Hired in September 1971 as chair of the Department of Fine Arts, Dr. Gerson Yessin says it was the opportunity to accomplish something big that tempted him to come to UNF.
"The prospect of coming in on the ground floor of a fine state university was very exciting to me. Being able to design the curriculum for art and music and form a new department was a stimulating and challenging opportunity," Yessin says.
Prior to coming to UNF, Yessin had been the assistant dean of the College of Fine Arts at Jacksonville University for 13 years. After serving 10 years as UNF's chair of fine arts, he returned to teaching in 1981. Then in 1990, he took the helm as head of the music department.
Although it started out as a "sleepy little program," Yessin says the music program has definitely come into its own. "The thing that turned around the music program was the addition of a jazz program (in 1986). It was a first class program and after that the whole department became alive. It brought with it fine professors and scholarships that attracted the finest students and that has not abated." He cites the recent invitation to the 1997 Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland as testament to the program's success.
As he looks back, Yessin says the first year was probably the most memorable for him. "The first year before the university opened was a rare experience. Chairs, deans, vice presidents and the president all worked in one huge room, subdivided by shoulder-high partitions. We all mixed in various combinations to talk about the philosophical direction of the new university. Discussions were frequent and animated. A feeling of uniting in a great common goal pervaded the entire group."