Secretary Elaine Robison leaves legacy of love


Malcolm Taylor

Secretary Elaine Robison, who died in late July, was a force of happiness and love in the Lab Community.

Audrey Park, Managing Editor

When high school secretary Elaine Robison was admitted to the hospital in late June, a worker approached her and said Ms. Robison looked familiar. Unable to pinpoint how, Ms. Robison returned to her room. The next morning, she woke up and found a note next to her bed recalling the worker’s time at the Laboratory Schools as a student 16 years ago and conveying their appreciation for Ms. Robison’s kindness at the time. 

Ms. Robison’s contagious smile and ability to create a stress-free environment impacted this former student and others across the Lab community. And though the high school experienced the loss of one of the longest working and admired staff members, who died July 12 after a short medical leave, Ms. Robison’s legacy lives on. 

Known as a reliable coworker, a dear friend, a faithful Christian and gospel singer or simply a welcoming face in the high school office for 29 years, Ms. Robison is remembered as someone who impacted all in the Lab community. 

Principal Paul Beekmeyer worked with her for three years in the high school office. He said her presence eased a lot of the stress and created a peaceful space for students and teachers.

 “I would watch teachers and students pass through here and have a conversation with her, and by the time they got to me, no matter how angry they were walking in, they were always in a better mood by the time they got here,” he said.

Junior Leila Battiste said Ms. Robison was nice and had a comforting energy. 

“I didn’t really know her that well, but I talked to her a few times throughout sophomore year and said hi to her almost every day in the halls,” Leila said. 

Since she started working at Lab, Camille Baugh-Cunningham, a high school counselor, had known Ms. Robison for 15 years.

“We were work friends,” she said. “Any time I would set my feet in the high school office, she was there, always with a kind, thoughtful greeting.”

According to Dr. Baughn-Cunningham, Ms. Robison and the other high school secretary, Carol Arrington, were viewed as “the pair.”

 “They had been up until last June, working seamlessly together, and everybody viewed them as the force of organization, and the folks who knew everything about how the Lab School works, certainly the high school,” Dr. Baughn-Cunningham said.

Ms. Arrington had worked alongside Ms. Robison for 23 years, and they became more than just coworkers or even dear friends, they became family. 

 “Being a friend of hers was such a privilege, and I used to tell her that every single day,” Ms. Arrington said with tears in her eyes. “We take so much for granted, and I miss her beyond words.”

She said their friendship was immediate and natural. 

Being a friend of hers was such a privilege, and I used to tell her that every single day. We take so much for granted, and I miss her beyond words.

— Carol Arrington

“It was not just that she was nice, but we found that we had a lot in common,” she said. “It is kind of funny because we were both married to men named Joe, our anniversaries were one day apart and most importantly, my love for the Lord and her love for the Lord, because of that love, we always had so much to talk about.”

Ms. Robison was an accomplished gospel singer, and religion was a huge part of her life. Ms. Arrington said her commitment was admirable. 

“She recorded albums, she traveled with choirs, she was always so passionate, singing from her soul,” Ms. Arrington said. “Her love for the Lord is what caused her to sing. People would just marvel when they heard her voice.” 

Similarly, P.E. teacher Debbie Ribbens, who knew Ms. Robison for 21 years, connected with her through their shared religious identification. 

“We were once at a gospel brunch together, and my whole family was there,” she said. “She called my son up on stage and had him perform with her, and it was really touching. She just embraced everyone she knew with love and kindness.”

Although her absence and warming personality are clearly missed, her legacy will continue and remains unforgotten by the community she impacted so eminently. 

“There were many students, like the student who works at the hospital now, who found somebody who they could just have that reliable, kind face to check in with, and I think that would mean a lot in an intense school like this,” Mr. Beekmeyer said. “I think it was like having an island in some type of storm, I’m quite sure of it.”