School honors educator's legacy

Devotion: After a quarter-century of leadership, Anne Healy remains an inspiration to many alumnae, who admire her `grace and courage.'

December 15, 2003|By Linda Linley | Linda Linley,SUN STAFF

Anne Healy is indelibly linked to the Roland Park Country School.

The former headmistress and English teacher has a garden named in her honor on the North Baltimore campus. There is also an Anne Healy Award for the best senior speech, the Anne Healy Chair of English Language and Literature, and the Anne Healy Lecture.

Accolades to "Miss Healy" from alumni are sprinkled throughout A Place In Our Hearts, a history of the school that was published for its centennial in 2001.

Healy, who retired in 1975, was a mentor, teacher and administrator who considered the school and its students her family from the time she arrived in 1950.

Even in retirement, she has stayed connected and devoted to the school that she led for 25 years, visiting on special occasions. She hasn't missed a commencement in 53 years.

"Every year on the first day of school, I get flowers from Anne Healy," said Jean Waller Brune, head of the school and a 1960 graduate. "I also get a note that says she is with me in spirit."

Healy, who uses a walker to get around these days, has an indomitable spirit, Brune said. The former headmistress lives in North Baltimore, near the school's former site on University Parkway. The school moved in 1980 to Roland Avenue.

Healy suffered from polio as a child. She wore a brace on her leg and used a cane when she ran the school, but the infirmity never slowed her down.

"She has such grace and courage and such a kind and gentle heart," Brune said. "She is someone I admire greatly."

Healy has celebrated several milestones this year. She turned 90 on Dec. 4 and was honored the night before at a dinner party at the Johns Hopkins Club by a small group of friends. That was the way she wanted it.

Milestones

Before her birthday, she was honored at a champagne reception during homecoming weekend in October by alumnae who came from all over the country to toast her 90th year.

The school also marked two anniversaries this year that were the result of Healy's efforts to desegregate the private girls' school during the height of the civil rights movement and to recognize female students for academic excellence years before the women's movement arrived.

In 1963, Healy made a bold move: She persuaded the board of trustees to formalize an anti-discrimination admissions policy. Two black students enrolled that fall.

"The time was right after so many years," Healy said recently. "We were proud of the students we admitted."

One of the first minority students was Diane Hutchins, a 1972 graduate, who entered the school as a seventh-grader in 1966. At that time, she was the only African-American middle-schooler there.

"Anne Healy is a warm, caring and loving woman," said Hutchins, executive director of Intergovernmental and Interagency Affairs for Fulton County, Ga. "She's a woman of conviction who wasn't afraid to act on those convictions."

Hutchins said it took courage for Healy to go to the board with the anti-discrimination policy in 1963. "She put everything at risk because she didn't know if the board would agree with her.

"Miss Healy will always hold a special place in my heart," added Hutchins, who was the first African-American alumna on the board.

Also in 1963, the school became a member of the Cum Laude Society, a national organization that honors academic excellence in secondary schools. Roland Park was the first girls school in Maryland to be admitted.

Healy also helped formulate the school's first written philosophy, including a dedication "to the intellectual, aesthetic, physical and moral development of its students," and "an appreciation of tradition and diversity."

Even today, she credits her successes to the "first-rate" faculty that she inherited when she became headmistress.

Guiding the school through the conservative 1950s into the turbulent 1960s, Healy maintained her mission of providing young women with a college preparatory education. She saw the number of college applications increase drastically when the post-World War II baby-boomers started graduating from high school.

She described the 1960s as the "most fun for me."

That's when she made changes to daily schedules -- "disrupting the whole school by giving the students a free period" -- after months of meetings and discussions. "It was marvelous to be among students who were fearless," she recalled.

Later, she coordinated classes with the Gilman School administration. Her students, she explained, wanted to associate with boys.

She said she was "just listening to the young people. Everybody should have been listening in the '60s."

Healy also initiated the school's first fund-raising campaign in the late 1960s.

Although she was a teacher at heart, Healy said being a school administrator had its benefits.

"You had the power to contribute to the well-being and the future of both the faculty and students," she said.

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