Students in Sustainable Compassion Training (HIH 300) were notified on February 8 that their instructor, Arline Saturdayborn, had passed away. She was 81. “It is with such sadness that I share that Arline passed away yesterday afternoon. She will be forever remembered as the consummate compassionate. My heart is heavy,” the Brightspace announcement read.
In an obituary published by the Portland Press Herald, Saturdayborn’s cause of death was described as complications from COVID-19. Saturdayborn always wore a mask in the classroom, and was very cautious about maintaining students’ safety. She encouraged participants to wear masks in class although it wasn’t required, and was open with her students about her past treatments for cancer. Upon being hospitalized with complications from COVID-19, she moved the class to Zoom.
Former students of Saturdayborn remember her as a very loving professor. In her only class, Sustainable Compassion Training, she taught students mindfulness practices that cultivated kindness toward the self and others in the face of life’s adversities. She started every class by proclaiming “I see you,” to which her students would respond “I am here to be seen.” This was a daily mantra repeated throughout the semester. At the end of each class, she would stand at the door and shake everyone’s hand as they left. She insisted that students call her by her first name, and often greeted students with, “Hello sweetheart!” When students emailed that they were unable to make it to class for whatever reason, Saturdayborn would respond with care and warmth, and hope that they would return to class when they felt better.
“Arline was one of those people that when she walked into a room, it would just light up! She had such a beautiful soul that touched so many people and students here at USM. I can say she truly changed my life for the better,” said former student Ali Cottrell, ‘23.
Saturdayborn dedicated her class to building a community of trust, care, and understanding. At the beginning of each semester, she would ask students to refer to a set of “community guidelines” for respecting students’ personal details. These “trainings,” as she called them, stirred discussions of personal experiences. Class periods saw group meditations led by Saturdayborn, followed by group discussions of their experiences in the meditations, as well as further questions posed in lectures.
Outside of USM, Saturdayborn also worked as an educator at Portland Adult Education (PAE), a resource that advances the knowledge and skills of people of all education levels; whether they are in need of a high school diploma, better language skills, or career skills, PAE assists its patrons through intimate class settings to help them succeed. PAE posted to their Facebook page of Saturdayborn’s passing: “Her kind smile, warm heart, and zest for life is an inspiration to all of us.”
Although Saturdayborn taught one class at USM, her impact on students extended beyond the classroom. “Those who enrolled in her course experienced respect and, above all, a life-changing experience. One of my fondest memories of Arline will be the fact that she never let anyone leave the classroom without shaking her hand. She cared about all of her students and made them feel validated, seen, and used compassion to heal the various stressors that come with being a college student. She made an impact on everyone that knew her,” stated Kameron Ali, ‘23.
Saturdayborn’s philosophy in class was to treat oneself with kindness and compassion. She expressed this through prompting the class to stretch their arms, and embrace themselves in a hug. She also proclaimed that every obstacle in life was “really hard,” and that people have the strength to continue navigating through them. Saturdayborn is survived by her husband, children, grandchildren, and her students.