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University names couple to joint chair in Islamic and Asian art

(6-16-2000) In what may be the first academic appointment of its kind, Boston College has named a husband and wife team to a joint appointment for a single chair, the Norma Jean Calderwood University Professorship in Islamic and Asian Art.

Sheila Blair and Jonathan Bloom, both distinguished art research scholars, authors and professors, will begin their duties this September thanks to a $2 million gift that will create BC's first full-time position in non-Western art.

"We are pleased to have Jonathan Bloom and Sheila Blair join us at BC, and to announce a newly endowed chair in Islamic and Asian art at Boston College" said College of Arts and Sciences Dean Joseph Quinn. "This job sharing arrangement between two distinguished academics with young children is wonderful. It meets their needs and those of Boston College."

"After personally viewing the riches of Islamic art in the Middle East this summer, I am most pleased that Jonathan and Sheila will be in our department to communicate this wealth to a wider audience," said Fine Arts Department Chairman Prof. John Michalczyk. "Their initial lectures in the spring opened my eyes to a fresh, new culture."

The chair was created through a gift from Stanford Calderwood, a partner in Trinity Investment Management in Boston, in honor of his wife Norma Jean, who was a part-time lecturer in the BC Fine Arts Department from 1983 until her retirement in 1996. Calderwood, in an interview with Boston College Magazine, said that the endowed chair was his tribute to BC, reflecting his wife's high esteem for the department.

"Of her many professional activities in the art world over several decades, teaching at Boston College was one of the most rewarding," said Calderwood. "She found her students bright, responsive and very challenging."

In recognizing the gift and appointment, University President William P. Leahy, SJ, said, "The Calderwoods' generous gift adds strength to two areas of Boston College that are high priorities‹the arts and cultural diversity. We welcome Jonathan Bloom and Sheila Blair to Boston College, as their extensive experience in art, literature and teaching in non-Western art is a natural complement to our existing fine arts program."

Said Assoc. Prof. Jeffery Howe (Fine Arts), who worked with Norma Jean Calderwood during her years at BC, "This generous gift will allow our department to carry on the legacy of Norma Jean Calderwood, who was equally passionate about teaching and Islamic Art. We are fortunate to be able to bring two of the world's finest scholars of Islamic and Asian Art to Boston College, and we are grateful to Stanford Calderwood for the opportunity."

The couple, who were graduate students at Harvard University with Norma Jean Calderwood during the 1970s, will alternate semesters teaching and staying home with their two young children.

"We have had many experiences where Sheila and I were interested in and equally qualified for a position, but university officials were unable to accept a non-traditional arrangement," said Jonathan Bloom. "We are delighted that Boston College has made this arrangement possible. It is a wonderful offer in a lot of ways."

Sheila Blair has served as a visiting professor and lecturer at Trinity College, Harvard University, Dartmouth College, University of Geneva (Switzerland), University of Pennsylvania, MIT and Pahlavi University in Iran. She is the author of eight books, including three that she co-authored with her husband, and has received numerous awards among them a Guggenheim Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Humanities Independent Research Grant, a Getty Senior Research Grant, and a Max van Berchem Foundation Fellowship. She holds a bachelor's degree in sociology and art history from Tufts University, a degree in sociology and political science from the London School of Economics, and a doctorate in fine arts and Middle Eastern studies from Harvard.

Jonathan Bloom has served as a visiting professor of art and architecture at Otto-Friedrich-Universitat Bamberg (Germany), Trinity College in Hartford, Yale, Harvard, University of Geneva (Switzerland), MIT and UCLA. He has authored several books, including the three with his wife, and boasts such prestigious awards as a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship and Grant, a Metropolitan Museum of Art Senior Fellowship, and a Getty Senior Research Grant. He holds a bachelor's degree and a doctorate in fine arts from Harvard and an A.M. degree in art history from the University of Michigan.

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