“One of my favorite aspects of being a member of the Brimmer and May community is the extraordinary way that high social and academic standards are integrated.”
Alumni Liza Wachman Percer, Brimmer and May Class of 1992; Wellesley College Class of 1996; Standford University, MA and PhD in Education; University of California, Berkeley, Postdoctoral, National Writing Program
Published Novelist and Poet
Liza Wachman Percer ’92 recently corresponded with Alumni Relations Director Amanda Spooner Frank ’88 to discuss her Brimmer and May experience and what she is doing today.
Liza attended Brimmer and May from 8th grade through graduation, transferring from public school where she says her shyness was holding her back both socially and academically. Considering that her education had started to go in the wrong direction, she says “I’m sure that very few institutions would have steered me towards an undergraduate degree from Wellesley and two graduate degrees from Stanford, but Brimmer and May proceeded to do just that. From my first day at the school, the adults in my life at Brimmer and May respected me as an individual, teaching me to see and respect myself accordingly.”
Liza is now a published novelist and poet who lives in Northern California with her husband and three children. Her first novel, An Uncommon Education, was published in 2012 to widespread critical acclaim. It was an Amazon Top 10 Book of the Month and was on Oprah's summer reading list. Her second novel is under contract for publication in early 2015. Her first book of poetry, Ultrasound, is coming out this December. She is a three-time nominee for the Pushcart Prize and has twice been recognized by the Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Foundation. She credits her Middle and Upper School education at Brimmer and May for helping her to set this challenging course in life.
“ My education at Brimmer and May certainly did prepare me for my current life, not just because it taught me to think independently from a very early age, but because the adults in my life at the time clearly respected and honored those thoughts. This was a rare early gift, and arrived just at the time in my life —middle school—when many children begin to grapple with messages from adults and peers are that they are most acceptable and appreciated when they do what they are told and follow the crowd.”
“Thanks to five years of this early training, I stuck to my guns when I was encouraged, at different times in my life, to become a lawyer, a professor, a PR specialist, a management consultant, and a marine biologist. I think my intuitive sense of what would truly fulfill me had been cultivated well enough for me to avoid professions in which I might have been merely competent. Brimmer and May helped me to learn that my truest expression lay in the arts, and I have fought to make that expression a part of my daily life ever sense.”
“One of my favorite aspects of being a member of the Brimmer and May community is the extraordinary way that high social and academic standards are integrated. I sincerely feel that Brimmer and May made a lifetime investment in me when they accepted me as a somewhat bewildered twelve-year-old decades ago, and that that investment has only grown over the years. I still consider myself a "student-as-worker," a "lifelong learner," and a member of the Brimmer and May family. This sort of community longevity is a rarity in the modern world, and its benefits only deepen as the years pass.”
Liza remembers many of her Brimmer and May teachers and mentors well. According to her, Anne Reenstierna and Barbara Schulman saw her potential as a student; Marty Donaldson saw that she had a voice and a desire to use it; Judy Guild was the first person to call her a writer; Donald Berger loved to read and laugh as much as she did; Fern James showed her the joys of using a library; Nancy Bradley saw through her math dyslexia and took her sailing on the Charles long before it was environmentally sound; Yehudit Hoezel never batted an eyelash when she used Hebrew words in French class; Neil Brown had infinite patience for her interest in historical figures and events and her lack of interest in memorizing the same; Physical Plant Manager Bob Annese used to take time out to listen to her sing during rehearsals; and Ms. Lynch saw her potential as an athlete twenty years before she did.