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BU Student Dies While Studying Abroad

Mamie Hyatt had “brilliant career ahead of her”


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.

John O’Rourke can be reached at orourkej@bu.edu.


9 Comments on BU Student Dies While Studying Abroad

  • Richard Bunbury on 04.27.2011 at 11:58 am

    Mamie Hyatt

    I did not know her but it makes me so sad to hear about this loss. I will pray for her, her family and her colleagues.

    Richard Bunbury,
    BU CFA

  • Victorious! on 04.27.2011 at 12:32 pm

    Such terrible news! This is a reminder to us all that we need to make the most of our lives. Tomorrow is not promised. I pray the Lord will give comfort to her family and friends during this time of sorrow.

  • Adam Austin on 04.27.2011 at 1:18 pm

    A Dear Friend

    Mamie was a very close friend. Her dedication to art history was inspiring. I am comforted in knowing that she was living her dream, and I am grateful to have been a friend to her. Excellent article.

  • Crystal-Angelee Burrell on 04.27.2011 at 2:35 pm

    The BU Community should keep her in our prayers

    I did not know her, but I can’t imagine how her family, friends, classmates and even professors must feel. As a BU freshman, I think everyone in the BU community should keep her in our thoughts and hopefully this makes us realize how precious life really is.

    Peace and Love,
    C. Angelee

  • Robert J Oresick on 04.27.2011 at 4:27 pm

    Mamie Hyatt

    This is so sad. She sounds like a wonderful young woman. What a loss.

  • Anonymous on 04.27.2011 at 10:00 pm


  • One of Mamie's many fans on 04.27.2011 at 10:01 pm

    One of Mamie's many fans

    Mamie was a bright light, an inspiring and caring friend, a witty and kind soul – and rocking the art world with her sassy brilliance. This is a loss beyond words. The world will never know the completeness of her gift – we can’t know what more she would have taught us – but all of us who knew her were given pieces of this gift and I am thankful to be able to say she was my friend. I am thankful to be able to treasure the parts of her gifts that she shared with me and find a way to keep her energy alive. Her radiance is forever emblazoned on my heart and I will never, ever forget her genuine kindness. Mamie, I think I speak for many of us when I say that I will do my best to keep the good work happening, and the arts ablaze. Thank you for everything you shared – I will miss it all, especially the things that you had not yet shared. Peace be with you, Mamie.

  • Frédéric Iriarte on 05.07.2011 at 3:58 am

    INTERVIEW with Mamie from the 14th of mars in the artist studio


    The 20 th april 2011, JÄRNA (Stockholm) Sweden

    Mamie Hyatt working at my studio the 14 th of mars 2011

    ART/HEART for Mamie Hyatt – the seed will grow.

    Mamie Hyatt, a young art historian and a dynamic curator – deeply engaged in philosophical and artistic matters, a curious, communicative and comprehensive yet delicate art connoisseur – has left us at the age of 31. She leaves us her legacy of a creative world, a world we will continue to proudly build in her memory.

    She followed, in a way, the Art of Life, catching the beauty in everyday situations and recording them with a poetic writing, as well as purely scientific knowledge and methodology. She saw beauty in classical art forms as well as contemporary figurative art expressions. She loved Rembrandt as well as English Pop Art, Ericson Peña or Anne Sofie Sidén , Harvey Cropper as well as my work – all friends of the arts and soulmates.

    I have never heard anyone speak so well, so strict and yet so deep, of my recent work, with an acute awareness of both the historical and philosophical references and associations, clearly catching the meaning of the artist’s message contained deep within the layers of each piece of art.

    When Mamie mentioned that she had been studying my work at the Department of Art history at Boston University, I was very pleased and understood that there is something strange with life and that these crossroads have meaning. We were fortunate to have several artistic discussions of great value.

    Yet another example is her research on the artist Harvey Cropper, a common friend. His work contains mixed associations from Rembrandt to the American art movements of the 70’s.

    She had extremely sharp eyes and even noticed that I had made very miniscule changes in my artwork as compared to the reproductions in a published book. She was very glad to have seen this!

    Mamie and I were working on a project together – R/Evolution: Classified – an analysis and documentation of what makes things evolve in an artistic context and questioning if the Revolution was a part of that evolution.

    Re-Evolution means to begin again and to grow again, maybe even making the same mistakes or finding new paths.

    R/Evolutiion: Classisfied is a nonpolitical, nonreligious and noneconomical project that is to travel to 5 continents, with the goal of awakening the debate on mixed cultures, in regards to expressions of time and space, where experimentation and research in relation to the values of artistic expression and its benefits are the basis of her thesis.

    As history repeats itself, we will discover new answers and new solutions.

    Mamie’s history will continue through her friends, her colleagues and her fellow space travellers.

    Have a beautiful trip, Mamie. You have left us a valuable seed to nourish.

    Frédéric Iriarte
    French Plastic artist and former teacher at The Royal Institut of Technology Stockholm, Sweden

    ARTOTEC children playground and urban furniture

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  • Madubuko Diakité on 12.04.2012 at 1:30 pm

    I did not know her but Herbert Gentry and I shared many years and pleasant moments together in Sweden and Harlem talking about our home time. Her loss is a loss for family and friends. Ahe was a pioneer in her field. May she rest in peace.

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