Since the first day she joined our St. Mary Academy – Bay View team in 1996, we’ve been family ever since. Colleen Gribbin brings out the best in all of us. Our whole school community – our students, families, faculty, staff, and the thousands of alumnae she’s supported throughout the years – all shine brighter because of her.
As we celebrate the Class of 2021, an incredible group of young women graduating onto their next life chapter, we also celebrate and honor Colleen’s invaluable 25 years of service as she retires from her position as our Middle and Upper School Principal and moves onto her next chapter, too.
Ask Colleen about her favorite Bay View memory, and this time of year certainly pulls at her heartstrings.
“Every time I get to graduation, I look out and see a girl that might have struggled, but she made it. She’s so proud. She’s now confident. She’s a graduate,” said Colleen, holding back tears. “Those are the memories I’ll always have. My heart is in women’s education.”
Her life has undoubtedly been dedicated to just that. As a student growing up in Central Falls, Colleen graduated from Central Falls High School. Her family didn’t have much, a reason why she’s so empowered to now help underprivileged girls access the tremendous education offered by Bay View. After high school, Colleen pursued higher education at the University of Southern Maine and earned her Master’s Degree and Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study from Rhode Island College. She launched into her career as a middle school math teacher at St. Thomas Regional School in Providence, just the beginning of her long career in education. Soon, her passion for leadership began budding as she stepped into the role of both math educator and assistant principal at Mercymount Country Day School, then leaped into a position as principal at St. Margaret School. Four years later, she found Bay View and blossomed.
“I came here – to this prayerful atmosphere – and the acceptance found here is incredible. It doesn’t matter if a student is Catholic or Muslim, there is acceptance and support for helping her grow into who she will be in four years,” said Colleen.
We asked her if there was a learning curve when she started with us.
“If you step into an administrative role and don’t have a learning curve, we have a problem,” answered Colleen. “You have to learn the culture and the mission, while staying true to who you are. I was the first lay principal here; it was all Sisters before me. I recognized how important it was to remain grounded in our Mercy values. We’ve weathered a lot of storms, but we’ve stayed true to who we are. It’s been a true privilege.”
Reflecting back on her years at Bay View, Colleen notes the amazing transformation education has gone through, with this last year and a half being uniquely challenging operating in a virtual space through the COVID-19 pandemic. Being with students in-person has always been her favorite.
“The best part of my job is being with the girls every day. Listening to them, what they are doing, what they want to do, understanding how can I help them get there, and what Bay View can do to help them aspire to their dreams,” said Colleen. “If I’ve learned anything, it’s to be a listener. You really have to listen, you have to be all about the girls, and the families that are in front of you, understanding where they are coming from. I don’t always have the answers, but I always tell our families, ‘Together, we will create a vibrant, confident young woman.’”
Through Colleen’s selfless career, that has proven to be true time and time again. In recent years, our students’ shared passion for social justice has motivated Colleen to dive even deeper into supporting the journey and growth of our school community.
“Being here for 25 years, the girls have challenged me, and I’ve grown. This school has supported, reinforced, and strengthened my confidence in believing we are doing the right thing,” said Colleen. “Through issues we’ve focused on, like women’s issues, nonviolence, dismantling racism – we haven’t shied away from challenges, we’ve hit them head-on and really worked with our young women on the best ways to navigate the waters.”
Just as Colleen has grown, so has our school community through her decades of leadership, guidance, mentorship, friendship, and love. Her strength, talent, and unwavering faith has shaped the lives of so many here in our Bay View community. Colleen’s mark on Bay View will always remain, just as our community will stay with her through retirement.
“I will always keep our Mercy mission in my heart,” said Colleen. “It’s who I’ve become.”
To honor Ms. Colleen Gribbin on her retirement after 25 years of service to St. Mary Academy - Bay View, the Colleen A. Gribbin Endowment for Financial Aid has been established.
Please consider celebrating Ms. Gribbin’s legacy to the Academy with a contribution to the Colleen A. Gribbing Endowment for Financial Aid, which is restricted to benefit the tuition assistance program to support students who could not otherwise afford to attend Bay View.