Friday, December 5, 2014

Love of teaching shaped Dr. Sarah Chandler's legacy

      She was a woman of “grace, substance, intelligence and wisdom” – attributes that endeared Dr. Sarah Chandler to family and friends. Many noted her “good looks” but it was her penchant for reading and her love of teaching that shaped her legacy.
      Those who knew Dr. Chandler were impressed with her skillset and her commitment to equip students with the skill to read books that could take them anywhere they wanted to go in the world. She taught sixth-grade and retired in 1992 after serving as principal of Dunn Elementary.
Dr. Sarah Chandler and her daughter Judge Jayne Chandler.
      Dr. Chandler died Friday, Nov. 28, following a long illness. She was 84.
      Herman Morris Jr., a former student, said he loved Dr. Chandler at first sight. “I met Dr. Chandler when I was in the 4th grade and again in the 6th grade at Lester Elementary School. She was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen, other than my own mother.
      “She was well read. She said you can go anywhere in the world and do anything that you dreamed by reading a book. So I wanted to be well read,” said Morris, attorney for the city of Memphis. “She inspired me and my classmates to be excellent. We all wanted to please her.”
      Dr. Chandler set the bar high for herself by earning a master’s degree and a doctorate. She valued her family and challenged them and others to get an education, no matter what rung of the socioeconomic ladder was the starting point. 
      “Sarah Chandler was the cheerleader for the underdog and the downtrodden – always trying to help those at a disadvantage to be able to enjoy the benefits of the ‘haves.’ That is one of the reasons she worked hard to ensure that her students were good readers and orators,” said Daryl Leven, Dr. Chandler’s son-in-law. “She knew that without those skills, students would struggle in adult life and have difficulty in being successful.”
      Dr. Chandler also challenged her children.
      “I remember her buying a set of encyclopedias – the animal encyclopedias and the science encyclopedias – and encouraged us to read them,” said her son, Horace L. “Randy” Chandler Jr. of Houston, Texas. “If you’d ask her a question, she would say, ‘Look it up and come back and we’ll talk about it.’”
      Chandler would challenge his three children as well. He grew up with a sister and they were taught that success demands hard work. “I had the kind of mother that was perfect for a boy,” said Chandler. “I’m going to miss her.”
      She also was the kind of mother who was perfect for a “village,” said her daughter, City Court Judge Jayne Chandler.
      “She was an educator and teacher and saw children as her own. Although she was human with human frailties, she was perfect for me. And God blessed me to have her as my mother.”
      Judge Chandler said she was raised to be independent. She recalled her mother giving her an American Express card when she was 18. “She wanted me to be independent and instilled in me a sense of truth and righteousness and a desire to help people. I had to do the right thing.”
      Dr. Chandler also encouraged honesty and a higher level of ethics, said Judge Chandler, recalling her election to the bench after detractors had railed against her.
      “When I ran for judge my Mom, like others, did not think I could win,” she said, “because I was a young, newly licensed attorney with no money. However, she supported me financially and encouraged me to pursue my dreams.”
      Inger UpChurch was smitten by her aunt’s intelligence and commitment to family.
      “Some people called her Sarah, but she was ‘Auntie Mae’ to me. She knew the family history and was a strong advocate. She encouraged us to stick together.”
      Dr. Chandler wouldn’t accept failure, added UpChurch, who manages the Cornelia Crenshaw and Gaston Park branch libraries. “When I wanted to give up, she would say, ‘I’ll kick you in the butt if you quit.’ She was strong and hard on us, but loving nonetheless.”
      She was a true Renaissance woman, said UpChurch, a woman who juxtaposed her gifts as an artist, songwriter, wordsmith, art critic, and lover of music, history, and the game of Jeopardy with her lifetime dedication to community service.
      It was Dr. Chandler’s love of community that prompted her and lifelong friend Josephine Bridges to found a charitable organization in 1953 that they named JUGS, an acronym for Just Us Girls. The letters now stand for Justice, United, Generosity, Service, International. There are as many as 11 chapters in the U.S. and Bahamas.
      Dr. Chandler graduated from Manassas High School and received her undergraduate degree from LeMoyne College. She earned a master’s from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, followed by a certificate in library science from Memphis State University. She was conferred a doctorate in education, administration and supervision from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
      Dr. Chandler will be eulogized at 1 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 4, during a family graveside service at Memphis National Cemetery, 3568 Townes Ave., at Jackson Avenue.
      R.S. Lewis & Sons Funeral Home has charge.

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