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Honoring Alexa Seip

by Chrissy Aull, Founding Head of School

Twenty years ago, Alexa Seip called me, in my office at Wye River Upper School. She had read a wonderful full-page article in the Star Democrat about how great the school was and she wanted to know more. Apparently, she liked what she heard because she has been with the school ever since.

Three white women with gray hair in formal attire pose for a photograph and hold an award.
Founding Head of School, Chrissy Aull, Senator Adelaide Eckhardt, and Alexa Seip, recently retired Chair of the Board of Trustees, accept a recognition from the Maryland Senate for providing 20 years of education to students with learning differences.

Wye River Upper School (WRUS) was founded in 2002 to serve the strengths and needs of bright high school students with learning differences including ADHD, Dyslexia and High Functioning Autism. Alexa could relate, having parented a very bright, talented son who benefitted from a school with the same mission, when she and her husband Tom resided in California.

Not long after that phone call and a personal visit to our first location at Chesapeake College, a donation arrived. One which, in her words, not mine, was “Not much, but better than a poke in the eye.” As a novice fundraiser, surviving more off of passion than pennies, I quickly understood that Alexa might wish to share the “time, talent and treasure” that our little start up school sorely needed.

Though I tried to position her on our fledgling Board, Alexa opted to maintain her status as a friend of the school. A very busy woman, Alexa is dedicated to her work as a Trustee of her beloved alma mater, Darrow School, enjoys travel with her husband Tom and cares for and competes with her cherished equines.

In the business of non-profits, relationships are everything and her friendship with John Devlin, a WRUS Trustee and Chair, resulted in her joining the Board.

Not one to sit quietly on the sidelines, Alexa immersed herself in the growth of the school, quickly earning the position of Chair, as John’s successor. Having supported, in many ways, our successful capital campaign to raise the funds to renovate and reside in the Centreville Armory, Alexa knew the opportunities

ahead as we turned our attention to enriching programs and growing enrollment.

Alexa Seip cuts ribbon for the Wye River Upper School's Middendorf MakerSpace.

Through the years, Alexa attended events, visited school often, and made a point to know the students and their stories. It was Alexa’s idea to convert a house we owned next door to the school building into a MakerSpace, with a hugely successful outcome.

Because Alexa cherishes personal conversations, she used them to celebrate the good news, yet never shied away from “crucial conversations.”

I retired as Head in June 2020 – forever known as the year of Covid. Everything had to be reinvented for Zoom, including our Commencement ceremony for our beloved Class of ’20. I decided it would be safe and appropriate if I set up my laptop in school so that instead of a sloppy bookcase, I could project the school stage, with the WRUS logo and the U.S. flag in the shot. I could not see any faces on that Zoom but I could hear voices. I discerned Alexa’s trademark jovial laugh when as MC, I made a crack about how Covid had caused my very bad hair day. I remember feeling gratitude for her presence that evening, my swansong, and a whole lot more. Leaving the dark and quiet Armory by myself, I was quite melancholy over the nature of this finale. Seated and strapped in my car to leave, Alexa’s text arrived – “Are you crying? I’m crying. You must be so proud of what you have accomplished.” Alexa’s reference to tears was likely metaphorical but that’s ok. Her words and gesture were a compliment of the highest magnitude.

Alexa Seip addresses the Class of 2021 on the lawn of St. Paul's Church.

Any non-profit strikes gold to earn a champion like Alexa. She will continue to support the causes about which she cares deeply. I look forward to her friendship and am forever grateful for her dedication to the students of Wye River Upper School.


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