Portsmouth, NH – Rachel Avery Connell, who was Rector of Chatham Hall girls’ preparatory school in Virginia, died after an aggressive form of cancer March 14, 2023. She was 54. A resident of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Ms. Connell held previous positions as Director of Advancement at Emma Willard School in New York, Senior Consultant and Principal at Marts & Lundy, and in development positions at Phillips Exeter Academy, New Hampshire, Landmark College and World Learning in Vermont. She was on the board of the Virginia Association of Independent Schools and a member of the International Coalition of Girls’ Schools. She had also been on the board of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, Service Federal Credit Union, NH, and was a member of the Ranger Chapter New Hampshire D.A.R. Rachel was dedicated to the advancement of women’s and girl’s education and opportunities throughout her life.
Born on March 6, 1969, Rachel was a cum laude graduate of Wellesley College (1991) in Massachusetts, and National Cathedral School for Girls (1987) in Washington D.C. She held a Master’s in Business Administration from Babson College (1999). A Russian Studies major at Wellesley, she spent her senior year living in Moscow, studying at the Institute of History and Archives as part of a student exchange following the Reagan/Gorbachev Summit. While there, she traveled through the former Soviet Union, including providing relief in the Republic of Georgia following a devastating earthquake. As a student trustee of Wellesley, she developed and helped implement a divestment portfolio from the college’s South African holdings with minimal revenue loss to the school. She was a dedicated member of the “Wellesley Widows” a cappella group known for her rich mezzo and ability to jazz scat. She had a lifelong passion for literature, music, film, art and travel.
One of the highlights of her life was the successful adoption of her son, Alexander “Sasha” Avery McEldowney, from Moscow.
In addition to her beloved son, she leaves her mother, Marion Fitch Connell, her father and stepmother, Lawrence and Linda Connell, her sister, Elizabeth Connell Nielsen and her husband, Devan, her nephew and niece, Powell and Ava, her stepson, Captain Matthew McEldowney (USMC), her cousin Keper Connell and his wife, Andrée and their children, Esmé and Ronan, her step-sister, Gail McGovern Gulotta and her husband, Geno, their children, Ri and Keelan, and her former husband, Bruce McEldowney. She also leaves an array of beloved friends around the globe with whom she shared her unique spirit of generosity, joy, knowledge and fierce love.
The family wishes to particularly thank Dr. Harold Burstein and his team at Dana Farber Cancer Institute for their devoted care to our beloved Rachel. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations in Rachel’s memory be made to Planned Parenthood of Northern New England and Dana Farber Cancer Institute directed to Women’s Cancers.
Celebration of Life Announcement/Invitation
Please join our family at a Celebration of Life for our beloved Rachel Avery Connell on Sunday, May 14, 2023 from 3-5 pm at The Venue at Portwalk Place, 22 Portwalk Place, Portsmouth, NH.
In the spirit of Rachel, and her great love for the people she encountered throughout her life, we ask that you bring a copy of a photo with/of Rachel, if you have one, to share at the event and contribute your photo to a memory book for her son, Sasha.
Please RSVP to Elizabeth Connell Nielsen: email@example.com.
If you need accommodations for the night, a 15% discount is offered for those attending Rachel‘s Celebration of Life at the Hampton Inn Downtown Portsmouth, Residence Inn Portsmouth Downtown/Waterfront, and AC Hotels by Marriott Portsmouth. There are also numerous VRBO and Airbnb options throughout Portsmouth. Free parking is available perpendicular to Portwalk place, at the Russell Street entrance. Paid parking is available off Portwalk place at the Hanover Street entrance.