Former Head of CMU Art Department Orville Winsand, 1922-2020

Posted on February 7, 2020

Portrait of four people standing: Dena Holland, Mary Weidner, Susanne Slavick, and Orville Winsand

At the age of 98, former Head of the Art Department at Carnegie Mellon University Dr. Orville Winsand passed away on Saturday, February 1. Before the creation of schools in the College of Fine Arts, Winsand lead the Art Department from 1972 to 1988, instituting several critical changes within the department.

During his 16-year tenure with CMU, many women were appointed to tenure-track faculty positions for the first time including Mary Weidner, Carol Kumata, Elaine King, Susanne Slavick, Pat Bellan-Gillen, and Edith Balas. Never before had the department achieved a gender balance. Under Winsand’s leadership, Sam Gilliam was also hired and tenured, the first African American to receive tenure in the Art Department.

As an artist, Winsand worked primarily in wood sculpture, creating abstract organic forms as well as elegant furniture. As a consultant and member of the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) accreditation teams, Winsand visited more than 108 college campuses across the country, ensuring programs maintain a high quality of arts education. In his travels, he always spoke highly of the art program at Carnegie Mellon University and was the consummate ambassador for the University.

Winsand earned BS, MS, and PhD degrees from the Art Department from the University of Wisconsin. He also served in the Army for 42 months during World War II and continued to serve following the end of the war.

“Orville was a kind and generous man, offering gifts both great and small,” said Susanne Slavick, Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Art. “Not only was he an artist and academic, he was an avid attendee of so many concerts and cultural events and a regular golfer, bowler, and gardener. Our colleagues and students and CMU benefited from his proactive foresight, and we are grateful for all the work he did toward building a strong faculty and the reputation of our School.”

After his retirement, Winsand endowed a fund to sponsor an annual lecture in Critical Studies in Art as part of the School of Art Lecture Series. Thanks to his generous gift, the School has been able to invite critical voices in contemporary art and culture including recent lectures by Malik Gaines, Robb Hernández, and Zoe Leonard in conversation with Rhea Anastas. This gift will continue to enrich art education at CMU, ensuring students hear new perspectives on art and its role in society.

Image (left to right): Dance educator Dena Holland, Professor Emerita Mary Weidner, Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Art Susanne Slavick, and Dr. Orville Winsand in 2005.