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updated: 2/7/2013 2:23 PM

Popular Harper College teacher shared his passion for art

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  • Harper professor William Wimmer with a colleague.

    Harper professor William Wimmer with a colleague.
    Courtesy of Harper College

  • Bill Wimmer's "Machine Metaphor" is a woodcut print that plays with imagery of animation of mechanical motors and parts morphing into more organic and figurative imagery.

    Bill Wimmer's "Machine Metaphor" is a woodcut print that plays with imagery of animation of mechanical motors and parts morphing into more organic and figurative imagery.
    Courtesy of Harper College

By Eileen O. Daday
Daily Herald correspondent

A popular art teacher at Harper College, who helped build up its printmaking studio and left a lasting impression on his students, has died.

William Wimmer passed away on Jan. 28. The Arlington Heights resident was 80.

He spent nearly 40 years sharing his passion for art, and more specifically for printmaking, with students of all ages.

Wimmer spent the first 24 years of his career teaching at Evanston Township High School, while simultaneously teaching at the School of the Art Institute. For the last 15 years, he has been an adjunct teacher at Harper College.

His students and colleagues remember him for teaching them about etching and printing plates, but mostly they remember him for the strong foundation he left them and a respect for the traditional medium of printmaking.

One of his most high profile fans is Audrey Niffeneger, who wrote the bestselling novel, "The Time Traveler's Wife," among others. She first studied under Wimmer at Evanston High School, and later at the Art Institute.

She credits Wimmer in all of her books, citing him in her official bio: "She began making prints in 1978 under the tutelage of William Wimmer."

"I met him when I was 15, and he changed my life," said Niffeneger, who lives in Chicago. "He showed me what it meant to be a committed artist and teacher. I went on to use the skills I had learned from Bill to earn my living, but the ideas he passed along about dedication, sharing knowledge, and experimentation are the most important things I learned."

Wimmer started teaching printmaking in 1998 at Harper, and he could usually be found in the print shop every day, colleagues say.

"When Bill came on board, our printmaking facility was in disarray," says Perry Pollock, art department chairman. "Bill gave it a complete overhaul and got all the equipment up to spec and working well."

That kind of commitment, Pollock said, was indicative of his devotion to Harper's students and art program.

"Bill was a true expert in the full gamut of non-digital printmaking techniques, some of which are fading with his generation," Pollock added. "His greatest gift was his absolute love and joy of being in his element, working with students as they discovered the thrill of printmaking and of making art."

Wimmer's love of the traditional techniques of printmaking will be his legacy in Harper's art program, colleagues add.

The print studio that Wimmer worked so hard to update, now is devoted to teaching students traditional and contemporary methods of graphic reproduction of visual ideas pertaining to the fine arts.

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