Mercier Planned Gift Supports Scholarship Fund
Bobbie Mercier taught French at Episcopal for nearly 30 years. Known as “Madame Mercier” to thousands of students, Bobbie was hired in 1972 by the school’s first Headmaster, Horton Reed, at an education convention in Boston.
She had earned a master’s degree in France and was teaching in Connecticut and corresponding long distance with her soon to be husband, Lee, who had served in the Peace Corps and was attending law school in Virginia. “We had been writing to each other for six years,” says Bobbie, “Lee had been drafted by the Navy, and we were going to get married and be based in Jacksonville, so I had applied for a job teaching French at this relatively new school in Jacksonville.”
Horton Reed wrote back to her and asked if she could drive up to Boston for an interview while he was attending an education convention. “He hired me on the spot,” she says. “The French teacher at Episcopal had resigned and I got the job.”
Shortly after Lee and Bobbie arrived in Jacksonville, Lee left for a six-month deployment. “The school became my family,” said Bobbie. “I moved to town without knowing anyone. There was a large group of faculty members around my age–Tish Kirill, Sam Moss, Randy Giarraputo–and it was a special time for all of us. We were all young and committed to teaching.”
Her first year, she actually taught English as well as French, as the French teacher who had resigned ended up staying another year. “Horton let me teach English along with one French class so he could honor the contract he gave me,” she said.
In the 1990s, Bobbie pioneered the school’s international exchange programs by partnering with the Bolles French Homestay Program. “I took countless groups of students to France,” she says. “It was a way to open their eyes to a broader way of looking at other values and cultures.”
Along with teaching and serving as the World Languages department chair, Bobbie was an advisor who formed close ties to her students and still keeps in touch with many of them.
“The school is doing what it set out to do,” she says. “It was and is a place that values education, and not just as a way to get a job, but to prepare students for life. Episcopal exposes every student to the arts and lets kids who are not athletically gifted participate in team sports. The spiritual foundation and community service, the writing skills and critical thinking skills, the appreciation of others’ cultures–all of it together creates such potential.”
Upon Bobbie’s retirement in 2001, Lee surprised her by creating a scholarship fund in her honor. The Merciers have made a planned gift which will further endow the scholarship and provide an ongoing opportunity for students to attend Episcopal.
“Lee was an estate lawyer, so it was easy for us to understand the importance of doing this and also how easy it is to do,” says Bobbie. They hope to encourage others to consider making planned gifts.
“If we can make it possible for kids whose families cannot afford an Episcopal education to attend, we will be smiling,” says Bobbie. “It makes me happy when I think how much the students I taught were prepared for the world, and we are grateful to extend that opportunity.”