(Former) Dean Dorothy Denburg

(Former) Dean Dorothy Denburg

Dorothy Denburg, BC ’70 and the former Dean of Barnard College who currently serves as “Vice President for College Relations“, will be retiring next year. She has overseen student and alumni activities at Barnard since 1993.

Later today, DSpar will send out a touching email announcing Dean Denburg’s retirement, which Bwog has obtained. Here it is:

I am writing to let you know that Dorothy Denburg will be stepping down from her role as Vice President for College Relations at the end of the academic year, capping off an astonishing four decades of service to the College, not counting her stellar years as a Barnard student. There is simply no one like Dorothy, and simply no way to quantify what her influence, energy, and amazing spirit have meant to us all.

Most recently, in her three years as Vice President for College Relations, Dorothy has found new and compelling ways to connect our alumnae to the College, and our students to our alumnae. Her outreach to alumnae has extended well beyond the gates—from Paris and London to Seattle and St. Louis, and beyond. In many of these areas, she was the first senior administrator to visit, and her efforts have helped double the number of alumnae clubs to a total of 52, both stateside and abroad. In addition, she organized faculty lectures in cities throughout the world, and secured grant money to increase programming for 350 alumnae and 40 gap-year students in Israel.

When charged with building a program of alumnae education, Dorothy’s response has been masterful and extensive. Because she has a profound understanding of our alumnae, not to mention an insider’s perspective, she has been able to develop courses and curricula that have truly captured their attention. And they have shown up in droves for Conversations in Contemporary Art and Revisiting the Classics I and II, for series such as Barnard on the Hudson and Barnard@work, and for the College’s first-ever online course, Mary Gordon’s The Modern Novel, to be followed next year by another of Mary’s signature courses, Middle Fictions. They have also had more opportunities than ever to return the favor by means of expanded mentorship programs that pair students with alumnae mentors.

While her service as Vice President for College Relations has been innovative and invaluable, her seventeen-year reign as Dean of the College was legendary. She has done more, and done it with more passion and heart, than any one letter can convey. As dean, Dorothy was responsible for all student services in support of the academic mission of the college, including admissions and financial aid, academic and pre-professional advising, residential life and student activities, and health and wellness programs. She developed ways to assure that students on financial aid would be able to participate fully in the study abroad experience. She introduced external peer reviews for student service areas and under her guidance the Barnard Student Health Service was the first of our peer group to be accredited. She reimagined and then expanded Family Weekend, developed programs for parents during New Student Orientation Program, and created a parents’ newsletter, Perspectives for Parents. In addition, she taught courses in the First-Year Seminar program and the Centennial Scholars program.

For two decades, Dorothy has overseen Barnard’s Office of Career Development, leading it at a time of extraordinary growth and success. The Office has been singled out for its mentoring program and was named top 5 by the Princeton Review. And during Dorothy’s history-making tenure as dean, applications increased by over 100%, and the admit rate dropped from 56% to 25%, making Barnard the most selective women’s college in the country. Student satisfaction rates on major surveys showed improvement in all areas, and our graduation rates improved by over 7%. And that happiness that put us in the top ten colleges with the happiest students? We owe many of those smiles to her.

We also owe Dorothy a debt of gratitude that we can never fully repay. She has changed the face of Barnard by her presence alone, and her intelligence and ideas will resonate for a long time to come. For the decades of brilliant and well-cared for students who have passed through her door, her countless colleagues, and her Barnard sisters, she will always be family. And, of course, she will always be a proud Barnard alumna.

I am very pleased that Dorothy has happily agreed to make 2013-14 a transition year. She will continue to oversee the Centennial Scholars program and continue to work with her current first-year advisees. I know you will join me in thanking Dorothy for all she has done for Barnard.

Debora Spar