Professor Robert Dudash sees the world through a wide lens, his view having been shaped by both his family and liberal arts background. As a Hungarian immigrant, his father labored in the Pittsburgh steel mines, solidifying the family’s belief that education was the way to a better life. “My parents’ hard work provided the opportunity for me to attend Oberlin College, where I was exposed to theater, literature, and film,” said Dudash.
Watching Swedish, Japanese, and German subtitled films offered a glimpse into different cultures, causing his love of film to flourish. “It was at Oberlin that I realized cinema could be more than escapist entertainment,” said Dudash. Eventually it lead to the academic pursuit he embraces to this day.
In 1964, with a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in English from Oberlin College and Northwestern University respectively, Dudash returned to Lorain County to teach composition, literature and film at the newly established Lorain County Community College. The position afforded him the opportunity to help lead the arts and humanities division. By 1966, he launched the LCCC Film Society, showing films on campus in an informal setting, to provide students an educational, cultural and social experience.
Dudash’s favorite film, Cinema Paradiso, is a nostalgic look at film and the effect films have on a young boy growing up in a small Italian village in the post World War II era. In some ways the film mimics Dudash’s own life, whose first encounter with the cinematic art form was in a small theater in Pittsburgh. While the boy in the film leaves his village to pursue a career as a film director, Dudash’s career arc lead to a sabbatical in 1996, to study American cinema at the British Film Institute in London.
“I had read about film and film history, but I wanted more formal training,” said Dudash. The sabbatical provided the foundation for his course, Intro to American Cinema. Upon his return to Lorain, Dudash attracted film luminaries Vincent Price and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., who offered career insight to LCCC film students.
During his tenure, Dudash also explored the worlds and words of Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson, Langston Hughes and Walt Whitman, in his Intro to Modern American Poetry course. “Frost was a more traditional poet and my favorite,” said Dudash. “Like Frost, English poet William Wordsworth also embraced nature – his poetry is very moving, he saw spirituality within the natural world.”
As Lorain County Community College celebrates its 50th Anniversary, Dudash, who has witnessed its growth from a small, rural-based college to the nationally recognized community college leader it is today has some insights into the future of liberal arts.
In an email dominated world, and with abbreviated language found in text messages and on social media sites, Dudash still believes employers will look for job candidates with strong writing skills. As for the benefits of a liberal arts background, he contends cultural exposure is more important than ever.
“I think students will be more attractive employees, if they can relate to others on a broader level. On the personal side, literature, the visual arts, and music, all enrich your life and make you a more complete person. When you enter into the world of fictional characters, it makes you more aware of cultural differences. In today’s global economy, a familiarity with foreign cultures can only be an asset.”
Although he is officially retired, Dudash still teaches on a part-time basis and continues to run the film series. Teaching is a labor of love and I’ve had a marvelous opportunity having been with the school since its inception – they were very receptive to the idea of offering cinema courses, said Dudash.
As the son of a union organizer, Dudash acknowledges his appreciation for good management, noting that LCCC has thrived during the past 25 years under the leadership of Lorain County Community College’s third president, Dr. Roy A. Church. “He is a remarkable president and very innovative. The collaborations he helped establish with area businesses and industry leaders have prepared our students to meet the needs of a changing work force,” said Dudash.
Article originally appeared on the Lorain County Community College website as part of their 50th Anniversary promotion.