Jon Onye Lockard, 83, lecturer and a founding faculty member of the Department of Afromerican and African Studies, died March 25 in Ann Arbor.
Lockard, a native Detroiter, also was a professor emeritus at Washtenaw Community College, where he taught life drawing and portraiture for more than 40 years.
Among his many positions and appointments over the years, including being a past president and lifetime member of the National Conference of Artists, Lockard also served as a senior art adviser for the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. memorial in Washington, D.C.
“Jon Onye Lockard was a giant tree who stood tall and mighty among the forest of colleagues, sheltering and nourishing the young minds he schooled, not only in academics, but in life. It will be difficult to recover from this great loss,” said Frieda Ekotto, DAAS chair and professor of comparative literature, and romance languages and literature.
A world-renowned master painter and muralist, Lockard’s art can be found across campus, where he painted many of the murals in the residence halls’ multicultural lounges, including those in South and West Quad, and the pieces displayed throughout the walls of DAAS.
Some of his other notable pieces include a series of murals at Wayne State University titled “Continuum,” as well as paintings and murals at Central State University and the Charles H. Wright Musuem of African American History. His work was featured in “Walls of Pride” by Robin Dunitz and several additional publications.
At the time of his death, he was completing a series of books for students, emerging artists and art appreciators encompassing more than 50 years of insights in the arts.
At Lockard’s memorial service on March 30, former students such as Devin Gardner and James Lee spoke about the impact he made upon their lives by challenging them to discover the meaning of the West African principle of Sankofa: You don’t know where you are going, if you don’t know where you’ve been.
Later, his friend and colleague Willis “Bing” Davis gave a moving testimony to the incredible legacy that Lockard left not only with his art, but with his generous spirit.
Lockard’s contributions to DAAS included implementing conferences and symposia on the arts of Africa, curating art exhibitions as well as teaching. He led student and alumni trips to historic settings like Williamsburg, Bowling Green, Hampton University and the MLK Memorial in Washington, D.C., practicing an early style of community engagement — as always a visionary looking forward.
Like the baobab tree imprinted on his signet ring, Lockard’s legacy will continue. His students are the seeds that will spread his thoughts around the world, his art will continue to illuminate U-M’s campus with his incomparable vision, and his spirit will resonate in our hearts for eternity.
— Submitted by Elizabeth A. James, Department for Afroamerican and African Studies