During March, in celebration of Women's History Month, the Severn Alumni office partnered with faculty and students to share the stories of women changemakers throughout Severn's history. From a ten-part series for our younger Admirals to a panel discussion with Upper School SWAG and Z-Club, these programs illuminate the lasting impact generations of women have made in upholding Severn's mission since 1914.
“There are simply too many alumnae doing too many extraordinary things to tell every story . . . but we hope to capture the essence of the ways in which women have positively impacted the life of Severn School." — Alumni Director Dr. Carrie Grimes
The Lower School Series
Dr. Grimes worked with Lower School Drama Teacher Ms. Holly Florian to develop a series of presentations celebrating the very first women at Severn along with an impressive array of alumnae who are leaders in their communities and professional lives.The series featured:
The First Woman of Severn School. Mrs. Susan Teel, wife to founder Rolland Teel, played an integral role at Severn for fifty years. In their 1959 yearbook dedication to Mrs. Teel, the Class of 1959 described her as “a friend to all Severn students,” who made students "feel more at home away from home."
First Female Faculty Members.Teachers Madame Jeannine Iwanicki and Mrs. Carolyn Broaddus arrived in the late 1960s, teaching French and Latin respectively. Archives reveal that Severn students fondly recall Madame's “joie de vivre, charm and good humor.”
First Female Students and Alumnae. Severn enrolled its first female students in the fall of 1971. One of the original six, Ms. Julie Greenebaum Pfeifle '77, recalls a school where her “education came from both books and people, especially the teachers whose experience helped me grow up.” Ruth Ansel '72, Suzanne Cheek '72, Cynthia Donner Reiner '72, and Joan McDaniel '72 were the first four women to earn a Severn School diploma. These women will always be remembered for their ground-breaking role in the historic transformation of Severn.
Recipients of the Distinguished Alumni Award. Since the award was initiated in 1985, five alumnae have earned this honor: Ms. Anne 'Sandy' Barbour '77, Ms. Catherine Merrill '87, Mrs. Wendy Jones '83, Ms. Catherine Herrick '86, and Ms. Kate Orff '89. Collectively these women have achieved extraordinary success in the fields of collegiate athletics, publishing, technology, media, and landscape architecture.
Alumnae Who Serve and Achieve. This selection of alumnae featured those who have served in the military, are rising stars in the arts, and are leaders in fields ranging from television production to medical research to higher education administration.
Gusty Taler '74 Randi Goldman Silverman Stern '83 Cheryl Lauer '87 Amy Galebach Crone '97 Sharita Manickam '97 Sherie Cornish Gordon '98 Ebony Flowers '99 Nichole Marks '00 Keely Boyle '02 Julia Deckman '03 Roma Patel '05 Ashley Templeton '05 Margaret Morton Jackson '06 Mia Hencinski Stender '06 Ariel Mitchell '09 Aura Payne '10 Teisha Miles '12
"It was great to share the stories of so many incredible women from Severn's history with the Lower School students! Looking closely at the school's history allows us to see the important steps that have been taken to make the school more equitable, while also pushing us to examine the ways we can still improve. " — Ms. Florian
Upper School Club Collaboration
Members of SWAG (Supporting Women Across the Globe) and Z-Club (Severn's chapter of Zonta International), along with faculty advisors Ms. Norah Lapolla and Ms. Susan Jackson, were excited to host a Zoom panel with alumnae as a capstone to Women's History Month. After an introduction by Dr. Grimes, Carrie Cousins '02, Dominique Mann '09, and Gusty Taler '74 answered student questions about the important work they do to make our world a better place. It was an inspiring discussion about the many paths available after graduating from Severn and how to use what you've learned here to give back.Taler, the Chief Operating Officer of Maryland Legal Aid, an organization which provides life-changing civil legal assistance to low-income and marginalized individuals and communities, reflected upon her experiences helping others through her legal practice. Panelists Mann and Cousins also emphasized the importance of making your voice heard as a woman, and turning challenges into strengths.
“I always felt that lawyers need to be in the community. They need to go where the people are . . . [Maryland Legal Aid] is now in every library in the state of Maryland . . . and we have a justice bus that takes lawyers around Baltimore County to serve the poor. Maryland Legal Aid has helped thousands and thousands of people . . . it's been the most rewarding part of my life.” — Gusty Taler '74
On the Precipice of Half a Century
These programs are part of an effort to create a comprehensive retrospective in preparation for next year's fiftieth anniversary of the first female students admitted to Severn. Delving into Severn's history through yearbooks and faculty profiles created by our volunteer archivists, Dr. Grimes has begun to lay the foundation to honor this marker in our history.
As we celebrate these women and the many others who have made such significant contributions to our school, we recognize that we have much farther to go in our journey toward becoming a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive community where every student feels a sense of belonging. This lens into the past and present of women at Severn inspires our students to look with hope and confidence toward the future.
"In looking at the bulletin board where we are featuring the profiles, one young girl exclaimed 'UNDEFEATED?! WOW!' upon seeing the photos of the undefeated women's field hockey team. When I explained that some day their name could be on that board, they were wide-eyed and inspired! It was a simple, but powerful moment." — Ms. Florian