SMU has received $2 million to endow a distinguished chair in art history, enabling the University to launch an international search for a top scholar to direct a new Ph.D. program in Meadows School of the Arts.

The gift, from an anonymous donor, allows SMU to build on the significant strengths of one of the University’s most highly regarded academic divisions.

“Art history at SMU has a great tradition,” says José Antonio Bowen, dean of the Meadows School. “This gift represents a major step forward for the Division of Art History toward becoming one of the best programs in the United States. This is absolutely an area where SMU can achieve national prominence.”

The gift also supports a key Second Century Campaign goal of providing new endowed faculty positions. SMU has created 16 such positions thus far during the campaign.

University Distinguished Professor in Art History Greg Warden is leading the search for a nationally recognized scholar. Bowen says SMU hopes to find an expert who has already made a significant contribution, but whose best work still lies ahead. In addition to conducting research, an acclaimed scholar represents a central component of a doctoral studies program, Bowen says. Such a scholar would likely bring to the University a group of gifted graduate students whose work he is already supervising while also attracting other top graduate students to the program.

The program is slated to feature a curriculum that focuses on a number of contemporary issues in art history. These include the interaction between art and other disciplines, such as the media and architecture, the relationship between art and urban environments like that of Dallas, and an examination of the cultural assumptions that underlie aesthetic judgments, among other topics.

“We have designed a curriculum to attract the kind of innovative minds who will shape the discipline in the next decade,” says Janis Bergman- Carton, chair of art history.

SMU President R. Gerald Turner says creating a doctoral program in art history had been under discussion for a decade. However, Dallas’ increasingly vibrant arts community, its nationally recognized museums and collections, including SMU’s Meadows Museum, and especially the attention focused on the arts resulting from construction of the new AT&T Performing Arts Center, provided an important impetus.

“Given the interest in this graduate program, and the impact of all of the fine arts complexes located in Dallas now, we feel this is the right time to move forward on this important initiative,” he says.

For information about supporting Meadows School of the Arts and the Meadows Museum, please contact Kris Vetter at 214-768-4559 or