In Memory

Alexandra (Sandy) Gilden (Kaplan)

Alexandra (Sandy) Gilden (Kaplan)

Date of death:  February, 2003

Age:  61

Residence at time of death:  Newton, Massachusetts

Cause of death:  Early-onset Alzheimer's disease

Family:   Sandy is survived by her mother Elise;  her son Jeremy, who lives in New York and has two children; and two sisters, Jan Gilden, a member of the HPHS Class of 1965 who lives in Tacoma, Washington, and Dorrie Iten-Gilden, a member of the HPHS Class of 1961 who lives near Zurich, Switzerland.

Occupation:   Clinical psychologist, professor, researcher on gender issues

Sandy's Life:   She had strong intellect in her genes.  Her father,  Harold M. Gilden, was a Chicago attorney and arbitrator whose skills were so highly regarded that he was asked three times by U.S. presidents to help resolve national labor disputes.  He was one of the nation's first arbitrators.

She graduated from the U. of Michigan in 1963, going on to Columbia U., where she received her doctorate in psychology in 1969.  She taught women's psychology courses at the U. of Massachusetts for nearly a decade before being asked to be one of a group of feminist scholars who organized the Stone Center for Developmental Services and Studies at Wellesley College.  Ultimately, she became director of counseling services and program director for consultation at the Stone Center.  She was also a lecturer at the Harvard Medical School.

The Stone Center became recognized among psychological therapists as a pioneer in studying the way gender differences impact various segments of society, including the workplace.  Alexandra co-authored "Beyond Sex-Role Stereotypes" and 
"Psychology of Sex Roles," and contributed articles and chapters to several other scientific  publications.  In 1989, she wrote a groundbreaking analysis of why men are three times as likely as women to succeed at suicide attempts.  Her conclusion:  men facing personal crises are more likely than women to "willfully break all human connections."

Throughout her career as a clinical psychologist, Dr. Kaplan demonstrated a willingness to take controversial positions on complex issues.   She was a frequent spokesperson on behalf of anti-war organizations.  Testifying in an Ohio child custody case, in which the key issue was the lesbian orientation of the adoptive parents, Alexandra told the court, "There is no evidence that children who are raised with a loving couple of the same sex are any more disturbed, unhealthy, maladjusted than children raised with a loving couple of mixed sex."   The judge agreed.

Sandy's sister Dorrie, HPHS Class of '61,  sent us this observation from her home in Switzerland:

"Sandy was a rebel, in many ways ahead of her time at HPHS.  But she got her tools there in many ways, developing social skills, a capacity for listening, for laughing, for critical thinking.  She would never have gotten where she did, I think, with a background that had been less challenging."

In her college counseling work, Dr. Kaplan had this advice for young people, which has been often quoted by counseling progessionals since: "Be aware of yourself and validate your experience.  Pay attention to your world, what's happening and why....Feel your strength.  Value it and use it." 

Well said, Sandy.  Well lived, Sandy.

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02/09/09 08:28 PM #1    

Suzanne Schechter (Bermant)

I am in shock over so many of our class who have died, but my shock is ten-fold over Sandy. I have fun memories of our practicing cheer-leading try-outs together in her house. She was so good at it and should have made it. i guess that is where I learned about politics. She was so bright. I didn't know how bright until I read the remarks about her. I was looking forward to seeing her in September.

Suzanne Schechter Bermant

02/19/09 11:52 AM #2    

Jeremy Kaplan

I was Sandy's only child. First, I would like to say that I would love to read people's anecdotes about knowing my mom in high school. The stories allow me to get to know her in a new way.

It's difficult to know what to say in so short a space. She got sick unexpectedly from early-onset Alzheimer's. She was sick for about ten years before she died....ten difficult years. My adult relationship with her was defined in large part by her sickness, and so that part of our relationship has a tendency to take over my memories of her.

She was a great mom to me, committed to her work and also to raising me in a way that conformed to her values. I remember her disapproving of my posters of women in bikinis when I was in middle school, but not making me take them down, so that I would do it on my own. In high school we would talk about my school work and about politics. She taught me to care about academics and making the world a better place, which is a big part of why I became a teacher. (I taught English and history in New York City for 11 years. I now do professional development with teachers in NYC in the public system).

My mom nurtured my love of music and playing the drums. She tolerated a drum set in our house, even letting me bring friends over to play in our band. She drove down to Providence, R.I., to hear me play with my band in college. During our set break she went on stage. I kissed her and said to the crowd, "This is my mom!" Everyone cheered.

I could go on. If you would like to contact me directly, please do so at Enjoy your reunion.


01/20/10 07:11 PM #3    

Eric Engberg

This message was received from Mary Hexter Moneypenny, an HPHS alumna who was a friend of Sandy Gilden:

"Sandy was taken from us far too soon, but I'm sure her short life was well-lived and helped to make a difference in improving others' lives. May you all be comforted in knowing that we others share your grief, as well as your fondest memories."

03/01/10 04:14 PM #4    

Berna Gorenstein (Huebner)

Sandy was a dear dear friend during our highschool days.. Our parents were also very good friends. Sandy was brilliant, determined and a real pace setter!! All her friends miss her!!
My mother had Alzheimer's. I never really knew about Alzheimer's until then. It is a very difficult disease and we are all hoping that one day the world will realize that fighting this disease is very important.
We have tried in our own way to help those millions of people who have it.. That is why my mother's doctor encouraged us to share my mother's words: "I Remember Better When I Paint."
To the family of my friend Sandy.. Please know we are thinking of you. best, Berna Gorenstein Huebner

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