Peggy Friedman, a teacher at Rutgers University and a community activist, died in February 2006 after a long illness. She was 56 years old. The wife of Rutgers History Professor Allen Howard, Ms. Friedman was a familiar face around Rutgers English, having taught Writing Program courses for a decade. She also taught courses in Comparative Literature, the department where she was earning her Ph.D. at Rutgers.
Colleagues remember Ms. Friedman as an approachable but challenging teacher, one who would give students a tremendous amount of individual attention but always maintained high expectations. She was a skilled teacher of “098: Composition Skills” and “100: Basic Composition,” two introductory writing courses for students who are underprepared for college writing requirements. According to Ms. Darcy Gioia, Coordinator for 098, “it takes a talented and patient person to teach these courses well. Peggy always managed to raise the bar for her students, getting them to respond to challenging assignments. She was great at transforming students, giving them the confidence and the skills they’d need to move on at Rutgers.”
In her teaching, Ms. Friedman drew upon a worldly background and a deep commitment to social justice. She had lived in the Netherlands and Belgium growing up, and taught English in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Germany as an adult. She spoke five languages fluently, and had received the prestigious Charlotte Newcombe Fellowship for her Comparative Literature dissertation in progress. She was a social activist for both global and local issues; she had participated in anti-war movements since the late sixties, and also helped found Citizen Advocates for Piscataway Education, a group that successfully fought against privatizing the local public schools. As a dedicated member of the Piscataway Board of Education, she had been publicly honored by the Board for “service and personal dedication to the children of Piscataway.”
Ms. Friedman’s students and colleagues will remember her always for her classroom rigor, tempered by her great warmth and her devotion to helping students succeed.