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Passions Nurtured Through Education

Photo of Hartley “Harty” Platt du Pont ’76SOA

Hartley “Harty” Platt du Pont ’76SOA has enjoyed several successful careers led by her love of art and sports and her time at Columbia. Growing up, Harty dreamed of attending Columbia like members of her family before her. She would go on to make that dream a reality and graduate from Columbia’s School of the Arts with an M.F.A. and earning her teaching certification from Teachers College. Following graduation, Harty began volunteering at Columbia and never stopped, becoming a leader within the Columbia community and providing opportunities for those who follow after her through a gift in her will for Columbia’s School of the Arts.

A deep family connection

Harty grew up on Columbia lore. Generations of her family have been influential leaders in organizing and fundraising for the University. Her great-grandmother, Helen Hartley Jenkins, who was a trustee of the University, built Philosophy Hall, Hartley Hall, Pupin Hall, and buildings at Teacher’s College. Helen also donated the gates to Barnard College in memory of her daughter, who was attending Barnard when she died of the flu during the Great Influenza epidemic.

Harty’s enjoyed a close relationship with her ancestor Marcellus Hartley Dodge, of whom she is donating a portrait to the University’s permanent collection. He was a graduate of Columbia College and later served as President of Columbia’s Board of Trustees. He was responsible for building the gym as well as the fountain by Low Memorial Library and Dodge Hall, among many other contributions. Harty was especially close with her grandmother, Grace Hartley Mead, who was instrumental in funding the buildings for Teachers College. As a Trustee of Teachers College, Grace finished the buildings her mother had started. This family tie and legacy of female philanthropy is meaningful to Harty. “I feel very inspired by my great-grandmother and my grandmother’s incredible energy and their determination to make things happen.”

Harty’s mother, Helen Hartley Mead Platt, an accomplished artist and teacher, was also a great inspiration to her. As a child, Harty was always next to her while she painted. Her mother was also an excellent equestrian, and Harty fondly remembers how she and her six siblings would follow behind her on a string of ponies as she went on her daily ride to visit Marcellus Hartley Dodge—who lived on the neighboring family farm. Her mother would often share stories of the Columbia family legacy with Harty. These experiences built the foundation for Harty’s passions: the arts, athletics, and a desire to become a Columbian.

Following in her mother’s artistic footsteps, Harty attended Bard College where she majored in art and writing. She then enrolled in Columbia School of the Arts where she was the first student to graduate in printmaking. She earned her M.F.A. in 1976 and her teaching certification from Teachers College the following year. During her time at Columbia, Harty also studied costume design with Lester Polakov and honed her craft assisting Broadway designers.

As a Columbia graduate student, she was allowed to row on the fledgling Barnard College crew team. With a passion for the sport, she qualified for tryouts for 1976 Olympics team for the women’s eight. She fell short of making the team, which spurred her to become one of the first female sports writers—a natural path given her athletic pursuits. She had a column in the New York Daily News, called “Working Out,” and then became a reporter for the Associated Press, with a byline. Feature writing in beauty, health, and fitness for magazines nationally and internationally followed as well as another sports column. Each phase and each job led into the next. As Harty puts it, “You keep learning, you keep studying, and you keep moving forward.”

Most recently the tradition of attending Columbia has continued for Harty’s family. She and her husband E. Paul Dupont III ’73BUS are proud to share the Columbia alumni connection with their two sons Eleuthere Paul ’07CC and August ’CC10 ’15BUS.

A need to give back—for now and for the future

Harty’s history of service to Columbia includes currently serving as the chairman of the Arts on the Honors, Awards, and Prizes Committee for Columbia College; a member of the Senate Alumni Relations Committee; a member of the Parent’s Committee for Columbia College; a member of the planning and fundraising committees for the Columbia Alumni Association; and as a member and former co-chair of Events and Programs, the Dean’s Council, and steering committees for the School of the Arts. One role that was particularly meaningful to her was her work as the first elected president of the School of the Arts Alumni Association, which involved the planning and coordination of the programs and events the Schools of the Arts hosted. “We didn’t have money. We didn’t have anything. We just had energy, enthusiasm, and inspiration and so many wonderful graduates who were happy to help. It was very exciting. Together, we even put on the first Dean’s Day, almost solely through donations.” For her volunteer work, Harty has been recognized by the University with The Alumni Medal in 2005 and an Award for Distinguished Service from the School of the Arts.

Harty’s continued service to the School of the Arts comes from the value that her education added to her life, a value that she wishes to perpetuate in the future. Through a gift in her will, Harty plans to donate valued family portraits as well as rare books of past Columbians—her ancestors who made significant contributions to the University.

In addition, Harty plans to continue to endow an award, the Helen Hartley Mead Platt Prize, she now gives to annually in her mother’s honor. It is given to a student recipient chosen by faculty and recognized as the most promising visual artist in their class. “I hope it gives them inspiration for the future—that it shows them through hard work and their talent, recognition is possible.” It was important to Harty that the support be unrestricted, giving the student the freedom to pursue their art however they are inspired.

By establishing the gift in her will, Harty, along with her husband, became members of the 1754 Society, which celebrates donors who have made bequests and other planned gifts to Columbia. Most recently, she has accepted a new role as the School of the Arts Chair for the 1754 Society Participation Drive—part of a university-wide campaign to encourage volunteers and donors to include Columbia in their estate plans. On volunteering for the Society, Harty noted, “The whole idea of helping the 1754 Society grow is a natural fit for me because the University is in my future plans.”

In this role, Harty hopes to share her nature as a cheerleader to get others energized about the things that they can offer that will benefit others—even after they’re gone. “Columbia has given so much to my life … enriched my life. It’s something that is always there for me, a real source of beauty and inspiration.” Harty’s dedication to the 1754 Society is underlined by her wish to contribute to the future in a way that has lasting use. “Life changes and the needs of the University and the students change with the times.”

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