2011 TC Pressroom
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Celebrating Professor Jeannette Fleischner's Life

A mix of colleagues and students filled Horace Mann Auditorium September 15 to commemorate the life of Professor Jeannette Fleischner. Some in the audience nodded in agreement, others wept silently as each speaker shared anecdotes of her generous nature and boundless energy.

President Arthur Levine opened the service with his own memories of Professor Fleischner as a friend and a colleague, from the time she generously cooked Thanksgiving dinner for his family when his mother passed away to the time she assisted his sister's son, who has learning disabilities.

"I keep meeting people whom she did the same things for," Levine stressed. "The stories I hear are of generous acts that she did for people all over this campus. Everybody has a Jean story."

Professor Margaret Jo Shepherd, who was one of Professor Fleischner's closest friends and colleagues, was instrumental in organizing the service.

"Each morning my first thought is that she isn't here," Shepherd told the audience. "And then I think, what would this unusually intelligent, unusually energetic person have made of this day," she continued.

"She doesn't walk with us, but lives with each one of us in our work, with each generous thought and act we do for each other."

Another friend and colleague, Larry Silver, related a story in which Professor Fleischner saw him sitting on the floor with a 10-year-old boy

"I told her he was hurting so much, and I wished I could help him," Silver said. "She told me, 'If you want to help him, teach him to read.'"

Others who spoke of Professor Fleischner's impact on their lives included her children, friends, students, and colleagues.

Her clear, simple responses to complicated situations was evident in a story related by Professor Robert Crain.

As chair of the Faculty Executive Committee, she was running the planning session for a controversial faculty retreat. Crain said she opened the meeting by saying, "I know it's controversial, but think of it as going to Grandma's house. Your job is to pick the toys you will bring."

Her unflappability was expressed in a story by her daughter, Julie, about the circumstances surrounding Julie's birth.

Professor Fleischner was at a meeting when her water broke. Not wanting to disrupt the business at hand, she did not mention to anyone that she was in labor.

Afterwards, she calmly asked a male colleague to drive her to the hospital, intermittently wondering out loud, as they sat in traffic, what they would do if the baby was born in the car.

Bob Ludwig, a 28-year friend of Professor Fleischner's, read a poem that he wrote for the occasion.

He spoke of times he spent working with her, and ended by saying, "Look around at us--children, grand kids, mate and friends by the score. The only one missing is who we adore. But missing she's not, not the Jean that we know. She's somewhere else marking papers, making dinners, and we know that she knows. So a toast to you for all 28 years. A toast to you old friend; I am joyful with tears."

Professor Emeritus Leonard Blackman, in his closing remarks, ventured a guess as to how Professor Fleischner would respond to the service.

"If Jean could speak to us now, she would probably say, 'Okay. You paid your respects today, now get on with it. You have students to teach, TC to make better, and your families to nurture and take care of.'"

He continued, "In that spirit, we will move on."

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