Honoring the 2021 Alumnae Association Award Winners

Each year at Reunion, Barnard honors exceptional alumnae celebrating a milestone Reunion year with five awards bestowed on behalf of the Alumnae Association of Barnard College (AABC). Honorees are selected by the AABC Awards Committee based on nominations

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Headshot of Maggie Astor '11

Maggie Astor ’11
Young Alumna Award

Maggie Astor is a journalist at The New York Times, where she has reported on U.S. politics, breaking news, and the spread of disinformation. Her work focuses primarily on the stories of people whom the press has historically ignored or demeaned, including women, people of color, Native Americans, people with disabilities, and survivors of assault and abuse. She covered the 2018 and 2020 elections; reported on voting rights and voting access from states across the country, including Arizona, Iowa, North Carolina, and North Dakota; has written extensively about the politics of abortion and guns; and explored the many ways in which sexism, racism, and other forms of bigotry are still embedded in American politics. In a recent project, she and two other Times journalists reported on years of sexual harassment by a founder of the Lincoln Project, as well as cover-up efforts and secret financial arrangements among the group’s other leaders. Maggie’s exceptional contributions to journalism demonstrate her commitment to her craft and to bettering our world by covering issues in American society that are so often underreported.

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Headshot of Katherine Jessop Brewster '71

Katherine Jessop Brewster ’71
Award for Service to Barnard College

Katherine Jessop Brewster, also known as Kitty, is a lifelong feminist, social justice advocate, and spiritual seeker. Her eclectic career, spanning 50 years in the corporate and not-for-profit worlds, includes coordinating opera productions, creating and launching new financial products and services, raising funds for not-for-profit organizations, and most recently, immersing herself in the health and wellness field as the founder of the ATMA Center of Transformational Yoga. Katherine has served as president of the Barnard Class of ’71 since 2006 and, in 2011, led the 40th Reunion Committee to begin creating an oral history of their class. She spearheaded the creation of a not-for-profit corporation, BC Voices, Inc., to raise funds to establish the Barnard Class of 1971 Oral History Collection in the Barnard Archives and Special Collections, a rich source of primary material about college-educated women’s experiences coming of age during the tumultuous 1968 era and, for the past 50 years, riding the crest of second-wave feminism. Thanks to Katherine’s leadership, engagement, and enthusiasm, BC Voices commissioned two short documentaries, The Way It Was and Making Choices, Forging Paths, and has been producing a six-episode, online docuseries, Stand UP, Speak OUT: The Personal Politics of Women’s Rights.

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Headshot of Phyllis Tabbot Hantman ’66

Phyllis Tabbot Hantman ’66
Award for Service to Barnard College

The many ways Phyllis Tabbot Hantman has served her alma mater — as a class officer, a member of the Reunion Committee, an alumnae admissions representative, and a board member, to name but a few — have brought many alumnae back to Barnard and enhanced the lives of countless students. Phyllis spent the 1970s and early ’80s volunteering with public schools, civic groups, and religious organizations, focusing on job training for immigrants, voter registration, hospital support, and medical research. Phyllis went back to full-time work after embarking on her first career — parenthood — at the department of engineering in Rockaway Township, New Jersey, where she had a hand in significant development decisions, recommending zoning amendments, preparing reports, and summarizing recommendations. Phyllis is the recipient of several distinguished honors for excellence in and contributions to planning, training, and zoning. After retiring in 2012, Phyllis once again embraced volunteerism. She spends much of her time volunteering at the Morris County Interfaith Food Pantry and has continued her civic-mindedness, serving as a member and treasurer of the local Public Library Foundation as well as a member of the Township’s Planning Board and Zoning Board of Adjustment. She and her husband, Allen, are grandparents four times over and enjoy frequent visits with family.

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Headshot of Mia Katigbak ’76

Mia Katigbak ’76
Distinguished Alumna Award

As a performer and director and through her work with the award-winning National Asian American Theatre Company, which she co-founded, Mia Katigbak has dedicated decades to and been instrumental in busting stereotypes and creating vibrant opportunities for Asian American actors. Mia is a founding director of the Consortium of Asian American Theaters & Artists and served as the president of its first board. She was one of the organizers of the first and second National Asian American Theater Festivals in New York City and is on the advisory boards of the Ma-Yi Theater and the Fulcrum Theater. In addition to receiving several awards for her artistic contributions and accumulating numerous television credits, including How to Get Away With Murder and Conviction, Mia has served on panels for the theatre programs of the New York State Council on the Arts, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, the Nancy Quinn Fund for Emerging Theatres and the Relief Fund for NYC Small Theatres, and the Asian American Arts Alliance. She has been a guest speaker for forums sponsored by The New York Times, the Humana Festival, and the Theater Communications Group.

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Headshot of Susan Sommer Klapkin ’76

Susan Sommer Klapkin ’76
Award for Service to Barnard College

For decades, Susan Sommer Klapkin has served her alma mater in countless capacities, from regional leadership and her role on the AABC board as chair of regional networks to her contributions to the Leadership Assembly and the Barnard Business & Professional Network. When her husband’s work moved them from Brooklyn to Connecticut, Susan learned that volunteering could bring her closer to her community and provide her with adventures and purpose outside of her career and marriage. Pat Tinto ’76 urged Susan to get involved with the Barnard Club of Connecticut, which strengthened her ties not only with the Connecticut community but also with the larger Barnard community. From there, Susan became president of the Connecticut club, a regional club chairperson on the AABC, a member of the board of the northern New Jersey club, a Barnard student mentor, and then the networking chair of the central New Jersey club. Susan’s career in the apparel industry has taken her around the world to visit factories, make production decisions, and create meaningful supply chains. She even combined Barnard with her professional life when she was able to meet a Barnard alumna living in Hong Kong!

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Headshot of Christina LaGamma ’16

Christina LaGamma ’16
Young Alumna Award

Third-year medical student and aspiring surgeon Christina LaGamma has shown a steadfast commitment to addressing institutional and systemic racism in medicine. She strives to provide a more inclusive and equitable environment that values diversity of experiences and voices. Christina is passionate about neuroscience research and innovative treatments for functional brain-based diseases and dedicated to advancing humanism in medical education, as well as improving the social, cultural, and political healthcare environment for both patient and provider. Her current research projects, under Penn State’s Medical Student Research Program, focus on utilizing a remotely administered, mindfulness-based stress reduction program on burnout, satisfaction, and work-life balance among physicians during the COVID-19 pandemic. Long term, Christina aims to become a physician-scientist who uses her understanding of brain-based diseases and treatment approaches to improve the quality of living for people struggling with chronic psychiatric and neurologic conditions.  Ultimately, Christina intends to incorporate policy and advocacy work focused on uplifting diversity throughout her career. 

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Headshot of Denise Jackson Lewis ’66

Denise Jackson Lewis ’66
Distinguished Alumna Award

Denise J. Lewis is a retired senior partner of Honigman LLP, a preeminent business law firm of 300 attorneys based in Michigan. As the founder of the firm’s urban redevelopment practice, she led its national practice engaged in representing developers in projects in major urban centers across the U.S. Denise is a respected expert in handling complex transactions that often include public/private partnerships and mixed-use development. She is widely recognized for her work with urban redevelopment projects that include historic preservation, zoning, and tax-incentive issues. Denise’s illustrious career as a real estate attorney and the work she has done to support underserved communities in Detroit are testaments to her commitment to the physical and social revitalization efforts in urban environments. Some of the many ways Denise has improved the lives of countless individuals both within and beyond the Barnard community are the path she formed as a student toward the creation of Barnard’s Department of Africana Studies by leading the effort to broaden the College’s curriculum to include the history and culture of developing countries and the African American experience; her namesake distinguished lectureship, which has expanded the intellectual universe for students; and her service as senior advisor to the CEO of the Africa-America Institute.

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Headshot of Polly Trottenberg ’86

Polly Trottenberg ’86
Woman of Achievement Award

Polly Trottenberg’s distinguished 25-plus-year career as a civil servant is a true testament to her devotion to, and passion for, bettering the lives of others with data, care, and humility. As the deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT), the number-two official and chief operating officer, she supports Secretary Pete Buttigieg in providing leadership and strategic vision for USDOT. Previously, Polly served for seven years as New York City’s Transportation Commissioner, where she ran a complex 5,800-person agency responsible for the safe, efficient, and equitable operations of New York City’s transportation network, including 6,000 miles of roadways, 789 bridges, the nation’s largest traffic operation and parking system, the Staten Island Ferry, and bicycle, pedestrian, and public plaza infrastructure, as well as key initiatives in urban mobility, smart transportation technologies, and safety. In this role, she helped implement the landmark Vision Zero program, taking a multidisciplinary approach to significantly reduce traffic fatalities and injuries, and she facilitated the COVID-19 response and recovery. Polly also ran Building America’s Future, a bipartisan organization that advocates for investment in infrastructure and better national transportation policy, and served as transportation policy advisor for Senators Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Charles Schumer, and Barbara Boxer. 

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Headshot of Alice Jacoby Wolfson ’61

Alice Jacoby Wolfson ’61
Millicent Carey McIntosh Award for Feminism

Alice Jacoby Wolfson is a veteran political activist and a pioneer in the women’s health movement. From her time as a Fulbright scholar and the prominent role she took as a young activist in speaking out during the congressional hearings on birth control safety to co-founding the National Women’s Health Network and the Committee to Defend Reproductive Rights, Alice’s lasting contributions to the women’s health movement have made history. As a trial attorney, Alice had a successful career representing and fighting for the rights of disabled insureds against the unreasonable denial of their disability insurance claims. Throughout the years, she has been featured in numerous television and radio shows, most recently in She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry, a documentary film about the birth of the women’s liberation movement in the 1960s, and Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein’s upcoming documentary, The Business of Being Born. Alice credits her years at Barnard for having launched her into a lifetime of fighting for women’s equality. And she will never give up.

Latest IssueSummer 2021

The extraordinary class of 2021 sets off on their next adventure.