After 43 years of service at Union College, art professor James McClelland will retire at the end of this semester.
McClelland, affectionately referred to as Mr. Mac, became an Adventist shortly before college, and attended Andrew’s University. While he originally decided to major in art, McClelland was encouraged by one of his professors to add an English major during his sophomore year.
Upon graduating from Andrew’s University, McClelland continued his education, studying literature and earning a master’s degree in counseling. He later worked at Battle Creek Adventist Academy as an English teacher and a counselor.
After turning down two prior calls from Union to teach English, McClelland and his family answered the call to move from Michigan when an opening for an art instructor became available in 1974. The decision to transfer to Union was difficult for McClelland and his family because they called Michigan home. Unsure of the matter for over two weeks, they spent a day in prayer and fasting, and then McClelland and his wife, Huda, decided to accept the call.
McClelland’s passion for art is clear, and his talent shows in the recognition he has received from both Adventist and secular communities.
His art has been shown in a number of exhibits and won awards all around the country, including many “Best in Show.” However, McClelland says his passion for art is second to his passion for teaching. During his time here, McClelland has taught a variety of classes including school art, drawing, watercolor and oil painting.
Other interests include teaching workshops at National Parks across the nation. He says, “My dream would be to teach art on a cruise ship! But, I don’t think that’s going to happen.” McClelland sums up his priorities in life nicely. “My love for God, my love for students, my love for my work—my family, the natural world. It’s hard to separate those. I love them all.”
McClelland’s love for art goes as far back as he can remember and he’s skilled in a number of mediums. His favorite is watercolor, despite being trained primarily in oil painting. McClelland especially enjoys exhibiting the natural world of God’s creation through his art, evidenced in his numerous paintings of nature and wildlife on the interior walls of Engel Hall.
McClelland’s pieces can be found elsewhere around campus too, such as the Krueger Center and the Everett Dick Adminstration Building.
While McClelland may be retiring from full-time teaching after a total of 53 years, he still plans to teach some art workshops for the Lincoln community.
He laughs while commenting, “Now I don’t think I could pry my wife out of Lincoln. Though we may dream of mountains or oceans, we love it here.”
If you haven’t gotten the opportunity to take a class from McClelland before, it may not be too late. Even though he’s retiring, McClelland will be returning to Union for the fall 2017 semester as an adjunct to teach school art.
The McClellands have two children of their own, but many Union students have also come to find Mr. Mac as a father figure or mentor, as can be seen from the large assortment of framed pictures in his Engel Hall office that have been gifted throughout the years.
“It’s been a sacred privilege being here all these years and it’s hard to think of not being here,” he concluded. “I’ve been here a long time, but it feels like only a short time because I’ve loved every minute.”
Danica Eylenstein in a junior studying communication.