Barnard’s Karen Blank Has Died

Written by

Karen Blank

Karen Blank

According to an email from DSpar: Karen Blank, Dean of Studies at Barnard since 1993, has died. She was at Columbia since 1984, when she served as Columbia’s associate dean of student affairs.

Blank had been on medical leave since January 2012. She was set to retire at the end of this past semester. Spar’s email does not state exactly when Blank died.

This year, Athletics announced an award for Barnard athletes in Blank’s honor. A Bwogger who had Blank for freshman advisor called her “amazing.”

Colleagues, students, and friends of Blank are invited to submit tributes here.

Spar’s email:

Dear Members of the Barnard Community,

It is with tremendous sadness and a very heavy heart that I write to inform you of the recent death of Karen Blank, a beloved dean and member of our community for twenty years.

Karen came to Barnard as Dean of Studies in the summer of 1993, after serving as associate dean for student affairs at Columbia College. Prior to that, she was dean of freshmen at both Hamilton College and Dartmouth College. Being a dean was clearly her calling and the countless students whose lives she touched can attest to how well-suited she was to guide and encourage them.

Karen served as our Dean of Studies for nearly two decades, until taking a medical leave in January 2012. In this vital role, she chaired the Committee on Honors and the Committee on Programs and Academic Standing, served on the Committee on Instruction, and supervised a comprehensive study of Gen Ed requirements. Perhaps most important, both to her and the community, was the work she did in advising the Honor Board from 1993 to 2011.

She was infinitely respected by all, trusted by the faculty, and adored by the students. SGA named her the administrator of the year in 2001. For all these years, Karen was our liaison to Columbia Athletics, which established a scholarship in her honor in December 2012. As the announcement stated, “The new award will be presented to the female student-athlete enrolled in Barnard College who exemplifies the qualities of academic success, athletic achievement, strong sporting behavior and commitment to community.” And last year, as well, Barnard established the Karen Blank Scholarship Fund “to provide financial aid for Barnard students who demonstrate commitment to bettering a community—campus, local, or international—of which they are a part, as well as commitment to their education through good academic performance.” Both of these scholarships celebrate Karen’s 28 years of service to Barnard and Columbia and will be part of her enduring legacy.

Karen was known for her absolute integrity and sense of fair play, her endless hours of hard work and innate wisdom, her understated but clever sense of humor, boundless capacity for caring, and warm smile. She was a devoted advocate for the students, a mentor to her staff, and a generous colleague to all.

We are deeply saddened by this loss and know that Karen will be dearly missed.

Most sincerely,
Debora Spar

Image via

Tags: , , ,


  1. Barnard '14

    She was a role model. I and my friends love and miss her.

  2. Anonymous

    Dean Blank was so wonderful, kind, caring, and knowledgeable. A loss to the community.

  3. Barnard 2013

    Dean Blank acted as my pseudo-advisor when I was mismatched freshman year. She helped me to select my path at Barnard and ultimately led me to the Combined Plan program and helped me choose my path throughout Barnard and SEAS. She is the one faculty member at Barnard that stood out to me, took time out for me, and really made a difference in my present and future. I owe her all of my gratitude. My deepest regrets- she will definitely be missed.

© 2006-2015 Blue and White Publishing Inc.