Thomas W. Lentz '74
When Harvard Art Museums were in desperate need of an overhaul, they hired Thomas W. Lentz ’74 to lead the extensive renovation and expansion project that recently reopened to the public. The Washington Post profiled Lentz’s journey in the article “The ‘surfer dude’ who rebuilt the Harvard Art Museums.”
It’s a journey that took Lentz from Claremont Men’s College (now Claremont McKenna College) as an art history undergraduate in 1974, to a master's in Near Eastern Studies at the University of California, Berkeley in December 1978, a master's in Islamic Art at Harvard University in May 1981 and a graduate of Harvard’s doctoral program in art history in 1985.
He went on to become curator of Asian art at the Museum of the Rhode Island School of Design then moved to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, where he headed the Department of Ancient and Islamic art. Lentz returned to the East Coast to the Smithsonian, initially as head of research and collections at the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, later becoming deputy director, before being appointed director of the Smithsonian’s International Art Museums Division. In 2003 he was named the Elizabeth and John Moors Cabot Director of the Harvard Art Museums.
As director of the Harvard Art Museums, one of the leading arts institutions in the United States, he was responsible for the renovation and expansion project that cost more than $350 million that now houses a collection of more than 250,000 works of art.