Remembering Fay Renardson
C.S. Lewis once observed, “The first demand that any work of art makes upon us is to surrender. Look. Listen. Receive. Get yourself out of the way.” Fay Renardson, who passed away last month at the age of 76, excelled at conveying the beauty and wonder of art to Aquinas students over many decades of teaching art history and art appreciation courses at the college. She came to Aquinas in 1977 serving as a part-time instructor while also working (from 1977 to 1980) as the administrative assistant to Sister Dominica Gobel, O.P., the college’s first and long-serving Academic Dean.
During those early years at Aquinas she was also the faculty sponsor for the Sisypheans, a student group whose aim was to encourage participation in the arts on campus. Aquinas students had the opportunity to present original work in poetry, fiction, art, or song at the group’s regular meetings. Fay’s talents and academic interests made her an ideal mentor for the Sisypheans. Commenting on her impact in this role, the late Sister Dominica reflected, “Whatever Fay attempted was a huge success. Her enthusiasm was contagious and the Sisypheans found the Spring Arts Festivals to be greater and more interesting each year under her capable organization and direction.”
In 2004 Fay was honored as the inaugural recipient of the college’s Adjunct Teacher of the Year Award. She would continue to teach classes at Aquinas over the next dozen years, with her course on Christian Themes in Art (FAR 301) being her most frequent offering. Each spring semester it was not uncommon to come across Fay in the hallway hauling a hefty stack of art history books to her classroom.
Fay was very generous to the Aquinas community with her time and talent. She memorably served as a special docent for the Aquinas faculty/staff visit to the ‘Sanctity Pictured: The Art of the Dominican and Franciscan Orders in Renaissance Italy’ exhibition at the Frist Museum in November 2014. She was also one of the featured speakers for the college’s Center for Faith & Culture lecture series in 2013, lecturing on ‘Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s Good Government Fresco’. This recording of that talk offers a glimpse into her extensive knowledge and passion for art.
Fay will be greatly missed by the Aquinas community and we wish to extend our condolences and prayerful support to her family.