Honoring Cathleen Robinson


A beloved teacher’s family launches a new financial aid fund.

Generations of Williston students remember Language Department head and Spanish teacher Cathleen Robinson for her remarkable contributions over a career that spanned nearly three decades: faculty advisor to the Willistonian; founder of the Areté tutors; developer of the Western philosophy and Latin American history courses; booster of the Writers’ Workshop; leader of numerous student trips to Spain, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic; mentor to new faculty; and wise counsel on numerous administrative committees. But first and foremost, say those who knew and worked with her, she was a teacher—one with a rare ability to see the potential in every student.

“To this day, Williston graduates contact her saying, ‘You inspired me to follow a career using my Spanish or to become a writer, journalist, or teacher,” says her stepdaughter Karen Brown Golding ’81.

That legacy was something Karen and her family wanted to celebrate, and to do so in a manner that would best suit Cathleen, who is now retired and lives with her husband and Williston colleague, Ray Brown ’55, in Hadley and Fort Myers, Florida. The result is the newly established Cathleen C. Robinson Scholarship, which was awarded this year to its first recipient. We asked Karen to tell us more about her stepmother, and how the scholarship came to be.

What led you to create this fund in honor of your stepmother now?

Named scholarships tend to be established after someone has passed away. My family, including my sister, Amy Brown ’84, purposely wanted to do this now so Cathleen would get to know the recipients of her scholarship. My husband, Brage W. Golding, and I considered Cathleen’s love for teaching and decided to honor her legacy at Williston. I wanted to make sure her contributions to the school were recognized. This was a main driver for establishing the scholarship. I knew it would be important to Cathleen to support students and their education. I will admit, however, that she would love to see a stand-alone building for the foreign language department!

Cathleen was one of the first women to teach at Williston after the merger with Northampton School for Girls. How did she arrive here?

Cathleen grew up in Canton, Ohio, and went to college at Notre Dame of Ohio, graduating summa cum laude in three years. She earned her master’s degree at Middlebury College’s Language School. She’s a brilliant academic who worked hard to achieve her successes. She started her teaching career at a large Catholic high school in Canton. When Cathleen made the decision to leave Canton, she was offered jobs at two private schools, one on the West Coast and the other, Williston. Luckily for all of us, she chose Williston!

And how did she become part of your family?

Cathleen and my father, Ray Brown, met at Williston. Ray was coaching and teaching at Williston after having attended as a post-graduate and graduating from Kenyon College. My younger sister, Amy, and I grew up on campus, first in Ford Hall and then Swan Cottage. My mother passed away unexpectedly, and my father found himself a single father on campus with two young children, just as Williston became co-ed, merging with NSFG. Cathleen had already joined the faculty. A bit later, she and my father established a friendship and they were married my freshman year at Williston.

What would you want today’s students to know about Cathleen?

Cathleen saw the potential in every student. For example, she recruited numerous students to become reporters and editors for the Willistonian before they knew they had the talent to write or edit. She brought out the best in everyone. She was a terrific educator that way. Cathleen wouldn’t ask her students to do anything she wasn’t willing to do herself. If a student needed extra help, she would say, “I will be here after class. If you make the effort to show, I will work with you.” She was committed to her students, the profession of teaching, and Williston.

How is Cathleen keeping busy now?

Cathleen keeps busy in her beautiful gardens in Hadley. She reads and reviews novels in Spanish for a literary review publication. She’s active in her church. She is the beloved Nana to my son, Brage Raymond Golding, and Amy’s daughter, Isabel Cathleen Brassil. She and Ray are doing great, spending time in both Hadley and Fort Myers. Our family is thrilled to be able to establish this scholarship in her name and honor Cathleen’s countless contributions to Williston over the years.

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