The Media and Communication Arts department, and City College, lost an exceptional member of their community a few weeks ago. Professor Herman Lew, director of the BFA in Film & Video program, passed away on September 20. He suffered from a fatal heart attack. The dreadful news stunned the public. People recognized Professor Lew to always be in good spirit with a smile and joke waiting for you. The MCA department falls with heavy hearts over this loss. His office remains closed with a poster and marker outside for the public to share their condolences. From an academic standpoint, the administration has everything organized after this tragic loss. An active Director of the program has been assigned as well as a professor for his classes for an entire year.
Professor David Davidson, a long time member of the BFA Film & Video department, takes over as the new Director of the BFA Film & Video program. Professor Davidson was a founding director of the MFA program in Media Arts Production. Davidson’s role as the new Director of the BFA program holds a special connection to the MCA department, and to Professor Lew.
“Not only given his talents, his experience at the institution, but in addition to that he went to graduate school with Professor Lew,” Jerry Carlson, Director of the Cinema Studies minor, says. Lew and Davidson were friends outside of being coworkers. “Professor Lew shot a number of Professor Davidson’s documentaries. It’s not only something that has to do with professional qualifications, but there is a personal bond there as well.”
Professor Lew also taught courses in the Film & Video program. The administration has called upon a veteran to the MCA department, and a good friend to Professor Lew, cinematographer Niknaz Tavakolian. She will step in as a substitute professor for Lew’s class this semester. Tavakolian has previously taught cinematography courses and served on the technical staff in the department. “She has actually the perfect candidate,” Carlson says. “There are many cinematographers who have high qualifications but she knows our department, she knows our students, she knows our philosophy of film, and of teaching.”
It becomes difficult to honor a great man with many accomplishments, who had a great impact on countless people across different platforms. Outside of City College, Professor Lew played a significant role with Third World Newsreel, a nonprofit organization in New York. City College and Third World will coordinate together to hold a memorial later in October for Professor Lew. “We have overlapping philosophies and missions,” Carlson says. “It’s only appropriate that we would do it together and that the communities would be able to come together in that way.”