Nellie Rosetta Rice Duncan, a long time resident of Sag Harbor, was born on February 1, 1925 in York, Pennsylvania, the youngest of five children, to Fletcher and Lumisher Rice of Bamberg, South Carolina. She passed away peacefully in her sleep on Wednesday, June 26, 2013.
Dr. Duncan graduated with honors from York High School in Pennsylvania at 15 years of age, then attended Pennsylvania State University where she ran track and earned a Bachelor of Arts in Education, graduating Magna Cum Laude. In 1948, she received a Master of Science in Reading Remediation from Teacher’s College at Columbia University. In 1968 she was a member of the first cohort of selected Black and Hispanic teachers to participate in the Ford Foundation Fellowship Program to attend Fordham University, receiving a Graduate Diploma in Instructional Administration. She then earned her Doctorate in Education Administration from Nova Southeastern University in 1975.
Dr. Duncan began her educational career teaching in Pennsylvania in 1946, then in New York City Public Schools in 1950. After teaching and coordinating reading programs in New York, she was appointed assistant principal at P.S. 306 in District 19 in 1966. Later becoming acting principal of this school and principal of the new P.S. 345, also in District 19. In 1970 and later from 1977 through 1981 Nell, now Dr. Duncan, went to District 23 to serve as Community Superintendent. Upon her official retirement she was an active member of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). She served as a Minority Spokesperson and was a Trustee on the Board of Trustees of the AARP Andrus Foundation.
Dr. Duncan was asked by the School Chancellor to develop and coordinate the Assistant Principal Internship Program, so from 1988 through 1996 she worked with over 400 educators from underrepresented groups and preparing them to take on leadership positions in many areas of educational administration. The overall success of this program laid the foundation for many of the leadership preparation programs in place today. Even though the program ended in 1996, Dr. Duncan remained a mentor to many of these new educational leaders.
Dr. Duncan married Robert (Bob) Benjamin Duncan on September 2, 1950. This union produced one daughter, Robin Ann Duncan Brooks. When Nell met Bob their friendship quickly blossomed into a deep love and they were married for 46 years until Bob’s death in 1997. The couple broke ground to build their summer home in the historic Sag Harbor Hills community in 1960. She enjoyed the natural, peaceful environment this part of the country offered and the great shopping. She loved entertaining and sharing her amazing blessing with others.
Dr. Duncan loved children and always had a ready collection of clothes, books, and toys to share with the children of friends and family. She was a vivid storyteller and was eager to share her experiences to both educate and amuse.
She will be remembered for her beautiful smile, twinkling eyes, incredible warmth, and the energy she brought to each and every occasion.
Dr. Duncan was laid to rest in Oakland Cemetery. She is survived by her daughter Robin, her grandsons Obataiye and Ayinde Brooks.