Read the press release: Loyola celebrates the life of Janet Headley, Ph.D.
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I first met Janet in 1998 as a freshman at Loyola, a student in her in- augural Alpha Art History class. Admittedly, she initially intimidated me, with her frank manner and high expectations. Janet also served as my adviser, and she quickly took me under her wing, as she did with many of her students. I adored her as a professor and mentor; she was the reason I minored in Art History. Her classes, though among the hardest I took at Loyola—and the excursions she took us on—remain favorites to this day. When I studied in Belgium my junior year, I sent her postcards and emails, so pleased to be seeing firsthand many of the awe-inspiring masterpieces I’d studied with her.
I also had the pleasure of taking Chaucer with her husband, Phil. After graduation, I remained close with them . . . house sitting and later cat sitting while they traveled . . . enjoying delicious dinners, conversations, and laughs in their house and on their perfectly cozy back patio . . . dancing with them at my wedding . . . being so tickled for the two of them at theirs . . . sitting with Janet in her house in the hours after Phil passed . . . seeing her play with my boys . . . I can’t pinpoint just one memory, because they are too numerous to count. I will forever cherish Janet for awakening my passion and interest in art history . . . for her honesty and forthrightness… for her astounding intellect . . . for her dry wit . . . and, mostly, for the love and friendship she showed me as a young adult making my way in Baltimore, for always being a steady beacon I could go “home” to.
Rest in peace, my beloved friend.
—Emily (Phillips) Donohue (Class of 2002)
Dr. Janet Headley was my Art History professor for a brief moment, but she and Phil were my Baltimore parents and my friends for life, a part of my support system well beyond my Loyola years. The door to her office was always open for students who needed her. For some of us lucky ones, so was the door to her own home. From the summer she trusted me and my roommate to house-sit to when she handed my toddlers bags of treats to coax Pork Chop and Gabby out of hiding, she was always opening her house and her heart. Janet was ever ready with intellectual banter and quick humor, a cocktail and lunch in the backyard, and straightforward advice: about setbacks and steps forward, about being an educator, or about taking a break from it all with a good movie, meal, laugh, book, or day trip down- town. She shared her experience, wisdom, and passions in ways that invited you in.
—Regina Puleo (Class of 2002)
Janet/Dr. H was my mentor, my inspiration in academic pursuits, and in the years after I graduated from Loyola, my dear friend. My warmest memories with Janet were spent sitting at her dining room table while I was in college—sometimes even being joined by Dr. McCaffrey and his quiet presence and great sense of humor.
During my senior year especially, as my family went through big changes and I was not sure what to do after graduation, Janet and Phil opened their home to me, made me laugh, made me meals, and let me be lost or confused or however I needed to be during that difficult time.
Over the years, Janet and I would try to meet up in our respective cities for a meal, for an art exhibit, or just to catch up. When life was too busy we shared long phone calls and sometimes longer games of phone tag, or emails updating each other on life’s happenings. Janet’s passion for teaching and art was always clear—both in my experience with her and in her continued tradition of taking students (both current and former) to museums. In 2015, Janet came to my wedding in Philadelphia. Over brunch the next day she was talking about the latest exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and asked if I wanted to join her. Her dry, witty sense of humor made me question if she was kidding, but I also got the feeling she was half serious as sharing the gift of art was one of her passions. She laughed when I paused to answer, and while I couldn’t join her, I also never wanted to disappoint her because she was someone I aspired to be like and in an almost parental way, wanted to make proud.
I will treasure one of the last times I saw Janet at her house in Cape May. I had just found out I was expecting my first child and I was so happy to share the news with her in person. She referred to herself as Aunt Janet and that day we drove around, ran errands, had lunch on the water, talked for hours, and ended the day eating ice cream cones outside in the sun.
I will remember this day and so many other wonderful times we shared, in good health and in times of illness. I will forever be grateful for her unconditional acceptance, her unwavering support, her laughter and encouragement. Though trips to Baltimore will always remind me of her, they will also be forever incomplete without her here.
—Keri Smotrich (Class of 2006)
I remember my first upper-level Art History course was with Janet. She solidified for me my passion and love of art. It was Modern Art, and despite the fact that I was a Classics major and I went on to continue to study Late Antiquity in graduate school, I love mod- ern art most of all. It is because of Janet. She was a teacher and a mentor and an inspiration. I have since become a teacher, and I hope to inspire the young men and women in my classes the way she inspired me. I want to help them see a whole new world. I taught an Art History course this year, and I was so excited to share this news with Janet.
Some of my fondest memories with her include all the times she opened her home to me. I remember a time where we watched Persona by Ingmar Bergman, and countless others where she fed myself and my classmates lovely meals. In those times Janet’s effervescence truly emanated from her, because she was an amazing host. Janet had the ability to bring comfort to anyone in her presence and welcome anyone into her home and make them feel at ease. It was these qualities that made you feel completely enthralled by her presence. Janet was a dear friend, and I am humbled by her friendship and ability to share her spirit with others. I will miss her immensely. I will miss sharing with her my thoughts on exhibitions that I go to and discussing curatorial choices. I will miss having brunches with her when I am in town, and I will miss the beauty, simplicity and ease that came with being around her. I thank her for inspiring not only myself but so many people, and I only hope that I can evoke those same qualities in my own teaching and my own life.
—Lauren Teresa (Class of 2006)
There are a few images of Janet that keep coming into my mind. One is particularly vivid. I often wear a wide-brimmed tack hat when it rains. One day, I was standing around the Fine Arts Department talking to Janet while I was wearing my hat. I can’t remember why, but suddenly I was inspired to place the hat on Janet’s head. I am tall, and Janet petite. Janet stood grinning up at me puckishly from under the brim of the hat, and she looked phenomenal. There aren’t many people who can carry off a hat like that, and I told her so. I think that’s how I will picture her most. I also think of being in her kitchen making pasta carbonara together. Or of sitting at the table in her back garden having a glass of wine. I think of all the times Janet had me over to her home. She was the most generous hostess and most generous friend. I know I won’t be the only one to say that.
Another thing about Janet: I’ve rarely, if ever, met someone who had such a lively and genuine interest in the lives and goings on of those around her. Janet was really alive, no matter what she was going through (and God knows that was a lot). And she was tough, tough, tough. I hope I can be a fraction as tough as Janet in my life. And a fraction as open to others. Janet was a total original, totally inimitable, totally irreplaceable. We love you and miss you always, Janet.
—Caitlin Alexander (Class of 2008)
I was in a special section of Janet’s introductory art history class my first semester at Loyola. In addition to teaching the course, Janet was our advisor and arranged class excursions. We were set to have a dinner at her home on a Friday night two weeks into the semester. Like some freshmen do, I’d spent my first two weeks of freedom eating poorly—I fell ill that Friday. I emailed her to tell her I wouldn’t make it. The following Monday she summoned me to her office, where she presented me with a quart of homemade vegetable soup, asked whether I’d visited Health Services, and told me to take better care of myself. This was the first bit of advice she gave me in her fourteen years as my advisor.
Janet was both kind and blunt, often at the same time. If I had an impractical idea for a term paper or I wanted to squeeze more cred- its into a semester, she would redirect me to an achievable path. Both the material and academic needs of her students were important to her. When I was looking for an on-campus job, she made me her research assistant and sent me to comb through microfilm of the Boston Evening Transcript for discussions of Civil War monuments. One of her overriding concerns was the Art History Department itself and she was always recruiting. She partly succeeded with me; I minored.
After I graduated and moved to Philadelphia, she would call to check in and would swing by for lunch when she was in the city. The last time my wife and I visited her, she gave us a tour of what was new in Hampden and listened to our house-hunting woes. (Some water in the basement is mostly unavoidable, she said. Recent experience has borne this out.) She was a constant friend and reliable source of advice and wit. Once Janet was your advisor, she never gave up the position.
—Dan Corrigan (Class of 2009)
Dr. Janet Headley was such a force behind the entire Fine Arts Department at Loyola and a mentor to so many of us that to hear that she’s gone doesn’t seem possible. I don’t think any of us are ready to let her go.
Dr. Headley was the most challenging professor I had as an art history major at Loyola, and I am grateful to have been her student and advisee. She pushed my fellow classmates and me to think beyond what we saw on the slide or read in a source, asking us to reach deep within our academic minds and find the best answer to questions posed. Dr. Headley refused to accept mediocrity from us in her classes and in our writing. She saw our capabilities, even when we didn’t see them in ourselves. Dr. Headley pushed us in every way she could so that when it was time to let us go, she felt confident that we were ready for whatever our next steps might be in the world. Her influence is still very much with me, as I hold myself and my work to the same high standards she expected of me as a student.
I don’t think any of us are ready to let her go, but Dr. Headley’s legacy lives on through all of her students and the work we studied in her classes: the work she loved so much. Every work of art we studied in her classes carries a piece of her; and when visiting museums across the world, coming across these various pieces, I’ll always smile to myself in remembrance. The work has meaning beyond the medium thanks to all I learned from this incredible woman. Thank you, Dr. Headley, for challenging all of us to be the best writers, thinkers, and art historians we could be.
—Danielle Bonanno (Class of 2014)
Janet was truly special and helped shape myself and some of my peers into being strong educators. In the context of her classes, Janet was always motivated to ensure that all of her students understood the value and importance of the material, and outside of lectures she would volunteer her own time to meet frequently with any advisees. She made us feel supported and welcome, and she provided honest feedback to allow us to be our best selves as students. Janet would show great hospitality by having alumni over for dinner, and she seemed to be an expert in so many fields, as she had many stories to share.
Personally, Janet would recognize my interests and point me in the right direction—whether it be for research specific to a class or for goal-setting in general. Her lectures were witty and memorable, and she taught me to analyze art and history with a critical lens. I had the pleasure of taking several American art classes with her, and her care and diligence in her role directly influenced what I do now as a career. Now that I live in Boston, I can’t help but see the art and architecture of the city, think back, and be grateful for Janet’s insights.
—Mitchell Corwin (Class of 2014)
Dr. Headley was more than a professor. She was an adviser, a men- tor, and a friend. When I arrived at Loyola University in 2010 with absolutely no idea about what my future looked like, she was the only person to guide me towards a fulfilling path. When I failed my first Art History exam, she still believed in my ability to succeed. When I ran out of money and had no one to help me with tuition, she personally called financial aid to explore options that would keep me in school. At the end of my Junior year, I couldn’t afford on campus housing, so Dr. Headley drove me around all of Baltimore in her Subaru trying to find an affordable apartment that was close to campus. I was not like many other students who had financial or emotional support from their families; in many ways, Dr. Headley was both my professor and my family. This support did not end when my career at Loyola did. Dr. Headley sent me tickets to the Dali Museum when I moved to Flor- ida and visited me once while she was attending a conference in the area. She called me after she found out I was divorced to ask if I was on track to become the next Elizabeth Taylor. The last time I visited Dr. Headley was the summer of 2018. April-Ann and I went to her house and spent hours talking about careers, relationships and memories about our time at Loyola. I will miss those conversations, both in person and over the phone, in which Dr. Headley pushed me to be the best version of myself but never judged me for the choices I was making. She was, and will continue to be, one of the most important influences in my life.
—Julia Tigani (Class of 2014)
I have been given the task of choosing a memory with you. As you always said, I was more eloquent orally than with my written words, so I hope you feel I do this particular memory justice with my attempt. Here we go.
One of our earliest memories together is probably one of my favorites. It was the end of the fall semester of my freshman year at Loyola, during finals week. We had just finished our Alpha class, Art History 101. At some point, I had told you that I had the unfortu- nate fate of having a final on the last scheduled day, at 8 a.m. All of my friends, including my roommate, planned on departing campus a couple days prior. This left me, an unsure freshman, alone, without my support system. You, of course, did not stand for this. So, we made plans to have dinner at Joe Squared. Again, as a freshman, the only place off campus I had been to at that point was the Inner Harbor, but, with you as my guide, I felt at ease.
Over dinner, we shared laughs and pizza and I’m sure discussed one art historical topic or another. However, the thing that I remember most was returning to campus feeling like I belonged. I no longer felt like an outsider on campus or at Loyola. That night, you made me feel as if I had a home here. Over the course of my four years at Loyola, you continued to instill this feeling in me, this sense of belonging. You were so successful, in fact, that I moved here to Baltimore permanently, enabling us to continue our friendship after graduation. There are so many other memories that I treasure with you. From visiting the National Art Gallery for the first time, to teaching me how to make deviled eggs, you brought so much to my life. You added a richness and a joy that is hard to find elsewhere. For that, I thank you and will always miss you.
—April-Ann Marshall (Class of 2014)
Dr. Headley’s Modern Art in Europe course at Loyola changed my life in so many ways. When I started the course in the spring of my sophomore year, I was absolutely terrified; the Modern era was ex- tremely far outside of my comfort zone at that time and I had heard that Dr. Headley was a challenging professor. As the semester went on, I felt I was in way over my head, and worried that I wouldn’t be able to rise to Dr. Headley’s high expectations.
When it came time to choose topics for our final papers, Dr. Headley asked to see me after class, which I took to be a bad omen. She brought me through the on-campus art gallery in the student center and then into a crowded storage room that I had never seen before. She gently wound her way through the various objects and works of art, picked up a heavy frame with a vibrant painting of a circus and asked me what I thought about using it as a springboard for my final paper. Wanting to please and impress her, I said that I would do it, but I expressed my trepidations about not having the research skills or background knowledge to do what she wanted. Dr. Headley told me I needed to figure it out because that’s what an art historian does.
I realized after the paper was turned in and the semester had ended that Dr. Headley didn’t say those things or assign difficult papers or give mountains of reading to frustrate her students. It was because she was the type of professor and person who challenged people because she believed in them. We all worked so tirelessly in that class thinking that we were trying to reach what we perceived to be Dr. Headley’s impossible expectations, when, in fact, she was pushing us to reach the potential that she identified in each of us. Dr. Headley not only gave me knowledge and information about mod- ern art, but also fostered a deep appreciation and love of it within me. I had never felt like an art historian before that class, but Dr. Headley’s methods of teaching and continued encouragement and support gave me the confidence and tools to believe that I was one. Her teaching and mentorship have shaped so many students during her time at Loyola and will continue to impact all of us forever. She was the epitome of what a good teacher should be, and I hope to one day be even half of the art historian, mentor, and teacher she was for my own students. Dr. Headley gave me the tools to not only believe in that goal, but to actually go out and execute it successfully. I will miss her dearly and am forever grateful for all that she gave to me and the department.
—Victoria Miciotta (Class of 2014)
I owe my passion for art history to Janet. She constantly challenged me to go above and beyond both in and outside of the classroom. As a mentor, she was a source of moral support and encouragement. My profound thanks go to her for being a wonderful advisor, an admirable advocate for students, and the dearest of friends for all these years.
—Nicole Meily (Class of 2015)
“Tell me a story” was how Dr. Headley started discussions in her lectures. The very first art history class I ever took was an upper-level American art class with her in my first year of college. It was baptism by fire, to say the least. I quickly learned that my professor wasn’t just intelligent and passionate; she didn’t care for nonsense, and she expected nothing shy of dedicated, hard work. While I found this a bit intimidating, I learned something amazing when she asked me to tell her a story. She welcomed fresh ideas, new perspectives and in- terpretations, and wanted to pass on everything she knew to students with a thirst for knowledge.
It was when she asked me two years later to “tell her a story” about John Everett Millais’ “Mariana” that I was revitalized by her curiosity and tenacity. We spent the next ten months drafting and redrafting a grant proposal and then a research fellowship together, focusing on this sole painting. In countless emails, meetings, and revisions, Dr. Janet Headley taught me what it means to have the courage to ask a question and to go forth and learn. When I have my own classes with timid first-years and complacent upperclassmen, I will ask them to tell me a story and hope that I can give them even half of what my professor, advisor, and mentor gave me.
—Rebeccah Swerdlow (Class of 2017)