Harold Taylor and Sarah Lawrence College

A Life of Social and Educational Activism

Edited by Craig Kridel
Foreword by Leon Botstein

Subjects: Biography, New York/regional, Education, General Interest
Series: Excelsior Editions
Imprint: Excelsior Editions
Hardcover : 9781438490632, 302 pages, November 2022
Paperback : 9781438490649, 302 pages, November 2022

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Table of contents

Foreword: Harold Taylor in Retrospect
by Leon Botstein

1. The Day Duke Died

2. A Student’s Journey

3. Coming Down from Cambridge

4. The Wisconsin Years: A Serious Concern for the Relation of Thought to Action

5. Sarah Lawrence Remembrances: A Community in the Making

6. Assault on a Small College

7. On Being Written About: Mary McCarthy and Randall Jarrell

8. Dewey, Meiklejohn, and the 1950s

9. Thoughts on Leaving Sarah Lawrence and Life Thereafter

10. Adlai Stevenson and the 1960 Presidential Campaign: Putting the Public Interest above His Own

11. The Student Revolt Revisited: Students in a Stormy Time

12. Unbegun Chapters: Hubert Humphrey, Plagiarism, and Albert Barnes

Epilogue: Luck, Fate, Commitment, and Change
Postscript: The Play of Ideas
Appendix: Sample Schedule for Harold Taylor, May and June 1965

The engaging memoir of a college president and public intellectual who became one of America's leading mid-twentieth-century social and educational activists.


Winner of the 2023 Outstanding Book Award presented by the Society of Professors of Education

Harold Taylor and Sarah Lawrence College is the posthumous memoir of Harold Taylor (1914–1993) told through thoughtful and entertaining accounts of his many interactions with leading cultural and political figures of his time. Taylor distinguished himself as a spokesperson for progressive education and educational experimentation during the 1950s and would emerge in the 1960s as one of the country's leading public intellectuals and campus speakers, addressing issues related to student activism, peace education, and international studies. Written with insight and wit and carefully edited and reconstructed, Harold Taylor and Sarah Lawrence College will inspire college students, professors, and administrators to reconsider the most fundamental purposes of higher education and social and educational change.

Craig Kridel is E. S. Gambrell Professor Emeritus of Educational Studies and Curator Emeritus of the Museum of Education at the University of South Carolina. His many books include Stories of the Eight-Year Study: Reexamining Secondary Education in America (with Robert V. Bullough Jr.), also published by SUNY Press.


"Harold Taylor was an artist of his own life, forever experimenting and investigating, creating, tasting and testing, sipping and savoring—always living his life with a distinctly forward lean, on the move and in the mix. In Harold Taylor and Sarah Lawrence College: A Life of Social and Educational Activism, Craig Kridel dances the dialectic, arm in arm with Taylor, illuminating both a time, and a life—part chance, part choice—in all its messy contradictions. Kridel describes himself as an editor, but a more accurate description is also more capacious: comrade in arms, dramaturge, soulmate, and choreographer." — William C. Ayers, formerly Distinguished Professor of Education and Senior University Scholar, University of Illinois at Chicago

"Imagine being close friends with both John Dewey and Duke Ellington, being accused of communist activity, being an unofficial advisor to Adlai Stevenson, and being president of Sarah Lawrence College. Harold Taylor is such a man, and his expansive life of intrigue and intellect is on full display in a new memoir brought together—posthumously—by educational historian Craig Kridel. The memoir is vivid, beautifully written, humbling, timely, and provides a window into the life of one of the nation's most interesting leaders and thinkers." — Marybeth Gasman, Samuel DeWitt Proctor Endowed Chair in Education and Distinguished Professor, Rutgers University–New Brunswick

"This delightful book resurrects for a new generation of readers the sharp eye, keen wit, and good humor that made Harold Taylor one of the bright lights of American higher education in the mid-twentieth century. His lively posthumous memoir reveals how after leaving Sarah Lawrence in 1959, he endured as a principled, perceptive commentator who held his own in political controversies while at the same time writing accounts that leave us a legacy of perceptive observations about key figures from colleges, foundations, Congress, and even candidates for the US presidency. The result is an autobiographical anthology that reminds us today that about a half century ago higher education leaders such as Harold Taylor provided a refreshing alternative to a business model of executives in charge of the university." — John R. Thelin, University Research Professor, University of Kentucky

"Unless tragedy befalls them, university presidents blend in with the institution’s furniture. But Harold Taylor is the exception that will, for me, prove the rule. This beautiful, intellectual autobiography not only helps readers to know Taylor's professional persona but to understand how he grappled with significant issues that still define higher education today: academic freedom, free speech, privacy, patriotism, and how to serve as a public intellectual. The insider dramatis personae are worth the price of admission. Taylor will not be relegated to hidden archives if this fascinating narrative has the effect it had on me, showing me this leader's life, hidden in plain sight all along." — Michael A. Olivas, Wm. B. Bates Distinguished Chair in Law (Emeritus) at the University of Houston Law Center

"A true renaissance man, Harold Taylor was erudite, elegant, and exceptional in all his endeavors and the epitome of what an intellectual should be—curious, concerned, and reflective. His dedication to whatever he took on was stellar. Seeing him strolling about campus with his large English sheepdog and tiny cairn terrier while smoking his pipe is one of my favorite memories, and reading this book took me back to the wonderful feeling of being young again and learning in the stimulating progressive environment of Sarah Lawrence, led by the brilliant and memorable Harold Taylor." — Harriet Pogul Wohlgemuth, Sarah Lawrence alumna, 1959 and 197