Greenfield Community College Professor Emerita Phyllis Nahman loves reading, and she passed along her passion for the written word to generations of GCC students as Professor of English and Women’s Studies from 1971 to 2002.
The newly established Phyllis Rubin Nahman Scholarship – created by her colleagues, family, friends, and students – continues Phyllis’ work to empower GCC students to access literacy in its broadest sense. The Nahman Scholarship will be awarded annually in the spring to a currently enrolled GCC student from any academic area who is a passionate reader committed to continuing her or his education. Students being considered for the scholarship are asked to write a statement describing how the world has opened up to them through reading and has transformed their own intellectual, political, and spiritual freedom and sense of equality.
The Nahman Scholarship committee chose to honor Phyllis by celebrating what she values most. GCC English Instructor and Peer Tutoring Program Co-coordinator Mary Ellen Kelly said, “In all the courses Phyllis taught, she inspired students to love reading. She lives her commitment to social justice, believing that every person can learn and grow. At Phyllis’ core is a genuine caring for humanity.”
Sarah Reid, a former student of Phyllis, reflected, “When I started at GCC in 1996, I was a young, single mother on welfare unsure of my future. My self-image as a learner was blank and empty. In my first semester I took an Intro. to Women’s Studies class taught by Phyllis and my life would never be the same. Her warmth was like an incubator for my intellect. When someone believes in you, especially a teacher, there is no more powerful thing to make you believe in yourself. She helped my learning self-image go from empty to robust, active, and curious.” Sarah, who lives in Phyllis’ hometown, Turners Falls, received her Associate’s degree in Liberal Arts/Women’s Studies Option from GCC in 1999.
Sarah’s experience of Phyllis’ support was profound, and not unique. According to GCC President Bob Pura, “Phyllis is an extraordinary human being who is affirming of everyone with whom she comes in contact. When asking GCC students and alumni about teachers who have been important to them, many told me how Phyllis Nahman changed their lives. They talked about how she helped them develop their own voices and the courage to express those voices. Our whole community is lifted by those students whose lives she has touched.”
“I am deeply honored by the establishment of this scholarship,” says Phyllis. “It is one more way that GCC can help students take advantage of the excellent, affordable education available to them right here in our community. I also hope it might help the recipients by funding some quiet time for them to read and study and think.”