Four Generations Tied to Sarah Lawrence: Ziesing Family Supports Unique Pedagogy
Faith Wing Bieler, Whitney Wing Oppersdorff ’60 and Lucinda Ziesing ’73
For an institution just 80 years old, having four generations of a single family involved in its history and growth is no small feat. For the family of Faith Whitney Ziesing ’32, the roots of their engagement with Sarah Lawrence run deep.
In honor of this lasting relationship with the College, Ziesing’s daughters—Whitney Wing Oppersdorff ’60, Lucinda Ziesing ’73, and Faith Wing Bieler—recently pledged additional gifts to the fund that bears her name. Created in 1988 by friends and family members, the Faith Whitney Ziesing Fund is a tribute to her memory and her dedication to the College.
Family ties to Sarah Lawrence date back to the 1930s, when Ziesing’s mother, Florence Canfield Whitney, served on the Sarah Lawrence Board of Trustees and provided funding for the Caspar Whitney Gym in Bates—a gift in honor of her husband, an explorer who valued physical fitness. In subsequent years, the Ziesing family also supported the Whitney Fitness Center and later donated additional funds to support the facility in its new home at the Campbell Sports Center. This multigenerational commitment to health and fitness reflects the Ziesings’ commitment to balance of mind, body, and spirit.
In addition to 15 years of service to the College as trustee, Faith Whitney Ziesing also held the distinction of having been named the first alumnae appointed to the faculty. She taught the Social Aspects of Economics. While she was teaching at the College, a third generation became involved with Sarah Lawrence when her two young daughters, Oppersdorff and Bieler, attended the SLC nursery school in the early 1940s.
Oppersdorff, an artist, later enrolled in the College, where she studied painting with Kurt Roesch. “I believe so strongly in the Sarah Lawrence way of learning,” Oppersdorff says of the College’s approach to integrated theory and practice. This experience inspired her to teach for 22 years at the Riley School, a progressive pre-kindergarten through 9th grade school in Glen Cove, Maine.
Though she did not study at Sarah Lawrence, Bieler spent five years teaching at the College’s Early Childhood Center in the 1990s, the philosophy of which she strongly supports. Put simply, she emphasizes, “They were very good years.”
Lucinda Ziesing studied psychology and theatre at Sarah Lawrence as an undergraduate. After two years, she decided to take a break and venture out to Colorado, where she co-founded the Celestial Seasonings tea company. When she returned to Sarah Lawrence in 1972, she continued studying theatre with Shirley Kaplan and June Ekman. “The faculty and students I met in theatre have become lifelong colleagues, mentors, and friends,” says Ziesing. “They’re like family.”
These relationships expanded when she became the second Ziesing appointed to the faculty and taught acting in the theatre program for three years. She also worked closely with Kaplan in founding the Painter’s Theatre company-in-residence. Ziesing extended her involvement with the College through this artistic endeavor and collaborated professionally with Kaplan as well, producing and performing in “Neon—A Vaudeville of Obsessions,” which Kaplan wrote.
The fact that each of Faith Whitney Ziesing’s daughters experienced the richness of the Sarah Lawrence pedagogy in her own way—and remain connected accordingly—is a testament to the profound impact the College’s individualized education and nurturing environment ultimately can have on the larger world.
“I value the way Sarah Lawrence encourages students to combine intellectual fierceness with an open-mind and open-heart”
Oppersdorff vividly recalls her mother talking about the strength of the Sarah Lawrence administration during the McCarthy era, and how the College was steadfast in its support of the faculty. “Sarah Lawrence has been alive in me ever since I was young,” she says. “It was my only choice.”
Now an actress, producer, and screenwriter, Ziesing too acknowledges that “Sarah Lawrence flows through all our veins.” In fact, her 15 year-old son, Alex, recently participated in the intensive summer Writer’s Workshop for High School Students. At the end of the week, he was visibly inspired by his own experiences on campus—and Ziesing was touched to see a fourth generation continue her family’s involvement with the College.
“I value the way Sarah Lawrence encourages students to combine intellectual fierceness with an open-mind and open-heart,” she explains. “That kind of curiosity and expansiveness is a jewel.”