Donor Profile: John and Susie Diekman

When John Diekman arrived at Princeton as a first-year student in 1961, the Art Museum was not on his radar.

“I went to Princeton with one purpose—to become a chemistry professor,” he recalled recently. “All I wanted to study was chemistry, and I announced that to my adviser who told me Princeton was a liberal arts university, and I had to take other courses. I said, ‘Like what?’”

Like art history, the adviser fatefully answered, and we’re fortunate he did.

“I had never heard of art history,” John laughingly recalls, “and had no interest in art history, but [the class] opened my eyes, inspired me beyond belief. I found the Museum and fell in love. That’s how it started.”

Fifty years later, John is in his fifth year as chair of the Museum’s Advisory Council. He and his wife Susan (known as Susie)—who met in graduate school at Stanford, where the two discovered a shared passion for art—are tireless volunteers and major supporters of the Museum.

Why do they give? “To sustain the programming and high-quality curatorial staff,” says Susie. “Yes, it is about acquiring and preserving objects, but it’s also about the people who interpret the objects and engage visitors—particularly students—with original works of art. There’s no substitute for it.”

Susie, a lifelong museum lover who worked as a corporate foundation’s arts program officer, cites a Monet as her favorite work in the galleries here; John always heads straight to the special exhibitions and then downstairs to the African and ancient galleries, collections he says help us understand everything from history to religion and philosophy.

“I always see something new and different,” he says. “Just the other week, I was on campus and had forty-five minutes and headed to the Museum. It’s an oasis.”

“My only disappointment,” he says, ”is that the galleries aren’t big enough. We just don’t have the space to show even a tiny fraction of our wonderful collections.”

Which is precisely what he is now helping to change, working closely with Museum Director James Steward and University leadership as we complete design and prepare for construction of the new Museum building, due to begin in 2021. John calls the new Museum facility essential—and he can hardly wait.

“There will be more room for the collections,” John says. “More study rooms to engage with the works. Students, alumni, visitors will all see this world-class statement right in the middle of campus.”