Kilbee Cormack Brittain '49

"Look for the inner meaning of literature.” 

Kilbee Cormack Brittain '49 came to Marlborough in November of her Seventh Grade year, when a polio epidemic temporarily closed her Beverly Hills grade school. It was a happy choice. "Marlborough offered a special intellectual and social milieu.” In 1945 she remembers the excitement, the drama when World War II had raged on for so long, when Mrs. Overton called the student body to Caswell Hall and announced simply, "The War is over!" “We all cheered and cheered!”

"Mrs. Overton was a very caring Principal who took what felt to the girls as a real and personal interest in each one, treating every single student equally, whether they were seventh graders or seniors."

Brittain remembers several teachers with special warmth, especially her 10th Grade English teacher, the legendary Cecil Carnes. She loved teaching—that was obvious in her attitude about the Renaissance writers whose names are familiar to all now, but then still fresh to the teenagers. Students who were especially compatible with her interest and values were sometimes invited to tea at her home. She kept up with some; she spent many a Thanksgiving dinner in Brittain's home and was a family favorite. In later years of writing and editing, Brittain often thought back to Miss Carnes, "She taught me to look for the inner meaning of literature, and the process of analyzing the writing of others.”

Learning to write clearly and succinctly were valuable skills Brittain brought with her to Stanford University, where she majored in English. After graduating, she taught in the Philippines for a year, travelled around the world, and after a few years received her Ph.D. in English from UCLA.

After marriage to M.L. Brittain, she was active in volunteer activities, writing articles for TERRA, the quarterly of the Natural History Museum, and after the birth of their fourth child, began volunteering at the L.A. Zoo, as a docent, teaching schoolchildren on tours and in classes, and then teaching in the Docent Provisional course (which is accredited by UCLA). Her specialties have been primates, and domestication of animals, which she still teaches. She also writes for the Docent quarterly, All Creatures.

Brittain has continued her interest in Marlborough through all the years. She edited the Marlborough magazine for many years, served on the Board of Trustees for ten years, her two daughters attended Marlborough (Carol, '78 and Katherine, '82), and now her granddaughter Julia Brittain, is in 7th Grade.

"Marlborough has the same high level of intellectual pleasure and all-around joy as ever. It will never be satisfied with anything but excellence."

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