In Memory of Dorothy Lady
by Denise Ann Terry

In Memory of Dorothy Lady

Dorothy Lady, Middle School math teacher, retired in 1980 after having spent twenty-six years in the classrooms on 37th Street. When she left Sidwell Friends, Dorothy was celebrated, along with Peter Rice and Russell F. Hogeland, by administrators, colleagues, and family who thanked the three for ninety-three years of service to 11,860 students!! The school remains deeply cherished in Dorothy Lady's heart: "I loved Friends with a purple passion!"

As an active participant in the Retired and Former SFS Employee organization, thanks to Jeanette Levin's chauffeuring skills, Dorothy has had an opportunity to reunite with old friends and make new ones as well. I have gotten to know Dorothy at luncheons and book club meetings. Her energy and curiosity, her beauty and grace drew me to her, and we have become friends. When I taught fifth grade, I did a small unit on the history of the Middle School, using some pages from Mr. Sidwell's School, visiting the archives, investigating the building and its brass plaques. I wish we had called in Dorothy Lady as a resource because she lived the history and she tells a great story.

The centerpiece of Dorothy's life is her sixty-two year marriage to Dr. Franklin Lady, a dentist who retired in 1983 and died in January of 2001. Their life together is an ongoing love story, and their family remains Dorothy's most cherished friends. Although Dorothy is legally blind and somewhat hearing impaired, she showed me around her apartment and descriptively pointed out each photograph and souvenir: photos of the houses the Lady family lived in and of family events, items from travel to Greece, Russia, Japan, and Bermuda.

Dorothy Ellen Dean was born to parents who worked together as telegraphers for the railroad office of Western Union in Bisbee, Arizona when Arizona was still a territory. Her name, "Gift of God," expresses the joy her parents experienced at the birth of their only child after seven years of marriage. Dorothy moved to the District of Columbia at the age of three when her dad came to work for the National Weather Bureau. She was educated in DC public schools, including Eastern High School and Wilson Teacher's College where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in education. She then taught in the public schools of the District of Columbia.

Dorothy and Franklin met when they studied violin together at the Ninth Street Christian Church. Music brought them together and remained a part of their family's life, in church at Metropolitan Memorial Methodist Church and among friends and family. They continued to explore new areas throughout their life together, especially after their retirements when they took classes in foreign languages, modern India, French history, and great figures in American history. They golfed and socialized at the Kenwood Country Club, where Dorothy wrote a monthly column for the newsletter.

Dorothy came to Sidwell Friends School as many of us have, through her children Carolyn '63 and George '57. Her first position was as a substitute for a teacher on maternity leave. Soon after that, Dorothy joined the faculty full time as a seventh and eighth grade math teacher. Every night, Dorothy reviewed and studied her material. She even enlisted her son, an econometrician, to help her bring new insights into her teaching. Eventually, Dorothy was the department chair, known for her organization, focused meetings, cookies, and supportive cooperation.

Dorothy was at the Middle School as the team structure developed. She was devoted to her homeroom and to making the team activities meaningful and fun. She especially recalls her special friendship with Alice Dater and Jeanette Levin, the fun of working with Jean Evans, Benj Thomas, and Kay O'Neill, and the many good times socializing with Pauline and Peter Rice and Dot and Eddie Wilamowski. Dorothy took on many extra responsibilities. She brought her love of holidays to the school, developing a Christmas pageant and a St. Patrick's Day assembly of music and poetry. She chaperoned dances, helped with 8th grade graduations, and participated fully in Quaker meetings.

Speaking of meetings, Dorothy recalls principal Frank Barger who would say, at the end of weekly, one hour faculty meetings, "Ladies and gentlemen, you have been teaching all day, and, if you haven't said what you meant to say by now, it's too late. Go home. Get a good rest."

Dorothy Lady knows how to rest, to relax, to enjoy life. She lives in an apartment in Bethesda which has a wonderful view of the changing area. Her schedule is full: twice a week bridge; once a week tea and discussion of poetry, literature, and current events; Sunday gifts of sweets from the two ladies who live next door; an occasional 5 p.m. glass of wine and good conversation with another neighbor; lunch dates.

If you need an excuse to join in the activities of the Retired and Former Sidwell Friends Employees, there is no better reason than to meet Dorothy Lady. She is a beauty with startling blue eyes, thick and lovely hair (it used to be red), and a fabulous smile. I know that she would enjoy meeting you!!


Joan Reinthaler, current Upper School math teacher:

In 1971, my first year at Sidwell, to say that the Upper and Middle Schools were not communicating easily with each other would have been an understatement. The Middle School had embraced the "open classroom" with all its advantages and disadvantages. Middle School students were being encouraged to experiment, to be social, to reinvent centuries of ideas. Sincerity was prized over correctness, and informality was almost a requirement. The more conservative Upper School, meanwhile, was thinking of itself as a bastion of academic rigor, although a modified chaos reigned outside the classroom.

The Middle School looked on the Upper School as a place where kids were repressed and the Upper School just looked askance at everything the Middle School held most dear. In the middle of all this mutual disdain were two pillars of dignity and sanity, Naomi Darrigrand, Upper School Math Department Chair, and Dorothy Lady who taught 7th and 8th grade math and held the same position in the middle school. They had been at Sidwell for years and they liked and respected each other. They looked at what was going on around them with a mixture of amusement and remove, stuck to their guns, taught math and insisted on courtesy, neatness and the sanctity of the multiplication tables.

Never has there been anyone more aptly named than Dorothy Lady. With every hair in place, she presided over classrooms that were models of decorum. She spoke quietly but there wasn't one of her students foolish enough to mistake her soft voice for lack of backbone. She could reduce a cocky kid to meekness by just a look but she also had an infectious and sometimes naughty laugh that could make everyone in the room smile. When she shook hands with her students at the end of the school day they learned to stand up straight and look her in the eye. When her students moved to 9th grade math, they already could be relied upon to put their names on their homework papers - in the upper left hand corner - without being reminded - and they were already in the habit of doing their homework - every day.

Perhaps Dorothy's most important legacy, however, was the relationship of mutual respect that she and Naomi forged between the US and MS math departments. In 1971 the wars between the other US departments and their MS counterparts were undermining all efforts at crafting a coherent all-school curriculum and this distrust persisted for a great many years. It was never a factor in the Math Department, however. Dorothy and Naomi, and, after Naomi retired, Dorothy and I conferred at lunch and before and after school, constantly, about what to include and what to leave out of a crowded curriculum, about individual kids and their placement, about teaching ideas and about teachers. Understanding that no one was ever going to get through an entire Algebra 1 book, we could confer about whether it was better to leave out the chapter on algebraic fractions or the one on square roots. We could weigh the relative advantages of encouraging a particularly able 8th grader to come to the Upper School for a Math I class, to work independently with a tutor or to offer Math I in the Middle School.

Every school, particularly every Middle School, needs a Dorothy Lady, a teacher who is a model of dignity, integrity and kindness. Sidwell was lucky to have Dorothy herself during some of its most difficult years and is lucky still to have her and her sense of humor back for emeritus reunions.

Pauline Van Norman Rice, former Lower School teacher and wife of Peter, former Lower School principal and Middle School math teacher:

Dorothy Lady and her family and the Peter Paul Rice family were friends because of three different sets of circumstances. First, both were very interested in the social scene and loved parties, playing bridge, and associating with many of the Sidwell faculty. Secondly, Dorothy was a math teacher in the Middle School and a close associate of Peter. And lastly, our son, Peter Paul Rice, Jr., and Dorothy's daughter, Caroline Lady, were classmates. Our children enjoyed the same group of young people. In a recent telephone conversation with our two sons, Peter and Terry, I asked them how they remembered Dorothy Lady. Their summation was, "A very nice, elegant lady."

Kay O'Neill, retired Middle School teacher:

Dorothy Lady became a fast friend when I came to Sidwell in 1972. She, Jean McConnell, Jeanette Levin, Alice Dater, Dan Eldridge, Anna Jones, Marty Adams, Pete Rice, Eddie Wilamowski, Betty and Russ Hoagland, and Fran Cleaver were already legends in their own time -- solid, caring teachers in the Middle School. Dorothy and these colleagues led by their example of dedication to children and teaching. Yet, it wasn't until a few short years before her retirement that Dorothy did the biggest favor for me. She joined Kathy Diehr and me on Team One where we taught math, history, and English respectively. It got so that we anticipated each other's ideas, thoughts, plans, assessments, even jokes. Yes, we laughed a lot. And we had great fun with our students. Pursuing learning, stretching abilities, preparing "youngsters" for future years was Dorothy's theme song that we all sang in unison. For me, these years working closely with her became some of the happiest that I spent at SFS.

Dorothy is truly one of the kindest people I've known. She related to students and colleagues by giving them the highest respect. During the 1970's transition years, when a minority of innovators experimented with new teaching theories, Dorothy led by modeling how to incorporate these with proven methods and thus create an enhanced learning and teaching environment. She knew what really counted.

It would be hard to imagine that anyone -- student, parent, administrator, or peer could ever forget her or her contribution to education and to Sidwell Friends School.

The following is an excerpt from an article by the late Jean Evans O'Connell, Middle School English teacher, written on the occasion of Dorothy's retirement:

Dorothy Lady's room says volumes about her. Neat as a pin, with cupboards where you can find things, it contains things that the rest of us (students and faculty) can't put a finger on: rulers, protractors, scouring powder, a sponge, even a little vacuum cleaner that goes into corners. On the walls, on the doors, at the doorway are reminders that math is involved with art, history, current events, and daily life. String designs, colorful geometric paintings, mobiles make it a pleasant place to be.

Here seventh and eighth grade students study mathematics, make homeroom and team decisions, and enjoy delicious parties with someone who is neat, attractive, and well organized, someone who models an attitude toward problem solving when she says, "I am not sure yet; I must take thought." Most important, Dorothy's students work with someone who is flexible in many ways, but who is unwilling to compromise her high standards of effort and accuracy. . . .

While Dorothy was teaching seventh-grade math, the mathematical revolution popularly called new math occurred. . . . At the time of its beginnings. . . it came to Sidwell Friends in the form of a National Science Foundation Grant, under which Dorothy and Clark Taylor trained with Camilla (Lillia) Fano. The resulting seventh and eighth grade curriculum integrated math and science, "using math as the language of science."

One of the innovations which Dorothy, as head of the Middle School math department, brought to the eighth grade curriculum was the familiarization course on computers, taught to all eighth graders by Nancy Dessoff Colodny '56. Dorothy has long hoped for a computer in Middle School, and her happiness is great because next year Middle Schoolers, working under Doug Schiff, will have a computer program.

Jane Miller, former Middle School teacher:

The Teaching Principle of Principles and Standards of School Mathematics (NCTM, 2000) states, "Effective mathematics teaching requires understanding what students know and need to learn and then challenging and supporting them to learn it well." Both as a teacher and as chair of the Middle School Mathematics Department, Dorothy Lady well exemplified that principle years before the NCTM document was written.
As a teacher, Dorothy challenged her students to meet high standards. She provided a richness of activities and learning opportunities evident in the "history" of student projects that adorned the walls of her classroom. She was clear about her expectations for students and set a structure to help them meet those goals. As a department chair, Dorothy provided enormous support to Middle School mathematics teachers. At our weekly department meetings, her opening questions were always, "What do you need? What can I do to help you?" When we requested them, she quickly found us small supplies such as rulers, compasses, and posters. She helped us to go to professional development events that interested us. She provided resources for both enrichment activities and students with special needs. (She had amassed a veritable treasure trove of such activities over the years and kindly left them for us when she retired!) For all of us, but especially for a teacher new to the school and teaching full-time for the first time, as I was in the year before she retired, Dorothy's assistance was invaluable and her kindness and thoughtfulness were a balm to the frazzled spirit! Thank you, Dorothy