May 2000 Commencement Speaker
Sigmund Abeles, a world-renowned artist known for his drawings, paintings and prints, was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. in 1934. He grew up in Myrtle Beach, where his mother operated an eight-room boarding house, Paul's Guest House, which she operated until her death in 1983. Interested in art from an early age, he frequently visited Brookgreen Gardens throughout his youth and spent many hours making drawings of the sculptures there. Abeles graduated from Myrtle Beach High School in 1952 and entered the University of South Carolina, initially as a pre-medicine major, then switching to fine arts.
In the summer of 1954, he studied at the Arts Students League in New York City and had his first solo museum show at the Florence Art Museum in Florence, S.C. in 1955. He entered the Master's of Fine Arts program at Columbia University in 1956, graduating the following year. After a brief stint in the United States Army serving in Europe as an English teacher and illustrator, Abeles accepted the position of resident artist at Wellesley College, thus beginning his long, successful second career as a university professor. In addition to Wellesley, he has taught at Boston College, the Art Students League of New York, the Swain School of Design in New Bedford, Mass. and (for 17 years) the University of New Hampshire, where he is professor emeritus.
Abeles' works have been displayed in solo exhibits throughout the United States and are part of the permanent collections of more than 30 museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the Philadelphia Museum of Arts, and the British Museum in London.
Abeles received the honorary degree Doctor of Fine Arts from Coastal Carolina University during the commencement ceremony.