Washington College Magazine

College Trustee Bequeaths Art Book Collection

April 12, 2013
When the Honorable Robert W. Duemling died July 13, it was the end of an extraordinary life of service—as a career diplomat, museum director, teacher and philanthropist.

Washington College, where he served as a trustee, a senior fellow in the art department and on the C.V. Starr Center Board, has long been a beneficiary of his inspiration and largesse.

Last summer, he decided to bequeath his extensive collection of art and architectural history books to the College. An art history graduate, Sean Meade ’12, devoted months to cataloging the books. 

The Duemling collection consists of more than 600 volumes, ranging from rare reference works to limited edition, signed publications of relatively little-known works of art in private collections.

Donald McColl, the Nancy L. Underwood associate professor of art history, and one of Duemling’s longtime friends, notes: “While it is particularly strong in the areas of European and American art and architecture, the collection also has many non-Western titles, having to do with everything from the architecture of the great Ottoman architect, Mimar Sinan, known as “Sinan” (ca. 1490-1588), to modern Japanese art.”

Duemling had traveled the world as a member of the U.S. Foreign Service. He specialized in political affairs and the East Asian region, with assignments in Kuala Lumpur, Kuching (Borneo), Osaka and Tokyo.  He was also executive assistant to the head of the East Asian Bureau of the State Department, and subsequently served in a similar capacity to the Deputy Secretary of State.  

Other postings abroad included Rome, Ottawa (deputy chief of mission, 1976-80) and as Ambassador to Suriname (1982-84).

During service in Washington, he was principal negotiator for assembling the foreign military components of the Sinai peacekeeping force (1981-82), and director of the Nicaraguan Humanitarian Assistance Organization (1985-87).

Duemling retired from the Foreign Service in 1987 in order to accept the position of President and Director of the National Building Museum in Washington, D. C., a post he held for six and one-half years. In retirement, he enjoyed his association with Washington College.

Together with his wife, Louisa Copeland Duemling, he received an honorary degree, the Doctor of Laws, during George Washington’s Birthday Convocation in 2010.

Last modified on Apr. 17th, 2013 at 10:02am by Otto Borden.