Crystal Theodore — Her Scholarship Legacy and the Art Exhibit in Her Honor

The Harrisonburg Branch of Virginia AAUW is very proud to announce that it has been honored by a bequest from the late Crystal Theodore, who was a member of long standing of our branch and a staunch supporter of the Association’s vision and mission.  She served on its board and was our president from 1971-1973.  She also was the recipient of numerous AAUW awards.

In gratitude to Crystal for her generosity and for her untiring advocacy on behalf of women and girls, the Harrisonburg branch board will name the scholarship awarded annually to a deserving young woman from our community who aspires to a college education, in honor of Crystal Theodore.

Crystal, who passed away in November of 2012, would be pleased to know that her gift will be used for this purpose.  For 26 years, she was a professor at James Madison University where she was Head of the Art Department from 1957 to 1968.  Before she retired as Professor Emerita in 1983, she was influential in expanding the department and changing the curriculum to reflect contemporary trends in such fields as graphic arts and ceramics.

Respected and admired by students and colleagues, Crystal was featured in the Madison Magazine’s  “Professors You Love” series.  Christina Updike, a member of the branch Board, who was one of Crystal’s students and then served as  the Visual Resources curator for the Art Department from 1982 until her retirement in 2012, recently gave tribute to Crystal as “a wonderful educator and friend who stood by her principles and beliefs.  She always was generous with her talents and her resources, especially for the causes of gender equality and the  humane treatment of animals.”

Crystal Theodore was also a world renowned artist.  In celebration of her life, her contributions to JMU, and her artistic achievements, seven of Crystal’s paintings were featured on April 3rd in the inaugural exhibit in the Gallery of the newly renovated Duke Hall, which houses the  School of Art, Design and Art History.

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Former colleagues, family, and friends, including members of the Harrisonburg AAUW branch, gathered to pay tribute to Crystal and her works of art in the splendid setting of the 3000 square foot gallery.  The exhibit was entitled, fittingly, Prelude.  Here, Dr. William Wightman, Director of the School of Art, Design and Art History, welcomes guests to the gala occasion.

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Below, Christina Updike, AAUW branch board member, reflects on her friend Crystal’s life and enduring legacy.

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Below are views of the exhibit and guests enjoying Crystal’s awe inspiring  paintings, as well as artworks of other JMU art faculty emeriti.

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untitled(21) Attending the event were Dr. and Mrs. Ronald Carrier.  Dr. Carrier is the former JMU President who hired Crystal Theodore to be the Art Department Head in 1970. The Carrier’s had formerly been students in Dr. Theodore’s art appreciation class at East Tennessee State College in the 1950s.

Pictured below are some of the members of the AAUW Harrisonburg Branch at the reception: Rosemarie Palmer, Sidney Bland, Karen Gerard, Corrine Diop, and Cathy Strickler.  Other branch members who also participated in the celebration, but who are not shown, were Susan Wheaton, Kim Shipe, Marty Brown, Jan Leach, and Patricia Warner.

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The Prelude exhibit will continue until May 10.  The Sawhill Gallery is open Monday through Friday from 12 noon to 5 p.m.