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Professor's Artwork Installed in United States Golf Association Museum

Christopher Togami, June 29, 2007
For the first time in the 23 years he’s taught at Pacific Union College, communication professor James Chase skipped this year’s graduation. It wasn’t so he could spend Father’s Day at home watching golf on TV, though PUC’s graduation usually falls on the final day of the U.S. Open—no, he was away in Pennsylvania, attending the U.S. Open in person to film a special segment with golf legend Arnold Palmer.

The event was a result of Chase’s work on a portrait of Palmer, which has been selected as the centerpiece and focal point of the Arnold Palmer Center for Golf History at the USGA’s museum in New York. Hundreds of portraits of Palmer have been created during the golfer’s celebrated career, but none have taken on the magnitude or unique composition of Chase’s “Gratitude,” a portrait created entirely out of words. Ranging from the hundreds of awards and accomplishments that Palmer has received during his career to Palmer’s wife’s name, the 22,719 words, which vary in size from 1/10th to 1/16th of an inch, represent story lines drawn from Palmer’s gracious and compassionate life. Chase explains, “I wanted the content to become the form—to turn Arnie’s story lines into Arnie’s facial lines.”

The integration of words into the portrait was a fitting technique for the long-time communication professor, who finished his work on the piece in 2003. Palmer, whose 72 tour wins and 7 major titles attest to his brilliance on the course, was unaware of the 14-year project until it was presented by Chase. “That is the most amazing thing that I have ever seen in my entire life,” Palmer said of the portrait, which was on exhibit for five months at the World Golf Hall of Fame in St. Augustine, Florida, and will now be permanently enshrined at the USGA museum in New York.

Chase spent his time during the tournament weekend this year filming a segment on how and why he chose to create the portrait of Palmer. His explanation, along with a segment of Palmer explaining how much the portrait means to him, will be part of a special touch-screen multi-media exhibit designed to tell the story of the portrait. The U.S. Open, which was held at Oakmont Country Club near Palmer’s home in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, offered the perfect opportunity to bring Chase and Palmer, who turns 79 this year, together.

While his artwork has garnered Chase considerable recognition, the communication professor’s goal was nothing of the sort. “I would like for generations of young people to be exposed to the qualities of character seen in the very face of Arnold Palmer,” says Chase. “I want young people to be inspired to have patience and perseverance and to do something truly extraordinary in their lives.”