John Dirks, born in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin on March 13, 1914, grew up near the campus of San Diego State, a school which he would later attend as a student and eventually teach at as a professor. After graduating from Hoover High School in 1932, Dirks entered San Diego State College, playing football for the Aztecs and intending to study physical education to become a coach. However, professor and painter Everett Gee Jackson advised him to change his major to art, which began a lifelong friendship between the two artists.
Dirks taught art at San Diego State for nearly 30 years, serving as department chair for several years. A prominent sculptor and furniture designer, Dirks exhibited throughout the country in such places as the First World Congress of Craftsmen and the Museum of Contemporary Crafts in New York, and received numerous awards for his work in sculptures, wood furniture, ceramics, and mosaics. He was a founding member of the Latin American Arts Committee of the San Diego Museum of Art, and was the last surviving founding member of the San Diego Allied Craftsmen.
Dirks retired from San Diego State University in 1976 and died on Christmas Day 2008.
1988 interview with John Dirks, SDSU Professor of Art from 1947 to 1976.
Download the PDF transcript.
In this interview totaling approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes, Dirks describes his early childhood and what it was like growing up in the area around San Diego State. He also discusses his instructors in the Art department when he was an undergrad in the 1930s, his Navy service during World War II, and the faculty and staff members who made a strong impression on him.
Interviewed by Lyn Olsson on 3/10/88.
Image credit: Professor John Dirks in 1968, University Archives Photograph Collection, Special Collections & University Archives.