Richard Kalter, an Episcopal priest and philosopher-in-residence at Maryland Institute College of Art, died of an infection Wednesday at Maryland General Hospital. The Bolton Hill resident was 79.
He was born in Dayton, Ohio, and was encouraged to pursue painting and music by his mother and his aunt. While at Elmhurst College in Illinois, he paid his tuition by playing church organs and was drawn to philosophy and theology.
He received a degree from Union Theological Seminary in New York.
After seminary, he earned a master's degree at Yale University and was ordained about 45 years ago. He briefly served at a parish in New Haven, Conn., and then received his doctorate at Harvard University. His doctoral work contrasted Protestant and Catholic notions of conscience.
He taught philosophy and theology at Yale for more than 20 years before moving to Maryland and living at the alternative education center, Koinonia, in Baltimore County. He joined the MICA faculty about 25 years ago.
"As philosopher-in-residence, he provided an important link between the liberal arts and studio experiences for generations of our students," said Cheryl Knauer, the college's spokeswoman.
He offered critiques in studio classes and organized informal conversations that joined students with scientists, scholars, and thinkers in various fields. He also held a series of Sunday conversations at his home.
"He was phenomenally wise. He could open up the world for you," said Mike Molla, MICA's vice president of operations.
He also was an informal campus chaplain, counseling students and officiating at wedding ceremonies for faculty, staff and students.
"He lived between the physical and metaphysical world," said Mary Fredlund, a fellow faculty member and longtime friend. "He was sought out by all kinds of individuals, his former students, faculty members and friends. He has boxes of cards and letters and addresses. He made and continued to make connections with people."
Dr. Kalter wrote poetry and painted. He also collaborated with artists and served as a dramaturge for playwrights, filmmakers, producers and directors in Baltimore's theater community.
In 2003, Dr. Kalter was honored for his 25 years of service to MICA with a Medal of Honor, the school's highest award.
He also was the 2003 commencement speaker, and during last year's alumni weekend was recognized with a special exhibition, Richard Kalter: A Tribute. The show presented works by the art school's alumni from the classes of 1979 to 2002 "whose art and life had been inspired, influenced, and informed by their interaction with Dr. Kalter."
"From the time he arrived in the late '70s, Richard elevated the level of discourse among faculty and students simply through his presence," said the college's president, Fred Lazarus.
"He personally created a culture that links artists with creative contemporary thinkers and, at the same time, the greatest historical thinkers," he said.
No funeral is planned. A gathering of his students, faculty, and staff was held yesterday at the school. Plans for a memorial service are incomplete.
Survivors include a sister, Martha Ingelfinger of Peoria, Ariz.; and nieces and nephews.