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50 Years of Firsts

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” ~Lao-Tzu

Providence Day School has grown and changed each year since its founding in 1970, surpassing many significant milestones. Drawn from over the decades, here are some of the school’s memorable “firsts.” (Some recollections are edited for length and clarity).

First Teacher, 1970

On September 28, 1970, Providence Day School opened its doors with 112 students in fifth and sixth grades and five teachers. Clara Ellen Peeler was one of those original teachers, and taught on the faculty until 1984. She remains a member of the Golden Chargers today.

The only regret I have about that first year is that we did not make any pictures.... That first year, we were so busy trying to meet fire codes, sanitary codes, public instruction works, texts, curriculum, that it didn’t dawn on us that we needed to be taking some pictures. And we didn’t do it. I regret that because we truthfully do not have anything from that (year). 

I loved everything about my 14 years at Providence Day. I only left because I was losing my hearing and some of my vision, and you do not deal with teenagers when you have problems like that, or I would have stayed longer. I loved everything about it. And every year I saw advancements. 

One of my things I am very proud of Providence Day about is, they have now hired as teachers and staff graduates from Providence Day..., and I admire what has been done here, and I’m very proud and I’m very thankful to have been part of it.

First Graduating Class, 1975

In 1975, the first graduating class of Providence Day accepted diplomas, including senior class member Steve Goldberg ’75. He is currently Managing Director at SCS Media. 

I didn't know it at the time but for all of us in those first years of Providence Day, we were engaged in our first startup, long before that was considered the cool and trendy thing to do. But a startup it was and we were all entrepreneurs as necessary, tasked with imagining, creating, developing, and refining the details and culture of what PDS has become even though none of us envisioned the institution that exists today.

It was different in the early ’70s. The teachers had crappy cars and the students had worse.

We were all – students, faculty, parents, and administration – fully engaged and invested in every aspect of the school. And I mean every aspect. We literally painted the walls. And during one summer before driver's licenses expanded our options, several of my classmates and I worked for Thomas [Tarrant, custodian for 47 years], not just painting everything but fixing doors, cleaning desks and chairs, planting shrubs, anything that needed doing.

The red, white, and blue colors, the Chargers name, the logo; these were all features that were nominated, debated and finally, voted upon and selected by all of us.

Though our resources were far more limited, it was the collective mission and effort to build something that would last, and ourselves in the process, that will always remain special to my memories of Providence Day and I couldn't be prouder of what it has become and the positive impact its graduates will have on the world going forward.

First Morehead Scholar, 1986 

Student-athlete Rupal Naik Romero ’86 became the first PD student to win the prestigious and highly competitive Morehead Scholarship (now the Morehead-Cain) to UNC Chapel Hill, back in 1986. She is now a staff attorney for a Fulton County Superior Court judge in the Atlanta area. 

Looking back at my time at Providence Day through the lens of our current reality -- a pandemic that has not only impacted the health, but also upended the education of so many children worldwide; and a social justice movement that seems long overdue --  I cannot overstate the importance of  my teachers and classmates at PD.    

I had the benefit of dedicated and supportive teachers who challenged me to do better, think more deeply, and work smarter. They would not allow me to take the easy path (which was always tempting for any teen) and urged me to question my underlying assumptions about the world and my place in it. Given that Charlotte, in general, and our school, in particular, were not very diverse or worldly at the time, it was a luxury to have educators who were intellectually curious and culturally sensitive.  

Moreover, I had a wonderful group of close friends and a large circle of supportive and friendly classmates and teammates. I am an immigrant, and I was a minority in a school that was mostly white at the time. And yet, I was rarely made to feel ‘other....’ 

The Morehead Scholarship changed the trajectory of my life. I cannot overstate its profound effect on me. The greatest impact of the scholarship was the opportunity to meet other scholars from around the world who were smart, driven, and passionate about social issues. I discovered my agency, my personal efficacy, to influence the issues I care about.  

I attended Georgetown University Law Center, where I met my smart, funny and talented husband, Horacio Romero. Our son, Vijay, was born in 2005, and he is a tenth grader at the Atlanta International School. 

If I were to draw a consistent line through my life so far, it would be the mantra of  “do good and be good,” a spark that was lit by the example of my smart and accomplished parents, nurtured at Providence Day, and fanned into flames at college.  And to quote my patron saint, Alexander Hamilton, there are a million things I haven’t done, but just you wait...

First Charger Hall of Fame Inductees, 1995

Norman Schellinger ’79 played tennis during his time at Providence Day School and went on to play professional tennis. He was inducted in the Charger Hall of Fame in 1995 along with Reggie Clark ’87.

I had a great time at Providence Day School. If I was still living in Charlotte I would have my kids go there too. I have a lot of great memories there. When I first went there I went to class in the original house that was bought to establish the school. It was like the Brady Bunch house on the show. I also remember outside that house on a picnic bench we were asked to come up with the first school colors which I think were purple and yellow. And we painted the picnic table those colors. I remember [the first Athletic faculty member] Gil Murdock and how fantastic he was with the Athletic department; I spent a lot of time there because of tennis.

Each year I was there until I graduated it seemed like every year I returned to school a new building had been built as the school grew and grew. But my most favorite memories were the tennis team and Ben Topham (at the time he was the science teacher) who became our tennis coach. He was a fantastic teacher, mentor, and friend through those years. I hope my kids can have the same school memories that I had as they grow up. 

Providence Day School had the biggest impact on my life throughout the years even more than my college days. I ended up playing professional tennis after I left school and now I have a shipping logistics company that I run with my wife Erika. We have two boys, Bryce and Everest. I was very honored to be one of the first inductees into the Hall of Fame with Reggie Clark in 1995.

Reggie Clark ’87 was an exceptional athlete at Providence Day, playing football, basketball, and baseball. Clark became the first Providence Day athlete inducted into the Charger Hall of Fame for football in 1995. After graduation, he continued his football career at UNC and went on to play in the NFL for the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Jacksonville Jaguars. He is now the parent of a member of the PD class of ’26.

My four years at PD were some of the best years of my life. It was more than just an education of books, it was an education of what life could be when you applied yourself. It was like having an extended family and no matter what your background was, we were all the same. Socially and professionally I was prepared for where my life would take me. 

Some of my fondest memories, wow! There were so many. Just to name a few, I can recall our senior trip to the Okefenokee Swamp. One of our boats capsized in a downpour and several of us had to help our classmates turn it over and get to dry land. It didn’t seem that serious at the time, but now that I think of it, thank goodness everyone got out unharmed. Then there were the state championships in basketball and the one in football. 

Along with the many great times with faculty and classmates, being able to drop in on the Lower School and spend time with the younger kids was quite rewarding. That experience kept me humble and taught me a valuable lesson of setting a good example for them.

First Global Studies Diploma, 2007

Brittany Stockman ’07 was part of the first graduating class that had an opportunity to earn a Global Studies Diploma and now works as an Associate for the law firm Jones Day in Miami. Providence Day was the first school in the nation to create the Global Studies Diploma for Upper School students and remains a leader in helping define global education in America.

Thanks to the advantages I had at Providence Day School, in large part through the Global Studies Diploma program, I had the opportunity to travel abroad, become fluent in another language, and gain a better understanding of other cultures.  

These experiences helped me in both my university and my professional career. Unfortunately, few students in the United States have the chance to gain an appreciation of other countries and peoples. 

Without such exposure, they cannot empathize with those who look or act ‘foreign’ to them, leading to intolerance and even racism. We need programs like the Global Studies Diploma in every school.  

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