New Professorship Funds Digital Art Experiences in an Increasingly Visual World

Carol Quillen, Albert Keiser, Joelle Dietrick
Keiser stands with President Carol Quillen and Prof. Joelle Dietrick following Spring Convocation 2018, where the new professorship and long-standing English prize were awarded.

Albert Keiser Jr. ’66, a scholar of historic preservation, North Carolina pottery, folk art, and Catawba County history and genealogy, has built a career as a private investor. A man of broad interests and expertise, his various endeavors benefit from Keiser’s keen ability to think–a skill he honed at Davidson.

Keiser is committed to keeping Davidson a place that sharpens minds. His gift of $1 million has created a pre-tenure professorship–the Dr. Albert Keiser Sr. and Mrs. Lena Virginia Keiser Professorship, named for his parents. A previous grant from The Duke Endowment is also supporting this professorship.

In what is perhaps a perfect match for this gift given Keiser’s passion for art, Joelle Dietrick, Davidson’s first digital art professor, is the inaugural Keiser Professor. Dietrick made her academic career with large universities, until she saw the call for an art/digital studies crossover position at Davidson.

“I have had strong students everywhere I’ve taught, but at Davidson, every single student has his or her heart and head in the right place,” she said. “I had to adjust my teaching because of that. I quickly saw what everyone talked about when I first visited campus–the students truly are special.”

The synergy of teaching and research is what mostly attracted her to join the faculty.

“When I do exciting, cutting-edge research in my studio, I can guide students better,” she explained. “You can’t just read about technology; you have to work with it.”

Dietrick came to Davidson in the middle of a three-country Fulbright experience. As part of that experience, she is developing several projects that will premiere at Drexel University next year. Amid her summer travels, she has worked with eight interns in the digital art lab she designed upon her arrival on campus.

“Art anchors students’ understanding of many disciplines,” she said. “The world is becoming more and more visual, so placing art at the center of the liberal arts is a no-brainer to me.”

Keiser majored in history with honors at Davidson and is co-author of the book From Tavern to Town Revisited: An Architectural History of Hickory, published in 2004. He is happy to support a professorship that will bring leading faculty to campus and create new experiences for students, continuing to provide the exceptional Davidson experience he cherishes still today.

“Davidson was tough at times, but there’s a statement that there’s no gain without pain,” said Keiser, who graduated Phi Beta Kappa and was involved with the Eumenean Literary Society, Kappa Sigma Fraternity and forensics/debate activities.

“Davidson offers a first-rate education. It provided me with a liberal arts background that I could pair with something I enjoyed that could earn money. Most importantly, students need to be good citizens of the world, and Davidson helps people do that.”

In addition to the new professorship, Keiser awards an annual prize at Spring Convocation that recognizes superior contributions by one Davidson student each year to the performance of classical English literature. He also established and has been the major supporter of the Keiser Family Library Resource Fund, the second largest family endowed book fund at E.H. Little Library.