Tuesday, April 26, 2011

On the shoulders of giants

Just came from a gathering celebrating the contributions of philosopher, feminist and peace activist Sally Ruddick to The New School. Ruddick was probably the most influential of the long-term faculty of the Seminar College and Eugene Lang College in its first years. (She actually started at the university in 1967, shortly after completing the first PhD on Wittgenstein at Harvard.) I never met her - she had to stop teaching because of Parkinson's Disease a few years before I arrived - but I knew her as the author of Maternal Thinking: Towards a Politics of Peace, one of those amazing books that change the world. (It was actually introduced that way to me; a graduate student colleague told me it made her grateful to have been born late enough to be there to read it.)
The little I've been able to do is to ensure that Sally is duly remembered by the school to which she gave so much - and from which she got so much, too (her husband Bill reminded us that she felt no other school would have allowed her to explore so widely, and so to write her truly path-breaking books). We celebrate Lang's 25th anniversary this year, but there would be no Lang to celebrate (that is, Eugene Lang would never have made the donation for which the trustees expressed their gratitude by naming the college after him) had there not already been something pretty fantastic going on here. Sally was a big part of that thing - something you could still feel tonight in the tributes of old colleagues and students old and new.

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