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tomorrow at Breck PG. 20 OUR MAN IN AFGHANISTAN Rob Nelson ’03 WINNING SEASON Winter Sports SPECIAL OLYMPICS Celebrating 25 years

The lunchroom The classroom The practice room The poetry journal The pumpkin patch The guinea pig The owl pellets The ponds The pool The field trip The parallel bars The sign-in desk The laptops The teachers The biddies The buddies The paint The clay The stage The track The Annual Fund is everywhere you look. The media center The calculus The Annual Fund is in everything that From pre-kindergarten through graduation day, constitutes Life at Breck. In fact, it’s books a clear mission underlies each year ofThe learning everywhere you look—enhancing The butterflies academics, service, athletics, the arts at Breck: developing potential in all our students, preparing them to thrive at colleges or universities The reunion and more. Your contribution has an immediate impact on the quality of that fit their strengths and interests, and Theinstilling concert Life at Breck, making a difference in them the ideal of service to others. Beyond that, The friendshipsfor every student, every day. the cumulative effect of thousands of exceptional Support Life at Breck The stories experiences sets the stage for a successful, or The memories well-rounded adult life. call Director of Annual Giving The yearbook Gay Gonnerman at 763.381.8296. The research Thank you. The curriculum The book fair The mentoring The performances Life at Breck The rockets


spring 2011 TODAY AT BRECK 1

FEATURES 16 | S  pecial Relationship: Breck and Special Olympics 2011 marked our 25th year of a wonderful partnership as athletes and their families joined Breck volunteers for a day none will soon forget.

18 | S  eize the Day: Building a Better Schedule A lot goes into the process of matching students, teachers and classroom space. Here’s a look at how it comes together.

20 | Tomorrow at Breck


cover story What will Breck look like next? We’ve got the inside story on some exciting changes that will transform our campus in the years ahead.


26 | Author! Author! Published authors Tom Thiss ’47 and Gwen Heasley ’01 write in different genres but share a connection to their alma mater.


28 | From Cambridge to Kabul Rob Nelson ’03 has a vantage point few Breck alumni have ever experienced: the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan.

Cover photo: Sara Rubinstein




TODAY AT BRECK Today at Breck is a publication of

Breck School, 123 Ottawa Avenue North, Minneapolis, MN 55422 email: communications@

Head of School Edward Kim

Editor Jill Field



4 | 20 Questions

30 | Class Notes

We asked, and they answered:

Alumni share recent news.

Woody Rash ’88.

34 | Alumni News

Roshny Vijayakar ’12 , Tom Hegg and

7 | 123

The Breck Alumni Council adds new

Activities, accomplishments, awards,


announcements: here are some items from Spring 2011 at Breck.

Linda Henneman Claire Moyle

7 | Who Knew?

Corey Sevett

Fun facts, both current and historical

Gay Gonnerman, Michelle Geo

(no, there won’t be a quiz!).

Olmstead, Erin Strong, Nancy Warner

14 | Ten Things You Didn’t Know About…


The Annual Fund is an essential

Paul Blesi, Mike Habermann,

part of Breck’s financial picture,

Byron Rice, Karyl Rice, Sara

of the effort.

John Keenan, Chelen Johnson,



ThinkDesign Group:



members, reunion plans, upcoming

36 | Sports News Reports from a wonderful winter for Breck athletics.

40 | In Their Own Words Master Teacher Dr. Jacob Miller

reflects on the importance of active curiosity.

and volunteers are an essential part


Printing Bolger Vision Beyond Print

MISSION Breck is an Episcopal, coeducational, college-preparatory day school enrolling students of diverse backgrounds in grades preschool through twelve. Breck’s Mission is to:

Prepare each student for a college whose culture is compatible with the individual’s needs, interests and abilities. Help develop each student’s unique talents and potential to excel by nurturing independence and self-worth. Instill in each student a deep sense of social responsibility.

Breck School is committed to environmental stewardship. This publication is printed paper manufactured with electricity in the form of renewable energy (wind, hydro, biogas) and a minimum of 30% postconsumer recovered fiber.

Welcome to the first issue of our newly re-imagined Today at Breck.


The magazine format is a way to honor our past, celebrate our present and talk about the future.

We aim to go beyond a simple chronicle of school life —although we’ll be using words and photos to do some of that as well.

What we’re really getting at is capturing life at Breck in all its vibrancy and all its dimensions. I hope you get the flavor of what one great friend of the school calls “Breck’s special sauce.”

Everywhere you look these days, you’ll see the unique blend of tradition and innovation that has defined Breck throughout its 124-year history.

On a foundation of enduring values, we develop dynamic new academic and co-curricular

programs. In this issue, you’ll read about some relatively recent additions to our offerings: mock

trial, quiz bowl and robotics teams, Advanced Research programs in science and history, the World Savvy program in Middle School, a chess club in Lower School and a microfinance unit in Upper School math, to name just a few.

In the cover story you’ll read about our work to create the vision established by Breck’s comprehensive master site plan. We’re deeply involved in planning for additions and improvements that will make our campus even more beautiful, functional and inspirational in the years to come.

But you’ll also see how our focus on the future is always anchored in attention to the fundamentals of a Breck education. Our dedication to service, as evidenced by our long-standing relationship with Special Olympics of Minnesota, is just one example.

As for our past, we’re delighted to provide expanded coverage of alumni. I hope you’ll enjoy reading about a pair of alumni authors, Tom Thiss ’47 and Gwendolyn Heasley ’01, as well as Rob Nelson ’03, currently serving as an assistant to our ambassador in Afghanistan.

And to bring it all back to the classroom, we’ll finish with some reflections on teaching and learning from master teacher Jake Miller — in his own words. Happy spring, and happy reading.

EdWARD Kim Head of school

questions 4

Roshny Vijayakar ‘12: Breck junior 1

What’s on your iPod?

A lot of Bollywood music, ABBA, and

worth all the hard work. 8

What do you remember from

Beatles, plus some random pop and


Hepburn movies.

erpuff girls” on the playground. I was

country songs and a few old Audrey 2

What’s one of the last books you


For school, The Great Gatsby, but on the side I’ve been chipping away at Shantaram. 3

What’s your favorite time of year?

I really love autumn, when it’s crisp and the leaves are all crunchy. Best time for running. 4

What’s your favorite Breck lunch?

After the special MLK day lunch,

­Caesar salad is probably my favorite. 5

Who is your personal hero (and

My friends and I always played “powalways Buttercup, the one with black hair that did karate. 9

What is the most important

room in your home?

Probably the kitchen.


What’s your favorite place on the Breck campus? Inside I really like Ms. Sirianni/Mme Schmidt’s room. As far as outside, I like the secret garden.


Other than my parents and my dear grandmother, Mother Teresa. It’s

beyond me how anyone could be so fundamentally self-less. 6

Dream job?

Right now I would love to be a doctor and work in villages in India and maybe other countries too. 7

Best decision?

Doing science research. I was unsure about it at first, but it was definitely


Favorite comfort food?

Buttered toast is yummy. 12

If you had a theme song, what

would it be?

Not that any non-Indian person

knows what this means, but my

theme song would have to be “All is

Well” from the Hindi movie 3 Idiots. 13

Favorite line from a movie?

The name’s Bond, James Bond.


Favorite website?

My Life is Average is pretty funny. 15

Three people, living or dead,

you’d have over to dinner?

Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Gautama Buddha. 16

Best trophy/award you ever won?

All the captains’ awards from Nordic and volleyball. 17

If you could read anyone’s mind,

whose would it be?

I don’t want to read anyone’s mind—I’d rather figure people out the hard way. 18

If you could travel anywhere,

where would you go?

I would go to Fiji just to see what it’s like in a remote tropical island. 19

Pet peeve?

Arrogance (I’m not perfect but I strive

to never be arrogant, so it’s people who

think they have some sort of right to be arrogant who really annoy me). 20

What keeps you up at night?

All the mistakes we humans make

that will just lead to our own demise

and how the heck I’m going to be able to fix any of it!

questions 5

Tom Hegg: Master Teacher and Drama Director 1

What’s on your iPod?

John Rutter’s Gloria and Magnificat,

Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins, Stephen Schwartz’s Pippin, Elaine Stritch at

Liberty and the balance is mostly sacred choral and choral/orchestra works. 2

What’s one of the last books

you read?

Christopher Hitchens’ Hitch 22. 3

What’s your favorite time of year?

Autumn at its fleeting peak! 4

What’s the most thrilling/ad-

venturous thing you’ve ever done?

I’m not a thrill seeker, as a rule. I was almost trampled to death at a Min-

neapolis Lakers game back in the ’50s. I was saved by one of the players. I guess that cured me. 5

What’s your favorite Breck lunch?

I’m a burger man. 6

Who is your personal hero (and


My artistic hero is Stephen Sondheim, who uses the English language like

Michelangelo used marble. My hero

is my son, Adam, because he conducts his life as I still only aspire to do. 7

Dream job?

I think that’s a contradiction in terms. Work is made up of a mixture of the agreeable and the disagreeable. The

job I hold currently is the best I’ve ever had. Bartending is the worst. I fanta-

size about being this full-time writer

dude who moves about in an LL Bean Catalogue kind of world. We’ll see. 8

Best decision?

Getting married and starting a family. 9

What advice would you give to

yourself 10 years ago? Stay on the diet. 10

What do you remember from


A song—“Our happy day is over, and we are going home. Goodbye, goodbye, we’ve had a nice time today.” 11

What is the most important

room in your home?

It changes with the seasons. Right now, it’s the kitchen’s turn. 12

The Meditation Chapel. Favorite comfort food?

Burgers, burgers and more burgers. 14

Favorite line from a movie?”

“I’ll admit I’ve seen better days, but

I’m still not be had for the price of a

cocktail, like a salted peanut,” from All About Eve by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. The character is Margo Channing, played by Bette Davis. 16

Best trophy/award you ever won?

Master Teacher.


Three people, living or dead, you’d have over for dinner? Julia Child, Bobby Flay and Tony Bourdain. They’re cooking.

What’s your favorite place on

the Breck campus? 13


If you had a theme song, what

would it be?

“I’m Still Here” from Sondheim’s Follies.


If you could read anyone’s mind,

whose would it be? God’s. 19

If you could travel anywhere,

where would you go? Our cabin. 20

Unfulfilled wish?

The grandkid’s due any day now. It

won’t be unfulfilled for long! (Tom’s

granddaughter Imogen was born this spring.)

questions 6

Woody Rash ‘88: Alumnus, Parent and Trustee 1

What’s on your iPod?

I am a huge fan of The Hold Steady. I am currently listening to a lot of The Clash .

What’s one of the last books you read? I am reading At Risk, by Stella Remington. What’s your favorite time of year?

March—my birthday and State Hockey Tourney. 4

What’s the most thrilling/ad-

venturous thing you’ve ever done? That may not be appropriate for this forum! 5

What’s your favorite Breck lunch?

Tie: Chicken Nuggets or Grilled Cheese with tomato soup. 6

Who is your personal hero (and


Various people who stand for what they believe and live accordingly. 7

Best decision?

Attending the U of Colorado-Boulder. 9

What advice would you give to

yourself 10 years ago?




Dream job?

Professional musician.

Don’t take yourself or life too seriously. Find meaning in everything you do. 10

What do you remember from


Throwing clay at a classmate and my first trip to “see the principal.” 11

What is the most important

room in your home? My basement. 12

What’s your favorite place on

the Breck campus? The Lower School. 13

Favorite comfort food?

Pizza. 14

If you had a theme song, what

would it be?

“One Step Closer to You,” by Michael Franti. 15

Favorite line from a movie?

“Fat, lazy and stupid is no way to go through life, son.” 16

Three people, living or dead,

you’d have over to dinner?

Dalai Lama, Chris Farley, John Randle.


If you could read anyone’s mind,

whose would it be?

That person who I am currently speaking with. 18

Pet peeve?

Passive-aggressive people. 19

Unfulfilled wish?

To be an NHL player. 20

What keeps you up at night?

The future of our country and how my

children will find meaning in their lives.


Two Breck teams took part in the tournament, placing sixth and twelfth.

TODAY AT 123 OTTaWA ave. North

Primary team members (in order of points scored) were

Derek Turner, John Fullerton, Michael Johnson, Dylan Rash,

Breck Hosts Statewide Chess Tournament

David Mah, Peyton Schwiebert, Gabby Groethe and Lucas Uchitelle-Cohen.

Elementary team members (in order of points scored) were

For the second consecutive year,

Matthew Conroy, Andrew Quay, Tarick Mehanna, Alex McFar-

Chess Association Primary/

Patrick Liss, Hannah Shin, Penny Groethe and Elena Berman.

Breck played host to the School

land, Rafael Osuna, Samuel Shin, Brendan Conroy, Louis Weiner,

Elementary Statewide Chess Tournament.

The event, the 43rd annual, took place on the weekend of April 2 and 3. Seventy elementary

schools and 52 primary schools participated.

Governor Mark Dayton wel-

comed the group on Saturday morning, and fourth grader

Penny Groethe sang the National Anthem to kick things off. Two Breck teams were part of the competition. Our primary team (grades K-3) earned 13 points and took twelfth place.

Our elementary team (grades 4-6) earned 16.5 points and took sixth place.

Who Knew?

Quiz Bowl Team Qualifies for National Competition The Quiz Bowl team, coached by Brad Kohl, has qualified for national competition in Atlanta over Memorial Day weekend. Max Berman, Addison Weiler, Nick Thyr,

Margit Westerman and Will Smith will represent Breck. Teammate Chris Erickson will miss the competition

while he is in Panama on a May Program trip. The team has dedicated its season to sophomore Caleb Kumar,

who competed well in their first two meets but has been unable to continue while he recuperates from a stroke.

State championships won by Breck sports teams: 1  7 team championships

54 individual



TODAY AT 123 OTTaWA ave. North

Robotics Team Stampedes Its Way to Nationals Our first-ever robotics team, the Stampede, had a grand time building their robot and programming it to complete the tasks set out by this year’s FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition.

At statewide competition during the first weekend of April,

the team won the Rookie All-Star award, which meant a trip to the national competition in St. Louis in late April. 8

Says junior Taylor McCanna, who hopes to work for NASA someday, “It was really fun building a robot, but it was

also fun building a team. And even though the work was intense, I made a lot of friends.”

Participants are seniors David Fuad, Matthew Hackner and Laura Kadue,

juniors Annie Jiao, Charles Li, Taylor McCanna and

Young You, sophomores Darius

Kumar and Ronald Thao, and freshmen Zach Donahue, Eliana Gostomski, Mike Orke, Duncan Phelps and Elisa Villafana. The team’s coaches include faculty advisor A.J. Colianni,

Mike Hackner, Gene Jasper, Chris Kadue, Paul Kadue and Mike Oden.

Grants from organizations including Medtronic and NASA have helped to support their efforts.

Bieganski, Caleb

Dicker, Hegg Receive Sabbaticals for 2011-12 Head of School Edward Kim has announced that two Breck

Tom Hegg, our drama director, will

faculty members have been awarded Sabbaticals for 2011-12.

work on two writing projects: a play

designed for his students, and a novel-

Tobie Dicker, who teaches visual art in

length piece of light verse, prose or a

Lower and Middle School, will spend

combination of the two. He has never

the year in New Mexico, a place with

before written for the theatre, and

which she has both a personal and

he is looking forward to realizing the

creative connection. She will visit Native American pueblos, take a

pottery workshop at the Ghost Ranch,

intern at the Museum of International

Folk Art, explore the history and traditions of the Hidden

Jews/Crypto Jews and work with Native American gallery

directors and artists. Dicker will create a sketchbook/journal and a digital account of her journey that she can use in the classroom upon her return to Breck.

intersection between his teaching and

writing careers. He will also devote time to furthering a new creative relationship he has developed with the Children’s Theatre Company and its artistic director, Peter Brosius. The partnership offers many opportunities for ongoing

collaboration with Breck students, including internships, May Program, and service learning.

Said Kim, “Please join me in congratulating Tobie and Tom on their proposals and wishing them a professionally and personally rewarding year ahead.”

Who Knew?

Most-visited page on the Breck parents website:

Team Spitzer Reaches for the Stars Breck’s Team Spitzer, a group of eight students and their

advisor, Chelen Johnson, have collaborated with scientists at Caltech on an infrared astronomy project. Three of the

students presented their findings to professional astronomers at the American Astronomical Society conference in Seattle. To date, Team Spitzer (so named because they use

the Spitzer Space Telescope) has discovered 25 newly formed stars. They are now working on an article to be published in a professional journal.

Artists Capture 37 Scholastic Awards Breck Upper and Middle School artists captured more

awards in the Minnesota Scholastic Art Awards competition than any other school in the state except for the

Perpich Center for Arts Education. Congratulations to all!

Mock Trial Team Heads Back to National Competition

Gold Key Winners

Ceramics: Sarah Mevissen

Drawing: Yvonne Aberg, Adriana Goldenberg, Uma Oswald, Melody Wang

Mixed Media: Jillian Husband, Taylor Marks Printmaking: Blair Bingham

Breck’s Mock Trial team,

Sculpture: Sydney Gehrking

defending national

champions, has won

Silver Key Winners

the right to compete

Ceramics: Renata Echtenkamp

at ­Nationals again in

Design: Annie Jiao

2011 by winning the

Drawing: Claire Drysdale (3 awards), Kylee Grant,

Minnesota state tourna-

Hunter Hamilton, Taylor Marks, Jessica Ryvlin,

ment in Duluth in early

Evan Stafford, Melody Wang (2 awards)


This year’s national event will be held in Phoenix in early May. The Breck team, which had an undefeated season on its way to the Minnesota state championship, is a relatively new

activity brought into existence in part through the efforts of alumna and alumnae parent Maya Tester ’81, who served as the team’s first coach.

Participants include seniors Max Berman (who won a “best witness” award at state), Reuben Parish and Julian Randall, juniors Blake Creasey, Chris Erickson, Nicki Simpson (who won a “best attorney” award at state) and Eva Wang, and

Painting: Yvonne Aberg Portfolio: Dani Tryon

Printmaking: Ellie Pfohl, Olivia Weiner Sculpture: Akeelah Lewis Honorable Mentions

Ceramics: Josh Freeman, Dani Tryon

Drawing: Yvonne Aberg, Kylee Grant, Madison Lommen Portfolio: Sally Caruso, Renata Echtenkamp,

Josh Freeman, Taylor Marks, Gabriel Vespasiano

Sculpture: Joe Kuhns

sophomores Madison Bigos, Marielos Cabrera, Sarah Koop, Hutton Phillips and Joshua Stillman.

Number of Facebook friends:


Financial aid budget for 2010-11: $4,466,553




TODAY AT 123 OTTaWA ave. North

In Memoriam: Eddie Phillips The Breck community notes with

“Eddie was a kind and thoughtful man who was generous

member Eddie Phillips, who suc-

devoted to Breck. The depth of his understanding of and

sorrow the death of Board of Trustees cumbed to multiple myeloma on

April 9. He was the father of four,

including Breck sophomores Hutton and JJ.

In an email to parents, Head of


School Edward Kim wrote the following:

in so many ways, both public and private, and he was deeply commitment to our mission was unsurpassed.

Eddie and I often spoke of inner strength, and it is a concept that fit him well. He was steadfast in his concern for our

community but never drew attention to himself and shied away from public recognition of his support. He will be deeply missed.”

Off Campus Sophomore Emma Quirk-Durben got involved with documentary filmmaking by accident. “I signed up for a summer class on photography, but it got cancelled, so I decided to try documentaries instead,” she explains. The results have been anything but accidental. Her group’s first film, “War, Peace and Protest: Then and Now,” focused on local Vietnam veterans and their perspective on today’s conflicts. Last summer’s film was “Gone Fishing: The West Bank’s Forgotten Scene,” about Minneapolis’ West Bank music scene circa 1968. Both films won a Generations award from the Minnesota History Center. Emma has loved learning about all the things that go into filmmaking besides what you see on camera, especially the editing process. “So many hours of footage go into a ten-minute finished film!” she says. “I had no idea how hard editing that footage is—or how long it can take.” Both films will be shown at the History Center as part of a forthcoming exhibit on 1968.

Who Knew?

Breck + Beatles = Bravura Night On Saturday, April 2, it was Breck night for Beatles Fest at the Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis.

Along with many other local musicians, there were performances by our

marimba band Bato Bato, the Breck Chamber players, and TBTB (The Breck Teacher Band) including Tim Rosenfield, Frank Eustis and Scott Eichten, along with George Leighter, a teacher at SPA. All played Beatles music.

The evening was a benefit for Avenues for Youth, an organization that offers assistance to homeless teens.

Breck students also contributed to an art exhibit at Sheltering Arms the

same weekend to benefit Avenues for Youth. Three Breck seniors doing an independent project on homeless teens, Akeelah Lewis, Gabby Strickland and Nailah Taman, were instrumental in making arrangements.

Bird species identified on the Breck campus by former faculty member Warren Hall:


Juvenile red-tailed hawk

Advanced Science Research 2010-11: Every Team Member Qualifies for National or International Competition Congratulations to Breck’s Advanced Science Research team, which has competed in a number of events this

spring, including the Twin Cities Regional Science and

Engineering Fair — where the entire team received first place awards.

The following additional awards were also presented: International Sustainable World (I-Sweeep) Challenge Matthew Hackner and David Fuad were named finalists

and John Culliton was named an alternate to the Interna-

tional Sustainable World (I-SWEEEP) Challenge. They will be going on to the I-SWEEEP Competition in Houston, Texas. International Science and Engineering Fair (Isef)

Tom Erdmann was selected as a finalist to the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), which will be held

in Los Angles. Roshny Vijayakar, Aris Prince, Emily Alper, and Ellie Haeg will be going to ISEF as alternates. Twin Cities Regional Paper Competition

Caleb Kumar won 1st Place in the Twin Cities Regional

paper Competition and Samarth Damania, Tom Erdmann, David Fuad, Cara Kowalchyk, Caleb Kumar, Aris Prince,

Rebecca Southern, Roshny Vijayakar, and Addison Weiler have also been selected to present their work at the Tri-

State Junior Science and Humanities Symposium in March.

Singing Out Loud and Proud: Breck Students Participate in Honor Choirs Five Upper School students partici-

pated in the National ACDA (American Choral Directors Association) Junior High Honor Choir held in Chicago

Choirs. Congratulations to Melissa

Clark 9/10 Girls, Chris Walker 7/8 Boys, Connor Day 7/8 Boys, Mo Lawal 7/8

Boys, Delaney Roberts 7/8 Girls and

in early March. Congratulations to

Emily Sponsel 7/8 Girls, and the

Sponsel, Lesharo Subendran and

the Elementary Choir: Zahria Brandon,

Christopher Walker, Connor Day, Emily Amanda Zeidner.

In addition, twelve students represented Breck at ACDA State Honor

following Middle School students in

Darian Dominski, Maggie Schmoker,

Katie Schmoker, Amelia Simonds and Dante Baza.

Applause 2011: Kentucky Derby The Breck community was in festive spirits for Applause ­— and the hats were divine! Edward Kim smiles

with co-chairs (left to right) Candace Randle, Molly Engelsma and Missy Swiller. Thanks to the generosity

of donors, attendees and bidders,

Applause raised more than $200,000 to support academic technology at Breck.

Number of tiles in the Holy Spirit Mosaic:

8 3,2 5 0




TODAY AT 123 OTTaWA ave. North

Seventh and Eighth Graders Shine in History Day, World Savvy Competitions For more than 20 years, History Day has been a part of the

Congratulations to the following students whose work is

students have done very well. In fact, a project or projects

History Day

seventh- and eighth-grade curriculum at Breck, and our

from Breck has gone on to national History Day competition for 13 consecutive years.

And while History Day continues to be a project, there’s a newer alternative that the History department feels has 12

equal merit: the World Savvy competition. “It’s an exciting

choice for students,” says eighth-grade history teacher Sarah Flotten ’85.

“The main difference is that History Day projects examine a topic in history, whereas World Savvy investigates a current

issue and looks for solutions,” she explains. In both competitions, students can enter in pairs or in groups.

This year’s History Day theme is “Debate and World Diplo-

macy in History: Successes, Failures and Consequences.” The

going on to state competition.

Group Exhibit: Blair Bingham and Claire Cousineau, Carlie

Gustafson and Yasi Kazeminy, Franny Miller and Liza Miller,

Madi Lommen and Stephanie Headrick, Sophie O’Bryan and Eve Zelickson, Katie Schmidt and Lille Haecker

Individual Exhibit: Spencer Larsen, David Husband, Jenn Fabian, Grace Kirkpatrick, Morgan Williams

Individual Documentary: Justin Bergerson, Evie Mackenzie, Grant Two Bulls

Group Performance: Ingrid Thyr and Lewis White, Sofie Kim and Julia Florey

Group Documentary: Griffin Groethe and Nate Nys, Jack Dickinson and Josh Gottesman

World Savvy theme is “Food: Feeding the Planet Sustainably

Individual Website: Henry Cousineau, Emma Luten, Parsa

Both competitions teach important note-taking and research

In World Savvy, eighth graders Izzy Gleekel, Powell Simons,

topic makes it fit in particularly seamlessly with the eighth-

for their project, “Pesticides: A Necessary Evil?” and Claire

students a choice will help them find a topic they will

“Globalization of Sushi: Effects on Bluefin Tuna.”

in the 21st Century.”

Najamie, Emily Ratner

skills, says Flotten, but the global nature of the World Savvy

Sarah Webb and Megan Sweet went to state competition

grade curriculum. Nevertheless, she says, “I believe giving

Mancheski and Sabrina Tattersfield for their project,

enjoy—a key element to a research project they enjoy.”

The Middle School held its annual Spelling Bee in the spring, and seventh grader Jonathan Curoe won by correctly spelling pharmaceutical.

Who Knew?

First computer on the Breck campus:

Brian Bolles, Chris Dempsey and Ben Cutler in All Shook Up.

The Bendix G-15 in 1964

Awards & Accomplishments

Upper School

Faculty & Staff

Seniors Tom Erdmann and Will Smith, both semifinalists

Science Department Head

in the 2010-11 National Merit Scholarship competition, were named finalists.

and Advanced Research Director Lois Fruen has

Senior Steven Kiesel has received an

received an Inspirational

High School League, recognizing his

Massachusetts Institute of

and the arts. Steven was this year’s male

nated for the award by five

Senior Mayyadda Major was named

Brandon Lew ’07, Katie Creasey ’07, Sahar Hakim-Hashemi ’09,

Scholarship. The National Achievement

The orchestral piece commissioned by Claudette Laureano

ed by the National Merit Scholarship

lished in a band version as well. Composer Shelley Hanson’s

AAA award from the Minnesota State

Teacher award from the

­accomplishments in academics, athletics

Technology. Lois was nomi-

representative from Region 4A.

Breck alumni (the first four of whom matriculated at MIT):

winner of a National Achievement

Daniel Mokhtari ’10 and Tara Mokhtari ’10.

Scholarship Program, which is conduct-

as part of her Wigley Award recognition has now been pub-

Corporation, recognizes academically

piece, called “Albinoni Elegy,” has been performed by the

promising Black American high school students.

Minnesota Youth Symphony.

At the annual Tri-Metro Arts Festival, three Breck students

This spring, Jil Franke was invited to exhibit her wood fired

a first prize for her collage. Christopher Anderson received

Worcester, Massachusetts, and the Clay Studio in Philadelphia.

were recognized for their artwork. Claire Simpson received

ceramics at galleries including the Worcester Center for Crafts in

an honorable mention for his collage. And Chandra Yueh

Rob Johnson ’90 was featured in an alumni profile on the

received an honorable mention for her ceramic piece.

website of the College of Wooster, from which he graduated in 1994. In the profile, Rob talks about teaching at Breck

and having the opportunity to teach and mentor alongside some of the same people who taught and mentored him.

Dallas Crow had an essay on teaching poetry in the spring issue of Minnesota English Journal.

The young naturalists in preschool enjoyed a visit from the Minnesota Zoo Zoomobile. Students were invited to touch

possum skin (hard on the outside, soft on the inside) and a hog-snouted snake, among other creatures. When the Zoo

staffer showed them the millipede, one student immediately called out, “Don’t drop it!”


Number of horses stabled on campus in 1941:




Ten Things You Didn’t Know About…


Voluntary, tax-deductible gifts to Breck provide approximately 6-7% of the school’s annual operating budget. Tuition and


fees cover less than 70% of the actual cost of a Breck education, so other revenue is needed to balance the budget.

This includes contributions to the Annual Fund, draw from the endowment, auxiliary services, investment and other income, and other voluntary giving including Applause.

The difference per student between the price of tuition and the actual cost of a Breck education is approximately $2,500.


The Annual Fund plays a crucial role in bridging that gap. A strong Annual Fund helps Breck contain annual tuition

increases, and provides the best possible educational experience for today’s students. Donors giving $2,500 or more are part of the school’s Headmaster’s Circle and receive special recognition.

The Breck Annual Fund Gifts to the Annual Fund are used in the current fiscal year (July 1-June 30) to make the Breck experience exceptional for every student.



Gifts of every amount make a difference. Last year, gifts of $1-$999 made up almost

9% of the total dollars given. That’s more than $156,000—a significant amount.

Breck is eligible to receive matching gifts from companies that support secondary education in their matching gift guidelines. Breck is a 501 (c) (3) under IRS rules.



The Annual Fund involves the whole community. Parents contributed more than

70% of the total dollars last year, with alumni and grandparents each giving about 10%. The rest came from parents of

Your gift to the Annual Fund is distributed across the budget proportionally to the school’s expenses. The largest portion goes

alumni, faculty and staff, vendors, friends and matching gift

centers, professional development, computer education,

This year, it is our goal to exceed that amount.


to instructional costs: faculty salaries and curriculum, media service, guidance and counseling, curriculum and special programs. You have the option of directing your gift to

­academics, athletics, the arts, or tuition assistance. Otherwise,

your gift is used where it is needed most.


Volunteers are essential to the success of the Annual Fund. Individuals from all

constituencies are involved in securing support for the

school. Parents, alumni, grandparents, parents of alumni

and faculty and staff are all represented on the volunteer

team. They send letters, make phone calls, send emails and

talk in person to donors, sharing their enthusiasm for Breck and encouraging others to join them in giving generously.


9 10

Last year, donors contributed more than $1.78 million to the Annual Fund. Everyone at Breck appreciates the generosity of the Breck community.

Breck benefits from a strong tradition of philanthropy.

Today’s students and teachers thrive, thanks partly to previous generations’ generosity in keeping the school financially

strong year after year. Thanks to everyone who has given

so far this year. For more information or to give online, visit


Volunteer Profile: Barbara Burwell by Gay Gonnerman, director of annual giving In the seven school years that I have been coordinating the

She spread the word to the parents

volunteers. But I’ve never had anyone quite like Barbara

dergarten class (currently in first

Breck Annual Fund, I’ve worked with dozens of excellent

Burwell on my team. For anyone who knows Barbara, this will not surprise you.

that they could not let the Kin-

place) do better than them! She reached out through phone

calls and emails and at every parent meeting on the calendar.

Before the school year started, Barbara signed on to be the

(And Barbara never misses a parent meeting.)

2012. From that moment, she was thinking strategically

is hot pink. Volunteers have hot pink lanyards they can

Annual Fund spokesperson to the parents of the class of

The “color” for this year’s Annual Fund, called Life at Breck,

about how to get the message out to her peers to contribute

wear as conversation starters when at school. Barbara has

to the Annual Fund.

worn hers every day, decorated with the button of her son,

Barbara has a tradition of bringing the parents of her sons’

Michael, in his football uniform. You cannot miss her when

of the school year for a social gathering. She gracefully

Barbara’s message is persistent, personal and polite. She

her welcoming remarks, along with reminders about

your gift is “one dollar or a million dollars.” Apparently the

(Peter ’07 and Michael ’12) classes together at the beginning

she appears in the halls of the school.

folded the first of many Annual Fund announcements into

reminds every parent that participation is important, whether

Homecoming, and other pertinent events.

message is sinking in. Heads up, Kindergarten parents! The

Things really took off when Breck announced a parent par-

eleventh grade is in a dead heat with you at the top of the list

grade parents were in last place out of the fourteen grades.

of the difference one volunteer can make.

ticipation match in January. She learned that the eleventh

in parent participation. Thank you, Barbara, for reminding us



A Special Relationship

Breck and Special Olympics Celebrate 25 Years of Partnership by Nancy Warner, photos by Karyl Rice



On Saturday, January 29, Breck hosted over 450 Special

we go. The halls of Breck are overflowing with excitement

ment. With a record number of 1,000 participants, specta-

management all agree that this is their favorite Special

Olympics athletes at the 25th Annual Poly Hockey Tournators and volunteers attending the tournament, it was the largest ever to be hosted by Breck.

What started 25 years ago as a day filled with a variety of

activities such as table tennis, floor hockey, and bingo has evolved into the region’s year-end Special Olympics poly hockey championship. More than 400 athletes from ten

Special Olympics hockey teams from around the Twin Cities participated in the tournament, with over 200 volunteers

from all sectors of the Breck community facilitating the event. “This is a phenomenal symbiotic partnership,” said Betsy

Anderson of Special Olympics Minnesota. “We get a great

facility with the most welcoming volunteers of anywhere

the day of the competition, and our athletes, coaches and Olympics competition of the year.”

Kate Berman, co-chair of the Family Community Outreach

Community, concurs. “Partnering with Special Olympics has been a privilege. We have tremendous respect for these dedicated athletes, coaches and parents, and we look

forward to hosting the Poly Hockey Tournament every year.” Luree Pearson, former Lower School chaplain, was honored

for her role in initiating the partnership between Breck and Special Olympics 25 years ago, and Olympic gold medalist, and Breck parent Rob McClanahan, a member of the 1980

“Miracle on Ice” hockey team, inspired the crowd with his opening remarks.


Making the day even more meaningful was the participation of Breck’s own Tim Michaels, who works in dining services. This year he had the honor of carrying in the last Olympic torch and leading the Special Olympics oath in the opening ceremony. Michaels has been involved with the poly hockey tournament for eight years: as a defenseman for the first seven years and now as a defensive coach. A proud member of the OMGAA Storm delegation from the northwest suburbs, he is a three-sport athlete who has played and coached Special Olympics bowling and softball as well as poly In addition to the many student and parent volunteers from all three divisions, members of the Breck hockey teams, wearing

their jerseys, greeted participants and spectators and worked with the athletes. The Bato Bato marimba band performed, and

students orchestrated bingo and other activities, as well as helped with food and beverage service. Thanks to the generosity of the

General Mills Foundation and Caribou Coffee, there were chocolate

hockey. In high school, he played adapted soccer, hockey and softball. He says it’s wonderful to have the event at Breck and appreciates the efforts of the community, especially the student volunteers and the maintenance staff, who make everything look so nice.

chip cookies, coffee and cider for all attendees. Other sponsors

And he enjoyed the opportunity to share the day

Jerry’s and Target.

room at their first game this season,” he says, “and

included Chartwells, Lunds, Byerlys, Kowalski’s, Cub, Rainbow,

All involved with the tournament were awed by the spirit of the day. As Rob McClanhan remarked, “The one thing that comes to

mind regarding this event is the passion that these athletes have for their sport. There is truly nothing like it in any other venue.

There is nothing but passion and a love for their sport, and that is the beauty of it.”

with Breck hockey players, too. “I was in their locker I’m friends with most of the team on Facebook.” As for coaching, Michaels says it’s fun to work with younger athletes. What’s the thing he teaches them first? “Don’t cross the center line!” he laughs. “I made that mistake in my first year playing and scored a goal that didn’t count!”


Seize the Day:

Building a Better Schedule

by Nancy Warner, photos by Sara Rubinstein

Coordinating students, teachers and classrooms is no easy matter at Breck, and administrators work constantly to refine and improve the systems that make it possible. In Upper School, it’s a constant struggle to make room for core academics, electives, service and Chapel, and to give

every student and teacher a schedule that provides appropriate challenge and logistically works. Says Upper School Dean of Studies Kimberly Peeples, “As soon as the school year begins, we start the process of scheduling for the following year.”


In Lower School, a newly implemented six-day schedule

spreads classes out over six days rather than the traditional Monday-Friday.

In Middle School, Director Sky Fauver says the schedule is “a work in progress,” but synchronizing class periods with the Upper School’s has benefited both Middle School students seeking higher-level classes and cross-divisional faculty.

“Art and Physical Education teachers had to adjust their units,

physical spaces shared by divisions were negotiated, and

part-time faculty demonstrated great flexibility with their instructional time.” In the end, all of the hard work proved

Lower School teachers have long struggled with trying to fit

worthwhile. Classroom teachers have more time to go deeper

Preissing. “Core academics, subjects taught by specialists,

ists see students more consistently throughout the year, and

everything into the allotted time slots, explains Dean Cathy

into subjects to build a strong foundation of skills, special-

students’ days

and attention to a social/emotional curriculum are all highly valued aspects of a Breck student’s experience,” she says.

“The conundrum for the faculty came in trying to ‘do it all’

Needless to say,

are less frenetic due to fewer transitions.

well, stay true to our developmental approach and value the

this inventive

or academic year.”

approach took

Despite various attempts to tweak the existing five-day

some getting used

woes, the Mid-

to on the part of

Upper School

whole child without lengthening the school day

schedule, frustrations persisted. A task force of Lower School faculty and staff set to work on addressing those frustra-

Not immune

to scheduling

dle School and

tions with three goals in mind: to increase time for core

students, teachers

have synchro-

day, and retain the richness of a comprehensive program.

and parents.

class schedules

academics, reduce the number of transitions throughout the The result: a six-day schedule that designates each school

day as day 1, day 2, etc. through day 6, with the cycle repeating throughout the academic year.

Needless to say, this inventive approach took some getting

used to on the part of students, teachers and parents. Signs to help remember which day in the cycle it is are posted in

classrooms, common areas and outside the Lower School of-

fice, and parents and students have come up with their own

creative systems to help them navigate the six-day schedule. “Creating a new scheduling model required a great deal of

collaboration amongst the entire faculty,” explains Preissing.

nized their core for the benefit

of both students

and faculty. The two divisions share five of the seven core

class periods, allowing cross-divisional faculty members to teach in each division without compromising time in the

classroom. Additionally, this prevents faculty scheduling commitments from dictating class and student schedules.

The shared schedule also enables Middle School students

to take Upper School-level classes without disrupting their daily schedules. Currently, there are 20 seventh and eighth graders taking Upper School classes in modern language, math, and the performing arts. Middle School Director

continued on page 38



omorrow at Breck

by Jill Field, photos by Sara Rubinstein

A look at the changes to the campus over the last 55 years 1956





Imagining Our Future on the Golden Valley Campus Next year, Breck will celebrate our 125th birthday. And while we’re one of the oldest educational institutions in the Upper Midwest, we’re feeling vibrant, strong, and focused on the future.

In fact, we’ve been thinking a lot about our campus and how to make it more inspirational, more usable and more able to support our ever-growing curricular and co-curricular offerings.







As a first step,the Board of Trustees engaged Holabird &


Root, a Chicago-based architecture and design firm, to create a master site plan for Breck.

“We had never had such a comprehensive master site plan

before,” says Head of School Edward Kim. “Our campus has

grown and changed, and it serves our needs. But we knew it

could be better, and the process had to start with finding the right people to look at it as a whole.”

From the beginning, the goal has been to integrate our space with the school’s core functions and mission. Specifically, we

want to support academic programs, nurture our community 22

and embark on a period of fiscally and environmentally sustainable growth.

“There’s no question that space and architecture matter,” says

Kim. “The physical manifestation of Breck should be consonant with the academic, civic and spiritual life of the school.”

The result of the master site plan is a phased construction

and renovation project that will transform our building and grounds in ways that assure viability and sustainability for years to come.


Key Elements of the Plan The master site plan includes the following: • renovating outdated spaces, such as our 1950s science laboratories

• increasing the amount of natural light throughout the school • reorganizing spaces for each division • enhancing facilities for athletics and other co-curricular

Artist’s rendering of the additional classroom space and third floor of Phase One of the plan (1) and how the building exterior might look post construction (2).


• improving traffic flow and parking in and around the campus

Drawings: Holabird & Root and used courtesy of Holabird & Root

Among the key changes is the construction of a two

additional floors, which will provide flexibility and room for expansion without affecting Breck’s architectural footprint

or impinging on flood plains—a widespread area of concern in Golden Valley.

The 21st Century School Our ideas about school architecture continue to evolve, but there are substantial differences between 21st century facilities and those that are older. For example: has changed the way classrooms should be oriented. While the old model of a teacher standing in front of a chalkboard with students in lines of individual desks was fine in its day, it isn’t always effective anymore. Project- and research-based learning require

more flexible classroom arrangements that support collaboration. •Building design can greatly support learning. The best


educational facilities support learning by bringing the outdoors in, providing sufficient space for group learning and enabling easy and open access to technology. •

 ore sustainable architecture is more than just an M attempt to be “green.” It means more use of natural


“The physical manifestation of Breck should be consonant with the academic, civic and spiritual life of the school.”

light, energy-efficient design and cost-effective maintenance. It will also support our community’s, particularly our students’, growing concerns for increasing recycling and decreasing waste. A recent report by ISM, a consulting firm that provides a variety of services for independent schools, concluded that fluid, multifunctional teaching spaces and corridors that unite them are likely to be hallmarks of the 21st

century school. As ISM recommends, “While we don’t know what the future holds, we do know that it will not look like the past. Don’t plan or build in a way that represents a 20th century model of either building or learning. Look at renovation and new building as an opportunity to move towards a student-centered design process that will optimize mission-appropriate learning.”



Phase One

Future Phases

The first phase of construction, which could begin as soon

While immediate attention is focused on the first phase of the

as June 2012, would add 22,250 square feet of new space and an 80% increase in science learning space for the Upper and Middle Schools. Specifically, there will be:

•S  tate-of-the-art science classrooms, laboratories, prep

rooms and office space built on the new third floor above the current science facilities in Upper School

•S  everal additional general classrooms, in the space vacated by the current science facilities


•A  n enhanced Upper School Media Center and College Counseling office

•A  light-filled Upper School “Main Street” replacing the current long, dark hallway

plan, work continues on giving shape to future phases as well. Phase Two would implement changes made possible by

Phase One, including creation of an Early Education Center for preschool and kindergarten and more divisional and departmental reorganization.

Phase Three would continue the reorganization for all three divisions, expanding the use of natural light throughout

the building, adding classrooms and “greening” the school, particularly the north side of the building.

Phase Four would complete reorganization and consolidation of each division’s space and assure that our facilities support the academic, civic and spiritual life of the school.

• An expanded Lower School dining room Why start there? “The short answer is that you’ve got to start somewhere,” explains Kim. “But the truth is that our science facilities haven’t been changed since Golden Valley High

School built them in 1956. Breck has been a national leader in

science education, and our facilities simply haven’t kept pace.”

Independent Projects, which could be completed at any time that financing and interest make possible, include enhance-

ments to Cargill Theater and its lobby area, construction of a new Aquatic Center, and building new tennis courts and an outdoor fieldhouse.

Inspiration for the Breck design comes from facilities recently completed by Holabird & Root for college campus science labs (3), (7), lecture halls (4), informal space (8), hallways (6) and green roofs (9). Drawing (5) is another view of what Breck’s Upper School might look like.








So…what’s so important about hallways? One significant part of the master site plan is improvement in the light and space devoted to hallways throughout the school. Why is that such an important goal? “It may not seem obvious at first, but hallways are really important,” explains Kim. They can either support or

interfere with education. “Right now, our hallways are what I’d call transactional,” Kim says. “They’re simply a way to get from place to place. But the best school architecture is one in which those spaces are transformational. They invite conversations and informal gatherings

Part of Breck’s Overall Strategic Plan

The master site plan is one focus of Breck’s overall strategy for the near future, which also envisions continued curricular innovation, a financial aid program that meets the needs of both current and prospective families, meeting our commitment to great teaching and great teachers, and assuring the school’s ongoing financial stability. 25

Continued curricular innovation

Supporting inclusivity and diversity people with a rich variety

Meeting our commitment to great teaching

Assuring Breck’s ongoing financial stability

With signature programs

To be great, a school must

and singular successes such

draw upon the strengths of

as Minnesota’s first K-12 Mandarin Chinese program,

of life experiences in order

Breck’s faculty are one of

Of critical importance is

a P-12 service curriculum,

to prepare our students for

our strongest assets. We

strengthening the school’s

1:1 laptop program

a world in which they will

are blessed to have a school

culture of philanthropy.

beginning in fourth grade

encounter multiple points

environment in which great

The Annual Fund, for

and a nationally recognized

of view—at college, in the

teachers want to live and

example, provides signifi-

Advanced Science Research

workplace, and in their

work. To attract the next

cant support for Breck’s

Program in partnership with

communities. Financial aid

generation of great teachers,

annual operating budget.

university and corporate

has always been an impor-

we must provide competi-

Breck’s endowment (or

labs, Breck has a solid

tant tool for maintaining

tive compensation and

savings) account provides

tradition on which to build

diversity in our student

benefits, a divisional and

earnings that help ensure

the next generation of

body. Rising tuition could

departmental framework

that Breck does not have to

innovative programs.

put a Breck education out of

that empowers creativity,

rely upon tuition alone for

Examples might include

reach for a growing number

and a sustained professional

income. Says Kim, “When

advanced research

of families and threatens to

development program.

it comes to innovation, we

opportunities in more

erode the ability of some

don’t want to say, “’That’s

disciplines and multidisci-

Breck families to continue

nice, but we can’t afford it.’

plinary courses organized by

at the school.

We want to say, ‘Yes, and

topic rather than traditional

here’s how.’”

departmental structure.

among students, among teachers, between students and teachers. That’s the kind of space we’d like to have.” Furthermore hallways can send a message to visitors. When you enter our building and walk into our beautiful, light-filled Sam Salas Commons, you get a great

impression of Breck. But then you turn left and whether you’re upstairs or down, you face a long, dark hallway that looks like a dead end. For visitors, particularly prospective families, it’s a real letdown in the welcoming feel of our campus.”


Thiss ’47 and Gwendolyn

Heasley ’01 26




attended two very different campuses, but they

share a deep connection

to Breck

Tom Thiss

didn’t start writing until

he was in his 60s. He went skydiving and was inspired to

think about the entire process of letting go of stability and certainty. That led him to write the books The How-to-Be

Book and The Wizard of Is, exercises designed to help people figure out their purpose in life. (He’s currently working on a

book called Get a Real Life: Letting Go of Old Ways to Create a New Way of Being in Stressful Times.)

After a career in teaching, Thiss says writing helps him

focus his thinking. “You can read something and say, ‘I’m

going to talk about this in class,’ but to articulate it is a big step. When I write, I develop a deeper understanding.”

He’s a disciplined man who has kept a journal since 1983

and tries to write every day. “Whether I’m skiing, kayaking,

walking or whatever, I’ll see something and think, ‘I need to make a mental note of that so I can put it in my journal.’ It

works really well for a left-brain guy trying to become more right brain—which is a long, slow process.”

And though he graduated from Breck more than half a

century ago, Thiss says he’s forever grateful for the experi-

ence he had at the then-military school. “We marched into Chapel, assembled on the football field or gym,” he recalls,

“and I always felt a little odd. Most of my friends were in the public school system.”

Still, he says, he had opportunities he never could have had

at another school. “We didn’t even have a baseball team till I

was a senior,” Thiss explains. “I tried out and played without having come up through a system. I couldn’t have done that anywhere else.”

His gratitude toward Breck has led him to volunteer for both the Annual Fund and the Alumni Council, something Thiss says he’s more than happy to do. “When you get older you

realize you’ve had a good life,” he observes. “Anybody who’s had people care for him or her and enjoyed a full and rich life should want to give back. It’s altruistic but really so.” Asked for advice for a young writer, Thiss says it comes

down to this: “If you can write authentically how you sound to another person your readers will understand you. Don’t explain, illustrate. Be yourself. An author is an ‘authority,’

from the Latin word ‘to create.’ Your personal artistry and

your authenticity will create something that is one of a kind.”


Gwen Heasley’s

path to

published author was quite different from Tom’s, although

she has also been a teacher (She currently teaches composition at two community colleges in the New York City area).

After receiving her master’s degree in journalism, she went searching for a job in magazine publishing but found few

opportunities. Looking around for inspiration, Heasley found an online course called “How to Write a Book in 12 Weeks” through the Media Bistro website. She’d long harbored an

ambition to write young-adult fiction and thought she’d give it a try.

The result: her first novel, Where I Belong, and a contract to write two more.

Because it’s meant for a young-adult audience, Heasley’s book relies heavily on web-based promotion. She blogs

frequently on her own website,, and loves following the comments her readers leave.

“It’s a great mix of critique and praise,” she says of those

comments. “So many readers wrote in to say they didn’t

really like my main character at first, and I thought, ‘Well, I

think she’s a brat, too. But she’s my brat!’ It’s been a lot of fun.” The new author says she doesn’t have much of a writing routine. “I write at home, in coffee shops, on the backs of

napkins,” she laughs. “Maybe I’ll develop more discipline with age.”

Creative writing, she now realizes, was always her favorite

part of the Breck curriculum, beginning in Lower School. She credits her second-grade teacher, Lucy Heegard, with telling her she could be a writer someday, and her ninth-grade

English teacher, Frank Eustis, for providing so much quiet

and firm support. Her early experiences as a reader of Ann Martin’s Babysitters Club books while a student at Breck stuck with her as well.

And though she’s moved to New York, Breck is never far

from her life. “I’ve been to a dozen Breck weddings, baby

showers, you name it,” Heasley says. “Breck friends are just always there. They’re siblings as much as friends.”

Her advice to would-be writers? “Read a lot and pay attention to the things your readers care about. For writers of youngadult fiction, that means watching a lot of teen television

shows. Trust yourself, and don’t worry about rejection. Book publishing is like matchmaking—it only takes one!” JF



from Cambridge A Harvard Grad Reflects on Life in Afghanistan

Rob Nelson

’03 studied foreign

policy as an undergraduate at Harvard, a postgraduate at St.

Anthony’s College Oxford and a staff member at the Council

on Foreign Relations in Washington, DC, but he’s now living it every day. As a special assistant to the ambassador at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, he is traveling throughout

the country and getting a real-world lesson in development, diplomacy and security.

One of the most striking­— and most difficult — things about

Afghanistan is its geography, Rob says. “The southern portion is desert, so there are serious issues with water, land use and farming. The northern part is mountainous, which

poses challenges for military mobility and infrastructure

projects. The main cities of Kabul, Mazar-e-Sharif and Herat are doing quite well. But it will take a long time for that

level of development to spread across the entire country.”

When he’s at home in the embassy compound, Rob lives in

a small trailer that was converted from a shipping container. “I’m fortunate to have my own trailer,” he says, “and life here is comfortable enough.” The compound itself is growing

“massively,” he observes, thanks to the civilian as well as military surge.

And when he travels he has the opportunity to appreciate

both his own situation and the conditions in Afghanistan.

Says Rob, “I feel that I’m contributing to the debates within our government, and it’s very interesting to be able to see

those debates from within. And it’s remarkable to see very

clearly and poignantly the impact that the U.S. and our allies are having on the lives of the Afghan people.”

For example, he observes, “Looking at a spreadsheet of projects is one thing, but meeting girls going to college, seeing the opening of a new health clinic, watching transactions


to Kabul photo courtesy of Rob Nelson

in a marketplace: these are all things we support that really make a huge difference.”

Rob says the fundamentals he learned at Breck are never far

from his mind and he remains close to many of the people he

met here. Not surprisingly, many of them remember him, too. Upper School History instructor Tim Rosenfield says, “I am

sort of torn trying to decide what to admire first or most— his intellectual prowess or good character. His clarity of

mind was only matched by its depth; and both found ready expression in extraordinarily muscular and cogent prose.

It was a lot of fun being in his company as his inquisitiveness and good humor were contagious. He struck me as a

most purposeful individual; you knew he was going to be

involved and influential in things that mattered. But would it be pitching a perfect game or getting himself appointed to a seat on the Supreme Court of the United States?”

And Upper School English instructor Memry Roessler put it this way: “Rob is one of those visionary students who drift through your life every now and then, illuminating the

edges with his energy and intellectual curiosity. He is the

embodiment of our school’s mission statement and makes me proud to be part of his life in some small measure. At a

time when so many adults are lamenting the self-absorption and myopia of our young people, Rob demonstrates how little it takes to turn one’s gaze outward.”

So what’s next for Rob when his assignment in Kabul comes to an end? “What I think I will strive to do is have some kind

of workable balance between expeditionary work and policy work based more in the halls of Washington. I would like to pursue scholarship as well if I can. I feel very fortunate to have so many opportunities.” JF



reunion that will be held the weekend of July 29-31.

Luke Winter is living in San Francisco with his wife Hsian and their two

kids, Alex (four) and Haley (two). He

class notes reunion year



The class of 1986 will hold its 25-year

Dr. Bob Read is a semi-retired oph-

Lurcat. Keith Ylinen is the lead planner.

as the new secretary of the new sector


thalmologist spending a lot of time of senior and retired doctors of the Nova Scotica Medical Society.

would love to see anyone who lives there or who comes through on a

visit. Luke is still playing hockey and tries to get back to Minnesota once or twice each year. He’s working in

technology m&a after a stint running a food company. He would love to reconnect with old friends!

class reunion on July 30 at Café Bar

Shanda Lohse is a family medicine

physician at the Alaska Native Medical


Center in Anchorage, Alaska. She and

Bud Mixon is planning the class

child in early December 2010, a daugh-

her husband Jim welcomed their first

1992 Actress Marisa Coughlan is best known

to date for her

of 1961 50-year reunion that will be

ter named Ella.

September 23-24.


the camera, but


Brad Nemer is currently living in San

behind-the-scene skills that it’s picked

Kimberley Fiterman-Duepner is

at the collaborative internet content

held during Homecoming weekend,

Fransisco and the Director of Product

work in front of has impressed ABC enough with her up the pilot she wrote for a series called “Lost and Found.”

planning the class of 1976 35-year


the weekend of August 19-21.


gramming job at OpenFeint, a mobile

Classmates and New Yorkers Heather

company. He continues to perform the

class reunion that will be held over

1977 The professional actress, singer and writer/producer Kimberly Wilson produced an original one-woman

show called A Journey last February

in Norwalk, Connecticut. She is proud

of her career and is extra proud of the relationship that she has with Breck. Kimberly was a founding acting

Modders Topcik, Joe Beaird and Craig

Finn attended the Breck Alumni Event at the Guggenheim in March.


one-person show “Dust Storm.” Keep up with Zac on Facebook or on his

blog,, which will be celebrating its fifth anniversary at the end of March.

Classmates Andrew Baasen, Jen

Scott Pajor and Nate Schwalbach.

attended our Alumni Reception in

School Edward Kim met up with alums


founded in and committed to color-

Katie Dunn and Ben Goodwin are

blind casting.

gaming connectivity and e-commerce

While in Portland, Oregon, Head of

company member of The Mixed Blood Theater in Minneapolis, a theater

Zac Drake recently accepted a pro-

planning the 1991 20-year class

Benson, and Christopher Rooney Chicago in January.

Blake Laursen will be joining the Alumni Council in May!

1993 Heather Nesbitt

Jimmy Beltz will continue to serve as treasurer for the Alumni Council.

Oberstein, husband


Elodie welcomed

Steve and Elizabeth Magno Pangerl

ful daughter, Adeline

Louise Pangerl, born on November 3,

Brien, and daughter

Jaime and Michael Proman are

excited to welcome Kayla Nicole into

their family. Born in late March, Kayla weighed 6 lbs. 14 oz. and measured

18 V inches. Both she and mom are doing well!

their second beauti-

welcomed their second daughter, Freya

Nesbitt Oberstein,

2010. She joins big sister Julia, age two.


into the world on

January 15, 2011! She


husband Grant attended the Chicago

was 9 lbs., 12 oz. and

Theresa Cha Baugus, Whitney Sommers

“just perfect!” She looks just like her

older sister, except she’s a strawberry blonde instead of a brunette. Everyone is overjoyed and doing well.

Angus Worthing and Berit Oskey met up with Head of School Edward Kim in Washington DC. Angus is a

rheumatologist and Clinical Assistant

Professor of Medicine – Rheumatology at Georgetown University Medical Center. He lives in DC with wife

Margaret and two children. Berit is

the founder of DC-based Affinity Lab, which is a company that rents office space to small businesses. Berit got

married last fall to Joey Coleman in

Antigua. Breck alums Mariana Oskey ’95 and Kate Eales ’97 were in the wedding party.

Laura Ferrell Riedesel and her Alumni Reception in January.

and Steve Spaulding are planning the


will be held on August 20.

Gwen Heasley’s first novel, Where I


February. Gwen returned to Breck for

class of 1996 15-year reunion that

Colin Brooks attended our

Chicago Recep-

tion in January.

Colin and his wife, Minna, are the proud new parents of

daughter, Corinne. Corinne Elizabeth Brooks was born September 26, 2010

in Chicago, IL, and as you can see in the accompanying photo she believes that Mustangs are indeed the very best. Katie Pinder Van Den Bos and her

husband Dirk Van Den Bos welcomed

Belong, arrived on bookshelves in

an evening alumni reception. Those attending included: Georgie White, David White, M.E. Head Kirwan,

Chris Kirwan, Zeb Thomas, Claire Bretzke, Kate Fisher, Katherine Freund, Tom Loper, and Emily

Hawkins. Gwen also spent the day at Breck talking to students, faculty, and current parents about her experience at Breck and as a new author. She is also planning the class of 2001

ten-year reunion that will be held on

May 14 at the Golden Valley American Legion. For more about Gwen, read her profile on page 27.

their first child, Henry Pinder Van Den Bos, on January 10. He weighed 8 lbs.

14 oz. and measured 21 V in. They are currently living in San Francisco and

1994 Tony Jewett is chairing the 2011 Inlet

Lake Yachting Association’s Regatta at

the Minnetonka Yacht Club August 11-21. We are excited to announce that Matt Drawz will be joining the Alumni Council!

Eric Jones continues into his second

year as president of the Alumni Council.

everyone is doing well.

Eric Ryan was promoted to Managing Director of Media Relations at the New York Stock Exchange.


Our New York Alumni Council member Megan Bailey helped to plan a

New Yorkers Michael Burkholder and

fantastic evening at the Guggenheim.

at a reception following the Alumni

Joiner also attended. David and his

Joe Satorius joined other Breck alums

Classmates Gwen Heasley and David

Guggenheim event.

wife Amy recently moved to NY from Chicago.




M.E. Head Kirwan, current Alumni

work at Condé Nast Publications. Gray

Breck Science Research students were

role of Social Chair on the council next

recently took a position in business

break. This past summer, he interned

Council member, will be taking the year. Keep an eye out for some fun alumni events in 2011-12!

2002 The Pittsburgh Penguins recalled John Curry from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (WBS) of the American Hockey

League. He had played the past 32

three-plus seasons with WBS. Curry

owns the franchise record for career

wins (91) and single-season wins (33,

2008-09), and became the first goalie

in team history to have three straight 20-win seasons.

After spending four years in Boston

working for IDC as a research analyst, Andrew Hanson joined Champlain

Investment Partners, an investment management firm in Burlington, Vermont. In addition to learning

the new position and preparing for

works in public relations, and Andy development.

We are pleased to announce that

Katie Hektner will be joining the Alumni Council this spring!

2005 Sharde Thomas is second author on a

publication titled “Blue light inhibition of ‘Norland’ potato tuberization” by

Kathryn R. Fixen, Sharde and Cindy B.S. Tong. Sharde did this research while

2006 Katie Brattain is planning the 2006

five-year reunion that will be held on August 6.

outdoor activities in the area.

and her boyfriend Seth Maxon.

Ashley Kokal will be joining the


of the Red Lake Walleye.” You can read about it (and purchase a copy of the

DVD) at nni/index.html.

Ashley Wynne attended our event in Chicago. Ashley is the Meeting and

Events Coordinator at Family Office Exchange.


chemistry and English and plans to attend law school in the fall.

2008 Breanna Heilicher along with Sarah

Johnson, Nick Derrico and Alex Rued, had a Beijing send-off with Margaret Wong this past winter.

their support of her work.

Chicago with sister Tiffany Salone ’04

tor for the documentary film “Return

this spring with a double major in

and Breck School are acknowledged for

had enough spare time to enjoy the

Leah Lussier Sixkiller was the narra-

office. Matt will graduate from Cornell

Science Research Program. Lois Fruen

various industry certifications, he has


in U.S. Representative Erik Paulsen’s

enrolled in the Breck School Advanced

Evan Salone attended the reception in

Alumni Council this spring!

visited by Matt Weiss over winter

Laura Howard spent the

semester in

Shanghai. She reports that

when people

asked her why

she has so many

friends in China,

Marcus Hill finished his senior year on

and she told them about Breck’s

State University Mavericks in spectacu-

impressed. “Many of the people in my

Central Region championship and

no particular reason, and I am the

Springfield, Massachusetts, falling in

would study in China someday. I am

Bellarmine. Marcus had an amazing

Ms. Wong, Chinese, and Breck have

All Conference, NSIC All Tournament

At Lewis and

the basketball team of the Minnesota

Chinese program, they were all

lar fashion. His team captured the

program chose to come to China for

went on to the DII Final Four in

only one who can say I always knew I

the semifinals to eventual champion

so thankful of all of the opportunities

season. He was named NSIC First Team

given me.”

Team, Daktronics Second Team All

Central Region, Central Region All Tournament Team and NABC All-Central District Squad.

Clark, Ryan Mooney is

starring in the

spring main stage

Classmates and colleagues Gray

This past winter Giselle Ugarte


the 2011 Alumni Event at the Guggen-

Tonight” and “The Insider.”

cast of Lewis and Clark students,

MacDonald and Andy White attended heim in New York. Both Gray and Andy

started as an intern on “Entertainment

Plumfield, Iraq, which features a small many of who were just 12 or 13 years

old when the Iraq War began in March


the right place, the right people.”

the Plumfield production, researching

In March, Madison Styrbicki, who

ton, and has been enjoying an active

greater depth from which to draw.

named a NESCAC First Team All-

2003. Ryan served as dramaturg for

Ernie lives in Walla Walla, Washing-

the play’s context to offer the actors

plays hockey at Middlebury, was

A collection of the images and news

Conference Defender.

clips Mooney gathered were on

display in the Fir Acres Theatre lobby


each year, is one in which faculty and

throughout the play’s run.

In May, Katherine Paulsen will return

shown “self-giving love to Breck.”

School with her all-girls singing group

In Memoriam

Jeffrey Portu has been busy at Boston

to Breck to perform for the Upper

Head Coordinator of the Student

from Yale called New Blue.

College. He was selected to be the

Admission Program, a volunteer or-

ganization that runs the programs in

the admissions office. He also received honorable mention for the Brian D.A.

Hall Leadership Award. It goes “To the individual who, by both action and

accomplishment in co-curricular life, has created positive change within a student organization and its student

membership, as well as contributed to the overall quality of student life.”

retirement since he left the pulpit at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in 1991.

Breck’s Ernest Campbell Award, given staff vote to honor someone who has

Paul D. Curtis ’53

Former Faculty

Paul Curtis of Bovey, Minnesota

We recently heard

He was preceded in death by his

Ernie Campbell,

son Doug; daughters Debbie Curtis

he was pleased

step children, twelve grandchildren,

Breck still gives

Rolf G. Ljungkull ’48

passed after a brief illness in January.

from the Rev.

beloved wife, Kay; brother John;

who said that

Reynolds ’76 and Diane Curtis, three

to discover that

and two great grandchildren.

an award in his name. He wrote, “My six years as chaplain of Breck were

pure joy. I would put my opportunity to serve at Breck in the category of

‘holy synchronicity,’ the right time,

Breck’s Online Photo Gallery A lot goes on at Breck every day, and we try to capture as much as possible with our cameras. Visit our online Zenfolio Gallery to see what we’ve been up to so far this year. Browse, download, print, enjoy!

Rolf was known as “The World’s Finest

Mechanical Engineer.” He was preceded in death by his three brothers and is survived by two sisters, his wife

Elisabeth and many grandchildren.


Alumni make plans to cheer on the Twins A lucky 100 alumni and their guests will gather July 3 for the 1:30 p.m. game with the Milwaukee Brewers at beautiful Target Field.

Regional Gatherings The Alumni Association has recently

held events in both Chicago and New York City. Interested in helping plan

It’s the first-ever alumni Twins event, and we’re especially excited to be seated in the exclusive Budweiser Deck for good cheer and great views.

Tickets are $50, and space is limited. Information:

regional events in your area? Please

contact Alumni Relations at alumni@

Get Involved! Join an Alumni Council Committee To volunteer please contact Alumni Relations at 2011 Homecoming Weekend

2012 Distinguished Alumni

the homecoming bbq, flag football tournament, and other

nate, and choose an alum to recognize who demonstrates

Committee plans homecoming weekend events such as special events that occur over Homecoming & Reunion Weekend on September 23-24, 2011. Golden Mustangs Luncheon

The committee meets once in the spring to discuss, nomidistinguished accomplishments in career, civic and/or community leadership. 2011-12 Social

The Golden Mustangs Luncheon recognizes alums who

The Social Committee plans the majority of alumni gather-

during Homecoming at the Heritage Room at the Anderson

Hours, and the annual spring event. The committee meets

graduated 50+ years ago from Breck. The event is held

Ice Arena. In 2011, the Golden Mustangs will welcome the

Class of 1961. The committee will have one or two meetings during the summer of 2011. 2012 Athletic Hall of Fame

The Breck School Athletic Hall of Fame represents a co-

operative effort between the Alumni Association and the Athletic Department. The Athletic Hall of Fame honors

those individuals and teams who have represented Breck in

outstanding fashion. The committee meets just once during February/March.

ing, including the annual Holiday Party, quarterly Happy as needed.

Annual Fund 2011-12

The alumni portion of the annual fund generates approxi-

mately $200,000 per year. The committee assists with con-

necting with alums by calling, emailing, and meeting with prospective donors. Service

Partnering with other organizations on campus, this committee helps to provide opportunities for alums to participate in Breck sponsored service activities.

Annual Meeting Puts Alumni in the Spotlight On May 2, the Breck Alumni Associa-

•T  hanks and recognition for volun-

Joe Pohlad ’00 is a graduate of

Samuel A. Salas Commons at Breck.

In addition, the Alumni Council

joined the Twins Organization in 2008

tion hosted its annual meeting in the Highlights of the meeting included the following:

•P  resentation of the Alum of the Year Award to the team of Kelly Larson

Perry ’86 and M.E. Head Kirwan ’01 for their leadership as Alumni

Co-Chairs of the Annual Fund in 2009-10 and 2010-11

teers and committee chairs

welcomed several new members: Kirstin Erickson Wilson ’88 received

her BA from University of Wisconsin

Kim, including a sneak peek at the school’s Master Site Plan (for your look, see the article on page 20)

• Recognition of four Alumni Council members whose terms are ending:

Andrew Ronningen ’79, Tom Thiss ’47,

Nancy Johnson ’82 and past president Tracey Thayer Breazeale ’84

•A  nnouncement that Tom Thiss ’47 has been named an Emeritus member of the Council

2011 Reunions 1946: Homecoming weekend September 23-24

1961: Homecoming weekend September 23-24.

Planner: Bud Mixon ’61 1976: August 19-21

Planner: Kimberley FitermanDuepner ’76

1986: July 30

Planner: Keith Ylinen ’86

in baseball operations and currently

manages their social media efforts. Joe and his wife Sara live in Minneapolis.

– Madison, graduated from the

Ashley Kokal ’02 is a graduate of the

School, and is an anesthesiologist at

works in marketing at

and the couple has three little girls,

site started by her fiancé, Brendan

University of Minnesota’s Medical

University of San Diego and currently

Mayo. Kirstin is married to Mark, is an online shopping

Ingrid ’22, Annika ’24 and Greta.

McCarthy ‘00. Ashley and Brendan live

Blake Laursen ’92 received his BA and

•R  emarks by Head of School Edward

Stonehill College in Easton, MA. He

in Minneapolis.

MBA from the University of St.

Katie Hektner ’04 participated in Breck

President of Finance of Graymark

graduating from Washington Univer-

Blake and his wife Kelly live in Eagan

Trip to China in 2008. Following a brief

Thomas. Currently he serves as Vice

Alumni Association events soon after

Healthcare located in Golden Valley.

sity. She went on Breck’s first Alumni

and have two children.

summer at home, she returned to

Matt Drawz ’94 is a graduate of

Amherst College and the Fuqua School

of Business at Duke. He currently serves as Engagement Director at Carol

Corporation, a division of United

Health. Matt has been active with the

China and studied there for two years. Currently, Katie works for import/

exporter EV3. This past year, Katie has

participated on the Annual Fund team this year and currently serves on the social committee.

Alumni Association serving on the

Christy Piotrowski ’04 will join the

the past few years. Matt and his wife

majored in Marketing Management

have one child.

Besikof Lapidus & Company, a local CPA

Athletic Hall of Fame Committee for

alumni council in July 2011. She

Brook Skinner live in Maplewood and

as has worked for two years at Lurie firm, as a marketing coordinator.

1991: July 29-31

For more information about 2010-11

Ben Goodwin ’91

org and click on the reunions tab.

Planners: Katie Dunn ’91 and

reunions please visit breckalumni.

1996: August 20

If you are in the class of 1956, 1966,

Whitney Sommers ’96 and Steve

plan your reunion, please email

Planners: Theresa Cha Baugus ’96,

1971 or 1981 and would like to help

Spaulding ’96 or call

2001: May 14

Planner: Gwen Heasley ’01 2006: August 6

Planner: Katie Brattain ’06





Breck Winter Sports Celebrate a Winning Season Both hockey teams won two out of three State Tournament games, with the girls

team taking third place and the boys winning the consolation championship; boys swim and dive finished third at State and gymnastics finished sixth.

Alpine Ski


meet for the girls and Peter Kieel qualifying for state for the

in the state, and there were

Season highlights included Ellie Haeg winning two conference

Our girls team finished sixth


notable individual perfor-

mances at the state tourna-

Boys Basketball

ment by Libby Lee (18th

The team had a big win over conference champion St.

all-around), Niara Hill (23rd

Anthony on the way to a seventh-place finish in the Tri-

all-around) and Tori Gold-

Metro. A season highlight was Jeffry Lurie’s 1,000th point.

stein (30th all-around). < Niara Hill

Boys Hockey

The Mustangs won the consolation championship after

winning two of their three state tournament games. Junior defender Austin Rudnick was selected for the All-Tournament team.

Girls Basketball

The girls finished fifth in the Tri-Metro and had a big section win over SPA. Senior Katie Dickinson reached the 1,000 point milestone.

<< Girls Hockey

The team finished third in the state, winning two of three state tournament games. Milica McMillen and Prentice Basten were both named to the All-Tournament team.

Nordic Ski

Our team moved farther forward as a program, sending

several skiers to section competition. With a huge number

of sophomores on the team, the future looks even brighter.

Boys Swim and Dive

The Bearstangs (Blake/Breck combined team) scored a total

Featured Athlete:

Mitchell Foster ’13 In the words of assistant coach Brian Wright, Mitch Foster is “the real deal.”

State tournament high scorer for the Bearstangs

(the nickname for the Blake/Breck combined boys

swim team), Mitch won two firsts and two seconds,

including one Class A record and All American time and two All American Consideration times.

of 201 points to finish third at the state meet this year. Breck


swimmer Mitchell Foster won first place and set a new state record in the 100 backstroke and as part of the 200 medley

relay team and second place in the 200 freestyle and 200 IM events. Tom Erdmann won a first as a member of the 200 medley relay team.

VISIT THE BRECK ONLINE GYMSTORE Apparel · SPIRIT GEAR (choose “Breck Store” in the center box)

Check out our new reusable shopping totes!




recognizing members of the community who have included breck school in their wills or named the school as a beneficiary of a charitable trust. to learn more about leaving a legacy to breck, please contact barbara brown at 763-381-8208 or barbara.

Better Schedule

cont. from page 19

Sky Fauver sees this as “a wonderful example of taking

In Upper School, Peeples says her goal each year is to com-

Jonathan Curoe is a seventh grader who in the past took

time to work with students and teachers face-to-face before

different division’s schedules made it impossible for him to

are realistic and make informed choices about their class

Middle School schedule. This year he is taking Honors Algebra

dents’ social and extracurricular lives. Schedules that aren’t

mother, Susan Langlee, “There have been very few hitches

of more’ and find a way to make changes.”

­advantage of having all of our students under one roof.”

plete preliminary schedule-building by April so that she has

enriched math courses during the summer because the two

they go off for the summer. “It’s so important that students

take a higher level math class without interfering with his

schedules. Highly rigorous courses have an effect on stu-

and Trigonometry in the Upper School, and according to his

demanding enough give me a chance to say, ‘You’re capable

with this transition. It has allowed Jonathan to remain chal-

Breck’s PowerSchool application does a good job, but there

lenged in math class, and because he has a brother in the Upper School, it’s not as if he’s entering foreign territory.”

are always cases where the results aren’t perfect. “I wish I

could give every student the class schedule he or she wants

An added benefit of the Middle School adopting the Upper

with a free period at the time of day that he or she wants,

of time available for advisory meetings, tutorials, and clubs.

observes. “But there’s no magic wand.”

School schedule is that there are larger, uninterrupted periods

and I wish every teacher had his or her own room,” she

In their own words

cont. from page 40

pursued a passion for speaking other languages, reading literature and writing poetry. I vividly remember the

moment that incredible May morning that changed my life and launched my career as a biologist. I was majoring in Spanish and French at the time.

It was all about seeing this bird and realizing that an

exciting world had just been opened up and my passion from years ago had just been reignited.

So much had been missed in the grasslands of western

Kansas, the incredible birds like this Lesser Prairie Chicken,

and the multitude of plants that I just thought were weeds and grass before became the topic of my Master’s thesis.

That simple little American Redstart led me to complete a

Masters and PhD in biology and to pursue birds and other

wildlife on all continents but Antarctica. That’s waiting for retirement.

had missed. It’s widely thought that she was able to see the social structure of langurs differently, in large part because of a different gender perspective. We now know that such behavior occurs in other animals such as lions.

The Genome Project, which formally began in 1990, was

expected to take 30 years or more to complete. Thanks in large part to the novel ideas and, it must be said, ego of

Craig Venters, the project was completed in 13 years. Now on

Your parents might not be very happy with you if you

the 10th anniversary of completion of the project we are just

ecosystems, life is richer with diversity.

At the rate technology is advancing, predictions suggest that

change directions in college as much as I did, but like

beginning to understand the impact of that knowledge.

In science class I try to teach that curiosity is the root of good questions that lead to new and sometimes great discoveries. It was curiosity that produced

sequencing of an individual genome may be possible for as

ently simple bacterial cells invented the rotary engine of the

diet, smoking, and other environmental factors experienced

the knowledge that allowed scientists to know that appar-

flagellum and ATP generating turbines billions of years ago. It’s hard to imagine not being impressed by what we now know about cell structure and function.

Particularly important, I believe, are those who ask ques-

tions that challenge current thinking, that take a risk, and

that ultimately change what we teach. Let me give a couple of examples.

Dr. Lynn Margulis at the University of Chicago in the 1960s produced convincing evidence that eukaryotic cell organelles originated from symbiotic relationships between

bacteria and larger evolving cells. Her work led to impor-

tant future studies which supported many of her ideas and

­refuted other components. Her curiosity engendered curiosity in others and has changed how cells are perceived.

Dr. Sarah Hrdy discovered infanticide as a male strategy to cause females to become reproductively available in

Hanuman langurs, a phenomenon many primatologists

little as $1000 in a few years. What you learn about this field will be important to you. How we use knowledge definitely matters. These discoveries will influence your lives.

My final example deals with challenges to widely help principles of genetics. There is now convincing evidence that

by your parents, and even your grandparents, can change the way inherited genes behave in you. This means that

your lifestyle may influence your children in more ways than we imagined before.

All these ideas make me giddy! I have some more studying to do, so let me conclude with the following thought.

Who knows whether you will ­become famous or make a difference in a quiet way. Above all, be a learner. Follow your passions. Be curious. Your life will be richer and so will ours.




In Their Own Words Jacob Miller

40 Excerpted from his speech in Upper School Chapel.


f you ask your teachers what they most wish for you, the

the surface of this community there doesn’t appear to be

colleagues care about you a lot. Me too, I guess. One

sional windmill, and lots of open country. When I lived there, it

list is likely to be pretty long and thoughtful. My

theme that commonly appears on such a wish list is

that we hope to instill in our students a love of learning, a passion to know, what I prefer to call active curiosity.

I’ve written more than once about a senior applying to great

schools saying that they show a genuine passion to learn for

learning’s sake. Don’t misunderstand me, learning because it will help reach an important goal is not a bad thing. It’s just that after all these years I’ve come to the conclusion that

learning something new, or more deeply, is always fulfilling, hard work sometimes, but always worthwhile even when you don’t see how the knowledge might be useful.

I want to talk about my personal experience at the risk of

this seeming self-centered. I am the topic I know most about I suppose. My whole life I have been curious, wanting to know about nearly everything. Don’t get me wrong; I’m

not trying to brag on myself. In fact, if it came down to a

Jeopardy match, I’d choose Mr. Peterson over me any day.

But the thing is, if you keep your mind open, question and seek to know what others before you have learned, over a

few decades, what you know starts to add up. Curiosity can get you into trouble. There must be a good reason for the expression about curiosity killing the cat. I’ll leave some personal stories untold.

How we use knowledge matters on all kinds of levels,

personally and in the way it may affect others. In eighth

grade acting like a know-it-all resulted in me being called

“The Professor.” My classmates didn’t mean it as a compli-

ment and it was hurtful, although I do like the moniker now. It was my fate to grow up in a town of 250 people called

Kismet, Kansas. In case you don’t get the inside joke, Kismet means fate. This is the entire downtown. If you only look on

much of interest; lots of farm fields, pastures and the occa-

was a small town with a small school. To give you an idea, my sixth grade class increased to fifteen because of the addition of six new students that joined us from a one-room school.

It didn’t seem like much of a place to me back then. But my journeys in life have been rich because people encouraged me to be a learner. My parents, who only finished eighth grade themselves, knew learning was important. They

always supported and valued me for being a good student.

I had teachers who pushed me to work harder and to avoid

being cocky because sometimes I thought I was pretty smart. They believed in me and helped me learn about the world beyond Kismet. Perhaps the subtlety of western Kansas

contributed to my curiosity, wanting to know about nearly

everything because at the time there seemed to be so little.

When I was four, I “conducted” what may have been my first science experiment. We had a big harvester ant den in the corner of our yard, which I watched from time to time. One

day I decided to see what would happen if I drove a tricycle smack in the middle of the den. I think it was a pretty sophisticated question for my age.

I learned some important animal behavior that day. I did get ants in my pants and their bites hurt. But I learned about

defensive behavior. I figured out that if I wait until dark that the ants disappear underground and I was able to retrieve my trike. I like to think that was the day I launched my science career.

I flirted with science off and on after that, but didn’t commit to that path until I was a junior in college. In between I

continued on page 39



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Parents of Alumni: Please forward this publication. If your daughter or son no longer maintains a permanent address at your home, please notify us (763-381-8230 or of the new mailing address.



Today at Breck - Spring 2011  

The first issue of Breck's newly designed four-color magazine.

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