Re: Retiring Faculty

The Summer 2006 Vassar Quarterly announced the retirement of Robin Trainor after 31 years at Vassar. Robin was certainly an amazing and inspiring teacher who helped build the education department at Vassar, but to her students she has been more than that. In the small and sometimes overlooked education department Robin has been a parent, a friend, and an adviser in all fields of life. She has been the person that we trust and turn to in the most confusing situations and difficult dilemmas, and the shoulder we lean on during the hardest setbacks. Through Robin’s efforts and attention, her students have embarked on lives that have excited them and have been confident in their abilities not only as teachers, but as people in general. Though Robin will be greatly missed, she will always be a part of our lives. As she goes forth to explore other important causes that need her attention she will have our love and support, the same love and support that she has given each of us as we have, sometimes very clumsily, put our own lives together. We congratulate her on her three decades of being a teacher—and so much more.

Jillian Brass ’06
Queens, New York

Sylviane Cohn ’06
Orinda, California

Re: Focusing on Tibet

I was delighted to see the very talented Isaac Solotaroff ’92 profiled in Beyond Vassar (Summer ’06)and to read his reflections on the ways in which his Vassar education have informed his film-craft. I was doubly excited to read about Isaac because Dr. Marc Lieberman, the ophthalmologist featured in Solotaroff’s Visioning Tibet, is my brother. Interested readers can learn more about my brother’s work in Tibet at www.tibetvisionproject.org.

Rabbi Elias Lieberman ’75
East Falmouth, Massachusetts 

In Memoriam: Ann Imbrie

Vassar lost a great scholar and friend with the passing of the Mary Augusta Scott Professor of English Ann Imbrie. I had the distinct pleasure of working with Professor Imbrie as my senior thesis adviser during the Fall 2004 semester, and I came to think of our weekly meetings as one of the highlights of my undergraduate career. Reflecting back on our work together on Joan Didion’s essays, I am deeply saddened that future generations of Vassar students will not be afforded the same pleasure.Professor Imbrie must have spent as much time, if not more, commenting on my thesis pages as I spent writing them, and I could be assured that whenever my argumentation or prose was lax, she would not hesitate to lend her seemingly infinite wisdom to the task. It is with great regret that I realize I will never be able to discuss with her The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion’s latest work, and appropriate reading for those who miss the irreplaceable Ann Imbrie.

Lindsay Dawson ’05
Chicago, Illinois

In Memoriam: Marisa Landa Ness '89

Marisa Landa Ness ’89 died on May 10, 2006, after a valiant four-year battle with a very rare form of cancer. She is survived by her husband Tim, two young children, Jillian and Liam, her sisters, Marianne Chao and Margot Kielhorn, and brother Karl. At the memorial service at Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago on June 3, all of them shared memories. Family and friends had been asked to celebrate her life by wearing her favorite bright colors. Her love of life, her sparkle, her ability to live fully and joyfully were recognized by all.

Pastor John Buchanan said, “Things are out of order. Children are not supposed to say goodbye to their mothers. A husband who promised faithfulness in sickness and health does not expect to be required to make good on that promise so soon. Friends do not expect to bid farewell to one of their very own, decades too soon.”

He went on to describe what William Sloane Coffin had felt at the funeral of his own young son, Alex, killed in a tragic traffic accident. “At the funeral a woman had tried to comfort him by patting him on the arm and saying that it was all part of God’s plan, God’s will. Coffin says he wanted to jump out of his chair and shout, ‘No, God does not will this. God does not plan the death of beautiful young people. As a matter of fact, God’s heart was the first to break when Alex died.’” Buchanan continued, “And so out of the depth of our faith, may I suggest that God weeps too, that God understands, in a way that we cannot begin to understand. Marisa is safe and whole and home now, in God’s everlasting love.”

And so we left the church that morning with memories of a beautiful person and renewed hope.

Gretchen Smelzer Coffman ’64
Chicago, Illinois

New AAVC President

This past June, I was honored to be named the new president of our alumnae/i association. Less than 48 hours before, I had attended my last meeting as a member of the Philadelphia Vassar Club executive board, ending 21 years of almost continuous service to that organization. Many of us like to say that we grew up at Vassar, and I did my share of that, of course. But I must say that I grew up more, and in more ways, as a Vassar volunteer.

Meg Venecek Johnson 84
Meg Venecek Johnson 84
As Vassar dad Samuel L. Jackson said so memorably at Commencement 2005, “There’s no guarantee you will ever again spend each day surrounded by so many highly intelligent people, people who are such independent thinkers.” That’s too true. But if you continue to volunteer for Vassar, you meet extraordinary people all the time.

I have been educated, challenged, and inspired by my fellow alumnae/i every time I’ve volunteered for Vassar. Our collective capacity to create, innovate, and execute is limitless, and the volunteers I’ve met never fail to push me to be better: to think more deeply, to work that much harder, and to be a more passionate advocate for the things I believe in.

This is an exciting time to be a part of the Vassar community. The college has entered a new era with a new president and new priorities. As I write this, AAVC is also going through a strategic planning process that will identify the organizational structure, initiatives, and programs that will serve our 35,000 alumnae/i now and in the future. It will truly be my privilege to work with you and for you in the next four years.

Meg Venecek Johnson ’84
Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania