Elsie Apthorp (1927-2016): Leader, Trustee, Advocate, and Benefactor
Sometimes in the life of an organization there are people and families who play a crucial role at pivotal times and, thus, enable the organization not only to sustain itself and survive, but to grow, develop, diversify, and blossom. Elsie Apthorp and earlier branches and generations of her family, the Whites and Janeways, paved the way for the expanded, diverse agency we know today as Perkins or The Doctor Franklin Perkins School, its legal name. Elsie and her family truly embodied and personified the sentiment so succinctly expressed in the school’s motto: A Chance to Blossom. Their multi-generational leadership, dedication, devotion, advocacy, and support have made Perkins what it is in the 21st Century.
Elsie’s grandmother, Elsie Ogden White (for whom she was named), was the first President of the Board of Trustees after Perkins School (the original name) was incorporated as a not-for-profit corporation in 1934. Elsie Ogden White was the mother of Tredway White, a long-time resident of Perkins School, who passed away in 1976. Mrs. White’s daughter, Elinor White Janeway, also served several terms as President of the Board of Trustees and led several development efforts to strengthen the school. Mrs. Janeway, the wife of Vermont State Senator Edward G. Janeway, was the mother of Elsie Apthorp, Betsy Janeway (who lived at Perkins for virtually her entire life and who passed away in 2004), and four other siblings. Elsie became the third member of her family to serve as President of the Perkins Board of Trustees during the 1990’s.
Elsie Apthorp was a vibrant leader, insightful Trustee, devoted sister to Betsy, and committed patron, philanthropist, and advocate for the children and adults served by Perkins. It was largely due to the advocacy of the White and Janeway families that Perkins expanded its services in the 20th Century to serve adults who had completed the school program and were in need of residential and vocational services in adulthood.
The mark left on Perkins by the White-Janeway-Apthorp Family is unparalleled in the life of this now 120-year-old institution that continues to serve developmentally disabled adults in residential and vocational settings, children with diverse mental illness diagnoses in day school and residential programs, a variety of other groups with special needs, as well as typically developing infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. The spirit, energy, and support for those programs is the legacy of Elsie Apthorp and generations of her family before her.
In addition to the leadership and dedication provided by the White-Janeway-Apthorp Family, there are also very tangible reminders of Perkins’s growth and expansion in facilities on and adjacent to the campus. Weymouth Hall on Main Street in Lancaster was named for the White family home in Oyster Bay, NY. White Hall serves as a memorial to the White family. The Ogden Wing of the (Mrs. Iver Johnson) Manor on the Lancaster campus was a gift from Elsie Ogden White in honor of her sister, Ellen Louise Ogden, at the time the building was expanded to include an infirmary. The centerpiece of the entire Lancaster campus is the Janeway Center, a state-of-the-art educational facility (15 classrooms, auditorium; dining hall; library) which was completed in 2002 and dedicated to the Janeway family.
Elsie Janeway Apthorp was a skilled leader, advocate for the disabled, conservationist, philanthropist, and patron of a number of diverse agencies and organizations that are committed to empowering individuals and families and to improving the quality of their lives. Elsie Apthorp and earlier generations of her family before her have left an indelible mark on Perkins. She will be fondly remembered.