The Indian Creek School community deeply mourns the loss of Founding Head of School Anne Coleman Chambers. Anne passed away peacefully in her home in Hagerstown, Maryland, on Monday, October 12, 2020.
Often described as “larger than life,” Anne possessed tremendous wit and wisdom. She leaves behind countless family members, friends, and a community of “Creekers” whose lives she has changed for the better. Her astute observations, irreverent sense of humor, incredible intelligence, and generous heart will be greatly missed.
Anne was a visionary in every respect. She and ICS co-founder Rebecca Randolph started Indian Creek School in 1973 because of their strong beliefs in the capabilities of all young people. Anne’s parents, Tracy and Virginia Coleman, supported her vision by providing the gift of land, and Anne’s brother and ICS co-founder Tracy “Punky” Coleman, Jr. turned her dream into a reality by constructing the school building on Evergreen Road. The Coleman family’s tradition of generous support made Indian Creek School possible. Together, they created a school committed to keeping the best interests of the children at the center of every decision.
Anne saw the need for a broad-based education that understood the importance of mastering not only the fundamentals, but also the importance of music, art, physical education, drama, clubs, and sports for well‐rounded citizens. She had the vision to include Spanish, computers, and human development at a time when many schools didn’t offer those as subjects for older students, let alone kindergartners. Anne was steadfast in her insistence that her school be a diverse and inclusive community from the start.
Anne built a "family" school in the truest sense of the word. She had the vision and compassion to understand that parents needed partnership in raising their children during and beyond the school day. She found the right faculty to love and care for children from the early hours to well into the evening. Anne was a firm believer in giving children and young adults a safe space to learn from their mistakes. Her commitment to rational discourse as a means to help students learn and grow was constant and successful. Countless alumni remember Anne as someone who believed in them and taught them to believe in themselves too.
Anne valued the professionals she hired. She knew that faculty, administrators, and staff all needed to embrace the School’s philosophy if children were to succeed. She made sure that everyone benefited from continuing education opportunities that reinforced strong educational practices. Anne hired people for more than their credentials. In selecting candidates, she would ask, “Will they be strong members of the ICS family?” She hired them for what they could do in the classroom and for how they could move the entire school into the future, for how they could solve problems and manage crises, and for how they would work together. She did not tether them to any one set of expectations, but rather let them develop and implement ideas based on their own creativity and scholarship under the umbrella of a coherent philosophy. As Anne often said, “Find the people who are going to find joy in this work. Build a team who will be able to laugh, enjoy each other, and remember that the most important part of their work is to be there for the kids.”
Anne understood the distinct and intrinsic needs of each age group served by her school. She first worked to develop a vibrant Lower School, then nurtured a Middle School that responded to the needs of this transitional and lovable age group, and finally built an Upper School steeped in the philosophy that students thrive academically when they have a safe place to take healthy risks. Her expertise drove her to frame a school around the unique needs of high school students, including the late-start schedule that has since been recognized as best practice for teens. She developed a legendary Human Development curriculum to give students the tools to successfully navigate the perils that can populate the teen years. In Anne’s eyes, every student could be successful, and she was relentless in offering support to that end. Anne did all of this by creating a family, a community of people who cared about their school, cared about their work, cared about their own continued learning, and cared about one another.
Over the years, Anne’s philosophy had a positive impact on thousands of children, parents, and teachers. Anne believed in her students and her faculty, and her belief in them allowed them to believe in themselves.
Anne will be remembered for her wit, her honesty, and for many colloquial sayings including “The camel’s nose is under the tent,” “Make a mess and then fall back into it,” “Hire good people and then get out of their way,” and many other colorful phrases. There was nobody else like Anne, and because of her vision and values, there is no other school like Indian Creek School.
The legacy of Anne Coleman Chambers is one that will continue to be re-lived every time a graduate accepts a diploma with the name Indian Creek School on it. Her impact will continue to be present when a student walks across the cafeteria to another who is alone to ask if they are okay. It will be felt when a parent thanks a member of the faculty or staff with tears of pride or gratitude in their eyes. It will be present in the smile of every Creeker at finding success, big or small. It will be lived every single day we come to this community Anne inspired: Indian Creek School.
We at Indian Creek School vow to honor Anne by continuing her legacy every day. The impact that she has had on this world will continue to grow exponentially for generations to come.
Our thoughts, gratitude, and love go out to the Coleman, Moore, and Chambers families.
A private service will be held for the family.
Information about a Celebration of Life and other opportunities for the Indian Creek community to honor Anne will be shared as it becomes available.
We invite the Indian Creek School Community to share favorite remembrances of Anne