Crystal Theodore, Professor Emerita of Art, served on the JMU faculty for 26 years, was head of the art department for many years and retired in 1983. She was actively devoted to promoting the arts in and around Harrisonburg.

During World War II, Theodore served as a Marine Corps intelligence officer. She was in charge of the commandant's top-secret Situation Room, which contained wall-size maps showing the daily positions of various South Pacific battle lines and locations of Marine Corps units.

Dr. Crystal Theodore Years - 1957-1968

In September 1957, Crystal Theodore, Ed.D. (Columbia), succeeded Alimae Aiken as head of the Art Department. In addition to Dr. Theodore, Madison College employed two other art instructors at this time; Glada Walker, an Associate Professor, and Frances Grove, an Assistant Professor. During her term as department head, Dr. Theodore initiated a major curriculum overhaul and hired several new faculty. One such course adjustment involved eliminating the practice of carving soap bars as sculpture. In 1959, Dr. Theodore hired Dr. David Diller, a ceramist. The next year, Dr. Theodore hired Mr. Ken Beer, a sculptor. Upon the addition of professors Diller and Beer to the faculty, a serious departmental revision began. Many old courses were dropped, and new courses such as graphic arts, ceramics, aesthetics and more art history were added.

Theodore also organized the college's first TV programming in the 1950s when both commercial and public television were in their infancy outside the nation's major metropolitan areas. The WSVA-TV show, “Viewpoint,” focused on the arts and included interviews and demonstrations by Shenandoah Valley artists, many of them from the Madison faculty.

Crystal Theordore on ViewpOint TV show
Dr. Diller with Dr. Theodore on a "Viewpoint" TV show

In 1958, the Art Department still occupied parts of the third and fourth floors of Wilson Hall, at a time when there was no elevator. Faculty "offices" were screened-off corners of lecture rooms. On completion of the Duke Fine Arts Center, Dr. Theodore took a semester's leave, after which she stepped down as department head. Dr. Theodore retired as a Professor Emerita in 1983.


The Crystal Theodore Award is given to a current student within the School of Art, Design and Art History who has done service to the school and maintained high academics.



Read a Professors-You-Love article about Dr. Theodore.

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