Faculty Farewells: Do retires after inspiring students for 37 years


“I just knew I was destined to be here,” visual arts teacher Kim Do said. “As a child in the backseat, whenever we drove on the Henry Hudson Parkway, making that turn by Riverdale, I always had a special feeling about that corner of the drive. And I didn’t know why. But now I realized I must have known that I was going to be here.”

After spending 37 years working in the Visual Arts Department both as a teacher and a Department Chair, Do will retire at the end of the school year to work on his art and spend time with his granddaughters, he said.

Before coming to the school, Do taught at the University of Pennsylvania and Purchase College, where he pursued graphic design, carpentry, house painting, and painting, he said.

When Do first came to the school, he taught Middle Division (MD) students, then transitioned to teaching Upper Division (UD) students after his predecessor moved to a new job, he said. Over the course of his time working at the school the Visual Arts Department has undergone large changes from working in Pforzheimer to now having a large part of Fisher Hall.

The community feeling and the openness of the campus originally drew Do to the school, he said. “What I’m interested in is the beauty in life, and in painting and art, and that campus sort of feeds that need to see beauty in my daily life.”

Along with the campus, what has kept Do at the school for so many years are the students, he said. He has found that at the school, students have more artistic ability than students at some of the art colleges he has worked at. “The students are so amazing and not just talented, but intelligent and surprising,” he said. 

Throughout his time at the school, Do has impacted several generations. “I think he’ll be known as a legend, especially because he’s taught at the school for decades and a number of my teachers right now have been his students, which is really cool,” Louise Kim (11), who has been in his Drawing and Painting classes for the last three years, said. 

As a student, History teacher David Berenson ’95 took several years of Studio Art classes with Do and completed an Independent Study creating a comic book under Do’s mentorship. “Every year with Mr. Do, I learned more than the last.” Berenson said. “His studio always felt like an oasis from the intensity of HM. Mr. Do inspired me and countless other students. I consider it an honor to learn from him.”

Do is always exploring new possibilities and modes of thinking and making art, which is what makes him a great teacher and artist, Visual Arts Department Chair Dr. Anna Hetherington said. “He’s inspirational in the way he cares about his community, the students, his colleagues, everybody on this campus,” she said, “He’s really part of the fabric of Horace Mann.”

Do’s impact extends beyond art, photography teacher Aaron Taylor said. Taylor sees this in his interactions with students and in the classroom dynamic he creates. “Besides his beautiful art and his humor, he’s taught generations of students the beauty of art, how to create art, how to improve your art,” he said. “Seeing what his students are doing has always been an inspiration.”

Kim has grown fond of Do, especially because of his guidance, which has helped them progress as an artist, they said. “Mr. Do encapsulates all of the virtues of a teacher and an educator,” she said. “He has a lot of great insight about art and aesthetic that has definitely helped me progress or develop my art style.”

Students are always welcomed to stop by Do’s art room. “I would always go during lunchtime, and then he would just give me a huge piece of paper,” Kira Mo ‘20 said. “There would just be materials on the table and we [would] just draw, listening to stories, and it was just a really grounding space.”

Even though Mo only took one course with Do, she was still a regular in his studio, she said. “His studio was like an anchor in [my] Horace Mann experience.” 

Do also helped Ryan Finlay (12) grow as an artist by letting him freely express his creativity after giving instruction, he said. “He gives lots of lessons that are sort of the foundational basics of perspective,” he said. “But once you get to the higher levels, he allows individual students to go in their different directions based on what they specialize in.” 

Do enjoys teaching advanced students who are working at a high level, as well as teaching beginners, he said. “I like teaching the beginning students because there’s a sense of wonder when suddenly they’re able to do something that they thought was impossible to do,” he said. “It’s very satisfying to be able to share the tradition of art, of visual representation and to see that it gets transferred from generation to generation.”

When Avani Khorona (11) moved from the MD to the UD, she was worried that she would become too busy with school work to continue pursuing art, she said. However, taking Do’s drawing and painting classes and spending time in his art room have allowed her to not lose her passion for art. “Him pushing me to continue has let me foster that side of myself throughout high school,” she said. 

Do was also a guide for Evan Rowe (12) as he navigated the college process as an artist, he said. Do recommended a summer program, helped Rowe compile his portfolio, and gave him insights into what it is like to apply to art schools, he said. 

Do had been a mentor to Finlay, he said. He gives the responsibility of asking questions and tapping him as a resource to the students, and when they did, they were able to learn from his experiences. 

In his art classes, Do also takes time to foster discussion on various topics and social issues, Kim said. “He both directly and indirectly teaches a lot of important life lessons and morals,” she said. “He has taught me personally to really continue to lean into what I’m passionate about and put myself first and also value the communities that I’m in and work towards a more equitable and kind community.” 

For example, over the years Do has created commemorative images of Black civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King Jr, Angela Davis, Malcolm X, and Fannie Lou Hamer he said. “As some students expressed this year, they wish Horace Mann would do more for Black History Month, and I think that’s right,” he said, “I think there should be more of a concentrated effort towards that.”

Outside of the classroom, Do has worked on many school committees and has been involved in service learning projects with Kingsbridge Heights Community Center, he said. He has made videos to publicize the school’s involvement in the local community and to raise awareness for the area where the school is located. “The Bronx is the poorest urban condensed congressional district in America, so it raises awareness of that,” he said, “Our involvement returns us to the ideals of the original Horace Mann School, bringing progressive educational ideology to the public schools.”

During his time at the school, Do has also been involved in a faculty band, he said. The band used to perform at a concert called Urban Aid, where they raised money for the homeless. 

Some of Do’s fondest memories from his time at the school are of the different projects he has done with his classes, he said. One year, his class made artistic kites that they were able to fly as a class on the beach. Another year, his class focused on inflatable mylar sculptures, he said. Students used their creativity to make a blimp, a sixteen-foot kangaroo and giant “HM” balloon letters. 

More recently, Do enjoyed meeting Mets pitcher John Franco when he visited the school for the Marathon Softball event in May, he said. “That was the thrill of a lifetime, for a baseball fan.”

Do also loved bringing in a Tibetan monk trained by the Dalai Lama to make sand mandalas, he said.  

Do also enjoys connecting his students with professional artists, writers, and poets, he said. One year his class worked with the sculptor who made the school’s lion sculpture which sits outside of Friedman Hall. “My favorite moments were when I was able to bring guests in, and I could share my network with Horace Mann,” he said. 

Throughout his decades working at the school, Do worked to make the arts an intrinsic part of an education at the school, visual arts teacher Ron Logan wrote. “In teaching, administration, and friendship, he has made it clear over the years that his students and his colleagues matter,” he said. “He has brought respect and stature to our department, and has worked tirelessly to promote the arts as integral to a student’s education at Horace Mann School.”

Aside from visual art, Do has also brought other forms of art to his classes. One of Finlay’s favorite memories with Do was watching him and other faculty members rehearse for Music Week in the art room, he said. “It was very interesting because Mr. Do is not just an artist in the visual arts sense, but he’s also an artist in that he plays music.”

In the art room, Do will often experiment with different music and play the guitar for his students, Khorana said. “He loves to play the guitar. If you go into his classroom, he has a bunch of old guitars hung up around the room,” she said. “Mr. Do’s classroom is kind of notorious.”

Do will also be remembered by his students for his many iconic puns and dad jokes, Kim said. “He makes a lot of amazing puns and his wordplay is really fun.”

Do is quick-witted and “punny,” Hetherington said. “I wouldn’t dare try to recreate any, but they’re all good.”

While the community enjoys Do’s puns, he has a greater message behind them. “The reason that I do the dad puns is to create an atmosphere where it’s permissible to fail,” he said. “It’s okay to not be perfect, and that’s that’s the legacy I hope to pass on.” In the future, Do hopes that his students continue to use humor to make their way in life.

Do has made an impact on all the students and faculty he has worked with and has helped create a community at the school that is about celebrating art, Kim said. “People are, frankly, united by art and of the act of creating and of being able to have fun while doing so,” they said. “Mr. Do really fostered and encouraged that playfulness and creativity.” 

Like Kim, Taylor is grateful to have had the opportunity to work with Do, he said. “Knowing him has made me a better person and a better educator.”

Do has been a strong pillar of support, appreciation, and creativity for so many years of students, Kim said. “He has dedicated his whole life to educating.”

Whether the student is an artist today or has not touched a paintbrush since Do’s class, Hetherington knows students have been impacted by having him as a teacher, she said. “There’s so many people who have been positively affected by Mr. Do and his teaching, and I don’t think one can hope for anything more as a teacher.”

Do will be missed by the school’s community. “Mr. Do has brought an intense love of art and a wonderful sense of humor to our school community,” Logan wrote. “Mr. Do’s artistic, academic, and personal legacy at Horace Mann School is unparalleled. He will forever be part of the history of Horace Mann.”

Do will miss the school community, he said. “It’s bittersweet because I love this place, I feel a real loyalty to this school,” he said. “I’m very thankful to Horace Mann for all its given me over these years and continues to give me in my memories as I move into my pure artist life.”