A Life Well Lived: Frank Lindenfeld, 1934-2008
It was 1934 when Frank entered the world in Vienna, Austria, an especially dangerous year for Jewish babies and their families in that city, which fast was becoming a willing part of the Third Reich. Fortunately, his parents, Marianne and Rudolph, were able to escape the Holocaust, and get the family to England and then to the USA in 1937.
The family somehow landed on Staten Island, where his father wrote poetry and successfully ran a small “stationary” and convenience store for four decades. College took Frank to Cornell, here he studied both mathematics and sociology, but he eventually favored the latter, and went on to Columbia University to earn his doctorate in 1961. He soon located himself, intellectually, outside the trendy and dominant modes of social science, and aligned himself with anarchist thinkers such as Proudhon, Kropotkin, Emma Goldman, and Paul Goodman. This may have motivated him to move to Los Angeles in the early 1960s, where he married and had a son, David.
In 1966, David’s severely structured and dumbing-down public school experience gave Frank a welcome opportunity to walk his anarchist talk. He joined with other parents disillusioned with public schools to form their own independent learning community. It was called Summerhill West, and was patterned on Summerhill, A. S. Neill’s UK Summerhill, where learners of all ages had a substantial role in shaping the community’s policies, and the well-respected right to learn only what they found most worth learning.
At this point, in addition to founding and then directing Summerhill West, Frank was teaching sociology at Los Angeles State College. He would regularly assign readings with anarchist and other radical perspectives, and this did not sit well with his department chair, who eventually ordered Frank to replace those texts with more “mainstream” sociology. Frank found this yet another irresistible opportunity to live by his anarchist ideals, and refused to comply; as a result, he was removed from that teaching position. In any case, by 1969, Summerhill West was moving to northern California, and Frank went with it.
It took a while, but somewhere in the middle 1970s, Frank returned to the East Coast, taking a job teaching sociology at Cheney State College (now Cheney University of Pennsylvania), a designated historically black institution. There he met Kathyrn, who eventually became his wife (Frank having been divorced by this time), and, as well, a dedicated and well-respected family psychologist. In the late 1980s, they moved to Bloomsburg, PA, where Frank adopted Kathryn’s two sons (Josh and Dan), and taught at Bloomsburg State University until his retirement in 2003.
Frank filled his final three decades with a host of diverse projects and commitments. Details on these are described in the flowing multitude of remembrances in section I below, but they include his co-founding of Changing Work Magazine and GEO, his many contributions to and Presidency of the Association for Humanist Sociology, his publication of several major anthologies of radical perspectives (which he was able to use without fear of reprisal, in his two Pennsylvania teaching positions), his membership in the International Institute of Self-Management, and his founding of a micro-loan program in Bloomsburg.
In 2009, just a year after his passing, Frank was posthumously awarded the Eastern Conference on Workplace Democracy’s Cooperative Advocate and Educator of the year award, which he shared with his long time “brother-in-life”, Len Krimerman. Wherever he may be now, his spirit must be enjoying both the borderless rise of Occupation, with its message of self-directed resistance and initiative, and the continually re-crafted focus of GEO on building new roads not just by traveling, but by imagination and daring. Wade Wright, our initial managing editor, puts it well:
“So, Frank, (we) wish you were here physically to watch the movement you loved and served so well blossom! (We) know you are here in spirit, and you are here in our heart and memory, and in all the ideas you so faithfully gathered, explored, taught and published.”
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