Professor Emeritus of History of Art Robert Ousterhout died at the age of 73 on April 23.
Ousterhout specialized in Byzantine art and architecture, and was known as one of the leading scholars in Byzantine studies. He taught at Penn for more than 10 years until his retirement in 2017, according to the Almanac.
During his time at Penn, Ousterhout served as the director of the Center for Ancient Studies and graduate chair of both Art and Archaeology of the Mediterranean World and History of Art. He also mentored graduate students and organized exhibits at the Penn Museum.
“Bob proved to be a transformative presence thanks to his exemplary teaching, mentorship, curatorial work, and service,” according to a statement from the History of Art Department. “His generosity and profound humanity touched countless people.”
Ousterhout previously served as president of the United States National Committee for Byzantine Studies and the Byzantine Studies Association of North America.
Over the course of his career, he wrote several books on Byzantine architecture and urbanism. His 2019 book “Eastern Medieval Architecture: The Building Traditions of Byzantium and Neighboring Lands” earned him the 2021 Haskins Medal from the Medieval Academy of America, according the Almanac.
Prior to coming to Penn, Ousterhout served as a professor of architectural history at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign from 1983 to 2006, where he had previously received his Ph.D. Before that, he was an assistant professor of art history at the University of Oregon, where he had earned his bachelors’s degree.
After retiring, Ousterhout continued to serve as the co-director of Koç University’s summer graduate seminar in Turkey, Cappadocia in Context. He is survived by his husband, sister, and brothers.
“He was optimistic and enthusiastic,” Ousterhout’s husband C. Brian Rose told The Philadelphia Inquirer. “He had a passion for the humanities.”
A memorial for Ousterhout will be held on Sept. 9 at the Penn Museum.