Academic journal article The Hastings Center Report

Partners and Friends for 25 Years: My Colleague, Willard Gaylin

Academic journal article The Hastings Center Report

Partners and Friends for 25 Years: My Colleague, Willard Gaylin

Article excerpt

The twenty-fifth anniversary of The Hastings Center--whose range of interests is nicely represented in this special issue of the Report--is an occasion of pleasure, relief, and of some distress as well. The pleasure lies in the memory of so many enjoyable years creating and sustaining the Center. Whatever contributions we may have made to ethics, we have at least had a fine and stimulating time. The relief lies in the fact that we still exist, something that was not at all certain in our early years.

The distress is occasioned by the prospect of the imminent retirement at the end of this year of my long-time friend and colleague Willard Gaylin. I want to talk about Will here and try to explain how the two of us managed over the years to work together so fruitfully. To understand that will be to see why I will miss him and what he has meant to the Center.

Will and I first met about 1964 in Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y., where the two of us lived. Hastings is a relatively small town, then some 10,000 people or so, and everyone knows everyone else. We were part of that now-defunct social ritual, the rotating suburban dinner party, and we enjoyed each other's company. Will was always lively and gregarious, and sometimes combative; that is, a perfect dinner partner and enjoyable arguing companion as well.

I began thinking about the idea of a Center sometime in 1967, talking with a variety of people and trying to clarify what was at first a vague, ill-defined notion. At a Christmas party in 1968, I told Will about it and asked him if he would like to be part of it. He said he would and thus was born a remarkable partnership and, in 1969, The Hastings Center.

We shared a number of traits that made our relationship and the Center work. While Will had gone into medicine and I had gone into philosophy, both of us had been English majors in college, and both of us had an addiction to interdisciplinary work. We liked playing around in other fields as much as in our own. When we met, Will was teaching concurrently at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, the Columbia Law School, and Union Theological Seminary. To this he added a long-standing psychoanalytical practice, the writing of a book every two years or so, and then finally the newly formed Hastings Center.

We also shared a certain notion of what the social and cultural life of the Center should be. …

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