Bowdoin Appoints Cornell to Steele Chair in Studio Art

Story posted June 11, 2001

Bowdoin College has named Professor Thomas Cornell as the first Richard E. Steele Chair in Studio Art. The new professorship has been established through a major gift to the College by Dr. and Mrs. H. Keith H. Brodie of Durham, N.C.

The Chair honors Richard E. Steele, Bowdoin’s retiring director of admissions and student aid, for his contributions to Bowdoin and to higher education through his extraordinary leadership of four college and university admissions programs.

“In his nearly four decades at Bowdoin, Tom Cornell has been an outstanding teacher as well as an accomplished artist of national renown,” said Robert H. Edwards, president of the College. “He is an invaluable member of the Bowdoin faculty, and it is a privilege to recognize him with this appointment. We are deeply grateful to Keith and Brenda Brodie for their generous gift, for honoring our excellent Dick Steele, and for enhancing Bowdoin’s fine Visual Arts program.”

Cornell, professor of visual arts, joined the Bowdoin faculty in 1962. He is a graduate of Amherst College, and studied at the Yale University School of Art and Architecture. His work is in many museum collections in America, including the Portland Museum of Art, which owns and exhibits The Four Seasons, originally painted on commission for John Hancock Life Insurance Company.

One-man exhibitions have occurred throughout Professor Cornell’s teaching career. He has had seven major museum and five one-person exhibitions (A.M. Sachs Gallery and G.W. Einstein Company, New York City). Significant group exhibitions include two shows at the Schoelkopf Gallery and a 1969 exhibition with catalogue at The Museum of Modern Art. Large paintings were selected by noted art critic Donald Kuspit for the first group exhibition of American art in the Soviet Union.

Cornell has received many grants and fellowships, including the Louis Comfort Tiffany Award, the Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the National Institute for Arts and Letters, a Ford Foundation Grant, a Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant, and a National Foundation on the Arts and Humanities Fellowship. He was elected to the National Academy of Design in 1983.

Cornell’s work has been published and critiqued in numerous reviews and books, including the New York Times, Art in America and Arts Magazine. His work was included in Charles Jencks’ Post-Modernism: The New Classicism in Art and Architecture (1987), a book which helped establish the prevailing concept of Post-Modernism. Presently The Ascentius Press in Portland, Maine, is producing a new edition of Ethan Frome, with a color print frontispiece of Edith Wharton by Cornell. An essay and images by Cornell, along with articles by Bowdoin faculty associated with the Environmental Studies Program, are to be included in an upcoming publication entitled Valuing Nature.

He had etchings and a painting, The Birth of Dionysos, included in the Bowdoin College Museum of Art’s recent exhibition The Pervasive, yet Elusive, Dionysos. The National Academy of Design in New York is currently exhibiting the landscape painting McEwen’s Garden. Along with The Four Seasons at the Portland Museum of Art, these exhibits reflect Cornell’s dual approach to working perceptually from nature while also maintaining his intention to give form to significant social and environmental themes in his larger works.

Richard E. Steele is a graduate of Harvard, and earned his master’s degree from the University of Vermont and his doctorate from the University of Wisconsin. Widely known for the creativity and success of his admissions programs, he is one of the most respected admissions deans in the country. Prior to coming to Bowdoin, he left his distinctive imprint on admissions programs at Bates and Vassar colleges, and as admissions chief at Vermont, Carleton College and Duke University.

Arriving at Bowdoin in 1991, Steele achieved a 34 percent growth in the size of Bowdoin’s applicant pool in four years, a level which he then sustained while improving its quality. He initiated recruiting in Europe and Asia to increase Bowdoin’s flow of international students; established Bowdoin’s National Merit Scholars program, which has more than quintupled the numbers of enrolled Scholars in the past two entering classes; and initiated Bowdoin’s Posse and Chamberlain Scholarship programs which helped the College recruit and retain students of color. Under Steele’s leadership, Bowdoin achieved a new record of 4,534 applicants for the 435 places in the Class of 2005.

Dr. H. Keith H. Brodie served as president of Duke University from 1984-93, where he recruited Steele to serve as director of undergraduate admissions from 1986-91. Brodie is now President Emeritus and Duke University’s James B. Duke Professor of Psychiatry, Professor of Law, and Professor of Psychology.

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