Identity Interview: Wendy Eiteljorg ’86 Explains Her Purple Hair
Exploring and understanding identity is an important part of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion work at Shipley. There are many parts of our identity that we are born into, but others that we choose. Middle School DEI Coordinator and English teacher Lila Corgan interviewed Wendy Eiteljorg ’86, Director of Curricular Innovation and Learning Design about her purple hair.
Lila: When I asked you if you'd be willing to chat with me about your purple hair for the DEI Newsletter, there was some pause. Can you tell me why? Wendy: Well, it’s a choice and one that is in a very different category than a lot of other socio-cultural identifiers. I would not want to put my purple hair in the same bucket as something much more integral to identity (race, religion, gender, or sexual identity) or that has so many more consequences. It’s a privilege to be in this position.
Lila: So why DO you have purple hair? What does it mean to you? Wendy: I first dyed my hair purple more than a dozen years ago now. It was going to be a summer thing for a BIG birthday. I ended up really liking it and have now had another, decade bigger birthday. It doesn’t really mean anything. It’s just become part of who I am. And, I like that no matter what else I’m wearing or doing that may be more traditional or stereotypical (I am a white, suburban woman in education after all) there’s always that purple hair. My own kids don’t really remember me any other way at this point. My daughter, who is the older of the two, might, but my son doesn’t.
Lila: I mentioned to you that when I was touring campus for the first time and I saw you, a woman in a school leadership position with bright purple hair, it gave me the sense that I could get along here. Maybe that it wasn't too stuffy for me like I may have feared it to be, having come from a career in public schools. Have you gotten this sentiment from others before? Wendy: I have heard this from a few other adults in the community. I remember when the school year was about to start after the summer I first dyed it. I was planning to let it wash out and move on. I decided I wanted to re-purple, and I was nervous about it. Since I had more dark hair underneath the purple at the time, in some situations it wasn’t super noticeable. It’s gotten more purple over the years. I’m sure there are some folks who are surprised when they first meet me or see me at a Board meeting or a parent event. I like to think it’s nice for those students who make some more unusual hair or clothing choices to see that aspect of themselves in the faculty. Maybe it helps them have a conversation with their parents or helps their parents see those choices differently.
Lila: Alright. So you're not JUST the lady with the purple hair. What are some other important aspects of your identity? Wendy: I’m a teacher, a parent, a spouse, a sister, a thinker, a reader, a family outing planner, a baker, and when I grow up, I am going to be an installation artist.
The Shipley School is a private, coeducational day school for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students, located in Bryn Mawr, PA. Through our commitment to educational excellence, we develop within each student a love of learning and a desire for compassionate participation in the world.