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In Memory of Julie Lange Hall '55

Julie Lange Hall '55 and J. Parker Hall III '55

Julie Lange Hall '55 and J. Parker Hall III '55 

Earlier today President Valerie Smith sent the following message to the Swarthmore community:

Dear Faculty, Staff, and Students,

Our community lost one of its most devoted and generous members when Julie Lange Hall ’55, an emerita member of the Board of Managers, died on Saturday. She was 83.

A resident of Winnetka, Ill., Julie is remembered as a highly valued board member whose passionate yet unassuming advocacy for education and the arts inspired those who knew her.

"Julie was a warm and wonderful person whose sunny, upbeat nature and relentless optimism shone through all of her work on the board,” says Board Chair Tom Spock ’78.  “She loved Swarthmore, and was loved and admired by all of us in return. I am greatly saddened by her loss and on behalf of the board extend my deep sympathy to her family."

"Julie had a deep understanding of education through her work, and she brought that perspective to the Board,” says Barbara Mather ’65, emerita chair of the board. “She spoke rarely, listened well, and when she did speak, was invariably worth listening to. I always thought of her as the model for a board that operates by consensus or in the Quaker tradition."

Julie’s Swarthmore roots ran deep. Her mother, Barbara Pearson Lange Godfrey ’31, was born on campus in Benjamin West House and devoted her life to the College, working here for more than 50 years in several official and volunteer positions, including as director of dramatics and dean of women. Her mother’s father, Paul Pearson, taught public speaking here for more than 20 years. 

Given her many Swarthmore ties, Julie’s enrollment may have seemed preordained. Yet after growing up at the edge of campus on Elm Avenue and graduating from then-Swarthmore High School, she initially elected to attend Oberlin College and only transferred to Swarthmore as a sophomore. 

Julie earned a B.A. in English literature from Swarthmore, where she participated in Student Council, the Student Judiciary Committee, varsity basketball and field hockey, and Drama Board, among other activities. In her senior year, The Halcyon noted her penchant for piano duets and described her as a “rare specimen who says she’ll do it and does it.”

Within a year of graduation, Julie, a birthright Quaker, married J. Parker Hall ’55, a fellow transfer student she met on their first day, in the Friends Meetinghouse on campus. They had announced their engagement the day before their graduation.

Julie’s Swarthmore connections also included her brother-in-law Ferris Hall ’57 and uncles Drew Pearson ’19, Leon Pearson ’20, and H. Stanley Lange ’38. In addition, her maternal grandfather founded the Swarthmore Chautauqua Association, a traveling theater company and cultural series that, for almost 20 years before the advent of television and movies with sound, entertained audiences along the Eastern Seaboard. In 2001, with her mother, Julie published a compilation of her grandfather’s letters, photos, lecture notes, and plays, titled Man of Chautauqua and His Caravans of Culture: The Life of Paul M. Pearson

Julie pursued a career in education and held her first teaching position at the Shady Hill School in Cambridge, Mass. She also spent 23 years at North Shore Country Day School, a K-12 independent school in Winnetka, where she taught in all three divisions and served as middle school head, academic dean, field hockey coach, sex education teacher, and library program director before being chosen, after a national search, as the first woman appointed head of school. 

“I grew up knowing education was something I was going to be involved in, something that was important to me,” Julie said in a 2009 interview. “I didn’t know then that philanthropy would also be a part of it.”

Indeed, Julie and her husband, who had a successful career in finance, gave generously of their time and resources to the many institutions around the country that mattered most to them. They were major contributors to what is now known as the Swarthmore Fund and the myriad initiatives it supports, and were instrumental in the completion of the Lang Performing Arts Center. Given her and her family’s devotion to the arts, it is fitting that its Pearson-Hall Theater is named for them. They also endowed Lange House—her family’s home that is now used for College housing—and supported the renovation of Parrish Hall and Project Pericles.

Julie also served on the boards of Independent Schools of the Central States, the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, the Laboratory Schools of the University of Chicago and the University of Chicago’s Women’s Board, Opportunity International (a microlender in developing countries), and ASSIST, which sponsors international students to study at independent schools for a year.

Julie joined Swarthmore’s Board of Managers in 1993 and although she retired from the board in 2007, she remained active as an emerita member. In recognition of her stalwart support of the College, she received the Joseph Shane ’25 Award in 2000.

“The world is a circle of giving,” Julie said in 2009. “You give to somebody, somebody gives to somebody else. You do what you can and you do as much as you can.” 

Julie, whose husband predeceased her, is survived by three children, eight grandchildren, and two siblings.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to 1 the Chicago Shakespeare Theater (800 E. Grand Ave., Chicago, IL 60611), the Nature Conservancy (8 S. Michigan Ave., Suite 900, Chicago, IL 60603) or the Roger Baldwin Foundation of the ACLU (180 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 2300, Chicago, IL 60601).

Valerie Smith

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