On Nov. 28, deans, professors and students alike gathered to hear former College President R. Barbara Gitenstein deliver a reading of her memoir, “Experience Is the Angled Road: Memoir of an Academic.”
This event was aptly hosted in the auditorium of the R. Barbara Gitenstein Library, which the library’s dean, Taras Pavlovsky, said was named after Gitenstein because she “led and endorsed the project that built [that] building.”
This event was co-sponsored by the R. Barbara Gitenstein Library, Barnes and Noble Bookstore, the College’s Women in Learning and Leadership (WILL) program, the College’s English department and the College’s English Honor Society, Sigma Tau Delta.
Gitenstein served as the first female president of the College from 1999 to 2018, which freshman English and secondary education major Lily Weinberger finds to be “really empowering.”
Along with expanding the campus physically, including the creation of the College’s popular Campus Town, she also created leadership opportunities for young females.
According to Cecelia Colbeth, the Assistant Director of the College’s WILL program, “we would not have a WILL program on this campus if it were not for [Gitenstein].”
Gitenstein never failed to visit the students in the “Introduction to Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies (WGSS)” course each semester during her presidency, despite her busy schedule.
“[She] came to talk to the young women who are in the class about her experiences about women in leadership and how to make your aspirations come to life,” Colbeth said.
Gitenstein’s memoir focuses on those experiences in her life that taught her the skills to become the leader that she is today. Anecdotes range from the difficulties she faced when her mother had Alzheimer’s disease to her admiration of a classmate who stood up for herself in the face of a rude teacher. Gitenstein’s memoir also focuses on some of her mentors and how they helped her become a leader.
Like the people she wrote about, Gitenstein served as a mentor for many at the College.
“[Gitenstein] has been a real mentor to me,” said Michele Tarter, the English Department Chair and a professor.
She is particularly inspired by how Gitenstein “always has a sense of humor, something to help us bring some levity to an otherwise really hard situation.”
The reading was followed by a Q&A session, where Gitenstein revealed that experience really is an angled road. She informed listeners that she initially wanted to be an opera singer and perform at the Metropolitan Opera House prior to her English and leadership-based career. She also hinted that she may continue sharing her story with her next memoir focusing on her adventures at the College.
The event concluded with a signing session where Gitenstein’s success was celebrated over snacks.
“The fact that she was that well-respected and well-loved by the campus that that many people showed up was inspiring,” said sophomore deaf education and English major Leanna Travers.
Gitenstein’s respect and love from other people comes from how she helps them to also become leaders by encouraging the work that they do.
Colbeth told The Signal that: “[Gitenstein] makes everybody on-campus, no matter what your position, feel like what you’re doing is so important and vital to the mission of the College and shows her appreciation.