Family's fifth generation graduates from Girls' High

Girls' High Class of 2014 Imani Bullock (with flowers) and family alumnae (from left): mother Wendy Bullock, Class of 1987; great- grandmother Evelyn Spann, 1947; and great-aunt Linda Owens, 1970. Photos are other great-aunt grads.
Girls' High Class of 2014 Imani Bullock (with flowers) and family alumnae (from left): mother Wendy Bullock, Class of 1987; great- grandmother Evelyn Spann, 1947; and great-aunt Linda Owens, 1970. Photos are other great-aunt grads. (MATTHEW HALL / Staff Photographer)
Posted: June 19, 2014

When Imani Bullock walked onto the stage Tuesday at the Kimmel Center to receive her diploma from Girls' High, she extended a tradition among women in her family that has endured for nearly a century.

In 1917, Bullock's great-great-grandmother Lillian Stansbury graduated from Girls' High, setting the template. Bullock's great-grandmother Evelyn Spann followed in 1947.

Over five generations, seven women in her family have graduated from the academically rigorous public school known officially as Philadelphia High School for Girls. The school at Broad and Olney Streets, with about 1,500 students, has a graduating class this year of about 240.

Bullock, who graduated with honors and will attend Delaware State University in the fall to study nursing, said her family's legacy at Girls' High is a source of pride and motivation.

"It means a lot because, out of all the girls at my school, I am the only fifth-generation Girls' High grad," she said. "I know there have been fourth-generation families."

In addition to Stansbury and Spann, four other relatives have graduated from Girls' High: great-aunt Lenora Owens, now deceased, graduated in 1964; great-aunt Andrea Spann, also deceased, earned her diploma in 1983; great-aunt Linda Owens graduated in 1970.

Bullock's mother, Wendy, was in the Class of 1987. All of the women went on to college.

In the Kimmel Center lobby before commencement, Imani Bullock was joined by her mother, Spann, and Linda Owens - all wearing white, a Girls' High tradition.

Clutching a pair of bouquets and wearing her great-great-grandmother's 1917 gold class ring on her pinkie, Bullock said: "I'm excited that all four generations are here. I feel that my great-great-grandmother is here."

Wendy Bullock and the other women also said they could feel Stansbury's presence, and those of the two deceased aunts.

Spann looked at her great-granddaughter and fought back tears.

"I can just imagine my mother, your great-great-grandmother. She would be bursting with pride, and I am bursting with pride."

Spann, 85, said, "I am so proud that I can go back to my mother, and she was a very proud lady. She was very intelligent, obviously, because back when she was going to Girls' High . . . it was very unusual to have an African American person graduating high school."

Wendy Bullock stressed that graduating from Girls' High was an honor.

"It really means a lot, coming from a distinguished high school," she said. "I think Girls' High has always been one of the best schools in the city. We just have a family filled with strong women who strive for academic excellence."


vclark@phillynews.com215-854-5717

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