Jane Fortune


Honorary Degree (2010)
Doctor of Humane Letters
Location: Indianapolis
Presenter: Michael McRobbie
IUPUI Spirit of Philanthropy Award (2008)


Born and raised in Indianapolis, Jane was recognized as an author, art historian, art collector, philanthropist and cultural editor. Her commitment to supporting women artists was observed locally, nationally and internationally. She served on boards of directors for multiple organizations, including Herron's Dean's Advisory Board, the Indianapolis Museum of Art, the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) and was the founder and chairman of The Florence Committee of NMWA in Italy.

It was her deep devotion to elevating women artists, both past and present and their creative voices that inspired her to establish the Jane Fortune Outstanding Women Visiting Artist Lecture at Herron. The annual lecture featured the nation's top contemporary female artists, including Audrey Flack, Betty Woodman and Judith Shea. Jane shares, "I believe women artists have been greatly underrepresented in the past. The visiting artist lecture provides a forum for recognizing their talents and their contributions."

In addition, Jane, and her life partner Robert R. Hesse, Ed.D, together with her brother William L. Fortune, Jr. and Joseph D. Blakley, provided the means for Herron to acquire Judith Shea's sculpture, Job, which was on loan to Herron from the artist. "It's rather a funny story," says Jane."The sculpture was actually purchased sight unseen. We were visiting the Eleanor Prest Reese and Robert B. Berkshire galleries and learned that the piece was draped and crated to be returned to Judith Shea. We enthusiastically inquired about making a gift to Herron so that the piece could be permanently returned to its prominent location at the front of Eskenazi Hall."

Jane's impact on Herron's students didn't end on campus. In her adopted hometown of Florence, Italy, where she and Bob spent several months each year, she generously hosted a group of students participating in Herron's 2009 study abroad program. She inspired the students with her enthusiasm for art history, art education and her eager interest in their career aspirations. Jane shared, "My first experience of traveling abroad was to Florence, Italy where I spent my junior year. It was incredible to see the art I had only studied in books come to life. Traveling and/or studying abroad will change your life forever. It certainly changed mine."

Having completed her books To Florence, Con Amore in 2007, and most recently Invisible Women: Forgotten Artists in Florence in 2009, Jane also funded several restoration projects in Florence to preserve works by women artists, hidden for centuries in the storages of the Florence Museums. In 2014, the Indiana Historical Society recognized Jane and her life partner, Robert Hesse, as "Living Legends." Her last book, When the World Answered: Florence, Women Artists and the 1966 Flood became an Emmy-nominated PBS documentary in 2015. Because she believed art therapy is a much needed way to reach out to people with disabilities and make art accessible, she was involved with Herron's new Master in Art Therapy degree program.