When Evelyn Flory helps to ceremonially set the 2001 date stone at the front of the new main building of St. Paul's School for Girls today, she will be fulfilling one of her last major duties as headmistress.
Flory is retiring June 30 after seven years as head of the girls school in Brooklandville and after leading the school through two building projects, including a major expansion and renovation. Today's dedication signals the end of both projects, which cost more than $16 million and took more than four years to complete.
"When I came to St. Paul's School for Girls, my intention was to stay for five years," said Flory, 67. "The age of 65 seemed an appropriate time to retire, but I agreed to stay on to see through the changes that were being made here."
Those changes were significant.
In addition to a new academic wing, student commons, chapel, alumnae center and athletic facilities, the school has added to its curriculum and increased the size of its faculty and student body.
Flory was honored Wednesday in a daylong tribute by the students, faculty, alumnae, board of trustees and Robert Hallett, her colleague from St. Paul's School on their shared campus, off Falls Road.
Hallett also is leaving as headmaster at the end of June.
Hallett said at the school assembly that he could never say too many good things about someone like Flory. He called her a colleague, friend, confidant and "fellow architect" because of the expansion at both schools. "She is an archetype for leadership, especially for young women," Hallett said.
Flory said her job as headmistress was the most challenging job she had ever had.
"I was constantly trying to figure out how to solve this problem or that problem. ... There were so many complicated threads coming together," she said.
Flory said St. Paul's had about 325 girls when she arrived; this year, 397 are enrolled. For the 2002-2003 school year, 432 girls will be enrolled, and by September next year, enrollment will be at the maximum of 450 students in grades five through 12.
"There was a vision for the school to take a step forward, changes that needed to happen for a modern school in the 21st century," she said.
Flory said the major expansion began with a discussion about whether the enrollment should grow or stay the same. Once the size of the student body was decided, the building was found to be cozy but inadequate, she said.
"Thank goodness. And amen," Flory said when construction was completed and the students and faculty moved into the building from temporary trailers.
She said the students were back in the building in September although the crews were still working inside, but they learned to adapt while last-minute details - such as the installation of doorknobs - were completed.
Flory, an educator for more than 40 years, said she will miss the sense of community at St. Paul's.
Flory, who will be replaced by Nancy Laufe Eisenberg, 52, the academic dean of Episcopal High School in Houston, is planning to spend more time with her family - her son, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren - when she moves this summer to the Princeton, N.J., area to be close to them.
She said her family will come first, but she is also going to reconnect with old friends. Flory is a native New Yorker and was a teacher and administrator at Riverdale Country School in New York City.
She calls herself a "sometime" writer and has contributed to professional journals and newspapers. She has her first writing assignment in retirement: She is planning to write essays to go with photographs of paintings by her late husband, Gaylord, for a gallery in California.
She also has traveling scheduled. A trip in September will take her to Peru, Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands and will involve a lot of swimming and hiking, she said.
"I believe I have the next three or four years to get in the trips I want to take," Flory said. "I'm thinking about Sicily for next spring, and then I'd like to travel to India, and the interior of China, and maybe back to Africa.
"Someone told me the best thing about retirement," Flory said, "would be that I'd be in control of my own schedule."