Max and Emma Lecture Series

A loving memory leads to a lecture series

Max And Emma Cat 1
Painting of Emma by Brooke Vertin
Max And Emma Cat 2
Painting of Max by Barb Roche

By human standards, Max Jensen's life was short—just 17 years. But for a feline, it's a life that extended well into the "golden years"—and a life that will impact art students at Notre Dame for decades.

In memory of his beloved pet, economics professor Rich Jensen commissioned artist Barb Roche to paint a portrait of Max that he presented in 2006, to his wife, Gay Dannelly, a Hesburgh Libraries administrator, as a Valentine's Day surprise. Rather than accept payment for the portrait, however, Barb Roche suggested that Jensen and his wife donate the money to Notre Dame's art department. Jensen and Dannelly chose to fund a lecture series that brings prominent speakers to campus for special presentations and meetings with students, which both enriches the intellectual life of the department and directly benefits students.

"What we liked was the idea of having distinguished guests who would be on campus long enough to interact with the students as well as give a lecture," according to Jensen.

The Max and Emma Endowment for Excellence was created and the inaugural Max and Emma lecture took place in April 2007. (Emma, another beloved Dannelly-Jensen cat, died the summer after Max's portrait was presented to Dannelly. Art student Brooke Vertin, painted Emma's commemorative portrait.) The first lecture brought noted design historian and critic Victor Margolin to Notre Dame. Margolin gave a public lecture titled "The Challenge of Social Design." He also held meetings with design students and faculty during his visit.

Story written by Susan Guibert and featured in ND Works.

Max and Emma Lecturer History

  • 2007-2008 Victor Margolin, Professor Emeritus of Design History, University of Chicago
  • 2008-2009 Chip Kidd, Associate Art Director, Random House and Frank Baseman, Principal, Baseman Design Associates
  • 2009 - 2010 John Paoletti Kenan, Professor of the Humanities, Emeritus and Professor of Art History, Emeritus, Wesleyan University
  • 2010 - 2011 Mark Randall, Assistant Professor of Strategic Design and Management, The New School and Andrea Pellegrino, Partner and Director of Social Innovation and Strategic Partnerships, World Studio
  • 2012 - 2013 Emily Pilloton, Designer, Builder, Educator, Author, Founder: Project H Design
  • 2013 - 2014 Mark Dion, Sculptor, Installation Artist, Mentor, Columbia University, NY; Co-Director, Mildred's Land Foundation
  • 2014 - 2015 James Fathers, Director, School of Design; Chair, Design Leadership, Professor, Industrial and Interaction Design, Syracuse University
  • 2015 - 2016 Cécile Whiting, Professor of Art History & Visual Studies, University of California at Irvine
  • 2016 - 2017 Eddie Opara, Partner, Pentagram
  • 2017 - 2018 Wendy White, Self-Employed Artist, Painter
  • 2018 - 2019 Hannah B. Higgins, Professor of Art History and Director of the IDEAS program, University of Illinois, Chicago
  • 2021 - 2022 Kevin Bethune, Founder and Chief Creative Officer of dreams • design + life
  • 2023-2024 Lesley Dill, American contemporary artist

Past Events