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Alice Gow, widow of former headmaster at the Gow School

Jan. 2, 1928 - March 26, 2017

Bill Parsons had been teaching at the Gow School in South Wales for several years when he asked Alice Gow, the wife of the headmaster, for advice on how to update his college-age attire.

Mrs. Gow, known for her grace and honesty with students and faculty alike, told him a single-breasted, three-button, gray flannel suit. Not too light, not too dark, not pinstripe, and if it has a pattern, you can't be able to see it. She explained what a good white shirt is. Black shoes, not brown, she said, and she recommended Brooks Brothers. For someone who did not get that type of guidance at home, it was invaluable.

"She understood these things. She wasn't saying I was a slob, or still dressed like a college student," Parsons, now chairman of the Arts Department, said. "I'll be wearing that suit at her memorial service."

Alice Roberts Gow, 89, died March 28 in her home on the school campus in South Wales.

"Alice was grace personified in a very timeless sense," said Dan Kelley, who retired last year after working 40 years at the school. "It certainly meant a lot to the faculty over the years. She was a great role model for us."

Born in Buffalo, Mrs. Gow attended public schools in Wanakah, and was a graduate of Buffalo Seminary.  She earned a degree in early childhood education from Wheelock College in Boston, Mass., and taught for a number of years at the Elmwood-Franklin School and the Park School. Her love of travel and adventure also led to a turn in a research lab in Sicily, where she studied the role of diet in multiple sclerosis, in work led by the late Dr.Walter Stafford of Buffalo General Hospital.

After her marriage in 1960 to David W. Gow, the son of the founder of the college prep school that educates students with dyslexia and other language-based learning disabilities, she became a notable and beloved figure at the school. Her late husband was headmaster from 1977 to 1990. As the wife of the headmaster, she entertained and traveled frequently on behalf of the school, and assisted her husband  in teaching a popular class in interpersonal relations.

Generations of boarding students remember her as a “mother away from home” who gave them encouragement, good advice and a sense of home. In 2014 the Alice R. Gow Science Center was opened and named in her honor at the school, and she continued to be a revered presence at alumni gatherings. She remained interested in the school and students, and sometimes ate in the dining hall with students and faculty.

She was a lifelong congregant of Westminster Presbyterian Church. Serving as one of the church’s first women elders, she played a role in making Westminster more inclusive as a More Light Presbyterian Church. She also was active in alumnae affairs of Buffalo Seminary and Wheelock College, and she was an active member of the Garret Club and a past member of the Concord Ski Club, Buffalo Yacht Club and East Aurora Swimming Club.

Surviving are two sons, David W. Jr. and Philip R.; two stepsons, Peter and Alexander; a stepdaughter, Persis Whalley; a sister, Susan Bean; five grandchildren; and seven step-grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. April 22 in Westminster Presbyterian Church, 724 Delaware Ave.

 

 

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