As I reflect on my time as a former student, teacher, and staff member at Episcopal School of Jacksonville - I would like to use my voice and reach today to share my story of the woman that so many in this community love and remember forever.
I'd be lying if I said I remembered the first time I met Dale Regan. She was already a key figurehead at the school long before my arrival, and our encounters were brief during my time as a student. It was not until I returned to the school 4 years later, seeking employment at my alma mater, that I really got to know the woman behind the position.
Episcopal opened its arms to me, as it does to everyone, and by offering me my first “real job”, continued to educate me through my adult years, as the location did through my childhood. Episcopal is a community where you couldn't turn a corner without bumping into a friend, confidant, mentor, or simply a smiling face. It's a place that feels like home the minute someone utters "Nice to meet you". A place I will always attest to raising me to be the educated and accomplished woman I am today. Which makes sense, as it was an environment that commended creativity, encouraged education, and really begged you to be the person it knew you could be.
As I mentioned before, there are few early memories I have of Dale, but the later ones, where she was my mentor and confidant are the ones that stand out. You couldn't pass by this woman without hearing a kind or encouraging word. She would often call me into her office just to see how I was doing - and her timing always seemed impeccable, as though she knew I just needed to talk. I vividly remember my last two conversations with Dale. The day I told her I was leaving Episcopal to pursue other job opportunities and then our very last conversation at a fund raising event for the school shortly before she left us.
You know that a mentor will always be a mentor when you tell them you're resigning and their first response is "good!". I was terrified to go speak with Dale, and tell the woman who gave me the position that I wanted to try new things and grow through new experiences... I was afraid I would be letting her down, or disappointing her. But, the words she said, "I'm glad you're leaving" just sent my head into a whirl! Of course, her comments were slightly in jest, and followed with, "don't get me wrong, I'm sad to see you go, but get out of here and go make your mark on the world..." When she said, “yes, you are done growing and learning here. I agree it's time for you to move on, and I'm happy to see what you do next!” That's when I knew I truly met a remarkable leader. Although Dale will not get to see my path she had inspired, it's more to the point that it is still her inspiration that leads me to where I am today and will be tomorrow. She encouraged me to take chances and seek out growth opportunities. To never settle and keep reaching for the sky.
The last time I spoke with Dale, she told me she would see me again, and she followed this sentiment with "Episcopal gives you roots and wings". The stability to set a secure footing, but the tools and inspiration to expand your potential to reach higher heights than you ever imagined. Dale herself is the school's roots and its wings now. With her connection to the 800yr old Great Oak, and the beautiful plaza dedication today, to the wings she wears... She is in our past, our now and is in our future as we all aspire to the greatness she always knew we had.
"Once there was a tree.... and she loved a little boy. And everyday the boy would come and he would gather her leaves and make them into crowns and play king of the forest. He would climb up her trunk and swing from her branches and eat apples. And they would play hide-and-go-seek. And when he was tired, he would sleep in her shade. And the boy loved the tree.... very much. And the tree was happy."
- An excerpt from The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein.
Dale, you gave us all you had, and you were always more than happy to do so! This excerpt is the perfect reference of the day, and the Great Oak, the perfect symbol of your love and sacrifice for the school, to which you gave your life.
Thank you Dale, for everything.
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