Alumni Spotlights

Read about the careers and experiences of a few WFS alumnae and alumni.

Laura Robelen '78

Laura Robelen ’78 was a 13-year veteran of Friends, following in the footsteps of her mother, Lois Moodey ’53. At Friends, Laura enjoyed participating in chorus and especially the annual Spring musicals. She served as Secretary of her senior class. The friendships made at WFS have stood the test of time, thanks to social media, and she regularly gathers with classmates living in the Wilmington area. Laura graduated from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro with a major in Communication and Theatre and a minor in Psychology. Since 1988, Laura has been a licensed Realtor and is also an Associate Broker. She teaches the Pre-Licensing Sales class for her brokerage Long & Foster. Laura has been a fundraising volunteer for Delaware Hospice for the last 25 years. She has served as chair of The Festival of Trees for most of those years and also serves on the Board of Trustees and as Co-Chair of the Development Committee. Laura lives in the Greenville area.
What changes in the real estate business have you noticed since you began as a real estate agent?
When I started my real estate career in 1988, the business was smaller and more like a family. My office only had about 25 people and our entire company could fit in the ballroom of the University and Whist Club for meetings! Now, I doubt that my office could do that comfortably. My Pre-Licensing students and the overall agent demographics are getting younger (or am I getting older?). More agents are choosing real estate as their first career rather than their second, as it was back in the day.
The most significant change has definitely been the technology of the industry. In ’88, we were still working with multi-list BOOKS and the computer was considered “new”. By today’s standards, it was rudimentary, since the internet hadn’t been invented yet! With the advances in tech, my clients are able to do their own property searches and take virtual tours before ever walking through the front door. It’s crazy to think that we ever sold houses with only one black & white photograph to see. Yet, with the availability of property information online comes the possibility of inaccuracies and misinterpretation by non-professionals. A little information can be a dangerous thing!
For the first several years of my career, we operated in a “buyer beware” environment. Buyers had no representation from agents. That changed in the early 1990’s with the introduction of Buyer Agency. Delaware became a Statutory Agency state in 2007, which has made the way we do business much clearer and easier. Now everyone knows who represents who…can you tell I teach this class?!

With the introduction of electronic contracts, not only can paperwork be signed in moments from any computer, at any time, but we can actually read them rather than trying to decipher hand-written forms! Speaking of forms, when I started, the Contract of Sale was a double-sided legal page. Hard to imagine, considering that today, the Contract is 10 pages followed by over a dozen pages of disclosures! But no matter how advanced the technology gets, our business remains one of service and personal connection. That’s what is so rewarding – helping people find their perfect home or move on to a new adventure.
You are a board member of Delaware Hospice serving on the Development Committee. Tell us about the Festival of Trees fundraising event which you chair and about Camp New Hope.
Founded in 1982, Delaware Hospice is the leading licensed, nonprofit, community-based healthcare organization serving Delaware, and Pennsylvania’s southern Chester and Delaware Counties. Delaware Hospice provides exceptional care and support to individuals, families, and the community and serves as a trusted community partner in end-of-life education. For the past 25 years I have been a fundraising volunteer and have served on the Board of Trustees since 2008.

The Festival of Trees is our annual holiday fundraiser which features a magnificent display of decorated trees which are sponsored by local businesses, individuals, or families. They are decorated by some very talented community volunteers in an incredible variety of themes. At the conclusion of our three-day Festival, those trees are then distributed to other local organizations such as shelters, day care centers, veterans and senior facilities, animal shelters, etc. so that they may enjoy them throughout the holiday season. We also feature a large Marketplace where handmade wreaths, gifts, and goodies are sold. There is a Senior Center tree decorating competition and live entertainment daily. The funds raised go towards supporting our various programs and services offered to the community. In 2022, we are returning to the Brantwyn Estate for our Festival, November 18-20. I’d love to see the WFS family attend!
New Hope is a nationally-recognized program that helps young people ages 6-17 sort through the maze of emotions they’re experiencing before and after a loved one dies. New Hope counselors provide grief education and support to children and their families through a variety of workshops, support groups, and individual discussions, as well as a summer camp. New Hope services are available to both Delaware Hospice families and to the wider community at no charge, thanks to generous donors. The four-day Camp New Hope takes place in both New Castle and Kent counties. Through a variety of fun camp activities and bereavement exercises, campers have opportunities to interact with other children who have experienced loss. At Camp, the children learn how to process their grief and, more importantly, learn that they are not alone.
What was your WFS experience in the performing arts under Violet Richman?
The expression “force of nature” has been used by so many to describe Violet Richman. She was truly a one of a kind woman and a real force of creativity for WFS. Her Concert Chorus programs were innovative and so well done. The Spring musicals were highly anticipated events and her personality shone through them all. She wasn’t afraid to take chances with material, casting, or staging. Violet introduced us to the magic and wonder of the Broadway musical, especially the genius of Stephen Sondheim. She demanded excellence from each one of us and we wouldn’t have dreamed of disappointing her! She brought out the best in us and we strived to give our best in return. While I never had a lead role in a production, it was a privilege to be a part of each show. Despite the huge casts and lots of “supporting players”, after every show, she sent each one of us a signed program saying “Thanks, Darlin’!” She made us feel special. That’s a talent in itself. She was undoubtedly one of my very favorite teachers of all time.

How has attending WFS impacted you?
The older I become, the more I realize just how fortunate I am to have had a WFS education. The small classes, the individual attention from excellent teachers, fostering a sense of community and responsibility, infused with the Quaker fundamentals – they help form the foundation of a person. I’m sure that 13 years of Meeting for Worship has helped me be a bit calmer and better at waiting! The emphasis on community service has certainly carried over in my professional and volunteer life. In college, I tutored students who needed a little extra help. It was an eye-opening experience to see college students with such poor reading and study skills. I felt very lucky to have been given the tools to feel prepared for the classrooms beyond Friends. And of course, the lasting friendships have been so meaningful to me. At our 40th reunion, it was amazing to see so many classmates come from so far away to celebrate. The connections were still there, and new ones formed with those who we may not have been close to at WFS. There really is a bond and, Wilmington being a “big small town”, I love that I can still get together with some close girlfriends regularly. WFS was a special place to go to school and, even after nearly 45 years (!) and many changes, it still feels like a second home in my heart.

Peter Henderer '89

Peter Henderer ’89 attended Friends for three years for Pre-1st through 2nd grades, and then returned for 10th through 12th grades. On campus, he played football and lacrosse, played in the Concert Band and Jazz Band, served on the Service Committee, and was Clerk of the Business Meeting. After graduation, Peter studied at Bowdoin College, majoring in Economics and Environmental Studies, and serving as Co-President of the Bowdoin Outing Club. After Bowdoin he studied law at The George Washington University Law School and went on to the private practice of law in Richmond, Virginia. Peter’s practice is in commercial real estate, with a particular focus on tax-credit financed multifamily housing. On the side, Peter has grown a portfolio of his own residential rental properties. Outside of work, Peter has served on numerous non-profit boards, and is currently Chair of the Board of Trustees at Richmond Montessori School, a Toddler through 8th grade school in Richmond. Peter is married to Armistead Edmunds Henderer and they have two teenage children.

How did you choose to specialize your law career in real estate development?

I landed in it quite by happenstance.  In 1997 I wanted to move to Richmond, Virginia, to marry Armistead, who was living in Richmond.  After a difficult job search, I was hired by my current firm to work on cell phone tower leases on a six-month, provisional basis.  Twenty-four years later I am still here and serving on the firm’s Executive Committee.  My practice grew by capitalizing on successive opportunities as they arose.  I’ve been very fortunate.

What lessons have you learned from serving as chairperson of the board of trustees for a Montessori school?

My tenure as Board Chair has been characterized by the Covid pandemic.  The pandemic has required us to re-allocate certain budgetary items, defer certain capital projects, and wrestle with the public guidance on re-opening the school.  After a period of remote learning in the spring of 2020, Richmond Montessori has operated as an in-person school, five days per week, for all students for the ’20-’21 and ’21-’22 school years.  I am very proud of the efforts that the Board, faculty, and staff have made to make that happen.  Even so, we’ve struggled to balance the competing concerns of various constituencies as we’ve navigated an ever-changing field of regulations and guidance.  It’s been a challenging time.  Through it all, I’ve observed that a school is substantially helped by having a guiding philosophy—a keel in the water—that shapes its decision making and keeps it programmatically on track.  WFS has Quakerism, of course, and RMS has the pedagogical theories of Maria Montessori.  To maintain a school’s consistency, especially in a time of disruption, it helps to have a guiding philosophy to set the alignment of the school. 

What life lessons did you learn from playing sports?

Sports at WFS are, first and foremost, an educational endeavor, and the lessons learned from them complement the academic component of the curriculum.  Sports emphatically teach the value of long-term preparation.  Classroom assignments in high school are typically short-term.  In sports, though, as in life, we have to prepare many days and months in advance for events.  The practices, drills, and training that go into an athletic season for a comparatively short number of minutes of game time are directly analogous to the preparation that goes into any major undertaking in life. 

How has WFS impacted you since graduation?

When my older brother, Jeff, graduated from WFS in 1986, he told me that the most important thing that WFS teaches is patience.  And truly, in my life after graduation, the patience that I learned at WFS has been immensely valuable.  Even in today’s world, there is always time to think before responding. There is always time to reflect to gain understanding.  There is always time to exercise patience while still working steadily toward an objective.

What are your favorite WFS memories?

Without question, my favorite memories of WFS are of the people at WFS.  At WFS I had the privilege of being around a diverse array of students and faculty who demonstrated intellectual brilliance, steadfast loyalty, cheerful humor, thoughtful kindness, and, at times, real courage.  I like to think that I was at WFS during a time when we had an exceptional student body and faculty, but I am not sure my era wasn’t simply representative of the school in all eras. The qualities of Quakerism that guide Friends School can really bring out the best in people in an educational environment.

Alex Rudin '13

My name is Alex Rudin. I am a NYC based multimedia artist and illustrator. My work focuses primarily on social justice and abstract political theory. In 2019 I founded my creative studio Rudin Studios, LLC. The majority of my work attempts to comment on the complexities of the human experience through stylized portraiture and anecdotal commentary. My work seeks to uncover and express the truths about living in modern America. Currently, I am creating work to help galvanize action around social and political issues. In addition, I have spent the past few months developing a curriculum on the intersection of art and social justice: a program on unity, aesthetic force, and the importance of incorporating DEI work into art activism. I have partnered with organizations such as Women for Biden Harris 2020, Women for the Win, Friends Vote Together, Sam & Devorah Foundation for Trans Youth, Article 3, and Her Bold Move among others. My work has been featured in publications such as Grit Daily, NYOTA Magazine, yahoo!, The Female Lead and USA Today Magazine.  My fine arts work has appeared in exhibitions in New York, Delaware, and Pennsylvania.

I attended Wilmington Friends School for 14 years, and by all accounts, I consider myself a “lifer.” WFS provided the bulk of my educational experience, which was the basis for my development as an artist and an activist. Throughout my attendance at Friends, certain core values such as integrity, community, equality, peace, stewardship, and simplicity were foundational. After coming into my own as a humanitarian artist, the correlation between my work and my education at Friends became ever more apparent. My strict focus on working within the human rights and progressive political space has enabled me to reflect on my time at Friends with the utmost appreciation and regard. While the seeds were planted many years ago, the fruits of my Quaker education aid me regularly in committing myself to humanitarian work. 

Pushing against inequality is elemental to the Quaker tradition. Since the arrival of Quakerism in the United States, Friends have fought to protect Native American rights, sought to abolish slavery, and to advance women’s rights. In 1776, as the Founding Fathers birthed the great American Experiment, Quakers prohibited the ownership of slaves. Fourteen years later, they petitioned the U.S. Congress for the abolition of slavery. This fight would continue for nearly 100 years. Additionally, Quaker involvement in the movement of women’s rights was tremendously significant. From the outset, Quaker views on gender equality were remarkably progressive, and by the 19th century, many Friends were involved in the movement. One of the earliest suffragettes was a Quaker minister named Lucretia Mott. She set about establishing women’s abolitionist societies across the country, ultimately becoming the first president of the American Equal Rights Association post-Civil War. Other prominent Quaker suffragists such as Susan B. Anthony and Alice Paul are widely recognized for helping to deliver the vote for women in the United States in 1920. Both women have broadly attributed their activism to their Quaker upbringing. The belief that all humans are worthy of respect and should be treated as such is central to Quaker ideology. That being said, I find myself pulled to address the violence and injustice in our country during this tumultuous and transformative age. Art is my tool and I firmly believe that creatives have a duty to reflect the times we live in. My purpose is to create dialogue, promote actionable change, and to spark personal introspection and growth, much in the light of the core Quaker principle “Faith in Action.”
My attendance at WFS has been crucial in guiding my subject matter. It is commonplace for artists to struggle with “what to make.” I feel fortunate enough to rarely come across such issues. I attribute this mainly to my Friends school education and the sensitivity WFS enabled me to develop. When Coronavirus hit, my mission instantaneously crystalized. I was in an unfamiliar town, without the ability to work (silkscreen), miles away from the studio I call home. I remained glued to the news awestruck by the infection and mortality rates. I racked my brain for something to do, how to help, what to make. I wanted to figure out how to “let my life preach,” and be actionable in doing so. 

I became focused on those who were not as privileged as me. I wanted to help those who were struggling to find housing, to feed themselves, to protect themselves from this deadly virus which was clearly and disproportionately hurting people of color. I began working on a series of pieces to be sold, 100% of the proceeds going to homeless and trafficked youth in NYC.  Soon to follow were the atrocious murders of George Floyd, Ahmed Aubry, and Breonna Taylor, which brought racial justice to the forefront of the American conscience once again.  While President Trump continuously fanned the flames of racism, the cries for equality and allyship were deafening. I felt as if It were time to allow my artwork to reflect the times and struggles of our country. Returning to my Quaker values, I wanted to help acknowledge, reflect, and aid in the effort to correct institutional racism that is so insidiously intertwined with our institutions and the American way of being.  It was time to let my education at WFS take the driver's seat.

I have always been a very creative person. Art is my true north, and this was undoubtedly cultivated in many ways at WFS. My earliest and fondest memories at WFS were in Teal Rickerman’s art class. Ms. Rickerman  helped instill a deep and unconscious sense of confidence and self-efficacy, in regards to my talents as an artist. I felt supported, encouraged, and special, and I thank her from the bottom of my heart. I was also privileged enough to be a part of the IB Art program, which paved the way for me to attend Parsons New School for Design. 

I faced many challenges in my creative experience at WFS starting in Middle School. There were moments where I felt my creative talents made me a target. I felt different than other students, as if I were an outsider.  While the culture favored athleticism and academic achievement, being an academic creative was less the norm. The resulting isolation in conjunction with constant sources of support and encouragement led me to view my talents as something that made me special. Additionally, being creative became a valuable outlet emotionally. While some of my experiences at WFS were not exactly ideal, I would say that they were constructive and critical in making me the artist that I am. Most negatives have become positives, and for that I am thankful. I strongly believe that the challenges and accomplishments I faced at Friends both socially and creatively remain critical pieces of my puzzle, and I am grateful for every experience during my 14 years at WFS.

As I continue to create work for and with social justice activists, I am reminded every day of my education. I reflect upon the teachings of peace class and meaning for worship. I refer to my conflict resolution skills on a daily basis. I remember the guiding principles of a Friends education as they continuously shape and mold my present. I look up to the activist titans that attribute their work to Quaker values for inspiration. The core values of Quakerism in conjunction with the concept of Tikkun Olam” (repairing the world) are intrinsic to who I am.  While I happen to be Jewish and not Quaker, a large part of my soul belongs to the Quaker tradition. My whole self belongs to the practice of making art, thus inevitably, the two were bound to intersect. Throughout my journey as an artist, I have never felt more genuine than when I am making work that reflects my educational values. Friends instilled the ethics, desire, and self-efficacy required to make humanitarian artwork in an attempt to change the status quo. For this, I will always thank Wilmington Friends School.