Nov. 18, 1924 – Feb. 16, 2018
When Rita Lipsitz arrived at the University at Buffalo as an administrative assistant in the English Department, it was the chaotic spring semester of 1970, when campuses across America were embroiled in student protests.
“In just the moment Rita came to us, most ordinary routines of teaching and administration throughout this university had virtually broken down,” former English Department chairman Marcus Klein wrote in 1994 in a letter nominating her for the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Professional Service.
“Two of Rita’s immediate predecessors as administrative assistant had simply given up and had left the university,” Klein wrote. “Rita took charge, managing a large office staff, some 100 faculty, some 200 graduate students and undergraduates in the thousands, midst the teach-ins and the tear gas, and more than anyone created a sense of an ongoing business of education for our department.”
“In reality,” her son, Richard Jr., said, “she was the ‘big sister’ and chief helper to some very prominent authors and poets, including Leslie Fiedler, John Barth, Carl Dennis and Robert Creeley.”
Characterized as “the one indispensable administrator in the department,” she also upheld its reputation for graciousness and hospitality.
“She finds apartments,” Klein wrote. “She takes foreign students and faculty to the bank. She invites persons to dinner.”
She died Feb. 16 in HighPointe on Michigan, where she had been a resident for six months. She was 93.
Born in Buffalo, the daughter of Eastern European immigrants, the former Rita Green was a graduate of Lafayette High School. After earning a bachelor’s degree in history and government from UB in 1946, she married Richard Lipsitz, who became a noted trial and civil rights lawyer.
Mrs. Lipsitz taught high school history in the Buffalo schools before starting a family.
“After my sister was born,” her son said, “she wanted a career of some kind, so she went to work at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery as a volunteer and helped found the docent program.”
She then helped found David’s Table, one of Buffalo’s first French restaurants, where she served as manager, and was an intake counselor for Camp Lakeland and Camp Centerland. .
At UB, she served on the Professional Staff Senate, the General Assembly of Undergraduate Curriculum, and the Professional Staff Senate Sub-committees on Title IX Compliance for the Faculty of Arts and Letters. She taught freshman seminars in the Division of Undergraduate Education in the 1980s.
After she retired in 1995, she worked part-time for two years in the English Department, where she helped seniors sign up to audit college courses.
She and her husband traveled the world, visiting every continent except Antarctica, and maintained a summer home in Fort Erie, Ont.
In addition to her husband and son, survivors include another son, John; a daughter, Nan Haynes; two brothers, Carl Green and Charles Green; a sister, Judy Brothman; five grandchildren and two great-granddaughters.
A memorial service was held March 11 in the Sisterhood Chapel of Temple Beth Zion, 805 Delaware Ave.