Professor Emeritus Malcolm Grear, a renowned designer and devoted teacher who was deeply connected to the RISD community for more than half a century, died on Sunday, January 24, 2016. He was 84 and living in Wakefield, RI.
After arriving here to teach in 1960, the Kentucky native not only helped build the Graphic Design department into one of RISD’s most dynamic and popular majors, he developed an increasingly strong reputation as an international force in design education. In the process, he mentored thousands of Graphic Design alumni and built Malcolm Grear Designers (MGD), a world-class design firm in Providence.
During his 38-year teaching tenure (from 1960–98), Malcolm was well known on campus for his wit, wisdom and wry commentary. “I don’t – indeed can’t – teach students to be designers,” he often said, “but I can and do teach attitudes and strategies that help them become designers.” He served as department head from 1965-69 and earned the John R. Frazier Award for Excellence in Teaching in 1986.
From the start, MGD made a mark in the design world through memorable identity and print design work for national clients ranging from the US Veterans Administration to the Presbyterian Church, Vanderbilt University, the New Bedford [MA] Whaling Museum (below) and the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta, GA. The studio is also well known for the many exhibitions and catalogues it has designed for the Guggenheim Museum, the RISD Museum and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, among many others.
“I am a lucky man,” Malcolm said a few years ago. “Not by design but through design, I have gained a life full of friendships, respectful affections, delightful collaborations – all born of my work, which in itself, in its daily texture and visual diversity, brings pleasure to my soul.”
Malcolm is survived by his wife Clarice, his children Joel Grear 83 GD, Amie Grear Ray 85 TX/MAT 90, Jason Grear, Leah Grear 88 PH, their spouses and partners, nine grandchildren, one great grandchild and his brother and sister.
“Malcolm loved his family, friends, and the people and community he served,” his family noted in a statement released yesterday.
A service celebrating Malcolm’s life will be held at 1 pm on February 13 at the Community Church of Providence, 372 Wayland Avenue. In lieu of flowers, the family requests contributions be made in his memory to RISD’s Malcolm Grear Endowed Scholarship. (If you give online, please note this under “other.” Contributions may also be sent to RISD c/o Amanda Wright, Institutional Engagement, Two College Street, Providence, RI 02903.)
Malcolm was one of my professors in grad school. He was an amazing teacher.