TMFD Professor and Chair Michael James to Retire

Michael James. Photo credit: David Kostelnik

TMFD Professor and Chair Michael James to Retire

26 Nov 2019    

A retirement reception for Michael James, chair of the Department of Textiles, Merchandising & Fashion Design, will take place from 2:30 to 4 p.m. on Dec. 16 in the department office, located on the second floor of the Human Sciences (formerly Home Economics) Building on East Campus. The reception is free and open to the public. Informal remarks are scheduled for 3:15 p.m.

Individuals interested in personally acknowledging James’ service may make a donation to the Judith Dionne James Graduate Fellowship Fund (01135600) at the University of Nebraska Foundation. Click here to donate on-line or visit the University of Nebraska Foundation at

James came to Nebraska in 2000, serving first as a senior lecturer and then transitioning into the position of Ardis James Professor of Textiles, Clothing and Design. Prior to joining the faculty here, James had worked for twenty-five years as an independent visual artist in his home state of Massachusetts, so his relocation to Nebraska in conjunction with the creation of the International Quilt Study Center represented professional, geographical and cultural changes.

“The biggest adjustment was figuring out how to navigate academia, what it was all about then, more than a quarter century after I’d last experienced it as a graduate student,” James explained. “I have to admit it was somewhat convulsive at first, but it came to be a very good fit.”

In 2005 James assumed the duties of TMFD’s department chair. Under his oversight TMFD faculty and staff successfully pursued numerous initiatives. These included planning toward and completing the renovation of the East Campus building that now houses the Bio-fiber Development Laboratory; extensive renovations of many areas of the department’s physical plant including the Mary Mitchell Fashion Studio, the multi-purpose Design Studio, the Kathryn Eriksen Lohr Merchandising Research and Business Development Laboratory, the Body Scanning Laboratory, and the Surface Design studios. James also worked with faculty and staff members of the International Quilt Study Center in planning toward the building of Quilt House, completed in 2008.

“I think one of my proudest achievements is the group of new tenure-leading faculty that we’ve hired these last five years,” James stated. “They are enterprising and very smart out-of-the-box thinkers and I move on knowing that the department and its future are in very capable hands.”

In the course of his time at UNL, James was the recipient of a number of important accolades. In 2001 he was named a Fellow of the American Craft Council, and in 2015 the James Renwick Alliance, a support group of the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery, honored him with the “Master of the Medium Award in Textiles” for lifetime achievement. He received the “Governor’s Arts Award” as Visual Artist of the Year from the Nebraska Arts Council in 2008, and the Lincoln Arts Council’s “Mayor’s Arts Award for Artistic Achievement” in 2003.

In 2009 James received the NU system’s Outstanding Research and Creative Activity Award and in 2016, the Distinguished Research & Creative Career Award of the College of Education and Human Sciences. James’ work is included in the collection of the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery, as well as in the collections of the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City, the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, the Newark Museum, the Indianapolis Art Museum, the Racine Art Museum, the Museum of Nebraska Art, and the International Quilt Museum.

Textile chemical engineer Yiqi Yang, Charles Bessey Professor in Textiles, Merchandising & Fashion Design, has been selected to serve as interim chair beginning Jan. 2020

Textiles, Merchandising & Fashion Design
College of Education and Human Sciences