Film and Video faculty member dies

By LauraNalin

Ric Coken, the man responsible for the sound mixing in the documentary classic, “Hoop Dreams,” and a longtime staff member in Columbia’s Film and Video Department, died on Dec. 31, 2009.

Coken was a member of the college’s family from 1996 through 2008, serving as a full-time faculty member and assistant chair to both Michael Rabinger and Bruce Sheridan. However, Coken played a huge role in the college community as a part-time faculty member and contributor to the college since the 1980s.

“At one point he sold a studio that he owned to Columbia and they turned it into their sound department for years,” said his son, Cory Coken, who is also a professor at Columbia in the Film and Video Department.

A statement released by Bruce Sheridan, chairperson of the Film and Video Department, said Coken is remembered as someone who loved his students and was devoted to teaching them.

“There are many successful alumni in the world—professionally successful and fine human beings—who credit Ric’s influence as a teacher and as a mentor as a wellspring for that success,” the statement said.  “A lot of what is good about the Film and Video Department can be traced to a small number of people who insisted that theory and practice be treated as two facets of the same fundamental thing and worked diligently to make that integration real at Columbia College. Ric Coken was one of those people. We owe him our gratitude and we honor his memory.”

Coken specialized in “audio for the screen,” a method used with audio in cinema. He created the Audio for Visual Media curriculum for film and audio students with fellow staff member Doug Jones, an associate professor from the Audio Arts and Acoustics Department. He also created an entry-level sound class, Visual Audio, which introduced students to the importance of sound to filmic storytelling.

“He was very generous with his expertise in audio recording,” said Doreen Bartoni, Dean of the School of Media Arts. “He was a very engaging faculty member who always made time to guide and mentor students.”

Coken taught a variety of classes, but his primary teaching area was the audio and visual.  He taught an advanced sound course,  Audio for Visual Media III,  for many years.

Coken had an outstanding list of work, including “Henry: Portrait Of a Serial Killer,” a 1986 cult classic detailing the life of a serial killer, and “Rain Without Thunder,” a 1993 feminist cautionary story set in the future.

Described by his son as a “very eclectic dude,” Coken loved to build furniture in his at-home workshop and he was a member of the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club. “He was an avid sailor, and he had sailed in many places all over the lake and ocean,” said Cory. “Waterskiing,  windsurfing,  sailing—those were all his gig.”

Coken is survived by his son Cory, two grandchildren, Mia and Morgan, and one sister, Karen. Cory remembers his father as a remarkable man that he looked up to since he was a young child.

“On top of being my father and best friend, my dad was my mentor,” Cory said. “I grew up wanting to be like him. I haven’t got there yet, but to this day I still strive to be as good as he was many years ago. He exposed me to this industry since I was a baby, which I couldn’t have gotten from anyone else. He was just great.”