The Tybel Spivack Scholarship

The Center for Women’s Studies and Gender Research


About the Award

The Tybel Spivack Scholarship is designed to support students in anthropological linguistics who are returning to complete their education. Because Tybel Spivack achieved her goals at an advanced age, this scholarship aims to offer this opportunity to others as well. The Award is administered through the Center for Women’s Studies and Gender Research; it is therefore assumed that the student is in harmony with feminism and considers her/himself a feminist.

Eligibility Requirements

• The applicant may be a graduate or an undergraduate student
• Preference is given to those 40 years of age or older
• Relevant language/anthropological linguistics study should be included in the research which may, nevertheless, be in any field of study.  Applications are encouraged from all disciplines, should they be in harmony with the stated goals of the Award.

Applicant should submit

• Transcript(s)
• A letter describing background, intent, goals, and need for the scholarship.The award is particularly focused on supporting research or on the presentation of research as papers at professional meetings.
• A letter of recommendation
• Personal interview with the Fund Administrator

The Award is given at any time that there is an appropriate applicant.

For further information or to apply contact the Fund Administrator

Dr. MJ Hardman
352-378-9827 / Skype: txupwarmi /
Professor of Linguistics and Anthropology
Department of Linguistics
University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida
Doctora Honoris Causa UNMSM, Lima, Perú

About Some Previous Recipients

The first recipient was Claire Brunetti, Tybel Spivack Scholarship 1991-92; dissertation focused on the language of Theresa of Avila (Spain), famous 16th century mystic, and Margery Kempe (England), courageous 15th century thinker.
The two most recent recipients have been Chun Huang, presenting several papers having to do with threatened languages, language policy and identity, and to Leah Floyd to present a paper " Creating a Female Visual Perspective" at OSCLG combining arts with the goals of the scholarship.

About Tybel Burman Spivack

Tybel Burman Spivack was born in Connorsville, Indiana, in 1908, of Russian Jewish immigrants. Yiddish, which she claimed not to speak well but loved dearly, was part of her linguistic background. Her father was a dealer in scrap iron in Cleveland at that time. When Tybel was 11, on medical advice, her father took the family and headed south. It is said that when he reached Orlando, he declared “I can breathe!” and there they settled. Mr. Burman ran a laundry, operated a hotel, raised oranges, and was one of the founders of the Tangerine Bowl, now the Citrus Bowl. In all, he became a prominent citizen of Orlando.

Tybel attended the Cathedral School of Orlando for beginning studies. She received her baccalaureate in English from the University of Michigan, graduating with honors. Shortly thereafter she met and married “Spivey,” Dr. Abraham Henry Spivack. They spent a year in Vienna and Munich, then returned to live in New York where they stayed until 1949. There she started a fashion consultant business and reared her children, Ellen, now a systems analyst and John, now a professor of history. Tybel also became an accomplished jewelry maker, a craft which she continued throughout the rest of her life.

In 1949 the Spivacks returned to Orlando. Tybel worked in her father’s hotel, and in her husband’s office. She was also an accomplished pianist, raised orchids, and worked actively for the Florida Symphony and for hospital volunteers. In the 50’s she developed an interest in Pre-Colombian art, which became a consuming passion. This passion led her to travel in South America. Her adventures during a stay near a remote train station 14,000 feet high in the Andes always made for exciting stories. The University of Florida and the Harn Museum have become major beneficiaries of her interest. As a major contributor, Tybel is honored on the plaque in the lobby of the Harn Museum. Many of her donated pieces can be seen at the entrance to the Latin American collection.

The Spivacks retired to Gainesville in 1964. They both went back to school. Tibby studied art while Spivey pursued a course of study in mathematics.

During this period, Tybel became concerned about the treatment of old people in the United States. At the center of her concern, from the beginning, was the use of language in defining the role and place of the old. One of her ‘pet peeves’ were all the euphemisms for old, and the pretense that one was not old. She did not receive the appellation of ‘young’ as a compliment. As she often said, she had earned the right to be old, that she had no intention of denying her life experience, and thought it part of the negation of place for the old to do so.

After Spivey’s sudden death in 1973, she focused all her attention on her academic pursuits. She was admitted to the Department of Anthropology at the age of 69. Two years later she finished her M.A. and was elected to Phi Kappa Phi. She then treated herself to a cruise around the world. On her return she was admitted to the doctoral program and dedicated herself to research in anthropological linguistics. She completed her exams for the doctorate in 1984. One of her professors wrote of her work “Her reviews of the literature on metaphor and on non-verbal communication are easily the best I have ever received from a student.” Her research focused on metaphor and old age from an anthropological perspective, looking at the ways in which, by our use of language, we see old people. The title of her dissertation was to have been “The Generative Metaphors of Old Age.” She looked at some comparative work cross-culturally and at how the definitions and the metaphors that are used are correlated to the way in which old people are treated. In some of the work, for example, she discussed root metaphors which are also a type of model, such as old age as a disease (and therefore if one is healthy one is not “old” no matter how many years one has lived), or old age as disability (and therefore if one is old one is a charity case, no matter what one might be able to contribute to society). She had done some analysis of the way in which old people are addressed on television in contrast to the way other adults are addressed, but her major focus was on current print media such as newspapers, asking, for example, such questions as what are the underlying metaphors which lead people to focus on certain aspects of the lives of people over 65 (our cultural definition of the beginning of old age) and to ignore others? She also showed how other linguistic (and cultural) features, such as sexism, interplay with the metaphors of age.

Her increasing physical disability, which meant constant pain, limited the speed with which she could work so that she could not meet graduate school deadlines and the graduate school together with the Department of Anthropology denied her any extensions; time ran out before the last chapter was written.

The University of Florida and The Center for Women’s Studies and Gender Research are the beneficiaries of Tybel Spivack’s generosity and commitment to education. So are the many recipients since the first one was awarded in early 1991, while Tybel still lived.

Tybel Burman Spivack 1908-1991

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