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Letter from the Board Chair Dear Cannon Community, The last few weeks have been both bittersweet and exciting for Cannon as we bid goodbye to Mr. Matt Gossage and welcomed our new Head of School, Mr. Christopher Jones. Matt’s accomplishments during his thirteen years at Cannon are far too many to enumerate here, but his contributions to our school’s culture and values, as well as the cultivation of its faculty and staff, have established an enduring foundation to support and sustain Cannon. I am grateful for the time we had together from the perspective of both a parent and a trustee. Our community will continue living the incredible legacy Matt Gossage leaves behind. BLAKE EVANS BOARD CHAIR

I’m delighted that you will have the opportunity to learn more about Christopher on the upcoming pages, as well as when you return to campus. I believe that Christopher’s genuine excitement for building relationships, his deep commitment to caring for children and young adults, and his sense of humor will all be welcome additions to Cannon School. He is truly a dynamic leader who values authenticity and kindness as much as growth and innovation. As we look ahead to Cannon’s 50th year, our future indeed looks bright. I am thankful that we can look back and honor our steadfast history, all the while maintaining a vision of an exciting future. Sincerely,

Blake Evans Board Chair

EDITOR Amy Reiss Associate Director of Marketing and Communications

CANNON MAGAZINE SUMMER/FALL 2019 Cannon Magazine is published semiannually by the Office of Advancement. Send address changes to

EDITORIAL STAFF Beth Levanti Director of Marketing and Communications





Celebrating the Gossage Years . . . . . . . . 4 A Q&A with Christopher Jones . . . . . . . . 8 Commencement 2019 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 News . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18 The Big Picture . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20 “Making” Learning Come to Life . . . . . 22 Shelving Tradition . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24


Making the Grade . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26 Good Sports . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28 Alumni . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32 Cougar Connect . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33 Class Notes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34

COVER: Kindergarten teacher Jeanette Milam plays a counting game with Wylie Cash ’31 and Aadhya Srinivasan ’31.


Cover photo courtesy of Lacour + Niesen. Additional photography courtesy of Emby Taylor Photography, Amy Reiss, and Tram Tran.

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Mr. Matthew E. Gossage, sixth Head of Cannon School, officially retired on June 30, 2019. He leaves a thirteenyear legacy of change and growth, marked with a steady vision for the future. We look back fondly on his tenure, reflected below.

THE EARLY DAYS! Matt Gossage in 2006, shortly after he arrived from Mary Institute and St. Louis Country Day School.

Matt quickly became a familiar face in the morning car rider line, greeting our students with a smile. Here, he offers a helping hand to Henry Lark ’21.

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Who didn’t want to take a turn and try and dunk the Head of School? Matt gamely took his place in dozens of dunk tanks throughout the years.

There has never been a more influential and inspirational leader at Cannon than Mr. Gossage. He was one of those people who genuinely took an interest in students’ lives. I would ask him for help with issues ranging from leaving home and starting anew at college to asking him to distract the juniors while we ‘borrowed’ a couch from the junior lounge. I have had a close relationship with Mr. Gossage my entire Cannon School career, and my experience would not have been as exceptional had he not been my Head of

School. The community and I will miss him dearly.

– Cole Ventura ’19

A proud day: when Matt handed his son Davis Gossage ’12 his diploma. Matt’s son Grant graduated from Cannon in 2014.

A former English teacher, Matt managed to find ways to share his love of language with students, often teaching poetry and literature classes during Winterm.

OUR FUTURE’S SO BRIGHT HE’S GOTTA WEAR SHADES! Matt is pictured here kicking off the Building Bright Futures Campaign, wearing the sunglasses our entire community received. During his time at Cannon, Matt oversaw a campus transformation that resulted in new and expanded academic, arts, athletic, and dining facilities, as well as grounds beautification projects.

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At his core, Matt is a teacher. Whether he shared a piece of literature or a personal story from his life during a community meeting, he was teaching our students. The lesson was not about grammar, an author’s use of similes and metaphors, or the origin of a word—the lesson was about how to be a good person, a

The JrK Teddy Bear Picnic is a beloved tradition at Cannon School. Each year, Matt doled out awards for each bear.

world that each of our students could be proud to become.

– Beth Lineberger, Teacher

The Lower, Middle, and Upper School each gave Matt a send-off in their own unique manner. Here, Matt poses with the walking stick the Middle School created for him in the ThinkTank. Students carved our core values into the wood.


member of our community or the

Matt joined our faculty band to sing James Taylor’s “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)” at the faculty and staff goodbye party at Cabarrus Brewing Company.

Harry Truman said that progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better. He might as well have been referring to the legacy Matt Gossage is leaving our Cannon community. At every turn, Matt’s leadership has been both thoughtful and intentional, setting the stage for timely innovation, growth, and progress. His commitment to excellence and passion

An oil portrait was revealed at the recent Cannon School 50th Anniversary Gala.

for learning has kindled a flame in all of us that will burn bright long after his departure. While he will be missed, Matt Gossage has skillfully set Cannon

School up for an exciting next chapter, one we can look forward to with enthusiasm and confidence. Thank you, Mr. Gossage.

– Joan Ankrom, parent and member of the Board of Trustees

Matt and his wife Linda looked on as their children honored their father at the Cannon School 50th Anniversary Gala.

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Christopher Jones

Mr. Christopher Jones officially began his tenure as Cannon’s seventh Head of School on July 1, 2019. A Texas native, Christopher attended the University of Chicago, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy and served with a cadre of fellow Army ROTC cadets. After graduation, Christopher began work at the JrK – 12 University of Chicago Laboratory Schools (Lab) in various technology, program, and administrative roles. Subsequently, he earned a Master of Business Administration from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business with a

Q: To give us a bit of context, could you tell us in your own words about your journey in the field of education? A: My journey, like so many, is unexpected and ongoing! While I’ve always loved school and learning, it was not my intended path. Until organic chemistry at the University of Chicago, I had thought I was going to be a doctor—I “weeded” myself out. It was not until a set of early opportunities to work with excellent mentors and educators at the Laboratory Schools (Lab) did I consider educational leadership. Lab provided a rich ground of opportunity to learn from exceptional professionals—and students— about sustaining a community of diverse and committed learners. In my years there, we created new opportunities for students with an expansion of the student body and campus footprint, maintaining our commitment to academic rigor in a diverse, primarily university community.

Q: It’s a long way from Chicago to Concord! What attracted you to Cannon School? A: I believe those of us who commit to schools and education commit our whole selves. Our students and colleagues deserve as much. For me to join a new school community after almost twenty years in Chicago, it had to be a remarkable school with a culture of excellence, and one with a clear commitment to a set of values and behaviors that align with who I am. At Cannon, we are surpassing those standards every day. This culture is exceptional.

focus in corporate strategy. In 2011, Christopher became Lab’s Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operating Officer. In 2016, he was appointed Lab’s Associate Director of Schools. Christopher and his wife, Allison, have two children, Ella and Ryan. They made the official move to North Carolina earlier this summer. Summer/Fall 2019 | CANNON | 9

Q: What impressed you most about Cannon during the search process? A: It gets back to culture. As one visits schools, or organizations in general for that matter, you know when the proverbial welcome mat has been sent to the cleaners and the long-collecting dust bunnies have been swept up the day before visitors arrive. That wasn’t the case at Cannon. The genuine, authentic interest in all of us who participated in the process—candidate included—was impressive to Allison and me. “This place is for real,” we remarked to ourselves throughout the process. In addition, that realness and genuine dedication to culture and student is creating the environment in which students and adults are thriving. “Embracing the process,” (as our Athletic Department trumpets) is happening across campus with consistent results. Acknowledging our success has also come with deep humility among the Cannon community, and particularly its leadership. To succeed Matt Gossage and his legacy is an honor and challenge we couldn’t turn away from.

Q: At Cannon, we talk a lot about the importance of our culture, and how our relational approach really helps define our community. Can you speak to the importance of a relational culture? A: Wow! Sharing my view on this with Cannon seems a bit like preaching to the choir. I have learned in my experience that the value of relationships and putting people first is prerequisite to transformation both individually and organizationally. We serve with and for one another, student, parent, trustee, staff, and teacher. This concept and practice of relationship is the cornerstone to not only achievement and overcoming adversity, but ultimately

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growth. Curating purpose happens with people. When kids know they are cared for and respected individually, they are freed to explore and fail, challenge ideas and ways of thinking, and ultimately, lead and learn.

Q: How would you describe yourself as a leader? A: In my experience, leadership is a team sport. Yes, at different moments and from different stations some are called to maximize their strengths in formal leadership roles, and yet we all have a responsibility to cultivate moments of leadership in those around us. Someone else has a better idea, a better plan, a better method. This is the manifestation of humility. Humility needs to, and I hope most of the time does, exert the most force on my leadership. A willingness to ask and wonder in service of a shared purpose are skills and behaviors I work to encourage and cultivate on teams. Importantly, and by extension, if we start from a place of purpose beyond self, our work is never done; a hunger to excel on behalf of that purpose needs to permeate our work together. A purpose that should always start and end with our kids.

Q: You have a daughter, Ella, who will be in fifth grade and a son, Ryan, who will be in second. What excites you and Allison most about being Cannon parents? A: Watching Ella and Ryan thrive in new ways—be fed in new ways and engage with new friends is what most excites us. We also expect that they will find ways to contribute and encourage those in their classrooms, on the playing fields, and in ensembles. They are fond and proud of their

experiences growing up in Chicago and around the University. But I’ll tell you, Cannon is off to a stellar start from the comparative view of a fifth grader— Ella has proclaimed her first summer read, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, is her “favorite book of all time!”

Q: What are you most looking forward to exploring in the Charlotte/Concord/Lake Norman area? A: The ice cream/frozen custard of course! The Joneses are on a summer tour, to identify the best frozen treat in the Queen City region. We could list our initial list here, however, the Advancement team tells me we have limited corporate partnerships in this area. Once we’ve completed the tour we will see if the winners would like to discuss a relationship with Cannon!

Q: Who or what inspires you? A: Excellence inspires me. Quiet confidence inspires me. My father inspires me. My mother had a permanently lifealtering accident as I began third grade and he saved my life and that of my younger sister. He always made our needs and interests his top priority. As many of us have done in

life, we idealize our parents, and I have every reason to do so. His faithful example is a driving force in my life.

Q: What motivates you each day? A: The acts of learning, leading, contributing, and welcoming motivate me constantly. I believe human beings are called, even built, to live out their given strengths everyday. Honoring that responsibility is a key motivator in my life.

Q: What is your proudest accomplishment professionally? What about personally? A: Personally, I’m honored and humbled most by my family and the blessings they bring into my life every day. It is the privilege of my life to raise precocious, independent, freethinking kids who we expect one day soon—very soon if you ask Ella—to be citizen leaders of their chosen communities. Professionally, as of today, earning the invitation to share in the leadership of Cannon School marks my greatest professional achievement. Ask me again in a few years, and let’s see how our school together will answer that question. I’m excited for the future we have to make together on behalf of our Cannon School students past, present, and future! Summer/Fall 2019 | CANNON | 11

Commencement 2019 After the last exam had been completed, the last Cougar Growl awarded, and the last Senior Night skit performed, the 106 members of the Class of 2019 strolled across the stage on Bryant Central Green to accept their diplomas and head into the next chapters of their lives.

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Commencement 2019 So, just who are these remarkable young people who make up the largest-ever graduating Cannon School class? We asked several to reflect on their time at Cannon. Here’s what they had to share. What is your favorite Cannon MEMORY? What is the ADVICE you would give other students? What is the most important LESSON you learned during your time at Cannon? How do you plan to positively IMPACT the world?

Collier Leatherman ADVICE: Enjoy the time with your friends and be grateful for this wonderful learning environment. IMPACT: I plan to spread kindness, uplift others, and serve where I can.

Mary Morrison ADVICE: I want younger students to know that Cannon is your home away from home. You might not always see it that way, but it is. Yes, you will be challenged and yes, some moments may be hard, but you will learn, you will grow, and you will become someone fit to conquer the world. Try it all, experience everything, and I promise you will be loved every step of the way.

Gabe Ortiz LESSON: Be humble. We all have been given a great opportunity to learn and perform at such a high level. Whether it’s academics or athletics, we have been blessed to attend Cannon. IMPACT: I hope that I will always be someone who people can come to and talk to about anything. I’m always willing to lend a hand to anyone who needs it.

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Mirabella Calabrase LESSON: Take ownership of your education. Nothing is going to be handed to you. You have to work for it! ADVICE: Get involved with what Cannon has to offer. There are so many various leadership roles that prepare you for college!

Trey Zamora MEMORY: The Cannon soccer semi-final playoff game against Ravenscroft my junior year. I was amazed by how many students were in the stands cheering us on. I blocked two of Ravenscroft’s shots to send us to the state finals. The fans rushed the field and carried me to our goal. It was the highlight of my soccer career and high school experience. Many great memories and lessons are made playing Cannon sports, and I will treasure those for the rest of my life.

Kristen Sharma ADVICE: Stay organized and balance your social and academics. Don’t let one take over the other! LESSON: Always have integrity with everything you do.

Abigail Hedgecock MEMORY: A few days before my senior year started, my seventh-grade advisor, Mrs. Elizabeth Northrup, sent my seventhgrade advisory an e-mail including pictures and memories from that year we were together. She also included a sweet note about how strong and amazing we are! Summer/Fall 2019 | CANNON | 15


The Class of 2019 by the numbers


CLASS OF 2019 helped build a house

Number of service hours completed during their four years of Upper School



16 received regional or national art recognition

worked a job outside of school


for Habitat for Humanity


earned their global studies certificate


Eagle Scouts




scuba divers



have sung a solo on stage (including the stage at Carnegie Hall)



had perfect attendance throughout upper school

published authors


The Class of 2019 will attend the following colleges and universities this fall. American University Anna Maria College Appalachian State University Arizona State University


Auburn University Belmont University Bowdoin College

The University of Tampa

College of Charleston

University of Delaware

Duke University

University of Miami

East Carolina University

University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Florida State University Georgia Institute of Technology Hartwick College High Point University

University of South Carolina

Middlebury College North Carolina A&T State University North Carolina State University Northeastern University Presbyterian College Queens University of Charlotte Ringling College of Art and Design Samford University


University of North Carolina School of the Arts University of Richmond

Meredith College


University of North Carolina at Greensboro University of North Carolina at Wilmington

Loyola University Chicago

know American Sign Language

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Clemson University

Liberty University

3 can speak 3 or more languages

The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina The University of Alabama

Elon University


The American University of Paris

Santa Clara University

University of Southern California University of Tennessee, Knoxville University of Wisconsin, Madison Vanderbilt University Virginia Tech Virginia Wesleyan University Wake Forest University Washington and Lee University

St. Edward’s University

Wheaton College

Texas Christian University

Wofford College

Williams College Xavier University

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CANNON THEATER FINISHES AN INCREDIBLE YEAR It was an amazing year for Cannon School theater, featuring two Cannon Theater Company productions—That’s Not How I Remember It/The Seagull and The Drowsy Chaperone, the Middle School production of Bedtime Stories, and a grade 3 – 6 production of The Little Mermaid. Griffin Jones ’20 received a Blumey Award nomination for best supporting actor, Cole Ventura ’19 was a finalist for a Best Actor nomination, and Isabella Ortiz ’19 was a finalist for a Best Actress nomination, all for their work in The Drowsy Chaperone.

CANNON SCHOOL TURNS 50! This fall, Cannon will reach an amazing milestone—we turn 50! We will have lots in store in the months ahead as we prepare to celebrate together. If you have a favorite Cannon School or Cabarrus Academy memory, we’d love if you could share it at

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The Matthew E. Gossage Endowment The Matthew E. Gossage Endowment was established in 2019 by friends and family of Mr. Gossage, Cannon’s Head of School from 2006 to 2019. This fund honors Mr. Gossage for inspiring our entire school community with his soaring vision, his relentless pursuit of progress, and his courage in leading by example. The Matthew E. Gossage Endowment will enable Cannon School to provide annually a fully-funded tuition award to students who demonstrate a passion for academic inquiry, continuous self-improvement, and servant leadership. Many thanks to those who have given to the endowment, which has raised over $531,000.

News .


was raised by a group of inspired first graders, who

Tuesday, January 29 would be special—after all, a

held an impromptu doughnut sale.)

group of eighth-grade students had spearheaded an amazing initiative, “Cougars Crush Cancer,” in

When our students took the court that night for the

honor of teachers John Riley and Kevin Fox, who

presentation, what they didn’t know was that there

were both battling the disease. After the conclusion

was more to come. Mr. Riley and Mr. Mike Hoffman,

of the girls’ varsity basketball game that night,

who have announced basketball games for almost

students presented a check to Mr. Riley and Mr.

two decades, received a truly special distinction—

Fox, as well as to the American Cancer Society, the

the court in Boswell Gym was being renamed

results of their efforts selling t-shirts, wristbands,

the Hoffman Riley Court in their honor. It was an

and raffle sales. In total, $9,250 has been raised

incredibly special evening that paid homage to

in the Cougars Crush Cancer efforts. ($900 of that

some incredibly special people!

Many thanks to the current families, grandparents, alumni, alumni parents, and friends for your generous support of the Cannon Fund!

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The Big Picture This shot of friends from the Class of ’29 reminds us to reach for the sky—but not forget to enjoy the ride.

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“Making” Learning Come to Life Inspiring a Maker Mentality in the Lower School If you had walked into one of Ms. Krista Johns’ art classes this past spring, you might have been surprised by what you saw. In one corner, Ms. Johns was showing students how to create a simple circuit with LED lights, so they could then wind the tiny glowing bulbs into their artwork. At a back corner, iPads are set up in stands with a white board and dry erase markers at the base. Younger students create drawings on the white boards, then the Osmo program on the iPad literally brings the sketches to life, so their magic wands and monsters multiply and dance across the screen. There’s also a stop motion animation studio, so students can manipulate physical objects to tell a story, use the iPad to capture one frame at a time, then move the object between frames. When the sequence is played back rapidly, it creates the illusion of movement and tells a story. The Lower School art room is just one more place acting as a makerspace, or communal area dedicated to creativity in all kinds of disciplines. This year, students JrK – grade 4 fully embraced the maker mentality, or teaching and learning that is focused on student-centered inquiry. As a result, their creativity ran rampant. “The maker movement has given our Lower School students an avenue to try things in a different way,” said Mrs. Melissa Fox, Interim Assistant Head of Lower School. “They don’t hear, ‘this is what you are building, so you build it this way and it’s done.’ They’re free to dream it and create it and make a mess and possibly fail and try again.”

Second graders creating toolboxes during a woodworking Adaptive Expertise Day.

The Osmo program allows younger students, like our Kindergarteners and first graders, to create drawings which are then animated on the iPad. 22 | CANNON | Summer/Fall 2019

Cale Connell ’27 built a 3-D race car, then created a storyline to record in the stop motion animation studio. Here, he manipulates the car a tiny bit, then takes a photo. After doing this hundreds of time, he can look back at the animated story he’s created.

Third graders were presented with the challenge of creating a new and improved mode of transportation to correlate with their social studies curriculum. The small groups worked together to invent and build their concepts, then presented to a small group of teachers and administrators, “Shark Tank” style.

“We’ve seen a lot of creativity and communication happening because the kids come up with an idea, then have to figure out how to work together to make it happen. I also think that it helps prepare them for how they will go on and interact with others in the world. ‘How do I share my ideas? How do I listen to others’ ideas? If we both bring forward good ideas, how do we make that work together?’” One can find maker activities happening in the classroom, Idea Hub, Science Lab, the art room, and on AE Days. Check out these photos and captions to learn how.

Fourth graders capped an electricity unit in which they were given a motor, switch, wires, and a battery pack. They were instructed to make something useful, and had to use all the parts listed. The results were boats, planes, cars, game spinners, automatic marker machines, and more—all which implemented a switch.

Third graders dug deep into North Carolina history this year, designing and building parade floats that represent an important aspect of the state that they had researched. A route was established so parents could watch the North Carolina state parade in its entirety! Summer/Fall 2019 | CANNON | 23

Shelving Tradition Cannon’s New Middle School Library is an Innovative Space that Fosters a Love of Learning Back in the day, the word “library” conjured images of dusty books, rows of card catalogs, and a stern librarian shushing patrons. So today, you might be surprised to step into the new Middle School library space to find a scene that looks…well, pretty much the exact opposite of that. Several students roll their chairs up to tables which can easily be reconfigured to accommodate a growing group size. Others occupy the back corner, where they arrange the swivel chairs and ottomans so they can collaborate more efficiently. A soft swish indicates one of the barn doors sliding open, revealing a small study pod perfect for the student who wants a quiet environment to work 24 | CANNON | Summer/Fall 2019

independently. The area is diverse, dynamic, and flexible— a modern library for an evolving world. The Middle School library opened last August, when the community was introduced to the new, 23,000 square-foot addition that was built as part of the $3.8 million Imagine Tomorrow Campaign. The space was designed to be innovative and conducive to all different types of learning, and features roll-up glass-windowed “garage doors,” as well as flexible furniture and study pods. When the garage doors are opened, the space is large enough to fit an entire grade—great for interdisciplinary learning. Students have

In addition to the massive library space, the new Middle School addition, which opened in August 2018, includes a World Language suite with flexible classroom space for grades 5 – 8, a common area with screen capabilities and creative seating options, science labs with exposed ceilings and roll-out cabinetry, and new seventh and eighth grade classrooms situated to foster community.

“We couldn’t be more pleased with the new building.” – Carla Moyer, Head of Middle School a vast array of engaging resources at their disposal, allowing them to explore creatively and apply their learning in innovative ways. Mrs. Megan Hartley was hired as the new Middle School Librarian, bringing with her thirteen years of experience that included a special award—her school library had been named best in the state of New Jersey two years prior. “I knew what a good library looked like, and to me, that’s a place where kids feel safe to create, collaborate, or just do work. That’s what I hoped to create, and I think we are getting there,” she said. One thing you’ll find Mrs. Hartley doing every day is working with Middle School teachers to enhance the subject matter they teach. When Mr. Paul Borowicz’s fifth-grade history students were writing letters to a legislator about a topic they felt passionate about, Mrs. Hartley created and introduced a website that included databases and sites the students could access to find accurate information. Chorus students were creating projects about composers, so Mrs. Hartley incorporated a note-taking strategy modified from Cornell University so they wouldn’t copy from their sources word for word. Mrs. Kristen Stephens’s fifth-grade math students came to the library to learn how to code, so Mrs. Hartley helped them learn the language. “I’ll teach them about the variety of sources that are available to help them. Many think it’s only Google, but there’s much more than that,” said Mrs. Hartley. “There’s also so much information out there, they can get frustrated. So it’s also teaching them perseverance, being persistent, and not getting frustrated, in order to find what they need.” “They also need to know how to take notes correctly, give credit to their work, and know copyright guidelines. All this makes them responsible users of information.” Of course, there’s more to the library than just research and note-taking—there are the books! “Our students really have a love of reading for pleasure, and they haven’t lost that in Middle School,” said Mrs. Hartley. Through book talks and book “tastings,” (where Mrs. Hartley sets up dozens of books for students to browse, read flaps, and jot down titles that interest them), a love of reading is encouraged. A recent March Madness-style book battle resulted in the Harry Potter series being named the favorite. There are also book clubs and interest groups. “Books aren’t going anywhere,” said Mrs. Hartley—but she is adding to our e-book and audio book collections for those who are interested in those routes. During the school year, the library opens each morning at 7:30 a.m. and is quickly filled with Middle Schoolers wandering in to ask for advice on books to read, do work, or gather with friends. In the afternoon, the library stays open until 3:45 p.m. Mrs. Hartley believes that the coming year will see even more students using the library space in new and creative ways—promising it will be “one for the books!” Summer/Fall 2019 | CANNON | 25

Making the Grade How Signature Learning Experiences Are Shaping Upper School Academics When you look back at your days in high school, what were the moments in your education that were transformative and had a lasting impact? Chances are, you probably wouldn’t mention that time you took the big physics final exam. Instead, you might remember the hours spent researching whether or not there should be time limits on welfare benefits—and then presented that information to your class. Or when you created a project that illustrated how aerodynamics affected the flight of a hockey puck. Oftentimes, students most valuable learning occurs when they are asked to think deeply and apply that learning in a creative manner. It was this thought process that helped guide the Upper School academic team to the decision to shift some course assessments away from traditional exams and instead have students create their own signature learning experiences. Student-driven choice and inquiry define Cannon’s signature learning experiences. Students collaborate with one another and their teachers to define a research topic or problem or project. While signature learning experiences unfold differently depending on the course, they all culminate with students publicly demonstrating their competency in their respective field. These final presentations often involve Cannon community members, including cross-divisional teachers and administrators, as well as parents, alumni, and Board of Trustee members.

These experiences have become an element of several classes, including: Advanced Topics: US History. Students present a symposium that demonstrates their mastery of a selfselected topic in United States History. Using both primary and secondary sources, students trace the evolution of their topic over time, highlighting both the continuity and change that happens over the course of American history. A successful Symposium experience includes a public oral presentation, demonstration of creativity, and accurate and complete historical content. Advanced Topics: American Language and Literature. Students present a web-based portfolio that demonstrates their competency as writers, speakers, and thinkers. Each portfolio includes at least three academic writing projects assigned and written that year in English class, at least two writing pieces “beyond the classroom” which may include anything students have written outside of English class, things that inspire our students’ writing lives, and some basic personal information. Junior-level biology classes. Students present their BIOREX (Biological Research Experience) projects, which they research, design, plan, execute, and analyze on their own. Some of this year’s BIOREX entries included

Renée LeClair ’20 and Megan McKinsey ’20 present their BIOREX project on the effects of carbon dioxide on pH and dissolved oxygen in an aquatic system.

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Lydia Pinto ’19 holds a parent coffee with parents of children with learning differences as part of her Senior Capstone.

comparing VOC removal of variegated and non-variegated snake plants, the effect of exercise on short-term memory, and bioplastic as an alternative to regular plastic bags. Professional scientists from all over the state served as judges for the presentations. Advanced Topics: World History II: Students complete a PPP: Project/Paper/Presentation in which they each choose a different global “hot spot”/topic (e.g. Brexit, Venezuela, the South China Seas dispute, Rohingya refugees) and follow it throughout the course of the year. They research and write essays and longer papers about contextualization, causation, and comparison in which they compare and contrast their topic to one from earlier in world history. Next, they write a policy brief in which they propose a solution to their topic based on their research, then write a continuity and change over time paper based on the theoretical implementation of their solution. Finally, they make a presentation in which they present the results of their research, summarize each of their papers, and defend their policy brief.

Dr. Graham feels that the choice and autonomy component of the signature learning experiences is key, as well as the presentation aspect. When he and colleagues recently visited college campuses to find out how to best prepare our students for college academia, this was a point they heard often—that being able to present to others was essential. Their cohorts on these college campuses also recognized that the signature learning experiences we are creating are an excellent differentiator for our students. “Transcripts are becoming increasingly more difficult (for colleges) to read, so having these artifacts we can share becomes even more important,” said Dr. Graham. “As these experiences have unfolded, it’s felt really mission appropriate,” continued Dr. Graham. “They feel like celebrations of learning, and it feels like the students are more engaged. And it’s hard to get that with a standardized test.”

Senior Capstones are also considered a signature learning experience. These service project presentations are the result of students’ deep dives into a philanthropic cause of their choice. They use their personal experiences from time spent volunteering to create presentations that reflect their personal growth. “These experiences call upon the skills and habits of mind that we know kids will need for success in college and beyond,” said Dr. Kellen Graham, Upper School Academic Dean. “There’s an element of self-discovery and growth, and students being able to articulate to a broader audience really brings together academic life, Student Life, and College Counseling.”

Mitch Jeter ’20, Declan Hurley ’20, and George Laidig ’20 present their History Symposium, entitled Why Did Fiscal and Social Conservatism, Which Appear to be Contradictory, Fuse in the Modern Era? Summer/Fall 2019 | CANNON | 27

Good Sports These Varsity Teams (And Our Fans!) Exemplify Cannon Athletics Back in the fall of 2017, a small group of then-senior athletes—Drew Balsbough, Claire Christman, James Gosling, Elizabeth Hurley, and Chris Nelson—gathered together to talk about what they had learned along the way in their athletic journeys. They discussed wins, losses, and lessons learned regarding who they were as athletes, team members—and people. Their time together resulted in the creation of six athletic pillars, which support our culture statement of “a relentless commitment to the process.” This year, we witnessed teams who exemplified each of these six pillars— taking care of each other, intentional preparation, physical/mental toughness, competitive excellence, sportsmanship/respect, and positive attitude and effort. Read on to learn how these teams took these pillars to heart.

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Taking Care of Each Other – Cross Country When the gun sounded at the varsity cross country state finals in Hendersonville last October, it was difficult to even see the athletes through the pounding sheets of rain. Runners wound through rivers of mud while fighting 42-degree temps. At the finish line, though, the miserable conditions were quickly forgotten as teammates embraced each other and tears flowed. It was the last time the nine seniors would race with the team—and emotions were running high, as this had been a group that truly took care of each other, every (often exhausted) step of the way. “This sport is both physically and mentally challenging, and without a great team bond, it would be impossible to succeed,” said Victoria Schneider ’20. “We all really challenged each other, and (speaking for the girls on the team), we really created a sisterhood that was held together by love and support and a desire to help each other improve and get faster every day. Practice was the highlight of my day, because I knew that when I stepped on to the course, I was surrounded by girls who had nothing but love and support to offer me, and that made each day brighter.”

Physical and Mental Toughness – Wrestling

Intentional Preparation – Swimming It’s a frigid December morning and the sun is just peeking above the horizon. While many Cannon students are rolling over in their beds to grab a few more winks, our varsity swim team is not only awake—they’re at practice in the pool at the West Cabarrus YMCA, putting in lap after lap in preparation for an upcoming meet. Our swimmers are a rare team—since we do not have a pool on campus, they practice in the wee hours at the Y. This discipline led to great finishes at the NCISAA state championships this year—and the future looks bright. “Our swimmers are the definition of intentional preparation,” said Head Coach Mr. Leigh Northrup. “They truly think deeply about who they want to be as athletes and take the time to prepare to be that person—both physically and mentally. They put in the time in the weight room and the pool and work tirelessly to reach their goals.”

In many ways, it’s hard to believe that a team that is only four years old has already produced one All-American, four state champions, and twenty-five state placers. It was only back in 2016 that Cannon created a wrestling team…and that team spent each practice in a trailer. Imagine a scrappy group of young men trying to improve in cramped quarters, and it should come as no surprise that this is a team noted for their physical and mental toughness. “These guys leave practice every day soaked in sweat, because wrestling is really physically hard,” said Head Coach Mr. Michael Helfant. “It’s also mentally tough, especially because it’s one-on-one. There’s no one to bail them out.” Expectations are also very high, and Coach Helfant says that has helped create disciplined athletes. “We don’t waver on what we ask them to do, and that creates guys who are just as mentally tough as they are physically,” he said. This year, the wrestling teams will no longer have to practice in a trailer. Both Middle and Upper School teams will practice in the newly constructed Hill Grimmett Multipurpose Athletic Center. But don’t expect them to get soft! This group has a bright future.

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Competitive Excellence – Boys’ and Girls’ Golf Over the years, Cannon School’s boys’ and girls’ golf programs have become synonymous with excellence—the boys have claimed the state title four of the last five years; girls have won it seven of the last eight. “These teams have established themselves as the premier program in the state. They want to compete, and they don’t back away from putting in the work, year-round, to make that happen,” said Director of Athletics Pat Moyer. Cannon has produced fifteen collegiate-level golfers over 30 | CANNON | Summer/Fall 2019

the years, with good reason—the teams, both coached by Mr. Pat Whisenant, are dedicated to competitive excellence. “When you walk into Boswell Gym and see all the golf state championship banners hanging on the wall, it makes you determined to win more,” said Ben Diskin ’19, who will golf at Virginia Wesleyan University this fall. “No matter the situation, we all like to compete and push each other to be the best. When you combine past championships and a relentless group, you wind up with a team that is well-equipped for future success,” Ben said.

Sportsmanship/Respect – Our Fans, the Cannon Crazies Take a look into Boswell Gym on any given home basketball game night, and you’ll see that “The Den” is rocking. There are cheers, shouts, and a general electric energy as our student fans, the “Cannon Crazies,” support the varsity basketball team that has taken the court. What are the Crazies not doing? Jeering the refs and berating the other team’s players. Over the years, our fans (both students and parents) have modeled high-road behavior that exemplifies respect and positive support for our players without the need to negatively attack or boo other teams or officials. It’s become so obvious to all in attendance that last year, the coach of an opposing team even approached Dr. Moyer to not only pay our fans a compliment regarding their conduct—but to tell him he wished his own team’s fans would act the same. In addition, the Crazies have fun. Whether it’s donning head-to-toe neon at a football game or showing up en masse to support the girls’ softball team on their road to the state championship, our fans truly embrace what it means to show school spirit. We are proud to call them Cougars!

Positive Attitude and Effort – Softball It’s the NCISAA varsity softball championship game, and our girls are looking beat. It’s a Saturday, and they’ve already played a game in the blazing heat that morning, as well as two the day before. The score isn’t in their favor either— it’s the fourth inning and they’re down 5-0 to Metrolina Christian. But after a quick pep talk from Coach Pat Moyer, the girls knock in a couple of runs to bring the score to 5-2. The Cougars load the bases in the bottom of the sixth, and then Katie Grissom ’20 steps to the plate—and knocks a grand slam over the left field fence. A great catch by Lauren Skolaris ’21 in the bottom of the seventh guarantees Cannon the win—and the state championship title! The girls didn’t get to this point by accident. By keeping a positive attitude and putting forward constant effort, this group was able to achieve the ultimate final result. “We made it a goal in the beginning of the season to have everyone feel like a valued member of the team, and I believe that each of us translated that goal into giving our best for one another,” said Gabby Holloway ’20. “We brought our best to everything we did, whether it was during a lift, practice, or game, throughout the whole season.” Summer/Fall 2019 | CANNON | 31

Alumni Notes Hello Alumni and Alumni Parents! I am honored to have been given the opportunity to become part of the Cannon community with the Alumni Relations Office at Cannon School. These past six months have been a headfirst dive into the work, and I have quickly felt the energy of this amazing group of people—faculty, staff, students, parents, and of course, our alumni. In speaking with each group of individuals, it is clear that relationships are of the utmost importance. Individually and unprompted, each person I have spoken with has focused on the unique connections made between faculty and students. This extends beyond the classroom, in the form of mentors, confidants, cheerleaders, and friends. Sydney Ross

As the Manager of Alumni and Alumni Parent Relations, I want to build upon the relationships I’ve mentioned, help strengthen them, and continue to help build more. Our alumni network is a powerful tool that continues to grow. Make sure to check out our new alumni website, Cougar Connect, via You can connect with other alumni, register for events, post jobs and find jobs to apply for, and more. I hope to meet you at an upcoming event, schedule a lunch, or talk over the phone. You all have a common thread that ties you together, one that is truly special and unique to Cannon. Sincerely, Sydney Ross Manager of Alumni and Alumni Parent Relations

Alumni Events Upcoming Events: Co-Ed Alumni Soccer Game August 10

The Annual Alumni Lacrosse Game was held in May with thirteen alumni from the Classes of 2013 - 2018 competing against our varsity team. The alumni beat out the varsity team with a score of 12-8.

Homecoming Weekend

October 4-5

Class Reunion for the Class of 2004, 2009, and 2014

December 20

Look for more information to come about the Alumni Jazz Jam, Cougar Holiday Party, and Alumni Night at the varsity basketball game! 32 | CANNON | Summer/Fall 2019

Thanks to the alumni who came out to our annual Flashback events held in Raleigh, Charlotte, and Washington, DC! Pictured left to right at the DC event are: Sydney Ross, Manager of Alumni and Alumni Parent Relations, Nickkole Daniels ’10, Dallas Disbro ’08, Alex Segura, Associate Director of College Counseling, Shelby Dyl ’11, Hunter Horton ’10, and Virginia Goode ’08

Cougar Connect What is Cougar Connect?

The Cannon School Alumni Association is proud to share your new online networking portal and one-stop shop for everything alumni-related. The goal of Cougar Connect is to help alumni reengage with former classmates and friends and bridge all class years and alumni together through:


You can connect with alumni and friends through an interactive Directory Map or through the Directory Search. Search for alumni by name, class year, occupational field, and more. If there’s someone you want to reach out to, you can message directly through the portal.


The new job and internship boards are a great way to advertise directly to Cannon alumni so you can feel confident in the talent you are hiring to grow your business. For our alumni, it’s perfect to find jobs with Cannon supporters who understand your educational background and values.


Check out all our upcoming alumni and Cannon community events and register to attend. You can also invite friends to join you and receive reminder e-mails as the event draws near.


Through the portal, you can become a mentor or find a mentor with our new Alumni Mentoring Program. This is a self-matching and self-guided program to help with networking, career guidance, life skills, and more!

Find these features and more at Summer/Fall 2019 | CANNON | 33

Class Notes 2004

Diane Paulsen Gerbereux with husband, Scott, and daughter, Caroline

2010 Diane Paulsen Gerbereux and her husband, Scott, welcomed their daughter, Caroline Megan, on February 9, 2019. They recently moved to Charlotte from Pinehurst, NC for Scott’s new job and to be by Diane’s family. Katie Wells and her wife, Katy Field, are expecting fraternal twin boys this summer.


Will Sherrill

Will Sherrill returned from a monthlong general surgery residency program in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, during his fourth year of his surgery residency. He has just been matched with a fellowship at Washington University in St. Louis for Minimally Invasive and Robotics Surgery.


William Nelson and fiancée, Meono

2008 Kelvin Drakeford and his wife, Leia Drakeford, of Concord, NC, announced the birth of Liam Gianna Drakeford born on March 15, 2019, at Charlotte Medical Center. The infant weighed 8 pounds, 0.5 ounces, and measured 20 inches. The Drakeford family also recently celebrated the Kindergarten graduation of Kelvin “KJ” Drakeford who attends Cannon School.

Virginia Goode Ourisman

Melissa Marcantonio attended Appalachian State University for her bachelor’s degree in exercise science and graduated in 2014. She went back to school in January 2016 at Wingate University and graduated in December 2018 with a Doctor of Melissa Physical Therapy degree. Melissa is now Marcantonio working in an outpatient/postoperative setting at Greg Ott Center for Physical Therapy and Sports Performance in both the Charlotte and Mint Hill offices while also working part time as a physical therapist with Atrium Health in Albemarle, NC, in the acute care setting.

Virginia Goode Ourisman married Robert Ourisman Jr. on May 11, 2019 at her family’s home on Lake Norman. Virginia and Robert met while attending Rollins College and now live in Washington, DC. Virginia works in real estate renovating historic homes, and Robert is a fourthgeneration car dealer.

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William Nelson is currently finishing up his MBA degree at a Japanese university located in Kyoto City, Japan. He will be graduating in September 2019 and plans to work in Japan after completing his program. He is currently researching the growth and progression of the eSports market in Japan and its new professional gaming pro license system. William is also recently engaged to his fiancée, Meono.

2012 Timothy Gruber is currently living in Tenom, Sabah, Malaysia working as an English Teaching Assistant on a Fulbright grant for the year.

Caroline Johnson

Caroline Johnson recently completed her first full marathon in San Diego! In addition, Caroline was promoted to an Account Executive for Lenovo to cover new customers in New York City and will be moving this summer.

Class Notes 2013 While a high schooler at Cannon, Tory Foster did paintings for churches and nonprofits throughout the US. Now after graduating with a degree in business and nonprofit management, Tory has started her own art business with a nonprofit flare. Her company, The Art Co., was launched in June 2019 and donates 25% of all profits. The company also gives away 25% of all products to those who otherwise can’t afford the art. The company does POP portraits, murals, live paintings, classes, and more. The company will also add on more artists in the coming months. Learn more at

Augusta National Golf Club, making history, along with seventy-two other women. After successfully making the cut after the two rounds at Champions Hole 1 Tee Shot at Retreat to play the final round Augusta National at Augusta National, she was the very first competitive tee shot for women at Augusta National. Anna graduated from the University of Virginia this spring and plans to pursue a career in professional golf.

John Langford graduated from George Washington University in 2018.

Dante Lowe-Rogers received the award for the highest GPA on the Shaw University football team for the second time in his four years of playing. This is an amazing achievement showing his hard work in the classroom while also performing on the field.



Jessica Abel

Jessica Abel graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill this May and is now the Marketing and Communications Coordinator for Carolina Performing Arts. She’s thrilled to be working in the performing arts field, and is even more excited to call Chapel Hill “home” for a little while longer.

Sydney Frankenburg received a Knight-Hennessy Fellowship at Stanford University. She will be pursuing a master’s degree in international policy at Stanford School of Humanities and Sciences. She graduated from the United States Naval Academy this spring with a bachelor’s degree in cyber operations.

Tyler Haritan

Tyler Haritan graduated from North Carolina State University this spring and will be moving to California in the fall to earn a master’s degree in undersea warfare from the Naval Postgraduate School before heading down to Florida for Naval Flight School.

In April, Anna Redding had the honor of competing in the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur at

Izzy Sofio just returned from a semester abroad in Australia through the School of International Training. She and her group of twenty-one Americans traveled throughout New South Wales and Tasmania focusing on sustainability and environmental action. Izzy will begin her senior year this fall at the University of Colorado at Boulder with a major in environmental sciences and English.

Brooke Wurzburger

Brooke Wurzburger spent the spring semester abroad in Helsinki, Finland studying at the top-rated supply chain program in Europe. She is triple majoring in international business, supply chain, and Spanish at the University of South Carolina.

2017 & 2018

Michael Baker ’17 (left) and Michael Childress ’18 (right)

Michael Baker received the award for highest GPA for sophomore male student athletes at the University of Richmond, for the second year. In addition, Michael Childress received the same award for the University of Richmond freshman class. Both golf for the Spiders. Summer/Fall 2019 | CANNON | 35

Brainy Yaks Middle School Robotics Team

Receive International Recognition This year marked the first time in Cannon School history that our Middle School robotics team, the Brainy Yaks, qualified to compete at the international level—and they certainly made an impressive showing! The group of sixth through eighth graders spent close to a year researching how to prevent circadian rhythm disruptions in astronauts on the International Space Station. The work they presented at regional and state competitions, as well as points earned for building and executing a robot run, earned them a spot on the international stage. The Yaks competed against teams from all over North and South America and were even asked to present a rap and dance they choreographed at the tournament’s closing ceremonies. In the end, the Yaks won the first-place award for teamwork—an exceptional honor for a truly exceptional group!

Profile for Cannon School

Cannon Magazine Summer/Fall 2019  

Cannon Magazine Summer/Fall 2019