Former Grinnell College President A. Richard Turner died on Friday, Sept. 9, 2011, at the age of 79, following a battle with cancer. He was president of Grinnell College from 1975 to 1979. His inaugural address recommitted the College to “an ongoing examination of the nature of truth,” “flexibility of spirit,” and the development of “men and women who … are broad-gauged enough to adjust to changing circumstances while maintaining a humane perspective.”
These words might describe Turner’s life, calling, and character as well. Turner was born in New Bedford, Mass. in 1932 and received bachelor’s, master of fine arts, and Ph.D. degrees from Princeton University. He was a Fulbright scholar; before coming to Grinnell, he was an instructor in fine arts at the University of Michigan, professor of art and archaeology at Princeton University, and dean of the faculty and professor of fine arts at Middlebury College. Following his Grinnell presidency, he finished his career at New York University, where he held a number of positions, including director of the Institute of Fine Arts, dean of the faculty of arts and sciences, professor of fine arts, director of the New York Institute of Humanities, and Paulette Goddard professor chair in arts and humanities.
Turner was a Leonardo da Vinci scholar, an expert on the Florentine Renaissance, and the author of a number of books, including Vision of Landscape in Renaissance Italy; Art of Florence; Inventing Leonardo; Renaissance Florence: The Invention of a New Art; and La Pietra: Florence, a Family, and a Villa.
He was very active in a number of organizations, serving on the board of directors of New Jersey Audubon Society and the Pinelands Preservation Alliance. He was a member of the College Art Association, the Century Association, Phi Beta Kappa, and Princeton Project 55.
Photography and birding were two of Turner’s greatest passions. He honed his skills as an amateur photographer over the years and was an avid bird watcher and devoted to the Cape May Bird Observatory, where he volunteered countless hours and made many friends.
In addition to his wife Jane of 56 years, he is survived by his sons, Louis of Minneapolis and David of Sarasota, Fla.; a sister, Betsy Turner of Newfoundland, Pa.; six grandchildren; and two stepgrandchildren.
A memorial for family and friends will be held on Oct. 22, 2011 from 2–4 p.m. at the Cape May Bird Observatory, 600 Route 47 North (Delsea Drive), Cape May Courthouse, N.J.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent in Turner’s name to New Jersey Audubon, 9 Hardscrabble Road, Bernardsville, NJ, 07924.
For further information or to send condolences, contact Spilker Funeral Home, Cape May, N.J.