MBU Community Remembers Desportes

February 19, 2018

Professor Emeritus of Art Ulysse Desportes died February 14, 2018, at Shenandoah Valley Nursing Home. He was 97 years old.

Memories of Desportes encompass the professional and personal sides of a man known on campus as an energetic instructor who laughed easily, loved to tell stories, and was himself a talented artist.

Desportes, from the 1971 Bluestocking.

“He had a broad and deep command of art history and was passionate about art — as he was about life, said Sara Nair James ’69, professor emerita of art history. “He was also an accomplished and versatile artist. He painted several portraits of MBC presidents and others, including the one of Sam Spencer.”

“I remember Ulysse working with Betty Lynn Baker on the sculpting of her ‘Mad Anthony Wayne’ bust that I think still stands in the Waynesboro public library,” said his daughter Laura Desportes ’79. “He was fascinated with hands … they figure prominently in his portraits. And [when he] painted my portrait when I was a student at Mary Baldwin playing my guitar he fussed obsessively over the hands.”

In Desportes, “we had a glimpse of the Homo universale, or ‘universal man’ in the Renaissance sense of that phrase,” said his colleague Professor Emeritus of Music Robert Allen. “He wore his wide learning lightly. He saw through the follies and vanity of our life and never tired of mocking them.”

Allen recalled that Desportes loved music and rarely missed one of MBU’s Broman Concerts or recitals. Before suffering a stroke in August, Desportes liked to be out and about near his home in downtown Staunton. He preferred walking to driving, Allen said, and he especially enjoyed taking long walks with his beloved dogs Kirby and Katie.