Maggie Popkin ’20 was first introduced to the hobby of birdwatching at the age of five, when her grandmother set up a telescope for her to watch a Great Blue Heron. According to Maggie’s mother, she was captivated by the feather patterns. So, after Maggie lost her battle with brain cancer in 2019, the Popkin family and Maggie’s close friend, Abby Byrtus ’20, wanted to honor her memory with a Bird Blind on George School’s campus.
“This project is a small way for me to celebrate Maggie’s life,” said Abby. “Knowing that there is a permanent structure for people to use is very comforting, and reminds me that Maggie is still with us.”
Abby was awarded the 2020 Laramore Award, which provides funding to improve campus aesthetics on a specific student-recommended project. Abby decided to spend the entire $2,000 award to help fund the project. The remaining costs will be covered by donations from the community and friends of the Popkin family.
Maggie’s parents, Amy Popkin ’82 and Andy Popkin ’83, met at George School as students, and her siblings Sam Popkin ’11 and Emma Popkin ’14 also attended.
When Maggie was diagnosed with brain cancer in her sophomore year, she found solace in taking walks in nature and identifying birds. After Maggie’s cancer returned and the family learned it was terminal, they began discussing things Maggie would like to do before she passed away. “She wanted to go to Rwanda and see gorillas in their natural habitat, build a Bird Blind, and visit her George School friends,” said Amy. “We couldn’t go to Rwanda, because she was too sick, but we promised we would build a Bird Blind in her honor.”
“This has turned into an amazing project-based learning opportunity,” said Senior Advancement Officer, Drusilla Buscemi. “The American Institute of Architects (AIA) Bucks County Chapter have volunteered to mentor George School students interested in architecture to assist in the project’s design. Students will be involved throughout all phases of the project from design through construction and we are thrilled these award-winning architects are giving so generously of their time.”
“The blind will be a peaceful place to reflect and find solace,” said Andy. “We are thrilled to see there is something greater than this space being built. I believe that sometimes 1 plus 1 is more than 2. With the generosity of the AIA, students are learning about architecture and birding environments. Something good is coming out of this.”
“The only thing I can hope for, is that Maggie would love it,” said Abby. “I hope she would consider it a peaceful place to sit and center herself and as a sign of how much she was loved, and how important she was to so many people.”
The Bird Blind will be located on Tenant Drive, near the border of Pennswood Village and George School. Construction is slated to be complete this fall.