"We prepare students to engage in the world that is and to help bring about a world that ought to be."

Jean Elliott Johnson

Minute of Appreciation
Jean Elliott Johnson
Faculty Emerita

The pioneering spirit exemplified in so many history books must have been an inspiration to Jean Elliott Johnson, for she blazed her own trail while teaching at Friends Seminary from 1974 to 1994.   Jean began her career at Friends as a Middle School Social Studies teacher. Later, she came to teach History in the Upper School, introducing a two-year world history course in place of Western Civilization. At the time, that was a daring innovation. The administration, including Joyce McCray, Barclay Palmer, and Rich Eldridge, was trusting enough to let her use material she had written for this experimental course. Then, with the support of Charlie Blank, the Chair of the History Department at the time, she alternated between using a published textbook and her Xeroxed manuscript. This Xeroxed text eventually became part of the published textbook series, The Human Drama, which she and her husband, Don, co-authored. Today, the book and other co-authored titles-Gods and God in Hinduism, Through Indian Eyes, and Universal Religions in World History-are used at prestigious high schools and colleges throughout the country.   Before The Human Drama was published, Jean met with students who were studying history from her manuscript at Friends to gather their feedback on the text. The dedication page for Volume I reads, "Dedicated to the ninth grade students at Friends Seminary whose insights are incorporated in this text and whose lives are shaping the ongoing human drama." Later, Volume II included photographs taken by Sean Tyrer '04, then a ninth grade student at Friends. Both volumes are still being used at Friends today. Jean's affection for history and her ability to connect students to it are two of her greatest gifts.   Jean's legacy at Friends goes well beyond classroom academics. She was responsible for the first ninth grade Service Day where the entire class participated in YSOP activities, laying the groundwork for the All-School Service Day we hold today.  Jean also worked with Charlie Blank on Model United Nations events and planned cooperative class projects for Experiential Education with Ted Rockwell. She says she'll never forget the Iliad with Phil Schwartz, especially the day after Senior Cut Day. Jean's membership in, and impact on, the Friends community has been remarkable.  We express heartfelt gratitude for the breadth and depth of service Jean has given to Friends Seminary and are proud to honor her as Faculty Emerita. 
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Friends Seminary — the oldest continuously operated, coeducational school in NYC — serves college-bound day students in Kindergarten-Grade 12.