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BU Student Dies While Studying Abroad

Mamie Hyatt had “brilliant career ahead of her”

| From BU Today | By John O'Rourke

Mamie Hyatt’s friends write that she leaves “a legacy of laughter, curiosity, possibility, and adventure,” and that she had a “beautiful spirit.”

Family members called her Tootie. Friends dubbed her trademark smile “the Mamie factor.” She loved Rembrandt and English pop art. And at 31, Mamie Hyatt (GRS’12) was quickly gaining a reputation in the museum world for her research into African American and contemporary art.

Hyatt, who was working on a PhD in art history and was a Fulbright Fellow studying in Sweden, died on April 19. Autopsy results are pending, but the cause is believed to have been a heart attack.

Patricia Hills, a College of Arts & Sciences professor of art history and Hyatt’s faculty advisor, describes Hyatt as “very bright, very warm and outgoing,” and with “a brilliant career ahead of her.”

Hyatt arrived at BU in 2007, the recipient of BU’s Jan and Warren Adelson Curatorial Fellowship in American Art. She was particularly interested in the work of African American artists, most notably expatriate expressionist painter Herbert Gentry (1919–2003), who spent much of his career in Sweden and Denmark. His art was to have been the subject of Hyatt’s dissertation and a BU Art Gallery exhibition curated by her.

“We all thought she was destined to rewrite the history of American art to include all groups of artists—African Americans, expatriates, and others,” says Hills. “In Sweden, she was already making her mark by organizing exhibitions for the Fulbright office and introducing African American artists and musicians to the Swedish public.”

Hyatt earned a bachelor’s degree from Kent State University and a master’s in art history and museum studies from Tufts University. Prior to receiving the Fulbright grant in September, she interned at some of the world’s most renowned museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, Italy, and the Museum of Fine Arts Boston.

Friends have been mourning Hyatt’s passing in blogs and on Facebook and other websites. One person wrote that Hyatt leaves “a legacy of laughter, curiosity, possibility, and adventure.” Another recalled her “beautiful spirit.”

Hills says that the Gentry show, which Hyatt was to curate for the BU Art Gallery in spring 2013, will still take place, but will now, sadly, serve as a memorial to her.

Funeral arrangements are pending. A service will be held sometime in the next two weeks in Hyatt’s hometown of Akron, Ohio. She is survived by her mother, Deborah, and her brother, Christopher.

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