Dr. Mary Catherine Bateson, December 8, 1939 -2021, died on January 2 holding her daughter's hand.
Dr. Bateson was a best-selling author, a linguist, and a cultural anthropologist like her parents Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson.
She met her life-long partner, J. Barkev Kassarjian, in 1957 while they were graduate students at Harvard and married in 1960. Their careers took them around the world, living and teaching in Iran and the Philippines, where she learned both Farsi and Tagalog.
Bateson's first book Arabic Language Handbook, published in 1967, is still in print and being used. Our Own Metaphor: A Personal Account of a Conference on the Effects of Conscious Purpose on Human Adaptation, came out in 1972. With A Daughter's Eye: A Memoir of Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson was the New York Times Best of the Year list in 1984.
Angels Fear: Towards an Epistemology of the Sacred was co-written with her father, Gregory, before his death and published in 1987. While Dean of Faculty at Amherst College, Catherine worked with biologist Dr. Richard Goldsby, and they co-authored Thinking Aids: The Social Response to the Biological Threat in 1989. Her New York Times best-selling Composing A Life was published in 1991. Many other books followed, including her follow up Composing a Further Life: The Age of Active Wisdom, based on the contributions and improvisations of engaged older adults, written to raise the consciousness of the changing life cycle and encourage older adults to claim a voice for the future. This project continued to lead to further exploration of intergenerational communication and changing ways of experiencing time. It led to her involvement as a special consultant to the Lifelong Access Libraries initiative of the Libraries of the Future, emphasizing her Active Wisdom model as a signature program of the initiative.
In 2000 she wrote Full Circles, Overlapping Lives: Culture and Generation in Transition, reflecting on her time teaching at Spelman College with a diverse age group of students exploring women's life histories.
In 2019 she and Dr. Goldsby collaborated once again with Thinking Race: Social Myths and Biological Realities. At the time of her death, she worked on a book with Dr. Stephen Guerriero based on six lectures she gave at Boston College entitled "Love Across Difference." This book will be published posthumously.
Her literary legacy will be cataloged at the Schlesinger Library at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University.
Dr. Bateson taught and lectured, both nationally and internationally. Her teaching and research included time at Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Ateneo de Manila, University, Brandeis University, Damavand College in Tehran, Amherst College, George Mason University, Spelman College, University of VA, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies, and Harvard Graduate School of Education. She was the Dean, Social Sciences and Humanities at the University of Northern Iran, Dean of Faculty at Amherst College, and President of the Institute of Intercultural Studies in New York City.
Catherine had one daughter, Sevanne Margaret Kassarjian, and two grandsons.
In the later part of her life, she was dedicated to preserving our natural world and addressing the social and environmental impacts of climate change and the dire need for intergenerational communication. She was a visiting scholar for the Sloan Center on Aging and Work at Boston College, served on the ethics committee for the American Society of Cybernetics, and on the board of the National Center for Atmospheric Research. In 2004 she founded Granny Voter, now a program of Generations United, where she was part of developing ongoing efforts to involve seniors on behalf of children. She was a co-chair of Seniors4Kids.org
and served on The Possibility Project's advisory board, founded by her son in law.
On a fall trip in 1963, she and her husband were introduced to the small town of Hancock, NH, where they ultimately bought a property that came to be known as Railacres, and when the pandemic hit this year, she moved home to Railacres to be with her family and write.
Dr. Bateson was a MacDowell Fellow in Peterborough, NH, in 1993, 1996, and 1997 and an active member of the local community. She was well known locally for her monthly salon-style gatherings at the Mariposa Museum, which included topics based on her approach to life; "Learning from..." prompts included: learning from children, other cultures, nature, and from death.
She is survived by her husband of 60 years, J. Barkev Kassarjian, her daughter Sevanne Margaret Kassarjian, son-in-law Paul Griffin, grandsons Cyrus James and Anton Gregory Griffin, and her half-sister Nora Bateson.
In the spring, Mary Catherine Bateson's family will have a private tree planting to celebrate her life. In lieu of flowers, they invite everyone to make a donation to the Harris Center for Conservation Education in Hancock: https://harriscenter.org/
"We are not what we know but what we are willing to learn." - Mary Catherine Bateson