Docent Leader Endows Position at Toledo Museum of Art

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Emma Leah Bippus

Emma Leah Bippus

Emma Leah Bippus (1913–2011), a noted former docent leader at the Toledo Museum of Art, has bequeathed her estate to create an endowed staff position, the Emma Leah Bippus Director of Education.

The post, now held by Dr. Kathy Danko-McGhee, is a fitting choice for Bippus considering her tireless advocacy for learning throughout her nearly three decades of service to the Museum.

“She was a person who made her mark on the way people, from children to adults, use museums to discover the arts,” said Carol Bintz, chief operating officer. “Her funding of this position just shows how important education was to her. It honors her and her advocacy.”

Bippus, known as Emme by colleagues, first began her involvement with TMA in 1947, when she was asked to direct the newly-formed docent program. The University of Toledo graduate became known for giving animated Museum tours, helping turn the program into a model for other institutions.

Her work in arts education was nationally recognized. In 1966, Bippus received a National Gallery of Art Award for Distinguished Service to Education in Art, becoming one of only 25 people in the country to be given the honor that year.

The award was presented by Lady Bird Johnson, first lady of the United States, who wrote in her 1970 memoir “A White House Diary” that Bippus had “made museums so interesting for children from kindergarten through the eighth grade that the average Toledo child now makes six visits a year to the museum. Art cannot exist in a vacuum; it’s people liking it that makes it important. My hat was off to Mrs. Bippus.”

Bippus retired from the Museum in 1972.

“The fact that she was a docent and spent her life educating the public as part of the education department makes the realization of this endowment very meaningful,” said Danko-McGhee. “She recognized that education is essential to the Museum’s purpose, so it’s a privilege to bear this title.”

The Emma Leah Bippus Director of Education is the second endowed position at the Toledo Museum of Art. The position of William Hutton senior curator of European and American painting and sculpture before 1900, held by Dr. Lawrence Nichols, was created in 2005 and named in the former curator’s memory.

Endowed titles allow Museum patrons to provide financial support by funding a particular staff position. “The endowment of a staff position provides important funding support for the Museum’s operations and enables it to honor the legacy of those who sustain it,” said Toledo Museum of Art Director Brian Kennedy. “The level of commitment put forth by our volunteers and donors—and Emme contributed in both respects—is exceptional.”


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