Former Teacher Supports Our Tradition of Excellence

In 1963, Fengchi Chen began her career at one of USM’s predecessor schools, Milwaukee Downer Seminary, teaching Upper School chemistry. After the merger of MDS with Milwaukee Country Day School and Milwaukee University School in 1964, she also taught Upper School physics, Chemistry Physics I, and AP Chemistry. She led a cooperative venture with the Lower School by teaching a weekly science class for the 3rd-grade students. She served as the senior class faculty advisor and chaperoned more proms, hayrides, and homecoming dances than she can recall. She retired in 1981, but returned often to substitute teach.

During her tenure, she served as the first female chair of the Science Department, and her two children—Dr. Leona Chen ’74 and Albert Chen ’78—are alumni of USM. Mrs. Chen has remained a loyal friend of the school throughout her retirement, connecting with former students and colleagues at numerous USM events and gatherings. Mrs. Chen and Leona recently returned to campus to tour the new facilities and visit her original classroom (currently the 8th-grade science classroom), where she shared stories and knowledge from her years of teaching with students.

Dr. Leona Chen ’74 (left) and her mother, Fengchi Chen, recently visited Fengchi’s original classroom, currently the 8th-grade science classroom.

Throughout her career she has been a strong proponent of independent school education, science, and opportunities for girls and young women. “I wanted to show students, especially girls, not to be fearful of science, of less-than-perfect grades, or of challenges,” she said. “I hope that my students gained the confidence to think analytically in whatever field they chose to pursue. A favorite Chinese saying of mine can be translated as, ‘While your studies may be precise and rigid, your education should be broad and well-rounded.’ That is what I wished for all my students.”

Mrs. Chen has been a consistent supporter of USM, and she recently designated her 2018 IRA distribution to the Tom Bergen Fund for Math, Science, and Technology, an endowed fund that provides professional development funding for faculty in these departments. Through this generous gift, she is supporting the teachers who continue the tradition of excellence in her discipline of science and related fields. We are grateful for Mrs. Chen’s enduring friendship and support.

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