Drawing upon memory

As they say, some memories never fade. Here, alumni designers illustrate one of of their favorites and captivate with their college recollections.

When asked to illustrate any favorite memory from their time as WashU students, these accomplished alumni enrolled immediately.

The assignment was designed to allow them — and us — an opportunity to take a trip down memory lane and revisit what makes a Washington University education so special. The result is a delightful and distinctive mix. Kicking off the series (on the print issue’s cover), Morgan Schweitzer, BFA ’07, senior art director at BUCK Design in Los Angeles, reminisces about all the things that took place during his college experience. Alex Eben Meyer, BFA ’98 — an illustrator with a wide range of editorial, advertising, publishing and interactive clients to his credit — depicts working on a life-size assignment for a 3D design class. Illustrator and designer Max Temescu, BFA ’13, whose past clients include The Atlantic and The Hollywood Reporter, highlights an extracurricular: his time DJing late nights at KWUR. Molly Brooks, BFA ’09, an illustrator, comics-maker and author/ illustrator of the graphic novel series Sanity & Tallulah, reveals a charming secret of her time in residential housing. Noah Macmillan, BFA ’11, a designer/illustrator whose diverse portfolio includes work for Major League Soccer, McDonald’s, Smithsonian Magazine and more, showcases people — the friendships and special sense of community he experienced while at the university. And Sara Wong, BFA ’16, currently art directing at Facebook, renders a different take on community, portraying the
long hours she spent in the studio with friends.

John Hendrix, professor and chair of the Master of Fine Arts in Illustration & Visual Culture program, says “delightful” and “distinctive” are apt modifiers for the alumni themselves. Thinking back on their time as students, he says, “In many ways I take it as a point of pride that we’ve had illustrators come out of the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts with so many different visual styles, because it’s not about the way their work is constructed. We’re teaching voice really, and authorship.”

Hendrix, who is a New York Times–bestselling author and illustrator himself, remembers something else that distinguishes these alumni and so many of their Sam Fox School peers: They were particularly driven as students, as well as curious, invested, persistent and smart.

“It shouldn’t surprise me, because I’ve been teaching WashU students for years. But they’re so good in so many different areas of academic achievement,” Hendrix says. “They’re great writers; they’re great talkers. They know how to describe what they’re doing. And their emotional capacity and intellectual capacity are really high.

“It’s always a blessing to think back on these former students,” he says. “And it was a great
joy to have these amazing people and talented artists in the classroom.”

Morgan Schweitzer, BFA ’07

As I look back up at Brookings Hall, I’m reminiscing about all the things that made my college years special, including hockey players (I played hockey), drawing class, the Bear mascot, a giant cake I built with some fellow students for a sculpture project, a color wheel, a sub sandwich (I ate a lot of Jimmy Johns) and more. 

Alex Eben Meyer, BFA ’98

In the second semester of my first year, I took a 3D design class. One of our assignments was to create a human-size animal marionette. I created a hand-sewn armadillo out of vinyl, burlap and hay. I worked on this in my dorm’s common area, which was a former chapel in Wash Hall, a building rented on the Fontbonne campus across the street from the South 40. I don’t recall how many nights it took, but I had blisters, and there were trimmings and hay everywhere. To this day, I have no idea if the outcome was any good, but the chances I took, effort I put in, and the confused glances I got from my friends will never be forgotten.

Max Temescu, BFA ’13

A lot of my favorite WashU-specific memories came from my involvement in the student radio station KWUR, which was located in the basement of the Women’s Building. I had a funk/jazz show called “The Down Stroke.” I think the only slot I could get my first year was 4 a.m. on Wednesday. Luckily, sophomore year I managed to get a 3 a.m. show. Overall, the station felt chaotic yet chill. To varying degrees of success, there were a lot of people putting effort into creating one of the less institutional spaces on campus, which seemed like a good idea.

Molly Brooks, BFA ’09

My first-year dorm didn’t allow pets except for fish. In a low moment, I rode my bike to a nearby pet store, acquired a gerbil and named it Fish (in hopes of getting off on a technicality if discovered). Fish was the wind beneath my wings, and I regret nothing.

Noah Macmillan, BFA ’11

After living through enforced isolation due to the pandemic, I’m thinking my favorite WashU memories are all about the feeling of community. I loved running into friends on my way to and from class, and the unplanned meetups for coffee at Whispers. I’ve drawn a memory of hanging out on the fire escape outside my apartment on Kingsland Avenue on a warm afternoon, as friends come and go. I’m sure it didn’t feel memorable at the time, but those moments feel so special now.

Sara Wong, BFA ’16

In this “Studio Days” illustration, I take a warm look back on the days and nights spent in the Sam Fox School studios and the creative energy and community they sparked — where we would draw with friends, eat pizza (slices of which naturally show up in unexpected places), and catch a quick nap.

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