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Top 20 by 2020: Propelling Meadows Art History into the National Ranks

Paul and Gayle Stoffel with Lauren Richman (center), the first recipient of the Gayle and Paul Stoffel Ph.D. Fellowship in Art History.

Several important gifts and a challenge grant initiative aim to land the art history doctoral program a top spot.

SMU Meadows is thrilled to announce it has met an important $1.125 million challenge grant for the art history Ph.D. program before the December 31, 2013 deadline. The challenge grant, provided by an anonymous donor, and the matching funds are critical for the "20/20 Initiative," SMU’s aggressive goal to create an art history Ph.D. program that will be recognized as among the top 20 in the nation by the year 2020.

"The National Research Council ranks Ph.D. programs every 10 years, and one of the University’s most important strategic objectives is to have several of its Ph.D. programs ranked in the top 20," says Meadows Dean José Bowen. "The next report comes out in 2020, and the Art History Department is a key Meadows candidate for inclusion in the top group.

However, in order for us to have a chance, funding for the Ph.D. program is critical. the Council bases its rankings partly on the percent of first-year doctoral students who are on full fellowships. We weren’t able to provide such funding last year, which cost us two candidates who opted for schools offering larger financial packages."

The Art History Department is one of SMU’s long-stand-ing centers of academic excellence, with a rigorous, well-respected program and faculty with national and international reputations. In the past year alone, undergraduate students have been accepted to such institutions as the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation and the Courtauld Institute in London, and master’s students have received extremely compe-titive internships at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles and the National Gallery in Washington, D.C.

Over the past five years the department has received sev-eral significant gifts to further its programs. An anonymous gift of $2 million in 2009 allowed Meadows to hire a new Distinguished Endowed Chair in Art History, Dr. Roberto Tejada, and to help launch the new art history Ph.D. program in the fall of 2011. This was followed by three more gifts: $1.5 million to establish the endowed Andrea Bernice Brenner-McMullen Graduate Scholarship Fund to support art history graduate students, provided by the estate of former Meadows board member Alta Brenner; a $1.5 million bequest from the estate of beloved art history professor Karl Kilinski to establish an endowed chair in Hellenic visual culture; and a $1.5 million gift to establish an endowed chair from the Kleinheinz Family Endowment for the Arts and Education.

These gifts, and the challenge grant, have now laid the foundation for the 20/20 Initiative.

A number of committed arts leaders provided generous donations toward the challenge grant. Gayle Stoffel, who graduated from SMU with a degree in education, and her husband, Paul, led the campaign by committing to the first of three permanently endowed named fellowships the school has raised. Arts and cultural supporters Ann and Lee Hobson committed to name the second endowed fellowship. In addition, several Meadows executive board members including Gene Jones, Melissa Fetter, Heather Esping and Jennifer Flanagan contributed to an endowment named for Caren H. Prothro, chair of the SMU board of trustees and key volunteer on this academic excellence initiative.

"The 20/20 initiative is important to the future of the art history doctoral program at Meadows, which already offers one of the best bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in the field," says Ann Hobson, a Meadows executive board member. "As Dallas-Fort Worth is becoming a leading center for the arts, SMU Meadows’ role in furthering arts education will continue to grow in importance. We are proud to support their efforts."

"We are extremely grateful for the generous gifts provided by the Stoffels, Hobsons, Joneses and other key supporters for this important initiative," says Bowen. "Meeting the challenge grant has given us the ability to fully fund students in the doctoral program for years to come, which is critical to attracting the world’s top graduate students. It will also enable us to accelerate the hiring of the two new art history chairs, who will be world-renowned experts chosen from an international search."

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