Film History Lives Vibrantly at BHC

By Ray Castellano      

Black Hawk College’s best kept secret can be discovered in Building 3 on Tuesdays and Thursdays in Room 310.

Tom Vaccaro is Black Hawk College’s lone instructor for TV 212, History of Motion Pictures.  Leading students through the cultural history of film, however, only slightly factors into how this man enriches Black Hawk College. 

Vaccaro’s career in the television and motion picture industry began in 1982, when he accepted a position as the art director at WQAD Channel 8 in the Quad Cities.  Vaccaro held this position until 1991.  It was during the mid-1980’s and into the 1990’s that his summers were spent working on films for the French production company Duea Films as art and set director.  Vaccaro would move on to become the art director for KWQC Channel 6 from 2001 through 2006.  Finally, Vaccaro would spend two years as the art director for the Independent News Network out of Davenport, Iowa before fate struck at Black Hawk College.

Prior to the beginning of the fall term in 2014, Vaccaro found himself searching for a new challenge.  As luck would have it, a friend of his was the TV 212 instructor at Black Hawk College.  After discussion, it was concluded that Vaccaro would gain the recommendation of his friend to become the new History of Motion Pictures instructor.

“If I hadn’t had those experiences, I wouldn’t have this one” Vaccaro said.  As it turned out, teaching may have been his calling.  On campus, Vaccaro could tell just from the energy in the student body that he has made the right decision.  “There is a vibe on campus.  Careers are starting,” Vaccaro observed.

The energy that Vaccaro describes is correlated with instructors like himself.  Vaccaro is passionate in how he affects the lives of students that he has taught.  The course content, while holding value in the history of American popular culture and the three fine arts credits that it carries, is not Vaccaro’s only goal to convey in the classroom.  “Education is less about the subject you are teaching, but more about helping you grow as a person,” he said.  The pride and value that Vaccaro carries and holds in preparing students for the next step in their lives has proven to be what gives him his passion for teaching.

Tom Vaccaro’s story extends well beyond Black Hawk College.  One of his greatest experiences was meeting Paul McCartney in Las Vegas.  Vaccaro, a talented artist, presented Sir Paul McCartney with a hand drawn portrait of Paul and his new wife Linda as their first wedding gift.  A signed copy of the photo hangs on Vaccaro’s office wall, a token of McCartney’s appreciation.  “Here we were, two artists meeting.  Two artists sharing art with each other,” Vaccaro fondly recalled.

The passion and zest for life that he carries and exudes pours into his personal life.  Vaccaro can be found singing, playing bass, and playing guitar for the 1960’s and 1970’s cover band Generations.  He further shares his talent by teaching private guitar lessons.  He has also participated in four Quad City Marathons as well as the last three Bix 7’s.

It is evident that Tom Vaccaro is an asset to Black Hawk College.  “I did it well.  I guess that I was a good teacher, that I cared about my students.  Maybe through my class and the way I taught my class.  For me, it’s how I teach as much as what I teach,” he shared.  Tom Vaccaro’s life experiences, his character, and his ability as an educator make Room 310 in Building 3 the perfect place to not only pick up those three fine arts credits but also a location that offers personal growth, which is a large part of what college is all about.  “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans,” Vaccaro quoted the great John Lennon.  John Lennon could not have been more accurate.  Fortunately for Black Hawk College, Tom Vaccaro heard his message.