- Second woman president of the College Art Association
- President of the International Center of Medieval Art
- Wrote the first Art History survey text in 20 years to include women artists
- Donor of the Stokstad Reading Room in the Kenneth Spencer Research Library
Marilyn Stokstad was born in February 1929 and grew up in Lansing, Michigan. She received her bachelor's degree from Carlton College in 1950. After studying briefly at the University of Oslo, 1951-1952 as a Fulbright scholar, she entered Michigan State University where she complete an M.A. degree in 1953. Stokstad moved to the University of Michigan, receiving her Ph.D. in 1957. Her dissertation, written under Harold Wethey, was on a portico of the medieval cathedral of Santiago de Compostella. She was hired for the following fall to teach art history at the University of Kansas, where she remained her entire career.
Stokstad specialized in Medieval and Spanish Art, though also teaching several survey courses on art as a whole. In 1962 she advanced from assistant to associate professor and chair of the department. Appointed (full) professor in 1966 and curator of medieval art at the Nelson Art Gallery (today Nelson-Atkins), Kansas City, she relinquished her chair duties in 1972. Elected to the board of the College Art Association as secretary in 1974, Stokstad moved through that professional society's ranks to Vice-President, 1976-1978 and President, 1978-1980. She was named distinguished Professor of the History of Art in 1979.
Her first foray into a survey text came in 1985 with her Medieval Art. In 1995 she and Marion Spears Grayson finished what was to become one of the major general surveys of art history, Art History. Stokstad’s survey text, Art History, filled a 22 year void in the field. It took much persuading to entice the living legend to write such a book, seeing as she still was teaching and putting together an exhibit of Spanish Art for the Spencer Art Museum, but she eventually relented because of a career long frustration with out of date texts that are neither comprehensive nor considerate of societal pressures on artists. The predecessor to her survey text did not feature even one female artist, Stokstad made sure hers righted this wrong. The book was widely adopted by college classes as a text and went through editions in 1999 and 2003, and 2011, growing into two volumes and over 1150 pages. In 2002 the National Women’s Art Caucus honored Stokstad with their annual award for outstanding achievement for her lifetime contributions to art in America. Stokstad has donated an extensive collection of her papers to the University Of Kansas Archives, these papers can be accessed by clicking on the link under her photo.