After reading Head of School, Tim Breen’s February and March blog posts, Dine Webster Dellenback ’53, P ’84, former trustee sent in the following comment, “SMS [WMS was formerly known as St. Mary’s-in-the-Mountains] invited me into lifelong learning! I loved my Spanish class in both junior and senior years, but I could NOT have envisioned teaching it to others at the age of 77.” We, of course, wanted to know more! We asked Dine to write about her time at St. Mary’s and how it shaped her as a life-long learner.
A Journey of Life-Long Learning
By Dine Webster Dellenback ’53, P ’84, Former Trustee
At 77 years old, I am an avid and joyful learner – not something that anyone who knew me 65 years ago would have predicted! After having disastrous experiences at 3 different schools, I came to St. Mary’s as a sophomore. My studies were as dismal during my first half-year at SMS as they had been before, but the difference at SMS was that someone cared! NO more slinking by - a student’s performance became the job of each of her teachers! One was gently corrected into action by a gentle chiding. Extra help was demanded and given by the teacher in any subject in which a student was lagging.
My junior year saw even more changes. For the first time I wanted to add a class to my required load. I wanted to learn Spanish along with my third year of French - here was a subject I really liked! I also liked art, especially sculpture, and music really woke me up. I loved Glee Club, Choir and the novelty of being greeted every morning by music that was played throughout the entire main building. At one point, the senior who had been selecting and playing the music to wake the Main Building at 6:45AM resigned. I was asked to replace her – a leadership position? For me? Maybe it was having this special job and added responsibility. Maybe I was just growing up. But suddenly my life was changing. I was enjoying school and I was learning how to study. Winning both the Art prize and the Spanish Prize in 1952 was thrilling!
Senior year built upon the success of the previous year. Though I had been taking college preparatory courses, I wasn’t interested in going to college. I saw the catalogue for Bennett Junior College in Millbrook, NY. It had many advantages: a sculpture program, horseback riding and it was located close to NYC where my home was. I applied and was accepted. Members of the SMS faculty had become really close friends and mentors. Somehow, I was granted the Senior Privilege of being allowed to study after “lights out”, not having to sit in Study Hall, but being able to study outside in the warm spring sunshine. Suddenly, life was interesting, wonderful, promising!
When graduation came, I was delighted. I was also determined to make the college proud of my beloved St. Mary’s. I studied hard and did very well. In 1955, I graduated within the top 10 students of my class. Learning had truly become a joy! In fact, I couldn’t get enough of it. Following college I studied more art history, solid geometry, and later, I studied anatomy and physiology and neuroanatomy. I then fell in love with and married Bob Dellenback. In June of 2014 Bob and I will have been married for 56 years!
Computers, cooking, raising children, traveling, volunteering in my community, being Regent of the local DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) Chapter, singing in choirs have all given me more opportunities to learn. My joy in learning Spanish has become the joy of teaching others! I’ve joined community groups where we learn Spanish together, I’ve studied it on my own and I know lead a group of seniors in my community who want to improve their Spanish. Music has continued to play a major role in my life and my involvement in a number of choirs and as a leader of bible study groups provides endless opportunities to learn and to teach.
During my adult life, history has also become a passion! My family and I have traveled extensively and our travel choices have taken us to historically rich places both internationally and in the U.S. We usually couple these trips with guided tours and lectures, many of which inspired me to want to learn more about a particular country or time period. I ask questions, I read and I plan future travel based on topics introduced on current trips that I want to learn about in more depth. This interest in general history has, of late, taken a turn toward genealogy. I recently discovered that 5 of my ancestors served in the Revolutionary War. This revelation has led me to devour as much information as I can find about that period of our country’s history. Who would ever have guessed that the St. Mary’s student with D’s and F’s in History class would “get hooked” on history? It is truly an example of taking my “learning how to learn” from St. Mary’s into my later years.
At each of the turning points in my adult life, learning has been at the center. At 77 years old, I remain a voracious seeker of knowledge and new experiences – it keeps me fulfilled – and I have my SMS experience to thank for giving me the structure and the confidence to become someone who truly knows “The Joys of Learning”.
Dine has a long history with WMS/SMS. In addition to graduating from St. Mary’s-in-the-Mountains herself, Dine’s aunt, Bertha Webster Starr, graduated from St. Mary’s School in 1905, her son, Ian, graduated from The White Mountain School in 1984. Dine served four separate terms on the Board of Trustees of The White Mountain School during the time period of 1960-1983. Most recently, Dine returned to WMS with her husband, Bob, and her son, Ian, to celebrate her 60th Reunion in October, 2013.