TŌN’s May 1, 2021 concert was dedicated to the memory of Stuart Stritzler-Levine. This article, written by James Rodewald ’82, originally appeared in the Fall 2020 issue of the Bardian under the headline “A Man of Stature, and Lofty Ideals.”
Stuart Stritzler-Levine, 87, professor emeritus of psychology and dean emeritus, died May 1, 2020. Stritzler-Levine, who joined the Bard faculty in 1964 and devoted 56 years of continuous service to the College, received his B.A. from New York University, M.A. from New School University, and Ph.D. from SUNY Albany. Before coming to Bard he was a clinical research psychologist at Philadelphia State Hospital, where he worked in a National Institute of Mental Health project designed to rehabilitate patients with chronic mental illness. He also served as a clinical psychologist at Bordentown Reformatory in New Jersey. His teaching and research interests at Bard included social psychology, specifically obedience to authority, conformity, attitude measurement, and change; moral development; and experimental design. He was fascinated by the social psychologist Stanley Milgram, on whose work and legacy he was teaching a seminar in the Spring 2020 semester.
“No one has worked as tirelessly and generously for Bard as Stuart did,” writes President Leon Botstein. “He loved the College, its mission, its people, its history, and its landscape. He was fastidious and disciplined, yet he made the time not only to work unstintingly but also to sit and talk with everyone, anytime.”
Stritzler-Levine was dean of the College from 1980 to 2001. In those 21 years he oversaw innovations in the admission process, particularly the Immediate Decision Plan; the rapid growth of Bard’s enrollment and curriculum; and the College’s expansion into graduate education. He served as Dean of Studies at Bard High School Early College Manhattan from 2003 to 2009, then returned to teaching at Bard and at Simon’s Rock. Botstein writes, “He died in active service, not retired, as was his dream.”
Even while fully occupied by his duties at the College, Stritzler-Levine worked to extend liberal arts and sciences education to underserved communities. In 1999, he proposed a “bridge course” to expand the original Clemente Course, which was entering its fifth year of offering rigorous, university-level humanities instruction to low-income students. His recognition that some who had completed the course but not been able to go on to college would benefit from additional study led him to offer to design and teach this bridge course once a week. He did so without pay. His devotion to learning and to Bard students had no limits. He was legendary as a Senior Project adviser. Tom Maiello ’82, a former advisee, shares that Stritzler-Levine, knowing Maiello could not afford to continue his education after Bard, paid for his first post-graduate program. Maiello retired in 2013 after nearly 33 years as a director of admissions, Holocaust educator, adjunct professor of philosophy, and dean of admissions. Last year he went back to work. “I am in social services as part of a skilled health care team,” writes Maiello. “I dedicate it all to him and his being there at the right time.”
Kenneth Stern ’75, director of Bard’s Center for Hate Studies, has had a long relationship with Stritzler-Levine, starting as a student and more recently as a colleague. “Stuart and I spoke frequently over the years, often about hate, especially given his expertise about Stanley Milgram,” writes Stern. “Stuart was always fascinated with the world around him, and how to think about it. He was an eager supporter of the Center for Hate Studies (he and I had brainstormed about this idea for years) and a regular participant in the faculty reading group on hate.” Stern also shared a passion for fishing, and the two traded strategies, fish tales, and lures, beginning in Stern’s undergraduate days. “I moderated in the early ’70s,” recalls Stern. “My board insisted that I take a statistics class, which I did, with Stuart. It was not my favorite subject, but I loved the data set—Stuart’s summer catch of lake trout, which made me jealous of the quantity, length, width, weight, and every other measure of Stuart’s success.”
Stritzler-Levine’s other passions included operas by Richard Wagner, the photography of Berenice Abbott, and sports, particularly basketball. In the mid 1970s, Charlie Patrick, Bard’s athletic director, asked if he would coach the varsity basketball team. Stritzler-Levine accepted and went about putting together a team. Before long, spurred on by “bus loads” of students, as Stritzler-Levine recalled at the 2014 Athletics Awards Banquet, who drove up to Columbia Greene Community College to cheer for Bard against Albany College of Pharmacy, the 1976–77 team came within seconds of a conference title game. “It was a splendid group of guys,” Stritzler-Levine said in 2014. “For a couple of years, or even three, we took ourselves seriously and practiced and learned and had a dress code and all that good stuff that being a team could be. The truth is I loved my squad.” For 56 years and counting, the Bard community has felt the same way about him.
Stuart Stritzler-Levine is survived by his wife, Nina Stritzler-Levine, and their daughter, Ali SR ’15. He is also survived by his daughter Jennifer, and was predeceased by his daughter Jessica ’84, who died in 2010.