Planting the flag in Houston

Thanks to a winning bid from Mount Holyoke alum Julie Doyle-Madrid ’98, the College flag will be flying outside of Houston-area Parker Elementary for an entire year.

Julie Doyle-Madrid ’98 didn’t think she’d actually win the opportunity to fly her alma mater’s flag outside of her son’s school in Houston when she bid $300 at the school auction.

With other items such as spending a half day with either the coach or the art teacher going for $750–$800, she’d probably be outbid.

“[I was] figuring it would go for way more given these Texas schools instill a crazy amount of pride. They’re gonna want their flag up,” she said. Texans take pride in everything, and their schools are no different.

Case in point: last year’s flag winner was a graduate of Texas A&M University, who is so proud of her Aggie identity that she has the university’s license plate and a decal on her car. Doyle-Madrid thought that maybe a parent who graduated from rival University of Texas would get revenge and keep bidding.

“Well, I spent $300,” she texted her wife, Naomi, after the sale was announced.

At least it was to display a flag and benefit Parker Elementary, a unique music magnet school in the Houston school district, where all 900 students participate in the music program.

Naomi’s an adamant collector of flags. She has one for her alma mater, Southern Methodist University, another for Texas Tech University, where their eldest son attended, and a Pride flag.

They also had a Mount Holyoke flag; one Julie bought on Amazon for $30.

“I’m pretty sure that wouldn’t last for a year,” she said.

She reached out to the Alumnae Association and connected with Executive Director Trisha Tanner ’00, who ordered her an official, sturdier flag.

Mount Holyoke College's flag on display at a school in Houston, TX. Photo courtesy of Julie Doyle-Madrid ’98.
Photo courtesy of Julie Doyle-Madrid ’98.

On Tuesday, March 19, the flag was set to be hoisted outside the school — until rain moved the ceremony inside.

To Julie’s surprise, Mount Holyoke College President Danielle R. Holley, who is from the Houston area, personally delivered it to the school.

“It was an honor to come home and present the Mount Holyoke flag to our class of 1998 alum Julie Doyle-Madrid. Because of Julie, the strength and pride of our Mount Holyoke community will wave proudly on display some 1,700 miles away from campus,” said President Holley. “Who knows? This may encourage a new generation of students to become future alums!”

“We embraced the situation and took pictures in the school library,” Doyle-Madrid said. The school library is as special to her as her time at Mount Holyoke. They’re both rich intellectual environments, intimate and a safe place for students to grow.

“Mount Holyoke was the first time I’ve ever felt at home,” she said. “I learned how to create a community. It’s so important to me.”

She recalls that community, from the small student body, cozy residence halls where everyone left their doors open, the library, the classes, and the requirement that students live on campus throughout their time at the College, fondly.

Even 20 years later, she still meets with some of her best friends from the College every fall where they “laugh and cry and laugh.”

“I know if any of us has a problem, we’ll be there as fast as we can,” she said.

When she thinks of what makes a community, she said, “I equate it with Mount Holyoke.”

Her four years there, culminating in an anthropology degree, prepared her to work in and out of the private sector and now as a principal with Trifecta Consulting, which she founded with Naomi. It also gave her confidence and a safe space to grow.

“This year, as the PTO president, I made the deliberate decision to prioritize community over fundraising by focusing on two key events. Despite encountering initial resistance from my board, these events have turned out to be incredibly successful, attracting large turnouts and nurturing a strong sense of community,” she wrote in a follow-up email. “It was through our conversation that I had the realization — I'm now reinforcing at Parker what held such significance for me at Mount Holyoke.”

Maybe the flag’s presence will convince other parents to consider the College. Doyle-Madrid cited the legendary line from “Dirty Dancing” when Baby Houseman’s father brags, “Baby's starting at Mount Holyoke in the fall.”

“Maybe it’ll convince Baby to go to Mount Holyoke in the fall too,” she said, grinning.

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Christian Feuerstein
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