Gavin Edward Townsend

June 16, 1956June 3, 2018

Gavin Townsend, of Hixson, Tennessee, a Professor of Art History at University of Tennessee, Chattanooga, died on June 3rd, 2018, at the age of 61. The cause of death was pancreatic cancer. Gavin Townsend was born on June 16th, 1956 in Santa Monica, CA, son of Richard and Ruth Townsend. The family moved to Mount Kisco, New York, when Gavin was 3 years old. Gavin attended Hamilton College, Clinton, New York. Upon receiving his his bachelor’s degree in Art History and European History in 1978, he began his graduate education at the University of Santa Barbara where he received his Master’s in Art History in 1981 and his PhD in Art History in 1986. Townsend was a professor of art history at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC) from 1986 until his death. During his tenure at UTC, he served as Faculty Senate President (2006-2008), Faculty Senate Representative (2012-2018), Director and Assistant Director of the UTC Honors Program (1992-2003), and Gallery Coordinator for the George Ayers Cress Gallery of Art (1987-1992). He was a devoted member of the Southeast Chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians (“SESAH”) for which served as Treasurer (2013-2018). In past years, Townsend was also active with the Chattanooga historic preservation organization Cornerstones (1998-2003) and the Historic Zoning Commission. Townsend’s research interests were focused on American architecture in the south. Dr. Townsend is survived by his wife, Bonnie Bickford Townsend, his son, Evan Townsend, his brother, Bryan Townsend (58), and his mother, Ruth Townsend Story. A memorial service is planned for June 16th at 3pm at Patton Chapel on the University of Tennessee Chattanooga. Arrangements are held by the North Chapel of Chattanooga Funeral Home, Crematory and Florist, 5401 Highway 153, Hixson, TN 37343.


Gavin Edward Townsend

have a memory or condolence to add?

Chris Pickering

June 11, 2018

Dr. Townsend was a capstone for my time at UTC from 2012-2017. He always pushed us towards excellence, expected us to rise to the occasion, and showed mercy on more than a few flash essays when he shouldn't have. His insightful, meaningful, and wise comments on any two paragraph jumble of words showed just how much he cared about his students as well as his work.

The genuine joy he felt from teaching and from the arts/architecture could be felt in every lecture he gave. Those talks have influenced my own passions for life and will not be forgotten.

Dr. Townsend will be missed, but his words and guidance will be carried all over the world through countless people, including myself.

Katie Hargrave

June 8, 2018

Dear Bonnie and Evan,

I cannot believe that Gavin is gone. His presence will be deeply felt within the department and rippling out into the world in the form of the students, peers, colleagues that he touched so deeply. I will miss him: his measured voice within faculty senate meetings, the conversations we had about our various home repair projects, sharing thoughts about American history and landscape. I always enjoyed my exchanges with Gavin. He communicated his confidence in my ability, his trust in my decision making, and his interest in my work.

The last time I saw him we had just returned from faculty senate, and we were having our monthly long chat in an empty office once everyone had gone home. These chats meandered and in this instance we discussed an upcoming trip I was taking to Hadrian's Wall. While I was on this trip, I thought of him often when seeing something of historical importance, beauty, or something idiosyncratic. Like his students have shared in the memories on this forum, I know that I will continue to think of him when I move through the world.

Please let all of us in the department of art know what we can do to support you in this difficult time.

With love and sadness,

Joseph Shipp

June 8, 2018

What an incredible loss. My deepest condolences to the Townsends and to his family at UTC.

Dr. Townsend was one of my favorite professors at UTC (2000-2006). Like all the other students who had the privilege of taking one of his courses, he left a lasting impact on me. His passion for art history was something felt by all. He pushed all of his students, never accepted half attempts, but he was not a man without mercy, something which I received a few times from him. I am forever grateful for that. He truly was an incredible teacher.

Much love.

Caroline Crawford

June 7, 2018

Dr. Townsend was a wonderful professor. His art history class was my favorite course in college, and I valued his guidance on the travel seminar I attended as well.

Although art history was not related to my college major, the course was deeply influential. I know the knowledge and insights I gained from his instruction will impact how I experience art, architecture, and culture throughout my life.

I'm praying for Dr. Townsend's family, friends, and all who worked with him. I'm grateful I had the opportunity to learn from him, I know all those who did were blessed.

Leslie Rankhorn

June 6, 2018

On October 3, 2016, I was in critique for my studio painting class, and I received a message from my brother stating that there were complications in what was to be outpatient heart surgery for my mom. I gathered my things and walked directly to Dr. Townsend's office to let him know that I would miss his Art History class that afternoon and wanted to find out if I would be able to make up the essay quiz we were to have that day. As I stood there with tears in my eyes and worry for my mom, Dr. Townsend assured me that I need not worry about the quiz and with genuine concern and kindness in his eyes, he offered words of support. I hope he knew how much his kind words helped me get through that day.

The last conversation I had with Dr. Townsend was on April 26, 2018 during my Senior Thesis Defense. He wanted to make sure I finished my BFA degree, since I had struggled so much with Art History that I was going to have to retake a couple of courses to complete my degree. I assured him I would finish and that I looked forward to his Italian Renaissance course in Fall 2018.

Dr. Townsend was a humble man, and he had a gift for making each of us students feel like we were the only student he had. He cared that we grasped the content and truly understood the material he presented in his art history courses. I recall after each lecture for the Abstract Expressionism class, I would race to my studio to try and make paintings informed by what I had just learned from his lecture.

To Dr. Townsend's family: I am so very sorry for your loss, and each of you are in my thoughts and prayers. I pray you receive comfort during this time.

The morning after I learned of Dr. Townsend's passing, I awoke with tears and immense sadness. The world was a better place with you in it, and I am a better artist for having had your art history courses.

Thank you, Dr. T, for your kindness and humility-- your gentle spirit, and for teaching me Art History.

Leslie Rankhorn

Tara Hamilton

June 6, 2018

Every trip I take I think about your classes, I wish I could have told you. You were an amazing teacher. No one left UTC’s art program without a wealth of knowledge and (even if begrudgingly) a love of art history BECAUSE of your passion and the love and interest you have to each subject. Your love of your family showed in each slide you proudly showed of them with whatever subject you were talking about at the time.

I can’t believe you’re gone. I’m so sorry to both of your families. Personal and academic. Nothing will be the same, but your legacy will be cherished and remembered. I’m proud of the mark you left on me. There are so many lives you touched. Thank you for everything.

Daniel Fox

June 6, 2018

The scent of vanilla candle and a strong sense of terror filled the lecture hall. 108 possible slides and our minds race through titles, dates, periods, artist names, too many, too much. I can hear Dr. T laughing while approaching the stage. A kind and knowing laugh. He presents the first slide and the terror is replaced with an astonishing response. I know the answer.

I spent four years listening to this man. I would leave a lecture of his and while replaying the events of the last hour and a half I would find myself amazed at his ability, a well honed sense of passionate knowledge conveyed with grace.

Just weeks ago I was for the first time in the presence of architecture I had only seen previously in slide form and immediately found myself thinking
“If Dr.T were here I would know more.”

I will always be grateful for the years I was gifted the experience of listening to this wise, kind, jovial, passionate man.

Kirby Miles

June 6, 2018

Before switching my major to painting in undergrad I was most definitely obsessed with learning art history...Italian Renaissance to Modern Architecture I took as much as I could and Dr. T was there as my guide in the endless abyss of names, dates, and slides.
I remember to this day him lighting a candle and dimming the lights for our stressful moments of testing, so with that I will often light a candle for you Dr. T, thanks for teaching me everything.

Suzanne Mortimer

June 6, 2018

I was a student of Dr. Townsend in the late 1990's. His lectures were like listening to a good book or someone telling a great story. His class was challenging and he had high expectations of us as students. I still use what I learned in that class and share it with my own students today.

Dr. Townsend was extremely helpful in working with me on an independent study class so that I could meet all the requirements for my degree. His reviews of my papers were thorough and helpful. He was always kind and made me feel that I could achieve my goals. I admired him very much as a professor. He was an exemplary college teacher.

I am so sorry that he will not touch the lives of a few more students like me, who found him to be a superb instructor I will always remember with a smile.

Bobbie Carey

June 6, 2018

Passing Dr. Townsend in the halls of UTC was always a delight. We would always smile and at times exchange a few words about our destinations. He was a kind and encouraging person who loved teaching. My heart aches with the news of his passing, and our department will not be the same without him.