Tribute Continued: A Union of Opposites

A Union of Opposites: Excerpted from Barbara Kaplan's 1985 Convocation Address

Commencement, 1989 Kaplan with Joanne Woodward, Marilyn Katz, Alice Stone Ilchman, and Sidney Potier at Commencement, 1994

Top: Commencement, 1989. Bottom: With Joanne Woodward, Marilyn Katz, Alice Stone Ilchman, and Sidney Poitier at Commencement, 1994.

The Sarah Lawrence vision, above all, is a vision of wholeness, one that replaces a sense of conflicting opposites with a sense of inter-relatedness. It is a vision of the fullness and the power of individual capacities, of one's intellectual, creative, emotional, and imaginative faculties enhancing each other rather than existing in isolation or in uneasy tension.

Within the Sarah Lawrence vision, the dichotomy between creative and intellectual gives way to the realization that each is part of the other, that reason and imagination mean little without each other. It is a rejection of the opposition of work and play, an understanding that the roots of much of our most meaningful work lie in the play of childhood, that to play with an idea is to work at understanding and refining it. It is an understanding that past and present are merged in a continuum, and one cannot understand what is now until one knows what once was; that we cannot understand human life until we understand those things that endure while everything else changes.

The Sarah Lawrence vision rejects the sharp distinction between objectivity and subjectivity, between science and art, between the collection and interpretation of information, between education and life. It is an understanding that the individual and the community cannot exist without each other, that the drives toward individuation and toward belonging are complementary. To act with the authenticity of one's individuality is to define more clearly one's relationship with others; to conform, to adapt, to compromise one's self is to weaken one's link to the community.

 

A True Adventurer

When I first came to Sarah Lawrence, I trusted Barbara on faith. And as we worked together I quickly learned that not only did she have an incredible store of information about the College, but she was funny, kind, and wise. She understood which battles were worth fighting, and what we needed to protect in order to preserve the College's core identity.

Over the years, my trust in Barbara has deepened and deepened. I prize her counsel. We don't agree on everything, but I take our disagreements very seriously, because she's a smart woman, and has an incredible sense of justice.

Barbara is an adventurer-she has traveled all over the world, climbing mountains, riding horses, and trekking to places that most of us can only dream of. But she doesn't reserve this sense of adventure for her travels. She brings it to Sarah Lawrence every day, and has put it to good use in her quest to improve faculty compensation and her efforts to ensure that our curriculum remains vital and alive.

I admire Barbara's spirit and am deeply grateful to have worked with her for the past nine years. Sarah Lawrence will not be the same without her.

-President Michele Tolela Myers

Au revoir: A final conversation with Michele Tolela Myers Conversation Continues: Growth always comes at a price... Conversation Continues: We are ar too homogenous...