Remembering a Mentor | Linda Larson-Schwartz

Looked in the mirrorSo many people standing thereI walked towards themInto the floodlights – Blur

As the years go by, the number of names and faces that move into the light of the mirror of memory exponentially increase. And whether the ocean of grief from loss pulls us to the bottom, or leaves us feeling anchorless and adrift, it’s always hard to swallow. Since learning of the loss of Linda Larson-Schwartz in December I’ve been silently taking bitter sips.
My work over the last 16 years at Lexington Community Education is straight from the playbook of my mentor, Linda Larson-Schwartz, whom I had the great fortune to work under for 11 years prior at Brookline Adult & Community Education. To think that Linda is no longer available to call and consult with when no one else could possibly understand…and to learn from, laugh with, and share mutual admiration leaves a very tangible hollow feeling.
My longtime friend Arthur Conquest III points to Linda’s origins of inspiration. Regarding Linda’s approach to the program she built in Brookline, he writes, Foreshadowed by the values of the early Lyceum Society, the heart of the redesigned curriculum focused on the liberal arts, balanced by a broad-ranging, innovative curriculum reflecting community interest in global and world affairs, philosophical and spiritual reflection, writing, literature and poetry.
I was 26 years old when I began working for Linda. In me (a fellow Libra) she found an eager ear and resonant conversationalist with a lot of similar interests. I was in need of a bit of direction and more importantly in need of someone who believed in me more than I believed in myself. I started working for Linda and her program as “tech help” which back then meant setting up and unjamming rotary slide projectors and wheeling TV and VCR carts around the high school.
As soon as an opportunity for advancement presented itself, Linda encouraged me to do so. I didn’t feel qualified, but with her guidance, support and mentorship I became so. In fact, after her retirement, Linda pointed me to the open position of Community Education Director in Lexington. Although she told me well in advance to consider applying for the Lexington position, it wasn’t until the last day Lexington was accepting applications that she called me to ask if I had applied. I said something along the lines of, “Well, I have Bucky Pizzarelli (jazz guitar master) scheduled to do something in Brookline, and so I think I’ll stay here for a while and not apply.” Linda replied authoritatively, “Do it now!”  And so I did…and here I am over a decade later. As a point of interest, years later I invited Bucky Pizzarelli to play Lexington as well…and he did, too!
I have been fortunate to have had a handful of great teachers in my life, and Linda is certainly one of the greatest.
If you, dear reader, have ever enjoyed anything at all about what has taken place in this Lexington program since 2008, Linda Larson- Schwartz deserves thanks.
The song quoted above has a chorus that goes:
I’m going to a shine a light in your eyes (in your eyes)You’ll probably shine it back on meBut I won’t fall this timeWith Godspeed, I’ll heed the signs 
So, upon reading this abbreviated and very incomplete tribute about herself, Linda would certainly “shine it back on me” and tell me that I am doing as much (she would say more) than she ever did. But I knew then, and know now who the master of this work in me was, is, and always will be.
Thank you forever, Linda. I won’t fall or fail at bearing our lyceum and liberal arts rooted torch of life-long learning…with plenty of Jazz and poetry and perpetual praise and thanks to you.
Into the floodlights…
With gratitude from the heart,

Craig Hall

Director, Lexington Community Education

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