Written by Carrie M. Grimes '91 and Toni Michelson for the Summer 2018 Odyssey Issue of The Bridge (abridged version)
Each year the Upper School faculty awards a member of the graduating class The Rolland M. Teel Award, given in memory of Severn School’s founder who led the school for 42 years. As part of our celebration of Admiral Alumni journeys, we wondered: How have the paths of these honored graduates unfolded upon leaving Severn? Have they been extraordinary? Yes. Characterized by core values of curiosity and inner drive? Yes. Our outreach to some of the past recipients shared themes of humility, hard work, and eclecticism as key ingredients to continued success beyond Severn. What did we find at the heart of each story? Gratitude. For community, family, teachers, and the unique confidence Severn equipped them with for life beyond Water Street.
Honoring Severn Values
The award was established by Mr. and Mrs. Stephens Millard ‘51 in 1998, in recognition of and appreciation for Mr. Teel’s many contributions to society. The award recipient must have made a distinct contribution to Severn School through participation in, and attitude toward, the school, its people, life and spirit. In addition, the student should have demonstrated the values and qualities espoused by Mr. Teel and the mission of Severn School, including scholarship, leadership, service to others, and respect for tradition and diversity. It is the highest award conferred by Severn School at graduation, and each recipient’s name is etched into a trophy in Teel Academic Center, which reads:
Rolland M. Teel Award A perpetual trophy to honor that senior student who best exemplifies Rolland Teel's founding principles of Intellect, Character and Service. Given by Stephens F. Millard Class of 1951
On our Alumni trip to California this spring, we enjoyed an afternoon with Steve Millard ’51 and asked him what inspired him to initiate this special honor for a graduating senior. Millard referenced the eulogy he gave at Mr. Teel’s funeral service in October of 1978, in which he said Teel was “A many who has left us such a distinguished record of service and love for his fellow man with his memory so illuminating and enriching that it blazes and burns like a galaxy in the lives of those who knew and loved him…he was a man who encouraged independent thought and action, a man of conviction and resolution…he was never a man of doctrine or definition, but rather a man of purpose and principle who was above all else — a man of integrity.”
Kate Fitzgerald, Class of 2002: Sailor, Sculptor, Scribe
Kate graduated from Amherst in 2006 and initially undertook some unconventional jobs, sailing on a couple of tall ships. The first, Tole Mour, was based out of Long Beach, Calif. and was part of the Catalina Island Marine Institute. Kate and the crew took students on multi-day trips to the Channel Islands and taught them about marine biology, navigation, and sail training. Adventures also included snorkeling, boogie boarding, and sailing around the islands. Kate’s second tall ship adventure was aboard Mystic, based out of Mystic, Conn. In what she describes as “a strange turn of events,” Kate became the ship's engineer. Mystic was a 180' three-masted schooner that took adults on multi-day trips in New England, the Chesapeake Bay, and eventually the Bahamas.
Following these seafaring adventures, Kate returned home and worked aboard the sailboat Woodwind in Annapolis briefly, before accepting a teaching assignment as a long-term science substitute in Severn’s Middle School. She enjoyed her time in the classroom and subsequently landed a permanent position on the Humanities faculty at Indian Creek School, where she worked for seven years, rising to the role of department chair. While teaching, Kate earned her master’s degree in non-fiction writing at Johns Hopkins in 2016 and then took leave from her teaching position to pursue a freelance writing career.Kate admits “In truth, I'm still figuring out what I want to do and I'm learning where I am willing to compromise and where I am not.” At a self-dubbed “interesting time” in her life, Kate is currently starting a blog about women and whiskey while continuing to pursue her metal art. Kate learned to weld over the last ten years between working on boats, driving cross-country with her younger sister, Alex ‘04, and working on a farm in Wisconsin. Kate also enjoys coaching rugby, playing with the Severn River Rugby right here in Severna Park. While she’s uncertain about where her winding path will take her, she is excited about her next chapter. She and her husband Joe, rescue dog Max, and their baby boy, Jack live in Edgewater.
Cortney Mathis, Class of 2014: Eyes on Medical School
Since graduating from Severn, Cortney majored in cellular and molecular biology at Tufts University and is on track to attend medical school. During her time at Tufts, she volunteered in Tufts After School Enrichment Program and at Massachusetts General Hospital. She also spent a semester working with the nonprofit organization, Haley House, creating a survey plan and proposal for the city of Roxbury, Mass. and volunteering in the organization’s soup kitchen.
During the summers, Cortney took a few classes at the University of Maryland, while working at a local doctor’s office. She also spent a summer sitting on the Oncologist board at Anne Arundel Medical Center. Now that she has graduated from Tufts, she plans to work as a medical lab technician with her EMT license and do some traveling before heading to medical school. In the future, she intends to become an oncologist in Maryland.Cortney believes her time at Severn prepared her well for college. “Writing papers is never a challenge because of Severn’s writing requirement. I always found the librarians at Severn very helpful, especially when it came to writing research papers. The research tools and techniques they provided us with were tremendously helpful!” Mathis also found that the workload at Severn prepared her for college because it taught her how to stay organized and effectively schedule her time to avoid feeling overwhelmed. “I have great memories from Severn! I visit often and still see many friends from my class.” Courtney was thrilled to be back in June to see her brother Jordan graduate with the Class of 2018.