March 25, 2024

The School of Drama is saddened to announce the death of friend and colleague Barbara Jo (Benz) Anderson (1935-2024). Professor Emerita of Costume Design and the former Bessie F. Anathan Professor of Design, she also served as Associate Dean of the College of Fine Arts under Martin Prekop. Barbara passed peacefully surrounded by family on Monday, March 18, 2024.

Beloved by all who knew her, Barbara began teaching at Carnegie Mellon in 1968 one year after Carnegie Institute of Technology merged with Mellon Institute to form the university. She retired in the spring of 2013 after over 40 years of teaching. During her tenure with CMU she received the Ryan Award for excellence in teaching in the University and the Hornbostel Award for excellence in teaching in the College of Fine Arts. Barbara, with husband Cletus, is author of the textbook “Costume Design” published by Harcourt Brace in 1998. Her design work spans theatre, television, and film. She taught generations of students who now flourish in the industry.

Barbara is survived by daughter Catherine Anderson and grandchildren Madeline and Quinn O’Connell; son Christopher Anderson and partner Julie Densmore; her beloved cat Titania; her caregivers of the past few years and countless other friends, colleagues and former students who grieve the loss of this strong, empathetic woman who left an indelible mark on is all.

Plans for a Celebration of Life will be forthcoming.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests any donations be made to the Anderson Production Fund.

Memories & Tributes

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“Barbara was an incredible teacher. She had very high expectations (which was wonderful) because it meant you valued the learning. Those early morning costume history classes and pop quizes were memory making. As a director, I place incredible influence on the specifics and meaning of costume. Much love and blessings to Barbara and her family. She was a wonderful teacher. Thankyou Barbara. I still remember the difference between a himation and a toga. Blessings and love.” –MICHAEL BEH


“I think this may have been during my first sewing class with Barbara… she was using the sewing machine while we watched and the needle ran right over her finger. I mean it stabbed completely through. She didn’t even blink and finished her sewing. She might have said something like, “it happens all the time” or “it will happen to you too”. I just remember being totally horrified! She was so tough, and so kind.” –KATIE STEBBINS


“Barbara had such an influence on me and I will always cherish my many fond memories and her laugh!” –MINDY GREGORY


“Barbara had a laugh that would resonate thru CFA. She was an amazing teacher and mentor for so many. I’m glad that even as a music major I had the opportunity to work and learn from her. Her legacy lives on thru all her students and everyone she met.” –JULIA BARRY ELSISY


“Condolences to her family, I learned so much from her in and out of the classroom. (Not necessarily all about my major, but to be gracious, humorous, humble, and professional.)” –DAVID ARIOSA


“Yes indeed “an indelible mark on us all.” Rest in peace, Barbara. Sending love to her family.” –SHOBIE PARTOS


“My thoughts and prayers to the Anderson family. An incredible inspiration to me and many, many others. You were an incredible teacher, scholar and friend to many. Thank you Barbara, you will be missed.” –CHRISTOPHER CONTI


“Barbara was a giant within the costume design community, a selfless supporter of the School of Drama and an active and progressive Associate Dean. She will be greatly missed.” –PETER COOKE (Pictured below with Kristen Merlino (L) and Barbara at the 2015 Kennedy Center Honors.)