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Remembering Mrs. B.

A Celebration of Life was held in Benjamin Hall in honor of the late Mrs. Nancy Benjamin on November 18, 2015.

Mrs.+Benjamin+addresses+the+middle+school+students+during+the+high+tea+which+was+held+in+her+honor+on+November+6%2C+2013.
Mrs. Benjamin addresses the middle school students during the high tea which was held in her honor on November 6, 2013.

Mrs. Benjamin addresses the middle school students during the high tea which was held in her honor on November 6, 2013.

Mr. Crisafi

Mr. Crisafi

Mrs. Benjamin addresses the middle school students during the high tea which was held in her honor on November 6, 2013.

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“Be kind, Be kind, Be kind!” is a common phrase that all students remember hearing from Mrs. Nancy Benjamin, co-founder of The Benjamin School. Mrs. Benjamin passed away on November 9, 2015, the day after her 89th birthday with loving family members at her side. She left her mark as a co-founder, teacher, mentor, and matriarch. Without Mrs. Nancy Benjamin, The Benjamin School would not be where it is today. She worked her entire life to make Benjamin a creative, learning environment for students to prosper. She and Mr. Benjamin, who passed away in 1986, had the same educational philosophies: to teach children to read and to write, and to develop in them a love of languages, athletics, and the arts.

Mrs. B., as she was lovingly known to all in the Benjamin family, and her late husband, Marshall Benjamin, came to South Florida from Michigan in the 1950s and co-founded what was then called North Palm Beach Private School (NPBPS) in 1960. The school continued to grow, adding grade levels and buildings as the years went by. The Benjamin School began in 1974 as a seventh and eighth-grade junior high and added high school grades in each of the subsequent years. In 1979, TBS graduated its first senior class. A decade later, NPBPS merged with TBS to become the school it is now known as today.

On Wednesday, November 18, a little more than a week after Mrs. B.’s passing, her children – Susy Benjamin and Matthew Benjamin, along with her granddaughter, Chloe Bieber – held a celebration of life for Mrs. B. in Benjamin Hall. All after school events were cancelled to allow students and families to visit and pay their respects to Mrs. Benjamin and her family.
Before the service, a slideshow put together by Ms. Susy Benjamin and her close childhood friend, Lower School Administrative Assistant Ms. Ami Reece, was projected on the two screens that flank the stage in the Hoffman Family Auditorium. This slide show included photos of Mrs. B.’s closest family and friends.

Several people spoke, including Mrs. Benjamin’s daughter who delivered a very heartfelt speech about her late mother. Ms. Benjamin’s speech was eloquent and witty. She reminded the audience how Mrs. B. could not stand when people said “Yeah” instead of “Yes,” and then her brother Matthew told wonderful stories about his mother’s often ill-advised attempts at cooking dinners featuring meatloaf with cottage cheese in it. It helped the audience laugh even as they grieved.

Ms. Joanna Hogan, currently a fifth-grade teacher at Benjamin who began at TBS as Mrs. B.’s assistant in the 1970s, knew Mrs. B for more than 50 years. During the memorial service, Hogan recalled her fond memories of being invited to The Benjamins’ cliffside cottage in the Bahamas and spoke of Mrs. Benjamin’s love of life and teaching. “Mrs. B. loved to teach,” Hogan told The Neersyde. “Her classes were intellectually stimulating, but she never let the students doubt that she had their best interests in mind. However, she could be strict, especially where manners were concerned. If you yawned, showed disrespect in any way, you generally had one of two choices: run laps around the football field or memorize stanzas from ‘The Raven’ by Edgar Allen Poe.”

Many students from The Benjamin School attended Mrs. B’ s celebration of life, including seventh grader Cade Odom. “It was a sad memorial but nice to see how many students came to it, and…I learned many things about Mrs. Benjamin, like how she and Mr. Benjamin hand built a house in the Bahamas and spent their summers there with hardly any electricity.”

Head of the Middle School Mr. Charles Hagy recalled one of his first experiences with Mrs. B. 23 years ago. On his first day at TBS, Hagy was teaching fifth grade, and Mrs. Benjamin introduced herself. She asked Hagy what his qualifications were to teach fifth grade at The Benjamin School. Hagy said, “I told her about my various degrees, and then Mrs. B responded that none of that mattered. She said, ‘If you love your students, then they will follow you anywhere.’ I go by that philosophy every day,” stated Hagy.

Mrs. Carolyn Montini, a close colleague and friend of Mrs. Benjamin for more than 40 years, described Mrs. Benjamin as a ubiquitous and benevolent figure at the School. “Mrs. Benjamin would often come to lectures and my programs and greet the parents and children with a smile and firm handshake. To her, manners were very important. She believed that to succeed in this world you needed to know how to conduct yourself when you were with others. She would always ask about my husband, my son and his wife, and their sons. She was always sitting on the top riser in the gym for the kindergarten holiday program and would give her signature wave when introduced. I will miss that this year, just as I will miss her sitting on the end seat in the first row of the BPAC at my second and fourth-grade performances. She will not be gone, just away, and forever in my head, my heart, and in every note I sing or play at The Benjamin School.”

Mrs. B.’s legacy will live on, not only in the memories of her friends and former colleagues, but amongst the current crop of students and faculty. The Benjamin Middle School’s Student Council recently purchased and dedicated two benches in honor of Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin. A plaque will be placed on each bench which celebrates the couple’s legacy. “Nancy [Benjamin] was the first person I met at The Benjamin School 24 years ago,” said Summer Institute Director and Middle School Student Council Advisor Mrs. Loretta Cory.

We know that Mrs. Benjamin’s message to “Be kind, Be kind, Be kind!” will echo throughout The Benjamin School’s history and continue to resonate with students forever.

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1 Comment

One Response to “Remembering Mrs. B.”

  1. LARRY S LEDFORD on May 5th, 2016 9:36 am

    What a sad passing., My sister works at the Benjamin School and has told me so many great stories about Mrs. B. What a lady and what an inspiration to teachers. Her story should be in the syllabus of every curriculum for future teachers. I add my condolences to those who knew and loved her and lived by her principles.

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