College News

Macalester Mourns the Passing of Joan Adams Mondale '52

February 03, 2014

CATEGORY: College News

Macalester College and the Macalester community mourn the passing of Joan Adams Mondale, wife of former Vice President Walter Mondale '50, and alumna who graduated from Macalester in 1952.

"Macalester has lost an alumna, passionate champion, and friend," said President Brian Rosenberg. "Joan's dedication to the college, keen mind, and extraordinary heart will be sorely missed on campus, as through the rest of Minnesota.  Our condolences go to Vice President Mondale and the entire Mondale family."

Joan was a life-long Macalester supporter, serving as a Trustee from 1986 to 2007. Known for her advocacy of the arts, she proposed the trustee practice of setting aside one percent of construction project budgets to be used for public art on campus.  Her policy is responsible for much of the public art installed in campus buildings constructed or renovated since 2000 such as the Ruth Stricker Dayton Campus Center, Markim Hall, the renovated Alumni House, and the renovated and expanded Janet Wallace Fine Arts Center.  Joan and Walter Mondale also donated a collection of Japanese pottery to Macalester.  That collection is on display in Markim Hall, home to the Institute for Global Citizenship.

Joan Adams was born in Eugene, Oregon, one of three daughters of the Rev. John Maxwell Adams, a Presbyterian minister, and his wife, the former Eleanor Jane Hall. Joan graduated from St. Paul Academy and Summit School and then enrolled at Macalester and discovered her lifelong passion in the arts. Her father was Macalester's chaplain when he married Joan and Walter in 1955.

An accomplished potter who studied art at Macalester, Joan worked in galleries before moving to Washington as a Senator's wife in 1964.  While in Washington she led guided tours at the National Gallery of Art.  Later she turned the Vice Presidential Mansion into a showcase of American art, with works by Rauschenberg, Hopper, Nevelson, and Adams.

As the U.S. Ambassador's wife in Japan, she enthusiastically promoted intercultural understanding through art, redecorating the Embassy with American paintings and organizing tours with a bilingual guide. She and Walter frequently hosted Macalester friends and guests at the Ambassador’s home.

Once back in Minnesota, Joan continued to make her own pottery and promote the arts. In addition to serving as a Macalester trustee she served on the board of the Minnesota Orchestra, the Walker Art Center, and the National Portrait Gallery. In 2004, The Textile Center in Minneapolis endowed an exhibition space in her honor, the Joan Mondale Gallery, perhaps America's chief showcase for fiber art.

A memorial service will be held Saturday, Feb. 8, at 12:30 p.m. at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 1200 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis, MN 55403.