It is with immense sorrow that I inform the Vassar community that Professor Emerita of French Ilse Hempel Lipschutz died in her sleep on June 22, 2005. Ilse embodied all that each of us strives to be. Devoted to her family and profession, she leaves behind Lewis, her husband and life partner, their children Elizabeth ’76, Marion ’80, Marc, and Margaret and their families, and innumerable friends throughout the world.
When I started my career, it was for her that I returned to Vassar. She had been my teacher and now I had the opportunity to continue to learn from her but this time as a colleague. She was the ideal teacher and mentor.
Ilse was a brilliant scholar, an eminently fair chairman, and a tireless teacher. From the outset, she advised me not to enter this profession unless I could live with guilt. “You will never feel you have done enough for your family, students, and colleagues. You will always have to juggle.” Late at night, Ilse returned to Chicago Hall to write letters of recommendation, lengthy comments on students’ papers, and departmental correspondence. Thirty minutes before each class, she would hang up a “Do Not Disturb” sign: she was busy putting finishing touches on a lecture. Otherwise, students and colleagues knew they could disturb her, and she would give the impression it was no disturbance at all.
Ilse juggled well. Over and over again, she broke new ground in her scholarship on French literature and European art history. She lectured at the Met and the Prado, but always remained loyal to Vassar. Fluent in four languages, she opened her home to foreign visitors, new faculty members, students in need of a break from dorm life, and French department seniors eager for a year-end celebration. She was a life force, and those of us who knew her will continue, as best we can, to be worthy of her example.
Cynthia B. Kerr ’72
Vassar Professor of French
Poughkeepsie, New York
It took me 20 years to understand fully the question I had asked in my senior thesis—who were those women in Victor Hugo’s theater? Why were they either “precious flowers” or “murderous harridans?” (There wasn’t much of a critical vocabulary in 1969 for patterns of representation that imprisoned thought in sexual stereotypes.) Luckily, there were women who never worried about such limitations. For example, Ilse Lipschutz, my mentor, who, after feeding her kids and her husband and preparing her classes, had me over night after night to work on style—the style of my French, of course, but also the style of my life—how I was meant to be in this world, what I might do with my brains, what I might do with my hips. (Yes, she lent me her fashion magazines.)
This tiny woman, this incredible energetic whirl—surviving the virulent anti-Semitism of mid-century Europe, outliving four or five Harvard thesis directors—passionately engaged with the intersection of Spanish painting and French romanticism, training generations of Vassar students—in French—in style. Adieu, chère Ilse.
Judith Miller ’69
New York, New York
Ilse Lipschutz was well known on campus as a devoted teacher and an outstanding scholar. One of my favorite memories of Ilse concerns neither of these accomplishments. Ilse and Lewis and their four children lived around the corner from us, and I greatly valued her advice on child raising. When my three-year-old son dropped a glass and gashed his foot, who did I call for help but Ilse? Two minutes later, the Lipschutz car drove up. Wrapping a dishtowel around my son’s wound to stanch the blood, I climbed into the front seat next to Ilse and started giving her directions to the emergency room. She stopped me with a laugh. “This car can find the way on its own.” I still marvel at how, with her quick wit and common sense, she did it all: teacher, scholar, wife, mother.
Vassar Lecturer in English
Poughkeepsie, New York
Editor’s Note: A memorial service is planned for late September at the Alumnae House. If you would like to attend, please call Elizabeth Lipschutz ’76 at 773.871.6434. If you would like to share a story of Ilse, contact the VQ.
As a former editor in chief, senior editor, information technology editor, and contributing editor of The Miscellany News (1995 – 99), I was happy to see coverage of the Misc in the Summer 2005issue of the Vassar Quarterly. However, what is frustrating for us former editors is to see not only misleading details, but also that the institutional knowledge that we worked so hard to preserve seems to have been lost some time after the class of 1999 graduated.
The article speaks of “a day when the paper’s financial insolvency and lackluster student interest almost doomed it to obsolescence,” as well as the ability to “now peruse the Miscellany News’ online edition ... [and] archived material.” These claims and the implication that this is the first time the Misc has been online sadden me.
I gave the paper my all during my four years of involvement, which culminated with my role as editor in chief during my junior year in 1998. During that time, we garnered high advertising and subscription revenues (thanks to the innovative efforts of then-Managing Editor Jonty Yamisha ’99), produced a quality newspaper with in-depth reporting (with News Editors Jennifer Anderson ’99 and Stephanie Litos ’99, and Senior Editor Jennifer Higginbotham ’99 at the helm), and earned not only the interest, but dare I say the respect of the student body. We were well trained by our predecessors, Amanda Spielman ’97, Joe Goldman ’98, and Hill Anderson ’98, who took the newspaper and the journalistic responsibility that went with it very seriously, setting high standards for those of us who followed in their footsteps; we did our best to maintain that same level of quality.
As for the Website and online archives, former editors Anderson ’98 and Michael Dillon ’96 should be properly credited with first putting the Misc online in 1994. I assisted with and later managed diligently and without fail—along with Shreyank Purohit ’99—that weekly project from 1995 through 1997. When we left Vassar in 1999, we had accumulated six years of consistent online archives. Some time around 2000 or 2001, apparently, the server went down and the online archives were lost. Here’s a glimpse of what the online edition looked like in 1998:http://gabeanderson.com/miscbio/. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the foresight to preserve more online archives since I thought we had put sufficient infrastructure in place. Apparently I was wrong.
Despite all this, I’m glad to see a revitalized effort in returning the Misc to its former glory, online and off.
Gabe Anderson ’99
Saratoga Springs, New York
Alumnae/i in Iraq
As usual I found many very interesting articles in the most recent VQ, all in a well-designed package. The most interesting, however, appeared in the Class Notes. Several recent alums (John McCary ’98, Peter Snodgrass ’03, along with military wife Megan Melanson Cooke ’03) wrote in about their military service in Iraq. As participation on the battlefield itself in such numbers may be a new experience for Vassar, I would be very interested to learn more about those alums, with the focus on Iraq, who have experienced warfare firsthand.
Steven Miller ’97
Editor’s Note: The VQ is planning a story on alumnae/i who have served in Iraq in myriad capacities. If you have a story to share, please contact the VQ.
As an alumna and a former Poughkeepsie resident I am concerned by the loss of the Youth Resource Development Corporation, which housed Americorp for Dutchess County. The closing of YRDC’s doors underscores the endangered status of youth programming in Poughkeepsie. At this writing, funding is no longer secure for another youth engagement project in Poughkeepsie, known as Green Teen. This program, offered through Cornell Cooperative Extension, promotes urban agricultural education and job skills for Poughkeepsie’s youth.
Not only will the loss of these types of services have a negative effect on inner city youth seeking summer employment and job training, it will mean one less opportunity for Vassar grads to stay in the area and “make a difference.” I served with Americorp on the Poughkeepsie Farm Project in 1999. At the time, I knew several other Vassar graduates serving in other capacities through YRDC. A tremendous number of current students and alumnae/i seek opportunities to create positive local change beyond Vassar’s walls. Without the structure of dedicated organizations, students and graduates will likely look elsewhere. I strongly urge the Vassar community to help prevent the erosion of these valuable programs.
Miriam Latzer ’97
Teaneck, New Jersey