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  • Robert M. Edsel

"You've done our Country a great service"

Some theories posit that a person is separated from anyone — no matter their importance — by no more than six people. (The theory is often referred to as “Six Degrees of Separation”.) In my view, since the creation of the internet, the new starting point is three people, not six. Regardless, S. Lane Faison, Jr., 98 years old — alive and well — is the father of American museumology. Few American museum directors and curators — past and present — have not either had Lane Faison as a professor, or had a course taught by someone who had him as a professor. He is a remarkable educator, a great American hero, and a permanent fixture at Williams College.

Last week I received a handwritten letter from Lane commenting on my book. Like so many other veterans of World War II, he was quick to play down the importance of his role during the war as compared with other Monuments Men. His modesty can’t overcome the facts; as an officer with the OSS, precursor to the CIA, and as one of a handful of officers assigned to the Art Looting Investigation Unit (ALIU), Lane was responsible for deciphering Hitler’s plans to build the Linz Museum. He was one of three officers to conduct interrogations of Nazi prisoners to gather information about the most organized looting operation in history Even as late as 1950, Lane Faison, along with Monuments officer Thomas Howe, spent almost a year closing American activity at the Munich Collecting Point in September, 1951.

For almost 40 years (1936-1976) Lane was a professor of at Williams College. He is a former president of the College Art Association of America. For his efforts in finding and restituting looted artworks after the war, Lane was awarded the Chevalier, Legion of Honor medal by the government of France. REMARKABLY, HE — LIKE SO MANY OTHER MONUMENTS MEN — RECEIVED NO SIMILAR HONOR FROM HIS OWN COUNTRY!!!

In the closing sentence of his letter to me, Lane said the following: “You’ve done a great service and told clearly what often never gets told.” I am so proud to receive such praise from someone who truly is, in every sense of the word, a hero.

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