Joe Wyatt
Published March 26, 2018

While dramatic innovations continuously transformed the field of photography, Ken Pirtle never lost his focus.

KenPirtleBy diligently keeping abreast of advancements in his craft, the longtime professor of photography at Amarillo College managed to consistently impart leading-edge knowledge to his students over a span of more than three decades.


Pirtle, who taught at AC from 1975 to 2008 – and served as a department chair for 32 or those 33 years – has been named Professor Emeritus at AC.


The Faculty Senate will sponsor a reception in Pirtle’s honor from 2-4 p.m. Tuesday, April 10 in the College Union Building on AC’s Washington Street Campus.


“It is humbling to know that my photograph will hang permanently alongside all the others who have been granted this prestigious honor,” Pirtle said. “I know them all, and they all were wonderfully dedicated educators.”


Pirtle joined the AC faculty in 1975 and within a year was named to chair the Photography Department, a post he held until 1999. That is when a reorganization brought the Art, Graphic Design and Photography departments under one umbrella, and Pirtle chaired the new Visual Arts Department from 1999 to 2008.


A contributor to the College beyond the realm of photography, Pirtle represented AC on the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s Formula Funding Committee. He also served on AC’s Faculty Handbook and Academic Affairs committees, among others.


“For those who had the privilege of working with Ken, this honor comes as no surprise,” said Mary Dodson, vice president of Faculty Senate. “He is a worthy recipient of Professor Emeritus recognition.”


Pirtle’s areas of teaching expertise included traditional and digital photography, Adobe Photoshop, the history of photography, and alternative photographic processes.


A portion of Pirtle’s legacy at AC is quite visible in the center of the Washington Street Campus. With assistance from his wife of 49 years, Tarrie Sue, he created a large tile mosaic that graces the east exterior of the Student Service Center.


The mosaic, which honors a former photography student who became a devoted AC Regent, the late Louise Daniel, was created in 2007 and is the first of many such works credited to the Pirtles since then.


Spectacular Pirtle mosaics can also now be seen at, among other locations, Texas Tech University, Ken’s alma mater, and the Amarillo Botanical Gardens, where Ken, a master gardener, presently serves as president of the board.


Ken is also is a member of The Palo Duro Corral, a local affiliate of Westerners International, for which he serves on the executive board and edits the newsletter, Buckskin Bulletin.


The Pirtles also are active at Polk Street Methodist Church. And they have missed only three home football games at Texas Tech University in almost 50 years.


Attendance is important to Ken Pirtle, and he held himself to a high standard in that regard throughout his lengthy career at AC.


“Through all my years at Amarillo College, I felt like attendance – my own attendance – was vital,” he said. “It always amazed me that so many students who had kids and jobs would come from as far off as Spearman or Childress and have perfect attendance at a night class.


“I owed it to them to be there and to be prepared, and I like to think that I was consistently both. This College is a great institution and I took a lot of pride being a part of it.”