Sherwin Kapstein has spent 65 years as a Rhode Island educator, and he is responsible for many significant developments that have shaped the teaching profession and the lives of students.
Born in Providence in 1917, Sherwin was educated in the public school system and then earned degrees in history and education from Brown University. As a young teacher in the Warwick school system he found time to coach sports. That facet of his life was interrupted by World War II, in which Sherwin served as a naval officer.
Following his wartime service, Sherwin became a charter member of the Providence Public Education Council and served as its first president. As a member of the School Survey Commission in Providence, he wrote a minority report in the 1950s that argued against closing Classical High School. The fact that this prestigious high school remains open to this day is in no small measure due to Sherwin’s foresight and efforts.
Sherwin has spent years as an advocate for such progressive concepts as open meetings, educational opportunities for students with learning disabilities, and the right of women to be treated as equals. In addition, he helped to organize the Rhode Island Association of School Committees and served as its first president.
In 1955, Sherwin exercised a leading role on the Rhode Island Educational Liaison Committee and was influential in developing the state’s system of aid to local school districts–a plan then considered to be highly innovative. For six years he was the public relations director of the National Education Association, a job he held until 1982. He has written fifty-five newspaper columns on public education under the banner “Our Point of View” and was responsible for helping to established collective bargaining and due process rights and procedures for educators.
Sherwin was elected to the Rhode Island House of Representatives in 1982 and served two terms during which he continued his support for education and championed an effort to ban smoking in public places. In 1998 Brown University honored him for his work in the field of teacher education, and Rhode Island College awarded him an honorary Doctor of Education degree in 2005.
On the home front, Sherwin was married to Gladys for 52 years. He has three children, Jeremy, Deborah and Daniel and four grandchildren.