To honor Barbra Barth Feldman, a Lawrence Woodmere Academy graduate who went on to direct the school’s summer camp and serve as head of school, a scholarship fund was established in her name to support renovations to Hessel Hall. Roughly $100,000 had been raised for the fund as of press time.
The hall, where school performances take place, will be renamed the Barbra Barth Feldman Performing Arts Center, to honor the lifelong Five Towner and Hewlett Neck resident who died of cancer on Aug. 8, at age 54.
Feldman, who graduated from the school in 1982, had been the summer camp director since 2010, and was named head of school last January, a position that she held until her death.
LWA Trustee Ella Schwartz, who knew Feldman for a dozen years, developed the idea for the scholarship after she died. “Barbra was a staple at LWA,” Schwartz said. “She was a dear friend of mine, and I wanted to honor her in a meaningful way.” The fund was created in September.
Renovations to the hall are expected to include the music classrooms for the upper, middle and lower school. There will be new dance and yoga studios, a performance rehearsal space, upgraded private lesson rooms for music and theater students, and a refinished interior and exterior. The school will also looking to update its arts curriculum, but did not elaborate on those plans.
Schwartz said that she and Feldman often discussed ways to improve the theater. “Barbra always had a passion for performing arts,” Schwartz said. “She and I would brainstorm ways to improve the performing arts curriculum and make it the premier program on Long Island. We think these renovations will be a step in the right direction.”
LWA board member Tom Cesare was also involved in launching the fund. “Even when Barbra wasn’t the headmaster, she was always at the school,” said Cesare, a board member for three years. “In her short time as headmaster, she fully embraced the position. We feel this is a great way to honor her, while at the same time helping the school.” Cesare added that Hessel Hall was built roughly 100 years ago.
The school is honoring Feldman not only with the scholarship fund. Students from the Helping Hands Club, which leads community service projects in and out of school, have named an outdoor area that will be turned into a classroom after her. Lilli Albucker, an LWA senior and a Helping Hands Club member, explained in the Herald’s Nov. 21-27 “LWA Antics” student column why honoring Feldman was important. “Feldman was a driving force and bettered the Lawrence Woodmere Academy community with every breath she took,” Albucker wrote. “She touched the lives of all of us, and we want to keep her legacy alive.”
Schwartz said she was pleased with the support for the scholarship fund thus far. “I’m extremely grateful for everybody’s contributions,” she said. “There are people who haven’t attended LWA for years that have donated. It just shows the impact Barbra had on the school.”
Cesare said that he was only briefly surprised by the amount of money that has been raised. “When I was first told of the number at the start of this year, I was a little shocked,” he said. “But then I realized that a lot of people in our community knew Barbra. I’m expecting the number to keep increasing, and I’m planning to meet with some performing arts foundations to interest them in donating.”
According to Schwartz, the plan is to fund an annual scholarship, with money going to different projects at LWA. This school year’s funding will go exclusively to Hessel Hall renovations.
Feldman’s son, Andrew, 17, a senior at LWA, was the star of the Broadway show “Dear Evan Hansen” for roughly a year, and is set to enroll at Harvard University in the fall. (His mother received a law degree from Harvard in 1989.) There is a tentative plan for Andrew to host a benefit concert at the school, on a date still to be determined. All the funds generated by the show would go toward the scholarship.
Donations to the fund can be made online at www.lawrencewoodmere.org/barbra/. Checks can also be mailed to Lawrence Woodmere Academy, 336 Woodmere Blvd., Woodmere, N.Y. 11598.