The Saint John’s community fondly remembers Jo (Alice Joan) White, the multi-talented artist known as “the mother of The Saint John’s Bible.” Jo passed away in February at the age of 87.
As the founder of The Colleagues of Calligraphy, Jo created a community for calligraphers around the world to share their techniques with one another and promote their art form. Jo was deeply involved with the Saint John’s community, serving as a board member of the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library for many years, and also as Honorary Curator of the Contemporary Calligraphy Collection.
The Colleagues of Calligraphy sponsored the first international lettering conference in 1981 at Saint John’s University, the occasion for renowned calligrapher Donald Jackson’s first connection with the University. Jo developed a friendship with Donald and encouraged him to pursue his dream of creating a hand-written Bible in partnership with Saint John’s. She was a passionate advocate for the project at the University, using her influence and enthusiasm to rally support.
When Donald first proposed the idea to Eric Hollas, OSB, Jo excitedly wrote the date – November 27, 1995 – on a two-dollar bill and tore it in half, keeping one half for herself and giving the other to Donald. She suggested they reunite the halves when the contract for the project was signed. In 1998, the two friends were able to piece the bill back together.
The University awarded Jo its President’s Citation and Medal in 2017. Donald Jackson wrote in a letter for the ceremony, “It can truly be said that for more than forty years Jo has been acknowledged as a formidable ambassador for western calligraphy and the lettering arts. The Saint John’s Bible is one of the fruits of her energy. But it is to Saint John’s and The Saint John’s Bible she has always given her heart.”
“It is not an overstatement to say [The Saint John’s Bible] would not have happened without Jo,” said Saint John’s President Michael Hemaseth.
We are fortunate we have such a tangible record of Jo’s lifelong passion in The Saint John’s Bible, and we are deeply grateful she shared her talents with us.