Our programs are funded by a generous donation from Robert Lemle (’75) and Roni Kohen-Lemle (’76) on behalf of their family. The gift honors Robert’s mother, Gertrude B. Lemle—a woman whose story reveals tremendous courage and a lifelong commitment to the arts and education.
Orphaned at a young age, Gertrude immigrated from Vienna to the United States in 1936. Her brothers who stayed behind were killed in the Holocaust. Virtually alone in this country, she mastered English and put herself through high school and as many years at City College as she could afford. In 1967, when her two children were teenagers, she went back to college, attending Columbia University School of General Studies. Her course of study revealed her wide-ranging interests, as well as her enduring passions: the arts, economics, writing, history, and music.
Cultured, elegant, a lover of art and music, fond of the European Tour, and self-made, she combined “old world” graces and “new world” grit.
Her commitment to education extended beyond herself and her family circle. She taught English to Russian immigrants through Central Synagogue. In her 80s while volunteering at the Jewish Museum, she observed the number of foreign visitors. Determined to assist them in overcoming language barriers, she prevailed upon the museum, despite some resistance, to offer translations of the brochures. The foreign translations are now available on their website in her memory, a living legacy of her work to ensure the historical archive is widely available to the public.
We are profoundly grateful to the Lemle family for extending Gertrude B. Lemle’s legacy to Oberlin’s teaching center. She embodies the virtues and ambitions central to the educational mission of this institution: to cultivate a lifelong love of learning; to encourage the pursuit of excellence with both rigor and compassion; to draw from history to deepen the understanding of the present and enrich the ethical imagination for the future; to find inspiration and creative expression in the arts; and to address social and economic inequality by expanding access to liberal education.