Vincent Scully, Jr., whose books on architectural history and lectures at Yale College have influenced generations of architects and historians, announced on August 20th that he is stepping down from lecturing this fall. An article in the Yale Daily News reported Scully “does not feel well enough to teach his ‘Introduction to the History of Art’ course.”
Scully had been lecturing at Yale since 1947. He officially retired 17 years ago and his last lecture—attended by such famous former students as Maya Lin and David Childs—was covered on the front page of The New York Times. Since then, he has served as an emeritus professor at Yale, teaching a lecture course in the fall semesters and teaching in Florida at the University of Miami in the spring.
Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, dean of the University of Miami School of Architecture, has not yet received word on Scully’s teaching this spring semester, saying, “We would look forward to his returning. I think it’s fair to say for years he’s been concerned whether he’s teaching next semester, but he’s always been very careful with his health.” She says that, as at Yale, Scully has been enormously popular at Miami, adding “He’s been a great participant in the trajectory of the school over the last decade and a half.”
Scully graduated from Yale in 1940. After serving in World War II, he returned to Yale, finishing his phD in 1949. His dissertation was published as the seminal “The Shingle Style and the Stick Style: Architectural Theory and Design from Downing to the Origins of Wright,” prefiguring his vastly influential career in the architecture field. His scholarship reflects a humanist understanding of architecture and art history—one that stresses a deep sense of empathy passed through generations. Scully often drew parallels between examples hundreds or even thousands of years apart—showing connections between Louis Sullivan facades and Celtic Illuminated Manuscripts, or Sumerian Ziggurats and the early 20th century drawings of Hugh Ferris. The books were often based on his lectures, delivered in a voice at once powerful and tranquil. Remarking on those lectures, Scully once said, “I don't write speeches. If I read a talk, it's terrible. And if I tape a talk and try to transcribe it, it sounds like Gertrude Stein on a bad morning. The slides are my notes.”