by Brooke Winters
Barbara Morris Caspersen, a generous benefactor to the Drew University community, passed away late last month. Barbara and her late husband Finn both helped shape the Drew we know and love today through their generous donations. Over the years, the Caspersens donated a $5 million gift to found Drew’s Caspersen School of Graduate Studies, a school which bears their name to honor their support to the Drew community. In addition to helping found the graduate school, the Caspersen family also provided financial support for the construction of the Dorothy Young Center for the Arts, and various financial aid scholarships such as the Thomas H. Kean Minority Scholarship along with graduate studies scholarships, among many other significant contributions.
Caspersen herself was a Drew School of Graduate Studies alumnus. Her interest in twentieth century American literature, combined with her pursuit of higher education, led her to write her dissertation “The Flowering of Desire: Willa Cather and the Sources of Miracle.” Caspersen donated books, correspondence, notes and marginalia, photographs, and ephemera of the author that contributed to the formation of the Willa Cather Collection the Drew Library holds today. In addition to her work on Willa Cather, she also wrote a master’s thesis on Henry David Thoreau’s “Walden.”
In 1985, she joined the Drew University Board of Trustees. She served as the trustee’s chair from 2003 to 2008. In 2008, she was granted emerita status, a high honor given to those with renowned contributions to academics. Through her contributions and actions, Barbara Caspersen demonstrated her love and support for Drew.
In an email to the Drew community on Nov. 22, University President MaryAnn Baenninger wrote, “I grew to know Barbara as a friend and wise counselor in her role as an emerita trustee. Indeed, she was a trusted friend and adviser to all of our trustees. We, and the entire university community, are deeply mourning her passing.”
On Nov. 26, a funeral service was held to honor and mourn Caspersen at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church. Donations to the Hobe Sound Community Chest were requested.