Students and colleagues remember UI professor of African Art History Christopher Roy

UI faculty and students remember the life of storied Professor Christopher Roy in the School of Art and Art History.


Andy Mitchell, News Reporter

African-art history Professor Christopher Roy has left behind a legacy after 41 years at the University of Iowa, a tenure that spans continents and changed the university forever. The professor died on the Sunday at 71.

Roy’s former students and colleagues shared memories of his dedication to his students, his teaching, and the numerous cultures he studied.

UI Professor Steve McGuire, the director of the School of Art and Art History, noted that he was one of Roy’s students 38 years ago.

“He was one of the first people I knew to combine the study of art and life in a uniquely compelling way,” McGuire said.

He was one of the first people I knew to combine the study of art and life in a uniquely compelling way.

— Steve McGuire

McGuire said Roy was one of the first adopters of digital technology on campus and disseminated his research to the public over a digital format nearly 30 years ago.

Now, Roy’s YouTube channel has more than 10,000 subscribers and has garnered millions of views with videos about life and art in Africa.

Roy’s stories of studying art and different cultures in Africa first stood out to McGuire in his class, where the stories came from Roy’s experience.

“He really lived the culture and art he studied,” McGuire said. “It was so impressive to see his passion.”

McGuire spoke about Roy’s achievements in Africa as being accomplished under challenging situations. One of those accomplishments was taking video of ceremonies that had never been documented before. He said Roy specialized in cultural sensitivity and made it a mission to help students understand cultures much different from their own.

“He had a really good sense of humor; he had a deep love and affection for students. It’s incredible,” McGuire said. “He loved teaching in a way you always admire in a colleague, and as a student, you always hope you run into a professor who loves teaching as much as he did.”

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Nearly 300 students every fall semester would take Roy’s survey course on African art.

UI student Laura Flores took Roy’s African Art course in the fall 2018 semester.

Flores said she was impressed by Roy’s articulation and his knowledge of different cultures and peoples of Africa. One of the stories Roy told was about how he was inducted into a high position in an African tribe.

“He just had a really great appreciation for African people and African culture in general,” Flores said.

UI Professor Monica Correia, head of the 3D-design program and undergraduate-studies director at the School of Art and Art History, said she would remember Roy as a positive force as a colleague who always had something unique to say.

Because she’s from Brazil, Correia said, Roy would try to relate to her country and find positive things to say about it, even learning how to informally say “hello” to her in Portuguese.

She said when she was a newer faculty member, Roy was conscious of making sure young faculty felt welcome and involved in discussions.

“The students really loved him, and I could see why from his personality and his behavior as a colleague,” Correia said.