Bertha V. Lederer taught and helped lead a culture of the arts on the Geneseo campus for more than 35 years, inspiring curriculum changes.
A legendary figure in the history of the college, Bertha V. Lederer died Oct. 6. The longtime Geneseo resident was a distinguished service professor emerita of art and central in building the college's outstanding programs in the fine arts. She was 97.
"Bertha Lederer's influence on Geneseo's cultural life is woven into the fabric of our community and we are thankful for her countless contributions," said President Christopher C. Dahl. "My predecessors and I relished collaborating with Bert on a wide range of arts and cultural projects and greatly respected her insights and perseverance. We shall not see her like again."
Lederer received her bachelor of fine arts degree from Yale University in 1935 and master's degree from New York University in 1944. She did additional graduate work at New York University before coming to Geneseo in 1945.
During her career as a faculty member and administrator at Geneseo from 1945-1980, she served as chair of the division of fine arts, guided construction of what is now Brodie Hall and was appointed a SUNY Distinguished Service Professor. Upon her retirement, the art gallery in Brodie Hall was named in her honor. The Geneseo Foundation presented her with a Meritorious Service Award in recognition of her outstanding efforts to promote the fine arts.
"Miss Lederer was a friend and colleague from 1956 and was profoundly dedicated to teaching art from elementary through college level," said Paul H. Hepler, professor emeritus of art at who served as chair of the art department for 27 years. "Her innovation with the ‘Introduction to the Arts' course at Geneseo was the only interdisciplinary course ever required for all degree candidates. Possessed of 19th-century values in discipline and education, she remained unchanged amid the mercurial education dogma of her time, and her loyalty to Geneseo students and the college was without equal."
Through her teaching and European tours, Lederer was a major influence on the lives and cultural development of several generations of Geneseo alumni, a commitment that continued long after she retired.
She was the founder of the Genesee Valley Council on the Arts and was an active member in local, regional and national professional arts organizations. She served as a delegate to the White House Conference on Children in 1970. She also was active in the Association for the Preservation of Geneseo, which focuses on improving and restoring places of architectural and historic interest in Geneseo.
A service to honor Bertha V. Lederer will be held Saturday, Nov. 28, at 1 p.m. in St. Michael's Episcopal Church, 23 Main St., Geneseo. An on-campus memorial service will be held early in the spring semester.
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