Beyond Vassar

Spirit of Vassar Award: Belle Krasne Ribicoff '45

By Samantha Soper '91

Thirty-one years ago, Belle Krasne Ribicoff ’45, along with Carol Rothschild Noyes ’39, co-founded a friends group for Vassar’s Art Gallery. Their mission was to raise funds, attract gifts, and expand awareness of the college’s collection. Today Vassar boasts a Cesar Pelli-designed gallery that attracts stunning new acquisitions and that continues to be a teaching facility and resource for the community.

But Ribicoff’s commitment to the arts and education didn’t start or stop with Vassar. In fact, she has spent much of her professional and volunteer career focusing on those areas. After graduating Phi Beta Kappa with a degree in art history, Ribicoff became assistant to the editor at Magazine of Art, which cemented her career path. (This was her second job; her first was with an advertising agency. “It took me all of three months to quit,” recalled Ribicoff.) Exposure to the magazine’s prestigious board of directors gave her “an abiding interest in contemporary art” and led to other positions as critic and editor for such art publications as Art News and Art Digest. Later in her life she came out of retirement to start working at the University of Hartford, first as a development officer for the Hartford Art School and then, for many years, as an assistant to the university’s president.

“I am a driven person,” Ribicoff said. “Whether or not I am being paid, I take every job seriously.” Thus Ribicoff’s employers were not the only ones who reaped the benefits of her dedication and work ethic. As a professional volunteer she served on the Hartford Board of Education and on two state commissions. She also organized major loan exhibitions for Vassar. Over the years, institutions have honored Ribicoff for her efforts. In 1954 she received the Frank Jewett Mather Award for critical writing from the College Art Association; in 1968, the Charter Oak Leadership Medal from the Greater Hartford Chamber of Commerce; and in 1995, the University of Hartford Medal for Distinguished Service. And now it’s Vassar’s turn. At this year’s reunion, AAVC will present her with the Spirit of Vassar Award, which recognizes outstanding commitment and service to Vassar or another community. “I am incredulous and utterly honored,” stated Ribicoff.

President Frances Fergusson commented that Ribicoff is a “patron not only here but for other educational and cultural organizations, someone who always brings ideas and friendships along with her concrete help to every situation. She is a good friend, a robust thinker, and a wonderful woman.” AAVC Awards Committee Chair Meg Venecek Johnson ‘84 echoed Fergusson’s words: “Belle brings passion, commitment, and a great sense of humor to everything she does. We look forward to sharing her accomplishments with the entire alumnae/i body at her 60th reunion.”

Photo credit: Photo courtesy of University of Hartford