Frances H. Fremont-Smith
Brimmer and May Class of 1975
Connecticut College, B.A. Chinese Language and Asian Studies 1979
Yale-China Program Fall 1979
Harvard Graduate School of Education Ed.M 1985
“Brimmer and May instilled in me a sense of belonging and my place in the world, a love of languages and a passion to give back.”
Frances is the Executive Director of the United Foundation for China’s Health based in Beijing, China, where she has lived for 36 years.
What are you doing currently for a profession?
I have been lucky to have a varied career with the majority of it as an educator, bringing cultures together through international exchange programs. As the first American Foreign Expert teaching in Changchun, China, in 1979, I was thrust into the education field just as China was opening its doors to western ideas and thoughts. Today, I work in the health sector running a foundation that provides medical intervention to vulnerable populations in China (www.unitedfoundation.org). I am able to use my expertise and my work with an amazing team to create programs that help thousands of people each year receive life-changing and life-saving medical care they otherwise would not have access to.
How did Brimmer and May prepare you for your career?
I think about this a lot. Brimmer and May created the foundation for me to be who I am today. I spent eight years in a nurturing, loving, and inspirational environment that instilled in me a love of learning. The School gave me a faith in myself that I not only had a special place in the world but also that if I tried, I really could make a difference. Teachers encouraged me to strive to be the best that I could be and were supportive. My coaches were instrumental in pushing us to our limits, cheering us on to win if we could, but to be great sportswomen if we lost. It was the process that mattered, not the end result. My teachers set incredible examples. They loved their careers and educated the whole student, long before the “holistic” teaching methods became mainstream. We were all intertwined with one another, and we were all tolerant of one another. I tried to instill all these qualities in the students I worked with over three decades of teaching. Many of my former students have gone on to be teachers themselves.
What led you to attend Brimmer and May?
I was floundering in public school, and I needed a small and nurturing environment where I could be supported as I tried to spread my wings. The small classes, the fact that the School buildings were houses, and the teachers who interviewed me, made Brimmer and May my first choice.
What are you stand-out memories of your time at Brimmer and May?
Well, I could write pages on this question! Everything! The best years ever, best teachers, best coaches, best friends, best classrooms, best fields. I often revisit those halls, stairs, and classrooms in my recurring dreams. Brimmer and May is a part of my core being. Memories such as: weddings in the stairwell; tiptoeing through the tulips; Glee Club; Latin; field hockey; tennis; basketball; DH Lawrence; Ovid; sleepovers in the gym; Sylvia Plath; John Denver; all my teachers; and my dearest friends in my life and their parents. Thank you for inspiring me to learn Chinese. That was to be my future, and indeed it became my future.