Retired U-M Professor Donates $6.25M to School’s History of Art Department

The College of Literature, Science, and the Arts at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor has received a $6.25 million gift from Ilene Forsyth, a retired department professor and an alumna of the university.
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The outside of the University of Michigan College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, which was gifted $6.25 million by retired professor Ilene Forsyth. // Courtesy of the University of Michigan
The outside of the University of Michigan College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, which was gifted $6.25 million by retired professor Ilene Forsyth. // Courtesy of the University of Michigan

The College of Literature, Science, and the Arts at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor has received a $6.25 million gift from Ilene Forsyth, a retired department professor and an alumna of the university.

The gift will fund a distinguished professorship and visiting graduate student fellowship.

Known as the Ilene H. Forsyth Distinguished Professorship, the inaugural professorship is for a tenured professor who has exemplified a longstanding commitment to and a distinguished record of scholarship in the field of art history.

“We are beyond thrilled and deeply grateful to Ilene for her continuous support of the arts and humanities at U-M,” says Anne Curzan, dean of the college. “Through her many contributions, including this, we are bringing a global perspective of art history to the university in an innovative, interactive, and immersive way.”

The gift also will fund the Forsyth Visiting Graduate Student Fellowship, which will be open to graduate students who want to further pursue their studies in art history. The fellowship is geared toward international students and offers an opportunity rare in art history programs both in the United States and abroad. It is opening the door for U-M and LSA to branch out and connect art history scholars on the global level.

“We are so thankful for Dr. Forsyth and her longstanding commitment to our department, college, and university, and for pushing the boundaries of art historical scholarship,” says Christiane Gruber, chair of the Department of History of Art and professor of Islamic art history. “This distinguished professorship and graduate student fellowship showcase LSA as a leader in art history teaching and research. We are excited about the educational, scholarly, and mentorship opportunities this extraordinary gift will provide for faculty and students from across the world.”

Forsyth began her 35-year career at U-M in 1962 and retired in 1997. To date, she has contributed nearly $15 million total to LSA’s Department of History of Art, which is among the largest gifts ever given to a humanities department in LSA. Forsyth’s last gift, $8.2 million, was in 2019 and established a professorship in medieval western European art, as well as the Ilene H. Forsyth Fund, which supports high-impact faculty initiatives, a postdoctoral fellowship, graduate studies, and more.

Forsyth also has established three endowments at the University Musical Society (UMS) of more than $2.5 million. Her other endowments include the Ilene H. Forsyth Chamber Arts Endowment Fund, the Ilene H. Forsyth Choral Union Endowment Fund and the Karl V. Hauser and Ilene H. Forsyth Endowment Fund, which also supports the Choral Union.

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