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70th Reunion
Tuesday, 6/11/2024

12:00 pm until 4:00 pm
Tavistock Country Club
Friends, children, spouses invited to help us celebrate our last reunion
Send $35 to Mark Sibley, 134 Cider Press Drive, Mullica Hill, NJ 08062 by June 1.
Edit Alumni Society Trustee Meetings
Third Tuesday of every month September through May/June, except December. Contact us for the location.

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2018 Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient

Laura Petrovich-Cheney

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When I first met my wife, Laura Petrovich, she was a painter, who was traveling around the country to paint outdoors—she was inspired by nature and her natural surroundings.  In addition to pursuing her art, Laura was also teaching second grade. Laura approached her teaching as she did her art—with passion. I recall Laura deciding to take her students to the Museum of Natural History in New York.  Laura and her students read a book about raising money for a school trip and subsequently had numerous bake sales to raise the money. (Sidebar: I must have gained at least ten pounds that year, buying baked goods.) Laura and the students raised enough money to go. It was such a great trip. One little girl was so excited to go that she lied about her fever and stomach bug, so she didn’t miss it. Laura stayed behind with the little girl until her mother came to pick her even though they both missed all the fun. After two years teaching in a classroom, Laura’s dream of becoming an elementary art teacher came true. It was “art-on-a-cart” position, but she didn’t care. Well, a little – I mean she would have loved to have taught in a dedicated art room. But she made do, and then some.

Laura taught art in an urban district and wanted her urban students to have the best education possible. To ensure that, Laura decided that she needed to be the best art teacher. She joined the Art Educators of New Jersey. It just wasn’t enough for Laura to go to the conferences – she decided that she wanted a hand in the conference and volunteered to give presentations. Of course, she didn’t stop there – she joined the executive board, ran many conferences, and started lecturing at the national level. Now, for most people, that might be enough; but not Laura.  Laura wanted to know everything possible about teaching art and decided to get her national board certification:  An arduous process that took more than a year and a half to complete; many writing assignments; videotapes of her teaching; and a three-hour test. Not surprisingly, Laura earned her national board certification—onward!

Despite the satisfaction that Laura received from her students and her teaching, Laura knew that her real calling was making her own art. At 43, and still teaching full time, Laura decided to go back to school at Moore College of Art in Philadelphia, to earn her Master of Fine Arts in Studio Art. The classes were mostly in the summer, and during the school year at night. Her success in the art world happened quickly. Laura figured that, at her age, she had no time to waste in becoming successful. Her fist solo show was at the Abington Art Center, Abington, Pennsylvania, where all but one piece sold. She went on to exhibit at Kean University, Union, New Jersey; the AIR Gallery, Brooklyn, New York; the James Michener Gallery, Doylestown, Pennsylvania; and the Fuller Craft Museum, Brockton, Massachusetts—to name a few. Not only were individuals collecting her work, but non-profits and commercial organizations were, too, including Temple University Hospital, MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper Hospital, and PNC Bank headquarters in Pittsburgh. 

Eventually, Laura felt her art career needed more attention and, after 13 years, she left her full-time teaching position to spend time making art full time. However, Laura’s love of teaching did not stop. She continues to conduct workshops and has taught as an artist-in-residence in various school districts. 

Laura’s determination, focus and work ethic are an inspiration to me. She sets her intentions on what she wants to achieve and tries her best. The path to reaching a goal is not always easy. She has known failure and disappointment first hand. But her intrinsic values chart her course and keep her focused. I cannot help but think that many of Laura’s guiding principles are rooted in her education and experiences growing up in Haddonfield. In fact, Laura often mentions in her professional presentations how Elizabeth Haddon inspired her. She tells the story of how Elizabeth took ownership of her father’s property by leaving her family behind to travel to this new land. Laura found a great deal inspiration and courage from Elizabeth’s story. It is remarkable to think about how a young woman in the 1600s had the determination and courage to change her life so radically. 

I know that two pivotal inspirations for Laura were her days spent at the Sanski Art Center and Frame Shop and the Little Shop, a quilting and fabric store. The Sanski Art Center and Frame shop was her Saturday refuge; a place where Laura truly felt special. Laura wasn’t not the top in her class or great at sports; but at Sanski’s, Laura felt like a star. And at the Little Shop, Laura fell in love with all the calico prints and colored fabrics that inspired her to sew and make a quilt. 

Today, Laura’s artworks are still inspired by nature. Using salvaged wood from such natural disasters as Hurricane Sandy, Laura creates quilt patterns with the wood, much like those quilt patterns that she learned to create and sew at the Little Shop. Growing up in Haddonfield, New Jersey, have greatly influenced Laura’s life decisions. The school system provided her with an excellent education, instilled in her a life-long love of learning, and inspired her to give back to others. The town’s stable commercial district gave her the opportunity to explore new interests. If it “takes a village” to raise to the child, Haddonfield is just that village. I know that Laura would be honored to receive the Haddonfield Alumni Society's Lifetime Achievement Award. 

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