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When Ulysses John Kontos, '63, '68, started his freshman year at Buffalo State, he was already world-traveled. Stationed with the U.S. Air Force in Nouasseur, Morocco, Kontos had the opportunity to cultivate his love of photography and art by visiting galleries throughout Morocco, Libya, and Europe. He also flexed his athletic abilities, competing on an Air Force soccer team and as a platform diver and distance swimmer for the military equivalent of the Olympics.
After his military service, Kontos entered Buffalo State in 1959 as an art education major and continued his swimming, diving, and soccer career.
"I enjoyed every minute at Buffalo State," Kontos said recently. "I was one of the athletes who earned an award from the college's president for having at least six varsity letters. At the time I had eight—four for swimming and four for soccer."
Kontos took advantage of the GI Bill to pay for his education. He said he believes that deserving students from all backgrounds should be able to attend Buffalo State.
In a personal demonstration of this maxim, Kontos and his wife, Melinda, recently made a generous planned gift to the Art Conservation Department as part of Buffalo State’s Transforming Lives campaign. The gift will cover fellowships for future art conservation students.
"I appreciated everything about Buffalo State and decided this is something I would like to do," Kontos said. He and Melinda have been longtime donors to Buffalo State and the Burchfield Penney Art Center.
Art in all its forms is near to Kontos’s heart. For many years, he worked as an art teacher at Kenmore East High School where he introduced students to jewelry-making and started a photography program. After fashioning a dark room from three storerooms in the school, he provided the film, photo paper, and chemicals himself. When video came into vogue, he taught students that medium as well.
"They were enthralled," he said.
Beginning in college, he also worked as a freelancer photographer for the Buffalo Courier Express newspaper. He sometimes received calls during class from an editor asking him to shoot photos for the next day’s edition.
Considering Kontos’s love of photography, it is fitting that Buffalo State will name its Art Conservation dark room, located on the third floor of Rockwell Hall, in his honor. The Art Conservation Department and the Institutional Advancement Office will recognize Kontos and his wife in a naming ceremony early this year.
The space allows instructors and visiting conservators of photography to demonstrate multiple conservation treatments, explained Jiuan Jiuan Chen, assistant professor of art conservation.
There also is a completely enclosed darkroom for film development and printing where students can learn about and replicate nineteenth- and twentieth-century photographic processes to better understand and conserve photographic materials.
"While all students within Art Conservation can use the darkroom,” Chen said, “it will be of extreme value to those students majoring in the conservation of photography."
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