When former Buffalo State President Muriel Howard left the college in 2009 to take the helm of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), Susanne Bair, vice president of institutional advancement, thought it would be a fitting tribute to commission a portrait of Howard.
With support from Linda Dobmeier and Dorothy Ferguson, chairs of the Buffalo College Council and the Buffalo State Foundation, respectively, that idea bloomed into a presidential portrait project that spanned six years, employed the talents of three artists, and will eventually include all nine Buffalo State presidents.
Seven magnificent life-size framed portraits now flank the entrance to the Performing Arts Center at Rockwell Hall. On October 19, these portraits were unveiled in an afternoon ceremony attended by approximately 80 guests including family members and friends of the various presidents.
“I believe this project emphasizes the extraordinary leadership Buffalo State has enjoyed throughout its history, and each portrait recognizes the strides made by the campus during presidential tenures,” Bair said in her opening remarks. “It is important that we celebrate our history and recognize these very special people whose vision and leadership have made Buffalo State the great college it is today.”
She also recognized the three artists: Jackie Jasper, Robert Mead Jones, and Mary Dewitt Smith.
Jones, who lives in Vero Beach, Florida, attended the ceremony.
“In my positions of chair of both the Foundation Board and the College Council, I’ve had the privilege of seeing first-hand the skills needed to lead an institution of this size and importance,” Dobmeier said in her remarks to the group. “It isn’t easy, and it’s a sometimes underappreciated role. So I am grateful that we have the opportunity to pay tribute to these leaders today.”
She thanked the artists who rendered vivid likenesses of the presidents including, “My dear friend Aaron Podolefsky, who left us all too soon in 2013, and our newest visionary, Dr. Katherine Conway-Turner, who brings her own brand of strength, determination, and loveliness to the office.”
The portraits were unveiled in order of tenure: Harry W. Rockwell (1919–1951); Paul G. Bulger (1959–1967); Bruce Johnstone (1979–1988); F.C. Richardson (1989–1996); Muriel Howard (1996–2009); Aaron Podolefsky (2010–2013); and Katherine S. Conway-Turner (2014–present).
The college is finalizing commissions for Harvey M. Rice (1951-1958) and E.K. Fretwell Jr. (1967-1978).
During the ceremony, family members and friends removed coverings over each portrait.
Before pulling aside the covering to reveal Conway-Turner’s portrait, her husband, Alvin Turner, praised Jones’ artistry.
“He synthesized his knowledge of her into a piece that represents her. He captured her elegance, courage, strength, complexity and beauty,” Turner said. “The depth of the work is magnificent.”
Pictured: Dr. Alvin Turner unveils President Conway-Turner’s portrait.
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