Before my daughter Arielle applied to The Field School, in 1994, I had heard the name, Elizabeth Ely, echoed through the years. When anyone mentioned Elizabeth, it was always in the context of her incredible talents as an educator, her amazing intuition about the needs of kids, her humanity and her dedication to a diverse educational environment. For many years, I wondered, who is this woman and how will I ever meet her?
Well, the moment came when I accompanied Arielle to her interview, yes, the famous admissions interview, for which I wasn’t fully prepared. I had never experienced anything like it. As soon as we entered Elizabeth’s warm and worn office, with her big, beautiful wooden desk, decorated by students’ paintings, photographs and ceramic pieces, I knew that The Field School was unlike any educational setting that I had experienced. And there was no doubt in my mind that Elizabeth was not your typical Head of School.
She immediately put Arielle at ease and asked the most interesting and unexpected questions, such as, “if you won a million dollars, how would you spend it?” Initially caught off guard, I listened to Arielle’s thoughtful answer and realized that Elizabeth’s focus was on one’s character and humanity, not so much on the mundane “what’s your favorite subject” questions. She listened intently and responded warmly. At that moment, I realized that Field was a very special place, led by a very special person.
When Elizabeth asked me to be the first President of the Parents Association, I was thrilled because I knew that we could try to ease the workload and demands of the faculty. This was a time when Elizabeth and the Board faced the difficult reality that Field needed a new home, and the search for the perfect location was underway. Elizabeth knew that if Field was to move, it had to stay Field. That meant that she didn’t want a standard, rectangular-shaped school – the shape, colors, furniture and setting had to feel warm and cozy.
Field on Foxhall surpassed all of our dreams – it has it all. But more important than the physical structure is that Field has remained Field, but in its 40 years, it has grown into an educational environment that has something for everyone. Elizabeth’s dream lives on….ultimately, she said that she wanted “students who marched to different drummers, to march together under one roof.”
With the torch passed on to Dale, The Field School has continued in its original mission of nurturing it students, while engaging them in a challenging and creative curriculum. With veteran faculty, such as Will, Natalia and Chris and an outstanding new faculty and staff, we know that The Field School is on solid ground.