A legendary figure in the history of the college, Bertha V. Lederer, died Oct. 6. The long-time 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 in 1935 and master's degree from New York University in 1944. She did additional graduate work at NYU before coming to Geneseo in 1945.
During her career as a faculty member and administrator at Geneseo from 1945-80, Lederer served as chair of the division of fine arts, guided construction of the Fine Arts Building, 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 Lederer 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 Geneseo 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.
Lederer was the founder of the Genesee Valley Council on the Arts and was an active member in local, regional and national professional arts organizations over the years. 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.
Services are scheduled Nov. 28 at 1 p.m. in St. Michael's Episcopal Church, 23 Main St. in Geneseo. An on-campus memorial service is being planned for early in the spring semester. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Bertha V. Lederer Endowed Scholarship in Dance, Geneseo Foundation, 202 Erwin Hall, 1 College Circle, Geneseo, NY 14454. Cards of condolence may be sent to close friends John and Gloria Sullivan, 516 Allens Creek Road, Rochester, NY 14618.