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Sylvia Mendenhall Faculty Emerita, English Teacher 1956–1992 by Lucille Stott, former faculty THE SERENITY of Sylvia Mendenhall’s passing last June

seemed entirely fitting. She had been able to lead the active, involved life she loved until the day before her death, and she left that life as she had lived it—peacefully and without fuss. When I arrived at CA in January 1978, feeling awkward and at sea, Sylvia stepped in to offer solace. I spoke of my anxiety to her, she listened gently, and I relaxed. Over time, I realized that this place she chose to inhabit was far from center stage but very much at the heart of the school. Few knew that she remained an important figure in the life of one of her many devoted advisees, Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust ’64. Sylvia knew, and that was enough for her.

During her years in the classroom and for more than two decades afterward, Sylvia served as a generous mentor to us all, sharing her scholarly materials, her sly wit, and her nuggets of good teaching advice—including not to take ourselves too seriously. Her work with our Thai Scholars in recent years has become something of a legend—a model of skill, patience, and caring. When she delivered the opening-day Convocation address in 2007, Sylvia sent us off with these words: “There have been many beginnings at CA, but something about the spirit of this place has remained the same, and this is what draws me back.” Sylvia loved to travel. She taught The Odyssey and lived one. But though she was often happily on the move, she remained centered in this place she loved so well. That, as I think back on all I learned from her, helped shape her dual gifts of coherence and joy.

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Gabriel Cooney

Sylvia saw the school weather many changes, and she knew how to distinguish between worthwhile change, which she embraced, and mere trendiness, which she mistrusted. She held strong opinions and spoke them frankly, but I never heard her raise her voice or publicly disparage another’s opinion. We knew we could count on both her common sense and her civility.

10/21/16 7:36 AM

Profile for Concord Academy

CA Magazine Fall 2016 Issue  

The fall 2016 issue of Concord Academy magazine features stories about CA Labs and commercial drones, as well as a preview of an innovative...

CA Magazine Fall 2016 Issue  

The fall 2016 issue of Concord Academy magazine features stories about CA Labs and commercial drones, as well as a preview of an innovative...