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Richard L. Sears: 1924-2013

Sears White Pines 2012 1

We have learned that Professor Emeritus Richard Sears passed away on May 25, 2013. Dick was a beloved faculty member and colleague, and a dedicated artist who continued to create and exhibit new work long after his retirement from the University in 1989. Dick’s wife Robin A. S. Haynes shared with us the following announcement about this remarkable individual:

Richard L. Sears, a beloved, kind, and gentle man, died on May 25, 2013. Born and raised in the small towns of the high desert of southern rural California, Dick” grew up expecting life to be framed by mountains. The only child of Mildred and Harold Sears, the dreamy boy drew sailing ships and World War I‑era airplanes, far beyond his experience, but not his imagination. 

After service in Africa and Europe during World War II, Dick received an education he never thought possible, thanks to the GI Bill. After graduate work at the University of Iowa and a MFA from University of California, Berkeley, he came to the Midwest as an instructor in drawing and painting at the University of Michigan in 1953. He retired in 1989 as a full professor in the Department of Art and Design from the same institution. Ignoring the administration as best he could, Dick focused on what mattered most to him – teaching students to see better, while trying to increase his own ability to perceive the spatial compositions of his environment in paint, pencil, sculpture, and photography. Thousands of students benefited from his encouragement, corrections, and reminders to measure, all delivered in a sneakily relaxed manner. 

Upon retirement, Dick moved to Maine and returned to his real work of full-time seeing, painting, and drawing, particularly enjoying the trees and rocks of Maine. Richard Sears exhibited from Maine to California, often more appreciated by the eyes of other artists than by the public at large. His last show, which was in Bath, Maine during the fall of 2012, contained numerous examples of his joyous and colorful works, particularly watercolors of recent years. 

Richard Sears is survived by his wife Robin A. S. Haynes of Bath, his daughters Anne L. Sears and Alison de los Santos, both of Kalamazoo, Michigan, son-in-law Robert Mata de los Santos, and the family of close friends and former students who treasured him. 

His memory is best honored by remembering the ideas he taught and looking daily at the beauty of a loved one’s face, the fascinating and shifting movements of the open sky, and the simple lines and intricacies of all landscapes — – none of which, like Dick, is ever only ordinary.