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Stanley Rosen, UNI and CAS professor and Borden Parker Bowne Professor of Philosophy, speaks on Nietzsche on Friday, February 20, 10 a.m., SMG 208
Week of 13 February 2004 · Vol. VII, No. 19

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Howard Thurman (Hon.’67) Photo by BU Photo Services

Howard Thurman (Hon.'67) Photo by BU Photo Services

Penguin-painting preacher. Howard Thurman (1900–1981), dean of Marsh Chapel from 1953 to 1965, considered one of the 12 greatest preachers in the United States according to the April 1953 issue of Life magazine, was best known for his passionate pulpit style. Less known was his passion for painting penguins. On a trip to Vancouver in the 1950s, he saw a penguin that had been born in captivity at the city's zoo. He spent the train ride home sketching penguins and then began to paint them in oil. “I make no attempt at a realistic picture of a penguin,” he said in the winter 1958 issue of Bostonia magazine. “A friend of mine once gave me a book on penguin anatomy — it cramped my style. I disposed of it. I have no pretensions to being an artist. So when I do a ‘creative phantasy,' I'm imagining a penguin as a penguin sees himself. And no one can dispute my interpretation.” Thurman's technique, explains Bostonia, was to let the penguins grow out of the end of his brush: “whether they turn out happy or sad, moody or contented, adjusted or frustrated, black and white or mauve and magenta, he knows not when he begins.” Of her husband's creative outlet, Sue Bailey Thurman (Hon.'92) told Bostonia: “It gets him away from his problems. I think he appreciates compliments on his painting a great deal more than he does compliments on his books or sermons. More than he admits.”

Thurman not only was the first African-American dean of the chapel at a major white institution of higher learning, but also was among the first to conduct Christian chapel services in a nontraditional way, drawing from such eastern religious faiths as Buddhism and Hinduism. Thurman's life and thought are reflected at Boston University in the Howard Thurman Center, which is part of the Martin Luther King, Jr., Center, and in the Howard Thurman Listening Room, located in the basement of Marsh Chapel. On display there are materials from his time as dean of the chapel; visitors may also listen to his sermons on tape.

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13 February 2004
Boston University
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