KU art historian makes lead gift for Spencer Museum of Art
Marilyn Stokstad, a renowned University of Kansas distinguished professor emerita of art history, art historian, and former art museum director, has made a lead gift to create an endowed directorship at KU’s Spencer Museum of Art.
Her gift to KU Endowment established the Marilyn Stokstad Director, which will support and strengthen the Spencer Museum of Art’s innovative programming and initiatives, including: research and travel opportunities for the director; internships for students; research and publishing projects involving students and faculty; and the engagement of scholars from across the humanities and other disciplines.
Stokstad, of Lawrence, joined the KU faculty in 1958 and taught more than 20 different courses — ranging from introductory art to graduate seminars — until she retired in 2002. She is the Judith Harris Murphy Distinguished Professor Emerita of Art History. An expert in medieval art and Spanish art, she is the author of art history textbooks used widely by universities. She directed the KU Museum of Art (now named the Spencer Museum of Art) from 1961 to 1968, and served as associate dean of KU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences from 1972 to 1976. Throughout her career, Stokstad has undertaken a number of major research endeavors, pioneering an interdisciplinary scholarly approach through her widely lauded project, Humanist in the Art Museum.
“The Spencer Museum is one of the jewels of the University of Kansas,” said Stokstad. “My gift will support the director’s position in ways that will enhance research, education and an appreciation of the arts’ contributions to society. I’m thrilled to be able to make this gift, which will benefit the museum in perpetuity.”
Saralyn Reece Hardy, director of the Spencer Museum of Art, expressed appreciation for the gift.
“It is a great honor and privilege to receive this generous gift from Dr. Marilyn Stokstad,” she said. “The endowed directorship represents her enduring commitment to the field of art history as well as her unwavering belief in the university art museum as an essential part of higher education. She has been an inspirational leader to so many of us throughout her career.”
Stokstad graduated from Carleton College in Northfield, Minn., in 1950, then she spent 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 doctoral degree from the University of Michigan in 1957.
Stokstad has been a leader in art history for decades. She has 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. She has served as a consultative curator of medieval art for the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Mo.
The Stokstad Director is KU’s third named position established by a woman and named for a woman. The others include the Florence Black and Wealthy Babcock Professorship in Mathematics, established by Martha Peterson; and the Frances L. Stiefel Teaching Professorship in English, established through the estate of Frances Stiefel.
The gift is part of Far Above: The Campaign for Kansas, the university’s comprehensive fundraising campaign.
The campaign is managed by KU Endowment, 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.