Krystyna Henke ’84

Portrait of Krystyna Henke ’84

Krystyna Henke ’84 lives in Toronto, Canada, and is a doctoral student in Educational Studies at Brock University. She holds a Master of Arts degree in Ethnomusicology and Musicology from York University and a Master of Journalism degree from Ryerson University where she was the Visuals Editor of the Ryerson Review of Journalism. Currently, she is Editor-in-Chief of the scholarly and peer-reviewed biannual Canadian Journal of Netherlandic Studies. She is the founding coordinator of the now one-year-old Toronto regional alumni chapter.

Why did you choose Sarah Lawrence?

Among the main considerations were the educational structure of a liberal arts college and the don system. For the most part, I had attended Montessori schools in Europe, so having been accustomed to a holistic pedagogy that places students at the center of their own learning, I felt I would be happiest in a learning environment where, guided by excellent professors and other quality resources, I would be empowered to follow my curiosity and to shape my own learning journey. Being from Europe, I was also intrigued with New York City and since Sarah Lawrence was so close to Manhattan it was an attractive choice. Sarah Lawrence was one of the schools in the U.S. that had offered me a full scholarship, making it actually possible to go there.

Did you have a favorite class?

My favorite class was the Sarah Lawrence College chorus with Harold Aks. I was a voice student and this large vocal ensemble was an important component of my musical studies. The first piece we performed after I started at Sarah Lawrence was Mozart’s Requiem in d minor. That experience has remained among one of the highlights of my life. Mr. Aks, which is how we called him, had a way of waking up one’s imagination and connecting singers to the dramatic elements in a musical composition. As he conducted with his baton in rehearsals and he would tap the top of the metal music stand when he wanted us to stop singing, I remember him saying: “The left hand is the dreamer.” The right hand kept time, but it was the other hand that you watched to create the artistry of a piece. That’s where the secret for the emotional impact was with the diminuendi and the crescendi and the ritardandi. I loved that.

What was your favorite spot on campus?

My favorite spot on campus was, believe it or not, hilly, curvy Mead Way early in the morning when there’d be fog off to the side of the road. I’d look up at the large trees and be mesmerized. In my first year I lived in Brebner House on Mead Way, so I had lots of opportunities to take in a quiet moment just before going to class, the library, or the train station in Bronxville to catch a train into the bustling city.

How did your time at Sarah Lawrence influence your career?

My time at Sarah Lawrence had a significant influence on my work as a journalist, I think. Although I had pieces broadcast on CBC Radio in Canada, which is where I eventually moved, I never had the desire to join a corporate outfit. (I wrote some long-form articles for the Sarah Lawrence Messenger, by the way.) I felt I had to remain independent, follow my own nose, and so I free-lanced. The autonomy I had and cherished as a student at Sarah Lawrence has remained a part of my life.

You’ve been building the alumni community in Toronto. What is your favorite part of gathering local alumni together?

My favorite part of gathering local alumnae – so far, it’s been all women – is getting to know such unique and interesting individuals and seeing them enjoy meeting each other in the context of an inspiring event and hearing them exchange stories about their time at Sarah Lawrence and also their current lives. Even though many didn’t know each other at Sarah Lawrence and graduated in different years, a connection is there. I think especially in these dark and dangerous days of divisiveness and intolerance building community is more important than ever.