University loses Mahoney’s artistic vision, passion

Joella Jean Mahoney, professor of art emerita, died in June at 84. / file photo by Rhidian Maehl
Joella Jean Mahoney, professor of art emerita, died in June at 84. / file photo by Rhidian Maehl

Jesica Kimberlin
Staff Writer

Joella Jean Mahoney, professor of art emerita and founder of the University’s department of art, died in June at age 84 in Sedona, Arizona.

An internationally known artist who has displayed her landscape paintings abroad for five decades, Ms. Mahoney retired from teaching in 1998.

Her most recent exhibition, “Passionate Vision,” was in the Harris Gallery in October 2016.

It displayed her exploration of the Colorado Plateau.

Ms. Mahoney’s interest in landscape came from her admiration of nature and wild life in Arizona, where she earned her bachelor’s degree from Northern Arizona University.

In California, Ms. Mahoney pursued her Master of Fine Arts in painting and drawing.

“She left a lot of her soul at La Verne,” said Reed Gratz, professor of music. “People who knew her were touched by her incredibly unique personality, her great insight, her talent. She was just a special person.”

Professor of Photography Gary Colby said that when the University was putting together the general education courses, Ms. Mahoney fought to make “Art Experience” a general education requirement alongside math, and the natural and social sciences.

There was only one course at the time, which fulfilled the art experience requirement – Art 100, Colby said.

Ms. Mahoney later expanded the number of art course options.

“Her tenure at the University of La Verne spanned more than 30 years,” Lieberman said in an emailed statement. “Joella believed in the transformative power of art.”

Ms. Mahoney also introduced women’s studies into the University’s curriculum in the 1970s.

Gratz said that Ms. Mahoney was an important person in his life and that she has set an example for everyone that she met.

“I still remember very vividly one day when she had her students out drawing the oak trees,” said Professor of Humanities Al Clark.

“She would go out and draw with them… It was fun watching her do her painting,” he said.

There are currently four of her paintings and a few prints displayed around campus.

Professor of Art Ruth Trotter described Ms. Mahoney as a “gregarious, imaginative, and passionate person.”

“I remember her constant encouragement of her students,” Trotter said. “Her approach to teaching was very non-judgmental. She made students feel extremely good about themselves and I think that made a big difference in their lives.”

Ms. Mahoney is survived by her son Maxim.

Jesica Kimberlin can be reached at

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