In Memoriam: John Bross
October 2, 2020
John Bross, longtime friend and supporter of the department, died this year at the age of 80. John was an exemplary member of the University of Chicago community, and we will keenly feel his loss. A great champion of the arts, he joined the Art History Visiting Committee in 2002, and then the Humanities Division Advisory Council in 2013. In addition, John was a passionate advocate for the Divinity School, where he served on the Advisory Council from 2008 until 2017, rejoining in 2019.
John’s relationship with the department began back in the 1970s, when his late wife, Louise, enrolled in the department, eventually completing a doctoral dissertation on the hospital-convent of Santa Maria in Sassia, Rome, under the guidance of Charles Cohen, now professor emeritus. John’s commitment to Louise’s scholarship was manifest in his on-site photographic documentation of what was then an important but neglected site of Renaissance art and architecture. That dissertation remains to this day among the most important statements of one of Rome’s most important charitable institutions.
After Louise’s premature death in 1996, John secured her memory through the Louise Smith Bross Fund. He envisioned a series of lectures that would help to forge strong and lasting relations between the department and the Art Institute of Chicago. Since 2000, the Louise Smith Bross Lectures have been held triennially at both sites and have welcomed some of the most important scholars working in pre-modern European art. In large public lectures, gala receptions, intensive workshops, and informal gatherings, the Bross lectures have facilitated a whole series of social, cultural, and intellectual exchanges made possible only because of the generosity and engaged enthusiasm of a committed philanthropist of John’s own erudition and vision. The fund has also supported traveling seminars, enabling graduate students to engage directly with the objects, images, and sites that John always held dear.
He is survived by his wife Judy, who was also actively engaged in making the Bross lectures one of our signature events, and his four children, Suzette Bulley, Jonathan Bross, Lisette Bross, and Medora (Dolly) Geary. With all of them, our department shares in the burden of the loss of a dear friend and true believer in the power of art to forge strong and lasting relationships, inside and outside the academy.