At the University of Wyoming (UW) commencement ceremonies May 12 – 13, 2017, Peter H. Hassrick, Director Emeritus and Senior Scholar at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, received an honorary doctoral degree, the university’s highest award.
Hassrick was born in Philadelphia and raised in Denver. He earned his master’s degree in art history (1969) from the University of Denver and his bachelor’s degree in history (1963) from the University of Colorado.
A leading authority on art of the American West, Hassrick has wrote extensively on western artists, including Frederic Remington, Charles Russell, Alexander Phimister Proctor, Ernest Blumenschein, and John Mix Stanley. Among his numerous books are Frederic Remington, The Way West, Painted Journeys: The Art of John Mix Stanley with Mindy Besaw, and Drawn to Yellowstone: Artists in America’s First National Park, which was re-released in 2016 to coincide with the centennial of the National Park Service.
In 1976, Hassrick became the executive director of the Buffalo Bill Historical Center (now the Buffalo Bill Center of the West) in Cody, Wyoming. During his 20-year tenure, he helped to grow the Center, both physically and fiscally, and to transform it from a community museum into a nationally and internationally recognized institution. For his distinguished service to the field of art, he received the Wyoming Governor’s Arts Award.
Hassrick left Wyoming to become the founding director of the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He also was the founding director of the Charles M. Russell Center for the Study of Art of the American West at the University of Oklahoma. Additionally, he directed the Denver Art Museum’s Petrie Institute of Western American Art. After he returned to Cody, he served as Director Emeritus and Senior Scholar at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West. He continued to curate art exhibitions, lecture on art of the American West, and write numerous publications. Hassrick passed away in 2019.
“He is a very gifted man with rare intelligence, wisdom, and the ability to express often complex aspects of art in a way that becomes very understandable and meaningful to those under his tutelage in his classes or lectures,” wrote Wyoming retired U.S. Sen. Alan Simpson at the time of this announcement (2017).
“He is a person of the highest integrity, and his work reflects the highest echelon of scholarship,” wrote Bruce Eldredge, Executive Director and CEO of the Buffalo Bill Center of the West. “His years of service as a museum director and art historian in the state of Wyoming bring credit to the university, to the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, and to the state of Wyoming. Hassrick, like William F. ‘Buffalo Bill’ Cody, is truly a ‘Man of the West and a Man of the World.”
UW alumni, current or former trustees, and faculty members can nominate individuals who embody the university’s high ideals; exemplify the values of excellence, service and integrity; and possess distinguished accomplishments in their professions, public service, or service to humanity. Submissions are referred to a joint committee of trustees and faculty members, which then forwards recommendations to the full Board of Trustees for approval.
A 1972 UW graduate, Paula Green Johnson, an advocate and volunteer with numerous health and human services, arts, educational, and governmental organizations, is also receiving an honorary doctorate from the university.
Celebrating its Centennial throughout 2017, the award-winning Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyoming, has devoted itself to sharing the story of the authentic American West since its launch in 1917 following the death of William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody. The Center is an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution. For additional information, visit centerofthewest.org or the Center’s Facebook page. #100YearsMore