Elaine Pace “” nurturing people power


“I feel blessed to have had the upbringing, education and experiences that made me an independent woman,” said Elaine Pace, who was recently appointed executive director of Women Empowered (WE) on the Island. “And I want to do my utmost to help support the development of life skills in others so that they may become independent and successful in managing their complex lives.”

A nonprofit organization that opened its doors on Martha’s Vineyard in 2002, WE volunteers teach basic life skills to people, both male and female, who never learned them on the way through their busy lives. These skills include balancing a checkbook, problem solving, searching for a job, planning a family budget, coping skills, and decision-making.

“Many of our clients now work full-time and are doing remarkably well, considering financial hardship, life changes, and tragedies, medical issues, or similar sorts of problems,” Ms. Pace said. “We do not provide therapy or welfare, although we work with therapists and community services when it is important for our clients.”

When it comes to teaching, Ms. Pace knows what she is about. She has a doctorate in education and spent the first half of her 28-year career teaching English and developing programs for gifted and talented students. The second half of her career was spent in school administration in Morris County, New Jersey, and West Tisbury. The educator and former principal of West Tisbury School is a woman of myriad talents, interests, and accomplishments.

Ms. Pace and her husband, Dan, moved to the Island in 2001. She had retired after 15 years as Superintendent of Schools in Morris County, New Jersey — an all-consuming job.

“The higher up you go, the harder it is to focus on the most important aspects of schools — teaching and learning,” she said. “In the current era, politics and finance consume the lives of too many good administrators.”

Mr. Pace had retired from a very demanding job as well — designing drug trials for Hoffman-La Roche Pharmaceuticals.

One night, prior to her retirement in Morris County, Ms. Pace was driving home from a board meeting when she suddenly experienced an epiphany.

“Why am I doing this?” she asked herself.

The three Pace children had all finished high school and gone off to college, and she didn’t need to work all those long hours anymore. It was time to lighten up.

Ms. Pace gave her six-month notice and began looking around for something else to do, something that would use her talents but allow for a little breathing space. One day she saw an ad in the New York Times seeking a principal of the West Tisbury School. Elaine subsequently took the job under a three-year contract.

The dedicated educator felt at home in West Tisbury from the beginning. Her husband liked it as well, and they have since bought a home there. At the end of her three-year contract in 2004, Elaine and Dan both decided it was time to stop the daily work routine and retire in earnest.

“Following retirement, I decided that there were two things I loved very much: one was literature, reading and writing, and the other was music,” said the quiet, unassuming retiree. She decided to look for an activity in her newly found leisure that would revolve around those two things.

Ms. Pace began writing, soon published her first memoir, and then began giving classes in memoir writing — small classes in her home, teaching people how to capture their life stories. The work of a former participant, Edo Potter, just came out as a published book on growing up on Chappaquiddick.

“My customized memoir-writing groups are the joy of this time in my life,” Ms. Pace said. “I call it Memories 101 because everyone is successful whether or not they have previous writing experience.”

Music has been a lifetime passion for Ms. Pace. “At age six, I started taking piano lessons, which continued for 12 years,” she said. “I’ve always loved music, and my dad loved music. There was always music playing in the home.”

She also loved to sing and did so in glee clubs, choruses, and a cappella groups — all the way through college. After coming to the Island, Ms. Pace joined the All Island Community Chorus and the choir of the Federated Church. She has been on the board of the MV Chamber Music Society since 2004 and served as president for three years before handing over the gavel to David Rhoderick last year.

In addition, Ms. Pace recently stepped down as Program Chairman of the MV Garden Club, following a highly acclaimed two-year tenure. She is also a freelance writer.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:Correction: January 21, 2011An earlier version carried the incorrect byline. It was written by Ginger Duarte, not Whit Griswold.