Tribute to Faculty Member Debi Ellman

From time to time we need to remind ourselves of people at Beaver who have given so many years to the school. To name a few: Bea Kleppner has been here since 1958, Mike Kidney and John Clippinger since 1976 and Pam Cavanagh since 1978, Sandy Horwitz since 1979, Peter Gow since 1980, Tom Manning since 1990 and Kathryn Buckley since 1991.

As we think about longevity, the number 25 is a special one, and with Commencement on June 6, Debi Ellman completes her 25th year at Beaver Country Day School.

Debi Ellman was born and raised in 90210. That’s right, she’s a Beverly Hills native; and, in fact, her mother was the mayor of Beverly Hills. She came East to get her undergraduate and graduate degrees at Brown and then returned to California, where she was an English teacher, dean of students and college counselor at the Oakwood School in North Hollywood. Yes, Beverly Hills and Hollywood. Who knew?

Twenty-five years ago she joined Beaver as English teacher, dean of studies and college counselor, and quickly established herself as one of the core members of this faculty. She was on the search committee that ended up hiring me – so if you have an issue, take it up with her later – and was someone I could always rely on in those challenging first few years. She was director of the upper school, and in that time she (among other things) built much needed bridges between the school and parents. Students and colleagues know her as a poet and a quilter, and in her time her she has been a wonderful teacher of creative writing.

Above all, she is an extraordinarily skilled college counselor. Parents and students enter the process with more than a little fear and trepidation as they hear horror stories from family’s experiences in other schools. Debi diffuses all that in a matter of moments and families end up with a process that is thorough – even enjoyable – and infused with humor, warmth, honesty…and a little California vibe. And, by the way, the results are spectacular. She advocates tenaciously for students – don’t ever underestimate her tenacity – and is brilliant at helping colleges understand how a Beaver education makes our students stand out. As the process begins, as it unfolds and after it ends, and sometimes years later, our families tell me how fortunate they were to work with Debi Ellman. We all are. Please join me in recognizing Debi Ellman for 25 years of extraordinary service to Beaver Country Day School.

Remarks delivered by Peter Hutton at Final Assembly on June 4, 2010.

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