Leah Toby Hoffmitz Milken was warmly remembered at a memorial service in January, where a wall projection at South Campus marked the location of the new Hoffmitz Milken Center for Typography.

Hoffmitz Milken Center for Typography honors faculty legacy

Anyone who witnessed the passion, dedication and radiance that letterform expert and longtime faculty member Leah Toby Hoffmitz Milken brought to teaching ArtCenter students would agree: for her, typography was transcendent.

Recognizing typography as vital to our visual culture and a core element of graphic design, the College in recent years developed a vision to become a central and influential force in the field. This spring, in Leah’s honor, her husband Lowell Milken and the Lowell Milken Family Foundation made this vision a reality. Their $2 million gift to the College established the Hoffmitz Milken Center for Typography to advance the research, teaching and understanding of letterform design and typography.

Leah gave us the gift of knowing language, of seeing the visual word, in its most precise and exacting form.

Lorne Buchman

Leah passed away in October 2014 after an extended illness. In January of this year, more than 200 family members and friends gathered for a riveting remembrance of the design diva whose high heels echoed on the Bridge at Hillside for 20 years as she mentored more than 4,000 students on the powerful, meticulous art of lettering.

At the memorial, philanthropist Lowell Milken, chairman of the Foundation, said, “Establishing the Center is the best way to honor Leah’s commitment to give back to a field which she thoroughly cherished.”

“We are most grateful to the Foundation for providing this tremendous opportunity to accomplish a long-envisioned goal,” said ArtCenter President Lorne M. Buchman, “the focus of which is unique in higher education.”

Dozens of Leah’s former students traveled to Pasadena for the memorial to join faculty, colleagues and notable designers such as Erik Spiekermann, Terry Irwin and April Greiman. Alumni speaking at the tribute included, among others, typeface designer Mike Abbink (BFA 96), senior creative director at the Museum of Modern Art; Stefan G. Bucher (BFA 96), designer, illustrator and writer; Josh Finklea (BFA 12), Brooklyn-based graphic designer; Joy Liu (BFA 10), senior UX designer at philosophie; and Bryce Shawcross (BFA 13), brand designer at Tesla Motors. With Leah’s help, they had each discovered typography as the visual translation of voice.

Our success will be the echo of her life and passion.

Professor Gloria Kondrup
Executive Director of the Center for Typography
Speakers at the service included the Center’s executive director, Professor Gloria Kondrup, and Hoffmitz’ husband, philanthropist Lowell Milken. Photos courtesy of the Milken Family Foundation.

“Leah gave us the gift of knowing language, of seeing the visual word, in its most precise and exacting form,” said Buchman. “As we explore the mission of the Center to set the global standard of excellence in typography and design education, let us do so in the spirit of Leah’s voice continuing to sound, to be made visual, to shout her brilliance, to whisper her profound wisdom, to make real both her scientific precision and the poetry of her imagination.”

“Our success will be the echo of her life and passion,” said Professor Gloria Kondrup (MFA 93), who has been named executive director of the Center for Typography, while continuing to serve as director of the College’s Archetype Press. “I’m thrilled to have this opportunity to elevate a field I’ve been so fortunate to be involved in for most of my career.”

“Gloria’s vast knowledge of typography, deep dedication to her students and impressive stature in the design profession make her the most qualified individual to lead the Center,” said Buchman. “She has the fortitude and energy to do something very special.”

Simon Johnston, appointed creative director and faculty liaison, will collaborate with Kondrup and an impressive roster of design leaders to create interdisciplinary programming and international discourse that will foster a destination and resource for creative and commercial development in the field.

“Simon is a prominent artist, educator and designer, widely respected throughout the global typographic community,” said Fred Fehlau (BFA 79, MFA 88), provost of the College. “I’m certain his influence will result in robust support for the Center.”

The Hoffmitz Milken Center for Typography will open soon at South Campus.