By Naaz V. ’22
NKEM OGHEDO ’04
Spend five minutes with Nkem Oghedo and it is quickly apparent that she is a woman driven by an entrepreneurial spark and a clear sense of purpose. Nkem was born in Queens to Nigerian parents; she and her three siblings all attended Grace through eighth grade. She went on to Andover, Yale and Harvard Business School. When she was ready to think about starting a business, she thought hard about what was important to her. In the fall of 2019, she launched Adá Supper Club, a pop-up dining experience that brought together her love of fine food with the intention of amplifying the presence of talented women chefs, and especially Black women chefs, in New York’s crowded culinary scene. Student journalist Naaz V. ’22, sat down with Nkem to learn more.
Nkem Oghedo’s mission is to amplify the voices of marginalized groups, specifically Black people and women. She has had an urge to showcase Black people and women thriving since she entered college. This passion to fight against injustice for minorities was rooted from her own experiences as an African woman. Nkem says that she noticed a gap of equality from elementary school to graduate school. At Harvard Business School, she was confronted with the gut-wrenching truth that her voice did not carry the same weight as her fellow classmates who were wealthy white males. Nkem has dedicated her life’s work to shedding light on Black and female expression by creating a platform that celebrates Black and female expression through food.
Alongside her full-time job as Chief of Staff at Care/of, an online vitamin and supplement company, Nkem is the founder of Adá Supper Club. Nkem’s vision of bringing light to overlooked minorities began to come alive in December of 2019 when Adá Supper Club initially launched. Nkem has always loved cooking and has enjoyed watching cooking shows on the Food Network since she was a child. She noticed that there was a clear lack of representation for people of color and women on these shows. As a woman of Nigerian descent and a daughter of immigrants, Nkem has appreciated the food of fellow people of color with cuisines engaged in rich flavor and spice. Nkem wanted to home in on these culinary styles to showcase authentic cooking from various ethnic backgrounds that are often overlooked. Initially, the supper club idea launched with the intention of creating in-person events popping up at restaurants around the city. Faced with the restrictions brought on by Covid-19, the club adapted to a different format—Adá’s culinary events got put in a box for in-home dining. The Supper Club has featured numerous acclaimed chefs, including Chef Anya Peters of Kit An’ Kin, Chef Brittney “Stikxz” Williams and Chef Carla Fears; they explore themes such as the duality of daughterhood and Haitian Voodoo Tapas on Halloween.
Nkem’s passion for equity and equality seeps into her work at Care/of, where she is not only responsible for board meetings, planning, goal setting and cross functional communication meetings, but she also has helped to develop diversity, equity and inclusion training. Nkem is drawn to the company’s strong emphasis on honesty, quality and sustainability because, she says, vitamins have a much shorter history than pharma and rely more on anecdotal evidence, leaving room for bad players in the industry. Nkem describes herself as somewhat of a “company therapist” as she manages the company’s advocacy, mentorship, sponsorships and neutrality.
Nkem reminisces about her time at Grace, from Kindergarten to eighth grade, as thought-provoking, insightful and extremely educational. She touches on the intimate qualities of the school: the faculty, the students, and the countless relationships she formed. Nkem spoke in admiration of her teachers and called Mrs. Cooper (Assistant to the Head and Liaison to Families of Diverse Cultural Backgrounds) the “the mother of Grace.” After graduating from eighth grade at Grace in 2004, Nkem attended Andover Academy, continuing a family tradition of boarding school; both her mother and older brother Nnamdi attended boarding school. Nkem pursued her passion in science as she went on to study chemical engineering at Yale, a passion she traces back to eighth grade as a thirteen-year-old in Mr. Diveki’s class; she has always loved problem solving. Nkem also had a passion for entrepreneurship, a quality she says she gets from her mother, and went on to receive a master’s in business administration at Harvard University.
Nkem reflects on her time at Harvard as a time of deep thinking and big takeaways as her future’s focus began to take shape. Harvard Business School’s method of teaching is strictly based on the case method, meaning there are no lectures. Students are put in the role of people who are faced with difficult situations, forcing them to speak and rationalize with each other. Nkem says, “this method forced me to develop my own voice and made me communicate even when I was uncomfortable.” It was here, in a predominantly white-male institution, where she says she began to flourish and find her voice. In addition, Nkem claimed that her work at Harvard provided a foundation for problem-solving techniques: breaking things down and strategically balancing all the elements. Nkem continues to apply these lessons to her work now.
Nkem graduated from Yale knowing that she wanted to do something for the benefit of Black people and women. “I knew that if I did anything, I needed to do this. But, I had no idea what that would look like.” After graduating from Harvard Business School, she went into strategy consulting, a move to establish financial security. For Nkem, consulting work provided a poor work to life balance, so she shifted course and moved to her position at Care/of.
Nkem has balanced the launch of her new business with a full-time job along with the common struggle of COVID-19 fatigue. We asked Nkem how she manages this and she says, “It’s all about advance planning and being ahead of things. I try to set boundaries for myself as well as attempt to prioritize what is most important.” Nkem explains that part of this responsibility branched from being the eldest daughter in an African family, which has taught her abundant responsibility. She often took on the role of a parent of some sort; she says, “I grew up that way, I had a lot of independence.” Nkem has carried this older sibling mentality for the entirety of her career, and it is no coincidence that her passion project reflects this idea: “Adá” means ‘first daughter’ in Igbo. Nkem has always put a strong emphasis on family and it’s apparent that relationships continue to play a big part in whatever work she does. Whether it is maintaining neutrality and mentorship at Care/of or creating a space for women like herself, Nkem creates familial and personal relationships wherever she goes.
Letter from the Alumni Board Chairs
Dear Fellow Alumni,
This year has been one for the books. Covid-19 has completely changed how our society functions, in a way that was unthinkable just months ago. As we closed the 125th year of Grace Church School, our community shared their voices in ways we have never done before. Students and alumni bravely took to virtual channels to focus attention on ways we have not lived up to our values, and have set into action broad-based and progressive change within our school and alumni leadership. We are examining ourselves, our institutions, and our implicit biases–all while navigating a global pandemic.
We remain optimistic about the future of Grace Church School. As the Alumni Board, we have recommitted ourselves to leading the Alumni Association in ways that support the school’s continuing endeavor to become an anti-racist institution. To that end, we have restructured our leadership to include a new team, the communications and accountability committee, which will focus on creating clearer lines of communication and resources between alums and the school. We have expanded the alumni engagement committee to focus on outreach to Black alums and alums of color, so that we are actively engaging a broader range of perspectives in alumni activities. We have begun the process of implementing a more horizontal decision making structure, to better support a vision of collective leadership from our Board.
In this issue, you can read about alums giving back to Grace as volunteers, classroom visitors, experts and friends. In the coming weeks and months, you will be hearing more about new events and opportunities at the school, and will receive a bevy of new resources to help keep you informed and connected. We encourage you to be involved in any of the ways you can. We look forward to welcoming you back to Grace.
Evan Woolley ’95, Alumni Board Chair
Elizabeth Kipp-Giusti ’04, Vice Chair
Evan Woolley ’95,
Alumni Board Chair
Elizabeth Kipp-Giusti ’04,
2020-21 Alumni Board
Evan Woolley ’95,
Alumni Board Chair
Elizabeth Kipp-Giusti ’04,
2020-21 Alumni Board
Edward H. Chaloner, Jr. ’59
Julian Chernyk ’06
Ross Clements ’01
Emily Duke ’03
Max Dworin ’03
Anne Evans ’01
Gregory Gerard ’74
Stanley Grayson ’01
Isca Greenfield-Sanders ’92
Jason Hackett ’84
Zoë Jackson ’95
Cecilia Magnusson ’01
Tilden Marbit ’01
Tyler Maroney ’87
Andrea Marpillero-Colomina ’99
Laura Mintz ’04
Ogor Oghedo ’06
Folake Ologunja ’92
Jasmin Stanley ’03
Mary-Paula Bailey Allegaert ’71
Durell H. Godfrey ’58
Rodney K. Hobbs ’69
Evan Silverman ’85
Why I Give—
Ellen Gustafson ’01
What does giving back to Grace Church School mean to you?
Giving back to Grace Church School means staying connected to the education, fun and joy I experienced when I attended Grace. In giving back, I am able to help others access the same opportunities I was lucky to have while growing up.
Do you remember what inspired your first gift to the school?
I started giving when I graduated college and was asked for an alumni gift at graduation. That ask inspired me to give back to the foundation of my education, a place that had given so much to me in my early years.
What would you like someone graduating from GCS to know?
You are entering the world with so many advantages. Not only do you have an extraordinary education as your foundation, but you also have a great team of teachers, staff and alumni who are ready to support and help you for the rest of your life.
What keeps you connected to Grace?
My main connection to Grace is through my continuing adult friendships with old classmates that have lasted almost 20 years. In the past few years I’ve been able to get more involved by attending events put on by the Alumni Association and returning to speak with current students (both at the High School for March Madness and at Ms. Meyer’s Middle School Women to Women Club). If you are looking to renew your connection to GCS, stop by an alumni event or volunteer to be a resource for current students or recent graduates. Grace has so many ways for alumni to get involved.
Alumni Admissions Coffee Hour
An informal hour with Margery Hellmold, GCS Director of Admissions and Enrollment, JK–8, to learn about applying to New York City Independent Schools.
Tuesday, May 4 at 8:45AM
To learn more email firstname.lastname@example.org
The 35th Annual Auction Benefit
For the Endowment for Financial Aid
THE MAGIC OF GRACE
THURSDAY, MARCH 11, 2021
Silent auction bidding opens on March 9 and ends during the event.
Live auction will be online.
Each spring, the Parents’ Association annual Auction Benefit provides funds to support the Endowment for Financial Aid, allowing Grace to remain accessible to families regardless of their socio-economic status. Last year, ticket sales and underwriting donations alone raised over $240,000 for financial aid. Your support helps ensure the vitality of the Grace community into the future.
A note about Reunion 2021
Save the date! A Virtual Reunion* is on the calendar for Friday, April 23, 2021, for milestone classes ending in “1” and “6” and all classes celebrating 50 years or more.
If a slightly later date makes an outdoor or otherwise safe in-person event possible, we will do our best to gather you together. Please watch your email for the latest updates from the alumni office from GCSToday@gcschool.org.
Young Alumni Reunion 2021
In January 2021, the classes of 2017–2020 reunited online to catch up with old friends and teachers, with more than 30 college-age alums joining in.
Young Alumni Reunion 2020
In January, alums from the classes of 2016–2019 came back to 46 Cooper Square for a reunion for alums in college.
Loraine Peck Adkins ’59, December 13, 2019
Ronnie Beecher, former Lower School Psychologist, July 31, 2019
Margaret Calas, mother of Alexandra Koch ’77 Rania ’83, September 22, 2020
Kathy Crawford, mother of Sam ’01 and Charlotte ’08, May 2020
Alfredo De Palchi, father of Luce ’02, August 6, 2020
Ronald Dozoretz, father of Brody ’17, May 8, 2020
William Evans ’42, July 6, 2019
Carol Feinberg, mother of Hope ’69, October 11, 2019
Morton “Tim” Fry, father of Gillian ’00 and Adam ’03, July 5, 2019
Edward Gardner, grandfather of Sienna ’24, Anabelle ’26 and Tessa ’28 Koster, April 2, 2020
Jerome Haims, father of Eric ’83, April 28, 2020
Valerie Harper, mother of Cristina Cacciotti ’97, August 30, 2019
Louis Kaden, grandfather of Amelia ’27 and James ’29, June 28, 2020
Rod Keating, former English Teacher who worked at Grace for seventeen years, April 11, 2020
Carol Kirchheimer, September 9, 2019 and Ernest Kirchheimer, November 21, 2019 parents of Barbara ’83
Bill Lacy, father of Jessica ’92, August 25, 2020
Margot Lewitin ’51, November 2020
Robert Loomis, father of Diana ’73 and Robert ’98, April 19, 2020
Lori McDonald, grandmother of Ronan ’25, May 6, 2020
Harvey Mishell, grandfather of Kiera ’23 and Miranda ’26 Hackett, June 8, 2019
Hendrik te Neues, father of Julian ’05, October 9, 2019
George O’Neill, grandfather of Sheila ’10, June 27, 2019
Lloyd W. Perkins ’43, May 2019
India Rance, grandmother of Jasmin ’03 and Hugo ’06 Stanley, April 26, 2020
Tom Reese ’51, November 4, 2020
Hugh Sackett, grandfather of Hudson ’21, Georgia ’23 and Lucinda ’26 Davis, April 12, 2020
Robley G. Sailer ’49, February 19, 2020
Douglas Schwalbe, grandfather of Adrian ’18 and Lucy ’22, April 3, 2020
Diana Turner ’51, March 20, 2020
Anthony Uva, father of John ’17, May 2020
Verne Deffner Uvezian ’67, September 21, 2019
Genevieve Young, grandmother of Una ’14 and Kai ’24 Darrell, February 18, 2020