Our Instructors

All instructors at the School of Practical Philosophy are also students. In following the principle of learn and teach, instructors, or “tutors” as they are called, are appointed on the basis of having studied practical philosophy for many years and having a firm understanding of the philosophic principles. They have demonstrated an appreciation of the practice of philosophy in their daily lives, and discovered in their own experience that philosophy works. In conducting and leading classes, the tutor’s aim is simple — to guide and foster each student’s journey of self-discovery. Tutors at the School are not paid; they offer their services for the benefit of the School and its community. Their personal and professional backgrounds vary as widely as the students they serve.

Alvin Wasserman

Member since 1978

Background
Alvin has a Master of Social Work degree and worked in this field for several years before transitioning to a career in Real Estate as an owner and manager of residential properties. The principal “my word is my bond” has been the cornerstone of his lifetime of meaningful relationships with business associates, family and friends.

On Practical Philosophy
“Philosophy enriches life with greater happiness, love, and consciousness, making them more available in our day-to-day lives.”

Barbara Solowey

Member since 1970

Background
Barbara has been teaching literature and philosophy for 40 years in New York City public and private schools. She has a special interest in the American Transcendentalists — Emerson, Thoreau and Whitman — and presents lectures at the School, the New York Open Center, and elsewhere.

On Practical Philosophy
“I love how philosophical conversations bring greater freedom and joy to everyone.”

David Steingard

Member since 1995

Background
David was born and raised in NYC. After 4 years as a criminal prosecutor in Brooklyn he started a fair trade coffee company supporting community development for coffee growers and their families. He still lives in NYC, but now with wife Cecilia, daughter Paloma and son Samuel.

On Practical Philosophy
“We drink water every day to stay healthy. Philosophy is water for the soul. This study has made me happier, calmer, and more confident as I face each day.”

Emérita Noel

Member since 1971

Background
Emérita, a native of Panama, migrated to the US in 1960. She says finding the School of Practical Philosophy was “one of the transformative moments in my outlook on life.” She is now retired from her work in Administration for a nonprofit hospital in Long Island, New York, and is enjoying her favorite pastime, trying out new recipes for baking and cooking.

On Practical Philosophy
Emérita enjoys sharing the practical approach to the study of philosophy and delights in hearing diverse voices coming together, acknowledging how connected we are in our shared experiences.

Frank Ponzio

Member since 2003

Background
Frank is a professional jazz pianist, composer, and teacher. He has been Music Director for the National Dance Institute; vocal coach at the Actors Studio at The New School; and pianist for the Gospel Church, Celebration Spiritual Center in Brooklyn. When not involved in his musical pursuits, he enjoys meditation, the study of Sanskrit, and Basketball.

On Practical Philosophy
Frank enjoys the self-inquiry, the fellowship of dear friends, and the company of people he’s just met.

Harley Dembert

Member since 1994

Background
Following a long career in the travel tech industry, Harley currently has an art consulting business with his wife, based out of Tarrytown, N.Y. He is passionate about politics and is involved with his local government and environmental issues. He enjoys meditation, classical music and outdoor activities.

On Practical Philosophy
Harley loves applying principles learned in both academia and at the School in his daily life.

Jaime Rathore

Member since 2006

Background
Jaime spent her early life motorcycling, sailing, and traveling in search of unique music and people from around the world. Her career highlights include working for social change in South Africa and managing advertising accounts such as Citibank and Coca-Cola. She lives in Manhattan with her husband and two curious children.

On Practical Philosophy
Jaime loves the rich philosophical conversations and practices that encourage vitality, unanimity and happiness.

Jerry Breen

Member since 2010

Background
Jerry is the father of two grown sons and has been a small business owner for over 30 years. He lives in Connecticut and in NYC and loves everything “New York”, including Central Park, museums, and theater. His interests encompass Eastern and Western thought in the studies of the Upanishads and Plato.

On Practical Philosophy
Jerry is grateful for the benefits of greater awareness and contentment gained from the practices and loves the insight and enthusiasm he shares with his fellow Philosophy students.

Mary Bosworth

Member since 1992

Background
Mary recently retired from a distinguished career teaching history and philosophy in a New York City independent school. She and her husband, Russell, live in the Hudson Valley where cooking, gardening and line dancing occupy her whenever she’s not involved with philosophy.

On Practical Philosophy
“It’s the meaningful conversations and great people that keep me coming back year after year. I really enjoy being a part of the Philosophy Works course.”

Michael Posnick

Member since 1974

Background
Michael is a retired theatre director and college professor. His interests include Shakespeare, swimming, park walks, and all kinds of music. He has a special interest in Scripture study, both Eastern and Western, and most recently the Book of Jonah. In addition to his Philosophy Works classes he has given lectures on how Philosophy illuminates various important aspects of life, such as forgiveness, religion, and more. His most recent delight is in being a grandfather!

On Practical Philosophy
“A student recently remarked that while quarantined in Africa he missed being home, but with the practices he received from Philosophy Works he felt at home — wherever he was. This is one of the primary gifts of Practical Philosophy. It works! — when you put it to work.”

Paul Sheppard

Member since 1988

Background
Paul is currently a high school English teacher having taught a variety of subjects at all grade levels over the past 30 years. He enjoys promoting and performing spoken word poetry and prose and is also a devotee of the Sanskrit language. Paul is married with two children and lives in northern New Jersey where he can gaze at the Hudson River and take walks along the Palisades.

On Practical Philosophy
Paul is committed to framing and discussing questions that allow us to learn from and teach one another.

Preethi Gopinath

Member since 2000

Background
Preethi works in the field of textile design and education. She has also been active in the performing arts as a classically-trained Bharatanatyam dancer and as an actor. Preethi currently teaches and serves as the founding Director of a graduate program at a leading Design School in NYC.

On Practical Philosophy
Delighting in the practical approach to Philosophy and its invaluable application to daily living, Preethi enjoys facilitating the process of self-discovery, the lively interactions with her students and the sense of community at the School.

Ray Graj

Member since 1987

Background
Ray is a partner in a successful NYC brand-venture development company founded in 1990. He lives in Montclair, NJ with his lovely wife, Andrea, and adventurous sons, Max and Zach. He enjoys camping, fishing, skiing, kayaking, is an avid doodler and lover of all forms of creativity.

On Practical Philosophy
“The opportunity and honor to engage and explore with kindred spirits from all walks of life; all searching for deeper meaning and larger perspective.” Ray loves the Interactive class format where there is space for conversations of substance that go way beyond typical water cooler chit-chat.

Roland Rothenbucher

Member since 1985

Background
Roland is a High School Principal at a distinguished independent school on Long Island. He holds degrees in German Language and Literature. He finds inspiration in the writings of wise poets and mystics, and has delved into the works of Renaissance philosopher Marsilio Ficino. Roland’s other interests are of the outdoor variety, including biking, hiking, and traveling.

On Practical Philosophy
Roland loves learning and teaching about the wisdom tradition.

Seamus Kennedy

Member since 1994

Background
Séamus was born in Ireland and studied Mechanical Engineering at University College Dublin. He has been living in America since 1988 and runs an orthopedic manufacturing business in Long Island City. He is married with two teenage children and lives on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Beyond practical philosophy his other interests include running, swimming, poetry and coaching his son’s soccer team.

On Practical Philosophy
Séamus particularly enjoys finding ever new and simple ways for students to understand and utilize the philosophy in their day-to-day life.

Shepherd Casden

Member since 1976

Background
Shepherd is a retired elementary school teacher. He and his wife relocated from Long Island to enjoy the country life in a picturesque town in upstate New York. He is interested in music, and nature photography.

On Practical Philosophy
Shepherd appreciates the expanding perspective associated with the study of practical philosophy.