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John O.C. McCrillis | 1914–2017

John O.C. McCrillis 39 GD, perhaps the longest active member of the RISD community, died peacefully on October 1, 2017. He was 103. 

After studying with master calligrapher John Howard Benson and majoring in graphic design, John graduated from RISD in 1939 and went on to teach in the Saturday Junior School (the precursor to RISD Continuing Education). He also worked as a freelance graphic designer and calligrapher until 1942, when he joined the US Army Air Corps and flew on 50 missions over North Africa and Italy during WWII. 

After the war, John and fellow alum Barbara Roffee 39 PT got married and relocated to Kansas City, where he taught at the Kansas City Art Institute and worked as a design consultant at Hallmark Cards. He returned to school a few years later, earning an MFA from Yale School of Art in 1952. 

For almost 30 years, John headed the design department at Yale University Press, while also taking on freelance projects in publication design and calligraphy and pursuing interests like gardening, singing in the church choir and painting for his own enjoyment. 

Throughout his life, John remained engaged with RISD, serving on the Editorial Board of the Alumni Bulletin from 1960–71 and on the Design Visiting Committee in the ’60s. He chaired the Annual Fund, was an alumni trustee and organized his 50th class reunion in 1989, earning the Alumni Service Award that year, too, for his many years of volunteering to do calligraphy, design and organizational work in support of RISD and its disparate alumni clubs. 

In retirement John bought an antique printing press so that he could have fun printing limited-edition books, prints and cards. On his 92nd birthday—June 3, 2006— he accepted an honorary doctor of fine arts degree from RISD. He also served as an honorary trustee from 1997 through this year.

Remember when Carolina first showed up and she was always angry with the reds and blues and always yelled at them but noW WHEN SHE TALKS TO THEM SHE ALWAYS SOUNDS AMUSED LIKE THESE ARE HER NEW BABIES AND LOWKEY SHE THINKS THEYRE PRECIOUS AND JFC SHE HAS FRIENDS THAT SHE FINDS AMUSING AND SHE KNOWS TO VALUE THAT NOW AND UGH I BET SHE ENJOYS EVERY STUPID LITTLE THING THEY DO AND UGH I HATE EVERYTHING