Provost Peggy Agouris sent the following message to the campus community on April 17, 2023. – Ed.

Dear Colleagues,

I write to share the news that Professor of Art, Emerita Marlene K. Jack, a highly respected and recognized ceramics artist, died on March 9, 2023 at age 74.

Born August 31, 1948 in Chicago to the late Claire and Mae (Dziadyk) Jack, Marlene earned a B.A. from Knox College in 1970 (cum laude) and an MFA from the University of Minnesota in 1974.  Marlene studied with famed potters Warren Mackenzie and Curtis Hoard and gained, in her words, “an appreciation for the Eastern aesthetic of less is more.”  Her ceramic forms incorporated an architectural aesthetic, developed by varying proportions and improvising changes over many kiln-loads and years of firings.  Her friend and colleague, Jeff Oestreich, described how, over her long career, Marlene’s functional pots “became more layered and private . . . an unending flow of details and endless variations on forms she holds dearly.”

Marlene joined the faculty of William & Mary in 1974 and retired as a full professor in 2011.  The work of her students pays homage to Marlene’s mentorship and the aesthetic growth she fostered in the Old Power Plant studio on the W&M campus – a 1911 building that, in the 1970s, on a meager budget and through sheer determination, she transformed into a cutting- edge ceramics studio that continues to serve generations of students.  And yet, The Old Power Plant studio was more than a ceramics workshop and classroom.  It was a hive of activity reflecting Marlene’s distinct vision of building a clay community on campus that drew students of all ages for late night kiln firings (with the requisite Thai take-out) and the now legendary pottery sales.  Those sales supported a staggering array of visiting artists each year, culminating with the pot-lucks Marlene and her husband, photographer and curator Tom Moore hosted at their home.  W&M students and local potters would meet and mingle with their invited guests, pore over her collections, and find inspiration in her personal home studio, a revelatory and invaluable experience for apprentice clay artists.

The blending of the personal with the communal, the domestic with the worldly, defined Marlene’s approach.  Any music was welcome in the studio, so long as it didn’t have English lyrics — she always urged students to think, see, hear, and touch beyond their expectations.  And she pushed boundaries in other ways.  In 1981 Marlene became the first female tenured faculty member in studio art at William & Mary and remained the sole tenured female visual artist for the department for 27 years.  She served as department chair twice (1985-87 and 1993-94) and on many departmental and university-wide search, promotion, and tenure committees.  She was tireless in advancing equal representation of women and other underserved people at William & Mary, and was a mentor for many young faculty.

Over the years, she became a highly sought-after instructor who continued her teaching outside of the academic year, leading 12 summer study abroad programs in Cortona and Urbino, Italy from 1988-2000.  Health issues in the late 1980s resulted in a shift from functional pottery to sculpture.  Inspired by artist-in-residencies and her teaching in Italy, these large-scale works, cast from her own body, addressed, as she wrote, “themes of fear, luck, time, and spirituality with female figures that drifted into fragments, or wore disguises of various kinds—masks to hide emotions and provide a protective shield.”  Marlene later returned to functional pottery on a more intimate scale—quieter, more muted.

Marlene served the greater ceramics community as a board member of the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA) from 1981-88 and was Treasurer during the establishment of an enduring endowment.  NCECA named Marlene a lifetime Fellow of the Council in 1989.  Her career was punctuated by numerous solo and group exhibitions, recognition in a variety of ceramic publications, and the acquisition of her work by permanent ceramic collections.

Marlene enjoyed reading and traveling, was a peerless artist and teacher, a master gardener, and a lover of movies (especially 3D).  Her garden was an inspiration for imagery and mark-making.  An inveterate collector, old flea-market metal watering cans and teapots lined the shelves above the windows in her studio, the elongated spouts and curved bases serving as visual touchstones for her porcelain and stoneware pots . The home she and Tom shared, the old schoolhouse in Barhamsville, Virginia, is a riot of curiosities.  From popsicle stick tramp art lamps and outsider and folk art to her vast collection of pots, cups, and serving dishes gathered from the broader ceramics community, including pieces made by scores of students that she mentored over her 37-year career at William & Mary.

Her legacy will survive through her many close relationships, the work of her students, and in the kitchen cabinets, on the dining room tables, and in the hands of her many admirers and loved ones.

Marlene is survived by her husband, Tom Moore, stepson Nathaniel Thomas Moore, niece Adrienne Lamm, and nephew Gregory Lamm.  She was preceded in death by her parents and two sisters, MaryAnne Jack and Marjorie (Jack) Lamm.

In lieu of flowers, the family respectfully requests donations in memory of Marlene be made to NCECA or to the Department of Art & Art History.  A celebration of life is planned for Sunday, May 21, 2022 at 2:00 pm, in the Old Power Plant Ceramics Studio located on the campus of William & Mary.