The Barnard community is deeply saddened by the recent death of Karen Blank, a beloved dean and member of our community for twenty years. Read more about her life and career.
Colleagues, students, and friends of Karen are invited to share their thoughts and memories using the form below.
I first worked with Dean Blank as a student - during hard times for me. She was as firm as she should be and as kind as imaginable. When I was younger, my parents always said that you couldn't be tough without being tender or tender without being tough, and as a scared freshman, she was the first person I could look at and understand exactly what they meant. She was a role model for me. As an employee at Barnard, I looked to her for the same: guidance, leadership, example. She personified the Barnard ideals, and from the first time I walked into her office, she made my future brighter and my world a more wonderful, loving, strong, demanding, and rewarding place. I am indebted to Dean Blank, and I can only hope I carry her legacy with me so long into the future that one day my children will say her name with the same reverence I do. Thank you, Dean Blank, for just being you. You made Barnard the right place for so many of us.
- Raleigh Duttweiler
Dean Blank was my adviser for my first year and a half at Barnard. She was a great dean, and an even better person. She was so welcoming, and encouraged me to try out anything I was remotely interested in on campus. Whenever I had questions about anything, she would promptly find me answers or connect me with whoever had the answers I needed. She not only helped me succeed academically, but also made clear that she cared about my overall well-being. I could tell that she was genuinely happy about all my accomplishments, and excited for my future at Barnard. She was also an incredible asset to the Double Degree program with the Jewish Theological Seminary. When I graduate from Barnard (and JTS) in just a few months, I know I'll be thinking of her and everything she did for me.
- Madeline Richer '14
Dean Blank always moved me with her openness and genuine warmth. I had the sense she approached people with an assumption that their experiences were complex and deserved respect. I looked up to her for that. I am so sad to hear of her passing and pray that her family should feel G-d's presence in their time of mourning.
- Yocheved Tupper
Dean Blank was helpful in so many ways. I will always remember her kindness.
- Heather Love
On my first day of classes of my first year at Barnard, I was an absolute mess. I was late to class, I was painfully lost, and I was convinced that I was not meant for college and that I should just pack it in.
As I was cursing and crying, Dean Blank and Dean Taylor appeared from around the corner, rolling a cart filled with about 500 freshly baked cookies. They stopped directly in front of me, careful not to spill their bounty.
Dean Blank looked me up and down with a mischievous grin, glanced back at Dean Taylor, and then asked me if I wanted a cookie.
I didn't know what to do, I was baffled. Dean Blank gently placed a sugar cookie in my hand and then proceeded to giggle until tears were in her eyes. She pointed me in the right direction, and I made it to class.
Dean Blank defined what it is to be a Dean at Barnard. She was kind, brilliant, and she cared. I was lucky enough to know Dean Blank well past my first cookie encounter, and I will miss her with all of my heart.
- Reni Calister
I got to know Karen long ago when I was a junior faculty member of the Committee on Programs and Academic Standing, and so got first hand exposure to her "absolute integrity and sense of fair play". But even more than those admirable qualities was her unerring sense of proportion, what was important and worth spending time on, and what was not important and should be dispensed with quickly. She knew what students were like (including their foibles), and she also knew what faculty were like (including their foibles too), and she respected both and knew how to talk with both. It was easy to work with her, and also deeply satisfying, because you always got stuff done.
- Perry Mehrling
My freshman and sophomore years were tough...athletics, SGA, classes....but Dean Blank was always there to help out. More importantly though, you could just go in there and decompress. She will be greatly missed.
- Remi Coker
I will always remember the profound peace and calm that came with every moment I shared with her.
- Cherith Velez
Dean Blank was a beautiful person inside and out. Always ready with a smile and a kind word, whether she knew you or not, she was and is someone I aspire to be.
- Carolyn Middleton
RIP Dean Blank. To me, you were Barnard's Professor McGonagall - a lot nicer version. You will be missed dearly.
- Bo Yun Park
I will always remember Dean Blank introducing herself and welcoming me to campus my first day, as we waited for breakfast on Lehman Lawn. With just a few gracious words, she made my first-year jitters disappear, gently steering me towards four happy years at Barnard. She was a kind and lovely person.
- Divya Subramanian
So sad to hear of Dean Blank's passing. She was always so kind, and never seemed to forget a face, name or story....no matter how many years later, or how big or small the memory. My deepest condolences to her family.
- Claire Olsson
Dean Blank always greeted me with a warm smile (and sometimes even a hug!) when we walked past one another. She tried to develop a personal relationship with as many students as possible and truly fostered a sense of camaraderie between students and deans. She made Barnard a better place, and for that we will always be grateful.
- Talia Arbit
Rest in Peace, Dean Blank. Thank you for being so personally warm to me, for your positivity, and the light your always bright smile brought. I hope we continue to honor your memory by carrying on a legacy of supporting Barnard students' endeavors as fervently as you did.
- Malvina Kefalas
Dean Karen Blank was an essential part of my Barnard experience and I honestly cannot imagine what my life would be like without her support. My heart is so heavy right now, but it is lightened by the thought of her strength of spirit living on in the hearts and minds of so many.
I experienced a traumatic assault while attending Barnard, which severely affected me. The entire Dean's office was a great support, but the conversations I had with Dean Blank were so empowering of my spirit. She aided me in finding my inner strength and becoming the proud Barnard woman I am today. My academic year of 2010-2011, which led to my graduation (after a 4 year break), would not have been the same without her.
So many of our lives serve as a legacy of Dean Karen Blank.
Thank you, KB, for so so much.
- Valerie Miller Markham
I had the privilege of serving on the Committee on Instruction with Dean Blank during my time at Barnard. Other than being the approachable, kind and loving dean outside the committee, she was also grace and dignity in the most trying of circumstances. In one of my first events sophomore year, she took time out of her busy schedule to come and listen to students’ concerns. It meant so much to me as it was my first big event. Dean Blank was always at these meetings, talking to every student as if she was the only one in the room.
Just like me, most students knew that she was the one to turn to when we were in need of assurance or support. She would speak to you without judgment, as if she had not heard the same student issues a hundred times before. Her gentleness and warmth came from inside. She cared so much. She loved us and
we loved her right back.
I will never forget her gentle voice and smiling face. She will always be the best thing to happen to Barnard, in my view. Karen Blank was grace itself.
Maisha Rashid '10
I was covering academics/administration at Barnard for the Columbia Daily Spectator and we would schedule regular meetings to discuss anything that would be important for the newspaper to cover. She expressed genuine interest in my academic and professional interests and was a great mentor. I was shocked and sad to learn of her passing. I will miss her dearly!!
- Madina Toure
Dean Blank was a true class act. She spoke plainly, cared deeply about her students, and conducted herself with absolute integrity. I can only hope to be as fine a woman as Karen was, and I am glad that she spent many of her professional years helping Barnard serve its students. They were lucky to have her, just as I was lucky to work with her for a time. I won't forget her.
- Laura Kaub
Dean Blank had one of the warmest and comforting smiles that would make you want to stop everything you were doing just to stop and talk about your worries, concerns, or recent joys. I was never blessed with the opportunity to have her as an advisor; however, my encounters with her was always pleasant. She will truly be missed.
- Keesandra K. Agenor
Dean Blank was a mentor and supporter when I was an RA at Columbia. She taught me how to stay calm in a crisis, how to listen. to trust those above me when they say they have my back, and she had a lot to do with where I am now. Her legacy will live on in the good lives and works of thousands of Columbia and Barnard alums.
- Sara Hall
Truly saddened to hear such news. I have always remembered her as an angelic figure around campus, and always smiling.
- Aditi Shankar
Dean Karen Blank was an integral part of my time at Barnard College. She was more than my counselor and mentor, at times she was a friend. Having known her before I started as a freshman at Barnard through my countless summer jobs there as early as 15 years old, I felt truly blessed to be able to work beside and then be mentored by Dean Blank following my acceptance to Barnard. She will be missed and I will never forget her smile an advise that has guided me every day of my life.
- Katrina Ines Torres
I firmly believe that if you look up "mensch" in the dictionary, there should be a picture of Karen Blank there. I knew her as a dean when I was an undergrad at Columbia College, where she was beloved among students and had the reputation of being the most caring dean on the entire staff. And when I started teaching at Barnard in 2003 I was delighted to find that Karen was already there, and that her fame as the consummate dean -- compassionate, kind, diplomatic, wise, thoughtful, fair -- was undimmed. She was instantly and enduringly beloved by every member of the campus community, from students to profs to staff to admin. Probably the only person on any college campus ever of whom that can be said!
- Rebecca Stanton
In the search for a major that fit all of my interests, Dean Blank was instrumental, patient, and unbelievably helpful. She gave me all the resources and walked me through petitioning for my own major, giving her time and resources to make sure that my academic experience was everything I wanted. I wouldn't be where I am without her guidance and wisdom, and for that I will always be grateful for her presence during my time at Barnard.
- Elizabeth Petitti '13
I'd like to add my condolences and express my deep sadness at the loss of Dean Blank. Karen's influence went far beyond the Barnard community. She played a warm and engaging role in a band of advising deans from more than forty private colleges and universities. I met Karen through this COFHE group, and I loved her from the start. She was a dear friend, a supportive colleague, a trusted confidante, and a superb model for advising deans everywhere. She handled her illness with inspiring grace, and was giving to the end. I will miss her terribly and wish strength and comfort to all her Barnard colleagues and students.
- John Bader
In 2007, I had just completed grad school and found a job in the Dean's office after I interviewed with Dean Blank. I am so grateful to her for the opportunity she gave me - my first job in higher education. She was a gentle soul with compassion and kindness and manners! But she had a strong backbone and an incredible work ethic. I learned so much from her during my short time there. If I could speak to her now, I would say: "Thank
you for believing in me and giving me the opportunity to work at Barnard College. And thank you for being such an inspirational mentor."
- Sarah El-Attar
Dean Blank was my advisor as a freshman and sophomore and I remember always really enjoying going to talk to her about scheduling because she was always so engaged with what I was thinking. What could have been a bureaucratic hassle became a very meaningful conversation. Reading other people's tributes, I realize she gave everyone the same care and attention. It requires remarkable generosity of spirit to connect so fully with so many people. Dean Blank, you will be missed!
- Olivia Rosane '09
Karen Blank helped me so much in my first few years at Barnard. When my students were having difficulties, or when I was faced with especially challenging student situations, she was so wise and kind and dedicated to finding useful resolutions. She was an amazing role model, colleague, mentor and friend to so many.
- Rebecca Jordan-Young
I was lucky enough to know Dean Blank as a student and as a colleague. Her grace, poise and kindness were always an inspiration. She will be missed.
- Joey Kaiser '97
Dean Blank was one of the first administrators I met at Barnard as an assistant in the Dean of Studies Office. I was incredibly reserved, and
a bit shy. She was always so kind and so thoughtful. Barnard was a new world to me, and adjusting was not the easiest. But administrators like her made me see Barnard as an encouraging atmosphere, made to support students in every way possible. She would always thank me for any work I would do, little or small. She wore such beautiful scarves, and spoke so endearingly of her mother. She always smiled and asked how others were doing. When I went to talk to her about possible majors, the conversation didn't stop at her office. She did research on the subject and returned to me with more information. She was truly a kind soul. My deepest condolences go to her family and friends during this difficult time, and to myself, for trying to cope with the loss of such a unique individual.
- Samima Habbsa
Dean Blank was my mom away from home. Often, when I am asked the question, "What did you love most about Barnard?", "Dean Blank" is always one of the first responses. She nurtured many of us in a very challenging, paramount time in our lives, and for that I am eternally grateful! In her smart, fun, non-judgmental, and perhaps even simple way, Dean Blank listened to me, guided me, and helped shape me in ALL the ways that matter! You are always with me!
- Shirley Torho
Dean Blank was always an advocate for students like me who needed extra support for learning differences. She literally held my hand through the foreign language waiver process and then the appeal process, sticking with me until my language requirement was waived. She encouraged me to drop by and chat about the riding team, home life, anything that was on my mind. She continued to encourage me past my Barnard education and became both a champion and mentor for life. Her encouragement is a large reason why I chose to go into the field of education. She will be deeply missed.
- Amanda Packard '96
Dean Blank was one of my favorite people at Barnard - she was warm, encouraging, supportive, wise, and she truly cared about every student she met. To me, she embodied the ideals and values of Barnard. She made the Barnard community a special place, and I am so grateful I got to know her. Double Degree students were especially lucky to have her as an adviser and champion, and all Barnard/JTS students owe her a great deal. Barnard will not be the same place without her, and she will be sorely missed.
- Suzanne Chipkin
I'm without words. Barnard, the University and indeed the world, has suffered a great loss. I will never forget her smile and everything it meant. My heart truly hurts right now.
- Derek M. Davis
My sophomore spring, 2002, the archery outdoor national championships coincided with the end of finals. However, my economics professor at Columbia refused to reschedule my exam, saying that academics were more important that "recreational activities." Dean Blank came to the rescue, personally escorting me to her office so that I could take the exam a few hours earlier and not miss my flight to San Diego that afternoon with the team. In years after that I was a student, and then an alum, she would always greet me with a smile and made me feel like I knew her better that I did. She was one of the people who made Barnard Barnard, and her passing leaves the community has at a great loss.
- Tara Krieger '04
Dean Blank was one of the kindest women I've ever met. I agree wholeheartedly with the woman above who remembered the peace and calm that seemed to walk in a room alongside her. I was a member of the Honor Board for two years of my Barnard tenure and I will always appreciate how patiently she let us arrive at our own decisions as we struggled with tough ethical issues in our community. As she did so generously for so many, Dean Blank wrote me recommendations and took the time to stay in touch long after I'd walked out through those iron gates the day I graduated. She will be missed and not soon forgotten.
- Lillian Mongeau '04
I came to Barnard in 2000 as Karen's Assistant. I learned so much and fell in love with higher education by watching her do her job with such integrity and kindness. During the 7 years we worked closely enough to share stories about who we really were outside of the BC walls. Every
single action from Karen could be resumed as kind, caring, compassionate. She will be missed, but I take comfort in knowing she is in a much better place now.
- Elida Martinez Gaynor
As my first year advisor, I first met Dean Blank during orientation in her Milbank office. I shifted awkwardly on the low couches in the waiting room, fidgeting with the leafs of newspaper, reading the same New York Times headline over and over again, trying to calm my not-so-calmable nerves. Like so many other first years, I felt a little bit nameless, a little bit sad, a little bit confused. I didn't know Barnard, and much more upsettingly, Barnard didn't know me (yet).
When Dean Blank came out to welcome me, I instantly felt at ease. She didn't call me into her office, or have the administrative assistant walk me to her door. No, Dean Blank came to me. She met me right where I was, and walked next to me as we entered her room, like she would do many more times over the course of the next 4 years. "After you," she would always say with smiling eyes.
During our meeting, I felt for the first time someone knew my story. She not only quoted sections of my admissions essay, but also related her own life to the themes I addressed in my application. When you move halfway across the country to New York City, undergoing all of the chaos of the college transition, it is easy to leave important parts of yourself behind and feel a painful dissonance between your past and your uncertain future. From Day 1, Dean Blank knew how to connect my many worlds by guiding me with her trademark grace, insightful strategy, and compassion that truly knew no bounds.
No matter what I do, where I go, or who I become, Dean Blank's model will guide me forever.
- Sara Lederman
Dean Blank was full of grace, warm, caring, devoted to student success, kind, humble, and elegant. She was encouraging and supportive and had a gift for making you feel that you belonged at Barnard. Her wave hi or her smile would brighten anyone's day. Thank you, Dean Blank, for your service to Barnard's community.
- Amy Chen
It was my privilege and pleasure to get to know Karen when I worked at Barnard from the early '90s until 2007. Just having a chance to pass her in the hallways of Milbank, or participate in an event or meeting with her, would put a smile on my face. Her calm, kind and lovely demeanor and the deep respect with which she treated everyone around her made her a very special and wonderful colleague. Rest in peace, Karen.
- Reva Feinstein
Dean Blank showed me by example, from day one, what it means to be a Barnard woman. I am so sad that she has passed on, and so grateful that I had the chance to know her and receive her strong, warm, motivating advice and mentorship.
- Tania Asnes, '05
Karen Blank, colleague and mentor, leader and teacher. Such a soulful woman with boundless energy, deep compassion, and unshakeable integrity. A person with no hidden agenda; her mission was to steadfastly invest herself in supporting the success, promise, and well-being of each and every student. I cherish all my memories of time spent in her charming, knowledgeable, and graceful company and remember well that when she looked at you with her piercing eyes she truly made you feel and know that you mattered. Karen we miss you; rest in peace.
- Beth Kneller
It is heart-warming to read the wonderful tributes to Karen from her students and colleagues at Barnard and Columbia. Karen and I met at Cal Berkeley when we were students. As sorority sisters, we remained friends over the years. The qualities people have described about Karen - her kindness, sense of humor, intelligence, integrity - are the very ones her college friends knew
and admired. Karen was true to herself and her values throughout her life. Her death is a loss to all of us who knew her.
- Lynn McIntyre
I will never forget what you said at our convocation--you mentioned how a lot of things would change over our next four years, how we would leave as different women than we came in as, but asked us to never look
past someone when passing them on the street, and never forget to smile at them, no matter how busy or entrapped in our lives we became.
When I first arrived at Barnard as a Res Life staff member, Dean Blank had just been given the SGA Administrator of the Year Award. The student who presented her with the award noted that Dean Blank always wore
loose fitting clothing because she had to hid her angel wings underneath. The more I can to know and love Karen, I realized that nothing could have been more true that this student's comments. We will miss you Karen.
- Annie Aversa
Karen mentored me through the early stages of becoming an adviser, answering any question at almost any hour and served as an exquisite role model because her work completely embraced what is it to be human. That
an unexpected friendship blossomed from our work, that we talked of mothers and children and things beyond what had brought us together at Barnard, that we met on the benches of Levien gymnasium cheering (ok, screaming) at volleyball games are but a few moments in ways I am the richer for having Karen in my life. To see Karen, gorgeous white hair, impeccable carriage, clear and gleeful blue eyes unexpectedly at the end of a hallway always gave me a lift - and she always, always made time for conversation. Her compassion, integrity, delight, resourcefulness and the belief in good (and that there was a credible and dignified way out of not-so-good) have always given me a way to work, a way to be at Barnard and beyond. I will miss Karen tremendously and am grateful for our time together.
- Katie Glasner
My wife's and my friendship with Karen goes back to over thirty years ago when our respective children shared a wonderful baby-sitter. Never once was there friction because Karen was such a wonderful conflict manager.
Among the many succeeding chapters, the one that stands out most in my mind was the premature death of her husband, Jim Milligan, dean of admissions at Columbia Law School. Even there I was struck by her ever present equanimity, the sense that she possessed a spirituality that could overcome all adversity, her own, but also yours. She enriched all of us, both in and out of the office.
- J. Paul Martin
Karen was one of the first people I met when I arrived at Barnard in 1997, and she quickly became a very good friend. We shared many lunches, including when she stopped by my place for pizza when I was disabled by ankle surgery. The times she spent with me were always good times, filled with laughter and understanding and hope.
Karen had enormous integrity; true generosity, where she gave of herself freely and unthinkingly; and deep wisdom and sound judgment. As the Buddha said: "The friend who is a helpmate, the friend in happiness and woe, the
friend who gives good counsel, the friend who sympathizes, too--these four as friends the wise behold and cherish them devotedly." Karen was all four of those friends, always, to many, many people, and I loved and cherished her.
There is one more person whom I should mention here. I learned long after the fact that he had been a student in my huge International Politics class (Karen never revealed it at the time): her son, Ned. Karen was so proud of
Ned as a person and as the teacher he grew up to be, and so joyful that Ned found happiness with his wonderful wife, Jamie. I have never met Jamie, and only met the "adult" Ned once, but they were the constant companions of Karen's conversations with me. Ned and Jamie, I hope you continue to feel Karen's undying love, blessing you for the rest of your lives.
- Kimberly Marten
Karen wasn't a model dean or a model colleague or a model friend. She was a model human being. We should all aspire to have the same attributes and descriptions applied to us as are being used to remember
Karen. Sending love and support to your family and friends. Thank you for your friendship and your example. Both will endure.
- Dina Merrer
Karen Blank was a respected colleague and friend, I will miss her. She was always available to provide guidance - not only to students but to me when I was a new faculty member and advisor. I feel lucky to have met
and worked with her.
- Sandra Goldmark
I always felt Karen's strength and dedication. Most importantly, though, she recognized efforts of those around her and had kind words for all.
- Okie Hrycak
Karen was the Freshman Dean when I entered Dartmouth College, a lost girl from Iowa understanding very little about the east coast. I found her to be very warm, but to my young eyes impossibly intelligent and sophisticated. Then, when I joined the faculty at Barnard, for the first few years, whenever I saw Karen I found the feelings of my 17-year-old-self briefly returning. It was probably five years, before I could really think of myself as a colleague of this esteemed person. She helped me out of my most difficult teaching dilemmas with her usual patience, warmth and grace. I feel so fortunate to have known her in two such different times in my life. She will be missed.
- Janet Jakobsen
I met Dean Blank while applying to Barnard for transfer, and while transferring schools is scary she could not have been more welcoming, helpful, and gracious. Even while she was sick she still showed the same enduring grace that she showed when I first met her. She was a wonderful woman and a friend to me and my family-- her loss is the loss of the entire university. We miss you, Dean Blank. Rest in peace with all of our love.
- Brooke Jaffe
Thank you, Dean Blank, for being my first-year advisor. I didn't realized then how lucky I was to have you in that critical position in my world at that point. I always felt welcome to talk to you and you guided me wisely through that year and the rest of my college career.
- Maria Fitzgerald '06
Karen had to be not only the nicest person to walk these grounds but perhaps the hardest worker ever! We're 24/7 in Public Safety and through the years I've had occasion to work all shifts including weekends. It was common to see Karen come in on a Sunday and spend the entire day working in her office! Karen always had a smile and greeted everybody by name. Her passing is a big loss to the Barnard community though no doubt her loved ones and most especially her husband had a joyous reunion with her when she reached those pearly gates.
- George Koserowski
Karen was one of the truly wonderful souls who graced Barnard. I remember the day it was announced that she would be coming over from Columbia (where I had worked with her for a number of years) and I thought it was one of the great appointments to the Deans Office. She made a huge difference in the lives of many of my students and advisees. Karen, we will miss you.
- Richard M. Pious
I was blessed to know and work with Dean Karen Blank when I served as Associate Provost at Barnard as well as a faculty member. Soft spoken, dignified, and gracious, Karen was tenacious and hard- working on behalf of Barnard students, accessible and always helpful to faculty, and a colleague who was always willing to help, no matter what the task. She set an example of leadership with integrity and generosity and served as a trusted mentor to countless students, faculty and staff members. Karen was admired and universally respected by all with whom she interacted. For Karen, disagreements over specific issues were never personal battles, but a time to exercise extra care in arriving at the fairest and wisest outcome. The sessions she organized for new faculty orientation were always highly rated and a wonderful introduction to Barnard’s advising culture. She made serving as a faculty adviser for a few extra students feel like a valuable contribution which few could refuse, because one couldn’t say no to Karen. Many faculty and staff members have described her, accurately, as “the conscience of the Barnard community.” She rarely spoke about herself, or shared her grief when she suddenly lost her beloved husband Jim Milligan. But when asked, her face would light up and she would proudly tell you about her beloved son Ned’s latest accomplishment, as well as his wonderful wife Jamie and her family. Karen has left a glorious legacy of memories and accomplishments which will partially help to fill the void her death has created.
- Flora S. Davidson
Dear courageous Karen, may you rest in eternal peace. You more than deserve all these tributes. Thank you for giving of yourself so unstintingly. I miss you!
- Nell Dillon-Ermers
Knowing Karen has been one of the great privileges of my time here at Barnard. She epitomized grace and discretion, honesty and even-handedness. We would delve into a problem together and she had this uncanny way of making you feel like you were figuring it out... when, in fact, the brilliance was all hers. I don't know if I've ever met a more caring soul, a more genuine person. I loved working with her and will miss her dearly.
- Beth Saidel
I am honored and enormously blessed to have had the privilege of knowing, working with, and loving Karen Blank. She made me a better person. She was always the egalitarian who was looking for fairness and equity in situations of all variety. She was connected to people and gave everyone their space to be themselves. Our Karen was a wise sage who gave excellent advice full of sound wisdom and knowledge. Her legacy of justice and compassion will live on in all of us who valued her unique communication style and respect for all of humanity.
- Vivian Taylor
Dear Karen, thank you for making me feel so welcomed during my time at Barnard. Your gentle soul will be missed.
- Jackie Sirgo
Dean Blank was a truly kind, approachable, smart, and humble person. I always felt that whenever I spoke with Dean Blank, she listened to - and remembered - everything I said, despite having numerous students to advise and multiple items competing for her attention. She will certainly be missed.
- Junea Williams-Edmund ' 00
I first met Karen Blank in her role as Secretary on the board of Columbia Community Service as far back as 1998. For over 15 years, she worked steadfastly in support of local community organizations that provided critical needs to the residents of Upper Manhattan. I admired her compassion and commitment then, as I do today. Despite everything, Karen found time to work on behalf of others. She was always working on behalf of others. It broke my heart to hear of her passing, but as my tears flowed, I realized that God has called an angel home, and I believe she is still working on behalf of others. I love you, Karen, and I will miss you very much.
- Joan Griffith-Lee, Columbia Community Service (CCS)
I am so saddened by this news. She was such a gentle spirit and always had a kind word of encouragement or a smile. She will be greatly missed.
- Leslie Limardo, Associate Dean, GS
When I entered Barnard, I was thinking of being a Math or Spanish major, but was paired with an advisor in a completely unrelated subject who was not the most helpful. I was talking about it in the Deans' office when Dean Blank overheard me and invited me into her office. From then on, she acted as my advisor of sorts and always pointed me in the right direction. She always made time for me, even when the receptionist and her schedule said otherwise. She was a great listener and heard my concerns and my interests, ultimately pointing me towards SEAS' Combined Plan, where I am finishing up now. She helped me every step of the way and was incredibly encouraging. I honestly believe that she completely altered the course of my life for the better. And for that, I am overwhelmingly grateful. For me, she was the best part of Barnard and she will be dearly missed.
- Sydney Forrester '13
Dean Blank was the ultimate picture of grace, poise, eloquence, resilience, and fortitude. She saw the pain that others faced, the bricks they carried, and the crosses they bore; she lightened our loads, bringing presence and grace in answering even the most mundane, “how are you.” My admiration is ineffable, in such formative years she became the person I so wanted to mirror everything about myself after. I will live forever inspired by her equanimity and unabashed generosity of spirit.
- Kate McNamara, '08
I am honored to have been a student of Dean Blank. One of my favorite memories actually came after I graduated. I had made Dean's List my final semester at Barnard. Attached to the certificate that was mailed home was a personal note from Dean Blank stating how I would be missed at Barnard. That note sits framed in my home. It was such a lovely gesture and one that touched me deeply.
- Jessy Warner-Cohen
I am so deeply saddened by this news. I had the privilege to know and work with Dean Blank (Karen) for many years at Barnard, in my many service roles, on our Board and on the BC-CU Athletics Committee. A true Light, a wonderful example of brilliance and kindness...I will miss you, dear Karen, so difficult to hear about this today, can't say that I have been able to stop crying completely. I am only sorry we didn't get the chance to have that 'lunch." Much Love and Light as you make your journey, dear Karen, and blessings to your family, friends, colleagues, students, and, yes, fans, who will miss your radiance and kindness. Gracias por tu apoyo y cariño.
- Rosa Alonso, Barnard '82
I deeply regret being unable to attend the memorial service for Dean Karen Blank, since I am presently out of the country. However, in my own name and that of the Department of Spanish and Latin American Cultures, I would like to pay tribute to Karen, a wonderful collaborator and friend who was always helpful, supportive, and cheerful. She eased my own transition to Barnard and to being Chair, and I know she was equally valuable to my colleagues in SLAC. We will miss her very deeply, and always remember her.
- Wadda C. Rios-Font
It was over twenty-eight years ago, as a young and confused Columbia College undergrad, that I first met Dean Blank. I came in to talk about who-knows-what academic administrative issue, but was really struggling with some weighty personal things. Dean Blank’s super-sharp radar cut right to it. Her legendary warmth and kindness and her capacity for connection in a large and often alienating institution like Columbia left in its wake a student (me) who vowed at that moment to grow up to *be* just like Dean Blank. More than any of the great teachers who shaped my college experience (there were many), more than any of the phenomenal students and friends who shared Columbia in the 80s with me, Dean Blank truly changed the course of my life, helping me to get back on track with renewed energy and purpose. Now that I am back at Columbia, as professor rather than undergrad, I think every day about how best to emulate Dean Blank’s example in my own professional life as teacher and mentor. I am forever grateful to Dean Blank and, with so many Columbia-Barnard students and colleagues, mourn her passing.
- Laura Ciolkowski CC'88, Adjunct Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature and Associate Director, Columbia Institute for Research on Women, Gender, and Sexuality
Dean Blank was the epitome of kindness. I'm forever grateful to have known her, albeit for four short years at Barnard. She will be greatly missed, but it is clear through these tributes that her kindness can live on in the example she set for all of us.
- Deanna Welch Tallon
Dean Blank was a wonderful and exemplary human being who inspires us to do and be better for ourselves and others. Along with her integrity, compassion and intelligence, it's obvious that her caring and respect for others is only overshadowed by the love and respect for her from others. I'm so thankful to have known her as I'm sure we all are, please let's make sure we all carry on with her great example and wish her the very best on her journey.
- Ken Kim
Karen Blank was a gorgeous person, inside and out. I watched her cheering "her" women on at a basketball game and knew that she was the best of Barnard.
- Ann Dachs
Karen represented what was best about Barnard. Her wit, gentleness, generosity and common sense, together with her extraordinary mind, made her an invaluable colleague. Throughout my years on Morningside Heights, she was a wonderful fellow-traveler, and I will always count myself as lucky to have known her. She was a gentle titan.
- Jennie Kassanoff
Dean Blank was always invited to SGA meetings during stressful parts of the year because an hour with her was guaranteed to bring warmth, guidance, and Barnard love. There was a certain light that always surrounded her, she gave the most wonderful hugs, and I'm truly grateful to have known her.
- Lara Avsar '11
Karen knew her purpose--gracefully fulfilled with steadfastness, courage, compassion, integrity, insight, and dignity through service and devotion to all those human experiences that hold true meaning.
- Diane Kender Dittrick
I didn't get to know Dean Blank until my junior or senior year at Barnard, but I feel so lucky for the chances I had to meet her. Her wisdom and kindness made a big impression on me. She was also the first person at Barnard who talked to me about my role as a student-athlete, and explained why the college supported student-athletes the way it does. In just a few sentences she gave clarity and purpose to the very thing I'd been struggling to find value in. I'll never forget her.
- Tara Coleman '05
The face and the heart of an angel.
- Meta Katz
If you will permit a Columbia College alumnus to join you in mourning: Karen Blank was a mentor, coach, cheerleader, and friend throughout my years at Columbia - even after she crossed Broadway. She was a steady beacon in the more-than-occasionally rough -and-tumble seas of college life. The world was a better place for her life, work, and gentle strength, and I am all the more fortunate to have known her.
- Shawn Landres CC'94
Instantly, you could tell that Dean Blank spread kindness, warmth, and confidence. She always had the right answer and could dissolve problems. I worked with her closely on the Honor Board for several years, where she taught me about leadership and navigating ambiguous situations, always with a kind moral guidance. I am so grateful for her service to Barnard. We are so lucky to have had her and she will be sorely missed.
- Yolanda Lannquist
I was deeply saddened to hear of Karen's passing. I first met her while she was at Dartmouth and she had a deep and moving impact on my and my college career. I remember her as a devoted and genuine dean with a keen ear for listening and sharp mind to address all kinds of social issues. She was instrumental in my going on to law school at Columbia and I will forever treasure her presence in my life and the support she gave willingly. I hope to be able to do the same for those beginning their college or professional careers and she stands out as a role model and an inspiration. Our prayers and thoughts are with you Dean Blank.
- Walter M. Foster Dartmouth '83
I am like, everyone above, deeply moved by the passing of a great presence at Barnard, indeed, one of the pillars of this institution which I have known for 50 years, before my retirement a while back! Whenever I needed help, about any of my students, nearly about anything which touched them, and therefore, in need of Karen's amazing qualifications. Therefore there is no need to add to all the compliments she merits in this institution.
- Serge Gavronsky
Karen connected with students in such a genuine caring manner. I met her my freshman year at Dartmouth College. I will never forget her encouraging words and a smile that would light up the room.
- Connie Craig
Dean Blank single-handedly arranged my study abroad semester, which required some of Barnard's rules be bent. She was gracious, fair, efficient, and expertly walked the balance between professional and truly personable. Of all the many adults I interacted with as a student at Barnard, she really made an impression on me. May God bless her and comfort those who feel her loss.
- Genni Yaniv
I officially met Dean Blank at a Barnard blood drive in LeFrak gym but I had met her many times before, unofficially, in the halls and stairwells where she graced every passerby with a warm smile. Our official meeting occurred as I exited the LeFrak, having been rejected as a blood donor due to an iron deficiency. Dean Blank saw my dejected expression, waltzed over to me in her sunny, sparkling way and proceeded to discuss with me at length all the wonderful, iron-rich foods I should eat to do better next time. I will remember her that way always - kind, caring, open, warm, and, above all, someone who wanted the best for her Barnard girls. I am honored and incredibly lucky to have been one of them.
- Elizabeth de Luna BC '14
The many tributes expressed here capture what I know many Colgate students from my generation feel as well from the years when Karen was our Dean of Freshmen. I personally cherish my memories of working with Karen as an RA at Colgate and in later years meeting her in NY or including her in family outings on Long Island when she was working on her doctorate. How beautiful that those of us touched by her grace and caring know how blessed we were to have known her.
- Corlin Henderson Ambler, Colgate '75
I was truly saddened by the passing of Dean Karen Blank. I will always remember her smile and her soft spoken words during our talks. I truly respected her because she was one of the very few faculty members that took the time to be humble and care for all that came into contact with her. She was a true lady. May her transition from here to eternity be a peaceful one.
- Sharon Walls
When I think of what it means to be a Barnard woman, I think of Dean Blank. I will always remember her for her kindness, grace, and integrity. It was always a highlight of my day to see her around campus because she greeted everyone with a genuine, friendly smile. My fondest memories of Dean Blank are from the Honor Board and the many frank discussions we had about tough academic issues. We are all better for having known her.
- Megan Romigh '03
Karen, I miss you so much. I remember the last time we met on Broadway, You couldn't talk, so we just hugged and gave each other a kiss. Every day when I enter Milbank Hall I'm aware of missing you. Thanks for everything you gave to us at Barnard.
- Fred Neuhouser, Philosophy Department
I first had the privilege to work with Dean Blank as a student member of Barnard's Honor Board. She was an incredible advisor and helped me in so many ways. I remember many times, wandering into her office and being met with her warm, calm manner, her gentle laugh and her wry sense of humor. Especially towards the end of my senior year, I relied heavily on Dean Blank to help me parse out all the choices before me. She gave me some of the most sounds advice I have ever received in my life, "It can't hurt to try". I wrote this on a slip of paper after our last meeting and tucked it away . It was lost many cross country moves ago, but the words remain with me. I cannot think of Barnard without thinking of her. She was a graceful, kind, and exceptional woman.
- Kate Delaney '01
I will always be thankful for the warmth and kindness Dean Blank showed me.
- Naomi Fraenkel Altschul '97
It was such a pleasure working with Karen -- she demonstrated such a wonderful combination of expertise and empathy, wisdom and gentleness.
- Rebecca Grabiner