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 Patrick Lennox Tierney (1914-2015) 


Patrick Lennox Tierney was a leading scholar of Japanese art and a lifelong champion for Asian art education.


Born on January 28, 1914 in Weston, West Virginia, Tierney’s family moved to Pasadena, California when he was six years old. His love for Asian art began in junior high school, when he worked watering plants at the Nicholson Chinese Garden. He later attended the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), where he received a Bachelor of Education in 1932. He then studied at Columbia University, where he earned a Master of Arts in Asian Art History and Japanese Art in 1936. He later completed a doctoral degree from Sogetsu-Ryu in Tokyo. Soon after the start of World War II, Tierney spent fourteen months studying Japanese at the U.S. Navy Japanese/Oriental Language School at the University of Colorado, Boulder.


Due to his extensive knowledge of Japanese art and language, Tierney was assigned to General Douglas MacArthur's occupation headquarters in Tokyo, following the end of the war. Preservation efforts in Japan occurred through the Arts and Monuments Section, the Pacific counterpart to the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives Section in the European Theater. As Commissioner of Arts and Monuments, he advised General MacArthur on all topics regarding Japanese arts and culture, and also acted as his Japanese translator in matters concerning the Imperial Palace. Never one to sit still at a desk, Tierney was often out in the field inspecting damage to cultural sites, photographing monuments and objects, and advising MacArthur’s staff on restoration efforts. In the process, he amassed a staggering collection of photos of the cultural sites he visited which remain as important documentation of Japanese art during the Occupation. In addition, he taught art to American children in Japan and served as Supervisor of Art for five American schools.


While he was discharged from service in 1952, he remained in Japan to further study Japanese art. During this time, he studied the Mingei folk arts movement with the influential potters Soji Himada, Kanjiro Kawai, Bernard Leach, and the philosopher Soetsu Yanagi.


Upon his return to the United States in 1954, Tierney began a long career teaching the next generation of Japanese art scholars. He was professor and chair of the art department at Pasadena City College, and lectured at Ruperto Carola University in Heidelberg, Germany. Beginning in 1971 he taught at the University of Utah as Professor of Japanese Art until his retirement in 1985 as Professor Emeritus of Japanese Art History. He also served as curator of Asian art at the Mingei International Museum in San Diego, curator of Japanese art at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts, and founded the Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena in 1971. He served as a member of the United States Information Agency Committee for the 1970 Japan World Exposition in Osaka, and a delegate of the Japan America Societies of the United States during the 1967 Meigi Centennial celebration at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. In addition to serving as the Director of the Oriental Museum Division of the Pacific Culture Foundation, he was a member of the San Diego Japanese Garden Reconstruction Committee, the Japanese Friendship Garden Council, the Japanese Chamber of Commerce, and the Korea Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society. He shared his beloved Japan with countless Americans during annual tours he led to Japan.


For his devoted work promoting cultural exchange between the United States and Japan, Tierney was honored with the Order of the Rising Sun Award by Emperor Akihito in 2007. In addition, he was presented with the Reischauer International Education Award by the Japan Society of San Diego and Tijuana (2006), named Honorary Consul General of Japan in San Diego (2008), 2010 Professional of the Year in Higher Education by Cambridge’s Who’s Who, and received a lifetime achievement award from the Japanese Friendship Garden (2014).


Lennox Tierney died on June 12, 2015, in Salt Lake City. His incredible collection of over 250,000 slides, film reels, and lecture videos relating to the study of Asian art are preserved in the Special Collections department of the J. Willard Marriott Library at the University of Utah.

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