Coffees with Claire

Coffees with Claire is an ongoing series of talks with various members of the Gordon community curated by Claire Phipps, Gordon’s Chief Advancement and Experience Officer. Coffees with Claire is an opportunity to highlight voices in the Gordon community with unique expertise and experiences to share. Previous coffees have included historians, nonprofit professionals, educators and entrepreneurs, and are archived below.

Claire welcomes ideas for future topics, or guests, at 401 434-3833 or

A conversation with Sarah Blythe and David Allyn

For April's Coffee with Claire, Sarah Blythe, interim director of the RISD Museum and parent of two Gordon graduates, and David Allyn, Gordon's twenty-third Britt Nelson Visiting Artist, met with Claire Phipps for a conversation about the relationship between artists, museums, and the communities that sustain them.

Gordon's librarian created an annotated bibliography of books from Gordon's collection that build on the topics Dave and Sarah explored. Gordon families can borrow these books using the links at

This video gives a glimpse into the work Dave Allyn did with Gordon sixth graders this spring when he was on campus. For videos Dave made for use last spring, when Gordon's campus was closed and he was working with Gordon students remotely, see

Sarah joined the RISD Museum in 2009 as director of education, coming to Rhode Island from New York and positions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art, New York. At RISD, she collaborated with artists, students and scholars to realize exhibitions, programs and publications, while also critically investigating the complicated histories of museums, art pedagogy and interpretation practices in her own work. Her work included a number of collaborations with Gordon teachers and students, including a sixth grade lesson that produced work that was exhibited at the US Department of Education in Washington, DC.

David Allyn is a visual and performing artist whose work has rich connections to the Providence arts community. While earning an MFA in ceramics at RISD, he discovered Providence's lively, interdisciplinary arts community. He founded the ceramics studio at the Steel Yard, a nonprofit serving the sculpture and industrial arts community, and his ceramics draw on Providence's rich architectural history. An excellent short documentary on David and his work is at

He has been working with Gordon students since spring 2020 as the twenty-third Britt Nelson Visiting Artist, which was established in 1998 to support Gordon's commitment to hands-on art education by bringing professional artists to campus to work directly with students on extended lessons and projects.

Past coffees

January: a conversation with Honorable John James McConnell Jr.
Chief Judge, U.S. District Court for Rhode Island

Head of School Dr. Noni Thomas López in conversation with
Honorable John James McConnell Jr. Chief Judge, U.S. District Court for Rhode Island

On Friday, January 22nd, the Honorable John James McConnell Jr., Chief Judge, U.S. District Court for Rhode Island joined Head of School Dr. Noni Thomas López to discuss leadership, the national and local justice system and the current moment in history.

Chief Judge McConnell was nominated to his current position by Barack Obama in 2011, after nearly thirty years in private practice that included work seeking justice for victims of lead paint poisoning and other cases that have had historic impacts on the people of Rhode Island.

The parent of three Gordon alumni, Chief Judge McConnell continues to volunteer with the seventh grade team, working with students during their study of the judiciary branch of the US government.

The conversation was free and open to the public, with opportunities for a lively question-and-answer exchange with the audience.

Above: the first Coffee with Claire was a conversation with Dr. Thomas López on antiracist pedagogy


Above: the second Coffee with Claire was a conversation between author and historian Ted Widmer '76 and Gordon's eighth grade humanities teacher Luke Anderson about the presidency, race in America, and the parallels between today's America and the divided country of the 1860s, driven by Ted's latest book, Lincoln on the Verge.

Above: the third Coffee with Claire was with alumni parent Fran Loosen and Admission Associate Rodney Eric López on philanthropy - how to engage others, and how to talk about it with children.


above: Coffee with Claire number four, on December 11th, was with Sheri Griffin, Co-Executive Director of Farm Fresh Rhode Island and Lisa Newman Paratore, Founder and Owner of HOMESTYLE, discussing the impact of shopping local, responsibly sourcing ingredients and goods, and building a resilient local economy.