Leading for the Long Haul

Sandra Powell Mitchell '76

By Stephanie Breijo ’09 In mid-December, surrounded by friends, colleagues, and former students, Sandra Powell Mitchell ’76 could feel the tears welling. It isn’t every day that a teacher’s retirement reception features profound speeches from decades of students, some of whom never even sat in her classroom. Then again, not every teacher is Sandra Powell Mitchell.  “I sat there, determined I wasn’t going to cry, but their comments did get me,” Mitchell said of the speakers recalling her 40 years with Fauquier County Public Schools.  “I was mesmerized by what they remembered.” Mitchell’s career began her senior year at Mary Washington College. The literature major did student teaching at Fredericksburg’s James Monroe High School toward her teacher certification. Interviews at an on-campus job fair yielded multiple offers, but she accepted a position teaching English at Cedar Lee Junior High School in Fauquier County.  Once in the classroom, Mitchell excelled.  She was named … [Read more...]

Alumna Is Archivist to the Stars

Clare Denk ’03

By Edie Gross Sturdy cardboard boxes arrive on Clare Denk’s desk bearing jumbles of dog-eared manuscripts, publicity photographs and candid snapshots, hand-written fan letters and personal correspondence. Denk ’03, an archivist at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, meticulously sorts and catalogs collections of personal effects for the Academy’s Margaret Herrick Library in Beverly Hills, where students, scholars, and historians from around the world can access them. “It never really gets boring because you move from one person’s life to another,” said Denk, who has worked at the Academy for seven years. “It never becomes repetitive.” While combing through the donated keepsakes of Hollywood icons and behind-the-scenes crew members, Denk keeps an eye out for the unexpected. For instance, actress Bette Davis had a reputation for being no-nonsense, but she also drew smiley faces in her letters to Now, Voyager co-star Paul Henreid. And long before Linwood Dunn was a … [Read more...]

Research Changes Historic Record

David Preston ’94

By Laura Moyer David Preston ’94 leafed through folios at the UK National Archives in London and came across something startling. There, apparently overlooked by generations of scholars, was an account by an Iroquois warrior who had traveled with George Washington as hostilities brewed between the British and French empires in America. The unnamed Iroquois described the Jumonville Affair, a 1754 skirmish in the Pennsylvania woods considered to be the start of the French and Indian War. The warrior’s account revealed a surprising new detail: Washington, then a 22-year-old lieutenant colonel in the Virginia regiment, personally fired the war’s first shot. That account and other newly discovered historic documents are central to Preston’s 2015 book Braddock’s Defeat: The Battle of the Monongahela and the Road to Revolution. Published by Oxford University Press, Braddock’s Defeat has won several awards including the $50,000 Guggenheim-Lehrman Prize in Military History. It also succeeds … [Read more...]

Scientist Travels Globe to Track Climate Change

Nancy Maynard '63

By Edie Gross Nancy Maynard’s career path has taken her from the tropical ecosystem of Everglades National Park to the snowy reindeer migration pastures of Norway’s tundra, all in an effort to study the impact of development and climate change on the world around us. But her scientific journey around the globe started at Mary Washington, where the Maine native studied biology and chemistry before graduating in 1963. “For a New England Yankee, it was a Southern experience,” she recalled of her time in Fredericksburg. “It was a wonderful environment: fantastic teachers, and the students were really well-rounded and interested in what they were studying.” Maynard ’63 continued her studies at the University of Miami, earning a master’s degree in zoology and later, a doctorate in marine biology. Maynard and her roommate at UM’s Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science (RSMAS) were among the first women to go to sea on research missions on the institute’s oceanographic … [Read more...]