Alumni Support Saybrook’s Golden Heritage

by George Aiken

For the Saybrook Alumni Association, supporting Saybrook’s long standing tradition of humanistic thought and education is of primary importance. We believe that our humanistic roots are critical to Saybrook’s role as a viable, important, and necessary educational institution in the world today.

Over the past year, we have worked to create new ways to support Saybrook’s educational ideals through several venues, including:  the Quarterly Alumni Newsletter the HOMEPAGE, which features the accomplishments of faculty and alumni in the hope that the wider Saybrook community will be encouraged to continue the traditions that fostered these successes; the monthly, alumni, HOMEPAGE UPDATE lists current scholarly and vocational opportunities, and announces events relevant to the continued education of our alumni; the newly revised alumni blog, Provocative Discourse, where alumni can discuss issues relevant to their own life and work, and the health and well being of Saybrook and its ideals; and finally, a new alumni webcast, The Alumni Community Gathering: Keeping Up with Saybrook, A Monthly Informational Forum, where alumni discuss topics relevant to their careers and to Saybrook’s mission. It is the Alumni Association’s hope that these efforts will contribute in some small way to a long and healthy future at Saybrook.

These new approaches for keeping the alumni community connected have been successful because alumni are passionate about the traditions and heritage that have transformed their personal and professional lives. Saybrook alumni hope to see these traditions continue to enrich the lives of students, alumni, and the community at large for many years to come. 

Since its “doors” first opened as the Humanistic Psychology Institute (HPI) in February of 1970, students matriculating at Saybrook have had the great fortune to study with and be mentored by the progenitors of humanistic thought. From the founding fathers of humanistic psychology, Rollo May, Jim Bugental, Amadeo Giorgi, and Stanley Krippner, to modern day bearers of the humanistic torch, Eugene Taylor, Tom Greening, Zonya Johnson, David Lukoff, Art Bohart, Alan Vaughan, and alumnus Kirk Schneider; from Social Transformation’s Dennis Jaffe, Marc Pilisuk, Joel Federman, and JoAnne McAllister, to Organizational Systems’ John Adams, Saybrook alumna Kathia Laszlo, Nancy Southern, Bela Banathy, Sr., Dennis Jaffe, Diana Whitney, and Marvin Brown; and from Integrative Health’s Don Moss, Marie de Cowden, Allyson Washburn, and Eric Willmarth, to Consciousness and Spirituality’s Steve Pritzker, Arne Collens, Ruth Richards, and Jurgen Kramer, an educational system brilliantly conceived in the early 1970s has grown, thrived, and enriched the world with graduates steeped in the humanistic traditions.

These crucial mentoring relationships between faculty and student, and a revolutionary educational system were made possible by the foresight and support of Saybrook’s early founders and directors, including Eleanor Criswell, Thomas Hanna, Stan Krippner, Gordon Tappan, William McCreary, Art Warmoth, and others. Dr. Criswell, the founding director of HPI, first approached the Association of Humanistic Psychology (AHP) with the idea of a degree granting, humanistic graduate institution in 1969. John Levy, the Executive Officer of AHP at the time, stated that such an institution was necessary to respond to an “urgent and growing need for educational opportunities, which can more adequately meet the needs and hopes of many of our country’s most promising and creative students and educators.” This statement may be more relevant today than it was when first written.

Dr. Levy suggested that this “new institution” embrace many values current to Saybrook’s mission. He stated that an integral part of the educational process should be learning about education itself, and that education cannot be separated from life. He suggested that a good teaching approach does not attempt to isolate what happens in the classroom, but integrates this with the student’s experiences in his or her living situation, work, and elsewhere; that education is a matter of participation—we are not learning when we are passively receiving information or ideas, learning takes place when both the teacher and student are involved together and when both are learning at the same time; and that an educational experience can be both transformational and vocationally relevant.

Saybrook’s alumni have experienced this first hand, and know it to be true.  Their commitment to our community, and the ideals that inspire it, will continue to guide our efforts, now and in the future.

To comment, or to better connect with our alumni community, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

George Aiken is a Saybrook Alumnus and Saybrook’s Director of Alumni Affairs

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