Great Chairs, Great Teaching
Great teachers and great teaching chairs are natural companions. Two chairs created by donors who loved the pivotal place of the teacher-student relationship at Sarah Lawrence passed to new chair holders at the trustee meeting in March. Michael Davis, a member of the philosophy faculty since 1977, now holds the Sara Yates Exley Chair in Teaching Excellence; Judith Serafini-Sauli ’63, who has taught Italian at Sarah Lawrence since 1981, is the newest holder of the Esther Raushenbush Chair, which was endowed to support teaching in the humanities.
Serafini-Sauli founded and designed the concept for the Sarah Lawrence College in Florence study abroad program. “Judy knows that to teach a language is to teach a culture,” said Dean Barbara Kaplan at the ceremony. “She is able to bring a class together, to meld it into a lively group of students who are totally absorbed in their work.”
“Both Michael and Judy understand—and live by—something that is too often lost these days: that education is a moral act...”
Trustee Laura Donnelley- Morton ’69 commented on her late father, Gaylord Donnelley, who established the Raushenbush Chair while a member of the Board of Trustees. “My father had such a passion for education—he personally wished he could have been a teacher. My parents thought hard about how they could give to have a long-range impact and make a difference way down the road; I admire how they applied their resources in such a well-considered and visionary way.”
Davis reads ancient Greek, as well as French, German and Italian. “In a school where attracting students to a lecture course is an art, students flock to his lecture courses,” Kaplan noted. She continued, “Both Michael and Judy understand—and live by—something that is too often lost these days: that education is a moral act, that the worlds of philosophy and literature teach us how to live moral lives.”
Exley’s daughter, Eve Guernsey, said her mother—an educator who founded two theatre groups for children—believed that arts had a crucial role to play in young people’s development and education.
“She was incredibly accomplished and giving of herself,” said Guernsey, “one of the smartest people—if not the smartest person—I’ve ever known. Sarah Lawrence was a great experience for her.”
Two other faculty chair holders will be honored in the spring of 2005: literature faculty member William Shullenberger, who holds of the Joseph Campbell Chair in the Humanities, and Nancy Baker of the philosophy faculty, holder of the Frieda Wildy Riggs Chair in Religious Studies.