Rozella Kennedy ‘81
To have gone to Brearley means, basically, everything. I was admitted to the school in sixth grade, after our neighborhood librarian in East Harlem noticed I was one kid who visited the place of my own volition. (Would not have encountered a word like “volition” without the Brear!) Going to Brearley literally changed every aspect of my life—educationally and socially, but also in terms of compassion, and I’ll say it, class.
Today, at age 54, I am a pretty adept and deliberate code-switcher; if not for my seven years at the Brearley and the way this experience teed me up for being the first college attendee in my family, and then graduate school and early adulthood in Paris (with a Parisian first husband no less!), I don’t know who or what I’d be today. But I think I’d be emptier, more incomplete, yearning and without agency.
What I have taken from my days at Brearley is that it is good to be kind. It is good to be inquisitive about life. It is good to be generous. Your sisters are forever.
I’m a poster girl for equal opportunity! I was very lucky to go to Brearley in the 1970s, when that kind of societal jump from underclass to cultural/intellectual middle class was possible. I don’t think even a decade later it would have been as easy, if even possible.
I chose the path that I did after Brearley because I felt absolutely invested in it. Throughout the course of my life I have tried to give back professionally by working in nonprofits (and being better off financially than my family of origin but much less well off than many of my peers!), and socially/personally by giving love, energy and relational passion to almost everyone I meet.
Beatrice Thompson was my most influential teacher and gave me the best life advice. I will love her forever and I’m sorry I didn’t pursue painting past college, but there had to be some income in my life (and I wasn’t that good even if I won the Kunz Prize in 1981!). Thinking about all this makes me deeply moved. She instilled a love of art and artistic process that probably has some influence on the fact that I married a new-music conductor and live an artful adult existence. I also have a good sense of humor. I think our amazing, witty, quippy upbringing made us all a bunch of very fine women. I love this school and my community so very much.