South Country Education Foundation

Alumni Focus – Lisa Anderson

Interview with Lisa Anderson, Class of 1968

What is your most vivid memory of the school?
I loved editing ACORNS, the literary magazine, because we had contributions from all sorts of people–everyone was a poet in the 1960s! The 1960s was also the era before computers, of course, so we had to type and lay-out everything to be photo-offset, but we produced a pretty fancy magazine. We even held a couple of dances (at Christ Church–parents served as chaperones) to raise money for the cost of the printing. It you look me up in my yearbook, you will notice that one of the things it says under the picture is “From little ACORNS great oaks will grow!”

Your favorite class?
I was an English and Social Studies type, and I remember some wonderful teachers. My eighth grade Social Studies teacher, Mr. Strong, was patient beyond belief with a girl who would not, could not keep her mouth shut in class. It didn’t matter who I sat beside that year, I had to talk to them, so Mr. Strong worked very hard to make sure that at least it was about something to do with the subject at hand! I learned to love Social Studies from him, and I still remember the paper on I did on the then Prime Minister of England, Sir Alec Douglas Hume–of all people!

Later, twice–tenth grade and twelfth grade, I think–I had a fabulous English teacher, Mrs. Howard. She was terribly strict, and very stingy with good grades, but she made you want to do well. She taught a few of Shakespeare’s plays–Romeo and Juliet, as I recall, and Othello, and she made them seem to speak to our lives, which was no easy task.

What are some of your more recent activities?
After I graduated from college, I stayed in school. In fact, I am still in school! I ended up being a university professor–I teach Political Science at Columbia, and specialize in the Middle East and the Islamic world. I have published three books and testified before Congress about Middle Eastern issues. I can’t stay away from Bellport though, and my husband and I have a house about a five minute bicycle ride from the house where I grew up–and in which my father still lives.

How did going to Bellport prepare you for your life and profession?
Although there was not much that prepared me directly for working on foreign areas, such as the Middle East, I am convinced that Bellport High School prepared me well for understanding and working well with people with very diverse backgrounds, skills, talents and interests. Bellport is more like what the world is really like than most high schools, where the people are all pretty much the same. That’s not the way the world is, and the sooner students learn to work with people from a variety of communities, the better prepared they will be for the world in which they will be working and raising their own children.

Lisa Anderson is Dean of the School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University. She is active in the Bellport Sailing Foundation and is currently developing a summer course centering around the environment and history of the Great South Bay.