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Fay Mary Linder: PE teacher, global citizen

Fay Mary Linder died on March 4, 2016 at Pilgrim Place in Claremont. She had been a resident since 1994 after retiring from many years of teaching in Istanbul, Turkey.

Ms. Linder was born in Bronxville, New York in 1927 and grew up in Greensburg, New York and Philadelphia. Being active in sports in school and summer camps led to a career as a physical education teacher. After graduating from Tufts University in 1949, she taught at the St. Agnes School in Albany, New York until 1964. During this period she earned a master’s degree in physical education from Pennsylvania State University. Her major sport was field hockey, but she also refereed basketball. Music was a favored hobby. Ms. Linder sang for many years with the Westminster Presbyterian Church choir in Albany.

Looking for a new direction, Ms. Linder considered teaching abroad. She eventually was hired by the American College for Girls in Istanbul, Turkey, now Robert College. Her initial contract in Istanbul was for one or two years, but the time stretched into 28 years. She taught at the American College for Girls from 1964-71 and then was hired by the United Church Board for World Ministries of the United Church of Christ in the United States to teach and coach at Uskudar American Academy for Girls, where she taught until her retirement in 1992.

She understood her work as developing character in her students through sports. Her volleyball and basketball teams were renowned for their sportsmanship. In 1988, the Istanbul Newspapers’ Sports Writers’ Association honored Ms. Linder and her teams with the year’s outstanding sportsmanship title. Ms. Linder also worked at the Uskudar school at various times as registrar, college counselor, director of activities, boarding supervisor and vice principal.

Under Ms. Linder’s leadership, the Uskudar school contributed to the start of a Special Olympics program in Turkey by offering its sports facilities and student mentors to the disabled. She served on the board of a high school for gifted but financially disadvantaged students, where she advised on the construction of the physical education facilities.

While living in Istanbul, Ms. Linder was deeply involved in the life of the Union Church of Istanbul, an English-speaking Protestant congregation. She sang in the choir, played the bells and was, for many years, the secretary of the Church Council.

Having close relatives in Switzerland on her father’s side, Ms. Linder often took the opportunity to drive through the Balkans to Switzerland to visit her kin and hike in the Alps. She thus regarded three countries as home: Turkey, Switzerland and the United States. Her love of travel and teaching culminated in a two-week trip to Russia in 1993 as part of a Citizen Ambassador’s program, “Women in Sport.”

After moving to Pilgrim Place in Claremont, Ms. Linder used her physical education skills to develop programs for residents in the newly-built G. Worth George Aquatic Fitness and Exercise Center. She also authored a history of Uskudar American Academy for Girls, a project supported by the Uskudar graduates’ association.

Ms. Linder is the last surviving member of her immediate family. She has a cousin, Maria Linder of Burbank, and various other relatives in the United States and Switzerland. A memorial will be held in Decker Hall at Pilgrim Place on Wednesday, April 27 at 3:30 p.m. 

Ms. Linder’s ashes will be interred at Monument Cemetery Association in Beverly, New Jersey. Donations in her honor should be made to Special Olympics International, Special Olympics,  Attn: Web Gifts, 1133 19th St. NW, 12th floor, Washington, DC 20036-3604 or online    at www.specialolympics.org; or to Pilgrim Place, 625 Mayflower Rd., Claremont, CA 91711 or online at www.pilgrimplace.org/online_donations.