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Painting 'brings to life’ artist honored by endowment

February 18th, 2020

"Untitled (Taos Mountain," an oil painting by Milford E. Greer Jr.

Milford E. Greer Jr. didn’t attend Bethel College and may never have set foot on campus, yet his name has a familiar ring to many.

That’s due to a visiting artist endowment named in his honor, which has been bringing visual artists, musicians, composers, architects, actors and filmmakers to campus for the past 40 years.

Now an estate gift to Bethel has made Milford Greer more visible through a painting of his recently hung in Luyken Fine Arts Center on campus.

Greer, a native of Geuda Springs, Kan., with ties to Moundridge, Kan., was best known as a painter who specialized in still lifes. He died in 1972 at the age of 45 in an automobile accident. He had been living and painting in Taos, N.M., since 1960.

Robert C. Goering, M.D., and Amparo Goering were close friends of Greer’s. They established the Greer Fine Arts Endowment, for the purpose of helping visiting artists come to campus, to honor Greer’s memory.

Robert Goering was a 1948 Bethel graduate and a native of Moundridge. He earned his M.D. degree from the University of Mexico, where he met and married his wife, Amparo. Robert Goering died in 1982 and Amparo Goering in 2014.

Since 1979, Greer Visiting Artists have come to Bethel from around the country to conduct workshops with students, put on concerts, performances and exhibitions, and give public presentations to the community.

Late in 2019, Bethel’s advancement office was notified of the donation of a painting by Greer along with one of his palettes.

These came from the estate of Louis Criss, Greer’s partner until Greer’s death. Criss, who died in 2017, was an actor and theater director who also taught at the University of New Mexico.

Caren Golden, a relative of Criss’s and one of three heirs, explained, “Lou inherited several of Milford’s paintings and offered them to the Albuquerque Museum with the thought that [they] could be kept together to be viewed by the public. 

“Milford was best known for his still life paintings, and the museum selected a grouping of them for their permanent collection. The landscape [given to Bethel] was one they did not select.

“Lou Criss’s heirs – myself, Marsha Tammi and Jason Hutchins, two former students and old friends – were a bit baffled by this, since Taos Mountain [the painting’s subject] is the subject of so many renowned artists who have traveled through the area. It was the view directly out of Milford’s studio window. But we suppose that the museum was focused on the theme of the still life paintings.

“It was Jason’s idea to offer the landscape to Bethel College. He had done some research and realized that Milford was being honored there with a visiting artist series in his name and thought that the gift of this painting would give additional weight to the series and contextualize Milford’s name. I thought of adding the palette as a means of gaining further insight into Milford’s art-making methods.”

The untitled painting, the palette and a plaque now hang outside the Regier Art Gallery in Luyken Fine Arts Center, making the artist for whom the Greer Endowment is named a little more real.

The next visiting artist to benefit from the Greer Fine Arts Endowment is Ayesha Durrani, a professor in the fine arts department at Pakistan's National College of Arts, who will come from Rawalpindi, Pakistan, for a week-long show of her miniature paintings, “Secrets of an Inner World,” March 9-13.

She will give a public presentation about her work March 10 at 7 p.m. in Bethel’s Administration Building chapel, and also meet with a number of Bethel classes during the week.

Bethel is a four-year liberal arts college founded in 1887 and is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Known for academic excellence, Bethel is the highest ranked Kansas private college, at #12, in Washington Monthly, Top 200 Bachelor’s Colleges; ranks at #23 in U.S. News & World Report, Best Regional Colleges Midwest; is Zippia.com’s highest ranked Kansas small college with the highest earning graduates; stands at #57 among 829 U.S. colleges and universities listed by lendEDU as “Best for Financial Aid”; has the #10 RN-to-BSN program in Kansas according to RNtoBSN.com; and earned its second-straight NAIA Champions of Character Five-Star gold award, based on student service and academic achievement, all for 2019-20. For more information, see www.bethelks.edu  

About Bethel

As the first Mennonite college founded in North America, Bethel College celebrates a tradition of progressive Christian liberal arts education, diversity within community, and lifelong learning.