Columbia State Mourns the Loss of Clifford Gordon, Associate Professor of Art



Columbia State Community College is mourning the loss of Clifford Gordon, associate professor of art, who was involved in a tragic accident while on a TnCIS study abroad trip in Brazil.

Clifford and three students were walking along an oceanside road and stopped to take their photographs along either boulders or a wall when a wave hit them. The three students are safe and were not seriously injured when the wave struck. Clifford was swept away and search and rescue operations were launched immediately by Brazilian authorities. Unfortunately, we have received word this morning that Clifford’s body was located and positively identified.

Two of the three students are from Pellissippi State Community College in Knoxville and the third is from Walters State Community College in Morristown, TN.

“We were heartbroken to hear of this tragic accident,” said Dr. Janet F. Smith, Columbia State Community College president. “We are thankful that no students were seriously injured. Our college family mourns the loss of Clifford, who was a talented artist and greatly loved by his students. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends, and students.”

The three students and the professor are among a group of 12 Tennessee community college students on a study abroad program in Brazil. Of the 12, eight are from Pellissippi State in Knoxville, two are from Columbia State, one from Walters State, and one from Southwest Tennessee Community College in Memphis.

The students are being provided counseling, and early transportation home has been arranged.

Clifford began working for Columbia State in 2008 as an adjunct professor in the Humanities and Social Sciences division. In 2013, he began working for the college full-time and taught classes such as Intro. to Visual Arts, Art History, Painting, Drawing, Printmaking, and Foundation Studio. He was also a talented artist and had numerous exhibitions throughout the state. Clifford was known for producing amazing works of collage and painting to draw the viewer into a world informed by various ideas, traditions and modern discourses. In addition, Clifford traveled to Brazil many summers and taught himself how to speak Portuguese.

Clifford held an Associate of Science degree in art from Chattanooga State Community College, a Bachelor of Science degree in art from Tennessee State University, and a Master of Fine Art degree in studio art from the Memphis College of Art.

View additional photos here.