Annemarie Roeper, an educator, author and the founder of The Roeper School for gifted children, passed away May 11, 2012 in Oakland California at the age of 93. In the course of her remarkable life, she faced Nazi persecution, fought for racial integration in schools and advocated for the emotional needs of gifted students.
Roeper’s Early Life
Roeper was born in Germany in 1918, the child of Jewish doctors Gertrude and Max Bondy. The Bondys used their background in the emerging field of psychoanalysis to better understand childhood development, founding a series of schools aimed at helping children build and thrive in a democratic society. When the Nazi Party began to ascend to power in the 1930s, the Bondys were forced to leave their school, fleeing to Switzerland and then the US in 1939.
Annemarie and her husband George followed in 1941, establishing a school in Detroit on the same principles the Bondys had championed in Germany. The Roeper School started with only 9 students, but grew quickly, eventually expanding to two campuses with 560 students.
Both Annemarie and George were ahead of their time in many ways – they were early civil rights activists, and believed strongly in educational integration. Their own school was fully integrated by 1955.
They were also early members of the gifted education movement, spearheading efforts in 1956 to develop a curriculum for academically advanced children. The focus of The Roeper School shifted exclusively to the needs of the gifted – only the second elementary school in the US to recognize the need for such services.
In 1965, Annemarie consulted with Joan Ganz Cooney to help develop the popular educational children’s program “Sesame Street,” still on the air today.
The Roepers founded The Roeper Review, a peer-reviewed scholarly journal on gifted education, in 1978. In addition to teaching courses at Oakland University, Annemarie published more than 100 articles and book chapters, as well as three scholarly books, four children’s books, and one work of more personal nonfiction called “Beyond Old Age.”
She’s also well-known for developing the Annemarie Roeper Method of Qualitative Assessment, an alternative to traditional IQ tests which provides a holistic understanding of a child’s abilities and personality.
Remarkably, Annemarie herself had only a high school education. In 1937, she was accepted as the youngest candidate ever to study child psychoanalysis with Sigmund and Anna Freud – but the German invasion of Austria in 1938 forced her to flee the country by train. She was never able to continue her studies – but she and George were both awarded honorary doctorates in 1978 by Eastern Michigan University.
David Feldman, the current head of The Roeper School, writes, “Annemarie’s smile, her stories, and her passion for working with children filled my heart. It is so rare to find someone with such a deep and powerful sense of purpose. Her life’s work was an active and strong response to Nazi oppression, and we are the beneficiaries of hers and George’s tenacity.”
In this excerpt from the documentary “Across Time & Space,” Annemarie Roeper talks about her experiences fleeing from the Nazis:
Annemarie is survived by her brother, three children, three grandchildren, three great-grandchildren. Her family has asked that any donations in her honor be made to The Roeper School.
Photo credit: Youtube screen capture