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Mary Crist Fleming “A Life Well Lived”

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t is often said that one person can have the power to change or influence another person’s life, but in reality it’s rare to find someone who actually has. Mrs. Mary Crist Fleming was one such rarity. Through hard work, sheer determination and tenaciously following her own personal vision, she had a positive impact upon thousands of lives over the course of her 98 years. Not only that, but the legacy she left behind, in the form of her schools and the people that run and teach in them, will continue her hugely positive influence on many children’s lives for years to come. She was born in September 1910 in Boston, Massachusetts. She was the only child of two teachers who founded and owned their own school in Pennsylvania – an example that would influence the course of the rest of her life. She was initially educated at her parents’ school and in the late 1920s she spent a year at a school in Lausanne, Switzerland where she learned to speak French. She also studied Italian in Perugia, attended the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston and graduated from Radcliffe College, Harvard University, with a degree in French. Fluent in French and speaking good Italian and German, she was passionate about the importance of learning languages. In a speech to Radcliffe alumni in 1984 she spoke of her concern about Americans’ “complacency” about learning other languages, saying: ”Communication between individuals or nations is difficult enough even in a world grown small – the knowledge of another person’s tongue becomes vital. How else to overcome cultural differences and attitudes of mind?”

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