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Report of the Founding Director

Richard R. Brettell, Ph.D.; Founding Director, The Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History and the Margaret McDermott Distinguished Chair

We at the Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History are readying ourselves for our fifth anniversary this coming fall semester, and we have pushed the reset button already. 

As of June 1, I will be succeeded as Director by Dr. Michael Thomas, Director of the Center for the Study of Ancient Italy at the University of Texas at Austin. 

A Dallas native, Michael had his secondary education at St. Mark’s School and matriculated to Duke University for his BA in Art History, followed by an MA at SMU, where he worked on Roman and Etruscan Art and Architecture under the direction of Dr. Greg Warden, and a Ph.D. at UT Austin on Roman Imperial Architecture under Dr. John Clarke. 

As a native Texan, Michael is familiar with the art historical traditions of the state, but is also a confirmed internationalist with major research project at Oplontis, a Roman site near Naples where he leads a major international study of what is  one of the largest and most important Roman villas ever discovered. Michael has also worked extensively at Etruscan and Roman sites in Tuscany. 

During the course of these projects, Michael’s experience includes significant collaboration with archeologists, architects, biologists, historians, geographers, and computer specialists on digital mapping and restoration. As such, he is ready to lead EODIAH, as an interdisciplinary art history institute at a STEM University, into the future.  

Michael’s tenure at UT Austin has coincided with the struggle to retain the spaces and collections of the university’s Fine Arts Library. This trying period for art history and the arts at UT Austin has underscored the value of scholarly research libraries and their invaluable role in our state’s leadership in the field of art history. 

Hence, Michael will be a powerful advocate for the Wildenstein Plattner Library at UTD with the additions of the private libraries of Dr. Alessandra Comini, Mr. S. Roger Horchow, Mr. Ivan Phillips, Mr. Nash Flores, the late Mr. John Buchanan, the late John Wilcox, and Luba and Richard Barrett as well as the extensive library of the Crow Museum of Asian Art. 

Because of his work in the Naples area, Michael naturally will be an advocate for EODIAH’s imaginative center in Naples, The Center for the Art and Architectural History of Port Cities, founded by Associate Director, Dr. Sarah Kozlowski. 

Lest one think that I will disappear utterly, I will return to EODIAH in the fall of 2019, retaining the symbolic title of Founding Director, but occupying the Margaret McDermott Distinguished Chair and one of the O’Donnell Distinguished Chairs, both of which can be filled with distinguished scholars at my formal retirement.  

Dr. Richard R. Brettell

Founding Director

The Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History