Ashley Hall Alumnae: Lives That Inspire Series
Ashley Hall Alumnae. You know who they are. They are confident, passionate about what they do, and eager to make their mark on the world. They lead lives that inspire.
With this in mind, Ashley Hall is pleased to present a year-long series that proudly showcases how alumnae continue to embody the School’s mission. Alumnae stories will be told through compelling video, brief interviews, and more extensive profile features. We celebrate and congratulate these incredible Ashley Hall women as they lead lives that inspire.
Their stories are below.
If you know an alumnae with an inspiring story to tell, please contact us at [email protected].
Lauren Smith '10
Meet Educator and Alumna Lauren Smith ’10
For Lauren Smith ’10, spending the summer at Ashley Hall is nothing new. “I’ve literally been on campus every summer since sixth grade,” says Smith, who returned again to Charleston this summer to teach seventh grade at Horizons at Ashley Hall.
In middle school, Smith volunteered as a summer camp counselor for her mother, Intermediate Program Division Assistant Dee Dee Smith who was the Director of Ashley Hall Summer Programs at the time. “I started getting paid to work with her in ninth grade, then I co-ran summer camp with her while I was in college.”
After graduating from Ashley Hall as a 16-year girl, Smith ran track and cross country for Belmont Abbey College in Charlotte, North Carolina. During her senior year, she returned to Ashley Hall as a student teacher. “I was the first person ever to student-teach here,” Smith says. “For the first half of the year, I taught first grade with Jane Bolden. Then the other half, I worked with Franny Slay ’80 in the PE department. Ms. Bolden was my first grade teacher, and I started running because of Franny so it was all really so special.”
Knowing she wanted to teach, Smith went on to work for teachNOLA which led her to applying for a job at Frederick Douglass Elementary School, a title I school in Gretna, Louisiana, where she taught pre-kindergarten and kindergarten for five years. Then she moved to J.C. Ellis Elementary School, a public school in Metairie, Louisiana, where she has taught kindergarten for the last four years.
“I wanted to make a difference in the kids that I’ve never been around,” Smith says. “I went to Ashley Hall my whole life. I was the only Black kid until ninth grade. Our School is amazing, and I’m the person I am because of it, but I wanted to work with kids who have never had the role models I had. There are kids that don’t even have parents who are literally being raised by themselves or their older siblings in second grade. So that’s why I picked New Orleans.”
On top of teaching kindergarten at J.C. Ellis Elementary School, Smith also acts as chair for pre-kindergarten through second grade and mentors middle school students. “I have eight girls specifically that I’ve mentored from sixth to eighth grade,” Smith says. “They come to my room every Friday, I bring them lunch, and we just talk because they don’t have anybody to talk to.”
This experience led her to applying to work for Horizons at Ashley Hall during the summer of 2023, a tuition-free, all-girls community centered program expanding educational equity in Charleston. With Horizons, she taught middle school and focused on creating a very open space for seventh-grade students to learn and grow.
“At the start of the summer, we’d get together in the mornings and sit in a circle and just talk,” Smith says. “Starting that way really helped us boost relationships and let them learn about me. They were so full of questions about everything. They wanted to know all about me.”
Smith’s students learned that she spent 16 years of her life at Ashley Hall. “I told them my whole life, I was here in these walls, and they could barely believe it,” Smith says. “That’s when I’d tell them I had all kinds of friends, all kinds of experiences, and you can do the same thing wherever you are. Just be who you are all the time. Don’t change who you are.”
By the end of the summer, Smith witnessed her students not only coming together as a class, but as individuals. “It really is all about that relationship with a role model who looks like them and them seeing that you can be whatever you want to be. As long as you’re trying, you’re growing, you’re learning, you’re trying your best – then, hey. You’re doing great.”
Janie Ball '86
Janie Ball always knew she was destined for a life as a visual artist. From a young age, she attributes Ashley Hall with ensuring her creative well was full. “Ashley Hall convinced my family that the arts are just as valid, that you can pursue a career in the arts just as you pursue [anything else],” says Ball. However, it was post graduation, during her time at the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design, when Ball truly realized the special connection between her and her alma mater.
Dr. Lauren Crymes Tierney '92
Dr. Lauren Crymes Tierney, DVM, started working at West Ashley Veterinary Clinic as an Ashley Hall student at just 15 years old. Now, she’s the clinic’s veterinarian owner leading its team of passionate professionals who provide care for so many animals in our community. “Almost every day I’m reminded of my days back when I started,” Tierney says. “Building on each other’s strengths is what makes us successful and that’s not something you can learn in a textbook.”
Margaret Anne Florence Siachos '97
Margaret Anne Florence Siachos ’97 has built a diverse career as a successful actor, singer, and model in New York City. She received a B.A. in Music/Classical Voice from College of Charleston, and a Masters in Music Theatre Performance from New York University.
You may have seen Margaret Anne featured in major motion pictures including Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, My Super Ex-Girlfriend (with Rainn Wilson), and The New Daughter (with Kevin Costner), among others. She has also worked on numerous television shows including Inside Amy Schumer, 30 Rock, Nurse Jackie, and most notably starred as Marion Keisker alongside Chad Michael Murray in CMT’s television series Sun Records.
Margaret Anne has also spent time on New York and regional stages. She played the leading role of Luisa in The Fantasticks Off-Broadway for over 200 performances, among other musical productions. She can most recently be seen on Amazon Prime Video in the hit tennis comedy, First One In. She lives in Hoboken, NJ with her husband and two sons, but remains a Carolina girl at heart and returns to Charleston often to be with her family.
5 Questions with Margaret Anne Florence Siachos ’97
1. What are 3 words to best describe you? Dependable, Hard-working, Adventurous
2. How has Ashley Hall impacted you and the way you live your life? Ashley Hall always gave me the feeling I could achieve anything that I set out to do, especially as a young woman. I think the benefit of my all-female education was that women were always the focus. Everyone would come watch the girls play sports, there were no boys to compete with. I always felt like we were important. We were never “second place” – we were the main event!
3. What is the most valuable experience or lesson you learned while at Ashley Hall? Athletics were a huge part of my time at Ashley Hall. To this day I look back on all those practices, all those games, all that time spent with my teammates as character building. As a sophomore, I played on the Varsity Basketball team. We went undefeated the entire season, only to lose the State Championship by a few baskets. That loss taught me a lot about life and that you can work your hardest but not always come out on top.
As an actor, I live that every day. I can have 100 auditions and not get one job, but I know the only way to survive in this business is to put in the work, and never give up. Your time will come. Coincidentally, one of my favorite acting jobs was on a film called, The Mighty Macs, where I played a college basketball player! It was based on the true story of the first Women’s National Basketball Championship in 1972. All those years on the court at Ashley Hall sure came in handy!
4. Is there a cause or non-profit that you’re involved in or passionate about? Why? When my father passed away in 2013, my family started the Terry Florence Golf Endowment through the Coastal Community Foundation. The Endowment awards college scholarships through the South Carolina Junior Golf Foundation. We host a golf tournament each year that raises money for the endowment. The only way we are able to do this is through the generosity of those who knew my father personally and professionally. It is absolutely amazing to see all the people who come out every year to support us. As a golf professional, my father was respected and loved by many people, and it is truly incredible to see how impactful his life continues to be. He would be honored to know that he is helping young people achieve their dreams. It makes you realize how much your life can affect other people.
5. What would you tell your 17-year old Ashley Hall self if you had the opportunity to do so? I would tell her to enjoy every minute of being 17, which I think I did! I would also tell her that challenges will come at various stages in life. I think everyone is idealistic when they are young, which you should be! But, I think you need to know you will struggle, you will fail, you will have to keep going, and you can.
Masheed Keshmirian Rockwell '02
Masheed Rockwell ’02 graduated from Ashley Hall, a 12-year girl, with the knowledge to carve out any career path she chose. But it was her confidence and curiosity that sparked her journey to become her own boss and CFO at Rockwell Construction where her focus is not only preserving historic properties, but building a stronger future for the Charleston community. That spark all started, in her words, at Ashley Hall: “Who I am as a person is because of where I came from.”
Michaela White '14 and Maya White '17
Meet Michaela uand Maya
As young women committed to serving their country, Michaela White ’14 and Maya White ’17 have excelled on their shared journey to become naval officers. Along with their sister Madeline White ’16, they are now fulfilling our School’s mission as the newest generations of Ashley Hall alumnae by leading with initiative, purpose, and vision.
Michaela and Maya’s military service creates a special connection, who were inspired by their father, a 1983 West Point graduate who served as a U.S. Army officer in Military Intelligence. As the first Ashley Hall graduate to attend the Naval Academy, Michaela is a proud representative of her Charleston alma mater and the integral values it instilled within her.
During their Naval Academy journey, both Michaela and Maya held company-level leadership positions, with Michaela serving her final year on the brigade-level as the Operations Officer for Sea Trials, and Maya serving as the Executive Officer for the 17th Company. When stationed in Norfolk as a Public Affairs Officer at the Navy Public Affairs Support Element East, Michaela applied those same leadership skills to her work, whether she was helping plan the 20th commemoration for the attack on the USS Cole (DDG -67) or aiding in VIP tours aboard the USS Gerald E Ford (CVN -78).
Lessons in Leadership at Ashley Hall
Bracing against the wind on the deck of the Roseway, Michaela White ’14 gazed steadily toward the horizon. For twelve days, she and fellow students, led by Upper School faculty member Dr. Roscoe Davis, had worked as part of the crew sailing a schooner on a 1500 mile transit from St. Croix. The capstone of Ashley Hall’s Offshore Leadership Program, the demanding open water voyage had challenged them all to push past their limits and tackle difficulties head on. Now, with Charleston slowly rising in the distance, she smiled in triumph: They had arrived.
“I did not know it then, but that experience was pivotal for me in my young life,” said Michaela. “The Offshore Leadership Program influenced my leadership skills because it forced me into scenarios that I had never been in before and that I literally could not get out of, seeing that I was stuck on a ship in the middle of the ocean. It taught me lessons such as perseverance and resilience that I do not think I could have learned in any other environment. I am beyond grateful that I was able to have an experience like that. It was the push I needed to solidify my desire to join the Navy.”
On her first day of class at the Naval Academy, Maya White ’17 entered a room filled with thirty other plebes, all of whom were male. She had spent the last seven weeks undergoing the intense physical and mental training of Plebe Summer, a stringent induction into the life of a midshipman. Now, the equally demanding academic component of her college experience was about to begin. Without hesitation, she walked to the front row and sat down. Within five minutes, she was raising her hand to answer the professor’s questions and vigorously taking notes. Exuding confidence, she was fully in her element.
“Ashley Hall made the classroom a space where I could thrive, and I haven’t looked back since,” Maya explained. “The biggest advantage I gained from graduating from Ashley Hall is my confidence. I surprise my peers every single day with my lack of hesitation in the classroom, at a conference table, and on summer training.” For both women, a deeply held belief in themselves has built a solid foundation for their ability to lead.
“Ashley Hall helped shape me into a female leader because I truly believe that it gave me the confidence to succeed based on the high frequency of interaction and participation in the classroom,” said Michaela. “All of my teachers encouraged participation, which gave me the confidence to voice my opinion or push myself out of my comfort zone to answer a question even if the answer was incorrect. It was this little push that I carried with me through college and into my professional life. I also try to make sure I provide my input while on a project even if I may be the lowest ranking person in the room.”
For both women, one of the most vital aspects of Ashley Hall’s tight-knit community was its engaging faculty members, who exhibited passion for their disciplines and a deep commitment to their students.
“By the time I reached Upper School, I was comfortable establishing relationships with my teachers, and Mrs. Allison Bowden and Dr. Claire Christensen were my biggest mentors who supported me unconditionally, both in the classroom and in life,” said Maya. “Both of these women showed me how to love my studies and do what makes me happy!” Maya later chose to major in oceanography, and she traces her choice back to growing up on the water in Charleston and the influence of those same teachers. “The math, science, and marine background I gained at Ashley Hall created my passion for all things science, especially in the ocean!” she enthused. “I challenged myself with my course load at Ashley Hall, and I trained myself to put school before other commitments. The challenging, fast-paced setting at Ashley Hall set me up for major success here in Annapolis.”
Michaela was also inspired by her teachers, both in her choice of academic path and in her broader approach to life. “I loved my International Relations class taught by Mr. Andrea Muti, who was the reason I chose political science as a major at the Naval Academy,” she said. “Senora Mahe Van Dyck was always available to talk, no matter what the topic was, whether I needed extra help with Spanish or had a life issue at hand. She was the reason behind my choosing Spanish as a minor. Dr. Roscoe Davis pushed me the most in the classroom and taught me how to stay on my toes with his popsicle stick style quizzes. Coach Gail Bailey really taught me what it meant to be a hard worker, not only on the track but also with everything in life. As my coach, she truly pushed me to be not only a better athlete but also a better leader.”
Stories of Alumnae on Campus
Who Are We After the Pandemic?
On Friday, March 16, 2020, Ashley Hall students went home, classes went virtual, and traditions went missing as COVID-19 spread through Charleston.
Two years later, life has returned to campus, and the removal of our face masks has revealed a lot about our community. Behind them, there were struggles. There were deep losses. But even though you couldn’t see them, our smiles never disappeared in the dark. Now they are brighter than ever. From their unique position as both alumnae and educators, we asked these Ashley Hall women to reflect on how the last two years have changed life on campus, starting with themselves.
Mary B. Webb ’76 | Nautilus Program Faculty
“The past two years have reaffirmed my commitment to Ashley Hall as a teacher and as a graduate. Although technology made it possible to interact with students during periods of distance learning, the more humane approach involves face-to-face interactions as a core part of learning at Ashley Hall. We are attuned to the nuances of our student’s behavior and, because of our caring faculty with a diversity of experience, each child needs a mentor within our ranks. Watching my fellow faculty members deal with all of the burdens the pandemic put on their families, while meeting the challenges of teaching and offering crucial comfort to individual students has been both exhausting and inspirational. I am proud of my colleagues, my students, and their families. We made it past every obstacle that landed in our paths and have high hopes for the future.”
Betsy Cheek Howland ’74 | Lower School Administrative Assistant
“I have never been more appreciative of every person in our community–the flexibility of our teachers, the contributions of every family, but most of all, the students. When the children returned to campus, I realized they are the ones that turn it into a place of joy.”
Elizabeth W. Johnson ’95 | Early Education Center Primary Teacher
“When we first closed the doors to school in March 2020 we didn’t know what to expect, but we knew that our youngest students were going to need a lot of love, care, and attention. On our end, we spent endless hours quickly learning how to create video lessons to share with the children and creating meaningful lesson plans with activities that the parents could do at home with their children. We gave it 200 percent of our effort. We quickly learned how to use Zoom as a platform to host Morning Greeting Circles for our students, and we did our best to make them interactive. Also, we offered one-on-one individualized learning Zoom sessions for the youngest students; this was the tricky part! How do you engage young children through a screen? Thankfully, my associate and I each had houses full of teacher materials and were able to make the meetings meaningful and fun. Several students were hard to reach and engage through the screen and for those children we went over and beyond. For one child, we dressed up in our Halloween costumes and I ‘turned’ my associate into a frog at the end of the lesson as a reward for the child engaging with us. We learned that under pressure, you can do a lot more than you usually do.
Coming back to school in the fall of 2020 changed our ways of teaching in early childhood. We are a very hands-on, sensory-driven building full of emotions and expressions. When we all came back to school wearing masks, the children could not read the expressions on our faces nor could we read theirs. One of the biggest parts of our curriculum is social-emotional development and learning to recognize feelings in others. Masks hindered that learning and definitely created some obstacles. In March 2022, when we were able to remove the masks for good, the children went crazy for a few days because they could see everyone’s faces! I think they were excited and also not quite sure what to make of it. For us, as teachers, removing the masks helps us, as well as the children, learn to read facial expressions and in turn learn how to use words to resolve conflict or other issues.
Since we were hindered with sensory experiences at school last year, we have gone over and beyond offering children those experiences this year and they love it. Some examples include making volcanoes, playdough, slime, scooping pasta or oatmeal in the sensory table, and washing animals with washcloths in a tub filled with ‘bubbles’ aka packing peanuts.
In general, I think that we are more sensitive to the many needs of the children who were babies at home during the lockdown. Those children were deprived of so many experiences and contact with other children and adults that it is taking a while to get them back to a place of normalcy. More than ever, we focus on the social and emotional development of the very youngest students on campus. We are trying to help them build relationships with their peers as well as a variety of teachers.”
Katie Perez-Phillips ’07 | Intermediate Program Faculty and Coordinator
“In the spring of March 2020, we scrambled to learn how to teach virtually and effectively while using new tools and keeping the young Intermediate Program girls engaged. Immediately, I realized that some days it was more important to touch base with them on a social-emotional level rather than solely focus on the Spanish lesson at hand. I’ve always known the importance of connecting with your students, but teaching and learning in isolation for three months put this concept into overdrive.
Two years and almost two months later, the pandemic certainly forced me to learn new skills and become more flexible, but the greatest lesson and reminder everyday has been that of community. Watching campus come alive and everyone choosing to return to be together to learn and teach despite mask and cohorting restrictions in August of 2020 and in August of 2021 is the perfect example of the importance of community both for Ashley Hall as an institution and for every single individual involved in our daily mission. As we slowly return to a new normal, I will always try to keep these past two years in my back pocket as reminders of our strength as a collective community and the necessity of connection to effectively educate and learn every day.”
Tiffin D. Lamoreaux ’01 | Director of Health Services
“The past two years have impacted me in many ways. At school, my working hours went from 40 hours per week to 60, sometimes 70. I lost the luxury of being able to unplug. But there were positives. I was finally able to hire a nurse to help in the Health Center. We implemented online registration forms, which has cut down on the amount of paper we use. I am one of the few people who truly enjoyed the lockdown. I loved being able to be home with my children. I was able to learn their strengths and weaknesses and focus on their academic achievements. We grew closer as a family, and I will always cherish that time I had with them.”
Franny Rivers Slay ’80 | Ashley Hall Athletic Director
“Before COVID-19, I think I took for granted how special it is to be with my students and athletes everyday. Especially in the subject area of physical education and coaching, it is very, very diffcult to teach virtually. Now, everyday on my way to work I say out loud how grateful and thankful I am to be able to come to campus and be with my co-workers and students.”
Olivia Hipp ’10 | Intermediate Program Faculty
“The families I get to work with have been nothing short of amazing. The appreciation I have felt from the parents and students alike has been incredible. In a lot of ways, the students went through COVID more than most adults I know. While most adults were Zooming and learning to mask up for grocery stores, the children learned a whole slew of new tech tools and wore their masks all day, and they were just so grateful to be at school.
While we were quarantined, I got so many encouraging notes from my students and parents alike. Parents were able to engage in their children’s learning in a way they never had before, and I stretched myself to make my lessons part and parcel to my real life, including things like French recipe videos on how to make a crepe or a virtual “eld trip to Fort Sumter. One student even sent me a paper crane she made with a note that I still have on my desk. She wrote, ‘I hope you are doing well during this hard time. I made this origami crane for you as it is a symbol of hope and healing during challenging times.’
This really sums up why I love my job. This is the kind of energy and care I get from my students everyday. They bring so much love to my life everyday, and they really are what motivated me to push through the past two years. I am constantly humbled by the sincerity of my students, and it leaves me always wanting to be the best possible educator for them.”
This story originally appeared in the Summer 2022 issue of Perspectives magazine