The Shipley Magazine

Courage for the Deed; Grace for the Doing: On Being A Coed Pioneer

Philip Alvaré ‘76
Contrary to popular belief, we were not required to wear tunics, though I did learn the arcane ritual of a proper tea. Mine was the class of 1976; I was one of three men, a coed pioneer as they called us, in a class of 73 women. And I flourished.

I suppose it took some courage to be one of the first boys at an all-girls school and I believe I made the transition with grace. I had transferred from the Episcopal Academy and enrolled at Shipley in the tenth grade. For the most part, it was a positive change away from the somewhat starched Anglican tradition at EA, including regimental ties and blue blazers, into the cosmopolitan environment at Shipley where in those days there were boarding students from all over the world and the Quaker precepts of consensus and tolerance were in evidence. What wasn’t to like?

I went from feeling marginalized and misfit to becoming a minor celebrity, or at least an admired rarity who appeared in every photograph published under the headline of “Co-Eds At Shipley,” was cast in every play, invited to every party, dated whomever I wished, and received perhaps more attention and mentoring than was my due.

And aside from one math teacher who made a point of welcoming us each morning by making me feel unwelcome to her class when she said  “Good morning girls and boy,” I felt embraced, valued, even cherished and received a first-rate education from gifted teachers, most notably the head of the English Department, Marianne Riely, Barbara O’Brien for Art History and Jim Staples in Philosophy. They taught me how to learn to learn and think critically. 

I am grateful for the years I spent at Shipley and the fine educational foundation I received there—in the broadest sense of the term—which has given me the courage for a variety of deeds and grace for the doing throughout my life. I say, “Hail our colors, speed them onward…Green for hope we always cherish, blue for loyalty.”

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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.