The Dorothy Wilson Perkins Ceramic History Lecture Series

The Alfred Ceramic Art Museum established the Dorothy Wilson Perkins Ceramic History Lecture Series in 1998, thanks to a generous endowment gift to the Museum by Dr. Lyle Perkins (BFA Alfred '39; MFA Alfred '47) in memory of his wife, Dr. Dorothy Wilson Perkins (BFA Alfred '39).

Dorothy Wilson Perkins
Dorothy Wilson Perkins

Born on September 20, 1917 in Hammond, Indiana, Dorothy's family eventually settled in Wellsville, New York where she graduated from high school with honors in 1935. The following year she enrolled in Alfred University taking courses at the New York State College of Ceramics, where she completed her B.F.A. degree (again with honors) in 1939. Offered a scholarship at the Ohio State University, Dorothy took graduate courses with Arthur E. Baggs, who had been a former student of Charles Fergus Binns at Alfred. She received her M.A. degree from O.S.U. in 1940. Returning to Wellsville, Dorothy married her Alfred classmate Lyle Perkins in the University's campus chapel. They moved to Hershey, Pennsylvania where her husband was teaching. After a period of Navy duty for Lyle and teaching for Dorothy, Lyle completed his M.F.A. at Alfred in 1947. They next moved to Providence, Rhode Island. During the 15 years that Dorothy taught at the Rhode Island School of Design she made the majority of her creative pottery. At this same time she also wrote numerous articles for Ceramic Age and Ceramics Monthly; produced pottery for exhibition here and abroad; taught two consecutive summers for Charles Harder at Alfred; and traveled extensively. In 1951 both Lyle and Dorothy started programs at O.S.U. leading to doctorates in 1956. When Lyle and Dorothy began their lengthy commitment to the programs at the University of Massachusetts in 1962, Dorothy was barred from taking a faculty position due to nepotism rules in place at the time. Nonetheless her many accomplishments in life included exerting a strong influence in the ceramic world which lasts to this day. Her ceramic work can be found in numerous collections, including those at O. S. U. and the Alfred Ceramic Art Museum.

Dorothy was the first slide librarian at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst (1971) and upon her retirement in 1981, that facility was named in her honor. Dorothy Wilson Perkins died of lung cancer on August 17, 1996. Her memory will live on through those who knew her, her splendid ceramic pieces, and through this Dorothy Wilson Perkins Ceramic History Lecture which will be held each fall. Lyle Perkins died June 20, 2005.

Past Lectures

  • Sequoia Miller
    17th Lecture:
    Wet Clay, Pottery and the Museum as a Forum
  • Denise Patry Leidy
    16th Lecture:
    Back–and–Forth: Chinese and Global Clay, 17th– 21st century
  • Erza Shales
    14th Lecture:
    "Pioneers of American Ceramics"

  • Louise Mazanti
    13th Annual Lecture:
    Towards a highest standard for ceramics"

  • Richard Neer
    12th Annual Lecture:
    "Greek Vases: Wine and Humor in the Age of Tragedy"

  • Tanya Harrod
    11th Annual Lecture:
    "Out of the Studio, or Do We Make Better Work In Usual Conditions?"

  • Glenn Adamson
    10th Annual Lecture:
    "Making A Mess: Ceramic Sculpture Now"

  • Jim Melchert
    9th Annual Lecture:
    "Once a Potter, Always a Potter"

  • James Trilling
    8th Annual Lecture:
    "The Aesthetic of Process - and Beyond"

  • Peter Schjeldahl
    7th Annual Lecture:
    "Marginal Powers: Ceramics and the Art World"

  • Louise Allison Cort
    6th Annual Lecture:
    "Crawling through Mud: Avant-garde Ceramics in Postwar Japan"

  • Elaine Levin
    5th Annual Lecture:
    "Marguerite Wildenhain: Inspirational and Passionate About Her Craft"

  • Paul Greenhalgh
    4th Annual Lecture:
    "Social Complexity and the Historiography of Ceramic"

  • Léopold Foulem
    3rd Annual Lecture:
    "Ceramic Paradigms and Paradigms for Ceramics"

  • Susan Peterson
    2nd Annual Lecture:
    "Faux and Real Folk Art: the Story of Mingei"

  • Garth Clark
    1st Annual Lecture:
    "Between a Toilet and a Hard Place: Is the Ceramic Avant-Garde a Contradiction in Terms?"