Roots and Wings

Roots and Wings: Wellesley High Schools
Legacy of Nurturing Creativity” 


In honor of Katharine Lee Bates (1874), Sylvia Plath (1950), Wilbury Crockett (WHS English teacher 1944-1980, Chair for 30 years), and all WHS writers and teachers past, present, and future. 

This photo, capturing the intensity and commitment of the student-teacher relationship, was taken at Wellesley High School in 1970 and shows the legendary WHS English teacher and Department Chair Wilbury Crockett (whom Sylvia Plath called her mentor and muse”) with student Linda Barnes (who went on to become a professor and author).

NEW: WellesleyWeston Magazine featured Roots & Wings in its Spring 2023 issue. Read here!



  1. Welcome to Roots and Wings: Wellesley High School’s Legacy of Nurturing Creativity 

  2. Roots and Wings panel – October 12, 2022
    1. Introduction to the event 
    2. Participants   
    3. Program 
    4. Photos 
    5. Poems by WHS Seniors 
    6. Wellesley Media event recording 
    7. Swellesley Report article 

  3. Links to articles
    1. Katharine Lee Bates
    2. Sylvia Plath
    3. Anne Sexton 
    4. Wilbury Crockett
    5. Wellesley Weston Magazine: Spring 2023

  4. WHS Teachers’ list 

  5. WHS Writers’ list

  6. News, updates, future events 


          Wellesley has a remarkable literary legacy: that two of the most prominent and best known women writers of the 20th century called this town home.  Katharine Lee Bates and Sylvia Plath both achieved international renown, and always paid tribute to the extraordinary inspiration and support they received from Wellesley High School.  Plath inscribed the only volume of poetry published during her lifetime “For Mr. Crockett — in whose classroom and wisdom these poems have root.”  

            But Wellesley’s unique contribution to literature also includes the equally compelling story of many other extraordinary writers who began their work in WHS classrooms.  For generations, the commitment of WHS’s English teachers to nurturing young students’ creativity has become deeply enmeshed in the department’s mission.  The teachers of this town have produced hundreds of writers, from Pulitzer Prize and Emmy Award winners to a #1 “New York Times” bestseller.  

            WHS grad/writer Beth Hinchliffe and longtime WHS English teacher Jeanie Goddard have organized Roots and Wings:  Wellesley High Schools Legacy of Nurturing Creativity to encourage the town to celebrate WHS writers, and also the remarkable legacy of the school and teachers who have embraced, challenged, and inspired them.


The Roots and Wings project has two parts: 

  1. A master list of WHS writers in a wide range of fields (fiction, nonfiction, scriptwriting, journalism, poetry, etc.), along with their publications and awards.  This will be an ongoing project housed here on the Wellesley Free Library website.  Please send names and information to:
  2. An event, held at the Wellesley Free Library on October 12, 2022, where a panel of WHS teachers and writers discussed both their own journeys at WHS, and also the urgent importance of continuing to commit to this priority in the future.  There will also be future Roots and Wings events, updated on this site.


Over the past 30 years alone, a sampling of WHS writers includes:

  • the current U.S. Ambassador to China (and prolific international affairs writer) (Nick Burns) 
  • a #1 New York TimesBestseller (Richard Preston)
  • other New York Timesbestsellers (Doug Preston, Mark Synnott)
  • Pulitzer Prize winners (Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Lucinda Franks) 
  • two-time Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award finalist (Adam Haslett)
  • Grammy Award nominated songwriter and singer (Billy Squier) 
  • Emmy Award winners for writing (Lori Baker, Melissa Jo Peltier, George Mastras, his sister Maria Mastras Jacquemetton, Bob Arnot, Greg Yaitanes)
  • a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame (Katharine Lee Bates) 
  • two Presidential Speechwriters at the White House (one for each party) (Beth Hinchliffe, Aneesh Raman) 
  • a James Beard Award winner (Kevin Alexander) 
  • a “Saturday Night Live” regular cast member and writer who then developed and wrote her own TV show (Michaela Watkins) 
  • an internationally bestselling author of political thrillers (Derek Miller) 
  • a writer whose memoir about being an international drug smuggler was turned into a movie (Richard Stratton) 
  • the co-founder of Twitter and book author (Biz Stone) 


            Roots and Wings honors all WHS writers and teachers, and is dedicated to the three who inspired this work:  Katharine Lee Bates (Class of 1874), Sylvia Plath (Class of 1950), and Wilbury Crockett (WHS English teacher 1944-1980, Chair for 30 years).  For further reading, here are links to three articles about each of their relationships with Wellesley High School (and one about poet Anne Sexton (former class of 1947): 

            Roots and Wings:  Wellesley High School’s Legacy of Nurturing Creativity” celebrates both our hometown’s writers, and the extraordinary WHS English teachers who inspired, challenged, and believed in them.  Click here for a list of the teachers we commemorate and thank.