Alphonso Walter Grant made people feel comfortable, as if they were part of his family. “He had a way of making you feel like you’d known him for 25 years,” says Angela LaPorte, director of art education at the University of Arkansas. She met Grant a few years ago when he interviewed, and was ultimately hired, at the university.
After earning a dual-title Ph.D. in art education and African American and diaspora studies from Penn State, Grant ’13 MA, ’17 PhD A&A was excited to move back home to Arkansas, where he served as an endowed assistant professor of art education and affiliate faculty in the African and African American studies, gender studies, and political science programs. LaPorte says Grant was vibrant and motivational, and “really had a drive and a goal to transform higher education” to be more inclusive, equitable, and diverse.
His work was transdisciplinary, and he used art to understand and explain the world. Grant’s research included examining the role of art in perpetuating white supremacist narratives. His efforts as a teacher and scholar, LaPorte says, were critically important “to transforming misrepresentations of race, gender, class, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status.”
And he was a passionate mentor, says niece Leah Grant. He “was committed to leaving the people he encountered with a message that embodied empowerment. He believed in sharing what he knew so the people next in line knew how to equip themselves.”
Grant died of a heart attack at age 50 on Dec. 3, 2020, at his home in Fayetteville, Ark. He is survived by his mother, Rachel Logan Grant, and sister, Vivian, as well as aunts, cousins, nieces, and nephews. —Sarah Rafacz ’15 Com, ’15 Lib