Scully may return to teaching

Click here to read more about Vincent Scully on the Cross Campus blog.

After years of speculation, Sterling Professor Emeritus Vincent Scully ’40 GRD ’49 announced last August that his teaching days were finally over. But in a phone interview Tuesday evening, the 89-year-old Scully said he might change his mind.

“It’s been hell,” Scully said, reflecting on the past few months without teaching. “I first made [the departure] sound final, but the way I feel now, the hope is that it isn’t.”

If asked early this fall, Scully would not have considered the prospect of teaching again, he said. But having spent the past few months away from Yale, he said he finds the possibility of teaching — even as early as next fall — increasingly appealing.

“The legend continues,” said Yale College Dean Mary Miller, also a Sterling professor of art history, when informed of Scully’s interest in returning.

But Scully’s had not previously revealed his wish to return, and the University has spent the semester planning for Yale after Scully.

This fall was the first since 1947 without Scully teaching “Introduction to the History of Art: Prehistory to Renaissance.”

The famed lecture, which Milette Gaifman, the director of undergraduate studies for the History of Art Department, called a “flagship course,” was not taught this year, leaving a noticeable void in the department and the Yale College curriculum.

“Vince is like a Madonna or Cher, one of those few people who can be known by a single name,” history of art professor Diana Kleiner said. “When students talked about taking his classes, they would say ‘I’m taking Scully,’ not ‘I’m taking Modern Architecture.’ ”

While Scully said he hopes he might be able to return to his lectern, the History of Art Department and the School of Architecture have already started getting on without Scully. Plans are already underway for the reinstitution of classes once taught by Scully, and new faculty recruitment is a possibility at the History of Art Department. Though Gaifman was quick to emphasize that the department will never be able to replace professor Scully, she said they are planning to offer the survey class again, perhaps as soon as next fall.

Chair of the History of Art Department Alexander Nemerov GRD ’92, who teaches the Renaissance-to-present segment of the introductory lecture in the spring, had a more definitive answer: “We certainly will have a replacement course in place next fall.”

But a new hire may no longer be necessary now that Scully has expressed interest in returning to teach the introductory lecture.

“I would like to teach the introductory course again, but I’m not sure what would be appropriate for [the department]” Scully added. If the department finds another professor to teach the introductory lecture, Scully said he would teach his other renowned class, “Modern Architecture.”

Nemerov, who had yet to learn of Scully’s desire to teach again, added that the department was looking beyond Scully’s departure with a “sense of optimism” for the department’s future. By focusing on undergraduate education and faculty recruitment, Nemerov said, he is confident the department will maintain its distinguished reputation.

Scully stopped teaching the architectural history course in 1996 after sensing pressures from the School of Architecture to teach the course differently, he said. Around the time of his retirement in 1991, Scully said, a rift began to develop between the School of Architecture and the History of Art Department.

“There was a time when many of the courses in the History of Art department were taught by teachers from the Architecture School,” Scully said. “But not anymore.”

Having maintained posts at both the school and the department for decades, Scully said he had acted as a bridge between the two, which were physically joined in 2008 with the addition of the Loria Center to Paul Rudolph Hall. If he does return to teach the class, Scully said he would teach it under the History of Art Department in order to create more ties between architecture and history of art at Yale. Scully added that he wishes for more architecture history classes in the offerings of the History of Art department, which he said would help to connect the department with the School.

Meanwhile, next year, two new architectural history survey classes for undergraduates will be added to the School of Architecture’s curriculum: “Introduction to the History of Architecture I and II,” to be taught by Peggy Deamer and Eeva-Liisa Pelkonen ARC ’94, Dean of the School of Architecture Robert A.M. Stern ARC ’65 said. The new survey classes are an effort by the School to build bridges with Yale College, Stern added.

“When I was a student here, Scully certainly was a major bridge,” Stern said. “But he always wanted to be known, I think, as an art historian who specialized in architecture.”

Scully majored in English as a student at Yale College, taking his first History of Art class during his senior year. After first entering the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences to study English, he switched to History of Art, graduating with a master’s in 1947 and then a doctorate in 1949.


  • a fan

    What a gift to the undergrads to have Vince back….. even for one more semester! Hope it will be so.

  • good one

    ““Vince is like a Madonna or Cher, one of those few people who can be known by a single name”

    Great Friends reference, Diana Kleiner. No one got it.

  • Hmmmm

    Isn’t her whole point actually that “Scully is like a Madonna or Cher?”

  • GB

    Just don’t let him go to the Vikings…

  • The Count

    Couldn’t we get Vin Scully, the Dodger radio broadcaster, instead?

  • @4

    @4 – LOL. *I* was going to post a witty remark about Favre!

    @ Prof. Scully, Also, I might add, as a compliment. Favre has been great this year and you would be great to have back. Vikings rule!

  • harvard ‘o9

    I hate Yale!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • One more time! One more time! one more….

    Scully, DO IT! And let’s get Yale Open Course to record it… it is absolutely ridiculous that there are no videos of Scully online.

  • y07

    Scully said he was going to resign my freshman year, then he said the same my sophomore year, then junior year… You get the point.

    He is the most amazing professor I’ve had at Yale. Great to hear the current undergrads will get a chance to take his course.

  • harvard’10

    I’m actually not a troll (my brother’s going to Yale next year–I know because he’s a recruit), but at Harvard (where I attend) the “art history” department is actually called “The History of Art and Architecture.” I find it sad that there is a “rift” between the schools because much of the subject matter is intertwined. A lot of major architectural changes have accompanied art changes as well: think the rise of monasteries and stained glass windows, or modern-style architecture and the artwork produced at the time. I hope Professor Scully comes back to Yale! Seems like a cool guy too!

  • Y09

    YES. Please please please get Open Yale to tape a lecture series so that all future generations of Yalies will continue to learn from the one true master of art history.

  • Recent Alum

    Who the heck is Cher?

  • 1Y2

    scully is not what he used to be. i took his lecture last year, his last time teaching it, and i can say i was thoroughly disappointed. he’s a bit senile now and he simply didn’t have the passion my dad told me he did in his lectures in the 80s.
    if he does come back, his future lectures — especially if recorded and posted online — will be enormously damaging to his posterity and reputation. the man is a legend, not a reality.

  • y07

    In 2006, he became so excited about one particular Roman temple that he punctured the overhead screen with his wooden pointer, ripping a pretty sizable hole in it… Certainly seemed quite energetic and with it back then. I don’t know Y12, unless something really changed in two years…

  • Keith

    A highly localized professor teaching an obscure liberal arts course is like Madonna or Cher just because a few dozen students know him by one name? ‘Who is Cher?’ is very accurate, and it’s almost ‘who is Madonna?’ now. How about Beyonce and Rihanna for more current references?

  • y09

    @ Keith: The history of Western art taught by one of Yale’s most revered professors is an “obscure liberal arts course?” Sounds like you missed your chance to go to a pre-professional school where you could stay comfortably within your area of interest and never broaden your horizons. Or are you one of those weirdos who has no affiliation with Yale but insists on posting on Yale Daily News forums? Either way, totally baffling.

  • gatewaycc’12

    @harvard’10 — yes but the Graduate School of Design — i.e. Harvard’s professional architecture school — is completely separate, just like at Yale.

    And both Yale (Rizvi, Isenstadt) and Harvard (Levine, Payne) have architectural historians on the art history faculty. So the situation is basically the same at both places.

  • Walter Benjamin

    You undergrads are so mired in Yale nostalgia that you don’t notice Scully’s course sucks! He hasn’t updated it since circa 1965, never learns his TA’s names, and the entire curriculum is an outmoded embarrassment. Being able to restructure the Intro courses is necessary and for years Scully’s cult presence has impeded this from happening. If you know MM at all you will detect the dry flinty wit of her commentary. Scully draws in the lowbrow, ibanking crowd who want the experience in order to reexperience it at Deutschebank cocktail parties down the road.