The Dickson Memorial Lecture Series in Art History was established in 2011. This lecture series is made possible by a generous endowment created by the late Mary Neilly of State College. Mrs. Neilly graduated from Penn State in 1947 with a degree in journalism. Two years later, when she was managing editor for the Penn State Alumni Association, she took an art history course from Dr. Harold E. Dickson (1900-87). She never forgot this course and its extraordinary professor. By creating an endowed lectureship in art history for visiting scholars she established a very worthy memorial to an exceptional teacher and scholar, Professor Dickson.
Dr. Dickson was one of the founders of the department. He graduated from Penn State College in 1922, with a degree in architectural engineering. He earned an M.A. and Ph.D. in Fine Arts from Harvard University. While he was pursuing his graduate degrees at Harvard, he was teaching at Penn State, beginning in 1923 with the title of “instructor of watercolor.” Art History began at Penn State as a one-credit “Art Appreciation” course, which developed into a very popular single course, and eventually a department. Dr. Dickson was a highly respected and productive scholar in the field of American art and architecture. He played an instrumental role in finding the funding and selecting Henry Varnum Poor to paint the land-grant frescoes in Old Main.
The annual Dickson Memorial Lecture Series in Art History brings leading scholars in art history to Penn State to share their latest research and meet with students. Often the topics of the lectures relate to courses that are currently being taught.