The renovated faculty lounge in the upper school office. Photo courtesy of Sam Groskind.

The renovated faculty lounge in the upper school office. Photo courtesy of Sam Groskind.

After a long overdue remodel, The Gregory School’s faculty lounge has a new name and a new face. In memory of a cherished member of the Gregory School community, the lounge is now called The Karen O’Brien Faculty Lounge.

For years, Karen was a constant presence on campus while her three children Sean (‘13), Keely (‘11), and Keara (‘09) attended The Gregory School.

In April of 2014, O’Brien passed away at the age of 52. Throughout her seven year long battle with cancer, O’Brien never missed a soccer game or other school event. Amy Clashman, head of the language department, fondly remembers O’Brien.

Clashman said that O’Brien “was always around to organize faculty appreciation lunches.” Indeed, Karen was known for her faculty appreciation lunches.

History teacher Linda Mount remembers O’Brien as “a bright and beautiful inspiration to everyone throughout her long battle with cancer.”

When the Board of Trustees learned of O’Brien’s death, they immediately began to think of a way to honor her. They quickly decided that because of her dedication to the faculty it would be fitting to name the  lounge after her. However, when board members came to see the lounge for themselves, they were not impressed.

A portrait of the late Karen O’Brien in the lounge. Photo courtesy of Sam Groskind.

A portrait of the late Karen O’Brien in the lounge. Photo courtesy of Sam Groskind.

Mary Babbitt, Director of Admissions and Advancement, described the scene, saying “When the board members came over to look at the lounge they realized how awful it was. It was in a state of disrepair, big time. The cupboards never closed, parts of the countertops were peeling off, and the dishwasher didn’t work.”

Babbitt said that a committee of board members and alumni parents then took it upon themselves to raise money to renovate the lounge. Led by Andrea Mainman, Kathy Stern, Stan Kissinger, and Christina Wyles, the committee reached out to The Gregory School community and raised upwards of $8,000.

With these funds the committee was able to purchase brand new cabinetry, countertops, a dishwasher, fridge, and sink. The remodel took place over winter break, and  faculty were able to return to a lounge that Babbitt says “is just gorgeous.”

Now hanging in the faculty lounge is a picture of the O’Brien family at Keely’s graduation hanging along with a plaque which states:

“Karen devoted her energy to organizing and conducting recognition events to honor and thank the faculty for all they do to educate the students of The Gregory School. Her ready smile and sparkling eyes revealed the deep affection she felt for the school. In good health and in ill, Karen was a frequent presence on campus and served as a model of grace and courage to all fortunate enough to have known her.”