Lindi Press, alumna, 2003 Amy J. Blue Award winner, dead at 66

Press retired from Stanford last summer after working at Stanford for three decades, including 11 years as academic committee coordinator in the Registrar’s Office. She earned a bachelor’s degree in English and a Master of Liberal Arts degree at Stanford.

A memorial celebration will be held Feb. 2 at the Faculty Club for Lindi Press, a longtime member of the Stanford community who died Dec. 31 of pancreatic cancer at her Menlo Park home, her two daughters at her side.

Lindi Press portrait

Lindi Press was remembered for her curiosity, intelligence and tremendous generosity. (Image credit: L.A. Cicero)

Press, who had been diagnosed with the disease three weeks earlier, was 66.

The memorial will be held from 1 to 4 p.m. The ceremony will begin at 1:30 p.m. Light refreshments will be served following the ceremony. Everyone is welcome; there is no need to RSVP.

Colleagues at Stanford have created a blog, called “One on the Aisle,” where friends and colleagues can send stories and photographs of Press. Stephen Arod Shirreffs, associate university registrar, explained the origins of the blog’s title.

“Lindi was an actress and an inveterate fan of live theater and the stage,” he said. “We talked once about her starting a blog about her thoughts on theater. Lindi never undertook it because there was just no more room in her busy and committed life. But she told us the title she would have picked – ‘One on the Aisle.'”

Press worked in the Chemical Engineering Department for 20 years before transferring to the Registrar’s Office in 2001, where she served as academic committee coordinator. She retired from Stanford in the summer of 2012.

As academic committee coordinator, Press facilitated the work of three major Academic Council committees: the Committee on Undergraduate Standards and Policy, the Committee on Review of Undergraduate Majors and the Committee on Graduate Studies. She collected background materials, and created the minutes and annual reports of the committees. Over the years, faculty members who chaired those committees have sung her praises.

Two years after joining the Registrar’s Office, Press won the Amy J. Blue Award, which honors staff members who are “exceptionally dedicated, supportive of colleagues and passionate about their work.”

Faculty members who nominated her for the award said Press was far more than the keeper of the minutes. Psychology Professor Ewart Thomas, then chair of the Committee on Undergraduate Standards and Policy, described her as “a tutor, counselor, historian and rapporteur.”

After winning the award, Press told Stanford Report: “I’ve always felt that this is my university. I have accepted a lot of good things and I want to make sure I can give something in return. I’m grateful to know the work I’m doing is appreciated. I think that is all we really want – to be appreciated.”

Later that same year, Press earned a Master of Liberal Arts degree at Stanford. Her thesis reflected her passion for theater: “Transgressions Against Xenia in Fifth-Century Greek Tragedy: The Unkindness of Strangers.”

It was the second Stanford degree for Press, who earned a bachelor’s degree in English at Stanford in 1967.

Colleagues remember Press

Linda Paulson, associate dean and director of the Master of Liberal Arts Program, said Press remained very active in the program as an alumna, attending virtually every welcome reception, graduation ceremony, symposium and colloquium since her graduation in 2003.

Paulson said she has been deluged with emails from current and former students who were saddened to learn of Press’ sudden illness and death, including one who said no one better typified the MLA Program than Press, who was known for her wide-ranging interests, talents and boundless enthusiasm.

Paulson said Press was thinking seriously of fulfilling a longtime goal during her retirement years – to pursue a degree in medieval history at the University of York in England – and had begun to research its graduate program and to consider the logistics of spending a few years in the north of England.

Paulson described Press as “broadly curious and very smart.”

“Lindi was capable of doing research and pursuing new ideas in any discipline she chose,” Paulson said. “She was a liberal arts person – interested in history and literature, mostly the classics and pre-modern literature. But she was very open to new ideas and to new angles on old ideas. To top it off, she was an absolutely splendid writer. Her clearheaded readings and her eager embrace of the world of ideas were there in the clear, provocative, elegant prose she wrote.”

Press served as assistant editor of Tangents, the annual journal of the MLA Program.

Oscar Firschein, editor of Tangents, said Press had already begun the process of evaluating submissions for the 2013 edition of the journal.

“Over the years, we had the pleasure of many happy dinners in local restaurants, where we would plan the contents and layout of issues of the magazine,” he said, referring to himself and his wife, Theda Firschein, who also reviewed submissions.

“Theda and I also attended most of the local plays in which Lindi performed. It was a special joy for us to see her expert adaptations of so many familiar classical roles, as filtered through Lindi’s unique persona. Lindi sometimes shared with us her plans for retirement study and travel. Perhaps we can think of her sudden passing as her final role in the performance of her life. I would like to dedicate the next issue of Tangents to Lindi, in recognition of her tireless contributions to the magazine.”

Chris Griffith, associate vice provost and dean of student life at Stanford, said she loved getting email from Press, who joined the Amy J. Blue Award Committee after winning the award.

“Lindi had a gift at expressing her thanks with grace and simplicity, and she never failed to recognize the contributions of her colleagues,” she said. “Lindi was one of those people whose emails you would frequently save because they expressed, so artfully, a genuine appreciation for others. In her thank you email to the Amy Blue Award Committee last year, she ended by saying, ‘A standing ovation to everyone for the absolutely splendid event yesterday.’ Well said.”

Griffith said when people met Press they knew immediately how proud she was to be a member of the Stanford community.

“Lindi had a deep appreciation and respect for Stanford’s history – the people, the traditions, the institutional values,” Griffith said. “She was knowledgeable not only about what we do at Stanford, but why we do things the way we do – she could summon the history of policy development, the beginning of university traditions – she loved this place.”

Susan Maher, former associate registrar at Stanford, said Press was one of the few people who really wanted the answer to the question “What can I do to help?”

“Whether it was finding a room for a Jane Austen Society of Stanford meeting, writing a letter of recommendation for one of her advisees, planning a party or a meeting or providing the answer to a trivia question, Lindi was the person to call,” she said. “I loved how her mind worked, how much she loved the theater, how fiercely loyal she was to her family, her friends and, of course, Stanford.”

Maher said Press, who appeared on Jeopardy, the television quiz show, could beat anyone in a game of Trivial Pursuit.

“No Jane Austen character was too obscure, no geographic minutia escaped her, vice presidents from the 18th century – she was the go-to person long before any of this could be Googled, and she was way more fun,” Maher said.

Loved theater and the San Francisco Giants

Press grew up in San Anselmo, Calif. As a child, she attended Broadway musicals in San Francisco and also traveled to the city to cheer for the San Francisco Giants. At Sir Francis Drake High School, she was the baseball scorekeeper/statistician, an activity that startled some old-timers but earned her a varsity letter.

Press acted and directed in Bay Area community theaters for more than 40 years.

Her local theater roots are deep, including Altarena Playhouse, Chanticleers Theater, Contra Costa Civic Theatre, Foothill College, Lamplighters Music Theatre, Masquers Playhouse, Piedmont Light Opera Theatre, Pear Avenue Theatre, Ram’s Head Theatrical Society (a student-run organization at Stanford), Santa Clara Players, 16th Street Players, Stanford Savoyards (a student-run theater company).

Her last role was as Helga Ten Dorp in Deathtrap, a comedy-thriller written by Ira Levin, at Chanticleers Theater in Castro Valley in November 2012.

As an undergraduate Press studied in Florence, Italy, and she never lost her love of travel and the Italian language. In the past few years Press visited eastern Canada, New England (including Fenway Park), England and Italy. She was planning a 2013 trip to Arizona for spring training, as well as a return to York, England, and her annual trip to Stanford Sierra Camp.

Press is survived by daughters Patience Reynolds, who teaches elementary school in Elk Grove, and Katie Bauman, who teaches high school in San Jose; two grandsons; father Harry Press of Palo Alto; sister Tina Press of Fayetteville, N.Y., and brother Tony Press of Brisbane, Calif.

In lieu of flowers, Press’ family requested that people who would like to honor Lindi’s memory make donations in her name to their local community theater or to the Stanford MLA Program