Lura Coleman Wampler ’56, Frances Weston & the Enduring Influence of a Teacher
It is 1955. Lura Coleman Wampler ’56 waits for the start of class in Shipley’s basement chemistry lab. “In walks this little lady with her white lab coat, suit, white nylon blouse, and pearls––that’s what all the teachers wore back then,” she recounts. Mrs. Frances Weston. Chemistry teacher, mentor and friend. “Frances really knew how to teach chemistry,” Lura explains. “The class was fun and relaxed, which is not to say she was an easy teacher; she was quite firm. But she was also fair. And she infused her teaching with a wonderful sense of humor.”
Lura grew to love the subject, so much so, she went on to major in chemistry in college. “I loved what it enabled me to do,” she shares. During the summers and after college, she worked in research at Lankenau Hospital. “The sixties were the time of early space travel. We tested various diets, pressures and exercises on humans.” Lura was also present at the first open-heart surgery using an oxygenator. “Since the procedure was purely experimental, it took place in the hospital’s research wing.”
At Jefferson Hospital, Lura met her beloved side-kick, Louie, a white lab rat. “We were testing the effect of the by-products of burning cigarette paper. When some babies were born, I kept one on my shoulder,” she says, and there he remained when she took a position at Shipley in 1967. Lura modeled her teaching style after Frances. “I injected as much humor as I could,” she says, but she added her own flair as well. “I’m a hugger,” she confides. “When I run into my old students, I hug them.” Just last week Lura received an email from a prior student who said, “You were the best teacher I ever had.”
When Frances retired, Lura organized alumni to dedicate a room in the Snyder Science Center to Frances Weston. A plaque hung for years, until Lura retired in 2004 after 22 years of teaching at Shipley. It was updated to include her name.
The plaque remains today as a testament to the two teachers’ lifelong friendship, and a symbol of the enduring influence teachers can have on their students.
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.