Department remains in shock after loss of artist

Quiet is how he was described.

Michael Peterson, freshman graphic arts major, died Feb. 24. He was 23 years old.

David Noblett, associate professor of art, was Peterson’s adviser.

“He was a very quiet guy,” Noblett said. “He seemed very sincere.”

He said Peterson was only able to take one or two classes per semester due to financial reasons, but he said Peterson always made an effort to come to his classes.

Dr. Nick Kyle, head of the art department, had Peterson in his painting and drawing class.

“He was a really nice fellow,” Kyle said. “He led his own path, but we have a lot of those in art.”

Kyle said the department learned about Peterson’s death on Feb. 27 after a student brought in Peterson’s obituary.

“I was really shocked,” he said. “It’s a real loss in the department anytime a student passes away.”

Joan Kearney, art department secretary, said she had talked with Peterson on a few occasions.

“He was very quiet and very reserved,” she said. “He would always be here early. We were all in just so much shock.”

This semester Peterson was taking Beginning Jewelry.

Peggy Beckham, adjunct instructor of art, teaches the class.

“I had felt like he was just starting to open up,” Beckham said.

She said Peterson worked hard in her class and turned in his first project the week of his death.

Beckham and Kearney attended the funeral on Feb. 28. Beckham wore Peterson’s project in memory of him.

“I will wear it to remind me to reach out to the students,” Beckham said. “If something can be gotten from his life, he touched me and that maybe I’m the one that needs to go the extra mile to reach students.”

Beckham said Peterson did his best to stay in school.

Noblett agreed.

“He would have liked to have gone full time,” he said. “He was putting himself through school on total, and I really respected him for that.”

Peterson worked at Dillons in Joplin. He was part of the produce department crew.

Rene Fryer, Joplin, worked with Peterson in the produce department at Dillons.

“He was a very shy person,” she said. “He was a very beautiful artist and took pride in it.”

Fryer said Peterson enjoyed videos and scary movies.

Peterson’s artwork was on display at his funeral.

“In his artwork he was always very original,” Kyle said. “And, he worked hard to show you his inner self. He may have been shy, but it came out in his artwork.”

Fryer said Peterson will be missed by his friends.

“He’s in heaven, and he’s happy,” she said. “He was a great coworker.”