Lynn Villency Cohen ’82 studied art history and French at Union before earning a master’s degree in art history from Boston University and a diploma in nineteenth century art and art criticism from Wolfson College, Oxford University. An art historian, art appraiser and writer, she spent part of her career with the U.S. Treasury Department, where she worked as an art appraiser for the Commissioner’s Art Advisory Panel in Washington, D.C. Lynn has been on the Board of Trustees of the Stamford Museum & Nature Center (Stamford, Conn.) since 2002. She chairs the collections committee that plans exhibits and cares for the permanent art collection. In 2018, she was recognized by Moffly Media as the “Most Dedicated Supporter of the Arts” in Fairfield County, Conn. Also a member of the leadership council of the Greenwich Connecticut YWCA, Lynn has supported YWCA domestic abuse services for the past ten years. She enjoys traveling, hiking and participating in cultural activities.
What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of your career or volunteer activities?
While the arts may not be as crucial as progress and discoveries in science and medicine, art offerings and museums not only bring personal joy, but enhance learning and offer shared experiences that can affect peoples’ lives for the better. Visiting a museum or historical property serves to engage, heal, enrich and enlarge our worlds, making our lives fuller, which in turn can help us better understand our complex, intricate world.
Who inspired/inspires you, both professionally and personally?
Personally I am inspired by my family. My husband, who as a partner of a large professional services firm, devoted his 30-year career to tax law. He continually found new challenges and, quite simply, loved his work. And my daughter, who is building her own career in Washington, D.C. (the city where she was born), and is completing her law degree this year.
What advice would you offer today’s women students, not just at Union, but across the country?
Focus on what interests you most; build upon those select interests. Try not to be distracted by what your peers are doing and surrounding social pressures. Keep steadfast with your goals, but be open to new directions because that is what makes life so illuminating and interesting. Your journey will not be linear but it will take you in surprisingly new and challenging directions.
What was your most formative experience at Union?
In the late 1970s, the Union College curriculum did not offer a groundswell of courses in art history. With the fortuitous hiring of the late Professor Daniel Robbins, who had been a curator at the National Gallery of Art, the Guggenheim Museum and director of the Fogg Museum at Harvard, I was able to double major in French and art history. Professor Robbins’ inspiring art history courses not only taught me to think critically, but to write about art with frankness and creative analysis, avoiding the pitfalls of cliché and superlatives, something that young students typically fall prey to. With the course work and mentorship of Professor Robbins, art history became an established course of study at the College.