Judith R. Shapiro

The announcement  in April 1993 of Ellen Futter’s planned resignation after 13  years as president of Barnard to accept the presidency of the American Museum of Natural History that July surprised most members of her Cabinet. The  trustees promptly  appointed Kathryn Rodgers, then Vice President for Student Affairs,  and  before that College Counsel, a graduate of Smith College and Columbia Law School, as acting president.  A search began for Futter’s successor.


Auspicious times. Barnard’s 10th leader and 6th president  would  to be the first in Barnard’s 105-year history to commence her tenure with virtually all the College’s  vital signs  trending upward. Not since Rosemary Park in 1962, would an incoming leader of Barnard arrive on campus to more upbeat institutional circumstances.

Futter did much more to turn Barnard’s fortunes around during her thirteen –year presidency than  present purposes allow mentioning, leaving the college in better shape than it had ever been in except perhaps at the Mcintosh-Park transfer in 1962. But unlike  then, that from Ellen to her successor put the college in the hands of a new president, Judith R. Shapiro, even more suited to represent – to personify — Barnard’s urban identity than her predecessor or any of Barnard’s eight earlier administrative heads.

Judith Shapiro was born in Queens– an upwardly mobile ethnically mixed (but all-white) neighborhood — “But not Jamaica Estates”  – Donald Trump’s tonier neighborhood. Grew up in Queens – an upwardly mobile ethnically mixed (but all-white) neighborhood of  Jamaica Estates/North   (“But not Jamaica Estates”  – Donald Trump’s tonier neighborhood.   Judith’s father was an accountant (not a CPA) who kept the books for the Belmont Race Track. Her mother was a librarian, who, unlike her husband, was a college graduate She attended PS 26 (with Jy Gould and Jonathan Cole)  and Jamaica High School.

Her parents were Jews whose parents came from Belorussia – not very observant Reform Jews
“I do feel like a New York Jew”
College-shopping.  Turned off by Smith visit – pleated skirt/circle pin/sweater set — “Holy moly, get me out of here.” She did not apply to Barnard  because she would have had to have commuted.
Went to Brandeis on a scholarship as a theatre major – “I wanted to be an actress” à into history after a semester
Brandeis’s “golden age” – historians there Keller/Marcuse….
Two social circles – upwardly mobile professional-school bound and the hipsters – JRS among the latter
Folk singer summers in Cambridge/Provincetown – junior year in France
Graduated in  1963 – Accepted at Harvard and Berkeley in history à Berkeley
1963-64 — French history/Carl Schorske – “Not right… spending my life in an archive”
1964-65 – Back to NYC in summer ‘64
Fall 1965 – to CU in cultural anthropology/NIH fellowship
1965-67 – Study for orals in spring 1967
Fall 1967 à Brazil as a Charles Wagley protégé  (“Wagley’s niece”)
PhD awarded in 1969 —
Sex Roles and Social Structure Among the Yanomami Indians of Northern Brazil (1972)

1970 — Appointed Ast. Prof. U. Chicago – first woman in Department of Anthropology;
there for 5 years, but 1974-75 on a post-doc at Berkeley
Passed up a second-term appointment as ast. prof. at UC to go to Bryn Mawr (as tenured associate professor?)
1975 – Harris Wofford president; Pat McPherson “provost” à president in 1978
McPherson – “an incarnational president” – ego strength without meanness
1975-87 – Bryn Mawr anthropologist – 5-member department à chair
1985-86 Made acting Dean of Undergraduate College by President Pat McPherson on Mary Dunn’s departure to become president of Smith
Fall 1986  — Chief academic officer of College – office created with her appointment
Big challenge – close BM’s tiny graduate programs – develop programs with Haverford/Swarthmore
1986 – 1993 – Chief academic officer – mentioned for jobs at Amherst and Williams

Barnard opening – JRS knew from Seven Sister conferences (Bob McCaughey) and CU-trained  anthropologists at Barnard (Klass/Rosman/Rubel/Vincent)
Smitten with search committee – Helene Kaplan/Pat Green/Anna Quindlen
Faculty members??  Dick Pious??


JRS’s credentials:
Age 54 — Experience with a top women’s college; a native New Yorker; knew Columbia; an academic when faculty pushing for  an academic – McPherson promoting; JRS wanted the job

Inauguration October 27, 1994
Innovation: a member of support staff among the official welcomers

New dean/provost (Elizabeth Boylan) appointed six months into new presidency;  took over 7/95

Why the Shapiro presidency successful rather than “just lucky timing”?
Made the most of the overall “good times” to advance Barnard’s wellbeing above and beyond the lift that could be attributed to the good times