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John Shearer: GPS May Queen Claire Scotchie Added To Family’s Special May Memories

  • Friday, May 24, 2024
  • John Shearer
Claire Scotchie
Claire Scotchie
photo by courtesy of GPS

Girls Preparatory School senior Claire Elizabeth Scotchie’s parents, Jeff and Jessica Scotchie, first met at a Cinco de Mayo (May 5) party while students at Vanderbilt several years ago.

This year, early May turned out nice for Claire as well, as she reigned as May queen at GPS during their May 2 celebration. And the family connection continued, too, as the white formal dress she ended up wearing as the queen turned out to be her mother’s former wedding dress.

“It fit perfectly, and my mom got emotional, and I gave her a big hug,” she said of that moment that also kept her from needing to go dress hunting. “I was really happy I got to wear her dress. Shopping is difficult for me. I’m picky.”

The whole May Day ceremony of dance numbers by the students and processions by the seniors and May Court members turned out to be a perfect fit for the end of school, too, she recalled as she chatted at the school a few days after the event.

“Spending the whole day talking to all my friends and girls on the court, and Ms. (Erin) Sizemore and my mom, it was a really, really sweet and fulfilling day, and I will remember it forever,” she said, adding that having elementary school friend Ella Harris as one of the train bearers was also special.

Although a number of public high schools in Chattanooga also once had May Day celebrations with queens and kings, GPS is somewhat unique in this day and time, as it has kept the springtime tradition alive almost continuously since its first one in 1914. And being a GPS May queen is considered quite an honor at this all-girls independent school and is somewhat different from the typical scholastic queens of old at other places. For example, the GPS May queen and members of the court must possess such outlined traits as character, friendliness, respect, leadership and school involvement.

The court and queen were actually selected in December. The court was announced first after voting by the senior class, and then some pictures were taken of them while the whole student body voted on the queen.

While the selection of the court was quite memorable, and Miss Scotchie recalls the loud cheering for everyone and the surprise when her name was announced as a member of the court, that was not the end of it. It became even more unforgettable – and a little embarrassing for her – when she was named queen.

“We came back in, and all the girls on the court, we held hands and then they announced my name (as the queen), and there is this picture and my mouth had like dropped open,” she recalled with a laugh.

Despite that, the moment did genuinely also open her eyes in a serious way to how touching that was for her. “I got really emotional because I love GPS so much and I love my class especially,” she said. “The class and my school have given me so much, and for them to choose me to represent them on May Day was such an honor. I was really, really humbled.”

While being a GPS May queen is a unique honor, Miss Scotchie also has another somewhat unique story in that her mother’s side of the family is of Colombian descent, and Claire grew up learning Spanish as well as English. She was also close to her Colombian grandmother before her death during Claire’s freshman year at GPS.

“Spanish connected me to her side of the family,” she said of her mother, who grew up in Tallahassee, Fl., before going to Vanderbilt and meeting Claire’s father, who had gone to McCallie School. Jeff is a financial adviser with Oracle Wealth Management, while her mother is a doctor who focuses in part on the field of fertility and reproduction, she said.

Claire had enrolled at GPS in the sixth grade from St. Nicholas School and while at GPS played on the varsity golf team as a captain and was also the defensive captain of the lacrosse team. She was also a leader in the Girls Outdoor Leadership club, was vice president of the Spanish National Honor Society and was involved in Girl Scouts there for a period.

She said her interest in environmental science in part prompted her interest in the outdoors, and some classroom teaching indoors prompted some other interests. She praised several teachers with inspiring an interest in various subjects. They include Dr. Brandon Noel, her ninth-grade biology and 11th grade environmental science teacher; Dr. Steve Harrison, who taught Advanced Placement government; and art teacher Ms. Diane Yu, where she enhanced her love of oil painting.

Her mother has also inspired her interests, she said, and she is also looking at one day studying medicine in some form, possibly as a surgeon. “I’ve really been interested in medicine,” she said. “I would love to operate on somebody or help somebody.”

As far as college, after really wanting to attend her parents’ alma mater of Vanderbilt, she instead received an early acceptance to Wake Forest, and deciding to go there has turned out to be the best situation for her. So, she plans to enroll there this fall and likely major in health and exercise science with a minor in public health policy.

“Everybody who goes there likes it, and I loved my tour there,” she said of the grass-covered school on some set-aside acreage in Winston-Salem, N.C.

This summer before college, she plans to do such activities as work at the lacrosse camp at GPS and even help her mother do some research related to her medical work.

Despite her excitement about the future, Miss Scotchie has also been thinking somewhat sentimentally about the immediate past and what she called the really great time she had at GPS. She will miss the strong friendships and relationships, camaraderie with the teachers, and even the unique school uniforms.

And just as unique for her was the overall experience at the school, she added.

“I think that going through all of the traditions GPS has is so unique to the school that you create these strong bonds with people around you,” she said.

“GPS also has really taught me to be an independent thinker and how to question things and how to respectfully advocate for myself and advocate for others. My GPS experience has been invaluable, and I don’t think I’d be who I am without it.”

* * *

Other members of the 2024 GPS May Court included Sutton Salter, maid of honor; Caitlin Polk, crown bearer; Caroline Breazeale, scepter bearer; Ella Harris, train bearer; and Hoda Alameddine, train bearer.

* * *

List of past GPS May queens:

1914 Margaret Anderson Coffey

1915 Sue Devin Smith Gooch

1916 Lucille Thomas Williams

1919 Helen Hughes Caine

1920 Helen Glover Miller

1921 Dorothy Brizzie Hedges

1922 Geraldine Thatcher Glascock

1923 Augusta Allison Lasley

1924 Charlotte Ferger Signiago

1925 Sarah Robinson Sharp

1926 Mary Sanford Patten

1927 Martha Lanier Graham

1928 Evelyn Allison South

1929 Rowena Kruesi Frierson

1930 Helen Gatewood Chenault

1931 Elizabeth Finlay Chadwick

1932 Charlotte Fowler Maclellan

1933 Kate King Efurd

1934 Mary Alice Thompson Chalfant

1935 Marjorie Wallace Pontius

1936 Betty Bryan Conroy

1937 Virginia Johnson McKenzie

1938 Betty Marus Thomas

1939 Mary Katherine Fred Moore

1940 Jane Brown Marlin

1941 Hilda Hude Chapin

1942 Mary-Claire Dorscheid Hailey

1943 Elizabeth Carothers Gibson

1944 Bonnie Johnson Graves

1945 Janet Johnston Strang

1946 Dorris Chapin Wells

1947 Sally McClellan Currey

1948 Anne Cahoon Stratton

1949 Ann Nichols Goess

1950 Sarah Key Patten Gwynn

1951 Sally McCoy Garland

1952 Dorothy Brown Ellis

1953 Charlotte Patten Gauss

1953 Phyllis Patten Hardin

1954 Hildagarde Reeves Sutherland

1955 Nan Chamberlain Smith

1956 Elizabeth Montague Lewis

1957 Betsy Chamberlain Tuller

1958 Grace Elizabeth Moore

1959 Barbara Boone Stabler

1960 Anne Dudley Griffin

1961 Sally Bacon Smartt

1962 Katherine Frances Kendall

1963 Diann Estabrook Seals

1964 Barbara Johnson Prickett

1965 Suzanne Smith Allen

1965 Cynthia Kemp Battle

1966 Helene Striebinger Reisman

1967 Martha Smith Voght

1968 Emily Bryan Grimes

1969 Louise Chamberlain Tual

1970 Allison Goree Willson

1971 Honey Brown Doramus

1972 Cathie Ault Kasch

1973 Mary Rebecca Grems

1974 Kim Lupton Strang

1975 Eleanor Bryan Billington

1976 Lynn Winningham

1977 Carla Sinor Bush

1978 Katie Lonas McKenzie

1979 Frances Williamson McCallie

1980 Nancy Collins Petty

1981 Stephanie Petree Christian

1982 Anne Duvoisin Halliburton

1983 Margaret Austin Curtis

1984 Etoil Bowles Brown

1985 Frances Sholar Clark Howard

1986 Jana Weekes Olson

1987 Lisa Portera Grafton

1988 Elizabeth Rose Provence

1989 Lesley Denise Walker

1990 Joy Rucker Clements

1991 Christy Leigh McArthur Moore

1992 Janet Ensign Neder

1993 Jeannette Rae Sebes-McDonald

1994 Toy O’Ferrall Harmon

1995 Florrie Louise Glendenning Cook

1996 Ayieta Sabina Mbeche

1997 Frances Sayle Milne

1998 Crystal Yvonne Brooks Pourciau

1999 Amber Leigh Swafford Tucker

2000 Jessica Ann Cofer LaFoy

2001 Amita Mohan Chhabra

2002 Mary Katherine Dann Ogden

2003 Vivian Grace Parham

2004 Whitney Bell St. Charles

2005 Erin Felton Lopez

2006 Sarah Katherine Neall

2007 Brandi Javon Andrews

2008 Caitlin Alison McAloon

2009 Rachel June Smith

2010 Laura Elizabeth Laughlin

2011 Mary Anna Caldwell

2012 Rachel Austin Kelly

2013 Tiana Nichole Mills

2014 Jessica Lynn Erhart

2015 Mackenzie Michelle Hobbs

2016 Alyson Michelle Parris

2017 Iman Ali

2018 Phoebe-Agnès Sinclair Mills

2019 Myra Kruesi Brock

2020 Kshama Ashish Patel

2021 Mary Adella Youmans

2022 Shalizeh Fatima Rizvi

2023 Kennedy Noel Ball

* * *

Jcshearer2@comcast.net

GPS May queen Claire Scotchie with her mother, Dr. Jessica Scotchie
GPS May queen Claire Scotchie with her mother, Dr. Jessica Scotchie
photo by courtesy of GPS
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