"The Heartbeat and the Light"

By Mamadou Guèye

Brittany Chase, the senior executive assistant to Upper School Principal Mamadou Guèye, passed away on January 30 after being hospitalized for nearly two months. Chase was the Upper School’s touchstone, the “Bring It with Britt” Zumba instructor extraordinaire, an enthusiastic member of the Black Student Union Production team, and the founding advisor of the Upper School’s Black Girls Society. In other words, Chase did not just work at Sidwell Friends School; she wholeheartedly gave her time, energy, and spirit to the students of the School. Below, Guèye reflects on a life that spoke to all of us.

Brittany Chase was, simply put, the heartbeat and the light of our community. An immensely brilliant, giving, talented, and kind person. A friend—a beautifully devoted, beautifully caring friend—to so many of us. Brittany loved her Upper School community, just as we loved her. Any parent who ever stopped by her office to schedule an appointment, to check in or out, to ask a question, or to just be with her could not help but see that she created a special and unique space in her office. There was always someone in that office with Brittany, was there not? We went to Brittany because she was so warm, so sharp, so welcoming, so trustworthy, and so joyful. The list of those whose lives she unalterably affected is staggering in its scope and in its depth. Amid this painful moment is the opportunity we have in the days, months, and years ahead to hear from our community about just what Brittany meant to us, and to keep her with us forever by sharing these stories.

It was one of the greatest privileges of my career and of my life to work with her so closely over the last six years. Our countless hours spent together were filled with laughter, and I was constantly in awe of all that she did and all that she was. She was not simply the first person you saw when you walked into the Upper School building and the last when you walked out. Brittany was the logistical mastermind behind the daily operation of the School. And she was certainly at its ethical and social core. Despite being only 25 years old when she started working at Sidwell Friends School, Brittany possessed enormous wisdom and grace. She taught us all, and she taught me, an incalculable amount. She single-handedly made Sidwell Friends School a better place for students. And she meant the world to me.

Everyone who knew her—whether at Sidwell Friends School, or in her church, or in her Zumba classes, or among her indelibly close and loving family and friends—could immediately see that Brittany lived her life to the fullest. Let us, in that spirit and in her honor, support one another in our community as we grieve this inexplicable loss and celebrate her singular life.


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Sidwell Friends Alumni Magazine is published three times a year for the community. It features School news, stories, profiles, and alumni Class Notes.

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