Sad News

October 20, 2022

Dear all,

I am writing with very sad news. Our dear colleague, Cora Kenfield, Assistant Dean for Strategic Planning, has passed away.

Cora joined the Vassar community in July of 2019 as Director of Sustainability, and immediately began to make a difference. When the College set a goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2030, Cora worked tirelessly, with humor and intelligence, to further progress toward the college’s sustainability goals. She led the development of our 2020 Climate Action Plan and the revision of our Green Building Guidelines, wrote and received multiple grants, including a major grant from NY State to support the greening of the Vassar Institute for the Liberal Arts and to teach sustainable building techniques to local youth, homeowners, and businesses. She also established the College's first Green Revolving Fund, managed the student bike shop, and co-chaired the Arboretum Committee.

In 2021, Cora also helped lead the process of developing the College's first accessibility plan, and was promoted to Assistant Dean of Strategic Planning while retaining her role as Director of Sustainability.  She led the drafting of the accessibility plan with energy, sensitivity, and inclusiveness.  Pragmatism, layered on visionary ideals, was always evident. Cora successfully applied for funding that allowed for the implementation of course management software that ensures course material is accessible, and was creative in seeking additional ways to fund what she recognized as an essential area of need at the College.  

Cora had so much to share with those around her, and recently spoke of someday pursuing a law degree in which she would focus on accessibility and transgender rights.  Her time with us was too short, and we will miss her even as her influence, example, and spirit live on with the Vassar community.

Cora was raised in rural Texas. (“The nearest major grocery store was 45 minutes away,” she quipped when she arrived here on campus.) She received a Bachelor of Arts degree, with Honors, from the University of Houston in 2009 and earned a Master of Arts in Public Administration from the University of Houston in 2011.

The College has resources for anyone having difficulty coping with this news. For students on campus, the Counseling Service continues to offer vital support resources including individual counselinga walk-in clinic, and other crisis resources including a 24/7 counselor on call who can be accessed by calling 845-437-7333. Students who are currently away from campus for Fall Break can also access the National Hotline at 988 or the Crisis Textline by texting HOME to 741741. Employees may receive free, immediate, short-term counseling through the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) by calling 1-800-624-5544. Employees may also schedule free and unlimited phone or video counseling sessions through TelaDoc/HealthiestYou by calling 1-866-703-1259. In addition to these resources, a grief counselor will be available to employees next week for group sessions. Additional information will be shared in a follow-up email.

A memorial to remember Cora and share stories will be held on Tuesday, October 25 at 5 pm (additional details to follow). For those who are on-campus now and would like to gather sooner, a gathering will be held at Pratt House on Friday, October 21 at noon. The gathering will be hosted by Counseling Services, the CARE Office, Religious and Spiritual Life and Contemplative Practices, and the LGBTQ Center. As we process this difficult news, we encourage the members of our community to take good care of ourselves and each other.

A private celebration of life will be held at a later date for close friends and chosen family. If you feel so moved, please consider donating to the Transgender Education Network of Texas (, Save Our Sisters (, or an organization in your area devoted to making positive change for the lives of people who are marginalized.

Take care,

Elizabeth H. Bradley, President
Vassar College
Poughkeepsie, NY 12604