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Bloomfield Hills, Mich., May 11, 2012 - Annemarie Bondy Roeper, educator, author, and a founder of The Roeper School, a nationally recognized independent school for the gifted in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., died Friday, May 11, 2012 in Oakland, California. She was 93 years old.
Annemarie Roeper and her husband, George Roeper, who passed away in 1992, established the school in Detroit in 1941 with nine students. Their educational vision encompassed a profound respect for the individual and a commitment to freedom of growth and learning within an emotionally and intellectually supportive community.
Today the school serves 560 students from preschool through high school, and Annemarie is recognized as a pioneering figure in the field of education.
“I have always been drawn to people who value curiosity, and I’ve never met anyone who embodied the spirit of inquiry more than Annemarie,” said incoming Head of The Roeper School, David Feldman. “It is so rare to find someone with such a deep and powerful sense of purpose. Her life’s work was an active and strong response to Nazi oppression, and we are the beneficiaries of hers and George’s tenacity.”
Throughout her life, Annemarie was a consistent voice for the individual soul of each child. As she wrote in her book Educating Children for Life, “Humanity has made two promises to its children. The first is to prepare a world which accepts them and provides them with opportunities to live, grow, and create in safety. The other is to help them develop their whole beings to the fullest in every respect.”
As the daughter of educators, Annemarie began absorbing educational ideas early. She was born in Vienna on August 27, 1918, toward the end of the First World War. Her mother, Gertrud Bondy, was a medical doctor and psychoanalyst in training with Sigmund Freud at the time. After the war, she and her husband, Max Bondy, embarked on a career in education, founding a series of schools based on a psychoanalytic understanding of human development and a desire to educate children to build and thrive in a pluralistic, democratic society. Annemarie grew up in her parents’ school, and met her future husband when he arrived as a student in 1923.
The Bondys were Jewish by heritage and when the Nazi Party ascended to power in the 1930s, they were forced out of their school (Schule Marienau, which is still operating outside Hamburg) and fled first to Switzerland and then, in 1939, to the United States. Annemarie and George were invited to come to Detroit in 1941 to direct a psychoanalytically oriented nursery school and established a grade school as well. Their modern, humanistic approach to education was immensely attractive and the school grew rapidly. In 1946, they purchased a campus in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, and in 1981 the school expanded to include a second campus in Birmingham, Michigan.
Over the years, Annemarie and George were innovators as educators and people. Early civil rights activists, they embraced integration as both a moral and educational principle. They integrated the student body in 1955 and the school’s first Board of Advisors in 1956. That same year, Annemarie and George convened a panel of national experts in the nascent field of gifted education to develop a curriculum for gifted children. In September, the school became only the second elementary school in the country to focus exclusively on gifted education. In 1965, participating in another ground-breaking endeavor, Annemarie consulted with Joan Ganz Cooney on the development of the Sesame Street program.
Annemarie became a pioneer in the emerging gifted education community, leading a movement to emphasize gifted children’s emotional needs as well as their intellectual needs. Annemarie taught courses in gifted education at Oakland University, and in 1978 she and George founded the Roeper Review, a peer-reviewed scholarly quarterly that is still published by the school. Annemarie retired from the school in 1980, although she remained a member of the Board of Trustees until 2002. She established a consultation practice in gifted education, and was in demand as a speaker nationally and internationally. In 1989, Annemarie received the President’s Award from the National Association for Gifted Children for a lifetime of distinguished service to the field.
Annemarie never completed any higher education after high school. In 1937, while a medical student at the University of Vienna, she was the youngest person ever accepted by Sigmund and Anna Freud to study child psychoanalysis with them. The German invasion of Austria in March 1938 prevented her from beginning her studies. She fled on the last train to cross the Austrian frontier before the Germans invaded, and the Freuds fled soon after. In 1978, Eastern Michigan University awarded an honorary doctorate to Annemarie, as well as to her husband, George.
Over her career, Annemarie published more than 100 articles and book chapters, three scholarly books (The “I” of the Beholder: A Guided Journey to the Essence of a Child; My Life Experiences with Children: Selected Writings and Speeches; and Educating Children for Life: The Modern Learning Community), four children’s books, and a recent meditation on dying called Beyond Old Age. She also developed the Annemarie Roeper Method of Qualitative Assessment to provide a more holistic understanding of a child’s abilities and personality. She has been listed in Who’s Who, Women of the World and Who’s Who of American Women.
“In my opinion, my mother and grandmother were the leading women progressive educators in the 20th century,” Tom Roeper said. “Their ideas are supported by the critical role of ‘creativity’ in modern cognitive science; the field I work in.”
In addition to co-founding and nurturing The Roeper School for 71 years, Annemarie mentored other educators who took her principles with them to other classrooms and to schools they founded, including the late Eleanor Siegl, who founded The Little School in Bellevue, Wash., and Anne Beneventi, co-founder of the New Helios School in Palo Alto, Calif. In addition, numerous alumni who have become teachers have spoken of her influence on their practice. Alumni who are parents have shared their gratitude for having their parenting style shaped by the deep respect for children they experienced from Annemarie.
Annemarie is survived by her brother, Heinz Bondy and his wife, Carolyn, of Germantown, Md.; by three children: Tom Roeper and his wife Laura Holland, of Amherst, Mass., Peter Roeper and his wife Martha Harnly, of Oakland, Calif., and Karen Roeper and her husband Peter Rosselli, of Muir Beach, Calif.; three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
To share condolences, please visit Annemarie's Caring Bridge page created by her children.
Annemarie's family has chosen The Roeper School as a suggested recipient for those interested in making a donation in Annemarie's memory. The family has requested donations to the school be used for either Endowment (the Annemarie M. and George A. Roeper Endowment Fund) or for Financial Aid (the Mariann Hoag Financial Aid Program). There is a menu in this online donation form entitled Designation where you may make that choice.
If you prefer to mail a memorial gift, please send it to The Roeper School, c/o Annemarie Roeper Memorial, 41190 Woodward Ave, Bloomfield Hills, MI 48304-5020. The Roeper School is honored to use your contribution to carry on Annemarie Roeper's life's work.
To see a slideshow, please click here.
To read a message from Head-Elect, David Feldman, please click here.
Founded in 1941, The Roeper School is a uniquely personalized, coeducational school for gifted and talented children in preschool through grade 12 from over 60 communities in southeast Michigan. With campuses in Bloomfield Hills and Birmingham, Michigan, Roeper was conceived on founding principles that recognize the power of education, choice and self-expression, and the transformative impact these principles have on young minds. For more information, please visit www.roeper.org.
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