Cathy Santore

Distinguished Teacher 1995–96

Cathy Santore was a professor in the Art & Design History department.

I am the granddaughter of illiterate peasants, the daughter of parents who attended school only until they were 12 years old, yet I was allowed to earn a BA and MA from Hunter College, and a Ph.D. from The Institute of Fine Arts, NYU. How did this come to pass? I had the good fortune to be mentored and supported by caring people endowed with enormous generosity of spirit. First and foremost, Jonah Otelsberg, my boss, who told me I was PhD material when I didn’t know what that abbreviation meant. Jonah tirelessly encouraged me to go to college when I was adamantly against it and saw higher education as outside my realm of possibilities. I had to go to work, I argued, my parents needed my income. Stubborn woman that she was, she nagged and countered my objections until I relented and enrolled in some evening classes at Hunter College. Bless her, she changed my life. I went thinking I was probably the dumbest student in class. Prof. Eunice Lipton made me realize I wasn’t. With a few perceptive words she made me aware of the low opinion I had of my intellect. She also made all of her students know our aspirations should know no bounds.  Eunice made us believe with hard work we could realize our potential. Then, in order of appearance into my life, came Profs. Wayne Dynes, Leo Steinberg, and Colin Eisler, all dedicated teachers from whom I gratefully learned. They encouraged and supported me every step of the way, and thus I came to teach at Pratt. My lecture, La Nuda, given to celebrate having been chosen by the students as Pratt’s Institute Professor/Distinguished Teacher has since been honed and published as a chapter in New Studies on Old Masters: Essays in Renaissance Art in Honour of Colin Eisler.

Address to Graduates

One day as I was entering the classroom greeted by a sea of smiling faces, I overheard one student say to another, “She’s a happy teacher.”  I’m a happy teacher because my students cheer me up.  Your enthusiasm and responsiveness make me forget any difficulties I may have outside the classroom and let me give all my attention to you.  It is a pleasure to walk in the classroom, fire up the projectors, and show you the greatest works of art and architecture created over the centuries.  We discuss, we laugh, we learn.  I sometimes learn from my students.  And, when my students express their appreciation, sometimes in words, sometimes with hugs and kisses, I feel grateful and privileged to be able to earn a living in so sweet and satisfying a manner.  Thank you.