Eastern Michigan University to showcase results of its largest-ever estate gift in grand reopening of Jean Noble Parsons center on June 5

by Geoff Larcom, Published June 02, 2010

YPSILANTI - The aesthetic and creative results of the largest estate gift in the history of Eastern Michigan will be on display when the University formally dedicates the renovated Jean Noble Parsons Center for the Study of Art and Science on Saturday, June 5.

The center, where Parsons taught ceramics and sculpture for 38 years, has undergone $2.1 million of renovations. It will be a special focal point for creative and interdisciplinary study for Eastern students and faculty. 

“This is a historic and exciting moment for Eastern Michigan,” said President Susan Martin. “The center will offer a wonderful venue for creative learning and discussion.”

Provost and Executive Vice President Jack Kay said the center will capitalize on the collaborative nature of Eastern’s faculty in areas such as art, biology and psychology. “It is a true testament to our learning environment and the education we want students to receive,” Kay said.

The property, located south of Traverse City near the village of Lake Ann, will play host to a dedication and open house from 2-5 p.m. for alumni, friends, donors, faculty and Eastern staff. Events include a ribbon cutting and remarks at 2:30 p.m. Guided tours will be available along with a parking shuttle.

The renovations feature a new, 3,377 square-foot classroom and workshop area, a rustic sleeping lodge that houses 12, a dining hall that can seat up to 50 and a full, commercial-grade kitchen.

Parsons, a renowned artist who died in 2000, asked that her trust be used to establish a research and wildlife sanctuary where visitors could walk the property and observe, and where professors and researchers would hold distinctive public seminars and discussions.

Parsons had no affiliation to Eastern, but trustees of her estate donated the money to establish a center for the study of art and science on the 86 wooded acres in the northwestern Lower Peninsula.

The trustees solicited proposals following Parsons’ death to establish a center in her name. The trust included $1.75 million in cash and about $490,000 in property. The property became Eastern’s on the eighth anniversary of Parson’s death.

Tom Venner, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, but then head of the Art Department; psychology professor Ken Rusiniak, and associate provost Bob Neely, then head of the EMU Biology Department, wrote the original proposal in 2001. All universities in Michigan were invited to submit proposals, and Eastern was selected.

Parsons received a Fulbright Scholarship in 1958. As part of her scholarship year, Parsons visited factories, art schools, potteries and practicing masters in Denmark, England, Finland and Sweden. She returned to the United States and continued individual research at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan. 1n 1962, Parsons became a charter faculty member of the Interlochen Arts Academy and chair of the Visual Arts Division. She taught at Interlochen for 38 years.

More information about classes and opportunities at the Parsons Center can be found at www.emich.edu/parsons.

Geoff Larcom



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