Like any up-and-coming young person from a venerable family, Gabriella Rowe vowed she’d make it on her own. So after majoring in French and European history at Bryn Mawr College, she traveled the world in her work as an investment banker at Merrill Lynch and as a management consultant. But when she started a family of her own, she felt called back to the family business. Her grandfather, Max Mandell, fell ill. He was the figurehead and day-to-day manager of the well-regarded Mandell School, a preschool begun in a brownstone on West 94th Street in 1939.
Rowe will be forever grateful to her husband for encouraging her to come back to the “family gem” as she calls it. With two young boys at home—they are now 5 and 9—she didn’t want to be on the road seven days a week. She joined the school in 1999 and soon realized that she loved the work.
“What got me up in the morning, got me charged, was education; helping and supporting families,” Rowe said.
Not satisfied to just bring her business acumen to Mandell, she went back to graduate school in early childhood education.
“It’s a great gift to be able to foster and protect and develop what my grandfather and mother built up,” she said.
There are now plans to develop The Mandell School further. Rowe is starting with 50 kindergarten students in two classes. By 2017, she plans to expand through the 8th grade.
“We did lots of strategic planning,” she said. “We asked, ‘What defines the Mandell experience?’ We want to preserve that, instead of growth for growth’s sake.”
As the world changes, Rowe believes The Mandell School philosophy is of great value: “The necessity for nurturing and belonging has grown greater. The need for parents to have a bubble [for their children] has grown exponentially.”
In addition to nurturing young children, Mandell fosters good citizenship. Rowe’s grandfather believed that to support a child, you must make strong connections with each child’s family and this in turn would build stronger communities and a better world.
“I come from a family of Upper West Side activists,” Rowe said. “That’s my life blood. It’s so amazing to come back at this particular time. It’s an opportunity. There’s always the risk that this neighborhood will lose its character, its richness. Schools have an opportunity to build our communities. I want these children to feel a responsibility to the greater world outside. To maintain and grow and foster everyone who lives here.”
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