Being an artist, you learn all the shades of grey

Posted by: Michele Cohen

Moore has enjoyed a long relationship with alumna Carol (Rohrbach) Durham ’65 and her family.

The mother of alumna Christie Durham ’90, an Interior Design major, Durham served on the College’s Board of Managers for eight years. In 1990, she gave a gift to Moore to celebrate her daughter’s graduation and to support building renovations, equipment purchases and a CAD laboratory for the Interior Design department.

She established The Evelyn Andres Whitaker Art Scholarship in 1987 in honor of Evelyn Andres Whitaker, her grandmother.

Durham, 65, eventually stepped down from the Board. In 1986, she and her business partner established their own interior design business, Spaces Interior Design, based in Gwynedd Valley, PA. As life got more hectic, she found herself disconnected from the College. When she was ready to re-engage again, it was President Cecelia Fitzgibbon who inspired her to do so.

“Cecelia reached out to me in a way that was warm and gracious. I appreciated that,” Durham said. “She totally impressed me. She is the perfect person to lead the school. She genuinely cares and loves her job and it shows.”

The Durham Family Scholarship, in the amount of $500,000, was established in 2014 by Durham and her husband, John. The scholarship helps make the dreams of aspiring artists come true by making a Moore education a reality. Scholarships are awarded annually to high school seniors who display exceptional artistic promise and financial need.

“As you go on in life, you don’t know how many opportunities you’ll have to do the things you believe in. As I got older I thought – this could be my time to jump back in,” Durham said. “I wanted to do things for young women who needed an opportunity.”

Born in 1943 in Allentown, PA, Durham graduated from Ambler High School and received the competitive Joseph Moore Scholarship to attend Moore. Without the scholarship, she would not have been able to go to college.

After graduating from Moore in 1965 with an Art Education degree, Durham taught at East Norriton Junior High School, studied painting at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and then returned to Moore in the 1980s to study interior design. Today, she lives with her husband in Gwynedd Valley, PA.

Durham knew from a very young age that she wanted to be an artist. Her grandmother, also an artist, was an early influence. In seventh grade, her art teacher, who also graduated from Moore, offered Durham the opportunity to take Saturday classes at the College’s former building on Broad Street.

“When I arrived, it was like walking into a candy store,” Durham said. “All the girls were dressed in jeans with shirts full of paint and everyone was painting and drawing. It was my mecca.”

Durham met her husband John during her first week at Moore. She attended an event at the University of Pennsylvania, where he was enrolled in the MBA program. Six months later, the couple got engaged. They married during Durham’s sophomore year at Moore.

“I had people placing bets that I wouldn’t finish my education, but I did finish,” she said. “I saw it as something in my life that I wanted to accomplish.”

After graduation, Durham was convinced that being a teacher was “the right thing to do” and would afford her a good life. She taught for several years before stopping to have children. When she was ready to return to teaching, there were no jobs.

“Being an artist, you learn all the shades of grey,” she said. “If it doesn’t work one way, you find another way. That was the biggest lesson I learned at Moore.”

When her husband’s career as CEO of the Delaware Group of Mutual Funds took off, he decided to redo his downtown offices. Carol Durham worked with Ken Parker Associates to design the space. She loved the job and decided to return to Moore to study design while working part-time with the firm.

A friend of hers was also pursuing design and the two of them went out on their own, designing professional offices and healthcare facilities until 1990.

Today, Durham is still involved with interior design. She is currently helping to renovate a church in Ambler, PA.

She and her husband are building a cottage in South Carolina, near her daughter, and Durham is designing the interiors. She regularly sells her artwork at local galleries.

Durham is committed to philanthropic initiatives, including volunteer work with Head Start, her church, the Salvation Army and Abington Memorial Hospital.

She encourages young alumni with an interest in philanthropy to support organizations they believe in that have made a difference in their lives, like Moore.

“If you are involved with something that makes a difference in your life, you should want to or have an obligation to give back. If you believe in Moore, support Moore.”