Kent State professor remembered fondly by colleagues, students as humanitarian artist

Addie Gall

Christopher Darling, an assistant professor of visual communication design at Kent State who died unexpectedly on June 17, inspired those around him with his work and passion for social justice issues.

Those who spent time with him continue to remember his devotion to his work and helping others.

Stephanie Smith, an assistant professor of journalism and mass communication, first met Darling last academic year. The two worked together to produce an exhibition and symposium called GONE. Expressions of Incarceration in America.

Smith remembered him as a prolific and gifted artist and teacher.


“The classroom was a better place for him having been there,” Smith said. “He was gifted with compassion. He had compassion for social justice issues and causes, and he thought beyond his own self and his own environment and his own life. He was focused on doing good for others.”

Darling not only inspired his colleagues, but his students as well.

Mahlon Rhodes, a graduate student in visual communication design, first met him in the classroom.

“He was probably the funniest teacher I ever had,” Rhodes said.

Rhodes took classes with Darling throughout his undergraduate studies, and Darling became one of Rhodes’ thesis advisers and wrote him a letter of recommendation for graduate school.

Rhodes recalled one of his favorite memories of Darling: He was comforting another student who was going through a difficult time.

“I didn’t try to eavesdrop, but I heard him say it’s OK to cry, it’s OK to let that stuff out,” Rhodes said. “When she came back, she didn’t look sad at all. She looked like she was ready to get back to work.”

Darling made an impression on everyone he met, even those who never had him as a teacher.

Joseph Young, a graduate student in visual communication design, met him through another graduate student.

Young said Darling invited him out for lunch, and they learned they lived near each other. Darling invited him to his house.

“No other instructor or professor that I can think of has ever invited me into their home,” Young said. “Darling always went out of his way to help and be kind to others, no matter who you were. I know I didn’t know him that long, and I wasn’t the closest person to him, but I really felt like we had a close relationship. That’s just the kind of person he was.”

For Smith, Darling’s love of the world around him will be his lasting memory.

“I would hope that his students and his colleagues and myself, that we always remember he used his gift for the public good.”