Life Unfolding: Alum Stories

List of 2 news stories.

  • Rozella Floranz Kennedy ’81—One Brave Sis Inspiring Others

    Ask Rozie Kennedy if her 18-year-old self would be surprised at where life has taken her and she laughs. “The industry I work in—climate technology—didn’t even exist back then!” 
    Managing philanthropic relationships for a California- and Hawaii- based cleantech accelerator allows her to channel clean-energy investments into local communities in need. But as much as this work feeds her passion to give back, another passion fuels her soul, her Brave Sis Project.      
    “My eighteen-year-old self would not have been surprised by Brave Sis,” she admitted recently on a Zoom call. “I majored in Literature at Tufts; I always wanted to write a book.”
    The journey from East 83rd Street has taken Rozie many places: seven years in Paris, where she picked up a Master’s degree from the Sorbonne. Back to New York, where she met her husband of 26 years, John Kennedy, a composer and Opera and Orchestra Director of the annual Spoleto Festival in South Carolina. They moved together to Santa Fe, where they started a performing arts company; and then to the Bay Area. And even though their daughters Jazzie (23) and Jade (20) plan to return to New York City to finish college and settle for a while,  Rozie has been plotting “retirement” abroad.     
    “When I graduated from Brearley—even when I finished college—my sights were more trained on the developing world and the French-speaking diaspora. Like so many people around the world, I was all about freeing Nelson Mandela, ending apartheid in South Africa, and figuring out how to help our global sisters.”
    In 2019, Rozie decided she was going to “get more accountable to myself.” So she looked for a planner: the ones marketed to men were all about driving for success; those marketed to women featured drawings of “blonde, size-one women—and I was so tired of having to asterisk myself into a space or be the ‘only’ in the room and having to reinterpret the narrative through my lens.” The planners marketed to Black women were even worse: “once you get past the fancy covers and the ‘you go, girl!’—inside they were so generic and almost insulting.”
    In true Brearley fashion, she decided if she couldn’t find the right planner, she would make it. “On Christmas morning I got this visitation from a force that said ‘Tell my story’ and that was it, like a fire. I started researching women, making lists, charting the birthdays of women of color through history. I took online courses in how to build a business; I got an LLC and a website. I found an illustrator. I was working on the academic/research side, then the creative side, then the business side—managing all three at once while the COVID pandemic hit and changing day jobs at the same time.” 
    “Every so often I have to take a day off to collapse because it remains a lot,” she added. But it also means a lot—to her and to the 2,000 people around the world who now own and use the Brave Sis 2021 Journey-Journal
    “This was just going to be a project; I wasn’t expecting to find my passion and my meaning,” Rozie said. “But now it feels almost holy.” Recently she donated copies to the Tupac Shakur Foundation and an Oakland nonprofit that works with adolescents rescued from sex trafficking. “The fact that this little book could get into the hands of these young women and give them a sense of self—that’s overwhelming. The Brave Sis Journey-Journal has touched and uplifted people, gotten into their hearts, given them a tool to grow. It’s all very humbling.”
    Asked if she has any advice for current students or fellow alums, she points to something she learned in the process of making Brave Sis: “You need to define your own measure of success and happiness—don’t let anyone else do it for you. As a scholarship student at Brearley and then a first-generation college student, I had no financial cushion; I really felt I had to take every job that came my way. Looking back, I feel like I wasted a lot of years letting other people tell me what to do or who to be. It’s so important to cultivate your own inner firmament, your own North Star—and check in with that every six months or so. If you’re not living a life you love, make a change as soon as you can.”
    Next up for Rozie, in addition to the 2022 Journey-Journal, is a Brave Sis adult activity book, due out in April 2022, thanks to a connection made by one of her Brearley classmates. “So I am going to be a published author after all.”

    -Elaine Bennett '77
  • A Warm Tribute to Mary Catherine Bateson ’57 from her Brearley Classmates

    Credit: Trent Bell for the New York Times
    The Class of 1957 is saddened by the death of our unique and inspirational classmate Cathy (Mary Catherine) Bateson on January 2, 2021. She was married for 60 years to Barkev Kassarjian, and is survived also by their daughter, Vanni.

    Cathy arrived at Brearley in 1950 in Class IV, an unusual moment, in those days, to change schools, particularly when “fitting in” was a conventionally valued characteristic. Friendships had already been formed around athletic accomplishments and competitive collections of trading cards. Cathy would have none of that. Her friends were individuals, not members of groups. Unlike any other class members, Cathy lived in Greenwich Village and was the daughter of two renowned, if not controversial, anthropologists. 

    From the start, Cathy was her own person. In her early Brearley days she is known to have lectured a classmate on Freud and his theories. Her 8th grade birthday party was at the American Museum of Natural History, watching films of Balinese dancers. She usually brought colorful baskets to school on May Day to celebrate workers. In 10th grade, rather blindsiding the school administration, Cathy began The East Wind, thought to be the first Brearley newspaper. It was later renamed The Zephyr, evoking the idea of a fresh breeze blowing through the School.

    Then, sparking real controversy at the end of 11th grade, Cathy (pictured at left at around that time) announced that she had completed all the necessary requirements for Brearley graduation and that she planned to take the equivalent of her high school senior year as a freshman at Radcliffe. The School balked, Cathy left, deferred her application to Radcliffe and spent what would have been her last Brearley year in Israel learning Hebrew. That was 1956-57, the year of the Suez Crisis or Second Arab-Israeli War. Cathy not only survived, overcame all obstacles, but she mastered Hebrew in one year, passing the notoriously difficult government matriculation exam. 

    As Cathy’s adherents and admirers, we commend the facility with which she always stretched our minds, particularly in her writings, including Composing a Life (1989) and Peripheral Visions: Learning Along the Way (1995). She easily combined two or more apparently conflicting ideas. Among those was her respect for the value of the traditional, classical education that she received at Brearley and her vision for the never-ending educational needs of women who must continue “learning along the way,” as she noted in a 2007 Alumnae Evening speech at Brearley. To Cathy, the unpredictability and discontinuity of all 21st century women’s lives make it imperative that we open ourselves to lifelong learning, subscribing fearlessly to her best-known mantra: “We are not what we know, but what we are willing to learn.”

    Thank you, Cathy, with love, 

    -Sally Brown Brown ‘57  and Carol Pepper-Cooper ‘57

    To read more about Mary Catherine Bateson’s life, please see: ​
The Brearley School is a K-XII independent day school for girls in New York City. Empowering girls of adventurous intellect to think critically and creatively.
610 East 83rd Street
New York, NY 10028
(212) 744-8582 

590 East 83rd Street
New York, NY 10028
(212) 744-8582