• Brearley

Share Your Brearley Story

What does it mean to be a Brearley Girl? How has your Brearley education influenced your life?  What Brearley experiences do you remember most vividly? When did you attend Brearley? Were you enrolled for Lower School, Middle School, Upper School? Does being a Brearley Girl shape how you live as an adult?   
What makes you a Brearley Girl?  Share your story here.

Your Brearley Stories

List of 25 items.

  • Diane Paulus '84

    December 2018
    When you go to Brearley, you are given this incredible gift, this empowerment to speak up and express yourself, this feeling that, as a woman, you can do or be anything that you want and change the world in the process. I’ll never forget the all-female, Brearley girl-only version of Hay Fever that we did, and which epitomized Brearley for me: “Sure, we can do an all-girl Noel Coward! We can act beyond our age and transmit ourselves into other people, male or female.” Going to B-Deck and being in that auditorium was really the heartbeat of my life at Brearley.
    My thirteen years here were a bedrock for me. The confidence I developed—to have a voice—is something that I think has been instrumental to my life now as a professional director, and as a leader of a theater.
  • Aly Gibson '04

    November 2018
    When I recently skipped out of work early to grab coffee with Mrs. Rostow, my colleague exclaimed incredulously, “You still talk to your high school English teacher?!” At that moment, it struck me as unique and special that I still cherish my relationship with the woman who fostered in me a love of literature and writing. Some of my most memorable experiences at Brearley took place in Mrs. Rostow’s classroom: memorizing The Canterbury Tales (which my sister and I whip out on occasion!), exploring gender imagery in my essay about A Passage to India, and discussing ethics while reading King Lear. These experiences not only inspired me to study English in college, but also to pursue a career in storytelling as a marketer for YouTube. I’m grateful to have come of age in an environment that encouraged me to nurture these interests, and to have had passionate teachers who are now lifelong friends. 
  • Olivia Harris '10

    October 2018
    I joined Brearley in Class VIII, young for my grade at 12 years old, coming from East New York, Brooklyn. For a long time, I thought that being a Brearley Girl was about being a mythical creature. Mehitabel would be a quiet bookworm with a biting wit. I was not. I was loud and sang in the hallways incessantly, and laughed a lot. But somehow, in college I found that Brearley had prepared me in ways that I could never have imagined. Brearley taught me the importance of caring about the world beyond ourselves and the strength to hold the world and myself accountable. Brearley women out in the world are fearless! Coming back to 610 to work in the Technology Department (2014–2016) helped me to see how brilliant, funny and absolutely original the girls are. Brearley girls led the change in increasing awareness around social justice issues. It brought tears to my eyes watching the girls spearhead conversations with faculty with grace and determination. Though they may not see it yet, Brearley women are incredible forces.

  • Elaine Bennett '77

    August 2018
    Yesterday I explained to the author I'm ghostwriting for why I want to set up our first chapter as I do. In mid-sentence I realized that advice came straight from a conversation with my Class XI history teacher about a paper I'd written. That's what makes me a Brearley Girl. The six years I spent there changed me, yes. But Brearley continues to inform and enrich my life in ways I don't even realize. I learned not just HOW to write but WHY writing matters, and how to make it matter more. I learned to read critically. And I learned I could hold my own in a world of extraordinarily gifted women and girls. To paraphrase that great philosopher Dorothy Gale, "There's no place like Brearley; there's no place like Brearley..." No matter how many times I repeat that and click my heels together, I'm never transported back to East 83rd Street. But I don't need to be there physically; Brearley lives inside me. And isn't that the point?
  • Samara Epstein Cohen ‘88

    July 2018
    The summer after I graduated from Brearley, I received my BC Calculus AP score in the mail and, separately, a note from my calculus teacher, Judy Conant. She congratulated me, told me she was proud of me and hoped I would continue to bring math into my life after high school. At the time I was pleased—Miss Conant was a teacher who could be quite intimidating in the classroom and her praise was unexpected and flattering. I didn’t realize, though, how profoundly her support would impact me.

    I started freshman year with the intention of never taking another math class—thanks to my calculus score I received enough college credit that I didn’t need more math. I found, to my great surprise, that I missed the satisfaction of solving a complicated problem with numbers. It turned out that not only was I pretty good at math, but I actually liked it.
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  • Lita Tandon '06

    June 2018
    After college, as a Teach for America corps member in inner-city DC, I realized how much I had taken for granted. Being bright and motivated wasn’t close to enough—my students didn’t have the Brearley community supporting them each step of the way. I just couldn’t see the easy adage of “where there’s a will, there’s a way” coming true for too many students.

    And it’s not only the time in school, but the life Brearley sets you up for: the thirteen years in 610 were only the beginning for me. In the decade since graduating, I’ve found myself growing “Brearleyer” with each passing day—from defending my point of view, even (or especially!) in meetings full of men, to becoming overly enthusiastic over words with Latin roots, to forgetting to brush my hair.

    Brearley is a lifelong gift, and more girls should get to be Brearley girls.

  • Virginia (Ginny) Chambers Keim ’61

    June 2018
    Brearley has been an enriching force in my life since I first entered Miss Howard’s loving kindergarten room. I am so grateful to my mother, from Boise, Idaho, and my father, from Far Rockaway, New York, for finding Brearley for their five year old. Their vision and foresight truly shaped not only the person I became but the lives of my future family: my husband, a product of an excellent midwest public school education, embraces my love for Brearley; both our daughters also spent 13 years at the School; and our granddaughter started kindergarten this past fall. My mother was even a Lower School assistant teacher for a few years.

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  • Janet (JJ) Kovak McClaran ‘90

    May 2018
    It is often feared that women may be relegated to the back row and must shout to have their voices heard. Coming from Brearley, I have never taken for granted that my unquestionable “right” to be heard was just part of who I was. A Brearley girl just grows up knowing her voice counts. Thoughts and ideas have merit and value.

    As a scientist, I am eternally grateful that Chaucer and George Eliot are also part of my DNA. I have been delighted by the community of Brearley superstars that I have discovered as an alumna, and I have happily participated on the Alumnae Board, mentored budding scientists, moderated several panel discussions, and hosted Brearley students and alumnae at my veterinary hospital.

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  • Susie Neuberger Wilson '47

    May 2018
    At Brearley, asking questions without fear or favor is tantamount to breathing. All my teachers from grades two through 12 worked on this skill; they gave me confidence to raise my hand and ask questions for information or clarification that served me well in later life.
    I was in midlife when I asked the question that changed the direction of my professional life. I was at a public meeting, sitting at a large oval table with thirteen other people, all members of the New Jersey State Board of Education. We were listening to the Commissioner of Health give her annual report about the state of adolescent health. When she finished, I raised my hand. “At what age,” I asked, “should young people have information that will help protect them from getting pregnant?“

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  • Caroline Chang '08

    May 2018
    I attended Brearley for Upper School, between 2004 and 2008. I am now a member of the faculty (English Department) and have been teaching here for longer than I was a student! It's hard to believe. My fondest memories of being a student here take place in the classroom. I remember sitting in room 6B in the fall of Class XI, as we started in on Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock." Our teacher--now a colleague of mine!--had us read the entire poem aloud before we began analyzing it bit by bit. The uncanny rhyme of the words "ices" and "crisis" embodied so much of the emotional energy of the poem, and so I learned better that day the relationship between meaning and form in poetry. I can recall, too, a moment in math class when the mathematics behind taking integrals became clear to me; I can't explain the details now, but I could have after that class (something to do with taking the area of increasingly tiny triangles or wedges of a circle and adding them all up to get the area under a curve). The formula became logical and inevitable rather than magical in that moment. The best part of Brearley for me today, too, is time spent in the classroom. I have a different perspective, of course, but I witness each day moments of understanding, inquiry, and creativity that I remember myself relishing when I was a student.
  • Bebe Stetson '39

    May 2018
    Brearley was always there for me. My name is Barbara Brown Stetson, my classmates nicknamed me Bebe for my initials. I was in the class of 1939. Because I was on scholarship, I did not think I should participate in extracurricular activities. When the gym teacher, Miss Carling, found out, she had me on the tennis team the next day. All we had to do was walk across the street from the school entrance and there were five tennis courts next to 10 Gracie Square. I made some of my best friends at Brearley, like Clare Weber Springs and Betsy Babcock Moulton, playing basketball. Most weekends I spent visiting Clare at her family’s home in Westchester or visiting Betsy and her family at Woodbury on Long Island. Betsy became captain of the tennis team and I became manager. Our names are still up on the wall in the gym. I won the Higgins Cup, best athlete in the school, three times in 10th, 11th and 12th grades. In 1938, I won my first Ladies Singles Championship at the Maidstone Club in Easthampton, Long Island. In my day, there were no tennis lessons.
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  • Terri Seligman '78

    April 2018
    In our senior year, we threw a class party — to be photographed for the Yearbook — where everyone was to dress as she saw herself in 25 years. Many of my classmates got kind of silly (or, I hope, ironic): we had Playboy Bunnies, a fairy godmother and a bag lady. Some got ambitious: an astronaut, chief surgeon, queen. Showing a complete lack of imagination, I dressed as a lawyer: blue suit, pumps, briefcase. I maintained a serious demeanor for the camera. And now, here I am: 33 years a lawyer. And I actually still like it. No blue suit, no pumps, and a serious demeanor only when that works best for a client. Brearley taught me to write, to speak my mind, to advocate, and to be intellectually fearless. I’m not afraid to be fierce or passionate about my convictions, at work and in the rest of my life. Brearley also introduced me to Justice Thurgood Marshall (on our Class X trip to DC!) and Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau (my senior spring project). Brearley gave me a lot more than a career path. But there’s no overstating the value of being guided into work that has kept me deeply engaged for decades.

  • Alexandra Doering-Dorival '96

    March 2018
    I will start by saying I'm not your typical Brearley success story. I have the same marketing job I've had for 17 years. I was married for 10 years with no children, and we are now divorced. I live a comfortable life in NYC, and don't take many chances.

    But Brearley showed me that I can do what I want to do.

    I was a full scholarship student (mixed race; lower middle class) when I joined the student body for high school in the mid-90's and quickly realized that I was very different. My parents wanted my brothers and me to go to private schools for HS, but didn't have the money to pay for them, so I didn't do Prep for Prep like the rest of the new students; I don't think they knew about programs to help me figure out the private school system. It took a little while, but the faculty and students at Brearley made me feel like one of them, like I could open up and be who I wanted to be (or as much as you could be at 14!).
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  • Martha Driskill Humphreys '61

    February 2018
    In March 1957 I transferred from the eighth grade at Bryn Mawr School in Baltimore, MD, into Brearley’s Class of 1961.  Aside from the excellent academics, athletics—including team competition—and exposure to the culture only in NYC, Brearley’s major benefit to the girl who graduates is empowerment, a modern word with over a century of meaning at 610 East 83rd. 
    We were endowed with the confidence that comes from knowledge, as well as the responsibilities of self-government.  We held positions of responsibility leading to our belief in our own capabilities to do or be anything we were willing to work hard enough to accomplish.
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  • Amanda Brenes-Pereira ’97

    January 2018
    I started at Brearley in the seventh grade.  Before that, I attended public school in Manhattan.  My family chose Brearley for its outstanding reputation and the fact that it was an all-girls school.  My mother is the daughter of immigrants, and the first person in her family to graduate from a college in the US.  Throughout her college years, she worked as a nanny for a young girl who attended Brearley.  This job proved particularly life-changing, and she felt that if she ever had a daughter, she would endeavor to provide her with the same quality education.
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  • Kate Burch '98

    January 2018
    My Brearley education defined for me what it means to be “well educated,” something I have grappled with daily as a professional educator over the last 16 years.  At Brearley this meant getting to think deeply in a classroom community of eager peers led by a master teacher.  Our ideas as scholars were taken seriously from the youngest age.  I still vividly remember a kindergarten science lab where we were given a battery, wire and lightbulb and were told to figure out for ourselves how they might work together.

    In fourth grade during “rest time” after lunch, we drew geometrically patterned rug designs inspired by the Muslim civilizations we were studying while our teacher read us the epic story of Beowulf.
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  • Lynette Tompkins Engel ’80

    January 2018
    The path that one chooses in life depends on many things: early experiences, seemingly insignificant experiences, and clearly important ones.  As I reflect on my years at Brearley, a few moments stand out to me that I can categorize as turning points.  In seventh grade, we read 
    Great Expectations.  I had always been a reader, but exploring this book opened my eyes to a new way of reading.  I remember thinking this was different: a text that was “grown up” but that also appealed to my page-turning desire; a text where I wanted to talk about the plot as well as the themes—and I felt a profound shift in how and why I read.  I am currently a seventh grade English teacher, and I strive to replicate this particular experience for my students.  Later in Upper School, I took an interschool course entitled “Looking at the Dance,” taught by our beloved librarian, Kitty Cunningham.  I had always been a lover of dance, but for me, dance meant ballet and nothing else. Mrs. Cunningham opened my eyes to all kinds dance, and I saw movement in a different way.  I was a professional dancer for 15 years. 
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  • Carolyn Goodman ‘57

    January 2018
    The Brearley School provided an educational foundation that has served me beyond well throughout my entire life.  Initially, the education prepared me properly for matriculation through Bryn Mawr College and then graduate school.  
    Thereafter and modeling after the Brearley program and curriculum, in 1984 I founded Nevada’s first and only pre-K through 12 not-for-profit, nonsectarian college preparatory school.  From 1984 to 2010, 100 percent of our graduates earned four-year college placements and did so at many of the nation’s very finest colleges and universities, allowing the school to gain a reputation as one of the top independent schools in the nation.  Simultaneously, I led a capital improvement program, first acquiring a donation of 40 acres for the campus and then raising the funds to develop (fully) the site, leaving the school entirely debt-free at my retirement in 2010.
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  • Nadine Lehner ‘05

    January 2018
    I’ve heard it countless times: “How did YOU grow up in New York City?”  In Chilean Patagonia, where I’ve worked most of the time since college, I sleep in a tent more often than a bed. You’ll find zero stoplights in the nearest town, but plenty of people riding their horses through the streets.  Shoe choices: hiking boots or Crocs.  Un-New-York-ish as this existence looks, elements of Brearley have accompanied me on this wild journey.
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  • Allison Pan ’02

    January 2018
    Being a Brearley girl means that when people ask where I went to school, I often have to remind myself that they mean college and not high school!  And while I’m proud of having attended all of my alma maters, Brearley is the only one that’s intrinsically tied to my sense of myself.  Even now, after 11 years of active duty as an army intelligence officer and currently as a consultant with Deloitte, I find that Brearley is a larger part of my identity than just about anything else I’ve done. 

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  • Carla Valentine Pryne '72

    January 2018
    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.
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  • Dawn Simmons ’85

    January 2018
    I started kindergarten at Brearley in the early 70s, right after the civil rights movement.  My parents wanted my sister and me to attend a good school so I attended Brearley and my sister, Spence. I only thought of Brearley as being a predominately white girls’ school located downtown whereas I lived in Harlem.  In my grade, there were only three African-Americans, including myself, until sixth or seventh grade.  None of us had ever heard of or gone through programs which helped minorities get into school.
    Brearley was like a second home.  I was a teacher’s pet to some and had many friends, but because I lived in Harlem I did not have most of
    them visit me as their parents didn’t want them traveling so far north “into the ghetto.”  On Saturdays I attended dance and piano school in the Bronx.  I stood out because the people in the neighborhood said I talked differently, or “proper.”

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  • Gwendolyn Steele Fortson Waring ’73

    January 2018
    I entered Brearley in sixth grade in 1966.  I lived in Harlem and had attended public schools there. The summer before I began, I received a call at home from a girl, warning me, “Don’t go to the Brearley School, we don’t want you.”  I wasn’t the only Black girl in the class in 1966, I later learned.  There were two others who had attended since kindergarten. Were three Black girls a crowd?  
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  • Liz Eagle Baldwin ’76

    December 2017
    “Did you grow up on a farm?” 
    “No.  I grew up in New York City.  I went to Brearley.”
    My aunt and two sisters went to Brearley before me.  My aunt held the high jumping record for decades—up until the year I left, when one of my classmates finally broke it.
    I left Brearley after ninth grade to go to boarding school.  That’s what my sisters had done. 
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  • Rozella Kennedy ‘81

    December 2017
    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.  
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