“Bet You Never Even Knew When I Stole It,” Christmas, 1991

For many years before Rice began offering degrees in Art, students who were artistically inclined tended to flock to the Architecture Department for their undergraduate studies. Some of these students became practicing architects, others never did. One of those who pursued a career as an artist was Stella Sullivan ’45, pictured here in her studio in the early 1960s:

Here is a short bio from the Foltz Fine Art Gallery here in Houston, which represented her:

Stella Sullivan was born in Houston, Texas. She earned her degree in architecture from Rice Institute (now Rice University) and worked for her father in architectural drafting. She received private lessons from artist, Ola McNeill Davidson, and attended classes at Museum School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Sullivan moved to Michigan where she studied at the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts, later transferring to the Cranbrook Academy of Art where she graduated with her master of fine arts degree. Sullivan was an instructor at the Museum School (now Glassell School) of Art, the University of Houston, Sam Houston State University, and the University of Delaware. She established the Stella Sullivan School of Art where she taught painting, drawing, design, and silk-screening during the 1970s. Her career as an artist and teacher in Houston spans seven decades.

After Sullivan died in 2017, her papers came to the Woodson. They are a true treasure, full of interesting correspondence, and as I dug through them when they first arrived I discovered that Sullivan maintained close connections to her Rice classmates for her entire life. One especially close friendship was with Bill Condon ’49. (His graduation was delayed, as was true for many young men of his generation, by military service in World War II.) Here they are together in an undated image:

I’ve mentioned Condon here before, in connection with a suspiciously good cover for a Rondelet program. He was a practicing architect but also an active artist, excelling at both painting and printmaking, often combining a wide variety of materials in his compositions. Every year he sent Sullivan a little Christmas card of his own creation. They are delicate and pretty and these scans don’t really do them justice at all. This one was sent on 1973:

And this collage, from 1991, appears to include a piece of fabric that he must have lifted from her studio while she wasn’t looking:


Bonus: There’s a Bill Condon painting hanging in Mr. Rice History Corner’s study.


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5 Responses to “Bet You Never Even Knew When I Stole It,” Christmas, 1991

  1. Pat Martin says:

    Melissa, I knew Stella’s sister, Margo Sullivan Hibler, for nearly 50 years through church. Margo was also a Rice alum and married a fellow student, Oscar Hibler, in 1945. She just passed away this past summer. While not an artist, Margo had a flair for living and was sharp as a tack until the end. There were six Sullivan children–I wonder if others went to Rice.

    • Margaret Lawler says:

      There were seven Sullivan children, actually. My mother, Elizabeth Sullivan Lawler, was the oldest girl and Rice class of 1935. Six of the seven children graduated from what was then Rice Institute: Maurice J. Sullivan, Jr; Elizabeth; Charles Fitzsimon Sullivan (also an architect who practiced in Houston); King Sullivan; Margaret Ann (Margo) Sullivan HIbler, and Stella. The youngest, William Winston Sullivan, went to college in St. Louis. Bill Condon was a big part of our Lawler lives, too – he made a fabric art piece of the Lawler family home in Westmoreland as a wedding present when my husband Arturo Volpe and I married in November 1991 at Cohen House/Rice Faculty Club. Margaret Lawler

  2. Sandy Havens, '57 says:

    One of our wedding gifts was a small print by Stella Sullivan.

  3. Bob Casey says:

    Stella was the daughter of Maurice Sullivan, the architect who designed St. Anne Church and the Villa de Matel Convent, among other buildings.

  4. David M. Bynog says:

    Stella Sullivan also created Christmas Cards, at least printed or lithographed ones. Hopefully there are a few examples among her papers.

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