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Professor David Frederic Tatham, 90, of 329 Westcott Street, Syracuse, died at home following a brief illness on August first. Born in Wellesley, MA., Tatham resided in Syracuse since the late 1950s. A graduate of the Univ... Read More
Professor David Frederic Tatham, 90, of 329 Westcott Street, Syracuse, died at home following a brief illness on August first. Born in Wellesley, MA., Tatham resided in Syracuse since the late 1950s. A graduate of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, he earned his Master’s and Doctorate degrees at Syracuse University. After military service (Captain, USAR) he joined Syracuse University’s student affairs division in 1957, becoming in time Dean of Men and later Dean of Student Services. From 1962 he held joint appointments as Lecturer in Fine Arts, and was among the first in America to teach a university-level course in the history of jazz. He joined the full-time faculty of the Fine Arts department in 1972 as its specialist in the history of American painting, sculpture, and graphic arts. For twenty years beginning in 1986 he also conducted a graduate seminar in visual imagery for the Syracuse University School of Art and Design’s summer institute for mid-career advertising designers and illustrators. The University honored Tatham with the Wasserstrom Award for Outstanding Graduate Teaching. Many of his students have become museum curators and directors throughout the United States.
In 2001 he retired from teaching on the university’s main campus to become a distinguished visiting professor of art history at Colgate University. But he continued to teach for Syracuse University each spring in London, where since the 1970s he had served on the faculty of the Syracuse University London Centre. In 2005, he received the London Program’s O’Leary Award for Distinguished Teaching Abroad. He taught in London as recently as spring 2008.
A noted authority on American art of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, he published seven books, a number of exhibition catalogues, and many articles and book chapters. Several of his publications won national and regional awards. An international authority on the work of the artist Winslow Homer, for five years he conducted Winslow Homer seminars for art teachers funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities Summer seminars program. Tatham also published widely on other figures in the arts as well. Among his projects at the time of his death was a nearly completed book about Winslow Homer at Houghton Farm and into the Adirondacks.
Tatham was active for many years on boards, committees, and councils of cultural organizations in central New York, including the Everson Museum of Art, the Onondaga Historical Association, the Syracuse University Library Associates, the Adirondack Museum, and Glimmerglass Opera. A hiker from childhood in New Hampshire’s White Mountains, he wrote much about the history of that region, and served for many years on the publications board of the New Hampshire Historical Society. At the time of his death Tatham had underway a biography of his Loyalist ancestor, the Quaker Nicholas Austin of New Hampshire.
During his undergraduate years at the University of Massachusetts, Tatham was a Lotta Crabtree Scholar and a Distinguished Military Student. Years later, at Syracuse University he received the Chancellor’s Citation for Exceptional Academic Achievement and the Syracuse Post-Standard Award for Distinguished Service to Libraries. Other honors included election as Life Member and Councilor of the American Antiquarian Society, Life Fellow of the Athenaeum of Philadelphia, and Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, London.
In addition to an association with London spanning nearly half a century, Tatham and his wife, Cleota Reed, were annual visitors to Madrid and other Spanish cities beginning in the early 1980s. In Syracuse they restored and resided in a historic Ward Wellington Ward-designed house, re-landscaping its gardens to include a labyrinth. The house is on the National Register of Historic Places. They loved opera and attended performances in Lisbon, Madrid, Paris, London and in Syracuse, New York, Philadelphia, and Glimmerglass Opera in Cooperstown where they were members of the National Council. Whether in Syracuse or abroad, he followed the fortunes of the Boston Red Sox, whose loyal fan he had been since childhood.
Tatham is survived by his beloved wife, Cleota; four step-children, Ragen Tiliakos (Manos) of Bridgewater, MA; Reed Martin and Heila Martin-Person (Mark) of Syracuse; and John Martin (Janis) of Fayetteville; seven grandchildren; six great-grandchildren; and seven nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his parents, Richard Merton and Florence Elizabeth Tatham; twin sisters, Barbara Tatham Johnson and Beverly Tatham Orr; and two half-brothers, Richard and Murray Tatham.
Warm-hearted, generous, and always interested in the welfare of others, he will be greatly missed by his family and his many friends, students and colleagues.
Services will be private.
Contributions may be made to Hospice of Central New York or the charity of your choice.
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