Professor Emeritus James Fowle passes away

Professor Emeritus James (Jim) Fowle passed away this July 2015 at the age of 95. Jim was born on May 24, 1920 in Englewood, NJ. He spent the first 15 years of his life in Istanbul, Turkey with his missionary father. This sojourn later inspired his passionate advocacy of study abroad. He received his BA from Williams College in 1941 and his PhD from Harvard in 1952. Before joining the Liberal Arts faculty of RISD in 1963 he taught at Harvard, Bryn Mawr and Bowdoin.  Jim was part of a group of Liberal Arts faculty who vigorously made the case for professionalizing and enlarging the presence of liberal studies at RISD. He served as Head of RISD’s Program in Art History 1968-1981 and as Director of the European Honors program in 1971-72 and 1982-84. He was granted a Fulbright Fellowship in 1965 to lecture at Istanbul Technical University.  Jim was one of several faculty members involved in saving the Woods-Gerry mansion from the wrecking ball.  When told Wood-Gerry was after all an ugly building, Jim asked “Who decides whether or not a building is ugly? The builder’s generation? Their children’s generation? Later generations?” His name is invoked regularly and will live on via the “Fowle Rule” at Faculty Meetings, which stipulates that any proposal up for a vote needs to have been distributed to the faculty for review one week prior to the meeting where the vote will occur. Jim Fowle was notable for his fighting the good fight in a high-minded fashion and continuing to dialog across the aisle with adversaries.  A gentleman who will be missed.

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Division of Liberal Arts, obituary