Remembering William Daley: 1925-2022

January 31, 2022

University of the Arts was deeply saddened to learn of ceramic artist William Daley’s passing on Jan. 16 at the age of 96. For nearly 40 years, Daley was an important and influential figure at UArts, where his studio practice intertwined with his life as an arts educator.

Daley’s teaching style was inspirational, drawing on references to literature and philosophy, as well as all forms of art. He nurtured countless students, including many who later established their own renowned careers. For his visionary work in clay—or “mud,” as he affectionately called it—Daley was awarded an honorary doctorate from UArts in 1994. In addition, Daley held an honorary doctorate from Maine College of Art and was celebrated with distinguished awards from the College Art Association, American Craft Council, the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage and Northern Clay Center.

“As an artist, Bill was ceaselessly engaged in exploring the possibilities of ceramics as a medium and the vessel as a form,” UArts’ President and CEO David Yager said. “As a teacher, he was equally devoted to his students, introducing them to the joy of making for making’s sake. He left an indelible mark on UArts, and his legacy will forever be linked to his generosity, his extraordinary work and the countless contributions he made to the arts. He will be sorely missed.”

Daley was born in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York, and his father, a house painter and art lover, supported his creative endeavors. After surviving prison camp during World War II, Daley graduated in 1950 from Massachusetts College of Art, where he met and married Catherine Anne Stennes, who preceded him in death. The two were married for 70 years. Daley received his graduate degree from Columbia University Teachers College in 1952.

Many of Daley’s large, unglazed stoneware vessels have been featured in numerous prominent exhibitions and are included in the permanent collections of many museums, including the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Art and Design, and the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American Art. In and around Philadelphia, Daley’s architectural commissions can be found on the exterior wall of the Ritz Five theater, at Germantown Friends School and at the Westminster Presbyterian Church in West Chester.

A memorial service is expected to take place later in the spring. In addition, those who wish to experience Daley’s charm, sense of humor and unique approach to ceramics are encouraged to watch the documentary Mud Architect, created by emeritus faculty member Thomas Porrett. Mud Architect will also be shown via Thursday, March 31.