Photo of Michael Northrop

Art professor receives E. J. Shaheen Teaching Excellence Award

When Michael Northrop accepted the position of art professor at Glen Oaks Community College, he was told “we want you to be a working artist and take that experience to the students.”Northrop has done that, and more, as evidenced by his selection as the 2011-2012 E. J. Shaheen Chair for Teaching Excellence Award. The announcement of the 28th Shaheen Award was made by Dr. Gary Wheeler, President, just weeks before formal announcement at the 44th graduation ceremony on May 4. The award is presented to a member of the faculty nominated for innovation and quality instruction by students,alumni, fellow faculty, staff and community members.

Professor Northrop began teaching at Glen Oaks in 2000 and became tenured in 2005. He teaches several art classes, including Art History, Object Drawing, Two-Dimensional Design and others. More popular courses have included Painting, Tempera Painting and Pastels. “We have some really talented students here and each year some of our graduates are accepted to art schools throughout the nation. Some have graduated and had their own art shows in New York and elsewhere. I am very proud of all of them,” said Northrop, who also teaches Comparative Religion in the classroom and online.Northrop earned his Bachelor Degree in 1983 at Olivet College, became a minister, and served an art apprenticeship from 1990-1992 in Kalamazoo. He received his Master of Fine Arts (MFA) Degree at Western Michigan University.

The Three Rivers resident turned his grandparent’s 100-year-old family barn into an art school and personal studio. Northrop became a versatile artist by studying under a number of highly regarded painters He studied Old Master Oil Painting and Drawing Techniques with Kenneth Freed of Kalamazoo. Between 1989 and 1997, Northrop learned from a number of artists in oil painting, printmaking, sculpture, egg tempera painting, glass and watercolor.He studied composition and figure drawing with Jack Beal and John Buscema in New York and Fresco painting with Gary Maricich in Santa Fe, New Mexico. His artwork has appeared in over two dozen exhibits from Grand Rapids to Detroit, often garnering top awards. Professor Northrop has been featured in American Artist magazine and, more recently, in magazines featuring his increasing focus on religious art.

After a half-dozen trips to Italy in recent years, Professor Northrop entered the religious art field with a passion. His work, including intricate stained glass windows, paintings, mosaic glass and sculptures are now in several West Michigan churches and one near Detroit. “St. Catherine’s Catholic Church in Kalamazoo contains much of my artwork, including six windows, oil painting and egg tempera, three sculptures and mosaic glass,” said Northrop. Also included is a stunning 13 x 13-foot figurative work in tiles, with each no larger than the size of a fingernail. Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Three Rivers has Northrop’s stained glass and paintings above the altar.

“My students often give their opinions of the design of my work,” said Northrop. “I try to make things relevant to students. Some students have helped with the artwork itself. It feels good to be a working artist and bringing it into the classroom.” An Art Club at Glen Oaks has been formed under his sponsorship and members have been working on a large Norman Rockwell style painting. He finds time to teach two classes a year at the Kalamazoo Institute of Art and serving as Art Break Lunch speaker. Art workshops have been conducted in Battle Creek and Coldwater and Northrop serves on the Board of the Carnegie Center for the Arts, Three Rivers.

The EJ Shaheen Fund, maintained at the Glen Oaks Community College Foundation, was established in 1983 when Mr. Shaheen was President of the Foundation. The “Teaching Excellence” Award was his vision designed to recognize distinguished Full-time Faculty based on high professional standards. He felt it was in the best interest for Glen Oaks to continually improve our quality of education and the way to best achieve this was through excellence in teaching. “We are honored by this generous gift which allows us every year the opportunity to realize his wishes. I believe all the past recipients have met his vision and hopes, this year is no exception” said Janene Breneman, Executive Director of the Foundation.

Gifts to Glen Oaks Community College Foundation, like Mr. Shaheen’s, directly benefit students and enhance GOCC’s educational programs which ensures our college is continuously ascending to the forefront of higher education. If you would like to learn more about how you can set up a fund or designate a donation, please call the Foundation Office at 269-294-4394 or 1-866-412-4567 and speak to Janene Breneman.