Three Laughs by Ben Dunn

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In Memoriam – Richard Proctor

Submitted on June 1, 2022 - 1:31pm

The School of Art + Art History + Design is sad to announce the passing of Associate Professor Emeritus Richard Proctor on April 11, 2022. He taught at the University of Washington from 1962 to 1992.


Richard Proctor was born in Michigan in 1936. He received a bachelor’s degree in art education in 1959 and a master’s degree in painting in 1962. Both were from Michigan State University. Proctor came to the University of Washington to teach in 1962. He became an assistant professor in 1964 and an associate professor in 1970. He was active in the national Surface Design Association and Northwest Designer Craftsmen, for which he served as president from 1968-1970.

He and his life partner, Ron Childers, spent much of their time at their property in Langley on Whidbey Island. Proctor was a founding member of the Island Arts Council in 1979 and chaired the Design Review Board for the City of Langley from 1985–1991. Together they founded the Childers/Proctor Gallery in 1983, which continued in Langley to 1999. Proctor and Childers moved to Palm Springs after that, and Proctor spent some time as a docent at the Palm Springs Desert Museum.

Proctor published two books over the decades. The Principles of Pattern for Craftsmen and Designers was released in 1969 by Van Nostrand Reinhold, with a new edition in 1976. This book was re-published by Dover as Principles of Pattern Design in 1990. Surface Design for Fabric was released in 1984 by University of Washington Press, and a revised edition was published in 1995.


Katherine Holzknecht

BA 1976, MFA 1982

I was fortunate to take many classes from Professor Richard Proctor, and to have him as my graduate committee advisor during my six years in the School of Art at the U of W. Richard was kind and considerate of his students' feelings and situations. He could be critical when needed, but he gave helpful, constructive criticism. During those years, Richard and Jennifer Lew were busy writing their book Surface Design for Fabric, and they sometimes worked on samples in the classroom. It was exciting to see them working and organizing the book. Richard and I stayed in touch after he moved to Palm Springs, CA, and I always looked forward to receiving his handmade Christmas card. He was a great man, with a love for life, and will be missed by many!

Eric Armitage

BA 1986

I started taking classes from Richard in 1984 and was also his teaching assistant for a couple of quarters. I loved the artistic and technical aspect of textile design and the energy Richard brought to his classes and his art. After all these years I still have his book in my collection.

I visited his home on Whidbey Island years ago. Seeing Ron and him in their lovely home gave me hope that I, too, as a young gay man, could have a "normal" and happy life with someone I love.

I live in Amsterdam now and have been married to my husband for over 18 years. A few years back Richard and I reconnected with each other on Facebook. It was so nice to see how Richard and Ron were enjoying their retirement life in the desert.

Richard was more than just an artist or teacher to me. He was a sort of gay life coach for me at a time when a 20-year-old gay man didn't have a lot of role models. I was coming out at the time, and he encouraged me to express that in my art work. He will be missed, but the world is a better place after having him in it.

Susan Singleton

BA 1974, MFA 1976

I met Richard in 1968 as an undergraduate science student at the University of Washington. His classes introduced me to "the principles of pattern" (his published work), ethnic textiles, and the world of printing and painting. As lead advisor on my MFA committee, he directed me to detailed color studies and instilled the discipline and dedication of being an artist.

He had a relaxed intensity and focus that nurtured his students. Richard was serious with a twinkle of mischief and good humor.

I was hired by the School of Art as a graduate student and remained on faculty to teach for a few years after. We shared office space, and I came to further understand the lovely man that had been my teacher, then colleague, with profound respect. The gratitude that I feel for the time and friendship he invested in me is reflected in my long career as an artist and teacher. I picture him now still chuckling with kind of a half-laugh at the world around us, itching to get back to his orchids!

Ron Adams

BA 1968, BFA 1973

I met Rich Proctor as a professor at the University of Washington in 1967. He was teaching an introduction to weaving class that I was required to take for my art education degree. I enjoyed the class and thought Rich / Professor Proctor to be a good instructor, although I was more interested in my painting and drawing courses. I finished my degree program in 1968 and and started teaching art at Newport High School in Bellevue. I immediately reenrolled at the UW to pursue a bachelor's degree in painting. I would often see Rich in the building as I attended classes. At this time, he had become friends with Ron Childers who later became his life partner. Ron taught art at Sammamish High School, also in Bellevue. I got to know Rich and Ron through social events sponsored by the Bellevue art teachers. A few years later, in the early 1970s, I was invited to join the the Northwest Designer Craftsmen Organization. Rich was also a member, and I started seeing him at monthly meetings and at social events. Rich had recently published his book The Principals of Pattern. I used that book as a resource in some of my high school art classes. It was very helpful to me and many other teachers. It also influenced my artwork at the time.

Rich and Ron had property in the town of Langley on Whidbey Island. I was often invited to show my work there. The Childers/Proctor Gallery was an outstanding place to show, and the gallery had a huge influence on the town. Langley was becoming know as an artful place to visit. Rich and Ron helped establish WICA , Whidbey Island Center for the Arts. By this time I knew both Rich and Ron very well and saw them often at art openings and social events . I eventually married Nancy Loorem, who had property very near Langley. She had also gotten to know Rich and Ron. However, by then they had retired and moved to Palm Springs, but they returned every summer to Whidbey Island and stayed for several months. They were often guests at our home, and we saw them at WICA events. My last contact with Rich and Ron was this past November when we visited Palm Springs. They invited us to their home for dinner. Rich spent a great deal of time showing us their collection of art. He was in the process of cataloguing their collection and making plans for the distribution of the collection after their passing. At that time Rich was very able both physically and mentally, but Ron was using a walker and a wheelchair. Rich was the strong one and the caretaker. We were very surprised when we heard of his passing. Rich was an influence in many areas: art education, his creative work, his publication of the Principals of Pattern, and his promotion of the arts, especially in Langley . Richard Proctor’s legacy will live on, and he will be missed .

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