Monday, April 24, 2017

Gail Whitney Copeland, BHS 1957

Gail Whitney Copeland, BHS '57, passed away the morning of Saturday, January 12, 2013. She had first been hospitalized and diagnosed with cancer on November 21, 2011, a little less than fourteen months ago. She had endured much since then, including surgeries and cancer treatments. She was stable right now it was believed, and doing some better, as she wrote in a note on January 9 that her daughter shared. So, it was unexpected that she would pass away just three days later on January 12.

Gail Copeland worked for the Burbank Unified School District as a teacher and administrator for 43 1/2 years, from 1961 until her retirement in 2004. Her first position was as a fourth grade teacher at Thomas Jefferson Elementary in 1961, and I was in her first class in the 1961/62 school year, which was in Room 21 at Jefferson as 'Miss Whitney'. Gail attended and graduated from the University of Arizona, Tucson, and as soon as she graduated she began at Thomas Jefferson, not long after she had turned 21!

She married Doug Copeland on February 16, 1963. She passed away just over a month before their 50th wedding anniversry. The last 18 years of Gail's career with BUSD was spent as the Principal of Joaquin Miller Elementary in Burbank, at Providencia and Kenneth Rd. She was a very much loved Principal by all of her faculty over those years, as well as students and their parents.

Gail and Doug Copeland made their home in Glendale, not far from the Burbank border, and very near Miller School. Gail is survived by her husband, Doug Copeland, her devoted daughter, Chris Copeland (who is a current teacher at Thomas Jefferson in Burbank), her son and his wife, Rob and Marci Copeland, and their two children/Gail's grandchildren, Kenzie and Zach.

Arrangements and details for Gail's memorial service:

                                                       MEMORIAL SERVICE
Friday, January 25, 2013
3:30 P.M.
St. Jude's Anglican Church
111 S. Sixth St.
(corner of Sixth St. and Olive Ave.)
Burbank, California 91501
Gail attended St. Jude's while she was in high school at Burbank High.
It is also where Gail and Doug Copeland were married on February 16, 1963, almost 50 years ago.
From the Burbank Leader, December 10, 2013

School to honor Gail Copeland

Joaquin Miller will rename its quad 'Copeland Courtyard' in tribute to longtime educator.

Educators at Joaquin Miller Elementary School on Friday will dedicate their quad to the late Gail Copeland, a longtime Burbank educator who served as principal of the school for 19 years.

A 1957 graduate of Burbank High, Copeland spent over 42 years as an educator with Burbank Unified, beginning as a fourth-grade teacher at Thomas Jefferson Elementary in 1961.

She worked at Bret Harte and Washington elementary schools before she began teaching at Miller in 1975 and served as the school’s principal from 1984 through 2003. After battling cancer, Copeland passed away in January of this year.

Current Miller Principal Judy Hession, who worked under Copeland as an assistant principal for six years, said she was a mentor to teachers and staff who would offer them her undivided attention, regardless of her demanding schedule.

Hession said Copeland was also a modest leader, who never wanted to take any credit for the school’s success.

“She never liked the limelight,” Hession said, adding that Copeland wouldn’t be pleased if she knew the school was honoring her and renaming its quad “Copeland Courtyard.”

“She would be not happy with me,” Hession added.

Two years after taking the principal’s position, Hession said she regularly called Copeland for her input.

Among Copeland’s best pieces of advice, she recalls, was when she told Hession that the greatest marker of a quality principal is when the school’s staff and teachers are empowered to run the school without their principal there.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better teacher than her,” Hession said. “She gave us the gift of being able to do [our] job, and trusted us to do our job and do it well.”

More than half of all of Miller’s teachers who currently work at the school were hired by Copeland, Hession said.

Among those expected to attend Friday’s dedication will be Copeland’s family, Burbank school officials and Mayor Emily Gabel-Luddy.

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