“Kathy, your Spanish needs so much work, you have to go to Spain to catch up.”
That was Professor Richard Curry’s advice to Kathleen Small ’76 in her sophomore year. With only one year of high school Spanish under her belt, her grammar and accent were far behind her classmates. Still, Curry saw potential in Small’s enthusiasm for Spanish literature and culture.
Kathleen is glad she took Curry’s advice. That year away from the College of Steubenville (as a transient student at Bowling Green State University in Madrid) led first to bachelor’s degrees in Spanish and education from Steubenville, and then a fellowship for her MA in Spanish at Bowling Green. Today, Small chairs the World Language Department at a prestigious western prep school. She returns to Spain often, usually accompanied by students with whom she shares her love of that country and its culture.
Reflecting onher college years, Small says, “It was a great experience. I belonged to Delta Zetaand lived in Trinity. I just loved my life at the College. Everyone there was so caring. And it was such a small school—you couldn’t get away with much! John Carrigg told me I’d better stop sleeping in his eight o’clock class. Mr. Curry made me come to his office after class to practice rolling my r’s. And he would sometimes invite our whole class to his home for a party. I think it was such a nice touch that a professor would do something like that.”
But after encouragement from Professor Curry, Kathleen got up the nerve to leave that safe, comfortable environment—along with dear friend and classmate Susan Bivona ’76—to spend a year in a foreign land. Besides the usual classes and cultural excursions, they experienced the various adventures and mishaps that traveling students are prone to. Once, they were pursued relentlessly by begging gypsies who referred to them as “rich Americans.” Kathleen lost her temper, recalling how hard she’d worked at a Holiday Inn to earn money for the trip: “I just blew up and screamed at them, ‘Listen lady, I scrubbed toilets to get here!’”
Kathleen also notes how she saw history being made during this and her second stay in Spain. Longtime military dictator Generalissimo Francisco Franco was ill and dying during her first visit there and the tension of anticipated change was everywhere. Then, between 1977 and 1981, while working on her MA, she witnessed the first free elections in 40 years, and later on, an attempted—and failed—military coup d’état.
After living and working in Spain for several years, Kathleen was ready to return to the States and start sharing with others her love of all things Spanish. Her first teaching position was with the Hebrew Academy in Las Vegas in 1983. Two years later she joined the staff of the Meadows, a newly-founded private, nonsectarian prep school. She has been there ever since.
“I have the ideal job at the ideal school,” Kathleen says. “Here Spanish is obligatory, and they start it with three-year-olds. By the time they are 17, I can read [classic author] Miguel de Unamuno with them. I give lots of credit to Professor Curry for where I am. My students feel his influence too: When we study Garcia Lorca and the ‘Generation of ’27,’ I let them know that my notes are directly from that important group of poets and artists, because I studied under Richard Curry, who in turn studied abroad under Damaso Alonso, who was the youngest Generation of 27 poet.”
Originally published in the Autumn 2007 Baronette newsletter. Since then, Susan Bivona has passed away. May she rest in peace.