Bryn Mawr headmistress to lead Mass. prep school

February 23, 1994|By Gary Gately | Gary Gately,Sun Staff Writer

Barbara Chase, who worked to bring more cultural and racial diversity to Bryn Mawr School in her 14 years as headmistress, will leave in June to become the first woman to lead the elite Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass.

Mrs. Chase, 48, will succeed Donald W. McNemar as Phillips' headmaster, officials at the schools announced yesterday. Her selection as headmistress of the 217-year-old independent boarding school ends a 10-month international search.

In a statement, David M. Underwood, chairman of Phillips' search committee and president of the school's trustees, showered Mrs. Chase with praise. He called her "a talented and acclaimed educator who in countless ways has demonstrated her strong leadership and ability to relate to, and positively affect, the lives of students."

Although elated by her selection, Mrs. Chase expressed ambivalence about leaving Baltimore and Bryn Mawr, the nondenominational 109-year-old school for girls.

"I feel sense of excitement about what lies ahead, but a real sense of loss about what I'm leaving behind," she said. "This is a place characterized by such high energy and intelligence, and I will miss it."

The prospect of becoming the first woman to head Phillips -- an all-male school until 1973 -- did not faze her. "You do a good job or you don't do a good job, and that's how people judge you," she said.

Since arriving at Bryn Mawr in 1980, she has sought to boost enrollment of minorities -- now about a quarter of the 950 students -- and to eliminate barriers between the school and the surrounding communities.

Under her leadership the school embarked on programs in which Bryn Mawr students work with city public school students in reading and science. Her decision to require Bryn Mawr students to perform at least 50 hours of community service predated by more than five years a similar state requirement for public school students.

"We are a school in the city, and we also try to be a school of the city," Mrs. Chase said.

Parents and members of Bryn Mawr's board have praised her leadership, innovations, financial management and commitment to the city. She helped lead a campaign that raised $6 million for a renovation and expansion program completed last year.

Mrs. Chase has served on the board of directors of the National Association of Independent Schools since 1989. She also was the first president of the Baltimore Project for Black Students and Faculty, an independent schools consortium that attracts and supports black students and faculty.

She earned a history degree from Brown University in 1967 and a masters of liberal arts from Johns Hopkins University. Before coming to Bryn Mawr, she taught at the Wheeler School in Providence, R.I., and later was its admissions director.

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