Teaching is a way of life for Central State professor


WILBERFORCE — For Central State’s Dr. Ronald Claxton, associate professor of art education and art history, instruction, and edification are far more than a vocation: They’re a way of life.

This has been true for Claxton since he took his first humble step on his lengthy journey toward receiving his doctorate in philosophy (with a focus on art education) from The Ohio State University in 1997. Claxton also holds a bachelor of arts and a master of arts from Western Kentucky University.

One year after earning his doctorate, Claxton found himself at Central State, and nearly 25 years later, he still feels confident his post as an invaluable faculty member in the long-heralded College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences has been a premier capstone to his extensive trek through academia that continues even now.

In 1978, Claxton started his post-secondary education at Western Kentucky University to work on an undergraduate degree in art education.

“I knew I wanted my degree either in art or art education, and stayed in Bowling Green, Kentucky, where I received a scholarship to get my master’s (degree),” Claxton said.

After graduation, Claxton put his skills to work in the practical field of teaching at the K-12 level, first as a substitute teacher in his hometown just outside of Louisville, Kentucky.

“I love all forms of education, including math and science,” Claxton said. “I really enjoyed substitute teaching, but I wanted to teach something that would utilize my master’s degree.”

He moved his family to Nashville, Tennessee, where he taught for a while as an adjunct professor at Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU). Early in his work at MTSU, a colleague realized Claxton’s passion and skill for art education. He suggested that Claxton might be interested in becoming a full-time associate professor. Claxton jumped at the opportunity, working in that position for six years before deciding to take another leap forward in his scholastic career toward gaining a degree which would eventually be his doctorate.

With the support from MTSU, Claxton earned his doctoral degree from Ohio State University’s Department of Arts Administration, Education, and Policy

“I had colleagues who had degrees from Ohio State University, which was of course also not too far from where I had spent most of my life outside of Louisville, Kentucky, and it seemed like it would be a good fit for me, which it turned out to be,” Claxton said. “In fact, at the time of my going there, it was in the top two or three art education doctoral programs in the country. And it was also very diverse. I liked that a lot. The faculty, the student body: a lot of different kinds of people from a lot of different backgrounds. People from Norway, from Korea, from Ghana. That part of it was so unique to me.”

Being that MTSU supported the completion of his general doctoral work, Claxton returned to the school, teaching there for another two years while finishing his dissertation on the infusion of African American culture into art education (K-12).

Laughing while recounting this part of the story, Claxton had during this two-year period been determined to come back to Ohio because he had “fallen in love” while at OSU. After a short teaching stint at Columbus State Community College, he accepted a position at Central State, where he has been a major fixture of the art department since 1998.

“A lot of it, too, comes back to what I was saying about how progressive, liberal, and diverse I’ve found Ohio to be,” Claxton said. “It’s so enlightening to be around so many kinds of people. It helped, too, that Central State’s renowned artist and art educator, Bing Davis, whom I’d gotten to know through conferences in New York and other places around, really encouraged me to choose Central State. He loved my work in art history and education and made it clear the school was impressed with my past.”

As a much younger man, going back at least as early as his time in middle school, Claxton delved deep into his passions as a craftsman and designer in the arts. His youthful interests propelled his pursuing of everything from painting and sculpture to producing sophisticated drawing schematics and architecture designs.

“I had a love for all of it,” Claxton said. “But what really brought me into the education side is the fact that I became involved in Bible school over the summers where I was growing up in Kentucky. From there, it became simple for me to work with other people, regardless of their age. Working in various capacities of those classes became commonplace for me, and I realized early on that a career in education made sense for me.”

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