Looking Back on the Career of Barbara Lesch McCaffry

Professor to retire after three decades at SSU, party planned for May 11

barbaralmc.jpgFrom the beginning, Barbara Lesch McCaffry's career at SSU involved two passions that intertwined: teaching and a commitment to issues of diversity. She arrived at SSU in the Fall of 1980 as the campus' Director of Affirmative Action, a role she held for twenty years. In addition, she also worked for several years in Institutional Research with the Academic Planning Data Base.

During the 1984-85 academic year she participated in the CSU Administrative Fellows Program and was at San José State University focusing on academic administration and curricular development. From 1985-1987, she continued her Affirmative Action duties and also served as the Director of the Learning Center that included the Tutorial Program, the federally funded Learning Skills Services program, and the Intensive Learning Experience Program (which coordinated remedial classes in English and Mathematics). From 1987-1999 she also provided administrative support to the Faculty Affairs Office in the areas of faculty recruitment, faculty development and workload analysis.

But teaching was always a component of her life and, as former President David Benson said, "Some people volunteer in the community, you do it here at SSU." Whether it was developing a course in the early 1980s on affirmative action cross-listed by Management Studies and Women's Studies or teaching courses in the English Department on literature written by women and those from underrepresented groups, many of which were team-taught with her colleague J.J. Wilson, teaching was what provided focus and balance.

When McCaffry switched to full-time teaching in 2000, her assignment encompassed a range of departments including American Multi-Cultural Studies, Global Studies, the Hutchins School of Liberal Studies, Women's and Gender Studies, and the freshman seminar program.

That year, Professor Myrna Goodman invited McCaffry to teach in the University's Lecture Series on the Holocaust and Genocide and mentored her in that role. Soon after, she joined the board of the Alliance for the Study of the Holocaust and Genocide, the community group that supports the lecture series, and served as its President from 2003 - 2009.

Since 2004, McCaffry has been a professor of 20th Century British and American Literature in the Hutchins School of Liberal Studies and "found a way to integrate and enhance many of the interests reflected in her disparate teaching assignments and do so with an exceptional group of colleagues and students in a collaborative teaching and learning environment."

Her service on SSU committees and organizations in the community have mirrored those interests and commitments, as has her scholarly work which has focused on poets Etel Adnan, Basil Bunting, Audre Lorde, and Adrienne Rich, writer and social activist Nawal El-Saadawi, and Holocaust literature. Her current focus has been on the memoirs of children who were hidden during the Holocaust.

In 1987, McCaffry was appointed to the Task Force on Developing a Women's Resource Center that led to the creation a professionally staffed center devoted to issues of gender at SSU. During the late 1980s, she and Professor Ardath Lee developed an annual reception for new women faculty that continues to this day. And, in 2000, in conjunction with former director of the Women's Resource Center, Kris Montgomery, she developed an annual award for an Outstanding Women Student Leader.

McCaffry also served on a range of committees and task forces at SSU and in the CSU that addressed issues of gender, disability, economic status, sexual orientation and ethnicity. From 2008-2010 she served as the co-chair of the Senate's Ad Hoc Committee on Diversity and her efforts continue to mirror her dedication to making SSU a welcoming and safe environment for women and students from diverse backgrounds.

What brought her to SSU in 1980 still motivates her. "When I arrived at SSU, so many on campus had a deep commitment to issues of diversity and inclusivity which was reflected in the curriculum. Although the campus has changed significantly, as have its students, that spirit continues and I am pleased to be one of those who helped to nurtured it," says McCaffry.

Join friends and colleagues on Wednesday, May 11 as they celebrate Dr. Barbara Lesch McCaffry and Dr. Anthony Mountain and their combined 72 years of service to Sonoma State University. The retirement celebration takes place from 4:30 p.m.-6:30 p.m. in the University Art Gallery. Refreshments will be served and conversations are encouraged.



* "Retirement Party for Drs. Mountain and McCaffry" SSU NewsCenter, May 9

* "Tony Mountain - Forty Years at Sonoma State University" SSU NewsCenter, May 9

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