Our Stories

Our Stories is an initiative to share, collect and celebrate stories central to the history of the School in honor of the 125th anniversary. 

Our Teachers

“Miss Duckett gave me confidence that I could actually be a good math student if I tried. She took the time to answer my questions without making me feel stupid.”
- Jenny Riegel Elmlinger, Class of 1977
“Linda Lechner, high school English. I had never had a teacher who sang, yelled, danced and jumped on top of her desk so often to make her points. She had incredible energy and enthusiasm, spoke in multiple voices and accents and brought literature alive in all her classes. She was an absolute revelation.”
- Bronwyn Maloney Quillen, Class of 1982
“Mrs. Smit used to whisper during class and draw us in with her stories. She made history come to life. She turned me, a science lover, into one of her biggest fans.”
- Lisa Partin Eiland, Class of 1987
“Mrs. Frosch encouraged me to write a modern reworking of Hamlet, and it played a big role in my choice to study screenwriting at New York University and go into television.” - Cristin Cricco-Powell, Class of 1992
“Mr. Wade was my advisor, and I loved the continuity of support and guidance over four years of teenage growth. He also emphasized ethics in his biology course—a topic we weren’t really exposed to otherwise. His introduction to ethics/bioethics helped shape my career in medicine.”
- Stephanie Beck Bronfman, Class of 2005

A Historical Moment: Dorothy Warren ’25

While visiting relatives in France's Normandy region, Dorothy Warren, Class of 1925, watched the start of World War II unfold. Warren, in her 30s at the time, watched the Swiss army mobilize and the panic-stricken French head south.

Warren traveled back to the United States on a Dutch ship that she once described as “lit up like a church, of course—
a neutral ship in a war zone.”

“A Dutch officer was saying, ‘Well, of course, we’ll be torpedoed. We won’t get there,’” Warren remembered in a 1993 interview with Spence faculty. “But we did. We got through.”

“There were so many different Dorothies! But she was always giving back what she had learned, and maybe that’s part of being a Spence girl.” — Mikel Witte, P’98

Back at home, Warren wanted to get involved in the war effort, so she started volunteering for the Aircraft Warning Service (AWS), which surveyed planes flying over the country.

On the day that Pearl Harbor was attacked, she went on night duty for the AWS and later was put in charge of training the night-time volunteers. The next summer, the Air Force picked eight of the volunteers for Officer Candidate School in Des Moines, Iowa. Warren joined the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) and became a commissioned officer in 1942.

Over the years, Warren was responsible for training 5,000 women for overseas duty, served as an adjutant for the all-male War Department Personnel Center and became the purchasing officer for a military camp of 65,000 people.

At one point, Warren was in charge of 300 WACs as they traveled on the Queen Mary, surrounded by 500 “unattached Air Force pilots going over for D-Day,” which created some interesting problems for her.

After her Army service, Warren took part in a War Bonds Drive in New York City. All the civil defense volunteers lined up on a big platform at City Hall, including about 100 WACs who marched in the rain around the front of building.

“[Mayor Fiorello] La Guardia was there, and I halted and we ‘about-faced,’ and one of his aides came down and said, ‘Capt. Warren, the mayor wants you to go around again.’" Warren remembered Mayor La Guardia excitedly shouting, “Those are my WACs! Aren’t they great? Send them around again!”

The WACs paraded around again “like fools” but also with a sense of pride, and Warren saluted the mayor. 

The Army was just one small portion of Warren’s life, however. The Spence alumna also volunteered in hospitals, trained women to re-enter the workforce, worked in the travel and real estate business and served as director of the Division of Church Building Aid for the Board of National Missions of the United Presbyterian Church. 

Warren attended the California School of Fine Arts and studied under Ansel Adams. Her photography later entered into The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of the City of New York. In addition, she helped preserve what is now the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, and she served on the board of Turtle Bay Music School for 30 years, including as treasurer and president.

In her retirement, Warren found time to write. She was especially fond of actress Ruth Draper and wrote and edited The Letters of Ruth Draper: Self-Portrait of an Actress in 1979 and The World of Ruth Draper: A Portrait of an Actress in 1999. Warren also penned Sacrificio! A Study in Heroism about Italian artist Lauro de Bosis, which was published posthumously. 

Warren served The Spence School by acting as alumnae secretary and director of public relations and contributing a great deal of information to the Spence archives. 

The Witte family, including Josephine Witte ’98 and her mother, Mikel, formed a close bond with Warren, who was a grandmother figure to Josephine.

Mikel Witte, who was the executor to Warren’s will and generously gave the School a treasure trove of artifacts from Warren’s estate, described Warren as a woman who was wholeheartedly devoted to Spence, her church, her work and her friends. 

“There were so many different Dorothies!” she said. “But she was always giving back what she had learned, and maybe that’s part of being a Spence girl.” 

After Warren’s death at the age of 103 on January 21, 2008, Warren’s loved ones gathered at St. James Episcopal Church to celebrate the extraordinary, varied and long life she had lived.

“My great point is my longevity,” Warren once said. “Here I am, kids. That’s about it. That’s me in a nutshell.”

What's Your Story?

What was a historical moment that occurred during your time at Spence, and how did students or the School address it? 

We invite you to share your stories via email to 125stories@spenceschool.org, engage with fellow classmates on the Spence School Alumnae Association Facebook page or send artifacts, letters, photos and stories to The Spence School, Advancement Office, 22 East 91st Street, New York, New York 10128. A selection of stories will be published online, in the Spence School Bulletin and all will be added to the School's archives.
Thank you to Mikel Witte P’98, who generously donated some of Dorothy Warren’s
artifacts to the School and greatly enhanced Spence’s archives.