Barnard raised over $2 million, a record, at its annual scholarship dinner at The Plaza Hotel on Wednesday night.
Ellen Futter, BC ’71 and a former president of Barnard, and Barbara Novak, BC ’50 and a professor at Barnard for 40 years, were honored at the gala, which raised money for the Barnard College Scholarship Fund.
Futter, who became president of Barnard at age 32, said she was grateful to be recognized at the event.
“I could never ever have dreamed that Barnard would end up playing such a central role in my life and that I would become its child president, perhaps in violation of child labor laws,” Futter joked.
Instead of auctioning off actual prizes like in years past, this year, Barnard allowed guests to bid on student scholarships: $50,000 bought one year of tuition, $10,000 room and board, and $1,000 paid for student life fees. The auction raised over $500,000.
Atoosa Rubenstein, BC ’93 and former editor-in-chief of Seventeen magazine, said being at the dinner reminded her of how grateful she was to have had the opportunity to attend Barnard. She described her high-school self as the average Long Island girl with “air-brushed nails” and “Bon Jovi posters.”
“Prior to Barnard, I was ‘Most Likely to be on the Jersey Shore,’” Rubenstein quipped. “After Barnard, I had some more virtuous successes.”
After a cocktail hour, guests entered The Plaza’s grand ballroom, where glass chandeliers hung overhead. Alumnae who attended the college half a century ago and current students alike said they felt the excitement of the event.
“It’s kind of like our future,” Sarah Drew, BC ’13, said. Drew and five friends were invited to the dinner by her suitemate’s parents.
“All of a sudden you’re surrounded by really powerful Barnard women, and it’s so empowering.”
Barnard President Debora Spar spent most of the evening greeting guests, and opened the main event by presenting the two Frederick A.P. Barnard Awards to Futter and Novak.
Futter attended Columbia Law School upon graduation and then began working in corporate law. Soon after, she was appointed president of Barnard—a position she held until becoming president of the American Museum of Natural History in 1993.
Novak pursued graduate work in art history after Barnard and returned in 1958 to teach. After 40 years on the faculty, she retired in 1998.
“What most benefited me as a Barnard professor was the human material I had to work with,” Novak said. “Each mind, like a fingerprint, has something special to offer.”
Folk singer-songwriter Suzanne Vega, BC ’81, said the evening reminded her that Barnard is constantly pushing forward.
“The tendency is to feel that women’s colleges are outdated, but I think if Barnard is to keep the pace it has to think more globally, and I think it is thinking more globally,” Vega said.