Vassar Today

Tribute to Pat Lichtenberg '90

Mind like a streel trap. Razor-sharp wit. Heart of gold.

As editors, we usually groan when we read these over-used phrases. Problem is, when it comes to describing our colleague and friend Pat Lichtenberg, they work. 

That would be Pat Duane Lichtenberg ’90 P’10. The first thing you learn from Pat: You never, ever write about a Vassar alumna or alumnus, or a Vassar parent without appropriately noting the Vassar affiliations. She wears her Vassar connections as proudly as anyone who ever earned that apostrophe and class year. There is no more effective ambassador for the college than Pat. She promotes the college, looks out for it, and connects it to people and organizations wherever she goes.

Her contributions as executive director of the AAVC (Alumnae and Alumni of Vassar College) for nearly 15 years are a lasting legacy. During that time, she worked closely with five dynamic board presidents and a myriad of talented board members. Her fingerprints are on many kinds of progress, from improvements to Alumnae House, strategic plans to better connect alums with each other and the college, and the use of new technologies to communicate the achievements of alumnae/i from around the world. Notably, she was an instrumental partner in establishing the Office of Alumnae/i Affairs and Development several years ago, a move that provided for greater coordination in services and communications for alumnae/i. 

She has also been an indispensable partner in publishing the magazine. A couple of defining characteristics come to mind. When we would work with her on, say, discussing content for an issue of the Quarterly, or the way a particular story might be put together, she’d sometimes lean back in her chair and say, “I’m going to push back on that a little bit.” More often than not, that meant you’d overlooked an important point, forgotten to consider an intriguing angle, or maybe just had a downright dumb idea. No passes from Pat on any of that. It’s what made her such a valuable sounding board—the ability to count on her judgment and her candor.

She also would occasionally say, after others had put their best but not quite good enough suggestions for something on the table, “This is probably a crazy idea, but …” And then go on to knock an idea out of the park. 

A case in point: We needed a cover for the Sesquicentennial issue of the Quarterly. Lots of ideas were floated—“How about this photograph or that illustration?”—and nothing caught fire. Then Pat had one of her “crazy ideas.” What if we asked Meryl Streep ’71 (P’08 and P’13) to dress up like Matthew Vassar for the cover? 

The rest is history. 

Some people have a way of moving in a straight line to get from a problem to a solution. Pat relishes the “what ifs.” You want her on your brainstorming team.

And you want her by your side. When we’ve needed time, ideas, someone to help stuff envelopes, a shoulder to cry on, an introduction to someone important in the community, a ride, a gorgeous riverfront house for an event, a drink, a laugh, we’ve gone to Pat. She’s never said no. 

At the end of December, Pat retired from her job at the college, but certainly not from Vassar. As she has often said, that connection is for life. We wish her a wonderful next phase of that life. She’ll have more time to spend with her terrific husband, Steve, and her wonderful children, Adam and Emily ’10. And she has already been tapped to be the chair of the Walkway Over the Hudson board! Grass does not grow under Pat’s feet. 

Who knows what else she’ll do? Maybe we’ll see something in print. She did, after all, win the Vassar Shakespeare Prize. We’ll be waiting and watching. 

One thing is certain for those of us left behind: We miss her already.