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Blanton Museum Director Announces Plans to Retire from The University of Texas at Austin

Jessie Otto Hite, director of the Jack S. Blanton Museum of Art for 15 years, announced today her decision to retire, effective March 2008.

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AUSTIN, Texas—Jessie Otto Hite, director of the Jack S. Blanton Museum of Art for 15 years, announced today her decision to retire, effective March 2008.

Jessie Otto Hite

Jessie Otto Hite

Her retirement next academic year will also mark the end of a 30-year career at The University of Texas at Austin.

“I feel incredibly lucky to have been entrusted with the leadership of the Blanton for all of these years,” Hite said. “It has been a privilege to serve and my life has been greatly enriched by the many people I have had the opportunity to get to know during this time. I particularly would like to note what a pleasure it has been to work closely with Jack Blanton and his family. The day the museum was named for him was a very fortunate day for the institution.”

In 1997, The University of Texas at Austin named the museum after receiving a $12 million building gift from Houston Endowment Inc., in honor of its former chairman and University of Texas graduate, Jack S. Blanton. The Blanton Museum opened in Austin in spring 2006 to great public acclaim.

“Jessie has handled her responsibilities with dedication, excellent judgment and has put together a superb team that I know will carry on what she has so beautifully set in motion,” Blanton said. “She leaves with the satisfaction that she was the leading force in establishing a splendid museum and getting it off to such a marvelous start.”

Hite joined the museum staff in 1979 while still a graduate student in art history. The university was planning at that time a new museum that would eventually become the Jack S. Blanton Museum of Art. During Hite’s tenure the Blanton’s collection grew by more than 7,000 works, including the transfer of title to more than 200 works in the Michener Collection, the acquisition of the Suida-Manning Collection and the Leo Steinberg Collection.

“Jessie Hite has devoted her professional life to the university for nearly 30 years, serving with remarkable skill as a patient, determined and effective leader,” said William Powers Jr., president of The University of Texas at Austin. “Because of her keen artistic sensibilities, her exceptional rapport with donors, patrons and colleagues, and her insistence on the highest standards of excellence, the Blanton Museum of Art has emerged as one of the premier university art museums in the country. Generations of students, scholars, schoolchildren and art patrons will profit from the magnificent legacy she has created on our campus.” 

“We’re extremely grateful to her,” said Douglas Dempster, interim dean of the university’s College of Fine Arts. “Jessie has served the College of Fine Arts for the past 28 years, having started as a researcher for the Huntington Art Gallery, which eventually became the Blanton Museum of Art under her direction. She leaves an indelible and distinguished legacy to the museum, the university and to the cultural life of Austin and the state of Texas.”

The Blanton is the largest university art museum in the country, and has the largest and most comprehensive collection of art in Central Texas.

For more information contact: Leslie Lyon, College of Fine Arts, 512-475-7033.