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The Sheila and Frank Magullion Education and Retreat Center

The Sheila and Frank Magullion Education and Retreat Center will be located on Riverbend’s satellite campus, less than one mile from our main campus on Eliot Street. This land, along with two residential homes, will be gifted to Riverbend School in summer/fall 2024 and includes over 5.5 acres of landscaped lands, diverse flora, and woods. Named for Sheila and Frank Magullion, the Center and its surrounding properties will enhance Riverbend’s existing outdoor education programs, provide a reflective space for symposia and events for educators, and will become an integral piece of Riverbend’s fellowship program for aspiring educators, strengthening the pipeline of certified Montessori teachers.

How the Center Fits into Riverbend Programming

Developing myriad enhanced outdoor education opportunities for Riverbend students. Not only will students’ appreciation and knowledge of nature expand with regular visits to the new property via Riverbend’s new mini-bus, the Magullions’ stunning gardens are a perfect space for reflective writing, the creative arts, mindfulness, and the kind of interdisciplinary projects that provide the cornerstone for a Montessori education. Additionally, Riverbend will enhance its already robust on-campus outdoor learning opportunities for our youngest learners who are not yet old enough to travel to the satellite property.

Head of School Brooke Hopkins had this to say on her hopes for the future use of this generous gift, “Every time I step foot on this beautiful piece of property, I am immediately transported to a more reflective state of being, and I’m filled with deep appreciation for the serenity and groundedness that natural beauty can offer all of us. I can hardly wait for our students to be able to take a short ride on our brand new bus to have a similar experience – whether they are eagerly exploring, creatively writing, mindfully contemplating, joyfully discovering, or meaningfully contributing.”

Inviting educators from Riverbend and the community at-large to collaborate and continue their learning in a retreat-like setting. Amidst the beautiful landscape, one of the homes will be used as a gathering place for our teachers and other Montessori educators in the greater MetroWest area and around the globe. These workshops, symposiums, and retreats for area teachers and administrators will feed both the mind and the soul, utilizing the meditative atmosphere of the grounds. This collaboration across schools will allow educators to share best practices, innovative strategies, and diverse perspectives, ultimately enriching the educational experiences for all students while providing necessary professional development, facilitating growth and support for teachers and enhancing classroom effectiveness. 

Creating a fellowship program for a group of aspiring teachers as they pursue their Montessori training. Recognizing the urgent need for a pipeline of highly qualified Montessori teachers, and the equity and access barriers inherent in the rigorous Montessori training process, Riverbend will provide free housing and paid internships to a group of teacher trainees on a bi-annual basis. This fellowship program will bring diverse voices and new perspectives to the Riverbend community, immediately enhancing the rich tapestry of our learning environment and further lowering the student-to-teacher ratio at Riverbend. By prioritizing diversity, Riverbend aims to promote equity and inclusivity within its school environment and in Montessori schools across the country, thereby expanding access to classrooms in which all children see themselves reflected in the faculty and staff.

Providing housing for Current and Future Riverbend Heads of School. As housing costs continue to rise in our area, it is essential that Riverbend, like most other independent schools, offer head-of-school housing in order to attract and retain the candidates best suited to lead the School. A head of school home will also provide a wonderful space for community gatherings and family connection with Riverbend’s leadership team. Riverbend’s Board of Directors feels strongly that this decision aligns with Riverbend’s mission and helps to ensure the school’s longevity.

Who Are Sheila and Frank Magullion?

Frank, originally from Dorchester, and Sheila, who was born in Taggerty, Australia, met in Europe before marrying and eventually settling in Natick, MA. Frank, a World War II Army Air Corps veteran, later became the owner of Multiprint Inc. in Boston. Sheila, a passionate horticulturist, began her career at the Arnold Arboretum and later worked at the New England Wildflower Society in Framingham, where she discovered a deep blue variety of Lobelia now known as “Sheila’s Blue.” Married for over 50 years, Sheila and Frank dedicated much of their lives to supporting education and environmental stewardship, and Sheila specifically built an impressive horticultural legacy through her personal gardens and work with local conservation organizations.

Sheila and Frank’s Legacy

Sheila and Frank lived on the property for many decades before Frank passed away in 2013, and Sheila and 2023. In the days leading up to her passing, Sheila was found tending to her beloved pond. Reflecting on why we’re here, she once said, “To be impressed, to notice and admire in the brief seconds of late afternoon light, when it falls on the soft needles of the distant blue fir.”

In July 2023, Riverbend’s Head of School, Brooke Hopkins, learned of the Magullion estate when Dave Epstein, GBH News meteorologist, educator, and South Natick resident, was helping to facilitate end-of-life wishes for his dear friend Sheila. Mr. Epstein recognized the beautiful alignment between Frank and Sheila’s values and Montessori principles, which emphasize the interconnectedness of all life on Earth, conservation and environmental stewardship, and an appreciation for nature’s inherent gifts of groundedness and reflection. Indeed, Mrs. Hopkins, along with the Riverbend administrative team and the Board of Directors, agreed that Riverbend School was uniquely positioned to carry on the Magullions’ legacy in perpetuity.

Together, Mr. Epstein, Mrs. Hopkins, and Michael Tauer, Riverbend’s Board Chair, shared the School’s vision with Tom Hunnewell, Frank and Sheila’s long-time lawyer and who they named as their trustee and executor. Mr. Hunnewell agreed that the Magullions’ property would be put to excellent use in the hands of Riverbend.

This gift from the Magullion estate provides enormous opportunity for a young school and the families Riverbend serves. The Center will significantly elevate the already superlative Riverbend education and experience while also helping us advance our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion goals in a bold and impactful way. 

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