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Professor Swaps Photography Classroom for Top White House Post; Students, Faculty React
source: The Post (Athens, Ohio)

Pete Souza
Pete Souza
source: The Post/Ohio University

Tuesday, January 6, 2009--The Assistant Professor of Visual Communication at Ohio University, Pete Souza, has accepted the job of official White House photographer for President-elect Barack Obama, the Obama transition team announced Monday.

School of Visual Communication Director Terry Eiler said he found out about Souza's hiring Sunday night, but that he and Souza had been discussing the possibility for some time.

"This is such a fantastic historic opportunity for him, and he has to take it," Eiler said.

Souza served as White House photographer for President Ronald Reagan from 1983 to 1989 and has worked for several magazines and newspapers. His most recent book, The Rise of Barack Obama, was published in 2008. In it, Souza photographically documents Obama's first year as an Illinois senator.

Drew Angerer, a senior studying photojournalism, was supposed to begin Souza's Intermediate Photojournalism II class today. Angerer said he received an e-mail from Souza yesterday morning informing him about the professor's leave of absence.

"I'm happy for him," Angerer said. "I mean, it's kind of disappointing that I don't get to have him as a teacher, but I think he'll do great."

Angerer's class will be combined with Professor Marcy Nighswander's section of the course, which takes place at the same time, Eiler said. He said Souza's advisees will be placed with other professors.

Eiler also said he would like to hire a visiting professional to replace Souza during his indefinite absence by Spring Quarter, but will have to seek an exemption from Ohio University's hiring freeze.

Souza could not be reached yesterday, but said in a university news release that he thinks the relationship he developed with Obama while photographing him helped him secure the position.

"I'm excited to go back as the chief photographer, which I wasn't before," he said.

"I feel I have a good grasp of what it takes to visually document the president for history's sake."