“Thelma wants to save the state,” reads a line from a humorous poem written by an unidentified schoolmate of future Robinson Professor Dr. Thelma Z. Lavine. Although the poem was written during Lavine’s college days, the words were surprisingly predictive.
Dr. Lavine did indeed work to “save the state.” She spent her career tirelessly helping students, politicians, and the general public think more cogently about philosophy and its relevance to social issues. In the early 1980s, Dr. Lavine developed a thirty-part television series, “From Socrates to Sartre,” which was broadcast first by Maryland Public Television and then nationally. The success of the series lay in Dr. Lavine’s ability to transform the often complex problems of philosophy into concepts accessible to everyday viewers. Hundreds of fan letters, now housed in the SC&A archives, attest to Dr. Lavine’s ability to communicate with people from highly varied backgrounds. She used her lecture series as the basis for her book, From Socrates to Sartre. Published in 1985, the mass market paperback is in its eighth printing today.
Throughout her life, Dr. Lavine was known for her energetic teaching style and dynamic persona. Dr. Lavine ended her professorial career at GMU, retiring in 1998, although she continued to remain in contact with the greater philosophical community.
SC&A recently processed a collection of materials generously donated to SC&A by Dr. Lavine’s estate. The collection includes correspondence, research, and writing, as well as over 300 audio cassettes. The collection is available for study in SC&A. Click here for a link to the finding aid.
The Thelma Z. Lavine papers were recently processed by Blyth McManus and Rachel Moran. Blog post by Blyth McManus.