A look back at Professor Prior’s legacy

Kathryn Cambrea, Editor in chief

With the retirement of Communications Arts Professor William Prior, there is a void at St. Thomas Aquinas College. Prior was especially known for his humor, intellect, and experience in the field of television. He was a human fixture of the television studio, instructing students and assisting them in navigating the equipment as well as filming and editing projects. Last semester, just before his retirement, Prior switched roles: why, he appeared onscreen one final time in an interview to share stories, laughs, and a farewell to current and former STAC students and faculty. 

In Prior’s Writing for Broadcast Media class, his love for film was apparent. He guided students to envision their own films. This included dissecting an abstract idea by describing acts and plot elements, writing scripts, and imagining visual details. But Prior’s passion has always rested in communications, even as a child. 

“I acted like a director with my friends. We played out screen tests and who knows what else,” Prior said.

Therefore, it is not surprising that Prior proceeded to go to the University of Delaware, and pursued education as a graduate student at William Paterson University and New York University’s film school.

Prior began teaching at STAC in 1994 and has been a professor at the College for 25 years. As a result, he has seen media evolve, especially in recent years with digital innovations. He even noted that this is why he retired.

“My basic learning came from filmmaking and I went to NYU film school to learn professional filmmaking after I got out of college at William Paterson. But it’s definitely high-tech now and it’s definitely computer-based,” Prior said, “As a matter of fact, I don’t even think you’re going to be calling it television in a few years; it’s going be more along the lines of streaming, things like that.”

But Prior’s expertise began to develop even before becoming a professor. In the late 1970s, Prior founded a business called Starway Videotape and Film. Although Prior enjoyed creating independent productions with his business, he admitted that it was rigorous as he got older, so his wife recommended that he become a professor. Prior starting instructing as an adjunct professor at Ramapo College and other schools and finally began teaching at STAC full-time.

Prior reminisced on his time with his own business, including an opportunity he had which garnered attention of heavy metal music fans on the television screen.

“When I was doing freelance work at Starway Video, I actually made a music video, a real music video that was on MTV,” Prior said. 

The video premiered on MTV’s heavy metal television show, “Headbangers Ball.”

“I shot it [the music video] on 16 millimeter film and edited in New York City in the professional edit house…and I remember seeing it, I was sitting at home,” Prior said. ‘‘‘Look,’ I say. ‘Oh my God, there I am on TV, doing this Headbangers Ball.’”

Prior’s love for filming got passed down to his son. Now working in western states, Prior’s son has a business called Prior Productions and he covers multiple events such as the Bonneville salt flat races. Before moving to the west coast, Prior’s son would teach alongside his father at STAC. 

“He helped me teach my Event-Based Video class and he was good because he’s done all kinds of event-based video, so I miss him,” Prior said.

Prior appreciates the technical assistance his son gave him in the television studio and is evidently proud of his knowledge and experience.

Prior also shared how proud he is of his pupils, which include current students and alumni, of their thoughtful projects as well as their work in the real world.

He expressed how although he is ready for his retirement, he is grateful for his time here at STAC, especially with his students who he will miss.

“College is about not only giving you the technical background,” Prior said, “It supplies you with the background to go into the real world but also it’s about forming a certain relationship with the students and working with their character, and if you can do that, then you’re a very lucky person, and I feel like I’m a very lucky person to be offered this opportunity.”