Carla Valentine Pryne '72
A Brearley education is a lifelong antidote to smallness of any kind. At Brearley, I first learned the virtues of respect, rigorous inquiry and wonder. As an Episcopal priest and the founding director of Earth Ministry, a nonprofit which explores the intersections between Christianity and the environment, and as a parent and a citizen, I have drawn upon what I learned there, and for that I am deeply grateful.
It was all about the teachers. Brearley teachers dove deeply, and insisted we do the same. Physics, literature, classics, history—for me, each was not merely a subject, but a journey of the soul.
I can trace several direct lines from the classrooms of 610 to my life’s work.
Reading a text deeply. Delight Tolles opened the worlds of Homer and Plato. Elizabeth Carpenter and Frances Taliaferro brought English and American literature to life. All three taught me how to probe texts and let their layers be revealed. As a priest and preacher, I spent 35 years probing ancient and modern texts deeply, and in the doing, knew a joy I learned first at Brearley.
Learning as wonder. In Upper School physics classes, each new experiment led to the next questions. I learned to delight in the night sky and the sweet symmetry of a daisy. Science was inseparable from curiosity, beauty and wonder.
Living the questions. In Miss Mitchell’s ethics seminar, we sat cross-legged on the floor and took on the big questions in the book of Job. She neither gave nor asked for answers. Instead, she encouraged inquisitiveness and debate. Miss Mitchell didn’t interrupt silence. Rather, she invited us to sit with the questions—Job’s, and our own.
What am I curious about? What gives me joy? What new thing can I learn? How can I give back? I can still hear the words from the book of Philippians, with which Miss Mitchell concluded every assembly: “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”