Nancy Bent knows about seeing the world with open eyes. Her father moved the family down south in the 1950s to work as a UPI photographer. He saw it all—the race riots, the protests, the fear, and the strong yet peaceful tenacity of those who stand up for their beliefs.
He spent years as a photojournalist and a television producer in Atlanta, and his experience taught Nancy to see the world in a specific way. You have one picture of reality with two (or more) sides. You see it all, unfiltered, and, with knowledge and empathy, move forward with conviction to do what’s right.
That conviction eventually brought her to The Friends School of Atlanta, first as a mother, then as a board member, and, starting seven years ago, as a school administrator. She’s now FSA’s Director of Advancement and Admissions. Serving all three roles has given her unique perspective.
It can be summed up in an experience Nancy had as an FSA parent, looking at a child’s drawing posted among many others in the school hallway. The school project had to do with human and civil rights, and the stick-figure sketch was of a little girl holding hands with two moms. At first Nancy thought that her daughter—who, after all, has two moms— had drawn it. This was the mid-1990s, and having two moms or two dads wasn’t viewed quite like it is today.
But her daughter hadn’t drawn it. It was a girl who the year before had teased her, saying, “You can’t have two moms. That’s illegal.”
Teachers and administrators intervened and got the children and parents together. Turns out the girl’s parents didn’t believe what their daughter had said. “Bottom line, the girl was just being mean,” Nancy recalled. “She was 8; it can be tough age. I got it. I wasn’t upset with anybody, and it was all handled respectfully.”
The next year, when the teacher asked children to draw something that showed a human or civil right, that same girl thought of her classmate and friend. Next to the drawing she wrote, “Everyone has the right to have a family.”
The girl learned all sides of the picture, moved forward with conviction, followed her heart, and did what she thought was right.
That, in a nutshell, is a Friends School of Atlanta education.
By Tim Heston
Tim Heston has written for business magazines since 1996. He’s won some awards here and there, but his greatest achievement is being the proud parent of an FSA fourth grader.