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Groton School Quarterly
Groton School uarterly Spring 2012 | Vol. LXXIV, No. 2
Dillwyn Parrish Starr, Form of 1904, killed in action during WWI
Glimpses of War
Spring 2012 • Vol. LXXIV, No. 2
Self-portrait by Ashlin Dolan ’12, created in her Portfolio Preparation art class, taught by Beth Van Gelder
Letters, diaries, and other reflections of Grotonians who have taken cui servire onto the battlefield—from WWI through today
Tanzanian Students at Groton
Inspired by a Life-Changing Opportunity
Spring 2012 | Vol. LXXIV, No. 2
Glimpses of War Letters, diaries, and other reflections of Grotonians who have taken cui servire onto the battlefield.
Total Immersion A village in Tanzania has welcomed Groton students each summer. Now it’s our turn.
Departments Circiter | Featured on Campus 3
From the search for a new headmaster to an alumnus who made the Chinese New Year special, news from the Circle.
Personae | People of Note
The Wordsmith Behind Bloomberg: Graham J.Buck ’95 by Corey Binns ’95
Wheels in Motion: Albert L. “Bert” Hall, faculty
When the Office Is a (Real) Zoo: PK Robbins ’82 by Richard P. Bradley ’82 Photos top and right by Madeleine Cohen ‘13 Cover photo from The War Story of Dillwyn Parrish Starr
Charles Erhart ’44, P’72, ’81 (second from right), at his daughter Toria’s wedding in 1979, displaying the sartorial panache for which he was famous in his family; Charlie was a Groton trustee from 1979 to 1984.
or Charles Erhart ’44, P’72, ’81, Groton School came along at the right moment. Known as Chuck to his family and Charlie to his Groton formmates, this gifted student had a somewhat challenging childhood. As his son David ’72 explains, “His parents’ marriage did not last, and I think Groton provided his life with important elements of stability and structure. He thrived academically and developed many close friendships with his peers.” In the summer of 1943, before his Sixth Form year, Charlie Erhart left Groton to enlist in the military, as did many of his formmates. His half-brother, Charlie Chapin, who is a decade younger, notes, “I suspect leaving Groton so young to go to war contributed tremendously to Chuck’s love and loyalty to Groton. In the face of a world at war, it became a strong beacon of life as it should be.” Perhaps that is why Charlie Erhart included in his will a bequest to Groton School. “My dad,” said David, “wanted to leave money behind for scholarship aid. He really believed in a country where people advanced through hard work.” Groton School could not agree more. Charlie Erhart’s fund and others like it allow the Admission Office to compose a student body with diverse and complementary strengths. Groton provides financial aid to 37 percent of its students, awarding $4.4 million in total financial aid each year. The generosity of people like Charlie make that possible. For more information on giving to financial aid and/or naming Groton School in your will, please contact Elizabeth (Betsy) Ginsberg, Director of Major Gifts, at 978-448-7584 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Groton School Quarterly Per Circulum Locuti Sunt | Voices on the Circle 42
Finding the Hero Within A Chapel Talk by Olivia W. Trase ’12
Fighting the World of Warcraft A Chapel Talk By George M. Prugh ’12
Letter to My Younger Self A Chapel Talk by R. Roland Reynolds ’89, Trustee
De Libris | About Books 54
Book Review: Coup d’État 10 by John Benjamin Coes ’85 Reviewed by Ann Bakewell Woodward ’86, Trustee
Grotoniana | All Things Groton 58 59 64 68
Alumni News Winter Sports Arts Gallery News
In Memoriam | As We Remember 70 72 75
Francis H. Cabot ’43, P’68, former trustee Charles W. Sheerin, Jr. ’44, former faculty William C. Hrasky, former faculty
Notabilia | New & Noteworthy 77 104
Form Notes Marriages, New Arrivals, Deaths
message from the Headmaster
s most of you know by now, I announced in early April that the 2012‑13 school year will be my last at Groton. I will become president of the Harvard-Westlake School in Los Angeles, a move that provides both professional challenge and the opportunity to live near Lindsay’s family. My years leading Groton have been—and continue to be—a profound honor. But summer of 2013 is a long way off, and I will have much news to share between now and then. I look forward to using this new headmaster’s column in the Quarterly to tell you about experiences that I’ve found particularly meaningful. One of the most powerful experiences during all my years at Groton happened over spring break, during a visit to Groton families in Korea and China. The trip was a welcome opportunity to meet with international families who are a world away, but still closely connected to our Circle. Many moments during the trip were eye-opening, but one day in particular stood out. To say the least, it was not a typical day of sightseeing. I joined several students and their parents on a trip to the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea. The DMZ is a thin strip of land on both sides of the border between the two Koreas, about 40 miles north of Seoul. President Obama visited there recently, then returned to Seoul and warned North Korea to halt its nuclear program, stop its belligerent provocations of the South, and care for its starving people. The name “demilitarized zone” is misleading. I have never been to war, but to me, this seemed to be a war zone. There is little to see other than guns and tanks and military personnel on both sides looking very serious, even angry. I can testify to the facial expressions on both sides because at a small section called the Joint Security Area we were brought close enough to the North Korean soldiers to see the scowls on their faces, as well as the guns in their hands. We were told not to make any sudden moves or cross in front of the South Korean soldiers, who, our guide explained, wore sunglasses so as not to make eye contact that would provoke the North Korean soldiers. While we were at the DMZ, a South Korean soldier approached me, quickly, and I confess that my heart beat somewhat faster. “Hello, Mr. Commons,” he said. “Welcome to Korea.” Under his helmet I recognized Jay Cho ’08, who is in his second year of national service, which is required of all Korean men. Now he is stationed at the DMZ; next year he will return to Northwestern University to finish his college degree. He described his life at the DMZ, gave me a souvenir armband, and asked me to bring a Joint Security Administration sweatshirt and a special hello to his advisor, Spanish teacher Cathy Folts. When it came time for goodbyes, I wished him good luck and he wished me safe travels. Then he added something I won’t forget: “Cui servire est regnare,” he said. It didn’t seem out of place, but I heard the Latin words somewhat differently there at the DMZ. Sometimes a translation has more to do with context, I suppose, than with language. As our bus pulled away, I thought about how far our School’s motto had reached, how many borders it has crossed, and how far it might still have to go. This issue of the Groton School Quarterly lets you enter the lives of alumni, like Jay, who have served their countries, who have taken cui servire to heart and to work, well beyond the Circle. Enjoy their inspiring stories.
2 | Quarterly Spring 2012
Groton School Quarterly Spring 2012 | Vol. LXXIV, No. 2
Editor Gail Friedman Design Jeanne Abboud Contributing Editors Julia B. Alling Elizabeth Z. Ginsberg P’16 Elizabeth Wray Lawrence ’82 John D. MacEachern P’10, ’14 Andrew M. Millikin Melissa J. Ribaudo Amy Sim Photography/Editorial Assistant Christopher Temerson Editorial Offices The Schoolhouse Groton School Groton, MA 01450 978-448-7506 email@example.com
Other School Offices Alumni Office 978-448-7520 Admission Office 978-448-7510 Groton School publishes the Groton School Quarterly three times a year, in late summer, winter, and spring, and the Annual Report once a year, in the fall.
Circiter | Featured on Campus A Loving
Farewell to Junie
ongtime teacher, coach, mentor, and friend Frank “Junie” O’Brien died February 2, 2012, at age 92. In mid-February, more than 450 members of the extended Groton family gathered in St. John’s Chapel to remember him, celebrate his life, and offer support to his wife, Muffin, and his extended family. Please look for a full tribute to Junie in the Fall 2012 Quarterly. If you would like to submit anecdotes or thoughts about Junie for the Fall issue, send them to firstname.lastname@example.org or to Groton School Quarterly, Communications Department, Groton School, P.O. Box 991, Groton, MA 01450.
Update: Leadership Succession
he Board of Trustees has appointed a Leadership Succession Committee to manage the search for a successor to Headmaster Rick Commons. The committee members bring a wealth of knowledge about education and about Groton School, as well as numerous years of experience leading the School as members of the board. “Managing succession is the most serious responsibility of the board, other than determining long-term directional strategic plans,” says Jamie Higgins P’02, ’06, board president and member of the Leadership Succession Committee. The committee welcomes input from faculty, staff, alumni, parents, and others who are invested in Groton’s future. Chairing the committee is James Bundy ’77, P’09, ’12. In addition to James and Jamie, members include Gussie Johns Bannard P’01, ’03; Lori Hill ’88; Jonathan Klein P’08, ’11; and Ann Bakewell Woodward ’86. James Bundy is dean and artistic director of the Yale School of Drama and Yale Repertory Theatre; he joined the Board of Trustees in 2003 and chairs its Education and Residential Life Committee. He also serves on the Personnel, Admission and Financial Aid, and New Facilities committees. Gussie Johns Bannard retired as head of school at St. Catherine’s School in Richmond, Virginia; she was on Groton’s faculty from 1977 to 1989. Gussie joined Groton’s board in 2003 and serves on the Personnel, Admission and Financial Aid, Education and Residential Life, and STEM committees, as well as the Committee on Trustees. Jamie Higgins retired from J.P. Morgan, where he was managing director. He headed Groton’s Parents Fund for several years prior to joining the board in 2003, and has served as board president since 2006. Jamie also is a member of the board’s Committee on Trustees and its Personnel, Benefits, and New Facilities committees. He co-chaired the Advisory
Interviewing Committee that brought Rick Commons to Groton School. Lori Hill is a sociologist and professor at the University of Michigan School of Education; she joined the board in 2003 and is its secretary. She also serves on the Audit, Admission and Financial Aid, and Education and Residential Life committees. Jonathan Klein is co-founder, CEO, and director of Getty Images; he joined the board in 2006 and chairs the Personnel Committee and the Benefits Committee. He also serves on the Development, Admission and Financial Aid, and STEM committees. Ann Bakewell Woodward is the former dean of admission and financial aid at Greenwich Academy in Greenwich, Connecticut, and currently works as an educational consultant; she joined the board in 2010 and is president of Groton’s Alumni Association. Ann serves on the board’s Development, Admission and Financial Aid, Education and Residential Life, and New Facilities committees, as well as the Committee on Trustees. Jamie explains that, because of the Groton School’s strength and the numerous accomplishments during Headmaster Rick Commons’ tenure, the School will seek a leader who can continue its forward momentum. “When you think about the greatest gift a leader can give, it’s that you don’t have to fear his departure,” Jamie says. “It’s sad, it’s bittersweet. But you realize that Rick has prepared the institution incredibly well to deal with change and to take advantage of the opportunity that change can represent.” Echoing Groton’s founder, the Reverend Endicott Peabody, he adds, “Life is nothing but change; the active work of life is how you deal with it successfully.” If you would like to share any ideas with the Leadership Succession Committee, please free to contact James Bundy at email@example.com.
Quarterly Spring 2012
Circiter | Featured on Campus
Mueenuddin ’81 Visits Groton
aniyal Mueenuddin ’81, author of the acclaimed In Other Rooms, Other Wonders, stepped back onto the Circle in February and transfixed students, faculty, and friends with his brilliant storytelling. In addition to reading selections from his works, Daniyal visited numerous classes and gave an inspiring Chapel Talk on Friday morning that encouraged students to be themselves, pursue their dreams, and step outside of their comfort zones. While visiting one of the Reverend Beth Humphrey’s Sacred Studies classes, Daniyal informed students about the role and nature of Islam in Pakistan; in Nancy Hughes’ and John Capen’s English classes, he regaled students with exciting and amusing anecdotes about becoming a writer. Brian O’Neill ’12, a student in Groton’s Modern India course, described Daniyal’s visit to Daniyal Mueenuddin ’81, visiting a class (at left, Lena Horvath ’12) that class as perhaps the “most intense 45 minutes of class” he had experienced while at Groton School. Daniyal’s stories have appeared in The New Yorker, Granta, Zoetrope, The Best American Short Stories 2008 (selected by Salman Rushdie), and the PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories 2010. He is the 2010 winner of the Story Prize, an annual book award for short story collections, and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, and the LA Times Book Prize. For a number of years, Daniyal practiced law in New York. He and his wife, Cecilia, now live on a farm in Pakistan’s southern Punjab. Daniyal’s formmate Brian Rogers ’81 generously organized a dinner in honor of Daniyal that was attended by several dozen alumni, who then came to Daniyal’s evening talk in the Schoolhouse. —Tom Lamont, history teacher
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volume ratios in cells. The early part of the term therefore contained more collaborative projects and exercises, whereas we spent more time in traditional classroom configurations later in the winter. —Dave Prockop P’15, STEM/science teacher DavID ProcKoP
TEM Foundations 1 covered a lot of ground this winter, building tools and introducing material to set the stage for the analysis of ever-more complex systems. We began in December by writing elementary computer programs and using them to model arrangements of polygons. We then returned from vacation in January to use high-resolution images and a topographic map to measure ice lost from a Himalayan glacier, an exercise that involved elements of trigonometry. Over the remaining weeks of the term, we picked up threads of chemistry from the fall in order to study the structure and function of DNA, then expanded upon that to consider important aspects of the structure and function of cells. This progression through scientific topics ran in parallel with further work on geometric principles such as similarity, congruence, and two-column proof. Our mathematical and scientific paths began to overlap again as we neared the end of the term and considered the importance of surface area to
Marie Wesson ’15, STEM teacher Jonathan Choate ’60, and Noah Altshuler ’15
Circiter | Featured on Campus
Film & Frank Discussion Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
Son Photo S By chrIS toPhe r teMer
his year’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebration included the works and words of several filmmakers— Tony Ducret ’96, André Lee, and Naomi Wright ’13— who tackled topics of race, socioeconomic status, and other societal differences. Tony kicked off Martin Luther King, Jr. Day with a Sunday night lecture on black filmmaking, introducing Groton to the concept of “race films,” produced for blacks with black actors. Few archives remain from the genre, but it continues to influence entertainment today. Tony has worked on numerous film and television projects, including his short film Jackpot, which won “bests” at the Urban Mediamakers, the Mid-Atlantic Black, and the Terror film festivals. On Monday morning, director and producer André Lee screened The Prep School Negro, which follows Lee’s own path from a Philadelphia ghetto to Germantown Friends School (GFS) and beyond, capturing the conflict and difficult social terrain at GFS as well as the opportunities the independent school provided. Each day, Lee explains, he traveled from inner-city Philadelphia to GFS, a short bus ride but a world away. “Though my tuition was covered, it was still at great cost,” he says in the film, which sheds light on the inner conflict that arose as his interests and experiences moved in different directions from those of his family. The public school his sister attended, for example, had a 40 percent dropout rate. “What do we gain from going inside the ivory tower,” the film asks, “and what do we sacrifice?”
Tony Ducret ’96 and Nya Holder ’12
After the film, students broke into small workshops for a variety of exercises designed to spark thought and discussion. In one, students and faculty moved to “agree” or “disagree” sections of the classroom in response to statements that were read aloud—for example, “The purpose of an education is to get a good job,” “I think Groton is a diverse school,” and “People are judgmental.” In another exercise, students wrote stereotypes under words such as “legacy,” “recruit,” and “prep school minority,” then had in-depth discussions about their choices. Filmmaker Lee met with one of the workshop groups, where he reflected further on his own experience at Germantown Friends. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day concluded with a screening of the documentary Compassion, by Fifth Former Naomi Wright. Funded through Groton School’s Eleanor C. and George H.P. Dwight ’45 Internship Fund, Naomi’s project took viewers inside the lives of New York City youth, many of whom have been arrested or incarcerated.
Corrections The Christopher Carey Brodigan Gallery is open every weekday. The Winter Quarterly reported in error that it is closed on Wednesdays. Michael Doherty ’12 and Devan Malhotra ’13 in a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day workshop
In the Winter Quarterly’s Table of Contents, Dr. Paul Russell’s year of graduation was incorrect. He is a member of the Form of 1943, not 1944.
Quarterly Spring 2012
vIcKy Zhang ’13
Circiter | Featured on Campus
Not cowardly: Adam Cheung ’02 presented a traditional Lion Dance to help Groton celebrate the Chinese New Year. The School’s Chinese New Year celebration also included Chinese decorations, dumpling-making, a special karaoke event, and a trip to Chinatown in Boston.
A Groton Family’s Tragedy Prompts Cui Servire
n late January, the family of Ysis Tarter ’11 lost all their belongings in an electrical fire at their home. A heartbroken but determined Groton community quickly took action. Math teacher Cathy Lincoln, an emergency medical technician for the Town of Groton, announced the tragedy at a faculty meeting and posted the news to internal conferences. She asked for help, in any form. The response was immediate: faculty, staff, and students—whether they knew Ysis or not— donated furniture, clothing, housewares, and cash, enough to help the Tarters get back on their feet. “Exactly one week after the fire, their apartment was fully furnished,” says Cathy. Students held fundraisers and about a dozen volunteered to move furniture. The load was substantial: the School provided a dining room table and chairs, while individuals handed over bunk beds, a bureau, a couch and chair, lamps, rugs, a microwave, pots and pans, dishes, and a plentiful supply of clothing for Sonya and Jerome Tarter, as well as their 12-yearold daughter and 7-year-old son (Ysis was safe at Stanford).
Nya Holder ’12, Nala Bodden ’15, Sarah Brooks ’12, Sarah Long ’12, Lydia Schulz ’12, Chris MacDonald ’12, Peter Laboy ’12, Kayode Dansalami ’12, Tim Morrill ’12, Winston Shi ’12, and Tyler Phelan ’12 helped the Tarters.
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The Tarters wrote this letter in response:
n Sunday, January 22, 2012, our family was stopped on the way home from church by a police officer; he informed us that our house was on fire. You can imagine the shock as we walked toward what was our home to see black smoke and broken windows. We thought about our memories, our loss, and the plan God had in store for us. As we stood outside, we saw a familiar face. Mr. Cheeks is not only a faculty member at the Groton School, our eldest daughter’s alma mater, but also a volunteer firefighter for the town. He provided comfort and even helped us to retrieve some of our belongings from the home. Nevertheless, we faced a great loss and could not recover many of the items that had made our house a home for the last few years. While we stayed at the hotel for three days, we prayed and tried not to worry. What mattered most was that our family was safe. We believe God was at work in the hearts of our family, the Groton School. Still, we never could have anticipated the great blessing we received from the Groton School. We were unaware that Mr. Cheeks had informed Cathy Lincoln. Also a volunteer firefighter, she understood the devastation a fire can bring and spearheaded the efforts of the Groton community to help us in our time of great need. She contacted family, students, and staff; within a few days Groton had blessed us with furniture, clothes, gift cards, cash assistance, and even toys for the kids in our new home. We were overwhelmed by the love, support, and commitment the Groton community has shown us during our time of crisis. We will always be grateful for your service and we can’t thank you enough for everything you have done. You will always be in our thoughts and prayers. Thank you. The Tarter Family
Personae | People of Note The
Behind Bloomberg Graham J. Buck ’95 by Corey Binns ’95
Speechwriting can’t be too dense or subtle, or else the audience will miss the message.
hen Denzel Washington appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman in February, Letterman quizzed his guest about giving a college commencement speech. “I would never do this, there’s no way to succeed in doing this,” Letterman said. “Why do you do them?” “Because I’m stupid, Dave.” The audience roared. Washington explained that he worked for hours, struggling to write a commencement speech on his own, until his agent recommended hiring a speechwriter. “So I got the guy who writes speeches for Mayor Bloomberg.” That guy was Graham Buck ’95. During the past eight years, Graham has crafted the words of the New York City mayor through two re-election campaigns, the 2004 Republican National Convention, an Olympic bid, and a ticker tape parade celebrating the Giants’ Super Bowl win. One day on the job, he’ll write about the groundbreaking of a new school, another day he’ll cover a green initiative, and the next day he’ll focus on a press conference about a gun bust. Graham admires the mayor for trying to tackle tough issues, including the school system, poverty, and gun control, in innovative ways while avoiding the politics that have bogged down a lot of government, especially in Washington. “I would have worked for the mayor of New York regardless of who he was,” says Graham. “But I’ve been lucky because I really believe the man has approached his job better than anyone else who has ever been mayor of New York.” After researching the topic of a speech and discussing pertinent issues with the mayor’s policy team and deputy mayors, Graham sits down to write. “It doesn’t matter whether you’re at a press conference or a toast, you’re going up there and you want your audience to leave with a message,” he says. Unlike those who focus only on the written—not the spoken—word, Graham contends with our brains’ poor ability to retain much of the information that we hear. Speechwriting can’t be too dense or subtle, or else the audience will miss the message. Each morning, Graham hands over the day’s speeches to the mayor for final review. Often, Bloomberg asks Graham to add more jokes. “This is by far the hardest part of my job, because I’m not Jerry Seinfeld,” laughs Graham. Humor is one way that the mayor connects with his audience. Graham enjoys writing commencement speeches for just this reason. As part of his research, he’ll talk with students to get the latest news and gossip on campus. “Students really appreciate hearing these inside jokes that suddenly the mayor of New York is talking about,” he says. Similarly, Graham works tirelessly on eulogies, a heart-wrenching process of interviewing the person’s family, learning about the deceased, and weaving those details into the mayor’s more difficult speeches. Sadly, Graham has written a lot of eulogies over the years. Whenever someone in the city dies in the line of duty, the mayor speaks at his or Quarterly Spring 2012
nyc Mayor’S oFFIce
Graham Buck ’95 with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg
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her funeral. “The mayor doesn’t want to go up and talk in vague terms about heroism—he wants to know this guy, he wants to tell the world who this man was,” says Graham. “He owes it to the city, to the family, and to the person who gave his life.” Soon after graduating from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, Graham’s first speechwriting job was at the Fire Department of New York, penning eulogies of firefighters lost on 9/11. At his office at FDNY headquarters, some desks sat empty, waiting for fire chiefs who never returned. Other members of the FDNY came to work with renewed purpose, and Graham felt privileged to work beside people who had survived the tragedy. “I was blown away by their strength and resilience and ability to keep doing their jobs,” he says. But penning Denzel’s commencement address to students at the University of Pennsylvania last spring remains a career highlight for Graham. During one of his hourlong phone conversations with the actor, Graham gave a suggestion on how to deliver a certain line from the speech. He had to stop himself in disbelief, thinking, “You’re giving acting advice to an Oscar winner?!” Working with Denzel opened Graham’s eyes to the fact that a lot of entertainers could use his services. Because as talented as they may be, writing a speech can be daunting if you don’t do it regularly. Most people don’t realize that there are people like Graham to help. “I would love to write for more actors in Hollywood,” he says. “It’s exciting when you can write for someone and they elevate your material or take it in unexpected directions.” Graham credits his development as a writer and a thinker to his time at Groton. He came to the Circle from England, where his family had moved when he was six. There, he attended a traditional, all-boys English school focused on drilling Latin conjugations, historical dates, and vocabulary lists. It wasn’t until he met Mrs. Maureen Beck (and her strict policy on timeliness) that he was given a creative writing assignment. While Mrs. Beck taught Graham discipline, Mr. Minifie gave him a love for literature, and Mr. Smith helped spark his creative side. At Groton, Graham found there were no stupid questions in the classroom, and students were encouraged to contribute. “I think that fueled my passion for life and learning,” he says. His talent for composing engrossing public speeches first appeared during his Groton Chapel Talk, when he stood at the pulpit as a Sixth Former in front of an unusually packed house of fellow students and faculty, as well as prospective students and their parents. Graham blended fiction with fact, drawing on his experiences in London. He told the story of an American who dominated British boys in their own pastime of conkers, a traditional playground game of hurling chestnuts at one another. The audience sat captive, laughing throughout Graham’s fantasy tale. People cheered and applauded after the American hero defeated the British. “I left the Chapel on top of the world,” Graham says. On the job today, Graham’s writing can be heard by hundreds of thousands of people. The night of Hurricane Irene, millions tuned in to watch Mayor Bloomberg’s national television address. Despite these giant audiences, his rousing Chapel Talk remains the only time he’s stepped up to the podium in front of a large group himself. When Graham faces a challenging speech, he still draws inspiration from that moment in the Chapel. “If I did it once,” he hints, “I can do it again.”
M n i s l o e t e
Albert L. “Bert” Hall, faculty
“The design process taught in engineering class is the same process you’d follow to write a term paper or to solve a problem in the dorm.”
ert Hall was a structural engineer helping design bridges, buildings, and cell phone towers when he decided he wanted to teach. It wasn’t that he didn’t like his engineering job. He just liked his volunteer work at a local New Hampshire high school better. He worked about two months a year with the students, assisting an architectural design class and coaching a team for an engineering competition. But he kept in touch with his students long after they graduated. “It’s a different interaction,” he says. “Obviously in engineering you’re interacting with people and contributing, but I got more out of the interaction with students.” So when Bert headed to graduate school to study structural engineering at the University of Wisconsin, a teaching career lurked in the back of his mind. At grad school, he met his wife, Marci, and was inspired by her passion for cycling; Bert eventually competed at an elite level both for the university and for a number of other cycling teams. He had played hockey in undergraduate school and missed the surge of adrenaline that serious competition provides. When he climbed on his bike, he was back in action. Bert and Marci raced all over the country, from Washington state to Georgia. Bert completed in match sprints on the velodrome, loved the high action of the short contests on city streets known as criterium races, and bounced around courses on mountain bikes. Today, Marci, a pro mountain biker and coach, is planning to return to racing, which she put on hold after having their first child. Bert cycles recreationally, but finds little time for serious cycling, with physics and related electives to teach, soccer and hockey to coach, a dorm to supervise (he and Marci have been dorm parents since day one), and with daughter Isabelle under two. As if his plate weren’t full enough, Bert also is the school scheduler. After Bert completed his master’s, he applied for engineering and teaching jobs, and received offers in both fields. “I knew I wanted to give teaching a try,” he says. That was 10 years ago. He settled into Groton’s community and has been here ever since. Bert still uses his engineering skills—and not only when presenting sophisticated problems in the classroom. “The design process taught in engineering class is the same process you’d follow to write a term paper or to solve a problem in the dorm,” he says. “We use different sets of tools and skills, but we are always problem-solving.” Bert prefers the all-encompassing boarding school world to his life as an engineer. “It’s a lifestyle. It’s different than going in and getting your work done and going home,” he says. “There is no going home here. I’m always at home.” Quarterly Spring 2012
Personae | People of Note
Ken Bohn/San DIego Zoo
When the Office Is a ^ Zoo
PK Robbins ’82 by Richard P. Bradley ’82
K Robbins ’82 went to Yale, then chose a somewhat atypical career: veterinary medicine. Thirty years after leaving Groton, she talked with formmate Richard Bradley ’82 about her path to becoming a vet and her current position at the Zoological Society of San Diego. Learn about the San Diego Zoo at www.sandiegozooglobal.org.
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RICHARD: What exactly does the job of senior veterinarian at the San Diego Zoo entail? PK: Five clinical vets work at the zoo, and everyone does a little bit of everything: neonatology, gerontology, anesthesiology, radiology, ultrasonography, dermatology, ophthalmology, dentistry, oncology, nutrition. If you’re lucky, you’re involved in projects that address conservation and/or species survival.
Are you the head vet? Certainly not. I’m at the bottom of the food chain.
Is there a typical day? There isn’t, which is part of the appeal. It also means that you can never plan to have dinner with someone, because you don’t know if you’re going to get off at 5 or be there overnight.
Why veterinary rather than human medicine? An abiding love and respect for animals. I can’t remember ever wanting to do anything else.
Did you have pets as a kid? A gerbil, a hamster, a dog—nothing out of the ordinary.
What kind of dog? A mutt from the Animal Rescue Fund—just as it should be.
Did Groton play any part in your career choice? No, though Mr. Polk was very supportive. He loaned me his car so I could volunteer at a local veterinary practice.
How did you become a vet, then? Work! For me, 25 years of nights, weekends, and holidays. Plus, perseverance, conviction, and just enough hard-headedness.
And presumably studying science? I was a biology major at Yale. I remember a woman in the career counseling office there helping with my veterinary application—she was very patient with me. “We don’t really do very many of these …”
You went abroad to study veterinary medicine. At Cambridge. The program is five years; it’s divided into preclinical and clinical. The real stuff comes when you’re doing exams on animals and surgeries and putting it all together.
What would you say to an aspiring vet? Volunteer at a local practice; see if you really like it, because there’s a lot of stuff that isn’t that appealing. If you’re convinced, put your nose to the grindstone, investigate schools, get ready for a big fat student loan, and good luck to you.
What’s distinctive about the San Diego Zoo? Its diversity of species is hard to match. And the research and collaboration add another dimension to the zoo’s work.
Do you have a favorite animal? No. An animal could come into the hospital, and whether it’s a frog or a lion, I’d love it with equal passion.
Have you ever been attacked, bitten, or poisoned? I don’t think I’ve ever been poisoned. I’ve been bitten too many times to count—not always on purpose. Attacked? Only with bars between me and the animal. There’s a lion here that just detests me. We have to tranquilize her for exams, and I always dart her. So every time I walk by, she leaps full-voice at the bars. Have you ever heard a lion in full voice?
Not really. It makes an impression.
You must have seen some unusual cases. Recently we had an Asian elephant die from a perforation by a small palm frond—somehow its barbs punctured her esophagus and caused an abscess, and there was absolutely nothing we could do. It was frustrating and heartbreaking. The death of an elephant is a terrible loss. At the other end of the spectrum, we admitted a turtle to the hospital with no detectable heartbeat or respiration. Long story short, after much medical care, she laid 11 eggs this week. Animals never cease to amaze me.
How have zoos changed since you’ve been a vet? Many have realized the importance of environment for the wellbeing of their creatures. This has shifted zoos away from jewelcase exhibits, where visitors could see a wide array of species in small, barren enclosures. Instead, many zoos are now opting for more extensive, naturalistic exhibits which allow animals more opportunity to express a wider range of “natural” behaviors.
What do you say to charges that zoos subordinate animals to the entertainment of humans? I used to think of zoos as safe deposit boxes for genetic material, but I now realize it is unlikely that much of our captive DNA will repopulate the wild. So now zoos are more about education—trying to make people aware of the plight of the planet.
Are you optimistic about the future of endangered species? We should celebrate every triumph that we have, but a lot of damage has been done, and there’s not much sign that it’s stopping. You can’t really support life without the environment that it’s supposed to live in.
How is working with animals different from working with people? Animals tend to be more transparent in their agendas and politics. Also, most of my patients are asleep when I’m working on them, so we have less opportunity for conversation.
In the long run, which do you prefer? Depends on the person or the animal, obviously.
Quarterly Spring 2012
GLIMPSES OF WAR
erhaps the Chapel walls best tell the story: since World War I, numerous Groton graduates have served their countries, many of them fighting–and some of them dying–in wars. On the following pages, you’ll find wartime reflections of a few of those Grotonians; they speak for themselves but represent all who have taken cui servire onto the battlefield.
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A f g h a ni s ta n
The WAr sTorY of DILLWYn PArrIsh sTArr 1904
I oPPoSIte: cInDy BeaMS
n 1917, Louis Starr published a poignant memoir about his son, Dillwyn Parrish Starr, a graduate of Groton’s Form of 1904. A football star at both Groton and Harvard, Dillwyn enlisted in Great Britain to join the Allied forces in 1914. He fought in World War I’s ill-fated Gallipoli campaign and, in 1916, died while leading his platoon in battle against German forces in France. The memoir, The War Story of Dillwyn Parrish Starr, combines a father’s proud recollections with diary entries and letters from the front. The book remains in Harvard’s library, but is now in the open domain, available through Google Docs. Following is a glimpse of WWI, through excerpts of the correspondence of Dillwyn Parrish Starr.
allipoli, uly 21, 1915 I arrived at the Peninsula on Sunday and came from Mudros on a torpedo boat, which was very swell indeed. This is the most wonderful looking place I ever saw; the whole ground is covered with dug-outs, and even the mules have their little shelters. The hill, Achi Baba, Quarterly Spring 2012
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The Turks shell the Peninsula very often, but don’t do an awful lot of damage. The shells are not so large as those in France, though there are some that come across from Asia that are bigger.
is only about three miles away, so you can imagine how far we have advanced. On the first day of the landing we were further advanced than we are now; the troops, you see, had no food, water, etc., so they had to fall back after the first rush. The Turks shell the Peninsula very often, but don’t do an awful lot of damage. The shells are not so large as those in France, though there are some that come across from Asia that are bigger. They are called “Creeping Carolines,” and there is one gun called “Asiatic Susie.” Nearly every day a certain number of casualties are recorded, but surprisingly few if you consider that they can shell the whole place. On Monday I went to the trenches and saw our guns and the men. That is the part of this business that is bad. It is frightfully hot and the smell from the unburied bodies of British and Turks is dreadful. Added to all this there are millions of flies, and I saw men sleeping with the flies literally crawling in their mouths. I go to the trenches tomorrow for three days and expect everything will be OK. My fellow officers here are very nice. I hope we take the blooming hill before long, but personally think it will be some time . . .
August 3, 1915 . . . The first three days I was up at the front I had one gun position about five yards in front of our first line of trenches, and it was very exciting. We could only put the gun up at night, and as we were expecting a Turkish attack we were kept on the jump. Nothing unusual happened, however, except a shell which struck about five feet from us and knocked the parapet in. No one was hurt. There are a lot of dead Turks and Tommies, still unburied, some only a few feet beyond the parapet. They are all left where they fall in an attack, it being impossible to bring them in on account of snipers. . . . Will you send me out some food by Parcel Post? Canned peas, Chow-Chow, chocolate, anything; the stuff here is awful.
August 5, 1915 . . . Every day we get shells down on us, as there is no place that is not under fire. But they do surprisingly little harm. Two of my pals that I made on the trip out have gone under, but none of my men, and but three wounded of the RNAS [Royal Naval Air Service] since I have been here. A man went mad on the beach today and began shooting about, and they had to kill him. It’s a cheerful life, isn’t it? But you really take all as a matter of course, and I am quite happy, but would like some American friends here. The flies in this place are fierce. The evening and early mornings are wonderful. I sleep out under a tree every night, while the rest are in stuffy dug-outs. Go up tomorrow for the big attack that is supposed to knock the Turks sideways. They say here that it will all be over in three weeks after this. The bombardment is to last three days.
August 7, 1915 After [a] quiet night, start bombarding at 8:10 a.m. and continue until 10:40. I fire No. 4 gun. In face of heavy fire our men go out in single file this time. Many fell at one spot near our parapet; some reached the Turkish trench and bending over seemed to go in headfirst; a few took cover behind trees. Saw one of them leave shelter, and help a wounded pal in. Could plainly see Turks—big strong-looking men—working and walking in their reserve trenches, and trained my guns on them at thousand yards range. Soon they advanced in mass formation to counterattack, and I put two guns on them and fired a thousand rounds into their ranks. Still they came on and drove our too few men out of the trench they had taken. Then their advance stopped. In afternoon I sniped them as they repaired the parapet of their recaptured trench. All day could hear sound of guns from Suvla.
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The Form of 1904 dedicated this bench to the memory of their formmate, Dillwyn Parrish Starr; it is outside the entrance to the Schoolhouse near the headmaster’s office.
August 1, 1915 Well, the attack has been made and was a complete failure here. Almost 4,000 men went out and few came back. Some monitors and ships bombarded Achi Baba for two hours. The Turks during this moved down into a gully and came back after it to their second line and massed four deep to meet our men. I was on higher ground with four guns and could clearly see our charges of the afternoon of the 6th and the morning of the 7th. The men went out in a hail of bullets and it was a wonderful sight to see them. Many of them fell close to our parapets, though a good number reached the Turkish trenches, there to be killed. On the morning of the 7th the Turks made a counterattack and drove our men out of the lightly held trenches they had taken. Our guns, fortunately, took a lot of them; my two guns fired a thousand rounds into their closely formed mass. Three hundred of our men were lost in a trench that they had advanced into, and I saw three wounded men behind a tree in front of the enemy’s line who could not be brought in, and many dead lying on the ground between the lines. Matters went as badly as possible at the new landing at Suvla. Losses at the landing itself were almost nothing. The troops easily could have gone directly across the Peninsula and cut off Achi Baba. But after going in five miles without opposition they got thirsty and couldn’t get water, so retired. They hold a strip of the coast about a mile deep. Lost thousands of men in securing it, and now the Turks are busy digging themselves in, and again it will be trench warfare. This means that all is up. Two generals have been sent back to England on account of the fiasco. From this description you can gather what I think of this campaign. There are a great many more Turks here than the English think . . .
Will you send me out some food by Parcel Post? Canned peas, Chow-Chow, chocolate, anything; the stuff here is awful.
September 9, 1915 I arrived at Suvla Bay, the new landing, on a trawler yesterday after stopping at Gaba Tepe and seeing the Australians, who are a splendid lot of fighting men. We landed at 6 p.m. and went into camp a short distance up from the beach. All is a hopeless muddle here and things have been wretchedly managed. Our troops … are now farther back than they were the first day of the landing owing to their not having artillery support, ammunition, reserves, or even proper maps of the ground they were expected to occupy, to say nothing Quarterly Spring 2012
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of food and drinking water. Some very stupid things were done, such as moving troops in marching formation for two miles over open ground in the daytime. Of course they were cut to pieces, the casualties amounting to two-thirds of their number . . .
An awfully nice artillery officer about 18 years old told me at mess that he was going out in the night in command of a wiring party and said he didn’t expect to come back. Sure enough, he was shot in the back and killed.
October 26, 1915 We are told now that we are to be disbanded in two weeks. The men to be sent to Embros and the officers to have their choice of staying here with the Army or going back to England. In the meantime, we are consolidated into one squadron of 93 men and eight officers. It is realized that we cannot be reinforced from the army and we have no reserves to draw on. Most of our men are ill and all are discouraged by the vacillating policy regarding us. Especially with the statement that has come to us that we “are gradually to die a natural death!” I think I’ll choose France . . . Something pathetic happened last night. An awfully nice artillery officer about 18 years old told me at mess that he was going out in the night in command of a wiring party and said he didn’t expect to come back. Sure enough, he was shot in the back and killed. I wonder if he knew!
ovember 12, 1915
“This window is dedicated to the Groton boys who gave their lives for their country in the World War.” —inscription under Chapel window
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Turks began fire at 10 o’clock; kept it up for an hour, throwing over 60 shells. A part of the first parapet was knocked in; one man was blown to pieces and three others wounded, and I helped with them. Later in day word came that I had been ordered by the Admiralty to return to London and report.
Dillwyn spent several months in London and Scotland, but by summer was fighting in France.
August 9, 1916 This afternoon I am playing football against the Grenadier Guards. We are playing socker [sic] and I don’t know the first thing about it. … I can’t tell you any news as the War Office has forbidden officers to write home anything, even to their own families. I believe one man has been court-martialed for doing it.
August 17, 1916
No news is good news, and you will find out from the War Office immediately anything happens to me, which I don’t anticipate.
Am in the trenches with No. 12 Platoon, the rest of my company being in the support, and there is no very great activity. I find my platoon an excellent one and every man works well . . . Can you send some cigarettes for the men? Woodbine or Goldflake are the best. The soldiers get paid very seldom and can’t buy them. I have 50 men. Don’t worry about me. At least I hope you will not because I shall be all right.
September 12, 1916 Dearest Family, We are going up in the line tomorrow or next day, so if you don’t hear from me for a few days, don’t worry. No news is good news, and you will find out from the War Office immediately if anything happens to me, which I don’t anticipate. They hope here that we shall break through the German lines, but I have my doubts. There is a chance, however, and if we do, it will make all the difference in the world. Your pictures are great and I am glad you sent them to me. Am going for a ride this afternoon and a swim. I send lots of love to you both and will write again, soon, if possible. Lovingly, Dill The above was Dillwyn’s final letter. He died in battle on September 15, 1916. The latter part of the book is filled with comrades’ remembrances and dignitaries’ tributes. Among the correspondence is a letter from Groton’s founder, the Reverend Endicott Peabody: I have thought often of you and Mrs. Starr since the sad news of Dill’s death came to us. We had prayers for you in the Schoolroom in which Dill sat as a boy, on the evening that his death was reported, and the boys were touched by the thought that they were praying for the parents of one of their own number (for we count the graduates always a part of us) who had laid down his life in a great cause … I remember Dill with much affection during his Groton days. He was “all boy” then. Simple and straightforward and afraid of nothing. I fancy he kept these boyish qualities to the end … The book also includes letters from William Amory Gardner and from the Reverend Sherrard Billings, who noted, “. . . And on Sunday in my sermon in the Chapel I spoke to the boys of the Groton man who had just died. Dill will always be remembered here. It will be a satisfaction to see his name cut into the stone of the Chapel wall.”
Quarterly Spring 2012
A f g h a ni s ta n
John hoWarD SanDen
Three WArs AnD A ProUD mILITArY cAreer
Major General Arthur Jacques Poillon ’43, Trustee 1991-95 August 27, 1925December 2, 2011 by David E. Howe ’43, P’75, ’80, GP ’14, Trustee 1972-96
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ixty-nine years ago, our 1943 yearbook was dedicated to all those “Grotonians who have sacrificed their lives in this War for their country; Who are daily battling the enemy on every continent and ocean; In this Country who are training or being trained to fight for Victory; Groton graduates in the Armed Services of the United States.”
“Jake” Poillon, who died on December 2, 2011, was one of those Grotonians, as was his brother, 1st Lt. Curtis Poillon ’41, who was killed in action on Luzon on May 7, 1945. Their father, Arthur, was a colonel in the U.S. Army. Jake enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve in February 1943, was assigned to the V-12 Naval College Training Program at Princeton, commissioned a second lieutenant on August 29, 1945, and went on very active duty in China. He then rejoined the 5th Marine Division in Korea as company commander and regimental staff officer. Following service in Hawaii, Quantico, Camp Pendleton, Quonset Point, and Fort Leavenworth, and after graduating from the Army Command and General Staff College, he was retained as an instructor on the college staff.
Chapel Talk Title
Groton hockey: Jake Poillon is in the center of the top row.
A Chapel Talk by Name Date
During the Vietnam War, he was a heroic leader of Task Force X-Ray in the recapture of the city of Hue, for which he was awarded the Legion of Merit with Combat V for his service in Vietnam and promoted to colonel in July 1968. A city of 140,000, Hue had been under siege, and saw 80 percent of its buildings damaged or destroyed. The prolonged battle left 116,000 people homeless and 5,800 killed or missing. Jake’s Marine Corps career, extending over three wars, belied the comment he made to explain his break with the family’s Army tradition: he did it, he said, because “I didn’t think I was tough enough for the Army.” He was awarded the Army Commendation Medal, Combat Action Ribbon, Presidential Unit Citation with one Bronze Star, Navy Unit Commendation, China Service Medal, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, National Defense Service Medal with one Bronze Star, Korean Service Medal with three Bronze Stars, Vietnam Service Medal with three Bronze Stars, Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm, Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Silver Star, Korean Presidential Unit Citation, Republic of Vietnam Meritorious Unit Citation (Gallantry Cross Color), United Nations Service Medal, Republic of Vietnam Campaign with Device, Legion of Merit with Combat V, Gold Star in lieu of a Second Legion of Merit for Service in Vietnam, and a Good Conduct Medal. (No Purple Heart, although he survived two “involuntary” helicopter landings, which left a lasting impression on Jake’s back!) Back in the States, he assumed various administrative commands and was promoted to major general, serving as commanding general at the Parris Island Recruit Depot in South Carolina. He retired in 1979. During his retirement, Jake stayed close to the water. As assistant director for the State Docks in Mobile, Alabama, chief of staff for Governor Guy Hunt, and director of operations at Wayfarer Marine in Camden, Maine, he logged considerable sea time on trips to Antigua and other safe harbors.
Jake Poillon ’43 and Frank Cabot ’43 printing the Third Form Weekly; both went on to become Groton trustees. Frank died in November, two weeks before Jake.
Quarterly Spring 2012
Jake remembered and heeded Reverend Peabody’s oft-spoken tenet for life: “Put in more than you take out, boys.”
rotonians uried in Arlington ational emetery Stuart Heintzelman 1895 A. Coster Schermerhorn 1916 Slater Washburn 1916 Robert Sanderson ’22 Curtis Poillon ’41 Henry S. Morgan, Jr. ’42, P’67 Arthur Jacques Poillon ’43 Wilton Stroud Pyle ’64
Do you know of other Grotonians buried at Arlington National Cemetery? Please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When asked what possible relevance six years at Groton School may have had to his admirable career serving his country on every continent and ocean, Jake explained with his well-known modesty and as one of the few and the proud, a United States Marine, would: that cui servire est regnare was just as important to him as the Marine credo Semper Fidelis. Jake was always the team player, the volunteer, one who cared about others. His years at Groton included teaching Sunday School; playing on the gym, football, and hockey teams; managing and playing warm-up catcher for the baseball team; and serving as a Chapel usher. He was also involved in the Missionary Society, the Chemical Fire Squad, the Fife, Drum & Bugle Corps, the Athletic Association, the library, and the Third Form Weekly. “The General,” as his formmates came to call him, devoted himself to the needs of others and to service for Groton School. Jake remembered and heeded Reverend Peabody’s oftspoken tenet for life: “Put in more than you take out, boys.” A generous donor, persuasive solicitor, form agent, Groton School trustee, active member of St. James Episcopal Church in Fair Hope, Alabama, and more, he truly believed and followed the examples set by Reverend Peabody and Headmaster Crocker, whose “teaching and faith have strengthened and aided me in my times of peril and need.” Surviving Jake are his wife, Virginia (Mouchett) of Fairhope, Alabama, whom he married after the death in 1981 of his first wife, Natalie (Tisdale); his daughter, Jeanette, and daughter-in-law, Bonnie Brescia, of Sherborn, Massachusetts; seven stepchildren; eight grandchildren; many nieces and nephews; close friends in Maine, Florida, Alabama; and the many friends from his years in the Marine Corps. Many of those family members and friends gathered at Arlington National Cemetery on January 17 to honor Major General Arthur Jacques Poillon as he was heralded by a Marine Corps platoon and band, the caisson, a riderless horse, two canon salvos, a 19-gun salute, a flyover of three helicopters, and the plaintive bugling of “Taps.” Semper Fidelis Though many Groton graduates fought in World War II and the Korean War, we were unable to get any of their wartime writings. If you would like to share letters or diaries from these or other wars—your own or those of a relative—please send them to Groton School Quarterly, P.O. Box 991,Groton, MA 01450. We will consider including them in a future Quarterly.Thank you.
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A f g h a ni s ta n
A confUsInG serIes of PArADoXes
Letters a Groton alumnus wrote from Vietnam describe both the conﬂict he fought in the jungles and the conﬂict he felt about the war.
avid T. Lawrence ’63, P’93, ’94, ’00, a former Groton trustee, wrote detailed letters to his family while he was serving in Vietnam with the U.S. Marine Corps. His father, John E. Lawrence ’27—perhaps recognizing the historic value of the correspondence, in light of his own experience as an officer in the U.S. Navy during World War II—had the letters typed and put them in a binder for his son, for posterity. A call from the Groton School Quarterly asking David if he might contribute wartime correspondence for this section led him to pore over that binder and revisit some of his memories. He was kind enough to share several letters, which are excerpted here. All were written to his parents except the fourth letter, which was to his grandfather, James Lawrence 1896. Some of the sentiments may seem shocking today, particularly to those who have not served in the military, and David is wary of his thoughts being read without knowledge of the prevailing context for a Marine infantry officer in Vietnam in 1968. He says that what may sound like acceptance of war actually reﬂects an acceptance of his decision to go to war and to be responsible for the lives of other Marines. For example, when he described a night skirmish as “perfect” in one letter, he meant that it was perfect from a tactical perspective. The war, to David, was far from perfect—both at the time and in retrospect. Quarterly Spring 2012
17 September 1968
regret the inconvenience of not being able to write a carbon this time, but I have lost my only ballpoint pen. It seems I have lived a month since I last wrote though it has only been a week. The morning after my last letter I rode a convoy north from Quang Tri to Dong Ha and then westish to the Rockpile/Camp Carrol area and reported to a bunker which served as the 1st Battalion Third Marine Field Headquarters. I was met there by a captain who, as far as I could see, served no useful function other than giving me 10 rounds for my .45, as I had received no ammo. This gentleman had just returned from the hospital, had a large scar on his neck, was very high-strung, and between puffs on a seemingly never-ending cigarette, talked hysterically about the glories of the infantry, and gee, what loyal hard-chargers all the men were. He explained in detail just how hard the battalion had been getting hit lately and suggested that my being sent from the rear that day to pick up a platoon was like a sheep going to slaughter. Needless to say, that was all my nerves needed, but luckily the bunker was very dark as I don’t think anyone could see all the color rush from my face. Much to my relief, I was snatched from his clutches, put into a helicopter and [sent] out to meet the battalion commanding officer.
Even the smallest cut becomes infected immediately; people are constantly being bitten by snakes, rats, spiders, weird bugs of all sorts.
David Lawrence ’63 in Vietnam, November 1968
The whole battalion at the time was concerned with Mutter’s Ridge, a ridge line running generally east-west below the DMZ with helicopter landing zones blasted and cut out every few kilometers. The helicopter dropped in at . . . one of these cleared knolls atop the ridge, from which dead trees ran darkly in both directions. More confused than ever and considerably more nervous, I was directed by everyone who saw me (how do you suppose they picked me out of the crowd as a new lieutenant? Perhaps my trembling hands and slightly green visage!) to a Lieutenant Colonel Twahey. This gentleman was delightful, and the next hour was a scene I shall never forget. He sat on a crate on this barren ridge line, surrounded by stacks of radios and their attentive operators, in filthy clothes like everyone
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else, and with a red bandanna tied around his neck. He was the most relaxed, amusing, intelligent, sensible, and personable individual I have met in the Marine Corps. He made me sit down beside him and we began to talk. Pleased with my training credentials, he was delighted to discover I had attended Harvard, as his first platoon commander had gone to Harvard and he had always liked to discuss life with people who had gone to good schools. It was a beautiful, sunny, clear day, and I felt you could easily see most of Southeast Asia from that ridge. Scanning the area as we talked, the colonel would occasionally excuse himself from the conversation to direct the employment of artillery, mortars, air support, or ground troops to further the cause of democracy as we know it. To those who came to speak to him, he would introduce me, saying, “This is Lieutenant Lawrence, from Harvard, and we’re discussing life,” before dealing with what the person said. The continuity of our conversation never suffered from these interruptions and what a pleasant interlude this short scene was. Imploring me to use my head whatever happened, he, as he put it, sent me “out to meet myself ” by putting me in another chopper to D Company, busy blasting and defending another landing zone on another part of the ridge. I am now in command of the Second Platoon of D Company—comprised of 38 enlisted, two four-man machine gun teams and two corpsmen—and have been for one week. The company has seen considerable action in the last month and was reduced to about half strength around 16 August. And I am the ninth platoon commander that some of the people in my platoon have had. Let me explain what I understand to be the tactical significance of Mutter’s Ridge. Just south of the DMZ, this area had been treated as enemy-held territory for over a year . . . The NVA [North Vietnamese Army] had apparently decided to spend the period of inclement weather fortifying this area and amassing large stocks of armament and supplies. If this had happened, by the time the weather broke, the area would have been impregnable, armed even with anti-aircraft guns. The NVA had started this push, unaware that the monsoon predictions were wrong . . . As a result, considerable violence and bloodshed were produced as we moved in . . . Yours truly arrived, thank God, at the tail end of this action. Two days before I arrived, two of my men were wounded when an NVA sneaked up at night and threw a hand grenade at them in their foxhole . . . The first night I was there, one man was wounded by one of our own artillery rounds as Camp Carrol shoots over the ridge to reach the DMZ and this round was short. Since then, however, there has blissfully been nothing. We spent four days there, which was ideal as it enabled me to get a bit of a handle on things while they were fairly static. This enabled me to continue things as they had been while I was grappling with other more troubling specific issues, such as my first combat patrol (which we all survived, I think much to everyone’s surprise) . . . Although I have logged only one week in the field, I am more positive than ever that this sort of work will not be my career. One week so far without a bath on ground that is always either dust or mud, if not thick vegetation, in the same clothes that are usually drenched with rain or sweat—it is tough to keep clean. Even the smallest cut becomes infected immediately; people are constantly being bitten by snakes, rats, spiders, weird bugs of all sorts. The boots and utilities we wear are phenomenal, however, made of materials designed for this punishment; the clothes are loose, fast-drying, and quite comfortable . . . Despite these superficial discomforts, this life is a terribly interesting experience. The country here in the north is beautiful, really beautiful. The nights are cool, usually some rain, and the days terribly, terribly hot and really humid if in dense vegetation. The people are clever, cooperative, resigned to their tour here if not actually enthusiastic toward their work . . . I am learning more every day about the country and the people I’m with, and I suppose also about myself. Yesterday I took out a combat reconnaissance patrol of about 30 people which went all day—it took us two-and-a-half hours to go about 200 yards at one point. It’s hard to believe what is actually going on here as I have gone my first week without seeing [the enemy]. It is so pretty looking around from this hillside I’m on, but the constant artillery in the air, the explosions throughout the surrounding countryside, and the earth-shaking concussion of these eight-inch guns bring one back . . .
The approach that what a company like ours, which has been out of the action for a few weeks, needs to pick up spirits is a “good kill” is not mine. A little competitive round-robin volleyball competition perhaps?
Wilton Stroud Pyle ’64 is the only Grotonian who died serving his country during the Vietnam War.
Quarterly Spring 2012
The lead squad of my platoon discovered two freshly dug, elaborate, and substantial bunkers the [enemy] must have vacated that morning during the rain of artillery fire we use to prep each area.
The idea of combat does not terrify me as such any more, but I am hardly the sort that itches for action either . . . I understand the importance of spirit, enthusiasm, teamwork, physical courage, and endurance, but I just don’t see life as one big rah-rah football game where one keeps his head low and keeps those feet churning—even here . . . the approach that what a company like ours, which has been out of the action for a few weeks, needs to pick up spirits is a “good kill” is not mine. A little competitive round-robin volleyball competition perhaps? Maybe I’m in the wrong occupation here after all. . . . As I say, all is well, but if anyone wants to worry, the fact that I have acquired infected thorn cuts on two fingers, a bad chest cold, occasional stomach cramps, and the trots since last week should do it. I’ll work on jungle rot, immersion foot and temporary deafness from these eight-inch guns for next week. Best to all.
24 September 1968
he monsoon must be coming as the weather is definitely taking a turn for the worse. There is a river which flows through the valley below us (the Song Com Lo, as song is Vietnamese for river) that swelled to just about four times its previous size overnight, as the water started to run from the high ground. Needless to say, it is difficult to stay dry . . . We are still on the same hill where I left off last week. This is our 10th day here, and it has been quite peaceful except for the eight-inch guns firing at night. There have been some NVA around us, but we have had no real contact. One of my men was wounded Friday night when [an enemy] crawled up the hill and threw a grenade at him. Shrapnel cut in the leg, and a cut over the right eye bled profusely down into his eye, so the poor guy understandably thought he had lost his right eye as it was dark out. . . . I think I am beginning to understand the omnipresent, if often artificial, idea of aggressiveness and its importance for survival and success. I think where I really have trouble is deeper down, with the fundamental concept that we are out here for the sole purpose of hunting down and killing other people. It is a difficult realization for me, but the fact that the enemy has no hesitation about killing me helps. It is like that dreadful game of football—the harder you hit the other guy, the less of his effect you feel. That’s something I never had work smoothly on the playing fields of Groton. I am getting more used to the life here, and it’s not all that bad. You are always dirty, and often wet and shivering from cold with sweat and dizzy with the heat. Although we had no food the first 36 hours I was in the field, there have been plenty of C-rations since. I have been in the field exactly two weeks now in the same clothes and with no shower, but with the rain and constantly fording streams on patrol, one stays cleaner than one might think. I think the saving grace is that I sleep well here unless woken up when someone on the lines is convinced he has movement in front of him. Maybe it is just because I don’t know as much as those who have been wounded, but I can sleep right through the artillery rounds whistling overhead from the Rockpile and Camp Carroll, though our own 8-inch guns here do give me trouble. Like OCS [Officer Candidates School], only considerably more so, this is a period of discomfort, making do and doing without, of challenge and considerable experience. I find something like shaving, which I have always hated, to be such a pleasure; it is done with deliberate, self-indulgent, drawn-out thoroughness, water permitting. I do try to shave every day here and have the others do so at least every other as it discourages jungle rot, a fungus that thrives on cuts and dirt and attacks any and all parts of the body, face included. . . . The first sergeant was out here for the first five days this week, and he said after about 60 days he would start advertising the fact that he had a [combat] engineer [officer] for sale. That gives me about another eight weeks at best of this before I return to my trade, so things could be a lot worse. He also let it be known that I went to Harvard so now I am beset from all sides for answers to the difficult crossword puzzles and so forth—what a drag to be a genius! Hope all is well.
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3 October 1968
his is the first day since 25 September that I have not been on foot, and only because I sent out a squad-sized patrol this morning. Pretty good exercise this has been, as on these moves from landing zone to landing zone, I must have been humping 50 to 60 pounds with flak, gear, etc. Combine this with the degree of difficulty one encounters in negotiating the terrain and it is enough to keep one lean and mean. About halfway along this trip east there was great excitement as the lead squad of my platoon discovered two freshly dug, elaborate, and substantial bunkers the [enemy] must have vacated that morning during the rain of artillery fire we use to prep each area before we go into it. They left some miscellaneous equipment, but nothing of other than intelligence value . . . Two landing zones later we reached the end of the ridge and very uncomfortably occupied the site and patrolled in the torrential rains from a passing typhoon . . . We left there yesterday but not until after I had directed my first battle, a night engagement which I am rather proud of. . . . At 10 p.m. I was woken up by my radioman with the report that 2-Bravo, my squad to the south, had movement in the draw. They were convinced, and as time passed I got similar reports from 2-Charlie, my squad to the western end, and the ambush to the north. This was a three-point fix on fish in a barrel, too good to be true. Movement was verified, shape discerned in the thick vegetation, as a good moon was clear and full. 2-Bravo fired down into the draw on order, avoiding the ambush on the high ground to the north. Ambush held fire to avoid revealing their position. My ambush reported four or five visitors running out of the draw and up to the hill to the north as 2-Bravo opened up. My platoon sergeant and a four-man fire team went into the draw to see what we got. Platoon sergeant was fired on once, and another of the team saw three more men. We pulled out and filled the draw with grenade and small arms, called in artillery and eight-inch mortars to hit those escaping up the hill north, seal the open end of the draw, and cut off the possible approach of any larger unit these visitors might have been lead scouts for. Four more of them ran from the draw around to the south of our knoll between my artillery fire and one of my machine guns. The whole thing was just as perfect as it could be—out of a book—and I lay very low to the ground, in front of my hutch, linked by radio with my four crucial units directing the proceedings with a routine matter-of-factness that upon reflection could only have meant that I hadn’t fully woken up yet. Took out a patrol yesterday morning to see what I would claim. With us was a scout dog, a magnificent beast of a German shepherd the company has had for a week. The poor dog was going wild with all the [enemy] scent in the area, but off he would go down a trail only to stop short in utter puzzlement. We combed thoroughly with negative results. I am told if there are 25 of them and you kill 23, you cannot find a trace in the morning, and now I believe it. But for me, my men, and the company commander, there was a good squad of 10 or 12 coming up that draw before the festivities began. The importance of this incident lies not in whether there was anything there, but, for me at least, in the way I was able to work with these people in my platoon. The utter calm and competent professionalism of these 18-, 19-, and 20-year-old kids out in the isolated ambush who thought at one point they had been flanked on both sides, and cut off from our lines—the cooperation, obedience, discipline, and coordination of the other people and units—are awesome to reflect upon.
6 October 1968
e were supposed to move north into the DMZ this morning, but the operation seems to have been delayed. The result is an unprecedented and delightful free day to give the troops some rest. I have just finished a rather odd Sunday lunch of chicken and noodles and peanut butter on crackers, washed down with water so heavily treated with chemicals it tastes like it came from a public swimming pool. But even
A Vet’s Battle with Post-Traumatic Stress by Adam Lamont ’12
n the class America in Vietnam, students spent several days studying the effects of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among veterans, focusing on Vietnam vets. The readings on the topic were interesting, but paled in comparison to the time spent with former U.S. Marine Richard Brewer, a friend of teacher Jennifer Wallace. Mr. Brewer, who has struggled with PTSD since his time as a Marine serving in Lebanon in 1984, has co-founded a nonprofit called Jarhead Pinhead, “dedicated to helping veterans stay alive, avoid suicide, prevent homelessness, and decrease poverty rates.” We first met Mr. Brewer in class, where he explained how combat turns on the switch of the survivalist brain, and how that never really can be turned off again. Later that evening, Mr. Brewer talked to students and teachers, many with relatives serving in the military, in the Webb Marshall Room. In Mr. Brewer’s view, PTSD is not a mental illness but a combat injury; knowing this has helped him and his family cope with the lingering effects. America in Vietnam is a winter elective taught jointly by history teacher Jennifer Wallace and athletic equipment manager Jim Lockney, a former U.S. Army linguist and Vietnam veteran.
Quarterly Spring 2012
David Lawrence ’63
Death here is not the drawnout desperate disintegration of a pathetic old person, but the quick destruction of a vigorous, powerful youth who is running with a heavy pack at one moment and decorating the surrounding trees the next.
the strangest combinations sit well over here as one works up a pretty good appetite, and consuming the contents of these tiny cans is one of the bright points of the day. Our scheduled operation to the north should be a series of prowls and movements just short of the Ben Hai River. I expect we will definitely have contact with the enemy, but the main objective is that of uncovering supply caches. Hard as these are to find, it seems easier than fixing the enemy itself, and their discovery is perhaps even more damaging in the long run than brief but successful contact with NVA units. A sweep such as the one several weeks ago raises hell with any plans for an offensive in the future. In addition, another operation such as this, on the very eve of the monsoon, should be indicative that in spite of the peace talks we have no more intention of “taking the pack off ” than the people to the north . . . Though I lack schooling and experience in the field, the unique peculiarities of this war are most evident. I feel fortunate in being here in the high country of the North for this is the closest one comes to conventional warfare in this conflict. In this area, any individual not one of us is one of them, and there are not problems created by an existing civilian population. The movement of units is done with much of the classic technique, and there are not the problems of booby traps, snipers, and the guerilla force one encounters further south. But still, our endeavors here are frustrating as these NVA even are elusive to the point of being invisible, it seems at times . . . This situation is a confusing series of paradoxes—just as I don’t believe the war will ever end, I just as firmly believe it cannot just go on and on. I suppose an answer might be a U.N. occupational force, but this would be less effective than we are at present . . . Well, in spite of all my talk, I’m afraid I have made no more progress than Harriman and Vance. I can however think of worse places to wallow in stagnation than Paris. I send much thanks for your letter and hope you are well.
18 October 1968
have been really very lucky here as I have made mistakes and had the opportunity to learn from them rather than have my people killed as a result. I have directed killing but not killed personally and have been shown how easy it is to die. Death here is not the drawn-out desperate disintegration of a pathetic old person, but the quick destruction of a vigorous, powerful youth who is running with a heavy pack at one moment and decorating the surrounding trees the next. But I have been spared the slow grinding agony which the death of a mortally wounded conscious man must be. I do not mean to be morbid and dwell on this, for this is not the way it strikes me. I bring it up as representative of the things which have been disclosed to me through this experience. Life here is uncomfortable on a dry day and miserable on a wet day, but the physical discomfort becomes negligible when one considers both the awareness it brings of so many things always taken for granted or never realized, and the possibility of how much worse things could get at any moment. I am not sure why I ever joined the Marines. It was just about as diametrically opposed to all that was going on in my life at the time as anything could have been. Perhaps I took leave of my senses momentarily—if so, I should do so more often. I don’t agree with the garrison harassment and I think I can truthfully say that basic school was the only thing I’ve ever done that seems worse every time it is recalled. But there is so much to be gained by any and all individuals who are working out here under these conditions of stress and deprivation of so much that used to be familiar that this is an involvement that one can never regret. I know that you all worry for I too am often worried, but I write you of these, my convictions, for it makes it all seem to be worthwhile. This is not to be read with concern and depression for it is written with excitement.
David Lawrence has visited Vietnam three times since his service there and plans to return in March 2013. He says he finds it generous that Americans are welcomed in the country today, despite what the Vietnamese people refer to as “the American War.”
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A f g h a ni s ta n
The Inferno The Night Saddam Ignited the Oilfields
Steve McCurry/Magnum Photos
Ironclaw, by Sherman Baldwin ’82, vividly describes the author’s experiences as a pilot in the Persian Gulf War; his mission was to find, disable, and destroy enemy radar. This excerpt describes the moment Sherman realized that Saddam Hussein had set Kuwait’s oilfields on fire.
was the first one from our crew on the flight deck. The start of the ground war was exciting news, and I could see that it was having an impact on the Midway’s men. Everyone on the flight deck seemed to have a renewed sense of fighting spirit, and we all believed that our ground attack was a telltale sign that the war was moving rapidly toward a conclusion. We were confident that our 38-day-long bombing campaign had made a big difference in softening up Iraqi defenses, and now we would be able to see to what extent it had really worked. The redshirted ordies were writing all kinds of creative messages on the weapons about to be delivered against the Republican Guard. One note that I Quarterly Spring 2012
This was the place where the Republican Guard was living. Saddam’s elite fighters were located throughout the area and our air wing’s mission now was to destroy them.
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remember from a politically motivated crewman was inscribed on a cluster bomb that read, “From one Republican to another.” . . . It was a standard daytime launch and we flew at 500 feet until reaching the sevenmile arc from the carrier, then I pulled sharply back on the stick and we commenced our climb to the tanker. During the climb-out to the northwest we were confronted by an evil surprise, something that none of us had expected and all of us had a hard time believing. We saw in the distance, rising from the sands of Kuwait, a large, menacing black cloud. As we flew north toward the tanker truck I stared at the rising, billowing blackness of the cloud. For a few moments I was baffled as to what could have caused such a cloud. I thought maybe a nuclear, chemical, or biological weapon had been used by the Iraqis as a last-ditch retaliation to stop our relentless assault. The prospect that we were flying toward a cloud of potentially toxic, irradiated, or biologically contaminated air made me far more scared than facing their biggest guns and missiles. As we got closer I saw the bright orange flames leaping up from oil wells on the desert floor. There were hundreds, perhaps thousands of these orange lights amid the smoke. This must have been planned and executed by Saddam’s army. The fires raged, and to see them from above 15,000 feet impressed upon us the severity of the situation. The damage to innocent human life, animal life, the environment, and property was going to be astronomical. This was not an act of war in which there exists a code of honor; this was a criminal act. . . . Seeing the oil fires and random, wanton destruction they represented filled me with a renewed conviction to strike at our enemy and defeat him. Soon the cloud of toxic oil fires would be drifting toward the tanker track and it would degrade visibility significantly as long as these fires raged. Perhaps that was the intent. Perhaps it was a tactical move. If it was a tactic, it was ineffective and was having the wrong result because it only served to infuriate our coalition forces. Everyone became more determined than ever to defeat Iraq swiftly, end the war, and remove the Iraqi Army from Kuwait. It was necessary not only to repatriate Kuwait, but also to put out the fires that now were destroying the land and natural resources of Kuwait. Once we were topped off with gas we detached from the tanker and began our flight to the northwest corner of the Gulf. Perhaps we were overconfident, but we flew with the attitude that there was no more air threat to us, and the AAA [anti-aircraft artillery] and SAM [surface-to-air missile] threat, while still significant, was pocketed in specific locations. After 38 days of similar missions we felt we knew where the threats were located. We were confident that the SA-2s and SA‑3s had been silenced along the coastline and that our only real threat for a low altitude “wormburner” patrol was from small-arms fire and AAA. “Nav’s right and we’re on time,” said the XO, who was busy cross-checking everything in the cockpit to make sure that we were fully operational. “Let’s start our descent to get under this oil fire smoke. I don’t want to be a ‘grape’ in the clouds,” he said. I agreed it would be far better to see what threat might be coming at us so that we might have a chance of avoiding it. “Yes, sir,” I said as I pulled the throttles to idle and allowed the Prowler’s enormous blunt nose to seek the earth. Our current heading took us right toward the base of the oil fires sprouting up from the desert landscape. As we descended I could not help but think that we were descending into hell’s inferno. The black smoke rising from the desert varied in intensity. The lower we got, the darker it was. At the darkest part where the fire was burning brightly and the smoke was the blackest—this was the place where the Republican Guard was living. Saddam’s elite fighters were located throughout the area and our air wing’s mission now was to destroy them. Knowing that my buddies in the Intruder and Hornet squadrons were flying above me dropping ordnance on the Republican Guard positions, I felt a strong desire to be with them instead of patrolling the coast in defense of a fleet that had already won the war on the waters of the Persian Gulf. We passed through 5,000 feet and the radar altimeter started beeping.
ove/u.S. navy terry a. coSgr
The cover of Ironclaw featured this photo of the author, U.S. Navy pilot Sherman Baldwin ’82.
“Radalt reset to 3,000 feet,” I said as I adjusted the altitude bug on the instrument’s face to beep again at 3,000 feet. The tone went off again at 3,000 feet and still we were in the black smog created by the oil fire smoke. “Radalt reset to 1,000 feet,” I said, following procedures to the letter. The steady beepbeep-beep came on again as the jet descended through 1,000 feet above the ocean. Now I slowed my rate of descent and began to concentrate a bit more. The numbers on the radalt were now marked in hundreds of feet. “Radalt is now set at 500 feet,” I said, hoping we would not have to go much lower than that. My eyes watched the needle as it moved past 900, 800, 700, 600, and 500. Beep-beep-beep, sounded the warning tone. “Radalt now set at 200 feet,” I said. Slowly I began to get more visibility as we descended the final 300 feet. “Let’s keep it above 250 feet, and let’s take it in close to the coast. I want to check out the oil damage,” said Nitro. “Yes, sir,” I said as I leveled off at 250 feet and 300 knots. Our ground-mapping radar showed the coast about five miles away and we kept flying ever closer to the coastline that we now assumed was safe and under our coalition control. “Are you picking up any signals in the back?” asked Nitro. “Nothing,” said Shoe confidently. His voice eased my mind about the possibility of some new SAMs that could have come to the area under cover of confusion caused by the Quarterly Spring 2012
I nearly had had a midair collision once in the northern Gulf, and I knew that it could easily happen again.
coalition’s ground attack. Below me the water’s surface was smooth. It was probably because of all the oil that was being dumped into the Gulf from pipelines that had also been opened along the coastline. It was as if the Iraqi Army had stabbed Kuwait multiple times and held the country to the ground as it bled slowly to death. The pollution seeping into the Gulf caused a black slick of infection that was slowly spreading. The inferno’s black smoke now blocked the light of the sun, making it seem as if evening had arrived. We flew over coalition ships and several small islands until we were within a mile of the coast. I turned to the north and followed the coastline as Odie and Shoe listened for any signs of Silkworm activity. As we flew north along the coastline I kept scanning the shore, looking for anything that signaled hostility. I was definitely nervous, feeling once again like a very vulnerable “grape.” The beaches looked ugly and tarry due to the oil that they had absorbed. My scan came back inside the cockpit to check the instruments. Everything looked normal. “Tank, 10 o’clock low on the water,” said Odie from the back-seat. As my eyes shot in that direction I immediately saw what Odie was describing. The water was being churned up in a line moving toward us. A quick glance to the left confirmed my fears as I spotted the muzzle flashes of an AAA emplacement. The gunner was aimed low, and his bullets were hitting the water 200 yards closer to shore than we were flying. The gunner started to adjust his fire, and the line of bullets hitting the water began to walk toward our jet. My left hand shot forward gripping the throttles, and my right hand buried the stick in my thigh as I turned sharply away from the bullets now hitting the water below us. Our climbing right turn exposed the Prowler’s belly to the gunner, giving him a huge target, but somehow he was not able to adjust his fire quickly enough and we soon entered the black smoky haze of the oil fires, without being hit. “Any radar activity?” Nitro asked the backseat. “Still nothing up,” said Shoe. “Damn, I thought these radars would come up, with all of these ships so close to the shore,” said Nitro. The visibility was terrible. I could barely see the port wingtip of our jet during the initial stage of the climb. We had flown a mission profile that made me feel like a live worm wiggling on the end of a hook. The fish had come after us, but fortunately, had not swum fast enough to catch us. My concern quickly turned from bullets to jets, other American jets from other air wings on other carriers. Once again I was flying blind and I hated the feeling. I nearly had had a midair collision once in the northern Gulf, and I knew that it could easily happen again. The time and maneuvering at low altitude had depleted our fuel more quickly than anticipated, so now it was time to head for the tanker. The climb-out through the blackness of oil smoke was unnerving, but within minutes we had risen above it and I leveled off at 25,000 feet en route to the tanker, to be followed by a zip-lip recovery on the Midway. It was a relaxed daytime return flight and it gave me time to think about the mission we had just flown. The inferno on the ground had added a new element of risk to our missions. As smoke rose into the atmosphere it created a haze that was in some ways worse than the smoke itself. At least when you flew in thick clouds of smoke you knew you couldn’t see anything, but the haze it created on its fringes was more deceptive; you believed you could see more than you actually could. The next day the haze would be worse; Odie might not be able to see the bullets hitting the water; I might not be able to see the muzzle flashes that I had seen today. And tomorrow the gunner might adjust more quickly, so then we might not be flying our jet back to the Midway. These were not constructive thoughts. I knew they were natural, but I couldn’t stop myself from thinking about all the “what-ifs.” What if I hadn’t been so lucky today? What if I am not so lucky tomorrow? I could sense that the fighting would soon be finished, but would it end soon enough? Now more than ever before, what I wanted most was simply to survive. Sherman Baldwin served in the U.S. Navy from 1987 to 1995. He also is the author of Growing Up with Harry.
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A f g h a ni s ta n
PhotoS By LucIan reaD
Ann Gildroy Fox ’94 served three tours of duty in Iraq with the U.S. Marines. She inspired the Form of 2007 with this provocative speech the night before Prize Day.
am humbled and honored at the opportunity to speak to you tonight on the eve of a very important transition for you and for me. I started Groton in the Second Form as a day student, and by the Fourth Form I was a full-time boarding student. I wasn’t a rich Groton kid, and I wasn’t a poor Groton kid. I came to Groton from a nearby town called Westford and was proud to be the first “Gildroy” to attend this mysterious and elite boarding school. As a result, I studied very hard but was no academic superstar, and in the Sixth Form was flatly rejected from all of the Ivys. So as that spring approached in 1994, I never would have imagined that I would find myself on top of a war-torn building in Iraq 11 years later. Tonight I would like to share with you a bit of my story. It is simply a piece of one journey, and it is only one perspective on how this place called Groton may affect your life. In January 2005 the first Iraqi national elections were scheduled for the end of the month. The media and the coalition were preparing for an expected explosion of violence on election day. As a result, for that whole month you could feel the tension as the day got closer and closer. The rifle company I worked with was actively pursuing insurgents in the area in order to create an environment of peace and stability. On this particular night, we were stretched very thin. The main body of the rifle company was committed to a mission far away from our location. We could only afford 14 Marines to guard a building of particular importance in downtown Karbala. As darkness fell around us, every Marine was focused on the plans we had set in place to guard the building, knowing there was no back-up. I set the riflemen in their positions on the roof. I walked the empty building frequently and took several trips to check on the Marines on the roof and the Iraqis at the main checkpoint in the front of the building. The rooftop was silent and the Marines were scanning their fields of fire. I knelt down and tapped on one of the Marine’s shoulders. He was not much older than any of you. “Lance Corporal, how ’ya doing out here?” “Fine, ma’am, I’m fine.” I turned to leave, and the lance corporal said, “Ma’am, can I ask you a question?” “What’s on your mind?” “I heard you got into Harvard, and that you are staying here in Iraq when we leave. Is that true?” Without wanting to know how the word of my acceptance to Harvard Business School had spread so quickly, nor of my extension in country, I simply responded, “Yes, that is correct.” He looked intently at me as I knelt by his side. “Ma’am, you can’t stay here longer now; your life is too valuable to lose.” I had to repeat the statement in my mind. What? My life is too valuable to lose? I was stunned. A Marine I barely knew, in a tense situation, was contemplating this? I tried to explain to the junior Marine that it is impossible to place a greater worth on one Marine’s life versus another. I stumbled over my words and attempted to talk about the importance of service in one’s life. Quarterly Spring 2012
“Ma’am, you can’t stay here longer now; your life is too valuable to lose.”
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His statement about the “value” of my life has not left me. He was not implying that my life had more “monetary value” than his, but rather that he had an expectation that I would “do something” or give back in a significant way. So what would have been your response to the lance corporal that night? Would you think your life was too valuable to lose? The response is not easy, but it is a statement that demands examination. What is a valuable life? How important is service to you and to your community? Does service obligate all people, regardless of whether they go to Groton or Westford High? How often do we consider what we can give of ourselves? Cui servire est regnare was not simply a school motto for me, but it became an underpinning of the way I tried to measure the value of my life. Groton teaches us the importance of service, and through that service, the ability to create value for yourself and your community. At Groton I began seriously to consider the impact of my actions on those around me. Living in a community where you interact constantly with the same group of people forces you to challenge your preconceived notions and beliefs. The community at Groton makes each student aware of his part in it, and therefore his contribution to it. Groton completely transformed the way I thought. It opened my mind and encouraged me to listen first and not to make hasty judgments. Groton was the first place I ever experienced diversity. Mario Malcolm and Mark Schulman, two of my formmates, were my very first black friends. I had never before been in a classroom with such a variety of colors and nationalities. I learned to embrace our differences and appreciate them. I am sure many of you too have had similar experiences at Groton that will stay with you forever. I still remember how angry I was that one of our peers refused to accept a design on our Spring Fling T-shirt with a pig on it. She was Muslim, and wearing a T-shirt with a pig was unacceptable for her on many levels. My first reaction to her protest was to think about how overly sensitive and dumb her request of the rest of us was to abandon the design. After all, it was just a picture on a T-shirt, or was it? She was right, and I could not have been more wrong in my reaction to her. The experiences at Groton teach us about the importance of respecting each other’s beliefs and considering each other’s right to dignity and self-respect within the community. The answers to these issues beyond the gates of Groton are complicated, and you will find you have the resources to begin to tackle them. The ability to keep an open mind, learned over the years at Groton, has proven invaluable in all areas of my life. I was able not just to hear the perspectives of my formmates or my colleagues, but to deeply consider their opinions and viewpoints. In Iraq it enabled me to listen and consider the thoughts of citizens from many different tribes and regions. I know this skill will be critical to achieving future successes and understanding future failures.
In the next decade, all of you will face a unique challenge. You are soon to be Groton graduates. You will join a pool of some of the most prestigious alumni in this nation’s history. Many of you will have resumes marked with Ivy League schools and internships and jobs at the top companies in the world. Your legacies of success and achievement will begin the moment you receive that high school diploma. From here on, parents, family, friends, and colleagues will comment on how much you have accomplished, how gifted you are, and how wonderful you all are. You will need to be conscious of not pursuing a life that only preserves that success. You must define success for yourself. For many of you, the people around you will decide that heading off to Doctors Without Borders, the Marine Corps, Teach for America, the Peace Corps, or whatever other wild endeavor would be “bad timing,” “a waste of your potential,” a “waste of a valuable life,” “foregoing a lucrative career path,” etc., etc. The people you most expect to encourage you to be bold and to sacrifice when it is most difficult to do so will not. Instead, many will defer to protecting and “enabling” the path of success you will create. They will want to shield you from failure and keep you on a narrow path considered “acceptable.” Challenge them! I encourage you to do something uncomfortable, something with a piece of your life where you are in deep service to others, and where it is tremendously difficult to give. You must define the value of “your” life for yourself. Do not let the institutions and your quest for the “perfect resume” define it for you. It is critically important that over the next 10 years you fail a lot, because from those failures will come your deepest learning for future success. My soccer coach and hockey coach at Groton, Fred Beams and Cathy Giles, made me get back up after lost games and get ready for the next ones. Failure was not an excuse on the athletic field to stay down or lose confidence. Those two coaches drove tenacity into me and taught me that perseverance will triumph always. Take what I am sure you have learned on those fields at Groton and bring it with you into your life beyond Groton. Do not be afraid to fail. Take risks! Groton has given you a toolbox and an ethical compass to tackle whatever you may face after Prize Day. Few people in this world are afforded the resources and opportunities provided to you at Groton, and even fewer ever have the mentorship and leadership of such an incredibly dedicated and passionate faculty. As you shake hands and bid your mentors and friends farewell, promise yourself that you will reflect on what you have been given and what you have worked so hard to achieve at Groton. You will not know on Prize Day what your greatest passion in life is nor where or how it is best for you to be in service to others. However, when and where the opportunity arises, seize it. Keep the lance corporal on the rooftop in your mind and constantly ask yourself what a valuable life means for you. I want to share with you my favorite quote. It is from Theodore Roosevelt : “It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.” Before I close tonight, I’ll be honest and tell you that on Sunday morning it will not be easy for me to get back on the plane to Iraq. In fact, bidding my family and my country farewell this time around may be the hardest thing I have done in my 30 years. However, looking at you all tonight, knowing that Groton has equipped a group of people to do great things for this nation and people the world over gives me a deep sense of peace. So for that I thank you. Ann Gildroy Fox ’94 served with the U.S. Marines from 2001-05 and 2007-08. Quarterly Spring 2012
A f g h a ni s ta n
A Game of Inches
John Noh ’06 is serving with the U.S. Army in Afghanistan. This email is a thank-you for care packages sent by Groton students to his platoon—but provides a glimpse of what John faces day after day.
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To my Groton family,
January 4, 2012
wanted to write you all to send my deepest appreciation and thanks for all your care packages and letters. Every time we get packages from home, it is like opening presents on Christmas Day. Back home, they might not be extraordinary (chips, candy, letters), but here, they mean so much to us fighting infantrymen. This place can seem so foreign to soldiers, many of whom had never left the United States, and especially after a long mission or an engagement with the enemy, home can seem so distant. Your thoughts, prayers, and care are our reminders of home. I live in COP (combat outpost) Jaghato, located in Wardak province. Wardak is in eastern Afghanistan and south of Kabul. This COP is home to my infantry company, comprised of four heavy weapons platoons (there are additional combat enablers assisting my company including artillery and air support elements). This means that a company of less than 70 infantrymen is responsible for the entire Jaghato district of approximately 70,000 Afghans. The president has shifted the main effort away from southern Afghanistan (e.g. Kandahar, where the Taliban was founded) to eastern Afghanistan, which contains both Kabul and the border with Pakistan. Jaghato district is strategically important because the Taliban moves fighters and weapons across the border, to the south, and up Wardak province into Kabul. Jaghato lies in the middle of the insurgents’ main supply line. Most insurgents have left the area for the winter—primarily to Pakistan. We are expecting a lot more enemy activity here during what is traditionally called the spring fighting season. However, fighters do remain and because the insurgents are short on numbers, they have resorted to emplacing IEDs [improvised explosive devices] all over the district. A heavy weapons platoon is slightly different from a traditional rifle platoon in that there are fewer soldiers but more heavy weapons. Heavy weapons include M2 .50 caliber machine guns and MK19 grenade launchers. This means that during missions we bring a lot of firepower, mounted on MRAP [mine resistant ambush protected] vehicles, but have limited dismounted capabilities due to the low number of soldiers in the platoon. Our schedule looks something like this—two days of missions/QRF (quick reaction force) followed by two days of force protection (defending the COP). Being a platoon
leader, I typically spend the two force protection days planning and prepping for upcoming missions. The nature of our missions varies. Some missions are enemy-centric—looking for suspected IEDs and caches, going after insurgents, etc. Other missions are populationcentric—primarily KLEs (key leader engagements) in which we go to talk to village elders. The biggest problem Jaghato faces is security, which we cannot effectively provide because there are not enough American soldiers here. We are making a big push right now to hand over responsibility to ANSF (Afghan National Security Forces) comprised of the ANA (Afghan National Army) and the ANP (Afghan National Police). There is much work that needs to be done in assisting and training the ANP and ANA, but the future of this district and this country ultimately rests in their hands. The bravest man I’ve met during my deployment is the ANP chief here in Jaghato. I have seen him do things I wouldn’t dare do. He is absolutely relentless in trying to help the people here and in making the district a safer place. Compared to the kind of armor, equipment, and weapons Americans take out on missions, he fights with almost nothing. Yet he always has a smile on his face, and his moral courage to always do the right thing makes it hard not to admire him. If leaders in the Afghan government, military, and police had half the integrity he has, this war would have ended a long time ago. Being a combat leader ultimately boils down to knowing how to deal and work with different types of people. If you know how to do that, you won’t fail as an officer and leader. I was recently asked how I face and overcome fear. I try by focusing on my job and not letting my imagination take over. Imagination can have a crippling effect on a combat soldier. What if this, what if that… After hitting three IEDs in a span of less than three weeks, I could easily see how I could be overtaken by fear and paranoia. IEDs come without any warning (two of the three IEDs I hit were pressure-plate IEDs, which are impossible to detect with the naked eye). And if it happens, all you can do is wait till you can see through the dust and breathe through the smoke, hoping that you and your soldiers are OK. Certainly not a pleasant experience, but I can’t afford to dwell on it because I’m a leader, and I’m responsible. When I got shot at for the first time, I couldn’t think about how the bullets had just barely missed me. I didn’t have time to. I had to lead my men and win the battle, and with that responsibility, I was able to overcome fear. I remember hearing in a movie that life is a game of inches, and I’m beginning to think that war is too. The few inches that always seem to separate my soldiers and me from getting wounded or worse tell me that so much of war is out of human control. It’s up to God to get us through all of this. I can’t help but think, when I am planning future missions with ANP and ANA commanders or discussing development and security with Afghan village elders, that the lessons I learned many years ago on politics, religion, and history from Mrs. Wallace’s and Mr. Lamont’s classes have shaped my understanding of the world and have guided me through this deployment. If there is one thing I want to tell Groton students, it is that life lessons learned at the Schoolhouse or in the Chapel will guide them for the rest of their lives, wherever they go. A few days ago, an IED blast here in Jaghato blew up an ANA truck and killed three ANA soldiers, including the commander whom I had gotten to know over several missions. It’s a strange feeling to know that someone you had worked with just a few days ago is now gone. I think it’s during moments of sacrifice that soldiers often ask why we are even here. Among men who have experienced combat and seen the costs of war, there is never rhetorical talk that Americans are so used to hearing from politicians from back home. Our conviction doesn’t come from any political speech from Washington. It comes from sharing smiles and laughter with the Afghans, especially the children, and from hoping that what we are doing today will bring a brighter future. And it comes from the love of our country and of each other. Thank you again. John Noh ’06
I had to lead my men and win the battle, and with that responsibility, I was able to overcome fear.
Quarterly Spring 2012
T o t a l Immersion 36 | Quarterly Spring 2012
A village in Tanzania has welcomed Groton students each summer. Now itâ€™s our turn. Photographs by Cindy Beams
Quarterly Spring 2012
Anna and Flora arrived at Groton on March 27 with their school’s founder, Peter Luis, and will stay until after Prize Day. Photographer Cindy Beams, wife of Dean of Students Fred Beams, spent six weeks in Tanzania this winter helping prepare them for the trip. Opposite page above, friends of Anna’s and Flora’s outside their “boma,” a typical home in their Maasai community in Tanzania. Opposite page below, Flora and Anna working with their geometry teacher, Fred Beams.
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ean of Students Fred Beams and his wife, photographer Cindy Beams, started taking Groton students to the Orkeeswa Secondary School in northern Tanzania in 2010. When they broached the possibility of bringing Orkeeswa students here, Groton School was enthusiastic. “I think it’s really important that Groton service trips have a reciprocal element,” says Cindy. “Groton students now have an immersion experience in a host community in a radically different part of the world. We wanted to return the favor by inviting Tanzanian students to experience the Groton community. We’re learning how vital it is to have an exchange flow in both directions.” Say hello to Anna Tataya Mollel and Flora Kipapurwa Lukumay, two teens from a traditionally nomadic Maasai community who are spending Spring term 2012 living in Marks’ Dorm, going to classes, playing lacrosse, and otherwise experiencing the Circle. The girls are learning a lot. We are learning more.
Quarterly Spring 2012
At Groton, Anna and Flora are taking Third Form English, Environmental Science, Geometry, Studio Art, and Public Speaking. Both are excellent basketball playersâ€”they train on the court built by Groton students and Orkeeswa community members during the summer of 2011â€”but at Groton tried lacrosse for the first time.
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Opposite page, clockwise from top left: Art Department Head Ann Emerson with Anna and Flora; Anna after talking with her mother for the first time from Groton; Flora with Emma Zetterberg ’15; Anna at JV lacrosse, with Coaches Steve Belsky and Sarah Mongan, who has traveled twice with Groton to Tanzania; Flora, right after scoring a lacrosse goal This page, top: Madeleine Cohen ’13 in Tanzania, about to carry an even larger rock on her head; center, videographer Lizzy Nichols introducing audio to Anna (Lizzy is producing a documentary about the Tanzania-Groton exchange). Bottom left, Gordon Pyne ’12 in Maasai style during the Groton summer trip; bottom right, Sarah Fitzgerald ’95 accompanied one of Groton’s summer trips to Tanzania; she reads The Giver with two students from the Orkeeswa School.
Quarterly Spring 2012
Per Circulum Locuti Sunt | Voices on the Circle
Finding the Hero
Within A Chapel Talk by Olivia W. Trase ’12 February 6, 2012
The thought that a person my age could take on enormous responsibility, have an unswervingly good heart, and save the universe is as intimidating as it is intoxicating.
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magine a boy of 11 sitting on a barren floor, terribly alone, but destined for greater things. A mysterious scar brands him as the Chosen One, but at this young age, he is ignorant of his destiny. One stormy night, though, everything changes. A half-giant blasts through his door, handing the boy a letter. After some confusion, the giant asks, “Don’t you know who you are?” The boy is a wizard, and over the years he learns that his fate is tied to an evil that threatens to destroy the world he has come to love. He is destined to defeat that evil. Though success and tragedy ensue in equal measure, the boy perseveres through certain destruction until at the still young age of 18 this boy defeats the Dark Lord and becomes one of the most popular heroes of 21st-century literature. Now I want you to imagine an ordinary, shy girl living in suburbia. Let’s call her Olive. The Harry Potter series is just one of the stories that have captivated her since she was young. Seeing her own life as seemingly uninteresting and sluggish, she envisions herself wandering through an enchanted forest filled with dragons and wizards. She soars through the skies with Peter Pan and the lost boys fighting pirates. She conjures fire with her hands to destroy her foes. She dreams of living in fantastical worlds where magic is real and good triumphs over evil. Growing up, she was convinced that someday she would discover her superpower and save the world. She knew she was going to do something spectacular. Olive could not wait patiently for her powers to come to her; she needed to occupy herself with other endeavors. She chose to attend a prestigious boarding school in the hopes that her education would help her achieve that heroic status she desired. Somehow, though, the school wasn’t enough. Olive needed more than what it had to offer. If she was going to save the world, she needed something more. So she packed her bags and set out on a perilous journey. Now before I go on, let me say that I tend to relate to this character, “Olive.” I could be sitting in my room struggling through a particularly difficult math problem when suddenly I freeze, look at my pencil, and then hurl it across the room exclaiming, “What in tarnation am I doing here?!” I bolt up and start pacing the room, mumbling to myself about how inconsequential calculus is at a time like this. There are starving children, the environment is in ruins, and animals everywhere are being abused. What am I doing here? I should be out there working, creating, solving. And then I stop as suddenly as I’ve started, calmly pick up my pencil, and finish my homework. My frustrated outburst is over, I go to sleep and continue with my routine. I know that I might be the only one who frantically talks to herself like a crazy person, but I know I’m not the only one who is paralyzed by this frustration, this yearning to do more than what is being done, to actually know what needs to happen. This must be how Olive was feeling, looking for that purpose in far-off lands when her regular life didn’t offer her the heroic opportunities she wanted. But I digress. When we left our heroine, she was making her way around the world. She began her journey in a distant land where she joined others who harbored the same yearning for adventure. After partaking in various exciting events, the motley crew of
adventurers took it upon themselves to go one step further, to battle fortune and defy the gods. On this fateful day, they stepped out of their van and strode confidently toward the questionable aircraft with courage in their hearts. They would take the leap of faith nearly three miles off the ground. There Olive stood, thinking: “I am about to die. I am actually going to plummet to my death today.” But she put on a brave smile and walked on. She met Dave, her instructor, and he put a harness on her and loaded her into the airplane. The thoughts kept circling: “Today is my last day on Earth. I should have called my mother this morning, she doesn’t even know.” She watched as the ground grew more distant and then disappeared behind the clouds. Dave yelled to her over the engine. “I need to buckle us together so you need to sit on my lap!” “OK,” she yelled back. She shuffled over and sat on his lap, feeling like this was the most uncomfortable situation she had ever been in, and then as he strapped her tightly to him with no escape, he yelled in her ear. “This is my favorite part!” Hmmm, she thinks. I take that back; now this is the most uncomfortable situation ever. Come on, Dave. Then they’ve reached their altitude and the door springs open. Her feet are dangling over the edge … 3 … 2 … 1 … they’re tumbling out into the air, freefall. But all too soon the cord is pulled and they are drifting down toward the earth. Mission accomplished. I have to say, sitting in that plane really made me think about my life. Who I truly wanted to be. What if I were a hero—traversing the planet on dangerous missions, and in the end I make all the right choices and save the world from evil? The thought that a person my age could take on enormous responsibility, have an unswervingly good heart, and save the universe is as intimidating as it is intoxicating. Yet, after all my travels and adventures, I still felt at a loss. While I’ve become so much braver as a result of these experiences, what had I really accomplished? Why wasn’t I any closer to finding out my purpose? If I was the heroine, where was the evil? What was I prophesied to do? Who or what was I supposed to fight? I’ve dreamed numerous times that someone would approach me and say something along the lines of, “You are the hero of the prophesy,” “You are the Avatar,” or “You’re a Wizard, ’Arry.” And yet here I stand, 18 and painfully plain, no superhuman powers, no mysterious prophecies to fulfill. So I bury myself in books and my imagination, thinking, “What If?”
Olivia Trase ’12 created “Genevieve,” a portrait of her formmate Genevieve Fowler ’12, in Beth Van Gelder’s painting class. It was selected for publication in the Winter 2012 issue of The Marble Collection, a publication of outstanding art by Massachusetts high schoolers.
Carly Margolis ’12, Olivia Trase ’12, Denia “Dee” Viera ’12, Julia Wood ’12, and Nya Holder ’12
Quarterly Spring 2012
Per Circulum Locuti Sunt | Voices on the Circle
Top, Olivia Trase ’12 (right) on a skydiving trip with her twin brother, James. Below, her painting, “Gone for a Swim.”
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I had these grand ideas of how I would somehow save the entire world: end hunger, cause universal happiness, and invent a cure for corruption in general. I felt it was my duty to discover the answer to the most important, life-threatening problem in the universe, whatever that was. I wanted to make my life worth something—I just didn’t know how. What draws me to the world of heroes and quests is not so much to be “special” and have superhuman powers, or to complete my quest and be showered in glory, or even to escape a boring life, but rather something more untouchable. My greatest lure to that other world, Narnia, Neverland, Hogwarts, whatever you want to call it, is for the simple distinction between good and bad, between right and wrong. In the stories the protagonists always have to make difficult decisions and perhaps at some points choose between two evils, but in the end there is always a right side and a wrong side. Their world is almost completely black and white: this is good and this is bad. And I yearn for that world because here I feel trapped in an infuriating grayness. To me, nothing is ever so beautifully simple as right and wrong. And yes, while it would be nice to have the powers to make things fly by waving a stick or control the ocean by sheer force of will, I am most drawn to that feeling: the thought that I am doing the right thing; the thought that I know what I have to do and I’m doing it. If you’re going to save the world, you need a plan, right? And that is what I struggled with most days, a frustrating, cyclical conversation with myself about what I should do. My dreams of saving the world are stalled because I know that I have only one life to devote to something bigger than myself. But which is the best possible plan? What if I choose to devote myself to one calling and realize too late that I’ve chosen the wrong one? That is why I so desperately cling to that other life, that other world. At least if I were there, I would know what I needed to do because it is so stunningly simple, laid out for me in a few paragraphs in Chapter 42. But I’ve begun thinking a little differently. I am no longer completely lost to my daydreams. There have been two moments in my life that I would like to share. The first was years ago, a few days after I had returned from a trip to Australia, my first time travelling without my parents but rather with other students. That day, I had gone with my mother to surprise my twin brother with a visit at his sleepaway camp. I was standing at the bottom of a rocky dirt road, waiting for a counselor to retrieve him. Out of nowhere I see James sprinting down the hill in his bare feet, hopping around trying to avoid the sharp rocks. When he got to the bottom he slammed into me with a ferocious hug and, with his face buried into my shoulder, he said he missed me. I pretended not to notice that he was tearing up. I was not expecting this reaction. You see, James, at that point, was in the pre-teen stage of thinking he was too cool for everything, and all he wanted to do was impress his friends with his manliness. Yet he tossed away that façade because he missed me and I was important to him. The second moment happened while I was doing community service in Fiji one summer. That morning, we were spending time with students at the local elementary school, playing games with them during recess. I had picked up a volleyball and had soon gathered a group of four kids to play with. I asked what their names were and soon we were playing a version of a name game where we shouted out each other’s names every time we tossed the ball. My name, due to the children’s accented English, had been transformed into O-lee-vee-a. Our shouts grew louder as we excitedly called to one another. Soon we had about 10 kids playing this game, and the numbers were only growing. Before long I had to leave and then the first four children grabbed my shirt, wanting me to stay. I assured them that I would be back; we would be returning to that school to teach them English over the next two weeks. Every time I returned, those first four kids would hurtle out of their classroom and follow me around for the entire day, tugging at my shirt saying, “O-lee-vee-a, look at this, O-lee-vee-a, look at that.” Everyone joked that I had my own little posse. But something struck me about their persistence to be around me. I realized that no other students knew the names of any of the children except for a kid named Moses. I had affected these four kids more than I had imagined I could, simply by taking the initiative to learn their names.
Finding the Hero Within Have you ever wondered how much responsibility we have, as humans? Not just for the state of the world, but for the course of our lives and every life that touches our own. Our decisions have so much weight. I found that as this stage of my life comes to an end, I was afraid to decide where I wanted to begin the next phase. I had to do something colossal, alter the course of life as we know it. That’s a big decision to make: how are you going to change the world? Everything I do has weight. I did not completely realize the effect that I have on people, the effect that each person has on everyone else. We tend to forget that people do notice what we do and how we act, and they respond. Even the smallest acts of kindness, like visiting your brother or remembering a name, can truly move someone. In a way, I was a hero to all of them, my brother and the Fijian children. I didn’t need to conquer the world with my ideas and solve the greatest problem mankind has ever known. In those moments, I could feel their joy radiating through me, and I felt pure happiness. They were happy because of something I did. I may never become world-renowned for my daring acts of bravery in the name of the universe, but if I can know that I have caused some happiness, I feel that it is enough. I am no longer afraid of choosing the wrong path. Of all of the decisions I could make in regard to my life, I’m confident that whatever I do will be right. I’m not sure exactly what it is I will choose to do, but if I am the reason that at least one person can be truly joyful, I know that I will be doing the right thing. If I can leave you with some grain of advice, I want to tell you that what you do matters. No matter how small or insignificant your actions may seem, no matter how isolated, they have an effect. As Heather Cortez wisely said, “To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world.” If you pay attention, you could change someone’s universe for the better. Then you too could be a hero.
Have you ever wondered how much responsibility we have, as humans? Not just for the state of the world, but for the course of our lives and every life that touches our own.
Olivia and friends on an adventure in Costa Rica
Quarterly Spring 2012
Per Circulum Locuti Sunt | Voices on the Circle
ighting THE Wor ld of Warcr aft
A Chapel Talk by George M. Prugh ’12 February 28, 2012
’m George Prugh, and I have a confession. Or, I should say, “In the outside world, I am George Prugh, a simple student, but in the World of Warcraft, I was Nasfool, Champion of the Horde and slayer of dragons.”1 (Wow. That sounded even dumber than I thought it would. OK, here goes.) For several years prior to the winter of 2010, I struggled with an Internet addiction that was, and is, to a certain extent, still a huge phenomenon in the Internet gaming world. I never played at School; I was always just too busy, and I thank Groton so much for that. But at home, World of Warcraft ruled my life. It was almost as bad as Cartman in the South Park episode, “Make Love, Not Warcraft.” I would get up in the morning, put on my glasses, skip the shower, and immediately boot up my computer. After saying a quick, insincere “hi” to Mom and Dad and eating whatever food they had prepared, I would log on to my account, desperate to check my auctions from the night before, to chat with guild members, to raid dungeons, and sometimes literally to just run in circles. And I would stay on the computer for hours and hours and hours. It wasn’t that the game itself was so much fun—it was fun, especially in the beginning—but thinking about the game, talking about what you were going to do next, about how you were going to make your character better, was absolutely intoxicating. And it was my life, my half-life, almost every day of every vacation, for almost four years. I’m George Prugh, and I have a confession. I’m a recovering World of Warcraft addict, and I have been clean for one year, one month, and 25 days. For those of you who don’t know, World of Warcraft is a revolutionary game with a huge legacy. The game itself is a fairly standard massively multiplayer online role-playing game (or MMORPG), where players band together to slay monsters and to complete quests in order to level up and find equipment that will help them level up even further. However, the game’s scope is unprecedented. With a monthly charge of $13 to $17 (based upon subscription plan and payment currency) and a body of active players, ranging from 6 million its first year to its peak of nearly 12 million (almost twice the size of Massachusetts), World of Warcraft has grossed, for its company, Activision-Blizzard, more than $5 billion during its six-and-a-half-year lifespan. This single game alone still earns more than $140 million each month, in spite of the fact that the graphics and game design have remained essentially static since 2004. So how exactly does World of Warcraft do it? Why does virtually every other successful MMORPG model itself on World of Warcraft? Is it the real-time auction and trade-centered economy (which extend illegally into the real world, with the exchange of real currency for virtual goods)? Is it the extremely wide body of fan-made content, including YouTube videos, artwork, software add-ons, and other game-based information? Or is it just that World of Warcraft has no pause button—and never ends?
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With gratitude to South Park, Park “Make Love, Not Warcraft”
Prior to quitting, I thought a lot about these questions. Something inside of me instinctively hated the game, but I didn’t know what it was, and I couldn’t quit. I would literally go to sleep at night in tears, resolve never to play again, and then wake up in the morning and go straight back to the computer (and I never told anyone about this, so I never got any help). But what exactly was the piper’s song? What kept bringing me back to a game that I hated, a game that I have given more than 2,400 waking hours of my life to? More than anything else, I think, was the false promise best described by William Shatner—otherwise known as Captain Kirk of Star Trek fame—in the once ubiquitous World of Warcraft commercial: “Hello. I’m William Shatner, and I’m a shaman. I’m a conduit of the ancient forces of nature. You’re no doubt wondering, ‘Hey, Shatner, how do I hurl bolts of lightning?’ Simple—get World of Warcraft, dog, you can be anyone you want.” Take a few seconds and think about that. If you could be anyone, in the entire world, who would it be? And what would you sacrifice to be that person? For most of my life, I probably could have told you 10 people I’d rather be, and, although I didn’t see that commercial until long after I started playing, I felt it: World of Warcraft would let me be who I wanted to be, would offer me a whole new identity. However, the actual result was not quite what I had expected. WoW, as it’s called, destroyed my self-confidence in almost every area other than maybe academia, and led me to lose interest in real life by allowing me to become exactly what I wanted to be: autonomous externally, a slave internally, and all in all, a “hollow man.”2 I do not think I am the only one who has suffered by inadvertently ascribing too much importance to an ultimately unsatisfying enterprise. The promise, “get World of Warcraft, dog, you can be anyone you want,” really means “play World of Warcraft, and you will be able to do more than you can currently do, and additionally, your life will be more fulfilling than it would be otherwise.” The first half of this elaboration is technically true, but it belies a false reality. By playing World of Warcraft, you will be able to have experiences that you could not have had if you had only chosen to play a different game, or to forsake video games in their entirety (which is probably the wiser choice). Yet while the statement is technically true, the cost of having the experience is steep: the more you play, the fewer new experiences you will have in-game, and the more real experiences you will miss out on, simply by virtue of having spent time (which by its nature is a limited commodity) in an irresponsible way. And if you’re not getting more out of life than you’re losing (which is certainly the case with Warcraft) then you will not be able to do more than you can currently do. You will be able to do different—and less—sum total. The second half of this promise: “your life will be more fulfilling than it would be otherwise,” I cannot logically refute because it is subjective. However, from personal experience (my experience, as well as the experiences of close others), I know this to be reasonably untrue. I can say as a witness that life has more variety than Warcraft—variety 2
George Prugh ’12, Alice Stites ’13, Brittani Taylor ’14, Becca Gracey ’14, and Starling Irving ’13 in Much Ado About Nothing
If you could be anyone, in the entire world, who would it be? And what would you sacrifice to be that person?
Reference to T.S. Eliot’s “The Hollow Men”
Quarterly Spring 2012
DavID aLtShuLer P ’13, ’15
Per Circulum Locuti Sunt | Voices on the Circle
George Prugh ’12 and Eliza Fairbrother ’12 in The Odyssey
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in colors, sounds, senses, information, expression, and light. I can say as a witness that life has more meaningful personal interactions. Both have a lot of people talking (Warcraft, via Skype, Ventrilo, and instant messaging), but the range of meaningful conversation is limited (people want to talk about the game, not life!), and the actual medium of communication is dampened (there’s no body language, no smile, no twinkle in the eyes). Additionally, and I hope I’ve convinced you of this by now, in World of Warcraft, there is no rest, only the dull, fated, damned movement of Sisyphus, pushing the boulder never quite to the top before it rolls down again. I bring up this dark part of my life, which I hope is concluded, for two reasons. First, I want those of you whom I haven’t had the opportunity to really know for whatever reason (and I’m sorry) to have a more accurate and earthy idea of who I was—of who I am—and of who I hope to be in the future, when we’ve all scattered like dandelion seeds. It occurs to me every day more clearly that there are really very few people who we (as humans) truly know, whether for lack of want or for lack of opportunity, and it saddens me. Second, I bring this up because, despite the obvious differences in scale, in content, and in complexity, World of Warcraft’s promise is not so different from the promise that a school like Groton, explicitly—or implicitly—makes to students. And, to be fair, a lot of it is true. Groton is incredible. This School, as much as any place I know, allows its students to claim whatever future they want to claim. But does merely attending a school like Groton mean that you will be able “to do more than you can currently do,” and that “your life will be more fulfilling than it would have otherwise been?” Let’s look at the first half. Has Groton provided the means for you to do more than you could have otherwise done? Likely it has. But as with World of Warcraft, the price has been high (and I know it’s different for everyone); and there are a lot of ways to move through this place (and I’ve travelled many of them) without really focusing on what has lasting value. An academic education will allow you to develop in specific ways. Say you want to design a suspension bridge. First, you have to learn the physics behind the design. How can the weight of the bridge be transferred and spread evenly to hold up over years of abuse? Or, say you’re a Third Former who doesn’t know how to play guitar, but who wants to learn. You can do that here. You can pick up a new instrument, pay for some lessons, and spend every waking minute you’re not studying practicing in the practice rooms or in your dorm room, listening to talented instrumentalists and expanding your repertoire, making the right contacts and summer plans so that you can really excel. But although an academic education will help you to achieve specific goals, it will not in itself give you a system by which to find deeper meaning in life, or by which to judge the value of all you are doing and not doing. The second half of the promise is similarly beguiling. Will attending Groton (or any other institution like it) by virtue of its requirements (academic or otherwise) make your life more fulfilling than it is now? I do not think so. Although “fulfillment” means something different to every person, my personal experience (limited as it is) and the way I understand the experiences of others lead me to believe that this is reasonably untrue, and that something unrequired is necessary. Take a moment and close your eyes. Think back to the experience of deepest joy you can remember. Was that time special because of something you learned in school? Or was it special because you were with someone you love? You can open your eyes now. Similarly, students, do you feel more peaceful now than when you were younger? “I have to get into college, George. Leave me alone!” But the point is, the answer really has nothing at all to do
with college; seniors who know their futures are (perhaps a stereotype) notoriously restless. While an education may help you achieve certain goals or maintain a certain standard of living, there will always be something more to gain, something more to do, and I can’t help but feel that whenever I shore my accomplishments against my ruin3, nothing remains but denial and unrest. So, if Groton’s requirements won’t bring fulfillment in themselves, what will? Will getting into college and then changing your identity bring you fulfillment? Maybe. Will achieving mastery in some artistic field bring you fulfillment? Maybe. Will making more money than you know what to do with bring you fulfillment? Maybe. What about delving deep into a particular academic area? Again, maybe. Yet I doubt any of these will quite satisfy your thirst in the most lasting sort of way. Nothing, absolutely nothing, that I can alone claim responsibility for has satisfied mine. Yet I can say that for me, meeting for 45 minutes on Thursday evenings in the Webb-Marshall Room—reading the Bible, and sincerely questioning Biblical truths and presuppositions, has given me more direction in my life, greater peace, and greater joy than any other endeavor I’ve explored at this School or beyond. It has given me an unattainable standard of conduct towards which to strive, and has shown me how awesome it feels to be personally and undeservedly loved. Not only that, but this spiritual foundation has only been, and, I dare say, seems as though it will only be, strengthened by questions, doubts, and disbeliefs. I am so grateful that the School has given me the opportunity to explore my faith in this way. So I urge you: keep an open mind in whatever you decide to pursue. And once you find that one thing that is of lasting value, pursue it with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. And if it turns out to be a lie, sign off, unplug, and move on to the next one. If you do that, dog—you may just become more than you ever dared want to be. Reference to T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land”
Carrie Coughlin ’12, Noah Altshuler ’15, Gordon Pyne ’12, George Prugh ’12, Molly Belsky ’12, Luke Duroc-Danner ’12, and Philippe Heitzmann ’12 in The Odyssey
Reading the Bible, and sincerely questioning Biblical truths and presuppositions, has given me more direction in my life, greater peace, and greater joy than any other endeavor I’ve explored at this School or beyond.
Quarterly Spring 2012
Per Circulum Locuti Sunt | Voices on the Circle
etter to My ounger Self
A Chapel Talk by R. Roland Reynolds ’89, Trustee January 20, 2012
id you know that Michael Jordan, perhaps the greatest basketball player of all time, was cut from his high school team? Walt Disney, the creator of Mickey Mouse, was once fired by a newspaper editor because “he lacked imagination and had no good ideas.” J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series, was originally rejected by 12 different publishers. And Abraham Lincoln was twice defeated in elections to the U.S. Senate before becoming the 16th president of the United States in 1860. If you type “famous failures” into Google, you will find versions of these stories and many others on countless self-help and motivational websites. And rightly so. At its core, each is an example of the kind of grit and determination that we celebrate at Groton and seek to foster in our students. But I must confess that, aside from the turn-off of the shameless Internet commercialization, these particular examples fall short of profound inspiration for me because they are so far removed from my own experience. We know how it works out in the end for these players—they are historically significant, and each literally changed the world. And so how is it that the rest of us, who toil outside of history’s gaze, still unsure of how it will all work out in the end, should find inspiration and prescriptive action for our own lives from these examples? Certainly many gathered in this Chapel today already have and will in the future reach great achievements, but most of us will not become one of the greatest basketball players of our time (at barely 5’7” and 41 years old, I think this is a pretty safe bet in my case at least), nor is it likely that many of us will write one of the all-time best-selling children’s books or become president of the United States. But the central reason that these stories fail to inspire me in the profound ways that the self-help experts had intended is that they are examined myopically through the lens of a singular professional discipline—failure in a specific domain ultimately followed by triumph in that same domain. But I personally find greater inspiration in the stories with a wider aperture, stories of men and women who overcome life’s inevitable adversities and achieve great things not just in their profession but also in their personal lives. The “successful life” in my view requires a more comprehensive and holistic definition of achievement—one which incorporates multiple life disciplines across both professional and personal boundaries.
Roland Reynolds ’89
Michael Jordan Some of you may remember the Nike television commercial a few years ago featuring the “failures” of Michael Jordan. In the commercial, Jordan is seen getting out of the driver’s seat of an expensive black SUV. Wearing a stylish overcoat, he is greeted with stolen glances
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from stadium staff who simply can’t hide their awe. Throngs of press cameras flash while he walks alone toward the players’ locker room. His own voiceover recounts: “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life—and that is why I succeed.” I don’t mean to question Jordan’s good intentions, but for me, the message is a complete airball, falling short of profound inspiration due to its singular focus on MJ’s failures in his professional basketball career—a career which is one of the most celebrated of all time and firmly enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame. I am less interested in the disappointment of missing the game-winning shot. What I really want to know is how the murder of his father impacted Jordan’s life? What is MJ’s relationship with his own children today and was there anything that he might have done differently to save his first marriage, which ended in divorce? Does he really have a gambling problem, and in his darkest moments, has MJ found a higher power or spirituality that gives him strength? These are the messy and deeply personal questions that, when answered in the affirmative and paired with his unquestionable achievements on the basketball court, begin to fuel true inspiration.
Hero status, in my book, should be reserved for those rarefied few whose achievements span not just a single domain but rather numerous personal and professional life disciplines.
FIVE KEY LIFE DISCIPLINES At Groton, we encourage development of the whole child and demand that our students engage deeply across multiple disciplines, including not just academics, but also athletics, the arts, residential life, and service projects. It is not enough for our faculty to just teach class—we require that they run dorms, coach teams, and formally advise and mentor students. And though some of you may sometimes wonder, I can assure you that even Mr. Commons is expected to do more than just turn up wearing a bright green sport coat once a term. So why should we accept anything less from our heroes and role models? Overcoming the inevitable obstacles and achieving spectacular success in a single domain is certainly worthy of admiration. But hero status, in my book, should be reserved for those rarefied few whose achievements span not just a single domain but rather numerous personal and professional life disciplines. I’d like to plant a seed this morning for what I hope might become a discussion about what are the components of a “successful life,” not just at Groton but in college and in our adult lives beyond the Circle. To get things started, I’ll offer my own framework for what I believe are five key life disciplines. They include: 1) professional career, 2) relationships with family and friends, 3) physical and emotional health, 4) service, and 5) spirituality. I imagine debate among the fertile minds in this community might yield another category or two or some other variation, but universal agreement or standardization of the framework isn’t required. Furthermore, it is only natural that each of us will weigh the importance of any singular component differently—and we’re all likely to reorder the relative importance of any particular category at different stages of our own lives. If we are serious about inspiring lives dedicated to character, learning, leadership, and service, as Groton’s mission statement suggests, we’ll need a framework to help calibrate our efforts in life. I tend to visualize this framework graphically as five bars on a chart— shamefully my capacity for critical thinking today has been reduced to the functionality set of Microsoft PowerPoint. The order and height of the bars graphically depicts my priorities and measures my performance in each life discipline at a given point in time. No two individuals’ charts will look the same. But I believe the process of developing this framework, and revisiting it throughout life for revision and assessment, will foster greater intentionality and clearer focus on the areas of our lives that need more attention—thereby improving our chances of fulfilling Groton’s lofty mission and our own odds of living out a “successful life.” Quarterly Spring 2012
Per Circulum Locuti Sunt | Voices on the Circle STEVE JOBS
“Suffering through three seasons as an alternate player on a losing varsity basketball team simply to guarantee yourself 10 varsity letters will prove to be one of your greatest regrets at Groton. Who knows what you might have discovered about yourself if you’d been willing to try something new?”
For pleasure reading, I am drawn to biographies and non-fiction because I find some twisted bit of solace in the inevitable failures and character flaws of famous people— as if their defects somehow help justify my own shortcomings. When I consider their performance along those five key life disciplines, I am often struck by the similarities of those graphs. The spectacular professional successes are quite literally “off the charts,” but they are so often accompanied by equally epic personal failures and tragedies. The question I am always trying to answer at the end of the book is, when the successes are tallied and all of the failures are scored, in the final analysis, would I consider that person’s life “successful”? Not that spectacular success in any singular discipline necessarily results in failure in another, but my unscientific instinct is that the correlation is high. Another model to consider might be more muted success in any single discipline paired with greater consistency across each of the other key life disciplines. There is no right answer, but I think these are important questions to consider as we revisit, revise, and assess our own life graphs. Over the winter holiday, I began reading Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs, the founder and former CEO of Apple. Based on the rumors I’d heard over the years about Jobs as an overzealous boss and unscrupulous competitor, I was pretty sure that I held in my hands yet another familiar tale of a man who changed the world while neglecting his family; who amassed an enormous fortune while plundering his integrity; and who scorched his relationships with employees and business associates along the way. But in the five-page introduction entitled “How This Book Came To Be,” I realized that Jobs’ life couldn’t be so quickly dismissed as a failure in a more holistic sense. I was surprised to learn that Jobs, the ultimate control freak when it came to design and packaging of Apple products, readily agreed to cede complete control over the book to Isaacson. Jobs also agreed that he wouldn’t even have the right to see a copy in advance. I don’t suspect that many other historical figures would have the confidence to grant such free reign to a biographer. What a contrast to Michael Jordan’s carefully scripted television commercial. I haven’t yet finished the book or reached my own conclusions about the ultimate “success” of Jobs’ life. But Walter Isaacson in an interview conducted after the book was published and shortly after Jobs’ death offered a compelling defense of Jobs’ life that resonated with me precisely because of its wider aperture and its assessment of Jobs’ performance across several key life disciplines. “In the end, Steve Jobs had four loving children who were all intensely loyal to him and a wife who was his best friend for 20 years. At work he ends up with a loyal professional team of A players at Apple who swear by him and stay there, as opposed to other companies that are always losing good talent. In the end he was an inspiring person. He inspired loyalty and real love. So you judge him by that.”
WHAT I KNOW NOW: LETTERS TO MY YOUNGER SELF Roland, his younger self
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I recently stumbled upon a book by Ellyn Spragins titled What I Know Now: Letters to My Younger Self, which is a remarkable compilation of letters from a wide cross-section of accomplished women written to themselves as younger women. The book grew out of Spragins’ longing for wisdom and advice at important times in her life from her deceased mother and the realization that a series of autobiographical vignettes from these accomplished women might be the next best thing. How many times in my own life have I longed for wisdom and advice from my father, who died when I was an infant? As I read these letters, I was struck that many shared common themes related to the importance
of family and friends, the need for personal and professional balance, and appeals to stay true to one’s innate personality and character. It dawned on me that so much of this advice transcended gender and could be organized along the lines of the five key life disciplines. I was inspired to write just such a letter to myself, set in the fall of 1986, during my Fourth Form year at Groton, to see what perspective I might have gained in the years since. I hope that some bits may resonate with anyone still paying attention in Chapel this morning.
LETTER to MYSELF Dear Roland: Relax. A 15-year-old boy need not obsess over what your obituary will say one day. The pressure you feel to please, to achieve, to succeed—all before the age of 34 because that was your father’s age when he died—is entirely your own doing. You can’t see it now, but you are competing with a ghost in a battle that no one asked you to fight. Senior prefect at Woodberry Forest, graduating near the top of his class from the Wharton School at UPenn, the youngest lieutenant governor in Virginia’s history, a community college named in his honor—the weight of your father’s accomplishments and your desire for the same causes you to be overly focused on academic achievement at Groton at the expense of your intellectual development. To get the best grades, you select courses, write papers, and make arguments that play to your strengths in the humanities. Years later you will regret your ignorance of the everyday application of basic concepts from classes outside of your comfort zone that you declined to take, like chemistry, physics, and calculus. Roland, your fear of failure or anything short of complete mastery is compromising your extracurricular experience as well in ways that not even the faculty or your advisor are aware. Choir, drama, music, photography, art—they all pose unfamiliar and therefore unacceptable challenges and risks. Suffering through three seasons as an alternate player on a losing varsity basketball team simply to guarantee yourself 10 varsity letters will prove to be one of your greatest regrets at Groton. Who knows what you might have discovered about yourself if you’d been willing to try something new? Groton will change you in profound ways, but don’t let it take away from who you are. As a Virginian, you bring to Groton valuable perspective and traditions. Insecurities about the preconceived notions others may have toward Southerners will fuel your conscientious efforts to transform your twangy drawl into something less descript. The impact of your success in this regard will be irreparable—diluting the diversity on the Circle in the short term, but worse is that you are compromising an element of who you are for a lifetime. Roland, a final bit of wisdom and a warning from 2012: while your conviction to answer Groton’s call to service will be as strong as ever, you will have no more clarity 25 years later as to exactly how you will do this. As the years wear on, you will begin to see that serving the world isn’t about changing the world in order to earn recognition in the history books like Roosevelt, Harriman, Acheson, and other famous Grotonians. Service, like character, may be more about what you do when no one is looking. As you continue to wrestle with these questions about what it means to live a “successful life,” know that you will be blessed with a deep partnership with your wife and two healthy and happy children who bring you immense joy; you will enjoy good health, a spirituality which sustains, and a profession that provides intellectual stimulation; and you will have an opportunity to serve as a trustee at Groton and as a board director for the community college which bears your father’s name. Oh, and for a kid who worries all the time, you’ll be glad to know that you will still have a full head of brown hair in 2012! Wishing you all the success and happiness on your journey, Roland
Friends from the Form of 1989: Zack Gund and Roland Reynolds
Quarterly Spring 2012
De Libris | About Books • Book review •
Coup d’État by John Benjamin Coes ’85 Reviewed by Ann Bakewell Woodward ’86
confess that I’m not your typical action thriller aficionado, seeking out the latest bestsellers in the political adventure intrigue genre. I stumbled upon Ben Coes’ first book, Power Down, as a result of asking him to discuss his dual professions—as both a private equity investor and, in his more recent pursuit, fiction writer—for a Groton alumni career panel. Feeling the need to be the prepared and informed host and moderator, I picked up Power Down to do my pre-event homework. Before even finishing the first chapter, I was hooked on protagonist Dewey Andreas and Ben Coes as a writer. I couldn’t put Ben’s first book down, and when I finished it, I could only think about when his next novel would be released. My wait was over this fall when Coup d’État appeared on bookshelves. Over Thanksgiving weekend I eagerly read it cover to cover without stopping. Ben managed to top himself as a master storyteller, weaving an intricate story of intrigue, action, and breathless pacing as main character Dewey Andreas is called upon again to help save his country. Andreas, the resilient, reluctant hero, is needed to prevent another disaster—this time when peace between India and Pakistan breaks down and the countries advance to the brink of a nuclear war. In a plot with a prescient, ripped-from-the-headlines relevance, a radical cleric gains the presidency of Pakistan through the backing of a billionaire benefactor. Against the backdrop of real-life tension as high as today’s in the Middle East, readers will be on the edges of their seats, nervous about the political and nuclear showdown about to happen. With the clock ticking, the president must rely on his top-notch team, including Bill Polk, deputy director of the CIA’s National Clandestine Service, and Andreas, decorated ex-Delta Force soldier. Ben Coes ’85 Andreas must pull off a highly dangerous coup in Pakistan before the Pakistani president’s agenda destabilizes the world. The only problem—no one knows where to find recluse Andreas, in hiding since his last escapades ended in Power Down. Will they find him and convince him to serve his country once again, before time runs out? Even without the gripping plot, Coup d’État is a must-read for Grotonians for several reasons. In what other novel is Bill Polk a featured high-level political character, full of the “headmasterly wisdom,” benevolence, and guts that we as Groton alumni fondly remember? Where else will you find Timmy Goodale (Form of 1986) tearing up the London squash and social scene? And in what other novels will Groton get a cameo as a character’s prestigious prep school? For these three reasons alone, any Grotonian will get a chuckle and feel like an insider to the plot and the author while reading this entertaining tale. I tried to bribe Ben to get a sneak peek at the draft for his next book, The Last Refuge (to be released in July), but no such luck. I look forward to it being my first (and I’m sure favorite!) summer read, as Dewey Andreas will no doubt transport me to some exciting location in his next high-drama adventure. Stay tuned . . .
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Ex Libris | Books???
De Libris | About Books
New releases Matthew T. Hutson ’96
The 7 Laws of Magical Thinking Hudson Street Press
hat is so special about touching a piano John Lennon once owned? Why do we yell at our laptops? What drove the Yankees to dig up the Red Sox jersey secretly buried beneath their new stadium? And what’s up with the phrase “Everything happens for a reason”? Psychologists have documented a litany of cognitive biases— misperceptions of reality—and explained their positive functions. Matthew Hutson ’96 shows that even the staunchest skeptics engage in magical thinking—and that we can use it to our advantage, if we know how to outsmart it. Drawing on cognitive science, neuroscience, psychology, and anthropology, Matt explains that magical thinking has been so useful that it’s hardwired into our brains. It encourages us to think that we actually have free will. It helps us believe that we have an underlying purpose in the world. It can even protect us from the paralyzing awareness of our own mortality. In other words, magical thinking is a completely irrational way of making our lives make sense. With entertaining stories, personal reflections, and sharp observations, Hutson has written a book that is entertaining, useful, and ever so slightly alarming.
Heather L. Clark ’92
The Grief of Inﬂuence: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes Oxford University Press
hroughout their marriage, Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes engaged in a complex and continually evolving poetic dialogue about writing, love, and grief. Although scholars have commented extensively on the biographical details of Plath and Hughes’ marriage, few have undertaken a systematic intertextual analysis of the poets’ work. The Grief of Inﬂuence reappraises this extraordinary literary partnership and shows that the aesthetic and ideological similarities that provided a foundation for Plath and Hughes’ creative marriage—such as their mutual fascination with D.H. Lawrence and motifs of violence and war—intensified their artistic rivalry. Through close readings of both poets’ work and analysis of new archival sources, Heather Clark ’92 reveals for the first time how extensively Plath borrowed from Hughes and Hughes from Plath. She also explores the transatlantic dynamics of their “colonial” marriage within the context of the 1950s AngloAmerican poetry scene and demonstrates how each poet’s misreadings of the other contributed to the damaging stereotypes that now dominate the Plath-Hughes mythology. Following Plath and Hughes through alternating periods of collaboration and competition, The Grief of Inﬂuence shows how each poet forged a voice both through and against the other’s, and offers a new assessment of the 20th century’s most important poetic partnership.
Book summaries were provided by authors and/or publishers.
Quarterly Spring 2012
De Libris | About Books Seán A. Hemingway ’85
The Tomb of Alexander Hutchinson
n his first novel, Seán Hemingway ’85 explores one of the greatest leaders of all time. After Alexander died, his tomb was the most renowned and respected shrine in the Roman Empire, the object of veneration by great emperors and leaders the world over. It stood at the heart of the grandest city on earth. And then it disappeared. Centuries later, on a dig in Crete, curator and archaeologist Tom Carr is convinced that he’s discovered a vital clue. At his side is a beautiful young artist, Victoria Price. Together, they are prepared to risk everything to find the tomb and solve one of the most enduring mysteries of our time. Seán, an archaeologist and a curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, has written about ancient Greek art and has edited several books by his grandfather, Ernest Hemingway. Robert B. Whitney ’61 (aka S.W. Bardot)
House Ascendant: Odysseus & His Family in the Early 13th Century BC iUniverse
riting under his pen name, Robert B. Whitney ’61 explores the young life of Odysseus and his early friendship with Mentor, a relationship that grew into one of the great friendships of Western literature. Beginning with Odysseus’ birth in 1286 during the co-regency of his father, Laertes, and his grandfather, who was sired by the legendary Cephalos, the book takes us to 1271 B.C., when Odysseus was 15 years old. The first part tells tales about Odysseus as a young boy under the care of his mother, Anticleia; a second part explores his late childhood, from his apprenticeship in naval command under the guidance of the brilliant Laertes to his earliest accomplished naval titles. A third part of the book introduces his loves-in-life, which begin just after his recuperation from a gashing boar wound that he suffered while a guest of his grandfather, Autolykos, at Gulf Phokis. He heals, of course, to command the near fleets of the Ithacan League, during which period he consorts with Kassiope of Scheria. The book’s extensive addenda provide tools for both advanced scholars and laypersons wholly unfamiliar with antiquity.
William M. Tsutsui ’81
Japanese Popular Culture and Globalization Association for Asian Studies
apanese popular culture—from anime (animation) and manga (comic books) to video games and Sudoku number puzzles—has become a global phenomenon. Yet few of the worldwide fans of Pokémon, Iron Chef, and Hello Kitty understand the historical origins of contemporary Japanese pop culture, the course of its international diffusion, or the broader implications of its global appeal. This concise volume explores the historical, cultural, and economic factors that have fueled Japan’s pop creativity and the reception of Japanese entertainment products by markets and consumers around the world. It also considers how the rise of Japan as a “soft superpower” will affect Japan’s place in the global political system, its neighbors in East Asia, and our conceptions of what is so “Japanese” about Japanese pop culture. Bill Tsutsui ’81 also recently co-edited The East Asian Olympiads, 1934-2008: Building Bodies and Nations in Japan, Korea, and China.
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De Libris | About Books Cristina deM. Alger ’98
The Darlings Penguin/Viking Press
ow that he’s married to Merrill Darling, daughter of billionaire financier Carter Darling, attorney Paul Ross has grown accustomed to New York society and all of its luxuries: a Park Avenue apartment, weekends in the Hamptons, bespoke suits. When Paul loses his job, Carter offers him the chance to head the legal team at his hedge fund. Thrilled with his good fortune in the midst of the worst financial downturn since the Great Depression, Paul accepts the position. But Paul’s luck is about to shift: a tragic event catapults the Darling family into the media spotlight, a regulatory investigation, and a red-hot scandal with enormous implications for everyone involved. Suddenly Paul must decide where his loyalties lie—will he save himself while betraying his wife and in-laws or protect the family business at all costs? Cristina Alger’s acclaimed debut novel interweaves the narratives of the Darling family, two eager SEC attorneys, and a team of journalists all racing to uncover—or cover up—the truth. With echoes of a fictional Too Big to Fail and the novels of Dominick Dunne, The Darlings offers an irresistible glimpse into the highest echelons of New York society—a world seldom seen by outsiders—in a fast-paced thriller.
Philip B. Kunhardt III ’70, Peter W. Kunhardt ’71, and Peter Kunhardt, Jr.
Looking for Lincoln: The Making of an American Icon Knopf
n extensively researched and lavishly illustrated consideration of the myths, memories, and questions that gathered around our most beloved—and most enigmatic—president in the years between his assassination and the dedication of the Lincoln Memorial in 1922. The Kunhardts—the fourth and fifth generations of a family of Lincoln scholars— bring into focus the posthumous portrait of Lincoln that took hold in the American imagination. Using both published and never-before-seen materials, they tell the statesman’s story through the voices of those who knew him—Northerners and Southerners, blacks and whites, neighbors and family members, adversaries and colleagues. Looking for Lincoln takes us through the immediate aftermath of the assassination; the private memories of those closest to the slain president; the difficult period between 1876 and 1908, when a tired nation turned its back on the former slaves and betrayed Lincoln’s teachings; and the early years of the 20th century, when Lincoln’s popularity soared as African Americans fought to reclaim the ideals he espoused. James H. Case ’58
Why Can’t Obama Fix the Economy? What Has To Happen First? lulu.com
ames Case ’58 argues that the president is ill equipped to handle the economic situation. He writes: “ … time, patience, luck, sacrifice and above all sound economic advice will be needed to avoid an epic tragedy. Obama lacks all of the above! He has little time, and voters have little patience. He had the bad luck to assume office before the economy hit bottom, and the public is in no mood for further sacrifice. Most importantly, he lacks a source of sound economic advice! Professional economists—with whom presidents are obliged by law to consult—have yet to propose a viable recovery plan. While some urge futile tax cuts and deregulation, others favor equally futile public works and deficit spending. Both will have to ‘unlearn’ much of what they purport to know about capitalism and the free market system before either can direct an economic recovery.”
Quarterly Spring 2012
Grotoniana | All Things Groton
BrooKe McFerran BancroFt ’96
he Groton Women’s Network (GWN) and the Groton School Alumni Association (GSAA) have been active this winter on both coasts, offering alumni opportunities to reunite with fellow Grotonians over art, service, career networking, and more. GWN’s Boston volunteers hosted their ninth annual event at On the Rise, a safe haven for homeless women in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Groton alumni and parents sorted donated clothing, stocked a clothing closet that doubles as a “store” for the women, and prepared a lunch that could be frozen for future use. “We got so much done!” says Christine Baharozian P’10, ’12, who spearheaded the event. “It was a comfortable, easy-going group of worker bees.” In New York, GWN hosted two events. One was at Soho Photo, where the exhibit “Small Works” featured an installation from the “iScape” series by Suzette Bross Bulley ’86. Suzette’s images were displayed on iPod Touches for a gallery full of Grotonians—especially her 1986 Formmates—and other art lovers. Christy Connor-Tanner ’87 organized the lively event. Thanks to the planning of Brooke Bancroft ’96, the GWN hosted another well-attended children’s event at the Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre in New York. About 30 children of alumni from the Forms of 1987 to 1996 and a granddaughter of a 1966 graduate joined in. Christmas cookies were an added bonus, thanks to Brooke’s culinary skills. Also in New York, the GSAA held a career networking event in January at the Harvard Club. About 50 alumni and friends listened to five panelists: Sean Hemingway ’85, curator of the Department of Greek and Roman Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art; Cia Froelich Moss ’87, founding partner of Chaffetz Lindsey LLP; Tim Walker ’88, producer of HBO’s Real Sports; Holly Green Gordon ’89, vice president of project development of the
About 30 children of alumni from the Forms of 1987 to 1996 and a granddaughter of a 1966 graduate enjoyed an outing to the Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre in New York sponsored by the Groton Women’s Network.
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Grotonians gathered to support artist Suzette Bross Bulley ’86 at Soho Photo, where they saw an installation from Suzette’s “iScape” series—a unique interpretation of landscapes via iPods.
Documentary Group, executive producer of its groundbreaking film 10x10: Educate Girls, Change the World, and the former director of content for the Tribeca Film Festival; and Thomas Lehrman ’91, CEO of Alta Investors. Julia Bator ’86, CEO of the Fund for Public Schools, moderated. In Greenwich, Connecticut, the GWN joined the GSAA to celebrate leap year on, of course, February 29. Alumni, parents, and grandparents gathered at the Indian Harbor Yacht Club for cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, and mid-winter camaraderie. And on April 5, the GWN teams of New York and Fairfield/Westchester counties orchestrated a well-attended private tour of the Gracie Mansion Conservancy. On the West Coast, the GSAA hosted a January cocktail reception at a nightclub in San Francisco’s SoMa district. About 30 alumni from the Forms of ’55 through ’04 attended, along with several Groton parents. This active group also met in December at Glide Memorial Church for its second community service event there.
Girls Squash | 11-3
ith four of our seven players finishing third in their respective flights in the New England Division A tournament, it was a dream finish to a very successful season. The girls varsity team won the sportsmanship award for that tournament and finished fourth, missing third place by two points. They were second in the Independent School League, losing only to St. George’s, and 11th in the Nationals. This is probably one of the most talented teams we’ve had in recent years. With Manjari Ganti ’14, a new sophomore, joining the team in the third position to add strength at the top of the ladder, and Molly Prockop ’15, who is nationally ranked in the U15 age group, playing at seventh to give us some significant depth lower down, we knew from the start that we would have an advantage over most schools. Barring one school, the matches that we won, we won fairly easily, and the two schools we lost to—St. George’s and Deerfield—were not close encounters on those days. The one exception was Nobles. So similar were Nobles’ and Groton’s results against rival schools that few would have dared to predict the outcome of a Nobles-Groton clash. We met them three times during the season. The first was in the Nationals, when we lost 3-4 after Mary Burns ’14 (#6) was up 2-0 but fell in an epic five-game battle. We met them a week later in the all-important ISL encounter at Groton, and at one point it looked like it would be an easy win for Groton as Mary avenged her defeat at the Nationals by beating her opponent in another five-game battle. However, soon after that, Molly Prockop (#7) had her match reversed from the Nationals by losing in four games; with CC Ho ’13 (#1) and Lizzy Ross ’12 (#2) winning their matches, and Manjari Ganti (#3) and Maeve Hoffstot ’13 (#5) losing theirs, the teams were deadlocked at 3-3. The match between Chloe Fross ’12 (#5) and Madeleine Smith of Nobles was to determine the second-place ISL finisher. Chloe had lost to Madeleine in three games at the Nationals, so the advantage was in Nobles court. The gallery filled in around Court 9 as Chloe was down 1-2, and it was incredibly exciting to watch her battle it out to finally win in five games. In a sense, that match epitomized the fighting spirit of this team and reflected the hard work that the players put into practice and matches. They met five of the Nobles players in the New
Zandra “CC” Ho ’13
England tournament a week later and won all five games—this included wins for Molly Prockop in four games, Mary Burns in four games, and Chloe Fross in four games. CC Ho continues to make her mark in the world of squash—a sport she has played for only three seasons. She was undefeated in the ISL, and for the second year running was awarded the Boston Globe ISL MVP award. She finished third in the #1 flight of the New England Division A tournament, thereby establishing herself as one of the top New England prep school girls players. Lizzy Ross finished fifth in the #2 flight and was awarded All League ISL honors for the second year running. Manjari Ganti finished sixth in the #3 flight, Maeve Hoffstot finished seventh in the #4 flight, Chloe Fross finished third in the #5 flight, Mary Burns finished third in the #6 flight, and Molly Prockop finished third in the #7 flight. All in all, it was a marvelous season, and we feel sad to lose seniors Lizzy Ross (#2), Chloe Fross (#5), and Diana Chen ’12 (#8). —Coach Nishad Das Most Valuable Player: Zandra (CC) Ho ’13 All League-ISL: Lizzy Ross ’12 Coach’s Awards: Chloe Fross ’12, Lizzy Ross ’12 New England Division A Sportsmanship Award: Groton School
Quarterly Spring 2012
Grotoniana | All Things Groton
Sam Gosden ’13 (foreground) and Derek Boyse ’12
Boys Squash | 8-5
he boys varsity squash team came into this season with many open questions, having graduated six of the top nine players from last year’s successful team. Fortunately, our program continues to develop a large number of squash enthusiasts, so a host of last year’s capable junior varsity players were eager to fill the vacancies in the varsity ladder. The returning varsity players were the powerful duo of Mathieu Diab ’12 and Walker Evans ’12 plus James Fulham ’14, who was well prepared to step up to the #3 position. We therefore knew the top of our ladder would be solid but had no idea how much to expect from the rest of the players or, for that matter, who they would be. The schedule held just two matches in December, and we learned a lot from them. A 4-3 win over Deerfield showed that even our players with no varsity experience were ready to compete, but a hard-fought 1-6 loss to Exeter highlighted how far we were from mid-season form. When we got back together in January though, the team started working well and hard, and their improvement could be noticed from one week to the next. Anthony Chu ’15 and Ryan Voon ’14 established themselves in the middle of the ladder, where they stood up well to the stiff competition they faced all season. Next in line came a tight pack of hard-working, quickly improving players: Pranay Sharma ’13, Stefano Viacava ’16, Sam Gosden ’13, Johann Colloredo-Mansfeld ’13, and Derek Boyse ’12. The team’s record hovered around the .500 mark through January, but even then it was clear that these hard-working boys were building momentum, learning all they could from each
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match, and getting back to work in practice to become better players before the next contest. A weekend in Connecticut for the High School Nationals in early February disappointed but provided lots of good, close individual matches that added to the team’s experience. All of this set up a gratifying end to the season, when the team took four of the last five matches to finally pull more than one win above .500 and bring the season record to 8-5. Then it was off to run with the big dogs in Division A of the New England’s, where the top seven performed wonderfully, competing with level-headed sportsmanship to represent Groton with pride, while chalking up some terrific wins—most notably Pranay Sharma and Stefano Viacava making it to the main draw semifinals of their respective draws—that brought the team an excellent eighth-place finish, right in the middle of the 16-team field. When the dust had settled, a team that came into the season with few returning players had not only achieved a winning record, but also had tied for third place in the increasingly competitive ISL. While our returning players were few, they were the right ones for the job. Captains Walker Evans and Mathieu Diab are both counted among the strongest players in the league and worked tirelessly not only to improve their own squash but also to bring their less-experienced teammates as far as possible. These terrific leaders, along with stalwart #3 James Fulham, not only set high standards by their own play but also helped coach and encourage their teammates, who rose to the challenge in excellent fashion. This year’s Sixth Formers, Walker, Mathieu, and Derek, will be sorely missed, but their efforts have set this team up to continue their winning ways next year. —Coach Dave Prockop All-League: Mathieu Diab ’12, Walker Evans ’12 Team MVPs: Mathieu Diab ’12, Walker Evans ’12 Captains-Elect: Johann Colloredo-Mansfeld ’13, Pranay Sharma ’13
Boys Ice Hockey | 9 -12-2
t the beginning of the 2011-12 season, boys varsity hockey faced the need to replace seven seniors from last year’s 17-6-1 Eberhart Division-winning squad, as well as the injured team captain, Zachary Baharozian ’12. This massive roster turnover was underlined by the addition of two players to the varsity roster before conference play began in December. In addition, two other players were called up from JV over the course of the season. The season began with a disappointing loss at the perennial Founders League powerhouse, Deerfield, in which Groton kept the game close for 30 minutes before fading down the stretch. Groton proceeded to split a pair of matches between Roxbury
Winter Sports on what was unquestionably one of the youngest and most inexperienced squads in the league, and the future is certainly looking very bright for the 2012-13 season. Outgoing seniors Michael Doherty, Luke Turchetta, Zach Baharozian, and Pat Florence wish the best for next year’s edition of Groton hockey. —Coach William Riley Most Valuable Player: Michael Doherty ’12 All-ISL: Michael Doherty ’12, Chance MacDonald ’14 ISL Honorable Mention: Dan Glavin ’13, Matt Pompa ’14, Luke Turchetta ’12 Coaches’ Awards: Zach Baharozian ’12, Luke Turchetta ’12 Unsung Hero Award: Pat Florence ’12 Captains-Elect: Dan Glavin ’13, Pat Harvey ’13, Peter Mumford ’13
Girls Ice Hockey | 7-12-3
he 2011-12 Groton girls varsity ice hockey team could be summed up in one phrase, the foundation for our season: outsmart the opponents. These young women did everything asked of them and with the diligent approach of true students of the game. Every angle of the game was anticipated, and every movement of the puck planned with great precision. This was a must from day one, given our ten skaters and two goalies. They were going to need every edge available if they were to have a season worthy of the efforts they put forth on a daily basis.
Byung-hoon “BoBBy” MIn ’14
Latin and Rivers before the 38th annual Groton/Lawrence Holiday Tournament, where Groton notched a tough win over Pomfret. The Zebras then went 2-1 over the next three games against Pingree, Brooks, and Worcester Academy before beginning the most difficult stretch of the season. Beset by a crippling set of injuries—at the low point, the Zebras could suit up only 14 players during their loss at Dexter— Groton started off this gauntlet as well as could be expected, tying St. George’s 4-all at home in one of the more exciting games of the year. The team had some brief struggles in this unanticipated period of transition, dropping games against BB&N and playoffbound Dexter and Belmont Hill. The team did, however, defeat Middlesex to avoid going winless during this stretch. Groton quickly bounced back, notching a big 10-1 win over Roxbury Latin. By this time, the injury bug was striking less and less, and the team was beginning to gel. After dropping a close decision to Rivers, Groton proceeded to upset St. Mark’s School 4-2, two days after the death of longtime Groton hockey coach Frank “Junie” O’Brien, against what St. Mark’s fans were calling the best St. Mark’s team in 15 years. Groton maintained this improved level of play in another close loss at BB&N and then on Senior Day avenged its previous loss to playoff-bound Brooks. The annual trip to Rhode Island was a tough one as Groton lost to St. George’s in a game much like the opening loss at Deerfield. However, the season ended on a high note as Groton beat Middlesex 3-1 on the opponent’s Senior Day, and then on St. Mark’s Day exchanged blows for three periods plus overtime with a playoff-bound St. Mark’s squad, eventually battling to a hard-fought 3-3 tie. Overall, despite the roster turmoil, Groton posted a reasonably successful season. Many new players had breakthrough years
The boy’s hockey team had a 9-12-2 season despite a massive roster turnover.
Quarterly Spring 2012
Grotoniana | All Things Groton MIKe SPerLIng
Most Valuable Players: Maeve McMahon ’13, Talia Simon’12 All-ISL: Maeve McMahon ’13 (first team) ISL Honorable Mention: Talia Simon ’12 Coaches’ Award: Melissa Cusanello ’14 Co-captains-Elect: Meghan Harvey ’13, Maeve McMahon ’13
Boys Varsity Basketball | 6-14
ith five returning varsity players for next season—Gary Lorden ’13, Thomas Cecil ’13, Adam Hardej ’13, Connor Popick ’13, and Hugh Cecil ’15—Coach Toby McDougal and I are confident in another competitive season. But we will miss the 2012 graduates, including Raymond Dunn, Adam Lamont, Joe Scott, Prescott Owusu, Chris MacDonald, Joe MacDonald, and Evan Hansen-Bundy. These athletes showed great character, made incredible contributions, and set a fine example for future forms in Groton’s basketball family. Some of our main contributors on the court battled injury, which gave every team member the opportunity to showcase his ability. Winning only six of 20 games may seem a tough season on the surface, but it was not. While losses are always tough, this group was competitive throughout. Practices remained intense the whole season, and the team always assumed games would be competitive. They were right. Of 16 losses, 11 were decided in the last few minutes. Clearly, the team had opportunities throughout the season, but came up short in some games. Our greatest efforts were against Brooks, Belmont Hill, and
With an overall record of 7-12-3, Groton girls hockey was victorious in more games this year than in the last three years combined. Clearly this team is headed in the right direction, all due to the determination and commitment of every member. Of the games that came up short, four losses were by one goal and five by two goals. Our goalies, Fifth Former Meghan Harvey and Second Former Taylor Peltier, put up four shutouts, which allowed our team to have great confidence in our defensive zone, something vital to a team’s success. Moving out from the goal, our defensive core comprised three Sixth Formers, Talia Simon and Kaly Spilhaus, who are five-year members of the varsity team, and Christina Strater, along with Fourth Former Courtney Britko. These four athletes got better with every day of practice, truly pushing themselves to develop new skills, both individually as well as in defensive pairs working as one unit. Our offensive threats were many: Fifth Former Maeve McMahon led the charge, scoring more than 50 percent of the team’s goals and factoring into 75 percent of the goals scored by other members of the team. Maeve’s linemates Violet Papathanasiou ’14 and Jenna Blouin ’15 combined for 28 points—13 goals and 15 assists. Our next line of attack was most impressive for the team members’ ability to apply pressure and consistently outwork the opposition. Third Former Dorrie Varley-Barrett centered Sixth Former and five-year team member Hope Cutler along with Fourth Former Melissa Cusanello. This line was best known for unselfish play and the ability to sacrifice every body part for the benefit of the team. Coaches Randi Dumont and I could not be prouder of these talented and committed young student-athletes. We wish our seniors nothing but the best as they take a step beyond the Circle, and we look forward to next year’s season with great excitement. We anticipate continuing the trend of heart and hard work that makes Groton hockey what it is today. —Coach Jamie Hagerman
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aLeXIS cIaMBottI ’14
Maeve McMahon ’13
Evan Hansen-Bundy ’12 and Ray Dunn ’12
Governor’s Academy. After losing to Brooks in the regular season, we faced them again in the Middlesex Christmas tournament. With minutes left, David Caldwell ’13 got a timely steal, crossed over a Brooks player, and brought us two points closer to victory— an impressive effort despite the eventual loss. Against Belmont Hill, Adam Lamont gave one of the most inspiring defensive performances against one of the most threatening offenses in the league. And at Governor’s, Raymond Dunn telegraphed a steal that led to a big dunk, a huge play that changed momentum in a close game. We played many Class A teams and teams that qualified for the post-season tournaments, competing at the highest level against top-notch opponents. —Coach Jonathan LeSage Most Valuable Player: David Caldwell ’13 All-ISL: David Caldwell ’13 ISL Honorable Mention: Raymond Dunn ’12 Most Improved Player: Adam Lamont ’12 Coaches’ Award: Raymond Dunn ’12 Co-captains-Elect: Hugh Cecil ’15, Gary Lorden ’13
Girls Basketball | 1-16
he Groton girls basketball season presented some unique challenges this year, as the team had lost six talented seniors, all experienced starters. This meant our five returners had some big shoes to fill and required intense discipline to improve individual and team skills. In addition, five new players joined the team—Third Formers Monica Bousa, Sarah Feinberg, and Marie Wesson; Fourth Former Breezy Thomas; and Sixth Former Ashlin Dolan. This was a complete rebuilding season, in every sense of the word. This very young team needed a willingness to work diligently in order to overcome obstacles as both players and teammates. They did just that, and much more, by truly bonding as a unit, as players on the court and friends off the court. Captains Sarah Black ’12 and Marissa Garey ’13 led our team during practice sessions by helping teammates learn the defensive and offensive systems. They consistently encouraged their team to compete at the highest level possible during games, regardless of the score. Their positive influence yielded remarkable improvement among our players, and we experienced strong team efforts in games against Lawrence Academy, St. Paul’s, Pomfret, and Holderness. Most notable was our team’s win against Middlesex, in which we overcame an early deficit by playing with true team confidence, gaining a lead in the second half and never relinquishing it. All the players improved tremendously over the course of the season; they proved that working together toward a common goal of performing their best in every game could be more rewarding than those scoreboard victories.
Rachel Reed ’14
Most Improved Player Danielle Kimball ’13 consistently worked to advance her skills; with her exceptional work ethic, she became our critical starting point guard this year. Danielle is a player with relentless hustle and an amazingly positive attitude. Rachel Reed ’14, another Most Improved Player, is extremely coachable; she never made excuses and consistently played hard, working all season to strengthen her power moves. She became our second leading scorer. Most Valuable Player Marissa Garey led the team statistically in most categories and averaged 11 points per game. A forward who can hit the three-pointer, Marissa has an extremely quick first step, which makes her a true threat to our opponents. A great shot blocker and playmaker, Marissa consistently creates opportunities for our team. Coaches’ Award winner and outstanding defender Sarah Black was a true leader and player/coach on the floor, positively influencing her teammates. Her three-point shooting often made her a threat behind the arc. As captain, she was always aware of her younger teammates and led by example with her unselfish play; the team will miss Sarah’s leadership and skills. —Assistant Coach Kate Dennison Most Valuable Player: Marissa Garey ’13
Most Improved Players: Danielle Kimball ’13, Rachel Reed ’14 Coaches’ Award: Sarah Black ’12 Captains-Elect: Loulie Bunzel ’13, Marissa Garey ’13, Danielle Kimball ’13
Quarterly Spring 2012
Grotoniana | All Things Groton
he irresistible wit and whimsy of Gilbert and Sullivan leapt onto the winter stage as The Pirates of Penzance introduced audiences to a jovial band of pirates, a stuffy major-general, his beautiful young daughters, and a wiley squadron of police. Directed by Theater Technical Director Sarah Sullivan, the production brought favorites such as “I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General,” “Poor Wand’ring One,” and “With CatLike Tread” to three enthusiastic audiences, February 17-19. Photos by Mike Sperling
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of Penzance Above, campus children opened the play against a colorful backdrop, created through the joint artistry of Sonaali Aggarwal ’12, Emily Hoch ’12, Emma Izard ’13, Naomi Primero ’13, and Director and Set Designer Sarah Sullivan. Left, Devan Malhotra ’13, Trevor Fry ’15, and Ally Dick ’14. Below, Hadley Stack ’14, Elizabeth Salisbury ’14, Becca Gracey ’14, Emma Izard ’13, Genevieve Corman '14, and Naomi Primero’13.
Clockwise from top left: Naomi Primero ’13; Sofi Llanso ’14, Sarah Adeola ’16, Luke Duroc-Danner ’12, Charlotte Gemes ’14, and Vicquaja Mangal ’15; Natasha Nassar ’12; Trevor Fry ’15 and Danny Castellanos ’13; Genevieve Corman ’14 and Zachary Kosnitzky ’15; Danny Castellanos and Devan Malhotra ’13
Quarterly Spring 2012
The Effect Of Gamma Rays On Man-In-The-Moon Marigolds
PhotoS By MIKe SPerLIng
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ntense drama gripped the McBaine Studio Theater in the Marion D. Campbell Performing Arts Center February 25 and 26, as Groton actors, under the direction of Theater Director Laurie Sales, presented The Effect Of Gamma Rays on Man-In-The-Moon Marigolds by Paul Zindel. Eliza Fairbrother ’12 (left) played Beatrice Hunsdorfer, a frowzy, acid-tongued, mother who wreaks petty vengeance on all who surround her. Reed Redman ’14 (below right) played her daughter, Ruth, a pretty but highly strung girl subject to convulsions, and Molly Belsky ’12 was the younger Matilda, or Tillie, plain and almost pathologically shy, with an intuitive gift for science. Alice Stites ’13 (below left) played both Nanny and Janice. Tillie’s prize-winning science experiment, involving gamma rays and marigolds, brings on the shattering climax of the play. Too filled with her own hurts to accept her daughter’s success, Beatrice can only maim when she needs to love and deride when she wants to praise. Tortured, acerbic, slatternly, she is as much a victim of her own nature as of her cruel lot. And yet, as Tillie’s experiment proves, something beautiful and full of promise can emerge from even the most barren, afflicted soil.
Above, Molly Belsky ’12, as Tillie in The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds; inset, Eliza Fairbrother ’12 as Beatrice. Left, the cast of Paul Zindel’s intense play, during the February performance in the Campbell Performing Arts Center.
Baring Our “Soul” In late February, Groton School’s jazz ensemble, better known as Soul Sauce, performed at Ryles Jazz Club in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It was the ensemble’s fourth consecutive year performing at the popular music venue. Jazz Band Director Kenji Kikuchi began taking Soul Sauce to Ryles to motivate the young musicians to raise their level of technique and become a tighter ensemble. Recent graduates, parents, and others inside and outside the Groton community filled Ryles, providing a supportive audience for the group’s professional-style gig. Soul Sauce played as an ensemble at Ryles; two smaller Groton combos, the Cool Four and the Hot Five, also performed. Mitchell Zhang ’13 and David Howe ’14
Quarterly Spring 2012
Gallery News Christopher Carey Brodigan Gallery SPRING
Fish Tales Mary Jo McConnell April 2 through May 25, 2012
ver a span of 20 years, this is the third show in the Christopher Carey Brodigan Gallery for Marblehead artist Mary Jo McConnell. Mary Jo always has looked to nature for her inspiration—to birds, plant life, insects, and now fish. Her approach to painting fish has grown out of a fascination with Vermeer and the ways he used light to capture his subjects. For Mary Jo, fish provided an excellent subject for exploring the various qualities of light: how light is reflected, reveals form, and creates mood. Opportunities for using fish to explore light came to her in myriad forms, from the iridescence of sardines in a can to the Marblehead town dock. She describes her freezer as filled with “finds,” miscellaneous parts discarded by local fishermen or leftovers from the local bait shop. This show reminds us that sustained, close-up observation of the natural world reveals incomparable gifts of beauty. The Brodigan Gallery, outside the Dining Hall, is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays. Admission is free.
“Rainbow Trout” by Mary Jo McConnell; top, “Koi Pool”
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De Menil Gallery SPRING
Works of Passion By Nancy Ellen Craig April 2 through June 1, 2012
ancy Ellen Craig began her long career as a portraitist. Among her many subjects have been artists (Hans Hofmann, Paul Cadmus), writers (Norman Mailer, Irwin Shaw), architects (Frank Lloyd Wright), and film stars (Cliff Robertson, Angelica Huston), as well as members of European royal families. Her careful technique and acute psychological insight have prompted comparison with that supreme American portrait painter Thomas Eakins. During the 1960s, she left New York to live with her poet husband in remote seclusion in Truro on Cape Cod. When she wasn’t away on a portrait commission, she began doing larger paintings—mural-size canvases—in her barn-studio. The inspiration for these canvases comes from mythology, the Bible, political subjects, and her own imagination. Museums that have purchased her work include New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Baltimore Museum of Art, the New Britain (CT) Museum of American Art, the John Ringling Museum in Sarasota, Florida, and the Provincetown (MA) Art Association Museum. Since 2000, there has been a spate of exhibitions of her work, mostly in galleries in Provincetown, culminating in a major show this winter at the Cape Cod Museum of Art. Her assured brushwork and confident mode of attack on such large canvases belie her diminutive size. She does not shy from controversy: now in her 80s, Craig takes on work as lively and topical as ever. The de Menil Gallery is open 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays except Wednesdays and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends. Admission is free.
“Homage to Leonardo” by Nancy Ellen Craig
Quarterly Spring 2012
In Memoriam | As We Remember I N
M E M O R I A M
Francis H. Cabot ’43, P’68 Trustee 1972-74
August 6, 1925 – November 19, 2011 by Nicholas H. Witte ’43
PhotoS courteSy oF StonecroP garDenS
is friends from the form of 1943 are saddened by the loss of Frank Cabot, who died November 19, 2011. But what a life he led, full of activities, achievements, and honors! I met Frank when he arrived at Groton with five others in the Second Form the day before the 1938 hurricane. A natural athlete and a talented actor, he soon adjusted to our new existence. He was elected form counselor and served as Sixth Form prefect, and he was later a school trustee. On the athletic field, he was a tackle on the football team, captain of the crew, and first on the fives ladder. On the stage, he was one of the principals in several performances and served as assistant director his Sixth Form year. He loved music in all its forms, singing in the choir, playing in the band, and ringing bells in the Chapel. Like the rest of his form, Frank was faced with service in the armed forces upon graduation, and enlisted in the Army, serving until 1945. He then entered Harvard, where he distinguished himself by organizing, along with David Biddle ’44, Fred Gwynne ’44, and two others, the Krokodiloes, Harvard’s now famous a cappella answer to Yale’s Whiffenpoofs. During one vacation, he joined formmates Jim Brassert and Bev Tucker on a hiking trip in Switzerland, where they successfully scaled the Matterhorn. In 1949 Frank married Anne Perkins. Last year they celebrated 62 years of married life with three children, nine grandchildren, and five greatgrandchildren. Anne brought horticultural skills to their union, which Frank eagerly welcomed, along with his own interest in conservation Frank Cabot at Stonecrop, with saxifrage and gardening. From her grandmother they received a gift of land in Cold Spring, New York, overlooking the Hudson River. From small beginnings with alpine plants and others, they gradually expanded their garden (named “Stonecrop” in honor of their first harvest) until it covered 12 acres of rare species, woodland gardens, rock outcroppings, and ponds. Stonecrop Gardens was opened to the public in 1992 and is considered one of the most beautiful naturalistic gardens in America. Frank also was working in an investment banking and venture capital partnership, but decided to retire in 1976 and devote himself full time to his gardens and public service. This included membership on the board of the New York Botanical Garden, where he served as chairman for several years, and advisory capacities at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden and the Royal Botanical Garden in Burlington, Ontario.
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M E M O R I A M
Frank Cabot founded the Garden Conservancy to preserve fine gardens, such as his beloved Stonecrop, left
From a very early age, Frank had summered on a family property in La Malbaie, Quebec, named Les Quatre Vents. His great-grandfather had purchased it in 1902, and in the 1930s, his parents built a house there. Later, two of his uncles designed formal and informal gardens around the house. After Frank retired from office work, he and Anne spent more time there, and it eventually became their principal residence. It also became the basis for their magnum opus, the gardens at Les Quatre Vents. From their background and experience with Stonecrop, and extensive research and study with gardening friends around the world, Frank and Anne planned this major garden, which, with a series of formal and informal plantings, structures, pools, and vistas, eventually covered more than 20 acres. It is both stunning and beautiful, and has been acclaimed as one of the great gardens of the world. In his book, The Greater Perfection: The Story of the Gardens at Les Quatre Vents, published in 2001, Frank describes in fascinating detail the origin and progress of the layout and construction, as well as the history of the property, all accompanied with beautiful photographs. In the course of his travels, Frank became concerned that some of the very attractive gardens he visited might not survive after their owners had passed on. In order to prevent their obsolescence and decay, he founded the Garden Conservancy, which is dedicated to maintaining and preserving fine gardens all over the world. He was its first chairman, and his son Colin â€™68 succeeded him. The organization continues to thrive, preserving more than 90 properties which have, to date, accommodated nearly one million visitors. As if he didnâ€™t have enough to do, Frank also bought and occupied properties in other parts of the world. With a mutual friend, I visited a small cottage he leased in the mountains of Mexico, in the Deep South near Oaxaca. Later he bought and operated a sizable sheep station on the South Island of New Zealand, and he and Anne spent winters there, conserving the land from development in the process. For all his achievements and service to others, he has received many awards and honors. Among the ones he prized the most, he told me, was the Order of Canada, which the Canadian government awarded him for his conservation efforts and success in Charlevoix County, his home base. As in the Bible parable, wherever he went, he helped others turn five talents of bare earth into 10 talents of glorious garden. Well done, thou good and faithful servant!
Quarterly Spring 2012
In Memoriam | As We Remember I N
M E M O R I A M
Charles W. Sheerin, Jr. ’44 faculty 1961-70
January 9, 1926 – October 4, 2011 by Philip B. Kunhardt III ’70
he Reverend Charles W. Sheerin arrived at Groton School in the fall of 1961 just three years before the earliest members of my class settled in for their First Form year. Though hundreds of Groton students would come under his influence, ours would be the last class he would teach all the way to graduation. Still in his late 30s and early 40s during our tenure, for many of us he was the most thoughtful, eloquent, and inspired voice in the School. Groton had many larger-than-life faculty members in those days—Norris Getty, Paul Wright, Robert Parker, to name just a few. But for me Charlie Sheerin loomed largest. Maybe his connections to my family had something to do with it: he had once been romantically interested in my father’s older sister, Nancy, who had gone on to marry another Grotonian, George Lodge ’45. It was natural that I be assigned as his advisee in 1965, placed on his beloved Wachusetts Club to play Second and then Third Form football, and after a shoulder injury, continue as one of his coaches. I have happy memories with Mr. Sheerin out on the fields behind Hundred House on crisp and innocent autumn days. I took an English class from him, and among the writers he introduced us to was Gerard Manley Hopkins. I’ll never forget Mr. Sheerin, in his rich Southern voice, deliciously mouthing the words of a favorite poem, coaxing us into a sensuous love for the English language: “It will flame out, like shining from shook foil; it gathers to greatness, like the ooze of oil, crushed.” My formmate Tom Cleveland ’70 has a memory of an extraordinary class in which Mr. Sheerin helped students confront their own social prejudices. Alec Webb ’70 remembers “total engagement with the lives of the characters he shared with us. I came to understand that in every great novel there is a whole world of support for each of us as we cycle through our lives and try to sort out what it means to be human. It was an amazing gift he gave us.” Mr. Sheerin was not only a superb teacher, he was an outstanding preacher as well. Arvid Nelson ’70 remembers “descending the Schoolhouse stairs into the press for an early look at the Chapel program, to find out who was preaching on Sunday, always hoping it would be Sheerin.” “His sermons were like riveting lectures,” John Alsop ’70 remembers, and they appealed to a wide range of listeners. Stephen Hartshorne ’70 writes that in them, Mr. Sheerin regularly “afflicted
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the comfortable and comforted the afflicted … mainly the former.” Whenever he heard one of these sermons, it made him “reevaluate everything I thought about everything.” For William Cooper ’70, no preacher since has lived up to Mr. Sheerin. As he listens to sermons today, he finds himself making “unconscious comparisons, often deciding that the sounds in my ears are missing something which I heard once upon a time in St. John’s Chapel from this voice, like no other as it resonated off the stone walls and showed powerful emotion as well as intellect to me as a teenager.” Arvid can “still recall clearly the moment as he preached, the coolness of the stone, his warming voice and cadenced phrasing all completely captivating and magical. He created ‘spots of time’ even richer than those in his hero Wordsworth’s poetry.” David Cleveland ’70 was so affected by these sermons that he has modeled one of the characters in his latest novel, Ashes of My Father, after Mr. Sheerin—the Reverend Charles Springfield, teacher in a boys’ boarding school during the 1960s. I myself recall a particularly vivid sermon in which Mr. Sheerin angrily condemned unprincipled developers in rural Virginia for ruining the landscape he loved with their crass commercial projects. I can remember sermons on The Great Gatsby and on his favorite books by Faulkner; powerful critiques of the war raging in Vietnam; and equally powerful, but this time ringing sermons on the Civil Rights movement, then in full flower. Stephen Hartshorne often thinks back to Charlie singing choral Evensong. “He was probably the last Groton minister to attempt it, and he always did a great job. Mr. Sheerin was a great example for us in challenging the norms of that era, many of which, like racial prejudice, were justly overthrown. But he also gave us, on those Sunday evening services, a great example of devotion and spirituality. And he had a great voice.” Charlie Sheerin and I rediscovered each other after Groton in the mid-1980s and began having long, if intermittent, conversations. I learned that he thought highly of the Old Testament scholar Gerhard von Rad, who combined historical acumen with a sweeping literary imagination. These of course were Charlie’s great gifts as well, nurtured by his studies at the University of Virginia and the Virginia Theological Seminary. He was a deeply informed theologian—traditionalist in some ways, loving the language of Thomas Cranmer and the King James Bible, but also fiercely progressive, an early supporter of women’s ordination, gay rights, and racial justice, again and again speaking about the essential dignity of all humanity. He loved what used to be called the “broad church”—tolerant, latitudinarian, engaged with secular learning and with social justice—a tradition which in recent decades he saw shrinking away. Charlie was devoted to Jack Crocker, who had arrived at the School as a young headmaster in 1940, and Crocker mentored the young Southerner as he steadily rose to become senior prefect of the Form of 1944. Seventeen years later, Groton’s now-famous second headmaster lured his former student back from parish ministry and college work to teach at the School and become one of its chaplains. Jack Crocker, a former college chaplain himself, was a progressive too—bringing Martin Luther King, Jr., to preach in the Chapel in 1963 and marching with him in Boston two years later with his wife, Mary, and 70 Groton students. Mr. Crocker had just retired when I arrived at the School, at a time when the winds of the 60s were beginning to blow across Groton’s bow, promising many of us deeper dimensions of personal freedom. Looking back, I think the School became determined to keep these winds out. It was a fruitless task, and things eventually got worse. 1968, the year of the Tet Offensive and the My Lai Massacre, of the violent assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, followed by the election that fall of Richard Nixon, broke the School open in disturbing, if energizing, ways. In our Fifth Form year came the sickening news of the Kent State massacre, highlighting the profound alienation that was afflicting the nation, and that was beginning to cut its way across the Groton campus.
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Stressed out and rebellious, many of us looked for ways to escape, and became suspicious of almost all authority figures. Some went off to volunteer with activists and educators in Boston and elsewhere. It was an extremely difficult time to be headmaster of this School, as Bert Honea found out in what became his last year. Even still, Charlie Sheerin seemed to understand and believe in us. Wasn’t he a kind of rebel himself, with his anti-war sermons, and his egalitarian social message? He loved our form, found us stimulating and responsive, even if he often wished for more civility. In 1969 and 1970, I became his close associate for Wednesday evening communion services in Brooks House. They took place in the Davison Room, directly across the hall from where Alec Webb, Tom Cleveland, and I had our triple study (near the metal door that led to the Gammons house, where Mrs. Gammons regularly made cookies for us, her “boys”). I loved the darkened room we used for the services, the quiet evening readings and hymns sung a cappella, Charlie Sheerin’s honest homilies, and the mysterious feeling of being together that way. There was a kind of Thoreauvian intimacy to these evening ceremonies, and the discovery of a very real-feeling kind of communion—with each other, with the night, with life itself. It became an alternative reality to the chaotic world around us. Charlie loved people, and wine, and laughter, and hated false ceremony. He was a brilliant raconteur, and as our guest at our 25th Reunion in 1995 he preached at a special Evensong service and thrilled us once again with his literate and humane voice. Ten years later we invited him back again. This time our former teacher Clark Grew, who had become an Episcopal bishop, would be the wonderfully inspiring reunion preacher. But on Saturday night, after dinner in the big tent, we sat up late with Charlie in the Webb Marshall Room. He was 79 years old, and he adored holding court as 20 of his former students surrounded him, all of us talking openly and honestly and passionately into the night—“doing some healing,” Charlie later said to me. Edith was there too, ever adoring, loyal, and smart, but he repeatedly refused her eventual pleas to call it a night and take her home to their hotel. He wanted to stay up late with his boys. Arvid recently reminded me of our last Chapel service with him in 1970. “We were Sixth Formers in our final weeks, and Sheerin was leaving to take up the headmastership of Woodberry Forest, all of us ending a stage of our Groton life. You were sitting across the Choir—do you remember you were the crucifer and I carried the flag?” It all floods back, and I suddenly remember it too now —Richard Henry ’70, Arvid Nelson, and I up in the Choir stalls singing our hearts out along with all the others. At the end of the service Arvid recalls how Mr. Sheerin “slowly walked across the Choir from west to east. He stopped at the top of the Choir, looked through us and whispered with tears in his eyes, ‘No one sings like Groton boys.’ ” Philip B. Kunhardt is Distinguished Scholar in Residence in the Humanities at New York University. Along with his brother Peter ’71 and his nephew Peter, Jr., he is the co-author of Looking for Lincoln (see page 57) and Lincoln LifeSize. Peter and Philip also co-authored three other books with their father, Philip B. Kunhardt, Jr. ’46.
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William C. Hrasky faculty 1979-99
March 1, 1936 - September 4, 2011 by Vincent Hrasky
n September 4, 2011, my father, William C. Hrasky, passed away. Dad taught at and called Groton School home for 20 years. As I think about my father and where he came from, I think it strange that he would find a home at a place like Groton School. Dad was born in Racine, Wisconsin, the son of an immigrant factory worker and a stayat-home mother. He attended the local public high school and was the first in his family to go to college. Coming from a blue-collar factory town on the shores of Lake Michigan and ending up in an elite New England prep school is quite a trip. Early in that journey, my father spent a few years working at NASA. It was immediately after NASA that his teaching career began. At one point I asked him why he chose to become a teacher. Surely there were plenty of lucrative opportunities in the business sector for a nerd of his caliber. After Former faculty member William C. Hrasky (third from left) with his sons, Keith Hrasky ’83, William A. Hrasky ’80, and Vincent Hrasky, holding the plaque they he was done giving me a dirty look for gave him upon his retirement from Groton, which reads, “Okay folks, let’s call calling him a nerd, he said, “Where else it for the day.” will they pay me to talk about physics all day?” (For the record, when my students ask me why I am a teacher, I always respond, “Where else will they pay me to talk about Shakespeare, Frost, and Harper Lee all day?”) One of the most important lessons my father taught me was to figure out what it was I loved to do and then to do it as much as I possibly could. With any luck, someone would be willing to pay me to do it. He must have been on to something with this teaching thing since all three of his sons became teachers and currently two of his grandchildren are on the same track. Some time after I made the decision that talking about literature all day was the way to go, I enrolled in some education classes in college. I learned about several educational philosophies. At some point, I asked my father what his educational philosophy was. He said, “Well, I guess my philosophy is that if I can get my students to ask, ‘What the hell is that fat guy so excited about?’ then I’ve won!” I laughed, but then I realized he wasn’t really joking. His “secret” to effective teaching was that he was so passionate about physics that he absolutely loved to share it with other people, and share that passion he did.
Quarterly Spring 2012
In Memoriam | As We Remember I N
M E M O R I A M
My father’s command of the English language was formidable, but his gift for metaphor was nothing short of bewildering. I’m sure he amazed students with his sayings for years. One of the signs in his corner office in the science wing read, “If you can’t wow ’em with wisdom, baffle ’em with BS.” Based on the article, “The ‘Master of the Universe’ Speaks: Physics Class with William Hrasky” in the Circle Voice, he clearly distributed liberal amounts of both! Late in his career, some very brave students decided to document some of the more memorable things that came out of his mouth during class and printed it. I still have a copy of the list of 36 of my father’s sayings hanging on my classroom wall. (Thanks, Kate Nitze ’94 and Sahngmie Lah ’94!) One of my fondest memories of my father was one of his last moments at Groton School. When my father announced his retirement, my brothers and I decided we would surprise him and show up at his final Groton School graduation. Mr. Polk had said that retiring teachers traditionally were recognized during the ceremony. So we were there when Mr. Polk said many kind words about our father and then asked him to come forward. Everyone in that big tent on the Circle stood and applauded as Dad made his way to the front to receive a gift. It very much reminded me of a passage from my favorite book. I’m not sure what my father’s favorite book was. He read far too many to keep track. But I know the one we talked about the most was To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. We often discussed our favorite passage: “Miss Jean Louise, stand up. Your father’s passin’.” It is about a child witnessing a touching tribute to her father. On that sunny Prize Day watching Dad get a standing ovation, I knew exactly what Scout was feeling. Later that day, we presented my father with a little retirement gift. For many years Dad had ended all his classes with a simple phrase. My brother, Keith, arranged to have a plaque carved with that phrase to commemorate the end of his 35 years of teaching. That saying seems like an appropriate end to this memoriam. “Okay folks, let’s call it for the day.”
Several former students wrote in with condolences and memories, including these:
ill Hrasky is probably the reason I felt that I could go to graduate school in engineering with a sociology degree. I have two memories that have survived the years: first, this somewhat less than dapper gentleman had the most precise classroom blackboard skills I’ve ever seen. When he turned to the board to draw a circle, what came out was a circle, perfect in every discernible way. Those of you who’ve taught know how impossible this is. Second, and somewhat less appropriate but no less emblematic of the man, I clearly recall his exclaiming to the class one day that if Newton’s laws were right, there was no need for God! This was not blasphemy but another kind of worship. His presence expanded the Groton of our day by at least another dimension or two. —Theodore Caplow, Jr. ’88
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’ve never had a better teacher. I took physics only for the pleasure of his teaching. I didn’t care at all about my grades. Mid-term, I had a “C.” His note to my parents said something to the effect that, “I know John has been a successful student. I have a few arrows left in my quiver, but I am sorry I have not been more effective in teaching him physics.” My parents never commented on my grades, except this once. “John, look how you’re demoralizing the man. Make an effort!” And, I did . . . Once, I was inside that central supply area of the science wing and looked in at a Hrasky class in progress. I remember seeing every student leaning forward in their seats straining to keep up. I have never seen a class more engaged. Weren’t we all lucky! —Rev. John H. Finley IV ’88
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Groton School Quarterly, Spring 2012