Denny Turner Fraze, 75, of Amarillo died October 31, at home. Denny Fraze was one of the three founding members of TASA. Denny served as the co-chair of the Core Curriculum Committee and as President of TASA in two different terms twenty years apart, hosting two of TASA’s state conventions in Amarillo. Amarillo College hired Denny to teach art courses in 1965. Two years later, he was named Professor of Art and Chairman of the Art Department. Read more from Denny's obituary...
In Denny's honor, Denny's friends and colleagues share their remembrances of him below.
Linda Fawcett, Hardin-Simmons University:
To remind myself of Denny’s legacy with TASA, I studied the TASA online list of Officers, Conference locations and Award Winners (since 1968). First thing: Denny was the SECOND PRESIDENT of TASA 1970-72. And the 70s was the decade of countless meetings, phone calls and letter exchanges to hammer out the framework of what is today the Texas higher ed freshman art core we all are familiar with and probably have taken for granted (Drawing I and II, Design I and II, Art History Survey I and II). Before that there was no consistency whatsoever for transfer of art courses from two to four-year schools. Try to imagine Drawing as a freshman course at some schools and as a junior level course at others!
Denny was in the middle of it as the first Chair of the TASA Academic Standards Committee, keeping everyone on task, hammering out first a freshman art core, then a sophomore art core (by 1972). He and his contemporaries also established a strong working partnership with the THECB so that TASA recommendations were readily approved and became part of their transfer core. (Don’t we miss those days today in lieu of new politics and rules endangering the very existence of studio art courses in a guaranteed transfer core.) Denny knew how to negotiate and build strong working relationships with the right people.
When the TASA transfer art core was reviewed again by the THECB in 1979, Denny again served as Vice-President of the 15-member committee and the TASA transfer core was reapproved in 1982. Meanwhile, Denny was elected President of TASA for a second time, serving in that capacity 1986-88. He also officially served on the TASA Board a total of seven more years beyond his two presidencies. In 1991 Denny was awarded the prestigious TASA Distinguished Service Award and in 2000 the TASA Board of Directors Award for 110% Contributions to TASA.
I remember Denny well since I first began attending TASA annual conferences (since 1982) especially because of his warmth, sense of humor, inclusiveness and sense of adventure. I’ll never forget my first Amarillo conference (1983), especially the day we all boarded a bus with a fully loaded cooler in the back but no bathroom, for a 3 hour tour of Stanley Marsh’s ranch and all the famous site-specific works of art located there. My innocent eyes were opened that day with just how much fun we had as well as our emergency problem-solving skills!
I also enjoyed the way Denny and his officers handled the potentially boring Saturday night awards banquet by his inclusion of unconventional awards with quirky gifts. I suspect that Denny’s wife Gwen had a lot to do with the last-minute gift selections. Needless to say, when I became President I tried my humble best to carry the torch and balance the fun and the work. In summary, I believe that Denny was that amazing individual who knew the importance of hard work, professional dedication and also of warm personal relationships, the quintessential practitioner of what TASA has always stood for.
Terry Morrow, Texas Tech University, Retired:
I suddenly realize how rapidly the years have flashed by when I am more frequently asked to write thoughts and memories of those colleagues who have passed on. Denny Fraze is another of those valued friends in the visual arts who has departed without consulting me!
I first knew Denny as a classmate in drawing and painting classes at the University of Texas in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Denny was fun from the beginning‹a zippy sense of humor, a quick, engaging smile, and always a friendly word to offer. Goodness knows that we had a good time in the barracks of the old Art Department at UT‹smoking cigarettes and making jokes but, always trying to make good art.
After a time, I reconnected with Denny through my involvement with TASA in the 1980s. I found a wiser, more experienced but, still the same good-natured Denny Fraze. I had a really good time with him during the TASA years as well. I did discover just how effective a voice for the visual arts in Texas, Denny had become. He still had that underlying personal intensity that enabled him to do his best for students and to stand
for the importance of the visual arts within the state and beyond. College level education in the visual arts benefited significantly from Denny Fraze¹s consistent involvement with TASA, his service as an educator at Amarillo College, and the exhibitions of his fantastic and highly skilled collage artwork.
I have many fond memories of Denny. To my knowledge he never lost patience with me or with whatever was transpiring in the TASA organization at any time. So, alas, farewell Denny. And thank you for all the good you contributed to the many.
Mark Anderson, Baylor University:
“I’m very sad to hear of Denny’s passing. So many years of seeing he and Gwen at the conferences, and with him being one of the founders of TASA, the institutional memory and guidance he gave was invaluable. The last conference in Amarillo he organized, was the end of your [Linda Fawcett’s] first term as Pres., and the beginning of mine.”
“…TASA not only serves the profession, but creates professional friendships and opportunities that make Texas seem smaller.”
Brian Row, Texas State University, Retired:
"I was very sorry to hear about Denny’s passing. Although our paths may not have crossed at the University of Colorado during the early sixties, when I joined TASA in 1977 we were able to share names of faculty and fellow students who had shared our time there. He made me feel an immediate part of TASA. He was a joy to work with and I was and am still impressed with the work and commitment Denny and other TASA faculty made over the years to allow students to move from one institution to another with relative ease. His work in organizing TASA has and will continue to have a lasting impact on higher education in Texas as it provides a forum for art faculty, administrators and students to discuss and share ideas, issues, creative work, and experiences and to develop lasting friendships."
Barry Phillips (the Elder), Odessa College, Retired:
“During the 1970 TASA conference, Dr. Clarence Kincaid, Dr. Charles Steward, Denny Fraze and I founded the TASA Marching, Singing and Drinking Society. Due to the nature of our activities the organization remained a secret society. So many memories of Denny never to be forgotten. I am retired but still teaching part-time and doing art. Hope [all of] you are loving life.”
Cathie Tyler, Paris Junior College, Retired:
What I remember most about Denny is his warm, lopsided smile and somewhat shy stance. His stunning collages certainly reflected his attention to detail and organization but the irreverent humor was HIM. He was such a stalwart supporter of TASA and he counted, so far as I know, everyone in the organization a friend and ally. It's such a shame that we can't just clone Denny (and Paul, Bob and others) for an open house session (gather around the fire...) every few years at the conference so that ALL of the members could continue to carry on their memories.
Steve Cost, Amarillo College:
“I came to work the Fall of 1995 under Denny Fraze when my Texas State Technical College (TSTC) Amarillo department of Commercial Art merged with Amarillo College. I stepped down as chair from my tenure with TSTC and Denny remained as chair of what became a new program at AC — Graphic Design.
That first year I asked him what he wanted me to teach in a new course offering to which I was assigned. He replied, ‘We hire the best here in Amarillo College’s Art Department, so I know that I can trust you to teach this course the best you know how, and that’s good enough for me.’
Academically, that is probably the nicest thing I have ever had said to me.
I will miss him. He was a very good department head, one of the best bosses I have ever had, and a good personal friend.”
Victoria Taylor-Gore, Amarillo College:
“Denny hired me as an adjuct years before I started working as a full time faculty at Amarillo College. I was so impressed with his passion for art and art history, which was reflected in his leadership as chair and his beautiful, enigmatic collages. He was smart, funny, and wonderfully engaging as a person and an artist - I will miss him very much."
David Willard, West Texas A&M University:
“I remember well our service on the board together, his sense of humor and of course his joyful laugh.”