This marks the 20th year since Culver Girls Academy founding Dean Mary Frances England died in 1996, perhaps making the often-unseen side of England painted on Sept. 25 by an alumna who knew her personally, all the more poignant.
As the keynote speaker at the annual Dean England Day ceremony Sunday evening in the Memorial Chapel, Lee Terhune SS’83, `84 presented memories of a Dean England who fought to establish the Culver girls school (which opened in 1971) and its unique identity, leadership structure, and traditions. But she also talked about England’s attentiveness to individual communication and the great impact she had on her personally. Handwritten letters, newspaper clippings shared of Terhune’s successes, and England’s attendance at events in which Terhune participated were all referenced as examples.
Terhune said Dean England’s impact came through “the power of paper and a pen; she was a tremendous letter-writer. When I go back to my scrapbook, I have a stack…of letters from Dean England. I didn’t realize how fortunate I was.”
When she spoke about CGA’s leadership system, England would write and say, “I heard you were talking about (it) — tell me more,” recalled Terhune. “She would write to me about anything and everything.”
Introduced by her daughter, Mary Terhune ’17, Lee Terhune served as senior class president, was the first recipient of the Dean England Award, and was the Female Athlete of the Year while at Culver. She had worked for Procter and Gamble for the past 20 years, recently being named one of the top women in her industry. Her daughter added that Terhune has also been “highly supportive of developing young women in business” and passionate about the education of young women. Terhune also has a son, Andrew ’18, attending Culver.
“Dean England had a vision and built CGA on a principle that, ‘I’m going to empower women to become the best they can be, so they can develop themselves through academics, athletics, leadership, and fine arts,'” Terhune said, who compared England to a lighthouse in her aid in navigating, providing guidance to a safe harbor, and shedding light on where dangers lie.
Terhune added that Dean England personally challenged her to not just to walk out of Culver having achieved what she had, but to carry lessons learned forward for others, something with which she, in turn, challenged her student audience.
She also emphasized the value of being allowed to fail while at CGA, calling it a critical leadership opportunity. “(In my business) if sales reps tell me their customers always say ‘Yes,’ I say, ‘That’s not good; you haven’t asked for enough; you haven’t pushed yourself high enough.’ It’s okay to fail. I learned that at Culver.”
Terhune also shared memories highlighting the differences between her Culver experience and now. She applauded the departure of the McGregor kilt and its accompanying pants, but lamented the loss of the pastel, so-called ‘handi-wipe’ dresses of yore, as well as the challenges of finding blue shoes in a pre-Internet marketplace. She described the buzz of the post office as a gathering place in the days before email. She also talked about how technology has brought incredible change: her Friday night movies at Eppley compared to the array of today’s options on Netflix; and the excitement of the occasional phone calls on the one phone on each dorm floor to the availability of cell phones today.
Dean England Day also included introductory remarks by Hannah Brumback `17; the reading of England’s favorite poem, “Ithaka,” by Lane Radovan, Claire Martinez, Bella Wildermuth, and Brumback (all `17); the singing of “Treasured Memory;” and the Passing of the Light, the distributing of the Mary Frances England Pins and the Recessional for the New Girls.
Photo: (from left) Mary Terhune, Lee Terhune, Claire Martinez, and Isabella Wildermuth.