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$1.1 million gift from late professor benefits arts at KU

March 9, 2017

A $1.1 million gift from the estate of the late Marilyn Stokstad, distinguished professor emerita of art history, will provide support to the Spencer Museum of Art, the libraries and students at the University of Kansas.

Marilyn Stokstad

Stokstad, of Lawrence, died in March 2016 at age 87; she was a renowned author, art historian and former art museum director as well as a respected academic. Through her lifetime and estate gifts, she donated more than $2.3 million to the university.

Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little said the gifts continue to make KU a leader in the fields of art and art history.

“Dr. Stokstad left a mark at KU throughout her career,” Gray-Little said. “And with her estate gift, she left a legacy that will provide lasting support for KU students, faculty and the community to experience, study and research art.”

The $1.1 million estate gift benefited the following areas:

  • $289,000 for the acquisition of art history books at the Murphy Art & Architecture Library
  • $253,000 for building improvement and maintenance at the Spencer Museum
  • $253,000 for publishing scholarly exhibition catalogues for the Spencer Museum or the Spencer Research Library
  • $300,000 for the Marilyn Stokstad Directorship at the Spencer Museum. She had endowed the directorship in 2012.

Saralyn Reece Hardy, who currently holds the Stokstad directorship, said the gift will continue to advance the Museum’s vision.

“Marilyn Stokstad had a profound impact on the Spencer Museum of Art through her leadership, scholarship, and progressive ideas. She focused her life, resources, and formidable intelligence on works of art and their role in education and human experience,” Reece Hardy said. “We are especially honored that she chose to support aspects of the Museum that help us sustain opportunities for publishing scholars and provide a welcoming space for bringing art and people together.”

In 2011, Stokstad gave $250,000 to create a new interior reception space and remodel the reading room at the Kenneth Spencer Research Library.

“Marilyn Stokstad was a renowned author and researcher, and her scholarship continues to make positive impacts across campus. In addition, she made transformative gifts to the Spencer Research Library that continue to encourage students and researchers to explore collections that deepen our understanding of the vast histories of the world,” said Kevin L. Smith, dean of KU Libraries. “Her legacy will live on not only through her many contributions to the institution, but through the students she taught, and the lives she changed.”

Other KU initiatives that benefited from her support included the Student Award Fund at the Spencer Museum and the Art History Graduate Student Fund. Stokstad’s trust also included gifts for her undergraduate alma mater, Carleton College, and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Mo.

Born in Lansing, Michigan, in 1929, Stokstad graduated from Carleton College in 1950 before spending a year at the University of Oslo, Norway, as a Fulbright Fellow. She earned a master’s degree from Michigan State University in 1953 and a doctorate from the University of Michigan in 1957.

Stokstad joined the KU faculty in 1958, and served as associate dean of the KU College of Liberal Arts & Sciences from 1972 to 1976. She taught more than 20 different courses ranging from introductory art to graduate seminars before retiring in 2002. Upon her retirement, she was named the Judith Harris Murphy Distinguished Professor Emerita of Art History.

Stokstad was a visionary and leader in the field of art history. An expert in medieval art and Spanish art, she was the author of art history textbooks used widely by universities. She served as president of the College Art Association and the International Center of Medieval Art. Her many awards and professional honors include: a lifetime achievement award from the National Women’s Caucus for Art, Kansas Arts Commission Governor’s Arts Award as the Kansas Art Educator of the Year, Chancellors Club Career Teaching Award, and an honorary degree of doctor of humane letters by Carleton College.

KU Endowment is the independent, nonprofit organization serving as the official fundraising and fund-management organization for KU. Founded in 1891, KU Endowment was the first foundation of its kind at a U.S. public university.

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March 9, 2017
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