University Communications

Dowhies give $1 million to support ceramics education at USI

Center named for retired professor and his wife

February 13, 2014 | John Farless
John Farless
Director of University Communications University Communications 812-228-5157
Article Photo
Anne and Lenny Dowhie announced a $1 million gift commitment to support ceramics education at USI. The Ceramics Center will be named in their honor. From left, Lenny Dowhie, USI professor emeritus of art, President Linda L. M. Bennett, Anne Dowhie, and Michael Aakhus, dean of USI’s College of Liberal Arts.
Photo Credit: USI Photo Services

When Lenny Dowhie joined the faculty of the University of Southern Indiana in 1978 he was only the second ceramics professor to be hired and, at the time of his retirement in 2011, after 33 years of teaching, was the longest serving ceramics professor in the history of the University. He was instrumental in developing the ceramics curriculum and in planning for the USI Ceramics Center opened in 2009.

That center now bears the name of both Lenny and his wife Anne following the announcement Thursday, February 13, of a $1 million gift commitment toward USI’s Campaign USI: Elevating Excellence that will provide ongoing endowed support for USI’s ceramics program. The center, located on the USI campus, becomes the “The Lenny and Anne Dowhie Ceramics Studio” in appreciation for their gift, Lenny’s three decades of service as a USI faculty member, Anne’s three decades of service to Central High School and John H. Castle Elementary School, and for the Dowhie's ongoing service to the Evansville community. This is the first time a building has been named for a current or former faculty member of the University. A recognition display will be placed in the building in their honor.

“Anne and Lenny Dowhie are passionate about art and business and about the University of Southern Indiana. We're extremely grateful for their extraordinary generosity which will help USI students for generations to come,” said David Bower, president of the USI Foundation.

The Lenny and Anne Dowhie Ceramics Endowment will provide annual support to the ceramics program, benefiting current students majoring in ceramics (both undergraduate and post graduate) and to the ceramics program broadly, to enhance gender balance and to benefit faculty research. Instruction is currently offered across all levels, from introductory ceramics to advanced classes and independent studies.

“Anne and Lenny Dowhie have given this University a leadership gift that will serve not only our art students but our art faculty, as well,” said USI President Linda L. M. Bennett. “Their thoughtful and generous planning is a witness to our USI family. They continue to teach by example. By giving back to this University, which Lenny served for so many years, they make us all proud.”

Lenny, USI professor emeritus of art, holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from Indiana State University and a Bachelor of Art Education degree from Arizona State University. He taught all aspects of ceramics at USI, where he also served as chair of the Art Department. He has earned numerous grants and awards for his work in ceramics and continues to design and produce pieces for collectors throughout the world. He has lectured at foreign universities and remains active on committees and boards for the arts nationwide. He earned The Arts Council of Southwestern Indiana Arts Educator of the Year Award in 2008.

With more than 90 invitational/national exhibits to his credit, Lenny continues to remain on the cutting edge of ceramics and ceramic processes. His ceramics and drawings are represented in numerous national and international collections, including the Smithsonian Institute of American Art, Renwick Gallery.

Anne is a 1983 graduate of USI and taught two- and three-dimensional art at Central High School for 22 years—preparing many students who went on to take Lenny’s courses at USI. Her students have become successful illustrators, writers, art instructors, and artists. Her work has been featured in local and regional exhibitions. She served as vice president, president, and past-president of the Art Education Association of Indiana, for which she traveled to Japan as part of an exchange program. She also received a Lilly Endowment grant for teaching that enabled her to travel to Australia. She has served as a member of the New Harmony Gallery of Contemporary Art Advisory Board for nine years, and is a member of the Education Committee for the Arts Council of Southwestern Indiana. Since her retirement last year, she has volunteered at Central High School and at USI. 

In his retirement, Lenny works from his home studio in St. Phillips, Indiana, not far from the USI campus. “I always was a working artist in addition to my teaching,” he said. “Since I’ve left teaching, I’ve upped my production and output of art.” He’s currently working on a large-format clay piece commissioned for USI’s Rice Library, and a pair of stainless steel and teak wood benches that will be placed in Murphy Park in New Harmony, Indiana.

Lenny serves as a friend and mentor to Alisa (Al) Holen, assistant professor of ceramics and assistant chair of the USI Art Department. At times Lenny invites advanced USI ceramics students to help fire his kilns and see his home studio and collection of work. He continues to serve as a guest lecturer and offers workshops at USI.

His interests take him far from home as well. Last fall, he spent three months in China at one of the oldest porcelain centers in the world—Jingdezhen, a 16-hour train ride from Shanghai. There he worked as one of three international visiting artists through a workshop program sponsored by the University of West Virginia. He also recently spent two weeks in Taiwan connecting with artists there, and visits Chicago often where he has long had both artistic and financial interests in the art and art festival scene.

Anne and Lenny are among a small group of founding partners of Expressions of Culture, Inc., producers of the Chicago International Exposition of SOFA (Sculpture, Objects and Functional Art) in Chicago. Lenny also recently joined a group of investor/founders to create Art Exhibitions, LLC, producers of the new EXPO CHICAGO, an exhibition of more than 110 premier art galleries in the world. The exhibition is held annually at Navy Pier in Chicago.

The Dowhies are not new to philanthropy, having made several past charitable gifts, including one to support the arts in the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation. They also have an endowed scholarship fund for USI ceramics students.

The Dowhies hope this gift to the University will continue to expand ceramics education with everything from needed equipment and supplies to scholarships and travel opportunities for students, as well as to fund visiting artists or instructors. “In the end, we just want this to benefit students who come through the program,” said Lenny. “My hope is that 30 years from now, somebody will still be benefiting from this money.”

Lenny also hopes that other faculty will see this gift as an example and think about what they can do to support art programs at USI. “USI’s Art Department has the potential to become even better known than it already is today,” he said. “It’s important that people recognize the benefits of a broad education. The best advice I ever got was from my parents when I left home for college in 1966. I was 18 years old and leaving New Jersey to fly 3000 miles away and my father said to me, ‘Go become an educated man.’ He didn’t say go become an engineer like me, or go excel at sports. That gave me the freedom to pursue the things that have led me to where I am today.”

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