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News . Feature Stories . Former CIA President Remembered

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November 24, 2012

Former CIA President Remembered

Joseph McCullough built strong academic core and led college's growth in University Circle.

Former CIA President Remembered

Joseph McCullough, sixth president of the Cleveland Institute of Art, died at his home on November 17. McCullough served CIA for 33 years from 1954-1988 and ushered in a new era of facilities expansion, curricular transition, and establishing CIA as an accredited and internationally respected college of art and design.

"Looking back at the long list of powerful figures who helped to shape the college, Joseph McCullough was truly one of the giants of CIA," said Grafton Nunes, CIA's President and CEO. "He was the glue that held the school together during the most important era of its recent history. He will be sorely missed."

McCullough's life has been deeply entwined with the life and pulse of the Cleveland Institute of Art. He enrolled in CIA when it was called the Cleveland School of Art in 1940 but left in 1941 to serve in the Air Force, flying 35 B-24 missions over Europe during World War II. In 1946, he resumed his studies in Cleveland, earning a diploma in painting in 1948 before going on to Yale to earn his BFA and MFA.

He returned in 1952 to serve as teacher and administrator, before being named director of CIA in 1954 (the title changed from director to president in 1974). Within his first two years he oversaw the construction of what is now the Gund building on East Boulevard. During the 1950s and '60s, he also developed many of the programs we know today, attracting first-rate faculty to each of the disciplines and starting the tradition of excellence in CIA’s liberal arts program. His vision and hard work paid off in 1970, when the Cleveland Institute of Art won accreditation from the North Central Association of Schools and Colleges.

Under his leadership, CIA purchased “the factory” in 1981. The building was named the Joseph McCullough Center for the Visual Arts upon his retirement.

David Deming, CIA’s ninth president and a 1967 graduate, remembers leading campus tours for visiting art school administrators when he was student council president during McCullough’s term. “I was so impressed by all the visitors remarking what a model school it was and attributing that to Joe. They wanted to emulate what Joe had done at CIA,” he said.

“I know that Joe felt fortunate to have George Gund II as board president because George told him ‘You worry about the school; I’ll worry about the money.’ That allowed Joe the freedom to create the kind of school he dreamed of,” Deming added.

In addition to being a college administrator, McCullough was also a talented artist who painted throughout his lifetime. He was publicly recognized for both of those roles, being awarded the Cleveland Arts Prize for Visual Arts in 1970 for his painting, and then again being recognized with a Special Citation for Distinguished Service to the Arts by the Cleveland Arts Prize organization in 1988 after retiring from his long service as president.

From January 18 through February 16, 2013, there will be a retrospective of McCullough's work at the Artist Archives of the Western Reserve. There will be a private, family service in his memory. McCullough was preceded in death by his wife, Elizabeth, in 2003. He is survived by his two adult children, Warren and Marjorie McCullough.


Click here to read the Plain Dealer's news obituary of Joe McCullough

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