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Priscilla Sears: Embracing Boldness and Unapologetic Demands

Valley News – Remembering Priscilla Sears: A Fearless Advocate and Inspirational Educator

Captured in a photograph dated February 13, 1998, Priscilla Sears, a senior lecturer specializing in English, liberal studies, and women’s studies at Dartmouth College, actively engaged in a meeting of the International Women’s Peace Initiative in Bosnia back in May 1997. (Valley News – Medora Hebert) Copyright Valley News. Reproduction or online usage without authorization is prohibited. For permissions, contact [email protected]. Valley News – Medora Hebert

Dr. Priscilla Sears, Professor of English and Women’s Studies, in her office at Dartmouth College in undated photograph. (Family photograph)

Dr. Priscilla Sears, a distinguished figure in English and Women’s Studies, portrayed in her workspace at Dartmouth College in an unspecified image. (Family photograph) — Family photograph

Priscilla Sears with Byron Boston, Dartmouth class of 1981, in an undated photograph. (Family photograph)

Priscilla Sears alongside Byron Boston, a Dartmouth alumnus from the class of 1981, in an unspecified picture. (Family photograph) — Family photograph

HANOVER — Priscilla Sears possessed a keen eye for detail. Be it the splendor of nature, a captivating musical rendition, or a unique piece of jewelry, she embraced the art of marveling at life’s intricacies.

Moreover, she had a remarkable ability to observe individuals, particularly those who often went unnoticed.

In the autumn of 1977, Sears, an esteemed English professor at Dartmouth College, crossed paths with Byron Boston, a freshman football recruit hailing from inner-city St. Louis, who was grappling with the challenges of acclimating to a new academic and social environment.

Feeling adrift and overwhelmed, Boston found solace in Sears’ guidance. During a casual gathering early in the school year, Sears quickly recognized the mismatch between Boston’s academic potential and his assigned classes, redirecting him to her sphere of influence.

Identifying his proficiency in mathematics and his need for literary refinement, Sears reshaped Boston’s academic trajectory by mentoring him through three English courses in his inaugural year.

Reflecting on the experience, Boston acknowledged, “It really shored up my strength in English and writing. If I had taken those (other) courses, it would have been a huge mistake.”

Tragically, Sears passed away in August at the age of 90 after battling dementia for several years.

Throughout her three-decade tenure at Dartmouth, she forged deep connections with her students, many of whom maintained contact with her beyond graduation. Sears possessed a unique talent for meeting students at their academic starting point, fostering a nurturing environment for their growth.

Described as an exceptional individual by Laurence Davies, an emeritus professor, Sears’ impact extended far beyond the classroom, resonating with all who knew her.

Born Priscilla Mae Flagg in Asbury Park, N.J., to Harry “Wow” Flagg and Ruth Flagg, Sears’ early life was marked by relocations across various states, eventually settling in New Hampshire.

Her introduction to her future husband, Tom Sears, occurred in a music appreciation class at the University of New Hampshire, where their shared love for music laid the foundation for a lifelong partnership enriched by intellectual banter and mutual admiration.

Armed with a master’s degree from Wesleyan University and a doctorate from Tufts University, the Sears family established roots in Wentworth, N.H., in 1977, coinciding with Priscilla’s teaching tenure at Dartmouth.

Renowned for her unwavering dedication to her students, Sears often commuted the 30-mile distance from Wentworth to Dartmouth on non-teaching days, offering extended office hours to assist students with their academic pursuits.

Her daughter, Sarah Sears, reminisced, “She loved being part of Dartmouth,” actively engaging in campus life and ensuring that her students felt seen and valued.

While many professors at the Ivy League institution tended towards condescension, Sears stood out for her egalitarian approach, holding all students to rigorous academic standards without bias.

Notably, Sears championed diversity, cultivating one of the most inclusive classroom environments on campus, fostering enriching dialogues and fostering friendships across diverse backgrounds.

A vocal advocate for social justice and women’s rights, Sears fearlessly navigated male-dominated academic spaces, exuding confidence through her impeccable attire and unyielding commitment to her principles.

In a poignant display of courage, Sears embarked on a transformative journey to post-war Bosnia in 1997 alongside Lynda Boose, advocating for the rights of Bosnian refugees and promoting women’s roles as peacemakers.

Despite facing potential risks and challenges, Sears remained resolute in her mission, embodying a spirit of unwavering determination and compassion.

Beyond her professional endeavors, the Sears’ household was a hub of artistic expression and intellectual discourse, hosting gatherings that celebrated poetry, drama, and camaraderie among students and faculty.

Priscilla Sears’ legacy endures as a testament to her indomitable spirit, intellectual curiosity, and unwavering commitment to social justice and education.

As we reflect on her remarkable life, let us draw inspiration from her courage, compassion, and dedication to creating a more inclusive and equitable world.

Christina Dolan can be reached at cdolan or 603-727-3208.

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