The Heroines

Pearl A. Reed

is honored with a Large Paver from Nancy C. Millett.

Pearl Reed was a teacher in Dunkirk High School, Dunkirk, New York, a school large enough to have three history teachers and small enough to assure that every student in the class of 1945 "had Miss Reed" for their tenth grade class in World History. Almost no one knew anything about her, other than the fact that she came from somewhere in New Hampshire where people learned to talk "funny." How we marveled in our flat-vowed speech over the way she turned Asia Minor into Ajer Mina!

What we learned from Miss Reed, however, far exceeded what we knew about her and what we managed to absorb about World History. A demanding teacher with high academic expectations, she also expected her students to adhere to high standards of personal behavior and to accept responsibility for the class as a whole. Many of us objected to the latter as "unfair," and, thanks to the fact that I was homeroom chairman, I felt obligated to voice this opinion to her. She was unmoved. As she explained, we are all members of social groups and, as such, we share social responsibilities. If each of us adhered to what is right and good, all of us would benefit. If one of us erred, all of us were accountable.

What many of us remember most about Miss Reed, however, was yet another role she played in our lives, one that literally set us on paths we otherwise would not have explored--the role of counselor. Convinced that capable students deserved higher education, and dismayed that fewer than 5% of Dunkirk High School students entered college, she herself took advanced graduate work in the field of testing and counseling.

After school, she summoned her brightest students to her classroom where she administered aptitude tests, interest inventories, and IQ tests. After she scored the test, she reviewed the results with each of us, talked with us about our dreams and aspirations, and encouraged us to look beyond work in local businesses, shops, and mills. Some of us, she prodded more than others, and me more than anyone else. "Promise me you will do what I ask, without asking what it is," she'd say. In my case, blind trust led to my competing in the Westinghouse Science Talent Search, and being tricked into trying out and then performing in a play - things I never thought of doing and wouldn't on my own have dared to try. But thanks to this caring woman who became my mentor, I learned what trust means, where daring can lead, and why daring to be different matters.

At our 50th high school reunion in 1995, I marveled anew at the influence Pearl Reed had on many of us, and especially on me. Without her care and concern and feelings of responsibility toward her students, many of us would never have sought college educations, or obtained scholarships to fine universities where we were given superb educations. Pearl Reed truly made a difference--one for which I am still indebted, still grateful .

Submitted by Nancy Carlyon Millett

September 5, 1998