Gay Pepper ’60 Honored with 2018 Distinguished Alumni Award

Posted on April 3rd, 2017 by Allendale Columbia School

Allendale Columbia School is pleased to announce Gay Pepper ’60 as the recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award for 2018.

Established in 2009 to honor alumni for their outstanding achievements and contributions to both Allendale Columbia School and their local community, the AC Alumni Board is proud to recognize Gay as an alumna who has made a regional, national, and international impact while also serving as a role model for young people around the world. 

The 10th Annual Distinguished Alumni Award was presented to Dr. Gay Pepper ’60 in front of friends, family, peers, and fellow alumni at the Country Club of Rochester in June 2018. The Distinguished Alumni Award honors alumni for outstanding achievements and contributions to society after graduation.

Gay’s association with Allendale Columbia School began in 1956 when she enrolled at the Columbia School. After her years at AC, she went on to attend Stanford University, graduating with a B.A. With Distinction. After earning a master’s degree in Modern European History from Washington University in St. Louis, she completed her doctorate at Teachers College, Columbia University.

She has led a long career in education and has spent her life doing what is best for students. As a former Dean in Admissions at the University of Pennsylvania, she was awarded the Benjamin Franklin Medal for Outstanding Service to the University and its students. Gay has been dedicated to guiding and mentoring high school students for decades as a Head of College Counseling, an academic dean, and a history teacher at three leading independent schools around the country. More recently, she has started her own consulting firm to offer comprehensive college and career counseling for students and their families.

In addition to her many accomplishments beyond Rochester, NY, Gay is committed to making a positive impact locally, here in Rochester. She has run the Finger Lakes Program at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, participated in the Teach College Program for Rochester Scholars at the University of Rochester, and most recently, she helped launch AC’s new tradition, Ladies Who Lunch, which invites Columbia graduates to come back to the Allendale Columbia campus to celebrate mentors and memories together.  

It is because of Gay’s leadership, wisdom, insight, and inspiration that we were able to have a special Ladies Who Lunch dedicated to remembering and honoring Miss Nell Skillin, the former Associate Head of the Columbia School, who inspired Columbia students in countless ways for nearly three decades.

“Miss Skillin would love the quest for innovative learning that is happening at Allendale Columbia today.”

Like many of her Columbia classmates, Gay attributes her success to the mentorship and lessons learned from Miss Skillin. “As deeply honored as I am to receive this award, the person who inspired me and set me forth into the world determined to make it a better place was Miss Nell Skillin,” Gay recalled in her acceptance speech. “Miss Skillin taught me to look at problems in a new way–to examine the premise to determine if the programs in place were really addressing the needs of students. If they were not, it was time to scrap them and begin anew… Miss Skillin would be fascinated by the new strategies for learning and cutting-edge technologies that are being implemented and used in the Invent Center for STEM and Innovation.”

“Looking back, some six decades in my case,” Gay said, “Miss Skillin laid a strong foundation for this magnificent growth… It has been wonderful to be reconnected to a school which had given me roots to ground and wings to fly.”


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