A Room Dedicated to a Dedicated Woman
"This is a long way from the men's locker room in Thompson Hall where my mother started," said Julie Flieschner at the dedication ceremony of the Jeannette E. Fleischner Room in the Department of Curriculum and Teaching. The room was built in honor of the former professor of special education who passed away suddenly three years ago. "It has nice wallpaper, good lighting, the air conditioner works, and there is a built-in kitchen so people can make her curried chicken," she added.
A crowd of faculty, former faculty, former students and other friends and family of Fleischner gathered inside 304 Main Hall, a room that is now one of the most beautifully designed spaces in the College, to share memories and hear from Julie and others who knew the former professor.
As a TC doctoral student, Fleischner began her career at Teachers College as assistant professor and coordinator of the Special Education Child Study Center in 1974. Within ten years, she accepted the position of chair of the Department of Special Education, directed the Program on the Learning and Physically Disabled, and was the principal investigator in the Research Institute on Learning Disabilities at the College. Fleischner was also one of the first to study the role of technology in educating children with disabilities.
A former student of Fleischner's, Alice Elgart, was the first to pledge a donation to the restoration of the C & T conference room to honor her former mentor. Elgart, in her remarks noted that "extraordinary things happen to people who make extraordinary things happen to themselves. Jean made us look at what was extraordinary in ourselves."
Maris Manheimer was Fleischner's last doctoral student. At a conference in Washington, DC, focused on improving math for children with learning disabilities, she heard Fleischner speak and decided to study with her. "It was the commitment she had toward children and making a difference in their lives that sang through her words," Manheimer said. "I told her, 'I want to study with you,' and she welcomed me into the Fleischner clan."
Colleagues who knew Fleischner spoke of their memories of the woman they knew and cherished and how the room will honor her.
"This room is a way to celebrate a friend, for all of us who knew her, studied with her and benefited from her work," said TC President Arthur Levine.
"Though the room is named for Jean, it is public space that will house work representing many perspectives on learning, teaching and schools," said retired Professor Margaret Jo Shepherd. Shepherd and Fleischner worked closely together in the Special Education program. "Those who work in this room now will influence those whose work is yet to come. Thus, we are assured that people who work in the space will enact Jean's legacy whether she lives in their minds as a memory or a question."
Family members and those who spoke at the ceremony unveiled a portrait of Fleischner, painted by portraitist Manu Saluja, which hangs in the room.
Professor James Borland, the current Chair of the Department of Curriculum and Teaching said of his former colleague, "Jean loved TC, although not uncritically, and I believe she would be very pleased to know that she is being remembered in this way."
He continued, "It is very satisfying to know that, long after we are all gone, Jean's name and face will enter the consciousness of members of the Teachers College community, most of whom are not yet born. They will know that, whoever Jean Fleischner was, she was loved and respected and that she made her mark on Teachers College."
Published Tuesday, Sep. 18, 2001