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West Liberty University senior Sophia Kayafas leaves behind a legacy of art

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While Sophia Kayafas, a fine arts and public relations major and senior at West Liberty University, will graduate and leave May 10, one thing will remain behind — a 5x6-foot oil portrait of Clyde D. Campbell.

Campbell Hall of Health Sciences — where the painting currently hangs — hosted a formal dedication at 11 a.m. May 5. Campbell graduated from WLU in 1953 and later served as a chemistry professor and then president of the University from 1984 – 1995.

Professor Brian Fencl, chair of the communication and visual arts department, asked Kayafas to paint the artwork. Former WLU Foundation Board member and leader of the first capital campaign Emmett R. Boyle and wife Debra Boger commissioned the work, as well as paying for Kayafas’ supplies and framing in order to honor Campbell.

“Sophia is an ideal student for a project like this. She has the skills and the drive to take a project of this magnitude to completion. It’s also a chance for her to leave something meaningful behind and make a name for herself. She will become an alum that WLU will be proud of," Fencl said.

In addition to using a photo of Campbell, Kayafas interviewed him at his home in Clearview to get a feel for his personality.

“I wanted the painting to play into how people perceived him so I needed to understand his personality. Meeting him was one of the best parts of the project,” she said.

She learned all about his past, how he first got into science and chemistry and his experience as a professor and later president of West Liberty. Kayafas did several studies and sketches, with the actual painting taking eight months.

“The painting was done to make people aware of this very influential man that helped students have a place to study and learn. I wanted them to see a glimpse of someone special and associate his friendly smile with the name of the building,” Kayafas said.

The result is a relaxed, natural image of Campbell in his home office, done in warm earth tones. It greets students and visitors in the main entrance of the new science building which houses the departments of chemistry, dental hygiene, medical laboratory sciences, nursing, speech pathology/audiology and physician assistant studies. The painting incorporates personal articles found in Campbell’s office, like chemistry books and a bust of Abraham Lincoln. Prominently placed in the foreground of Kayafas’ work is a large hourglass, full of sand, which Kayafas said represents the timeless nature of giving.

“His legacy is timeless and so is his generosity. His legacy goes on,” she said. “I am so grateful to have the opportunity to be asked to do this. WLU has taught me so much about my life and work. It’s a blessing to leave something like this behind,” she said. “I’m very thankful, very honored to have this chance.”

The daughter of Gus and Maria Kayafas of Wheeling, she looks forward to participating in the formal dedication of Campbell Hall and greeting Campbell’s family and guests. After she graduates May 10, Kayafas will move to New York City sometime in the summer to begin a new career as a student at the New York Academy of Art.