Remembering Frimi Sagan

The D-E community gathered during Reunion weekend to remember the life of beloved English teacher Frimi Sagan, who passed away December 28, 2016.  A memorial service in Hajjar Auditorium was filled to capacity with members of Frimi’s family, alumni, current and former faculty and staff, and friends.  After brief welcome remarks by Head of School Dr. Rodney V. De Jarnett, various individuals provided personal reflections and stories of Frimi’s life.

“[My mom] got a job [at D-E] teaching her passion,” noted daughter and D-E alumna Susannah Sagan ’77, who spoke meaningfully of her mom as “Frimi” and how much she loved literature, loved her students and colleagues, and loved watching them challenge themselves. “Frimi was particularly astonished at how young minds understood so much. Her love for literature was uncanny. My dad always said that she was the world’s greatest audience…. [and] this school was my mom’s village.”

Joan Maffetone and Diane Christian, both faculty members with the D-E English Department, and who referred to themselves as “Frimi’s posse,” shared the podium for their remarks. Referring to Frimi as her “work mother,” Joan noted how Frimi gave her sage advice on both teaching and parenting, “We loved teaching but we loved parenting more.” In Diane’s words: “I want to thank Frimi for the many gifts she [gave] me, her smile, advice, friendship, books, music, [and an interest in] politics.”

Retired faculty member Martha Strongwater then provided a message on behalf of colleague and fellow retiree Doris Gelman: “One of Frimi’s favorite adjectives was “intense” and she applied this [herself] to anything of great beauty, a discussion, a performance, a dispute, or an accomplishment. Frimi was a person of many passions, intensely, for dancing, for music, for literature, for justice, feminism, friendship, and for teaching. She always had a colleague that wanted to see her, a student asking for advice, and there were always alumni stopping by to just say hello.”

Alumna Ramona Demme ’06 spoke poignantly of the impact that Frimi had on her life, noting, “the most obvious impact being that today I am an English teacher…I think and read the way I do in large part because of her.”  Ramona went on to say how she thought of Frimi as her friend, advisor, mentor and “a great hero.”

Others who provided reflections included Frimi’s son Danny Sagan ’82, alumnus Mark Shapiro ’77 (who had happened to have recently stumbled across his own ‘archival’ edition of the literary journal Calliope, for which he served as editor when Frimi was its faculty advisor), and English Department Chair Fred Daly.

The service also included beautiful instrumental performances, tributes to Frimi’s love for music. Violinist Harumi Rhodes ’97 and her father Samuel Rhodes (on viola) played a gorgeous duet by Mozart. Armand Pohan ESB ’60 who was a student of Frimi’s and also took piano lessons from her, performed Schubert’s Impromptu D. 899. The program concluded with Dr. De Jarnett inviting impromptu remarks from those assembled. One of the takers included Visual Arts faculty member John McCabe, who gave a hysterical account of doing a photo shot with Frimi and Doris Gelman that involved a motorcycle.

The Dwight-Englewood School expresses its sincerest condolences to Frimi Sagan’s entire family, and gratitude for the influence that Frimi had on generations of students of all ages.

Editor’s Note

Donations in memory of Frimi Sagan can be designated for the Frimi Giller Sagan Faculty Summer Grants Fund. Visit to donate, and note “In Memory of Frimi Sagan.” For video clips of the Memorial Service, visit

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