Director of Auburn’s Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art to retire

Published: March 12, 2018
Updated: March 28, 2018
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Marilyn Laufer, director of Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art at Auburn University, will retire, effective June 1.  As the museum’s longest-serving director, Laufer will have completed a total of 22 years of service to Auburn University and 12 years with the museum.

An internal search for an interim director is open until March 19, and a national search for a permanent director will begin this summer with the goal of having a permanent replacement in place by fall semester.

“During Dr. Laufer’s tenure, the museum has grown to be a vital part of the academic life of the university and a cultural centerpiece for the area. Her exemplary leadership has built an art museum that enriches the lives of the Auburn community for generations to come,” said Bonnie Macewan, dean of the Auburn University Libraries.

Under Laufer’s direction, the museum embarked on the American Alliance of Museums Assessment Program and received full accreditation. Of the nation’s 17,500 museums, less than six percent hold this standard.

"The remarkable growth and progress made by the museum would not have been possible without the outstanding leadership of Marilyn Laufer,” said museum advisory board co-chairs William Dunlop and J. Mark Jones.  “Her accomplishments include not only attaining American Association of Museums accreditation, but also a solid increase in our permanent collection and guiding the museum in many other areas.”

A lifelong arts educator and advocate, Laufer received her Bachelor of Arts degree with a minor in English from Douglass College of Rutgers University in New Jersey. She did graduate studies at the University of New Mexico and received her doctorate in the history of art from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.

She began her career as a museum educator but after a decade returned to academic studies, eventually joining the Department of Art faculty at Auburn as an instructor in 1996. For 10 years Laufer divided her time between teaching and working as a guest curator and guest program coordinator for such institutions as the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, the Georgia Museum of Art at the University of Georgia and others before being appointed by the Auburn Board of Trustees as interim co-director at the Jule Collins Smith Museum in 2006. She became executive director the following year.

“I am thankful that I have had the privilege over the past 12 years of being part of a team of museum professionals that have generated extraordinary exhibitions and relevant educational programs that engage our campus and our community,” Laufer said. “Of course, we could not have accomplished as much as we have without the support of Auburn University as well as our many patrons, members, volunteers and friends.” When we came together to create our mission statement nine years ago, we came up with the opening phrase ‘Art Changes Lives.’ Those words resonated deeply with all of us, and I remember being so appreciative, as the director, that our shared enthusiasm and dedication would make JCSM a very special place well into the future. “