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Life philosophy of late artist permanently etched in bronze to honor his legacy

Pat Kephart is a woman of few words. During a CMU celebration of her husband, the late Jac Kephart, she did not speak. The tears she shed, however, spoke loudly about what his memory means to her as friends and family gathered with her to name and commemorate the Jac Kephart Fine Arts Building at CMU. She listened as people remembered and spoke about her husband’s art and life. Dick Scariano, a life-long friend of Kephart, spoke during the event recounting stories and sharing memories of Kephart’s love of life and painting.


The ceremony reinforced to all in attendance that the art and philosophy of Jac Kephart will transcend his life. His work will endure and live on in CMU students inspired by his painting, who will also learn inside the building that now carries his name.  

For Jac Kephart, art was not a hobby or a profession. His paintings represented a personal striving towards unachievable, higher ideals. In this striving Kephart created meaning in his life. Decade after decade he attempted to create better and more creative works and improve his artistic output. This striving towards higher ideals was unveiled in his own words, etched in bronze, during the naming ceremony. 

CMU trustees, students, faculty and staff as well as friends and family of the late Jac Kephart learned about what drove his creativity by reading his own words permanently displayed for the benefit of those who enter the fine arts building.  

“I haven't been able to put an end to the goal; the goal is always resetting itself,” said the late Jac Kephart.  “It [the pursuit of art] is a built-in ladder that keeps climbing above me that says ‘you can do better than that, you can do better than that,’ so you just keep after it. It's been that way as long as I can remember.” img_8028cmunow.jpg

For CMU Department of Art and Design Head Suzie Garner the sentiment written by Jac Kephart, and now memorialized on the building where she teaches, is a perfect notion for higher education. The enduring mythological and artistic narratives from history sometimes reference the same need to work towards a higher aim where meaning is made in the striving towards that aim, not necessarily achieving it.

“Kephart’s words are good for students because his legacy reminds us we can work to improve our art by using the artist we were yesterday as a baseline for who and what we want to be in the future,” said Garner. “In this way we improve ourselves while brining more and more beauty into the world while we do so.”


Garner also spoke at the event on behalf of students and faculty.

The Jac Kephart Fine Arts Building was named when Pat Kephart donated a $1 million dollars in the namesake of her late husband supporting students and promoting the legacy of his work. In addition to the naming of the fine arts building, CMU has more than forty of Jac Kephart's paintings displayed throughout campus. There is a formal walking tour map available for those who want to see the work of Jac Kephart while touring campus. 


“There are few people who cared so little about credit and accolades as Jac,” said CMU President Tim Foster. “But there are few people who deserve those things more than he. I am grateful to Pat and Jac’s family for making his legacy a permanent part of CMU campus and history.” 


For information about the programs housed in the Jac Kephart Fine Arts Building or to learn more about the Kephart Art Walk contact the CMU Foundation.  


Written by David Ludlam