Art Professor Gary Moeller gave close to 40 years of his life to Rogers State University and the education of it’s students over the years.

RSU chose to honor Moeller’s career Thursday afternoon with the surprise dedication of the Gary Moeller Gallery of the Arts in Baird Hall.

When Moeller arrived at the event, he took a seat in the auditorium’s back row, unaware that everyone was there to celebrate his career.

Faculty and current and former students gathered to recognize Moeller’s impact on the regional art community and watch as the former Foundations Gallery was renamed.

A handful of former students and colleagues spoke, including Kellie Vann, an art graduate from Rogers State College who know operates Raincrow Art Post in Ne-Mar.

“Gary quietly encourages his students to learn more about their creative inspiration and how to make the most of their talents. Gary has left his mark on this program and his imprints are all over this building and the art program he helped build,” Vann said.

Moeller began teaching art at the university in 1979, along the way holding several administrative positions, including department head for the Department of Fine Arts. When Moeller retired in May 2018, he was named a Distinguished Professor of Fine Arts.

One of RSU’s longest tenured faculty members, Moeller is credited with developing RSU’s bachelor of fine arts program and playing a significant role in the school’s transition from community college to four-year regional university.

He has received numerous honors and awards both for teaching and community service.

Blake Walinder, assistant professor of fine arts and 2013 RSU graduate, said he was inspired by Moeller’s enthusiasm as a teacher.

“Gary’s classes never lost their creative energy from the first moment I took one of his classes. He was so encouraging to make students better, and I am honored to have been his student and colleague,” Walinder said.

Dr. Jim Ford, director of academic enrichment and professor of English and humanities, noted that Moeller was his department head when Ford was first hired 18 years ago.

“One of the most important lessons I learned from Gary was how to lead people by supporting them,” Ford said. “His style of leadership helped make sure that everyone had a voice in governance and he was very transparent about how the department operated.”

Ford also credited Moeller with pioneering RSU’s study abroad efforts by taking students and faculty to Italy for a studying the arts. Ford was inspired by that trip, and started his own program that has resulted in more than 200 students to study abroad in Europe.

In addition, Moeller has facilitated campus visits to RSU by Italian artists and performers.

His work have been exhibited in galleries and museums across the country and he designed the wooden mace that leads RSU’s commencement ceremonies.

“He has been a champion for the arts throughout the state by volunteering his time and talents to develop Oklahoma’s artist community, including creating campus and community events that showcase area talent,” the University said, in a statement.

RSU President Dr. Larry Rice announced to the crowd that the OU Board of Regents had just approved the name change a few hours earlier and said it was a well-deserved honor.

He then called Department of Communications Head Steve Rosser and Moeller over to unveil a poster announcing the gallery’s new name.

Moeller was taken aback by the recognition, telling the audience that he was honored and called it “the culmination of my career.”

A showing of Moeller’s art works is scheduled for Sept. 27 through Oct. 17 at the gallery that now bears his name. The opening event will be held the evening of Thursday, Sept. 27.