Anne Healy, a visionary educator who as headmistress led the way in integrating Roland Park Country School and oversaw its transition into the computer age, died Wednesday afternoon of post-polio syndrome at Gilchrist Hospice Care in Towson.
The Guilford resident was 97.
"Inclusion, technology and academics were always at the top of her mind," said Jean Waller Brune, who was a member of the RPCS Class of 1960 and has been head of the school since 1992. "She was a remarkable woman, educator and leader who always had great humility in her heart."
A native New Englander, Miss Healy was born and raised in Windsor Locks, Conn. When she was 3, she was stricken with the paralytic polio that later returned and claimed her life.
She was 12 when she left home and enrolled at Dana Hall School in Wellesley, Mass. She earned her bachelor's degree in 1935 from Wellesley College and a master's degree from Middlebury College in Vermont.
Miss Healy did additional graduate work at Columbia University and at Trinity College in England.
In a 1969 interview, Miss Healy explained why she chose a career in education over that of being a pianist.
"Well, I was going to be a pianist, but by the time I got to college, I changed my mind. Then in 1950 I had to make a decision between teaching in a college or a girls school," she said.
"I discovered that my heart was really with the younger girls. Working with high school students is, to me, more exciting. This age is willing to share with their teachers their personal interests. There's a more evident state of change at the high school level," she said.
Between 1935 and 1950, she taught at three private schools and three colleges: Oxford School in Hartford, Conn.; Kent Place School, Summit, N.J.; Nightingale-Bamford School, New York City; the University of Cincinnati, where she was a teaching fellow; Vassar College, as instructor in English; and Skidmore College, as assistant professor of English.
In 1950, Miss Healy was the third headmistress at RPCS when she took over the reins of the school, which was then at 817 W. University Parkway. After a 1976 fire, the school relocated to the 21-acre Chestnutwood estate in the 5200 block of Roland Ave.
"Chic and blue-eyed, with light brown hair just touched with gray that she wears in a becoming short bob, the new headmistress has a smile that lights up her entire face and reaches out to embrace all within its radius," said an article in The Evening Sun at the time of her arrival in Baltimore.
"When I came to Roland Park," she told The Baltimore Sun at the time of her retirement in 1975, "and succeeded Miss Elizabeth M. Castle [headmistress for 28 years], I felt it was a trust."
Reflecting on her tenure, Miss Healy said that during her time, RPCS changed from being "faculty-oriented to faculty- and students-oriented."
She added: "I consider it a distinguishing mark of the school that we never deviated from the standards of a strong academic program."
"She taught me English my senior year at Roland Park," said Ms. Brune, who was the first RPCS alumna to head the school.
"She told me many times that the school had been given to her as a trust and that she felt the trust very deeply. She also was a person who always reached out to anyone who had anything to do with RPCS. She was selfless."
She said while Miss Healy was "soft-spoken," she was "very strong and resilient, and knew how to speak her mind. However, she was always very eloquent and used that when she believed that something was right."
It was Miss Healy who persuasded the school's board to integrate the school and formalize an anti-discrimination policy in 1963, which resulted in two African-Americans enrolling in the school that fall.
"RPCS was the first school in Maryland to have computers, which arrived in 1967," said Ms. Brune.
She had a major impact on formulating the school's first written philosophy that included a commitment "to the intellectual, aesthetic, physical and moral development of its students," and "an appreciation of tradition and diversity."
Her accomplishments were numerous. She established an Honor Board in 1953, initiated the school's first fundraising campaign in the 1960s and coordinated classes with Gilman School.
"She was a beloved, gentle woman who always brought out the best in people who were with her. She had impeccable manners and was rather stately, yet very humble," said Redmond C.S. Finney, who was Gilman headmaster from 1968 until 1992.
"She was a person of personal warmth, and I enjoyed her tremendously. Her students revered her, and she was inspired by them," he said.
Betty Ann Schmick Howard, a member of the Class of 1957 who had studied English with Miss Healy, recalled her as the "best teacher Roland Park ever had, and she stayed in touch with her students for the rest of her life."
"She had a way of encouraging people so they could find the strength in themselves they didn't know they had. She always said that when she looked at her students, she 'saw the person they were going to become,'" said Mrs. Howard.
"She encouraged us to say 'yes' to life when anything came along and to be open to receive it. She had a very creative way at looking at things," she said.
In recognition of her devotion to RPCS, the school created the Anne Healy Award for the best senior speech, the Anne Healy Chair of English Language and Literature, and the Anne Healy Lecture.
Miss Healy, who lectured in her retirement years, remained a constant presence on the campus of RPCS.
"On the first day of the new school year, she'd send me a bouquet of roses with a note: 'I'm with you in spirit as you begin a new school year,'" recalled Ms. Brune.
A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. Dec. 4, on what would have been Miss Healy's 98th birthday, at Roland Park Country School, 5204 Roland Ave.
There are no survivors.