This story is from this semester’s second edition of IMAGE Magazine, published this week and available at news stands around campus.
Anne Helmreich, an art historian who has a history with TCU, is now making the school a part of her future.
Helmreich was named dean of the College of Fine Arts this summer. She replaced Scott Sullivan, who led the college for the past 15 years.
In 1996, Helmreich came to TCU to start her teaching career after earning her doctorate in art history at Northwestern University.
Helmreich decided to join the “TCU in Scotland” study abroad group for its summer trip in 2003. “TCU in Scotland” was lead by Scotland native Nowell Donovan, who was a geology professor at the time before he became provost a year later.
“That’s when I got a really favorable impression of her because I thought she was quite brilliant,” Donovan said in his soft Scottish accent.
Donovan remembered how Helmreich drew a crowd of strangers alongside her own students at one of the museum visits because of her natural teaching abilities.
Helmreich accompanied Donovan and Jane Kucko, an interior design professor, to Scotland. Donovan, along with leading the group, was in charge of teaching geology, while Helmreich taught the side of art history. Kucko contributed her expertise in interior design to the interdisciplinary trip.
“That was fabulous,” Helmreich said with a wide smile. “There is a thank you to Dr. Donovan in my forthcoming book because that teaching experience really shaped my research.”
Helmreich said the Scotland trip was the catalyst that initiated her research on the relationship between artists and scientists in the 19th century. Her research soon turned into the book that Helmreich is working on now with what seems to be an endless amount of enthusiasm. Her book will be published in spring 2016.
Prior to the study abroad trip, Helmreich accepted a teaching position at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio.
“The whole time I was doing the study abroad, I kept thinking, ‘Have I made the wrong decision?’” Helmreich said.
Donovan said he was unaware that Helmreich had been tempted away by the position at Case Western until after the study abroad trip, but they kept in touch.
Helmreich taught art history at Case Western before becoming involved with the Getty Foundation in Los Angeles, California.
After a post card here and a post card there, suddenly there she was in the pool of applicants for the dean position, Donovan said.
As the long process of filling the dean position began, Donovan would wait until the very end to do his part as provost.
“It is a lengthy process because it is an important one and because it affects so many people at the university,” said Harry Parker, chair of the dean search committee.
Helmreich’s name remained on the list of candidates Parker sent to Donovan after each elimination. Finally, after many rounds, Helmreich was one of the final candidates brought to campus.
Parker said one of the many qualities that differentiated Helmreich from the other candidates was that she was not entirely new to TCU.
“We knew that she knew something about TCU,” Parker said.
When the final interviews were finished and Helmreich’s visit to campus was completed, it was time for Donovan to make the final decision. He said there was overwhelmingly positive feedback from the committee concerning Helmreich.
Donovan said it was nice to be able to go along with the majority in this decision.
In this particular dean search, Donovan chuckled and said, “I got the one that I wanted.”
Parker said Helmreich is bringing her energy and expertise to the College of Fine Arts. He said she is going to be an advocate for the college in the TCU community.
Helmreich is in the midst of working with her colleagues across the college on strategic planning, which means identifying strengths and weaknesses within the college that need to be addressed.
“Some of what we would like to do is just shine our light a little brighter and help the region know what we are already doing well,” Helmreich said.
One of the last meetings Helmreich had during her visit to TCU was a meeting with a group of students. She immediately noticed how they were energetic, enthusiastic and full of great ideas.
Helmreich, smiling her contagious smile, said, “How could you not want to be here?”