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A type of excellence

Know why capital letters are called upper case? We have the answer.
Donation makes ASU’s type collection the largest at any higher-ed institution.
April 15, 2016

Petko donation makes ASU's type collection the largest in North American higher-education institutions

Most people can identify a loved one with a glimpse of an eye or mouth. For Daniel Mayer — printmaking instructor at the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts’ School of Art — a single letter, comma or ligature can be adequate to identify one of the hundreds of typefaces that make up Arizona State University’s more than 3,000 cases of metal and wooden type.

The collection grew dramatically in early 2016 when ASU was gifted the Adam Repan Petko Type Collection, consisting of some 1,600 cases of type (enough to fill two semi trucks) and printing presses that include an ornate 1834 Columbian Press.

The collection — which is named for the donor’s father, a dermatologist interested in preserving printing technology — makes ASU’s type collection the largest at any institution of higher education in North America.

“The pristineDr. Petko collected what is referred to as “reproduction type.” The type composition was set “once” from the case, a reproduction proof impression was taken, and then it went into a photo-mechanical process for printing. The type that had one impression was put back into the case, leaving it pristine as the day it was cast. This makes up the majority of the collection. type was collected from commercial letterpress shops by Dr. Petko over many years as the print industry changed,” said Mayer, who is also director of Pyracantha Press, the School of Art’s production and research imprint. “We’re identifying it case by case.

“For example, there was a piece of type on the table, and it was a period in a diamond shape. The Goudy period was designed as a diamond. So you can pick up a letterform and identify it as Goudy, or Palatino. Selecting typefaces for a project is essential whether it’s for an artists’ book, broadside or ephemera as type has a voice.”

Metal print type is set in a curve.

Detail of the type used by visiting artist
Jessica Spring, along with ASU print experts,
to create a poster (below) celebrating
the Petko collection, using 35 fonts.

Photos by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

ASU’s printmaking program, which was recently ranked fifth in the country by U.S. News and World Report, houses its letterforms, punctuation marks, spacers, composing sticks and presses in the Art Building, at Hayden Library and in a new glass-front pop-up studio in the Tempe Center building on the northeast corner of 10th Street and Mill Avenue so that community members can easily engage with ongoing printmaking projects.

The inaugural guest artist to work in the pop-up space was printmaker Jessica Spring. Spring, who lives in Tacoma, Washington, spent a week in March collaborating with Mayer to create a commemorative letterpress print celebrating the Petko donation and paying tribute to the 35th anniversary of the Pyracantha Press.

She also taught workshops to ASU students and visitors who traveled to campus from the Phoenix metro area, the University of Arizona, Prescott, Flagstaff and New Mexico.

Spring and Mayer’s print, “35 Faces of Dr. Petko,” features a vibrant yellow smiley face — a nod to Petko’s career in dermatology — circled by 35 adjectives. Each word is hand-set in a typeface from the Petko Collection that the artists thought best conveyed its meaning.

Spring, proprietor of Springtide Press, is perhaps best known for her collaborative broadsides series “The Dead Feminists.” She often works in a style she calls “daredevil letterpress,” which consists of novel ways to hand-set type in non-traditional curves, waves and other shapes.

Petko type collection poster.

“I do daredevil printing, and ASU is home of the Sun Devils, and it’s a big, sunshine face,” Spring said of the final product, noting that its headline features the 1960s typeface Eurostile, which aligns with when the bright, smiling icon became popular.

To determine which typefaces to use, Spring, Mayer and Creative Research graduate assistant Sofia Paz gathered word lists and acted out traits that came to mind for letterforms that would best represent what it meant to be “gleeful” or “jubilant.”

“We decided ‘satisfied’ needed a typewriter font, for instance,” said Paz, who is the first year of her MFA program in printmaking.

Paz, who did not have much background in letterpress before joining ASU, says working with movable type has changed the way she interacts with her computer.

She thinks differently about what it means to select a 12- or 14-point font, or to use an “upper case” letter (letterpress printers traditionally worked simultaneously from two cases; frequently accessed, non-capitalized letters were stored in the lower case and capital letters were placed in the upper, harder-to-reach case). She says she instinctively searches her word processer for her favorite typefaces from the Petko Collection, even if they don’t exist digitally.

“I’ve only been doing this for a semester now, and I feel like it’s already getting engrained in my psyche,” she said.

“It catches students, especially when they’re using typefaces on the computer. That’s virtual — but in the letterpress studio it’s very physical,” said Mayer. “They’re picking up a character letter by letter and making words, making sentences, making paragraphs that are composed in tandem with other graphic processes such as woodcuts, silkscreen and newer digital technologies. It makes you pay attention to what it is and how it’s been done, while respecting the history of the printed word.”

While “35 Faces of Dr. Petko” was made to shepherd the Adam Repan Petko Type Collection into its new home, working on it also put a smile on a different newcomer’s face.

“I’ve lived in Argentina, Switzerland, Colorado and Texas and I never felt like I found home, but I feel like I have at ASU,” Paz said. “I know it’s kind of cheesy, but when the day is over, I don’t want to leave. After cataloging type for five hours straight, I don’t want to go! I just want to be here with everyone. I feel so welcome and they support one other, and the connections you make are just invaluable.”

To view or purchase the inaugural letterpress print, or to visit the Adam Repan Petko Type Collection in the School of Art, please contact Daniel Mayer at

Additional public book-arts activities can be found through ASU’s student artists’ book collective:

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Living the W. P. Carey legacy

After years as a professional skydiver, W. P. Carey's great-nephew comes to ASU.
April 15, 2016

MBA student follows a long journey to the ASU school that bears his family's name

After spending years as a professional skydiver, Rod Boden wasn’t sure how well he would fit in at business school when he arrived at Arizona State University in 2014.

But whenever he felt a bit overwhelmed, he was able to tap into some amazing inspiration — his great-uncle, W. P. Carey.

“I can’t turn my head without seeing his name everywhere,” said Boden (pictured above, right), who will graduate in May from the full-time MBA program.

“Being in a sea of all these bright young minds, any time I felt like I wasn’t quite as smart or quite as quick as everyone else in class, I would think of Bill and think that there was some small piece of him in me and that kept me feeling strong and motivated,” Boden said.

Boden has a family legacy that goes all the way back to the founding of ASU. He descends from John Samuel Armstrong, whose legislation launched Tempe Normal School, the precursor to ASU, in 1885. Armstrong’s grandson was William Polk Carey, a businessman whose foundation donated $50 million to ASU in 2003. The business school was then renamedWilliam P. CareyWilliam P. Carey and his likeness at the business school that bears his name. the W. P. Carey School of Business.

“It’s a little overwhelming sometimes to think about the accomplishments of the people who came before me,” Boden said.

Earlier this month, he and his cousin, Doug Parvis, gave a presentation at the business school about Bill Carey and his brother, Frank, who is Boden’s grandfather.

Boden said the talk was something he had wanted to do for a while as a tribute to Bill Carey.

“We were just incredibly lucky that we got to be a part of this family and that we got to know the patriarchs of this family,” Boden said.

Great integrity

The Carey brothers had a tough childhood. Their mother married four times during a time when that was uncommon. They ended up living with their grandfather in Baltimore and showed an early aptitude for entrepreneurship — their first business venture was selling ink and soda pop out of their basement.

Frank went to Princeton, so Bill went there too. As a sophomore, Bill began buying secondhand refrigerators and renting them to students. The venture was enormously profitable but left little time for chapel or classes. He withdrew before he was kicked out and then enrolled in the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania.

“He was humble along the way but always wanted to be the best,” Parvis said. “Whenever it was written about his education — Princeton and then Wharton — he never corrected people who assumed he had an MBA from Wharton.”

Frank Carey became a lawyer and eventually joined the company founded by brother.

Bill Carey started the International Leasing Co. at age 28 and later founded the W. P. Carey Co. investment firm. He was known as a humble but savvy businessman with great integrity.

Andy Rooney did a segment on “60 Minutes” about Bill Carey, describing how, as a young man, Bill was sent to a small town in Colorado to close a family sugar business that had failed. The sugar-beet farmers had worked for a year and were not paid because the business was bankrupted. Bill never forgot the farmers. Nineteen years later, he paid them.

In 1988, the W. P. Carey Foundation was formed to benefit education, and in 2003, it endowed the ASU business school.

“Of all the things he did, Bill was the most proud of his philanthropy,” said Parvis, who is on the board of the W. P. Carey Foundation.

A perfect fit

Rodney Carey Boden took a winding path to the spot that bears his family’s name.

After graduating with a degree in psychology from Johns Hopkins UniversityThe W. P. Carey Foundation also endowed the Carey Business School at Johns Hopkins. in 2008, he became part of a mobile response team in North Carolina, on call for 24 hours for people who were in danger of killing themselves. Boden said the work was rewarding, and he is proud of the fact that he was able to save five people from committing suicide.

“But that work takes a toll, and I started looking for a way out,” he said.

Rod Boden sky diving

Rod Boden worked as a professional skydiver in Hawaii for several years before coming to ASU.

He had been skydiving for fun, and by 2011, he had more than 750 jumps. So he moved to Oahu, Hawaii, where he worked for Skydive Hawaii on the North Shore. He taught skydiving and shot video and photographs. He competed in the U.S. Nationals in canopy piloting, in which the jumper flies the parachute through an accuracy course.

“I was living on the beach, surfing every morning, skydiving all day, yoga in the afternoon or maybe another surf session. Rinse and repeat,” he said.

Idyllic as that was, he needed more. So he worked at a marketing start-up, using his video and photography skills for several companies as well as testing high-performance action cameras.

After a while, “I realized I was being undervalued. If I wouldn’t do it for cheap, they would find someone else to do it for cheap,” he said. “That’s when I realized it was time to re-enter the world.”

After taking the GMAT, Boden was headed back to the classroom, where the W. P. Carey School of Business’ marketing MBA program was a perfect fit.

At first, Boden didn’t advertise the fact that he is related to the school’s benefactor. “I didn’t want people to judge me based on anything other than who I am,” he said.

Boden has been happy to give back to the institution. One of his proudest moments was being elected president of the MBA Association, the student governing association for full-time MBA students.

He also was on the team that designed the Forward Focus MBA, and he helped to develop that new program’s cross-functional learning lab, in which students from different majors work as teams to solve problems.

After Bill Carey died in 2012, Boden inherited two mementos: a purple and green bow tie and a Tiffany watch. Last year, he started wearing the bow tie every Thursday, as a silent tribute to Bill and the motivation he inspired.

"I came into this wondering if I would fit in, but I realized that with the mix of all my experiences, and of me being me, that this was the perfect place for me.”

Top photo: Doug Parvis (left) and Rod Boden give a presentation about their ancestor W. P. Carey in McCord Hall on the Tempe campus April 12. Boden wore the bow tie he inherited after his great-uncle's death. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU News