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Remembrance: Loel Shuler.

If you find yourself searching for a way to describe the benefits of an early education in general semantics. I offer two words that sum it up for me: Loel Shuler. Loel died in January, just after her 89th birthday. The light of the world is a little dimmer for me. and rational thinking is just that much less common now.


I first learned of Loel in April 2006 when she made her first post on the Institute's forum. She had stumbled on the forum somehow and rejoiced to find "kindred souls." It didn't take me long to rejoice equally for having made her acquaintance.

As a young woman of 17, she attended Olivet College, just too late for Korzybski's lectures, but in plenty of time to enjoy the benefits of Olivet's integration of general semantics into its curriculum. Loel particularly remembered Virginia Shull and how she "effectively stripped away most of the unquestioned belief systems we'd brought with us to college, and cleared the way for us to start learning to learn." And learn she did. As she said in her introductory post, her 4 years under the Oxford Plan at Olivet shaped the person she became. "Fortunately for me I took it all in and adapted it to my life without ever needing to categorize or put a name to it." You can read more about her education in a delightful reminiscence that appeared in the January 2007 issue of ETC.

Loel participated in forum discussions over the next 3 years. Her posts ranged from brief questions to Jong posts about events from her life. From these posts, I learned about her book, Alaska, in the Wake of the North Star, which recounts her experiences during 3 months in 1950, traveling 11,000 miles by a supply ship along the coast of Alaska. Young, newly wed, and pregnant with her first child, she reveled in unexpected access to the villages and peoples of that time and place. Her memoir offers clear and gentle insights into a culture she came to love and honor, with a stated goal of reducing some common misperceptions about the vastness and variety that the name Alaska encompasses.

After a divorce in 1961, Loel took her two young children back to the lower 48 to stay with her family in Michigan while she looked for work and a place to settle. Her daughter, Barbara Rose, recalls an arduous mid-winter car trip from Michigan to California, where they settled in Pacific Grove, allegedly because it offered a climate most like the Southeastern Alaska home they had left behind. For the next 50 years, she taught, acted, and designed costumes for the theater and then took up writing in her retirement. Her two children have stayed in the area. Barbara writes for the Monterey Herald. Mark works as a therapist in family counseling. I had the great pleasure of meeting them a couple of years back during a visit to Loel's seaside home. I could immediately see the influence Loel (and by extension, general semantics) had on the shape and style of their thinking. In my view, they both embody the kind of strong clear personalities and down-to-earth intellectual humility that adults can exhibit when nurtured with critical thinking, multidimensional logic, and all the other brain-training tools that general semantics provides.

Both through the forum and through personal e-mail, Loel and I shared much. She sent me her writing, not just because I was an editor of ETC at the time, but because she trusted me to offer a frank and constructive assessment. As a result, I gained an ever-better understanding of her unique life and point of view. When she wrote, she shared herself unstintingly and without flinching. In exploring her own thoughts and experiences through her writing, she modeled the kind of reflexive self-examination that writers on general semantics encourage us to practice. In my view, she had clearly gained the self-awareness implied as one goal for such practice, and it undoubtedly accounted in part for the large circle of friends she had knit together over the years.

Loel once said, "What I learned by living is that the most creative thing you can do with your own life is to give something of value to the next wave of life, in other words, to teach." If Loel touched your life through her writings here in ETC, and you would like to honor that contact, you can make a donation in her memory to Olivet College. To donate, call the Office of Institutional Advancement at 269-749-7630 or e-mail

Or you could give some parent you know a gift subscription to ETC, to bring general semantics to a child near you, in hopes of producing another such person as Loel Shuler, and adding something to the illumination of the world in her name.

Nora Miller served on the IGS board for 3 years and edited several issues of ETC in 2007 and 2008. She currently lives in Tucson, AZ, and pays her bills by freelance writing and editing of technical papers and books.
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Author:Miller, Nora
Publication:ETC.: A Review of General Semantics
Article Type:In memoriam
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2011
Previous Article:Being Wrong.
Next Article:Introduction to "difficulties in learning to apply general semantics".

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