|1 Mar 2023
David Calabrese vividly remembers a childhood visit to the office of his aunt, Barbara Gayle Earle ’52. Earle taught children struggling with reading disabilities and dyslexia at a time when such disorders were only beginning to be fully understood. Letters and notes from former students over the years papered her office walls—a testament to the impact Earle had upon many lives.
“She never had her own children, so I really think she saw these kids as her own kids,” Calabrese recalls of his aunt, who died in December 2021. “They were really important to her, a big part of her life.”
Earle inherited her passion for education from her family, then honed her teaching skills as a Beaver student.
“Her career really started at Arcadia,” Calabrese says. “I know she had very fond memories there. As I went through her materials, I saw a lot of pictures of her and her good friends at Beaver College that she kept in touch with over the years.”
That enduring connection to her alma mater prompted Earle and her husband to include a bequest to the university in their will. Earle wished to establish a scholarship to support students with financial need. As the executor of his aunt’s will, Calabrese reached out to Arcadia shortly after Earle’s death to discuss the next steps of the gift. He was delighted to learn that, through the Arcadia Financial Aid Initiative (AFAI), his aunt’s bequest would be bolstered by university funds.
“My aunt would be so happy to know that this money is going to Arcadia,” Calabrese says. “A stipulation of the scholarship is that the money benefit students in need of financial support, and that’s intentional. When she was teaching, a lot of my aunt’s students were from disadvantaged backgrounds—students who needed a lot of help in and out of school. Helping others was important to her.”
Outwardly, Calabrese says, Earle was a “very positive person” able to “talk your ear off for an hour and connect with anyone.” He fondly remembers taking the train by himself from his home in Paoli, Pa., to his aunt’s home in Wynnewood for lunch and the many conversations they had. Even in her later years, Earle remained a social butterfly, gaining a large circle of friends at her retirement home and even writing a newsletter for the community.
But Earle also had personal experience overcoming hardship. She suffered from a chronic illness for much of her life but kept many of the details private, Calabrese says.
“She didn’t want people to feel sorry for her, because she didn’t feel sorry for herself,” he remembers. He hopes that’s an example in which Arcadia students—especially those who benefit from her scholarship—can find inspiration.
“She was a fighter. She had a lot thrown her way, but she was someone who just kept going,” Calabrese says. “That’s a great lesson for college students today.”
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