Reflections on Nel Noddings

Dr. Michael S. Katz

Dr. Michael S. Katz and Dr. Nel Noddings became friends and colleagues as graduate students at Stanford University in the 1970s. A gardener whose greenhouse often contains exotic plants, Nel enjoys reading mystery novels, loves animals, and would rather spend time at her home in New Jersey than travel. Praised by Michael as “one of the most efficient people” he knows, Nel gives new meaning to the “do it now” philosophy. Describing her as a “consummate teacher-scholar,” Michael insists that Nel “never lets her status as a famous scholar and lecturer and author interfere with treating everyone with the same kindness, thoughtfulness, and consideration that she would expect people to show her, regardless of her status or position.” Encouraging his own students to write to Nel “for suggestions or advice or even a critical reading of a paper,” Michael knows she will “always find time to respond…[n]o many how busy, people always come first for her.”

Vicky Noddings

Vicki Noddings proudly characterizes Dr. Nel Noddings as her official graduate advisor, mentor for all things mathematical and academic, garden boss, and mother extraordinaire! Recalling her mother’s display of humor on an airplane flight, a teenaged Vicky watched with embarrassment as her mother danced to imaginary music. Vicky smiles now at her mother’s willingness to break the rules when she ushered all ten of her children into a sold-out Star Wars film after buying tickets to an entirely different movie. Although Vicky is proud of her mother’s recognition with multiple teaching awards at Stanford University and had even compared Nel to one of Virginia Wolff’s super women in a college writing assignment, she is convinced that her mother’s greatest personal accomplishment is giving birth to her after a 10-month pregnancy. Vicky describes her mother as “ALWAYS there for anyone who needs her: for her husband, children, grandchildren, spare relatives, colleagues, pets, [and] plants….”

Dr. Lynda Stone

As her teacher and major professor in the School of Education at Stanford University, Dr. Nel Noddings continues to be a mentor and friend to Dr. Lynda Stone, Professor (Philosophy of Education) and Chair of Culture, Curriculum, and Change at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Now considered part of the Noddings family, Lynda is known as “Little Sister” or “one of the fourteen of ten—the oldest.” Both Lynda and her husband, James Marshall, enjoy spending time with Nel and members of her family. Lynda admits she would love “to talk with her each and every day—about gardening, about food, about books, about pets, about life.” Particularly fond of Nel’s cooking, Lynda enjoys her broccoli soup from the garden and the opportunity to discuss Nel’s latest projects and speaking schedule. Lynda strongly believes that Nel’s work on caring is “an alternative to Kant’s ethic” that “should be widely recognized within education—and of course in philosophy itself.” Furthermore, Nel’s “exceptional ability to write about very complex ideas in very understandable ways” makes her work “widely accessible, to multiple audiences.” Her “quiet, thoughtful composure” allows her to pose radical reform and get away with it! Lynda reflects on her own relationship with Nel, writing: “My own life has been forever altered by knowing her.”

Dr. Stephen Thornton

Having known Dr. Nel Noddings for more than 30 years, Dr. Stephen Thornton was once her graduate student at Stanford University who also considers himself a member of the Noddings family. Now Professor and Chair of the Department of Secondary Education at the University of South Florida, Stephen is mutually regarded as a “son” to Nel and her husband, Jim. Having spent considerable time with the entire Noddings family, Stephen can still recall the antics of the Noddings’s mischievous little dog, Fanny. Appreciative of Nel’s dry humor and “invariably considerate behavior,” Steve praises her for living “the continuity of caring which she writes about….”