The mark that administrators leave on an institution, even those who serve for decades, is often elusive. A well-timed kind word, a suggestion taken or made, a process streamlined and improved. Diana Feingold—who was the assistant to the director (Muriel Topaz [BFA ’54, dance] at that time) from 1987 to 1992 and Dance Division administrator from 1992 until her retirement in 2008— died on October 20 at her New York City home. She left her mark on Juilliard in ways too numerous to count.
Diana’s even demeanor and good sense of humor served her well through countless academic policy changes, three artistic directors, two major building renovations and hundreds of students with problems large and small. She was elegant with a dancer’s poise, her stylish blouses, and chic short-cropped hair. She’d seen everything and everyone in dance from Anna Sokolow (faculty 1957-93) to Stanley Love. She was unflinchingly honest, and when she couldn’t give a good review, she would shrug her shoulders and give a “meh” or a chuckle. If she said she liked your dancing or your choreography, she meant it and it was an honor. She was frequently in the audience for New York City Ballet performances and had a framed snapshot of Darci Kistler in her office. (There was some speculation among the students about that photo—was Diana her mother? Her coach? Her friend? Those who asked learned she was a fan.) Diana had beautiful handwriting that made the note on the board for you to see the director seem less ominous.
Students for whom she advocated for more financial aid have long since graduated, carefully written memos long since recycled, contracts with countless choreographers and visiting arts shredded, program notes archived. But the sum of her actions created the atmosphere of a place that feeling lives on in the memory and lives of those who experienced it.
If you look closely, though, Diana has left another, more tangible mark. Find one of the teak framed black cushioned chairs that used to be ubiquitous on the third floor. On the right arm, in the center of the joint, you may find a small pencil tip groove. It’s the evidence of an absentminded habit—the sharpened pencil in her hand twisting into the wood while she managed two decades of meetings, listened to tearful confessions, sat through hours of comp showings and auditions, and thought through the next project. Tangible evidence of an administrator’s life well lived.