Fairfield University awards Philippe de Montebello, director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Doctor of Humane Letters

Philippe de Montebello

Paul J. Huston, '82, chairman of the Board of Trustees for Fairfield University, left, confers honorary degree upon Philippe de Montebello, director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Fairfield University conferred Philippe de Montebello, director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, with a Doctor of Humane Letters on Sunday, April 22, preceding the 10th Anniversary Lecture celebration of Open VISIONS Forum, the distinguished and popular lecture series and community outreach program of Fairfield's University College.

Mr. de Montebello was the very first Open VISIONS Forum speaker in 1997, helping to inaugurate a lecture series that has brought to Fairfield newsmakers and leaders from the worlds of art, media, literature, politics and film to regional audiences. Mr. de Montebello delivered the 10th Anniversary Address, entitled, "Museums: Why Should We Care?" The event took place at the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts on the Fairfield University Campus. A reception, hosted by the new Southport Village Inn and La Colline Verte at Southport Green, followed the event.

In delivering the citation to Mr. de Montebello, Philip Eliasoph, Ph. D., professor of art history and the director and moderator of Open VISIONS Forum, said, "As the longest tenured museum director in the nation, he has rejected every dogma that pervades the museum world today by insisting on scholarship over showmanship, and impeccable connoisseurial standards instead of crowd-pleasing lowest common denominator blockbusters."     

Mr. de Montebello also was recognized "for a lifetime of commitment as a protector and advocate for the world's artistic treasures." 

This year marks the 30th year he has served as the director of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, which is approached in size only by the Louvre in Paris. Mr. de Montebello, the museum's eighth director, is the longest serving director of the The Metropolitan.

Paul J. Huston, '82, chairman of the Board of Trustees for Fairfield University, conferred the honorary degree upon Mr. de Montebello. Also participating in the ceremony, were Edna Farace Wilson, Ph. D., dean of University College; Diana Mille, Ph. D., director of the Thomas J. Walsh Art Gallery at Fairfield University; Marice Rose, Ph. D., assistant professor of visual and performing arts; Katherine A. Schwab, Ph. D., associate professor of visual and performing arts; and Rev. Charles H. Allen, S.J., executive assistant to Fairfield University President Jeffrey P. von Arx, S.J.  

During his address, Mr. de Montebello urged young and old to come to the Met and "get up close" to the objects. "Works of art, in addition to aesthetic merit, also inspire, delight, produce wonder and are direct links to history."

He also spoke of how in recent years there has been a "flashpoint of understanding" of the Afghanistan and Iraq cultures due to the artistic treasures found there in the wake of war, including respectively breathtaking Buddhist statutory and stunning Mesopotamia art.  Referring to the these priceless cultural lessons of history, he noted, "However bleak the time we live in, we cannot despair."

In introducing Mr. de Montebello, Dr. Wilson announced Fairfield University's intent to establish on campus, The Bellarmine Museum, scheduled to open in 2008. The planned museum will involve a significant loan of works of art from the medieval period in Western Europe, as well as works of Byzantine art and works of art from Ireland, all derived from the Medieval Department of the Metropolitan Museum as well as its unparalleled Cloisters Collection. It will also house ten Renaissance and Baroque paintings from the Samuel H. Kress Collection at Fairfield University as well as objects from the University's growing collections of art from Asia, Africa and the Americas.

Noting the museum will fuel new curriculum and research projects, Dr. Wilson said, "Ultimately, it will be about community and cultural engagement." 

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Media Contact: Meg McCaffrey, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2726, mmccaffrey@fairfield.edu

Posted on April 23, 2007

Vol. 39, No. 209

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