On the afternoon of St. Mark's 2018 Prize Day—Saturday, June 9—a bench was dedicated in memory of the late Ellen Collins: longtime SM receptionist who died in 2015.
A number of alumni, faculty, staff, trustees, and friends of Ellen gathered to remember Ellen at the dedication. Shortly after Ellen's passing, members of the SM community (alumni, parents, faculty and staff past and present) used social media to connect and share remembrances of Ellen. This led to the formation of a Facebook group called "SM Remembers Ellen Collins." In addition to sharing remembrances, the group was an opportunity to organize around creating a permanent memorial to Ellen. It was felt that a memorial bench in the front circle, near the reception area where Ellen greeted evening and weekend visitors to the School, would be the proper way to memorialize her.
Something that resonated with many was a post by former SM chaplain Ned Sherrill: "I was a stranger and you welcomed me." Any institution's first act of kindness ought to be the kind of welcome Ellen could give so freely and effortlessly. Some recalled Ellen's "warm smile that always remembered you when returning to St. Mark's," or remarked that "Ellen was a friend and a safe ear to confide in," and that "She cared for us, for our students, and our children – both 2- and 4-legged." A former day student said that "Ellen always kept a smile on our faces while waiting for a ride home." Yet another declared that "Ellen really deserves this."
The effort to commemorate Ellen was spearheaded by Jenna Bos '07. Past parent Sandy Cross (Lauren Cross Calabrese '97 and Tim Cross '00) was also instrumental in the memorial effort.
"For me personally, it was important to make this memorial happen," said alumna Jenna Bos, "because while it is easier to recognize to students, alumni, and faculty that have made major contributions to the community, there's no clear way to memorialize someone like Ellen, who was unique in her role but also exceedingly important to establishing a sense of community within the school. I hope the success of this campaign is a reminder to the SM community of the role that each individual plays in setting the tone of the type of school that SM is, and becomes."
Head of School John C. Warren '74 attended the dedication, while the Rev. Barbara Talcott, current Head Chaplain at St. Mark's, presided at the ceremony.