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The Mort Baranoff Endowed Scholarship

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The Mort Baranoff Endowed Scholarship was endowed in memory of Professor Mort Baranoff by his wife Dr. Timy Baranoff. Professor Baranoff, a printmaker and instructor at The University of Texas at Austin, was a dedicated craftsman and teacher. Mort had very high expectations for his own art work and for the students he taught. Mort continued producing beautiful art work even while quite ill. He fought a lifetime battle with arthritis and when pain made it impossible to make prints, Mort made paintings. Through this endowment, his wife remembers Mort and hopes it will inspire others to support students as they find their place in the University and in the world. Mort Baranoff died January 6, 1978.

Mort Baranoff was born March 8, 1932 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, the son of Sima and Jascha Baranoff. He attended the public schools in Montreal. He was a good skier and relatively active until, at the age of twenty-one, he was devastated by the crippling arthritis that pursued him to his death. In spite of much time spent in hospitals, he worked at advertising design and also he earned a diploma from the School of Art and Design of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (1952) finishing a three-year program in just two years. In 1952 he also studied graphic arts at Atelier 17 in New York.

Later in 1952, with only eight years of formal schooling and a disease which forced him to leave the cold of Canada, Mort moved with his family to San Bernardino, California. He had married Timy Genrich in London, Ontario, in 1944 and his first child, Stephen, was born in Canada. His second child, Eugenia, was born in 1953 in California. Mort attended college in San Bernardino and so impressed the college officials that he was soon teaching life at night at the same college. He worked part-time for an advertising firm. Later he opened an art gallery in that city, The Highland Gallery, where original paintings and prints by California artists were exhibited. For several years he commuted to Los Angeles in order to study for his B.F.A., a degree he acquired from Los Angeles State College in 1958.

Mort Baranoff in his studio.
Mort Baranoff in his studio.

That same year the family moved to Los Angeles and Mort attended the University of Southern California to earn his M.F.A., which was awarded in 1959. Sometimes his illness made it necessary for his wife, Timy, to attend art history classes in his place to take notes and sketch the slides shown. Nonetheless, his was a perfect “A” record. He had a searching mind and broad interests and read extensively. This not only helped to offset his physical handicap when he was pursuing his studies, but also made him a stimulating, vista-opening teacher. He remained a learner throughout his life.

The year in Los Angeles was a good year, for he loved the ocean, the mountains, and desert, particularly the ocean with its movement and sound. Even though teaching positions were scarce in 1959, Mort was one of two in his class to obtain employment that year. A new position took him away from California. He taught all levels of design, drawing, and art history at the University of Missouri at Columbia. A group of young leaders there shared low salaries and other problems and developed great closeness. The congeniality was due largely to Mort, for he enjoyed students of every rank, teachers, and friends. He was sought out by them because of his warmth, understanding, balance, honesty, breadth, and sense of humor. He exuded both genuineness and enthusiasm. He was impatient with anything false, shallow, or tawdry, without suggestion superiority or loftiness. He was self-confident, sure of himself, but also modest and wise.

In 1960, Mort joined the faculty of The University of Texas at Austin. Although his chief interest was in studio art, particularly printmaking, he was able to teach and did teach upon occasion, art education and art history. One of his most appreciated courses was the history of modern prints. He was the first to make use of the collection of twentieth century prints given by Mr. Charles Clark to the Blanton Museum of Art (then the University Art Museum). The course was offered to seniors and graduate students. Mort was one of the faculty members to accompany art student on their first major field trip in 1961 to St. Louis, Chicago, and Kansas City. In spite of the rigors of bus travel, driving at night, and uncertain meals, his good humor and concern for the students persisted. It was he who persuaded the bus driver to stop at Columbia, Missouri, in the early morning hours to see the chapel designed by Saarinen, and also the quarters for the Art Department. Because of the fortunate encounter with a night watchman, the whole group emerged from the bus into the night chill to enter the chapel for a private viewing. The students on that trip and all those who studied with him were aware of the courage and strength of a man whom suffering and pain never forsook.

Mort did everything in his power, and endured much, in order to conquer or check the disease. Always he continued to work and to learn. He taught as long as he was able and hoped to return to teaching as long as hope was possible. When he could no longer make prints, he painted. The works he created were not those of an invalid. They were not weak or bitter or warped. They were subtle, joyous, sensitive, penetrating, and strong.

It is difficult to measure the contribution made by Mort in his teaching career. Fortunately for the department, he was active in the early years of the graduate program, and outspoken in both praise and criticism. His high standard of performance was a major contribution. There were those who often disagreed with Mort, but none who did not respect and applaud his motives, his integrity, and his intelligence. Disagreement was based on a different reading o evidence or a different point of view. Such opposition was healthy and constructive, much to be prized in an educational institution. Mort was the sort of person essential to the learning process in a democratic society.

His two children and wife are graduates of The University of Texas at Austin: Eugenia, B.F.A.; Stephen, B.S.; and Timy, B.S., M.A., and Ph.D.

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