By Michèle Solá
Gloria Brown will be retiring (again) at the end of the school year.
Among the earliest parents to enroll her children in a brand new Manhattan Country School, Gloria Brown found it easy to find ways to volunteer. First officially hired in 1975, Gloria was a full-time receptionist in the Living Room during the years her two daughters (Alicia (Lee) ’79 and Patti ’81) were enrolled. “After 3 o’clock you can call me Mommy, but from 8 a.m. – 3 p.m. I’m Gloria to you just like to everyone else,” she remembers telling them. In 1995, long after their graduations, Gloria retired the first time but kept working every Thursday morning. Kyle (Class of 2011) and Desi Bartos (5th grade) have followed in Patti’s footsteps at MCS.
Generations of children, parents, and colleagues have found the perfect Gloria/Mommy balance in the steadfast tough love that defines Gloria Brown. She was the main communication link between MCS, parents, and the outside world in the pre-internet age. She taught parents the importance of arriving on time for farm trip returns, and helped teachers understand the big picture of childhood in diverse communities. A licensed practical nurse, she removed splinters and took temperatures. A relentless advocate for MCS’ fundraisers, she helped organize the first Farm Festival, staffed Walk-a-thons in Central Park, and has been a Farm Festival fixture selling tickets ever since.
A chapter of MCS founder Gus Trowbridge’s book Begin With A Dream, is titled, “We’re Like a Family – We’re Fighting Now, But That Doesn’t Mean We Can’t Stick Together.” That quote from Gloria captures the origins of diversity debates and the important role wise members of a community can play as builders of consensus and hope when differences of experience exist. Gloria once shared a letter she received from Alicia, as she felt it validated the impact of MCS long after students graduate. “I thank you a million times over!! Why? Because you have so much insight and wisdom. I thank you because you and Daddy put me in a school that showed me that the color of the skin is not important, but the person inside is. Yes, being black and female can be hard, but I guess it’s harder if you are uneducated, naive and you have no one supporting you. Hey, Mom, those three things don’t apply to me, not at all.”
On June 8, Gloria celebrates her 80th birthday. She will attend graduation for Kyle that evening and her final assembly as a staff member. What a glorious way to celebrate her years of dedication to MCS. Thank you Gloria. Happy Birthday.