ARI Tribute to Mary Ann Sures

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In Memoriam :: Mary Ann Sures

In Memoriam

MARY ANN SURES 1928–2020

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In Memoriam :: Mary Ann Sures

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trial attorney Charles Sures in 1965, she moved to Washington, DC, but kept up her friendship with Rand and her husband, Frank O’Connor. Mr. Sures, too, became a

ary Ann Sures — art historian, friend of Ayn Rand, and loyal supporter of the Ayn Rand Institute — died on August 2, 2020, at her home in Gaithersburg, Maryland. In this commemorative publication we pay tribute to her life by sharing remembrances from those who knew her, excerpts from her writings and talks, and facts about her life and her efforts to advance Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism.

Mary Ann Rukavina was born on October 17, 1928, in Detroit, Michigan, and educated in Detroit public schools, earning a bachelor’s degree from Wayne State University in 1950. In 1954, having moved Ayn Rand and her husband, Frank O’Connor, with Charles Sures and Mary Ann Sures at the Sures’s wedding in 1965. (Image courtesy Ayn Rand Archives) to New York City, she was introduced to Ayn Rand and became part of a circle of Rand’s friends friend, bonding with Rand over their shared who had been influenced by her 1943 interest in stamp collecting. The couple’s novel The Fountainhead. friendship with the O’Connors, which lasted until Rand’s death in 1982, is the subject of their memoir, Facets of Ayn Rand.

Rand hired her to type and proofread some of the final chapters of Atlas Shrugged, which the group read in manuscript during weekly gatherings in Rand’s apartment in the mid1950s. Upon Mary Ann Rukavina’s marriage to

“Deep down, I felt that I would be perfectly content to spend the rest of my life looking at paintings”

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Mrs. Sures’s eagerness to share her knowledge and love of art history led her to volunteer as a docent at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. Over a span of twenty-five years, she led tours for thousands of visitors, including many school groups. Her enthusiasm for the visual arts also motivated her to establish Sures Art Enterprises, Ltd., a purveyor of fine art prints in the 1970s. Among the artists represented were Jose Manuel Capuletti, a painter Rand admired, and Ilona Royce Smithkin, a portraitist whose pastel of Rand was a cover image on some of her books.

Mrs. Sures’s lifelong interest in art history motivated many of her adult activities. During her childhood, her father often took her to the Detroit Museum: “Deep down, I felt that I would be perfectly content to spend the rest of my life looking at paintings,” she once said. In New York she studied art history at the Institute of Fine Arts of New York University, earned a master’s degree in 1966 from Hunter College, and taught at Washington Square College of New York University and at Hunter College. The theme of her work was the application of Objectivist esthetics to painting and sculpture. In consultation with Rand, she presented a ten-lecture course, Esthetics of the Visual Arts, through the Nathaniel Branden Institute in the early 1960s. Between 1987 and 2006, she lectured on painting and sculpture at Objectivist conferences. She also led groups of art enthusiasts on tours through Italy, sharing her love of Italian Renaissance art. Her philosophical approach to art history is on display in her article “Metaphysics in Marble,” written under Rand’s editorial supervision and published in The Objectivist in 1969. The article examines how sculpture expresses metaphysical abstractions, and how the dominant philosophy of an era is reflected in its sculpture.

Mrs. Sures’s support for the Ayn Rand Institute, the Ayn Rand Archives, the Atlantis Legacy program and the Anthem Foundation for Objectivist Scholarship are the subject of a companion article in this tribute. 

Mary Ann Sures lecturing at an Objectivist summer conference in 1987. (Image courtesy Godfrey Joseph)

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SUPPORT FOR ADVANCING OBJECTIVISM When Ayn Rand died in 1982, Mary Ann Sures had spent most of her adult life as Rand’s friend and as a supporter of Objectivism in the culture. In the ensuing years, a number of opportunities emerged for her to offer institutional support for the spread of Objectivism, and she embraced all of them.

AYN RAND INSTITUTE

and frequently. Often she would attend an event and write out a check, handing it to a staff member while conveying her compliments on the event itself.

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hortly after ARI’s founding in 1985, Mrs. Sures became a member of its Board of Advisors. Over the next decades, she and her husband donated generously

“During the fifteen years I was the CEO of the Ayn Rand Institute,” said Michael S. Berliner, ARI’s first leader, “it was very comforting to know that Mary Ann was always there, always available, especially because she was one of the few remaining direct links to Ayn Rand and the early days of Objectivism. I could always count on her loyalty to the philosophy and to the memory of Ayn Rand herself, and I could count on her to do whatever she could to support the Institute as an uncompromising advocate of Objectivism.”

AYN RAND ARCHIVES The Ayn Rand Archives was established by the Estate of Ayn Rand in 1995 when Leonard Peikoff placed the bulk of her papers and possessions in ARI’s custody. Beginning in 2007, Mrs. Sures donated more than one hundred items related to Rand’s life and work, including books with Rand’s handwritten inscriptions, written correspondence, jewelry owned and worn by Rand, still life paintings by Frank O’Connor, and even the Sures’s wedding

In 2011, donations from Mrs. Sures and John Ridpath helped fund a special casting of the portrait bust of Ayn Rand, sculpted by Sandra Shaw, which graces the lobby of ARI’s headquarters in Santa Ana, California. (Image courtesy Sandra Shaw)

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Mrs. Sures eagerly supported the Atlantis Legacy in various ways. Besides providing testimonials, she shared her memories of Ayn Rand at two promotional events held during Objectivist summer conferences, the first in 2003 along with former York University professor John Ridpath, and the second in 2006, featuring personal remembrances not included in Facets of Ayn Rand.

album, complete with photographs of Rand and her husband at the 1965 event. “I realized that what I really wanted was to deposit these items in the Archives during my lifetime,” she later recalled. “I wanted to know, while I was living, that they were in their final and rightful home where they would be protected and preserved.” She encouraged others owning significant items to donate them as well: “It is a way of saying ‘thank you’ to Ayn Rand, who has given purpose, direction and beauty to our lives.”

Working closely with ARI’s Kathy Cross, Mrs. Sures also made several planned-giving contributions to the Institute in exchange for “life-income” gifts, each of which provided her with guaranteed income for life as well as a one-time charitable tax deduction. ARI was designated to receive the remaining funds after her lifetime. In her will, Mrs. Sures arranged for ARI to receive her copyrights and royalties from Facets of Ayn Rand and “Metaphysics in Marble.”

ATLANTIS LEGACY In the mid-1990s, as the Ayn Rand Institute entered its second decade, Charles and Mary Ann Sures were inspired to designate ARI as a beneficiary in their estate plan. At the time, they were among a dozen or so ARI supporters known to have taken such an action. The planned giving program grew rapidly, and in 2003 it was formalized as the “Atlantis Legacy.”

In an Atlantis Legacy testimonial, Mrs. Sures stated her motivation for supporting ARI after her lifetime: “I am a donor in ARI’s planned giving program for a deeply personal reason: to the extent possible, I want my most important values to survive me, long-range. These are the philosophical values which have given meaning and direction to my life.”

ANTHEM FOUNDATION FOR OBJECTIVIST SCHOLARSHIP Following her husband’s death in 2000, Mrs. Sures created the Charles Sures Memorial Scholarship Fund at ARI in accord with his wishes, to enable future scholars to write on and about Ayn Rand’s ideas. It was funded by her and more than

Kathy Cross, left, listens as Mary Ann Sures addresses the audience at an Atlantis Legacy donor event. (Image courtesy Godfrey Joseph)

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At Mrs. Sures’s request, the fund was dissolved in 2005 and its assets transferred to the Anthem Foundation for Objectivist Scholarship. “When the Sures fund was established in 2000,” she explained, “it was the first fund established specifically for scholarships and grants to Objectivist scholars. Now that function is performed

fifty other individuals and couples who made gifts in Mr. Sures’s memory. One important grant went to Tara Smith, professor of philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin, to provide her a semester free of teaching responsibilities. She used that time to create a complete first draft of the book that would become Ayn Rand’s Normative Ethics: The Virtuous Egoist, published in 2006 by Cambridge University Press.

Said Smith at the time: “During the splintered demands of a normal semester, with classes, thesis students, committee work, etc., it’s very hard to devote quality attention to a research project on a sustained basis. I find there’s nothing like an uninterrupted block of time for allowing me to delve into a big project, Mary Ann Sures and her husband, Charles, at an Objectivist conference in 2000. (Image courtesy Godfrey Joseph) make real strides and build momentum. Getting that by the Anthem Foundation. I thank ARI good start on the book, thanks to the for administering the fund. I thank all grant, makes it seem much more doable.” the donors for their contributions and I Another Sures fund grant supported encourage them to support the Anthem research by Robert Mayhew, professor of Foundation.” She also donated to the philosophy at Seton Hall University, for Anthem Foundation in later years.  Ayn Rand and “Song of Russia,” published in 2005, which recounted Rand’s part in uncovering and combating communist influences in America’s motion picture industry in the 1940s.

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SELECTIONS FROM HER OWN WRITING Here are some samples of Mary Ann Sures’s own writings and recollections. The first two passages are from the book of oral interviews she wrote with her husband, Charles, called Facets of Ayn Rand. Rand . The book was created, said Mrs. Sures, “to preserve our recollections of Ayn Rand and our evaluation of her. Few people knew her for as long as we did — I for twenty-eight years and Charles for almost twenty. She was an extraordinary thinker and person, and we knew her in both capacities. In the years to come, people will be asking the same question they ask about her today: what was Ayn Rand like as a person, in her private life? We can answer that question.”

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it away, that I hung it up so I could look at it and enjoy its beauty. That, she said, was a rational value, and I shouldn’t apologize for it. In that discussion, she explored my attitude to housework in general and learned that I didn’t mind doing it, and then she led me to understand that I enjoyed the result — a polished and shined appearance to a room — and why that was a value I shouldn’t apologize for. She added that I didn’t expect others to accomplish that for me, which was a virtue. Then she said, “Do you know what we are doing?” I didn’t know what she was getting at, and I said, “We are analyzing this situation.” She said, “What we are doing, Mary Ann, we are taking ideas seriously. You are applying philosophy to your life. This is what philosophy is for.” She explained the necessity of identifying your values and knowing why they are values, why you shouldn’t give up a value because someone questions it, even if you can’t fully explain why it is important to you. She pointed out

his refers to a discussion we had that had the greatest effect on my life. One day, I was depressed because an acquaintance had criticized me for taking pleasure in cleaning a copper-bottomed frying pan. I enjoyed cleaning it and then seeing it shine on the wall, hanging on a pegboard. It was the only piece of decoration in my kitchen. I was bothered by the criticism that I was finding enjoyment in something so nonintellectual. So, I told Ayn that I was troubled by something and asked her if we could have a discussion about it. She suggested that we do it during lunch. I told her about the incident, and she nodded in understanding. When I finished, she said, “Oh, check your premises.” I told her I didn’t know what premises to check. So, she led me to understand the issue by questioning me about my response to the copper pot. She pointed out that it was significant that I didn’t clean it and then put 7

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up. And then we heard her chair scraping back on the floor. Frank said, “We’re in for it now!” Followed by more muffled laughter. She walked into the kitchen, smiling, looking quizzical. “What are you two laughing at?” When we told her, she laughed, too. We apologized for disturbing her, but she said she was finished for the day. It was a cheerful moment. Then we had the casserole dinner.

that there was much more she could say on the subject, that she had only touched on ethics and a little bit of esthetics, but that the issue for me to understand was the importance of holding on to values. To this day, I seldom mop a floor or polish a mirror without thinking of that afternoon with Ayn Rand and of how much that discussion of values has meant to me. * * *

The following passage is from “Metaphysics in Marble,” an article on sculpture written under Ayn Rand’s editorial supervision, published in Rand’s periodical The Objectivist (February–March, 1969), and recommended by Rand in the revised edition of The Romantic Manifesto. Manifesto . From Mrs. Sures’s introduction: “This discussion is a brief historical survey . . . to indicate the means by which sculpture expresses abstractions — and to demonstrate the connection between the dominant philosophy of a given era and its sculpture.” Footnotes are omitted. The full text, with illustrations, is available online.

Early one evening, [Ayn] was still working in the study. Frank [O’Connor, Ayn Rand’s husband] and I were next door in the kitchen doing the lunch dishes and trying not to make too much noise. . . . Frank explained to me that Ayn was always worried about germs. That concern started in Soviet Russia, where disease and epidemics had been constant threats. As a result, when she did the dishes, she rinsed them many times in scalding water, and insisted that Frank do the same. So, that evening, Frank said, “Let’s finish these before Ayn comes in. Otherwise, we’ll be here all night!” He was exaggerating, of course. But we were like two conspirators, laughing quietly about our rushing with the washing and drying. And we were discussing Leslie Howard movies we liked. Neither of us could think of “pimpernel” — as in Scarlet Pimpernel. There was a loaf of pumpernickel bread sitting on the counter, and Frank said, “I know. The Scarlet Pumpernickel.” We both thought that was hilarious, and laughed out loud; and I said, “Shh, your wife is next door writing a book which is going to save the world. We had better be quiet.” And Frank laughed, and said, “Well, the world will just have to wait a little while longer.” And we thought that was even funnier, and broke

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he potentiality of movement is evident in all Greek sculpture. Sculptors carefully articulated the joints and musculature, in recognition of the fact that no body can move without them. They distributed the body’s weight so that the figures were balanced, but not frozen into rigid positions. Consequently, the statues suggested the capacity to shift their weight and move easily.

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sordid, bespotted and ulcerous.” Medieval mystics regarded man as an evil creature whose body is loathsome because it is material, and whose mind is impotent because it is human. Hating man’s body, they said that pleasure is evil, and virtue consists of renunciation. Hating this earth, they said that it is a prison where man is doomed to pain, misery, calamity. Hating life, they said that death and escape into some other dimension is all that man could — and should — hope for.

A quality of life was achieved also by the manner of carving the surface texture. Sculptors created the illusion of flesh that was both firm and soft, emphasizing the subtle rise and fall of the skin as it moves over the complexity of the underlying skeletal and muscular structure. In this way, they stressed the sensuous aspect of the body. When a sculptor created statues of goddesses clothed in loose gowns, he flaunted their bodies by carving the marble in the style called “wet drapery.” This term designates transparent, fragile cloth, which appears to have been applied to a moist body. At every point of contact between the body and the garment, the cloth clings and reveals the body’s subtlest curves. When the Greek carved a female statue, he left no doubt of its femininity, dressed or undressed.

Man as a helpless and depraved creature, was the basic theme of medieval sculpture until the Gothic period, whether he was shown being pushed into Hell or accepted into Heaven. Once again, a naked body was regarded as a sign of humiliation and was reserved for representations of Adam and Eve, and of the damned in Hell. Saints were dressed, their shapeless bodies hidden beneath heavy garments. But, whether man was represented naked and damned or dressed and blessed, hatred for the body permeated every inch of the sculptured stone.

Nike, the goddess of Victory, was a favorite of the Greek navy, and wooden statues of Nike were mounted on the prows of ships. In a marble version, the famous Winged Victory of Samothrace, the goddess stands on the prow of a ship, as an embodiment of motion. Her figure rises in an upwardsweeping curve and thrusts forward to meet the forceful winds of open seas. Wind whips her fragile gown across her torso, revealing its vibrant sensuousness. Proud and courageous, she embodies the attitude with which the Greeks set out to sea.

In the August and December 1987 issues of the Ayn Rand Institute Newsletter Newsletter,, Mrs. Sures shared personal recollections of her involvement in the world of Ayn Rand and Objectivism.

Few of the heads of classical Greek statues have survived; but those that have, convey one quality: serene awareness. A calm face with a smooth brow — a face with no sign of inner conflict — was the Greek ideal.

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n 1954, as part of his own training, Leonard [Peikoff] gave three or four lectures on [Ayn Rand’s] philosophy to a few people, me included. It was actually his first course on Objectivism, although

An entirely different view of man dominated the medieval Christian civilization. Man, according to Augustine, is “crooked and

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Objectivism brought me and Charles together. In 1963, I was introduced to him, and I thought he had a wonderful expression on a wonderful face. So I inquired about him. I found out that he was a lawyer in Washington, D.C., who was sponsoring the Objectivist courses there, and also flying around the country to hear Ayn speak.

it wasn’t yet called that, not until after the publication of Atlas Shrugged. The “final” of the course was an oral examination to be held at Ayn’s apartment. It was to be informal, with Leonard asking questions that we would volunteer to answer. I was the only one who had not yet met Ayn Rand. I remember it very clearly. I went there by myself, and was the first to arrive. . . . I heard footsteps; then a voice behind me said hello. I turned around, and there was a short woman, with dramatically angled hair, very stylishly dressed in a navy blue skirt and matching polka-dot blouse with a big bow. Her eyes were stunning.

Why did you choose art history as your field? Because it combined my early childhood interest in art — in the enjoyment I took in the visual — with my later interest in history, in understanding why and how civilizations developed. . . . [At the Detroit Museum,] the interior spaces fascinated me. They were enormous, with marble floors, high ceilings and massive archways. Each room was different; although I didn’t know it at the time, each was decorated in the style of the art that was displayed. I would wander through the museum alone, letting my imagination run free, making up stories about the rooms and the paintings. I wanted to explore the world, and being in that museum was like traveling to me. And I remember it as my first experience with grandeur. I regarded that museum as my very own palace. I would practice walking down the marble steps without looking at my feet, so that I could do it like a regal lady would.

* * * In 1956, after I completed my teaching assignment at NYU, I was unemployed. Ayn needed someone to type and proofread Atlas, and I needed a job while completing my Master’s thesis. So she hired me. I would arrive at her apartment around nine in the morning. Frank would let me in and take me back to the bedroom, where they were usually having coffee. Then we would sit and chat about anything: a movie, or an interesting TV show, or Atlas, or art. Then she would go off to her study, Frank to his painting, and I, to the typewriter and her handwritten manuscript. * * *

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PERSONAL REMEMBRANCES We asked some of the many individuals whose lives were touched by Mary Ann Sures to offer their remembrances.

1950s

LEONARD PEIKOFF Back in the 1950s, Mary Ann and I had apartments in the same building, at 216 East 36th Street in New York City. She and I used to joke about it because I had the second-floor walkup with no elevator, while she walked right in the first floor — she was the aristocrat, and I was the proletarian. We shared special features of that building: no heat after eight at night, lots of roaches, rats dying behind the walls. When my mother came to visit me, she opened the door and started to cry: “We brought you up, and this is where you’re living now?” When I first started teaching, it was a private, informal thing among friends. Mary Ann always smiled and nodded to me in encouragement. She was a good friend in that way. During the first public lecture I gave, a questioner asked about the painter Hieronymus Bosch. I saw Mary Ann sitting in the front of the audience, and I said: “Ladies and gentlemen, we have a scholar here who knows about the history of painting. Mary Ann, would you like to answer?” She gave the answer, and she saved me. I always felt gratitude to her for that. She knew everything about art history, and I relied on her for that. She had a definite way of speaking, very clear enunciation. When she said something, each word was very specific. It wasn’t artificial or abnormal, just a little extra stress on exactly the words that she was using. You could tell it was her just from hearing that. I can’t remember anything tragic or sad about Mary Ann. She never got into any trouble with Ayn Rand. She was very happy with her husband, Charles. She was very much in love. You could see that. Note: Dr. Peikoff’s remarks, given in an oral interview, were edited for length and clarity; at his request, the edited version was not submitted to him for pre-publication review.

1960s

STEPHEN SIEK Charles and Mary Ann Sures were the first Objectivists I ever met — only I didn’t know it at the time. Fresh out of high school and headed for the University of Maryland as a piano major, I played on a recital that was followed by a party at the home of my future teacher, Stewart Gordon. I couldn’t tear myself away from two people who came over

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to congratulate me. There was something beguiling about them, and I found their intensity, warmth and sincerity captivating. Within a year, a classmate had introduced me to Objectivism, and my eagerness to learn more about Ayn Rand’s ideas led me to attend taped lecture courses for which Charles and Mary Ann were the Washington representatives. My admiration for them soon grew into an adolescent hero-worship, which I’m proud to say has never wavered. Charles was a fine pianist who also studied with Stewart, so I saw them often at musical gatherings. I was especially honored when Mary Ann asked me for piano lessons, but when she heard my fee, she immediately said, “That’s much too little,” and insisted on paying me more. Over the years, she and Charles conferred countless similar kindnesses. When some Washington Objectivists organized a trip to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater, Mary Ann accompanied us and gave an extensive, wonderful lecture that sparked in me a lifelong interest in Wright and his work, for which I’m indebted to her. Shortly after Charles died, I told Mary Ann that from my late teens, I knew somehow that Charles was the kind of man I wanted be, and this pleased her greatly. Since then, I’ve often reflected that simply knowing them was for me a confirmation that we live in a benevolent universe.

HARRY BINSWANGER I first encountered Mary Ann in the early 1960s, when her lecture on the visual arts became the final proof for me of Objectivism: it made visually clear the difference between pro-life and anti-life philosophies, and their culture-shaping role for good or for evil. Mary Ann was a most feminine and beautiful woman. Her elegant, graceful bearing, her gentle, almost musical, voice, and her air of serene self-possession added a spiritual quality to her person. She had a remarkable ability to put sense-of-life emotional content into words. I once mentioned that Salvador Dali’s Last Supper had evoked my most intense esthetic response to a painting, but I hadn’t been able to name what moved me so. Without missing a beat, Mary Ann said one word: “Purity.” I was stunned, because that was exactly correct. It wasn’t a word I used much, yet once named, my mind and emotions answered in unison: “Yes! That’s it!” Her husband, Charles, was her hero; the couple radiated love for each other and shared their passion for living. Each had a marked sense of humor, Charles telling jokes and Mary Ann making witty, wry side-comments. Yet both had a remarkable earnestness and a high moral seriousness. And both had constantly active, integration-seeking minds, with a keen curiosity and intense dedication to justice.

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I once commented to Ayn Rand that there was someone who didn’t get much public attention but who was a deeply good, loyal person whom I liked more the more I got to know her. She asked me who. “Mary Ann,” I answered. Her response was immediate and enthusiastic: “Oh yes!” she said, smiling. It takes an extraordinary personality to add a ray of sunlight in Ayn Rand’s life. Mary Ann Sures was one such. A beautiful presence is gone from the world.

ANNE BUSSEY Mary Ann Sures and I were friends for more than fifty years. I first met her in 1967 on an art-focused European Objectivist tour. My first husband, Ed Locke, was already a friend of Mary Ann and her husband, Charles. After Ed and I married in the late sixties and I moved from San Francisco to the Washington, DC, area, we saw Mary Ann and Charles both socially and at Objectivist gatherings. Over the years, our times together included dinners out and at each other’s homes, sometimes celebrating holidays or special occasions. We vacationed together several times at The Greenbrier resort in West Virginia, a place Mary Ann dearly loved. I loved to listen to Mary Ann’s lectures on art. She had a unique way of explaining how details in a painting or sculpture added up to its theme. Hearing her taped lectures in the mid-1960s, I learned for the first time of the distinction between one’s aesthetic judgment and one’s aesthetic response.

Anne Bussey, left, and Mary Ann Sures. (Image courtesy Anne Bussey)

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Many years later, I had the pleasure of taking children from elementary classes at my Montessori school to the National Gallery of Art, where Mary Ann volunteered as a docent. There she treated them to her delightful style of talking about art. On one occasion, because we were going to be viewing a large painting of a scene from Greek mythology, she asked each of the children to take the name of a Greek god or goddess from the painting. She made the experience personal for the children. One of Mary Ann’s hallmarks was her attention to detail. You saw it in little things like her love of beautiful table settings. And you saw it in her writing and lectures, her art tours, and in her life.

EDWIN A. LOCKE My ex-wife and I were friends with Mary Ann for some fifty years. She combined graciousness with an unwavering commitment to reason and truth. She never agreed to anything unless she clearly understood it. I never met anyone who understood the visual arts so thoroughly. Her “Metaphysics in Marble” article is a masterpiece. She was the one who discovered Capuletti, a Spanish artist whom Ayn Rand greatly admired. Most people do not know that Mary Ann typically spent a considerable part of one year preparing each art lecture. Her lectures were always one of the highlights of Objectivist conferences. Even more remarkably, she read her lectures from notes and yet made them come fully alive. She was able to combine drama, knowledge, and beauty. Mary Ann had a wonderful married life with her husband, Charles. They took tremendous enjoyment from writing Facets of Ayn Rand together. It was an expression of their admiration for her. Charles was doing last-minute editing until he passed away. Here are some things I learned from personal conversations with her that others may not know: • After Charles died, she lived alone for twenty years and, of course, missed him terribly. One of the things she took great comfort in was rereading Ayn Rand’s novels. • She comforted Ayn Rand, who once told her that she could not accept Frank’s death. Mary Ann’s reply was, “You don’t have to.” Psychologically, this was the absolute correct thing to say, because it takes time to accept the loss of a loved one. • One day she was walking in New York, holding hands with Ayn Rand while crossing the street and said to her, “This is wonderful.” Ayn asked why. Mary Ann’s answer was, “Because I am walking and holding hands with the world’s greatest philosopher.” Ayn was very touched.

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DAVID BERRY I was a music major at the University of Maryland when, on July 14, 1968, I attended the first of ten live lectures, Esthetics of the Visual Arts, by Mary Ann Sures. This magnificent, magisterial and dignified expert was also a personable and beautiful woman. I had just finished reading Atlas Shrugged and didn’t know anything about esthetics. She fired my imagination to try to understand the deep causes and effects of music. I have worked extensively in the field virtually every day of my life, and the memory of her analytical and rhetorical skills is always at hand. I have been fortunate to see and hear her teach on other rare occasions but didn’t get to spend much time with her over the years. I had a closer relationship with her husband Charles. Much later in her life, I was able to thank her in person for her inspiration. Charles was a motorcyclist in his “wild” youth. I was riding motorcycles when I met them, and he asked me to take him for a ride because Mary Ann disapproved of him owning one — I assume she was afraid of him being hurt in an accident. He told me later that she was angry at both of us. I was amazed to hear that Charles eventually took up acrobatic flying. I can’t imagine she was too happy about that! I very much wish that everyone could have had the experience of hearing and seeing Mary Ann lecture. I have never found her equal when it comes to demystifying the techniques and meanings of visual art so simply and eloquently.

1980s

STEVE JOLIVETTE AND DIANA CARTER Steve and I would like to convey our love and appreciation for Mary Ann by sharing a lightly edited version of a letter we wrote to her a while back. Dear Mary Ann: On your Birthday, to mark the occasion, we would like to renew the points we made in a Birthday letter we sent you five years ago: You have been a grand and wonderful friend to us. We love your fine mind, your benevolent outlook on life, and your engaging conversations. We admire you as the superb art historian who can explain the philosophical origin and meaning of a piece of art, and the history of art, in concrete, graphic details, as no one else can. We thank you for being a friend to Ayn Rand, who badly needed friends who understood her and were truly friendly to her; and for coauthoring, with Charles, an excellent and important book sharing your knowledge of the Ayn Rand whom few knew. We have been, and continue to be, grateful for your many kindnesses to us. And we are grateful for your getting together a most enjoyable and intellectually stimulating group of friends for brunch and conversation, over many years now.

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In Memoriam :: Mary Ann Sures

Together with Charles, you have given us an inspiring example of caring and sharing soul mates. We have loved and enjoyed the time spent with you both, as so many did. We are very pleased to be in your circle of friends. We look forward to celebrating your Birthday with you. Meanwhile, please accept this card and its sentiments as our acknowledgement of your big day, and our love and appreciation of you. Wishing you all the best, Steve and Diana * * * Diana and I had the good fortune for over thirty years to be invited by Mary Ann and Charles on various occasions — first to dinners and events as diverse as art gallery excursions and cherry blossom walking tours, and then after Charles passed, to brunches (with other invitees) at Mary Ann’s retirement community, followed by hours of conversations in her apartment. In addition, I had the good fortune to have many hours of conversation with Mary Ann when she hired me to drive her to numerous doctors’ appointments. Here are some anecdotes from Mary Ann which I regard as precious: • Mary Ann remarked that a film clip of Eleanor Powell and Fred Astaire in Broadway Melody of 1940 dancing “Begin the Beguine” is her (referring, I take it, to that deeply personal feeling which people can have about works of art). • I once mentioned to Mary Ann that I very much liked and admired the Taj Mahal, but could not say why. She pointed out that the building has very fine symmetry, as if that was the main answer to my question. Yes, it sure seems right to me. • I respond very positively (as do many people) to Bellini’s painting St. Francis in the Desert. But all I knew of my response was that the painting depicts the early light of presunrise, which I love. Mary Ann said (to the best of my memory) that the theme of the painting is light. That seems to name it perfectly (and to explain why people respond to the painting so positively). I will ever be impressed by these super-succinct identifications of hers.

ARTHUR MODE Mary Ann was exceptionally gracious, hospitable, thoughtful, and appreciative of good character and the positive traits she identified in others, many of whom became her lasting friends. She also had a keen desire to learn about many subjects. I always looked forward to Sunday afternoon visits to her apartment in Gaithersburg, Maryland, knowing that the conversation among her assembled friends would be stimulating and wide-ranging. In a single afternoon,

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In Memoriam :: Mary Ann Sures

for example, she might ask me questions about psychology (my field), or George Washington, or the restaurants I had tried on a recent trip to Rome. She sought others’ opinions on current events, philosophy, history, fiction and many other topics, offering her own thoughts based on serious reflection. Mary Ann was quite good at identifying her values: in travel (Florence), in music (Frank Sinatra), in history, in fiction, and of course in painting (from landscapes to a beautiful still life of magnolias on a blue velvet cloth, a copy of which she put on her living room wall). She delighted in telling of her memorable drive through the Apennines in Italy, “in the footsteps of Piero” (Piero della Francesca, a Renaissance artist she admired). I’m grateful that Mary Ann and her husband, Charles, wrote Facets of Ayn Rand, enabling its readers, in a sense, to walk in the footsteps of Ayn Rand and Frank O’Connor whenever we read their book.

1990s

STUART MARK FELDMAN I met Mary Ann and Charles through my friendship with Allan Gotthelf back in the 1990s. After spending an enjoyable afternoon at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, I invited them to my home and sculpture studio. Charles then suggested I sculpt a portrait of Mary Ann, but she convinced me that we should start with a portrait of Charles. Charles reluctantly agreed, remarking that he wasn’t really interested in a portrait of himself but was only consenting because it was important to his wife. Behind his back, Mary Ann turned to me with a playful wink. The creation of this portrait occurred under bittersweet circumstances, as Charles had become seriously ill. Mary Ann called me one day, anxious for me to start the portrait. I packed up supplies and traveled to their home in Bethesda, Maryland. Charles agreed without hesitation to sit up in a chair so I could start the portrait. He died just a few days after the first sitting. I was prepared to abandon the project when I got a call from Mary Ann, in the midst of her grief, saying she wished to go ahead and asking if it would be possible for me to continue with photographs. We spent an afternoon together poring over perhaps a hundred snapshots of Charles. The completed portrait was elegantly displayed in her living room when I last saw it. My memory of her will always be the physical embodiment of pride and integrity in both stature and demeanor. In spite of her personal warmth, I have to admit to some intimidation when in her presence. When around her, I couldn’t help feeling that I’d better be at my best! The loss will be felt by all those whom she helped to grasp the importance of art in one’s life.

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In Memoriam :: Mary Ann Sures

2000s

ANU SEPPALA Mary Ann Sures was a regular summer conference speaker until 2009, and I was her ARI contact. After that, she and I would talk a few times a year, discussing possible OCON talks she would like to give and other projects she was considering for ARI. Mary Ann had a keen interest in what ARI was doing. Even if she sometimes raised an objection, she was a staunch and proud supporter of ARI who considered Ayn Rand’s legacy sacrosanct. During these discussions, we would always exchange news of what was going on in our lives. Mary Ann never failed to inquire about my personal happiness and life outside of work. I found this very touching and lovely. But my favorite memory goes back to an earlier time. In the fall of 1999, Mary Ann and Charles Sures and I were on the same trip to Italy, organized and hosted by Yaron Brook and Pamela Benson’s Lyceum International. Mary Ann gave lectures on the masterpieces of art we saw and guided us in the museums we visited. One day in Florence we were spending free time on Mary Ann Sures and her husband, Charles, in a cheerful moment in Piazza Signoria, when Florence, Italy, where Mrs. Sures gave lectures on art for a tour group. I snapped a photo (Image courtesy Anu Seppala) of the couple eating ice cream (well, only Charles has a cone in his hand). They look so carefree and happy in that sunny picture. Sadly, it was not very long after this that Charles passed away, which was devastating for Mary Ann. I sent her a condolence card and decided, after some trepidation considering I wasn’t close to her or Charles, to include the photo from Florence. Mary Ann wrote me back, saying how much that touched her and brought back a smile to her face. She never failed to show old-fashioned politeness, not even during this time of great personal sorrow.

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In Memoriam :: Mary Ann Sures

NORTHRUP BUECHNER Mary Ann was my dearest friend in Objectivism. We became friends after her husband, Charles, died in 2000. Charles was the love of her life, and his death was enormously painful. Shortly afterward, my wife left me, and we were suddenly brought together by a shared misfortune. Over the next several years, we spoke on the phone weekly for about an hour, and she became the most wonderful companion. Early on, she introduced me to Joaquin Miller’s poem “Columbus,” whose stanzas end with the refrain: “Sail on! sail on! and on!” For a long time, we closed our calls with “Sail on!” instead of “Goodbye.” She often had a joke to tell me, and she had a delightful sense of humor. For example, she would recite a little poem from memory that begins: I had a little tea party This afternoon at three. ’Twas very small — Three guests in all — Just I, myself and me. When visiting each other, we often toured art museums and shared our favorite works. If she disagreed with one of my choices, she would say so, but with such thoughtful objectivity it was impossible to take offense. She showed me her favorite painting at the National Gallery in Washington — not just her favorite painting in the National Gallery, but her FAVORITE PAINTING: Giant Magnolias on a Blue Velvet Cloth by Martin Johnson Heade. When I discovered that the gift shop sold note cards featuring this painting, I bought two boxes because I did not want her to feel constrained in using them. I did not need to worry about it. Within a year, that painting appeared on her return-address labels, on her stationery, on her envelopes, on everything she used for writing. This was the most successful present I have ever given anyone.

PETER SCHWARTZ While writing In Defense of Selfishness, I’d speak to Mary Ann periodically, by phone. She was always supportive and encouraging, in that quiet, dignified manner of hers. After the book was published, she would offer perceptive comments about it, particularly about the style of my writing.

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In Memoriam :: Mary Ann Sures

She held strong values, especially in the realm of art. When we spoke, it was often about movies. She was a trove of information when it came to old movies. I was very impressed by that. She remembered in great detail each of countless films she’d seen. Not only could she recall the names of all the characters, and of all the actors who played them, but she could readily give you her evaluation, good or bad, of a movie’s theme, plot and each actor’s performance.

2000s

JEAN MORONEY I was blessed to have Mary Ann as my mentor and friend. I got to know her gradually over twenty years. Then, for the last six years of her life, we talked monthly on psychological topics. Often, she had questions or comments on something I had written for my newsletter. She was always eager to discuss new ideas, including ideas from a gal thirty-plus years her junior. She took ideas seriously, as seriously as anyone I know. But more specifically, she took what you were saying seriously. She would question and integrate every detail. When she contested an idea, you always felt that she was doing so, not to straighten you out, but because the truth mattered to her, and you mattered to her. For example, I recall that she took issue with the opening of an article of mine. I had included a joke about needing the sun and the moon and the stars aligned before you could settle down to work. She explained why that particular humor at that particular moment undercut the article. What came through was not so much criticism, as the importance of the ideas. Her only desire was to help me express those ideas well. In one of our earliest conversations, she helped me analyze why I love Vermeer’s Woman with a Pearl Necklace (no, not Girl with a Pearl Earring). At the end of our conversation, she asked if I had a reproduction. I lamented that I had only a postcard. At that time (pre-Google), a print was hard to find. A month later, I received an eight-by-ten-inch reproduction of “my girl” in the mail from her. It still hangs on my wall. It is a reminder of how my friendship with Mary Ann has fed my soul.

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In Memoriam :: Mary Ann Sures

KATHY CROSS I became acquainted with Mary Ann in 2001, when I assisted her in establishing the Charles Sures Memorial Scholarship Fund at the Ayn Rand Institute. Together we attended to all the necessary details, during this most difficult time in her life, and a friendship blossomed. Most of our interaction was by telephone, and after a few years we had a standing date to talk every month. Our conversations covered a wide range of topics: art, philosophy, literature (especially Shakespeare), opera (especially Verdi), books, movies and television, skin care and other “girl talk,” chocolate, and many more. On a few occasions she counseled me on personal matters, greatly to my benefit. We visited in person at Objectivist conferences and when I was in the DC area. Two outings I hold dear in my memory Mary Ann Sures, left, and Kathy Cross at the cafeteria in the National Gallery are an evening at the of Art, Washington, DC, in 2004. (Image courtesy Kathy Cross) opera to see Puccini’s Turandot, and a day at the National Gallery with her as my personal docent. I also treasure two material gifts she gave me: a hardbound copy of Asimov’s Guide to Shakespeare, sent after a conversation about operatic adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays, and a pair of prism glass candleholders that had been a wedding gift to her and Charles. Mary Ann was an exquisitely sensitive valuer of the highest order. I basked in the glow of her calm and generous nature, her precision of expression, and her intense devotion to what should be and ought to be in her world. I am pleased beyond words that our paths crossed, and proud that our friendship flourished.

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In Memoriam :: Mary Ann Sures

SANDRA SHAW I knew Mary Ann Sures for twelve years. Our mutual love of art was the initial basis for our friendship. Our love of Ayn Rand, though not a focus, was an important aspect of our relationship. When I knew her, she had retired from her work as an art historian, but art remained integral to her life. Mary Ann took art seriously. She understood the importance of art in life, and she valued it in a personal, firsthanded way. She sought clarity in her own experience of art and expressed her responses to art clearly and honestly. She once remarked that people don’t say much about the artworks they encounter because they don’t know what to say. Whenever she spoke about a work of art, it was after giving the work a great deal of thought. Mary Ann had a high Mary Ann Sures amid the columns of an ancient Greek temple. (Image courtesy Sandra Shaw) concept of life, and her esthetic choices consistently reflected her outlook. Her artworks, furniture, clothing, poise and manners all flowed from her view of what life ought to be. She acquired art that was important to her and carefully displayed each piece to give her daily enjoyment. I once asked Mary Ann for a picture of herself (I didn’t photograph her). She sent a modest snapshot from a trip to Greece. At first, I felt it was a poor image and thought of complaining. But after examining it, along with her caption, I realized that it revealed something important about her. She wanted to share with me a memory of something we both loved: the columns of an ancient Greek temple set high above the sea. She “gently” leans against the marble and looks to the horizon. The picture captures a moment when she experienced, in vivid terms, her kind of world. And that’s what she wished for me.

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In Memoriam :: Mary Ann Sures

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