Students looking up at the camera and holding up signs that spell out, thanks!
Donor Impact Stories

Object Lessons

Science, art and philanthropy on display in Richardson Hall teach lessons of collaboration and generosity

Posted in: Montclair State University Donors

Barbara Stephens-Rich

Just as there’s more than what meets the eye in the photographed objects that line the walls of Richardson Hall, the collection carries layers of significance.

In a beautiful display of collaboration, the new Richardson Hall Portrait Gallery captures the story of a group of professors’ ingenuity and a daughter’s generosity to honor her parents’ Montclair legacy.

Established in memory of Dow H. ’43 and Elizabeth Brann Rich ’43 to commemorate their years as science majors at Montclair State University, the portrait gallery is made possible with the generous support of their daughter, Rev. Barbara E. Stephens-Rich.

“This place, and this institution were very dear to my parents’ hearts,” says Stephens-Rich. “This was where they met and fell in love. This is where my dad came into his own in academic success and leadership….where Montclair opened doors for him, like being the physics lab assistant… that allowed him to see himself in a new light, and find new achievement.”

From abandoned objects to intrigue

It started when Ashwin Vaidya, chairperson of Mathematics, began a collaboration with Klaus Schnitzer, then Photography Chair and now emeritus professor, to photograph fluid flows in Vaidya’s lab. Around that time, Marc Favata, chairperson of Physics and Astronomy, and other colleagues were clearing out a nearby storage room containing the physics program’s equipment – young and old. A number of scientific instruments, now obsolete, caught the eye of Schnitzer, who realized the relics’ artistic value.

Schnitzer is drawn to the “quiet beauty of abandoned objects,” and in his artifact series, Science, presents the scientific relics as mysterious monuments, out of context and disembodied against a black backdrop. His treatment produces a sense of scale that is in outsize proportion to the size of the original objects.

“This is a great example of collaboration and our belief in promoting STEAM, looking at the world around us to see its beauty and to learn from it,” says College of Science and Mathematics Dean Lora Billings.

In acknowledging Stephens-Rich, Favata shared: “When we moved into this renovated space, like a new apartment, you want to make it feel like home and put pictures on the walls…the gallery connects with our past and connects with your past, and we thank you for making it happen.”

“Having the gallery feature images of physics lab equipment that my parents both would have worked with in their years at Montclair, and having it part of this new physics and astronomy building, both fields that my father loved, is very special,” says Stephens-Rich.

A living legacy

The heart of Stephens-Rich’s generosity to the University lies in the endowed scholarship she established in their names, the Dow and Elizabeth Brann Rich Scholarship in the College of Science and Mathematics, which recognizes academic merit and is awarded to students enrolled in a major in physics, biology, molecular biology, chemistry, biochemistry or earth and environmental science.

“I endowed the science scholarship so that their legacy would live on in helping new generations of students at the institution that they so loved,” says Stephens-Rich.

Barbara Stephens-Rich and Ethel Guelfguat

Junior Ethel Guelfguat, a biology major and one of this year’s scholarship recipients, was on hand to meet Stephens-Rich, whose generosity is helping pave her academic journey.

“I feel very fortunate to be the recipient of the Dow and Elizabeth Brann Rich Scholarship. This scholarship has not only helped me financially, but made me realize how much I have achieved in the past months,” says Guelfguat.

Through the endowed scholarship and now through the portrait gallery, the memory of Dow and Elizabeth Brann Rich endures, in a display of generosity and gratitude that has ever-larger impact.