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Faces Behind the Places of DePauw University

This guide includes historical information about the people behind DePauw University's building names.

Richard E. Peeler

Richard E. Peeler
August 8, 1926 – December 22, 1998

Richard PeelerOne of Indiana’s best-known ceramicists, Richard E. Peeler dedicated his life to art and art education. Peeler met Marj, his life-long art companion, in their high school art class, marrying in 1948. After serving as a master sergeant during World War II, Peeler received his degree in art from DePauw University in 1949 and his graduate degree in education from Indiana University in 1951. After teaching art at his first alma mater, Arsenal Technical High School, Peeler became a respected professor at DePauw in 1958. He spent the spring term of 1966 as a visiting lecturer at Kyoto City College of Fine Arts in Japan. While he taught many artistic mediums, Peeler’s influence stimulated the expansion of DePauw’s ceramic offerings.

From 1965-68, Peeler produced eight educational films entitled the Ceramic Art Films Series for McGraw-Hill which were widely used for ceramic instruction. The films examine ceramic history and techniques, Japanese influence on ceramics, and leading American and Japanese potters. Peeler was an author of numerous articles in Ceramics Monthly, appearing on the cover twice. He served as President of the National Council on Education for the Ceramics Arts, Director of the Indiana Artists-Craftsmen and the Indiana Potters Guild.

The Peelers were Putnam County icons. In 1952, they moved into the country, building their own home out of rammed earth from the soil on the site. The Peeler’s home included their studio, Peeler Pottery. Working as a husband and wife team, Richard and Marj Peeler created primarily functional pottery, and additionally, other ceramic work, woodwork, gourd art, and fabric crafts. The Peelers reported making 10,000 pottery pieces a year. Visiting their home was an event. Peeler was the trainer and showman of the “celebrated jumping fish of Putnam County,” which Peeler caught and trained to jump through hoops for their food. Though the fish were new each year, their names were always the same, Orca, Shamu, Splash, Killer, and Russel.

Even after Peeler retired early to focus on making art, he was an active supporter of DePauw. For 39 seasons, Peeler filmed the DePauw football games for the coaching staff. DePauw’s art exhibits frequently display Peeler and Marj’s work, including a retrospective of their work in 1986. Designed by internationally-acclaimed architect Carlos Jiménez, the Richard E. Peeler Art Center was dedicated in October 11, 2002. The building is the first in DePauw’s history to be dedicated primarily to the teaching, creation, and display of art.

                                                                      Peeler Art Center