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Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences (AHSS)

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Publications and thoughtful commentary showcase the incredible work that comes out of our small liberal arts classrooms, studios and labs.

News and Events

expressions e-Newsletter

Stay connected to the AHSS community through divisional updates, spotlight stories and upcoming events in expressions, AHSS' monthly e-newsletter.

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This Month's Featured Stories  

Daughter of Alumna Leaves Major Estate Gift to DU

The women in the Gabelman/Whelan family were seemingly born to dance and to educate.

Cyprienna Gabelman, a native Coloradan born in 1896, was a school teacher who spent a decade abroad with her young family before returning to Denver to become a state politician.  She strongly advised her children to follow their passions.

Her daughter, Cyprienne Gabelman Whelan (BA ’77 and MA ’78, theatre), heeded the advice. Born in 1924 in the Philippines, she moved from Denver to NY to become a Broadway dancer at the age of 17, appearing in many productions before transitioning into academia as a theatre professor. Her passion was passed on to her daughter, Susan Whelan, who is a former ballet dancer and stage manager in NY.

When Susan Whelan’s mother passed away, she inherited the family house located minutes away from DU in the historic Hilltop neighborhood. To honor her mother and grandmother’s passion for helping young women pursue their dreams, Susan Whelan signed a DU estate bequest to endow a scholarship for students studying theatre, particularly young women from the Denver area.  Recipients will be designated Gabelman Whelan Scholars.

“Theatre is hard. To be successful you need a real love and passion for it,” said Whelan. “My mother loved dance and theatre. When she started teaching she wanted to pass that love on to her students. She truly enjoyed mentoring students. She would tell them, ‘Do what your passion tells you. Follow it. That’s the lesson I want today’s students to learn.”

Cyprienna Gabelman was a teacher living in Denver at the turn of the 20th century when she married an engineer who had a company in the Philippines. Two of her three children were born abroad before the family returned to Denver during the Great Depression so that her husband could serve as an engineer for the U.S. Army. They purchased a house in Hilltop in 1934.

While living in Denver, their only daughter, Cyprienne Gabelman Whelan, was hit by a car and suffered leg damage. The doctors encouraged dance as physical therapy, which led to a life-long passion for the theatrical arts.

After dancing at Central City Opera and other venues in the Denver area, Gabelman Whelan moved to Manhattan where her first job was as an extra at the Met Opera. In the 1940s and 1950s she did three Broadway shows: On the Town, Finian’s Rainbow and Annie Get Your Gun.

When Gabelman Whelan married and started a family, she began teaching dance and also became an actress. She subsequently taught acting at The American Academy of Dramatic Arts while attending Pace University herself. She returned to Denver when her mother passed away and enrolled at the University of Denver: she received BA and MA degrees in theatre from DU.

She later taught at DU, Colgate and Emerson. She was pursuing her PhD from NYU when her health started to decline. She died at the age of 61.

Gabelman Whelan left the family house in Hilltop to her daughter, Susan Whelan. Whelan, who resides permanently in Manhattan, recently decided to sell the house. Whelan created a trust with the money from the sale, and has signed an estate bequest for DU to create a scholarship for theatre students.

In addition to the estate bequest, Whelan donated some of the antiquities from the house to DU. It took her two weeks to sort through her family’s belongings, which included turn-of-the-century dolls and furniture; letter correspondences between senators and her grandmother; and an original match box from the SS Andrea Doria, a large Italian cruise ship that sank off the coast of New York in 1956. She uncovered many photos and letters of her family dating back to 1911, as well as photos of her mother dancing as a young woman.

“It was important to me to keep the money and possessions in Denver where they belong, since theatre and education were so important to my mother and grandmother,” said Whelan. “It seemed to me that the best way to honor them would be to create a scholarship for young women at DU who share my family’s love of the arts. This has worked out perfectly.”

AHSS Colleagues Receive Awards

Three AHSS colleagues were recognized for their outstanding contributions to the University during the 2014-2015 academic year. The awards were presented at the Faculty and Staff Awards Luncheon in October.

Jeanne Abrams, professor in the Center for Judaic Studies and University Libraries, was named the University Lecturer. This award is given in recognition of superlative creative and scholarly work. Richard vonFoerster, Lamont School of Music, received the Ruth Murray Underhill Teaching Award for excellence in teaching by an adjunct faculty member. And Brooke Rohde, curator of collections at the University of Denver Museum of Anthropology, received the staff Crimson and Gold Award for outstanding commitment to and support of the University.

Abrams is curator of the Beck Archives of Rocky Mountain Jewish History, Special Collections, at University Libraries.  She is the author of “Revolutionary Medicine: The Founding Fathers and Mothers in Sickness and in Health,” about the state of health care during colonial times,  “Jewish Women Pioneering the Frontier Trail, A History in the West” and “Dr. Charles David Spivak: A Jewish Immigrant and the American Tuberculosis Movement.”

VonFoerster was an adjunct professor at the Lamont School of Music from 2001 to 2015. In addition to teaching classes in music theory, aural skills and musicology, he spearheaded a new contemporary performance ensemble for students, Modern Hue. Every quarter, the ensemble presents a full concert of music written in the past hundred years. VonFoerster also is a founding member and programming director of the Playground Ensemble, Denver’s premiere new music group. 

Rohde has been curator of collections since 2003 and is responsible for the physical care of a collection of more than 100,000 objects. She teaches a class on museum collection management and mentors graduate students in the anthropology department’s museum and heritage studies concentration. Rohde works with faculty to encourage the use of collections in the classroom and with community partners to bring collections to area schools.

“These colleagues are superb examples of the extraordinary work of our faculty and staff.  I congratulate Jeanne, Brooke and Richard for receiving such well-deserved awards,” said Danny McIntosh, dean.