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The Art of Giving: ALL Receives $3 Million from the Mary Livingston Griggs and Mary Griggs Burke Foundation

May 18, 2018

Buddhist guardian figure from the Mary Griggs Burke Collection.

Buddhist guardian figure from the Mary Griggs Burke Collection.
This Buddhist guardian figure from the Mary Griggs Burke Collection at the Minneapolis Institute of Art dates back to 10th-century Japan. Photo by Kyle Tsuchiya, CLAgency student.

In March of 2017, Professor Maki Isaka organized a field trip to the Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia) for the students in her Kabuki theater class. Mia has a remarkable collection of East Asian art, and ALL Department Chair Christine Marran opted to tag along on the trip to enjoy the rare opportunity of a guided tour by curator Aaron Rio, who specializes in Japanese and Korean art. 

Mia received a very special gift from Mary Griggs Burke, a Minnesota native and prominent art collector who spent over fifty years accumulating what eventually became an extraordinary collection of Japanese art—one so extensive that she housed it in an adjacent New York City apartment. Upon her death in 2012, the collection was divided between Mia and New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. Only a few years later, Mrs. Burke’s name would become a symbol of generosity and advancement for the Department of Asian Languages and Literatures at the University of Minnesota.

The Gift

The ALL department has a robust faculty cohort in Japan studies and is thrilled to have an opportunity to support advanced research and teaching with this generous gift meant to honor the birthplace of Mrs. Burke, the legacy of her awe-inspiring collection at Mia, and her dedication to Japanese and Korean aesthetics. 

Two-thirds of the $3 million gift will be dedicated to the new Mary Griggs Burke Endowed Chair in Asian Studies. The gift will be used to recruit and retain outstanding faculty and support visiting scholars. The individual holding this position must show an ability to advance knowledge in one of a number of fields related to aesthetics and culture of northeast Asia and will lead symposia, conferences, and other events. The remaining $1 million will be dedicated to supporting graduate student dissertation writing fellowships, travel grants, and other activities toward the advancement of Japan studies at the University of Minnesota.

Marran is glad for the opportunity to honor Mrs. Burke and her mother at the University of Minnesota. The Foundation providing this gift is named for both Mrs. Burke and her mother Mary Livingston Griggs, both of whom were born and raised in Saint Paul. “It is truly an honor to receive this generous gift through which we can create advanced research and collaboration opportunities for faculty and students,” Marran explains. “We are grateful for the opportunity to honor the legacy of such an enterprising and knowledgeable collector as Mrs. Burke through innovative research and collaboration.” 


This story was written by an undergraduate student account executive in CLAgency. Meet the team.