Then...       and       Now



sswkv+@pitt.edu

College Highlights - A. B., Psychology, Vassar College; M.S., Child Development, University of Pittsburgh; Ph.D., Education, University of Pittsburgh

Marriage and Family Highlights - I married Ned S. VanderVen on June 24, 1961 whom I met as he was completing his Ph.D. at Princeton. We moved to Pittsburgh when he joined the faculty of the Physics Department of Carnegie-Mellon University. He just retired this year.

Our children, Elizabeth R. and Mark E., were born on September 20,1966 (yes, they're twins). Today, Elizabeth is completing her doctorate in Asian history at UCLA, finishing her dissertation; while Mark works for Amazon.com and lives in Seattle. Elizabeth, like me, is a graduate of Vassar, while Mark is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh.

Career Highlights - Today I am Professor of Child Development in the Department of Psychology in Education, in the School of Education at the University of Pittsburgh. In 1995- 1996 on sabbatical I was a Visiting Scholar at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and that wonderful experience was certainly a highlight. I just completed a four year stint as Program Director (akin to a department chairman) -in the same academic unit in which I once studied. I do the usual academic activities -teaching, community service, research, writing, journal editing and presenting at conferences, with writing probably the greatest emphasis.

Now that I no longer have administrative responsibilities, I am preparing to write a book -on the role of activity (sports, hobbies, arts, etc.) in the development of young people. The seeds for this topic were planted years ago on the playground of the Liberty Street School, where I played hopscotch, marbles, jump rope, dodge ball, softball, kick soccer, see-sawed, climbed the monkey bars, and swung as high as I could. I practiced throwing a tennis ball up against the old yellow brick walls until by sixth grade I could throw it over the building. All children should have such great experiences although unfortunately today many don't. That's the point of the book. I have no plans to retire yet.

Travel/Vacation Highlights - While I have traveled internationally, primarily on professional trips, my favorite travel destinations without a doubt are Florida and the Bahamas! How I love tropical waters. I go there several times a year to scuba dive and gather specimens for my Florida-Bahamas seashell collection. I've also enjoyed diving the wrecks off North Carolina. I have written up a number of my shell collecting trips which have been published in shell club newsletters.

Hobbies/Sports - Now we're getting to the fun! Sports are undoubtedly my primary non-work occupation. I love playing basketball and for the last 8 years or so, have done so once or twice a week. I even went to an overnight basketball camp to work on my skills. Scuba diving is another favorite, as mentioned before. In addition, I spend time running, swimming, and biking. I did some triathlons in the 80s and this year decided to make a "come back", completing two at the end of this summer and also a 10K race in September. All finished in "record slow time"!

Because of my interest in children's play, I collect playthings and practice things like juggling, batting "devil sticks", balancing a top on a long string. and spinning a dish on the end of a stick. Fun! Then there is my shell collection. I've started entering specimens in shell shows sponsored by shell clubs in Florida and in Philadelphia. I'm interested in mysteries, especially those by Florida writers, and have quite a collection of these. I also have an idea for my own mystery book, which, when I am less committed to academic writing, I hope to undertake.

Relevant to Nyack High is my collection of books and art works produced by my classmate friends. I have what I believe is a complete collection of Firth Haring Fabend's numerous books -novels and historical works; a wood sculpture by Cristina Biaggi, and a watercolor painting by Alison Church Hyde. We have two cats, a Maine Coon and a beautiful black and white, named Chester -after Janet Rippey Chesnut and her husband Bob. For more on how this came to be, read on...

Civic/Church/Community Activities - and a Story In Nyack, as a result of my friendship with Janet Rippey (Chesnut) and others from Palisades, I got to know the Palisades Presbyterian Church to the point I was married there in 1961. Imagine the thrill when one day in Pittsburgh in 1988, I read a letter in the local newspaper signed, "Janet R. Chesnut". It had to be my old friend - in Pittsburgh. I had been wanting to reconnect with her for years. I finally got up the nerve to call her -it turned out she lives not much more than a stone's throwaway from me- and we've been getting together ever since. One day Janet told me about a stray cat that had been coming into their yard. They'd been feeding it but couldn't keep it because of their own cat. To make a long story short, Ned and I took that cat in and he's called Chester after the Chesnuts.

One of my community activities is membership on the board of an arts education program at Janet's church in Pittsburgh, the East Liberty Presbyterian Church. I'm also on a number of other boards -child care and social service agencies, and a foundation.

Anything else that you may want to say - It will be great to return to Nyack. I haven't been there since 1992 when I came to bring my mother to Pittsburgh. I'm delighted the way Bob Merkert and several others have located missing classmates and have encouraged so many to come to the Reunion. I'm really looking forward to seeing everyone.

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