From the President

As the College celebrates the culmination of the Campaign for Sarah Lawrence, President Cristle Collins Judd pauses to reflect on this milestone moment in front of the new Barbara Walters Campus Center—a space created to encourage connection and collaboration. Donor funded and sustainably constructed, the Center has already become a landmark, serving as visible testament to the generosity and commitment of the many SLC community members who are invested in the future of the College.

As president of Sarah Lawrence, one of the privileges I enjoy most is getting to know the College through the stories of alumni: stories of experiences at Sarah  Lawrence across the generations; stories about the extraordinary intellectual  generosity of faculty; stories of growth, discovery, and lifelong friendship; stories like the many shared in this magazine of connecting passions and creating futures.

As much as I enjoy hearing these stories, I enjoy sharing them even more—giving you a taste of the ways I experience Sarah Lawrence through the lives of our community.

Of the many events I attend on campus, one of my favorites is the end-of-semester performance called “Wall-to-Wall Chamber Music.” It is exactly what the title promises: a jam-packed program of all manner of chamber music. For me, it’s not only an enjoyable experience of one of my favorite forms of music-making, but also the opportunity to see so many of our students in yet another guise. That was certainly true at the concert last May, when, for example, I heard Baylie Petit ’19 playing the cello. Just the day before, I had watched Baylie catching for the women’s softball team as they advanced to post-season play. (Maybe it’s not a coincidence that the Marshall Field music building and the softball field are next to each other?) It was a tremendous weekend for her and her family, and it was wonderful to see members of the softball team cheering her on at the concert.

But this particular wall-to-wall chamber music concert was bittersweet. At its conclusion, Sungrai Sohn MFA ’78 announced his retirement after serving on the music faculty for 39 years—four decades that saw him coach hundreds of students in thousands of hours of music-making. Sungrai came to see me the week following the concert and shared that, in part, the timing of his retirement was planned so he could focus on another passion: raising awareness about organ donation. A two-time liver transplant recipient, Sungrai has spent the last 20 years using his talents to encourage people to become donors. He often performs concerts to share his story, which was documented by his brother-in-law and organ donor David Esposito in a film titled To Have and To Give.

A distinguished concert violinist, Sohn often performed on campus for an appreciative Sarah Lawrence community, as he did at an opening convocation outside Westlands in 2014.

Over the last two years, Sungrai’s passion had a profound influence on two of his outstanding chamber musicians, Elise LeBihan ’19 and Glenna Adkins ’20, who joined him in his work on campus and beyond. With great pride, Sungrai shared with me that as a result of their efforts, Sarah Lawrence has one of the highest rates of student participation in the organ donor registry.

But our conversation wasn’t finished there. Sungrai went on to talk about his deep gratitude and love for Sarah Lawrence—for the education he received here and for the students with whom he worked—and his desire to pay that forward through a gift to the College. Sungrai has created a prize for achievement in chamber music to be awarded annually. Year after year, this award will continue Sungrai’s influence on our students long after his retirement.

As captured in this one-on-one teaching moment in 2004, Sohn inspired countless Sarah Lawrence music students across four decades before retiring in May 2019.

I share this particular story because it strikes me as a prime example of connection and creation, the theme we explore and celebrate in these pages. The connection that happens between faculty and students. The global change that’s created by hard work and selfless devotion. The desire to remain connected to Sarah Lawrence and to help create its future long after one leaves campus. There are countless other stories that could fill these pages, some that have been told and some that are waiting to be written. I look forward to hearing—and sharing—all of them.

Cristle Collins Judd
Instagram: @slcprez