Sunday evening, news of the passing of Ralph Clemente flooded our Facebook and Twitter feeds. Clemente, 72, was the head of the Film Technology Program at Valencia College. He died April 5 from pancreatic cancer. He was diagnosed on March 17.
The outpouring of devotion on social media came from the years of educating and mentoring young students into filmmakers.
"When you can have a positive effect on people's lives and help them reach their dreams," he once said, "that is the best reward a teacher can have."
Clemente came from a rich background in theatre. He is forth generation show business. Clemente started out as an actor, but eventually turned to screenwriting and direction. He started his teaching career at the University of Miami and shortly thereafter was approached to start a new film program at Valencia.
"Ralph was a powerful person in the lives of his students and those with whom he worked. He will be deeply missed," said Stacey Johnson, president of Valencia's East Campus, where the film technology program is housed.
"It is shocking for us to imagine a world without Ralph, and it is unfathomable for us to imagine not seeing him here every day on campus," said Wendy Givoglu, dean of Valencia's arts and entertainment programs. "He has touched the lives of all who knew him, and I can say that I am honored to have worked so closely with him over the years. To us, his friends and colleagues, Ralph modeled the passion and dedication that it takes to teach our students how to thrive in a career in the arts and the charismatic leadership that it requires to inspire others. He always spoke of film as being a 'team art.' We were all lucky to be part of Ralph's team."
Clemente ran a fairly unique film program at Valencia. His students learn the trade by working on actual films alongside professionals. His students have worked on 47 feature films including The First of May and Silver Wings & Civil Rights: The Fight to Fly. Some more recent work has included To Write Love on Her Arms starring Kat Dennings which released on DVD on March 3 and Frank vs. God, which will continue a festival run as the closing night film at VisionFest in New York on May 17.
A service for close friends and family will be held on Saturday in Miami. In Orlando, Valencia is planning a service to honor Clemente's work and life. Students are planning to hold a candlelight memorial in his honor on Wednesday at 8 p.m. on Valencia's East Campus.
Ralph Clemente (left) at the Orlando premiere of Missionary. November 1, 2014.