Vassar Today

More about Judy

When we asked Vassar colleagues to say a few words about our Outstanding Service to Vassar award recipient Judy Lewittes ’63, we were not prepared for the outpoumore-about-judyring of responses we received. Here’s what people had to say.

I am sure you are going to find this with most people you ask about Judy, but I think the one word that defines her perfectly is class—all the way. She is always so welcoming and considerate of others. She has a very reasoned and respectful manner in all the things she does. She truly loves Vassar and wants the best for it. My favorite recollection is when Judy would talk about the students she had met in conjunction with her work on the boards. Her eyes would light up. She was so genuinely proud of and happy about their accomplishments.

—Karen Dowd ’84, AAVC Award Committee Chair

Here is a challenge: In my 65 years on the planet, I have yet to meet such a timeless person with this much uncommon wisdom and grace. Think hard; I cannot name another being, can you? I will be forever grateful that I got so much of her time and thoughtfulness when I became president of the AAVC. When you know someone like Judy, you know there is hope for us all.

—Geraldine Laybourne ’69, President, AAVC

Judy Lewittes introduced a new era in fundraising at Vassar. She has always loved her alma mater. When she took the reins of development in the late 1980s, Vassar needed a more professional, more streamlined approach to engaging its constituencies, and Judy was the perfect person to provide it. She knew that the old-fashioned, genteel appeals to donors were outdated. We could not depend on the generosity of a few devoted friends who wrote checks whenever a crisis arose or a special project demanded funding; rather, we had to engage the greater Vassar family in a consistent, planned way—and to demonstrate to all alumnae/i and friends why their college plays a vital role in society and needs their support.

Judy knew that Vassar had to forge strong relationships with these donors. The focus on the individual that worked so well in the classroom had to be translated into lifelong friendships that bolstered commitment and financial support. Warm and chic, sympathetic and incisive, brilliantly analytical, Judy impressed—and impresses—people with her comprehensive knowledge of the college and its goals. But more than that, she makes people understand why it is important for institutions of higher learning like Vassar to flourish, and why they are a sound investment. Judy knows why Vassar stands among the pre-eminent institutions of higher learning in the United States. Armed with this knowledge, she has been a mentor to me and many others over the years as we work to convince all Vassar donors that their generosity not only sustains, it builds, and it opens up the future for the graduates of tomorrow. Judy Lewittes personifies the excellence of her alma mater, and all of us at Vassar owe her an enormous debt of gratitude.

—Bob Pounder,  Development Consultant to the President

If I were asked about Judy and permitted only three words, I think I would write: dedicated, elegant, and gracious. She has that Vassar glow, which I do believe is a reflection of the light of Matthew’s Magnificent Enterprise. Judy is the perfect fund-raiser. Just asking you for money is enough to start an enduring friendship with her enterprise and with her. We share our common cause and an enduring friendship.

—Franny Taft ’42 

I first got to know Judy Lewittes in 1976 when Herb Shultz (then Vassar’s vice president for development) and I (at that time, AAVC’s fund chairman), selected her to be the director of the AAVC Fund. That was one of the best things I have ever done for Vassar College! Vassar faced many serious fund-raising challenges when Judy came aboard. The alumnae were still coming to terms with coeducation at Vassar. The AAVC Fund was no longer to be operated as an independent unit under AAVC’s direction at Alumnae House, but would now move across Raymond Avenue to function as a unit within the Development Office at the College.

Under Judy’s direction, the AAVC Fund made incredible strides, with a tremendous increase in unrestricted giving and donor participation. For me, working with Judy closely during those years was very exciting. Her dedication and devotion to Vassar and all it stood for knew no limits, and her optimism and sense of humor were infectious. She got along extremely well with alumnae/i of all ages, and always took a great personal interest in all the people with whom she worked.

During my years as AAVC president (1982−1986), I once again had the pleasure of working closely with Judy, who was vice president for development. One of the high points was our trip to Cleveland for the Cleveland Vassar Club’s gala 100th Anniversary, where we were hosted by Frances Prindle Taft ’42, former AAVC president and now a Vassar trustee.

Judy and I have remained close friends up to the present day. We now have the pleasure of both being members of the Pyramid Society, the organization for former Vassar College trustees.

—Frannie Aaron Hess ’53

If you go on Wikipedia and look up “Competent,” you will see Judy’s picture! She is the quintessential multitasker, able to focus simultaneously and intently on family, work, and Vassar. While exceptionally able and effective, she is also extraordinarily thoughtful and kind. As many people know, Judy and I are joined at the hip in many ways, but it all started with our Vassar bond. No one I know has stronger ties to Vassar. As a student, professional fund-raiser, volunteer, and trustee, she has played many roles at Vassar—all with her special grace and awesome capabilities. Having worked with her on many projects, I can attest to the effectiveness of her laser-like focus and her velvet-glove technique. Judy adds luster to what it means to be the product of a Vassar education! She got much from her years there and has given back even more. I can’t think of anyone who deserves this award more than she does. Judy Lewittes … Vassar for a Lifetime.

—Diana Goldin ’63

Of course all of my judgments about Judy are completely colored by the first time we met. After serving via phone on the first AAVC Awards Committee for a few years, we finally met at the President’s House on campus. She looked at me and said, “Oh, you’re so young! You’re so gorgeous!” How could I not fall even more in love with her?

I have served with Judy in so many different capacities over so many years. Here are the common threads that have endeared her to me, and made her such an exemplary Vassar volunteer and leader:

  1. She is grace personified. Don’t get me wrong; you always know just where Judy stands, but she never fails to get her (well-researched and important) point across with equal helpings of insistence and tact. In this regard, I am her student, and probably a C student at that.
  2. She is a true grownup—learned, measured, passionate, warm, elegant, charming, and dedicated.
  3. She is the ultimate colleague. In addition to addressing the work on the table, Judy was always thinking about how to best position her colleagues for success. She deserves far more credit for everything she has done than she is willing to accept. And when she writes you an encouraging note or email, you keep it forever, and consult it often when you are feeling pangs of self-doubt.
  4. It’s impossible to speak about either Judy or her husband David in traditional terms. Who is “the better half” of that pair? Impossible to know.

—Meg Johnson ’84, Former President, AAVC