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Skidmore College
Skidmore Retirees

Sayra Benson Nikoloff Lester

Born in Baltimore, Md., Sayra completed a B.S. in education from the University of Cincinnati, received a master’s from Xavier University in Cincinnati, and earned a doctorate of education from SUNY-Buffalo. She taught at SUNY-Buffalo for three years also taught primary school in Ohio and New York in the 1950s.

Sayra joined Skidmore’s Department of Education in 1966. Her major area of interest and expertise was children’s literature and the teaching of reading to elementary school children. Her course in children’s literature was a favorite with Skidmore students from the time she introduced it into the curriculum in 1981. A generation of student-teachers in the elementary education program that she supervised stayed in touch with her long after graduating. She was an active supporter of Skidmore’s University Without Walls, serving as advisor to many UWW students, and she served widely on campus committees and as president of the local AAUP chapter. A foster mother, she was an advocate of safe, affordable day care for children of working mothers.

Sayra was active in scholarly and professional associations, giving papers, making presentations, and leading workshops. When she retired in 1987, President Joseph Palamountain observed, "Sayra’s teaching has always been marked by compassion for her students, particularly those having difficulties of their own in the classroom. She has always been a champion of the ‘different’ student, whether underprivileged, handicapped, unusual or just plain different."

Her survivors included daughter Lysle Nikoloff Perry, son Robert Gottsche ’84, and four grandchildren.