Archive for Tuesday, November 3, 1998


November 3, 1998


The arts scene in Lawrence was enriched by Barbara Benton Wescoe, who died Monday.

The wife of a former Kansas University chancellor was remembered for her lasting contributions of art to the university.

Barbara Benton Wescoe, wife of former KU chancellor Clarke Wescoe, died Monday in New London, Minn., at age 75.

Former KU chancellor Raymond Nichols, who knew the Wescoes for decades, said Mrs. Wescoe left her mark with donations of art at KU.

"Everywhere she moved that was evident," he said. "I think it was just a native interest."

Nichols said Mrs. Wescoe was a "friendly person" who wanted the university to be enriched by art.

"She is really the one that was very active in the University Women's Club," said Todd Seymour, a trustee for the KU Endowment Association.

"She was very involved in lots of social activities as they related to the university," he said.

Seymour said Wescoe and her husband wanted to put KU on the arts map.

"I think they saw a way where the university could make a mark in terms of getting some great artwork," he said. "They just wanted to enhance the whole thing."

Services have been scheduled for Nov. 14 at Green Lake Bible Camp Chapel in Spicer, Minn. Additional details were not available Monday.

Mrs. Wescoe was recognized in October 1990 for her contributions to the Helen Foresman Spencer Museum of Art.

In 1965, she assembled a committee to organize a benefit ball to raise funds for the museum. The committee formed the Gallery Guild, the first official friends organization for the Spencer museum.

The organization, later renamed Friends of the Art Museum, has about 800 members.

"We had a very tiny staff ... and it depended very much on the good will of faculty, and Barbara made a real difference," said Marilyn Stokstad, director of the museum at the time and currently Judith Harris Murphy professor of art history.

"This woman knew how to do something with nothing," she said. "Barbara was very much her own person; very forward-looking. It's hard to think of her gone."

She received the Fred Ellsworth Medallion in 1986 for significant service to KU. The Wescoes were life members of the KU Alumni Association and the Chancellor's Club, KU's major-donor organization.

The Wescoes in 1991 donated a 15th-century Japanese Buddhist sculpture to the museum. They also donated the Tai Chi sculpture located in front of KU's Green Hall.

The Wescoes provided support for KU through gifts to the Barbara Benton Wescoe Fund at the KU Endowment Association.

Clarke Wescoe, professor of pharmacology and experimental medicine at KU, succeeded Franklin Murphy as KU's 10th chancellor, serving from 1960 to 1969.

After resigning as chancellor, Wescoe served as chairman and chief executive officer of Sterling Drug Inc., until his retirement in 1985.

Clarke Wescoe survives of the home.

Johnson Funeral Home in New London, Minn., is handling funeral arrangements for Mrs. Wescoe.

-- Michael Dekker's phone message number is 832-7187. His e-mail address is

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