Members in the News

Obituary: Gavin Townsend (1956-2018)

by SAH News | Jun 05, 2018

Gavin Townsend, of Hixson, Tennessee, a professor of Art History at University of Tennessee, Chattanooga, died on June 3, 2018, at the age of 61. The cause of death was pancreatic cancer. 

 Gavin Townsend was born on June 16, 1956, in Santa Monica, Ca., son of Richard and Ruth Townsend.  The family moved to Mount Kisco, N.Y., when Gavin was three years old.  Gavin attended Hamilton College, Clinton, New York. Upon receiving his his bachelor’s degree in Art History and European History in 1978, he began his graduate education at the University of Santa Barbara where he received his Master’s in Art History in 1981 and his PhD in Art History in 1986.

Dr. Townsend was a professor of art history at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC) from 1986 until his death.  During his tenure at UTC, he served as Faculty Senate President (2006-2008), Faculty Senate Representative (2012-2018), Director and Assistant Director of the UTC Honors Program (1992-2003), and Gallery Coordinator for the George Ayers Cress Gallery of Art (1987-1992). He was a devoted member of the Southeast Chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians (“SESAH”) for which served as Treasurer (2013-2018). In past years, he was also active with the Chattanooga historic preservation organization Cornerstones (1998-2003) and the Historic Zoning Commission. Townsend’s research interests were focused on American architecture in the south.  

Dr. Townsend is survived by his wife, Bonnie Bickford Townsend, his son, Evan Townsend, his brother, Bryan Townsend (58), and his mother, Ruth Townsend Story. 

A memorial service is planned for June 16. For more information, please see Robbie D. Jones' Message from the President on the SESAH website. SESAH has also set up a Gavin Townsend Memorial Fund.

 Arrangements are held by the North Chapel of Chattanooga Funeral Home, Crematory and Florist, 5401 Highway 153, Hixson, Tn. 37343. Please share your thoughts and memories at

Dr. Townsend joined SAH in 1980 and was a longtime member of the Southeast Chapter of SAH, where he served as Tennessee Representative and Treasurer. He chaired the 2010 SESAH conference in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and presented at many SESAH conferences. Along with Robbie Jones and Claudette Stager, Dr. Townsend coordinated the Tennessee 100 Classic Buildings for SAH Archipedia


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