Founding professor leaves lasting legacy

Born December 20, 1910 into a middle-class Calgary family, Helen Stadelbauer was a founding member of the University of Calgary’s art department and staunch supporter of the arts throughout her life. Although interested in mathematics and science during middle and high school, the only career options open to females when she graduated were nursing, teaching and business (stenographer) and so following the wishes of her father, Stadelbauer enrolled in teacher training at the Calgary Normal School in September 1931, following her high school graduation.

Stadelbauer joined the Calgary Board of Education in 1941, teaching junior room at North Calgary School, where she remained for almost three years. In 1944, she began teaching art at the Calgary Normal School. When the school was incorporated into the University of Alberta, Calgary branch in 1945, Stadelbauer became a member of the faculty of Education for the U of A.

In 1963, Fine Arts became an independent department, incorporating music and art under one title. Drama followed in 1964. Stadelbauer quickly found herself acting as head of the new faculty as well as the art department itself.

A strong supporter of an independent university, Stadelbauer was very involved in the move to grant the university full autonomy from the U of A, and was pleased when in 1966 the University of Calgary was established as a separate institution.

During the university’s early years, Stadelbauer served as a one-person art department, later becoming its chief administrative officer, designing faculty programs and facilities and teaching until her retirement in 1989.

Stadelbauer’s legacy remains at the university. Upon her death in 2006, a portion of her estate, as well as five paintings by herself and other former faculty members was left to the University of Calgary. With this money, upper year scholarships will be set up in developmental art, studio art and art history – three areas Stadelbauer felt strongly about.

"It was Helen's unique vision when she helped found this department that the areas of studio art, art history and developmental art be housed together,” says Art Department Head Arthur Nishimura. “We are truly grateful for the gifts she has left."