Shady Side Academy President Bart Griffith sent the following message to the SSA community on Tuesday, Feb. 9:
Dear Shady Side Academy Community,
It is with great sadness that I share the news that faculty emerita Angela (Rumble) Irvine, who taught English at Shady Side Academy Senior School from 1972 to 2015, passed away yesterday, February 8, at the age of 81. Angela is the mother of the late Laura O'Connell '81 and John Rumble, and the grandmother of Caitlin O'Connell '12.
Angela was known for her quick Southern wit, love of language and literature, and deep care for the many students and colleagues who sought her guidance and support. She modeled integrity and purpose in all she said and did, courageously speaking her truth and encouraging others to live big-hearted lives. And she did it all with a winning spirit and sense of humor. And that smile!
During her 43 years of teaching at Shady Side, she helped thousands of students find their voice, including yours truly. In the early 1990s, while still a timid freshman, I wandered into the SSA News room and sheepishly informed Ms. Irvine, the paper's exacting faculty advisor at the time, that I might want to join the writing staff.
"Well, Bart, what interesting story do you have to tell?" she asked.
It was to me a question as welcoming as it was challenging, as evocative as it was taxing, tensions I would later learn were "Classic Irvine." Did I have a story to tell? And was it interesting? I certainly didn't have the answers, but I was at once determined to find them.
Inspired by Ms. Irvine, I wrote for the SSA News for four years, eventually becoming an editor and featured columnist, and later completed a college internship as a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette staff writer, an endeavor Ms. Irvine followed with great excitement. These experiences not only shaped my voice but also a vision for what I might become, both personally and professionally, and I owe them, in many ways, to her.
When Shady Side embraced co-education in 1973, shortly after her arrival, Angela became a mentor and champion for SSA's female students.
"My class in 1979 had only 17 girls. Shady Side was a very different school back then, and in many ways, Angela was our voice," said alumna and current Director of Enrollment Management Katie (Hoopes) Mihm '83. "She watched out for us. Her room was a safe haven for us. ... She made us feel that we all had something smart to contribute."
Upon her retirement in 2015, Angela embraced a Shady Side tradition typically reserved for seniors by giving her own "Senior Sage" at an assembly. I invite you to watch the video of her inspiring speech here, which sums up the lessons she imparted to her students:
"The real business of education is not about reading good books. It's about leading good lives. It's about creating empathy within, so that we reject bigotry, prejudice and narrow-mindedness, and choose instead justice for all, tolerance for each other's differences, and generosity toward those who have less. For what use is a fabulous intellect, unless it is informed and guided by a good heart?"
Among her SSA faculty colleagues, Angela was a beloved friend with a fierce loyalty to all things Shady Side.
"She could be so down-to-earth, but her imagination and intellect could soar, and she could be at home with the most challenging of ideas," said Buddy Hendershot, retired Senior School English teacher. "Angela is one of the 'great ones' in the history of Shady Side. She was a 'woman for all seasons,' having a great mind, heart, and soul. We have lost a great spirit."
"Angela Irvine was equal parts brilliance and grace," said Senior School English teacher Paul Ejzak '89. "The depth of her heart exceeded the breadth of her mind. Long before it came into vogue for independent schools to promote their community identities, Angela believed that our relationships with one another – with students, with colleagues – made Shady Side the place we wanted to teach, to learn."
"She was one of the first people to welcome me into her home, into her family, and into her classroom," said Senior School math teacher Sue Whitney. "Angela and I taught an introduction to African writers course together, and she reveled in the fact that she could share the beauty of literature with a math teacher. I will miss her spirit, and I will miss her maternal grace. She looked after everyone as if we were all her children."
Rest in peace, Ms. Irvine. As your beloved Shakespeare might have put it, "we shall not look upon your like again."
Bart Griffith '93
ANGELA COWAN IRVINE
Daughter of the late John and Olive Cowan; mother to John Rumble (Crystal) and late Laura Clare Rumble O'Connell; loving grandmother to Victoria Rumble Konopasek Torres (Niki) and Caitlin Clare O'Connell, passed away peacefully surrounded by family early Monday morning, February 8, 2021. Angela taught English at Shady Side Academy for 43 years. She was a world traveler with countless friends. A woman of great intellect with an even bigger heart, she touched the lives of many students and colleagues and will be sorely missed. ACI truly was a woman ahead of her time. In lieu of flowers, the family is asking for donations to the Shady Side Academy Scholarship Fund in Angela's name. A celebration of her life will take place Summer 2021 - details to follow on her memorial Facebook page and shadysideacademy.org. Arrangements entrusted to Burket-Truby Funeral Home Cremation & Alternative Services, Inc., Oakmont.