Lois Beurman Torf '46 is complaining. "My trouble is paper I have too much of it. There's a stack on my desk,about ten years' worth. I don't know what to do about it. My daughter is coming to stay for a couple of weeks, maybe when she's here, we'll...throw it all out."
The irony here is that Lois Torf has spent much of her life acquiring paper. She possesses one of the finest collections of original prints in the country, including works of Picasso, Braque, Nolde, Lichtenstein, Richard Serra, Jennifer Bartlett. Since 1978, she's ameliorated her paper problem by giving forty-one of these fabulous prints to UMass; they will be the subject of a University Gallery exhibition this fall.
She started with tea cups: "They were awful. Why did I collect them? I don't even drink tea!" she exclaims, her coffee-brown eyes sparkling. "I guess because my mother collected them, but I got over that quickly." Her first art purchase was a modest one a reproduction of Cezanne's Still Life with Apples. "I needed something for my dining room wall."
In 1961, Torf accompanied her late husband, Michael, on a business trip to Japan. When she went looking for antique woodblock prints, she discovered that contemporary works were much more to her liking, and bought her first art print for a hundred yen, or $22.22.
Back home, Torf got on gallery mailing lists, began attending auctions, and started acquiring German Expressionist work. Although she acknowledges that, "auctions can be very dangerous for certain people," she kept to her budget, often leaving bids at previews so that she would be home when her children returned from school.
In the '60s, outbid on a coveted Munch at a European auction, Torf found consolation closer to home, in work coming out of Tatyana Grosman's printmaking studio on Long Island. She started buying Hockney, Dine, Rauschenberg, Johns.
In 1970, the Torfs built their modernist home in Weston, Massachusetts. Architects designed it, but it is Lois top to bottom. Built on a rolling slope, the multilevel house of curved walls and polished concrete floors is dramatic, dynamic, and comfortable. From the intimate entry hall with a wall of prints including a Jasper Johns work featuring a coat hanger one can either descend to a two-story high living room or turn into the dining room, with its expansive glass-and-chrome table and wall of glass overlooking a private garden. Light funnels through tubular skylights. Much of the sleek furniture is built-in. A Giacometti lithograph hangs opposite a row of purple African violets; a small, white Sol LeWitt sculpture sits on a black grand piano. If these rooms seem all pleasure, Torf's office is all business, from the print-storage cabinets to the computer, from the long, wide counter down to the serious pair of shears hanging from a hook on the wall.
An informed collector with a discerning eye, Torf has done what many art investors try to do: build a collection now worth many times the original investment. But passion, not the profit motive, is what motivated Torf. While she has sometimes bought work to "fill in gaps" in her collection, she asks, "I should buy something I don't like?" as if that were the craziest thing she'd ever heard. "The image has to grab me emotionally. If I couldn't sleep that night thinking about a print, the next day I'd buy it. If it disturbed me enough, I had to have it."
Torf no longer collects much. "I don't want to burden myself with one more thing," she says. Hence the complaint about paper. Torf is in a de-acquisitioning mode these days, but her generosity to the university is heartfelt. Of Mass. State College as it was back then, Torf says, "I loved that school. I was the first granddaughter in my family to graduate from college. If it hadn't been for the college, I never would have become the person I became.I always liked to read, but I was never a scholar. I'm still not, but I have a great appreciation for what my education did for me."
Not a scholar perhaps, but knowledgable on a subject mystifying to many, Torf educated herself about contemporary art through studying, looking, talking to dealers, fellow collectors, the artists themselves. Collecting art, she collected stories, which she loves to recount, like the one about the time she prevailed upon good friend Sol LeWitt to decorate a chair for a benefit auction and ended up buying it herself. Midway through one anecdote she says "that's another story every story leads to a story."
This middle-class girl from Dorchester has come a long way from tea cups.
- Faye S. Wolfe
When Marian Heard '76 was about to leave her United Way post in Bridgeport, Connecticut, to become CEO for the New England region in Boston, her farewell party was interrupted by a terrible crashing and banging. The hotel kitchen doors burst open, trays of dishes toppled, and an enormous bass drum thrust into the room, wielded by a no less enormous pink bunny. When order had been restored, the master of ceremonies intoned, "Like the bunny, Marian Heard just keeps on going and going and going ...."
Her enviable energy aside, Marian Heard is in many ways decidedly unlike the bunny. For one, no one in his or her right mind would want to throttle her; the woman exudes sincerity and charm. Secondly, she's not one for just marching along, looking neither right nor left, beating her drum. She makes a point of bringing everyone along with her.
Along the way Heard has garnered many honors, among them the Buckley Orator Award, the New England Council Award to Women in Business, the Woman of the Year Award from the National Negro Business and Professional Club. Most recently she was asked to help organize the Summit on America's Future, which, she says, "was called to get the whole country on the same page, to communicate a sense of urgency." At the center of the Summit's agenda was a concern for children that mirrors Heard's own passionate focus.
"In this country there are fifteen million children at risk," Heard declares, "fifteen million." She lets the statistic settle in before continuing. "This is not a Third World country. We need to do something to turn these children into caring and productive adults, for the simple reason that it is the right thing to do. But if we need a more selfish reason, we can also see that saving young people from disaster makes solid economic sense. When these children fail, we all pay the price. When they succeed, everyone succeeds."
Herself the mother of two sons and a long-time mentor to a young woman now in college, Heard says good parents "are the most heroic people in the world." Professionally, she's been a hero on behalf of children for years. Early in her career as director of Head Start programs in the Bridgeport area, she made home visits, de-signed field trips, and encouraged a love of books: "Children who read well do better in everything else."
In her current role, she's always on the lookout for new ideas. It's part of her administrative style to create "space for think-time," as she calls it. "Each issue we face requires creativity. New problems do not always respond to old solutions. We want to learn about new models and take advantage of them." Heard has a folder for new ideas to which, to the consternation of her staff, she is constantly adding. "I've promised them I won't be dipping into that file for a few weeks," she says with a laugh.
Building consensus is another priority. The key, Heard says, is to listen. "I tell people without embarrassment that I am the best listener in America." She also believes one must "give credit where it is due, and share ideas and successes. When you borrow ideas from others, make sure they get credit in public. This is not about turf. It's about making positive change."
Heard says it was during her UMass days that she was "confirmed in my thought that women could do anything." Women professors in the business administration program "early on were talking about balancing work and family and you know when my kids were small, I didn't work at the pace I do now." That pace is pretty brisk, but Heard only seems energized by the demands of her work.
"If anyone asks how I am doing, you tell them I said 'Fabulous!' It's exciting here and I love this job, I love life, and I'm ready to go charging on. The problems I see and read about are absolutely heart-wrench-ing, no question about it, but in my own life, I must confess I have nothing to complain about."
- Robert Abel
On paper, Erin Jackson '96 looks almost too good to be true. Jackson graduated summa cum laude with two majors, political science and women's studies, and two minors, history and psychology. In her free time she served as an SGA senator, founded the UMass women's rugby team, and worked. The fall of her senior year she interned in the office of the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. She has a list of awards as long as your arm. The most recent is a prestigious fellowship to attend law school. Harvard Law, of course.
In person, too, Jackson has the glow of a winner. She's pretty, vivacious, well-spoken, self-assured. Some of her poise probably comes from having to adjust to new social situations often during her childhood. The daughter of a career Army officer, Jackson and her family moved many times, from Texas, where she was born, to Minnesota, Illinois, Massachusetts, Washington, D.C., New Hampshire...
Continuity came in part from involvement in sports: "Every Saturday, my mother took us all to soccer." There were also lessons in tennis, golf, ballet, tap dancing, horseback riding. By the time Jackson got to UMass she was an old hand at juggling responsibilities. She downplays her success in keeping on top of everything in college, but acknowledges that she is a person who makes lots of lists.
Since graduation, Erin Jackson has been a paralegal for a Boston law firm. What she finds most fascinating about law is how it "interacts with society," but at this point, she has no set ideas about what branch of the law she might choose; she hopes that she will have a "multifaceted career." In fact, her obvious enthusiasm about going on to law school notwithstanding, she imagines that she may have several careers in her lifetime. "I like animals a lot who knows? I may try to become a veterinarian some day."
In the more immediate future, Jackson hopes to get back to another of her passions: rugby. Between her fulltime job at Thornton, Early & Naumes, and what she characterizes as a second fulltime job of applying to law school, she's been too busy this past year to play.
"I miss it," she says wistfully. Then, "I love it," she adds, a real glint coming into her eyes. "I love the physical aggressiveness of it, the running and tackling it's exhilarating. I like winning."
Until she organized the UMass team, Jackson had never played rugby before. The team made it to the middle of Division I in its first year, and was one of the team's most valuable players both years she played. Robert L. "Doc" Laurence, a chemical engineering professor who coached the team, called them the "mighty midgets;" when you see Jackson's delicate features and small-boned frame you guess why. But size doesn't matter, says Jackson.
"We made up in heart what we lacked in size," she says. "If you want to win, you have to have your head in the game, all your teammates have to be working together; and then it's technique, using a kick at the right time."
Yes, sometimes she and her teammates would groan when they came on to the field and saw an opposing team of big, tall players. "But, you know," she says, with a smile that in no way belies the grit beneath Erin Jackson's polish: "when you take down your first six-two'er, you feel pretty good." - Faye S. Wolfe