I don’t expect Claudia to answer the phone, so when her voice crackles through the speaker, I rush quickly out of my office to the balcony, stepping into the frigid October afternoon. I’m in London, and when Claudia says hello her voice is heavy with sleep. It’s only 8am on the east coast. I’ve called to ask her if there’s anything she wants me to leave out in this piece I’m writing – “about you – about us,” I vaguely explain.
“Write whatever you want. I trust you,” Claudia says.
“Famous last words!”
Her laugh, which is more like a giggle, is infectious. She laughs like a woman unencumbered, and it makes me laugh too. Claudia is excited by the piece, though not because she is its subject. She pauses thoughtfully, and then says “mentoring is not something we really talk about in higher education. We talk a lot about advisors but not so much about mentors. About someone who sticks with you through it all.”
She would know. Claudia Highbaugh is the Dean of Religious and Spiritual Life at Connecticut College. Her previous academic institutions include both Yale and Harvard, but it was at the small liberal arts college where I met her, in the Autumn of 2007. She was teaching a freshman seminar: Examining Art Through Religion and Culture.