Professor Emeritus of Architecture, James Grote Van Derpool was born in 1903. He received his bachelor of architecture degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1927 and his master's degree in fine arts from Harvard in 1940. Before completing his master's degree, he conducted research at the American Academy in Rome in 1928 and at the Atelier Gromort of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Paris, in 1929. In addition, he practiced architecture in Boston and taught the history of architecture at Renssalaer Polytechnic Institute before joining the faculty of the University of Illinois in 1932.
Professor Van Derpool was the head of the Department of Art at the University of Illinois from 1938 to 1946. In 1945 and 1946, he served as chairman of the committee for selection of a new president of the university. In 1946, he succeeded Talbot Hamlin as librarian of the Avery Library at Columbia University, serving as head of the library from 1946 to 1959. Between 1959 and 1961, Van Derpool was also Acting Dean and then Associate Dean of the School of Architecture at Columbia.
Van Derpool was president of the New York chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians from 1951 to 1956 and President of the National Society of Architectural Historians from 1955 to 1957. He was also National Chairman of the Advisory Committee for the Historic American Buildings Survey of the National Parks Service between 1956 and 1962. As well, he served as a trustee of the American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society from 1949 to 1965.
Van Derpool was a trustee of Columbia University Press from 1959 to 1962, was on the Advisory Board of the School of Painting and Sculpture at Columbia from 1959 to 1961, and served on the board of History of Art and Archeology from 1959 to 1966. Van Derpool was a member of the Committee on the Future of Columbia University for two years and the Committee on the Selection of Dean of Architecture in 1959-1960.
While on leave from Columbia University School of Architecture, Van Derpool organized the office of the New York Landmarks Preservation from 1961 to 1966. Also among his various achievements, he published widely, participated in or initiated numerous historic property restorations, and was the recipient of numerous awards and honors. Van Derpool retired from Columbia University in 1966 and died in 1979 at his home in Esopus, New York.