Author: John Carroll Presley


Cornelia Storrs Adair (1884–1962)

Cornelia Storrs Adair served as president of the National Education Association (NEA), a teachers’ union, from 1927 to 1928, the first classroom teacher to be elected to that position. A native of West Virginia, she attended school in Richmond and began her teaching career there in 1904. She taught at various elementary schools, received a degree from the College of William and Mary (1923) and served as principal of Richmond’s Franklin Elementary School from 1931 until her retirement in 1954. In 1934, Adair became the first woman awarded William and Mary’s Alumni Medallion. Adair attributed her passion for education to her aunt of the same name, one of the pioneer public school teachers in Richmond. Always active in union work, Adair was a longtime member of the Virginia Education Association and the Teachers’ Co-operative Association. In addition to presiding over the NEA, she served as president of the National League of Teachers Associations (1919) and the National League of Classroom Teachers (1927). A traditionalist in the classroom, Adair supported universal education, arts education, and education for the physically disabled. Adair died in Charlottesville in 1962. The next year William and Mary opened the Cornelia Storrs Adair Gymnasium (later Adair Hall).