The Big Picture: Mr. Hing’s Full Circle Williston Adventure


Matthew Cavanaugh

Photo by Matthew Cavanaugh

When The Willistonian asked Vince Wang, ’20, to say a few words about photography and film teacher Ed Hing, one of the first things he said was, “I know I can go to him. I can always talk to him about anything and he’ll be there.”

Shirley Shen, ’21, agreed. “I feel like he’s more than just a photography teacher,” she laughed. “He talks about philosophy, he gives life lessons. Whenever I have even the smallest questions he’ll answer.”

Not only has Hing been a valuable mentor to students like Vince and Shirley outside the classroom, but he helped them discover a passion for photography. “When I first got to Williston, photography was just a way of getting my arts credit done with,” Vince recalled. “Darkroom seemed like the logical place to start. [It] wasn’t my favorite, but I learned a lot. Since then I’ve taken every photography class.”

Shirley said she had done some photography before coming to Williston, but didn’t fall in love with it until taking Hing’s classes. Both she and Vince have now taken the highest level photo class, Alternative Printing Processes.

Hing, who grew up in Englewood, New Jersey and graduated from Williston as part of the class of 1977, told The Willistonian that if it hadn’t been for his own mentor and photography teacher, Robert “Couchy” Couch, he also probably wouldn’t have pursued his love for photography.

“He was the one who actually encouraged me to pursue my passion,” Hing said. “My parents wanted me to be a doctor. But he said, ‘You’re really good at photography — you should do what you want to do.'”

Hing took his advice, and followed his passion to Trinity College in Connecticut and then to graduate art school at the Art Center College of Design in California. He then returned East in 1984, working in New York in visual advertising. He recalled his occasional visits back to Easthampton, returning for the now-discontinued Career Day and “Winter Session” programs. Winter Session, he explained, was a program in January where a week would be devoted to trips and workshops instead of classes.

Hing told the story of how he and his wife joined his former mentor and his students on a Winter Session trip to teach photography on Nantucket Island in the early ’90s.

“One night at dinner I was joking around with [Mr. Couch],” Hing recalled, “I said, ‘When are you retiring?'”

Couch laughed. “Why, you want my job?”

“You never know!” Hing joked.

The rest, as they say, is history. “Maybe four or five years later,” Hing said, “[Couch] called me up and said ‘I’m retiring — do you still want my job? You should come up and interview!'”

Hing, of course, did just that. “I never thought I was going to be a teacher,” Hing laughed. “I never thought I would come back here. But apparently I liked it here enough to!”

He expressed his gratitude to Couch for everything he did for him and all the hats he wore at Williston. “He was my dorm parent, he was my geometry teacher, he was my hockey coach, he was the keeper of the Darkroom key — and I think he was really the first person who believed in me.”

There’s something beautifully full circle in the way Hing’s words about Couch echo Vince Wang’s words about Hing.

“He’s been probably the most consistent factor in my Williston career,” Vince said. “Mr. Hing is not just a teacher or advisor. He’s become like a father and I’m eternally grateful.”