Steinmetz, Melissa. In Memoriam: Dr Ann Steinmetz, Associate Professor of Speech, 1981 - 1999. Lion’s Voice, 4 March 2002, 1, 8–9. (DCL Archives)
In Memoriam: Dr Ann Steinmetz, Associate Professor of Speech, 1981 - 1999
by Melissa Steinmetz
One of my early memories is of Mom driving us over to Dowling when I was just a child. She’d often point out a certain stand of pine trees in the divider of the Southern State- “See those trees? That means we’re halfway there!” she’d say happily. She always looked forward to coming to Dowling.
Her favorite place was in the classroom; she loved the adrenaline of a semester and getting to “act” on her own small stage. But most of all, she loved the students. One of her strongest beliefs about Dowling was that here, students could feel free to discover their minds, no matter what their previous academic history might have been. She made that a defining feature of her speech classes, where even the most reluctant speaker would eventually gain confidence, and she created an atmosphere of support among the students that made classmates friends. Students were expected to give each other awards at semester’s end, and she took a great deal of pleasure in witnessing their creativity and kindness to each other.
Even after my mother’s breast cancer returned, and pain became a daily companion, she wanted desperately to continue teaching. When she could no longer manage to carry her briefcase, she’d cheerfully wheel it around campus on a cart. But after the unpredictable nature of her illness set in, and she could no longer commit to regular class hours, she decided she had to stop teaching - a decision that broke her heart.
My parents moved next-door to Dowling a few years ago, and Mom took comfort in the view of the mansion that greeted her in the living room. In her last months, when she was mostly confined to her chair, she often looked out the window and over the fence to the campus beyond. Whenever I’d come home from working at Dowling, she’d pepper me with questions about what the students were up to, always eager for news of their adventures.
On November 13, 2001, Mom died across the street from where she made her living - with such joy - for almost twenty years. I like to think that she still visits Dowling in spirit, nurturing the professors, students, and campus she loved.
“Ann was many things. She was my best friend. She was also the wisest person I knew, the best cook, the most curious (about everything in life), the most courageous, the most spiritual, and the most loving. Of all these attributes, her ability to love was unmatched by anyone in my experience. But what was not so visible was her strong, stoic, unsentimental approach to life. This was probably inherited from her German relatives who settled in Put-in-Bay, Ohio, a Lake Erie island with an unforgiving winter. She loved Dowling and what it represented in part because it allowed her to both nurture and challenge those around her. Here rare combination of loving encouragement and academic professionalism was especially evident in the world she took such pains to create [in] her classroom. In all of my thirty-two years in academia, I have never seen anyone who took such care in crafting a syllabus; every course objective was laid out in great detail. While students were urged to love each other and help each other, there was never any doubt what each individual student was expected to achieve. She never saw a dichotomy between rigor and love. I think that’s why her students both respected her and loved her. She is my role model in all things.” - Bill Steinmetz.
“I met your mom while visiting your father’s office in the summer of 2000. I was trying to come up with a mission statement for the Computer Club and your mom happened to be in the office. While your father did his thing, your mom and I worked on the mission statement together. What I experienced with your mom during this (and every other time I talked to her) was something I’ve heard from every person I’ve met who knew her. She radiated cheerfulness that not only coated you but penetrated you. I felt better about life every time I walked away from her.” - Joseph Adams, student
“I was in Ann’s first class back in 1981, She was one of the nicest people I have ever known and one of the greatest teachers I have ever had. She cared about her students not only academically but personally. Ann used to tell me that I should go for graduate work and be a teacher. She was such a special lady.” - Donna Lovaglio, Dowling Institute
“Ten or twelve years ago we were on the first floor waiting for an elevator in Racanelli. When it arrived, we were the first into what became a packed car. We needed to get off on the third floor while everyone else was going to the fourth. Ann raised her voice and loudly said, “Wouldn’t you know it, folks in the back are the first to get off,” causing everyone to smile as they moved out of the way so we could get off. Funny that this incident should have stuck with me, but I think it was typical of Ann - showing both common sense and grace.” - Diane Fischer, Computer Information Systems
“In the spring of 1992 your mother chaired the Search Committee that was charged with hiring a replacement for the vacancy in the Visual Arts Department, and I was the one who was fortunate to be selected. Since there were no other fulltime faculty members in that department as that time, I relied on your mother’s good counsel and wisdom to guide me through my first year at Dowling. She was more than supportive; she was exemplary. I shall never forget the kindnesses she extended to me.” - Stephen Lamia, Visual Arts
“Annie was a beloved faculty member who always had a friendly smile and a sunny disposition. You always felt comforted after talking to her as she had this inner warmth and stable personality who went with the flow of life. We all miss her.” - Bernadyn Kin Suh, Education
“One of my lasting memories of this generous woman took place shortly before her passing. In September, Dowling’s faculty was on the brink of going on strike. During the last week of negotiations, we all took turns walking the picket line in front of campus. Annie so wanted to join us, but with only a few more weeks to live, she could not walk easily at all. When my mom heard about this (she remembered how much Annie had helped me during my difficult tenure battle), she told me to take her wheelchair to “give Miss Annie a spin.” And that I did. I came to the house with Mom’s “chariot” and wheeled Annie from her house down to the picket line. It was an honor to help Annie, but it was even more wonderful because I knew (and I think Annie did, too) that this would probably be the last chance for her colleagues to see her. Many of us shed both tears of sadness and great joy. It’s surely a moment I won’t forget.” - Bill Thierfelder, English
“Accompanying a colleague to an interview with the Faculty Personnel Committee, I was trying to reassure my friend who was shaking uncontrollably. Ann, the representative to the FPC from Arts and Humanities at the time, came up to us. Putting her hand on my friend’s shoulder, she stopped him, looked him square in the eyes, and said, “You have a friend. We’re glad to have the chance to talk with you.” In a flash, he calmed down, had a flawless interview, and is a happily tenured faculty member now.” - Susan Rosenstreich, Foreign Languages
“Dr. Annie was a person that I wish I could be. Her kindness, thoughtfulness, and spirit will always be a part of my memories of her. She was loved by all. Just a month before we lost Dr. Annie, I found on my desk a baggie with foreign stamps in it for my daughter. She always remembered that Val collected them. I still have her note with the stamps.” - Patti Zerafa, Administrative Secretary, Arts and Humanities
“Ann has a welcoming and hospitable smile. I felt as if I was home when Ann shared her affable smile with me. I will miss home.” - Isaac Rosler, Foreign Languages
“I was to be at graduation one January and had a small but, as I viewed it, important role to play that evening. Unable to go home before the ceremony in Huntington, I needed to have a critical button sewn on my jacket to avoid public embarressment. Overhearing my plight, Ann said that since she lived not far from the site of the ceremony, she would take my jacket home, find a button, sew it on, and deliver it to me before the ceremony began. My protests that this was too much to ask of her was in vain. She took the jacket away and sure enough, she did exactly what she had promised to do. This is a tiny but revealing example of how thoughtful and how other-directed she was. I have rarely met anyone else who was so oriented towards helping and comforting others if and when she could, even when she herself was suffering so much. I will never forget her-one of the kindest people I have ever had the privilege of knowing. Ann Steinmetz improved the life of everyone that knew her.” - Elio Zappulla, English
Annie did so much for so many of us here at Dowling. I see her everywhere: early in the morning at meetings, or nextdoor to me when I teach, sharing ideas at conferences, sitting at meetings. Meetings. Annie never had a cross word for anyone but sometimes at meetings when someone had been particularly rude or done something cruel, Annie was capable of very short, withered comments which went right to the heart of the matter. Her goodness did not mean she could be fooled. But she also never judged anyone and it was to Annie that most of us went when we needed a kind word. She had an unending supply of comfort.” - Miriam Baker, English
As a grade school and junior college disappointment, I was destined to become an education outcast. But in my mid-twenties, my desire to become well-read, and to prove to myself that I could be a student and not just struggle to be one, became realized. If there was ever a person who could see the student-to-be in me, it was Ann.”
“Ann attracted genuine students and held animated classes. As one of her students, I was enamored by her presence and true love of the human spirit. Whenever I had doubts about my abilities, she would fire her arsenal of supportive vocabulary through the bullseye of my perception, and within minutes, I could see that my fears and doubts were surmountable, if not laughable.
She effortlessly and willingly became my guiding light. She became my class advisor, mentor, and later, a voice of love I could call upon when life seemed too overwhelming to navigate. Even though I can no longer pick up the phone form miles away to hear her encouraging and untangling words, or feel her bottomless warmth and invincible spirit, she now keeps and enduring place within my soul. If angels are real, she will forever be mine.” - Brent Bode, student
“I first met Annie in the spring of 1989. I was returning to Dowling from a very long leave of absence. Annie immediatly offered to share her office space with me, a gesture I will never forget. Annie was a generous person, always offering her advice and expertise.”
“Over the next nine years Annie challenged me to grow and develop my skills as a classroom instructor. Increasingly, I began to have a new image of myself. Annie had a way of communicating her trust and confidence in my abilities. She also encouraged me to participate in events and acitivities that Dowling offered. She was largely responsible for me becoming involved in the College Orientation program.”
“Anne truly lived a life that mattered. Annie, your love lives on with your family, colleagues, and your students.”
“The Talmud teaches that the person who lives a good life will never be forgotten. Annie lived a good life, and I will always remember her kindness, grace, and generosity. She will always have a special place in my heart.” - David L. Jaffe, Speech, 1989–1998
“Ann Steinmetz was more than a professor; she was a rare and precious individual. The first day of class the students were told they could refer to the instructor as Dr. Steinmetz, Professor Steinmetz, Ann or Mom because she held all those titles. Over the course of that term most of her students gradually used many or all of those names. I was very fortunate to add one more to her list, that of friend. Ann was more than a teacher and mentor to me - she was an inspiration. She embodied all that is strong, sensitive, caring, protective and nurturing. During the five years I attended Dowling College, I was privileged to have Ann for four courses. I would have taken every course she taught.”
“Ann was very accessible to her students. We all had her home telephone number and on numerous occasions I called her at home to ask for help or clarification. She was always sensitive to the students, picking up on anything that might impact their ability to complete coursework or get through the day.”
“Early on in our relationship, Ann told me that I would make a wonderful teacher. At the time, that profession was the furthest thing from my mind; however, Ann persisted in reminding me that I was a natural for the classroom. The seed was planted . Ann nurtured that thought and it has become my fondest desire to bring her degree of compassion to the classroom.” - Nanette Silverman, student
“Ann was a wonderful friend and colleague. We became friends through our work on Alpha Chi, the academic honor society. She was such a joy to work with and we complemented each other in terms of the things each of us like to do. I miss her all the time. We plan to offer an “Ann Steinmetz Memorial Award” to a student who presents a paper at the annual AX meeting. One of my many fond memories of Ann is the annual AX meeting we attended in Orlando, FL. Ann had a wonderful sense of humor. I worried about visiting Disney World without a child, but I had nothing to worry about. Ann found the magic at Disney World and in everyday things. Her magic was the way she made the everyday special.
At the end of last August she sent me a wonderful postcard of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupre, her namesake, from her visit to Canada. I still keep it on my refrigerator door reminding me of the beautiful person and spirit she was.” - Susanne Bleiberg-Seperson, Sociology
“Learning, Wisdom and Compassion” - it’s not only the Dowling motto but a perfect description of Dr. Ann Steinmentz. When I hired Annn over twenty years ago, I knew that she would be an excellent colleague but I didn’t know that she would become my dearest friend. Her gifts were gifts for us all. Every life she touched was improved immeasurably. Her devotion to her students was unparalleled; they phoned her home at all hours and she always answered with patience and practical direction. She made a special effort to nurture the least lovable among us and warmed everyone wiht her unwavering attention. At the countless meetings we attended Ann was always the voice of reason-calm, wise, and knowledgeable. In her presence you became a better person than you ever thought you could be. She was a devoted sister, wife and mother. She was also fun to be with and a great cook. I will be forever grateful to have shared a personal and professional life with such an extraordinary woman. Ann lived each day with wisdom and compassion and we have all learned so much form her.” - Sara Hornstein, Speech, 1968–1995
“Ann was an exceptionally kind and thoughtful person. She would often think of others even when she was not feeling well herself. I was very touched by her gestures of concern and friendship such as bringing me a surprise treat for Easter or some other occasion. I never heard Ann criticize anyone or anything, nor did she ever complain of her pain and suffering. I am grateful for the privilege of having been one of her friends and colleagues for over twenty years. Indeed, she was an inspiration for me, and I treasure her memory and greatly miss her.” - Ying-wan Cheng, History, 1960–1983
“When someone as special as Ann passes, it is very hard to accept. It’s ironic - our friend who taught us to speak eloquently has passed, and we find ourselves speechless. We will always regard Ann as a great friend, a truly inspirational human; she taught us many lessons that we will carry with us throughout our lives.” Pete and Phil Paranicas, students
“Ann was an extremely inspirational woman. She touched the lives of many students in her lifetime. I am one of them. I consider it an honor to have had the privilege of knowing her. I am a teacher because of her.” - Gloria Dalton, student
“The first memory I have is when I would come to see her after she got sick the second time, when she was going through the very rough chemotherapy with the Adriamycin (which I knew about because Diane, my wife, had been through that too). I knew how sick Ann must have been - but you never would have known it from looking at her and being with her. Whenever I came, she would make a big deal out of having tea and cookies for me. The cookies always arranged on a large platter, and there were lots of them. Boy. I mean, here was this lady going through Adriamycin treatment every week, but the important thing when I came over was that there be cookies and tea for me. That was the way she was, as long as I knew her - always for others. Bending over backwards to make others comfortable and happy.”
“This now blends into the other memory, which in a way is the same memory, just another aspect of it. Diane was diagnosed with breast cancer in October 1999. At that time, Ann was in the second round of her battle, so hse had a lot of knowledge and experience and, most important, empathy for what Diane was going through. We would talk and share experiences, you mom and I, and she was a big support to me during that time. Ann always asked after Diane, and wanted to know how she was doing, and would tell me to tell her various things - always things that were hopeful and helpful. And once, when we were takling about what to expect with the chemotherapy and afterwards, your mom paused for a moment, and looked at me, and said, “Diane is going to be all right. You know that, don’t you? You do know that?” I will never forget your mom saying that - not only the words that she said, but the way she said it, the way she looked at me when she said it. I felt strongly at the time, and still feel, that not only was your mom saying a lot, at that moment, about the power, and the necessity, of positive thinking, but she also, I firmly believe had an insight, a spiritual insight, a kind of clairvoyance into the “disposition” of Diane’s case. I felt sure that Ann was right, because she was so sure that she was right, and that indeed, Diane would be all right. Your mother said it with such conviction and empathy. I will never forget the words, and the way she said them, and the way she paused and looked at me. Here again, as always, she was thinking not of her struggle, but of Diane’s prognosis. And her being so sure made me sure. It was so much what I needed at that particular time.”
“Your mom was something else. I learned so much from her in the relatively short time I spent with her. And I will never forget what she taught me.” Josh Gidding, English
“I worked with Dr. Ann Steinmentz for many years as secretary for Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences. She was a friend, colleague, and confidant. She touched all she came in contact with in countless ways. When Annie walked into a room, she lit it up (even though I’m sure she was completely unaware of this). She was a great, dedicated teacher, full of wisdom and compassion. I never, ever heard a bad word about her; she was like the Pied Piper to her students. Even though Annie is no longer here, her presence is still felt. I myself will always miss her, as I’m sure her family and Dowling College will too.” Susan Jabs, Administrative Secretary for Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, 1973–1991
“Ann embraced life to the fullest, a quality which shined through time and again while a professor at Dowling. She exhibited great passion for teaching to her students and to her colleagues. As the Speech Department Coordinator, Ann was a true professional when constructing schedules and staffing courses, preparing budgets and submitting catalog changes. She completed these tasks on time or ahead of schedule and always with a smile. I miss hearing her laughter and hearing her say “Bu-ye.” Pat Sandilands, Coordinator, School of Arts and Sciences
“I will always remember Ann as a person very devoted to her students. Whenever she was approached about a student with some special need or issue, she always bent over backwards to be as supportive as possible. It’s wonderful having Melissa as a Learning Skills Specialist in Student Support Services. I feel like a piece of Ann is with us all the time.” -Rhoda Miller, Student Support Services
“How can I ever condense twenty-two yeas of friendship and admiration of Annie into a few sentences? Annie had the uncanny ability to know what you needed before you did…and then she’d give it to you. Sometimes, she would tuck presents into my mailbox- jewelry for my birthday, tiny pumpkins for Halloween, ornaments for Christmas and always-always-chocolate!!!! (Her brownies were the BEST!) But the best gift she ever gave me could not be placed in any box. It was her belief in me. It’s a gift I’ll treasure throughout my life.” - Janet Markoff, Speech
“That Ann was an extraordinary teacher is no secret. She knew a great deal about the transformative power of love and, in addition to speech, taught it as her major subject. She knew how love made the insecure certain, and the certain curious. She knew that it made the timid free, and the undisciplined cautious. She knew that only love freed the tongue to speak and soothed the most fevered heart. In these things all of us, both in and out of the classroom, were her students. If we are wise, we continue to be. The lessons are always tougher than they seemed; the homework is sometimes impossibly difficult; but the teacher, the teacher! What a doll!” - Benilde Montgomery, Drama
“Since coming to Dowling six years ago I have consistently found that students respond to the mention of Ann with huge smiles and the fondest remarks. They mention her warmth and dedication, and how Ann made each of them feel special and cared for. Students thought so highly of Ann that they wanted to please her, and that made her particularly successful in the classroom. As a colleague, I felt the same way. Right from my first meeting with Ann at my job interview, I experienced her warmth and care as she escorted me from appointment to appointment, always smiling and giving me encouragement along the way. As I was leaving her office for the last time after the two-day interview, she firmly shook my hand, placed her free hand on my shoulder and, smiling broadly, exclaimed, “You done good, kid!” It was good to receive her praise. I heard that phrase repeated from time to time over my years as Ann’s colleague and friend- after the first dinner party I threw for the Communication Arts Faculty, where I served a dish that she reminisced was “just like my mother used to make!”; at the first professional conference we attended together, where we laughed at the tackiness of our hotel (orange rug stapled to the walls!) and mingled with colleagues from other schools; and finally this past fall, when she called me for the last time after reviewing my annual faculty portfolio, to say once again: “You done good, kid!” Clearly, from my own experiences with her and the loving responses I see whenever Ann is mentioned to her students and colleagues, Ann is the one who “done good” - very good - and her care, untiring encouragement and thoughtfulness will be missed by all whose lives she touched.” - Rick Wolff, Speech
Do you have information to add? Then please contact Diane Holliday.
Last Modified on May 11, 2012, at 04:03 PM by LPR