Vera List


Vera Glaser List, daughter of a Latvian house painter, was one of the New School’s most generous, devoted, and faithful patrons. She was born in 1908 in Fall River, Massachusetts. The arts dominated her life, even though no one around her was very interested in or collected art. [1] Coming from a not very well-off family, she couldn’t afford to study art, so instead she enrolled in Simmons College in Boston. She dropped out, though, when she married Albert A. List, the successful real estate, retail, and textile industrialist. Her art patronage started with ordering prints from the Associated American Artists and regularly traveling to New York to visit galleries and the Museum of Modern Art.

Soon after she and her husband moved to New York in 1945, she started taking courses at the New School for Social Research; by 1950, they were both members of the New School Associates, a group of wealthy friends of the school who initiated programs, exhibitions, and raised funds. Vera List took sculpting classes first under Chaim Gross, and later also under Seymour Lipton, who recounted that her art patronage at the New School probably started in his class, when she offered to cover the casting of a clay sculpture of a fellow student. [2] In an interview, List also recounted becoming a close friend with Dean Clara Mayer, who convinced her to establish an art center at the school in 1960. She was attracted to the New School because it “was involved in theater arts, in dance, music, and the textbook, [in the idea] that art was a medium of learning…and that the visual arts were as important as the textbook and the lecture.” [3] She saw the Art Center, with its curated exhibits around certain topics and ideas, as a place of education too. Her idea of putting up art works on walls in hallways, in classrooms, and offices throughout the whole campus, instead of in a conventional campus gallery, was only an expansion of this idea of all art as learning.

Around the time the Lists sponsored the foundation of the Art Center, they also initiated a multi-year art purchasing program. Art works purchased through this program became the core of the New School Art Collection, under the direction of Paul Mocsanyi, director of the Art Center. Vera List regularly bought and donated works to the New School Art Collection. This accelerated after her husband’s death, when she sold much of her own collection to have more money to give away. [4] Kathy Goncharov, the second curator of the Art Collection, recounted the many gallery trips List took her on to buy and donate works to the school. [5]

Another long-lasting contribution to the art world was List’s help in founding the New Museum. List offered Marcia Tucker office space and exhibition space in the Fifth Avenue Building of the New School in 1977, for a couple of years, before it moved to SoHo. In the first year the school supported the new organization financially too. [6]

In 1987, the former Human Relations Center that focused on non-degree courses for returning students, mainly women, was renamed in honor of Vera List. In 1988, Sondra Farganis took over the center and became a friend and mentor to List, inspiring her to give more financial support for a “Sustaining Democracy” program that initiated the change of the center from one focused on women’s education to art and politics. The Vera List Center for Art and Politics continues to this day. [7]

List established and sponsored lecture series, such as the Barbara Jordan Lectures, student scholarships, such as the Katarzyna Kalwinska Fellowship for Polish students, and educational programs. She was a member of the Board of Trustees from 1956, and was named life trustee in 1985. She chaired the University Art Collection Committee, and initiated a student art-lending program in 1987 to host artworks in student residences; she also provided that program with prints. The Lists also donated money to build the 11th street building in 1959, now the location of Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts. [8] They also helped purchase and renovate the building at 65 Fifth Avenue in 1967, the home of the Graduate Faculty, which was later demolished to be replaced by the University Center. [9] Both buildings carried Albert A. List’s name for many years. Today the Albert and Vera List Academic Center is at 6 East 16th Street. The New School was just one of the many beneficiaries of Vera and Albert List’s philanthropic commitment–but it was arguably the one shaped most fundamentally by their generosity.
Vera List died in 2002, at the age of 94, in Greenwich, Connecticut.

For more in the New School Archives on Vera List, see here.


[1] Oral history interview with Vera G. List, Jan 9, 1973. Archive of American Art. Accessed October, 2017.…

[2] Rutkoff, Peter M., and William B. Scott. New School: a history of the New School for Social Research. New York: Free Press, 1986. p. 235

[3] Oral history interview with Vera G. List, Jan 9, 1973.

[4] Smith, Roberta. “Vera G. List, 94 Is Dead; Philanthropist and Collector.” New York Times, October 23, 2002. Accessed December 18, 2017.…

[5] Correspondence, various dates, New School Art Collection records, NS.03.05.03, box 1, folder 1-3, New School Archives and Special Collections, The New School, New York, New York.

[6] The Memorandum of Understanding from 1977 states that The New School allocated $12,500 toward the first year’s operating budget of The New Museum. Memorandum of Understanding between The New Museum and New School for Social Research, undated, Albert Landa records, NS.03.02.07, box 8, folder 57, New School Archives and Special Collections, The New School, New York, New York.

[7] Oral history interview with Sondra Farganis at the New School Archives and Special Collections.…

[8] New School (New York, N.Y.). Announcements of naming ceremonies of the Johnson, Kaplan and List buildings. 11 May – 14 May/1959. New School press release collection. New School Archives and Special Collections Digital Archive. Accessed, May 7, 2018.…

[9] Whitehouse, Franklin. “Bargain Basement Yields to a Center for Students.” New York Times (1923-Current File), May 04, 1969. Accessed December 18, 2017.….


Vera G. List, undated, source: Vera List Center for Arts and Politics,