Portrait of Head of College Robert Thompson

Robert Farris Thompson ’55, ’65 PhD, the Colonel John Trumbull Professor of the History of Art, served a record 32 years as the enthusiastic and welcoming Head of College of Timothy Dwight College at Yale University. His vision, brilliance, commitment, and inspired leadership made TD not only a loved home for its undergraduate residents, but also an exciting place fEven after his retirement, Bob remained a vibrant presence in New Haven as he continued to teach his popular Yale courses, including African art and New York mambo.  We wanted to recognize his permanent legacy in TD as well as celebrate his contributions to the community with an appropriate portrait placed prominently in the Timothy Dwight dining hall, alongside those of preceding Head of Colleges.  Since his passing in 2021, he has been deeply missed by beloved friends, colleagues, and alumni.

The TD Fellows’ portrait committee consulted with Head of College T to find an artist to create a painting that would capture that “flash of T’s spirit,” the essence of àshe, as well as his favorite masks, drum, thumb-piano, and other treasured artifacts. Simmie Knox’s portfolio of extraordinary contemporary portraits prompted T to schedule an interview, in which they shared an immediate mutual respect and rapport, with Bob proclaiming therewith, “Simmie’s the one I want!”

Here you can see some of Mr. Knox’s other portraiture: Bill and Hillary Clinton at The White House, Supreme Court Justices Thurgood Marshall and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Professor John Hope Franklin of Duke University, as well as many artists, musicians, and celebrities.

Acknowledgments & Supporters

The TD Fellows’ portrait committee would like to thank and acknowledge all the friends and fans of Head of College T who made this very special portrait a reality, all of whom were inspired by Bob’s unforgettable classroom lectures as well as his unique warmth as TD’s Head of College of 32 years. Several generous “angels” seeded the fund with significant gifts; TD students voted to contribute Mott Woolley funding; and then many, many friends stepped forward to participate. 

We also thank the many Yale staff and departments who provided guidance and counsel along the way, especially Alison Coleman of the Development Office who provided thoughtful stewardship from beginning to end.

The portrait of Head of College F. Thompson was made possible thanks to the generous support of:

Alan L. Aberg - ‘08 B.S.
Peter C. Aberg - ‘81 B.A.
Randy Smith Aberg - ‘82 B.A.
Nina R. Adams - ‘69 M.S. ‘77 M.S.N.Bill Adams- ‘77
Liz Adams - ‘78
Nathaniel E. Adderley - ‘77 B.A.
Stephen Adler
Afro-American Cultural Center at Yale Alexander Paul Anthony
Bruce D. Alexander - ‘65 B.A. ‘98 M.A.H. Elizabeth Alexander - ‘84 B.A. ‘06 M.A.H. Nancy Alexander - ‘79 B.A. ‘84 M.B.A. Anonymous
MPhil and Laura Baldwin - ‘81
Kim A. Barkan, Esq. - ‘72 B.A.
Dr. Cynthia D. Barnes
Prof. Sarbani Basu - ‘05 M.A.H.
Christopher E.M. Beardsley - ‘02 B.A. ‘06 M.Arch.
Dr. G. Peter Beardsley, M.D. - ‘92 M.A.H.
John C. Bennett
Barry Berman
Eric F. Bernstein, M.D. - ‘86 M.D.
Mindy Berstein , M.D.- ’87
Leopoldo M. Bernucci - Ph.D.
Marcel Trerice Bernucci
Judith Bettelheim, Ph.D. - ‘79 Ph.D.
Albert Bildner - ‘37 B.A.
Robert B. Blanchard - ‘61 B.S. (Eng)
Khalilah Fatimah Boone, in memory of Sylvia Ardyn Boone - ’79 Ph.D.
Thomas G. Brady, PA-C - ‘91 Phys. Assoc. Cert.
Jeff B. Brenzel - ‘75 B.A.
Sally Brenzel
Sarah C. Brett-Smith - ‘75 M.A. ‘82 Ph.D.
Dr. Jacqueline L. Brice-Finch - Ph.D.
Prof. Derek E.G. Briggs - ‘03 M.A.H.
Jennifer Briggs
Willard W. Brittain, Jr. - ‘70 B.A.
Robert D. Broeksmit - ‘85 B.A.
Stephen Leneld Brown - ‘93 B.A.
Khalilah L. Brown-Dean, Ph.D.
Frank W. Bruno
Michael Bryant
Lucy and Richard L. Burger - ‘72
Jonathan J. Bush - ‘53 B.A.f
Josephine Bush
Jeannette Q. Byers
Hon. Jose A. Cabranes - ‘65 J.D.
Edward H. Cantor - ‘61 B.A.
Jim Carolan - ’89 Ph.D.
Dr. Mary Ann Carolan - ‘84 M.A. ‘87 M.Phil. ‘89 Ph.D.
Trish Cawley
John R. Chandler - ‘68 B.A. ‘75 M.A.R.
Victor E. Chears - ‘74 B.A.
Kevin D. Chears
Marian Chertow - ‘81 M.P.P.M., ‘98 Ph.D.
Helen Chillman
Daniel W. Cody
Dean Rodney T. Cohen
Jon Connolly - ‘08
Heidi Coutu
Dr. J Moore Crossey
Moore Crossey
Mitch F. Crusto, Esq. - ‘75 B.A. ‘81 J.D.
Kevin R. Czinger, Esq. - ‘82 B.A. ‘87 J.D.
William R. Dean