The University Record, February 6, 1995

Portrait artist has long, strong ties to U-M

By Rebecca A. Doyle

Ben McCready remembers walking across campus when he was only seven years old and thinking how wonderful it would be if someday he could hang one of his paintings somewhere on the campus he loved.

"Michigan was to me what Disneyland is to most other kids," McCready says. McCready was born in Ann Arbor and named for Benny Oosterbahn, a family friend. Ties to the U-M go all the way back to his grandfather, Arthur Brown, who graduated from the Law School in 1894 and served as mayor of Ann Arbor in 1903-1905. His grandfather, Donald McCready, was professor of chemical engineering at the U-M, his mother received her bachelor's degree in fine arts here and his father earned a bachelor's degree and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in psychology from the U-M.

Nearly two years ago, the Wisconsin artist wrote a letter to the U-M in response to a request for contributions to the University's capital campaign.

He couldn't contribute money, McCready said in the letter, but he would like to offer his services to paint a portrait of the president of the University.

Athletic Director Joe Roberson, who was then deeply involved in the campaign, wrote McCready that he would only be able to deduct the cost of the materials he used.

But McCready said he didn't care about the deduction at all. He just wanted to do it.

The 43-year-old artist said that painting President Emeritus Hatcher's portrait was fun.

"It is very special to me to have been able to do this," McCready said. I am honored to have done it. It is my way of saying thanks for what was so very important in my life."

Part of what was so important to McCready was cheering for the maize and blue on football Saturdays and he hopes to be back on campus this fall to see one or two of the games, despite a heavy schedule of portrait work.

McCready's portrait of Hatcher is the first of a series he will complete of all four living U-M presidents, which will hang in a new addition to Hill Auditorium.

Because scheduling prevented personal sittings, Hatcher's portrait was done from videotapes and still photographs, McCready explains. Although he also will use video and photos for some of the work on the remaining portraits, he hopes to be able to work from life as well.

McCready lives in Whitewater, Wisc., with his wife, Ann, a writer, and six-year-old son, Bo.