ST. GENEVIEVE/GIBBONS HALL:
Retained the Standards of the Predecessor Schools
by Joseph M. Lalley and Patricia Anderson
At a called meeting of parents in April 1971, the Order of RCE announced with deep regret the closing of St. Genevieve-of-the-Pines, which at that time included the Secretarial School, the Academy, the Prep, and Gibbons Hall School for Boys. After this announcement, many families and community leaders spoke of what they felt was a potentially tragic loss to the Asheville community. During these discussions, they formed a Pro-Tem Committee to devise ways to keep the school operating.
One month later, the committee announced that they had secured a lease from the Order to rent the campus, had raised over $30,000 in annual giving pledges, had completed an agreement with the Order permitting the Sisters to retain their use of the convent, chapel, and dining hall, had registered 190 students, and had retained many key members of the faculty, including three Sisters. Their projected budget for the 1971-72 school year, however, was still short $15,000. When the committee expressed its reluctance to begin the school’s operation with a known deficit, fifteen families pledged $1,000 each during the meeting. The arrangement also enabled Mother Ann Zeleznik and the Order to keep St. Genevieve Secretarial School in operation.
Budgetary considerations, however, forced a thorough reorganization of the school. St. Genevieve/Gibbons Hall, as the reorganized school was known, became a non-sectarian, independent, coeducational day school for students in kindergarten through grade nine, owned and operated by a Board of Trustees elected by parents.
The new independent school was owned by a Board of Trustees, most of whom were parents. Faculty included Headmaster Joseph M. Lalley, who had been associated with the schools since 1950, and a number of teachers who had experience in the predecessor schools. The continuing classroom presence of Sisters of the RCE served as a constant reminder of the foundations of the school.
In 1977 the faculty and staff received their first retirement and health insurance plan financed by the school. Salaries improved significantly as well.
SGGH FACULTY KEEP LEGACY ALIVE
Soon after opening in 1971, the reorganized school demonstrated that it had successfully retained the educational standards that had won St. Genevieve-of-the-Pines its reputation for excellence. As in prior years, the heart of the school was its faculty. Mother Anna Joubert and Mother Marie Day, each of whose distinguished careers as primary teachers extended well beyond half a century, were mainstays in Pinto Hall.
Lucy Ross, an exceptional teacher among outstanding colleagues, taught third grade and middle-grade English. She became a legend during her 18-year teaching career at Gibbons Hall and SG/GH and a household word in the school’s community. Many students meekly followed Mrs. Ross to the main office, as she intoned, “I’ve tried and I’ve tried. I’m not going to try any more. We’re going to call Mama.” Joan Hall, an unusually talented pre-school teacher, enjoyed the universal respect and affection of parents, colleagues, and, of course, students. Following several years of declining health, she died in 2011.
In both her pre-K and fourth grade classes, Margaret Gissendanner created an encouraging environment for young students, as did Betsy Smith in her kindergarten class. Katherine (Kc) Brondyke Gunter, Patsy Scott Riddle Prickett, and Sherry Faires won reputations as highly creative primary grade teachers.
Patricia (Tish) Anderson, who had taught in the Academy during its last two years, was another devoted English teacher. With talent and ingenuity, Suzy Carter, Tricia Coggins and Becky Gold enthusiastically instilled important facts and lore of history into their students.
Greg Gamble joined the Gibbons Hall faculty in 1970 and is remembered not only as a first-rate science teacher and Assistant Headmaster, but also as an outstanding soccer coach and friend of young people. He served ably as Interim Headmaster during the 1984-85 academic year, preserving the integrity of the school during this difficult transitional time. Wallis (“Foote”) Goodman earned the appreciation and respect of students and parents as an exemplary role model; he taught middle-grade science, coached, and served as Business Manager of the school. Science remained a strong course under the direction of Dora Zeigler Nelson and Howard Yarborough.
Pamela Reid, geometry teacher, was a resourceful and successful mathematics teacher and music director for 11 years, from 1976 - 87; Tom Marberger, Peggy Partin and Candy Hardy maintained the high standards of the math department.
Mary Frank, a professional artist, consistently elicited the best from her art students, many of whom won honors in local, regional, and national contests. Deborah Wolcott, who continued her career at Carolina Day School, kept alive the St. Genevieve tradition of teaching French well, while Don Jackson and Paulette Davis Smith provided a sound foundation in Latin. For thirty years, the gifted Kitty Johnson steadfastly led young people to musical skills through her piano lessons and shared her talents as an accompanist for all school musical performances and assemblies.
Jerry Hess directed the school’s athletic program. Although his teams were often short on numbers and talent, they compiled impressive records and had the reputation of being well coached. He later joined the coaching staff at Asheville School. Adding further proficiency to the afternoon sports program, Tom Marberger, Beth Thomason, Nancy Indriso, Peggy Partin, and Rita Babraitis taught skills and sportsmanship that moved students on to successful athletic experiences in later years.
Janet Thompson, who along with her assistant Hilde Kopf, made the St. Genevieve-of-the-Pines library one of the finest in the Southeast, was an integral part of the school community. She read stories each week to kindergarten and primary students and assisted teachers of older students in book selection and research guidance. Janet was the SGP and SG/GH librarian from 1964 – 1987. She died in 2005.
The administrative staff of SG/GH included long-serving secretary Peggy Runné as well as Steve Booth, Business Manager; and Louise Abe, Miriam Hoch, and Mildred Smith, bookkeepers. These valuable members supported the endeavors of administration, faculty and families in myriad ways; their professionalism and expertise were essential elements of the school community.
TRANSITION TO CAROLINA DAY SCHOOL
When SG/GH and Asheville Country Day merged in 1987 to form Carolina Day School, several SG/GH teachers joined the new school faculty. Pam Reid continued to teach middle school math and served as Head of the Middle School for two years; she was later named Dean of Students and Director of Studies at Asheville School, where she continues to teach Algebra I and geometry. Janet Thompson also became a member of the CDS faculty, spending many hours and considerable energy blending the library collections of the two schools and moving the library to larger quarters on the CDS campus; she retired in 1989.
Prior to her appointment to the English Department at Asheville School, Tish Anderson taught English at CDS; in the final years of her career, she was Director of the College Office at Asheville School. Patsy Scott Riddle Prickett also joined the faculty of CDS for a short time; she now teaches first grade in the Buncombe County School System. Betsy Smith continued to nurture young students in her kindergarten classes at CDS. Rita Babraitis coached field hockey and taught physical education to younger students for a number of years.
Debby Wolcott carried on as a superlative teacher of French in the CDS Middle School until her retirement in 2011; her students regularly won high honors in state and national contests. She led many student exchange trips to France and coordinated visits of French students to Asheville. Candy Hardy taught math, pre-algebra, and Algebra I in the middle school; in the upper school, her courses included algebra, geometry, and trigonometry. After 24 years teaching at CDS, she retired in 2011.
Howard Yarborough taught fourth grade at CDS until he retired in 2013, sharing his wit, gentle nature, and love of learning with students and colleagues; Dora Zeigler Nelson continues to teach math and science courses, which have included, over time, algebra, chemistry, AP Biology and Environmental Science.