U-M professor emerita and alumna Ilene Forsyth gives $6.25M to LSA’s history of art department

August 2, 2021
Contact: Sydney Hawkins sydhawk@umich.edu
Picture of Ilene Forsyth in front of a painting

Ilene Forsyth, professor emerita and alumna of the University of Michigan, will donate $6.25M to LSA’s Department of History of Art. The gift will expand U-M’s global reach in art history studies through a new distinguished professorship and visiting graduate student fellowship. Photo by Sally J. Bjork.

The College of Literature, Science, and the Arts is expanding the University of Michigan’s global footprint in art history studies with the announcement of a new $6.25 million gift from one of its own community members.

The major gift comes from Ilene Forsyth, LSA professor emerita and alumna, and will fund a distinguished professorship and visiting graduate student fellowship.

“We are beyond thrilled and deeply grateful to Ilene for her continuous support of the arts and humanities at U-M,” said Anne Curzan, dean of LSA. “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.”

Known as the Ilene H. Forsyth Distinguished Professorship, this 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.

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 in particular, 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,” said 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. Her contributions, both as a scholar and philanthropist, have helped the Department of History of Art become one of the top-ranked programs in the country and have created a network of global collaboration among art history scholars and students.

Forsyth is an avid supporter of the humanities at LSA, as well as the arts across U-M. She has established three endowments at the University Musical Society 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 & Ilene H. Forsyth Endowment Fund, which also supports the Choral Union.