in memoriam

James Turnure Sr. P’82, Professor Emeritus, Art History

James Turnure

Photo credit: Special Collections/University Archives

Professor Emeritus James Turnure Sr. P’82, art history, died Oct. 22, 2022, leaving an indelible mark on Bucknell through memories of his dynamic lectures, passion for art and its origins, and influence on the Samek Art Museum.

Turnure came to Bucknell in 1968 to serve as department chair. Professor Emeritus William Lasansky, art, and his wife, Jeannette, remember his immediate impact. “He was quite a teacher and affected all students — not just art majors,” William says. “He opened the door to art history in a way and at a scale that was amazing.”

His introductory course Art in the Dark — which covered classical, Roman and Greek art and progressed through the modern era — sparked art appreciation in the hearts of countless Bucknellians. The course was so popular, the Lansanskys say the registrar moved it to a less desirable time slot. “They made students get up early for him,” Jeannette says.

His teaching went far beyond opening the door to art appreciation. “He saw the importance of students learning about art by viewing objects,” says Professor Emerita Rosalyn Richards, art & art history. “His course Analysis of Art showed students materials like lithography stones and tools so they understood the art-making process.”

Turnure’s passion contributed to the establishment of what is now the Samek Art Museum. He championed the importance of a permanent home for Bucknell’s collection as well as space for exhibition and instruction. He served as the acting director of the Bucknell Center Gallery (now the Samek) from 1992 to 1995.

In 2020, he donated 110 items from his personal collection to the Samek, including prehistoric hand tools, Greek and Roman lamps, Greco-Roman statuary and Egyptian artifacts. “Each piece was carefully packaged with handwritten notes based on his research,” says Theresa Engelbrecht, registrar and exhibition manager of the Samek Art Museum. “He strongly believed in the power of students learning from object study.”

Turnure received the William H. Cooper Distinguished Teaching Award twice (1986 and 1992) and the Christian R. & Mary F. Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching in 1974, among other accolades. He also served the greater Lewisburg community as chairman of the board of directors and trustee for the Packwood House Museum in addition to holding other notable arts-leadership positions.

He is survived by his son, James Turnure Jr. ’82.