A Legacy of Learning and Art

May, 2008

The legacy of the late Barbara Dearborn, a professor of mathematics at PSU for more than 35 years, lives on through two scholarships that reflect her dual passions for math and art. The Barbara Dearborn Endowed Mathematics Scholarship, which was established by Dearborn and her husband Dennis in 1982, is a merit-based scholarship awarded each year to a math major who demonstrates academic excellence. More recently, Dennis Dearborn and his daughter Mitzi established the Barbara Dearborn Endowed Art Scholarship Fund. The scholarship, which will provide tuition assistance to third-year fine arts majors who show exceptional commitment, enthusiasm, and achievement in the fine arts, is a loving tribute to Dearborn, who passed away in 1996.


Barbara Dearborn's massive triptych Freeways measures 102" by 48". Photo by John Hession.

Barbara Dearborn lived and worked in the Plymouth area for nearly five decades. She graduated from Plymouth High School in 1953 and Plymouth Teachers College in 1960 and joined the PTC faculty shortly thereafter. A dedicated alumna, Dearborn was class agent for the Class of 1960 for nearly two decades, served on the Plymouth State College Alumni Association Board of Directors from 1979 to 1984, and served terms as president and vice president of the organization’s board during that time. She also coordinated Plymouth State’s Alumni Association Golf Classic from 1981 to 1996. In 1995, the event was renamed the Barbara Dearborn Golf Classic in appreciation for Dearborn’s many years of hard work as founder, organizer, and chair of the popular homecoming event. In 1997, she was posthumously awarded the Plymouth State College President’s Award for all she had done for the campus and the community.

Throughout her career, Dearborn was committed to helping her students excel and enjoy their studies. Her teaching style and talents were also appreciated by her students, including former student Terri Lessard ’76, training coordinator at PSU’s Lamson Learning Commons. “She was very student-centered and always explained math concepts in easy to understand terms,” Lessard said.

A New Passion

In the 1980s, Dearborn discovered a new passion when she began taking art courses at Plymouth State. At the age of 51, she took her first oil painting lesson with local artist Patricia Giebutowski. She also studied art with Plymouth State faculty members Christopher Kressey, Terry Downs, and Annette Mitchell.

“I enjoyed Barbara’s artwork and creative spirit,” said Mitchell. “She was eager to explore new territory and art gave her a forum for her interest in life. At every class meeting she came with new anecdotes about artistic discoveries. Barbara contributed so very much to everyone who had the great privilege to know her and her work.”

Mitzi Dearborn recalled her mother’s connection to another art department faculty member, artist Karl Drerup, whom she credits for helping to cultivate her mother’s love for art. “I think her passion for art truly started in the 1980s following inspiring and fun art conversations with Karl Drerup,” said Mitzi.

In her artwork, Dearborn often painted large abstract images with vibrant colors, geometric patterns, and light-hearted imagery. Mitzi believes that her mother’s work in both mathematics and abstract art complemented one another. “If you look at some of the designs, you’ll see the geometry in them,” she said.

Now, Mitzi and Dennis Dearborn are honoring Barbara Dearborn’s legacy by helping to ensure that current and future PSU students will learn and benefit from her passion for art.

“We hope that others will enjoy art and learning through my mother’s wonderful artwork and her art scholarship,” said Mitzi.

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