Post
Amy Sadao
September 16, 2015

In Memoriam: Daniel W. Dietrich II (1941–2015)

Portrait: Daniel W. Dietrich II. Photo: Shira Yudkof. (2015)

The Institute of Contemporary Art mourns the loss of Daniel W. Dietrich II (1941–2015). Named an ICA Director Emeritus in 2014, he endowed the museum directorship currently held by Amy Sadao and had served continuously on ICA’s Board since 1970.

Daniel W Dietrich II, of Chester Springs, PA. Born October 21, 1941, in Philadelphia. Died September 1, 2015, at Paoli Memorial Hospital. He was predeceased in 2000 by his wife of thirty-five years, Jennie Dietrich.

Son of the late H. Richard and Mildred (nee Braun) Dietrich, of Villanova PA. Brother of the late H. Richard Dietrich Jr., and William Braun Dietrich, both deceased. He is survived by his sons, William S. Hildreth (Ryan C. Cooke), Daniel W. Dietrich III (Yuehling Dietrich), and Adam Dietrich. He is also survived by his personal and romantic partner of recent years, Deborah Ullman, of Orleans, MA.

He graduated Episcopal Academy, in Newtown Square, PA, and received a BA degree with a concentration in Art History from Hamilton College in Utica, NY. He remained actively involved in Hamilton as an alumnus, including serving on the architectural committee that designed the Wellin Museum at Hamilton, which includes a gallery named in his honor.

A former Vice President of Luden’s Candy, of Reading, PA, and President of the Daniel W. Dietrich Foundation and Daniel W. Dietrich II Trust Inc., he was a philanthropist and an unparalleled patron of performing, written, and visual art, as well as cultural institutions in Philadelphia and New York, including the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Pennsylvania Academy of Art, the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania (ICA), the Whitney Museum of American Art, Colorado Mahlerfest, WHYY, Philadelphia Theater Company, and American Poetry Review.

He was an actor in the company at Theatre of the Living Arts in Philadelphia in the early sixties, under the artistic direction of Andre Gregory, where he performed with Morgan Freeman, Wallace Shawn, and others. He also starred in the film Maletesta’s Carnival Of Blood, 1973. His background in theatre grounded his understanding of the many resources necessary to bring artists’ visions to life: “All involved work feverishly to create something ephemeral. The action happens behind the scenes, so when the curtain rises, we have, the stillness.”

Daniel was a scholar and collector of influential contemporary American art, with a profound interest in Marsden Hartley, Neysa Grassi, Edwin Dickinson, Edward Hopper, Barnett Newman, Cy Twombly, Philip Guston, Paul Thek, Warren Rohrer, Jennifer Bartlett, Eileen Neff, Horace Pippin, and Agnes Martin. He described his collecting focus as “American with spiritual influences.” While he described ceasing avid collecting in the mid-1970s, he continued to acquire work to support Philadelphia contemporary artists. He was a great lover of opera and classical music, in particular Gustav Mahler. From 2004–14 he produced a series of three documentaries with director Jason Starr about the music of Mahler.

At the Philadelphia Museum of Art, he was a member of the Anne d’Harnoncourt Society, the Contemporary Art Committee, and the Campaign Cabinet. He endowed the Theodor Siegl Conservator of Paintings—which he chose to name in honor of the late Museum conservator. Not only did he loan works of art to the Museum, such as Barnett Newman’s Black Fire painting, he also contributed funds for acquisitions.

This winter his quiet Philadelphia patronage was uncharacteristically and significantly noted when he simultaneously made possible the permanent Association for Public Art installation of a Roxy Paine sculpture and transformed ICA’s research, curatorial, and artistic explorations with a $10M endowment gift. Having served on the ICA board since 1970, he had previously endowed the museum’s directorship and was named a Director Emeritus in 2014.

He asked to name the ICA endowment The Inchworm Fund following an Albert P. Ryder quote: “Have you ever seen an inchworm crawl up a leaf or twig, and there clinging to the very end, revolves in the air, feeling for something to reach? That’s like me. I am trying to find something out there beyond the place on which I have a footing.”

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