On Friday, Feb. 12, Geneseo faculty members held a memorial service for Bertha Lederer, former Geneseo art professor, as well as a distinguished service professor emeritus of art.
The service appropriately took place in the Lederer Gallery of Brodie Hall. It was a multi-disciplinary array of the arts to honor Lederer's strong influence on the school.
A string quartet played as the crowd filed in to the packed gallery, which had the "Drawn to New York" exhibit displayed. President Christopher Dahl welcomed everyone with a speech, noting that although it was a memorial service, it was "not a sorrowful occasion," but more of a "celebration."
Dahl gave a thorough overview of Lederer's vibrant career at Geneseo, mentioning that she'd spent an astounding 64 years of her life here. After being a professor for many years, Lederer was named the head of the art department in 1955 and kept encouraging her interdisciplinary vision for the arts. Dahl read a letter from an alumni and former student of Lederer's, which said that she was truly a "life changing" and "visionary" teacher.
The next speaker, Paul Hepler, professor emeritus of art, provided a history of Geneseo and how Lederer was instrumental in bringing the academics of the college to where they are today. Hepler spoke of Lederer's success beyond working at the college and how she went on to become a leader in the Genesee Valley Council of the Arts.
Arthur Halton, former executive director of the Genesee Valley Council of the Arts, also shared some personal anecdotes and interactions he had with Lederer, highlighting the fact that she was very opinionated and frank. Halton said that Lederer added more than 500 pieces of artwork to the college's permanent art collection, thus becoming one of the most important figures in Geneseo's cultural history.
The final speaker, Ellen Herzman, former educational director of the Genesee Valley Council of the Arts, spoke on behalf of Lederer's personal life and policies, and said that she was a "woman of influence, who was not afraid to use it." Herzman said that while Lederer was such an instrumental figure in Geneseo's culture, her influence stretched much further than the Genesee Valley. Lederer was featured in The New York Times, and was very prominent in the art scene in both Boston and New York City.
In addition to the speakers, the audience was treated to a taste of what else the School of the Arts has to offer. There was a short Mozart piece performed by a vocalist and the string quartet and an expertly choreographed dance by an alumnus, which featured members of the Geneseo Dance ensemble.
Without a doubt, Lederer and her actions around the Geneseo community had and will have an immeasurable influence on the college's academics and culture, as well as the faculty, staff and students, for years to come.