Jeannette Genius McKean
Famed Winter Park Artist.
Jeannette Genius McKean, widely acclaimed Winter Park artist and interior decorator who with her educator husband assembled the world's greatest collection of Tiffany glass work, died late Wednesday in Winter Park Memorial Hospital after a long illness.
Mrs. McKean, 80, was the wife of Hugh F. McKean, president of Rollins College from 1951 until 1969. She had been president of the Winter Park Land Co., which she inherited, and owned The Center Street Gallery in Winter Park.
With a quiet reserve that belied her accomplishments, Jeannette Genius, as she was known professionally, deftly melded her artistic talents with business interests and philanthropy - much of it dedicated to retaining the charm of her beloved Winter Park.
A trustee emeritus of Rollins College, Mrs. McKean also was founder and chairwoman of the Charles Hosmer Morse Foundation, named for her grandfather, and the Elizabeth Morse Genius Foundation, named for her mother. She also was a director of Sun Bank N.A. in Winter Park.
''She was just a marvelous lady who did so much for Winter Park,'' said former Winter Park Mayor Hope Strong. ''Jeannette McKean was really a true gentlewoman. Everybody loved her who knew her.''
Mrs. McKean was one of the leaders of downtown beautification in Winter Park, generous with her time and talents, Strong said.
Strong also described her as a self-effacing person.
''She was a grand lady and we all mourn her passing,'' said Strong. ''We've really lost a wonderful friend.''
Rollins Collins President Thaddeus Seymour said, ''Rollins has lost a dear friend whose example of compassion, care and gentle generosity touched us all and shaped the modern history of Rollins College.''
Mrs. McKean served on the Rollins College board of trustees from 1936 to 1939 and from 1942 to 1975. Flags on the campus have been lowered to half-staff until after funeral services Monday.
Both her award-winning paintings and interior designs and decorations were displayed nationally and internationally. Her paintings grace a number of museum collections. Her entry to the summer 1953 show at the Butler Gallery of American Art in Youngstown, Ohio, won first prize, awarded by famed artist Edward Hopper.
John Tiedtke, a close friend of the McKeans for many years, recalled that lovely colors animated Mrs. McKean's paintings.
''Above everything,'' said Tiedtke, ''she had very good taste and a very good sense of appropriateness.''
Tiedtke was among the handful of artists involved in the Center Street Gallery in Winter Park when Mrs. McKean opened it in the 1930s. She owned and operated the gallery and its gift shop for many years. ''The present gallery was a favorite of hers. She really ran it like an art museum,'' said Tiedtke.
Dick Hill, co-manager of the gift shop side of the gallery for the past five years, recalled Mrs. McKean as ''an active person and a tireless worker.'' He said her sense of taste continues to shape the way the gallery is run.
Hill had been associated in business with Mrs. McKean since 1968. He said he admired Mrs. McKean's energy and enjoyed her sense of humor, but he said he would treasure most ''her infinite capacity to write the most beautiful thank-you notes.''
Mrs. McKean was the granddaughter of Charles Hosmer Morse, who first visited Winter Park in 1881, returned in 1904, founded a land company and bought up almost all the undeveloped acreage in the city.
Born in Chicago, she later moved with her parents to New York. She was educated at Dana Hall and Pine Manor Junior College, both in Wellesley, Mass. Encouraged by her mother, she studied art at Grand Central Art School and the Art Students League in New York.
The family regularly visited her grandfather in Winter Park and eventually moved to the city.
Hugh and Jeannette McKean were friends for a number of years before they married upon Hugh McKean's return from service in World War II in 1945.
Their famed collection of art glass by Louis Comfort Tiffany began with pieces inherited from Mrs. McKean's parents. In 1955, they borrowed some items from the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Smithsonian Institution for a Tiffany exhibition at Rollins College. They also shopped at antique stores, acquiring some Tiffany pieces for as little as $10.
Tiffany was out of vogue at the time. Today such works sell for thousands of dollars.
Their collection expanded in 1957 when they visited Laurelton Hall, Tiffany's mansion at Oyster Bay, Long Island, that was destroyed by fire. They brought in the wrecking crews, gathered everything that could be saved and had it trucked to Florida - jewelry-like windows, vases, lamps and sculptures. Over the years they filled in the gaps to provide a collection that reflected the entire range of Tiffany's works.
Many of the irreplaceable items are displayed in the McKeans' Morse Museum of American Art in Winter Park. The McKeans donated the loggia from Laurelton Hall to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. A spokesman for the Metropolitan said that the ''Wisteria'' window donated by the McKeans, reproduced on the cover of the museum's ''American Wing'' catalogue, has made for one of the museum's most popular postcards.
''I learned to admire and appreciate Tiffany through Hugh,'' Mrs. McKean told Florida magazine in 1979. ''He was an emotional and mental giant. I share his belief in the goodness of life. Hugh and I love nature, and that is a bond between Tiffany and us.''
The McKeans have made arrangements to keep their collection in Winter Park, although they have been asked to donate it to several museums, Hugh McKean said recently. Their plans call for the construction of an endowed museum in Winter Park, he said.
As national and international acclaim for her paintings and interior designs grew, Mrs. McKean became recognized as one of Central Florida's most accomplished women. She was one of 14 recipients of the 1989 statewide Florida Arts Recognition Awards. In 1987 the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce named her Outstanding Citizen of the Year.
Services for Mrs. McKean will be held at 11 a.m. Monday in Knowles Memorial Chapel on the Rollins College campus. They will be led by Arnold Wettstein, dean of the chapel, and Theodore Darrah, dean emeritus, who was dean of the chapel during the McKean era.
Surviving Mrs. McKean are her husband; her brother, Richard Genius of Chicago; and several cousins.
The family will receive friends at the Morse Museum of American Art, 133 E. Welbourne Ave. in Winter Park, from 3 to 5 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. Sunday.
The family requests contributions to Winter Park Memorial Hospital in lieu of flowers.
Online Source: Orlando Sentinel - August 11, 1989
By Chuck Twardy & Charlie Jean Of The Sentinel Staff