Alumni Gather for a Centennial Reunion

June 11, 2014
Mark Robbins salutes outgoing director Chris Celenza
Hsin Ming Fung, Andrew Zago and Chris Celenza
Peter Benson Miller and Charles Minot
Reunion reception in Bass Garden
Reunion reception in Bass Garden
Richard Trythall and Laurie D. Olin
Reunion 2014
Through the Etruscan countryside
Michele Salzman and Jessica Nowlin
Mark Robbins welcoming alumni
Johannes Knoops and Lars Lerup
Arron Allen and Jackie Murray
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Over the course of a century more than 1900 Fellows and Residents have passed through the halls of the McKim, Mead & White Building. Invigorated by a year of study at the American Academy in Rome, many return to transform American institutions with new ideas. On June 3rd the Academy welcomed Alumni and their families back for a Reunion to celebrate the centenary of the Academy’s consolidation on the Janiculum Hill, organizing a week of special tours, a symposium on the future of the arts and humanities, an exhibition dedicated to the architectural history of the Academy Main Building, the annual Fellows’ Reading and Open Studios, the McKim Medal Gala and several informal opportunities to reconnect.

The 2014 reunion was inaugurated with a reception in the Bass Garden on June 3rd where Alumni were welcomed back by Director Christopher Celenza, FAAR’94, and President Mark Robbins, FAAR’97. Mark Robbins took this opportunity to stress the often-unacknowledged fact that while there are those who imagine the Academy to be a remote idyll across the pond, its Fellows and Residents play central roles in shaping global cultural affairs as artists, designers, managers and/or professors at major institutions in America and worldwide.

Several of the Alumni in attendance were returning to the Academy for the first time since the end of their Fellowship year and the more than one hundred who returned ran the generational gamut from Katherine Geffcken, FAAR’55, to Erik Adigard, FAAR’13. Alumni came from a wide variety of disciplines including Architecture, Ancient Studies, Classical Studies, Archaeology, Art History, Visual Arts and Medieval Studies. Among those returning were curator at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art Wendy Kaplan, FAAR’00, landscape architects Peter Walker, RAAR’92, Jane Gilette, RAAR’92, and Laurie D. Olin, FAAR’74, RAAR’90, ’08, Academy Director Emeritus Joseph J. Connors, RAAR’87, Etruscologist Ingrid Edlund-Berry, FAAR’84, Art Historian Vernon Hyde-Minor, FAAR’00, RAAR’12, Epigraphist Silvio Panciera, AFAAR’58, designer Michael Palladino, FAAR’01, urban designer and architect William H. Fain, FAAR’02, and architects James S. Polshek, RAAR’07, Diane Lewis, FAAR’77, Richard M. Olcott, FAAR’04 and Lars Lerup, FAAR’10.

Over the course of the week, Alumni followed directors, advisors and staff on special city walks and in-house tours of the Academy. Andrew Heiskell Arts Director Peter Benson Miller led groups to the Palazzo Primoli, on a tour of contemporary art galleries and proffered explanations of the current AAR exhibit, Building an Idea: McKim, Mead & White and the American Academy in Rome, 1914-2014. Alumni joined Professor-in-Charge of the School of Classical Studies Kimberly Bowes, FAAR’06, for a revealing tour of the Colosseum and Deputy Director Cristina Puglisi for tours of the Villa Aurelia. Other city walks were conducted by Academy advisors Lila Yawn, FAAR’98, Cinzia Abbate, Simonetta Serra and Claudia La Malfa as well as Curator of the AAR Norton Van Buren Archeological Study Collection Valentina Follo, Andrew Kranis, FAAR’09, AAR Trustee Emerita Elaine Gazda, RAAR’14 and consulting Curator of the AAR Photographic Archive Alessandra Capodiferro. Fellow Jessica Nowlin and Affiliated Fellow Leigh Lieberman also accompanied Alumni on a day trip to the Etruscan countryside. Alumni had opportunities to get a closer look into the workings of the Sustainable Food Project with Laura Offeddu, see library restorations and expansions with Drue Heinz Librarian Sebastian Hierl and Assistant Librarian Denise Gavio, and be accompanied by Bass Superintendent of Gardens Alessandra Vinciguerra through the Academy grounds. Special time was carved out for Alumni to speak with the Director and President about the future of the Academy.

In a discussion on “The Future of the Arts and Humanities” that took place last week as part of the Conversations That Matter series, many voiced the belief that the future of the humanities must lie in precisely the kind of cross-cultural and interdisciplinary collaborations that the Academy has been fostering since the inauguration of the McKim, Mead and White Building in 1914. Fellows, Residents and Affiliated Fellows carry these experiences well beyond the doors of the McKim, Mead & White Building to affect real change in their fields. As one unnamed Academy Fellow reportedly explained to his colleague Simon During, it was simply the best year of his life.

For more about the CTM of June 4, “The Future of the Arts and Humanities,” and last week’s many other public events see