St. Mark’s welcomed Distinguished Alumnus Robert Edsel ’75 back to campus as the Willard E. Walker, Jr. ’66 Visiting Scholar. An author, historian, and advocate for art preservation, Mr. Edsel has dedicated the past two decades of his life to the meticulous research of the Monuments Men and Women. Throughout World War II, these soldier-scholars helped save many of the world’s great art and cultural treasures from the destruction of war and theft by the Nazis. In 2014, his bestselling book Monuments Men was adapted into a major motion picture written and directed by, and starring George Clooney.
In his two days on campus, Mr. Edsel held five sessions with students in grades eight through twelve. With students in Foundations of World Societies, The Modern World, AP US History, and AP European History, he discussed the importance of art and preserving our shared cultural heritage. Speaking in his concluding session with a large group of Upper School students, Mr. Edsel’s fascinating insights into history, both World War II history and modern times, were on full display. He shared the story of the Monuments Men and their mission to save the world's great art from the Nazis. He also made this presentation to some of his fellow classmates over breakfast at the Alumni Association’s first Alumni Leadership Speaker Series event of the year.
Previously, Robert had a successful 16-year career as Founder and Chairman of Gemini Exploration, an oil and gas exploration company that pioneered the use of horizontal drilling technology in the early 1990s.
Mr. Edsel is also the New York Times bestselling author of Rescuing Da Vinci and Saving Italy. In 2007, he received the National Humanities Medal, our nation’s highest honor for work in the humanities, which was presented by President George W. Bush at the White House. Additionally, he served as a Trustee at the National World War II Museum for six years.
The Willard E. Walker, Jr. ’66 Visiting Scholar Program was created by the St. Mark’s Board of Trustees to honor Willard E. Walker, Jr. ’66. Endowed and supported by Bill’s friends and family, the Program provides special opportunities in science, music, and culture. Willard E. Walker, Jr. ’66 served on the St. Mark’s Board of Trustees from 1979 to 1985.