Category Archives: Blog / Personal Business

Elizabeth Ann Sciabarra (“Ski”): A Life

On September 2, 1952, seventy-one years ago today, my sister, Elizabeth Ann Sciabarra (aka “Ski”), was born. In loving tribute to her life, I culled together photos from the time of her childhood through her professional career. These are snapshots-in-time—of family, friends, colleagues, and beloved students. Creating this chronological collage was both fun and poignant. It is set to a medley of tunes from one of our favorite artists, Michael Jackson, whom we saw in concert twice (in 1984, with his brothers, on The Victory Tour; in 1988, solo, on The Bad Tour).

Our Love Eternal.

See Facebook for comments.

RIP, E. Devers Branden (1933-2023)

I awoke this morning to the very sad news that Estelle Devers Branden passed away on July 26, 2023, after a long illness. Devers was a very dear friend of mine.

Born on October 2, 1933, Devers was a businesswoman who subsequently turned to the profession of psychotherapy. She married writer and psychologist Nathaniel Branden in 1978, and though they later divorced in 2002, they remained close friends. With Nathaniel, she coauthored The Romantic Love Question and Answer Book (1982, subsequently republished as What Loves Asks of Us). Her enormous impact on the lives of those who were touched by her perceptive insights and caring guidance—both in Nathaniel’s various intensives and in her therapeutic practices—will be remembered by anyone who had the privilege of getting to know her.

In the aftermath of Nathaniel’s death in December 2014, The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies published a grand symposium on his life and legacy. Devers provided us with a photo of Nathaniel for that December 2016 double issue. Of the sixteen featured essays in that symposium, several discussed Devers’s various contributions, including Deepak Sethi (“Personal Reflections on Nathaniel Branden”), Andrew Schwartz (“Adler, Branden, and the Third Wave Behavior Therapists”), Joel F. Wade (“Nathaniel Branden and Devers Branden and the Discipline of Happiness”), and my very close friend, the late Michael Southern, whose essay “My Years with Nathaniel Branden” explored, on a very personal level, the ways in which Devers’s innovative Jungian subpersonality techniques helped him through enormous mental health challenges. Nathaniel credited Devers for having enabled him to integrate these techniques into his eclectic arsenal of psychotherapeutic practices.

I first met Nathaniel in 1993; he had provided me with invaluable feedback on an early draft of my book, Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical. Nathaniel’s influence on me was immeasurable—not just as the author of countless essays during his years of association with Ayn Rand, not just for his pioneering work in the realm of the psychology of self-esteem, but also as a person who would become a dear friend over the years, a source of immeasurable love and support. So, it was only a matter of time for me to finally meet Devers. The two of them visited me in Brooklyn in the spring of 1998, and I took them for a whirlwind tour of the borough. From Nathan’s hot dogs in Coney Island to pizza at L&B Spumoni Gardens, from the mansions on Bedford Avenue to the waterfront at Manhattan Beach, we had a wonderful time. I still have vivid memories of the two of them dancing on the famed pedestrian bridge in Sheepshead Bay. Before they departed for the airport, I asked them both to inscribe my copy of their coauthored work, The Romantic Love Question and Answer Book (an image of which appears below).

The following year, my sister Elizabeth and I took an early spring trip to California. We had left New York City, which was enjoying temperatures in the 80s, to travel to Sunny California, where it was snowing in the San Fernando Valley. Snow aside, that trip would not have been complete without a visit to the Beverly Hills 90210 home of Nathaniel and Devers (image of me with them below). It was a spectacular experience. Our lengthy conversations spanned from the personal to the professional, the spiritual to the intellectual. We shared so many stories, we ate well, we laughed, and we held each other in a warm embrace before we left. Though that was the last time I saw Devers, we continued to talk on the phone for many years thereafter, a source of enormous joy for one another.

I last spoke to her in mid-April 2023, knowing how sick she was. She had told me that she had made her peace with death. But there was still so much life left within her. Knowing how enormous my grief was in the wake of my sister’s passing in November 2022, she comforted me. She knew how much my sister meant to me and how deeply my sister loved me. I cherished her gentleness with me.  We ended our phone call saying “I love you” to one another. At her request, I sent her copies of all my recent essays, and she sent me a recent photo of her with her beloved dog, Gigi (image below).

Devers was a kind, humane, caring soul. And a remarkable human being. I will miss her enormously.

I extend my deepest condolences to her family and friends.

Also see my Facebook post.

Troy Camplin, RIP

I have just learned on Facebook that Troy Camplin passed away at the age of 52. He fought gallantly against cancer these last few years, and I am so very sorry to hear this.

It had been a long time since we checked in on one another personally; back in early November 2022, before my sister died, I told him how great it was to chat with him, and we pledged that we’d stay in touch. Alas, life got in the way—for both of us.

In May 2023, Troy wrote on Medium:

My regular readers may have noticed that I haven’t been posting a lot of late. … I’m not a big fan of self-publication. I held out a great many years before finding a publisher for my novel Hear the Screams of the Butterfly. More recently, I have had pair of poetry collections — companion pieces — published. I’m proud of Words of Gratitude and Songs of Resentment, and I hope my readers have enjoyed the collections. Despite what it may sound like, the theme of the latter is about the dangers of resentment, so it really is a companion piece to the former. And if you’re more interested in philosophy than fiction and poetry, there’s still Diaphysics. … Now, you may wonder why I am self-publishing when I say I’m not a fan of self-publishing. Well, I cannot wait twenty years like I did for Hear the Screams of the Butterfly. I cannot wait, because I have a rare kind of cancer that in the vast majority of cases is terminal. I am currently taking a test medication that at least seems to have slowed down the growth of the cancer, and let’s face it, it needs to stop growing and even reverse. And I cannot count on that happening. Thus, the urgency in getting my books out there. So, keep an eye out here for future announcements of poetry collections and novels. I do want to get the novels I have finished out there, and I hope I can finish writing another one I’m presently working on as well. Perhaps I can find the time to put together a short story collection as well. And I hope I can count on everyone’s support in my literary endeavors.

I’m deeply saddened that he was unable to complete his many works. But I am heartened by all that he did produce, from the literary and the humanities to philosophy and the social sciences, and I hope his unpublished work will be published in due course.

Troy’s dialectical sensibility and interdisciplinary vision are what first sparked my interest in his work. Back in 2015, I invited him to submit a book review to The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies. It was the first of four essays he’d write for the journal, including a 50-page contribution to our sixtieth anniversary symposium on Rand’s novel, Atlas Shrugged. Troy’s essay “Atlas Shrugged as Epic” situated the novel in the tradition of The IliadMoby Dick, and Lord of the Rings.

Fortunately, our work together didn’t end with Rand scholarship. I was delighted to welcome him to the slate of authors who contributed to The Dialectics of Liberty: Exploring the Context of Human Freedom. His essay demonstrated the enormity of his project just in its title: “Aesthetics, Ritual, Property, and Fish: A Dialectical Approach to the Evolutionary Foundations of Property“. His participation in our Facebook symposium on the anthology was equally broad in its scope. It’s archived on Medium here.

Troy Camplin fought against the forces of reaction. But more importantly, he was a courageous and ecumenical soul who fought for the cosmopolitan values requisite to the achievement of human freedom and personal flourishing. My heart goes out to his family and friends.

Postscript: Todd Camplin, Troy’s brother, announced on Facebook:

Between his friends and I, we will make sure as much of his work we can get out enters the public space. Look for two novels coming soon.

I was very happy to heart this!

Elizabeth Sciabarra Award 2023

A wonderful achievement! Congratulations, Hazel Ekeke, for being the recipient of this award, named in honor of my beloved sister.

From the Brooklyn Tech Alumni Foundation:

Congrats to Hazel Ekeke, BTHS ‘23/ University of Pennsylvania ‘27! She won the prestigious 2023 Elizabeth Sciabarra Award, presented at commencement for her role in student government, the Black Students Union and for creating a sliding-scale babysitting business that brought her national attention on The Drew Barrymore Show. The award was presented by Dr. Mathew Mandery ‘61, Chief Educational Officer of the Alumni Foundation.

Left: Award presentation, photo by @eason_fann; and right: an Ekeke family photo of Hazel, holding the award, alongside her mother. 

Happy Birthday 101, Aunt Mary!

… with my love always!

Clockwise: Aunt Mary with her goddaughter, my sister Elizabeth (1995); with me (2022); with my Mom, her sister, dancing a Lindy hop (1978)

My Cousins on 60 Second Docs!

These are my cousins on 60 Second Docs … on the magic of Disneyland in the heart of a beautiful family: Alex Gonzales, Henry Gonzales, Sara Gonzales, and Genevieve Teresa Gonzales.

Welcome to Mars, NYC

It was like the surface of the Red Planet around here yesterday, as smoke from Canada wildfires turned the NYC skyline to a red-orange hue. The Air Quality Index hit an unprecedented 484 yesterday, giving NYC the most hazardous rating of any city on the planet. Things should improve over the next few days, but the dramatic difference between yesterday’s skyline view and the day before was caught by Earthcam

Elizabeth Sciabarra (“Ski”): A Celebration of Life (Video)

This presentation was edited, in chronological order, from a collection of videos taken by Frank R. Harrison on May 6, 2023 in the auditorium of Brooklyn Technical High School for “A Celebration of Life“, a tribute to my sister, Elizabeth Ann Sciabarra (aka “Ski”). I’ve also added the full slate of on-screen tributes from that celebration, featuring: Pamela Taylor Hurst, NYC Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, Deirdre DeAngelis D’AlessioKaren DiTolla, Congresswoman Nicole MaliotakisRose De PintoJoel KleinErnie Logan, the Brooklyn Tech Chorus, and Valmira Popinara.

This isn’t a perfect transfer by any means, but I’m happy that it is now being made available to all those who were unable to attend.

In his heartfelt remarks, Charles Pomaro pointed out that my sister was sometimes referred to as “Queen Elizabeth.” In truth, because she was born in 1952, the year in which Queen Elizabeth II ascended the British throne, some of her own relatives had taken to calling her “Queenie” when she was a child. So, it was rather ironic that this celebration was held on May 6, 2023, the date of the coronation of the Queen’s son, Charles III.

In keeping with that spirit, all I can say is: Long live Ski! And long may her love reign.

I know in my heart that she would have been so moved by this outpouring of admiration, respect, and affection—and even by its Michael Jackson touches, since MJ was one of her favorite artists.

Thanks again to everyone who made this event possible, for providing us with a glimpse into the depth of my sister’s love and the breadth of her impact. Check it out on YouTube.

Also, see this tribute posted by the Brooklyn Tech Alumni Foundation …

For the Love of Mothers

I want to wish all the mothers out there a very Happy Mother’s Day.

In honor of the day, here’s a pic of my mom and my sister—who, though she had no children of her own, was a mother to thousands. I miss them both so very much. But my wonderful memories of them are eternal—as is my love.

Elizabeth Sciabarra: A Tribute

“What you leave behind is not engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.” – Pericles

On Saturday, May 6, 2023, Brooklyn Technical High School and the Brooklyn Tech Alumni Foundation hosted a wonderful tribute to my sister, Elizabeth Sciabarra (aka “Ski”). It was attended by a few hundred people and streamed to thousands.

Below is a video montage celebrating Ski’s professional life in pictures. I’m especially delighted by the use of the R&B dance track, “A Night to Remember“, as its musical backdrop. I remind folks that, back on October 17, 2021, when my sister was near death and nonresponsive for 12+ hours, I played this song for her, knowing it was one of her favorites. Within a few moments, I saw her gradually emerging from the darkness as she began to sing along, a tear slowly making its way down the side of her sweet face. I’d later joke that while Lazarus may have had Jesus, Liz had Shalamar. She’d go on to live another 13 months, fighting gallantly, as she always did, against all odds.

My sister’s fight ended on the evening of November 26, 2022. But her impact on the lives of countless others has lived on—and the May 6th tribute provided a fitting glimpse of that impact. (I will provide a link to the streaming video of the ceremony as soon as it becomes available.)

For an audience perspective on the event, check out this compendium of clips from Frank R. Harrison in 9 parts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, and Part 9.

On behalf of my family, I’d like to extend my deepest appreciation to the many people who planned and coordinated this project. A special shout-out to those who appeared in various capacities, including emcee Marc Williams, Mathew M. Mandery, Jim DiBenedetto, Pamela Taylor Hurst, NYC Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, Joe Kaelin, Charles Pomaro, Deirdre DeAngelis D’Alessio, Karen DiTolla, Congresswoman Nicole Maliotakis, Rose De Pinto, Joel Klein, Randy Asher, Ernie Logan, David Newman, Valmira Popinara, Alumni Foundation President Denice Clarke Ware, Alumni Foundation Executive Director Courtney J. Ulrich, Lisa Trollback, and Carol Cunningham, who led a concluding “Legacy Cheer”. And for their wonderful contributions in dance and song, our cheers to the Lady Dragons, the Jazz Band, and the Chorus, which performed the Tech Alma Mater, the lyrics of which were always dear to my sister’s heart.

My love and thanks to everybody who made this unforgettable Celebration of Life possible.