Remembering Sally Chapman


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Colleagues, students and friends of Prof. Sally Chapman are invited to share their thoughts and memories here.

The Barnard Chemistry Department is incredibly saddened by the death of our beloved colleague and friend Sally Chapman on June 2, 2012.  We do not have the words to describe fully the grief we feel at this time, yet we are joyful for the outpouring of love shown Sally while she was still among us.  She deeply appreciated the cards and letters, the autographed Barnard Chemistry Society shirt, the calls, the visits, and all other expressions of affection and support from the Barnard community. She followed news of the Chemistry Department and the College closely and especially enjoyed hearing from students and alumnae.

Sally was smart, fearless, vibrant, gracious, and curious – a true scholar. She served as a mentor and role model not only for the thousands of students she taught but also her many colleagues. She advocated for students, junior faculty, the Chemistry Department, and Barnard like no one else.  She fought the battles so we didn't have to – to make things better for us, to help us succeed.  We all are indebted to her in so many ways.

The Chemistry Department sincerely appreciates the many messages and visits from current students and alumnae, staff and faculty, and other members of the Barnard community we have received during this difficult time.  We take comfort in our sweet memories of Sally, the blessed influence she had on our lives, and the knowledge that we in the Barnard College Chemistry Department will continue to pursue the goals she championed.  We miss her terribly.

- Barnard’s Chemistry Faculty

It was a privilege to know and work with Sally, who mentored so many young female scientists.  The college will miss her intelligence, her wit, and her wisdom.  And so will I.
- Anna Quindlen '74

As a former student of Prof. Chapman's, I'm devastated to learn of her passing. She was a great role model for me, and many other Barnard women. My thoughts, love, and prayers go out to her family and friends.
- Aliya Hasan

I was saddened to learn of Professor Chapman's passing. After my mother, she was my first true mentor and taught me much more than just chemistry. As an oncologist, I am glad she died peacefully at home with her friends and family. I hope all are finding peace in knowing she is no longer suffering. My thoughts are with you.
- Yasmin Khakoo '82

I gained so much from my years in the Chemistry Department, both in education and in motivation. Sally taught us chemistry, but she also taught us to accept nothing less then our due. She taught us to expect success. She faced her final illness with grace, and even humor. I will certainly miss her, in many ways.
- Polly Gregor '79

I am deeply saddened by the passing of Professor Sally Chapman. She was a special person who played a special role for me when I was a young student at Barnard. I will always be grateful to her for the many ways in which she influenced my life. She was a great teacher and a wonderful mentor and role model. She showed me what a strong and knowledgeable woman could do. I owe her a lot, but she would say it was just her job. To her family, friends, and colleagues I am so very sorry for your loss. These last months were terribly hard, and my heart goes out to all of you.
- Laura F. Cooley '80

As a former student, I am profoundly saddened to hear of Professor Chapman's passing. I offer my deepest condolences to everyone who knew this extraordinary individual. I am so thankful to her for her efforts and skill as a teacher, as well as for her dedicated support for women in science. I remember on the last day of class two years ago, Professor Chapman took out a beaker and set something on fire. I'm sure my fellow students would agree with me - that fire never went out.
- Claudia Ma '13

I cannot and do NOT want to believe that Professor Chapman is no longer at Barnard. She was an amazing woman.
- Renata Osinovskaya

I appreciate the swagger Sally Chapman had every time she walked into the room. She was unapologetically brilliant, stern but kind. She will be deeply missed.
- Karimah Rokins

Taking chemistry class with Professor Chapman is among my strongest memories of my time at Barnard.  It was not until after I graduated that I learned of her dedication to women in science.  And it did not surprise me at all - it just made sense about her.  She was one of the most accessible science professors at Barnard.  I'm deeply saddened to learn of her passing and send my sympathy to her family.
- Lori Hoepner '94

As a student who struggled in chemistry class, I will never forget the hours Professor Chapman gave each week outside of our lectures to help her students with the difficult subject matter.  She was truly dedicated to making sure we succeeded.
- Ashley Kelly '04

Dr. Chapman- though I ran into her on the UWS intermittently decades later, I could never think of her as anything but Dr.- helped me to become a PhD chemist, through her humor and perspective. That she died so close by and I never got to properly thank her makes me so sad. I am glad she had her close people with her for that final lecture.
- Laural Boone '88

I only found out about Prof. Chapman's passing this morning when I was searching for a quote of hers that I am very fond of, but can never remember the exact wording of.  It went something like "In science, if an experiment doesn't work fourteen times, you are sure it will work the fifteenth, and if it still doesn't work you are certain it will work the sixteenth, and you know it will definitely work the seventeenth."  How very true.  I saw it posted on the wall in the Chem Department shortly after I graduated, and it has given me courage often over the years.  It is such important advice, especially for women in science, who tend to beat ourselves up for minor imperfections.
- Dawn Cohen '86
I am profoundly saddened to hear of Dr. Chapman's passing. She was an incredible mentor to me during my time at Barnard. Her passing is a great loss and she will be missed.
- Sarah Tully '00

When I learned that Prof. Chapman was ill, I was overcome with disbelief.  I wanted to reach out to her, but I didn't know how.  It was not until I learned that she had been nominated to receive the Barnard Medal of Distinction that I sent her a card. I told myself I needed to reach out to her soon, in case it would be the last time, so that I could update her on my career path and tell her how grateful I was for all that she had done to help me along the way.  The front of the card said: "There are a thousand excuses for not being in touch, none of them very good" and inside "always thinking of you."  Upon learning of her death, I immediately went back to the post card I received in the mail from her in December 1994 after struggling through her fall semester General Chemistry I course. Written in her perfect handwriting was my final grade and underneath the words "You should be proud" and the initials "SC".  From time to time, I have taken out that postcard to remind myself that I should be proud of overcoming all the challenges that have come my way.  And so, I say, Prof. Chapman: I know you are proud as you watch over all the accomplished and successful people whom you have influenced.  Please keep watching over us and sending your strength and wisdom to help us navigate the challenges.
- Corinne Quinn '97

Sally Chapman changed my life.  When she asked me to consider switching my major to chemistry, I did not follow her advice. I was an English major, but I went on to study medicine in part because Sally Chapman instilled in me a belief in myself as a scientist.  This confidence has served me well throughout my career.
- Philippa Ribbink '85

Nothing is so deafeningly silent as the void left by someone so vibrant. Now it is us, left behind, who suffer. Thank you for your brilliance. Like a star, I think we will see it for light years after it burnt out.
- Eileen Doyle '97

Sally Chapman was a great teacher and role model. One of my strongest memories was learning to use the one apple computer in the department for one of her assignments (it seemed very exotic in those days).  She pushed us to be our best. Silly me, I was so surprised when I got to Harvard and there almost no female professors! Drs Chapman and Segal taught us to expect that we could achieve, and we did.
- Jean Greenberg '83

I was frightened to take chemistry because I did not have a good background in high school. Professor Chapman changed that; her class was the first of a series I took at Barnard and absolutely loved. She was so intelligent; I loved attending her workshop hours because she could explain so well. I am so grateful to have gotten to be one of her students.
- Samima Habbsa '13

I am truly saddened hear about Professor Chapman's passing. Her general chemistry course lectures were my favorite in college – she presented them with such clarity and simplified a somewhat complex topic in such a way that the concepts are still vivid after all these years. Professor Chapman is a great loss.  My sincere sympathies for her loved ones.
- Dilruba Khanam '94