Obituary: William C. Lipke, 1936-2020 | Obituaries | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Obituary: William C. Lipke, 1936-2020 

Lifelong educator was honored for "Distinguished Service to the Arts in Vermont"

Published March 4, 2020 at 11:00 a.m. | Updated March 16, 2020 at 8:27 p.m.

click to enlarge William Lipke
  • William Lipke

Bill died peacefully at home, surrounded by loved ones, from complications of congestive heart disease. Known affectionately as “Professor Bill,” “Captain Bill,” “Bugs” and “Billy,” he was a lifelong learner with a curious mind and remarkable ability to connect with friends and strangers alike.

A proud Michigander, Bill was born in Grand Rapids to Daniel N. Lipke and Katherine Prentiss Lipke. The second of four siblings, Bill graduated from Creston High School (1954) and Albion College (1958). A failed pre-med student, he was tripped up twice by inorganic chemistry and eventually turned to art history as consolation. A three-year position (1958-1961) teaching eighth-grade English and humanities in Milford, Mich., which he described as his most challenging and rewarding years of teaching, was followed by completion of an MA in integrated humanities at Wayne State University (1963). He earned a PhD in art history from the University of Wisconsin (1966), having spent the previous year on a Roijtman Traveling Fellowship at the Courtauld Art Institute in London. Bill completed an MA in theology and pastoral counseling from Saint Michael's College (1996) to learn, as he remarked to his daughter, “how to pastor one's own strayed sheep.”

Bill's entire professional career was happily and productively spent in the field of education. He taught at Cornell University (1966-69) and Reed College (1969-70), coming to the University of Vermont in 1970. He was a favorite and energetic UVM lecturer who was known for drawing inspiring connections between the past and present. He retired from full-time teaching as a tenured professor of art history in 2001, teaching part time for another 10 years with a special interest in first-year seminars and advising students.

Bill also served as director of UVM’s Fleming Museum of Art (1977-1979) and as interim chair of the Department of Art and Art History (1989). His scholarly publications and teaching focused on British, American and Canadian art of the 19th and 20th centuries. He held a special interest in New England and especially Vermont art and architecture, served as a trustee of the Vermont Council on the Arts (VCA), and was honored by the VCA with an Award of Merit for Distinguished Service to the Arts in Vermont. He served as a consultant to the National Endowment for the Humanities and the New England Regional Chapter of the Archives of American Art.

He was an avid singer; he sang tenor (“They’re always in demand”) with various groups including the Burlington Choral Society, Oriana, Syrinx, Social Band and the Vermont Jazz Vocal Ensemble at UVM. A dedicated sailor, runner, biker and gym rat, Bill volunteered with Meals on Wheels and served as a hospice volunteer for more than 25 years. A “Friend of Bill's,” he was indebted to friends both within and without the AA Fellowship who strengthened and encouraged him over the years.

Bill leaves a daughter, Megan Elizabeth Lipke and family (Paris, Diego, Oscar and Francesca Smeraldo) of Great Barrington, Mass.; a son, Daniel Hall Lipke and family (Cathleen Warren, Angus and Neave Lipke) of Beverly, Mass.; and his loving partner, Emily Wadhams, of Burlington, Vt. Bill was predeceased by an older brother, Daniel P. Lipke, and a younger brother, James Ross Lipke, and followed days later by his sister, Mary Margaret Landi of Petoskey, Mich. Survivors include former wife and mother of his children Catherine Hall of Burlington, Vt.; brother-in-law Mike Landi and his family; sisters-in-law Katherine Lipke and Svetlana Elnitsky and their families; and nieces Kerstin, Shannon, Tanya and Hannah.

Memorial contributions in his name may be made to the Fleming Museum of Art, Fletcher Free Library, McClure-Miller Respite House or Carpenter's Boat Shop, Pemaquid, Maine. A memorial gathering will be held in the marble court of the Fleming Museum on April 4 at 4:30 p.m. All are welcome!

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