Two former faculty members and two current faculty members were recently honored with the Brace Center for Gender Studies’ McKeen Award, marking the first time that multiple people have won the award. Given annually to a member of the Phillips Academy community, the honoree is “a person who contributes to improve Phillips Academy as a coeducational school,” said Brace Center Director Tony Rotundo. This year’s winners were Instructors in English Mary Fulton and Lynne Kelly, and former Instructors in English Ada Fan and Carole Braverman. The award is given in the spirit of Philena McKeen, a former headmistress of Abbot Academy. Rotundo said that the synergy of these people ultimately created an impact greater than just four individuals. Kelly, who arrived at Andover in 1986, said that she and the other three recipients are all good friends who find that their lives converge outside of the English department. Both are mothers, and Kelly is a mother of both genders. Braverman came to teach at Phillips Academy in 1979, only three years after the school merged with Abbot. According to Braverman, when she arrived the school was being re-evaluated, so she helped create the course “The Images of Women,” which Fan later taught. Braverman wrote in an email that she was always disappointed by the limited opportunities for women as she was growing up. As a teacher, she wanted her students to have a sense of life’s many possibilities. She thinks that incorporating gender studies into a classroom requires “consciousness, the recognition, in reading and in life, of the equality of men and women.” Ada Fan, who arrived at Phillips Academy in 1983 and left last year, taught the course “Images of Women” after Braverman. Fan later renamed the course, “The Narrow Mirror.” Fan said that she was always interested in reading about women from a young age. “I’ve always had an awareness of gender,” said Fan. Fan believes that gender studies should not be necessary if today’s society truly believes in equality. However, she said that there is unfortunately still gender inequality and that most cultures are narrow-minded. In a way, boys and men have less freedom, Fan said, especially in how they dress. Fan said that most Phillips Academy students would not consider themselves feminists because the word has a connotation of belief that women are superior to men. This reputation has created an anti-feminist atmosphere, Fan said. Fulton, who also taught “The Images of Women,” said that gender awareness “is such a part of being human.” Fulton said that people used assume that writing by male authors could be read universally, but that writing by a woman only applied to women. Kelly said, “Gender comes into play in our everyday life.” She now teaches “The Empire Strikes Back,” which focuses on women from South Africa, Ireland and India. “I can’t imagine a world without mixed dynamics between men and women,” said Kelly. Kelly said that gender comes into play in a classroom because if there are only a couple boys in a class, they have to represent their entire gender, and vice versa if there are few girls. “It will be an honor and pleasure to stand together on stage,” said Kelly. The McKeen Award will be presented to the four honorees on January 18.
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