|Princeton Personality by Jean Stratton|
Educator and Artist Juliana McIntyre Co-founded Princeton Junior School
When Juliana McIntyre steps down as headmistress of Princeton Junior School this June, it will be the end of a particular era. In another sense, however, it is an affirmation of Mrs. McIntyre's educational philosophy and the confidence and continuity she has instilled in the school during the 21 years of her stewardship.
"I am inspired by children and the way they learn, and I am inspired by those who love them and want to teach them. It gives me energy, imagination, and joy," says Mrs. McIntyre.
Those words not only set the tone for the educational environment of this unique school, but for Mrs. McIntyre's lifetime of teaching, learning, and sharing.
Now, as she is about to move onto a new stage of her career, Mrs. McIntyre takes time to reflect on what has gone before and in particular, on her own role as a "passionate learner."
Born in Princeton, she was the second child of Lewis ("Buzz") Cuyler and Margery Merrill Cuyler. Siblings included Lewis, Grenville, David, and Margery.
Her Princeton roots are strong. Her father was also born here, and a variety of relatives lived in the town during her childhood.
"I was a real 'townie'," she says, smiling. "Except for a few years during World War II, when my father was in the Air Force and stationed in Arlington, Va. and Atlantic City, I grew up here. I went to kindergarten and first grade in Princeton; then we moved, and later, I came back for the early grades at Princeton Elementary School on Nassau Street, and eighth and ninth grades at Miss Fine's School."
Juliana liked school, enjoyed studying, and had a predilection for the arts. "I loved writing, reading, music, and drama," she notes, "and I enjoyed being in plays and musical comedies at school. I always painted and drew I don't remember a time when I didn't do that."
She also remembers admiring her teachers, adding, however, "My best teachers really were my family parents, grandparents, and aunts and uncles.
"I also tremendously admired Tom Frelinghuysen, a sculptor in Princeton. He was a personal friend of the family and a real hero of mine.
"And, my grandfather, John Cuyler, was an Impressionist painter, who studied and lived in Paris, so the arts were always uppermost in my life."
There was time for other things, too, however. Princeton was a special place in which to grow up during the 1940s and '50s, and Juliana had lots of interests.
"You could explore all over then. We'd ride everywhere on our bikes, ice skate on Lake Carnegie, and roller skate on the big bluestone slabs in front of Princeton University on Nassau Street.
"Children were allowed a lot more freedom then, and we played outside all the time. We also knew all the shopkeepers on Nassau Street, and we'd stop in for a treat. We all went to the movies on the weekend and also on Wednesday afternoon, when we had a half day at school.
"We had a wonderful children's library," she continues, "and I also loved the Carillon at the Princeton University Graduate School tower. Every Sunday afternoon, we could climb up in the tower and watch Mr. Bigelow, the bell ringer."
Horseback riding was another passion, and she rode for many years. "Don Griffin, a Princeton neighbor, taught me to ride. The Griffins and our family shared a house in Atlantic City, and he took me riding on the beach."
Summers were often spent in Stockbridge, Mass., where her mother's family had a house, and also near Newport, R.I. to visit her Matthews' cousins.
The Cuyler home in Princeton was filled with its own history, recalls Mrs. McIntyre. The family moved into "The Barracks", as the house on Edgehill Street is known, in 1940. Dating to the late 1600s, it is believed by some that it served as barracks for soldiers both in the French and Indian War and the Revolutionary War. According to legend it was inhabited from time to time by at least one ghost.
It's true, says Ms. McIntyre, and she speaks from personal experience. "In the early 1900s, a Princeton professor, Duncan Speath moved into The Barracks with his family. They renovated the house, their daughter saw the ghost, and recorded it in her diary."
Mrs. McIntyre, who lived in The Barracks from the age of five, also saw it on more than one occasion. "He looked like a Hessian soldier, and I saw him walking in the garden and at other times. He seemed amiable, and I later called him my imaginary friend. Once, during the 1940 Presidential election campaign, I saw him wearing a Wendell Wilkie button!"
Juliana's upbringing emphasized service to others, and from an early age, she was conscious of the importance of sharing her time and talents with other people.
"I came from a family that was very aware of helping others," she reports. "I became very service-oriented as a young child. My first job was taking care of a blind child, and I worked at Princeton Hospital as a nurse's aide. I was also a camp counselor and did a lot of baby-sitting in the summer.
Later, she ushered at McCarter Theatre, and was a costume designer for the Princeton University Players' summer theater productions.
Her late brother David's autism was another introduction to people with differences, and it contributed to her understanding of others and to her compassion.
"My brother was the first child to be diagnosed as autistic at Johns Hopkins," she explains. "My parents were instrumental in starting the Eden Institute, and they were also involved in the Sheltered Workshop in Trenton to help retarded children, and "The Mercer Unit", a newspaper offering guidance for those assisting retarded children."
Mrs. McIntyre also remembers being very involved with Trinity Church during this time. "My family were members, and I sang in the choir. The church was a huge influence on my life. I was a child with a lot of questions, and I found people within the church willing to listen, and a community of people from whom I could learn. Both of my parents, while not over-emphasizing organized religion, were deeply spiritual people."
Juliana's interest in children and inherent understanding of them was noticed even then by the Cuyler's close family friend, longtime Princeton resident and former ambassador to New Zealand, Anne Martindell.
"I've known Juliana since she was a teenager. I admired her then and now. I admire her dedication to children, her understanding of children, and the contributions she has made to generations of young children. She has done a wonderful job."
In 1949, Juliana enrolled at the Garrison Forest School, a girls' boarding school near Baltimore, Md., where she continued her interest in the arts and also served on the Student Council.
"It was nice to be among girls I had all these brothers!" she points out. "I had a wonderful French teacher there, Mary Boyd, and as with many good teachers, she got me interested in the subject."
So much so, that after graduation, Juliana spent the summer in France at L'Ecole de Musique in Fontainbleau to study singing.
"That was a wonderful experience," she remembers. "It sparked my continuing interest both in singing and traveling."
Returning to the U.S., Juliana entered Wellesley College, where she majored in Biblical history literature and interpretation. Her childhood interest in spiritual matters had continued, and she was seeking answers.
"I had so many questions about the meaning of life," she says. "I was probably an agnostic then and looking for answers. I had a very provocative professor, Fred Denbeaux in Biblical interpretation. He'd get us all mixed up and confused. Anything we thought we knew or believed, he shredded!"
Juliana also minored in the arts, taking all available courses in art history, as well as studio painting and creative writing.
In addition, she directed and sang in an octet, the Wellesley Tupelos, a singing group, which traveled to other colleges, as well as Bermuda and the Bahamas.
"I liked Wellesley and especially the proximity to Boston,": she observes. "We were able to go to all the museums and concerts, which I loved."
During her college years, she also spent one summer singing in the chorus for performances at Tanglewood, the musical festival in western Massachusetts.
After graduation in 1957, Juliana arrived in New York to attend the Cooper Union School of Design, and to teach part-time at Barnard College and The Brearley School.
In teaching, she hoped to find an outlet for her desire to share what she had learned, as well as an opportunity for more learning herself.
After five years in New York, she moved to the Kent School in Connecticut to teach art and theology. Then it was on to Harvard to earn a masters in education. "It was an intensive, very focused program for experienced teachers," she recalls.
Juliana returned to The Brearley School as a second grade teacher in 1965, having now taught in a series of educational institutions, as well as several grade levels, including elementary school, high school, and college. She found that her greatest joy was teaching young children.
"I was a jack-of-all-trades, and I think you should be with young children," she explains. "You need a handle on a number of things. In the early years, young children respond to this."
Also during this time in New York, Juliana's personal life was forever changed by her introduction to James McIntyre, an international investment banker. They met at a party, and after a courtship of two years, were married in 1967.
They lived in New York, where their two children, James and Juliana were born, and then moved to Princeton in 1970 to Edgehill Street and the house built by Mrs. McIntyre's grandfather and next door to The Barracks.
Concentrating on her family, Mrs. McIntyre took time off from teaching. As she recalls, "The first 10 years of our marriage were really devoted to our children. My husband traveled a lot, and I wanted to be there with them."
In addition, she joined her husband on some of the international trips, including Asia, Africa, Latin America, and Eastern Europe.
"It was a great experience, and during these travels, I visited every school I possibly could. I didn't realize then that I was forming a notion of how children around the world learn. The systems were different, but the kids were the same, with an intrinsic love of learning, unique to young children."
By 1978, with her own children established in school, she was beginning to take on a few part-time teaching assignments. "I had an assistant teaching job at the Rockbrook School in Blawenburg, and then at Miss Mason's in Princeton, where I taught art."
The unexpected closing of Miss Mason's (pre-school through third grade) in 1982 laid the groundwork for Mrs. McIntyre's future career as headmistress of Princeton Junior School. Miss Mason's approach to learning had an important impact on Mrs. McIntyre's educational philosophy, which she emphasized in the years ahead. It also came at a time in her life when she was questioning her future career opportunities.
"Miss Mason believed that education should be within a family structure. Her school was in a house, and they would even have bread baking. She firmly believed that if you love children and nurture them they will learn," says Mrs. McIntyre. "Miss Mason had this wonderful theory that children are dying to learn; and you should create a safe environment where they can feel secure and be willing to take a risk.
"When Miss Mason's closed, one of the teachers, Nancy Robbins, established the Bayard School to continue Ms. Mason's teaching style and philosophy for a small group of pre-schoolers, but it closed after one year."
By this time, Mrs. McIntryre was very involved in portrait sculpture, and had joined the Johnson Atelier to hone her skills.
"I had a done a head of my husband in 1965," she recalls, "and I caught a likeness. In portraiture, I think the most fascinating thing is to explore the essence of the person, to try to glean the essential part of that person. And I love working in clay, the texture and feel of it."
Although she loved sculpting, she was uncertain of what direction she wanted her life to take. As she explains, "I was really searching for something meaningful to do. My children were in middle school, about to go to boarding school, and my husband was still traveling a lot. I was at loose ends.
"So, I decided to go on a silent retreat through the auspices of Trinity Church, to be by myself for two days. I was longing to be given a focus."
As it turned out, she was disappointed. "The weekend was terrible! I didn't find any answers. On the drive home, I was depressed, and then I thought maybe I'm trying to plan my life too carefully, and I should be more open to whatever experience comes along. So on the way back, I made a resolution, I remember saying, I can't figure this out, and I'll let go of all my plans. I'll do whatever I'm asked to do.
"24 hours later, Helen Craven, one of the teachers at Miss Mason's and the Bayard School called me. She was older than I and a widow, and she just couldn't stand not teaching. She suggested we start a school together. I was amazed!
In fact, the unfolding of events that led to Princeton Junior School underscored Mrs. McIntyre's belief that one should always be open to a variety of experiences. As she points out, "A good education stimulates you to make something of your life to be transformed and go beyond your boundaries and live the fullest life you can.
"What is important to me in life is to learn how to leap beyond what you know and grasp as much of the world as you can, and give back as much as you can."
Once under way, the pieces began to fall into place with much hard work and effort, of course. "We quickly advertised and got 12 kids and four teachers, and opened in 1983 in the Lutheran Church of the Messiah," reports Mrs. McIntyre.
"I wanted to have a warm learning environment and shared leadership, and our philosophy continued to evolve. I liked the 'servant leadership' concept for governance and management. It's collegial and is a consensus-building system. The leader is among the teachers, and together we build a school. We developed curriculum together, solved problems together, and worked closely with the board of trustees.
"We were also innovative with the curriculum. Two things distinguished us. Helen was a musician, and I am an artist. So we wanted to incorporate the arts into all elements of learning. The children dramatized everything, and they loved it. My great inspiration for this is an Italian School system, Reggio Emilio, a teaching system for early childhood that emphasizes bringing nature and the arts into academic work."
Indeed, hands-on learning has been an important focus at the school. "For example," notes Mrs. McIntyre, "When we finally built our new facility (after years of going from one location to another), and didn't have enough money to landscape, we incorporated the English program, 'Learning through Landscape.' We taught the children to landscape, and they planted every bush, every shrub, every flower, as well as the vegetable garden."
The school, with a current enrollment of 130 children pre-school through fifth grade and 30 teachers, offers a first-rate education, she adds. "We have a core curriculum for elementary school. There are standardized tests and conferences and reports with parents.
"It's the method by which it is taught and the values we instill, however, that sets us us apart. We offer very provocative and imaginative teaching.
"We don't emphasize competition; we don't put others down; we appreciate each other's differences. We also have a very diverse student body, with children from Trenton, Lawrenceville, Yardley, the two Windsors, Princeton, Hopewell, Ewing, and Pennington. Exposure to others is essential. One of the first lessons our children learn is to get along with people of different backgrounds."
As Mrs. McIntyre nears her leave-taking in June, she is looking forward to welcoming new headmaster Peter Rapelye, and also writing a book about Princeton Junior School and her experiences educating young children.
"I enjoy the young children so much. They are very inspiring, so courageous and so open, so willing, and they have such a capacity for learning. They are pioneers every day. They're breaking new ground, and learning something new for the first time.
"They can learn early on that life is their canvas. If they have self-confidence, when they make a mistake, they move on from it. They have to know themselves well, and know their strengths and weaknesses.
"I believe the spirit of children is what helps them to learn, even more than the intellect. If that spirit is ignited by a painting or an event in history, it fires them," she continues.
"We cultivate passionate learners by discerning just which academic fuel will ignite their thought and illuminate the paths for them to explore. We help keep them secure as they develop their skills by teaching them to balance discipline with daring, competence with caring, and self-knowledge with sharing."
Tributes to Mrs. McIntyre's leadership of Princeton Junior School have been pouring in as her tenure is about to end. She was honored at a recent gala at Jasna Polana, and many colleagues and friends have remarked on her unique ability to connect both with children and adults.
This quality has been especially meaningful to Princeton Junior School Trustee Andy Okun in his work with Mrs. McIntyre.
"Juliana has a soul that is rare. When you are with her, it seems that the only focus she has is you. With that attribute and with her incredible guidance, she nourishes your soul.
"She does that for the children in the school and the community. She is a remarkable person.
"People these days aren't like that. They're always in a hurry, looking over your shoulder. Juliana has this extraordinary ability to focus on you. Time stops when I am in her company, and I am nourished when I leave."
While appreciating the sincerity of such praise, Mrs. McIntyre is quick to downplay her own role and emphasizes the contribution of others.
"I am really grateful to everyone. It has been wonderful, and I have learned so much from my colleagues. These teachers are so dedicated and caring. They make me look good!
"Also, I have to add that the person I am most indebted to is my late husband, Jim. He supported us and understood what a creative project this school is. He was a great help in the financial issues too. Most of all, he was a wonderful companion."
As her retirement draws near, Mrs. McIntyre anticipates doing many of the things she has had little time for, while working 60 to 70 hours a week at the school.
"I will continue to do portrait sculpture, which I love, and also have time now for gardening, singing, and cooking. I love to travel, and each year, I try to go abroad. Scotland is a favorite place. In fact, my husband and I discovered we are descendants of Scottish families who lived three miles apart in the 1400s."
Some of her travel will take her to schools overseas, she adds. "I am very interested in international education for children, and I hope to travel to Africa, India, and Vietnam to see it first hand."
Boston, where her children and four grandchildren now live, is another destination. A fifth grandchild is due next fall.
A widow since 1998, Mrs. McIntyre tries to find time to enjoy the opportunities in Princeton, and she has high praise for her home town. "I love Princeton because of its beauty. I love its variety of people, and I love the counterpoint of the business world, the intellectual world, and the cultural world. Princeton is in many respects an oasis."
Ultimately, it is education that is never far from her thoughts, and especially, the importance of continuing to learn whatever one's age.
"Throughout life," she says, "we encounter people who live 'abundantly', still reflecting the imagination, playfulness and trust of their early childhood years. When around such people (even the very old), we marvel at the inner vitality that permeates their being. Adults who keep that openness are always young. They become models of leadership for those of us who are still educable."
Those words could certainly describe Mrs. McIntyre herself, agrees one who knows her best, her sister, Margery Cuyler, noted children's book author.
"Juliana is my favorite and only sister! Being 14 years older than I, she was also like a mother when I was growing up. She has a generous spirit and an extraordinary imagination, and she inspired me to be creative.
"Princeton Junior School reflects all the wonderful and diverse dimensions of her personality, in a way that is unique in a world in which creativity is so often held hostage to corporate collective thinking.
"It was fun to have her as a big sister. She was always playful and wise. I'll never forget a trip we took to Venice a few years ago, where we rediscovered our childhood sense of freedom and play, which has continued to inform both of our careers and relationships."
Juliana McIntyre passionate learner, creative thinker, dedicated teacher.