By Sarah Lockwood | Photos by Griffin Harrington & Laura Weeks
For some professors, their rooms are more than just offices. They’re a display of their passions and accomplishments.
14th year at JMU
Pratt Institute Graduate
It took 40 moving boxes and two pickup trucks to move Rich Hilliard into Montpelier Hall. Hilliard made the move before the spring 2012 semester, opting out of the university’s moving service. He had precious cargo.
Figurines of characters from “Star Wars,” Batman, Frankenstein, Dracula, Wolfman and astronauts fill the room. Hilliard stuffed every corner of the office and still left a third of his collection in storage. He has more than 50 “Star Wars” figurines.
Hilliard has illustrated five children’s books, four of which he wrote. Some of his original paintings from these illustrations hang on the wall. His office also houses toys he’s designed — some of which are approaching 50 years old, such as a game he got in 1964.
“I get accused of being an overgrown child sometimes, and I’m actually really OK with that,” said Hilliard, who rearranges the office based on phases.
Currently, Hilliard’s favorite decoration is a life-size bust of The Joker, an anniversary present from his wife.
“The students love it,” he said. “They kind of know that I’m tuned in to pop culture, and that keeps me current.”
21st YEAR AT JMU
Western Washington University Graduate
It’s the 62 framed photographs you notice first: a South African woman dying of AIDS, rich landscapes, Desmond Tutu, Bob Dylan. He took them all.
Craig Abrahamson has been an avid photographer since he was 10. Most photos show scenes from his global research trips. He first traveled to Vietnam for research in 1991. Since then, he has studied societies in Northern China, Central America, South America, Africa, India and Myanmar. Some of his research subjects include people who have been tortured, refugees in new lands and the terminally ill.
Next to his desk, which displays classic model cars, a wooden bust sits on a mini-fridge; behind the door, a totem pole. A church pew offers seating under one of the walls of photographs.
“This office is like my sanctuary,” he said.
His totem poles especially represent his passion for different cultures.
“I fell in love with the whole mystic of indigenous healing, indigenous art,” Abrahamson said. “I really believe that the indigenous population is something that we can learn a great deal from.”
Abrahamson’s favorite object in his office is a carved Dodo bird he got in Mauritius, off the southeast coast of Africa. The painted yellow bird has bright blue feet and red, green and blue designs, reminding Abrahamson of his youngest daughter, whom he calls “Bird.”
11th year at JMU
Auburn University Graduate
“This is kind of an explosion of pop culture,” said April Roth Gulotta as she looked around her office.
Pink, her favorite color, gives a warm atmosphere to her diverse collection: stuffed animals of E.T., the Muppets and pink flamingos, a boxed “Twilight” Edward doll and pictures of everyone from students to Jay-Z and Kristin Chenoweth.
“I guess it’s just all things that make me happy,” Roth Gulotta said. “So I feel like if my students come in here, it will make them happy, too.”
Her office displays posters for “Rent,” “Tupac,” “Dirty Dancing” and The Grateful Dead. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s zombie campaign poster reflects one project she just finished examining zombie culture.
A cardboard cutout of James Dean leans against the wall. She’s had it since she was 15 and used to find it in her bed or in her shower, an ongoing practical joke of her brother’s.
A set of photo booth strips, which hangs on her wall, is also special to Roth Gulotta. The first is a copy of a strip Andy Warhol took of himself. There are two more strips of herself, which she took in the same booth as Warhol, one of her favorite artists.
“It looks like a little bit of a junk yard, but it’s actually kind of a museum,” Roth Gulotta said. “I think that we can do a lot of learning about ourselves both and inside and outside of the classroom, and that’s what I want people to do when they come in here.”