The faculty and staff at West Liberty University are mourning the passing of their friend, colleague and inspiration Professor Paul Padgett. Paul served WLU for over forty years and was the constant in a world of graphic design that changed dramatically. He was an living encyclopedia of the history of graphic design, design techniques and popular culture. He was a musician, father, grandfather, educator and artist. As a colleague he was happy, inspiring and willing to pitch in wherever needed. As a teacher he inspired, asked for more and led by example.

He will be missed and the faculty in the College of Arts and Communication are blessed to have worked with him. The following blog post from WLU alumna Melissa Marshall elegantly reflects on his impact and energy. Additional writings from Melissa, on a variety of topics can be found at

Are You Down with RPP?padg-m-nyc-560x315

My heart is heavy tonight as I remember the one-and-only, the wonderful and the great, Robert Paul Padgett.

It’s easy to say that I would not be the designer I am today without having Padgett as one of my design professors during my studies at West Liberty. He had radiated passion for graphic design, typography and art. He was happy to share many stories of his life and experiences with others, and his energy was contagious.

He encouraged me to be myself and challenged me to bring my personality into my work. He pushed me to be bold and to be aggressive (former classmates might remember a little Hitler-themed stream of work from me— you can all thank Padgett for that!). He instilled in me an appreciation for diligence and craftsmanship. He taught me to be informed, educated and knowledgable in the reasoning and purpose behind design that I produce.

I feel happy to have been able to jam on my banjo along with Padgett and his gee-tar on several occasions. I will forever think of him when I listen to Bob Dylan and also whenever I hear and sing along with “Rainbow Connection and “Here Comes the Sun.”

“The Padge” had a quite-nice design book collection. When borrowing one of his books once, he shared with me his system of knowing what books were his. Students throughout the years would decide to “lose” the books they borrowed from him. He developed a system of writing his initials on page 55 of his books, so if he ever came across them, he would know he had found his copy! I thought this was brilliant and decided to integrate his system into my own collection. Where he wrote “PP”, in my design books I write “MM.”

He would share with us both hilarious and interesting stories from his life. One fall semester during one of our ‘What did you do during summer vacation?’ conversations, he shared with us that he got a jaywalking ticket while visiting his son. It must have been the charisma he expressed while telling his story that led me to add “acquire a jaywalking ticket” to my Things-to-Do-in-Life-List. I know. No normal person would do this. But his stories were always so amusing and intriguing. I want to live a life at least half as exciting as Padgett’s.

Never dull, never boring; I will never forget our design trips to New York City. Those who attended these 5-day trips know exactly what I mean.

A few stories from those art and design trips stick out in my mind. Without going in to detail, these memories involve:

A concussion. A fire escape. Paul Padgett. An eye injury. A 2nd concussion.
School van. Roof of school van. Paul Padgett. Low clearance parking garage entryway.
I am proud of the education that I had at West Liberty University (then West Liberty State College) and am honored to have had Professor Paul Padgett as one of my educators and mentors.

I stepped in this past spring semester to teach Paul’s Advanced Typography class which turned out to be one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences so far in my professional career in graphic design. I had no training in teaching, I only knew what I had learned during my schooling and what I had experienced through work. What really fueled me through this experience was channeling the pure passionate excitement that “Padge” delivered to us in class when I was his student. As I mentioned earlier, it was contagious. So I did my best to bring his energy for typography into my teachings. As a class we would make common references to Padgett— “If you can’t make it good, make it big. If you can’t make it big, make it red.” And then the well-known Padgett response that everyone loved, yet dreaded, was often expressed— I can hear and feel it now, that suspenseful ”Oooh… ” which was always of course paired with his trademark skip/stumble-step-move and that enthusiastic hand motion thing he would do. All of that, all at once. Classic Padge.

I used to joke with him, as we all did. Sometimes I would pop my head into Padgett’s office and sing (rap?) to him, “You Down with RPP?!” (his initials…). The typical response would be his inviting laugh with a following entertainingly apprehensive ”Yeah, you know me!”

I am sad for his passing, but he was loved and respected by many and I feel fortunate to have been one of those people.

Melissa Marsall