Administrators at Fresh Meadows' PS 177 said the rainy weather last Friday afternoon meant that the school's late principal was looking down as they renamed the building in her honor.
The facade now says in blue letters "The Robin Sue Ward School for Exceptional Children" above the main entrance on 188th Street. Ward's friends, colleagues and family entered the school under her name to attend the official ceremony in the auditorium, where a video unveiling had to stand in for doing so in person outdoors.
"Rain brings luck," said Kathy Posa, PS 177's principal, putting a brave face on the soggy weather as she began her tribute to Ward, who died last year of multiple sclerosis. "The school has come a long way due to her, and Robin would have it no other way."
The school opened its doors in 1981 to special needs students with Ward as its principal and a host of unwelcoming neighbors peeking out from behind their curtains as the staff unloaded desks, said Bonnie Brown, superintendent of District 75, the city Department of Education's citywide designation for similar schools and programs.
"Robin never made excuses or apologies for her passion," she said. Her influence in the school and in the DOE was such that people referred to PS 177 as "Robin's school," so the name change merely makes it official, Brown said.
Many of the speakers referenced Langston Hughes' poem "Dream Deferred" as they spoke about Ward. Her husband, Dr. Stephen Ward, mentioned it when talking about his late wife's modesty and her dreams for her students.
"Robin Sue had many dreams, of getting married, of raising a family. Robin also had a dream that the children in these classrooms would be able to fulfill their dreams," he said. "And this modest, unassuming woman dreamed that one day this edifice would bear her name."
The decision was unanimously approved by the city, he said.
"Thank you for making this a reality, for not allowing it to dry up like a raisin in the sun," he said before the video screen behind him on the stage displayed a photo of the school's facade with his late wife's name.
There was a standing ovation in the packed auditorium, and tears of happiness fell indoors, mirroring the rain outside that Posa said showed that Robin Sue Ward was watching.
Reach reporter Alex Christodoulides by e-mail at achristodo
©2008 Community News Group
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