“Curiosity, freedom and trust—that’s what Harley means to me.”
–Lissa Green Eaton ‘78
Harley’s Hospice program has been in existence for almost 20 years making empathy and wellness an educational focus. In the 1970’s, while empathy and wellness were definitely part of the learning, it was not done in the purposeful way it is now. When Lissa Green Eaton ’78 shared that she was a hospice chaplain, we wanted to hear about her journey.
Lissa joined Harley in Upper School after previously attending Brighton. Her days there were filled with sitting at a desk in a classroom, reading a text book, listening to lectures about the reading, and then being tested on the reading. When she arrived at Harley, it was different because it sparked “such curiosity in so many subjects.” She recalls her first English class. “We watched the movie The Lottery and following the viewing, we all sat on the floor (gasp) and discussed it. At Harley, we were reading new and old stories, but the actual books, not excerpts from text books.”
She says Harley had a creative way of thinking and accepting. At Brighton, Lissa was in a high-level German language class and she wanted to continue this track at Harley. One problem: her German class conflicted with a required math class. Instead of making her compromise her studies, Lissa’s teachers found a way for her to do both by creating a self-study on probability and statistics, overseen by Len Wilcox P ’01, ‘03 (Mathematics, 1969-1982, 1986-2020). She felt such freedom! Lissa said there was a true trust between teachers and students, both in the classroom and out. She remembers being allowed to go off campus for lunch without needing school passes. The teachers trusted students would not take advantage of these opportunities.
Two main themes emerged in Lissa’s life, music and religion. At Harley, she worked closely with Guy Brown (Music 1970-1987) in choir, acapella, and madrigals. She also participated in the musical production of Fiddler on the Roof. Though Harley has never been inherently religious, she took an interesting elective about the Bible as literature, taught by Michael Lasser P ’77, ’80 (English 1966-1998) and says the class kept a careful balance and they never spoke about faith. She was also very active in her church, Third Presbyterian, participating in handbell choir, musicals, youth group, and, in later years, as a Sunday school teacher. These activities influenced her choice of Goucher College, a women’s college at the time, and a double major in music theory and composition and religion.
At Goucher, she continued involvement in music and most her of social life was with friends from her various musical groups. At the end of her sophomore year, she met her husband, Jim, a member of the Naval Academy, when Goucher and the Academy combined forces for a show. After they married, she became a “Navy wife” and for the next 7 ½ years she and her growing family moved with Jim’s job at Lockheed Martin, living in places like Virginia Beach, VA, Charleston, SC, Cherry Hill, NJ, Fredericksburg, MD, and Salisbury, MD. Throughout all of these moves, Lissa was always involved in her local church, often directing youth and adult choirs.
When the family finally settled in Maryland and when her youngest daughter was in grade 6, Lissa starting seriously thinking about seminary. She started researching and discovered there were a couple of schools within an hour of Fredericksburg. She then saw a link to a seminary on a church website, opened it and her curiosity kicked in. She thought about easing into it and taking a class here and there, but in the end, joined Baptist Theological Seminary with a double major in Biblical Interpretation and Faith Formation (Christian education).
Lissa loved seminary and learning about the different philosophies of education. In her studies she was asked to choose a specific style of education and she thought about her Harley days. She went to The Harley School website and learned that Harley’s educational philosophy was considered a “classic education” in that it “focuses on the art of living well, where career or college prep are by-products and not the ends of education.”
At Seminary she was required to do an internship so she decided her goal would be to find a church with areas of dysfunction where she could make a difference. As an intern she was very helpful in strengthening the church and was hired. Eventually she moved on and her next step was her CPE, Clinical Pastoral Education. As a chaplain, she worked a unit at a local hospital and it was the hardest, most educational thing she has ever done. She said she didn’t know how to do anything and the first time she was asked to comfort a family without telling them their loved one just passed away, and it was very difficult. These challenges have given her extraordinary people skills and the competency to “read the room” and approach families in the appropriate manner. She was a hospital chaplain for 10 years and after Jim retired, they moved back to Salisbury, MD, to be near family and friends.
She recently accepted a position as a hospice chaplain at Coastal Hospice and she’s been there for the past seven months. She says it is an excellent hospice and a very team-based environment where she works closely with nurses and social workers.
Lissa looks back at her schooling, from Harley to Goucher to Seminary and she sees a “spider web” with one line building off the other, building bridges in between, connecting them all. She is excited about Harley’s hospice program and hopes to speak with students about her work sometime this spring.