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The Library Room

Frieda Maurie Heller Memorial Library

Frieda Heller was a world unto herself at University School.  Being a southern woman, in a decidedly Yankee environment, she provided contrast in both personality and demeanor.  Her rich southern drawl served to soften her matriarchal demeanor.  To be sure, Frieda Heller was serious about herself and her role in developing young minds. While at the school, Frieda completed her Master's Degree in 1937 at Columbia University. She could be a taciturn librarian, when required, full of shush and demanding conformance, but her mission was to share her love of books with children.

Miss Heller was on the University School faculty from the start--and a close friend of many including Lou LaBrant, Margaret Willis and Ruth White. She was author of 8 works on using books to enrich the teaching experience. Her major work, I can read it myself, published in 1965, focused on independent reading in the primary grades. She also co-authored a book about free-reading in grades 7-12 ( with LaBrant ).

No matter what Frieda had to say, it was peppered by frequent "..Don't cha knows" as if to sear her southern heritage and personality deep into the memories of all She knew.

She remained at her post in the beautiful University School Library for over two decades.  Faculty remember her as an adjunct resource of great skill in a school that expected students to find their own way, do their own research, and learn to use the levers of knowledge offered by great libraries.


Frieda Heller touched the mind of nearly every University School student. We honor her for her efforts to impart in us a lifetime love of books and reading.

The Margaret Willis Story

Who Was The Real Margaret Willis? Was She A Towering Figure in Education, or Simply A Bully?

Here's the compelling story of Margaret Willis' lifelong odyssey as told by Samantha Maddox, one of today's most revealing education biographers. The Margaret Willis in these pages is not necessarily the personality most remembered by her former students. This is a Willis of travel, romance, politics, heartbreak, endurance and compassion. But Maddox also tells the story of the legendary educator University School students knew, endured, loved, or feared. Almost at once we discover the University School Willis--a focused and demanding teacher who saw schooling as a microcosm of life -- and a jumping off place for adventure.

She was a staunch Democrat and a Roosevelt liberal, but Margaret Willis was equally a social conservative. Thus Willis was a paradox, not always consistent, and often full of self doubt. Even so, her opinions were never weak, nor her logic fuzzy. Many will be surprised at Willis' many adventures in pre-war Japan. Even so, the Willis who came to University School in 1932 was unsure of her destiny, lacking of self-confidence, and wondering if she would ever amount to anything.

Samantha Maddox introduces us to the real Margaret Willis -- from her upbringing on a Christmas Tree farm in upper New York State, through her education at Wellesley and Columbia, to her travels to Turkey, Egypt, Europe and Asia. This book is so revealing, it's safe to say that until you have read Maddox' carefully researched biography of Margaret Miriam Willis, former students hardly knew University School's most legendary educator at all.

What Are We to Learn From The Life of Margaret Willis?

Here's what Samantha Maddox has to say . . .

There is much to learn from Margaret Willis’ life and career. Willis broke the boundaries of "socially acceptable" behavior for women in the early 1900s, she raised the bar for teaching standards, and she exemplified what it means to be a life-long learner.

Margaret Willis was a woman whose ambitions were not hindered by her gender; as a young woman she traveled cross-country to attend a college known for its quality education of women. Willis was drawn to countries of the East such as Egypt, Iran, Japan, and Turkey, where she traveled either alone or with female friends.

Willis brought the world to her students, and she brought her students to the world; the highlight of her students’ senior year was their trip to New York, where Willis introduced them to her friend and kindred spirit Eleanor Roosevelt. Willis challenged her students to question their beliefs and develop strong convictions. While she was teaching them history, she was also teaching students to be thoughtful, active citizens of the world.

Teaching was her life, but teaching was an outgrowth of Margaret Willis’ role as life-long learner. Among her friends were philosophers, artists, cooks, mathematicians, and politicians. Those who attended her parties spoke of the eclectic interests of the people in attendance, and the ease with which Willis moved among them.

Margaret Willis was a woman for whom comfort was not a priority. She left the familiarity of home to attend college, and she left the familiarity of the United States to move to Japan immediately following her graduation from college. When she returned to the United States, she took a job teaching in a new, progressive school, where she established herself as a leader and advocate for advancement. "Vacations" for Willis included renting a car and driving across the Middle East, where she wrote joyfully about stopping occasionally for fresh water to rinse the grit from her mouth.

What Margaret Willis’ life can offer to anyone is a model for living deliberately and consciously. Willis’ zeal for life never diminished in large part because it held infinite interest for her. In a time when teachers may lose the love for their craft amidst calls for "higher standards," "increased teacher accountability," and "tighter school security," the life of Margaret Willis shows today’s teachers how to maintain their infatuation with discovery: of themselves, of their students, and of their world.


Story By Samantha Maddox
Spartanburg, S. C.
January 2002

The AAUS Library Collection


We have tried to retain all the original documents that were cataloged on the original AAUS website. The documents are PDF reproductions from the orignal website information as it was in 2008.  It is our goal to convert all the documents to PDF format for easier online reading, downloading, and long term storage for historical purposes. Due to technical issues; some pictures, images, links, author information, date of publication, etc., may not convert or import properly.


All authors are acknowledged for their works on this website regardless of the absence of their acknowledgment within the document itself. The AAUS Library Collection contains: Biographies, Articles, Papers, Reports, Stories, Transcripts, Letters and Speeches. There are currently 36 documents available online. To view the documents click on the images below.

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