In Memoriam: Erin Schlather '99

Erin Schlather had a unique gift of bringing people together; she drew them to her, even when it was for her funeral. Never before had we met someone like her, nor can we imagine anyone her equal. She was energy personified and encapsulated, so much so that she could not actually sit still, and instead absentmindedly rocked back and forth. Everything Erin attempted she did with so much passion and dedication that it is not hard to believe what she accomplished in such a short time. At brunches so often enjoyed with her friends, she would send back bacon if it was not burned to a crisp; on a dare, she uttered her signature “Waaa” during a play at the Coalbin; she was a feisty poker player in the TH basements; and she was one of the most giving, kind, and truly brilliant people in the world. She exists now in the things that she loved, and the things that remind us so powerfully of her. Because of that, we will never truly be without her; each time we drink a pint or sip red wine, each time we see a strong woman excel in politics, each time we all get together, we miss Erin, we love her and we will honor her memory by being more energetic, more dedicated, and most importantly, always living our lives to the fullest.

Nicole Zahka ’99 (on behalf of Erin Schlather’s friends)
Chagrin Falls, Ohio

Bravo, G-Stringers!

I just wanted people to know that the best part of this June reunion, for me, was the coming together of the Vassar G-Stringers. Anyone who was able to see them was enchanted! They had not been together since the 1950s, ’60s, or ’70s, had no rehearsal at all, but the voices, songs, harmonies, arrangements were superb! The Powerhouse Black Box was the perfect venue and reminded me of 1970s casual folk concerts held in odd spaces. Seating the groups chronologically in a large circle allowed them to see and hear each other, and join in singing—and the audience could see how the materials and styles changed over the years—a wonderful mixture of folk and contemporary music.

They said they were doing it “just for themselves,” but it was a great gift to those in the audience. I hope they will be encouraged to come back soon and allow more people to enjoy the best of Vassar student creativity and music!

Anne MacKay ’49
Orient, New York

Philosophical Lessons

Seamus Carey’s ’87 article on philosophical parenting [Spring 2004] was interesting. I hope that many Vassar graduates remember Mr. Venable’s wonderful course in ethics. We studied Immanuel Kant and John Stuart Mill and wrote about the decision of Socrates to drink hemlock rather than accept exile.

A philosophical parent could make good use of Kant’s law of universality. When a child refuses to set the table, the philosophical parent could ask, “What will happen if everyone refuses to do their chores?” The philosophical parent could refer to John Stuart Mill, who wrote that everyone benefits when the individual works for the “greatest good of the greatest number.” As a mother, I found it easier to rely on Bricklin and Bricklin’s “respect other people, their feelings and their property,” as well as the family councils, in which every one could speak and had an equal vote.

Heidegger, who joined the Nazi Party in 1933, wrote that focusing on practical matters will “enable us to see the totality of human existence.” We are “thrown” into the world and faced with an existence in which good intentions have no value. Heidegger did not write about ethics, and he replaced being, the concern of most philosophers, with Dasein, man’s “being-in-the-world” and relating himself to the objects and people around him. Like the Ancient Greeks, we are expected to refrain from reading books and are expected to acquire knowledge through action.

It is unfortunate that Heraclitus, who wrote that “everything is change, but the mountains change more slowly,” has been misinterpreted. Daniel W. Graham, a Brigham Young University professor, writes that the “flux” of Heraclitus means that “strife is justice and war is the father and king of all.” He also claims that radical “Heracliteanism,” in which “everything is in a state of flux and there is accordingly no knowledge of the world,” influenced Plato’s “view of the sensible world.”

Although Plato probably knew about the “flux” of Heraclitus, he wrote a dialogue, Parmenides, and the a priori reasoning of Parmenides became the dialectic of Plato. Plato was also influenced by Socrates, who was the central character in many dialogues. Both men were politically active, and Plato writes about an ideal society that is ruled by a philosopher whose knowledge of the Good would protect him from avarice. Plato’s theory of Forms, concepts that are “eternal, changeless and incorporeal,” is the foundation of modern philosophy. It would be difficult to name all the philosophers who have been influenced by Plato’s philosophy. Alfred North Whitehead, who was chairman of Harvard’s philosophy department from 1924-1937, has said that “later philosophy...[is] a series of footnotes to Plato.”

J. Susanna Faurot Warner ’56
Brookline, Massachusetts

Picture-Perfect Wedding

Stunning and beautiful—the cover of the Summer ’04 VQ. I thoroughly enjoyed the accompanying article and photographs.

Shirley Spratt Mitchell ’64
Montreat, North Carolina

Re: What's in a Mark?

My father, Vernon Church, was a great Vassar enthusiast and cheerleader. He came to Soph Fathers’ Weekend, looking youthful, like a college date in khakis and jacket. He energetically played touch football with students and dads. He regularly wrote letters of appreciation to President Blanding. When we got our class rings he was thrilled, saying, “Just think of the thousands of Vassar graduates wearing my initials!”

Alison Church Hyde ’59
East Aurora, New York

Dean Johnson's Legacy

Thank you for the article on Colton Johnson [Summer 2004]. I was saddened to hear that he is leaving his post as dean of the college. He has been a tremendous asset to Vassar and to the students, many of whom were likely largely unaware of just how much hard work Dean Johnson did to make the college better. I sat on the Committee on College Life during my senior year at Vassar (1998 – 1999), and when I reflect back on my years at Vassar, I always remember with a smile his wry wit and his hard work. I wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors, and I know that his strong presence and thoughtful ideas will continue to ring through the campus.

Tara Knowland ’99
New Haven, Connecticut

Wonderful at 86

A young grad a few years ago wrote a letter printed in the VQ, which complained that the Class Notes only seemed to mention people’s successes. I have not been close to many of my classmates and on graduation perhaps had an idealized feeling that being a Vassar grad should sail one through living. One could almost claim the opposite, that Vassar introduces us to more problems. A person who takes a college education seriously can well be introduced to a wider sense of problems, as well as techniques for handling them. My talk therapy lets me know that the Class Notes reveal only the tip of the mountains we have been climbing. (I will never use an iceberg as a negative way of talking about the whole of our lives!) We were and are all dealing with the problems that are just part of being alive. Under each Class Notes entry of accomplishment or death or illness is an individual life, led the best way we could lead it. Case in point is Edna St. Vincent Millay ’17, whose accomplishments did not give her happiness, unlike perhaps that other distinguished Vassar poet I know of, Mary Oliver ’59, whose poems suggest she’s being who she is and living a long, happy life.

To me, an active, busy 85-year-old, the excitement of life is recognizing problems as they arise and handling them with the fullest perspective of what is possible. I looked forward to our 65th class reunion this June and there enjoyed the excitements of the planned program but will hope for some mini-reunions where the emphasis will be on us surviving, getting acquainted as a group, and talking about what we are enjoying in our lives. We who have lost our best friends to death or forgetfulness need a way to find our way into the class circle. I’ve written a first chapter of a memoir, called “What’s wonderful about being 86,” and will send it to anyone interested who emails me their address. Mine is maggiehc@bellsouth.net. I promise no spamming.

Margaret Hunt-Cohn ’39
Austell, Georgia