GPS Celebrates Women’s History Month with Alumnae Panel

Impressive group of graduates return to campus for special event
Students, faculty, staff, and invited guests gathered in Frierson Theatre this morning for an alumnae panel discussion moderated by GPS Director of Belonging and Community Engagement Lauren Lawrence Swanson ’09. Featured alumnae included Porché Warren Adams, DO ’07, OB-GYN; Colonel Dion Roland Flynn ’91, Commander of the 94th Mission Support Group on Robins Air Force Base; Andrea Saul Nosbusch ’00, Vice President of Public Affairs for Meta, Inc.; Hon. Ashley Moore Palmer ’99, State Court Judge, Cobb County, Georgia; Lily Ryan ’07, Environmental Integration Project Manager at The Walt Disney Company; and Melody Shekari, JD ’06, Executive Director of the Women’s Fund of Chattanooga. 

Head of School Megan Cover welcomed the panel before handing the microphone over to members of the senior Class Leadership Council, who introduced each alumna by reading her bio. Lauren then asked her first question, which was “What impact did attending an all-girls school have on your personal and professional development?” Answers ranged from instilling the confidence to speak up to knowing it’s possible to have a family and a career and knowing that hard work and dedication pay off. 

Next, they were asked if there were any particular women role models or influential figures from GPS that inspired them and continue to inspire them today. 

Porché gave shoutouts to Linda Dizer, a retired head of the science department (She remembers the cat dissection vividly …) and Tracie Marlin Durham ’80, her AP biology teacher who still teaches at GPS today. “Mrs. Durham’s class was life changing for me,” she said. “It solidified that I wanted to pursue science and medicine, and she encouraged me to major in biology in college.”

Dion spoke about Peggy Thomas. “I ran track and played soccer at GPS, but dance was my soul,” she said. “Having her in class—she was rough, tough, unapologetic, but she was creative and exploratory. To have someone that continued to make dance a part of educational life was groundbreaking to me.” She continued on, telling the students that today she is known as the “dancing Colonel.” In her role today, she said it’s important to find the joy where she can, and she enjoys returning to the interpretive dance days of GPS.

Andrea remembers Sue Bartlett, her tennis coach, fondly. “One thing I really learned from her was that you can be a leader and still be kind,” she said. “So many times when women try to make a point or speak up, they are categorized as too aggressive or rude. Sue really models kind and powerful leadership.”

Ashley mentioned Katy Berotti, her English teacher and crew coach. “When I started at GPS in eighth grade, I had no idea how to diagram a sentence, and she really helped me,” she said. “Then, she told me I should be on the crew team, and so I was a coxswain for three years.” Ashley explained that when she was a public defender, a mentor of hers called her up and told her to apply to an open judge position and it reminded her of when Katy told her to be on the crew team. “I think the crew team is where I really found my voice!”

Lily spoke about Suzanne Smartt, who was her drama teacher and advisor. “She always encouraged us to pursue our passions and was there for us.” She also mentioned Linda Mines and Callie Hamilton. “I still remember Mrs. Hamilton lifting a stool and yelling, ‘City on a hill!’ and having us act scenes out on the front lawn. She understood that we all learn differently, and that some of us need to get up and move to learn. That’s something I use to this day in my career.”

Melody reminisced about Linda Mines and Jessica Good, who, at one point, had a conjoined classroom. “Mrs. Good was the only person who told me ‘no,’” she said. “But any time I had an issue or something didn’t go my way, she heard me out. Mrs. Mines was the softer side of that funny pair,” she joked. “She opened your mind up to what the world looks like and what’s out there.”

The women also answered questions from the audience about their favorite GPS traditions and overall aspects of the school (answers: relationships, college preparation, and confidence).

At the conclusion of the program, students were invited to join the women for lunch in the cafeteria, where they could chat more organically. The panel speakers also visited classrooms this afternoon, speaking on everything from what it’s like to know Sheryl Sandberg to what to expect from your first gynecology appointment.

Watch the full panel here.