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Cornish College of the Arts President Announces Retirement Plans

July 02, 2009

SEATTLE, WA – Cornish College of the Arts President Sergei P. Tschernisch informed the Board of Trustees of his desire to retire at the end of the 2010-2011 academic year, concluding seventeen years at the helm of the institution. His retirement will be effective May 31, 2011.

“I have had the unique opportunity to reinvigorate a college with a remarkable mission and history. It’s been a great adventure filled with many challenges and fortunately many joys. Perhaps most rewarding for me has been to see our students, alumnae, faculty, and staff making a profound difference in the cultural life of this wonderful city.”

During his presidency, Tschernisch orchestrated a Cornish renaissance. The transformations at Cornish are most dramatically apparent with the re-location and expansion of the campus from Capitol Hill to the Denny Triangle/South Lake Union area in downtown Seattle. Under his leadership Cornish has achieved record enrollments, financial stability, approval of a comprehensive Master Campus and Strategic Plan, and has embarked on a major capital campaign.  This fall, for the first time in its history, Cornish will provide student housing in its downtown campus.

Tschernisch successfully guided the College through the re-accreditation process. His bold strategies have ranged from the creation of a new faculty ranking structure, to key faculty and staff appointments, to curricular changes and new programs.

John Gordon Hill, chairman of the Cornish Board of Trustees, notes that when Tschernisch became president, the trustees had great expectations for his leadership and for the College. “Sergei’s vision and energy, coupled with his contagious passion for the arts, has enabled Cornish to expand well beyond Seattle and take its place as one of the premier visual and performing arts colleges in the country. He has been the most influential figure in the history of this institution since Nellie Cornish herself,” says Hill.

According to Michael Killoren, director of the Seattle Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs, “Sergei completely transformed Cornish, raising the quality of instruction and educational standards, and elevating the profile of Cornish in the community. His intelligence, passion, generosity of spirit and joyous presence have had enormous impacts on Seattle’s arts and cultural life. He continues to inspire new generations of artists.”
Tschernisch is an artist, educator, and administrator whose career includes initiating and shaping some of our country’s most progressive arts programs: California Institute of the Arts at its inception; University of Maryland, Baltimore; Division of Performing and Visual Arts, Northeastern University, and College of Communications and Fine Arts, Loyola-Marymount University. He received his BA from San Francisco State University and his MFA from Stanford University.

Tschernisch began his acting career at the San Francisco Actors Workshop headed by Herb Blau and Jules Irving, and has worked at regional theaters throughout the country. As a director Tschernisch gained a reputation for his bold and innovative approaches to classical works and for championing contemporary and lesser-known works. He has appeared in numerous film and television productions.

“Two years remain before my departure,” says Tschernisch. “There is still much to be done, including the search for my successor. I will do everything I can to make sure that the transition is smooth. I look forward, with enthusiasm, to continuing to work as hard as possible. It has been my great privilege to serve as President of this wonderful College.”

According to chairman Hill, a national search will be conducted to identify Tschernisch’s successor. The search process, under the leadership of trustee Roger Bass, will culminate in the naming of Tschernisch’s successor in early 2011.

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About Cornish College of the Arts

Cornish College of the Arts is nationally recognized as a premier college of the visual and performing arts. Cornish offers 4-year BFA and BM degrees, with programs in Art, Dance, Design, Humanities & Sciences, Music, Performance Production, and Theater.

A pioneer in arts education, Cornish College of the Arts sprang from the remarkable vision of Nellie Cornish, a woman determined to cultivate the arts in Seattle when it was scarcely more than a frontier town. Her philosophy of educating the artist through exposure to all the arts was progressive at the time, and continues to be innovative today.