Beloved Former Faculty Member Nan Mein Returns to SAS Classrooms
Beloved Former Faculty Member Nan Mein Returns to SAS Classrooms
Liz Torrey

Last week, beloved former faculty member Nan Mein returned to campus to visit with students in classrooms and on dorms. She gave a talk to the residents of her namesake residence hall Mein Dorm (seen here), who this year have held a Monday night speaker series featuring the women of St. Andrew's. Fittingly, they titled this series "Matriarchs of Mein" and Nan served as their capstone speaker for the year. Mein also visited Emily Pressman's III Form U.S. History classes and spoke with students about integration and co-education at St. Andrew's, both of which were introduced to the School shortly before and shortly after she joined the faculty in the early 1970s. Pressman's students are writing their final research paper of the year on the history of the School's integration or co-education efforts. "I'm having my III Formers do some microhistory at this point in the year," Pressman said, "wrestling with the history of St. Andrew's around the topics of integration and coeducation, and putting our local history into broader histories of civil rights, integration, and second wave feminism."

"I feel like a voice from the Middle Ages," Mein said at the beginning of her talk with III Form students, "because I suppose for most of you here the Seventies are ancient history. It's something that you read about in a book. But from my perspective, the Seventies were prime-time. It was a wonderful time for change in American life. To have been a part of that was just a rare opportunity... to be a part of what now turns out to be two important movements: the women's movement and the anti-war movement."

Mein and her husband Simon joined St. Andrew's faculty in 1971, Nan as the school's first female member of the academic faculty and Simon as a Chaplain. The School admitted its first female students in the fall of 1973, and, Mein was an integral member of the "Girls Planning Committee", which worked to prepare the School for its new female students.

"The Board of Trustees had decided the year before to go co-educational," Mein recalled. "The early years here for being an early woman teacher—it was not an easy row to hoe. It was an all-male school with all-male traditions. There wasn't even a women's bathroom in [Founders]. If visiting moms had to go to the bathroom, their sons would take them up on corridor and stand outside the men's room while they used the facilities. This was not good enough." The Meins stayed on at St. Andrew's for two decades, serving as dorm parents, housemasters, and, in Nan's case, as Chair of the History Department from 1988 to 1991.

Coincidentally, Mein's visit took place the day before the School's annual Mein Chapel. This last Chapel of the School year features four VI Form students, who deliver Chapel Talks on their experiences at St. Andrew's. Mein began this tradition in her own classroom, where she had VI Form students write and read aloud essays about their time at SAS at the end of each school year. You can listen to this year's Mein Chapel talks on our website's Podcasts page.

In his book Time to Remember: A Biography of St. Andrew's School from the 1950s to the 198, longtime faculty member Bill Amos recounts Mein's impact during her years at SAS:

"From her arrival in 1972 Nan Mein was a scholar-resident of the old instructional corridor.... from her second year into the 1990s she offered courses in history that have not been surpassed. Their range was astonishing, from medieval times to the present. When the lovely faculty coffee room was finally converted to a classroom, it became Nan's—gracious and untidy, cluttered with the presence of history. The force of her intellect, her rich expression, her resources and experience made for memorable courses... Nan was not only beloved but one of the most effective teachers the school has known. Under her benign but scholarly authority, students learned."

Enjoy Nan's talk with students and her colorful reminiscences about SAS on our Vimeo page.

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