Barbara Ragle Barnes, the First MALS Graduate

Norwich, Vt. — Barbara Ragle Barnes, student, consummate teacher, administrator, gardener, horsewoman, mother, and friend died on Wednesday, March 7, 2018, at the age of 94. She was a resident of Norwich, for 58 years.

Barbara was born in Boston, Mass. to David Barnes and Margaret Fitz who inspired her lifelong commitment to learning and education. She attended the progressive Shady Hill School in Cambridge, Mass. and graduated in one of the first classes at the Putney School in Putney, Vt. Her experience at Putney with its commitment to coeducation, equality of the sexes, and the philosophy of learning by doing set her on the path of a lifetime educator.

Barbara graduated from Radcliffe College and planned to attend Tufts Medical School. After spending a summer as a camp counselor teaching sailing, she called her father and told him to tell Tufts she’d changed her mind. She would be a teacher.

She began teaching in one-room schools in Vermont and soon settled in Norwich with her then husband, Richard H. Ragle, and young family. As a teacher at the Norwich School she met two distinguished Dartmouth professors, physicist Leonard Rieser, and biologist, Bill Ballard. In the post-Sputnik era, Barbara and Professors Ballard and Rieser were eager to create an experiential, hands-on science program where students were encouraged to observe, ask questions and experiment. The three of them developed a laboratory-based science program. It was enthusiastically received and quickly generated the desire to train more science-oriented teachers in elementary schools in Vermont and New Hampshire. Running summer workshops sponsored by Dartmouth and the National Science Foundation, Barbara laid the groundwork for what has become the Upper Valley Educator’s Institute (UVEI) now based in Lebanon, N.H.

Barbara believed that if well-educated adults with life experience could work for a year as apprentices with experienced teachers in real classrooms, they could become qualified to teach and had the potential to become great teachers. 45 years and more than one thousand students later the success of UVEI in its many forms, now with a master’s program and principal certification, is a testimony to Barbara’s foresight and hard work.

After serving as the founding director of UVEI, Barbara went on to Dartmouth as a dean during the early years of coeducation. Subsequently she was the head of The Laurel School in Shaker Heights, Ohio and then The Putney School in Putney, Vt. She established a nationally recognized search organization helping both public and independent schools find and select new heads. She also served on the Norwich school board, The Sharon Academy board and on several independent school boards across the country. She spent her career teaching school, teaching school boards, teaching heads of schools, and teaching individuals and friends, insisting on high standards and high expectations for students and teachers alike.

Barbara was as much a student as she was a teacher. She was the first recipient of the Master’s of Arts in Liberal Studies at Dartmouth. Ever the lifelong learner, she was an eager student in dozens of OSHER@Dartmouth classes, still reading for classes in the month before she died.

Beyond teaching and learning, Barbara’s greatest passion was Ridgewood Island on Little Sebago Lake in Maine, a family island for more than 100 years. Her father, David, an architect, designed the original structures. Barbara continued the family tradition spending countless hours building cabins, repairing docks, and entertaining family and friends.

Barbara is fondly remembered by her many and diverse friends with whom she regularly visited and communicated until her final days.

Barbara is survived by her daughters and their families Holly and Andrew Cole and granddaughter Devon, Wendy and Brian Pickett and grandson Ivan, and Hilary and Thomas De Carlo.

Contributions in Barbara’s name can be made to: The Putney School c/o Hugh Montgomery; 418 Houghton Brook Road; Putney, VT 05346.

A celebration of Barbara’s life will take place in Barnes Hall at The Putney School. Date to be announced.

Read the full obituary on the Valley News