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Columbia Spectator Staff

Lila Braine, a former Barnard psychology professor, died on Jan. 19 due to complications from a cerebral hemorrhage. She was 89.

Colleagues remember Braine, who was the director and one of the founding members of what was then called the women's studies department from 1977 to 1978, for her wisdom and lifelong dedication to feminism and racial equality.

"Professor Braine was committed to possibilities for the social good and social change over a lifetime," Janet Jakobsen, director of the Barnard Center for Research on Women and a colleague of Braine, said. "To me, her legacy is passing on the torch to those who will follow and try to emulate the contributions that she made."

Braine also spent several decades as a board member of the Barnard Center for Research on Women. She was also a professor emeritus of psychology and served as the chair of the psychology department.

"She was a great presence—she was smart, wise, thoughtful," Jakobsen said. "She was a very valued member of our community."

Former students remembered Braine as both a professor and a mentor.

"She is someone I deeply admire and aspire to emulate, both personally and professionally," Willa Perlman, BC '81, said. "She defined excellence as a professor and really defined and anchored my experience at Barnard."

Perlman said Braine encouraged her to study psychology with empathy and creativity.

"She was very broadly welcoming of different ways to be effective as a psychologist, to define the profession, define the craft," Perlman said. "I was interested in art and music, and she encouraged me to work at a hospital with terminally ill children exploring ways to comfort them through art and music."

Perlman, who was an admissions interviewer, said that many prospective students expressed interest in the women's, gender, and sexuality studies department—something she credits to Braine's pioneering work in the field.

In addition to her work at Barnard, Braine was a member of several activist organizations, including Women in Black, Jewish Voice for Peace, and Jews for Racial and Economic Justice. Braine was also a board member of Dos Pueblos, a grassroots sister city project between New York and Tipitapa, Nicaragua. She contributed 15 years of work to the organization.

"Lila was a very hands-on board member. She always took on a significant part of whatever work that needed to be done," Dos Pueblos Chair Ann Garvin said. "She was a visionary. She was the person you wanted to sit down with and really analyze what needed to be done differently."

Garvin said Braine was committed to integrity and democracy in her leadership and her activist work.

"I will miss her combination of extraordinary kindness with a very strong ethical compass and an extremely sharp, questioning mind," Garvin said.

malaya.sadler@columbiaspectator.com | @malayasadler

barnard Barnard Center for Research on Women psychology Women's Gender and Sexuality obituary
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