I wrote this paean in honor of my elegant and smart friend, Rocio Zeiler, a few years ago:
“Perhaps no word has irked language addicts more than the expression Renaissance woman, for it evokes dusty and somewhat dated images of a woman whose major accomplishments in life revolved around the domestic Trivium of marrying well, being loyal to one’s husband, and giving birth to children. On the other hand, there are the Renaissance men-- men of refinement, courage, superior education; men of noble birth, grace, and a knowledge of and love for the arts.
“Historians tell us that one woman, Isbaella d’Este, remains the quintessential role model of a woman who combined the traditional role of the Renaissance woman and the Renaissance man. Isabella ruled Mantua after her husband’s death, set fashion standards, founded a school for young women, wrote epistles on war and politics, and opened her home to writers, artists, and poets. This is Rocio -- with a modern twist.
“With seeming ease and ineffable grace, she can do almost everything: wife to her witty scholar husband, Dr. Tom Zeiler; devoted mother to two of the greatest children on earth, Jackson and Ella -- not to mention, she is a gourmet cook, a budding artist, avid reader, “cheerleader” at her children’s games, grocery shopper extraordinaire, chocolate connoisseur, and world-class decorator. Somehow, she -- plus her venerated Venti-- still arrives at school each day and reminds us what style means -- and I refer not just to her sartorial finesse.
“As a Spanish and French teacher, it is she who so often looks for a more creative way to present material that might seem a bit mundane, if not dull, to many students. For example, she whiles away the morning combing through Clip-art and other visual sources searching for perfect pictures that complement lessons for her class; a review of verb tenses might result in her room decorated with mobiles aplenty. Her students journey from Guatemala to Cuba, from the airport to the doctor’s office, from stem-changing verbs to the preterite. That her classroom is alive with the sounds of French and Spanish no one can deny. Always Rocio exudes energy and a commanding presence all respect and enjoy.
“Beyond the world of pure academia, she has been a friend and counselor to many students and colleagues. Many students note that having Rocio as their teacher and advisor was one of the highlights of their Graland education. In addition, she has shared with us many stories about her travels from Japan to France, from China to Costa Rica, Rocio remains the thoughtful tourist who immerses herself immediately in learning more about the countries she visits. Oh, if you want a book to read, just ask Rocio-- she is more reliable than Janet Maslin of the New York Times. Her years as a book club member have strengthened her skills as an acute observer of trends in modern literature. . . “