Feature Stories Campus Events All Stories

W&L Mourns Loss of Art Historian Joan O’Mara

June 24, 2009 Update:

At Homecoming Weekend on Oct. 9 and 10, the Art Department will sponsor a celebration of the late Joan O’Mara’s life and would especially like to invite her former students to participate in person or to send remembrances for sharing at the event. For more information, please contact Pamela Simpson, professor of art history, at simpsonp@wlu.edu.

The Art Department has created the Joan Hertzog O’Mara Award to recognize outstanding achievement in art history. To contribute to the award fund, contact the Development Office:

Phone: (540) 458-8410
Mail: 204 W. Washington St., Development Building, Washington and Lee University, Lexington, VA 24450-2116

May 25, 2009:

Joan O’Mara, associate professor of art history at Washington and Lee, died Sunday, May 24, 2009. She was 63.

The wake will be held at Harrison’s Funeral Home in Lexington, on Wednesday, May 27, from 5 to 7 p.m.. The Mass of Christian Burial will take place at St. Patrick’s Church at 11 a.m. on Thursday, May 28. Burial will take place at a later date in the Mausoleum of Our Lady of Sorrows on the campus of the University of Notre Dame.

“Professor O’Mara was dedicated to her students and her profession. She was a careful scholar who demonstrated how art can reveal so much about the history and culture of a society,” W&L President Kenneth P. Ruscio said. “She will be missed on our campus and among the community of East Asian scholars.”

O’Mara, the Elizabeth Lewis Otey Professor of East Asian Studies and former director of W&L’s East Asian Studies Program, joined the faculty in 1989. She held a B.A. from Carleton College and an M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Michigan.

O’Mara taught the history of Japanese art, the history of Chinese art, Asian art history and Western art history. Her areas of research included the Japanese tea ceremony; relationships between the Japanese print and 19th-century European art; and relationships between words and images in Japanese art.

O’Mara was active in ASIANetwork, a national consortium of undergraduate liberal arts institutions with Asian studies programs. She served as vice chair from 2003-2004, chair from 2004-2005 and ex-officio board chair from 2005-2006. She also belonged to the Japan Art History Forum; the Society for Values in Higher Education, where she was elected a fellow; and the Association for Asian Studies, among other associations.

She wrote many publications, including book chapters, reviews and papers. O’Mara also was the editor of ASIANetwork’s Exchange: A Journal for Asian Studies in the Liberal Arts, and the editor of W&L’s East Asian Studies Newsletter from 1998-2005.

She was a member of St. Patrick’s Catholic parish, where she served as a lector at Mass.

The daughter of the late Charles D. and Ruth Jarvis Hertzog, she was born in 1946 in Philadelphia, Pa., and is survived by her husband, Philip F. O’Mara of Lexington, her son, Philip Martin O’Mara of Brooklyn, New York, and her daughter, Caitlin Ruth Song O’Mara of Fort Wayne, Indiana. Other survivors include her sisters, Jan Neander of Pittsburgh, Pa., and Beverly Solow of New York City, and her brothers, Gene of Henderson, Nev., and Philip of Stuart, Fla.