Judith R. Shapiro, Interview

Judith Shapiro Interview
Sloate Media Studio, Barnard Library
June 22, 2015
Interview began at 3:30 PM
Biographical information
b. 1942, Jamaica, Queens
Mother a high school librarian
Father à handled books of a meat company mornings;  track accountant afternoons
PS 26 – Stephen Jay Gould/Jonathan Cole (baseball player)
Not an African American family on the block – otherwise, an typical New York ethnic mix
My family belonged to a Reform temple – not particularly religious
“I do feel like a New York Jew” – as per Alfred Kazin
Jamaica High School – then a strong, privileged high school – Commercial track/General program (most of AAs)
Mother’s parent from Beylorussia à started in South  Jamaica; maternal grandparents had a candy store; upward mobility in move to  Jamaica Estates/North (still one rung below Jamaica Estates)

Younger sister to Clark University – then career army doctor

JS  to Brandeis – a good theatre program — got into acting to deal with social awkwardness issues
“I wanted to be an actress.”
First thought was Carnegie-Tech – mother persuaded me of liberal arts college
Smith? – College tour à cottages enchanting; tour guide – pleated skirt, circle pin, sweater set….
JS – “Holy moly, get me out of here.”
Brandeis – Intellectually exciting – Theatre to History after Ist semester
Did some Mike Nichols/Elaine May imitations
Became a folk singer during summers à Cambridge/Provincetown
Junior Year under Sweet Briar’s auspices à France

Following graduation – accepted to Harvard/Berkeley in history
Brandeis’s two cultures: 1. Upward mobile Jewish kids;
2. Intellectuals/Bohemians – JS gang
little dating across these cultures

Fall ’63 – at Berkeley as history graduate student – French history/Carl Schorske  — “Not right… spending my life in an archive….”
Back to NYC  — interesting job
Up to then, no anthropology courses – friend got her in Claude Levi-Strauss, Triste Tropiques

JS: a life-long trajectory:  More and more directed away from specialized study

Cultural anthropology at CU – entering fellowship à NIH fellowship ($2200 a year)
Field work
Field school à Nevada summer ‘65
After 2nd year as graduate student à Brazil as strength of Cu department [Charles Wagley] (taken with Portuguese/Bossa Nova)

Took to field work with the less isolated group  — Tapire Pey???  ; knew every one’s name;  welcomed as “Wagley’s niece”
Community of nuns – a post-PhD publication
Wanted a less exposed community to examine – rough experience; got me a thesis on gender differentiation  [Tapire Pey] then the Yanonama


The Chicago stint
“Old boy network involved a girl”
Two job offers – Montreal and Smith
Then an offer from Chicago – snapped it up short of dissertation-submission
Fall 1970 – first appointee in UC anthropology department as a woman
Assigned office of Clifford Geertz à off to Princeton
Another junior appointee – whom I married ….still good friends
Not at all bitter about her Chicago years – department had a sense of humor
(Senior colleague: “The administration’s  emasculating the department.”
JS:  Affects some of us more than others….)

At Berkeley on post-doc in 74-75 – reappointed at UC to second term but took offer from Bryn Mawr
First, lived in Philadelphia; then faculty housing

Harris Wofford president in ’75; Pat McPherson Provost by another name; president in ‘78
Pat an “incarnational president.”  Despite being a Smith graduate

Pat as head of “Bryn Mawr Mafia.” Job-placement juggernaut
Ego-strength with an absence of meanness – very caring of other people
Presidents pick up garbage on campus; provosts don’t
PMcP – personification of the “helium principle” of floating above controversies

A decade in department of 5 members (2 archeologists)
Mary Dunn’s departure for Smith presidency in 1985
JS proposed going with acting dean – Pat talked JS into taking the  job
Accepted in keeping  with inclination “to do something new.” Little risk as tenured….

BM administrative structure:
JS wanted  to focus on academic stuff – not student business (Michelle Meyers hired for this)
Principal challenge: Get rid of most of the 20-odd graduate programs
Pat pulled it off; relied on the trust she had earned;  sustained by faculty
closing graduate program in anthropology particularly painful – but necessary

Interest in Barnard job?
Earlier interest in cooperative arrangements with Haverford and Swarthmore – tri-college library automation system
Calls from Amherst about dean of faculty opening – Pat/Hannah not positive
Williams presidency??   Just not right…..
Call from Barnard – willing to put toe in water…. Knew BC from 7 Sisters conferences

Search committee meeting – HK/Pat Green/Anna Quindlen –
Came away with  “I want this job, really wanted it.”
‘We had a good time interviewing each other.’
“I’m a New Yorker. Know Columbia. Experience with women’s colleges. Not a bad set of credentials
Detecting no board  criteria based on prior president’s kitbag – faculty wanted an academic
[Not informed of Ad Hoc arrangements]

Pat’s initial reaction – did not want me to leave
Then,  in JS’s corner as promoter
Accept job – Here in mid 1994
First real appointment à Elizabeth Boylan  the following spring

MBc provided some Some numbers:
1. Admissions – from accept rates in 40s to high 20s
Uptick started up before JS arrival —
2. Endowment quadrupled by 2008 – 4%0 million to $200+
3. Capital Campaign – 2nd phase of EVF campaign à$65 million

Why a successful presidency (other than “just lucky”)?

1. JS and Columbia – Rupp’s initial take – BC should be folded into CU as per Radcliffe;
personally decent and constructive; and a listener; helped by Alan Stone’s support of BC
GR on Barnard/CU     “Anomalous” an attack fish with a dorsal fin; Try “unique”
Rupp open to evidence: Barnard grades matched completely with Columbia, accept a tale on CC women (suggestive affirmative action by Hamilton Hall  to keep men numbers up?)
More BC science majors than CC science majors —

Columbia relaxing in JS’s tenure:
BC students  — still occasionally getting “dissed” by CC women;
JS advice: Not your problem; they’re problem.  They have status anxiety
BC faculty – Some suffering from battered child syndrome;  JS encouraged them to see themselves as Barnard faculty
JS and Jonathan Cole – shared values; his advice at start: “BC/CU relationship not than of Bryn Mawr and Haverford.”
JS: “ Oh, Jonathan, I knew that”  —  and then JS proceeded to act as if it were.

Didn’t do business with Austin Quigley: “I just liked him a lot.”
JS in trustee selection??
Involved in vetting – a happy relationship with her board
Dale Horowitz an important bridge to faculty à Faculty Finance Committee
Healthy faculty-board relations with no  ex parte aspect to it.

‘Yours the most successful of the presidencies Barnard has experienced….”??

Difficult spots:
2. 1995 and  2110 union dealings – “My one, truly horrible experience at Barnard.’
Early on in presidency – In  trouble until Bob Linn came on board
Some faculty responses unsettling  —  even about their own health care premiums??
2110 did not know how to stop once it had won….
“Strike was traumatic for me…. I became depressed by it….”
Taken bowling by Flora to relax.

Faculty did peel away from union camp
Strike painful but not really disruptive. Other BC unions didn’t make matters worse…

  1. 2001 Tenure case of Nadia Abu-Haj
    Fortunately far along in presidency – “helium principle” nicely in play
    JS had read book carefully/critically – Jonathan Cole advice on her reading – as opposed to her role as president in the process – guardian of the integrity of the process
    Pained by Alan Segal’s going off the deep end and destroying relationships with colleagues
    As for alums: Threatening to withhold funds  from Barnard not the preferred way to open a discussion…
    Not  quite an instance of “Profiles in Courage” but appreciated by many outsiders



Theme for your presidency?

“I am a New Yorker.” Your presidency reasserts a level of connectedness of Barnard  with the City’s immigrant experience.”
Variations of a theme: What kind of New York?  EVF/JS/DS  — “all variations of New Yorkiness”
MP/JAM not so
Virginia Gildersleeve – spent presidency playing NY down

JS – The first Jewish president of Barnard?? Many thought so….

Difference between German- Jews and the next wave
“I wouldn’t trade Barnard’s location for Wellesley’s endowment”


It’s a wrap!


Interview conclude at 5:10 PM
[email protected]

Rough draft sent to JS for corrections, edits… 6/26/2015