Ellen Moceri has spent the past 55 years as a transformational leader in independent day schools and as an advocate for educational programs to fight systemic racism and encourage social equality. Her drive to educate the future leaders of tomorrow is evident in the roles she has served as teacher, head of school, senior consultant, board member and community volunteer.
Moceri earned bachelor’s and master’s degreed from Washington University in St. Louis. Following a brief stint as an assistant buyer at the long-since-defunct St. Louis-headquartered retailer Stix, Baer and Fuller, she answered an ad for a teaching position at Creve Coeur’s Whitfield School. After working there for about a year, she applied to Ladue’s John Burroughs School and was offered a position there teaching history. For 25 years, she remained at Burroughs, where she served as the chair of the history department, director of studies and college counselor.
In 1993, she went on a “game-changing sabbatical” to New York’s famed Columbia University, where she took a course called “Private Schools Have a Public Purpose.” When she returned to Burroughs, she brought with her a newfound purpose and determination to help the school “use its resources to build bridges with inner-city St. Louis and the underserved population.” She launched a summer program, incorporating the “Aim High” model developed by one of her former pupils, where inner-city elementary students were invited to a six-week summer program of “cultural and academic enrichment.”
“Our program’s goal is to guide the students through their middle school experience and help them graduate from high school and go on to college,” she says. The Burroughs program continues to this day, serving roughly 300 students each year.
Sought after for her tenacity and strategic skills, she left Burroughs for top administration positions at the American School of The Hague in the Netherlands, Horace Mann in New York, Christ Church Episcopal School in South Carolina and the American School of Mexico City, and in 2001, she joined Ransom Everglades School in Coconut Grove, Florida, as the head of school. “The mission of Ransom Everglades is to train a leadership class to give more to their communities,” she says.
The school was honored with the Klingenstein Award for its role in helping the underserved, and Moceri was credited with transforming Ransom into a “national powerhouse.” She helped grow the school’s Breakthrough program, which now serves about 2,000 students in neighboring Miami. The mayor recognized her contributions not just to the school but to the greater Miami community, as well.
Since retiring to St. Louis in 2014 with her husband of 56 years, Larry, Moceri has served on the board of three charter schools and one magnet school, all of which serve predominantly Black students.
“At the Collegiate School of Medicine and Bioscience, we have helped our students attain internships in various medical and technology positions,” she says of that St. Louis magnet high school. “I decided, as a retired person, that I would use whatever talents I had for educational leadership to help the Black students of St. Louis get the education they need to be gainfully employed. As Abraham Lincoln said, ‘Everyone should have the right to rise.’ And the best way for everyone to have the right to rise is for everyone to have an equal opportunity for education.”
An innate storyteller and award-winning photographer and writer, Alice Handelman provides Ladue News readers with a glimpse into lives that enrich St. Louis.