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Art Professor Sam Knecht speaks with senior art student Grace DeSandro. Kaylee McGhee | Collegian

Professor of Art Sam Knecht will receive a signature status award from the Portrait Society of America on April 22, adding another achievement to his landscape of accomplishments.

The Portrait Society of America, an international organization dedicated to fostering and enhancing an understanding of the practice, techniques and applications of traditional fine art portraiture and figurative works, awards five renowned artists with a signature status award each year.

“It’s a professional status kind of thing,” Professor of Art Barbara Bushey said. “This is a recognition of Professor Knecht’s accomplishments.”

Knecht’s artistic talent and prominent teaching career made him an easy choice. Knecht recently retired from his full-time teaching position in Hillsdale’s art department, after 38 years of expertise. He has taught more than 1,500 students, and 18 different classes during his time at Hillsdale. Knecht has also earned awards from the of Portrait Society of America, the Butler Institute of American Art, and the Michigan WaterColor Society.

Junior Madeline Richards, who has studied under Knecht for the past two years, said there is no one more deserving of this award. Knecht is a fantastic painter, and has shared his love of art with his peers and students, Richards said.

“I have learned that art is not only a way to communicate with others, but it is a passion for discovery,” Richards said in a Facebook message. “Noticing the small details of the world and how they can be applied to the fine arts. Professor Knecht has not only helped to increase my skill immensely, but has taught me how to notice this beautiful creation of God that we live in.”

According to Knecht, the Portrait Society of America looks for two things when choosing whom to award: quality art confirming the artist’s reputation and contributions to teaching in the tradition of representational painting.

“You have to have achieved some level of national fame, and you must be actively involved in education,” Bushey said.

Knecht applied for the award in August 2016, and found out he would receive the distinguished award in December. A panel of four artists acts as the National Portrait Society’s jury, sifting through applications from extraordinary artists from across the nation.

This signature status will allow Knecht to use a new acronym — PSS — by his signature on all new pieces of artwork. Knecht views the award as a recognition of his lifetime achievements, which he said is an incredible honor.

“It’s an honor. A flat out honor,” Knecht said. “Especially to be recognized by peers and artists I deeply respect.”

Bushey said this award reflects very well on Hillsdale’s art department and shows the level of depth in skill and excellence the program is committed to.

“We have a level of expectation of students. Any time we have an external body saying ‘Yes, these people are good at what they do,’ it’s a very good thing for us,” Bushey said.

Knecht said the award shows that even while teaching, professional goals can be achieved.

“With enough talent and effort, you can earn that recognition,” he said.