A Scholar's Voice
by NancyLee Honey Marsh
Photography by Christian Lee
“Education is teaching our children to desire the right things.” -Plato
One never knows exactly what spark will set our life on fire. As a teacher, Claire Sullivan lived all over the world and barely grasped a breath before another idea was in motion. Her thirst for knowledge and sharing it goes back to her childhood. “I grew up in Brooklyn, New York during difficult times. Mom was a homemaker, and my father was a self-made man. We were filled with curiosity about the world and greatly valued our Jewish heritage and its history and traditions.” Hilton Head was fortunate to capture Claire in 1992. She astutely observed Hilton Head’s educational system and was prompted to found the International Academy, now Heritage Academy. This school of excellence focuses on combining education, athletics and performing arts for international and local students. It thrives today having expanded from its original 17 students to more than 130.
Claire smiled and waved to me from an outside table on a lovely Lowcountry day. Entwined with sunshine and a soft breeze, energy waves circled about her. When she shared her resume with me, it was apparent we’d need weeks to discuss her achievements. In Renaissance days, Claire would have been distinguished as a scholar who studied the languages and cultures of ancient Greece and Rome. In today’s world, she is a classical humanist, passionate about humans, their values, capacities, worth and improving their future.
Her inquisitiveness led to a B.A. in History from University of New Hampshire, a masters in Social Foundations and Educational Planning from Syracuse University, and ultimately a Ph.D. in Comparative Education and Educational Administration and Planning. “It’s been a fascinating 20 years teaching and living in Slovakia, Germany, Finland and Japan.” A perfect fit, her international experience prompted her appointment to the board of directors of the World Affairs Council of Hilton Head (WACHH), which celebrated its tenth anniversary in 2014, and is an affiliate of the World Affairs Council of America.
Claire maintains a lively schedule. “I love to cook and garden. I grew up across the street from the Brooklyn Botanical Garden and participated in their children’s program, one of the oldest in the United States. Gardening was an important part of my youth and a natural for me now,” she said.
Claire observed, “There is an intellectual loneliness today. We yearn for a connection with others of similar acumen. The World Affairs Council meetings, held the first and third Fridays of each month at the First Presbyterian Church on Hilton Head, offer opportunities to experience eclectic speakers who delve into topics of US global concerns. The question and answer period following the presentation is most informative too. To spark interests in different cultures and connect people through understanding, the educational programs are extremely well planned. There are a multitude of issues dividing humanity, which should be addressed.”
Working as a facilitator in the Great Decisions and Fall Forum discussion sessions for WACHH is an exhilarating experience for Claire. “We also plan to expand programs to area middle and high schools.”
From Director of Canterbury School for grades 5-12 in St Petersburg, Fla. to instructing courses on Islam, American Education and Immigration at the USCB Osher Life Long Learning Institute, Claire has inspired, motivated and touched multiple lives with her innovative ideas and compassion.
What is WACHH proposing for schools? “An exciting ‘Model UN’ program is planned for HH2016.
How can we participate? Contact WACHH at 843-384-6759 for membership details and scheduled speakers.
Traditional enjoyment: When I have time to cook, my favorite dishes to create are brisket and liver.
Surprise: I love to dance! It’s another of my passions! My students tell me I’m really good at the salsa and jitterbug!
Most admired philosopher: Plato