The Greatest Job on the Planet

Jim Hamilton
Aug 31, 2011

David Pankow, curator of Rochester Institute of Technology’s Cary Graphic Arts collection, is retiring today after more than thirty years of service. I’m sure the decision to retire was a hard one. You see, I think he has the greatest job on the planet.

I met Dave in 1986 when I was a graduate student at the printing school. It really was a world in transition. Many of the professors were stuck in a previous era, and I have to admit that there was a bit of an appeal to that. It made for a real connection between the physical properties of handset type and the electronic magic of their PostScript reproductions. I was blessed to find three advisors (Frank Cost, Mike Kleper, and Dr. Joseph DeLorenzo) who helped me through my RIT thesis on PostScript halftoning at a time when few people at RIT had even heard of Adobe.

While at RIT I developed this idealized perception of Dave’s job. I imagined him working in the collection surrounded by rare books and printing presses, hobnobbing with wealthy RIT printing school alumni, seeking out arcane purchases from international collectors, chatting with Frank Romano about type catalogs of the 1920s, and, you get the idea, I could go on and on. I’m sure that the job was not always quite like I pictured it, but some days it must have been. And that’s why I envied him.

To give some perspective on how much he accomplished, over time Dave managed two roles, which are now being split up upon his departure. There will be a director for the Cary Graphic Arts Press and a curator for the Cary Collection. It’s the curating job that I would like (though I am singularly unqualified for it), and in any case, they’ve already filled the position. As curator, Dave will be succeeded by Dr. Steven K. Gailbraith who comes to RIT from the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC, where he was the Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Books. Congratulations Dr. Gailbraith! You now have the greatest job on the planet!

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