April 15, 1937–January 20, 2015
A titanic figure in Ellis School history, Susan SAYERS Crane, former 3rd grade teacher and Lower School Director, passed away on January 20, 2015 surrounded by her family. Her daughters, Peggy CRANE Vaughan ’79 and Cathy CRANE Frankel ’82, informed us of their mom's passing; they have honored Ellis by requesting to have their mother's memorial service at the School in June. This seems particularly fitting because Ellis was Susie’s second home and Ellis colleagues her second family.
Robin Newham, now Head of The Ellis School, remembers that in 1998, when she was a newly appointed Upper School Division Director, she had the pleasure of joining Susie Crane and Sue Kirkpatrick, then long-time Lower and Middle School Directors respectively. Hired as a teacher at Ellis in 1981, Robin had long known and respected Susie as both a teacher and administrator.
“Susie remained in her role as Lower School Division Director for only a year,” Newham recalls. “I was so grateful for the one year we worked together as division directors and wished for more. Susie Crane was a grand lady, magnetic and charming, sensible and hilarious. Her quick wit and great storytelling ability endeared her to her colleagues and to her adoring students.”
Susie taught 3rd grade at Ellis from 1974 to 1987, a linchpin grade in the division. Third grade is the year that students begin to read for content and to study abstraction in math. This, as well as “upperclassman” status, makes it a seminal Lower School grade. In Crane's hands, 3rd grade was both stimulating and manageable; and generations of Ellis women remember Mrs. Crane as THE third grade teacher at Ellis.
If there was a hat to be worn at Ellis, Susie SAYERS Crane wore it. As the parent of two Ellis students, a teacher, an administrator, a Trustee, and a graduate of the School, Susie knew, perhaps better than anyone, how the School worked. She was a beloved friend and trusted mentor to so many colleagues and parents who sought her counsel. Terri Wilson, who has taught in the Ellis Lower School since the late 1970s, considers Crane a mentor and friend.
“We could talk about anything,” Wilson says. “I quickly learned that she had a real passion for local and Pennsylvania history, which she shared as part of curriculum, and a deep love of literature. She was warm, easy going, and had a great sense of humor. She told the funniest stories that we would ask her to tell over and over again. She was a storyteller for her students, too. The girls just loved her.”
Judy COHEN Callomon ’54, who graduated a year ahead of Susie, remembers her as a leader, even as a student; noting that she won the Augustus K. Oliver Cup for excellence in academics and sportsmanship. Even today, Judy marvels at all that Susie was able to accomplish. “She was a single mother raising two daughters while running the Lower School. Anything she put her hand to was incredible,” Judy recalled.
As if all that was not enough, Susie was a creative whirlwind and an athlete. Her talents included painting, tennis, cooking, and sewing. She crafted elaborate costumes for class plays as well as dresses for her girls. Legions of Ellis women recall her decadent pies, Chinese chicken salad, and elaborate desserts.
So many wonderful Ellis students and families passed through Ellis during Susie Crane's tenure. She is survived by her daughters and grandchildren, James, Ian, Henry, and Lillie. She will be missed, but the Ellis legacy she has left in the minds and hearts of thousands of Ellis women will endure.Donations may be made in her honor to The Susan Sayers Crane Lower School Fund at The Ellis School.
This tribute was originally published February 24, 2015.