Karen Koblitz

Karen Koblitz is an Associate Professor Emerita, who was first hired as adjunct faculty in ceramics in the USC Roski School of Fine Arts in January 1995. In 2002, she became the Chair of the Ceramics Area, until her retirement in June 2017. Under her tutelage, the ceramics area supported a vibrant enrollment and the distinguished Galen Lecture series, which presented an outstanding roster of international and national guest ceramic artists. She also organized and installed the popular Galen Artletics Exhibitions(2006-2014), which featured noted artworks of USC Intercollegiate Athletes created in Roski School of Fine Art courses.

She received numerous USC Faculty Research Grants, as well as the USC Center for International Business Grant, 2004, which enabled her to travel to Moscow, Russia for her solo exhibition, Karen Koblitz, Patterns of Influence, at the All Russian Museum of Decorative, Applied and Folk Arts. A USC Advancing Scholarship in Humanities and Social Sciences Grant, 2008-2009, titled “Reflections on Alternative Uses of the Pottery Vessel in the Southern Caucasus (Azerbaijan)”, allowed her to travel to Azerbaijan for her research.

Retirement from her full-time faculty position at USC doesn’t mean she has slowed down; in fact, she is busier than ever. Add in the Covid quarantine and her days are filled with projects, learning a new language, and continuing creative endeavors. Koblitz joined the Retired Faculty Association board immediately after her retirement. She has been working through the Emeriti Center, with strong support from RFA and SRA and the USC community in a program she initiated in assisting inner-city high school seniors in writing their college application essays. For the past two years, Volunteers of America-Educational Talent Search (VOA-TS), has been collaborating with them in this work, identifying students in their program that are looking towards college.

In fall of 2020, the program had two College Essay Writing Boot Camps with volunteers from the USC community and VOA in helping the high school seniors with content, grammar, and spelling, as they complete the essay questions required by college applications. Her desire to keep in contact with young adults, to do something that can enhance their lives, is something she has thought about before her retirement. Now, she has the time to be actively involved in this effort.

Karen is also co-chair of the Caldwell Scholarship, which is overseen by the RFA. In this capacity, she is working to create a strong sense of community among the eight USC Caldwell Scholars, especially in this time of Covid. She believes that higher education is the key to opportunity, reaching goals, and becoming a more well-rounded person. She recognizes that not all students in the LA area that wish to attend college have the means to do so. The above endeavors are her way of becoming involved in supporting those who have faced challenges and lacked resources in their path to higher education.


As a result of all Karen’s volunteer contributions over the past two years, she was awarded the Paul E. Hadley Award for Service To USC. This award was presented to her by USC President Carol Folt at the December 4th Emeriti Center Holiday Celebration.


When asked what lessons she has learned so far in retirement, Koblitz responds, “Retirement is just another phase in life. ‘Time’, the keyword in retirement as the time is yours to schedule.” New-found hobbies, projects, interests that weren’t available before because of the commitment of the job, now can be pursued. For Koblitz, the main challenge in retirement has been wanting to do it all, taking on so many projects and interests, that at times it is exhausting. The constant business is helping with living in the time of Covid. She has continued her exercise regimen of working out four days a week, now over Zoom instead of outside at the park. One of her new activities is learning Tai Chi, for health and balance of body and mind. “Exercise is so important in this time period. It clears the mind and fights depression,” Koblitz says. Koblitz has also been studying the Czech language over the past three years and now, taking Czech lessons three days a week on Zoom and Skype. “That means a lot more domácí úkol (homework),” Koblitz says.

During her spare time, she spends hours knitting, tries not to watch TV news, and keeps in contact with friends and family. She has dedicated much more time to cooking meals and rediscovering recipes she hasn’t tried in 20 years. Koblitz dreams of the time her husband and she can return to travel.

* The photo above is from the USC Emeriti Center/Volunteers of America-Talent Search College Essay Boot Camp, 2019. Karen Koblitz is in the front center, next to Ms. Joseph, Director of Volunteers of America. To the far left are three of the VOA Advisors: Mr. Torres, Ms. Vaughn, and Ms. Chapman along with the many talented high school seniors from Dorsey, Crenshaw, and Los Angeles High Schools.