Robert F. Jewett


The family of Robert F. Jewett is heartbroken to announce his death on July 18, 2019, following a courageous battle with cancer. Overlooking the waters near his home on Martha’s Vineyard, he passed away peacefully with his wife, Peggy, by his side. A resident of Vineyard Haven, Robert was a celebrated artist, educator, and sailor, treasured by his family, friends, and students.

Robert was born in Boston in 1946 to Frank B. Jewett Jr. and Edar F. Jewett. Growing up in New Canaan, Conn., Robert attended Tabor Academy and Rockford College, and went on to study ceramics with Warren MacKenzie and Curtis Hoard at the University of Minnesota.  

After completing a master of fine arts in ceramics in 1972, Bob began a 41-year teaching career at St. Paul Academy and Summit School in St. Paul, Minn. He was hired to develop a ceramics studio program in the school’s fledgling art department, a department that grew to become one of the school’s signature strengths. During his tenure at SPA, Jewett served as chair of the fine arts department, and was a recipient of the Brooks Endowed Chair for Fine Arts. 

 Robert’s life and his art were inseparable. Every aspect of his life reflected his personal aesthetic, from the art he made to the house he lived in, to his creativity in sailing a Soling. Invested with simple beauty, Jewett’s ceramics and sculpture trace their inspiration to the power of the Atlantic Ocean and the infinite images found along its shores ( His work was widely exhibited throughout the Upper Midwest and at the Louisa Gould Gallery on Martha’s Vineyard.

Robert’s life was also inextricably intertwined with water. From the Atlantic Coast to the Mississippi River and back, Bob lived with a body of water within his sightline and his soul. The Jewett name is synonymous with sailing excellence on Martha’s Vineyard, and Bob continued that family tradition with characteristic humility, combined with a competitive edge. He crewed and skippered Solings for over 40 years, distinguishing himself early on as crew on the family boat, Epee, winning the first Atlantic Coast Sailing Championship. He is remembered for his legendary success on his red Soling, Andiamo, which followed years of sailing accomplishment and service at the Vineyard Haven Yacht Club.

 Bob was a gifted teacher, a natural. The expert, while sensitive and intuitive, touch he displayed at a boat’s tiller or potter’s wheel informed his teaching. A former student wrote to Bob in appreciation, “I was enrolled in pottery classes, a clumsy, pudgy, poor, light-skinned black kid way outside of my comfort zone at SPA. The place I felt most supported was in the pottery studio. You were a guide for me: I have come to appreciate that you gave me the space to row the canoe at the front while you quietly steered and kept me on course to reach our destination in the back. You taught us how to use slurry and make clay and center the clay — and ourselves.

I’m taking a teaching position this fall … happy to be back caring for young people again in a school setting because I had a great teacher who taught me the fundamentals. That’s you. What you did for me mattered.” 

Bob’s studio classroom was a haven for self-reflection, exploration and pushing one’s limits, a place to experience the joy of making art invested with personal meaning under his thoughtful and steady guidance. St. Paul Academy and Summit School has created the Robert Jewett Award for Excellence in Ceramics, to be awarded annually to honor Bob’s legacy as an artist, a teacher, and a leader. 

Bob retired in 2014 to Martha’s Vineyard, where he had spent his summers sailing and tending to the historic 1700s harborfront home his grandparents acquired in the 1920s. Robert continued his studio practice on the Island, and taught ceramics classes at the Featherstone Center for the Arts. He was happiest when pursuing one of his greatest joys — introducing newcomers, friends, and family to the infinite wonders of sailing, from the coastal waters of New England to the Caribbean Sea. 

As he was in his prime, Robert was ever gracious and optimistic even as his strength ebbed away. He is survived by his wife, the light of his life, Peggy Keeling Jewett, and his beloved stepsons, Nathaniel Lee and Carter Lee; his sisters, Rebecca Jewett Rendall and Edar Frances Jewett; and a treasured extended family which includes several nieces and nephews, cousins, and in-laws. Robert was sadly predeceased by his brother, Frank B. (“Terry”) Jewett III. 

A memorial service will be held on Sept. 21 at 10 am at Grace Episcopal Church in Vineyard Haven, with a reception to follow. 

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Dr. Helen Shih’s Shine 360 Fund, which addresses the needs of cancer patients challenged with heroin/opioid addiction, Mass. General Development Office, 125 Nashua St., Suite 540, Boston, MA 02114, or or to St. Paul Academy and Summit School, Office of Institutional Advancement, 1712 Randolph Ave., St. Paul, MN 55105.