Dear Members of the Barnard Community,
This has been an unspeakably painful year for Barnard and the world at large, and yet it is with tremendous sorrow that I must let you know about a great loss to our community. Earlier this evening, Alicia Lawrence, Deputy Dean of the College and Executive Director of Residential Life and Housing, passed away as a result of liver failure due to a pre-existing health condition. We understand from her family that her death was not due to COVID-19. She was 36 years old.
I cannot put into words the enormous impact that Alicia had on the Barnard campus — and on me. Whether it was through her work in Residential Life & Housing, her leadership of the Barnard Women of Color Support Group, or through her deep and real friendships with students, faculty, and staff, Alicia made all of us show up better in the world.
Last academic year, when Alicia served as my co-Interim Dean of the College, I was fortunate to spend a significant amount of time working side by side with her. I had always admired Alicia’s tireless work ethic and her fearlessness in speaking up for what she saw as right, but last year I also got to see and experience firsthand her kindness, her unwavering commitment to helping those around her see perspectives other than their own, and her quest to ensure that her colleagues gave themselves credit for their successes and learned from their failures. She certainly did this with me.
One day last spring, Alicia texted me out of the blue, “You are doing well! I’m quite proud of you.” Not many people think to send these sorts of texts to their bosses. But Alicia did, and it’s just who she was. She also never hesitated to tell me when she thought I was making the wrong decision or needed to make a correction. Alicia helped you. Whether you were a student, faculty, or staff member — or her boss — Alicia went out of her way to help you appreciate and challenge yourself to always do better.
Barnard was fortunate enough to welcome Alicia to campus four years ago, in April 2016. In her time at Barnard, she led Residential Life & Housing and also oversaw the conduct, equity, and Title IX functions of the College, including helping reform the Office of Disability Services into the Center for Accessibility Resources and Disability Services (CARDS).
Prior to Barnard, Alicia held student affairs and equity positions at Rutgers University, Montclair State University, and Ohio University. In January, Alicia won the 2020 NASPA (National Association of Student Personnel Administrators) Region II Scott Goodnight Award, given to a dean demonstrating “sustained professional achievement in student affairs work, innovative response in meeting students’ varied and emerging needs, effectiveness in developing staff, and leadership in community and college or university affairs.”
Alicia was born and raised in New York and was the first in her family to go to college. She graduated high school from Sacred Heart Academy with a Regents Diploma and received a B.A. in psychology and an M.S. in student counseling from Canisius College. She was extremely proud of her Jamaican heritage, as well as an excellent cook, an avid traveler, and a fierce friend.
As we all struggle to cope with this loss, our inability to be physically together makes this all harder. Please know that the College’s health and wellness resources are available remotely for our community, and we have put together additional resources as well:
- Furman Counseling Center is open by phone until 10 p.m. tonight and will be open at 9 a.m. tomorrow morning: (212) 854-2092
- After-hours psychological emergency line: (855) 622-1903
- Additional telephone crisis support services are available for faculty, staff, and students at (866) 713-1978
- The College’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is available for faculty and staff: Contact Humana at (800) 448-4358 (reference contact #ID 50636)
- International SOS for students abroad: +1 (215) 942-8478
I also invite anyone to share their tributes and memories of Alicia by emailing email@example.com. We will provide more information about how Alicia’s family and Barnard will be memorializing her as soon as it is available.
It can be hard to mourn at any time, but during this pandemic it is even harder. We are not able to gather physically at present to tell stories of Alicia or honor her memory as a community. We will do so in the future. For now, I do hope that her spirit, resolve, and compassion may help you recognize those qualities in yourself and those immediately around you in these trying times.
Sian Leah Beilock