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Graland History Blog

The Passing of Graland's Beloved Nancy Nye '39 Priest

By Graland Alumni Office
It is with great sadness and regret that Graland wishes to share the passing of Nancy Nye ‘39 Priest. Nancy passed away peacefully at her home on November 20, 2020.

A graduate of the Class of 1939, Nancy was also a former Graland teacher who retired in 1995 after 43 years as a faculty member. During her teaching time at Graland, Nancy carried on the tradition of the medieval knighting started by Ruth Gorham, and added to it the Roman Museum, and the Mesa Verde trip for sixth graders. As shared by her daughter, Susan Priest ‘69 Pierce, “she firmly believed we could improve the world through a better understanding of cultures and their history.”

As both a Graland alumna and teacher, Nancy epitomized the very soul and spirit of the school. Her tireless work with thousands of students, as well as her unselfish devotion to her community, made her a role model to many. At a Masters Teachers salute, John Caulkins ‘81 stated about Nancy:

She taught us that the past is something to relive, to experience,
to let one’s imagination unfold. She knew that a fifth or sixth-grader
has an even better sense of curiosity than an archaeologist, and just
how important it is to kindle the imagination while teaching
independence, self-discipline, and respect for others and the
environment. Can you imagine a more hands-on approach to learning?
In building our Roman museum, making shields for knighting, or
identifying Anasazi potsherds, we pushed ourselves to better
understand and relive the past.

Upon her retirement in 1995, Graland established an alumni award in her honor. For 25 years, the Nancy Nye Priest '39 Alumni Award has honored alumni whose extraordinary contributions in their chosen field of endeavor are reflective of the exemplary qualities of the person, of Graland Country Day School, and of the global community in which we live. Graland has been pleased to recognize alumni who, through their work, commitment to community, and loyalty to the ideals nurtured at Graland, represented a fitting tribute to Nancy. To learn more about Nancy and her impact on Graland, we invite you to watch a video created by alumna Taylor Cleveland ‘88 Pardun.
Outside of her time at Graland, Nancy was an artist, a dedicated student and appreciator of southwest culture and an avid lover of animals. She had dogs, cats, pigs (including a piglet that used to visit Graland’s Pre-Kindergarten class each day), chickens and was also a Navajo Churro Sheep breeder.
Nancy was predeceased by her husband Ben G. M. Priest; her parents George M. and Ione F. Nye; her brother George M. Nye Jr ‘44; and her niece Cathy Handwerk Rhodes. She is survived by her daughter Susan Priest ‘69 Pierce of Houlton, Maine; Susan Handwerk ‘42 (sister), Bayfield, CO; Camille Pierce, Hanover, NH; Ted Handwerk, Bayfield, CO; Carl Rhodes Newport, OR; Chris Rhodes and his children, Durango, CO; Ann Hunsaker ‘61, Denver, CO; Nancy Hunsaker, Bradley Hunsaker, Debbie Spencer, Denver, CO; and good friends, Ted and Patty Tedesco, Karen and Gary Hansen, and Valerie Gates ‘69.

As shared by her family, Nancy’s ashes will be scattered by the windmill on her property. Due to COVID-19, there will be no gathering of remembrance at this time.

Donations in her memory can be made to Graland’s Nancy Nye Priest Memorial Fund for student scholarship, 55 Clermont St, Denver, CO, 80220 (graland.org/alumnigiving), or the Denver Dumb Friends League, 2080 S. Quebec St. Denver, CO 80231-3298 (ddfl.org).

Graland Country Day School

Graland Country Day School is a private school in Denver, Colorado, serving students in preschool, kindergarten, elementary, and middle school. Founded in Denver in 1927, Graland incorporates a rich, experiential learning approach in a traditional classroom setting, emphasizing the development of globally and socially conscious leaders who excel academically.