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Dr. Stephanie Balmer Tribute

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Margot May, Social Media Team Leader

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“He smiled understandingly–much more than understandingly. It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life. It faced–or seemed to face–the whole eternal world for an instant, and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. It understood you just as far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself, and assured you that it had precisely the impression of you that, at your best, you hoped to convey.”

–F. Scott Fitzgerald

Dr. Balmer could easily be likened to a source of great light. In this way, she reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from The Great Gatsby in which Fitzgerald writes his description of Gatsby’s alluring demeanor. Now, I think this quote serves as a perfect ode to who Dr. Balmer was to her girls. Dr. Balmer loved us in all the ways one can be loved. She was our most faithful supporter. She was our most fearless advocate. She believed in us in a way that instilled confidence into even the most faltering of hearts. She treated every student, whether they were 10 or 18, with an unparalleled level of respect. She would greet each of us by name (yes, she knew all 698) and ask us how we were doing in a way that let us know she genuinely cared. She was an encourager. She wrote emails, threw around compliments, and tossed out smiles. A heart could swell with just one nod of approval from her.

From what I could tell, to our faculty, she was not just a boss. She was a friend. There was no superiority complex between her and those working under her. Dr. Balmer fit into every cliché of goodness . She was the ice cream, the chocolate fudge, and the cherry on top. She was a breath of fresh air, the sunshine on a cloudy day, and the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. She was a day of sunshine, blue skies, and 70-degree weather in the middle of February. She was the Wonder Woman even Gal Gadot couldn’t compare to. Dr. Balmer was the limbs, the brains, the lungs, and most importantly, the heart of our campus. I believe that the fingerprints don’t fade from the lives we touch. However, Dr. Balmer did not just leave fingerprints. She left long lasting colorful handprints on each of us. A true Lady of the Hall, she showed us how to think critically, lead confidently, and live honorably. Now, she serves as our guardian angel, a job that I have no doubt she will excel in.

At the end of last semester, I went to Dr. Balmer’s office to drop off her Christmas gift. Upon my entrance, she immediately got up, expressed her deepest gratitude, and enveloped me in the longest hug I have ever experienced. This is not hyperbolic. It was a long enough hug for me to text my friends about it afterward. Dr. Balmer was known for her hugs and her smile. However, I fondly remember her for the way she was able to reach out her arms to the entire Harpeth Hall community and envelop us in a hug of love and strength. She managed to have enough room for each one of us.

During that short visit in her office, we expressed our shared feelings of serendipity over the fact that my fellow 99 sisters in plaid and I, the Class of 2018, were entering our final semester. We both knew that the Class of 2018 and she had a special bond. Our first year in the Upper School was her first year on campus. We started our journey together. Dr. Balmer was by our side through every state championship, exam week, and awards day. She was our voice of reason during times of chaos, our shoulder to cry on during times of pain, and our hand to shake during times of triumph. She was as much a part of our class as anyone is, our fellow sister, our mama bear, our beloved Dr. Balmer. Although it is painful to know that we will not be able to receive one last nod of encouragement and tight squeeze from her as we head off to conquer new heights next year, I am confident that she will continue to envelope each of us in a hug of love and strength.

Dr. Balmer is still doing her part to unite our community. Her influence has brought people all over the world together. We have all felt the overpowering love from our fellow girls in plaid, our faculty, our alumnae, our families, and our Nashville community. I encourage each of us to look for the collateral beauty. Like when sight gets a little clearer when tears form, tragedy unites us into unbreakable bonds. We will rally around each other and her beloved family. We will take life’s sourest lemon, add some love and sugar, and turn it into something resembling lemonade. We will think critically, lead confidently, and live honorably in her honor. We will do it big this year. We will celebrate each other like she would have. We will shine her light. We will strive to never meet a stranger. We will greet each other by name when we pass each other on campus. We will carry on her legacy of spreading big love to everyone we encounter.

We have been, and now always will be, Balmer Strong.

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