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Patricia S. Yahn endows juried student show

Monday, January 23, 2017

Walk through the halls of Mercyhurst University and you’d be hard pressed not to see the subtle influences of alumna Patricia Sontheimer Yahn ‘50. A student of the late Sister Angelica Cummings, after whom the university’s Cummings Art Gallery is named, Yahn’s youthful passion for watercolors found its early cultivation at Mercyhurst.

During the ensuing years, Yahn, who is now 88, contributed to many art shows and supported numerous exhibits on the Hill. One of her paintings, a quiet beach landscape with an almost spiritual pull, adorns the east wall of President Michael Victor’s office in Old Main, and is one of several she donated to the university.

Today, Mercyhurst announces that her legacy will continue through her gift to endow the Patricia S. Yahn Juried Student Art Show, to be held each year in Cummings Gallery.

As a young girl, Yahn had wanted to attend Mercyhurst to study art, but her father was averse, saying that girls did not need to go to college. She took it upon herself to seek out Mother Borgia Egan and request “special student” status so that she could take art classes; Sister Angelica became her mentor and, ultimately, Yahn earned her degree.

After her Mercyhurst studies, she went to work as a window display artist at Trask’s department store in downtown Erie. Years before mannequins became the norm, she created life-size drawings of models wearing merchandise on sale at the store. Later she would focus on interior design, operating her own business, Interiors of Erie. She was also well known for creating scenery for the Junior League’s popular follies held annually at then-Tech Memorial High School.

All the while, she never lost touch with Mercyhurst and was a longtime member of the Carpe Diem Society, including a stint as its chairman. She also participated in and attended many of the university’s art exhibits with her husband, Walter, who died a year ago January. She is the mother of two daughters, Cindy Grode of Erie, and Susan Yahn of Bluffton, South Carolina, and two sons, Jeffrey and Gregory Yahn, both of Fairview. She also enjoys 13 grandchildren.

The first Patricia S. Yahn Juried Student Art Show will be held Feb. 13 to March 24, with a reception on Thursday, Feb. 16, from 4 to 6 p.m. at Cummings Gallery. The gallery is open to the public weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., weekends from 2 to 5 p.m. It will close March 5-11 during Mercyhurst’s mid-semester break. For information, contact gallery director Heather Dana at 814-824-2092 or