VCUarts professor loses battle with cancer Thursday

Image courtesy of Pictures for Albert Epshteyn.

VCU professor Albert Epshteyn died Aug. 30 after losing his fight with an aggressive form of cancer. He is survived by his wife, Regina Oksinenko.

For a long time, Epshteyn was the first person students entering the Department of Communication Arts came in contact with. Trained for many years in Russian art education, Professor Epshteyn spent his time at VCU pushing students to meet their highest potential.

According to the Facebook page “Pictures for Albert Epshteyn,” created in his honor after his cancer diagnosis last year, Epshteyn had “demanding standards and integrity in student excellence.”

“Albert (Epshteyn) has brought a rigor of academic drawing and observation of the human form to VCUArts,” stated the Facebook page description.

TyRuben Ellingson, chair and assistant professor in the department of Communication Arts, said of his colleague that, time and again, Epshteyn relayed what a privilege it is to teach students.

“He loved teaching and he loved our students,” Ellingson said. “Since his passing, many have shared their perspective with me about Albert, all of which are powerful.”

Ellingson recalled the words of one of Epshteyn’s former students, Kate Hancock, who said his teachings “pushed all of us to reckon with ourselves, to let go of our crutches and come out the other side stronger as artists.”

“You don’t teach like that if you’re just phoning it in,” Hancock said. “You teach like that if you really, really care about making sure every student in your tutelage walks away with the skills they need.”

Ellingson said having this effect on people is every professor’s goal.

“There is no professor on earth who would not want that to be the consensus opinion of their impact on students,” Ellingson said.

In his final public statement, Epshteyn left a message to his former pupils explaining the reasoning behind his pedagogy, or teaching strategy.

“To my students, all I want them to know that being so incredibly demanding had only one purpose — I always wanted them to be better, even better than their teacher,” Epshteyn said. “I cherished my time in class and maybe they didn’t see it, but I always loved being around all of them.”

Epshteyn requested his body be cremated, without a viewing or ceremony.

A fund, called the Albert Epshteyn Scholarship, has been created in the professor’s honor through the VCU Office of Development and Alumni Relations. According to the Facebook page, donating to the scholarship is the best way to contribute to his legacy.

Logan Reardon, Staff Writer

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