Life-Changing Letter

On September 27, 1966, Eleanor “Ellie” Scattergood Lash ’67, then a senior, wrote to prospective student Barbara Kolsun ’71. The note began: Sarah L. is a wonderful school, but not necessarily the place for everybody.

Kolsun, then a high school senior, had first heard about Sarah Lawrence while attending a summer program at Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire. One of Kolsun’s advisers observed her passion for learning and recommended the College. Claude Camby had lived with Lash’s family as an exchange student from Normandy, France, so at her suggestion, Kolsun wrote to Lash, who was quick to respond when she saw Camby’s name.

Shortly after, Kolsun and her mother visited campus. Following an interview with Alice Bovard, director of admission (1939–1970), they had lunch with Lash, who was outgoing, honest, and accessible. “She was the perfect example of someone who was happy at school,” Kolsun says. “By the time we left, I knew Sarah Lawrence was the place for me.”

A lawyer in the fashion world for 35 years and author of two books on fashion law, Kolsun is a consultant and a professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law—where she is also a director of its Fashion, Arts, Media & Entertainment (FAME) Center. “I attribute much of my success to Sarah Lawrence,” she says, “and it all started with this letter from Ellie.”

After college, Lash had adventures of her own, working in the Dominican Republic with the Peace Corps’ first maternal health care and family planning program in Latin America. She then embarked on a long career in public and private schools, specializing in literacy and language. “My teaching style and career were greatly influenced by the inspired professors I had the good fortune to study with at Sarah Lawrence,” she notes.

Though Kolsun and Lash didn’t cross paths again on campus, Kolsun always remembered Lash’s generosity. “Having that one-on-one exchange made a huge difference in my decision to attend,” she says. “There’s no question.”

Excerpts from Lash's letter to Kolsun: