A fitting tribute to Dame Marjorie

  • Committee members of the now defunct Queen’s Birthday Ball yesterday presented $24,000 and a photograph of its founder, Dame Marjorie Bean, to the Berkeley Institute. Pictured, (top row from left), are school prefects Jona-J Hall, Diesha Tucker and Dezhane West. Shown on the bottom row (from left) are Leonora DeSouza, Lucille Dixon, Sheila Swan, Curtis Tweed-Swan, Elonda Stevens, Gloria Martin and Ruth Thomas

    Committee members of the now defunct Queen’s Birthday Ball yesterday presented $24,000 and a photograph of its founder, Dame Marjorie Bean, to the Berkeley Institute. Pictured, (top row from left), are school prefects Jona-J Hall, Diesha Tucker and Dezhane West. Shown on the bottom row (from left) are Leonora DeSouza, Lucille Dixon, Sheila Swan, Curtis Tweed-Swan, Elonda Stevens, Gloria Martin and Ruth Thomas


A photograph of the late educator Dame Marjorie Bean now hangs in the school she taught at 66 years ago.

The picture was presented to the Berkeley Institute yesterday morning.

Dame Marjorie’s niece, Gloria Martin, thought it a fitting tribute to a “phenomenal” woman.

Her aunt was an assistant teacher at the Berkeley Preparatory School from 1925 until 1928.

She then joined the Berkeley Institute in 1938. She taught English and geography at the Pembroke school until 1949 and founded the Queen’s Birthday Ball in 1953 as a fund raiser for it.

The event was also a means of honouring young women for their academic achievements; a debutante’s ball was held each year under the patronage of the Governor until 1995.

Ms Martin served on the committee of the now defunct charity with Ruth Thomas. The pair yesterday gave the senior school a cheque for $24,000, in addition to the photograph of Dame Marjorie.

“We’re presenting a photo of her to the Berkeley Institute and funds left over from various balls,” said Ms Martin. “It’s going to the Berkeley because this is where Aunt Marjorie taught and this is where the ball started. It started as one programme to make money to get a library for the school.”

Dame Marjorie did the initial fund raising for the library on her own.

“It was an initiative of Marjorie’s and was really an excellent one,” Ms Thomas said. “She had so many sides to her.”

Dame Marjorie was an alumna of Wilberforce University in Ohio, the Columbia University Teachers College in New York and the Institute of Education at the University of London.

She was made Bermuda’s Supervisor of Schools in 1948, thus becoming the first black person hired by the Department of Education in an administrative position.

In 1977 she was awarded the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Medal, and later honoured with an MBE for the significant contribution she made to education.

She became the first Bermudian female to be appointed to the Legislative Council, the forerunner of Bermuda’s Senate, in 1980.

She was named a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the 1994 Queen’s New Year’s Honours List — the first Bermudian to receive that title.

She died on March 16, 2001.

Said Ms Martin: “She was a phenomenal woman. That’s the word that comes to mind. She did so much for so many people and she did so much for the Berkeley we thought why not [give the school something to remember her by]?”

Her late aunt would give loans or outright gifts to assist young people through university, Ms Martin said.

“She gave so much of herself. She always said service was so important, that service is the thanks that we get for living. We need to remember and honour that.”

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Published May 12, 2015 at 8:00 am (Updated May 12, 2015 at 12:57 am)

A fitting tribute to Dame Marjorie

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