Visiting with Gaby Simon Lefer, Helen Adler Witsenhausen, and Sue Hess Oscar, Class of ’53

I’m a lifelong environmentalist. (Seriously. As a child in Mamaroneck, New York, I participated in the very first Earth Day. I chair my synagogue’s Green Team. And some of the happiest and best years of my work life were spent with one of the country’s largest and most effective environmental organizations, the Natural Resources Defense Council. That organization, as it happens, is led by one of the College’s very own—Rhea Suh, Class of ’92.)

So I’ve been thrilled to participate in the yearlong process that the campus community initiated this fall to design a plan for a more sustainable Barnard. You can read more about that effort, led by the College’s first-ever director of sustainability and environment, Associate Professor of Professional Practice in Theatre Sandra Goldmark, and about Barnard’s already impressive environmental track record, in our article “Toward a More Sustainable Barnard,” on page 19. (Also, we’d love to hear more about what you’re doing to help promote sustainability. E-mail your letter to magazine@barnard.edu or send a note the old-fashioned way. We will share your efforts in our next issue.)

In other exciting news, visual artist Toyin Ojih Odutola serves this academic year as Barnard’s Lida A. Orzeck ’68 Distinguished Artist-in-Residence. Lida Orzeck, PhD, a member of Barnard’s Board of Trustees who has given generously to the College over the years, endowed the residency in March 2015 with a substantial gift.

Ojih Odutola, a rising star in the international art scene, is participating in a host of campus events, some big and public—like her January 31 dialogue about Art & Equity with South African artist Mary Sibande (that event will be moderated by Columbia University Professor and MacArthur Fellow Kellie Jones)—and others more focused on students of the visual arts—such as an intensive two-week drawing course, a studio visit for visual-arts majors, and a senior studio critique. If you are in New York, there are opportunities to investigate Ojih Odutola’s work off campus, as well. Her solo show, titled To Wander Determined, is now on display at the Whitney Museum of American Art. It is free and open to the public through February 25, 2018. To provide insight into Ojih Odutola’s drawings, Harvard Art Museums’ Richard L. Menschel Curator of Photography Makeda Best ’97 offers us an outstanding essay that teases out some of the themes and the power of the artist’s work.

Finally, it’s an honor to include in this issue a feature about lifelong friends Gaby Simon Lefer, Sue Hess Oscar, and Helen Adler Witsenhausen, all Class of 1953. Each was born in Germany in February of 1932. As children, they and their Jewish families fled to the United States as refugees. Gaby, Sue, and Helen’s resilience and success in this country—and at Barnard, too—are due in part to their own spunk (and, I believe, to some special, German-style delicacies they regularly offered our writer Elinor Nauen, our photographer Ambika Singh, and me when we visited on various occasions). But this inspiring example of resilience is also due to Barnard’s openness to them at a time when such welcome was desperately needed. It’s an example that I hope continues for generations to come. •

—Liz Galst

Send me your comments: lgalst@barnard.edu