Yesterday, there was a celebration for people who are leaving AIS, and one of the tributes was to Dr. Mary Seppala on this occasion. We wanted to share our thoughts with you as we begin the process of saying goodbye to our leader, a woman who has served our school and the wider community so well during the past five years.
Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.
--- Helen Keller
Helen Keller’s words, to us, provide just the right framework for Mary. She approaches all with her trademark vigor and verve, treating every new situation as a daring adventure --- one that she can’t wait to experience and one in which she invests her special energy. The arc of her career tells the tale. Before coming to AIS, Mary worked in the Department of Defense schools, taking her to Turkey, Germany, and Greece, was a fourth grade teacher, a guidance counselor/special education district coordinator, and a superintendent of schools. She headed an international school in Munich, and she is a fiercely loyal and supportive mother, daughter, and sister.
Mary, we will miss you.
While serving as the Head of our school, Mary has brought that same spirit of adventure and daring to her work, and she has created a lasting legacy --- always with an eye to helping everyone stay centered on the many ways in which we can have a powerful impact on our interconnected world.
In 2010, Mary shared her vision for AIS during an administrative retreat. Her clear-eyed sense of this school and palpable excitement about working collaboratively with everyone in her new community were captured in her insights and goals.
1. To create a respectful learning community where all decisions are made in the best interests of girls,
2. Where every girl sees herself as a leader, and where we see the good in every girl,
3. To make The Agnes Irwin School a model for other schools in the country and the world, and
4. To include girls as partners in their education
Check, check, check, and check.
Her forward-oriented thinking and willingness to take risks have informed all that has been accomplished during her tenure, and AIS is so fortunate to have had this innovative, inspired, and courageous woman leading the way, helping us to make substantial and meaningful changes on behalf of our girls. Always ready for the next challenge, Mary Seppala routinely engages us in the notion that there is no challenge that we can’t tackle, and she sweeps us, with her signature energy, into the process of realizing our dreams about serving our students in the best possible ways.
Mary, we will miss you.
Whether taking the hula hoop challenge during the Lower School’s fun day or riding a scooter in the Lenox Lobby during an impromptu competition or being a steadfast member of the audience for every Middle School musical, Medieval Night and Opera or trying to spike the ball during an Upper School student/faculty volleyball game, sustaining a concussion in that moment, Mary consistently models the go-for-broke energy necessary to ensure that AIS is always leading the way.
The fun in those images, of course, guides us to her true north —her dedication and commitment to ensuring that Agnes Irwin School’s mission is our compass, guiding us to empower girls to learn, to lead, and to live a legacy. In all that she has done during her tenure:
- Tirelessly working on the Campaign, Dare To Do More, a fitting title that captures her spirit
- Seeing through to completion our new building that has changed the ecology of our campus
- Providing the inspiration for creating our nationally recognized Center for the Advancement of Girls
- Steadfastly focusing on ways for us to become a fully diverse and multicultural community she has provided outstanding leadership. And, we would be remiss if we did not share our appreciation for her boundless support of us all as we find the courage to design our own daring adventures, while serving our students.
Mary, we will miss you.
In all that she does, Mary’s love of the girls and her enjoyment in supporting their growth and development are clear. She relishes their grit and determination as she watches them become Women in Wax and as she pauses to chat with them in CC or the 8th grade lounge. She smiles with such satisfaction as she cheers for our girls during their athletic competitions and delights in each student’s presentation during her senior assembly. Her seeing and celebrating the good in every girl inspire us all.
So, this is a farewell of sorts. Our adventures at AIS will continue; Mary’s will take her elsewhere, and we want her to know that she always will be connected to us. Taking a little liberty with rearranging E. B. White’s words in his poem Natural History, we send her off, but know that our silken threads will keep us connected always.
The spider, dropping down from twig,
Unfolds a plan of her devising,
A thin premeditated rig
To use in rising.
And all that journey down through space,
In cool descent and loyal-hearted,
She spins a ladder to the place
From where she started.
Thus, we, watching you go forth as spiders do
In spider’s web a truth discerning,
Attach a silken thread to you
For your returning.
Donna, Lynne, and Joanne