The Legacy of a Gifted Educator

For Blogby Janet Simpson Benvenuti

Last week I learned that Lorraine Ward, one of my son’s teachers, had passed away. From the fourth through eighth grade, he was fortunate to attend the Fenn, an all-male middle school that encourages boys to explore academic, athletic and artistic activities outside their comfort zone and develop a worldview that is respectful, empathetic and loving. Brilliant and erudite, Lorraine left an academic position at Wellesley College to help her husband, the headmaster, build an exceptional academic program. At Fenn, she loved, mentored and supported hundreds of students as if they were one of her own three sons while educating parents in how to raise competent and caring young men.

As I stood with dozens in the cold for more than two hours to attend her wake, I reflected on the powerful influence a single teacher or educator can have on hundreds of lives and generations of families. Even while on leave for cancer treatment and the ten year battle that followed, Lorraine continued to lead by example and through her prodigious writing, penning an Op-Ed in the New York Times, championing the benefits of single sex education. Among her inspiring messages and conversations with parents and faculty, she said:

“Let’s let our boys be young and unencumbered for as long as we can, to promise them that no matter where they land academically, socially, artistically, or on the playing field, they are loved and cherished beyond words, that this is the time in their lives to love and enjoy themselves and their friends fully, to feel each day to be one worth living no matter what the challenges or disappointments, to burden them less with our own need for a certain kind of success for them. They will not disappoint us in the long run, I can assure you. And what you get in return is more than you could ever hope for.”

In a world full of toxic cultural messages for boys, she was truly a leader among men. Thank you, Lorraine. Rest in peace.

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