In honor of Dean Craig C. Hill’s retirement at the end of 2022, there’s a new addition to the portrait gallery in Kirby Hall Parlor at Perkins. A portrait of Dean Hill by artist James Tennison was unveiled at the Dean’s Christmas and Retirement Party on December 6.
Hill, the Leighton K. Farrell Endowed Dean and Professor of New Testament, announced in June 2022 that he would retire as dean December 31, 2022 due to medical reasons. He will remain a member of the Perkins faculty until December 31, 2023. Bishop Michael McKee became dean of Perkins ad interim effective January 1, 2023, and will serve until a permanent dean has been named. Bishop McKee served as episcopal leader of the North Texas Annual Conference from 2012 until his retirement from that position on January 1, 2023.
The portrait was made possible through the donations of members of the Perkins Executive Board, faculty and staff. Tennison’s portrait commissions have taken him across the United States and to England. His works include the official portraits of former Texas governors Rick Perry and Ann Richards, which hang in the State Capitol in Austin, portraits for the National Institutes of Health, Harvard University, Texas Christian University, Texas Instruments and Frito Lay, as well as many portraits for families. This is the second painting that he completed for Perkins – he painted the portrait of Dean William Lawrence when he retired in 2016 – and one of several that grace that SMU campus. He also painted portraits of James Zumberge, SMU’s seventh president from 1975 – 1980; L. Donald Shields, president from 1980 – 1986; and Kenneth Pye, SMU’s president from 1987-1994, as well as portraits of SMU donors Mr. & Mrs. David Miller and of Jerry Junkins, former Texas Instruments CEO and SMU trustee.
Tennison traveled from his home in Whidbey Island, Wash., to Dallas to meet with Dean Hill in his office last year before beginning the portrait.
“I like to discuss the client’s expectations and how they would like it to look,” Tennison said. “It helps me to meet the person, to get to know them and learn more about them, and to see their gestures and natural poses. All of that informs the portrait.”
Tennison took many photographs during his visit.
“I’ve learned that people sort of pose themselves better than I can,” he said.
Noting that the painting would be added to the gallery of past Perkins deans in Kirby Hall, Tennison aimed to make his portrait consistent in terms of size and proportion. His impression of Dean Hill, he said, was of a very kind person, and “I just hope that that came through in his portrait.”
Confirmation that he captured his subject came from Dean Hill’s wife, Robin, who had a chance to review the portrait, and approved.