UW-Madison art professor who taught thousands of students dies at 75

April 9, 2019

Retired UW-Madison art professor Truman Lowe (Wakajah), whose internationally acclaimed sculptures reflected his Ho-Chunk heritage, died in his Madison home March 30. He was 75.

Lowe joined the School of Education’s Art Department in 1975 and spent 35 years teaching thousands of students about art before retiring in 2010.

“Truman was a quiet force in the Art Department, leading by example over the course of a long and productive career,” department chair Douglas Rosenberg said in a university announcement. “Through his teaching, service and activism, he taught us what an artist could be in the world and how we can, through art, help make the world a more inclusive and thoughtful place.”

His works appeared in exhibits around the world from Cameroon to Bolivia to Oregon to the White House Sculpture Garden. He was known for using natural materials, such as wood, to shape objects that represent the relationship between nature and culture.

From 2000 to 2008, he was curator of contemporary art for the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian.

Even after retiring, Lowe stopped by Rosenberg’s office to offer words of encouragement and share his own stories about leading the department.

Lowe served as chair of the Art Department from 1992 to 1995. He also served on the Chancellor’s Scholarship Committee from 1984 to 2004 recruiting underrepresented students to UW-Madison.

Lowe was born on Jan. 19, 1944, and grew up in a Ho-Chunk community near Black River Falls. He earned his undergraduate degree from UW-La Crosse and taught art at Valders High School, about 45 miles north of Milwaukee.

“I know from legend that he was an incredibly caring, thoughtful teacher,” Rosenberg said. “He was all about teaching.

Lowe is survived by his wife of 52 years, Nancy (Knabe) Lowe; daughter, Tonia Lowe; and grandson Anders Page.

A memorial service is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. May 5 at the Pyle Center, 702 Langdon St., Madison.