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Robert J. ‘Jack’ Lambert, artist and professor, dies at 86

Jack LambertRobert J. “Jack” Lambert Jr. ’50, professor emeritus of freehand drawing, died August 8 at Kendal at Ithaca. He was 86.

Lambert studied ornithology, anthropology, drawing and fine arts as an undergraduate at Cornell, and completed a master’s degree in anthropology and zoology at the University of Michigan in 1951. After doing anthropological field work in Peru, he returned to Cornell as a drawing instructor in 1953 and spent the next 45 years teaching freehand, nature and scientific drawing and watercolor in the College of Agriculture, primarily in the Department of Floriculture and Ornamental Horticulture.

Starting in 1962, Lambert led the Freehand Drawing Program, which traces its roots back to Cornell’s founding, and was promoted to full professor in 1977. During that time, he nurtured the artistic abilities of innumerable students throughout the University, especially those studying landscape architecture and design.

“Jack inspired generations of artists who now engage in all walks of life, from the life sciences, to communications, marketing, medicine and a host of other disciplines,” said Marcia Eames-Sheavly, senior extension associate/lecturer in the Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science.

“He taught the power of keen observation, and encouraged students to pause to record nature’s beauty everywhere,” she added. “He possessed a wry wit, strong opinion, and a unique lens through which he viewed the world. And his dedication to teaching made him beloved by students.” Eames-Sheavly was one of those students, and she is carrying on Lambert’s legacy by teaching the Art of Horticulture and a series of online botanical illustration courses.

Lambert retired in 1997, but continued teaching as an emeritus professor, including a weekly lunchtime art class for employees.

His artwork has been exhibited in numerous galleries, museums and juried shows, and is included in many publications and private collections. He also planned and supervised the construction of a rock garden at Cornell Plantations.

He and his late wife Nina were active members of numerous horticultural organizations including the North American Rock Garden Society, and hosted many tours of their Cayuga Heights garden.

“Jack was a gifted artist, endearing professor and valued member of a department where art and science did not always intermingle comfortably,” said professor emeritus Thomas Weiler, former chair of the Department of Floriculture and Ornamental Horticulture. “He generously shared his finely honed techniques, bringing out unrealized talents in his students. He will be missed by all who knew him.”

Lambert is survived by his daughter, Sarah L. Lambert and son-in-law Michael J. Ward, of Port Jervis, N.Y. In lieu of flowers, donations in Jack’s memory may be made to Kendal at Ithaca.

Visit Jack Lambert’s memorial page.

In retirement, Lambert continued teaching a weekly lunchtime art class for employees.

In retirement, Lambert continued teaching a weekly lunchtime art class for employees.

Jack and students at Flatrock

When then Floriculture and Ornamental Horticulture chair Tom Weiler retired, he requested Jack paint a picture for him of Jack with his students. The result: This scene at Flat Rock on Fall Creek.


Minns Garden and the Liberty Hyde Bailey Conservatory


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