SANDRA BEM
BEM--Sandra Lipsitz. Emerita Professor of Psychology at Cornell, past director of Cornell's Women's Studies Program, and a psychotherapist, peacefully ended her own life at her home in Ithaca on May 20, 2014, one month before her 70th birthday. She had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease in 2010, and made known at that time her intention to end her life while she could still do so without assistance if and when the disease became too debilitating for a meaningful quality of life. Sandra was born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA, and received her bachelor's degree in psychology from Pittsburgh's Carnegie Institute of Technology in 1965-now Carnegie-Mellon University (CMU). During her senior year, she met and married Daryl Bem, a new assistant professor there. In 1967, she received her PhD in psychology from the University of Michigan and joined Daryl on the faculty at CMU. In 1969, they joined the Psychology Department of Stanford University, where Sandra initiated her research on gender. In 1978, she was hired by Cornell University as Professor of Psychology and Director of the Women's Studies Program. She and Daryl remained on the Cornell faculty until their respective retirements in 2010 and 2007. Sandra received several honors for her scholarly work. She received the American Psychological Association's Distinguished Scientific Award for an Early Contribution to Psychology (1976), the Association for Women in Psychology's Distinguished Publication Award (1977), and the American Association of University Women's Young Scholar Award (1980). Her 1993 book, The Lenses of Gender: Transforming the Debate on Sexual Inequality, was honored by the Association of American Publishers as the Best Book in Psychology for that year. In 1998, she published An Unconventional Family, a memoir of her marriage to Daryl and their strategies for raising their two children to be as free of the society's gender constraints as possible. Both Sandra and Daryl were activists in the feminist movement and frequently spoke together publicly on sex roles in contemporary America. Sandra served as an expert witness in two notable sex discrimination cases: one filed by the National Organization for Women (NOW) against the Pittsburgh Press for segregating classified job listings into "Male Help Wanted" and "Female Help wanted" columns. The Press lost the case and appealed the decision all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled 5-4 in favor of NOW. Sandy also appeared with Daryl as an expert witness in a hearing before the Federal Communications Commission in 1972, which had charged AT&T of discriminating against women. In a widely publicized settlement, AT&T agreed to modify several of its practices. The Bems' testimony is described in detail in Stockford's 2004 book, The Bellwomen: The Story of the Landmark AT&T Sex Discrimination Case. In 1997, Sandra enrolled in Rutgers' Psy.D program and, in 1980, received her license to practice psychotherapy in New York State. She then opened a part-time psychotherapy practice in Ithaca. Sandra was predeceased by her parents, Peter and Lillian Lipsitz. In addition to Daryl, her husband of 49 years, Sandra's survivors include her daughter Emily Bem (Julius Viksne and their 17-month-old son Felix Viksne Bem), son Jeremy Bem, sister Beverly Lipsitz (Roz Basin and their son Ben Basin), brother-in-law Barry Bem and sister-in-law Robyn Bem. Her final months were considerably brightened by her delight with her new grandson, Felix. In lieu of a funeral or memorial service, the family met as a group with Sandra two days prior to her death to share their thoughts, feelings, and reminiscences with her and each other.

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Published by New York Times on May 25, 2014.
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37 Entries
I often think of Sandra's sad end but am so grateful to have known her and her husband Daryl when I was a Cornell Student in the late 1970's. May she and her loved ones know peace.
Carol Erhardt
Student
May 17, 2020
I was one of Sandy's undergrad students at Cornell in the late 1970's. Her discussions of gender roles and how she and her husband Daryl lived their married life were mind blowing to me. I was raised very conventionally and her impact on my worldview was profound.

May she and her family be at peace now that she is gone.
Carol Erhardt
January 9, 2015
I am so saddened to hear of Dr. Bem's passing. I was a psych major at Cornell in the early 90s and took classes with both Sandy and Daryl. You are professors that are never forgotten. I am now a biology professor and still use examples of what I learned in my psychology classes. My thoughts are very much with you and your family.
Jacqueline Krueger
October 4, 2014
I have taught Dr. Bem's theory in psychology courses for years. I know of no other feminist or psychologist with such a simple, logical, and profound message. Peace and love to her survivors.
Gregory Roberts
August 6, 2014
I consider Dr. Bem to be my intellectual grandmother due to her outstanding contributions to gender role personality research. I am forever indebted to her for her work. Thank you for broadening the conversation.
Herb Coleman, Ph.D
July 24, 2014
To BOTH Drs. Bem, I am now a university instructor and can only DREAM that I will have the lasting impact you two had on me as a 1970's college student! Thank you.
Linda Martin-Morris
July 17, 2014
Thank you Dr. Bem for your contributions to Gender Studies and to NPR (6/23)for doing such a marvelous piece on your end of life decisions and process. Such Courage.
Jessica Kohout
June 24, 2014
I admired Sandra and her work inspires me daily. She was a courageous woman and a role model to all of us.
Amy Sloan
June 23, 2014
Dr. Bem has greatly influenced the field. I admire her scholarship greatly and am thankful for her dedicated work.
Carmen McLean
June 16, 2014
It was 1070 and in her Psychology of Women course at Stanford, Dr. Sandra Bem led me and my classmates on a journey of discovery and creativity. Sandy became my dissertation adviser and although we didn't always understand each other, as a feminist her support for me was steadfast. Her contribution to my career as a college professor was significant. A keen, incisive intellect, her story reminds me that Alzheimer's can strike anyone. Along with her family, Sandy faced this devastating disease with courage and dignity. Once again she leads us into the future.
Hedva Lewittes
June 3, 2014
Sandra Bem was an enormously important scholar and contributor to our understandings of gender. I'm sure she had a lot more to say, and I'm truly sorry that her life ended so soon.
May 29, 2014
I met Sandy in 9th grade. She was instrumental in our friendship in always encouraging me and tutoring me in math and Latin on the telephone after school. She was second in a class of over 400. In 11th and 12th grade she also became a good friend and I spent many hours and sometimes days at her house as she and her mother became my encouragement to be academic and achievement oriented, encouraging me to go to college and helping me work through growing issues due to twinship. We continued to be close friends in college and her philosophy and work towards the achievement of women became my mission as well.

Of course, we cannot overlook the big impact she had on me. After I came back from college and was working a couple of years, I also decided to go to graduate school, something I would not have done without her encouragement and constant validation of my perceptions and intellectual abilities. At the same time, as she was now a professor at Carnegie Mellon, the best respect she showed me was to introduce me to Stan who was then a colleague of hers. She and Daryl held an engagement party for the two of us as we decided not to have a wedding and were married by a judge.

We did not have much contact after that but I did learn at the high school reunion that she was not well. I was so sorry to hear that but know that her friendship with me and her work with so many people lives on in her legacy.

It was an honor to know her and I have always been appreciative of the time and energy she gave to me and so many others.

May she rest in peace knowing her work was complete.
Diane Hirsch
May 28, 2014
I admired her greatly as an academic psychologist and I'm inspired by her graceful dying process.
SHERRY ANDERSON
May 27, 2014
May her memory be for a blessing, and may her family find solace along with all of the other mourners of Jerusalem and Zion. May we know no more sadnes
Emily' Simon
May 27, 2014
am heartbroken today, but also find solace in knowing she was able to take decisions about ending her life and ensure that she had a 'good death'. So, so much of how I see the world and try to live my life was shaped by reading her books. Rest in peace, Professor Bem.
Ronni Michelle Greenwood
May 27, 2014
Sandra was one of my psychology professors at Stanford. She was pregnant with her first child then. I loved her intelligence and dedication.
Cathleen Curl
May 25, 2014
Though I've not met Sandra Bem, I, greatly admire her courage and that of her family.
Deanie LaPlante-Blank
May 25, 2014
A public memorial service for Sandra will take place in Ithaca, probably at the end of the Summer or early Fall. Details will be announced later.
Daryl Bem
May 25, 2014
I was fortunate to be a grad student in psychology at Stanford in the '70s when Sandy and Daryl taught there. In those days we were all struggling with what it meant to be feminists, so the Bems were role models as well as teachers, mentors, and friends. It breaks my heart to think of Alzheimer's robbing Sandy of her quick mind and open heart, but she blazed a trail in death as in life. I'm just glad that my niece, who graduated from Cornell last year with a minor in FGSS, had the chance for Sandy to rock her world as well. Patti and I wish Daryl, her family, and her friends peace and comfort in her loss.
John Unger Zussman
May 24, 2014
How sad for such a loss.
Martha Mednick
May 24, 2014
Dr Christopher Magnuson
May 24, 2014
My condolences to the family for the loss of Sandra, a truly courageous woman.
May 23, 2014
I first learned of Sandra Bem in college, and she inspired me to pursue feminist psychology. She is a true pioneer, and will be missed dearly. Rest in power.
Verónica Rabelo
May 23, 2014
Sandra Bem has been a source of inspiration for my students and myself. Thank you so much!
Maria Victoria Zunzunegui
May 23, 2014
In 1969 at Carnegie-Mellon's faculty showcase, my first week as a freshman, I listened to Sandy and Darryl deliver the paper "Training a Woman to Know Her Place". It was the first cogent explication of feminism I had heard, and it influenced me profoundly. Only now do I know how young she was! My condolences to all her loved ones.
Anne Carson
May 23, 2014
The Bems were two of my favorite faculty members. Memorable and meaningful, she had a great impact on so many. I hope the family has peace in her passing- how beautiful that she made this determination herself and how like her to publicize this fact to encourage others to follow their truth as well.
Karen Weiss
May 23, 2014
So sorry to hear of Sandy's passing. She was a colleague at CMU, a role model, and an inspiration. She changed my life. Farewell old friend.Sincere sympathies to Daryl and her family.
Stanley Lipkin
May 23, 2014
My sympathy to the family. As we grieve over Sandra, may the good times console us. May God's Word encourage us.-1Peter5:7
chan
May 23, 2014
So thankful that this notice came to my attention. Through Facebook. Sandy's work touched many thousands of people and added substantially to the liberation from gender roles that is an ongoing process for both women and men around the world.
In choosing her path to leaving this life she has again demonstrated courage and wisdom.
My condolences to Daryl and their family and to all who loved and appreciated Sandy. .
Betsy Crane
May 23, 2014
As an undergraduate student I constantly see references to the Bem Sex Role Inventory. I always spoke up with pride that it was my great aunt (twice removed) that helped develop this groundbreaking tool. Now I have even more reason to remember Sandy when I come across her name while studying. Thank you for leaving your legacy. Thank you for reminding me how far we have come in Gender Studies. Thank you for being my source of pride in my psychology classes. I hope that I can always find a way to include your name in my work. I will miss you...
Colin Sanders
May 23, 2014
Through my undergrad in Psychology I had great admiration for her work. I did many papers on the Bem scale and Gender issues. Last night I had this dream that I was telling a group of women about her and her work. Honestly this has never happened before...
I woke up and started reading the paper and saw this notice. I swear this is true! I got goose bumps!
The world has lost an amazing woman. Her work will live on! I feel some special connection because of this dream. That is a gift!
Nina Lyons
May 22, 2014
Sandra Bem was a wonderful professor. I took a class taught jointly by Sandra & Daryl in 1983. I still quote them frequently. I am saddened to hear of her death, but uplifted by her strength and the choices she made. My thoughts are with the family as they celebrate her life.
Joyce Wise
May 22, 2014
Her bravery in life encompassed her death.
Susan Robinson
May 22, 2014
That is just like Sandy to take control of her death as she had her life. It is sad to think she was losing memory of the many many people she has helped in so many ways. Sandy believed in me in a way and at a time when no one else did. Her interest in my past, her perspective of my childhood, gave me the confidence I would need for my future. She was also a role model for how I would raise my children. The world lost an amazing person this week. I miss her polenta, and I miss the Bems.
Rob Lewkowicz
May 22, 2014
Baruch Dayan HaEmes
Anonymous
May 22, 2014
In lieu of a funeral or memorial service for Sandra, the family met as a group with Sandra two days prior to her death to share thoughts, feelings, and reminiscences about her and with her.
Daryl Bem
May 22, 2014
RIP
May 22, 2014
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