KNOXVILLE — Former Knoxville resident Dr. Elizabeth Eichelbaum died Jan. 29 in Savannah, Georgia. She was 92.
Eichelbaum, an artist and art therapist, received her doctorate from the University of Tennessee at the age of 90. Her achievements were reported in The New York Times and she appeared as a guest on “Good Morning America.”
Eichelbaum was born in Russia in 1910. She survived a grim childhood and a year-long journey to
Dr. Elizabeth Eichelbaum
America and arrived in New York at the age of 11. Although she left school after the eighth grade to work, she dreamed of continuing her education.
It was a dream she deferred for more than 50 years as she raised four sons and built a thriving restaurant in Detroit with her husband. At the age of 65, Eichelbaum earned the GED and embarked on a college career. She received the B.A. in fine arts at age 69 from Wayne State University and the M.A. in art history at age 80 from Oakland University. She later moved to Knoxville, Tennessee, and after working as an art therapist with the elderly and mentally handicapped, decided to study for her doctorate.
Macular degeneration had seriously affected her eyesight, but she found readers to help with her assignments. No longer able to drive, she walked to a nearby nursing home to volunteer as an art therapist.
“I have never experienced anyone with such drive and determination,” said Dr. Thomas N. Turner, Eichelbaum’s advisor in the University of Tennessee College of Education. “What Elizabeth set out to do, she would do, and nothing — not age, not disease, not the obstructionism of people who saw age as a handicap– would ever stop her. She was indomitable.”
“She was the most inspirational student I ever taught,” said retired professor Dr. Luther Kindall. “I was her mentor, but she was really a mentor to me.”
At the time of her graduation, Eichelbaum’s family established a scholarship in her name at the University of Tennessee. Designated for graduate students returning to study after at least a 10-year absence, it is meant to further Eichelbaum’s aim of assisting other senior citizens to fulfill their ambitions.
Eichelbaum is survived by sons Stuart Eichel, a retired advertising agency president who is now an artist in Saratoga Springs, New York; Edward Eichel of New York City an artist, sex therapist and author of several books; Marvin Eichelbaum, chairman of a retail chain in Savannah, Georgia; and Stanley Eichelbaum, president of a development advisory, city planning and research firm in Cincinnati, Ohio. She is also survived by four grandchildren and 10 great grand children.
Her funeral will be at 10 a.m. on Sunday, Feb. 2 at Hebrew Memorial Chapel, 26640 Greenfield Road, Oak Park, Michigan, and a memorial service will be held in Savannah, Georgia. Memorials may be made to the Macular Degeneration Foundation Research Fund, Inc., P.O. Box 531313, Henderson, Nevada 89053; The University of Tennessee Elizabeth Eichelbaum Scholarship Endowment, Alumni and Development Office, Attention: Donna Bletner, A303 Claxton Complex, Knoxville, Tennessee 37996-3400; or to Hospice Savannah, 1352 Eisenhower Drive, Savannah, Georgia 31416.