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Christine Rales '74

I first met Richard Peeler as my freshman advisor, a kind and handsome man. As a sophomore it thrilled me to learn he would become my ceramic professor, except he later announced that it would be his final year of teaching at DePauw.

Richard’s departure from the university left our class floundering; he had been our mentor. In two short semesters Mr. Peeler had transformed our ceramic interests into a passion for creative potting. He had a specific teaching discipline that began with mastering the fundamentals, illustrated by his step-by-step drawings throughout the studio. We dutifully studied them. Whether it was hand building, wheelwork, or glazing, the lesson’s message revealed all success must start from a firm foundation. With hopes of earning a rare nod of approval, we dedicated ourselves to long hours of work in the small, underground grotto we loved and called our studio. We admired his skills and strove to please by following his footsteps closely.

Therefore, despite his departure, we committed to Mr. Peeler’s teaching philosophies throughout our final college years.  Our class time and energy focused on creating work we believed would only meet his high expectations. We kept Mr. Peeler’s lessons in our thoughts every assignment, and if we found ourselves at a loss we would visit his home and studio where he welcomed us with open arms. Richard truly cared for anyone interested in learning, and he never lacked the interest in teaching. Until our graduation—and for many years after—he continued to provide guidance and support for our careers, often sending us letters of encouragement on his wonderful Peeler Pottery stationary. 

Over time and with years to reflect, our understanding of Mr. Peeler’s teachings has evolved. We see now that his instructions were simply not for throwing the perfect pot or mastering our glaze work. Intentional or not, through this medium, Mr. Peeler communicated how best to live life as we entered the world before us: commit to your work; master the skills; experiment and explore; strive for perfection. And most importantly while on that journey, be true to yourself.