Memories of co-founder Lorraine Wallach

When Erikson co-founder Lorraine Wallach died in February 2014, Erikson invited alumni and friends to share their memories of Lorraine.

To share your own, contact us at [email protected].

Read about Wallach’s legacy

Memories of Lorraine Wallach

To the Erikson Institute Family:

It was with both sadness and happy memories of Lorraine that I learned of Lorraine’s passing.

I had the distinct honor to serve on Erikson’s Board of Trustees (including serving as Chair) when Lorraine was still an active and extra ordinarily positive member of the faculty and administration. Her contribution to Erikson and the cause of early childhood development and education will benefit children and the world for time eternal.

Perry L. Taylor, Jr.

I think of Lorraine every time I hyphenate a compound adjective. If you love words and writing, you’ll understand how satisfying it was to learn this skill from Lorraine’s written comment on one of my Play papers.

From Lorraine, I also learned that play is a topic worthy of study and research. It’s a young child’s primary pathway to learning. I have never forgotten what Lorraine taught, or her generosity in sharing what she knew.

Sally Nurss, M.Ed. ’83

Dear Lorraine,

Wherever you are now, please know how much you were loved and appreciated. I was one of your supervisees the year that you were acting president of Erikson. You must have been very busy but for that one hour a week you gave me your undivided wisdom, humor, and experience. I learned about reflective supervision before I ever heard the term. Your manner helped to integrate the Erikson experience, which was so intimate back in the Hyde Park Bank Building. In addition, the internship you found for me at Billings Hospital where I was able to work on a research project with high-risk infants and high-risk mothers was a gift. When it was time for me to graduate you led me to a job at Virginia Frank, which once again helped me to integrate and put into action all that I learned from you and the Erikson experience. So you were there for me every step of the way. When I decided to go back to get an MSW you told me I wouldn’t like the program. I think you would be very pleased about the MSW program and would have worked hard to get the program off the ground. You once told me that you so enjoy spending time with other people’s mothers because you never had one. How then did you know so well how to take care of others? You helped to start so many programs that have gone on to touch so many lives.

You will be missed and thought of often,
Laura Schriesheim, M.Ed. ’81

I’m from the graduating class of 1977 and my memories of Lorraine Wallach are ones of extreme warmth. She had a real passion for teaching and delighted in our ability to grow in our knowledge and understanding of infant and child development. I have one special memory of something Lorraine said to me shortly after we had written our exams. As she passed by she turned to me and said, “You wrote an excellent comprehensive exam.” Coming from Lorraine that remark meant everything. I was very sad when I read about her death and I will always remember her. She was a consummate role model in her passion for teaching Erikson students.

Susan Rector Laub, M.Ed. ’78

Lorraine was a wonderful teacher. She guided me through my internship at the Virginia Frank Child Development Center in 1986. Lorraine had been the first social worker hired by the Center in 1955. There is a special place in my heart for Lorraine and I know she was proud that I became the director of the center.

Joni Crounse, M.Ed. ’88

Thanks so much for letting me know of Lorraine’s passing. In addition to being important to Erikson and so many students, Lorraine was my next-door neighbor for eight years. She was always so kind to my husband and me (even though we were the “young upstarts” in the building then). I was lucky to have her guiding me personally and, of course, as I made the decision to go into child development, and lucky to have her humor and wisdom right next door for all those years. She has a spot in both of our hearts.

Jacqui Robbins, M.Ed. ’02

I never had the privilege of having Lorraine Wallach as a teacher while at Erikson, but she was my first introduction to this magical place. I had applied at the seasoned age of 46 and Lorraine did my admissions interview. I was very nervous about being up to the task of graduate work, having been out of school for 24 years, now with two children still at home and a full time job. Lorraine was warm and supportive, and the “interview” was more like sitting in a friend’s living room, having tea and good conversation. She set the tone for my entire Erikson experience, and helped launch me into a treasure of an education.

Sarah Sivright, M.Ed. ’96

Here are some of my memories of Lorraine Wallach. It was 1968. I was looking for a graduate school program and couldn’t find one that made sense to me. As a 3rd, 5th, and 7th grade elementary school teacher in the inner city, I wanted a program that might help me make a difference in the lives of young children.

Then I heard an interview on WFMT that described a brand new Early Childhood Graduate Program in Hyde Park. I only heard part of it, but was so taken with the course descriptions and goals of the program that I called their number. Lorraine Wallach answered the phone and I realized that she was the lady on the radio. We had a great talk. She was interested in my teaching and assistant principal experience and encouraged me to come in for an interview.

It was then that I realized this program was for very young children. I sadly said that I wouldn’t be interested, because I only taught older children. Lorraine said she was sorry, but regardless, wanted to send me information about the program. When I received it, I put it a bottom drawer.

Four months later after checking out existing programs in colleges and universities, I opened the bottom drawer and called Lorraine. She encouraged me to apply and sent me the necessary forms. One question was “What makes you think you’ll be a good pre-school teacher?” I wrote, “I don’t think I can be a good one.” I sent the application in anyway.

Soon Lorraine Wallach interviewed me and said she was happy I had so much success in teaching. Because I was on a study leave from the Chicago Board of Education, she offered me a full scholarship. Obviously, she had confidence in my ability to fit into this new preschool field as a teacher or administrator. It was a wonderful thing to interact with this fine solid professional who became my first Early Childhood mentor.

I certainly did learn about teaching young children from her, Barbara, and Maria. Lorraine’s class on the importance of learning through play was especially powerful and meaningful to me. After graduating from the newly named Erikson Institute, I taught part-time classes to Head Start teachers, pre-school teachers, and parents. Then I was hired into a full-time faculty position for the Early Childhood Program at Oakton Community College. There I used Lorraine Wallach’s ideas and philosophy of learning in my teaching. The Play and Creative Expression class, which I taught at Oakton, was popular for 23 years.

I honor this outstanding educator and social worker and know how much she influenced all alumni.

Helene Block Fields, M.Ed. ’70

It saddens me to hear of Lorraine’s passing. I never met her, however, I am an adamant fan of her work. The years and hard work she and others have put into Erikson and to children and families in this country have paved the way for professionals like myself and my classmates. Lorraine’s legacy will live on in us. Thank you Lorraine Wallach for your dedication and the footprints you have left behind.

Lenita Davis

I didn’t have the honor of meeting her. Would have liked to. Thanks to her contribution, there is a great institution in place that has impacted so many lives — children, families and professionals in the field. May she rest in peace.

Guadalupe Pasillas, Admin ’01, M.S. ’02

I had classes with Lorraine when I attended Erikson. I will always remember a story of hers which demonstrated that parenting will often require of us that which is most difficult for us to give, and that parents are not alone in trying to provide for their child’s well-being. It was a story of a couple, quiet and studious, who adopted a child — just as quiet and studious as they were. As these stories often go, the couple then had their own biological child — 8 pounds, howling at birth, and active from the start. For a number of years, the parents and child struggled to find the fit, and bond. A therapist suggested that the uncle, who was an active, boisterous person, be enlisted as a mentor — their son was going to be a big, loud man and he needed to know how to do that with grace, and it was OK that his parents didn’t know how to teach him that. The parents followed through, and the family struggle was over.

This story takes the pathology out of a natural occurrence (temperament mismatch), and puts in in perspective. As I work with families and children, I often think of this story — is what I am observing a natural occurrence or something more? I makes me move cautiously, slowly, and more respectfully. Lorraine was a marvelous teacher and it was an honor to have had her.

Ellen Chavez, M.Ed. ’86

Lorraine was my advisor when I was a student at Erikson. I’ll always remember her quirky sense of humor and great laughter!

Shelley Levin, M.Ed. ’78

Lorraine was a lovely professor who took an interest in each of her students.

Judy Bensinger-Haynes, M.Ed. ’88

It was November 30, 1982. I was nine months pregnant with my third child and was not due until the third week of December. I was on contract with the Human Services Institute of the City Colleges of Chicago which ended Nov. 30. I promised my supervisor, Betty Hutchison, that I would “make it” through the end of the DHS fiscal year. On November 30, I attended a Head Start parent event with Ella Jenkins performing. Lorraine was there and we were dancing and clapping to Ella. Lorraine made a few witty remarks about my pregnancy and offered to drive me home to Hyde Park in her small, I think it was yellow, Volkswagen. It was stick shift and bumpy. At two in the morning, my water bag broke and I was on my way to Lying Inn. Angela (named after Angela Davis) was born a few hours later. In subsequent years, I would see Lorraine walking her trusty dog and we would joke about my end of the contract experience and the early arrival of Angela. We were family at Erikson and all of the teachers were supportive of the students and met with us regularly.

In 1980, I saw Lorraine on the street in H.P. walking her dog of course, and she informed me that I wrote an excellent Comp. She boosted my confidence and I will never forget her taking time to compliment me personally. Years later, as director of CDA training at the City Colleges, I spoke to Lorraine, again while she was walking her dog, about a Pre-School Curriculum which was being implemented in many H.S. programs which I found to be too structured. With a smile she said, “And that too will pass” and it did! Lorraine had a wonderful way of putting life in perspective. I was happy to attend the last alumni event where Lorraine was honored and to have the opportunity to talk to her a bit and say Good-Bye. Good-bye to a teacher, friend and mentor.

Leah Shapiro, M.Ed. ’81