Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Passing of Gail Whitney Copeland, BHS '57

(please scroll down for updates)
Gail Whitney Copeland, BHS '57, passed away the morning of Saturday, January 12, 2013. She had first been hospitalized and diagnosed with cancer on November 21, 2011, a little less than fourteen months ago. She had endured much since then, including surgeries and cancer treatments. She was stable right now it was believed, and doing some better, as she wrote in a note on January 9 that her daughter shared. So, it was unexpected that she would pass away just three days later on January 12.

Gail Copeland worked for the Burbank Unified School District as a teacher and administrator for 43 1/2 years, from 1961 until her retirement in 2004. Her first position was as a fourth grade teacher at Thomas Jefferson Elementary in 1961, and I was in her first class in the 1961/62 school year, which was in Room 21 at Jefferson as 'Miss Whitney'. Gail attended and graduated from the University of Arizona, Tucson, and as soon as she graduated she began at Thomas Jefferson, not long after she had turned 21!

She married Doug Copeland on February 16, 1963. She passed away just over a month before their 50th wedding anniversry. The last 18 years of Gail's career with BUSD was spent as the Principal of Joaquin Miller Elementary in Burbank, at Providencia and Kenneth Rd. She was a very much loved Principal by all of her faculty over those years, as well as students and their parents.

Gail and Doug Copeland made their home in Glendale, not far from the Burbank border, and very near Miller School. Gail is survived by her husband, Doug Copeland, her devoted daughter, Chris Copeland (who is a current teacher at Thomas Jefferson in Burbank), her son and his wife, Rob and Marci Copeland, and their two children/Gail's grandchildren, Kenzie and Zach.

Arrangements and details for Gail's memorial service have not been completed yet.

Alan Landros


Friday, January 25, 2013
3:30 P.M.
St. Jude's Anglican Church
111 S. Sixth St.
(corner of Sixth St. and Olive Ave.)
Burbank, California 91501
Gail attended St. Jude's while she was in high school at Burbank High.
It is also where Gail and Doug Copeland were married on February 16, 1963, almost 50 years ago.

From the Burbank Leader

School to honor Gail Copeland

Joaquin Miller will rename its quad 'Copeland Courtyard' in tribute to longtime educator.

December 10, 2013|By Kelly Corrigan

Educators at Joaquin Miller Elementary School on Friday will dedicate their quad to the late Gail Copeland, a longtime Burbank educator who served as principal of the school for 19 years.

A 1957 graduate of Burbank High, Copeland spent over 42 years as an educator with Burbank Unified, beginning as a fourth-grade teacher at Thomas Jefferson Elementary in 1961.

She worked at Bret Harte and Washington elementary schools before she began teaching at Miller in 1975 and served as the school’s principal from 1984 through 2003. After battling cancer, Copeland passed away in January of this year.

Current Miller Principal Judy Hession, who worked under Copeland as an assistant principal for six years, said she was a mentor to teachers and staff who would offer them her undivided attention, regardless of her demanding schedule.

Hession said Copeland was also a modest leader, who never wanted to take any credit for the school’s success.

“She never liked the limelight,” Hession said, adding that Copeland wouldn’t be pleased if she knew the school was honoring her and renaming its quad “Copeland Courtyard.”

“She would be not happy with me,” Hession added.

Two years after taking the principal’s position, Hession said she regularly called Copeland for her input.

Among Copeland’s best pieces of advice, she recalls, was when she told Hession that the greatest marker of a quality principal is when the school’s staff and teachers are empowered to run the school without their principal there.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better teacher than her,” Hession said. “She gave us the gift of being able to do [our] job, and trusted us to do our job and do it well.”

More than half of all of Miller’s teachers who currently work at the school were hired by Copeland, Hession said.

Among those expected to attend Friday’s dedication will be Copeland’s family, Burbank school officials and Mayor Emily Gabel-Luddy.


Gale Copeland memorial at Joaquin Miller Elementary School
Gail Copeland memorial
Joaquin Miller Elementary School principal Judy Hession, left, speaks as a plaque honoring former principal Gail Copeland is unveiled by her daughter Chris Copeland, right, and her widower Doug Copeland at the Burbank school on Friday, Dec. 13, 2013. Gail Copeland died earlier this year.

By Kelly Corrigan

Joaquin Miller Elementary students gathered in the school's quad Friday morning to see the unveiling of a new plaque bearing the name of Gail Copeland, who served as the school's principal for 19 years.
Current Principal Judy Hession, who worked under Copeland for six years before she retired in 2003, also named its quad, "Copeland Courtyard."

Most of Miller's 700 students also wore purple on Friday, the former principal's favorite color.

The former educator, who was known for putting students first and never wanted to take credit for the school's overall achievement, once oversaw 125 employees and 1,000 students at Miller when it was at its most populated.

Copeland spent more than 42 years working for Burbank Unified, and 28 of those years were spent at Miller.

After voters passed a bond in 1997, Copeland put off retirement to help see through major remodeling and design changes at the school, Hession said, including the courtyard that now bears her name.

After Copeland retired in 2003, she continued to assist the district by serving in interim positions at various schools.

"Gail is so loved and respected, and she meant so much to all of us," Hession said on Friday.
Among Copeland's former colleagues who attended Friday's ceremony was Della Bertrand, who worked as Copeland's secretary at Joaquin Miller until 2000, when Bertrand retired.

"Kids were her first thought — always," she recalled.

Bertrand still kicks herself today for not staying at the school three years longer, if only to spend more time with Copeland.

"I never would have left had I known she was going to stay those three years. I would have stayed until she left," she said. "I could have spent that time with Gail."

Copeland's husband, Doug, and their daughter, Chris, who teaches at Jefferson Elementary, also attended the ceremony on Friday.

"My dad and I are overwhelmed and just so thankful that they made a huge effort to recognize her…it was overwhelming, beautiful and heartfelt," she said. .

Doug Copeland, who married Gail Copeland in February 1963, said the plaque installed in the courtyard on Friday was a fitting place because it's a quiet, peaceful environment.

"It's someplace kids can go to be together and it's not as formal as an auditorium," he said. "I think it really hit the mark.",0,1628467.story

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