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A First for Art History

With $1 million gift, alumna Carol Ann Bennett-Vallès and her husband Jean-Paul Vallès have established the first-ever endowed professorship in art history.

carol-ann and jean-paul

A $1 million gift from alumna Carol Ann Bennett-Vallès and her husband Jean-Paul Vallès has established the first-ever endowed professor position in art history in the College of Arts & Letters.

“We are grateful to Carol Ann and Jean-Paul for a gift that so generously supports the university’s commitment to programmatic growth, enhancement and success in the arts,” says MSU President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D. “It will allow us to support an outstanding art historian for teaching, research and learning befitting our vibrant community at MSU.”

Carol Ann and Jean-Paul both feel strongly that the ability to appreciate and understand art is one of the key elements that does—and always will—separate humans from machines, and they hope that this professorship in art history will help the next generation keep that appreciation and understanding alive.

”In these difficult times, and in a period where various technologies and robots seem to be taking over the world, I believe that art is essential to continue to humanize the world,” Carol Ann says.

Carol Ann Bennett-Vallès earned her B.A. in fine arts from MSU in 1957, and she has fond memories of learning here. Though she specialized in painting and apparel design during her time as a student at MSU, she has spent her life channeling her artistic and creative skills within the world of synchronized swimming. She designed elaborate competition apparel for synchronized swimming teams, whose routines are as much a display of artistry as athleticism. She also developed clinics and programming for coaches and athletes, organized showcase events and served on the U.S. Synchronized Swimming Board of Governors and as a trustee of the U.S. Synchronized Swimming Foundation.

The Carol Ann Bennett-Vallès Professorship in Art History will be housed in the Department of Art, Art History and Design, which will seek an exceptional teacher who will have an impact on nearly every student who pursues a degree in apparel and textile design, art history, graphic design or studio art.

All of these students begin their education with a two-semester introduction to the history of art. In these courses, they develop a broad understanding of art history, from cave painting to contemporary art that will ground them as they build their art, design and academic skills, as well as develop their sense of taste and direction as artists and industry professionals in the visual arts.

“The Bennett-Vallès Professorship is the kind of transformational gift that will help us sustain our commitment to our students’ broad understanding of the history of art,” said Karin Zitzewitz, interim chair of the Department of Art, Art History and Design. “We are so grateful to the Vallès family for their generosity and support.”

LEARN MORE about supporting the College of Arts & Letters by contacting Senior Director of Development Christine Radtke at radtkech@msu.edu or by calling (517) 353-4725.

Author: Devon Barrett, '11