Art school mourns loss of 103-year-old benefactor

Loved ones will gather Saturday to remember a centenarian who honed his artistic talent well into his twilight years, and whose generosity will allow others to do the same.

Ernest G. Welch, a businessman after whom the Georgia State University School of Art is named, died the day after Christmas at the age of 103. A memorial service will be held at 11:30 a.m. Saturday at St. Mark's United Methodist Church in Atlanta.

Welch served in counterintelligence during WWII. He photographed the war effort and later studied under renowned photographer Ansel Adams. He also enjoyed a decades-long career with Sonoco Products Company.

But perhaps most remarkable was Welch's desire to learn. While in his late 80s, Welch enrolled in Georgia State University art school. He graduated in 1999 with a bachelor's degree in photography.

Ralph Gilbert, associate dean in Georgia State's College of Arts and Sciences, said Welch was always prepared, focused, and comfortable with other students "who were on occasion kids with purple hair and piercings."

"Ernest treated everyone with respect and consideration and was in turn treated with great esteem," Gilbert said.

Welch took introductory painting and drawing classes in 2002. Then at the age of 102, he took up digital photography.

Welch's work has appeared at the Callanwolde Fine Arts Center, Arts for All Gallery in Atlanta and at the gallery at Georgia State.

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