Light & Verity

Elga Wasserman's life and times

The university unveils a portrait of an architect of coeducation.

Brenda Zlamany

Brenda Zlamany

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When Yale wanted a portrait of Elga Wasserman ’76JD (1924–2014)—the administrator who oversaw the introduction of women to Yale College—the university turned to Brenda Zlamany, a portraitist who had previously produced both a group portrait of Yale’s first seven women PhDs and a commission for Davenport College. But Wasserman’s portrait had a personal resonance for Zlamany. As a homeless high school student in New Haven in the 1970s, she had taken courses at Yale through the College Before College program and had been in the classroom in those early days of coeducation. “I knew the time and I knew the energy,” she says.

Zlamany chose a color palette that was true to the era and included a stack of important feminist texts that were in Wasserman’s library. Alums of a certain age will remember the booklet she is holding—Sex and the Yale Student—which was distributed to Yale undergrads for more than 25 years, beginning in 1970. “I wanted to have enough curious things in the painting that people would want to know who she was,” says Zlamany. The portrait hangs in Bass Library.

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