Women of Canterbury Honors – and Says Goodbye to – Mrs. Behan

By Selina Xin

Mrs. Behan with Keynote Speaker Kate Brisco ‘08 at the WOC dinner where Mrs. Behan was honored.


The Women of Canterbury dinners typically celebrates the achievements of different women of Canterbury, including alumni, faculty and staff. This year’s Women of Canterbury dinner, on April 21, was especially significant since Mrs. Behan, the founder of Women of Canterbury (WOC) in 1991, is retiring after 35 years at Canterbury.

WOC co-president Sarah Buckingham ‘17 described the challenges Mrs. Behan met when she first decided to create WOC 20 years after the school first went co-educational.

“Not everyone thought an organization for girls was a wonderful idea at the time,” said Sarah, noting that one faculty member argued that issues were better ignored than confronted.

This skepticism endured throughout the first few years of WOC, but Mrs. Behan remained steadfast in her commitment. Today, WOC is a respected, highly valued part of Canterbury life. It provides a space for all girls to be comfortable with themselves, be involved in the community and be able to talk about issues of importance to them.

Hundreds of Canterbury women graduates credit WOC with helping them become stronger, more confident, and compassionate people. As one sixth former remarked, “As a freshman, I couldn’t understand why there would be a group specifically for women. But today I can’t imagine life without it.”

Under Mrs. Behan’s guidance, WOC gives back to the Canterbury community in many different ways. “When a need arose in the Canterbury community, Women of Canterbury responded,” said co-president Sinead O’Donnell ‘17. “It raised money to replace the wedding ring that Maya, a kitchen worker, had lost. It contributed towards a plane ticket for Katie, another kitchen worker, to fly to China to see her family. When a faculty member had breast cancer surgery and follow-up chemotherapy, Women of Canterbury volunteers babysat her children and walked the family dog.” Through helping Canterbury women in need, WOC teaches girls to always have a compassionate heart and live by the five values of Canterbury School.

In her acceptance of the WOC Woman of the Year Award, Mrs. Behan talked about the strong bonds she’s forged with the female students in her 35 years at Canterbury, and a few tears were shed by many. In her retirement, she plans on continuing her career in gender studies by giving lectures on women’s issues.

The evening ended with the performance of the song “The Climb” by the Canterbury Chorale girls. Just like the lyrics of “The Climb”, WOC will continue to “keeping on moving, keep climbing”, but without its beloved leader.

Women of Canterbury Dinner 2017
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