Jim McClelland, or Mr. Mac as he is fondly known by students and alumni, has taught in the Division of Fine Arts at Union College for 43 years. Though he has officially retired more than once now, Mr. McClelland taught his final class at the end of the spring 2017 semester.
“Jim started the art department, and has had an impact on countless students,” said Bruce Forbes, the chair of the Division of Fine Arts. “Through his passion for art and his love for God, Mr. Mac has shared with students from all disciplines his love for nature and nature’s God. He has helped students to see, to create, and to nurture within themselves an appreciation for beauty. He cannot be truly replaced, and he will be greatly missed.”
McClelland has earned numerous awards and grants over the years, including being named “Alumnus of the Year” at Andrews University in 1982 and receiving the Zapara Award for Teaching Excellence in 1989. Limited edition prints of his work have been issued in support of the National Wildlife Federation, Nebraska Wildlife Federation, National Quail Foundation and Wild Wings Galleries. His work has also appeared in books illustrations, greeting cards and on postage stamps, and gallery exhibitions across the country and in Europe.
Despite the acclaim he earned throughout his career, McClelland points to his family and students as his greatest accomplishments.
According to many students and alumni, if any one thing exemplifies who McClelland is, it’s the sign that has hung on his door for decades that says, “Come in. I have time.”
“He’s helped a lot of students graduate,” said Daniel Daum, a senior graphic design student, remembering his time in class with Mr. Mac. “His office door is always open to talk and pray, and lining the walls are portraits of people he’s helped graduate–it’s a poorly kept secret that a lot of the money from his art sales has gone to scholarships.”
“He is very dedicated to both students and art,” said Hannah Gregg, a sophomore graphic design student. “He is gentle and kind and makes time for any student who needs help, whether it’s related to art or personal life.” Gregg also greatly appreciated the devotionals that McClelland would read before each class. “He never rushes them. After he reads, he shows how it applies to his life and how it can apply to ours. I really appreciate that he places God in the center of the classroom from the very beginning.”
In 2014, Union College created the Jim McClelland International Student Scholarship, recognizing the support he has offered over the years to the students farthest from their homes and families, not only as a teacher and mentor. McClelland and his wife, Huda, have opened their home and hearts to provide a family environment for hundreds of international students. If you would like to contribute to this scholarship in his honor, you can select it from the dropdown list on Union’s online giving page.
In the words of his peers …
During the spring concert performed by the Division of Fine Arts in McClelland’s honor, John Wagner, former Union College president, shared quotes he had collected from Union College faculty and staff who have worked closely with McClelland over the years.
“He’s gentle, he’s creative, he’s accessible, he’s caring, he’s consistent. Jim McClelland is a deep wellspring of joy. He sees life from fresh angels and applies brush strokes with rich textures of love. He is God’s artist.” (Chris Blake)
“Gentle, kind, humble, perceptive, with an amazing heart for students.” (Lisa R. Forbes)
“When I think about Jim I think about quiet joy, I think about sereen excellence, I think about Godly quality. What a gift he has been to Union College” (Kathy Bollinger)
“A courteous and loyal friend, a renaissance man with wide interests. More than that, an outstanding spiritual mentor and skilled teacher, an amazing supporter of students and Union College. The longer you know Jim, the more your respect for him grows.” (George Gibson)
“Jim has been a soft spoken mentor and role model to hundreds, if not thousands, of students who have experienced his spirit filled worships, had him pray for them, and they saw his positive influence on their lives.” (Barry Forbes)
“Jim is kind, gentle, caring, giving, a deeply committed and consistent Christian.” (Rich Carlson)
“Jim is very kind and gentle – a very kind and gentle Christian. He takes the time to encourage and pray with students. He is very creative and artistic as well as very generous, very gracious, and always quick to offer appreciation.” (Nancy Meier)
By Elizabeth Bearden, student writer