The follow post is Howard Steele’s opening remarks for the dedication ceremony of the Safran Reading Room on December 5th, 2018. Click here to read Ali Shames-Dawson’s comments on the dedication.
Good evening, everyone, my name is Howard Steele. I am a professor here and the chair for the clinical psychology faculty, working with Doris Chang the Director of Clinical Training — these are administrative posts previously held by Jeremy Safran, and it is the memory of Jeremy we are honoring tonight with the formal opening and dedication of the Safran Reading Room. We are blessed with food and wine, ordered and prepared with devotion by Trisha, Donna and Nichelle — the department administrators our graduate students and faculty depend on. The faculty, me, Miriam, Doris, Lisa Rubin, Lisa Litt, Wendy, Mac, Adam, Richelle — we were all recruited to The New School, promoted or tenured, with Jeremy’s vital support. Mac Todman has the unique memory of being among the students who interviewed Jeremy when he applied to work here, back in early 1990s.
Each of us here tonight has lively memories of Jeremy Safran, for many of us memories rooted in this very space where we stand. I can easily picture Jeremy’s winter boots left outside his office door on a day like this in winter months. I can picture the door to Jeremy’s office covered completely with post-it notes, as it was last May and June of this year, with loving words of thanks for what Jeremy had taught and given, how he had opened up opportunities for personal growth and the realization of dreams students felt impossible without him. So much gratitude, we feel, from colleagues, students, friends, family of Jeremy for the gift he gave us: The gift of his love, his learning and dedication to the well-being of our clinical psychology doctoral program.
When he died in May, we learned things about Jeremy we knew only partially before. We knew he loved books, we just didn’t know how much! We had seen the almost daily arrival of Amazon purchases Jeremy made, and we cherished his animated discussions of books he was reading, especially ones with political implications. He would have devoured Bob Woodward’s book, Fear, and would already have read completely Michelle Obama’s book, Becoming. From his office at work here, and at his home, Jeremy left over 5,000 clinical psychology books, and over 1,000 others of general interest. The psychology books, thanks to his wife Jenny and to the dedicated time and design talents of Trisha, are now housed at The New School, in this special space that invites reflection and contemplation, and will serve as an ongoing reminder of Jeremy’s contributions to our Clinical Psychology Program. When we think of Jeremy and the journey we have been on since May 7th when his life suddenly ended, it has been a trying time of grief, but also a period of ‘becoming’ and starting down the path toward post-traumatic growth.
When Jeremy arrived at The New School in 1993, the Clinical Program was on probation — something about how we were letting too many students into the PhD program, and too few were finishing in a timely fashion. Before long, under Jeremy’s impassioned motivation to rebuild the department, full APA accreditation was restored to the program and we have had continuous full accreditation since — our PhD students now finish their studies promptly, are highly successful at obtaining final year internships, with many of our alum holding leading positions at hospitals and first-responder services around the City. So nice that many of you are here tonight.
There will come a time, perhaps thirty to forty years from now, where the faculty in our clinical psychology faculty group will no longer include people Jeremy helped in critical ways to appoint, promote or tenure, when clinical psychologists in the city will no longer have direct memories of training and supervision from Jeremy, people may then wonder “Who was Jeremy Safran?” Trisha, in thinking about this Reading Room, considered this question and worked with us in preparing a plaque for display in this Reading Room, providing a synopsis of Jeremy’s amazingly productive life, and including a photo of Jeremy smiling, about to break out in laughter, holding two puppets, one of Sigmund Freud and one of the Buddha.
We are here tonight doing three things that Jeremy loved to do, hang with beloved colleagues, family and friends, drink wine, and discuss books. Jeremy would be deeply amused to know that this day of the opening of the Safran Reading Room is an American national holiday in honor of the recently deceased President Bush. Please join me in toasting Jeremy — or the memory of Jeremy — and all he achieved in his 66 years. To Jeremy!
Howard Steele is the Co-Chair of the Clinical Faculty of the Psychology Department at The New School for Social Research and co-founder of the New School Center for Attachment Research.