Tribute to Emily Barry Marston

By Carlye Nelson-Major, Head of School

Middle School Division Director Emily Barry Marston will be retiring at the end of June. Emily has been a faculty member at TPS since September 1987.  She joined the TPS middle school faculty back when the school had 162 students (there were 40 vertically grouped 6th, 7th, and 8th graders) – and she is leaving when there are 475.

Emily has served in a variety of capacities while here: from parent to teacher to associate head of school to her current position as Middle School Division Director. Her colleagues and students would say that it was her role as master teacher – which continued even when she was an administrative leader – that will be remembered most.

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Emily is a smart, knowledgeable, and wise woman with a wicked sense of dry humor. She is a global citizen whose roots in world culture and linguistics were sown as a diplomat’s daughter. Raised in Europe and Japan, Emily became a curious, independent thinker from an early age. She is a Renaissance woman with a deep understanding of how civilizations developed, how language can bring meaning to experiences, and how art and culture add meaning and power to the human condition. The hundreds of students that Emily has taught over her years at TPS have been the fortunate recipients of her rich background, keen intellect, and passionate mentoring.


A legend at TPS, Emily has been at times simultaneously revered and feared. She has been known to make students quake in their boots trying to meet her high expectations and exacting standards. This is adolescent anxiety of the very best kind. Whether it be pulling a moving Shakespeare performance from a timid actor, prodding a nascent writer to produce yet another draft of a research paper to make it better, or helping a still-maturing reader make meaning of Huck Finn, Emily has always expected students to give their best, take risks, and push themselves beyond what they thought possible.

For some students, it isn’t until later on that they appreciate the role Emily has had on their development as a student. For others, it is immediately apparent, as reflected by the large number of students who have paid tribute to Emily in their graduation speeches. Emily is that extraordinarily gifted teacher that you hope your children will experience at least once in their lifetime. That TPS has had her for more than three decades has been our remarkable good fortune.

A window into Emily’s impact on children is illustrated by her own sons’ journeys. Mac '93 and Colin '96 each had Emily as their middle school theme teacher. Mac is a professor of archaeology (he is a paleoethnobotanist) at Boston University, and Colin is a heavy metal musician with a worldwide following. Two extraordinary pathways, each filled with passion, curiosity, and engagement. Emily credits their disparate paths as having been fueled by the experiences they had at TPS – music classes, environmental studies, museum visits, thematic connections, and the deep investment of their teachers to see the unique potential within each of them.

In recognition of Emily’s tremendous impact as an educator on her students, on her colleagues, and on our school, we have established an endowment fund in her name. The Emily Marston Arts & Culture Endowment Fund will ensure that future generations of TPS students will continue to learn through partnerships with art and cultural institutions in our city.

Over the next few weeks, please seek Emily out and wish her a wonderfully rich and meaningful retirement. Let’s hope she has lots of new travel adventures ahead with plenty of good books in hand. TPS will be calling upon her every now again, I'm sure, for special projects or for some institutional knowledge that only she holds.

Emily, we will miss your wise perspective, your boundless curiosity, your thoughtful organization, your deep respect for children, your wry storytelling, and your ability to make us laugh until we cry. We love and honor you and the impact you have made on countless lives by giving your best self to TPS so generously.