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Nancy Reagan, Former First Lady and Latin School Alum, Dies at 94

By Bettina Chang | March 6, 2016 4:20pm | Updated on March 7, 2016 8:51am
 (l.) Nancy Davis, in 1939 yearbook photo from Latin School. (r.) Nancy Reagan and husband Ronald Reagan in 2002.
(l.) Nancy Davis, in 1939 yearbook photo from Latin School. (r.) Nancy Reagan and husband Ronald Reagan in 2002.
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CHICAGO — Nancy Reagan, wife of President Ronald Reagan and First Lady from 1981-1989, died at age 94 on Sunday, according to news reports.

Reagan died in her home in Los Angeles due to congestive heart failure, according to the New York Times.

Though Reagan was most known during her time as First Lady and as a behind-the-scenes power broker for her husband, she spent much of her childhood in Chicago and graduated from the Latin School in 1939.

In a statement Sunday morning, head of school Randall Dunn said, “It is always sad when we lose a member of our school community. Nancy Reagan was a greatly respected alumna, always admired for her graciousness. We are proud to have had Mrs. Reagan as a student and alumna and extend our condolences to her family and love ones.”

To the surprise of third graders who wrote her letters as part of a class assignment, the First Lady visited her alma mater in May 1982, the Times reported. She fielded questions from the students about being First Lady, whether she liked jellybeans ("not as much as my husband") and watched part of the students' musical "Tom Sawyer."

Of her time at Latin School, Reagan (who spent time on Broadway and in Hollywood before becoming First Lady) recalled her early acting experiences: ''The only play I remember from Latin girls' school is a play called 'First Lady,' and I played the First Lady. Little did I dream - someone was trying to tell me something.''

Reagan attended Latin girls' school before the school became co-ed in 1952 and moved to the boys' building where the school still stands today, 59 W. North Blvd. Still, she said she had fond memories: "I am grateful you asked me to come and let me relive a lot."

According to Latin School archives, then-Nancy Davis was a student government leader, played field hockey and was the Athletic Association Council president her senior year. 

In her autobiography, My Turn, Reagan said of her time there: "I was only an average student at Girls' Latin School in Chicago...but I acted in all the school plays."

Starring in First Lady, she recalled that "when my classmates forgot their lines, I was able to jump in until we got back on track."

"Everybody was truly impressed — including me," she said.

Illinois' GOP politicians extended their condolences to the Reagan family on Sunday. In a statement, Gov. Bruce Rauner said, “As our nation's First Lady, Nancy Reagan will be remembered for her unwavering support of our country and as a pillar of strength to one of our nation's greatest presidents. ... Diana and I are saddened to hear about her death, and extend our deepest sympathies to her children and the rest of her family.”

Illinois Republican Party Chairman Tim Schneider said, "With grace and charm, Nancy Reagan represented the best of America and captured the spirit of this great country. She will go down in history as a woman who, alongside her loving husband, helped steer our nation through many difficult days."

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