Persistence, perseverance—and sometimes plain pestering: these are some of the strategies that helped Mallika Dutt and Jane Golden become successful activists for their respective public-interest passions. Their far-ranging and sometimes feisty discussion about “Women Leading the Way” was part of the festivities celebrating the official ribbon-cutting and opening of The Diana Center on February 3. The panel was organized by The Athena Center for Leadership Studies. As Kathryn Kolbert, the center’s director and the panel’s moderator notes, one of the goals of The Athena Center is to “showcase inspiring women leaders who have used their energies to make the world a better place. Both women have been incredibly creative in their work.”
Dutt is founder and United States director of Breakthrough, an international human-rights organization that addresses issues like violence against women, sexuality and HIV/AIDS, immigrant rights, and racial justice through popular culture, media, community education, and leadership development. The organization runs programs in India and America. Golden is director of the City of Philadelphia’s Mural Arts Program, which has designed and installed more than 3,000 murals throughout the city, transforming local communities and inspiring residents.
“The underlying philosophy is to articulate women’s rights as human rights,” explains Dutt, a longtime human-rights activist who once worked for the Ford Foundation. She showed several award-winning Bollywood-style videos that were designed to deal with the problems of violence against women and the stigma of HIV/ AIDS, as part of public service campaigns in India. “Usually we talk about how culture and religion constrain and restrain women’s rights,” says Dutt. “This all began as an experiment to take cultural experiences and create a human-rights culture. The way that media shapes your life will be absolutely critical to create human-rights solutions.”
Golden, who grew up in a “mural-friendly household where my parents always talked about the art created during the WPA,” was an artist who channeled her impulse for social change into public art projects. She first worked on public murals with teenagers on probation in Santa Monica, California. When Golden moved back East, she started working with teenagers from inner-city Philadelphia as part of an anti-graffiti campaign.
“I could put kids to work,” says Golden. “There weren’t opportunities for [those] who had talent, and interest, in art. What I love about murals is that you have many, many stakeholders; you engage with the community. Murals become a tipping point, turning around communities.... That was my epiphany.”
For both Dutt and Golden, these leadership lessons could be applied anywhere. “Leadership is about you, wherever you are,” insists Dutt. “It’s how you treat everybody. It’s not about violators/victims. Human rights is about where you start as an individual. Leadership is whatever you can do in the space you occupy to bring human rights home.”
For Golden, it’s about “tenacity and perseverance, hope and faith, the determination one has to cultivate.... It’s the kind of courage that has to be summoned, with the patience to understand that it may not be everything you want. Leading is about moving forward no matter what.”
-by Merri Rosenberg '78
“We are bringing together some of the most extraordinary and accomplished women in the Arab world—women who are at the forefront of finance, health care, literature, film, and nonprofits. Their willingness to share their stories creates a dialogue that will benefit young women worldwide, and that promises an ongoing exchange of ideas,” said Barnard College President Debora L. Spar to approximately 300 accomplished and successful women from the United Arab Emirates and other parts of the Middle East as she opened the College’s second annual global symposium, “Women in the Arab World.” The audience included trustees, alumnae from around the world, and students’ parents. Held on March 15 in Dubai, the half-day program began with a luncheon and introductory remarks from Jolyne Caruso-FitzGerald ’81, incoming chair of Barnard’s Board of Trustees and president of Platinum Gate Capital Management. In her remarks, Spar affirmed to all, “I can imagine no better way to inspire young women to think expansively than to give them the opportunity to hear from successful women everywhere. This global symposium is one such moment.”
Soha Nashaat ’88, managing director of Barclays Wealth, Middle East, introduced keynote speaker Her Excellency Sheikha Lubna Khalid bin Sultan Al Qasimi, the UAE minister for foreign trade. As she opened her remarks, she pointed to the fact that in the UAE today women occupy around 30 percent of all management positions, outnumber men in the government sector, handle around 50 percent of the UAE’s small-to-medium enterprises, and manage investments of over 4 billion U.S. dollars. Sheikha Lubna added, “I am proud to say that the UAE is looked up to as a model Arab state in terms of affording more opportunities for its female citizens.”
But, she continued, “there are still many challenges that we as Arab women have to address and overcome. In many parts of the Middle East, family, cultural, business, and political structures still limit the full development of women’s potential. We need [these] forums ... to erase the popular stereotype of women as the ‘weaker’ sex with limited social roles. We need to encourage young Arab girls to believe more in themselves and have confidence in their ability to achieve and excel.”
In response to questions from the audience, Sheikha Lubna, one of four women serving as ministers in the UAE government, told how, as the economics minister, she had attended a World Trade Organization meeting in Hong Kong to deliver a speech on behalf of the UAE. She was repeatedly asked, “Where is your minister?” They thought, she explained, “I was his secretary or his office manager.” Others thought she was in the conference room merely to hold his seat. The questions continued even as she arose and began giving her speech.
Sheikha Lubna said, “My team was sitting right behind, I think, ... the U.S. delegation. And these delegates asked again, ‘Why is she speaking? Where is your minister?’” The Sheikha’s team members said, “She is our minister.” In the face of such stereotyping, she believes women must keep a sense of humor, “If you bring humor, people would remember you, would remember you actually are overcoming a stereotype.”
Sheikha Lubna emphasized the importance of education and family to Arab women. Referring to the decision to work or to stay home caring for children, she allowed, “At the end of the day, it really depends on the individual ... or the family. Here, we have extended family that helps a great deal with raising children. In some societies, you don’t.... But I want to remind women, if you choose to stay home and look after [children], that is the greatest job. It is not a job that tells you that you are less than another woman who is in a corporate [position within] an organization.... I don’t want women to feel that they are less than others. It’s a choice—you do what you want. And that choice is ... a belief in yourself, a belief in your family.”
Barnard College’s long history of excellence in leadership, and the literary output by its alumnae, were the inspirations for the other panels that afternoon. “Voices of the Region” tackled issues facing women in the Arab world through the arts: film, literature, and literary criticism. The discussion, moderated by President Spar, featured scholar and critic Samia Mehrez, filmmaker Moufida Tlatli, and novelist Ahdaf Soueif. The panelists explored how the arts and literature expanded women’s voices and experiences.
Professor Samia Mehrez emphasized that gender is embedded in everything we read and write. Arab writers continually use language that reflects their experience; for example, their history of colonization or discrimination and thus, she concluded, gender studies and translation studies go hand in hand.
Tunisian filmmaker Moufida Tlatli, speaking in both French and English, told stories of how she continually had to “combat” her family, to go to school and university, and to become a filmmaker. “My father said ‘no’ at each stage,” she declared. Hard work, the experience she had gained as a film editor, and the grief she felt after the death of her mother helped her complete her second film, La Saison des Hommes, which has met critical acclaim across the globe. When asked what’s next, she replied, “I’m not looking to plan the next film. When things come from my heart, the next film will come.”
Award-winning Egyptian novelist Ahdaf Soueif, author of The Map of Love (shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1999 and translated into more than 20 languages), attributed her great success to the influence of her mother, an English professor who moved the family to England, when as a woman she was unable to obtain a position teaching at a university in Egypt. The result was that Soueif spoke Arabic, but first learned to read in English. Her other strong influence came from her nanny, Azita, who told wonderful stories that taught the young girl to imagine and believe, and to understand the power of words and the importance of vivid characters.
As the director of The Athena Center for Leadership Studies, I moderated the second and final panel, “Conversations on Leadership,” which examined the changing face of women’s leadership across the region, and the great strides that Arab women have made in this part of the world. The panel included extraordinary women—all trailblazers in their fields. Each talked personally about how they achieved their success.
Investment banker Loulwa Bakr, who has held a number of investment banking positions in Saudi Arabia, explained that as the first woman trader in Saudi Arabia, she was often met with hostility and silence when she entered the trading floor. But now, said Bakr, women’s participation has been normalized. Today she walks inside the trading floor and sees both women and men working side by side. She did caution that it is important for us not to make generalizations about women in the Arab world. Depending on their country or community, women have remarkably different experiences. Saudi Arabia is not the same as Dubai, Oman, or Qatar, she added.
Dr. Houriya Kazim, the first female surgeon in the UAE, left it to study in England and the United States, returning to England for additional medical training when she realized the need for surgeons in the UAE. Starting a medical clinic for women in Dubai, Kazim continues to specialize in breast and reconstructive surgery for women with cancer. It took more hard work to achieve her goals than she ever imagined. And her journey was not without personal sacrifice. Since marriages are generally arranged, if one does not marry young, it is virtually impossible for a woman to marry an Emirati. Dr. Kazim did marry an American when she was almost 40, and was older than most of her peers when she started her family.
Federal National Council member Najla Al-Awadhi, one of the first women in the UAE parliament, its youngest member, and CEO of Dubai’s government-run cable-television channels, eloquently reiterated Kazim’s observation that success comes in part from hard work. According to Al- Awadhi, families may be both a source of personal support and an impediment to success. She spoke about one of her employees whom she wanted to promote to be an on-air reporter. This young woman’s mother didn’t want her daughter to be on television because the only women the mother saw on TV were not culturally acceptable. To overcome this resistance, Al-Awadhi met the mother to convince her to allow her daughter to appear on TV. “Think about that,” she said. “I bet Katie Couric’s boss never had to meet with [her] mom, before Katie accepted a position on television.”
Rabia Zargarpur, known as “Rabia Z.,” followed her passion for fashion design and trained in both the U.S. and France. A video presentation of her award-winning designs all incorporated the hajib and other traditional Muslim dress. She emphasized that she could stretch the cultural limits of her faith, but only so far. She believes Arab women needed ways to express themselves consistent with their conservative culture. As moderator, I was delighted and impressed with the open exchange of personal histories, and how these ideas sparked enthusiastic responses from the audience, particularly the younger women who had attended.
This symposium was the second in what has become an annual Barnard event, enabling the College to become better known around the globe, to attract international students, and to advance our understanding of women’s leadership in differing cultures. Barnard’s first global symposium, honoring Kang Tongbi, the first Chinese woman to study at Barnard early in the twentieth century, took place in Beijing, China, in March 2009 (barnard. edu/womenchangingchina). It brought together four renowned Chinese women leaders—a media mogul, an acclaimed author, an award-winning filmmaker, and an advocate for women’s rights—to share their inspirational stories with young women of the region. The success of that event inspired Barnard to continue examining the role of women and women leaders in other regions of the world.
The Dubai Symposium was presented in partnership with Barclays Wealth, Platinum Gate, Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank, Economic Zones World, Aramex, the University of Southern Maine, and Higher Education in Development in association with The Columbia University Middle East Research Center and DIFC Centre of Excellence. The Barnard Global Symposia will continue in spring 2011 in Africa.
Watch symposium highlights, see photos, and read more coverage at alum.barnard.edu/magazine.
-by Kathryn Kolbert, photographs courtesy of Ogilvy and Mather
About 25 years ago, not long after graduating with his MFA from the California Institute of the Arts, John Miller set about painting one picture a day, which, as it turned out, went on for nine months. He emerged from this ordeal, he later wrote, convinced that “the physical transfer of material, pigment suspended in acrylic medium, to the surface of the canvas in slow, even, repetitive strokes, which sealed off the surface of the canvas from top to bottom” amounted not to soul-baring illumination, as the Abstract Expressionists might have it, but to tedious repression. There had to be a better way.
After much trial and error with acrylic paint and modelling clay, Miller devised the perfect brown gunk to slather over dioramas of rustic villages; mod outfits on vacant-eyed mannequins; a lone Styrofoam sphere suspended in space; a higgledy-piggledy heap of worn hardbacks, and so forth.
“The way I started thinking about aesthetics was very much influenced by 1960s politics and Herbert Marcuse’s idea of repressive desublimation,” the thoughtful, seemingly shy, and funny associate professor of professional practice in art history explains in his bare office on the top floor of the College’s spanking-new Diana Center. (Freud coined the term “sublimation” to explain how we express our baser instincts in socially acceptable forms.) Making art can become a respectable, adult version of the infantile urge to play with scat. Miller used his goopy brown impasto to act out this process of suppression and improvement. “It’s art about art with a psychoanalytic detour,” he says.
Miller has never limited himself to brown—or even to the gold impasto that later superseded it. Part of the pioneering generation of multimedia artists, he doesn’t define himself in genre terms. He doesn’t consider himself a sculptor, a painter, or a photographer, but rather an artist who uses whichever medium best suits “the set of concerns I have at the time.” He has worked in installation, photo, painting, Flash-animated music, and he has played loud electric guitar in art-noise bands. At the College, he teaches photography and drawing as well as a course in art criticism, at which he is prolific and penetrating. But what is consistent is the work’s concern with how art is woven into the social fabric. Miller’s art is intellectually rich, physically undeniable, and, if you allow it to be, hilarious.
“I saw the brown works,” as he politely refers to them, “as largely psychological and symbolic gestures. I try to cultivate a perverse humor that tempers expectations so the things I’m working with don’t become foregone conclusions. And part of the humor of the brown pieces is how mild and low stakes they are.”
But not everyone found them mild or funny when they first extruded themselves on the scene, in the ’80s and early ’90s. The culture wars were raging and the art world was on edge about displaying the body and its functions. “People would come up to me and say, ‘I hate to tell you, but your work makes me physically ill.’”
The curator of one group show installed his contribution next to a horse-manure painting. Miller re-enacts his horror—“No! No!”—and laughs ruefully. “That was one of the worst moments.” American critics largely ignored him, but some were enthusiastic—“the brown version of Yves Klein,” as one writer put it in a nod to the Frenchman who made his name with a special shade of blue.
For a good chunk of his career, Miller was associated with brown—if he was recognized at all. While friends who mined a similar homespun, mildly perverse and comic vein, such as Mike Kelley, picked up accolades and museum exhibitions, Miller kept on, buoyed up by positive reception in Europe; regular shows at the esteemed Metro Pictures in New York and the Galerie Barbara Weiss in Berlin; and the pleasures and challenges of the work itself. Recognition grew slowly. Then suddenly it exploded.
New York critic Jerry Saltz, who 10 years earlier had scratched his head over some of Miller’s work, wrote a glowing review of “The New Honeymooners,” a 2007 show at the Friedrich Petzel and Metro Pictures galleries. Last year, the contemporary art museum Kunsthalle Zürich honored Miller with a comprehensive retrospective that included his “paintings of paintings,” as he puts it, the brown and subsequent gold reliefs and sculptures, as well as a mammoth digitized slideshow of an ongoing photo project he has pursued for a dozen years. And for its January 2010 issue, ArtForum made the Zürich show its cover story, with Miller’s 20 art gracing that cover—the best piece of art-magazine real estate in the country.
“This is the most attention I’ve ever had,” the artist acknowledges. “I certainly don’t take it for granted.” But the quality of the attention seems to matter more. He recently presented his work at the University of Illinois and afterwards, Hamza Walker, associate curator at the Renaissance Society, exclaimed happily, “Your work is really goofy and wacky and messy!” “I don’t think he meant just the brown impasto,” Miller reflects, “but the logic of how things go together. The associations are like opening a big can of worms.”
Take, for example, The Office Party and the Communist Party, the disarmingly gorgeous 1991 relief that ArtForum chose for its cover—made up of plastic sausages, pretzels, pineapples, apples, turnips, and grapes, plus squashed Coke cans, all rising out of Miller’s signature brown pigment. If you squint, the pretzel and sausage seem to form a hammer and sickle.
Miller spent a year in Berlin on an academic exchange fellowship shortly after the Wall fell. (His wife, photographer Aura Rosenberg, their daughter, Carmen, a junior in art history at Columbia, and he have since made the city a second home.) “The falling of the Wall was idealized at the time,” he recalls. “The resentment toward East Germans hadn’t come up yet.” He wanted to puncture the epic stature of the Communist Party “and bring that together with my experience working as a temp.”
“I temped for 10 years before I started teaching. My longest gig was with the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, where I typed and retyped tax manuals. The worst part was the office events. If you were a temp, you didn’t really fit in but you couldn’t really be excluded either, so you’re sitting on the periphery balancing a piece of cake on a paper plate.”
Without being overtly autobiographical, The Office Party and the Communist Party catches the vibe of squashed celebration and exuberant tackiness, abjectitude and marshalled enthusiasm, and has caused this viewer, at least, to burst out laughing.
Miller is pleased. “Art is only difficult if you think it is,” he notes. He remembers how one of the very dioramas that made adults nauseous 20 years ago prompted middle school students to get down on their hands and knees at eye level with the sculpture and eagerly investigate its nooks and crannies. “It was at the Whitney Biennial in 1991, and I was cleaning the piece—this landscape with reclining figures, a sort of Gulliver’s Travels thing that required some maintenance,” he recalls. “The kids said, ‘Neat! Cool!’ It was a gratifying response.”
And he is not appalled if you find the work “beautiful.” When I blurt out that the massive balls of plastic fruit he made for the Kitakyushu Biennial in 2007 strike me that way, he says, “Oh, thanks. I never wanted to make something that shouted, ‘Hey, I’m beautiful.’ But I try to make everything beautiful, at least to me. I figure, if I think it’s beautiful, it will take care of itself.”
Miller is an appealing combination of theoretical and cultural savvy, on one hand, and lack of pretension, on the other. He questions the usual truisms about art such as its timelessness and pricelessness—“Everything has a time and a price,” he says—and yet accepts that a work might stir a person in ways that defy explanation, at least for the moment. This incongruity may stem from the divide between where he grew up and where he ended up, as an artist and a citizen.
He was raised in the improbably named Chagrin Falls, Ohio, a bastion of Republicanism. His father, a paint salesman, would take him and his younger brother, now an accountant, on sales calls, rewarding them at the end of the day with sample tins, which they’d use for model planes.
The local art scene was big on regionalist painting, with the nearby Amish figuring largely. “It was kind of nostalgic, not very adventuresome—didn’t ask a lot of questions,” he points out. Still, by age 13, he had decided to become an artist—“to make things and show them.” He drew and painted, did ceramics and made assemblages.
By high school, his parents had divorced and money was scarce. To fund his bachelor’s of fine art, he was planning to join the Army. But then Kent State happened, members of Students for a Democratic Society visited his high school armed with Yippie films, and he began reading the underground newspapers. “There was no way I was going into the Army after that.”
He applied for scholarships. “The Rhode Island School of Design made the best offer, so I went there.” But it was at CalArts, where he received his MFA, that his mind got turned inside out. After a year, he says, “I was so overstimulated, I didn’t even know where to begin.” But that was the point: suddenly he could begin anywhere.
The teacher who left the biggest impression on him was the conceptual minimalist Michael Asher, best known for a 1974 piece that consisted simply of removing the wall between a Los Angeles gallery’s office and its exhibits space. Asher’s contribution to the current Whitney Biennial is to keep the museum open for 24 hours a day, three days straight.
“He would just walk into a room and say, ‘What are we going to talk about today?’” Miller recalls. “He was willing to sit out a 15-minute silence if need be. He knew exactly what he was doing by doing very little active intervening: he wanted to put students in the position of generating their own discourse, or make students realize that they already were. He was incredibly disciplined.”
Miller says he is not that “hardcore” at Barnard, where he has taught since 2000: “Asher’s technique presumes that everyone wants to be an artist, but this might be the only art class this person is going to take and they want to learn how to draw.” Miller is committed to maintaining a non- authoritarian presence, however, because he considers it essential to artistic thinking. “Some students get angry if you don’t present yourself as an authority, but I think that’s something that has to be worked through.”
In the photography class I observed, in which students took turns presenting works-in-progress while the rest of the class commented and asked questions, his remarks were spare and took their lead from how the presenter was characterizing the images. He told one student about an essay she might find helpful and offered some technical tips about digital printing to another. He never passed judgment on the work. When the discussion of one set of photographs had run its course, he exclaimed, “Thanks a lot!” and the next presenter lay out her goods. The class ambience was serious yet relaxed. The women were looking and thinking.
“There is a weird thing that happens when you make art,” Miller said later. “Almost everyone gets into it because it’s fun in a way. And then it gets professionalized. What was fun becomes a job. And most people embrace that, because it means their work is being embraced. But it does create some paradoxes; what you started as pleasure becomes work, and inevitably you start thinking of it as work.”
The students may take their fun very seriously, but it was clear they were having fun: a curious, probing kind, like Miller enjoys.
John Miller’s solo show of new paintings inspired by crying scenes on reality TV, “The Totality of Everything That Actually Exists,” runs through June 15 at the Galerie Barbara Weiss in Berlin. “The Grotesque,” a collaboration with Richard Hoeck, appears at Galerie Johann Widauer in Innsbruck, Austria, through July 15.
-Apollinaire Scherr, photographs by Andy Ryan
On January 12 this year, Sister Marjorie Wysong Raphael ’45 was on the second floor of Saint Margaret’s Convent in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, when the ground began to shake. An 86-year- old Episcopalian nun, Raphael was preparing to go to chapel with several other women. It was 4:50 p.m. “The furniture shook and everything fell off the walls,” Raphael says. “I started running downstairs—the walls started falling apart around us. The stairs were filled with chunks of cement.”
The women climbed through piles of rubble and down one more flight of stairs before they reached the parking lot outside the convent. The first shock had lasted just 12 seconds, but it had caused unimaginable damage. Holy Trinity Cathedral, just a few feet away, had collapsed. So had the Holy Trinity Primary School, Music School, Concert Hall and Professional School. In a fraction of a minute, structures in which Raphael and her colleagues had worked and worshiped for decades were reduced to piles of rubble.
Across Port-au-Prince, the damage was tremendous. Thousands of homes were destroyed, along with many government buildings. Roughly 230,000 people were killed. As the world watched, the country worked to aid the wounded and bury the dead. At Barnard, students struggled to comprehend the devastation—then began working together to raise awareness and money for Haiti relief. Like Raphael, many Barnard alumnae were profoundly affected as well.
Yvrose Smarth Gilles ’86 was watching a PBS program about the country when she first heard the news. A Haitian native who now lives in Davie, Florida, Gilles has self-published two books about Haiti. She and her husband also run Bookmanlit.com, an alternative source for news about Haiti. “The video said things were finally turning around, that the country was improving. It seemed to imply that this is Haiti’s last chance, but it’s finally getting somewhere,” she recalls. “In the middle of the program, my husband called me and said, ‘There has been a terrible earthquake.’”
That same afternoon, award-winning writer Edwidge Danticat ’90 was grocery shopping in Miami with her two young daughters. Chantel Nicolas ’07, a graduate student in chemistry, was in an Atlanta movie theatre watching The Princess and the Frog when she received a text message from a friend: “Did you hear about the earthquake?”
Dr. Yanick Chaumin-Savary ’74 had just returned from a long day at her cardiology practice in Queens. In addition to her medical career, she has spent the last 10 years preparing to build a Haitian stock exchange with her husband, a Wall Street broker. When she learned of the 7.0 magnitude earthquake, her reaction was that of a first responder: “I said, ‘They need doctors. I am going to help.’”
Haitian Roots & An American Education
Prior to the earthquake, Chaumin- Savary thought frequently of Haiti, though her day-to-day efforts were focused on her private practice. Born in Les Cayes, Haiti, she’d attended an all- girls Catholic school. On Sundays, she would tag along on the nuns’ hospital visits and play with the orphans she had befriended. Early on, Chaumin-Savary decided that she wanted to be in the business of helping sick people get well.
When she was 15, her father brought her to live with him in Brooklyn. While she only had a few years to polish her English before applying to college, she succeeded in her efforts to gain admission to Barnard. Her advisor, Dr. Grace King, helped her plan her premed course load. Chaumin-Savary attended medical school and, in 1984, started her own practice. Today, her waiting room is graced by a photo album of all her patients. “When you become one of my patients,” Chaumin-Savary says, “you join a family.”
Like Chaumin-Savary, Gilles was born in Haiti and came to the United States as a child. On a return trip to Haiti in 1986, Gilles gained a visceral understanding of how hard it was for people to survive there—and the extent of the poverty in which they lived. When she returned to the U.S., she began trying to determine how best to help her own family and her native country. Her publishing company and advocacy work followed.
Danticat, meanwhile, came to the United States at age 12 with one short story already under her belt. Just a year after earning her degree in French literature at Barnard, she published Breath, Eyes, Memory, a novel about a young Haitian girl who leaves her loving aunt behind to live in America with her traumatized and sometimes abusive mother. An acclaimed author whose most recent honor was a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant, Danticat continues to write frequently about Haiti.
Raphael’s connection to Haiti came later in life. A Long Island native, she studied religion and philosophy at Barnard and, eight months after graduation, felt the call to religious life. She took her vows with the Sisters of Saint Margaret in Boston in 1951, and then worked in Canada and Boston until the late 1970s, when her order sent her to Haiti.
For the last 30 years, Raphael lived at the convent in Port-au-Prince, where she spent her days in prayer and community service—visiting the sick, helping local women with sewing and other chores and spending time with Haitian women staying at the convent. She also spent two days a week in rural Haiti, where she and a few other nuns provided meals for local children and helped out in any way they could. “Haitian people are very artistic and musical, even though many of them do not have access to great education,” says Raphael, adding that she “fell in love” with the country and its people long ago. “They have lived courageously for so many years.”
After The Earthquake
In the hours after the quake, Raphael’s world turned on its head. She spent three nights in a tent on the football field next to Saint Peter’s College— which had collapsed during the earthquake—along with 1,000 other displaced people. They survived on a little rice and a bottle of water a day. A week later, she was finally able catch a plane to Boston to join her sisters at the convent, where she plans to stay. “I love Haiti and I would go back if I thought I could be useful,” she says. “But at my age, I might get in the way. I think it’s time that the younger ones take over.”
Danticat, who is 41, spent hours on the phone, being interviewed by The Wall Street Journal, National Public Radio, and other prominent media outlets. “I couldn’t go to Haiti [right away] because I had a little baby, so that’s what I could do,” she says simply.
Danticat also wrote a piece for The New Yorker, an obituary for her cousin Maxo, who died when his house collapsed. Twenty-three days after the earthquake, Danticat got a last-minute seat on a relief plane and visited the site where Maxo died and was buried. “The people who got burials of whatever kind were lucky,” she says. “You were sad for the dead, but you were also sad for the living.”
Chaumin-Savary was on the ground in Haiti quickly, along with 25 other doctors and a slew of medical supplies donated by local pharmacies and hospitals. “The international community went above and beyond when it came to giving supplies,” she says. “But Haiti needs more than supplies—we need to incorporate Haitian workers into the rebuilding efforts.”
That’s Chaumin-Savary’s motivation for establishing a stock exchange in Haiti. Though the building housing her Haiti offices collapsed, she is determined to move forward. “The principal idea is to issue bonds,” she says. “There are lots of Haitians in the world community who could invest in the long-term prosperity of their country rather than just sending cash.”
Building—and Rebuilding— Communities
Back in the United States, Facebook provided critical connections for some alumnae, who used the social networking site to track down friends and family. Nicolas, the graduate student, spent three days wondering what had happened to her father and brother. “I realized that I had to prepare myself for the possibility that my father had died. I was in my first semester at Clark Atlanta University, and I thought if my father did die, he would want me to finish my studies,” she says. “So I stayed in classes and continued working.” Her brother soon called to say that he and their father were fine.
Gilles and her husband were similarly fortunate: Though a few relatives were injured, they all survived. “Events in Haiti became the focus of our lives after the quake,” she says, noting that traffic to Bookmanlit.com tripled in the wake of the disaster.
After the earthquake, Gilles continued to use Facebook to build a community of journalists, activists, and artists. She has gone from updating her Web site monthly to working on it daily, and recently added a memorial for the dead. “I felt it necessary,” she says, “since the government is burying them without much ceremony or respect.”
At Barnard, students mobilized quickly to aid the struggling nation. The Caribbean Students Association and the Haitian Student Association launched a campus-wide coalition, There Is Hope Campaign, to coordinate relief efforts and generate discussion and collaboration. Since January, the campaign has raised approximately $8,000 and coordinated a number of fund-raising and awareness events.
As Haiti continues to recover from the devastation, both Danticat and Helene Gayle ’76, CEO of CARE, the humanitarian organization, believe it is critical that relief efforts focus on women and girls. And, they hope, Barnard alumnae will help lead the charge. “Women and girls are the change-makers in society. If you help them, you help everybody,” says Gayle. CARE, which has been active in Haiti since 1954, had nearly 150 staffers on the ground at the time of the earthquake. They immediately transitioned to emergency response mode, reaching nearly 300,000 people in Haiti by mid-March. “Women and girls are among the most at risk now,” says Gayle. “They are vulnerable to violence, to sexual violence. We need to make sure they are not forgotten about—now, and going forward.”
-by Harper Willis, illustration by Chris Silas Neal
The “save the Date” postcard for my 15th Barnard Reunion startled me last June. Fifteen years?! Soon a letter arrived asking for nominations from our class for various awards—professional achievement, academic excellence, feminism... I laughed when I read it—a laugh embodying both humor and humility, with me standing at the kitchen counter waiting for pasta water to boil, and my kids, then 3 and 6, sitting at the table munching carrots. Although I wouldn’t—couldn’t— nominate myself, no one else could either. With the letter’s innocent request to celebrate my classmates, I would acknowledge my utter lack of professional accomplishment since graduation.
I didn’t plan it. From 1994 until 1998, I was immersed in the working world: My first job out of Barnard was at a nonprofit cultural center, with amazing people and a steep learning curve; the second was copy editor of a national magazine, my “break” into publishing. But I was miserable there, and 18 months later, four years into my working life, I left to work part time at two more magazines and to freelance as a copy editor. My quiet desire to edit more substantively and write did not compete with the fact that copyediting was paying my bills and I was enjoying the freelancer’s lifestyle. And my personal life was thriving.
In these same years, I fell in love, adopted a dog, and co-signed a mortgage. In 1999, my future husband and I sublet our apartment and took a detour from our working lives for six months to drive across the country with our dog. We married the following year. (Indeed, I fulfilled the women’s-school joke of yore: I got my MRS, marrying a man with those very initials.)
In 2002, I had my first child. Still freelancing, I had an easy segue into stay-at- home motherhood. My second child was born in 2005. I have continued to freelance, just enough, I often joke, to keep my brain from complete atrophy.
Professional achievement? Does copyediting a college course catalogue during my kids’ naptimes count? Academic excellence? My avid listening of NPR in the car does not apply. Feminism? I’ve got that one covered. My husband did 50 percent of the diaper changes and does 90 percent of the dishes. (Some MRS!)
Still, this Barnard grad has no choice but to acknowledge that, professionally speaking, the last 15 years have yielded nothing notable. Through the prism presented by last year’s milestone reunion, I see where those years have gone and the realization is not a self-deprecating one. I am okay with it. For now.
Before I had children, I read in the pages of this magazine an article about women who take a number of years out of the workforce to raise their kids to school age and then return, even a decade later. “Sequencing” (Fall 1999), it was called. This word appears during my inner dialogue, and I have always appreciated, sometimes clung to the concept, that what I am doing has been given a name. I am in the throes of completing an eight-year sequence. As I see it, professional achievement is still out there, waiting for me, mine if I want it.
One of the earliest things I remember learning about my mother was that she was one of five women in her medical school class of 1968. Her parents had wanted her to be a teacher, and she hid her plans from them until she received her acceptance letter, scholarships, and was as good as on her way. She had wanted to become a surgeon, but was discouraged, and instead chose psychiatry. She still tells us, wistfully, about her impeccable sutures, a skill that went unrealized but for her gender. Growing up, I had no notion of what I could or could not do based on gender. Accomplishment was simply up to me, not as a girl, not as a woman, but as a student, a person, a member of society. To this, my four years at Barnard added constant reinforcement. Such an ingrained understanding has allowed me the freedom to be comfortable in my choice of focus these past years, as I have never believed anything but my own ambition is required to pursue my professional aspirations when the time is right.
A college, understandably, celebrates its most successful graduates, those who are recognized for professional achievement, academic excellence, and more. I write this piece simply as a gentle lifting of the hat to the rest of us, in the midst of professional and personal lives, just perhaps less print-worthy and with quieter purpose.
Next fall my youngest child will begin kindergarten and I will begin a new sequence, one rippling with possibility and expectation. I am approaching 40, not 25, yet I feel very much as I did at graduation 15 years ago. I now have a family, a dog, a house, but certain questions are the same. What will I do? Who will I be? My mind is gleefully awhirl.
-by Jessica Stolzberg '94, illustration by Peter Arkle
Nina Shaw ’76 believes everyone deserves the opportunity to make something of themselves. She made the most of hers: After piecing together her Barnard tuition from a combination of scholarships and student loans, she enrolled in law school and began a career as an entertainment lawyer. Today, Shaw is a Hollywood power player representing movie stars such as Jamie Foxx and Laurence Fishburne through the law firm she cofounded, Del, Shaw, Moonves, Tanaka, Finkelstein & Lezcano. As busy as her schedule is, she accepted an invitation to speak on behalf of donors and friends at Barnard’s Torchbearers 2010, the annual gathering of scholarship, internship, and fellowship donors and their student recipients.
Speaking to the Torchbearers audience about her own background and the importance of giving back, Shaw noted that she wouldn’t have been able to afford her undergraduate studies without scholarships. As a result, she decided to offer current students with financial needs the same kind of assistance she received. Shaw has established two: The first, the Mary Catlett Hardy Scholarship Fund, has helped pay for the Barnard education of a dozen students since the 1998–99 academic year. The second, the Nina L. Shaw ’76 Residential Scholarship Fund, will begin supporting recipients soon. “I have a very keen sense that financial aid made the difference between the life I led and the life I’m living now,” she says.
Honoring a Dream Denied
The first scholarship Shaw endowed is named for her great- grandmother, Mary Catlett Hardy, whom she would visit in Charlottesville, Virginia, during childhood. “...A spectacular woman—tall and soft-spoken, with a southern accent,” recalls Shaw. “She was a professional seamstress, but was actually more like an artist. She made the most beautiful clothing you could possibly imagine. We read Vogue ... going through it line by line, and she would often copy clothing she saw there.”
Shaw’s great-grandmother spoke about growing up in the South at a time when many African Americans had few opportunities for education. “In my great-grandmother’s time, if you were a colored person, you had to leave town to get a high school education,” she says. “There was no black high school in Charlottesville until 1926.”
Mary Catlett Hardy persevered, eventually enrolling at Oberlin College and working side jobs to pay her tuition. When her father fell ill, however, she had to return to Charlottesville and give up her dream of a college education. “She spoke of Oberlin like it was the city on the hill,” says Shaw. “She was a great leader and had a great intellectual curiosity, but her formal education ended when she was just 17 years old. It is truly the tragedy of her life.” That dream cut short was the motivation behind the scholarship Shaw established in her great-grandmother’s name.
A Shot at Success
Shaw grew up in Harlem and the Bronx with two brothers and two sisters. Her mother worked at the post office and later at the motor vehicles department; her stepfather was a New York City Housing policeman, who drove a cab part time. “My parents were always very clear that they wanted me to achieve far more than they had,” says Shaw. “We were going to be this incredibly successful generation. It wasn’t a question of if you go to college, it was when you go to college.”
-by Peter McDougall, photograph by Roger Davies
To paraphrase a salutation from beloved and retired Barnard administrator Doris Miller: “Hello, beautiful Barnard women!”
I don’t know where the time went, but we are nearing the end of another wildly successful academic year at Barnard. Everyone (including me) is looking forward to Commencement and our speaker, Meryl Streep, with great anticipation. Once again, the Alumnae Association will present this year’s graduates with a small gift to welcome them into our midst as members. I think that makes it a tradition. As the new graduates return home or venture out into the world for jobs or continued education, please reach out to welcome them into your area and into your workplaces.
Over the past few months, the Alumnae Board of Directors has reviewed our bylaws. I would like to acknowledge the enormous contribution of Binta Brown ’95, who chaired the committee and guided a very thoughtful discussion of these bylaws, and Mark Collins of the College’s General Counsel office. The Board also deserves thanks for their insight and input to make the document a living guide for our work.
At this year’s annual meeting at Reunion, the Alumnae Association will review our charter. Proposed amendments include:
• updating the purpose clause to reflect that our membership encompasses all alumnae in good standing, although some are not necessarily “graduates”
• updating the number of board members
• clarifying the date of the annual meeting
These changes will ensure that our operation is aligned with the bylaws. I hope you will join us at the annual meeting (see the notice below for details) and all the other Reunion events, June 3–6.
By now, those of you in a milestone reunion year have received your invitation to Reunion 2010. Even if this is not a milestone year for you, I encourage you and your guests to attend. It is a great time for classmates to get together and have a mini- reunion or to see The Diana Center and hear from faculty and President Spar about what’s happened at Barnard and the exciting plans for the future. Every event I attend on campus leaves me energized by the incredible spirit of the bright, beautiful women of all ages who have attended the College over the years. I look forward to seeing you there.
Frances Sadler ’72
-Photograph by Elena Seibert '78
On March 4, The Diana Center was buzzing with the voices of college students and professional women from throughout New York City. The first session of Mentor It Forward, a citywide program created by Barnard College and the NYC Commission on Women’s Issues, was about to begin. Fifty accomplished women, all leaders in their fields, had volunteered their morning to advise the same number of eager undergraduates on how to begin their careers. Mentors were grouped according to their specific fields; each paired with a mentee for eight minutes, a bell signaled when the time was up, then the student would move down one seat to the next mentor for another advice session. Over the course of an hour, the mentors offered individual insight and shared experiences with as many as seven different students.
Before the actual mentoring sessions began, the participants enjoyed a catered breakfast in The Diana Center Event Oval, as they gathered with hundreds of prominent New Yorkers for the official NYC opening event of Women’s History Month. The morning was kicked off by Barnard College President Debora Spar, NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, WCBS News anchor Cindy Hsu, and the NYC Commission on Women’s Issues Chair Anne Sutherland Fuchs. Spar underscored the importance of mentorship and its correlation with success. She told the crowd that the innovative program was designed to bring mentoring up-to-date and advised students to look for a variety of mentors and types of mentoring relationships; urging them to get as much advice as they can and find out what works for them. Spar recalled some of the influential mentors she encountered over the years as she rose through the academic ranks, from older academics who supported her every move, to two colleagues who were so tough on her that she didn’t see them as mentors until years later—when she realized they were the people who would never let her fail.
“A city is only as strong as the health and success of its women,” said Mayor Bloomberg. The speed mentoring program was, as he described it, a way to link college students to “a certain caliber of professional whom they’ve never had access to before,” in a format that would accommodate the busy lives of those professionals who might not otherwise have the time to mentor young women. “Our aim here is to create a pipeline that will produce leaders and pioneers,” said Bloomberg. And in the midst of so many bright women, the mayor, known for his flashes of wit, went on to observe dryly, “Academically, I was one of the members of the class who made the top half of the class possible.”
“How many people here have tried speed dating?” asked Cindy Hsu, invoking a popular analogy for the “speed mentoring” program about to begin. “I’ve tried it, and I’m just going to tell you: we’re going to have much more effective results today.”
“Needless to say there won’t be much time for small talk,” observed Anne Sutherland Fuchs, chair of the women’s commission, which worked with Barnard College Communications and NYC Service (a mayoral program that links volunteers with the organizations that need them) to coordinate the event in observance of Women’s History Month. “The mentees will just have to dive right in and start peppering the mentors with [questions on] how to succeed,” she advised.
For the sessions, mentors were divided into four groups: health, medicine, science and technology; law, public service, and government; finance, business, communications, media, and marketing; and nonprofit, education, art, and culture. Among the mentors were Marianne J. Harkin, a director at NYU Langone Medical Center; ABC News correspondent Lynn Sherr; First Deputy Mayor of New York City Patricia Harris; former Vice- Chair and CFO of Con Edison Joan Freilich ’63; Jemina Bernard, executive director, Teach For America, New York region; Dean of Admissions Jennifer Gill Fondiller ’88; Ann Whitney Olin Professor of Professional Practice in Architecture and Chair of the department of architecture Karen Fairbanks; and Director of the Barnard Center for Research on Women and Interim Associate Dean of Faculty Diversity Janet Jakobsen.
Each undergraduate had been pre- assigned to a category based on her interests. At each eight-minute interval, Vivian Taylor, chief of staff and vice president for community development at Barnard, rang the bell, calling, “Mentor it forward! It is time to move!”
The 50 undergraduates hailed from the colleges participating in the Mayor’s College Challenge Program, a citywide initiative (of which Barnard is a part) to encourage college students, faculty, and staff to make a positive impact by volunteering in the community. The mentees went on to become mentors themselves, starting on April 17 at the NYC Young Women’s Volunteer Summit where they met with high school students to advise them on what to expect when they get to college. “We’re going to take this program around the city. We want to have it in every borough and every neighborhood,” said Sutherland Fuchs.
After the event at Barnard, both mentors and mentees agreed that the event had exceeded their expectations. “I thought it was great. The sessions were easy and smooth, and all the women were really articulate and gave great advice,” said Dana Bacharach ’13, from Portland, Ore. For Anna Steffens ’10, one the best things the mentors were able to convey to her was a stronger sense of confidence about the future. “One mentor assured me, ‘Don’t worry, you’re going to get a job; it’s going to happen. Put all your energy into enjoying yourself and cultivating your passion.’ It was really great to have that boost of confidence from someone who had been there.”
“It was awesome,” concluded Diahann Billings-Burford, chief service officer of NYC Service. “I was really impressed by the caliber of [both groups].... Our city’s greatest resource is its people.”
-by Wesley Yang, photographs by Dorothy Hong and David Wentworth
Many classes stay connected in the years between milestone reunions by getting together at “mini-reunions.” The Class of 1963 has a particularly robust calendar of mini-reunion events. In addition to frequent luncheons at the Princeton Club, the class officers arrange special outings. In November of 2009 classmates had brunch at O’Neal’s Restaurant near Lincoln Center and went on a guided backstage tour of the Metropolitan Opera House. In spring of 2010 the class is planning mini-reunions at museums in Montclair, New Jersey, San Francisco, California, and New York.
Charlotte H. Scott, professor emerita of commerce and education at the University of Virginia, died peacefully on March 11 at the Westminster-Canterbury Health Center in Charlottesville, Viriginia. She was 84. Born Charlotte Anna Hanley on March 18, 1925, in Yonkers, New York, to Charlotte Agnes Palmer Hanley and Edgar Bernard Hanley, she attended Yonkers High School and graduated from Barnard College in 1947. She married Nathan A. Scott, Jr., in 1946, and they moved to Washington, D.C., and later to Chicago. She worked as an economist for the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago from 1956–71, and she served as assistant vice-president from 1971–76. She also earned an MBA from the School of Business of the University of Chicago in 1964. She was the first African-American woman to be appointed a vice-president at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. Her husband, the late Nathan A. Scott, Jr., was a professor at the University of Chicago from 1955–76 and a priest of the Episcopal Church.
Charlotte and Nathan moved to Charlottesville in 1976 when they both accepted appointments to the faculty of the University of Virginia. They were the first African- Americans to be appointed to tenured faculty positions at the University. She served as university professor of business administration and commerce and senior fellow at the Tayloe Murphy Institute, Colgate Darden Graduate School of Business Administration from 1976–86. From 1986–98 she served with the Curry School of Education as university professor of commerce and education. Her husband Nathan served as commonwealth professor of religious studies and English from 1976–81 and then as William R. Kenan Professor of Religious Studies from 1981–90. He died on December 20, 2006.
Mrs. Scott was active in many community service activities. She served as president of the Women’s Board of the Chicago Urban League from 1967–69. She was a member of the Consumer Advisory Council of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System from 1980–82, and a member of the Charlottesville Advisory Board of NationsBank of Virginia from 1977–83. She was also a member of the Commission on the Status of Women for the Commonwealth of Virginia from 1982–85. Active for many years in the Alumnae Association of Barnard College, Scott served on the board of directors and then as an alumnae trustee. She also served on the governing board of the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation from 1993-2004, and on the board of directors of the Charlottesville Community Scholarship program. She was a longtime member of St. Paul’s Memorial Church in Charlottesville. For her many service activities, Scott was awarded an honorary degree as doctor of humane letters by Virginia Theological Seminary in 2006.
She is survived by her daughter Leslie Hunter, her son Nathan A. Scott III, her son-in- law John Hunter, her daughter-in-law Carol J. Scott, her six grandchildren, Priscilla Sampil, Charlotte Ashamu, Emmanuel Ashamu, Elizabeth Ashamu, Nathan A. Scott IV, and Douglas Scott, and her late brother’s wife, Shirley Hanley. She was a devoted mother, a perfect grandmother, and loved by all around her.
A memorial service was held on Saturday, April 10, 11:00 a.m., at St. Paul’s Memorial Church in Charlottesville, Virginia. Memorial contributions can be made to: The Barnard Fund, 3009 Broadway, New York, New York 10027.