Just 2 years ago, the Maxine Platzer Lynn Women’s Center celebrated its 25th anniversary. Now, as we welcome our interns back to Grounds and start planning for the year ahead, we are happy to mark another 25th anniversary. Claire Kaplan joined the Women’s Center team 25 years ago and has committed her time and passion to social justice issues every day since. The reach of Claire’s impact is far and wide, working with students, faculty, staff, and friends in the Charlottesville community, to make strides toward a more just culture on Grounds. She asks everyone she encounters to look critically at the culture around them and helps them to feel confident in challenging difficult issues of inequity. In celebration of her 25 years at UVA, we asked several of her colleagues to tell us what it has been like to work with Claire.

“Claire Kaplan has been a central part of making the Maxine Platzer Lynn Women’s Center what it is today. She brought her passion for justice, her clarity about issues, and her deep caring to the University of Virginia as soon as she stepped on Grounds 25 years ago.

She began her work when the Women’s Center was less than one year old. Claire stepped into a newly created position focused on education and prevention of sexual assault, with her passion, belief in social justice, and deep and abiding compassion. She took the job, not even knowing if it would remain a full-time position after that first year.

Since that time, Claire has worked with fervor and keen intelligence for change. Students have been her primary allies and her primary concern. She has supported the leadership of students who are committed to creating change, worked tirelessly with survivors, and responded to faculty and staff needs.

141023-1530And she has encouraged male allies, creating the Men’s Leadership Project with Women’s Center Program Coordinator Chris Willcox Elliott, Assistant Dean for Global Affairs in the McIntire School of Commerce. This award-winning leadership program for undergraduate men and middle school boys is at once an anti-violence initiative and a strong mentoring program for young boys in our community. The Big Brothers say–with deep feeling–that they get more from their Little Brothers than they give.

Claire has always demonstrated unfailing sensitivity to the needs of groups who have to fight against discrimination. There are so many examples of this. Long ago, Claire invited one of the leaders of the national community of deaf culture activists to address audiences at UVA. At the end of the signed lecture, a man from Facilities Management walked up to Claire and signed to her, “I’ve been here nigh on 20 years, and this is the first time the University has ever held a program for me.”

Just a year after that, Claire led the Women’s Center in bringing Delores Huerta, a ground-breaking and courageous community activist on behalf of Latino rights, to Grounds and to the community. When the opportunity arose to take students to El Salvador to learn about the work of grassroots women leaders, Claire was right by my side.

There are too many examples of Claire’s contributions–I can’t include them all. I have to mention, though, Claire’s unfailing and pragmatic support of LGBTQ rights on the University, local, state, and national levels.

Claire Naomi Kaplan is a change agent. She is transformative. Maybe this is because she brings love, always, to her work. Maybe this is because she acts, always, with courage. Maybe this is because she cares, so very much.

She wanted to be a horse with wings when she was a little girl.
She grew up into a woman who helps us fly to freedom.”

Sharon Davie, Founder and former Director of the Maxine Platzer Lynn Women’s Center

“I really enjoyed working with Claire because she is an incredibly sweet and kind individual. What I admired most about her is how she showed genuine appreciation for the work that we did and that is just such a rare quality to have in the workplace nowadays.”

Amber Wang, former Gender Violence & Social Change intern

160501-8230“Ever since I met Claire there has been one way to describe her work and dedication: inspiring. Working closely with Claire during my time at UVA influenced me in truly tangible ways. She is a focused, dedicated, truly invested supporting leader, and social justice advocate. Every so often she would share an anecdote about her work with me, and while to her they were stories and memories of the past, to me, they were the hallmark of a passionate and inspiring role model. Her beliefs and sense of justice are strong, her work is tireless and persistent. That motivated me to work harder and with more passion. Most importantly, her lifelong bodies of works and contributions create impactful differences in her communities and beyond. I could not be more grateful to have worked and been inspired by her and wish her many more years of fruitful work.”

Holly Morcos, former Gender Violence & Social Change intern

“Claire’s passion for teaching students about social justice issues and advocacy informs all of her work. She has inspired students as well as staff to be change agents in many different ways. Every year her Women’s Center interns suggest something innovative that helps everyone on Grounds– from the Survivor Support Network to the Room to Breathe. This is a result of Claire’s leadership and mentoring.”

Charlotte Chapman, Director of Counseling Services & Chair of Programs

“I have known and interacted with Claire Kaplan during most of her career at UVA.  Claire, I and others published the paper “Domestic Violence and Intimate Partner Violence” in Emergency Medicine Reports, volume 27, Number 24, November 13, 2006. Claire has served on the UVA LGBT Committee with me since the committee was formed five years ago as a subcommittee of the Diversity Council. Claire is a thoughtful and clever individual with the most engaging personality. Her 25 years of great service to the Women’s Center is truly remarkable. Thank you, Claire!”

Marcus Martin, Vice President and Chief Officer for Diversity and Equity