Mary Crist Fleming and her international schools: heritage, achievements, legacy
Martinez, Gwendoline S.
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Educational innovations, throughout history, have been largely due to the inspired vision and subsequent achievements of a single individual. One such pioneer is Mary Crist Fleming, an American woman, who, in 1955, travelled to Switzerland to run a summer program for a handful of students and then stayed on to found the first American boarding school in Europe, known as TASIS, The American School in Switzerland. With no financial backing, in a country where women had not yet been given the right to vote, she set up a program to offer young Americans the opportunity to enhance their education with the learning oflanguages at first-hand, and experience Europe's artistic and cultural heritage, in a setting chosen for its outstanding beauty. She is now in her ninety-fourth year. Through a series of interviews carried out over the past four years, aimed at describing and explaining this career, with its successes and failures, forms the basis for this dissertation. The lives of three other educational pioneers, the American Mary Lyon, the founder of Mount Holyoke College, the Italian Maria Montessori, creator of the Montessori Schools, and the German Kurt Hahn, who established a holistic style of education at his school in Salem, and later founded Gordonstoun in Scotland, are reviewed and comparisons made between them and Mary Crist Fleming. They all have a number of characteristics in common, which are discussed under three subheadings, namely, Heritage, Achievements, and Legacies. Heritage is essentially Mrs. Fleming's biography, from her childhood in America and her early education there, to her long career in the international arena. The section on Achievements explores those factors, which have been major influences in her life, as well as in the lives of the other three pioneers, including traditional values, social entrepreneurship, risk taking, and charismatic leadership. In the final section, Legacy, each of the four founders' legacies is explored in detail.
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