Reflections on the Center for Continuing Education
Lenore Laupheimer ’65, MA ’68
I was one of the fortunate few (maybe there were 32 of us) who were here at the beginning. I came to the Center in the fall of 1962 when it was a pioneer in educating the nontraditional student. I was 29, married and the mother of three children ranging in age from 4 to 9, and I was trying desperately to find a way to get back to college. (I had left Wellesley when I was 19 to get married). An article in The New York Times was my immediate salvation. It told of a new program at SLC — about 12 minutes from where I lived — started by someone named Esther Raushenbush. Miraculously, it was designed just for me: someone who couldn’t go to school full-time, someone who craved serious learning and someone who couldn’t find a parking place at Columbia’s School for General Studies. That article, then the Center and the education at SLC, changed my life. I would never again be that same 50’s suburban housewife, although I would stay in the suburbs, stay married and raise the kids.
"There were many firsts for me at the Center. Can you imagine? Teachers took me seriously! My interests were important enough to be studied, researched and written about! I was taught to think critically." —Lenore Laupheimer '65, MA '68
There were many firsts for me at the Center. Can you imagine? Teachers took me seriously! My interests were important enough to be studied, researched and written about! I was taught to think critically. I couldn’t figure this out at first. The smart girl wasn’t so smart after all. And I made friends! Friends who were caught up in the same heady experience of learning and sharing it all with one another before classes or over lunches at the Well, where someone like Joe Campbell would sometimes sit down with us and gab. At the Center and then on campus I learned how to teach by participating in classes taught by master teachers. I watched and learned and later, after earning a B.A. and an MA in American history at SLC, I became a teacher — first for a term at Hofstra University (Bert Loewenberg got me the job) and then for 19 years at The Masters School in Dobbs Ferry, New York, where I ultimately chaired the department. There, I taught the girls around a round table — wasn’t that the way they did it at SLC? — long before the school institutionalized the practice. Since retiring, I’ve tutored at Westchester Community College and served on a task force on immigration there. I’ve never stopped going to school. I achieved all but a dissertation at The Graduate Center of the City University of New York and am now exploring cinema studies at Purchase College, but not for credit.
I have many precious memories of the Center. Most precious are those of Esther Raushenbush coming out of her office in the Marshall Field gatehouse, putting her hand on one of our shoulders and joining the conversations we so passionately engaged in as we waited for class. One day, when I was pontificating on the infinite wisdom of Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique, Esther put her hand on my shoulder. All eyes turned to her and, to my amazement, she said that Friedan was wrong. She quoted from Ecclesiastes: “There is a time for...” she recited. There was a time for us to marry and have babies — she was a great believer in having children when young — and there was a time to enter a new phase of life. That’s what the Center would help us do. And it did. My life without the Center and Sarah Lawrence is unimaginable.
Diana Horne ’74
Beginning at Sarah Lawrence was, in fact, a kind of real beginning. It was the start of fulfilling my dream of becoming a physician along with being a wife and mother of three.
After my first day I went home with a stimulation and energy I couldn’t believe! I was never disappointed and loved every class, although taking so much science precluded many other courses I wanted to take. My children often played on the campus while I did a lab or an art project, and I am proud that my son, Jim, also attended Sarah Lawrence and graduated in 1982. He is now an adolescent physician while I am a beginning surgeon turned psychiatrist.
I live near the College, and it always makes me feel good to see it. Something else that makes me feel good is being with all the vibrant “older grads” at CCE functions. Thank you.
Sue Kelly MA’85
"The best thing about my time at Sarah Lawrence was the freedom they gave me... They seem to understand that if they allow students to drive themselves, most will go way beyond whatever the professor might recommend." —Sue Kelly MA’85
The best thing about my time at Sarah Lawrence was the freedom they gave me. They’re very clever that way. They seem to understand that if they allow students to drive themselves, most will go way beyond whatever the professor might recommend! And, of course, that’s exactly what happened to me.
I was extremely fortunate, because I wound up taking a health advocacy course with Dr. Terry Mizrahi, and I was required to work on a project. I chose health care and senior citizens as my topic, and Terry turned out to be an extraordinary leader. As we talked together, I was able to begin focusing my research. Pretty soon, I found myself hanging out at the local supermarket, talking to older shoppers on “Senior Citizens’ Discount Days” and helping them with items they couldn’t reach on the higher shelves. As I talked with them, I learned all kinds of things about their needs and about the way they lived.
Although I never dreamed I’d one day be running for the 19th District seat in the U.S. Congress, my SLC experience in the supermarkets of Bedford and Katonah was actually terrific preparation for my political career: I didn’t know it at the time, but I was actually engaged in my first “voter surveys” while working on that paper for Sarah Lawrence!
Benjamin J. Salazar ’95, M.S.Ed. ’96
Whenever I tell someone I went to Sarah Lawrence and I get a cocked head and a quizzical look in reply, I always say the same thing: “Yes, it’s mostly a women’s school so it’s great to be a man at Sarah Lawrence College!” But not for the reasons they think...
Going back to school through the CCE program and transitioning quickly to full-time study while working full-time in New York City didn’t leave much time for socializing. What I meant by my comment is that at Sarah Lawrence men are definitely, noticeably in the minority. This was especially true for someone like me—a Hispanic man in his early 30’s who was compelled to continue where he had left off in his formal education.
"The school’s principles of democracy, equality of access, and respect for the independent voice are at work every day in every class in the round, in every conference project meeting, and in every don-donee conversation." —Benjamin J. Salazar '95, M.S.Ed. '96
Being a member of a distinct minority group is usually not an easy thing. In my experience, though, at Sarah Lawrence it is. The school’s principles of democracy, equality of access, and respect for the independent voice are at work every day in every class in the round, in every conference project meeting, and in every don-donee conversation. My fellow students and professors sought out my opinion and perspective precisely because, as a minority, my voice might have otherwise been overlooked, and an underrepresented voice mattered to them. As a man, then, I ended up getting a lot of attention, but because of my mind, not my gender.
As for reflections, I believe that what remains with us through the years are memories of what was either unusual or usual. That is, what has stayed with me are either moments that stood out from the rest because of their emotional impact or originality or those times which were so routine (in a satisfying sort of way) that they all roll into one another in an ongoing procession that I wish would never end. Along these lines, I remember the following:
- The entranceway to the Raushenbush Library as seen from the carrel above the entrance during a heavy snowfall. I don’t know when I’ve ever felt so cocooned, so protected.
- My don clutching her stomach as she advised me to ask myself what my gut said and act accordingly.
- The integrity a classmate showed in class one day when we were all supposed to be discussing a postmodernist text. The professor didn’t realize we couldn’t fathom the material, and each of us was ashamed to acknowledge this fact, but someone spoke out and admitted she couldn’t understand the reading. We all then meekly concurred.
- My anthropology teacher taking part of our conference times to teach me to be a better writer.
- The fresh-baked bread and black bean soup in the Health Food Bar. I haven’t run across better-quality food—organic, yet!—served in any campus dining hall before or since.
- Sharing stories about children’s learning in the Early Childhood Center with my teacher/mentor/don and friend as the evening light waned.
- The depth of feeling of my classmates, on hunger strike to protest a faculty tenure decision.
- Speaking at graduation and coming out after Cornel West as I rode his wave of exuberance to utter my few inadequate, inarticulate words of gratitude.
- Finally, through the years, the pride remains in knowing that, by virtue of our common experience at Sarah Lawrence, writing across the curriculum we have all mystically entered the fraternity (sorority?) of writers, both poets and commoners alike.
Christine Barker-Ruskin ’02
My fiftieth birthday present to myself was enrolling at Sarah Lawrence College. I had always wanted to write and, because I had only gone to two years of college and then to professional schools, I had never finished my B.A. My early professional life was spent working on Broadway as a dancer, singer, actress and in television, making numerous commercials. I had known of Sarah Lawrence and its graduate writing program since I was a teenager back in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The turn of the century coincided with my turning fifty, so I thought, “How perfect is that? The world and I can start over again.” I met two guardian angels, Alice Olson and Joelle Sander, who got me started, followed my progress, hugged me at graduation and danced with me when I was accepted into the graduate writing program.