After having taught all of perhaps five weeks, I met David Mallery. The occasion was a conference in Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia for new teachers and those new to Quaker schools. All of 22, I spoke to David in the lobby of the conference center about my concerns about my school's varsity football coach going too far with too many kids. David, being David, listened — and never forgot that conversation.
Over almost all of 30 years since that talk, he never failed to remember it, nor subsequent ones in the Germantown Friends School parking lot, nor any other place we met. He was, as one colleague whom I later encouraged to attend the Westtown Conference put it, “One Big Ear.” In almost 52 years on the planet, I have never met a kinder person. I suspect he will remain the kindest person I will ever know.
Indeed, he was so kind that those of us of a different personality, perhaps born of a New York/North Jersey mindset, couldn’t possibly believe that a bright person could find so much good in so many people, given the usual distribution of human flaws, eccentricities and downright fabrications. In fact, a good friend from Germantown days couldn’t stand David’s relentlessly positive orientation toward life and work, finding a particular flaw in his enthusiasm for movies of inconsistent merit. I heard her, but I didn’t really care, for I’d always found David worth hearing on just about any topic. In a world of what was wrong, he just always seemed to find whatever little that was right.
But he could see what was wrong. It was somehow that he just didn’t want, as the kids say, to “go there.” When I challenged him on the issue, this business of being too sunny too often about too many things, David just said, “I prefer to concentrate on the positives in people.” He did indeed. Maybe the rest of us should consider that option.
For all that, he could be tough, too, as when he told a great friend who had been dismissed by an incompetent and conflicted Board, “When another guy called me about the job, I told him he shouldn’t touch it with a barge pole.” So David was, when pressed, capable of taking down someone, or some group, who deserved it — though he never broadcast the sentiment. And he probably only took action when protecting a friend.
For, if David was defined in any sort of way, it was by his friends. So very many friends. Indeed, pun that it is, where would the Friends Council on Education be were it not for David? As a Roman Catholic kid from who had gone to public schools in New Jersey and a private, secular college in Massachusetts, I had little idea what to make of William Penn Charter School in the fall of 1980.
I understood the English teaching part and the football coaching part, but I had no idea what to do with the Quaker part. Until I met David Mallery, that is. Through his gentle wisdom, I became so enamored of Friends Schools that I encouraged my sister to join one, Wilmington Friends, where she met her husband, also a teacher, in time for them to marry at Westtown, the great Quaker boarding school. That my very Catholic mother survived her daughter’s marrying a Jewish guy in a Quaker service remains a subject of comment to this day in our inadvertently multicultural family.
David Mallery, with no specific intent, made this possible, for he was, truly, ecumenical. He never gave me the slightest reason to believe that my Catholic heritage, nor my school’s lack of a Meeting, mattered a bit. He just listened to, considered, then found, and reflected back, the best he ever found in anybody he met. For those of us who met him at vulnerable, insecure and transitional points in our lives, he was the unconditionally loving and expressive parent we’d always lacked. He was, always, “there.”
I knew this experience of David again in 1987, when I decided to leave my secure but unfulfilling job as a television anchorman and return to independent school education. Not only did David welcome me back, he spent money on my attending the legendary Westtown Seminar. There, I met a great friend with whom I still correspond and a wonderful guy with whom I need to reconnect, but most of all I remembered why I missed teaching and coaching, and had found television news soulless by comparison.
Indeed, as I think of it, perhaps that above all is what David Mallery had: soul.
Not soul as in the Soul Music of the also recently departed Teddy Pendergrass, for David was the whitest of Chestnut Hill white guys, but soul nonetheless — the soul of connecting, worthily, with other human beings. Perhaps it was that when you spoke with David Mallery, you knew he was listening, knew he was present to you, knew he was fully in the moment. He was, as my colleague had it, One Big Ear. Is that not soul?
I recall the last long talk I had with David. I went to see him in Chestnut Hill and took him a copy of Joshua Wolf Shenk’s Lincoln’s Melancholy. I did so because I thought it was a book worth reading (I still do), and more because David had been a staunch supporter during my own battle with depression, and my return to health. There are few things in life as bad as clinical depression, and there are few people as valuable throughout as unconditional friends. David was one to me. Like the great moment in the movie Ordinary People — a movie I am sure was in the class I took at GFS in the early 1980’s—he may have been the Donald Sutherland character who “had no taste” because “he liked everybody,” but in my moment, I only cared that he liked — and valued — me.
In a cable-television world that generates profits by taking people down, I know with certainty that I would be participating in that enterprise were it not for the soul of David Mallery, one person who taught me, in every moment over almost 30 years, to care about the best in other people first. I have on my dresser his final Christmas note, written weeks ago, expressing his abiding interest. Would that I had, that I could, properly return his concern. It would have been the very least I could do for someone who did so very much for so many. In a mean world, David Mallery was the kindest person I ever knew.
Chris Teare is director of college counseling at Antilles School (United States Virgin Islands).
|I am saddened to report that David Mallery GFS '41 passed away on January 16, 2010. All who knew this master teacher mourn his loss...The GFS students in his English classes (1946-59) and the thousands of educators he taught for over 50 years have lost a dear friend and mentor. The founder of the Religious Society of Friends, George Fox, invites us "to walk cheerfully upon the earth seeing that of God in everyone." David lived out this ideal. He will be remembered for his effervescence, his eternal optimism and his ability to be truly present for each person he encountered. We who have had the privilege of knowing and working with David can attest to his love for his students (both adults and children). His optimism was infectious and wisdom profound.|
We at Germantown Friends School have been proud of this a distinguished alumnus and former faculty member as well as a mentor and good friend. Even as we mourn his passing, we recognize his impact on education, his legacy through the many educators he mentored.
While the following paragraphs try to sum up many of David's achievements, we also know he left a wonderful family who has suffered a grievous loss. We offer our condolences to His wife, Judith Chappell Mallery '52, his children, Roger '77 and Diane Cusick '80 and the rest of the Mallery family.
David was born on August 2, 1923 to Otto Mallery and Louise Marshall. Otto was involved in many civic works throughout his lifetime, from the city of Philadelphia level (City Charter Commission) to the federal government (business specialist, U.S. Department of Commerce). David's brother, Bayard Mallery, also attended GFS as part of the class of '37, but did not graduate. David's niece and nephew are GFS alumni, Peter Mallery '57, in Michigan; and Joanne Denne, '55, who joined the Peace Corps in 1997. David also has a brother and sister from his father's previous marriage.
David started at Germantown Friends School in second grade, continuing through to twelfth. One of David's favorite teachers was Irvin Poley, for his love and passion for theater, teaching, and movies and for his wisdom and ability to engage kids. It was Poley who first gave David a break as a teacher eight years after graduating. David's GFS involvement was great, with participation in the glee club, elocution team, the Malvern Festival, editor in chief of The Pastorian, soccer, and tennis. Some of the many honors David received include the Roberta Jarden English Award, the Davis H. Forsythe Alumni Award, Tennis Champion Cup, and Valedictorian of his class, leading to a commencement speech at graduation in 1941.
After graduating from Germantown Friends School, David continued on to Haverford College, where he graduated in 1944 with a Bachelor of Arts in French. Further schoolwork was done at Middlebury College, Bread Loaf School of English, earning a Masters in English in 1952. The masters work was done over the summer while he taught at GFS.
David started his career at Germantown Friends School as an intern in 1946, filling in whenever a teacher was sick (according to him, teachers were sick quite a lot that year). Midway through the year, Irvin Poley offered him his own tenth grade English class to teach for the rest of the year. This lead to a heavy involvement in many aspects of the GFS community life, including helping with the first non Gilbert and Sullivan drama production in 1949, "O Sing Your Songs," a medley of songs from different musicals. David taught and directed at Germantown Friends until 1959, when he left on a project traveling around the country to talk to children about the influence of their school experience on their personal values. This exploration led to a career in education from the perspective of observer, investigator, and advisor. Through presentations and workshops he became a leader in independent schools.
David served as the professional development director for Friends Council on Education as well as a Consultant to Schools and Director of Professional Development for the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS). His seminars for faculty and administrators as they pursued their careers were matched with professional development workshops at schools as well as regional, national and international organizations. He brought together people from different parts of the country and served as mentor to many of the participants for years afterward.
While his travels have taken him far, David has always remained in touch with Germantown Friends and issues involving the Quaker community. David served on the School Committee, authoring a letter to the Committee Meeting at GFS in 1966 to voice opinions even though he would be thousands of miles away when the meeting took place. David hosted the opening of the Second International Congress on Quaker Education in June 1997. In recent years, David stayed very involved with Germantown Friends School, leading an all day workshop in 2007. He also was a popular speaker at alumni reunions, remembering his former students by name. He cherished his school correspondences.
David's wife, Judy Chappell, is a graduate of Germantown Friends School, class of 1952. She taught middle school music at GFS for 39 years, starting with the school professionally in 1967. Their children are both GFS lifers: Roger is class of 1977 and Diane Mallery Cusick, class of 1980.
Dick Wade is head of school at Germantown Friends School (Pennsylvania).
When word arrived in mid-January that David Mallery had passed away, memories of conversations, seminars, and stories shared over unhurried lunches softened the sadness of our loss of this authentic independent school friend who was the ultimate teacher. Gazing toward the calendar on the wall of our kitchen, I now understood why I hadn’t heard back from David about our planned “summit” (as he loved to refer to our lunch dates in Chestnut Hill) on January 11th. I sat down and began to reflect on our times together for the past few decades which underscored how no single person had meant more to my growth and development as a teacher and administrator than David Mallery.
My first encounter with David Mallery was more than 40 years ago in Washington where David was conducting a session at a national conference for NAIS. Knowing nothing of his background, I was a bit of a film buff who was drawn to his session which had something to do with moral lessons from films, though I remember little more about the program. What I do recall is this passionate, inspiring speaker who wasn’t preaching to his audience; instead, he was assisting us in discovering the right questions to be asking ourselves about the integration of film into our respective classes.
Some years passed before I shared a few days with David and a dear friend, Larry Roberts, who was then the headmaster of Williams School, during one of his midwinter seminars for teacher-administrators at Sugarloaf in Philadelphia. While the specific details of the workshops elude me, I happily recall a wintry evening when several of the seminar participants, including David, trudged through a driving snowstorm to a secluded basement bowling alley across the street from the conference center. With a few beers and a bottle of wine that was left over from dinner tucked into our coats, we created an impromptu “Bowling for Dollars” event which lasted longer than any of us had realized until we gazed at a clock, reminding us that morning breakfast was just a few hours away.
Though the snow had ended sometime after we retired for the night, we were still a bit flaky when we arrived at breakfast to a smiling Mr. Mallery who with arms on our shoulders, approvingly reminded Larry and me about the unwritten script that had played out the night before during our bowling party. “There is nothing more satisfying than being around two people whose lives are so important to one another,” he reminded us. “I watch the two of you and see how your friendship is celebrated through spontaneous silliness that we don’t permit ourselves to do as much as we should.”
How right you are, David! Of all the lessons I have learned from this man over the past 20 years as we have shared lunch dates on so many summer days, the most important is to celebrate family and friendship. While his advice on school matters, typically framed around the most important questions to ask myself, were often the purpose of our meetings, I soon came to realize that it was once again the unscripted conversation that I would later draw upon. His joyful smile, witty charm, and generous spirit were what I came to know would be the best part of these occasions. When Larry and I together visited David for the last time several months ago, we spent hours after lunch sitting in the basement of his home on Crefeld Street, surrounded by movie posters and other icons of his years as an associate with the American Film Institute. Above us on a wall was a photograph of Gregory Peck, which led to an extended conversation about the film, To Kill A Mockingbird.
“The best part of having a brief connection with Gregory Peck was to see that he was as genuine off the screen as he was as Atticus Finch in the film,” he recalled. Genuine. That’s the first word that comes to mind as I celebrate the life of David Mallery, a true friend, devoted family man, and master teacher.
Peter Schmidt is the upper school director at Gill-St. Bernard's School (New Jersey).
Author's Note: The title of this piece says almost everything that I think and feel about David Mallery. However, I am going to write quite a bit below, and I want to give readers a chance to skip the long version — if they so desire. — P.V.B.
Most teachers and administrators first met David Mallery because a colleague or friend made the connection. So it was with me at Princeton Day School (PDS) in the early 1970s when Huson Gregory and Steve Gilbert suggested that I might like to attend the Tenth Westtown Seminar the following June. As they were enthusiastic alumni of that seminar, I agreed willingly. Little did I know at that time how much their invitation and my acceptance would change both my personal and professional life.
THE WESTTOWN SEMINAR — As others have written, a June week at Westtown School with David Mallery and his friends was simply inestimable. Few participants can ever describe the exact nature of those magical days. There were small-group and large-group activities, excellent guest presenters, fabulous food, wonderful films, and, of course David himself. Those Westtown weeks took months to design, but, to the participants, it was an effortless adventure in teaching, learning, and living. My fondest memory of David at Westtown was his always standing by with yet another box of ice cream sandwiches for all of us. I recommended people to David for Westtown every year thereafter, and I am still in touch with Westtown X colleagues.
KRISHEIM CENTER — The following fall, David asked me if I would be a staff member at a gathering of teachers new to Friends schools at the Krisheim Center. I was both honored and flattered to be asked. Watching David work with those — mostly young — teachers for three days and two nights, I became much more self-aware about what and why and how one teaches. Each exercise David directed brought forth a wealth of information. Then we divided into small groups to process that information. Again, I did not know it, but a workshop pattern was becoming embedded in my mind.
NAIS ACADEMIC COMMITTEE — In the spring of 1974 — just before I left PDS for a position in the Graduate Liberal Studies Program at Wesleyan University — David submitted a number of names to NAIS for service on their Academic Committee. I was delighted to be selected along with heads of schools and other teachers including my (now) life-long friends Steve Davenport, Dick Zajchowski, Manvel Schauffler, Betty Ann Workman, and others. We met three times a year, and our agenda included just about everything related to education.
Our winter meeting was always in Philadelphia, and the highlight of those winter meetings was a gala dinner at the Mallerys — prepared by Judith, the perfect hostess — followed by "A Cultural" in David's basement movie house. We saw black & white films that none of us had ever seen before, and I know that my love of serious films began then. David, of course, was the spiritual leader of the Academic Committee, and we all looked forward to those thrice-a-year sessions. During the five years that I served on that committee, I had the good fortune to host the meetings no less than eight times at Wesleyan. Out of those sessions grew a very special relationship for David as the reader will see below.
JEANNINE BASINGER AND FRANK CAPRA — During visits to Wesleyan, David met and came to know well the University's esteemed film professor, Jeannine Basinger. David nominated Jeannine for the Board of the American Film Institute. They corresponded and talked endlessly about film. And, when David's friend, Frank Capra, was looking for a place to house all of his books, writings, and films, David connected Mr. Capra with Jeannine and Wesleyan.
The time when Mr. Capra came to Middletown, Connecticut to be honored for his remarkable gift was one of the more exciting and memorable evenings of my life. More recently, David donated over 1,000 of his beloved movie posters to the Wesleyan Film Program.
BEGINNING TEACHERS INSTITUTES (BTIs) — In the early 1970's, David met with master teachers and administrators such as Ed Douglas, Pauline Anderson, Rita Adams, and Alan Houghton in Connecticut to design a very special fall workshop for rookie teachers. These workshops came to be known as Beginning Teacher Institutes (BTIs), and the first ones were sponsored by the Connecticut Association of Independent Schools (CAIS). In 1976, when the director of the CAIS/BTI could not serve, Alan asked David to recommend a "stand in" director for that autumn's workshop. David recommended me, and I accepted. Thus, thanks to David, I began a thirty-year career as a BTI director.
Year after year, CAIS was asked to "export" the BTI model to other state and regional associations. First, we would invite several "old pros" to come to Connecticut and serve on the BTI staff with us. Then, I would travel to that state or region as "Visiting BTI Director" for two or three years and then turn the BTI over to the local "old pros." Before every BTI, I sent my plans to David in Chestnut Hill, and he would call me and critique every part of the program with me.
It is safe to say that I begged, borrowed, or stole just about everything I did at the BTIs from David, but, so what?! And, I am proud to say that, with the recent advent of a BTI in the Pennsylvania Association of Independent Schools, David's original BTI concept from way back in the early 1970s now exists coast to coast. It is one of the things that NAIS state and regional associations do very, very well, and we owe it all to David Mallery's vision.
LETTERS OF REFERENCE — I know thousands of NAIS teachers and administrators who asked David for a Letter of Reference. Did you ever see/read one of David's letters? Yes, he wrote in superlatives, but his comments were never hyped. He backed his thoughts with facts about the man or woman. When I applied for the principalship of a K-8 school in the Berkshires, the Search Chair shared David's letter with me. I was floored. David had interwoven odd bits of my career into a fine tapestry. I could not believe that I was reading about myself. When I was hired as that school's principal, I felt that I had very big shoes to fill — i.e. my own as David had described me.
BEING A SUBSTITUTE FOR DAVID — David was a one-of-a-kind workshop, conference, and seminar leader. That is why his calendar was full all year long. I saw him sit with a faculty of twelve at a small day school one morning and then address a state association meeting of 700 teachers that same afternoon. David's warmth, intensity, and charm shone through equally well at both kinds of meetings.
So, one Sunday morning as I headed out to cross-country ski, I was humbled and challenged by a very hoarse call from David in Philadelphia. He had lost his voice completely, and he needed to be in San Antonio, TX later that day for a two-day, mid-year professional development workshop for a large girls' boarding and day school. David had already arranged for a ticket for me to fly from Hartford to Texas and to be his substitute at that workshop. I was thrilled and scared stiff at the same time. NO ONE COULD OR SHOULD STAND IN THOSE SHOES. However, David was insistent. He told me that all the materials that I needed were already in Texas, and, as the head of school was a friend of mine, I would do just fine. Of course, David had started his call to me with his favorite line, "If you'd be willing!" I had known David long enough by then to know that I certainly did NOT have a choice in the matter. I cleared the decks and went to Texas. Everything went well, and I was honored ever after by being David's sub in Texas.
OTHER ITEMS — David went through several felt-tipped pens a day. When he met a person, he had a pen and an old envelope out writing down that person's name — as the person gave it. That person was now a friend for life. In David's office at Sugarloaf Conference Center, there were four or five huge peg boards covered with pictures of all of David's friends. He was a colleague to everyone. Moreover, he was a correspondent to anyone who wrote to him. I have two DAVID files — one is four inches thick and the other is six inches thick. Whatever one wrote to David, he replied to it directly — whether it was professional or personal in nature. I know that many teachers and administrators shared things with David that they shared with no one else because David would always have a thoughtful, thorough, and acute reply.
David also loved what he called "Summit Meetings." These were 1:1 sessions where one sat knee to knee with David and the talk flowed — education, religion, politics, family, the arts, and, of course, film. No one else I have ever met gave of his time more freely and willingly than David Mallery. And, if David could not arrange a live, 1:1 summit meeting, then he would arrange a specific phone call time with the other person.
SUGAR HILL, NH — One summer, my wife Frances and I were in New Hampshire on Squam Lake. David called from Sugar Hill, a bit further north, and invited us to come and visit. I did NOT want to interrupt David's summer holiday — he never took enough time for himself — but he was insistent. Off we went, past The Old Man of the Mountains, to Polly's Pancake House for a superb late breakfast followed by a tour of David's family home in the White Mountains. While David took Frances down to the piano house, I hatched a plot — very quickly — with his wife Judith in the kitchen. See the next item below for details of that plot!
WESTTOWN SEMINAR 20TH ANNIVERSARY PARTY — It was at this event in 1984 that I came to realize the full impact that David Mallery had had on thousands of people. Judith Mallery, Roger & Diane Mallery, Bob Hallett, Julie Currie and I planned a "Surprise" 20th Anniversary Party for the Westtown Seminar. This event would be a luncheon in the New York Hilton Hotel at the end of the NAIS Conference in New York City. Over 150 people signed up to attend, and we filled two large scrap books of notes and letters from people who could not attend. We all gathered in the ballroom and hoped that Gordon Clem — whose job it was to steer David to the party — would not discover that David and a new friend had ducked out early to see a film. After a few heart-stopping moments, Gordon opened the door, David stepped into the room, and the entire place went "nuts." Everyone clapped, cheered, stomped, whistled, and hollered for almost ten minutes. I thought I knew the love and affection that everyone in NAIS held for David, but this greeting was way beyond anything that I had ever seen before.
Though we had a formal presentation or two to make to David — and he did have a seat at the head table — our original plans went right out the window. David started at one side of the large room and went table to table greeting each and every person by name. The felt tips were out as David met mates and dates for the first time. I do not believe that David ever ate anything — even some of the huge cake. We were finally able to get him to sit down long enough so that Julie could present David with twenty BETA and VHS tapes of his favorite films, Vic Miller could honor David on behalf of the Westtown Seminar faculty, and Bob and I could present David with a check — the event was over-subscribed — with which to launch the first Westtown Seminar Alumni Fund. This event was NAIS at its best — a chance for many of us to honor David as he always honored us.
NOTE — each year thereafter, David's secretary and I sent an appeal letter to all the graduates of the Westtown Seminar asking for gifts to support teachers who might wish to attend the seminar but could not afford to do so. David was always reluctant to ask teachers for money, but, each year, Judith talked him into letting the letter go out. I am so glad that we were able to bring several people each year to Westtown to experience David's magical week. The last "cultural" I had with David was in April 2009 when I took my seven-year-old granddaughter with me to Chestnut Hill. While David and I held our "summit" in the next room, David screened Singin' In The Rain for Julia. When we left, David had yet another fan. Frances and I had tea with David and Judith just before Christmas 2009, and it was the last time I saw him. And, with a red felt tip at work, David's holiday card arrived a few days later. To me, David will always be "The Inventor of Generosity" — and so much more... . We can, we must, pay it forward... .
A teacher/administrator, Peter W. Buttenheim served as principal of Berkshire Country Day School (Massachusetts) from 1979 to 1987 and spent another two decades in administrative posts in other schools, He is recently retired from school life.