Meet Miss Wing

Last week, I was sad to learn of the passing of Miss Virginia Wing. Miss Wing was the Head of School at the Winsor School where I was a student from 1980 – 1987. She is an iconic figure in the school’s history, having worked there for 36 years, starting first as an English teacher and ultimately serving as Head of School for 25 years. Even after she retired in 1988, she remained connected to the school, its faculty, and alumnae.

I saw Miss Wing last spring at my 30th high school reunion; at the age of 93, she remembered my name, knew I was a Head of School, and asked how my sister Faith was doing in New York. She cared so deeply about each and every girl who came through the doors at Pilgrim Road in Boston. Though Miss Wing never married or had children of her own, in many ways, she had a rich family life. Her days were filled with hundreds of girls who grew to become confident, intelligent, and committed women. Miss Wing was beloved by so many; it is no wonder that there is an annual lecture, a faculty award for outstanding leadership, and a professional development fund in her honor.

As I was reading the school’s news briefing about her passing, I was struck by the fact that the author chose two quotations from Miss Wing’s speech on the first day of school in 1986 – my senior year. In her remarks, Miss Wing quoted her late father, a Unitarian minister, in giving us her charge for the year, “We belong to the builders of the future…. May we be faithful to our day and to future generations. May our influence be an inspiration for good, and the memory of our actions be a blessing to those who follow us in this place.” Miss Wing was a woman with a vision for how to educate generations of students who would become future leaders; leaders with a strong sense of community and an inherent responsibility to make a difference. Later in her remarks, she told us senior girls, “that being a constructive, caring person should take precedence over the pursuit of grades and getting into a particular college. Colleges will not be impressed by candidates who have lost sight of the fun that a student can have in exploring ideas and asking provocative questions.” So much of what Miss Wing valued lives on today, not only at Winsor but also at Epstein Hillel. We inspire curiosity, see potential, develop intellect, nurture compassion, and build community. She would have loved our school.

A trustee described Miss Wing as, “that unique school head who is first and always a teacher.” I can relate to this, having always said my heart is that of a teacher; I hope my faculty, staff, students and families feel this way about me. She was an amazing role model. Miss Wing recognized talent and hired outstanding teachers; I was the lucky beneficiary of their passion in the classroom. My teachers knew me so well and never hesitated to offer guidance – academic or personal as I navigated the waters of an academically intense high school experience. As busy as she was, she was always present and made it her business to be a homeroom advisor to seniors. She cared so much about each person and implored us to care about each other. Every year at graduation, Miss Wing’s last word was “Godspeed” – a Middle English salutation which Webster’s Dictionary defines as, “A wish for success given to a person who is going away.” As she set us out into the world, she had faith in the foundation we had been provided at Winsor. Being a Winsor girl didn’t end when you graduated. It is still very much a part of who I am today professionally and personally. Miss Wing treasured the lifelong friendships she saw forming year after year. Nothing made her happier than seeing alumnae return to school and reunite with their classmates and teachers. Despite the many changes that happened over time, Miss Wing knew that the school’s community and values were steadfast and enduring. Thinking of Miss Wing’s character and Winsor’s commitment to its students, reminds me of what I often hear from Cohen Hillel alumni. They speak about the impact our school had on them decades later, personally and professionally; they remind us often of the incredibly strong bonds that still exist. I am committed to ensuring that this stays true for Epstein Hillel.

What an incredible legacy Miss Wing has left behind; one from which we can all learn for generations to come. In the words of Miss Wing, “Use your influence for good and may the memory of your actions be a blessing to those who follow.” Zichrona l’vracha