Oh, the Places They’ll Go…


Tauson Biggs '24, Staff Reporter

With the 2021-2022 school year coming to a close, it’s time to say goodbye to some familiar faces. This year, unfortunately, the list of faculty, coaches, and staff leaving Friends is considerably lengthy. Soledad Moras, Cynthia Stan Mellow, Javier Ergueta, Missy Tal, Courtney McKinley, Stephanie Gramiak, Emily Green, Carolyn Connor, and Rick Morrison will all be leaving Friends along with 2022. There are also, however, some faculty who will either be changing positions or dropping roles for the coming years. Mike Benner will be leaving his position as Assistant Head of School but will remain at Friends working part-time until 2024 to help plan the 275th anniversary of the school’s founding. Erica Childs will be leaving her position as an Upper School math teacher, but will move on to become the first director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Friends! Rounding off the list are Robin Lebauer and Don Morton who are both retiring as coaches of their respective sports, swimming and wrestling, but will continue to teach.


So why so many people? How did they come to their decision to leave? And where will they go next? Let’s start with the first question. For starters, several of the members of the list above have had lengthy careers at Friends. Stephanie Gramiak for 15 years, Javier Ergueta for 20 years, Rick Morrison for 35 years, and Cynthia Stan Mellow for an incredible 44years. Secondly, we’re coming off of some of the most mentally and emotionally taxing years in recent history with all the problems the world is facing, chief among which is the pandemic. 


The past two and a half years have been difficult for everyone but especially our teachers. When asked if Covid had anything to do with her decision to leave Friends, Cynthia Stan Mellow replied, “It did, but not necessarily in a negative way. Covid or some things that seem to be negative are actually gifts given to us; it really depends on how we want to interpret what seems like a really negative thing.” Mellow went on to discuss how teaching virtually gave her some new perspective. Mellow also discussed how she came to realize that when someone is presented with a change in their life, they have two options. One is to be reactive and the other is to be proactive. After living what she called a “reactive life”, Mellow decided to be proactive in her 

decision to leave Friends and pursue other interests. “What I’m looking for is other venues to continue my teaching because I still have energy, commitment, and dedication to visual arts education. I’d like to teach under a different kind of form rather than the heavy structure of a school environment. As you know, you have your courses and sometimes you end up doing all these other things rather than what we really have our heart and soul in wanting to do,” said Mellow. 

As for how they came to their decision to leave, pursuing other interests was a common theme among those saying goodbye to Friends. Mike Benner said, “I look forward to spending time with my wife, traveling, and volunteering.” Similarly, Javier Ergueta is looking forward to spending time with his kids in Germany. Ergueta also remarked, “I will certainly be active; this is not the end of my active life at all. I’m going to continue to teach, I’m going to continue to write, and I will continue to be active in the climate cause.” 

None of the departing faculty replied that they planned to live out the rest of their days on a sunny beach in the Bahamas with a cold drink in their hand, or anything remotely close to that. In fact, retirement as most of us would imagine isn’t really in the cards for any of the faculty I spoke with. Cynthia Stan Mellow plans to continue to teach art in some capacity, but also wants to be a student again and learn about her own topics of interest, such as foreign language and coding. Javier Ergueta plans to finish his climate newsletter that is currently in the works and will continue to teach to some degree. As he put it, “There’s no such thing as a retired educator – if you’re born a teacher, you never stop teaching.” 

When Mr. Ergueta was asked how he hoped fellow staff members or students would remember him, his response was, “As someone who lived up to the values we hold in common, as someone who helped them think through tough issues, and hopefully as someone who talked the talk and walked the walk.” Everyone leaving Friends certainly did talk the talk and walk the walk. Wherever their paths may lead, we wish them the best of luck in all their future endeavors and thank them for all they’ve done for Wilmington Friends.