Although Stacey Roth Goergen ’90 had been steeped in the art world as a curator, collector, and art museum board member, she wasn’t all that familiar with what was happening at Princeton’s own art museum. That changed several years ago, after meeting Frances Winston Levy ’79 at a gathering of Princeton alumnae in New York.
Following the private tour of a photography exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), Levy and Goergen discussed their mutual interests in art over lunch, and Levy encouraged her to get in touch with James Steward, the director of the Princeton University Art Museum. Levy made the necessary introductions, and Steward invited Goergen to campus for a tour of the museum. The two kept in touch, and, about a year and a half ago, Steward asked Goergen to serve on the art museum’s advisory council.
“Fran went out of her way to help me get involved in something that I was interested in,” said Goergen.
Women Helping Princeton . . . and Other Women
Creating those kinds of connections is just a part of the mission of Princeton’s Women in Leadership (WIL) initiative, which organized the tour at MoMA where Goergen and Levy first met. WIL members gather periodically for events and an annual conference.
“WIL provides an entryway to reengage with Princeton, a chance to figure out how to give back,” said Levy, who is chair of WIL’s steering committee.
Thanks to WIL, Goergen has embarked on a deeper relationship with Princeton—marrying her interest in great works of art with her service to the University.
At Princeton University Art Museum advisory council meetings, Goergen discusses the museum’s future and gets the chance to see new acquisitions up close. “It’s quite amazing to have the leading experts in the world speak very specifically about that object sitting right in front of you,” she said. “It’s hard to stop yourself from reaching out and touching it.”
A loyal Annual Giving volunteer who hosted a kick-off party for her class’s 25th Reunion in New York this fall, Goergen treasures gatherings of her classmates. WIL, however, allows her to connect to other Princetonians and the University in a different way. Perhaps because WIL gatherings are small, and exclusively women, there is a more intimate and personal feel, she said. And she meets alumnae from different classes. “There’s a sense of looking after another generation,” said Goergen. “You want to help promote other women you meet.”
A Career Change: From Finance to Art
Goergen wasn’t always immersed in the art world. A politics major at Princeton who earned a certificate in the Program in Women’s Studies, she completed an MBA at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. She was on a promising career path in finance, and had worked her way up to vice president of an investment company. During that time, she began collecting contemporary American art.
But she wasn’t satisfied just collecting art, and decided to make a dramatic switch in professions. After working for a short time as CFO of a company that sold fine art on the Internet, she earned a master’s in art history from Christie’s Education program (welcoming the first of three children in the middle of it) and then landed an internship at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.
“I went from having a very prestigious job in finance to starting as an intern at the Whitney,” Goergen said. “The work that I was doing when I first got there was total drudgery, but I was really interested in working on exhibitions at an art museum.”
After a six-year stint in the curatorial department at the Whitney, she and Ellen Scott ’93 ran a small nonprofit, SmartSpaces, that installed contemporary art into vacant storefronts. Currently, she’s co-authoring a book with Amanda MacKenzie Benchley ’91 about the art that well-known contemporary artists in New York live with in their homes, and she's helping launch an art program for Manhattan's Hudson River Park. A member of the Madison Square Park curatorial committee, she's also on the board of the Drawing Center, an art museum in New York, where she hosted a WIL event last year. Goergen said, “WIL has provided me a more meaningful interaction with Princeton.”