BERLIN – Worcester Preparatory School will lose one of its founding faculty members next month with the retirement of longtime educator Merle Marsh.
After more than four decades at the Berlin private school, Marsh will step down from her position as director of special projects June 30. Though she’s looking forward to a quiet retirement in Williamsburg, Va. Marsh says she’s going to miss the independent school she watched rise out of a soybean field off Main Street back in 1970.
“This is just a wonderful atmosphere,” she said. “It’s a great place to be or I wouldn’t have stayed so long.”
Marsh is one of just three founding faculty members still at Worcester Prep. Along with Headmaster Barry Tull and Business Manager Paula Lynch, she’s been there since the beginning, starting as a fourth grade teacher and holding numerous titles since, including Head of Lower School and Academic Dean.
“It seems like just yesterday we started the school,” she said.
Marsh said being able to help build a college preparatory school was an amazing opportunity. Having spent time teaching in public schools, she knew the mandates some teachers were required to follow. At Worcester Prep, she had freedom in the classroom.
“You didn’t come into a school where the rules were already set,” she said. “You knew it was a college prep school but the way you did that could be creative.”
To Marsh, that meant experimenting with technology. In the 1980s, when few people knew what Apple was, she was writing articles for the company and exposing her students to the technology it was releasing. That ahead of its time thinking paved the way for Worcester Prep’s students, who today, when technology is at its utmost, have access to all the latest gadgets, from iPads to 3D printers.
“Technology is something we’ve seen really evolve,” Marsh said. “I’m not great at fixing computers — what I know is educational technology.”
In addition to pushing the school’s technology initiatives during the past four decades, Marsh has also been instrumental in developing things like the school’s handbook and wrote the alma mater lyrics. She also handles the school’s press releases.
“There is little that is unique and exceptional about Worcester that doesn’t have a ‘Merle Marsh’ touch attached to it,” Lynch said of her longtime coworker while nominating her for a special award.
Tull offered similar praise.
“If you took virtually every positive thing that has developed over the 45 years of WPS’ history, you would find Merle Marsh’s imprint on it,” he wrote in his nomination. “Every year I receive numerous comments from our former students about how Merle Marsh was the catalyst for their achievement at Worcester and later in their college and professional lives.”
Words of praise were echoed by other Marsh colleagues, including Head of Lower School Celeste Bunting and Assistant Headmaster and Director of College Counseling Director Tony D’Antonio.
“Visionary. Creative. Tireless. Talented. Kindhearted. These are words that describe Merle Marsh. She is truly a remarkable woman and worthy of this honor,” Bunting said.
“Dr. Marsh has invested her heart and soul into the Worcester community. She is truly a beautiful person and a tremendous ambassador for Worcester Prep, our student body, faculty and staff, and of course one of the main reasons for the school’s sustainability,” D’Antonio said.
During a special awards ceremony called “Worcester Honors” hosted by the Worcester Preparatory School Alumni Association last month, President Steve Green touched on Marsh’s contributions from a former student’s perspective.
“There are a handful of names that immediately come to mind when thinking of Worcester Prep and invariably Dr. Marsh’s name is near the top of that list. It’s not just her long tenure. It’s her unique, caring, polite and friendly manner that coupled with her tremendous impact on WPS, especially in the early decades, that will forever be remembered,” Green said in his speech. “What many of us know in this room, however, is that behind that gentle and kind façade lies brilliance on several levels. It can be seen with any sort of deep look at Worcester Prep.”
From a newspaper editor’s perspective, Green recounted her contributions in a different fashion.
“Dr. Marsh for years has been the driving force behind the marketing and public relations work for the school. This contribution cannot be understated. I get hundreds of press releases each week at my day job as a newspaper editor. Dr. Marsh knows how to write a press release and it in fact has boosted school’s presence throughout the media marketplace,” he said. “Rarely a week goes by that WPS is not getting the best kind of exposure any business, non-profit or school, in this case, cherishes — free publicity. Dr. Marsh provides the media with multiple press releases and photos of local student accomplishments and that keeps the WPS brand fresh and newsworthy throughout the year.”
Marsh says all of her efforts have been focused on one goal — educating the school’s students. Her office, lined with photos of former graduates, is proof of that. She loves hearing from members of the Worcester Prep family and loves sharing news of the worthwhile things they’re doing with anyone willing to listen.
“This is what it’s all about,” she said this week, indicating a photo of a Worcester Prep grad who was set to become an emergency room doctor. “These people making new lives for themselves and being willing to help others.”