b'GDS alumna NONI THOMAS LOPEZoffered her the 5th-grade position assisting Dave Nealon. Within 90 found her calling in life when, afterweeks she knew what would be her lifes work.graduating from UNC-Chapel Hill with a degree in English in 1995, TommyNoni realized that not only did she want to teach, but she also Webb persuaded her to join the facultywanted to become a leader in the field of education.She went on as an assistant 5th-grade teacher. to teach Middle School Language Arts at Ravenscroft for two years when she discovered the Bank Street School in New York City, a Nonis parents had always been focusedphilosophical and pedagogical leader in progressive education.on her education and considered it crucial to her life.Consequently, sheAfter she earned her MA in Educational Leadership with a had been in strongly academic privateconcentration in Private School Leadership from the Klingenstein schools such as St. Pius X from theCenter at Teachers College at Columbia University, where she was beginning. She, along with several of herawarded the Joseph Klingenstein Fellowship, she felt ready to be a classmates, came to GDS in the 7th- division head and became Middle School Director of the Calhoun grade - a natural transition. She hadSchool in 2007. no idea that she would be the only Black female in her class every year grades 7 through 12, graduating in 1990. Her uniqueness atAltogether she spent the twenty-plus years in New York City in GDS came as something of a shock. Her parents had given heran impressive array of administrative positions.She even founded complete affirmation and confidence in her skin color. More difficultthe Noni Thomas Lopez and Associates LLC consulting firm for her than the racial issues were the socio-economic disparitiesbefore becoming Head of the Gordon School in East Providence, between her family and most of her classmates. Rhode Island in 2018. She came back to GDS to deliver the commencement address in 2016 and received the Distinguished Once in the Upper School, she developed friendships with otherAlumni Award. She completed her Ed.D. from the University of Black studentsThomas Roberts 89, Rodney Beasley 90, KelvinPennsylvania in 2016. McLean 90, Monty Bumper 90, James Wilson 90many of whom were new to GDS. The following year Angelia Sherrod 91In a phone conversation, Noni spoke about the importance of became one of her closest friends. Her favorite time of the day wasaffinity spaces, where people who share an identity variable such hanging out in the cafeteria at lunch, where they could laugh andas gender, race, religion can come together to build understanding, gossip and just be themselves a comfortable, honest sanctuary.find affirmation, solace, and sanctuary. We also talked about the Her hardest moment came in a history class when one of the studentsneed for cross-racial and other cross-cultural dialogues so that we can made a derogatory racial remark in their discussion of Latin America.learn more about ourselves, each other, and our communities. Noni reported that incident to the administration. She has seen GDS continuing to evolve in multiple directions on a path of greaterWhen I asked her to conclude with some special memories of her acceptance and understanding. She and I agree that the studentGDS experiences, in addition to hanging out in the cafeteria with bodies of the last few years look and feel very different from those 20her friends with whom she keeps in touch through Facebook, she and even 10 years ago. Noni completed her senior project at the localcited writing her own Song of Myself for Bill Moores English chapter of the NCAA and, as we saw on the recent Zoom meeting on11 class.Mr. Moore saw something in her poem that he valued Racial Justice, has remained a committed activist. and complimented, giving her confidence in expressing herself in her own voice which has helped carry her through many of lifes When she graduated from Carolina, Noni considered law school andchallenges.nnever considered teaching as a possibility. But a passion for the law never came. And as a young mother with a four-year-old son, she needed something to do. Thats when Tommy Webb stepped in and GDS Magazine | 55'