Longtime professor at Montclair State University, Carlos Ortiz, passed away Friday, Oct. 23 after a long fight with illness. Ortiz was held in high regard by everyone who knew him, especially his students.
Ortiz taught classes in Studio Art and sections of the New Student Experience and served as assistant dean to the College of Humanities and Social Science at Montclair State from 2004 to 2012.
He was an artist and printmaker who shared his love for creativity both on and off campus. Ortiz revealed his wealth of experience by creating beautiful pieces with the Montclair State community and some of his work still hangs in Dickson Hall.
When asked what she gathered from Ortiz over the years as a colleague and friend, Professor Norma Connolly responded, “I learned patience and effortless grace and class. As an individual, I got to know a person who battled demons, but was incredibly insightful. During his long illness, he clung to dignity as his only comfort.”
Connolly met Ortiz when she began at Montclair State in 1994. She recalls Ortiz as being extremely student-oriented and “an excellent advocate for student concerns. He had a very gentle and refined manner, which instantly engaged the person he was speaking or working with. He negotiated with faculty to ensure students were able to academically succeed.”
In an interview with Studio International, an art magazine founded in 1893, Ortiz described teaching at Montclair State in his own words, saying, “I encouraged collaboration to allow students to evolve psychologically, emotionally, culturally and spiritually. I continue to teach in addition to my administrative duties as Assistant Dean. Young student artists today are even hungrier for a classroom experience that allows their intuitive nature to be voiced and to also experience the cultural and spiritual aspects of their lives through their creative work. They are aware that they can and must create a better world and that art can be a powerful force for change.”
As an artist, along with the artwork he created at Montclair State, his collection Dancin’ was exhibited in 2008 by El Taller Latino Americano and was described by interviewer Cindi DiMarzo as “quick and expressionistic” and as having “bold colours, exaggerated and fluid shapes and overlapping images combine for powerful effect, yet the overall sense is warm and welcoming. Viewing these works is like entering an embrace.” These words are a reflection of Ortiz’s vibrant personality and his ability to make students feel at home in the classroom.
As a professor, Ortiz had many great reviews detailing his dedication to students’ overall well-being, as well as demonstrating a genuine concern for students to grow intellectually.
Another friend of Ortiz, Dr. Saundra Collins, recalled him as a professor, saying, “He always showed the human side of being an instructor who did not forget what it was like to be a student. He gave students his personal attention when needed. He was very encouraging and often helped students get on the right track. He was an excellent mentor.”
Montclair State alumna Lauren Rotondella, who worked closely with Ortiz before and after graduation, spoke of Ortiz’s relationship with students when asked about his legacy at the university. “Toward the end of his life, Carlos confided in me that he regretted not having married or started a family through which his memory would live. But, when I look at all the generations of students he has mentored, taught and loved, it is clear that the scope of his legacy has far exceeded those expectations. The countless lives he has touched and brought together is the biggest and best family anyone could have ever hoped for.”
Students also took to the Internet to express their appreciation for Ortiz. One student wrote on ratemyprofessor.com, “[It] made me smile to come to class. Ortiz is funny, helpful, outstanding and just amazing. He is so experienced and understanding that the class is fun and active. He also makes time every class to ask us if anyone experienced anything new or if we have problems.”
Another student wrote on the site that Ortiz was a “great guy” and an “inspiring mentor.” All of the comments about Ortiz stated nothing but positive and meaningful accounts of students’ memories of him as a qualified, attentive and motivational influence during his time teaching at Montclair State.
For many, Ortiz was personable, relatable, caring and concerned wholeheartedly about the future of his students. Collins said about her fond memories of their friendship, “He was protective. He had a well-disguised sense of humor. He was the kind of friend who would roll up his sleeves and help you when you did not know you needed help.”