Ronald Leax named dean of College and Graduate School of Art

Ronald Leax, the Halsey Cooley Ives Professor of Art, has been named dean of art, according to Carmon Colangelo, dean of the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts.

Leax will lead the Sam Fox School’s College of Art and the Graduate School of Art. The one-year appointment will begin July 1. Leax will succeed dean Jeff Pike, who is the Jane Reuter Hitzeman and Herbert F. Hitzeman, Jr., Professor in Art.

Pike has served as dean of art since 1999. He will return to full-time teaching following a sabbatical year.

“Jeff Pike has helped shepherd the College and Graduate School of Art through a period of great transformation,” said Colangelo, who also serves as the E. Desmond Lee Professor for Collaboration in the Arts. “He was instrumental in launching the Sam Fox School, which combined existing programs in art and architecture; and in planning and developing our wonderful new facilities by Fumihiko Maki.

“I am extraordinarily grateful for both his stewardship and his friendship.”

During his tenure Pike developed a range of interdisciplinary initiatives with architecture, business and engineering, among others; reorganized the Graduate School of Art and established a new interdisciplinary Master of Fine Arts degree in art; and helped integrate digital media into all curriculum areas. He also established new tenure-track positions in the undergraduate core program while supporting creation of the Visual Communications Research Studio; the Portfolio Plus high school summer program; a semester-abroad studio in Florence, Italy; and the Modern Graphic History Library, the latter a collaboration with Olin Library Special Collections.

“A sense of intellectual community is a hallmark of any great university,” noted Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton. “Over the last nine years Jeff Pike has been a true leader in cultivating an environment of curiosity, collaboration and critical inquiry. His record of innovation is truly remarkable.”

Leax, who has taught at Washington University since 1986, is a pioneer in the use of art to explore ecological issues. Chapters of his ongoing Ontological Library — a compendium of books and objects in which processes of decay and corrosion are induced by chemical and physical treatment — have been exhibited at galleries and museums around the country. The Detroit Zoological Park recently commissioned Inside Outside: The Art of Caring, a large installation depicting “behind-the-scenes” interactions between animals with zoo staff.

Leax earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Brown University in 1969 and a Master of Fine Arts degree from the Cranbrook Academy of Art in 1980. A former associate dean, he has directed the sculpture major area since 1997 and formerly directed the Graduate School of Art. He also has served on or chaired dozens of faculty committees and in 2007 received a Distinguished Faculty Award at the annual Founders Day ceremony. Earlier this year he won the Distinguished Teaching of Art Award from the national College Art Association.

“Ron Leax is a distinguished professor and a respected faculty member with years of strong administrative experience,” Colangelo pointed out. “He is also nationally recognized as both an artist and a teacher. I am certain that he will continue the momentum that Jeff has done so much to foster.”

Colangelo also announced the formation of a search committee to identify Leax’s successor, who is expected to be in place by July 1, 2009. The committee will be chaired by William E. Wallace, the Barbara Murphy Bryant Distinguished Professor of Art History & Archaeology, and coordinated by Diane Mounts, executive assistant to the dean of art. Like Pike, the new dean will hold the Hitzeman Professorship.

Members of the committee include Ken Botnick, Lisa Bulawsky, Heather Corcoran and Arny Nadler, all associate professors of art; alumni Marion “Bunny” Burson (GF 2005) and Yvette Dubinsky (GF 1990), both members of the Sam Fox School National Council; Sabine Eckmann, director and chief curator of the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum; Maya Escobar, a graduate student in art;

Bruce Lindsey, dean of architecture as well as the E. Desmond Lee Professor for Community Collaboration; Patricia Olynyk, director of the Graduate School of Art as well as the Florence and Frank Bush Professor of Art; Mark Rollins, professor of philosophy in Arts & Sciences; and Joseph Alexander Rosenberg, an undergraduate student in art.