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A Legacy of Art and Beauty
Sep 15, 2022

Chaplain Monsignor Don Fischer and Lyle lay out planks for the ceiling of the Lynch Auditorium porch, where Sunday liturgies were held until the church was completed in 1985.

 

Father Don had been an art major before going into the seminary and helped Lyle with various projects around campus

 

Professor Emeritus of Art Lyle Novinski and his wife, Sybil, moved to Texas from Chicago in 1960 when he was hired as an art professor at the four-year-old University of Dallas. They did not believe it to be a long-term appointment—two years, at most. UD was still a fledgling enterprise, a handful of bland buildings on a barren hill; Irving was one-tenth of its current size and Dallas not very bustling or intriguing either. Still, at UD, there were the Cistercians, the Sisters of St. Mary of Namur who had helped found the university, and Donald and Louise Cowan, among other notable faculty. There were already the seeds of what UD would become.

In 1965, when the second art building was completed, the Novinskis were still at UD and about to become even more firmly entrenched: Lyle Novinski began his nearly 40 years as chair of the Art Department after Cistercian monk Phillip Richard Szeitz, the department’s founder and first chair, resigned that spring. Through the years, Lyle nourished and built upon the department’s relation-ship with Beatrice Menne Haggerty. “Both Midwest-erners, they shared an interest in landscape and architec-ture that encouraged [Lyle’s] long-standing involvement in design solution for the campus, including the Con-stantin Memorial Garden and the redesign of the Haggar circle area when the Haggerty Art Village was completed in 2000,” wrote Sybil in her 2006 history of the university. “To Mrs. Haggerty he pledged that they would never cut a tree unnecessarily when adding to the art center.” Going further than simply not cutting trees, Lyle planted UD’s flowering peach trees, among others.

Over the years, Lyle led students in a multitude of projects to beautify the campus, including building the stairs around the gym to the pool and parking lot, land-scaping the seminary side of Braniff Graduate Building, and creating a walk through the woods to the East Quad. He and students helped former Associate Vice President of Administration Patrick Daly, BA ’76 MBA ’82, design and build the first Cap Bar in fall 1981.

Before there was a church, Sybil recalled, “There are so many stories I can tell about all five of our children helping their dad set up for some ceremony such as the incredible Advent Masses in the gym—Lyle became the master of changing areas into sacred spaces.” When the Church of the Incarnation was constructed in 1985, Lyle was instrumental, serving as liturgical consultant and designing the liturgical appointments such as a baptismal font and an altar.

Under Lyle’s leadership, UD awarded the first 63-credit MFA degrees in 1970. Influence of UD M.A. and MFAs has been considerable in the region; many North Texas com-munity college art faculty hail from UD’s art programs.

“The biggest influence Professor Novinski had on me was teaching me how to read the campus like a big piece of art,” said art major Elisa (Choffel) Low, BA ’03. “For example, the chapel is an intersecting square and circle. The circle is the sanctuary, and the square is the narthex and patio. The patio’s roof was deliberately built the same height as the tree canopy, so you have a seamless transition from the outdoors to the patio to the indoors. The Art Village’s new buildings were built with copper, because copper fades and weathers to a particular shade of green that blends in with the trees that are back there. So for the first 20 years you could still see the copper, but now they finally blend into the landscape as the designer intended. There are stories and meanings behind almost every building on campus just like this, and Lyle knows them all.”

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