Virginia Morris Pollak’s artistic career and her longtime community service collided in WWII when she used her deep understanding of clay, plaster, and metal to revolutionize reconstructive surgery for wounded servicemen. Pollak studied sculpture at the Art Students League in New York and at Yale, but after her father’s death, she abandoned her creative pursuits to manage his women’s clothing firm. In 1939 she left the company to marry Leo L. Pollak, an engineer. She began volunteering for the Red Cross, teaching art to wounded servicemen at Halloran Hospital in Staten Island, before founding a medical laboratory at the hospital. There she worked with plastic surgeons to create quick-setting clays for reconstructive surgery molds and modeled skull plates that allowed the wounded to heal from devastating injuries in mere weeks. She earned a presidential citation and an appointment to JFK’s Commission for the Employment of the Handicapped. In her artistic career, she went on to co-found Alva Studios, creating high-quality replicas of museum pieces, and in 1960 chaired the Norfolk Fine Arts Commission, an extension of her father’s work to beautify the city, creating an outdoor sculpture museum at the Botanic Garden.
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Jewish Women's Archive. "Virginia Morris Pollak." (Viewed on August 22, 2019) <https://jwa.org/people/pollak-virginia>.