Outgoing president Dennis Power speaks at Laguna College of Art and Design's 2011 graduation ceremony. (Don Leach, Coastline Pilot / May 19, 2011)

Laguna College of Art & Design President Dennis Power will miss the staff, the students and the faculty when he retires this summer.

Power, who was director of the Oakland Museum of California prior to coming to the college six years ago, will pass the torch to Jonathan Burke on July 1.

"The fact that we've been embraced by the town as an important part of the community and it's reflected when I'm out about town … that support will be missed," he said. "Art is in the DNA of what Laguna is all about. To have a fully accredited art and design college in town just fits comfortably."

Power, 70, grew up in the Eagle Rock neighborhood of Los Angeles, started working at 16, and feels it's time to focus on other important parts of his life: his wife, Leslie, children, grandchildren and travel.

Part of the change requires a move to Santa Barbara, to be closer to one of his sons and his grandchildren.

Power said he and his wife "live in Laguna Beach but sleep in Corona del Mar" and that they'll miss the camaraderie they've built with the community.

Power has seen the faculty become stronger, the campus add majors and a master's of fine arts program, along with new buildings and student housing.

He also saw the creation of visual communications, which includes degrees in illustration, graphic design, animation and game art.

"I really nurtured that because I felt that I saw that as a huge area of growth for the school," he said.

Game Art Department Chairwoman Sandy Appleoff saw the creation of her major under Power's reign and was very appreciative of his support of the department.

"It was really rewarding to have his support while rolling out a new major," she said. "The major started out with very few and we're close to 90 students now. It took foresight on his part."

He said the graphic design and game art majors have had a lot of success finding jobs right after graduation, proving that while many creative programs are cut in schools, the arts will always be needed.

"Not only from a fine arts standpoint are we really well positioned being in Laguna Beach, but we're really well positioned for visual communications majors being in Southern California period," he said.

With a bachelor's degree in biology and a doctorate in zoology, Power started working in museums as a curator right after graduate school. He admits that at first being an administrator was a bit foreign.

"When you go through a field like the sciences — instead of administration — you're really not prepared at all for the administration side of things," he said. "That takes a 'learning on the job' undertaking."

With more than 40 years experience, he certainly learned a lot on the job and is passing on his knowledge to another academic: Burke. Burke has three decades of experience with the college — he saw the first class of six graduate — and was vice president of academic affairs and the dean of fine arts until the promotion.