Dear Members of the MCNY Community,
I recently learned that former MCNY President Alida Mesrop passed away. Alida Mesrop was one of the “founding sisters” with Audrey Cohen of what became MCNY, and she served in many key roles as the college developed. She was appointed Dean of the College for Human Services in 1979 when the college received approval from New York State to offer a Bachelor’s degree in Human Services, and her work was critical to the growth and development of the college in its early years. Following President Audrey Cohen’s death in 1996, Alida Mesrop served as President of what was then Audrey Cohen College until 1999, overseeing an important period of consolidation and stability.
I had the honor of meeting Alida several times prior to the pandemic, and I was inspired by her deep knowledge, and deeper commitment, to MCNY and its mission.
Below are the details of the service celebrating Alida Mesop’s life:
Saturday, November 26th at 1:00 PM
at Church of The Ascension
36-38 5th Avenue (5th avenue and 10th Street), New York, NY 10011
Please join me in sending our heartfelt condolences to the Mesrop Family.
President, Metropolitan College of New York
The MCNY Community Remembers Alida Mesrop
How Alida Mesrop’s Career at MCNY began…
From the book written by professor emeritus and current MCNY Trustee, Dr. Grace “Jinx” Roosevelt, Creating a College That Works: Audrey Cohen and Metropolitan College of New York (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2015), p. 5:
Metropolitan College of New York is perhaps the only institution of higher learning that can trace its origins to a fortuitous encounter between two young mothers. On a warm day in September 1960, Audrey Cohen and Alida Mesrop met on a gritty sidewalk near a large fountain in Stuyvesant Town, a vast, private housing complex on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. As they watched the toddlers splash in the water from the fountain, the women talked animatedly about their children, their own backgrounds, and their prospects for staying active in the workforce while raising a family. The taller of the two women, Alida Mesrop, had recently worked as the Public Relations and Publicity Director at WPIX-TV, a local news, weather, and entertainment channel, but she had had to quit her job when her first daughter was born earlier that year. On a tip from a friend, she had arranged to meet the other woman, Audrey Cohen, to talk about part-time work. They had decided to meet at the fountain since both of them lived in apartments nearby.
At age 29, Cohen was already the co-founder and director of Part-Time Research Associates, a consulting firm employing college-educated women on a flexible schedule to do social science research for government and business. Petite and energetic, with curly blonde hair and blue eyes, Cohen was on the lookout for women with writing skills, which Mesrop clearly had. In addition, Mesrop had had leadership experience with the media, experience that was, as Cohen put it, “unusual” at the time. The two hit it off, and they began a friendship and collaboration that would last for over three decades. Little did they know that Mesrop would one day replace Cohen as president of the college that grew out of the conversation the two women had on that day.
As a result of her meeting with Cohen, Mesrop was hired by Part Time Research Associates to take on two writing assignments during the next few months. But by the end of the year she was pregnant again, and she was pregnant again the next year. (“With three children in four years I was drowning in diapers,” Mesrop later quipped.) It wasn’t until 1964 that she re-surfaced and put in a call to Cohen to say that she was back in the world and ready to work. Cohen’s voice on the other end of the phone had a new energy. “I definitely will call you,” she said. “I’ve got this idea I want to work on, and I’m going to need some help.”
In a letter to donors shortly after the passing of Audrey Cohen in 1996, Alida Mesrop shared her feelings and dedication to our Founder’s legacy…
“Audrey’s vision continues. The system of education that Audrey developed and the institution that she built rests on strong foundations and continues to flourish. As a result of her life’s work and the support we receive from friends such as you, we can expand our role in education and public policy. This is our tribute to Audrey’s vision and leadership.”
From Wendy Cohen, MCNY Trustee and daughter of MCNY founder Audrey Cohen.
“I remember Alida well and thought so highly of her. My mother relied on her heavily and said she was the best administrator she had ever known. She got things done. Alida was one of the women who supported and enhanced my mother’s vision from the beginning (along with Barbara Walton, Jan Jordan, Sylvia Hack, Laura Pieres-Hester, and Millie Leet to name a few). Audrey knew that surrounding herself with strong women was a sign of strength (and the road to accomplishing her goals) and she believed completely in supporting and empowering her team. Alison Mesrop (Alida’s daughter) and I would play together, along with my sister Dawn, while our mothers set out to change education for the better and help individuals achieve their dreams.”
From Thomas L. Webber, Founding Faculty and MCNY Trustee. “I remember Alida Mesrop as a beautiful, warm, thoughtful, and humorous woman with a contagious smile and a kind word for everyone. Whenever she entered a room, the whole room brightened. In the early days of the College, she was Audrey’s creative, faithful, and hardworking right arm with always a warm word of encouragement for young faculty members like myself. I particularly remember a dinner party at her home in Pelham where she went out of her way to make me and my wife feel more than welcome. There is no doubt in my mind that it was because of Alida (and other women like Barbara Walton, Deborah Allen, Sylvia Hack, Jan Jordan and many others) that Audrey was able to create the remarkable college that she did. The College owes Alida a great debt of gratitude. I will remember her with a smile.”
From Frances Walton, MCNY Trustee and daughter of Barbara Walton; educator, writer and philosopher, who worked side-by-side with Audrey Cohen to create many of the founding documents and much of the philosophy of Metropolitan College.
“Alida played an important role in the college’s foundation and development over the years. She helped to build the college’s original foundation. I have been working with a small founding team at Plum Alley now for 7 years and I appreciate what it takes to build an institution. As they say, it takes a village and Alida was a key part of that village. She, along with others like Sylvia Hack and my mother, built the foundation of the college and it would not exist today if not for their collective and dedicated efforts. There is little question about the value of what each of these women built together. I remember Alida fondly, as I grew up with her and Alden (Alida’s husband) as part of my life, and will mourn her passing.”