The soul of her shoes

Associate Head of School Anne Graybeal’s platform heels are just as much platforms for conversation and affecting change as a simple pair of shoes.

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The soul of her shoes

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You can tell Anne Graybeal, Associate Head of School, is a powerhouse just based on how she appears on paper. She has a Bachelor’s degree from Pomona College–where she graduated cum laude–in English Literature and French Literature, a Master’s degree from Georgetown in English Literature, and is pursuing an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership from the University of Pennsylvania. Her 16 years of experience in the educational field include gigs at Johns Hopkins, the Madeira School, and the Webb Schools where she was presented the Thompson and Vivian Webb Award for Excellence in Teaching. Yet, those who know her personally know that beyond her sky-high resume and the other dimensions of her total brilliance, her most elevating platforms might be the ones she wears on her feet.

        As Paul Menge, Assistant Upper School Director  and long-time friend to Graybeal, notes, “In addition to this real sense of style and flare, [she] is this really sensitive and caring person that I have really come to know and appreciate over the years.” In three words, Senior Class President Allen Wang ’16 describes Graybeal as “enthusiastic, intellectual and spontaneous…She brings a lot of excitement and genuine joy into people’s lives.” Teachers and students alike recognize that the school halls are indeed Graybeal’s runway to showcase her style as well as her skills as an educator.

   

“I am like a squirrel burying nuts. I keep my shoes in different parts of the house and in my car and office. I probably own more pairs than is reasonable for a human.” – Anne Graybeal”

— Anne Graybeal, Associate Head of School

     Graybeal’s rule is to quite literally to throw on “whatever is physically clean.” If it smells nice and doesn’t have any wrinkles, it’s a winner. After giving her clothes a sniff, she will then pair the outfit with the shoes that scream out to her the loudest.

     While she at Pomona, Graybeal took a semester to study abroad at the Sorbonne, a prestigious school in Paris, during the spring semester of her junior year.  In Paris, she saw a pair of lace-up, black leather shoes in a store window and immediately thought, ‘Those must be mine!’ To her, those shoes were like “Dorothy’s ruby slippers, except [there were] baguettes instead of Munchkins.” Furthermore, “Wearing a pair of shoes made me feel more [a part of] of the place,” Graybeal recounts. That was the moment when she found her love for shoes that would later evolve into a trademark personal statement.

Anne Graybeal's shoes serve the role of being both a political statement and a fashion statement.

Fiona Duffy
Anne Graybeal’s shoes serve the role of being both a political statement and a fashion statement.

Now, sporting her large collection of footwear is a way of expressing her “introverted” self. For Graybeal, her love for shoes has lead to a decked-out footwear collection. After being asked how many pairs she owns, she replied, “I am like a squirrel burying nuts. I keep my shoes in different parts of the house and in my car and office. I probably own more pairs than is reasonable for a human.” To her, clothes and shoes are her armor for the day; she feels they “protect” her. But beyond her own introversion, she identifies the critical role clothes play in professional women’s lives. “What’s particular, I think, to the experience of many women in leadership roles–no matter the size or scope–is that when women arrive to work, those “armorial” choices get noticed in ways that men’s choices do not.”

Soon after meeting one of her colleagues at one of her jobs, Graybeal was told the story of their first impression of her. The first thing the colleague noticed about Graybeal was that her nails matched her dress, but the colleague later found out that Graybeal actually “has some really smart things to say too!” Though she was able to laugh off the fact that someone’s first impression of her was heavily based on her outfit, she wondered whether her colleagues would still take her seriously if she wanted to wear her gold lamé loafers and her big cat necklace.

     She came to the conclusion that many people don’t have the opportunity to express who they are through their clothing, and that even though some people may make judgements solely based on appearance, these judgements shouldn’t change how someone expresses themselves.

    “Our culture can spend a lot more time talking about how women look rather than what they are thinking and saying, and some women may spend more time than they would like wondering how other people will think they look,” she insightfully points. Besides, community members note her funky accessories and shoes demonstrate a daring creativity essential to the level of leadership that Graybeal has achieved. Underneath an amazing shoe collection and sense of style, she is a very genuine and compassionate person, and a leader in our school community.

      She explains, “Our culture can spend a lot more time talking about how women look rather than what they are thinking and saying, and some women may spend more time than they would like wondering how other people will think they look.” She has continued to wear her favorite gold lamé loafers and extraordinary necklaces. “I’m lucky enough to be part of a community that can totally tolerate when I wear light-up sneakers or gold loafers or giant cat necklaces to school; Blake has long been a place, I think, where it’s okay to deviate from the typical, for adults and students alike,” she says.