USF mourns the passing of influential Rick Cartwright

The University of Saint Francis community mourns the loss of Rick Cartwright, a beloved colleague and friend who influenced countless students during a 42-year USF career. Cartwright died on Thursday, May 25 after a battle with cancer.

Cartwright was a member of the faculty from 1975 to his retirement in 2017. He was the founding dean of the School of Creative Arts in 2004 and served as dean until his retirement. He oversaw the 2010 restoration of the Bass Mansion (now Brookside) and the rehabilitation of the Mimi and Ian Rolland Art and Visual Communication Center. He was integral in the vision for and development of USF Downtown, which opened in August 2016.

Cartwright found great supporters and worked closely with then-USF President Sister M. Elise Kriss, OSF, and late trustee Ian Rolland.

“The relationships I formed here with Sister Elise and Ian Rolland relate to trust and honesty,” Cartwright said in 2017. “Whether it was a class critique or teaching or a meeting, I tried to be honest to the questions posed to me. The goal was to create an exciting environment for students, and I said that so many times, people began to believe and know me. That was very important to Ian, and that was the ‘click’ that brought the two of us together.

“With Sister Elise, we’d tell each other frankly the pros and cons of something. She loves the arts. The trust had incredible impact, and she understood my vision of a more developed School of Creative Arts, and that we could do it through partnerships—she believed in that and in the community.”

The School of Creative Arts experienced tremendous program growth during Cartwright’s tenure. He added programs in music technology, pre-art therapy, art history, museum studies with the Fort Wayne Museum of Art, and dance in partnership with the Fort Wayne Ballet. He was instrumental in the development of the Media Entrepreneurship Training in the Arts (META) program as well as the marching band program. Cartwright also established a theater program and continued to build the Jesters performance group into a nationally recognized program featuring people with intellectual/developmental disabilities (I/DD). Under his guidance, USF was accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design in 2004.

Cartwright led 756 students on 19 European trips as part of a global education, visiting all the major art museums of the Western world in 12 countries.

Cartwright always put the needs of students first.

“It all rolls into my quest for excellence,” Cartwright said in 2017. “You hire faculty and staff who also believe in excellence. I was fortunate to put together a group who believed in teaching, and excellence in any area. With every decision I asked, ‘Is this good for students?’ If so, then I would champion it. I wanted 24/7 access to the school for students, because the creative spirit does not stop and start on schedule. I hate the ‘starving artist’ phrase. I’ve never seen it happen. We struggle and it’s not easy, but when you want to create or sing or act, it gets into your blood. I wanted degrees for our students, to help find them jobs and promote their talents.”

An active painter, Cartwright was a founding member of Artlink Inc. and a trustee for the Fort Wayne Museum of Art. He was named a Lilly Scholar and recipient of the Sears Foundation Teaching Excellence and Leadership Award. In 2002, Arts United of Greater Fort Wayne honored Cartwright by presenting him the Esther Ritz Collyer Award for Lifetime Achievement in Art Education, and in 2014 he received the Keager Award for Outstanding Arts Educator. He served as Ethics Committee chair, an institutional evaluator and as a commission member for the National Association of Schools of Art and Design.

Cartwright earned master’s degrees in arts and fine arts from Bowling Green State University, and a bachelor’s degree in art education from the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.

Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 11 a.m. on Thursday, June 1, at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church, 1502 E Wallen Rd, Fort Wayne, with calling from 10 to 11 a.m. Visitation will also be held on Wednesday, May 31, from 3 to 7 p.m. at Divine Mercy Funeral Home, 3500 Lake Ave. Burial will be in Lindenwood Cemetery. A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Friday, June 2, at the St. Francis Chapel on the USF campus.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to “Rick and Louise Cartwright Scholarship” through University of Saint Francis, ArtLink or Blue Jacket, Inc.