Barbara Ferguson Ginsberg
By Michael P. Kuczynski
Barbara Ferguson Ginsberg (NC ’51), a dedicated alumna of Newcomb College and a generous supporter of both the college and Tulane University, died unexpectedly on Thursday, April 2, 2020. She was 89 years old. Barbara is survived by her husband, Howard, a playwright; her daughter Laura; her son Kylo, his wife Lisa Morgan, and their two children, Jessie and Tobias; and her brother Charles Ferguson, and Charlie’s wife, Jane.
Known as “Bunkie” to her family, Barbara was born in New Orleans in 1930. She took her BA from Newcomb in 1951 and an MA in Psychology from Teachers College Columbia University in 1952. She also studied toward a second Master’s degree at the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Work.
Barbara was a gregarious and deeply engaged person. Following her graduate studies, she worked as a counsellor for the Jewish Child Care Association in Pleasantville, New York and later for the International Longshoremen’s Union in San Francisco, California, where she and her husband made their home. She also worked for the Social Services Department of Contra Costa County, California.
Barbara had a lifelong love of French culture, taking many trips to France and becoming fluent in the language. She was also passionate about literature, art, and music. Like her mother, Josephine Gessner Ferguson (NC ’24), she was an avid reader of English novels. She collected art of the Bloomsbury Group and enjoyed visiting many galleries and museums. The Tate Gallery and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, where she and Howard owned for many years an apartment in Covent Garden, were among her favorites. Barbara volunteered as a docent at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. Two of her pastimes were reading the New York Times and playing classical piano.
Despite her world travels and her life with Howard on the West Coast, Barbara was a frequent visitor to her hometown and to the Tulane University campus. I remember her especially at the Under the Oaks Ceremony, held each May in honor of the graduating class of Newcomb College. She moved easily and in an elegant way among students, faculty, and staff alike. She was stunning both in person and in conversation.
For more than thirty years, Barbara and her brother Charles have generously endowed a lecture in their mother’s memory in the Tulane English Department. The Annual Josephine Gessner Ferguson Lecture brings to campus each April a prominent literary scholar, who addresses a large and mixed audience of faculty, students, and community members on a major writer, text, or theme. Past Ferguson lecturers have included Stephen Greenblatt (Harvard University) and Toril Moi (Duke University). The impressive roster of speakers over the years is a tribute to Barbara and Charlie, each of them a fourth generation Tulanian, and their commitment to the intellectual life of Tulane University and New Orleans.
During my nine years as Chair of English at Tulane, it was my pleasure and privilege to steward the Ferguson Lecture. In doing so, I got to know Barbara, first as an acquaintance and then as a friend. Barbara Ferguson Ginsberg will be missed by her family and by all who knew her at Newcomb College and Tulane University.
Michael P. Kuczynski
Professor of English