We're excited to connect with our alumni through our Darlington Connects series. Today, we hear from Beth (Hackett) Pride ('87), who recently completed an amazing year-long project and published a book about it called “The Common Wealth of Kentucky Project.”
Like many Darlington alumni, Beth (Hackett) Pride (’87) has numerous family connections to the school.
“I felt lucky to get to go to Darlington," said Pride, who enrolled as a day student in the seventh grade. "My grandfather, father, and his siblings had attended Darlington and Thornwood, so it was a family tradition I hoped to be able to experience.”
She fondly remembers many legendary Darlington faculty members. “As a teacher myself, I don’t really love pointing out specific teachers as favorites," she said. "I do remember some classrooms more than others, and some of those in Upper School were Mr. Awsumb’s AP Humanities class, Mr. Powell’s freshman Bible class, and Mr. Sellers’ senior English class because they were great teachers of content I found really interesting. Or maybe because they were great, they made it interesting content regardless. Either way, it was a win.”
Beth talked of her middle school experiences, in particular. “Mr. Van Es in middle school was an amazing administrator," she said. "I’ll never forget playing stickball out front, and he was the pitcher. He had nicknames for every single one of us and made us feel so special. Mine was 'Beee-u-tiful BETH!' which I still appreciate! And, of course, Madame Mixon in middle school French. Sometimes Julia Barton ('87) and I still jump into a French class riff of 'Michelle, Ann, vous travaillez?' 'Uh no, nous regardons la television.' Those lines were in line with our own lives in middle school, watching 'Dynasty' every Thursday night rather than doing homework!”
As a Darlington student, Beth was involved in a myriad of activities, including cheerleading, track, basketball and soccer.
“My love was soccer," she said. "Our team was brand new and we were terrible, but I loved the sport and my team. It ended up being a foundation that helped me get my first teaching job because I agreed to coach girls soccer and ended up running my own varsity team at Hammond School in Columbia, S.C., for years.”
Her Darlington experience had a huge impact on many aspects of her life because, as she put it, Darlington taught “independent learning (the courage to try and learn new things, resourcefulness), critical thinking and problem-solving skills, and the main one—curiosity. I think the environment at Darlington then was all about preparing young people for college by giving them some space to learn. So many schools today squelch that excitement and desire for learning.”
Beth went to the University of Georgia after her time at the Lakeside and majored in English. She had the opportunity to attend their study abroad program at Oxford University, where she met her future husband. After completing her undergraduate degree a semester early, Beth went straight into graduate school there in Secondary English Education and became a high school English teacher.
“I taught American and English Literature and Creative Writing to juniors and seniors at two different schools for the first seven years out of grad school," she said. "My husband, Dan Pride, and I moved in 1999 to Lexington, Ky., in pursuit of a career in the Thoroughbred racing industry for him. I took a job in 2003 at The Lexington School, an independent PS-8 school in Lexington as the admission, marketing, and financial aid director. I stayed there for 18 years until 2021 when I decided it was time to pursue my creative side full time.”
When asked about a fun Darlington Connection moment Beth shared this great story. “I was in Dubai with my husband at the World Cup in 2008 when I started talking to a man who was married to a woman in the horse industry named Helen Alexander," she said. "His name was Stuart Houston (’67). We were chatting—the typical “where are you from” kind of stuff—and when I told him I grew up in Rome, he said he attended Darlington. I said I had done the same, so he asked my maiden name, and when I said Hackett, he asked if I knew a Walter about his same age, and I said, 'As a matter of fact, that is my father.' You should have seen Stuart’s reaction. His surprise was visceral, like he’d tripped over something. I laughed and said, 'I know. I’m too old to be the daughter of someone your age. They were too young to have me, but I’m glad they did!' Stuart and I ended up seeing each other at racing events often after that, and once the shock wore off for poor Stuart, Darlington and my dad always gave us something to talk about.”
Beth had some fabulous career advice for alumni “Be open to doing almost anything. Be open to change and willing to divert your path at a moment’s notice if it is something that engages your curiosity. I thought I would be a teacher forever, and I miss teaching all the time. There is nothing that compares to those relationships and classroom or field moments. But the advancement work I did at The Lexington School showed me I can learn anything I set my mind to doing. This Common Wealth of Kentucky Project is a clear example.”
Beth would love to connect with others in the Darlington community about careers in teaching, advancement, marketing and publications. “I’m happy to be involved in any way I can. And I still love working with young people—it doesn't get much better than that.” If you would like to connect with Beth, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Are you a member of Darlington Community (or do you know one) with an interesting career or community involvement? We'd love to spotlight you in a future blog! Please email email@example.com if you are interested in being featured.