Melanie Michailidis, postdoctoral fellow in art history and archaeology, dies in car accident, 46​

Islamic art specialist Melanie Michailidis, PhD, the Korff Postdoctoral Fellow in Islamic Art at Washington University in St. Louis, died Friday, Feb. 1, 2013, in an automobile accident in Ladue, Mo. She was 46.

Michailidis was in the second year of a three-year joint fellowship she held in the university’s Department of Art History and Archaeology and at the Saint Louis Art Museum.

Joseph Jacob, 41, a friend of Michailidis who was visiting from San Francisco to celebrate his birthday, also died of injuries after Michailidis’ car was hit head-on by a car driven by Kyle Weeks. Weeks, 25, also died.

Michailidis, who had conducted fieldwork in Iran, Uzbekistan and Western Europe, was praised as a gifted and passionate scholar and teacher on the subject of Islamic art.

She had published numerous scholarly articles on Islamic ceramics as well as on mosques, shrines, castles and tomb towers in Iran and Central Asia.

“Her courses were extremely popular with undergraduates and graduates alike, and she added important, diverse new areas of expertise to the offerings in art history,” said Elizabeth C. Childs, PhD, chair of the Department of Art History and Archaeology in Arts & Sciences.

“She was an exceptionally bright and thoughtful scholar, an energetic and rigorous teacher, and always an extremely kind and generous colleague. She will be deeply missed by friends, students and faculty alike,” said Childs, the Etta and Mark Steinberg Professor of Art History.

As part of her joint fellowship at the Saint Louis Art Museum, Michailidis was curating its Islamic collection in preparation for the opening of the museum’s expansion this summer.

Her installation of a pair of Mudéjar Spanish doors from the 16th century opened in the museum’s Sculpture Hall last summer and is currently on view.

“We are deeply saddened by this tragic loss. Melanie was a deeply gifted and promising young scholar and will be greatly missed,” said Brent Benjamin, director of the Saint Louis Art Museum. “Our hearts go out to her family and friends during this difficult time.”

Fluent or proficient in nine languages

Michailidis, who was born in Atlanta, Ga., but lived much of her childhood in Knoxville, Tenn., earned a bachelor of arts in political science, Russian and French from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville in 1988.

She earned a master of arts with distinction in the history of art and archaeology in 2000 from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, where she began her studies in Islamic art.

In 2007, she earned a PhD in Islamic art and architecture from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she specialized in monumental funerary architecture in Iran and Central Asia of the 10th and 11th centuries.

Michailidis, who was fluent or proficient in nine languages, ranging from French and Russian to Arabic and Tajik, was the recipient of many distinguished grants.

Among the grants was a pre-doctoral fellowship from the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at MIT, an Ittleson Fellowship at the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and a Fulbright Fellowship for site research in Uzbekistan.

From 2007-09, she was a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Art and Art History at Carleton College, where she taught Islamic art, architecture and culture.

She had also taught as a visiting lecturer at the University of California, Davis, and served as a visiting scholar at the university’s Davis Humanities Institute in fall 2010.

Michailidis had just begun a three-year term as news editor at the Historians of Islamic Art Association (HIAA). She was to join the HIAA
executive board, along with other new officers, at its annual members’ and business meeting in New York later this month.

Michailidis is survived by her mother, Joyce Grimsley of Alpharetta, Ga.; her father, Harry Grimsley of Florida; a sister, Natalie Garrison of Woodstock, Ga.; her grandmother, Norma Murphy of Thomasville, Ga.; and a niece, Reagan Garrison of Woodstock.

A memorial service on campus will be held at a later date.