In Memoriam

UPDATE: A memorial service for Dean Karen Tidmarsh will be held the afternoon of Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013 in Thomas Great Hall. More details will be added when available.

Karen TidmarshKaren MacAusland Tidmarsh, beloved long-time Dean of the College at Bryn Mawr College, died at age 63 in her Haverford home on March 2, 2013, of end stage carcinoid syndrome.

Born May 19, 1949, she devoted more than half of her life to Bryn Mawr College, from which she graduated in 1971. She was Dean of the College for 20 years, 1990-2010.

In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to Bryn Mawr in Karen’s memory. The Dean Karen Tidmarsh ’71 Scholarship Fund, created in 2007 by a gift from Sandra Berwind, provides financial aid to undergraduates, with a preference for students from the Philadelphia area public high schools. The Dean Karen Tidmarsh ’71 Summer Internship Fund, established in 2011 with gifts from members of Karen’s class, supports summer internships for undergraduate students in the fields of community development or social change.

Memorial gifts can be sent to Bryn Mawr College, Helfarian, 101 N. Merion Ave., Bryn Mawr, PA 19010, with Tidmarsh Scholarship or Tidmarsh Internship designated on the memo line. You may also give online. In the Gift Information section, please type either Tidmarsh Scholarship or Tidmarsh Internship in the “Specify a Designation” box. To give via credit card over the phone, please call 610-526-7395 or 610-526-7380.

The College welcomes your remembrances of Karen in the comments section below.

Bryn Mawr Now article:
Bryn Mawr Mourns the Passing of Beloved Dean Karen Tidmarsh

Karen Tidmarsh receives Helen Taft Manning Award:
Dean Karen Tidmarsh ’71 Recognized for
Extraordinary Service to Bryn Mawr College


123 Responses to “In Memoriam”

  1. Dottie Gallo Says:

    I was fortunate to know Karen as an administrator while I was employed at Bryn Mawr. As President of the Staff Association, I sat on many of the same committees with Karen. She was always down-to-earth and showed the same respect for my opinion asshe did for that of her peers. I also knew Karen as a teacher when I attended Bryn Mawr as a McBride Scholar, she taught the spring semester of my freshman English class. I was nervous about my student meetings with her but Karen;s warmth and humor put me at ease. The Bryn Mawr community has lost its most fervent champion,

  2. Jade Stine Edwards '98 Says:

    Dean Tidmarsh was a wonderful woman. She encouraged me when others, it seemed, had different agendas. She made my experience at Bryn Mawr that much more wonderful. I often wondered if things would have been different had I been assigned a different dean and have always been thankful for the luck of being an “s” surname. Thank you, Dean Tidmarsh, for touching my life in such a positive way. I’m so saddened to hear of her passing and my thoughts go out to her friends and family in this difficult time.

  3. Susan Rubin Schwartz '93 Says:

    I was honored to know Karen through her role as academic adviser to Honor Board. Through my 2 1/2 years of service on Honor Board, she showed me what being a Mawrter really meant. She was funny, graceful and brilliant. I am devastated by the loss to our community but am comforted by the memories that will last me a lifetime. The last time I saw her was May Day 2011 and was thrilled to catch up with her, introduce my husband to her and share my post-BMC accomplishments, most of which she had an indirect influence on. I will miss her terribly. Rest in Peace, Karen. Anassa Kata!

  4. Maria Hills Says:

    We had the honor of meeting and attending one of the events at the Home of Dean Tidmarsh when our Daughter Lindsay Hills Class of 2004 was student body president. She was a very giving and welcoming women and was very welcoming . We came from California and it was graduation. My daughter spoke so highly of her and she remained friends after she left Bryn Mawr . She was a mentor and she will be greatly missed. She is now without suffering . God Bless her and Prayers to all who mourn her passing . She will not be forgotten .
    Maria Hills

  5. Heather McLees-Frazier Says:

    Even fifteen years after graduating, I think of her as Dean Tidmarsh. She was kind and funny and she didn’t even ask questions when I walked into her office as an unknown sophomore and asked her to help my friends and me get into President McPherson’s office to turn it into a dorm room in the middle of the night; she just came in at 4 am, let us into the building and the room, and started on her day’s work. When a security guard almost busyed us, she intervened, and when the joke was all done, she posed for a photo with us in the middle of the mess we’d created. She will always be a role model to me.

  6. Claudia Ginanni Says:

    Karen was admired for her wit and her wardrobe, but she was loved for her seemingly boundless empathy. I am deeply grateful for her extraordinary capacity to understand and appreciate the perspectives of all parties to a conflict, a gift that has had an incalculably valuable influence on Bryn Mawr’s campus culture. She was steadfastly committed to giving people the benefit of the doubt, and I saw her do it effortlessly in situations where most of us would find any doubt exceedingly difficult to discover. This is not to say that she was naive, but that her intellect was as kind as it was keen. That’s why she was a living symbol of Bryn Mawr for so many of us: she exemplified the deep, humane intelligence we want the College always to cherish, support, and foster.

    I had no idea that Karen had been struggling with cancer, and I am having a hard time taking in the news that she has died. Just now, reading over what I’ve just written, I suddenly realize that what we have lost is a spiritual leader. I seek comfort in the hope that the generations of students and colleagues who benefited from her generosity of spirit will pass the gift on.

  7. Astrid Cook '89 Says:

    I had a very long and – as it turns out – pretty typical relationship with Karen. As an undergrad, she was my main dean (when she was still assistant dean). I turned to her for everything from moral support to advice on designing a customs week poster (I believe it still hangs outside her former office). I took care of her cats whenever she was away: Pim, who was polydactyl, and Sophie. How is it that I remember her precious kitties 25 years later but I barely remember anything I learned in sociology class (not my major).

    I left BMC for a myriad of reasons without my degree; eight years later, when I decided to return and earn my A.B., Karen was Dean and the undergrads were in awe of her. I just wanted to know how the cats were doing. 🙂

    As I already had earned a B.A. elsewhere, I really wanted to double down and turn my A.B. into an M.A. While my grown-up GPA was a 4.0, my early undergrad scores disqualified me from getting a combined A.B./M.A. Karen fought for me to be able to get my M.A., which I did.

    She affected more lives than I think she truly appreciated. She will be remembered with reverence by all whose lives she touched.

  8. Chihiro Shiraishi Says:

    I was very fortunate to have Karen as my study advisor from 1998 to 2002. She was a wonderful leader, who was humble, warm, encouraging, supportive and above all, inspiring. Her wisdom and advice supported me throughout my college years and beyond. It is heartbreaking to hear that she passed away so young… It is a great loss to Bryn Mawr, but she will live in my heart until my last day.

  9. Danielle Fidler Says:

    Words really cannot ever fairly capture everything Karen Tidmarsh was; she represented the best person we all wanted to be: witty, brilliant, kind, honor-driven, clever, funny, and beautiful. The amazing thing about Karen was her ability to see the seeds of such traits in everyone around her and say the magic words to make them sprout. She was, to me, the essence of Bryn Mawr, and when I would make offerings to Athena, I often thought she looked like Dean Tidmarsh and sometimes wondered if she wasn’t our own living goddess of wisdom.
    I know there is already a scholarship in her honor, but I wonder if the College might consider renaming Taylor Hall after her (at least in part). Dean Tidmarsh was so instrumental in helping everyone not just survive Bryn Mawr, but learn to thrive there, and it would seem to me a fitting a tribute if everytime a mawrter celebrated four years of perseverence and growth, the bell tolled for her also.

  10. Sarah Wakefield, AB '97 Says:

    Three small memories that stand out the most:

    Dean Tidmarsh was my professor for a class on 19th-century literature (we all felt rather important, taking a seminar with THE Dean). It took ages to get our essays back, because clearly she was swamped with other duties, but that was never trotted out as an excuse or complaint. Week after week she would announce simply, “Sorry, not today! Next class, I promise,” and delve into a fascinating discussion.

    I recall the twinkle in her eye as she explained to a slightly horrified faculty member, unaware that in agreeing to be a May Day Worthy she also had to wear a costume, that medieval finery was quite comfortable and it was not at all anachronistic to accessorize with sunglasses.

    And finally, I never will forget the last conversation I had with Dean Tidmarsh, at the graduation picnic. I confided something rather embarrassing about the goals I had set for myself during Customs Week. It brought a certain look to her face, a look of amusement mixed with exasperation, a look that suggested that if she could stop biting her tongue long enough to place it in her cheek, she might burst into laughter or unleash her wit on the subject of my absurdity. But, ever the professional, she just chuckled, said “well, then,” and wished me the best.

    Thank you, Karen Tidmarsh. You know how deeply you are missed.

  11. Audrey Ettinger '92 Says:

    Although Karen was certainly a major figure on campus when I was an undergrad, the first time I really remember talking to her was when she completed my exit interview before graduation. When I interacted with her after graduation, I was amazed that she seemed to remember everything about me. The first time, I had returned for Alumnae Council (I think!), and Karen was excited about my recent engagement and interested in hearing details about my future husband. At Reunions, she was interested in hearing about my kids and my job, and was very encouraging about my faculty position at a school much less prestigious than BMC. She had such an amazing way of making me feel good about everything I was doing. I am incredibly sad that she has been taken from us way too soon.

  12. Anika Torruella '98 Says:

    Once upon a time, I arrived very early to Bryn Mawr’s campus to begin the new school year. I had chosen one of the first days student life had advertised that the on-campus storage unit was to be opened by security to early arrivers. I waited at the unit at the appropriate time. But no one arrived to open the unit. A small crowd of women gathered waiting to get their things. But no one arrived to open the unit. We waited for two or three hours. One of the women began to cry and I knew just how she felt. The idea of sleeping on a bare mattress for a couple of weeks made me feel like I was going to cry, too. In a time before cell phones, I had to find a working campus phone to call student life as the campus center was locked. They admitted that they had posted the wrong date for early access to the unit, however, the mangers were on holiday and would not be available for at least three to five days. The student manning their phones refused to accept responsibility for any part of the situation. I don’t know why I walked to the Dean’s office. The only Dean in-house was Karen Tidmarsh. She saw me with no appointment. Sitting with her in a state of abject terror and awe, I watched her calmly call student life, asked for the student to deliver the keys to her, explained the situation to campus security and allowed the dozen and a half of us who had been waiting to retrieve towels, bedding and shower kits to hold us until the next scheduled access date.

    Once upon a different time, a screaming registrar person tried to delay the granting of my diploma for an entire year. Another university had failed to deliver the transcript for a single class on time to her unbeknown to me. The mix-up was soley on the other university’s part: their bursur was waiting for payment for a class for which I’d taken on a full scholarship. When they realised their mistake, they rushed the transcipts (too late) to BMC’s registrar. However, BMC’s registrar told me in no uncertain terms that I would get my diploma, “over her dead body”. And what did I care anyway? The diploma was written in Latin. I wouldn’t be able to read it. Little did she understand her last jibe, for the offending transcript was one of high marks in a third-level Latin class.

    I wrote a heartfelt letter to Dean Tidmarsh. I was waiting to start a job at National Geographic. I had finished every year at Bryn Mawr with terrible anxiety that I would not be able to afford the next semester. Now after surmounting all my hurdles, a technicality was holding my diploma hostage. I felt like the system was still crushing me, even when I thought I had beat it. Dean Tidmarsh wrote me back a letter full a patience and common sense. She’d told the registrar to stop it. I would be receiving my diploma with the correct year in just a few days.

    Sometimes there is not much humanity in the world. Sometimes it feels as if justice is a far cry from our dreams of fairness and that allowing dignity for others is an old-fashioned idea. Karen Tidmarsh always made sure that fairness wasn’t a dream. Her concern and generosity to others was an everyday occurrence. I feel somehow that with her passing, the world has lost one of its great caretakers, a woman who never let pride or bureaucracy turn her head when it came to taking care if her students, both present, future and past.

  13. Dorothy Denburg Says:

    Everything I read in today’s announcement from Bryn Mawr of the death of my friend Karen Tidmarsh, beloved and respected Dean of the College, resonated with me and had the clear ring of truth, but for one detail; that Karen became dean of the college in 1990 took me by surprise. I met Karen when I became dean of the college at a sister college in 1993; at that time it seemed to me that she must have been in her position for more years than her age would probably have permitted. She was the Dean par excellence, the dean of deans. I, and many others, learned from her wisdom, her good sense, her humor, her compassion. She had unerring instincts and combined a profound idealism about the mission of our work with a realism that was reassuring and instructive. She enjoyed beauty, shopping, good food, friends, travel, hearing about the children and grandchildren of friends; she loved her work, Bryn Mawr College, and most of all, the young women – the girls, really – who made their way there. She loved supporting, encouraging, watching, helping them as they became the women they would be. She believed in fairness and opportunity. Her description of the Bryn Mawr honor system way back when I first met her is vivid in my memory for both her sincerity, her belief in it, and the way in which she described it. Karen’s courage, grace and humor in the last few years will stay with me; I learned so much from her and am very sad to have had to say goodby.

  14. Aheli Purkayastha Says:

    It’s hard to find the right words to commemorate Dean Tidmarsh’s life. She is an exceptional mentor whose compassionate force will continue to inspire me, and countless other BMC alumnae, to be better, more understanding individuals. Though it is hard to imagine the BMC community without her physical presence, I hope we can focus on the good things- her integrity and that amazing quick wit- that she shared with her BMC family. Anassa Kata, Dean Tidmarsh.

  15. Elizabeth Mosier Says:

    For me, as for so many of us, Karen Tidmarsh is Bryn Mawr. When I hear the term alma mater, I always think of Karen: how she guided me with the light of her intelligence and nurtured me with her kindness, her counsel, and her good humor. My professional life at Bryn Mawr–in Admissions, directing a summer writing program, in my creative writing classroom–is imprinted to her example. She was the voice of reason, the model of patience and integrity, a true friend.

    Karen was an administrator with a heart, the colleague who–despite seemingly overwhelming responsibilities–invited me to dinner with other new employees, mentored me, and thought to send congratulations for new books and babies. She was the friend who attended my daughters’ musical theater productions, remembered my cats’ names, gave me perspective, made me feel cared for and safe.

    It was a gift to be able to return just a portion of that care in her last days, and to witness the daily devotion of Karen’s dearest friends and loyal colleagues.

    It is impossible to imagine Bryn Mawr without Karen Tidmarsh. I won’t have to, because she is there in her old office in Taylor Hall, on the Goodhart stage welcoming the incoming class, greeting students as she crosses Merion Green, teaching in English House, marching in the May Day procession. Her warm voice, her sparkling blue eyes, her wise words.

  16. Jan Newberry Says:

    I worked at Bryn Mawr in the late 90s as an instructor and as an Assistant Dean under Karen. There were many things that I loved about BMC; some I’ll never understand. But one thing I’m certain of: Karen Tidmarsh was an emblem of all that was great about Bryn Mawr: her empathy, her wit, her intelligence, her embrace of all that students brought to the campus, her willingness to see the better angels of our nature, and her deep and abiding generosity and kindness. But perhaps most of all, it was her love of Bryn Mawr itself. She believed in me; she changed me — for the better. I will miss her profoundly.

  17. Dorothy Denburg Says:

    And one more thing – her outfits were NEVER bizarre!

  18. BamBoo Ding Says:

    I still cannot believe that we have just lost such an influential educator. She helped me make a huge and uneasy transition from China to Bryn Mawr and she has helped me come to realize that Bryn Mawr is my home; she helped me realize that coming to Bryn Mawr was the best decision I ever made. I still remember one night in December when she drove all her advisees to have dinner together and told us that she was going to have a heart surgery in two weeks. Although she was badly ill she still insisted on meeting and talking to us. She didn’t have to bring us to dinner but she did. Her dedication to education and to Bryn Mawr College inspires me to work hard and carry on. She truly emitted the Bryn Mawr spirit to all she met. I am unable to hold back my tears and my love for her. She was, and is and will always be my life long mentor. I love and miss her so much.

  19. Alexandra Schader Says:

    I will always remember Dean Tidmarsh. During my freshman year she became my saviour when I needed one. She made me feel that her door was always open, whether it was if I needed help or just to chat about life at BMC. She will be sorely missed.
    Alexandra Schader – Class of 1992

  20. Jan Trembley '75 Says:

    Karen’s integrity and honesty was almost matchless.

  21. Amy Campbell Says:

    “What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult to each other?”
    – George Eliot, Middlemarch

    Karen Tidmarsh – thank you, we are better because of you.

  22. Ann Ogle Says:

    I cannot say more or more eloquently what has already been said about Dean Tidmarsh: honest, beloved, so intelligent, and kind. To me, she embodied all that is the best of Bryn Mawr. As a member of the Staff Association, I once served as a Board Rep. Dean Tidmarsh happened to be sitting beside me when it was my turn to make a presentation at a Board meeting. I was really scared. She gave me such encouragement. I’ll never forget her kindness. Our hearts are broken by this very sad news.

  23. Betsy H Watkins "61 Says:

    Chuck and I will both miss Karen’s intelligence, integrity and warm friendship.

  24. Amulya Rao '00 Says:

    Dean Tidmarsh was an integral part of my years at Bryn Mawr, although not my dean. I remember that whenever you happened to see her on campus, she always had a genuinely warm smile. You felt that she would be there for any student who needed her and that she truly cared.

    Bryn Mawr will miss her.

  25. Alison Hicks Greifenstein '82 Says:

    I had heard that Karen was ill, but still this news hit me very hard.

    As for many of the other responders here, Karen was a role model for me. I’ll never forget her kindness and calmness when I went to her as a stressed-out and heartbroken sophomore.

    I also have an amusing memory of attending a College Board conference with her in Atlantic City when I worked in Admissions. An ice storm came in during the time we were there and they were shutting down transportation. I had taken the train down but Karen had driven, and early in the morning she said, “Want to make a run for it?” We crawled back to Philly just before they closed the Atlantic City Expressway. “Come on, little car!” she kept saying.

    Karen exemplified all that is best about Bryn Mawr to me. She was intelligent, warm and empathetic. She was who I wanted to be when I grew up.

  26. Steve Green Says:

    Karen was a beautiful women with a warm caring spirit. She was what the Bryn Mawr community reaches for. I can only smile when I think of her. Rest in Peace Karen. Job well done.

  27. Nancy Schmucker '98 McBride Says:

    Dean Tidmarsh always, always, always had time for students. We never felt like a bother to her. Her door was open for any conversation. She was warm and friendly; reasoned and thoughtful. A bright light during my time at Bryn Mawr.

  28. Richard Du Boff Says:

    Not many deaths, particularly of people not yet in their seventies, have moved me as much as this one. Karen Tidmarsh gave her life to Bryn Mawr College, and I was very fortunate to count her as a friend as well as colleague. A wonderful woman. May she rest in peace

  29. Juliet Goodfriend '63 Says:

    My most vivid memory of Karen is her lecturing on Victorian Literature during an alumni cruise of the Hebrides. The waves were so violent that most of the audience retired to their beds to watch on closed circuit TV. But Karen was a Captain Courageous, straddling the heaving and rolling floor in a wide stance, first one knee bending deeply then the other, like a gyroscope. And she missed not a word of her wonderful lecture.
    In recent years she never missed a movie at, or a chance to donate to, Bryn Mawr Film Institute. We all will miss her.

  30. Beth Rehman, '96 Says:

    I am so fortunate to have known Dean Tidmarsh when I was at Bryn Mawr. She was a kind, brilliant woman.

  31. Deb Skok Says:

    I can’t believe that Karen is gone. The world was an infinitely richer, more thoughtful, kinder, wiser place with her in it.

  32. Ann M. Little, 1990 Says:

    I remember walking through Rockefeller Arch one day my freshman fall semester and seeing a chalk notice on the sidewalk leading up to Thomas: The TID is GOD. I didn’t know who “The TID” was at that point, but I certainly learned fast. That’s the way she was regarded by most of the students in my generation, and apparently many others.

    I am so sorry to hear of her untimely death. Her life made a difference to so many, which is the best that any obituary can ever say.

  33. Ilona Bray, '84 Says:

    What a loss. I only wish that I had relied more on Karen’s wisdom when I was an undergraduate, instead of thinking I knew what I wanted to do with my life. (Oops!) The amazing thing to me was that, at alumni events, she not only remembered me, but conveyed that easy sense of friendship that made her so beloved by all. Her spirit truly is woven into the very fabric of Bryn Mawr.

  34. Lynn Rozental '79 Says:

    I often quote Karen Tidmarsh’s accurate and amusing remark about procrastination: “Somehow I cannot start working on my dissertation until I have sharpened every pencil in my house”. It was so great to have someone in a leadership role share her own weakness in an area I struggled with, and it both made me laugh, and feel better about myself.

  35. Grace (Penny) Armstrong Says:

    I knew how ill Karen was but cannot believe that she is gone. I feel quite bereft. I remember as if it were yesterday laughing with her this past November as we both made light of the illnesses (and their concomitant outrages) that she and my family were going through. One of her greatest gifts was to allow others to see the humor in just about anything and thereby give us the courage to keep on going. While I had served on Honor Board with her over so many years and had always been moved by her talent to find the right word, to read people’s thoughts, and to bring us consensually to what felt like the fair judgment, I grew even closer to her as I admired her steadfastness and humor in the face of suffering. Bryn Mawr is the poorer for her parting.

  36. Jenny Castle '09 Says:

    Dean Tidmarsh made a caring and prudent decision on my behalf during freshman year that changed the course of my life. I am so grateful to her, and know that I could not have been in better hands. She will be dearly missed.

  37. Jessica Collett '06 Says:

    I was very privileged to know Dean Tidmarsh through my years on Honor Board. She brought understanding and compassion to the job, and was a source of comfort both to those before the Board and those of us on the Board, through some very difficult times. She was always extraordinarily busy, and yet somehow one never felt rushed or inconsequential when speaking with her — she always had as much time as you needed.

    At our first college reunion just a few years ago, I almost missed her entirely — I was held up by the class picture, and had to race across campus with a friend to catch her in the parking lot for a very brief hug before she headed home. I almost told myself not to worry about it, and that I would catch her at the next reunion, but I wanted to see her so much that I couldn’t let it go — and I am glad, now, that I did not.

  38. Rima Strassman Toland '87 Says:

    Karen is a big part of the reason I chose Bryn Mawr. After deciding that I was interested in a woman’s college, I attended a program she lead in the Princeton home of an alum when she was an admissions officer. I fell in love with what she shared about the college. I ultimately applied early decision and was blessed to have her as my dean once I matriculated. I will miss you, Karen.

  39. Ngoc Tran '08 Says:

    I am very saddened to hear about the loss of Dean Tidmarsh. Bryn Mawr was lucky to have the service of such an exemplary woman. She will be terribly missed.

  40. Maria Shinas Maddox '99 Says:

    Karen helped me get through some red tape with BMC and another college so that I could continue going to college my junior year, and be able to return to BMC and graudate with my class. She listened, she helped, and I’m grateful for all that she did.

  41. Rama Mani '89 Says:

    Karen Tidmarsh, represented THE ESSENCE of Bryn Mawr, and always will. From the moment i arrived in Bryn Mawr (in utter culture-shock, as this was my virgin journey outside my motherland India and native city of 15 million, Bombay) – it was my first meeting with Dean Tidmarsh, that made me feel i hadn’t woken up on the wrong planet. And it was every subsequent precious half hour with her from then till i graduated in 1989 that made my time at Bryn Mawr seem worthwhile. It’s 24 years since i graduated, but Karen Tidmarsh is still etched in my soul for the inspiration, courage, and sound wisdom, she always gave me. It breaks my heart to learn that she has left us so early. Her spirit will never leave the stones, leaves and grass of our/her beloved Bryn Mawr community, just as her spirit will never leave our bereaved hearts. with all my love, Rama Mani class of 1989

  42. Rachel S-D Fortune Says:

    I graduated from BMC undergrad ’98. Dean Tidmarsh was my dean. She was infinitely supportive and always gave appropriate, realistic guidance. In fact, I have had a recurring dream a few times per year since graduation where it comes time for our self scheduled final exams and I realize that I am signed up for an exam in a class that I didn’t attend (forgot to drop!). In the dream, I run up to Taylor Hall looking for Dean Tidmarsh, desperate for her to help me! The dream gets a little fuzzy after that and I think that it is a weekend and I never actually find her.
    She will be missed by the entire BMC community and will be in our memories forever.

  43. Pam Lavin '14 McBride Says:

    So much comfort is found in our shared admiration for Karen Tidmarsh. She was truly remarkable in her ability to empower and encourage all who came in contact with her. In her honor, may we all stay united in our efforts toward excellence. Thank you, Professor Tidmarsh for your lasting contributions to a Bryn Mawr community!

  44. Denice Szekely '99 Says:

    When I began as a Freshman in the Fall of 1995 I had no idea that the “Silent S” in my last name, which had caused everyone I encountered so many spelling conundrums for 18 years, would be such a blessing. As an “S,” Dean Tidmarsh was my academic advisor. But she was so much more than that.

    During my senior year, on the Monday after the Thanksgiving break my world turned completely upside down. I walked into the Green Room at Windham for an impromptu meeting to which the late Dean Behrend had summoned me. I expected to discuss a Hall Advisor related issue in that room. Instead I found Dean Behrend with my mother, brother and uncle, who had driven from NYC to tell me that my father had been lost at sea while fishing alone on the Long Island Sound. He was never found.

    When I returned to campus, it was just in time for finals and I was in no state to take them. Dean Tidmarsh was instrumental in making accommodations so that I could delay my exams until after the break, or take them at home. Delaying graduation was not an option for my family given our finances. I had to graduate in May or just move back home without a degree.

    When I returned for the Spring semester Dean Tidmarsh supported me as I tried to make up work I’d missed at the end of the Fall term and stay on track to complete my thesis and graduate on time. Whenever I called or came in to ask for help or advice, she would listen and would make sure that I didn’t need to worry about working out the logistics of anything, be it attendance, financial aid, registration, etc. All I needed to focus on was studying and getting through the next few difficult months. Dean Tidmarsh made sure that my professors were aware of my situation without my having to explain the painful details myself. To this day, almost 14 years later, I can’t speak highly enough of the guidance and support I received from Dean Tidmarsh and the Bryn Mawr community. Even my mother still raves about how wonderful and caring she was during that time. With the support of both my family in New York, and at Bryn Mawr I was able to graduate in May, on time, with honors.

    My story may be just small piece of the wonderful work Dean Tidmarsh did on a daily basis throughout her career. That is what made her so special. What was just a standard part of her daily work was a huge and comforting part of the hardest time in my life.

  45. Lee Bowie Says:

    I was saddened to learn today of Karen Tidmarsh’s death. I joined her fan club when I became dean of a sister college in 2003, and I learned enormously from her. She was the epitome of grace under fire. She had the remarkable ability to bring people through a bad situation not only in one piece, but miraculously feeling as though they had been made better by the experience. This ability derived, I believe, from the deep integrity of her purpose. She loved her work and always approached it from a place of calm wisdom, beauty, and honor that communicated itself to others who were beginning to feel frazzled. Everybody whose life she touched was made better for it. I will miss her.

  46. Dwaraka Ganesan Says:

    Karen Tidmarsh was my anchor when I arrived at Bryn Mawr, and she so kindly and stoically steered me through my first two years. Outwardly these may have been fairly uneventful but I had just arrived in the US after terrific violence ‘back home.’ All the normal day to day stuff was anything but. I am so glad I talked to her, albeit briefly, last May at our 25th Reunion. It was the absolute cherry on top of a great weekend, and the event would have been incomplete without seeing her there.
    KT, God Bless. Generations of Mawrtyrs will keep you in our thoughts and in the Light.

  47. Jean MacIntyre, Class of 56 Says:

    Karen came to Edmonton with Judy Gould to meet with local alumnae, who are not numerous, so we had a VERY intimate dinner for, I think, five at the Faculty Club. That was the only time I met her, but she is still talked of by those of us who were there, not least because she wanted to find a locally made kayak paddle. Some we saw were like any she could get anywhere, and those that were local and unique were expensive works of art, better to display than use. Not exactly the usual “tour” for visitors, especially for someone more used to taking them to the art gallery and the university library, but a lot of fun.

  48. Rev. Alida Ward '84 Says:

    I am so grieved to read this news. Karen Tidmarsh is inextricably linked to my decision to attend Bryn Mawr. In the fall of my senior year at Charlottesville High, Virginia , Karen visited, to meet with potential applicants to Bryn Mawr. I was the only student who showed, so she was stuck in a room with one nervous, dorky, shy girl who also happened that day to have a poison ivy rash on her face! I felt awful and looked worse. Karen’s warmth, kindness, and interest in me — as well as her apparent obliviousness to the fact that I looked dreadful — is something I’ve never forgotten … and it was what set me on the path to Bryn Mawr, where my daughter Brigitta is now.
    I hear echoes of my story in every post written above. What a great gift she was to so many; what a heartbreaking loss for us all.

  49. Sam Magdovitz Says:

    Karen was at the top of my list of amazing people I’ve been so fortunate to know. She was wise, unflappable, and unforgettably witty. As others have written, she embodied the very best of Bryn Mawr College.

  50. Libby Sander '99 Says:

    So many others have already nailed it: Karen Tidmarsh was a singular human being. She was the brilliant, kind woman we all aspired to be, and the wise voice and beacon who guided so many students–with a knowing twinkle in her bright-blue eyes–through the ups and downs of the college years. Few people in life master the artful balance of being at once a teacher, confidante, coach, and scholar. Fewer still are able to employ those skills with the humor and compassion of a friend. Her death is a profound loss.

    A kaleidoscope of images came to mind last night as I wrestled with this upsetting news. Some are just snapshots, and others are the essence of how I will remember her. I recall how gracious she was when I “interviewed” her for an assignment in a freshman-year journalism class. (In later years, when I became a real reporter, she was equally generous and refrained from making jokes about that first rookie interview.) I remember some tearful, anxious moments in her office when I thanked my lucky stars my last name began with “S.” I remember the chilly fall evening my parents gave her a ride in their new Subaru, and she loved the car’s heated seats so much that she went out the next day and bought the same kind of car. I remember the day she invited me to lunch in her lovely home. The warm house, her cats, the generosity and ease with which she entertained –she even ground the coffee beans, I still remember noticing, and with a tiny brush carefully swept the excess coffee grounds into the French Press!—struck me. In later years I always marveled at her ability to nurture friendships on so many levels. I remember thinking, more than once, that the Bryn Mawr friends she reunited with every summer, year after year, were lucky indeed.

    One of our very last e-mail exchanges seemed to be quintessential Karen: An expression of concern for my sickly cat, enthusiasm about her new post-dean duties, an apology for missing me during my visit to campus, and a kind wish to catch up once she returned from an overseas trip. How tremendously sad it makes me that we never will.

    To consider that the immense affection and respect I feel for her, not to mention the flood of wonderful memories, are shared by so many Bryn Mawr alumnae is just astounding. Karen gave us, as students, a glimpse of how to live at a time when we needed it most. Most of us didn’t realize it then. But now, as we feel a rush of sadness for this life cut short and gratitude for having known the woman who lived it so well, we appreciate her inspiration all the more.

  51. anne whitaker Says:

    As a parent of a Bryn Mawr student who was so fortunate to have Karen as an advisor it saddens me to hear of her death. I had many lively discussions with her and always walked away so thankful that my daughter had the opportunity to take advantage of the knowledge and caring spirit she had. Plus the love she had for the school was evident – something which I also so admired about her as it was very geniune. The fact that other women in the college community will not have that experience is certainly a loss for all, Bryn Mawr and its students.

  52. Pamela Swett '92 Says:

    I am very saddened by the news this morning. It is remarkable, reading these postings, how similar they are to one another, and how similar they are to my own memories of Dean Tidmarsh.
    She was my advisor as an undergraduate, and I remember recommending all my friends speak to her — even those assigned to others.
    Indeed fifteen years after graduating, I had a particular professional quandary that I considered contacting her about. That’s how much I still valued her sage advice. It turns out I didn’t, figuring that she had enough on her plate without students from the distant past contacting her. Now I wish I had. It would have been a great chance to thank her again for all that she did for me and countless others.

  53. Robin Selman '89 Says:

    I was honestly saddened to hear of Dean Tidmarsh’s passing at such a young age. She was my dean as an undergraduate–I remember her empathy, warmth, and basic humanity.

  54. Claire Robinson Jacobus '54 Says:

    I absolutely adored her. One of her areas of concentration was George Not at all surprising. Like Eliot, she was deeply intelligent, deeply compassionate, humorous, and generous. Her absence is hard to think about

  55. Jan Trembley '75 Says:

    Sorry, posting at 4ish in the morning plus grief corrupted my grammar.
    In deference to Karen who would, of course, forgive me:
    “Karen’s integrity and honesty WERE almost matchless”
    even in this community.
    I agree with Claudia Ginanni that Karen was a spiritual (and moral) leader.

  56. Rochelle Tobias '85 Says:

    Karen Tidmarsh was the face of Bryn Mawr for me. I went to a recruitment event she did for the college in upstate New York in 1980. Her wit, intelligence and calm drew me to the college, which I enrolled in the following year. While I did not know her well, she was someone I always associated with the college and assumed she would be there for many years. This is a sad day for the college. It has lost one of its most committed and vibrant members.

  57. Medina Khalil 89' Says:

    She was warmth and wit, inteliigence and curiosity. She kept me sane throughout my college career. When you entered her office, after having waited on the floor of Taylor hallway, you were welcomed so completely. I always felt I had her full attention and care. A few years ago, I saw her at a reunion; and, as usual, she made me feel as I have always felt at Bryn Mawr, part of an extraordinary group of women. She will be missed.

  58. Susan Lee ("Suk") '82 Says:

    I didn’t know Dean Tidmarsh very well, but she was one of my advisors freshman year. What I remember to this day is her warmth, soft manner, and smile. Her positive energy was remarkable.

  59. Bianca Siegl '98 Says:

    During my time at Bryn Mawr, I always felt lucky to have an “S” name, as it meant Karen Tidmarsh would be my dean. I arrived convinced that I would be an English major. During an early meeting to review my course selections, Dean Tidmarsh suggested that she thought I might really enjoy trying a Cities class. I’m still not sure exactly why she suggested it, but her encouragement opened up a fantastic new world to me. I became a happy Cities major, and am now an urban planner and wouldn’t change a thing. Thank you, Dean Tidmarsh, for your wise guidance. You were an integral part of the Bryn Mawr experience for so many of us, and you will be deeply missed.

  60. Carrie Wofford '89 Says:

    Oh dear, what a loss. I hadn’t realized she was sick. What a warm, welcoming, funny, fun-loving Dean and mentor she was. How lucky we all were to have benefited from her warmth and leadership.

  61. Lisa Schiff '87 Says:

    Karen Tidmarsh was an incredible dean for our class. For me personally, she was a huge influence on my life since in my Sophomore year she calmly helped me realize that dropping out of school to work full-time on politics wasn’t really the best choice. I will be forever grateful to her for taking me seriously while helping me see that there was another path that didn’t require me to relinquish my passion.

  62. Charles Loughhead Says:

    I distinctly remember several conversations with Karen in English House. She was always engaged, ever genuine. One of those conversations, not long after the murder of John Lennon, left me impressed by her ready empathy and deep feelings for all things beautiful.

  63. Darlyne Bailey, GSSWSR Says:

    Karen was on the Search Committee that brought me to our College just four years ago. From that time on, a friendship was born. Many many many of us have been blessed to have our lives enriched by Karen, a woman of tremendous loyalty and love, integrity, wit, and wisdom. I have to believe that Karen knew how deeply she was treasured….And I want to believe that each of us, in our own way, will try to live as Karen has shown us how— genuinely caring for others…fully…with courage and grace. Thank you, Karen.

  64. Diane Sacker '00 Says:

    Dean Tidmarsh was my Dean and I considered myself lucky. She helped me through issues like obtaining credit when I had to leave my study abroad semester early due to a health issue. She also listened and helped me stay focused when my mother was very ill during my senior year of college. I remember her warmth and her addresses at our class events and reunions. She will be missed.

  65. Jenimae Almquist '93 Says:

    Her quiet knowing way was comforting and anchoring, particularly when in the throes of the latest existential crisis. I remember a speech when I was at an Alumnae funciton about how it was OK to work at the GAP for a while to get your bearings . . . so comforting for all of us driven wimmin. She seemed to understand the evolutions of the college so well, yet remain quintessetially Bryn Mawr. When catering through Wyndham to her home and at various events, she was always kind and welcoming. To the TID – you were a great force and we will miss you terribly.

  66. Eliza Fendell '95 Says:

    Dean Tidmarsh was the first person I ever spoke with on Bryn Mawr’s campus and was always on hand with a personal smile and an encouraging word for an overwhelmed freshwoman.

  67. J.B. Kim '89 Says:

    I too remember the “TID is GOD” message. Karen Tidmarsh was assigned to advise me. I saw her briefly at a reunion a few years ago and regret not making enough of an effort to speak with her. She always epitomized everything good about Bryn Mawr. I am fortunate to advise students (in law school) everyday and have just realized that I have been trying to model Dean Tidmarsh all these years.

  68. Ellen Berkowitz '83 Says:

    I was lucky, lucky to get to know Karen Tidmarsh the summer after my junior year, when she was associate director of admissions and I was working as a summer tour guide. I’d switched my major a half dozen times from history to English and back. I adored her. She was so steady, funny, reassuring, perceptive — I’m sure I changed my major back to English at least once more hoping that I’d wind up like her, which is precisely the opposite of what she’d want anyone to do, since she wanted every student to find her own way. She remained such a presence in my life that I always thought I’d have another chance to talk with her — and these postings make clear that she made each of us feel that way.

  69. Sara Hamlen '86 Says:

    What an extraordinary blessing to know Dean Tidmarsh, both during my undergraduate days (particularly when I went abroad on a Peace Studies Mission and had to give a “talk” to the College afterwards and felt very shy. Karen Tidmarsh had a way of calling up the best in us, and she would tell us of one another’s deep courages, strengths, and talents. The Bryn Mawr I came to know and love is always the narrated in her voice, and I am heartbroken to hear of her passing. Thank you, Karen, for all of those wise, patient conversations over the years.

  70. Helena Cole '90 Says:

    Karen was my first introduction to Bryn Mawr. I attended an alumnae admissions event in CT in 1985. I had been on my college search for a while but had only just begun to entertain the possibility of attend a women’s college. I left convinced that Bryn Mawr was where I wanted to me. I remembered being enthralled by her down-to-earth-ness.For once no-one was trying to sell me on a place that seemed like all the other places before it; she seemed to say: “this is Bryn Mawr. It is what is is, but you’ll love it for that.” I left saying to myself that that is where I wanted to be. I almost went somewhere else (perhaps after being corrupted by others’ sales pitches) but ended up at Bryn Mawr because of that “it is what is is”. There was something so pure, so simply, so genuine about Bryn Mawr; and Dean Tidmarsh embodied that. When I met her as a freshmen, I remembered her right away. I got to know her better as an HA and we stayed in touch very sporadically (mostly at reunions and alumnae volunteer events) as I also entered the field of higher education. I applied for a job at Bryn Mawr, which would have reported to her, and when I did not get it, she was as gracious as always, and checked-in with me about my position whenever we met. I have worked with college students now for over 20 years. I have said before, if I can be one tenth to them what Dean Tidmarsh was to Bryn Mawr, I will be content. The lanterns are held high in remembrance, in spirit, and utmost, in respect. Anassa kata!

  71. Hanna Stotland '99 Says:

    I’m so sorry to hear about Dean Tidmarsh’s passing. She was such a champion of students. Her confidence in us and her certainty that we should challenge ourselves will always stay with me. May she rest in peace.

  72. Chrissy Fowler '89 Says:

    How did Karen Tidmarsh manage to be so many important things to so many people? Thinking back to my own memories and reading the thoughts of others, I realize that she was no ordinary academic dean – among other things, she was a therapist, administrator, social worker, teacher, colleague, and fairy godmother. She was my freshman dean, and when I ignored my re-assignment in my sophomore year, somehow she never made me feel like that was a problem. How many other tearful students sat in her office, looking past her light-filled eyes and compassionate half-smile at that poster of a Welsh hillside, while she once more nudged them back to equilibrium? How many others felt privileged to dine with her (at their home or hers)? It boggles my mind to think of how gracefully she guided generations of students into their adult lives – thousands! – and at the same time she was an effective professor and administrator. For my part, I adored her. To my friends and me, she was part of a triumvirate – Mary Pat, Mabel Lang, and Dean Tidmarsh. She was the goddess that tended your spirit. I hope she understood, really understood, just how cherished and vital she was.

  73. Janet Doner Says:

    I feel privileged to have known Karen and am deeply saddened by her passing. Compassionate, astute, sensible, thoughtful, she was a lovely person and a wonderfully caring Dean who, despite her grueling schedule, always found time to respond quickly to emails expressing concern about one of her “S” initialed students. As others have noted, she epitomized the very best of Bryn Mawr. Her caring extended to her beloved kitties of course, and to other cats less fortunate than her own. She could be quite persuasive on their behalf. I recall emails from Karen wondering if I knew anyone who might like to adopt a homeless cat –might we, in fact, think of taking in another kitty . . . A gracious hostess happy to share a favourite recipe, and a marvelously entertaining guest, she was one of the most amusing storytellers I have known as her signature sense of humour brought laughter to the dinner table. So many of us today are remembering this remarkable woman with a smile and a tear.

  74. Eleanor Dickey '89 Says:

    Karen Tidmarsh was an absolutely awesome dean; I loved her, and she made a huge difference to my time at Bryn Mawr and what I was able to do afterwards. It is dreadful that she has died so young!

  75. Nicole Gervasio '10 Says:

    Barely a day before I heard of her passing, I had just been thinking back to my Lantern Night at Bryn Mawr, for whatever reason, and I found myself laughing at something I remembered Dean Tidmarsh saying in response to our pathetic attempt at Sophias: “Okay, ladies. Now try for something that isn’t a dirge.” To which we tried again, and during our singing she shouted, “Dirge, dirge, dirge!” until we somehow picked up the harmony– or at least succeeded in sounding like we enjoyed it more. I thought she was possibly the only person in Bryn Mawr’s administration with a sense of humor. I also won’t forget the fact that when I knew her, I admired her and aspired to be something like her. I’m pretty sure everyone who knew her would say the same.

  76. Kate Lowerre '90 Says:

    I was very lucky to take my first college English class—lyric poetry—with Dean Tidmarsh. In class discussions she was incredibly thoughtful, intelligent, and very human. Although she was not my advisor or dean, from the start of my college career I knew I could talk to her if I needed to, and that was a terrific resource to have—naturally she noticed (and brought to my attention) a paperwork snafu I had created which could have messed up my first semester.

    When I was at BMC there were plenty of students who would have liked to put a statue of her next to Athena in Thomas Great Hall and leave it donuts as votive offerings, in gratitude for her kindness, her wisdom, and her efforts on our behalf (and OK, yes, maybe in hopes of a little future assistance).

    I always looked forward to seeing Karen when I returned to campus, and especially treasure my memory of a talk (with tea) we had in the fall of 2009, about her transition from being dean, and my own ‘where am I headed next?’ passage. Like so many others, I am profoundly sad that she has gone, since she made the lives of so many people connected to the college, and beyond, so much richer.

    PS It’s funny, although I like to think I’m not totally devoid of style, I’m not sure I ever much noticed what she was wearing—probably due to not wanting to miss anything she was saying (or the twinkle in her eye when she said it).

  77. Susan Lehmann '85 Says:

    Karen is the reason that I came to Bryn Mawr. I met her at the college fair held at the Civic Center in Hartford, CT. She gave me such a wonderful picture of Bryn Mawr that all the other colleges paled in comparison. Bryn Mawr remains one of the greatest experiences of my life. I don’t know how one repays such a gift. I am deeply saddened by her passing.

  78. Claire Robinson Jacobus '54 Says:

    I absolutely loved her. One of her areas of concentration was George Eliot, and she was, like Eliot, deeply observant, tolerant, sensitive, highly intelligent.

  79. Deb Kocsis '99 McBride Says:

    I was one of those students someone mentioned earlier — not assigned to Dean Tidmarsh but encouraged to seek her counsel by friends. I have always been glad I took their advice; she helped me turn the rest of my academic career into something exciting and truly fulfilling. She was warm and funny, and had high expectations for all of us but also the commitment to helping us figure out how to meet them. I cannot imagine a stauncher ally for the College and for Mawrters. And, as I deal with health issues of my own, I also find myself hoping that I can do even half as much good as Karen Tidmarsh did. Thank you, Dean Tidmarsh, for the work you did for all of us and for the example you set.

  80. Becky Caracappa '72 Says:

    I met Karen in Denbigh Hall in 1968, when I was a freshman. She was a sophomore and lived in the suite next door. By the time I was a junior, Karen was our Hall President. Later, after graduation, she and I ended up living in apartments in a big old house, now long gone, behind and across the street from Rhoads. At Mrs. Longmaid’s, Karen had the apartment on the second floor and I was on the third. It was there I learned of her enthusiastic love for cats – and other critters.
    While we lived at Mrs. Longmaid’s, Karen’s cat died and she wanted another one, so she went to the Conshohocken SPCA and picked up an orange kitten named Jesse (who grew up to be a terror but that’s another story). After seeing a lot of Jesse in the days before she became a terror, I finally decided I wanted a cat of my own. It was to be my first. Karen was as enthused about my First Kitten Project as I was. In fact we drove together to the Conshohocken SPCA, where we checked out all the kittens and finally decided on a female that was barely the size of my palm and had diagonal facial markings that made her look like a pirate. Jesse the Cat was not pleased when she met the tiny pirate, but Karen was enthusiastic about my kitten selection and visited fairly often to play with her.
    One Friday evening after work Karen called and asked me to come downstairs to see something. When I got there she opened the door to her bathroom and there, paddling happily in the bathtub, was a duck. Not a domestic duck, but a wild duck. Karen had found it earlier that day, alone and injured. She figured the duck’s injury would make it unable to survive without a serious change of venue, so she took it upon herself to bring the bird home and take care of it until she could find it a new home. After making multiple phone calls she finally located the perfect situation – with a local woman who had a large piece of property, a pond and domestic ducks of her own. Until delivery could be made, Karen ended up caring for the duck for, as I remember it, two days and two nights.
    Long before its time at Karen’s was up, the duck had trashed the bathroom because it was, after all, an undiapered duck that knew how to swim but not how to flush. Later, when it came time for Karen to clean up the mess, I heard not a single word of complaint from her. She just smiled as if to say “It was worth it” and started in on bleaching every surface in the bathroom. I’m sure Jesse the Cat was relieved when the duck was gone so she could have her bathroom litterbox back. Then all Jesse had to contend with was the occasional visit from the furry pirate from upstairs.
    Karen was special. I don’t know anyone else who would do what she did for that little duck, and do it so happily and cheerily. The Karen I knew was a most gracious and generous person, always poised to reach out with support and assistance just as it was needed – whether it was needed by a human or a duck. . .

  81. Alison McCormick Says:

    Although I never had the privledge of meeting Dean Tidmarsh, her passion was instilled in my daughter, currently a senior at Bryn Mawr. My daughter called me in tears this past weekend, recalling how much she had influenced my daughter while she was in Dean Tidmarsh’s cohort her freshman year. May those who know and love this amazing take comfort in knowing she influenced thousands of young woman to take their place in the world.

  82. Geoff Falen Says:

    I worked with Karen at Bryn Mawr from 1999-2007 and had many conversations and attended numerous meetings with her. Like pretty much everyone else here, I invariably found Karen to be thoughtful, classy, very droll, and immensely respected throughout campus. Karen was absolutely committed to Bryn Mawr and to students well above and beyond the call of duty, a fact which I found amusing when she would exhort those of us who worked with her to practice better work-life balance. Karen’s life work was Bryn Mawr, and while institutions survive individuals, it strikes me that Bryn Mawr will be somewhat out of balance with her passing.

  83. Carolyn Kay '05 Says:

    I was going though a very difficult time in my life in my first year at Bryn Mawr. Although Dean Tidmarsh was not my dean, my hallmate had recommended that I see her. I was so desperate, I don’t even think I made an appointment. I remember sitting in her big office, thinking that I was beyond all hope, and she set to work to help me. In a matter of 5 minutes, she had made a number of phone calls, initiating the chain of events that would ultimately change the trajectory of my life at Bryn Mawr. It was that moment that I remember feeling hope rather than dread and began to appreciate my time at Bryn Mawr. She is the reason that I can look back so fondly upon my undergrad days. I am indebted to her for this.

  84. Kate Scorza Ingram '96 Says:

    My life was changed by Dean Tidmarsh, for the better, and I consider myself lucky to have been under her wing and receive her wisdom. Thanks to Dean Tidmarsh, for encouraging me to follow my heart and major in music. She played a vital role in who I am today – I am sorry not to have been able to thank her for that – this is a loss for the college and the community. Anassa kata kalo kale, Ia ia ia Nike Bryn Mawr Bryn Mawr Bryn Mawr… Karen Tidmarsh!!

  85. Andrea Good '62 Says:

    What a comfort to share my love for Karen Tidmarsh with the community that best knows what we have lost!

    I first met Karen when she was a new Associate Director of Admissions and I was a Phoenix Regional Alumnae Admissions Rep. Those were the days when Reps housed and chauffeured the Admissions Staff visiting their areas, giving us a chance to get to know them and to catch up with the College. What a gift to far-flung alums! Recruiting for BMC was somewhat daunting in an area highly skeptical that an “elite” Eastern Women’s College had anything to offer an Arizona girl. Karen set about dispelling this myth in a series of meetings with prospective students, their parents, and, most importantly, their high school counsellors. I watched her conquer their prejudices with her honesty, humor and warmth. In the years after Karen came to Phoenix, between three and five of our young women entered BMC each year and all graduated four years later!

    Over the next decade as I became more active in the Alumnae Association, I had many occasions to return to the campus. Seeing Karen, having coffee or breakfast at IHop with her, was always a highlight of my visit. I was thrilled to watch as her career blossomed at
    BMC. When she was named Dean of the Undergraduate College, I thought “Of course! Who else could better guide and nurture the student community!”

    When my daughter, Noelle Good Gately ’90, headed off to Bryn Mawr in 1986, I had the joy of watching her experience Karen’s warmth and wisdom. Noelle was very active in campus life as an RA, Traditions Mistress, and Senior Class President. Whenever difficult conflicts arose, Karen was always there to offer counsel, encouragement, and, most importantly, an example of how to handle conflict with calm and grace. These life lessons were every bit as meaningful as her BMC degree.

    By 2006 when Noelle and I had the fun of taking her niece and my granddaughter, Jessica Marie Good ’11, to visit Bryn Mawr on her first trip East, we were thrilled when Karen and Elizabeth Mosier 184 (another Phoenix native) could meet us for lunch at Wyndham. While we alums enjoyed reminiscing, Karen made sure that Jess was the focus of our meeting, enthusiastically discussing Jess’ International Baccalaureate thesis on Dickens with her. Four years later, after Karen had already become a trusted mentor and friend, she became Jess’ advisor for her Bryn Mawr Honors Thesis –a further study of Dickens!

    It was Jessica who called me on Saturday with the heartbreaking news of Karen’s passing. We shared our tears, our memories of Karen, and the joy of having had her in our lives. We were happy to remember our last meeting when Jess, Noelle, and I along with our families met with Karen to enjoy a celebratory brunch following Jess’ graduation. We toasted Karen, our favorite Bryn Mawrter, and had the chance to let her know how much we all loved her. We will always treasure that memory!

  86. Erin George '02 Says:

    Dean Tidmarsh was my Customs Group faculty advisor in Pem East during freshman year. She attended a couple of our teas and graced us with her wisdom, good humor and confidence, making us all believe that much more in ourselves by her own example of a strong, intelligent and, above all, kind woman. Several times over the course of our years at Bryn Mawr, Dean Tidmarsh let us come to her house and cook in her kitchen, a most colorful and cozy place. Sometimes she was home and would join us; other times, she gave one of us her keys to “come on over,” even if she was out. It was a slice of home and good company– she knew we craved that and was unbelievably generous in offering us her kitchen. Above all, Dean Tidmarsh was a quiet warrior for social justice and equity, something I experienced first-hand in working with her as a Posse student. Thank you for everything and much love

  87. Linnea Segen '12 Says:

    Dean Tidmarsh is an angel. I was very lucky to be in the last class that had her as a dean. I had many difficulties while I was at Bryn Mawr, and nearly every semester I thought “how can I possibly make it through?” I went to her more times than 5 Bryn Mawrters combined, but she was always gracious, always so confident in my ability, always completely dedicated to helping me succeed. Now the amazing thing is that she was the same with everyone. I’ve never heard a bad word about her. She’ll always be in my prayers and in my memory for her gentleness and fearlessness, which somehow blended together perfectly.

  88. Margaret Sheridan '00 Says:

    I am foreign. I didn’t understand the culture of college, never knew that students had opportunities to really get to know faculty or staff, and therefore missed out on much of the magic of Bryn Mawr.

    Nevermind, though. I still had my Dean Tidmarsh moments! Sophomore year, at the end of my first semester, I flew home to California and started packing for our trip home to Australia the next day. I realized at 2pm PST I’d left my passport in my dorm room. The dorms were scheduled to be locked at 5pm EST. No one answer the Public Safety phone. Dean Tidmarsh answered her phone; she arranged for my passport to be rescued (from my top left desk drawer!) and it was picked up by Fed Ex from the President’s house, where some faculty were enjoying a holiday party. Crisis averted!

    My second memorable Dean Tidmarsh moment occurred during junior year. I was deeply unhappy and anxious about a health problem (that was later correctly diagnosed by the college Health Center!). I missed almost all my classes one semester. Dean Tidmarsh seemed so odd, then, when she agreed I had a reasonable excuse for my poor performance but still insisted I take my failing grades. Now I believe it was the New Englander in her and hope that all colleges do better at recognizing depression.

    My last major Dean Tidmarsh moment occurred four years after graduating. I was in Florence, haven recently fallen for Lucca (a nearby town) and for Tuscan cuisine. On my way out of our friendly little hotel on my last day there, I bumped into Karen in the lobby! I moved to re-introduce myself and she surprised me by remembering my name. We passed on our restaurant recommendations and went our separate ways.

  89. Tiffany Shumate '08 Says:

    An honor and blessing to have her as my dean. Always warm, welcoming and inviting of impromptu visits. I will surely miss her.

  90. Varney Truscott, MA '78 Says:

    While I worked only marginally with Karen and that was during Commencement preparation, I was always so impressed with her precise, elegant, humorous speeches at Convocation. Her words and phrases were gems. I admired her good taste and manners, sweetness and modesty.

  91. Jean Chang Park '87 Says:

    Like so many others, I have Dean Tidmarsh to thank for landing me on my feet in life. I am heartbroken over her passing. She personified love and goodness. I hope she knew just how much she contributed to us, Bryn Mawr and the world.

  92. Rachel Heiser Says:

    Karen was generous of mind and spirit. She inspired me more than many people in my life and is truly missed.

  93. Alison Noyes Says:

    I love reading all of these remembrances of Karen—they evoke her so vividly. I worked at Bryn Mawr from 1988-1993, and she was a model of the best kind of advising, the best kind of senior colleague, the best kind of boss. I’m so sorry that her time was cut short, and so grateful on behalf of the Bryn Mawr community that she was there all the way through, beloved and wonderful.

  94. Sarah Schlichter '04 Says:

    It was always a pleasure to meet with Dean Tidmarsh during my years at BMC. She’ll be missed.

  95. Claudia Callaway '88 Says:

    The Setting: English House, 1984-1985
    The Course Description: “From Innocence to Experience”
    The Innocents: 10 Froshwomen
    The Experience: George Elliott, Robert Penn Warren, Eric Erickson
    She encouraged us to express ourselves as individuals while contributing to the larger dialogue. There are countless of us who owe a debt of gratitude to Dean Tidmarsh. She truly personified the College’s academic excellence.

  96. Laura Spearot '09 Says:

    To me Dean Tidmarsh was the embodiment of everything Bryn Mawr. Having a last name that began with “S” luckily placed me in her care and keeping during my time at Bryn Mawr. She touched my life in numerous ways, and it is just now that I am realizing what a truly amazing mentor and educator that she was and, how our past interactions continue to shape my career goals and aspirations today. When I think that I was only one of the many many students that she advised I am comforted by the thought of so many Mawrters in this world that have been shaped by her influence.

  97. Grace An '93 Says:

    Even though the world has lost one of its best human beings, the most powerful sentiment (among many) over here is gratitude. Thank you, Karen, for, well, everything you did, said, and shared. For everything you helped make happen for so many. As with Rikki Behrend’s passing, I called my mother to thank her for sending me to Bryn Mawr, which remains a second home—yet primary community—because of people like Karen.

  98. Joann O'Doherty Says:

    Working as Karen’s Assistant for many years, I consider myself very lucky to have had the opportunity to experience on a daily basis her wisdom, generosity, wit, and kindness. She was always besieged with numerous commitments and responsibilities, but they never prevented her from putting the needs of others, especially the students, before her own. Under her tutelage I learned so much, both professionally and personally. Karen always handled herself with grace and style even at the darkest times of her life. I’ll never forget all life’s lessons we shared together and will cherish those memories forever.

  99. Susan Travis Egnor '63 Says:

    As did Andrea Good, I first met Karen as an alumna recruiting young women in the West for Bryn Mawr. Like Andrea, I came to know her further through the eyes of my daughter, Roian Egnor, ’90, a classmate of Andrea’s daughter Noelle. Roian told me the students looked to Karen to solve all sorts of problems, which Karen did–often performing what seemed to be miracles. Thus, perhaps, came about a student nickname I’ve not seen mentioned yet on this blog: “Saint T.”
    Speaking to Admissions Volunteers, Karen once said something that has stayed with me and which I find useful in talking about Bryn Mawr: (paraphrasing) Bryn Mawr tries to do something which is very hard: provide a university education in a small residential college setting while addressing each student as an individual in a community. This very hard objective does not come cheaply but we consider it worthwhile.
    At more recent volunteer events, Karen, as Dean, was charged with describing this day’s Bryn Mawr woman to alumnae often many years removed from the technology- endowed experience freshmen now bring to the College. Always she achieved her goal. She often left us amused as well as enlightened as she wryly described some of the more exotic challenges the College faced in that year’s Freshman Class.
    Bryn Mawr was fortunate beyond measure to have had so much from Karen Tidmarsh. We shall miss her very much.

  100. Sung Eun (Susie) Kim '11 Says:

    There are so many bits & pieces of wonderful memories that come together and resonate with me when I remember Dean Tidmarsh.

    Oftentimes, mid-conversation, I found myself wondering in awe at how a person could carry herself and choose each word with such calmness, wisdom, and strength. Then, I’d have to catch up… because her stories commanded to be fully followed to appreciate the brilliance of every punch line. Her humor was the best kind– levity at the right beat, references to all the defining layers of a moment, and never at the expense of others. To me, she defined intelligence, courage, and class.

    She was an inspiration and set standards for the kind of community Bryn Mawr College can be & is and furthermore, the kind of woman I can strive to be post-graduation. In every student meeting, she was equal parts idealistic and patient, lending to how much she was both loved and respected. Despite what feels like a premature loss which makes this all the more heartbreaking, I am deeply grateful to have known and been advised by Dean Tidmarsh. I can only hope that I carry with me those bits & pieces which culminate to an example of a life fully lived and loved.

  101. Cara Petonic '07 Says:

    Dean Karen Tidmarsh (“KT”, as we affectionately called her on campus) may not have been “my dean” while I was at Bryn Mawr, but she certainly took on the role of “life dean” to all who had the wonderful opportunity to meet her. I will never forget all of her advice, encouragement, and most of all, her love for all things Bryn Mawr. May those who knew her, never forget her, and those who did not have the chance to meet her will hopefully learn of all her wonderful works.

  102. Susan M. Pierce '82 Says:

    I was blessed to have Karen Tidmarsh in my life as my dean, a role model, and a friend. She was kind and gentle to me when as an undergrad I sat in her office trying to make sense of dorm life and academics. At each reunion, I sought her out as a touchstone to make sure that I was on the right track. She was a rock star to me; her direct speech, relaxed poise, and genuineness. I had a family commitment last year and chose to miss reunion. I regret that now, knowing that I could have perhaps seen her again.

    Being a polite young woman, I know I said thank you every time I left her office after our visits; but I will say it again. Thank you, Karen, for showing, and sharing with me, grace, humor and love. Your friendship is counted as a blessing. I will miss you very much.

  103. Linda Caruso Haviland Says:

    Karen was incredibly smart, wickedly funny, totally unflappable, wise and perceptive beyond most, with a large heart and deep soul. She always had my back and was helpful in countless ways. I hope she knows how much she was loved.

  104. Cricket Darby '7 Says:

    So far, I may be the only one to post about knowing Karen Tidmarsh before Bryn Mawr. She was not my dean or classmate — rather, my high school friend who happened to go to (and was a big part of the reason I applied to, and ended up attending) the same college. (I can think of 2 other alums, Michelle Archambault ’71 and, possibly, Kate Sullivan ’69, who also knew Karen at our small, public regional high school in the western burbs of Boston.) Thus, Karen and I shared a common small-town heritage, with the some of the New England-y influences mentioned above. I have a vivid memory of sitting behind her in geometry class, trying to get her to whisper, slack off, or just generally “break bad”, but Karen was always too respectful of our teacher to take the bait… and a way better student to boot. She was the only Mawrtyr who could routinely call me “Chris” without my flinching. I know Karen was as thrilled as I was to be at the liberating and exciting Bryn Mawr of the late 60s-early 70s era.

    Karen and I reconnected some 20 years after graduating, at which time she shared her illness with me. Coincidentally, I ended up writing professionally about some of the treatment she was receiving, and we were able to talk in later years comfortably and somewhat objectively about her private journey. She was always of such GOOD CHEER about this particular area of her life, similar to other testimonies written here. The last time I saw Karen, at Reunion 2012, she was now dean emerita and still totally immersed in the life of the College. We made vague plans to get together “soon.” Karen looked fabulous then and little did I know that I would wait too long to carry out those plans. While so very saddened at what Bryn Mawr and the world have lost, I am comforted to read about the literally thousands of other students, friends, and colleagues whose lives Karen indelibly touched. Rest in peace, Karen, and thank you for your friendship.

  105. Cricket Darby '7 Says:

    Correction: Cricket Darby, class of ’72

  106. Jessica Schwartz '09 Says:

    I can only assume that Dean Tidmarsh played a huge role in the College expediting my acceptance as a transfer student only days before fall semester began. In my first meeting with her after enrolling, she told me “I knew we had to get you out of there. There was no question about it.” (“there” being my prior college). As many others have shared, this was the life-changing event that she helped make happen for me and I’m forever grateful. She had a way of making it seem easy to move mountains and did so with poise, grace, and humor. The world needs more women like Dean Tidmarsh.

  107. Becky Budd Emmons '04/'06 Says:

    I am so sad to hear of Dean Tidmarsh’s death! She was such a wonderful woman. She was never my advisor, but I remember she was always available to talk, always involved in student lives and campus activities, just omnipresent. You couldn’t help but feel better, just being around her. It’s hard to think of Bryn Mawr without Dean Tidmarsh.

  108. Claire Smith Says:

    I’m lucky my last name starts with an S… Thank you, Dean Tidmarsh, for making my time at Bryn Mawr so special. You will be missed.

  109. Ashley Opalka '98 Says:

    Karen was the best of Bryn Mawr, and the best of people. It’s inconceivable for me to think of the college without her, but as with all great Bryn Mawr women, her spirit will be celebrated for generations to come through stories that become part of the fabric of Bryn Mawr’s story. For my part, I’ll continue, every day, to honor her with acts of character, intelligence, and humor.

  110. Michelle Mancini '91 Says:

    I knew Karen both as “Dean Tidmarsh” when I was a student here and as Karen when I came back to work in the dean’s office. Although she was never my dean, she happened to be the on-call dean when I was dealing with the hardest times of my undergraduate career and in desperate need of some counsel. When I dissolved into tears, she tipped the kleenex box my way with a minimum of fuss, and her calm wise words — lost in the mists of time — helped me immeasurably. I got to know her much better when I was a senior participating in a program designed to introduce students to the research and teaching that academic life involves. I was thrilled to learn that the topic of my senior thesis — George Eliot’s Middlemarch — had been central to her dissertation years earlier. Karen was much more stylish than George Eliot and much funnier, but for me she embodied much of the wisdom and understanding that permeate George Eliot’s work.

    In my early years as a dean (with Middlemarch given pride of place on my office bookshelf) , I relied heavily on Karen’s wisdom and experience — and humor — as I first started to try to find my own voice in this new role: a role which gave me the privilege and responsibility of sitting with students as they faced their own hard times. I sometimes got to see and hear Karen meet with students in distress, and those times deeply impressed me and shaped what I aspire to do as a dean here. Her ways of listening, of reframing the question, of holding the student to account while not sitting in judgment upon her: these struck me both as deeply human and humane and somehow emblematic of Bryn Mawr at its best.

  111. Ananthi Paskaralingam Says:

    Dear Dean Tidmarsh, I wish I had paid a visit earlier so that I could have seen you once more. You always made time for me. You were my Dean for three of my four years in College . I could gain access to you when ever I wanted. You gave me advice both on my studies and life. Even after I left college and visited you, in in the late 90s or corresponded, you always greeted me with a smile and twinkle in you eye I will miss you..

  112. Maryellen Nerz-Stormes Says:

    To me, Karen Tidmarsh exemplified what it was to be a student, teacher and administrator at Bryn Mawr. To me, she was Bryn Mawr. I tried as I developed as a teacher to remember and try to emulate her qualities of patience, accessibility, generosity of spirit, kindness, humor, humility and wisdom. Her grace made it look easy. I feel she is a tremendous role model for all and will continue to be so. I know I will think of her often as I continue to work with the students of Bryn Mawr College.

  113. Lynn Litterine Says:

    Most McBrides, myself among them, quickly learned that they had in Dean Tidmarsh an intelligent and empathetic supporter with an open office door. She helped me and others in substantive ways, and I am very sad to hear of her too-early death.

  114. Elizabeth Vann '85 Says:

    I belong to the generation recruited by Karen. She interviewed me when I was an exploring high school senior in 1980. She asked me what I was interested in, and I said, “Linguistics.” She replied, “We don’t have a Linguistics major here.” It had been considered recently, she said, and she told me all about the thinking that had gone into not doing it. She told me all about Nancy Dorian. She said, “If you want to prepare yourself for graduate work in Linguistics, you can absolutely do that here. If what you really want to do is spend the kind of time that a major entails on it, you might be frustrated. What else are you interested in?” I said, “Creative writing.”
    She said, “We don’t do that either here.” Then she stopped herself, smiled ruefully, and said, “At some point I’ll get around to telling you what we do do here.”
    Present yourself with incredible poise and self-confidence, strong enough to admit to limitations with utter frankness. No other admissions officer who interviewed me came anywhere near that. “I was sold” would be an understatement. I was enthralled.

  115. Claudine Johnson Says:

    I am so blessed to have had the opportunity to interact with Dean Tidmarsh on many different occasions. During her time on this earth, she used every bit of her God given talents, a mentor, an inspiration and a supporter of us all. I cannot thank her enough for the support she gave my Posse as we navigated a campus that was unsure of what Posse was and whether Bryn Mawr was the place for us. However, Dean, Tidmarsh saw the potential in each of us and she made sure we knew that we each were Bryn Mawr woman. That was over 10 years ago. Now as a new group of scholars arrive on campus each September, they arrive to a campus that is more welcoming and accepting. A campus that has grown so much during the years. Dean Tidmarsh played a large role in this wonderful transformation. She leaves behind a phenomenal legacy. I know that Dean Tidmarsh is in a better place right now, where she no longer suffers from the ills of this world. A place where she is at great peace. I pray that God will grant us all comfort, as we deal with her loss.

    Claudine Johnson ’05

  116. The Elizabeth Hurlock Beckman Award Trust Says:

    The advisory board members of the Elizabeth Hurlock Beckman Award Trust will always remember Dr. Karen Tidmarsh. She was one of the inaugural members of the Beckman Award Trust. It was through her innovation, creativity and transformational impact that made our mission a reality. Dr. Tidmarsh was a trailblazer and a brilliant thinker who championed the importance of recognizing those who teach, mentor and inspire the community at large. She recognized that when others teach and mentor, they benefit generations ahead to achieve greatness. We honor Dr. Tidmarsh as a teacher, a dean, a mentor, a remarkable leader and most of all, a friend who has compelled many of us around the country to pay it forward. Her legacy continues and she will always be remembered fondly.

  117. Rona Pietrzak Says:

    I was very, very fortunate to work with Karen as a dean and Director of the McBride Scholars Program from 1995 until I retired from the College in 2010. So many have already talked about her wisdom, humor, and style. I remember also — and perhaps most — the ethic of collaboration and team she fostered (insisted on, really). Our process was not speedy, but our group decisions were almost always so superior to what any of us could have come to on our own that the “inefficient” of process clearly was more than worthwhile.

    Karen exemplified what I think of as the essence of Bryn Mawr College. She integrated incredible personal warmth and caring with unstinting intellectual rigor and a sharp moral compass. She related genuinely and warmly with everyone — whether my then-youngster daughter, a sophisticated affluent alum, an eager-for-a-new-chance McBride, a troubled parent, any member of the staff, or a faculty colleague.

    I am so proud my 15 years in the Deans Office working with this wonderful woman, I cannot imagine Bryn Mawr without her.

  118. Jen Morse '93 Says:

    I just came from Reunion and the tree dedication. I’ve been thinking of posting a reflection since I learned and a friend at Reunion echoed my sentiment and encouraged me to post.
    I sing the Flirtations “Everything Possible” lullaby to my daughter (potential class of 2033) and the last line of the refrain captures how I think of Dean Tidmarsh and the theme that comes through these posts:

    But the only measure of your words and your deeds
    Will be the love you leave behind when you’re gone.

    I am sad that my daughter did not get to meet Dean Tidmarsh at Reunion but I will think of her often when I sing that lullaby.

  119. Ida Orenstein Novack Says:

    Dean Tidmarsh was my freshman dean and I can still remember the countless hours I spent crying in her office. From my feelings of homesickness, inadequacy and existenal angst she was always there with wise, supportive and funny words of comfort. She was a major influence on me and I still talk about our conversations with old friends. She was so special. I will never forget about six years ago taking my family to visit Bryn Mawr and walking into the Dean’s office. I walked right into the front office and asked if she was in, the administrator said “sure”, I knocked and before I had my toe in the door she said , with a huge smile on her face, “Hi Ida” that was 18 years after I graduated . My daughter still can’t get over it. She will be deeply missed. She enriched all those she touched. I can’t imagine Bryn Mawr without her.

  120. Sarah Schenck '87 Says:

    Help others, take life’s slings and arrows lightly since ‘it’s not personal,’ thrill to color, accept kindness and friendship whenever offered. Thank you, Karen, for these crucial life lessons. And thanks to Bryn Mawr (the institution, administration, and student body) of which she was a consummate exemplar.

  121. Kathleen Kelliher '15 Says:

    Karen Tidmarsh was my academic advisor my freshman and (most of my) sophomore years at Bryn Mawr. Even when I was affected by non-academic issues, she was always there for me and always knew exactly what to say to get me refocused and make sure I didn’t drown in the many stresses that come along with Bryn Mawr life. I still log into BiONiC and see her listed as my advisor–seeing her name there now, in the beginning of junior year, is what brought me once again to this page. I just want those who loved and were affected by Karen to know that she still had an impact on students here at Bryn Mawr when she was no longer a Dean, right up until she passed away. I can say with confidence that Karen Tidmarsh is the reason I am still at Bryn Mawr, and I could never thank her enough for it. She was an amazing woman and will continue to be missed dearly.

  122. Andrea Madarassy '87 Says:

    I asked her one day what Bryn Mawr expected of me? “Are you learning?” she asked. – Yes. – I answered. “Are you enjoying what you are learning?” – Yes. “Well, that is what Bryn Mawr is expecting from you.” – she said. She was one of the greatest role models I had at Bryn Mawr. Responsive, inspirational, professional, kind and supportive. What a loss! What a gift we had in her! She will live as long as we remember her and our children remember our stories of her! Thank you Bryn Mawr!

  123. Sural Shah '03 Says:

    As another “S” student, I was also lucky to have Dean Tidmarsh as my dean and advisor. She mentored me through one of the most challenging and exhilarating parts of college: figuring out what to do after! I applied to med school unsure about my choice, and also to a handful of international fellowships. Dean Tidmarsh helped guide me through the process (with Michelle Mancini). I was doubting my decision to attend m school and was beyond ecstatic one day to find her waiting impatiently and excitedly outside of my French classroom, eyes twinkling as she gave me the news that I had won my fellowship. It was one of the most memorable moments of my life and I have always been awed that she took the time to deliver the news in person. I eventually did go to medical school (much more certain about the decision!) and later encountered Dean Tidmarsh through my work. I hope she and those who loved her are able to find some solace in the admiration and joy so many of us shared for her. Anassa Kata, Karen Tidmarsh.

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