Barnard held its annual Gala at New York City’s historic Plaza Hotel on Thursday, May 7th. The dinner, award ceremony and scholarship auction raised $5.6 million towards the College’s financial aid program and faculty support. The event was cochaired by Cheryl Glicker Milstein '82 and Nina Rennert Davidson ’95.
A highlight of this year’s gala was a special acknowledgement of Joan Rivers ’54. Her daughter, Melissa Rivers, accepted the inaugural Joan Rivers ’54 Trailblazer Award, an honor developed in Joan’s memory, on behalf of her mother. Named for Barnard’s legendary alumna, this award is presented to someone who exemplifies the strength, determination, creativity, and courage that were the hallmarks of Joan Rivers’ groundbreaking and illustrious career as a comedian, actress, author, and entrepreneur. Joan's dear friend Marjorie Stern made a generous gift to the College towards a scholarship in Joan's name and introduced a tribute video produced especially for the occasion by Entertainment Tonight.
The video showcased Joan's years at Barnard along with highlights of her groundbreaking career as one of the country's top comediennes and television personalities. At the conclusion of the short film, Today Show host Kathie Lee Gifford gave remarks and presented the Trailblazer Award to Melissa Rivers. Upon accepting the Trailblazer Award for her mother, Melissa Rivers said, "She loved Barnard dearly and was proud of the fact that she went here. This honor would have thrilled her beyond words. Barnard, thank you for making my mom very much who she was."
Lida Orzeck ’68, founder and CEO of lingerie design company Hanky Panky, was honored for her significant accomplishments and generous support of the College over the years. Just announced last night, Lida has endowed $2.5 million to The Lida A. Orzeck Distinguished Artist-in-Residence Fund, which will bring artists to Barnard’s campus to participate in a variety of academic and artistic endeavors with students and faculty.
American-British investment banker, noted philanthropist and honoree, John J. Studzinski CBE, is Vice Chairman of Investor Relations and Business Development at The Blackstone Group, the global investment and advisory firm. In 2014, the Prince of Wales honored Studzinski for his philanthropic work in the United Kingdom. At the gala, he was honored for his charitable contributions to young people in the arts.
Barnard College President Debora L. Spar commented, “Scholarships are key to the lives of our students—extraordinary young women who will go on to do great things and undoubtedly inspire future generations at Barnard. The dedicated alumnae, families, and friends who participate in this special evening for the College help ensure that any applicant who is accepted to Barnard will be able to attend regardless of her family’s financial means.”
The evening began with a reception from 6:00-7:00pm, followed by dinner and a Scholarship Auction with Shawn Levy, producer and director of the popular Night at the Museum film series, as the auctioneer. Gala Nights, an “after party” for socially engaged young alumnae, began at 9 p.m.