SLC on MTM
Faculty, staff, alumnae/i, and friends talk about Michele Tolela Myers’s impact on the College
When Michele first arrived on campus, students told her that their Sarah Lawrence grants were decreasing each year because juniors and seniors were required to borrow more money than they had previously, based on government recommendations. She made the bold and compassionate decision to cap the amount of borrowing required for juniors and seniors at the sophomore level-a decision that ultimately saves most of our undergraduates receiving financial aid $4,000 in student loans.
-Thyra Briggs, Dean of Enrollment
Before Michele arrived, we at Sarah Lawrence prided ourselves on heterodoxies, yet sometimes tended to be afraid of arguments. Michele believed in honest and civil argument and tried to encourage it around here. Honest argument is the soul of the academy, so Michele fought for something very valuable."
-Fred Smoler, Literature and History Faculty
Michele has shown a real commitment to the science program. She not only increased the number of science faculty, she also raised funds so that we could create a summer program in which undergraduates can gain valuable research skills.
-Mali Yin, Chemistry Faculty
Michele is so open with the board of trustees, always telling us the whole story of an issue-the pluses as well as the drawbacks. I never felt she was holding anything back from us, and that made it easier for the board members to support the many ideas she brought to us.
-Barbara Cohn ’70, Honorary Trustee
Michele dreamed of a Visual Arts Center where dreams could become lively realities-a place to stir sighs of satisfaction and affection among students and faculty. Upon hearing her words and understanding her vision my husband and I determined to support this transforming new project. It is now a reality, and a tribute to her leadership.
-Monika Heimbold ’85, Honorary Trustee
Michele really listens to people. Last year, a group of students tried to storm a trustee board meeting and Michele went back and forth between the students and the trustees, working between them until everyone's needs were satisfied. The students got to speak to the trustees and they listened, and all the business on the agenda was concluded.
-Jason Spears MFA ’07
Michele has always been attuned to the needs of the staff, and always asked for feedback on College issues that affected us. She listened when we brought issues to her, and even when the response may not have been the one we wanted, I knew that our ideas had been understood and respectfully considered. On a more personal note, I have enjoyed the times we were able to connect outside the College. We always shared a good laugh. I will miss her professionally and personally.
-Maureen Gallagher, Director of Facilities
When Michele studied the issue of compensation for faculty and staff, she did not forget the contracted workers-food service, cleaning, and grounds staff. Technically these workers are not college employees, but she understood that they are valuable members of our community. She actively engaged trustees, and tirelessly working with them she established a living wage for the contracted workers. Her passion to this issue made it a reality.
-Susan Guma, Dean of Graduate Studies
Michele's commitment to progressive education and the liberal arts are embodied in the vibrant new Heimbold Visual Arts Center. It's a place where a heady mix of poets and political scientists, geneticists and art critics, musicians and early childhood educators can converse and exchange ideas. That is an invaluable legacy to the College and to the community.
-Judith Rodenbeck, Art History Faculty