In 1979, Princess Moss ’83 was just another bright-eyed freshman at then-Mary Washington College who suddenly felt like a small fish in a very big pond. Moss was following in the footsteps of sister Hazel Moss Putty ’73, one of the first African-Americans to attend the college.
More than 30 years later, Moss made some history of her own when she was elected secretary-treasurer of the National Education Association (NEA).
Although money was tight, Moss’ parents always had big plans for their daughters. Their father drove school buses and taxis in Fredericksburg for a living, often driving Mary Washington students to and from campus. “He knew that if he ever had girls, he hoped they would go there,” Moss said. His dreams – and hers – came true when she enrolled in the college to study music.
Moss credits Mary Washington with giving her strong leadership and communication skills. “The goals and ideals that Mary Washington tries to instill in its students tremendously helped me in my journey,” said Moss, who served on the UMW Board of Visitors from 2007 to 2011. “It was a very important experience, and I believe that guided me and helped me get to where I am.”
“I don’t mind standing tall and proud for our profession, because our profession is noble.” – Princess Moss
Moss took an interest in education early on at Mary Washington, thanks in part to the inspiring work of members of the music department, including then-department head James E. Baker, a distinguished professor emeritus of music. She became a student member of the Virginia Education Association (VEA). After graduating from Mary Washington with a degree in music, she landed a teaching position in Louisa County. She received a master’s degree in elementary and secondary administration and supervision from the University of Virginia.
Throughout her 21 years of teaching, Moss remained involved in local education associations, becoming an advocate for the arts in public schools. She served two terms on the NEA’s executive committee and two terms as president of the VEA. She also served on the commonwealth’s P-16 Education Council. In 2006, UMW honored her with its Distinguished Alumnus Award.
As secretary-treasurer of the NEA, Moss has taken leave from the school district and moved closer to NEA headquarters in Washington, D.C., where she can focus on managing the financial aspects of the organization. She attends meetings and crunches numbers, and she’s eager to share her passion for education with the public. “I don’t mind standing tall and proud for our profession, because our profession is noble,” Moss said. “Our profession creates all of the other professions, and we don’t get credit for that.
“Public education changed my life,” she added. “My parents didn’t have a formal education, but they knew the value of a good public education, and I believe it’s my responsibility to do what I can to make sure others have the same opportunities.”