Adding Gragg to Education Corner; Leaders, educators honor former headmistress of Country Day
by Mike Parks
Charlotte Country Day School has grown a lot since Margaret Gragg Bissell joined the school back in 1975. That growth, many at the school will quickly tell you, wouldn’t have been possible without the educator’s 34 years of service to the south Charlotte campus.
A number of officials from the independent school, as well as local political and business leaders, gathered Thursday, Jan. 12, to honor Bissell and mark a critical stage in the construction of the new Gragg Building – a speculative office project rising at the corner of Ballantyne Commons Parkway and North Community House Road. Smoky Bissell, Margaret’s husband and founder of Bissell Companies, chose to honor his wife’s long commitment to education – as well as the service of her parents, both of who were educators – by giving the 10-story building her maiden name.
“It’s especially an honor for me to be part of Education Corner,” Margaret Gragg Bissell said to a packed room Thursday against a backdrop of the Gragg Building’s steel frame. “It’s a tribute to my parents and their dedication to education.”
The Gragg Building is quickly moving toward completion alongside its sister building, another 10-story project named after former University of North Carolina at Charlotte Chancellor Jim Woodward, thus the nickname Education Corner. Together, the Gragg and Woodward buildings should be completed by the end of the year. They represent the largest speculative office-building project in the country, as no tenants are currently signed on to lease the space.
Henry Harkey, a local attorney and former member of the Country Day board when Bissell was at the school, introduced Bissell on Thursday, trying to summarize a legacy that started in an English class in 1975 and continues today.
“Today we publicly recognize a lady … who has made a huge impact not only on Charlotte Country Day School, but also on this city and the world,” Harkey said of Bissell, who quickly became head of Country Day’s upper school and then chief academic officer, before being named head of school in 1992. That’s not including her time in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School system, where she taught at North Mecklenburg and East Mecklenburg high schools and received the Outstanding Young Educator of the Year award from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Jaycees.
During her tenure as Country Day leader, Bissell led the renovation of 13 school buildings, and the construction of six more, adding 134,000 square feet of space for the school’s students, Harkey said.
Today, the school enrolls more than 1,600 students on three campuses: a lower, middle and upper school. It employs 319 faculty and staff at its Carmel Road location.
“She’ll always be appreciated for her tireless and unselfish devotion to students, parents and staff,” Harkey said, and for her drive to never stop growing or challenging herself.
“She has a leadership style that enabled so much to be accomplished at the school,” Harkey added.
The building is being built to LEED Gold specifications. Find out more about the project and corporate park at http://bissellcompanies.com.