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Dr. Sumner McKnight Crosby

Sumner McKnight Crobsy was born on July 29, 1909 in Minneapolis, MN, the fifth of seven children of Franklin M. Crosby and Harriet McKnight Crosby. Crosby's father was the son of John Crosby, founder of the Washburn milling company; he later worked for the Washburn Crosby Co. and then became an executive with General Mills, whose origins are tied to the Washburn Crosby Co. Crobsy's mother was one of the three children of Sumner T. McKnight Sr., a highly successful lumberman, Minneapolis real estate pioneer, philanthropist and supporter of the arts; McKnight played a pivotal role in the early growth and expansion of Minneapolis.

Crosby studied art history at Yale University and then in France, after graduating from Phillips Academy, Andover, MA. Crosby obtained both his undergraduate degree (1932) and PhD (1937) from Yale, having spent some time at L'École nationale des chartes in Paris. While pursuing his studies he became captivated by medieval art and architecture, especially the abbey church of Saint-Denis, which became his lifelong research project. Before the outbreak of war, Crosby undertook several research and excavation trips to Paris to study Saint-Denis.

In 1941, Crosby transitioned from instructor to assistant professor of art history at Yale. Crosby was unable to continue his academic pursuits in France due to the outbreak of war. He served as executive secretary of the Committee on Protection of Cultural Treasures in War Areas of the American Council of Learned Societies, Special Advisor to the Roberts Commission as well as advisor to the State Department on the restitution of cultural objects. His interest in the protection of cultural heritage endured after the war and Crosby was appointed by the State Department to be Vice Chairman of the US Delegation to the 1954 Intergovernmental Conference on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict which took place in The Hague.

After the war, Crosby returned to Yale where he was named full professor in 1952 and then chairman of the art history department (1947-1953 and 1962-1965). The French government named Crosby a Chevalier in the Legion of Honor and an officer in the Order of Arts and Letters for his work on Saint-Denis and his contributions to the study of French civilization. Crosby died on November 16, 1982 in Woodbridge, CT.

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