Swimming Lessons: Stories from Sixty Years at Eckerd College is a collection of 16 oral histories from Eckerd faculty, alumni, trustees and a former trustee as told to Kadel Taras ’89, Ph.D., through years of extensive interviews. Narrators share stories as varied as those about the integration of Florida Presbyterian (now Eckerd) College and the titular tale of an adopted duck who lived in a dorm and was very much in need of life skills instruction.
“I proposed this project to [then] President Eastman in the fall of 2016. We were anticipating the College’s 60th Anniversary and looking for a way to celebrate this milestone with some kind of historical review. I had been collecting Eckerd stories through interviews with faculty and alums for years,” Kadel Taras said. “I chose stories based on one criterion: Is this a good story? I looked for a mix of funny, poignant, inspiring and ‘classic Eckerd’ stories. It’s not at all a comprehensive history, but a series of snapshots that reveal much about Eckerd’s values and priorities, culture and mythology, characters and community, and impact on individuals and society.”
Kadel Taras also authored On Solid Rock, a retelling of the founding story of FPC/Eckerd, which details the early years of the institution when her grandfather William H. Kadel served as the school’s first president.
Tombolo Books, an independent bookstore in St. Petersburg’s Grand Central District that opened in 2019, began selling Swimming Lessons in its charming shop and online in January.
“Our decision to carry the collection Swimming Lessons was based on Eckerd College’s well-earned reputation for raising the profile of our region’s literary community and developing talented writers across all academic disciplines,” said Alsace Walentine, Tombolo’s co-owner. “We have experienced this firsthand at Tombolo Books through one of our own staff members, a graduate of Eckerd’s Creative Writing program who matches a passion for storytelling with incisive thoughtful critique. Swimming Lessons delivers on both the regional pride we value and the editorial quality we expect from anything coming out of Eckerd College.”
Kadel Taras said reading Swimming Lessons is an important part of the Eckerd experience for all those interested in the school. She explained, “Oral histories of an institution allow us to capture the stories we tell ourselves about who we are, why we’re here and why our work matters. As each new student, parent, faculty or staff person, volunteer, or donor begins to engage with Eckerd College, we want them to find their place in that story, to recognize themselves in some part of the whole, so that they will be touched by the experience and leave their mark on the College.”