Leslie Reid Carr - A Courageous Pioneer
Below is a speech made in honour of retiree Mrs Leslie Carr at assembly on June 6, 2019.
I am going to start in the present, with a perspective of Mrs Carr shared with me from her Assistant House Parent, Mr Smith.
Mr. Smith says: “I have been in awe of Leslie’s skills as a Houseparent. Her instincts are razor sharp; she can spot BS a mile away, and is always attuned to the deeper, underlying story. Many students have received “the look”: Leslie’s head down, eyes looking over glasses, one eyebrow raised as if suspended from a wire. Just ask Mr Carr!”
Her empathy is real, and comes from a place of lived experience. “I know anxiety” she recently told a student, spoken with a genuineness that was so real that you could hold it like an artifact. It is clear that while she is retiring, she is retiring at the top of her game.
Leslie’s history with Brentwood extends all the way back to 1985, when as a young teacher, Leslie also got her start in boarding as an Assistant in Alex House.
In 1988, Shawnigan became co-ed and Leslie became their first female houseparent. She was the lone woman HP among seven men (I was one) in a school that had been staunchly male since 1916. Unintimidated, Leslie improved the quality and atmosphere of those meetings (and the School as a whole) by bringing a level of elegance that helped the men around the table adjust their thinking. Frankly, and as only Leslie can do, she put several of us in our place and rightly so! Remember that look Mr. Smith described.
Imagine Leslie sorting us out - a group of men used to the longstanding all male environment and along comes Leslie, a woman who possessed an iron will and immense moral courage. Deep respect came quickly. Leslie often had to stand her ground, for herself and for the students she represented. I fondly recall overhearing one of the First XV rugby players who I was coaching at the time say, “Don’t mess with Mrs Carr- she is TOUGH!” Female leaders in independent schools were rare in the late 1980s, but Leslie challenged, changed and vastly improved leadership norms at Shawnigan.
The Carr family returned to Brentwood in 2003 and when the Allard Houseparent role became available in 2007, Leslie’s background and skills were a natural fit. Leveraging the wonderful work that Ms Blake had done to establish Allard, Leslie put her own touches into the house, creating her classic “home away from home” for the students.
House Captain Hayley Hockin observed that “The Brentwood “All In” attitude emanates from Mrs Carr. You cannot fake being a Houseparent, which means managing all behaviours, not just the good ones! She always believed in my character, especially when I made mistakes. She has provided this mentoring to years of Allard students and we are better people for it.”
Ms Jill Fouger comments that “Leslie is deeply committed to Allard House and the girls who call it home. She eats, sleeps and breathes Allard and is always passionately advocating for her charges. I am always in awe of how much time and energy she puts into the house and the girls every minute of the day. There has never been a “day off” for Les.”
Mrs Reynolds says that “Leslie feels things profoundly, and responds passionately and honestly. This informs and animates her every action, from defending and celebrating her mermaids, to consoling and sometimes chastising them. Leslie is richly endowed with unshakeable loyalty and fathomless love.”
Her husband, Brian Carr adds that “Leslie is deeply caring, compassionate, and committed to quietly changing the lives of many for the better. She has mentored generations of women at Brentwood and Shawnigan to be, above all, good people. It has been a wonderful legacy.”
Leslie has lived her role with deep authenticity. Parenting 100s of teenagers over your career requires a special commitment and Leslie (and Brian) have delivered year after year. Brentwood is a better boarding school through their efforts and commitment.
I know that there are many more good wishes coming Leslie’s way in the weeks ahead. In the meantime and on behalf of the School, thank you, congratulations and enjoy your next chapter. You have earned it!
Mr Marius Felix