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Laughton reflects on career as dean

By Brian Guevara

John Laughton, who was hired as the dean of the School of Arts and Communication in 2009, will be retiring this December, capping an incredible run as dean. The School of Arts and Communication has shared major success under the guidance of Laughton. He has been a strong supporter of the combination of liberal arts and communication studies at the College, and has been a massive figure for the arts locally, nationally and internationally.

It was Laughton’s idea to combine arts and communication under one school, as he saw the similarities between two subjects.

“I think it’s a good match,” Laughton said in an interview with TCNJ Magazine in August 2009. “Considering… the way the arts play into the 21st century model of making contact with one another and with influencing and impacting ideas… The merging of those disciplines (like art, music and communications) was forward-looking on the part of the College.”

According to TCNJ Magazine, Laughton has traveled around the world as a higher education educator and administrator, international arts consultant and performer and trained mediator. His travels include Russia, Ukraine, Brazil and China. With that type of experience, he was the perfect candidate for dean at the College.

In the same TCNJ Magazine interview, he talked about his time at St. Mary’s College of Maryland in St. Mary’s City, Md., and how it helped him build upon his vision for the College.

“I started my career as a professor at St. Mary’s College in Maryland and helped build that program into a school very similar to TCNJ,” Laughton said. “In fact, (St. Mary’s) was kind of a model that a lot of states looked at when developing liberal arts colleges as an alternative to large state universities.”

While the College may be better known for majors like business, nursing and education, the School of Arts and Communication has been moving up the ranks due to Laughton’s experience in this field and expansion of the school’s outlook. He helped establish the TCNJ Center for the Arts and transition interactive multimedia into a larger program that offers students a chance to explore new courses.

He set the standard for improvement in the School of the Arts and Communication and because of that, he has built strong relationships with alumni and donors, growing the school’s funding and endowment by more than $2 million.

Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Jacqueline Taylor talked about the impact Laughton has made on the School of Arts and Communication.

“He increased the activity of partnerships internationally, while locally also supporting the Trenton arts community,” Taylor said. “He did a terrific job managing the resources to upgrade Kendall and Mayo concert halls.”

Taylor enjoyed working with Laughton for his commitment, passion and sense of humor.

“He has a gift for hospitality,” Taylor said. “Dean Laughton would open his doors for anyone. He is so passionate and supportive about the people he is leading.”

With his tenure ending in nine months, Laughton has his sights set on other projects, while also wanting to continue his musical performances and embarking on the issues of social justice that he is so passionate about. Laughton is an activist in violence prevention and has also worked with charitable organizations to raise money and awareness of how the arts can help communities, according to TCNJ Magazine. He organized campaigns in California and Massachusetts, where artists and musicians helped young people living in areas with high gang activity see the importance of community and unity.    

Not only has Laughton been a trusted co-worker to Taylor, but also a friend and someone she admired.

“I compare our friendship to our dogs’ friendship,” Taylor said. “My dog, Trudy, looks up to his dog, Frida, literally and figuratively. That’s the same relationship we share and I am truly going to miss him.”

Laughton is not only proud of the work he has done for the College and the programs he has developed, but is honored to have worked alongside hardworking faculty at the College.

“My time at the College… has given me the opportunity to work with an engaged faculty, dedicated administrators and a community of students who exhibit enthusiasm and excitement for making a difference in the world,” Laughton said.  “In addition, I’ve had the opportunity to help develop programs that connect to the community and to engage the arts and communication with important issues of social justice and entrepreneurship. For this, I am extremely grateful.”


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