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International search process initiated for Conforti successor

For Immediate Release
March 30, 2015

Williamstown, Massachusetts––The Board of Trustees of the Clark Art Institute announced today that Francis Oakley will serve as the interim director of the Institute following the August 31 retirement of director Michael Conforti.

Oakley, the former president of Williams College, is a long-time member of the Clark’s Board of Trustees and served as the Board’s president from 1998–2005. Oakley is currently a senior fellow at the Oakley Center for the Humanities and Social Sciences at Williams and is the college’s Edward Dorr Griffin Professor emeritus of the History of Ideas.

“Frank Oakley’s long experience with the Clark’s board, his close working relationship with many of the members of our staff, and his deep understanding of the Institute’s history and its operations make him the logical choice to fill the role,” said Andreas Halvorsen, board chair, and Robert G. Scott, vice chair. “We feel fortunate that Frank is willing to serve the Clark in such an important role during this time of transition. With a strong interim director in place, the board has the luxury of knowing that we will be able to devote sufficient time to conduct a thorough and deliberate search for our next director.”

A committee comprised of Clark board members, led by Halvorsen and Scott, will be formed and will select an international search firm to assist in the process of identifying and interviewing candidates for the position.
“I deeply appreciate the trust that my colleagues on the Clark board have placed in me and I look forward to working closely with the Clark's fine staff to sustain the Institute’s splendid momentum,” Oakley said.


Francis Oakley is a distinguished scholar and leader with a long history of involvement in the Williamstown community. He joined the Williams College faculty in 1961, and served in a variety of administrative roles throughout his tenure. Oakley served as president of the college from 1985–1994 and retired from the Williams faculty in 2002 as Edward Dorr Griffin Professor emeritus of the History of Ideas.

In addition to his work at Williams, Oakley played leadership roles in a number of arts and cultural organizations in the region, including the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA), the Williamstown Theatre Festival, and the Williamstown Art Conservation Center. Nationally, he has served as chairman of the boards of the National Humanities Center, North Carolina, and of the American Council of Learned Societies, New York.

Oakley’s academic career includes appointments at Yale University; the University of London; The Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton; The Wilson Center for International Scholars, Washington, D.C.; and as the Sir Isaiah Berlin Visiting Professor in the History of Ideas at Oxford University. A lifelong scholar, Oakley has written extensively on late medieval and early modern religious and political ideas and on American higher education. He is the author of fifteen books and coeditor of three others. Yale University Press will publish his most recent effort, The Watershed of Modern Politics 1300–1650, in June 2015. Oakley is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the Medieval Academy of America and is an honorary Fellow of Corpus Christi College, Oxford. He holds a bachelor of arts degree from Oxford, master of arts degrees from Oxford and Yale, and a PhD from Yale. Oakley and his wife Claire-Ann live in South Williamstown.


The Clark Art Institute, located in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts, is one of a small number of institutions globally that is both an art museum and a center for research, critical discussion, and higher education in the visual arts. Opened in 1955, the Clark houses exceptional European and American paintings and sculpture, extensive collections of master prints and drawings, English silver, and early photography. Acting as convener through its Research and Academic Program, the Clark gathers an international community of scholars to participate in a lively program of conferences, colloquia, and workshops on topics of vital importance to the visual arts. The Clark library, open to the public with more than 240,000 volumes, is one of the nation’s premier art history libraries. The Clark also houses and co-sponsors the Williams College Graduate Program in the History of Art.

The Clark is located at 225 South Street in Williamstown, Massachusetts. Galleries are open Tuesday through Sunday, 10 am to 5 pm. Admission is $20; free year-round for Clark members, children 18 and younger, and students with valid ID. For more information, visit or call 413 458 2303.

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