Lisa Hughes ’78, P’17, ’19 spoke about not knowing her path during her time at SPS — and the necessity of redefining what she came to believe it was after her career in publishing took an unexpected turn. Maria Agui Carter ’81 reflected on the “other worlds” she brought to SPS as an undocumented scholarship student, and the mix of privilege and burden she carried that subsequently informed her art. Sabrina Fung ’89, P’24, ’24 credited her time at SPS with helping her find her true self and the personal confidence to be successful in the global business community. On Tuesday, Oct. 12, these three alumnae served as panelists as St. Paul’s School kicked off its yearlong celebration of coeducation, “Her Purpose: 50 Years of SPS Women in the World,” sharing their thoughts about their personal and professional trajectories and examining a question that served as a central theme for the hourlong conversation: How do we build purposeful lives?
Some 300 SPS community members participated in the celebration, including more than 100 current students who enjoyed refreshments and musical performances in the Friedman Center before tuning in to the virtual panel, where they were joined online by an additional 200 SPS alumni, parents, board members, and others to hear from Hughes, the publisher of the Philadelphia Inquirer; Agui Carter, the founder of Iguana Films; and Fung, group managing director of Fung Retailing Group. The panel was hosted by Rector Kathy Giles and Student Body President Eden Wright ’22, who posed questions and drew connections between the panelists’ comments and their own experiences.
“As we planned these events, we did want to start with a panel of speakers who exemplify resilience, courage, creativity, engagement, contribution — women whose lives of purpose already have served the greater good,” said Giles, noting that the trio surely would cover much more ground before they were finished. “Women for decades and decades and decades have made a huge difference at SPS.”
Wright observed that while she never saw herself represented by individuals in leadership roles when she was younger, she’d had both opportunities for and examples of leadership at St. Paul’s that reflected her experience. “I’m not the first woman president, and I’m also not the first Black woman president of the student body, and I know I won’t be the last,” she said. “Only 50 years we’ve been here, and women have taken SPS by storm.”
There were 19 girls who joined the SPS community in 1971, breaking the path for coeducation at the then 115-year-old School. During the ensuing five decades, more than 3,000 girls have passed through St. Paul’s, helping to redefine the SPS experience and extending their personal and professional impact to the larger world in myriad ways.
The celebration of SPS women who are trailblazers, thrivers, and rising stars will continue through the academic year, culminating in an in-person event during Anniversary Weekend. Two more virtual events are scheduled for the fall: an alumnae of color panel hosted by the Alumni Association on Tuesday, Nov. 9, and “Her Purpose: to Compete,” featuring alumnae athletes, taking place on Tuesday, Nov. 30. More information about both events will be available in the coming weeks.
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