Requiescat in Pace, Liz Lyons Friedman.
We mourn the loss of Friedman, the first female full-time teacher at Canisius High School who helped establish the school's fine arts program.
The Buffalo native and Nardin Academy graduate taught at Canisius from 1970 to 1977 and was also the first female lay faculty member at CHS. She helped move the arts from the English department into their own program, which included hanging student art in the hallway of the of the Koessler Academic Center, a practice that continues to this day.
"I loved being a part of the Canisius family," she wrote in a first-person story from the Fall 2019 edition of CHS Today, which celebrated Canisius High School's 150th anniversary.
In 1977 Friedman relocated to California, where she led more art education programs while becoming an accomplished and well-known artist.
Fr. Michael Tunney, S.J. ’76, the rector of the Fairfield Jesuit community who previously served as the director of the fine arts program at Canisius College, credited Friedman for shaping and encouraging his interest in art in the Summer 2019 edition of CHS Today.
“Her enthusiasm, dedication to her students, and her endless patience and good humor showed all of us how to be both creative and kind to one another,” Fr. Tunney recalled. “Long before Jesuits talked about our lay colleagues as central figures in our schools’ missions, Liz was in the lead at Canisius.”
Milton Braswell III '73, who built a career in juvenile corrections that was guided by his Jesuit education, paid tribute to Friedman in the Spring 2021 CHS Today. Braswell said life for a private high school student of color in the late 1960s and early 1970s was challenging, but he remembered being influenced by Friedman's teaching and her pioneering role at CHS.
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The following is Liz Lyons Friedman's first-person story from the Fall 2019 edition of CHS Today, which celebrated Canisius High School's 150th anniversary:
Liz Lyons Friedman taught at Canisius from 1970 to 1977. She now lives in California where she has an art studio.
Canisius High School was always a part of my life in Buffalo. I went to Nardin Academy from kindergarten through high school. The two schools have always had a close connection. Many of my uncles and cousins graduated from Canisius High School; even more of my family, including my father, went to Canisius College. A Jesuit education was a proud tradition in our family.
In 1970, having just earned my Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree, I heard about an opening for an art instructor at Canisius High School. Even though I didn’t have experience teaching and I was a woman, I applied for the position. After several interviews I was asked to teach an art lesson in the summer HAP English class of Mr. Ken Durkin ’58. I was a nervous wreck but the lesson went well and I was hired. I immediately enrolled at SUNY at Buffalo to earn a Masters in Art Education and a teaching credential.
As the first female lay faculty member and the first full-time female instructor, there were many challenges. No one was quite sure what to do with me. What about the all-male faculty lounge, and what should I wear? At the time the lay faculty wore academic gowns … a bit awkward teaching studio art! The faculty and staff were (mostly) very welcoming but this was a big, big change. Thank you to my colleagues and superiors for mentoring and teaching me the ropes! I had many things to learn about … JUG being one of them.
When I began teaching at Canisius, visual arts, music and theater arts were part of the English department. A couple of years later we became a separate, albeit small but growing, fine arts department located in Berchman’s Hall. The beautiful hallway of the former Rand mansion was transformed into a student art gallery. Music, television, and mechanical drawing classes were also held in Berchman’s Hall. The art room, next to the chapel, was a place for studio art, art appreciation and art history. My students painted murals on the walls. We even had a “Paint In” where my students painted all of the table tops in colorful, bold, Peter Max like, designs (this was the early 70s). It is so gratifying to see that 40 years later the fine arts department has its own 13,000 square foot building with rehearsal spaces, art classrooms, studios and a beautiful gallery space. It is exciting to see the impressive growth and development of the fine arts department now housed in the new Center for the Arts.
The art students were an integral part of the first GAMBIT. This was years before word processors and digital layout programs, and the students made posters for every donated item by hand as well as helped with decorating the auditorium. Field trips included walking to the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, a wonderful way to introduce my students to art and identify the different architectural styles along the way. I loved being a part of the Canisius family. Congratulations, Canisius, on 150 years of Jesuit education in Buffalo!
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