New Director joins Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History

Editors’ Note: This feature appears as it was published in the summer 2019 edition of UT Dallas Magazine. Titles or faculty members listed may have changed since that time.
Dr. Michael Thomas


Dr. Michael Thomas is the new director of the Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History at UT Dallas, succeeding founding director Dr. Richard Brettell. Thomas holds the Edith O’Donnell Distinguished University Chair and serves as a professor in the School of Arts and Humanities while directing the Institute’s graduate studies programs.
Brettell will continue to contribute to the O’Donnell Institute as professor of art history in the School of Arts and Humanities and holder of the Margaret M. McDermott Distinguished Chair of Art and Aesthetic Studies, and the Edith O’Donnell Distinguished Chair of Art History.
The Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History was established by a gift of $17 million from Edith O’Donnell in 2014. This gift was supplemented with $10 million from the Texas Research Incentive Program.
The institute, housed in the Edith O’Donnell Arts and Technology Building, also maintains facilities in the Dallas Museum of Art. It is the first art history research institute founded in the digital age.
Thomas most recently served as director of the Center for the Study of Ancient Italy at UT Austin. After graduating from St. Mark’s School of Texas, he pursued a bachelor’s degree in art history from Duke University and a master’s degree in art history from Southern Methodist University. Thomas received his PhD in art history from UT Austin in 2001. He has taught at SMU, the University of Michigan and Tufts University. He is a member of the Meadows Museum Advisory Council at SMU and a board member of the Etruscan Foundation.
Thomas has been engaged in archeological excavations in Italy for more than 25 years, where he co-directs two projects: the Oplontis Project in Torre Annunziata near Naples, and the Mugello Valley Archaeological Project & Poggio Colla Field School in Tuscany.
“Since I already work in ancient Italy, plus the fact that we already have strong Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History faculty members who work in Italy at this great center, I believe that ancient Italian, Renaissance and Baroque will always have a good place at UT Dallas,” Thomas said.