Judith Shapiro

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Judith R. Shapiro (born January 24, 1942) is a former President of Barnard College, a liberal arts college for women affiliated with Columbia University; as President of Barnard, she was also an academic dean within the university. She was also a professor of anthropology at Barnard. Shapiro became Barnard's 6th president in 1994 after a teaching career at Bryn Mawr College where she was Chair of the Department of Anthropology. After serving as Acting Dean of the Undergraduate College in 1985-6, she was Provost, the chief academic officer, from 1986 until 1994. Debora L. Spar was appointed to replace Shapiro, effective July 1, 2008.

Education and career[edit]

A native of New York City, Shapiro was the first Barnard president educated in the New York public schools. Her mother taught Latin and was a librarian in the school system. Judith Shapiro is a magna cum laude graduate of Brandeis University in Massachusetts. She received her Ph.D. in anthropology from Columbia University in New York. She began her teaching career at the University of Chicago in 1970, the first woman appointed to the Department of Anthropology, and moved to Bryn Mawr in 1975.

She has written many scholarly articles on gender differentiation, social theory and missionization, based on her field research in lowland South America, notably among the Tapirapé and Yanomami Indians of Brazil, and in the North American Great Basin. She was President of the American Ethnological Society, a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, and a Fellow of the American Council of Learned Societies. In December 2002, she received the National Institute of Social Sciences’ Gold Medal Award for her contributions as a leader in higher education for women. She was elected in 2003 to membership in the prestigious American Philosophical Society, joining 728 distinguished members nationally in the oldest learned society in the United States.

Since 2013, she has served as president of the Teagle Foundation in New York City, which works to support and strengthen liberal arts education and serve as a catalyst for the improvement of teaching and learning.[1][2]

Furthermore, Shapiro is a current member of the Council of Presidents for the University of the People. Her expertise in the field of education has helped develop the world's first non-profit, tuition-free, online academic institution that seeks to revolutionize higher education by making college-level studies accessible to students worldwide.

President Emeritus Shapiro is also a chairing the board at ITHAKA Harbors an organization whose mission is to "help the academic community use digital technologies to preserve the scholarly record and to advance research and teaching in sustainable ways." She is also chairing the Outreach Committee of the board of Scholars at Risk, the major organization dealing with academic freedom in terms both of helping endangered scholars to relocate to safe places and also to spread awareness of academic freedom issues globally. She is also on the board for the European Humanities University, which serves people in exile from Belarus to Lithuania. Their stated mission is "to facilitate and deepen the contribution that its students, graduates, and faculty can make to the quality and potential of their own lives and to their respective civil societies."


Under her leadership in 2001-2002, Barnard completed both a College strategic plan and a campus master plan. The College is now poised to undertake an ambitious building and restoration program over the coming decades, beginning with the selection of an architect in the fall of 2003 to design a new multi-use six-story center for academic and social activities, which will house a new library, student activity space, faculty offices, a café and a 900-seat event space on Barnard’s architecturally distinguished campus.

In the course of a three-year curriculum review initiated by Shapiro in the 1990s, Barnard redefined the components of a superior liberal arts education through its highly regarded focus on "The Ways of Knowing", nine areas that together explore the major cross-disciplinary means by which human knowledge has been constructed.

Shapiro was a strong proponent of the College’s goal to prepare women with the necessary skills to succeed in the future. An impressive example is The Barnard Electronic Archive and Teaching Laboratory (BEATL). By utilizing Web technology to enhance teaching and coursework, BEATL has become an indispensable portal to academic information and resources.

Building on a strong financial foundation, the College doubled its endowment to $134 million during Shapiro's tenure and has continued to expand its annual fundraising, even during the economic downtown of the 2002-2003 fiscal year, when a record $25 million in gifts and pledges was raised. And, in recent years, the number of alumnae who made gifts to the College has doubled.

Shapiro established a major public forum in 2001, The Barnard Summit. The inaugural Summit on the Barnard campus drew an audience of more than 1,000 people for a discussion on women’s leadership; panelists included former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, activist Marian Wright Edelman, and General Claudia J. Kennedy, the first female three-star general. Connecticut Public Television produced a program on the Summit, which aired in March 2003. The 2003 Barnard Summit drew an international who’s who of experts on women’s health—from the United Nations, the U.S. government, leading medical schools and international advocacy groups and foundations—and will be the subject of a PBS documentary.


Shapiro serves on the Board of the Fund for the City of New York, is a Partner in the New York City Partnership and Chamber of Commerce, serves on the Executive Committee of the Board of the New York Building Congress and on the New York State Leadership Council for the development of a Women’s Museum in New York City, and is a member of the Advisory Committee of Save the Children (Every Mother/Every Child). Shapiro in 2003 forged a partnership with the revived New York City Women’s Commission under Mayor Michael Bloomberg in which Barnard will guide and expand a newly launched economic/employment survey of New York women. In 2003-2004, she assumed the presidency of the Morningside Area Alliance, a cooperative association of academic, religious and other not-for-profit organizations in Morningside Heights. In January, 2008, Shapiro joined the Board of Directors at the largest child-centered philanthropy program in the United States. At Common Cents, the creators of The Penny Harvest, Shapiro serves as Board Chair and will aid Common Cents in its continued development as a tireless advocate for education.

Other interests[edit]

Shapiro is frequently called upon for media comment and has had opinion articles published in The New York Times and The Chronicle of Higher Education, and her views cited in other leading publications including The Christian Science Monitor, The Boston Globe and U.S. News and World Report. Vanity Fair, in its November 1998 issue, included Shapiro as one of America’s 200 Most Influential Women.


  1. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-04-16. Retrieved 2015-04-16.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^ "Superscript | Columbia University | Graduate School of Arts and Sciences". gsas.columbia.edu. Retrieved 2016-07-08.

Judith Shapiro

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