Many of you probably know that Annemarie (AH-na-ma-rie) Roeper, co-founder of the Roeper School in Bloomfield Hills and Birmingham, Michigan, USA, passed away recently on May 11th, 2012.
You probably also know that Annemarie Roeper and her husband, George Roeper, who passed away in 1992, established the school in Detroit in 1941, and later converted it to a school for gifted children. Their educational vision encompassed a profound respect for the individual and a commitment to freedom of growth and learning within an emotionally and intellectually supportive community.1
But what does this really mean? What impact did Annemarie and her husband George really have on all those gifted children? How are gifted children benefiting today from the school community that George and Annemarie built?
Here’s a description of the school’s aim from George Roeper’s perspective as described by Marcia Ruff, the school historian: “The fundamental task of education is to create an environment in which the students discover who they are as whole, complete, and individual people.”
George described it himself from the psychoanalytic perspective the school embraces with this statement: “The principle of supporting both the child’s conscious and unconscious motivation toward self-realization underlies all of the school’s educational endeavors.”2
Annemarie Roeper and her husband, George Roeper, who passed away in 1992, established the school in Detroit in 1941 with nine students. Their educational vision encompassed a profound respect for the individual and a commitment to freedom of growth and learning within an emotionally and intellectually supportive community.
The Roeper Philosophy describes this approach practically:
“The school’s goal is to raise children with a strong sense of self, a deep understanding of interdependence, and a desire to make the world a better place.”
Children with a strong sense of self will understand and know themselves very well. They will understand that they have intrinsic value and they will become confident that they have the skills and abilities to accomplish what they want in life.
Children with an understanding of interdependence will know that all people on earth are connected in some way and that we are all dependent on one another, emotionally, physically, psychologically, intellectually, socially and morally.
Children taught in such a nurturing environment will often have a strong desire to work toward making the world a better place and will be encouraged to do so.
The Roeper philosophy explains how these principles are applied practically at the school: “We do this by offering acceptance, trust and respect to the children and adults in the community. We make room for the emotional life – acknowledging the emotions, teaching the children to know and understand their own and others’ – because emotional strength is the foundation for a happy life. We understand giftedness and its impact on one’s life. We guide the students through an education in which they have the freedom to discover their own meaning in the ideas and information they encounter. We offer a rich array of subjects – academic, artistic and physical – taught by people who are passionate about their fields. And we allow the adults in the community to be open, evolving people who treat each other with respect and form honest, trustworthy relationships with the students and each other.”3
How have these principles affected the Roeper students? Many of these students, past and present have recently posted to Annemarie Roeper’s caring bridge page both to share their condolences with the family and to also express what Annemarie, George, and the Roeper School have meant to them. Here are a few of the many very poignant entries:
oh my dearest Annemarie, blessings on your soul, and George, and i ever so slightly remember Tom and Julie, and all you have left me with having spent ten years at Roeper:1965 to 1975. i would have graduated with you in 1979 had i remained in michigan….
those very formative years transformed the nature of my life. Literally. Poignantly. the openness of Roeper gave me such courage and strength and confidence to pursue all that i am now. your ideas were my foundation and continue to inform me at my core. i loved your school, your teachers, your philosophy with a passion. my love of learning i attribute to you and your skills to foster inspiration and desire.
I attended the School between 1962 and 1965, beginning when I was eighteen months new in this country and eight days after my father died. The profound love and support that I received “at Roeper,” as we used to call it, helped me not only heal, but thrive. Words are not adequate just now, but with my whole heart I turn to send appreciation and gratitude, along with wishes that you, too, be comforted.
I have the image that when someone dies, small fragments of the essence of the person spread out and live inside those who knew them. In the case of Annemarie and George, that process took place while they were still alive, a mark of their great capacity as teachers and as beings. May we continue to be illuminated by their shining gifts, making them more and more our own.
I was blessed to attend City & Country School 1958 – 63, from nursery school (Hattie) through Grades 1 (Mrs Shotka) & 2 (Miss Doughty). What a joy it was, I have such a vivid memory of being allowed to lie on the desks while Miss Doughty told us a story. This is how school should be; we were loved, cared for, respected beyond words. I have a wonderful picture of Annemarie giving me a cuddle on the ground during Sports Day of Grade 2; she is in a red sleeveless dress and a big smile on her face. Such calm, such deeply felt rightness in how people should be treated, was such a gift to all of us who were privileged to come within her circle. Her passing makes me feel a little bit more orphaned in this big world. I am so thankful her legacy is so well-rooted and flourishing.
Dear Annemarie,Let me start by saying thank you. You deserve much more than a simple “thank you,” but that’s about the best I can manage right now; my head’s spinning.Let me start over. Hi. I’m Mikayla. I’m a junior at your school. You don’t know me, but I’d like to think I know you.Let me rephrase that. I might not know you personally, but I know… “you”. I see you every day; You’re there: in my friends’ laughter, in my teachers’ smiles, in myself.Your school is more than just a school… but you already knew that. It’s taught me not only reading, writing, and arithmetic, but how to grow up, as well. The relationships I’ve developed within its walls have aided me tremendously on my introspective journey.Please, please know that you have touched our lives in a way that can only be described as beautiful.We’ll miss you.
“Turn your face to the sun and the shadows fall behind you,” ~ Maori Proverb
~ Two nights ago I was awakened at 3AM by such a vivid dream/vision of Annemarie. In the dream, Annemarie was saying to me, “I’m afraid to die.” I said, “We are all with you.” And then she and I left our bodies and were flying through the night sky full of stars, traveling faster and faster together until I realized that if I didn’t return to my body, I would die with her. As I left her soaring spirit to return to earth, I saw her moving rapidly forward toward the stars with a feeling of pure joy on her face. She was so happy and she was not afraid any more. As I light a candle in her memory today, that is how I see her. Free, happy, unafraid.
Love to all of you,
Carolyn Graham Tsuneta Class of 1978
It is hard to overestimate the number of people that Annemarie has profoundly influenced in her incredible life. I spent 12 years at Roeper (City and Country School) plus day camp, etc. I graduated 22 years ago, but still feel that my entire approach to life, parenting, caring for my patients and interacting with people everyday, has been shaped by Annemarie in such an important way; more than anybody aside from my own parents. I am truly blessed to be one of the so many who was educated by her. I haven’t seen her in such a long time, but still as I sit here, I feel this incredible void of her absence.
May Annemarie’s memory be a blessing for all who knew and loved her.
Adam Dorfman, Roeper ’90.
I am sorry to hear of Annemarie’s passing. Like many of my fellow students, I think often about the profound influence that Roeper School had on me. It’s not enough to say that I use the things that I learned there every day; rather, what I learned there forms the core of who I am. For that, I quite honestly cannot thank Annemarie and her husband George enough. There simply are not the words.
My thoughts and condolences go out to all of her family and friends. I hope that they find comfort in the wide and profoundly good impact she had on the world.
Annemarie,Thank you for sharing your time and life with us. Your work, your compassion, and above all, your love made this world a better place for everyone. You’ve touched the lives not just of your family and students, but anyone who was influenced by your theory and practice. Last year we had the opportunity to reconnect via email, and I was amazed that you remembered me from a Founders’ Day 26 years ago. But really, I should not have been surprised because that is your gift – cherishing each child as an individual. Thank you for sharing that gift with us; we have been forever blessed.With deepest love and warmest regards,
After 13 years at Roeper, I struggle to explain what being part of Annemarie’s dream has meant to me. Roeper has been the tree the vine of my life has taken shape around.
Roeper has taught me how to take on responsibility and to handle that responsibility with integrity and empathy. Part of the beauty of the Roeper philosophy is that it is always working, always growing, always striving for the distant ideal. It’s the journey, not the destination that is so important. As an alumna, I know that Roeper philosophy is part of who I am and who I plan to be and because of that, I can’t give Annemarie enough thanks for the education she has given me.
The Roeper philosophy has been immortalized through its idealistic nature so when Annemarie talks about mourning her own future, I hope she finds peace, hope, and comfort knowing that the knowledge she passed on during her life will never die. Annemarie, you will be dearly missed and I carry you in my heart always.
Leah Marie Walkiewicz
To read additional caring bridge entries and/or to share condolences yourself, please visit Annemarie’s Caring Bridge page created by her children. Annemarie’s family will be extremely grateful for anything you feel able to share!
Annemarie’s obituary can be viewed here.
To see a slideshow depicting Annemarie’s life, please click here.
Also, please do consider joining us in person, if you are able, at Annemarie’s Memorial Service: “A Gathering to Celebrate the Life and Self of Annemarie Bondy Roeper”, to be held Saturday, August 25th, 2012 on the Bloomfield Hills campus of the Roeper School.
This blog entry was produced for Mary St. George’s gifted awareness blog tour taking place in June 2012. To view the rest of the tour, please visit http://ultranet.giftededucation.org.nz/WebSpace/696/.
1- Annemarie Roeper’s Obituary by Lori Zinser
2- “An Education of Meaning: A Tribute to the Vision of George A. Roeper” by Marcia Ruff
3-The Roeper Philosophy