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I just watched the Grateful Dead movie and thought about Michael Fanizza, we attended the Dead concert in 1984 at Riverbend in Cincinnati. I taught with Michael at The Ohio University in Athens, Ohio that year. We were friends ever since.

If any one has stories or photos of Michael that you would like to share, please send them to me. Thank you, Kroeger.

Michael Fanizza

Mikey made a tape he called Not Available in Stores for me back in 1984 or so while we taught together at OU. I scanned the list he made for the tracks. Click below to see an enlarged version of the thumbnails. The Side One is about teachers and college life and Side Two is about driving and being on the road, which I was at the time traveling between Athens and my apartment in Cincinnati.

music list s1 music list s2

photo by David E. Johnson, Professor Emeritus Photograph by David E. Johnson
Professor Emeritus

poster Poster copy - front:
Making Connections
poster back Poster copy - back:
Making Connections:
Using Influences in the Visualization Process

Michael Fanizza is Professor of Art at Michigan State University where he coordinates the Graphic Design area. He has taught at Old Dominion University where he served as Chair of the Art Department. His practical design work has been in service of non-profit organizations primarily involved with education or the arts. He earned an MFA in Communication Arts & Design from Virginia Commonwealth University and a BA in Design from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

During his education, he studied with noted designer/educators as Rob Carter (who served as a Creative Best juror last year), Ben Day, John Demao, Meredith Davis, and the late graphic design historian Phil Meggs. He lectures nationally and has solo and group exhibits. In 1990 he designed the catalog for the major exhibit Maholy-Nagy: A New Vision for Chicago. His work has been recognized nationally in several design annuals.

He will return to Columbus in September as a Creative Best juror.

Designer's statement:
As a graphic designer I am interested in the interaction between verbal information and its visual representation through typography relative to two-dimensional composition with photographic imagery and pure graphic elements. Much of the work I do is for arts and educational organizations that have very limited budgets. Part of the creative process in such situations is determining how to do something credible for almost no money. Many works are all one-color cultural posters, produced pro bono, and reproduced inexpensively using systems other than the standard of offset printing.

08 - August 21, 2003

Canzani Center
Columbus College of Art & Design
Cleveland Avenue & East Gay Street

photography: Kay / Anderson : lux, George C. Anderson
design: Bull / Fiegel / Shank

I knew Michael when I was an art history graduate student at Michigan State. He was new to the faculty and I was interested in taking a computer graphics course. Not knowing a thing about computer graphics or design, I felt comfortable in a class of all studio art majors! He was always professional, yet very human. His sense of humor was what I the readily noticed. As time progressed I met his wife and his daughter, Olivia. Soon, I was house sitting for Michael and Sanja when the travel bug hit and when Michael was in town, he would take Olivia and I to baseball games in Lansing.

Obviously you knew Michael better than I did but I just wanted to tell you how much he is missed. In 2001 I moved to Wyoming for a teaching position and of course Michael and Sanja where there to help me pack up a moving van on a hot Michigan day. Of course I e mailed him regularly updating him of the rigors of teaching high school. The first summer when I came home to visit he told me that he had cancer. What struck me was his eternal optimism. I thought he would beat it after-all attitude is everything and Michael was so sure. We continued to email with occasional phone calls - we always had updates. When he went to Washington, I checked his progress online. Things were looking good for him and my worries began to fade. Being 1500 miles away from all of my friends sometimes you lose touch. I found out about his passing 2 months after the fact. I felt horrible since I was so far away and found out so late. I sent Sanja a card and I wanted to call her but just assumed she needed time to heal.

Michael was a great person. I enjoyed all of the great talks we had about art, politics, music and his favorite sports. Being that Michael was new to Michigan I wanted to update him on all Michigan sports. Although, I never got him to appreciate hockey. He was a great mentor to me and I think about him often. I just wanted to share these thoughts with someone who knew him.

Thanks for your time.
Shannon Bonner

MICHAEL FANIZZA, chair of art, two American Graphic Design Awards for excellence in communication and graphic design in an annual competition sponsored by the publishers of Graphic Design: USA. One was for a project commissioned by the Catherine J. Smith Gallery of Appalachian State University, "The Twelfth Rosen Outdoor Sculpture Competition & Exhibition Catalog," and the other for a University Gallery project, "Yang Lin Lecture Poster." Also, an Honorable Mention in the American Association of Museums' annual design competition, for a University Gallery exhibition poster, "Those Who Can, Teach!"
Courier Editor, 100 New Administration Bldg. ODU

Michael A. Fanizza
Michael A. Fanizza, 49, of Haslett, Mich., died Feb. 26, 2004, in Seattle, where he was undergoing treatment for cancer. Fanizza taught art at Old Dominion from 1988 to 1999, serving for a time as department chair. Most recently, he was a professor of art at Michigan State University.

He is survived by his wife, Sanja, and daughter, Olivia. An informal obituary appears at

Memorial donations may be made to the Charles K. Sibley Scholarship Fund and sent to the Office of Development, 129 Koch Hall, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, VA 23529.

Design professor loved by students

The State News - MSU

Michael Fanizza

MSU Professor Michael Fanizza, 49, died Thursday evening after a long battle with cancer.

Fanizza, a graphic design professor, came to MSU about five years ago and was well regarded by both students and faculty.

"He was a good friend," studio art graduate student Paula Stuart-Hankins said. "He was very caring to every student - and every person - he came in contact with."

Stuart-Hankins said Fanizza had a profound effect on her, and she will always consider him her mentor.

"He will be greatly missed by all who he had contact with, and he was such a positive influence on everyone," she said.

Fanizza spent the last four months of his life in Seattle with his wife, Sanja, undergoing high-dose chemotherapy treatment, and posted his progression on an online journal at

"He had a great smile," said Linda Stanford, a faculty member in the Department of Art and assistant provost for academic services and registrar. "He was a listener. He was the kind of person that when you were talking to him, he made you feel like he was truly interested in you."

Stanford said she was on the committee to help bring Fanizza, whom she regarded as the best person for the position, to MSU.

"He was exactly the kind of person we wanted, someone with experience and a strong record," she said. "He was a very fine teacher and an award-winning designer and a great loss for MSU."

Fanizza tried several different treatments to combat his cancer, Stanford said, but he never lost his optimistic demeanor.

"He was just very positive," she said. "It's very sad, because we really had hoped he would stay at Michigan State for a long time."

Joe Kuszai, an art and history of art professor, said he also helped hire Fanizza and that there is nothing negative he could say about him.

"All the students loved him," Kuszai said. "He had a lot of following in such a short time.

Fanizza was a Chicago White Sox and Grateful Dead fan, and Chris Corneal, an assistant professor of graphic design, said he often would make jokes about his illness.

"He used humor to deal with it, sometimes dark humor, but he was always smiling," Corneal said, adding that he also was well-read. "His office was just overflowing with books. He was an amazing complement to the program."

Stuart-Hankins said even though Fanizza is no longer at MSU, the community will feel his impact well into the future.

"He kept his sense of humor until the very end and he truly thought he would be back," Stuart-Hankins said. "He had a magnitude of people he affected and he will be greatly missed."

Source: All content © 2004 The State News (MSU)

February, 2008

First, let me thank you for this website. I have searched for my friends from the University of Illinois at Chicago in alumni listings and on the web without success until recently. My heart sank when I read of Mike's passing, but I was grateful that you posted his picture and other information which I instantly recognized on your memorial site. It confirmed that the Michael Fanizza I had seen discussed on other web pages was indeed the same friend of mine from so long ago. Knowing him then, I was not surprised to see he was a professor and that he had won many awards for his work; that was Mike. I was also glad to see that he had married again and had a daughter; my heart goes out to them knowing they must miss him terribly. I have so many memories of Michael and other friends from my three years at UIC but I would like to share just a few.

It was 1979 and I was just 19 years old, the youngest member of the Core Curriculum classes for Transfer Students in the Art Design program at the Chicago Circle Campus. All of the transfer students took the same three classes that quarter. There was a group of us that became good friends, but Mike was the first person I met that first day. Being a kid from the suburbs, I didn't know my way around the city very well, much less the buses and the "el", but Mike did. So we took trips to Favor Ruhl and Flax to purchase supplies; things like paints and brushes for our color class or Crescent boards (in dove and pearl grey) and museum quality, acid free tape to mount our work (only the best). When I enrolled in my first photography class, he made sure to take me and my supply list to the best places he knew to buy photo equipment, letting me know what I should purchase new and used. In some ways, he was like the big brother I didn't have and he often called me "Kiddo" or "Jean-o". First and foremost he was a good friend.

Mike was intense in his passion for art and design, and for that matter, everything he did. It was in the way he spoke and in the way he worked. He put himself into everything. It is what made him such a good artist and designer. It is what got him a one-man showing of his work at the university gallery before he graduated.

And Mike had a wonderful and witty sense of humor; I can still hear his laugh and see the big grin on his face. Eugene Dana was one of our professors. He was one of Michael 's favorites and I believe Professor Dana thought the same about Mike as a student. (When Prof. Dana had a showing of his work at the University, Mike had us all helping at the opening. And Mike consulted with Professor Dana on the work for his own show.) Because I know this, I feel this last bit of information is both ironic and poignant. Prof. Dana was always telling us about his designer friends, and there were many, but Mike took note of something else within the stories and used it in one of his assignments. We were to use photos and type in juxtaposition as graphic elements in a two dimensional piece. Mike found a photo of a person lying on the ground, with medical personnel who were standing and looking at him lying there. He placed this on an angle and ran lines of type in perpendicular lines alongside the standing physicians and under the patient on the ground. His type read, "all my people are dying"; which he related to the stories of the Professor's friends. He had noted that each of the designers had died in some tragic way, or as Mike said, "so and so designed this...and then he died." That assignment and Mike's twist on it has always been one of my favorite memories. When I read the news of Mike's passing, I couldn't help but think of that piece and I knew immediately that he was in good company.

Our group of friends graduated at different times and went in different directions across the country. The last I had heard, Mike headed off to VCU to do his Master's work, Ellen moved to Baltimore, Beth to California, Mark was somewhere in the Chicago area and I moved seven times within the next 13 years. I have always wanted to reconnect with these people and still search for the opportunity; but if I were given the choice of having only one person to contact from my years at UIC, Mike would have to be that person.

My sincerest wishes for only the best to his wife and daughter,
Jeanne Marie (Hosek) Pauliks

19 March 2014
Dear Michael Kroeger,

Thank you for giving me the space to reflect on memories of Mike. I would like to share my experience.

It's 1976 and I transferred to the University Of Illinois in Champaign from a local junior college I was an Art Education major. I met Mike in a 2-D Design Class we were the "older" students in a required freshman design class so we immediately "bonded". His humor was SO infectious, our relationship started with flirty sarcastic humor, you know the "who could be funnier" sort of thing. We hit it off after the first art assignment. Mike's design was going to be made out of jello. We made a bet that it wasn't going to work. He called me in a panic, he was trying to make blue jello in his bathtub. You're probably saying how come he didn't just use Berry-Blue? Well that flavor did not make it to the shelves until 1993, so he had to improvise. Yes we all know that blue is a primary color that cannot be mixed but Mike was not going to give up. If I remember right I think he was making a "map" and the blue was to be the ocean. I suggested that he get some knox gelatin and blue dye, mix it together and it should give him something that looked like jello. Unfortunately his proportions were not quite right and when he brought the project to class it looked like one big mass of runny psychedelic jello. Needless to say I won the bet and he had a mess to clean up!

The art project that was responsible for our "first date" was when he volunteered to be the model for our "body parts landscape". A group project with body parts cast in plaster. I would love to know if Mike ever told these two stories to his freshman classes. His face mold came out GREAT but when it came time to do the other body parts we forgot one big important step: the Vaseline. You can only imagine the pain of having every hair pulled out of your legs and arms, not a good thing for someone of Italian decent. I tried to make the pain easier by keeping him busy with listening to my "jokes", later he thanked me it actually kept his mind off the pain. The next day he called and told me he that ended up at the campus health center with a temp of 104˚. I think they may have put him on ice! I all felt SO bad and responsible. I should have remembered the Vaseline being the art major and all. Mike was a good sport and after that we went out on our "first date". When he came over I was shocked to see he cut his hair, not bald but short. He said he did it in honor for all his other lost hair. Only Mike would do something like that. He had such beautiful long brown hair I wanted to cry when I saw it gone, but I just said cool lets go celebrate! After that we ended up being great friends and had so much fun discussing Art and books, going to 2 to 3 movies a night, listening to the Grateful Dead, drinking beer at bars and all night talks. When Mike took me to meet his family it turned out he lived right next door to my aunt and uncle what were the chances of that! That is how I kept up with all of Mike's adventures. Unfortunately my Aunt and Uncle moved and by the time she was able to tell me about Mike's condition he had already passed. I was so upset.

Back to the story, I don't recollect what grade we got my best guess was an A, probably out of sympathy not for its Artistic expression. The next semester Mike ended up moving on. He said that college was not for him. How ironic, here I went to finish my degree in Art Education had a great future has an educator, honor student the whole 9 yards but I decided it was not for me. I thought Mike would go on to be a successful Writer/Director or Photographer, he NEVER went anywhere with out his camera, it used to drive me NUTS! But no, he ends up back in school and becoming an Art professor. Deep down I always knew he would be a great teacher he would never listen to me when I would tell him that. When I read what his students said about him it did not surprise me I knew he would be loved, how could you not, he had such passion for Art. Me, I went into Advertising spent the next 30 years being a Graphic Designer/Art Director, I'm not sure if Mike ever knew that, but who would have known we would change places. Sometimes I wonder if I got to where I was because of Mike's influence and support, he always would boost my confidence. We drifted apart went our separate ways. I stayed in the Midwest married and had 2 girls, one of which has gotten her Art History degree works with the Wiseman Art Museum and now finishing up her masters in Art Education. The other is in grad school in Ann Arbor, MI, wouldn’t he get a kick out of that, she's a Primatologist.

I miss him and I miss not having the opportunity to see each other has "old farts" and share our families.

One thing that Mike had said to me that I will never forget and I tell my girls is: The most precious thing you can give somebody is your time that is the greatest gift of all.

Bye Mike.
Sincerely, "a friend"

Designs by MIKE FANIZZA (attached are two cards that he made for me)

image image2 image3 image4

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