Tribute to Highland Hall Teacher Odessa Ferris

As a trained pianist, vocal teacher and actress, Odessa Ferris was a woman with many talents. In the late 50's she met Alstan Lippencott, one of the co-founders of Highland Hall, and became interested in Rudolf Steiner's approach to education. In 1962 she joined the staff at Highland Hall as a music teacher and expanded the music program throughout the lower grades.
In 1969, Highland Hall's fifth grade teacher had to step back unexpectedly due to illness. Odessa was offered the position of class teacher and accepted it enthusiastically. Her passion for Greek history led her students to present her at their graduation with a 12 ft. long handmade Greek frieze that hung proudly at her home for many years.
As a teacher Odessa was demanding and "always challenging students to use their minds and imaginations. The goal of Odessa's way of teaching was to connect the student and their work so deeply that it became a part of them forever."
In 1974 Odessa became chairperson of the school, a position that fit well with her personality, work ethic and attention to detail. "Odessa was a force to be reckoned with" as many would later describe her. She was also known for her cat-eye glasses, colorful clothing and her famed owl collection which numbered more than 500. It was said that if a Highland Hall student ever caught her without some type of owl on her person, the student would be paid a quarter.
In 1979, she retired from Highland Hall, but continued teaching voice and piano lessons privately. Even in declining health she continued to teach music, right up until a few weeks before her death. Odessa’s wisdom, integrity and unwillingness to compromise attracted a loyal circle of friends and colleagues and will be fondly remembered by those that knew her.