School To Award Inaugural Agnes Irwin Medal at Founder's Day Convocation

Miss Agnes Irwin was just 27 years old when she was asked to lead an all-girls school in Philadelphia in 1869 — and this September 22 marks 150 years, to the day, that our founder opened the doors to what would become The Agnes Irwin School. At September 22’s Founder’s Day Convocation, we will celebrate the esteemed legacy of Miss Irwin, along with the legacy of thousands of Agnes Irwin women who have shaped the world in their own ways.


As part of this historic celebration, the school will award the inaugural Agnes Irwin Medal. This award will recognize individuals who have placed the same emphasis on inspiring or empowering girls to become leaders in a global community as did our founder; continuing the legacy of Agnes Irwin, who hoped for an educational environment in which “women learn to be strong, unselfish, fearless and free, and to use their freedom for the good of others.”

At our Founder’s Day Convocation, keynote speaker Ann Vauclain Klotz ’78 will address the community, and Head of School Dr. Wendy Hill will present the first-ever Agnes Irwin Medal to Mary Patterson McPherson ’53.



Ann Vauclain Klotz ’78

A member of the Agnes Irwin Class of 1978, Ann Vauclain Klotz graduated cum laude from Yale College with a degree in English. She earned her master’s degree in Individual Study of Drama from New York University. In her own words, Ms. Klotz writes, “I am a reader, writer, and schoolteacher, who lives in Shaker Heights, OH, where I am the Head of The Laurel School, an all girls’ K-12 school with a coed pre-primary.”

Passionate about educating girls, Ms. Klotz asserted in the March 2017 YaleWomen Global Newsletter, “When you empower a girl, you change the world. I believe that with every fiber of my DNA.” Ms. Klotz uses her 35 years of experience in girls’ schools to foster an environment at Laurel that inspires each girl to fulfill her promise and better the world. “Everything I do as Head, I try to measure against that mission,” she has said. Her efforts included establishing the NorthStar Collaborative and Laurel’s Center for Research on Girls to positively impact the intellectual, social, and emotional development of girls at Laurel and beyond.

Ms. Klotz is a prolific writer who frequently blogs and publishes on topics around the intersection of motherhood and school leadership. Her work has also appeared in Independent School Magazine, Community Works Institute Journal, and the NAIS Independent Ideas Blog. She has served as President of the Board of the Headmistresses of the East, directs the Women in Leadership Seminar, and serves on the boards of the Heads’ Network, the National Coalition of Girls Schools, and The Lawrence School. She is married to Seth Orbach. They have three children: Miranda, Cordelia, and Atticus, as well as a menagerie of rescue dogs, cats, and a long-lived carnival goldfish named Shark.

With her sister, Lee Klotz Middleton in the Class of 1973, a grandmother in the Agnes Irwin Class of 1904, an aunt in the Class of 1932, many cousins through the years, and two young cousins in the current student body (Caroline and Grace Vauclain, 2021 and 2026 respectively), Ms. Klotz’s relationship to Agnes Irwin runs long and deep. Ann’s cousin, Jacques Vauclain, and his wife, Stephanie, are current AIS parents. Jacques, who is also a member of the school’s Board of Trustees, shares, “Ann has long loved the theater, writing and the education of girls. Those passions were fostered by the teachers and administrators at Agnes Irwin. Ann still lights up telling stories to my daughters about those who helped shape who she is today. My family and I are thrilled that the AIS community will get to experience Ann’s thoughtfulness, humor and warmth during Convocation Weekend.”



Mary Patterson McPherson ’53

Dr. Pat McPherson was most recently the executive officer of the American Philosophical Society — the nation’s first learned society, founded by Benjamin Franklin — from which she retired in 2012. She served as the sixth president of Bryn Mawr College from 1978 to 1997. As President of Bryn Mawr College, Dr. McPherson helped diversify the school’s student population while championing equal access to education for women. She was named Vice President of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in 1997, where she was Program Officer for the liberal arts colleges until 2007.

While she was an Agnes Irwin student, Dr. McPherson and her sister lived on the AIS Lower School campus in Wynnewood with their mother, Mrs. Marjorie Hoffman Higgins, Class of 1931, who taught in the Middle School. After graduating in 1953, Pat went on to receive her A.B. from Smith College, where she later served as Chair of the Board of Trustees. She earned an M.A. from the University of Delaware before earning her Ph.D. from Bryn Mawr College.

A leading figure in the field of education, Dr. McPherson has served on the boards of many institutions, including The Brearley School, Exeter Academy, The Shipley School, Smith College, Amherst College, the Central European University, Bank Street, the American School for Classical Studies in Athens, the Spencer Foundation, the Teagle Foundation, the Josiah Macy Foundation, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, the Carnegie Corporation, the National Humanities Center, JSTOR, the Brookings Institution, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Philadelphia Contributionship, Goldman Sachs Asset Management, and the Dayton Hudson Corporation. She has also received a number of honorary degrees including from area institutions: Haverford College, Swarthmore College, the University of Pennsylvania, and Princeton University. In 1997, the trustees at Bryn Mawr College established the McPherson Fund for Excellence to celebrate the values that Dr. McPherson personified while at Bryn Mawr, particularly her commitment to the entire college community. Each year, the college honors McPherson Fellows from the faculty, staff, and student body. To fellow Irwin’s alumnae, Dr. McPherson is Pat: a loyal and tireless alumna who served on the Board of Trustees for 20 years, was a founding member of the School’s Laurel Society along with classmate and lifelong friend, Annabelle P. Irey, has facilitated searches for school leadership, served as Honorary Co-Chair of the recent Dare to Do More Campaign, and is a current Co-Chair of the 150th Steering Committee. Pat’s background in philosophy and her knowledge of academic policy and institutional structure has given her a unique perspective to provide counsel to Agnes Irwin leadership. She reflected on her philosophy of education at Agnes Irwin’s opening faculty and staff meeting in 2009, where she shared how instilling in girls the self-confidence to assume leadership roles in life was as much her philosophy as a passion. “Giving girls a sense of personal worth permeates all we do as educators,” she said. Regarding her Agnes Irwin education, Pat has reflected, “Everyone had the best interest of the girls in mind and wanted them to go as far as their talents could carry them. You never felt that your own dreams could not be realized. That was important in helping you imagine what was possible, and then going and doing it.”

As the recipient of the School’s inaugural Agnes Irwin Medal — established in 2019 in conjunction with the celebration of the School’s sesquicentennial — Pat McPherson is recognized as an individual who, “through their career or life’s work, has placed the same emphasis on inspiring, educating or empowering girls to become leaders in a global community as did our founder.” In the description of the Award, established by the School’s Board of Trustees, recipients are chosen on the basis of their commitment and contribution to the legacy of Agnes Irwin, who hoped for an educational environment in which “women learn to be strong, unselfish, fearless and free, and to use their freedom for the good of others.”



To learn more about Agnes Irwin's Sesquicentennial Celebration and to register, visit

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