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Whitney, Marjorie

Year Inducted: 
Marjorie Whitney (painting Watkins Health Center)
  • 1939-1968: quadrupled the enrollment size of KU’s Department of Design as Chair
  • Founder of the Kansas Designer Craftsman Exhibition, one of the major exhibitions of its type in the country
  • Illustrator for six children’s books and advisor to the children’s section of theWorld Book Chicago in Color
  • 1973: President of the Lawrence Art Guild
  • 1974: Honored by Hallmark Cards, Inc. for her outstanding years of work training many of the company’s artists

Marjorie Whitney, Professor of Design, served on the University of Kansas faculty for 40 years.  During this time, the Who’s Who in Arts and Who’s Who in American Women honoree built the Design Department into a nationally recognized program.

She graduated from the University of Kansas with a Bachelors in Fine Arts in 1927 and joined the Department of Design that same year.  She also studied at the California School of Arts and Crafts and completed advanced studies in Sweden for certifications in weaving and woodcarving, in London, and in Boston under Frank Gardner Hale.

From 1939-1968, Miss Whitney served as Chair for the Department of Design.  During her tenure, enrollment in the Department increased from 604 students to 2367, nearly quadrupling the size.  Under her leadership, the number of courses offered increased from 8 to 90 offerings, major options grew from 3 to 9, and a Masters of Fine Arts program was added.

Miss Whitney was the founder of the Kansas Designer Craftsman Exhibition, one of the major exhibitions of its type in the country, which she headed for 20 years.  In 1955, she organized a conference on Weaving.  She also played an important role in developing the National Bronze Casting Conference.  This conference evolved into the National and International Sculpture Conference which was held annually at the University.

Miss Whitney was also highly involved in the community.  She organized the high school art camp division of the KU Midwestern Music & Art summer camps.  She also developed a two-day annual high school art conference, which provided the chance for Kansas and Kansas City-Metro students to visit the Department of Design Studios and the KU campus.  Murals she painted adorned many hospitals, private homes, and the kindergarten classroom at Gage Park in Topeka.  From 1940-1967, she organized, lectured, and demonstrated high school visitations all over the state of Kansas.  As an undergraduate senior, she illustrated a map of the Lawrence community which was prominently displayed on the campus for many years.

She was a member of the Kansas Federation of Art, serving as President of the organization many times, Kansas Art Teachers, Kansas Art Craftsman Association, Delta Phi Delta honorary art fraternity, Kansas Occupational Therapy Association, Western Art Association, College Art Association, Handweavers Guild of America, and the Lawrence and Midwestern Weaving Guilds.  In 1973, she served as President of the Lawrence Art Guild and the Vice President for Altrua.

Ms. Whitney was the illustrator for six children’s books and advisor to the children’s section of the World Book Chicago in Color, as well as a consultant for Educational Enterprises in New York.  She published a manual on book binding.  She was also commissioned for jewelry and weaving works.

Her extensive travel and research in Design and Crafts is impressive, especially considering the day and age she completed it in.  The list includes Australia, Austria, Belgium, Cambodia, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Egypt, Fiji, Finland, France, East Germany, West Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Hungary, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Japan, Malaya, Mexico, Morocco, the Netherlands, New Guinea, New Zealand, Panama, Peru, the Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Singapore, the Soviet Union, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, Vatican City, and South Vietnam. 

Upon her retirement from education in 1974, she was honored by Hallmark Cards, Inc.  She had been the primary instructor for the course in Design and Illustration over her long career, and thus was responsible for the training of many of the company’s artists. After retirement, she held a weekly radio show for the Audio Reader Program for the blind and disabled population.  For this show, “People in Art”, she conducted live interviews with local artists.


Marjorie Whitney was emphatic about the use of Miss as her title.  As one article noted, she declared, “This Ms. Business is rather irritating to me.  I think women have always been able to do what they want to without that.”

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