communication.

But, this isn’t about me or my scholarship. It’s about Mr. Raymond Prince. He is the man who made all of this possible. He is the man who saw value in Cal Poly’s program, and made these contributions to the department and to the industry because he believed in our students.

I believe in our students, and I am proud to share in the privilege of being a part of Ray Prince’s circle of friends and colleagues.

He believed in me, and I am honored to have known him.

About Brian Lawler

Brian Lawler is an Emeritus Professor of Graphic Communication at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. He writes about graphic arts processes and technologies for various industry publications, and on his blog, The Blognosticator.
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2 Responses to My good friend Ray Prince has died

  1. Marya says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this story. Tears instantly appeared in my eyes as I read about the scholarships in yours and Prof. Field’s names. Thank you for your tireless effort, Brian. I am so glad you got to meet Mr. Prince and that he recognized that in you. What a gift he gave to Cal Poly. And what a gift you are to Cal Poly

  2. Marya says:

    (And I wish I could add the last period to the sentence above.)

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