Selma Balin Laskin was determined to educate herself.
Determined enough, son David said, that she not only earned bachelor's, master's and doctorate degrees, she earned all three through evening classes.
Mrs. Laskin, 87, a former English teacher and guidance counselor at George Washington High School, died Monday, May 20, of kidney failure at Lions Gate, the continuing care retirement community in Voorhees.
Mrs. Laskin lived in Southampton, Bucks County, for 40 years before moving to Lions Gate in 2007.
Her 1965-to-1992 career at Washington ran in concert with the 1973-to-1990 career of her husband, Leonard, chairman of the industrial arts department there at his retirement.
Born in the Strawberry Mansion neighborhood of Philadelphia, Mrs. Laskin began at Olney High School. After her father moved the family to Dolgeville in Upstate New York, she graduated from high school there in 1943.
Mrs. Laskin returned to Philadelphia to work as a clerk for a Common Pleas Court judge and in the late 1940s became engaged to Leonard Laskin, a former Army Air Corps radio operator.
David Laskin said she told her fiance, "Get your GI Bill and do something you want to be passionate about." So, her fiance earned his degree at what was then Philadelphia College of Art.
After their two children were born, David said, "in '57 she reaches out to meet her dreams, that is, to go to college."
Having given up her court job to become a full-time mother, "she started night school at Temple," and earned a bachelor's degree in secondary education in 1963.
"No one in her family had gone to college," her son said. "It was something she was incredibly passionate about."
She worked as a substitute teacher at what was Leeds Junior High in East Mount Airy and, in 1965, began her full-time career at Washington, teaching English.
After earning a master's degree in education at Temple in 1968 while continuing to teach, she said, "I would like to be able to help my students more. . . . I'd like to do counseling," her son recalled.
"So this woman, at the age of 46 in 1972, decides to finish the day at George Washington" three afternoons a week and "drives from Northeast Philadelphia to Bethlehem to attend graduate courses at Lehigh University."
In 1979, she earned a doctorate degree in education in counseling at Lehigh.
With the doctorate, Mrs. Laskin finished her career at Washington as a guidance counselor, from 1980 to 1992.
"She developed a great rapport" with students both as teacher and counselor, her son said, so much so "that she kept going to their reunions."
In retirement, she was a volunteer counselor at the Bucks County Jewish Community Center in Newtown.
Besides her son David, she is survived by son Salakesh Ananda - the former Robert Laskin - and three grandchildren. Her husband died in 2007.
A graveside service was set for 1:30 p.m. Thursday, May 23, at Shalom Memorial Park, Lower Moreland.
Donations may be made to Caring Community, c/o Congregation M'kor Shalom, 850 Evesham Rd., Cherry Hill, N.J. 08003.
Condolences may be offered to the family at www.plattmemorial.com.