The Columbia College Chicago Theatre Department mourns the passing and honors the memory of Dr. Lya Dym Rosenblum, former Vice President and Dean of the School of Graduate Studies at Columbia College Chicago, who died peacefully at home in Evanston, Illinois, on December 17, 2020. She was 94.
Born in Dresden, Germany, in 1926, Dr. Rosenblum earned Ph.B. and M.A. degrees from the University of Chicago, where she was president of the Midwest region of the Intercollegiate Zionist Federation of America. After receiving a Ph.D. in Political Science and Education from Northwestern University, she joined Columbia College Chicago in 1974, starting as Associate Academic Dean and eventually being named Vice President and Dean of the Graduate School. Her fundraising efforts, academic and administrative leadership, and work with faculty have had lasting impact at the college – including the Columbia College theatre program, of which Dr. Rosenblum was a dedicated supporter.
As reported in a Chicago Tribune article published November 6, 1985, Dr. Rosenblum came to the U.S. from Germany in November 1938, when she was 12. She and her family — parents Hermann and Cyla Dym and sister Ruth — were sponsored for emigration by Chicago liquor distilling executive Oscar Getz and his wife Emma. “At the time, restrictions already were in effect for Jews [in Germany]. Anyone who could leave was doing so, but each departing family had to be sponsored by someone in the destination country,” wrote the Tribune‘s Margaret Carroll. “The Dyms found that support in Getz, who had been approached for help by their uncle in Chicago. As it happened, Hermann Dym found a job as an accountant in Chicago and needed no further help from the Getzes.”
In 1985, two years after Oscar Getz’s death, Dr. Rosenblum — then the dean of Columbia College — helped secure a generous donation from his widow Emma Getz toward the renovation of the historic home of the Columbia College Chicago Theatre Department at 72 E. 11th St. in Chicago’s South Loop. The building, today known as the Getz Theatre Center of Columbia College Chicago, was built in 1929 as the home of the progressive Chicago Woman’s Club. A gala reopening of the renovated theatre on October 27, 1985, allowed Dr. Rosenblum to “express her thanks in dramatic fashion to the Chicagoans who secured her family’s safety from Hitler`s regime more than 40 years ago,” the Tribune reported, quoting Dr. Rosenblum as saying: ”I am grateful to Oscar and Emma for their unprecedented gift to Columbia, and to Columbia for having given me the opportunity to acknowledge my gratitude and affection to them publicly and forever.”
In 2010, Dr. Rosenblum was awarded Dean Emerita status from Columbia College, an honor awarded to faculty members and administrators who, during their time of service, distinguished themselves in their efforts on behalf of the college, its students, and faculty. She received strong support from college faculty and senior leadership who spoke in laudatory terms of the nature and quality of her service as well as “her consistent guidance, her meditating presence, and her vision.” In 2013, an exhibition titled “Celebrating Columbia’s History: Dr. Lya Dym Rosenblum” was held as part of the Wabash Arts Corridor Crawl.
“Lya’s legacy and work has had a lasting, profound impact at the college—from her fundraising efforts, academic and administrative leadership, and work with faculty, to developing new academic policies and introducing new programs and academic standards. Her memory and legacy continue through the countless graduate students who have received support and will continue to benefit from the Dr. Lya Dym Rosenblum Professional Development Fund,” said Columbia College’s Senior Vice President and Provost Marcella David in a statement to the Columbia College community. “The college holds its sincerest gratitude and appreciation for Lya’s 27 years of dedication and service that has been an essential part of Columbia’s history, growth, and rich foundation.”
In 1998 Dr. Rosenblum participated in a comprehensive Oral History Project chronicling the history of Columbia College through the words of its faculty and staff. To read Dr. Rosenblum’s interview, click here.
Dr. Rosenblum is survived by her husband Lou and their children, grandchildren, great- grandchildren, nieces, and nephews. As noted in her obituary, in lieu of flowers, contributions in Dr. Rosenblum’s memory may be made to the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs at jcua.org/donate, 4700 N. Ravenswood, Suite B, Chicago, IL 60640.