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NMH Magazine

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Northfield Mount Hermon

When physicist Ben Harris ’85 was diagnosed with a fatal disease that has no treatment and no cure, he did what any resourceful scientist might do: He started his own drug trial.

NMH Magazine FALL 2013 Volume 15, Number 2 Editor Jennifer Sutton P ’14 Class Notes Editor Sally Atwood Hamilton ’65 Contributors Susan Pasternack Mary Seymour Hannah Wareham Design Lilly Pereira Class Notes Design HvB Imaging Director of Communications Cheri Cross Head of School Peter B. Fayroian Chief Advancement Officer Allyson L. Goodwin ’83, P ’12, P ’14 Northfield Mount Hermon publishes NMH Magazine (USPS074-860) two times a year in fall and spring. Printed by Lane Press, Burlington, VT 05402 NMH Magazine Northfield Mount Hermon One Lamplighter Way Mount Hermon, MA 01354 413-498-3247 Fax 413-498-3021 Class Notes Address Changes Northfield Mount Hermon Advancement Services Norton House One Lamplighter Way Mount Hermon, MA 01354 413-498-3300

NMH Magazine

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20 How to Live and Die at the Same Time

Ben Harris ’85 spent the last years of his life performing medical experiments—on himself—to help find a cure for ALS.

26 What Does It Take to Feed a School?

In a year, NMH’s Dining Services staff make nearly 9,000 gallons of soup, 150,000 cookies, and 32,000 muffins. That’s just the beginning.

32 Birth Culture

Alice Proujansky ’98 photographs the struggle, beauty, power, and transformation of childbirth.

36 Twenty Minutes on Boylston Street

When two bombs exploded at the Boston Marathon, Bruce Mendelsohn ’86 ran into the crowd and made a difference.


2 Letters 3 Leading Lines 4 NMH Postcard 6 NMH Journal 14 Movers & Makers 16 In the Classroom 18 Past Present 40 Alumni Hall 44 Class Notes 96 Parting Words << Behind the scenes in Alumni Hall, formerly West Hall. See story on p. 26.




I felt very nostalgic after seeing the Spring ’13 issue of NMH Magazine. I was particularly pleased to see the tribute to Mira Wilson. I remember so well being brought into her office because Bob Behrenberg ’49 and I were dancing too close on a parlor date! My punishment (so-called) was to serve at Miss Wilson’s Sunday breakfasts for seniors for about two months. I reported to her home early in the morning and heated up the funny long rolls and put out the coffee and tea—a unique form of discipline. Jean Laughlin Moulton ’49 Charlestown, Mass. Reading about Mira Wilson brought back my own memories. I was a sophomore at Northfield when World War II broke out. Though I was a refugee from Nazi Germany, I was classified as an “Enemy Alien.” So a rather frightened enemy alien went to the post office in East Northfield to be duly photographed and fingerprinted. I needed permission from the U.S. government every time I wanted to go home to see my parents in New York. This worked until spring vacation in 1943, when permission did not arrive. Mercifully, Mira Wilson, aware of my distress, invited me to her house for lunch and told me she had rented a room in town for me, and that I could come to her house for meals.

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Permission from Washington arrived the next day, and I was allowed to take the train home, but Miss Wilson’s warmth and concern did much to ease my uncomfortable situation. Sibylle Gerstenberg Ehrlich ’44 Cockeysville, Md. WALT CONGDON, MENTOR

When Walton Congdon and his wife, Betty, remembered me during a chance encounter in July 1990, he suggested that I apply to teach science at NMH. In one week, I went from cleaning the grease filters of restaurant kitchen hoods to a new career, working shoulder to shoulder with Mr. Congdon on the third floor of Palmer Hall on the Northfield campus for his last three years in the profession. He became my mentor teacher in his 36th year at NMH. He taught me, by example, to enjoy teaching. He taught me that being relentless in the pursuit of excellence is sacrosanct, not for career advancement but for the students. Every day, my man Walt put graded papers on the desks of students as they walked in the door. Every day, he called in the weather forecast with his ham radio, which he ran off solar cells and batteries because he was “green” before energy conservation became fashionable.

Most people remember Mr. C. as warm, but I also remember him as an extremely disciplined man. He worked circles around me. I learned, over time, to keep up. Thank God that I, born and raised in south central Los Angeles, was afforded the honor of working with this New Englander. He showed me that to work hard, you simply need to shut up and do it. Ralph Bledsoe ’79, P ’97 Former faculty Andover, Mass. MOODY AND A CHANGING WORLD

In her letter in the Spring ’13 magazine, Linda Ames Nicolosi ’65 takes issue with Peter Weis’s article about D.L. Moody’s legacy (Fall ’12), but I believe she’s off the mark. Asserting that Moody would be unhappy with the school’s “modern-day” direction is like saying that the Founding Fathers would be unhappy to see that women can own property, that African Americans can vote, and that gay men and women have protection from job discrimination. Moreover, for anyone to insist that the school lost its way in this modern age is to insult non-Christians who have been dedicated, generous, and faithful to the school. Beth Z. Palubinsky ’65, P ’00 Philadelphia, Penn.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? NMH Magazine welcomes correspondence from readers. Letters and emails may be edited for length, clarity, and grammar, and should pertain to magazine content. Reach us at NMH Magazine, One Lamplighter Way, Mount Hermon, MA 01354, or email us at


Elliott Speer’s Wish

“We want to help, so let us learn in order that we may truly serve.” by PETER B. FAYROIAN, Head of School

Each fall, as students launch themselves into a fresh school year, we all consider new aspirations, new goals. For example, this is the year that I plan to learn more about Elliott Speer, one of Northfield Mount Hermon’s great headmasters. Now that I’ve gained an understanding of D.L. Moody and the foundation of NMH, I’m determined to promote Speer’s legacy of modernization—how he took an outstanding institution and made it relevant and enduring. Speer was devoted to our school’s mission of educating young people to act with humanity and purpose. He wanted everyone to be inspired to act with humanity and purpose. In a letter to his brotherin-law before he took over the headship at Mount Hermon, Speer wrote: “We want to help put an end to race hatred, but we don’t know how. We want to help stop war, but we don’t know how. We want to help, so let us learn in order that we may truly serve.” To this day, our goal at NMH is to empower our students to live a life of service, whether it is their vocation or in addition to their professional careers. The stories in this issue of NMH Magazine demonstrate the difference so many of our graduates are making, and have made, in the world. I’m proud to lead a school with alums like Ben Harris ’85, whose NMH experience helped spark the determination that led him to research possible treatments for Lou Gehrig’s disease, at his own body’s expense and at a time when others might only think of themselves (p. 20). Ben wrote before his death that NMH “shaped the person I am today to a greater extent than anything else during my formative years.” Ben’s words echo those of Elliott Speer, who, when faculty members and trustees worried that he might leave Mount Hermon to run a college, said that he “would rather be headmaster of a preparatory school than president of a college because [this is] … the formative period of a boy’s life.”

P H O T O : K AT H L E E N D O O H E R

I’m equally proud to read in this issue about the work of Alice Proujansky ’98, whose experiences in a Dominican maternity ward during her senior year at NMH evolved into a remarkable childbirth project in which she photographs underresourced maternity care clinics around the world (p. 32). And I can’t help but believe that the actions of Bruce Mendelsohn ’86 at the Boston Marathon bombings (p. 36), as described by Caleb Daniloff ’88, were in part influenced

“Speer wanted everyone to be inspired to act with humanity and purpose.” by the culture of caring for others that he experienced at NMH. “All my life I’ve wondered what I would do in that kind of situation,” Mendelsohn says of the bombing. “Would I run to the sound of the guns or run away?” Run to the sound Mendelsohn did, and as I contemplate his actions, I imagine that Elliott Speer’s wish—to help and to serve—was answered. By the time you read this, we will be two months into NMH’s 135th year of educating the heads, hearts, and hands of young people, empowering them to act with humanity and purpose. Examples of this kind of life can be found throughout the school’s history— in men and women who lived a century ago, in those who left campus much more recently, and in, no doubt, you.

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UPHOLDING TRADITION Seniors take control of the 2013 Rope Pull in September. PHOTO BY GLENN MINSHALL

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The red door from one of Mec and Dick Pellerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s former homes on campus will become part of a new neighborhood of faculty houses at NMH.

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New Doors to Open on Campus Northfield Mount Hermon has seen its share of new construction in the past decade—the Rhodes Arts Center, the Bolger admission building, the Mackinnon and Shea dormitories—yet it’s been nearly 50 years since a new faculty house was built on campus. That is about to change. During reunion weekend in June, NMH broke ground on the north edge of campus for a neighborhood of six new faculty homes, one of which will be named after Mary Ellen “Mec” Peller, the longtime math teacher, dorm parent, and coach who died of cancer in 1997. “Mec always welcomed students into our home so they could relax and feel loved,” Dick Peller told the crowd that assembled for the groundbreaking. “A house for faculty is the best way we can honor her.” Building the six homes will cost an estimated $4.5 million, $1 million of which is needed to connect the homes to NMH’s wastewater treatment plant, electrical system, and generator. The school is funding the project with the proceeds from sales of individual properties in Northfield, the interest from a $10 million gift from Richard Gilder ’50 (the principal will fund a new science, math, and technology facility), and gifts from donors. The lead gift came from Cyndy Gelsthorpe Fish ’78, who remembers Mec Peller as a mentor, a big sister, and “a teacher in all ways.” The Pellers “had a complete open-door policy because they truly loved teenagers,” Fish says. “Anytime you went to their house, there were all these kids from different parts of campus who had a question about math, or they wanted to talk something over, or they just needed some advice.” One of those kids was architect Douglas Wilk ’83, who designed the Mec Peller House and incorporated the red wooden

Mec Peller (lower right) with students in 1993. One of NMH’s six new faculty houses, currently under construction, will be named after her.


door from Dickerson House, one of Mec and Dick’s former homes on campus. The remaining five houses were designed by the Breadloaf Corp. of Middlebury, Vt. Construction began earlier in the fall, and will be completed next spring and summer. Faculty families are expected to move in by the beginning of the 2014–15 academic year. Each home will be built in a Queen Anne farmhouse style, with four bedrooms, a porch, a full basement, and two and a half bathrooms. Because energy efficiency is a top priority for all new campus buildings, the houses will have one-foot-thick walls and highly insulated roofs and basement slabs. When NMH began its consolidation in 2005, the goal of the board of trustees and the administration was to eventually house the entire faculty on one campus with the students. Currently, a dozen faculty members still reside in the town of Northfield. The new homes will make room for most of them on campus. “NMH’s residential life program includes appropriate living spaces for our faculty as well as our students,” says Head of School Peter Fayroian. “Comfortable, spacious, and welldesigned homes improve the quality of life not only for our teachers and their families, but also for the students who regularly visit with them. And the placement of these new houses, in close proximity to the central part of campus, is a reminder to our students and their own families that they are part of a residential community.”

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Ned Benning ’12 (Cornell) earned a bronze medal at the 2013 Under 23 World Rowing Championships in Linz, Austria, for manning the bow seat of the men’s quad.

Math teacher Kai Robinson ’05 won five gold medals in diving events at the 2013 International Gay & Lesbian Aquatic Association Championships in Seattle. He won every event he entered. After three months on the U.S. National Women’s Crew Team, Tessa Gobbo ’09 (second from right) helped win a gold medal in the women’s four at the 2013 World Rowing Championships, held in Chungju, South Korea, at the end of August. Gobbo and her teammates finished in 6:43.15, outpacing the silver-medal Canadian squad by more than four seconds. Gobbo, who graduated from Brown University last spring, was a member of the 2011 NCAA National Championship team, an Academic All-Ivy, and a First Team CRCA All-Region selection, and she helped Brown take home the Charles G. Willing Jr. Trophy for the best team performance in the 2013 Eastern Sprints Regatta.

The 131st Royal Canadian Henley in St. Catharines, Ontario, showcased multiple NMH rowers: Rebecca and Elizabeth Donald ’07 (Penn ’11) won gold as half of the women’s quad team, took 4th in the double race, and they both advanced to the senior singles semis and placed 4th and 3rd, respectively. Maggie Fellows ’09 (St. Lawrence University ’13) won gold in the U23 singles race, silver in the U23 pair, and silver in the U23 double. Eliza van Lennep ’05 (Smith ’09) won silver in the senior eight dash and bronze in the senior pair; she also placed 4th in the senior four and 5th in the senior eight. Loulou Tanski ’15 raced in the U17 double, single, quad (5th in semis), and coxed in the four (4th in semis). Math teacher Kate Hoff won bronze in the senior lightweight double race, and also competed in the single (3rd in semis) and single dash (3rd in heat). Eva Schlehr ’15 competed in the coxed four and the U19 eight.

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At the Maccabiah Games in Israel, three NMH alums took home gold medals for the U.S.: Hannah SolisCohen ’12 (University of Virginia) with the women’s quad rowing team, Josh Elbaum ’10 (University of Vermont) with the men’s open basketball team, and David Shabsels ’96 with the men’s 35+ basketball team.

The Mysteries of Golf Say you love golf. But if winter weather confines your clubs to the closet for months at a time, keep the passion alive by picking up a mystery novel set on the PGA Tour. NMH’s new English department chair John Corrigan has written five stories that combine luxurious greens with murder, money laundering, gambling, and drug use—and a poetry-reading golf pro named Jack Austin, an amateur sleuth who simultaneously tees up in tournaments and goes behind the scenes to solve crimes.


Soccer Team goes to Spain It’s not unusual for NMH’s fall athletes to gather in late summer to train for the upcoming season, but this year, the boys’ varsity soccer team took their preseason drills to a new level—in Spain. For two weeks in mid-August, coaches Charlie Malcolm and Jim Burstein and 28 students—more than half of whom were returning players— took up residence at a youth soccer development center in Valladolid, the capital of the province of Castilla y León in northwestern Spain. The team practiced every morning with professional coaches, visited historic and cultural sites in the afternoon, and scrimmaged with local club teams in the evening. The grand finale: attending a Super Cup match between Madrid and Barcelona at the Vicente Calderón Stadium.

“It was an opportunity to train at the highest level and also to understand the history of the place.” NMH sends students and faculty on several academic and cultural trips every year, but this trip was the first collaboration between its Center for International Education and the athletics department. “One of NMH’s core strengths is how we teach kids to live in a globalized world,” Malcolm says. His players “have an incredible sense of soccer being a global game,” and the Valladolid trip put that into practice; it was an opportunity “to train at the highest level and also to understand the history of the place and eat the food and meet the people who live there,” Malcolm says.


Students fulfill NMH’s P.E. requirement in a variety of ways, including rock climbing. The class meets twice a week to learn basic skills—how to move up and belay down a rock face, tie climbing knots, and lower another climber—and to explore locations near campus, in western Massachusetts and southwestern New Hampshire. Here, two students belay down Chapel Ledge in Ashfield, Mass.


Among the NMH students on the trip were seven Latinos—from Spain, the U.S., and Central and South America—and they served as de facto translators and cultural guides for many of their teammates. The Spain expedition also was intended to build the players’ relationships as team members. In 2012–13, Malcolm says, the group was young and, at times, lacked chemistry. “We needed to get closer and

more committed to one another, because that’s what holds a team together in times of adversity. One way to do that is to go totally out of our familiar environment, live together, broaden our horizons, and at the same time, address the technical and tactical skills we need to get to the next level. So when it’s 10 minutes to go against Exeter, the guys can look at each other and dig a little deeper.”

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New Students SOAR


A few weeks before the school year began, NMH welcomed 11 incoming students of color to campus for a preview of the year ahead. The five days of workshops, information sessions, and academic classes constitute the SOAR program (Summer Orientation and Academic Retreat), which is designed to help the new students establish early connections within the NMH community. The program was developed several years ago to counter a disproportionately higher attrition rate among black and Latino students, according to James Greenwood, NMH’s associate dean of multicultural education. Greenwood modeled NMH’s SOAR week on similar programs at other boarding schools and colleges. “Students who feel a better sense of community and belonging will hopefully be better able to take advantage of all NMH has to offer,” he says. On campus in August, the SOAR students spent time with faculty, as well as with current students and recent alumni. They returned at the beginning of September to join NMH’s regular roster of orientation activities before classes began, and during the school year, they’ll meet monthly to discuss their experiences. “NMH has a long history of being committed to diversity, including racial diversity,” Greenwood says. “The SOAR program is a manifestation of that commitment.”

“Students who feel a better sense of community and belonging will be better able to take advantage of all NMH has to offer.”

The Big-Screen Edition Heirloom, a short film co-produced by Eleanor Conover, who teaches in the English and visual arts departments, was screened at the Camden (Maine) International Film Festival and on Maine public television this fall. The film profiles the artist Brian White, a former antiques picker who now uses natural objects to create garments from another era, such as life-size dress forms made entirely of shells.

Yaya Alafia ’00 (formerly Johnson and DaCosta) starred in three films this year: Big Words, Mother of George, and, most prominently, Lee Daniels’ The Butler, in which she played student activist Carol Hammie and worked alongside actors Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey.

T H E G A L L E RY AT T H E R H O D E S A R TS C E N T E R 2013–14 Calendar Leonard Ragouzeos Recent Work September 13–October 12

Margot Fleck Drawings & Prints February 7–March 7

The Photographic Collection of John Clements October 24–November 22

NMH Student Art Show March 27–April 21

Alston Conley Paintings & Constructions December 6–January 24

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Alice Proujansky ’98 Recent Photographs May 1–June 8



Read, Discuss NMH’s beginning-of-school rituals range from lively orientation games to the more momentous Matriculation ceremony, and in between, there is book group. That’s when students and faculty meet in small groups to discuss an assigned book they’ve read over the summer. Among this year’s titles: s7HY!RE!LLTHE"LACK+IDS3ITTING 4OGETHERINTHE#AFETERIA s$HARMA"UMS s4EACHINGA3TONETO4ALK s4HE0ERKSOF"EINGA7ALLmOWER s2OOM!.OVEL s%MMA s-ANS3EARCHFOR-EANING sIN!MERICA s"EHINDTHE"EAUTIFUL&OREVERS s%NDURANCE3HACKLETONS)NCREDIBLE6OYAGE s&REAKONOMICS s3OLD s#HRONICLEOFA$EATH&ORETOLD s4HE(APPINESS0ROJECT s4HE"OOK4HIEF s"LOOD$ONE3IGN-Y.AME s!(OPEINTHE5NSEEN s4HE!RTOF&IELDING


When sophomore humanities students traveled to South Africa last spring, they attended a Mass delivered by Nobel Laureate and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu. Following the service in Cape Town, the students presented Tutu with NMH gifts and sang the “Northfield Benediction” to him.



“NMH is a place where you can be captain of the football team and the lead singer of Hogapella. You can be the star of math team and the lead in a play. NMH makes it possible, and even encourages you, to branch out beyond your comfort zone, to try and possibly fall in love with something new.” ISMINI ETHRIDGE ’14, who delivered the 2013 Spade Oration at Opening Convocation in September

Faculty Research in the Spotlight NMH has its student newspapers and an arts and literary magazine, but now it also claims one of the country’s few scholarly journals that showcases research by high-school faculty. Grant Gonzalez, who teaches Arabic and history, launched The Northfield Mount Hermon Journal for the Humanities last spring. The inaugural issue includes an introduction by NMH archivist Peter Weis ’78, P ’13 and articles on the authenticity of slave narratives, by English teacher Janae Peters; Rhode Island’s Dorr Rebellion, by former history teacher Erik Chaput; and the early history of African students at Northfield and Mount Hermon, by history teacher Sean Foley. Gonzalez serves as the journal’s editor, and brings in academics from colleges and universities to review the articles. Gonzalez conceived the annual publication after numerous conversations with fellow teachers who wished to carry on the kind of research they did in college and graduate school. “We are primarily interested in spending time in the classroom with students, but many of us still want to do original scholarship, and still want to write,” Gonzalez says. “We want to practice what we teach.” The NMH Journal for the Humanities is available in print or online at

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Blazing a Technology Trail Twenty years ago, three students brought the Internet to campus.

The year was 1993. Bill Clinton was in the White House, and *URASSIC0ARK had just roared onto the big screen. The “Internet” had been officially named a few years earlier, but email was still largely the domain of the U.S. military and large universities—until three enterprising teenagers brought it to Northfield Mount Hermon. Warren K. Liu ’94, Tilman Enss ’94, and Jonas Klein ’93 shared a passion for computers and new technology. With support from astronomy teacher Hughes Pack, the three created a system in Dolben Library on the Northfield campus that allowed students to send email messages around the world. Liu and Klein already had been sending electronic mail to each other during school breaks, with messages sometimes taking more than a week to arrive. At the time, the Internet was expensive for individuals to use, requiring a UNIX system and hardware

who had gained a reputation for his computer-programming skills. The three students were able to bypass UNIX with a free, public Linux program, which they downloaded onto floppy disks during a visit to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Pack soon arranged for two computer terminals to be at their disposal. Enss began writing code, and the boys, who happened to live on the same hallway in East Hall on the Northfield campus, spent their nights developing and testing the program, with computer cables snaking between their dorm rooms. “The motivation was partly personal, because making overseas phone calls to my parents in Germany was expensive,” Enss recalls. “My father was working at a university and was one of the few people with email back then, so it was a neat way to keep in contact.” The boys’ quest for connectivity was not without its stumbling blocks. Liu

The students installed a phone line that hung from the ceiling in Dolben Library and connected it to a pair of computer terminals. Soon, 100 email messages were going in and out of NMH every day. that was three times the cost of a personal computer. As Liu and Klein brainstormed about how to make it more affordable, calculus teacher William Schweikert connected them with Enss, a German exchange student

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recalls that when NMH administrators heard about the project, they assumed the students were hackers who perhaps were breaking into school records to change their grades. Pack and other teachers intervened. “These were good

kids,” Pack says. “They were smart, they were self-motivated, and they made it happen. We just gave them the structure in which to put the wires, and put some faith and trust into them.” Liu, Enss, and Klein installed a new phone line that hung from the ceiling in Northfield’s Dolben Library, and connected it to a pair of computer terminals. That simple link marked the arrival of the Internet at NMH. Approximately 120 students (on both campuses) created email accounts, 50 of which were active on a daily basis. Roughly 100 email messages went in and out of NMH every day, with students trekking to Dolben to access the system. “We were quite surprised at the curiosity it generated,” Liu says. After that momentous year, Enss returned to Germany, where he studied theoretical physics, and currently is a lecturer and research associate at the Universität Heidelberg. Liu went on to start one of the first gaming review websites, with a focus on massively multiplayer online games (MMOGs), then entered the field of DDoS (distributed denial of service) mitigation. Sadly, Jonas Klein was killed in November 1993, when a skydiver hit a prop plane piloted by Klein’s father, causing the plane to crash. “Jonas had this vision that the Internet should be accessible to everyone,” Liu says. “He liked efficiency in all systems, whether natural or manmade, and the Internet was a step toward higher efficiency for knowledge sharing and communications.”

Make It a Cheeseburger It’s 10 PM. Dinner was hours ago. Your stomach is growling and you need a snack. If it’s a Tuesday, you’re in luck. Head over to the Hayden Grill. That’s where a group of Hayden residents cook and sell burgers for a brief 45 minutes at the end of study hall. Two dollars for a cheeseburger, three for a bacon cheeseburger—it’s cheap, delicious, and a “good morale boost,” according to Gunnar Knost ’14, Hayden’s grill master (his official workjob title). Every Tuesday during the fall and spring, Knost fires up Hayden’s four gas grills at about 9 P.M. One of his dormmates fries four or five pounds of bacon in the kitchen; others are standing by to deliver the first burgers to ninth graders, who are required to stay in their dorms at night. Knost spices the fresh beef patties, which dorm head Drew Inzer picked up earlier in the day, with Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning—Knost hails from New Orleans—and by 10, the grill crew is attending to a long line of sophomores, juniors, and seniors, juggling burgers with bags of chips and cans of root beer and Coke. “We move more than 200 burgers in a really short period of time,” Knost says. The money that the Hayden Grill brings in every Tuesday night pays for the next week’s burgers, buns, drinks, and propane tanks, with a little left over to fund dorm amenities, such as a new TV. Last spring, the dorm pooled several weeks of earnings and donated them to the Franklin County Food Bank and the nonprofit organization Chase Your Dreams, which supports youth athletics in western Massachusetts. Associate Dean of Students Angelita Castañon, who oversees several residence halls, including Hayden, says the Hayden Grill doesn’t just feed NMH’s late-night snackers; it also facilitates social cross-pollination on campus. “It gets students in other dorms to branch out and visit Hayden,” she says. “It also gives the residents of Hayden a special way to contribute to the NMH community.” There’s a behind-the-scenes bonus, too: “We have an excellent bacon smell throughout the dorm on Tuesday nights,” Knost says. “It lasts until about Thursday.”


Crime of Privilege by Walter Walker ’67 Ballantine Books, 413 pages

Magnetic Refrain by Nicky Sa-eun Schildkraut ’95 Kaya Press, 79 pages


“After 47 years of teaching, I have come to believe that the three ‘Rs’ of education should be: Redemption, Remembering, and Rejoicing.” LOUISE LUEPTOW SCHWINGEL, who retired in May after 39 years teaching English at NMH

The Jet Sex: Airline Stewardesses and the Making of an American Icon by Victoria Vantoch ’92 University of Pennsylvania Press 287 pages

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Spencer Luckey ’88 heads Luckey LLC, a design company that makes climbing structures like this one at Columbus Commons in Columbus, Ohio.

In the Heights by LAURA SHEINKOPF ’88

Children like to climb high, preferably in the presence of anxious adults. That’s a universal truth that Spencer Luckey ’88 knows well. He’s an architect, designer, and head of Luckey LLC, a company in New Haven, Conn., that makes giant sculptures called Luckey Climbers. Part jungle gym, part work of art, Luckey Climbers can be found in dozens of children’s museums and public spaces across the country and around the world. Luckey Climbers, which curators at New York’s Museum of Modern Art have called “exuberant” and “miraculous,” were originally created by Spencer’s father, Tom Luckey, an architect and furniture designer. Made of bent plywood or plastic platforms suspended by steel pipes and cables, the climbers are bold and rugged, yet also whimsical, with the platforms resembling leaves or flying carpets or pieces of blue sky dotted with clouds. Though the climbers are often several stories high, they are designed for children; safety is as crucial a feature as the colorful platforms themselves. The structures “challenge kids to use their bodies and to plan their movements,”

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Spencer Luckey says. “The climbers are not meant to be like mazes. They are a closed set of choices with no right or wrong answers.” Spencer recently completed climbers in Indianapolis and Jakarta, Indonesia; soon to come are installations in Philadelphia, Belfast, and South Korea. Spencer Luckey’s own career path was as circuitous as the climbers themselves. After NMH, he attended Connecticut College and worked as a waiter, cell-phone salesman, carpenter, convenience-store clerk, house painter, and bike messenger. Eventually, he took


“Luckey Climbers challenge kids to use their bodies and to plan their movements.”



some classes at the University of New Mexico’s School of Architecture and Planning and began working with his father, but Tom fired his son after two years. “I was hurt, but I realized pretty quickly that he was giving me a tremendous gift by forcing me to go back and finish something,” Spencer says. That “something” turned out to be a master’s in architecture from Yale. In 2005, Tom Luckey suffered a devastating fall, which paralyzed him from the shoulders down. Spencer left the New Haven architecture firm where he’d been working to return to Luckey LLC and help his father complete a massive climber for the Boston Children’s Museum. Their collaboration was documented in Luckey, an awardwinning film by Laura Longsworth ’87 that explores a complicated family history as well as a formidable design legacy. In 2012, Tom died of pneumonia, leaving Spencer to run the company—a privilege, Spencer says. Last summer, a year after his father’s death, Spencer installed a climber called “The Pond” at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. In it, children navigate an underwater environment that leads upward to the “surface” of a pond, where a sailboat—similar to one that Tom Luckey built for Spencer long ago—tilts in an imaginary wind. “When you are inside it, there is kind of a swirling experience as your eye gets led around by all the curves,” Spencer says. Is it his favorite climber? “Nope.” Which is? “The next one!” he says.

In 2001, at the age of 69, Joan Karff ’54 took stock: She’d already had a successful career as a choreographer, dance teacher, and arts advocate, launching and running her own dance company in Houston while also raising three daughters. But it wasn’t quite enough, she decided. So she founded Women on the Way Up (WOWU), a mentoring program for high-achieving girls from low-income homes in Houston. For 12 years, WOWU has combined career counseling with cultural enrichment, and also offers each participant scholarship funds for college. Many of the 120 students who have gone through the program were the first in their families to attend college. WOWU is based at Lamar High School, Houston’s oldest public high school. Each year, Karff and school administrators choose 10 girls to particiJoan Karff ’54 pate, based on their academic records and their desire to pursue higher education. The girls meet weekly with Karff after school to talk about their own lives as well as topics in arts and culture, life skills, current events, and literature. A typical gathering might include a lecture on the history of dance in preparation for attending a performance by the Houston Ballet, or a discussion of classical music with a Houston Community College performing arts professor before a field trip to the Houston Symphony. Karff assigns WOWU students research projects on important women in history based on the girls’ own backgrounds; one girl, who is a cancer survivor, reported on breast surgeon and cancer activist Susan Love. Karff also invites local women professionals to discuss their career experiences with the girls. Karff started the program partly as an homage to her mother, Fanny Mag, who was active in dance, music, and local politics in Connecticut, and who got her children involved in the arts at an early age. WOWU is a way for Karff to do what her mother did: “to give girls some of the opportunities I enjoyed,” she says.


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The Spirit of Investigation How does temperature affect salamander eggs? What watering method helps seeds germinate better? At NMH’s annual Science Symposium, students share their research. by JENNIFER SUTTON

Salamander eggs caught the interest of AP Biology student Tiffany Yu ’14 (above right), who documented their growth. The top two photos show the eggs in early stages of development (accompanied by a pair of fairy shrimp); in the bottom photo, the salamanders are close to hatching.

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By the time November comes around in New England, it’s difficult to imagine the gentle air of spring, but that’s when Tiffany Yu ’14 fell in love with collecting scientific data. Her assignment, for an AP Biology class, was to conduct an experiment she could present at NMH’s annual Science Symposium, an event that fills Cutler Science Center at the end of every school year with poster presentations, hands-on demonstrations, and a lively chemistry show. “There is palpable excitement in the air on the night of the Science Symposium,” says David Reeder, chair of the science department. “Students are eager to share their work with their friends and teachers. I love seeing a freshman physics student explaining her experiment to her humanities teacher one moment, and to her roommate and dorm head the next.” Yu’s project began in mid-April, when her teacher, Mary Hefner, took her into the woods on a rainy night to look for salamanders. Yu collected several batches of salamander eggs, some of which went into a tank in her dorm room; others stayed in a cage in a pond at the edge of campus. She photographed each batch daily, hypothesizing that the eggs would hatch faster in her room, where the temperature was higher and more stable than in the pond. Yu’s experiment won first prize in the Science Symposium’s research competition, but equally satisfying, she says, were her daily walks to the pond to check

P H O T O S B Y TI FFA N Y Y U ’ 1 4 A N D G L E N N M I N S H A L L

on her eggs and to collect water for the eggs in her room. “I grew up in a city, so the woods on campus were a place of mystery for me,” Yu says. Her project was “a really good chance to explore and understand them more.” Yu’s big-picture conclusion: Because salamander eggs are highly sensitive to temperature, they could become endangered due to climate change, and “by learning more about the first part of a salamander’s life cycle,” she says, “we may be able to find ways to protect this species from environmental changes in the world.” That’s an example of the Science Symposium’s overall goal: to help students connect the concepts and theories they learn in the classroom with the world beyond it. Younger students team up and start with basic experiments like the ones Jay Ward ’68 teaches in his introductory physics classes. They examine the properties of different brands of batteries with electric circuit boards; use desk lamps and a motion sensor to determine the efficiency of a model solar car; and

test Newton’s second law of motion by dropping balls of different weights and diameters into a tray of sand and measuring the resulting craters. “A lot of it is about collaboration,” Ward says. “It’s also figuring out logistical and engineering issues.” And that can take time, no matter what area of science the students work in. Gabi Groszyk ’14 researched different methods of germinating tobacco seeds for her Science Symposium project in AP Biology, and found herself caring for some of her plants three times a day, seven days a week, for five weeks. Why tobacco? Groszyk’s parents own a tobacco farm in Connecticut and had been looking for a more cost-efficient method to produce the highest-possible germination rates. “My dad had a few ideas himself,” Groszyk says, “but since the plants are our livelihood, he didn’t want to experiment too much in our greenhouses.” On NMH’s farm, Groszyk compared her father’s methods of growing seeds—top-watering a plastic tray of

“Creativity is just as necessary in science as it is in the arts. If you don’t think outside the box, discoveries are almost impossible to find.” seedlings and floating a Styrofoam tray in water—with a method she devised herself: submerging a plastic tray in about a centimeter of water. Her method ended up producing the highest germination rates, and also was more efficient; it used less water, required less time and attention, and produced less waste, since plastic trays last years longer than Styrofoam. At the end of the school year, Groszyk took her seedlings home and transplanted them in her family’s fields. “The spirit of science investigation really comes alive when we start asking questions to which we don’t know the full answer,” Reeder says. “For teachers, the symposium is an opportunity to develop longer, more open-ended projects that we and our students are curious about.” And for students, the symposium often offers lessons beyond how to collect data and support a hypothesis. Groszyk says, “I learned that creativity is just as necessary in science as it is in the arts, because if you’re not willing to think outside of the box, discoveries are almost impossible to find.”

Gabi Groszyk ’14 researched different methods of germinating tobacco seeds.


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How to Live and Die at the Same Time B
















Ben Harris ’85 was a husband, father, and physicist who died last summer after wrestling with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis for two and a half years. He spent the end of his life performing research—on himself—that he hoped would someday help lead to a cure.


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n the fall of 2010, Ben Harris ’85 was attending a scientific conference in Barcelona, and he felt nervous. A medical physicist specializing in radiation treatments for cancer patients, he was scheduled to deliver a lecture titled “Using an Oncology Information System in a Mixed Proton/Photon Environment,” but his nervousness had nothing to do with the complexity of his research. The thought running through his head was, “I hope they don’t think I talk funny.” A few months earlier, Harris had started feeling reluctant to speak in front of groups of people. He couldn’t pinpoint why. His apprehension gradually took on a physical dimension; he began having actual difficulty speaking. His tongue wouldn’t work right. The condition was subtle enough that it went unnoticed by others, but, according to Harris, “No one realized it was taking a greater and greater effort on my part to sound normal.” By the time he got to the conference in Barcelona, he was more concerned about how he was going to get the words out than what he was going to say. Harris had Googled “difficulty with speech” a dozen times before, with ambiguous results. Then he noticed his tongue twitching and went back to the computer. “Twitching” led him to the word “fasciculation.” That’s when “the search results lit up like a Christmas tree with ‘ALS,’” he recalled.

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ALS is amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, named after the New York Yankees first baseman who is thought to have died of the disease in 1941. It affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that control voluntary muscle movement. People with ALS lose strength in their arms, legs, and facial muscles; it becomes increasingly difficult for them to walk, talk, swallow, and, eventually, breathe. Many ALS patients choose to use feeding tubes and ventilators to prolong their lives. Some become paralyzed. Nearly all of them die within two to five years of their diagnosis. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, between 20,000 and 30,000 Americans have ALS right now. Approximately 5,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed each year—two of every 100,000. Harris was diagnosed in January 2011, at the age of 44. By the summer of 2012, he could no longer

speak. A year later—last spring—most of his muscles were affected and the smallest movements left him out of breath. He had twice run the New York Marathon, but by last summer, he needed help getting up if he fell. He choked easily and swallowing was painful, so everything he ate had to be puréed in a blender. Typing, his chief method of communication—and one he used so prolifically that many people did not realize he was sick— became more challenging as he lost strength in his hands and fingers. Harris described his experience with ALS during a two-month email correspondence with NMH Magazine last summer. He wrote that it was nothing like cancer, the disease he had fought professionally for most of his career. “You have to be strong to get through the therapies, but even someone with the worst prognosis can beat cancer,” he wrote. “You don’t fight ALS. You can’t. It takes down the strongest, healthiest people with ease.” Most ALS cases, including Harris’s, occur randomly, without an identifiable cause. There is no known cure or treatment. There is a single drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that can help prolong

Ben Harris and his wife, Rebecca, after running the 1992 New York Marathon.

an ALS patient’s life for up to six months, but it does not halt or reverse the progression of the disease. A handful of other drugs are in clinical trials, but the government approval process is slow, and the window of opportunity for enrolling in the trials is narrow; volunteers typically are turned away if they have had symptoms for more than a year. Harris was lucky. In the summer of 2011, he joined a study for a drug called NP001, manufactured by Neuraltus Pharmaceuticals. “By the time I enrolled, I was having a very difficult time swallowing liquids, and I noticed significant improvements almost immediately after my first dose,” he wrote. Suddenly, he could drink a


“You can’t fight ALS. It takes down the

strongest, healthiest people with ease.” cup of coffee without gagging and choking, talk more clearly, and grip objects in his hands with more strength. The study lasted five months. When it ended, Harris lost access to NP001. He calculated that by the time Neuraltus launched its next phase of research on the drug, his ALS would be too advanced for him to enroll in any official study. With no other options for treatment, he did what any frustrated, resourceful scientist might do: He started his own drug trial.


arris had long been a person who, when he saw something missing in his life, went and got it. He grew up in Watertown, N.Y., and persuaded his parents to send him to Northfield Mount Hermon because he was itching for “something new and challenging.” On campus, he was a student leader in Overtoun, appeared in a campus production of Shakespeare’s As You Like It, and joined a student theater group that performed political skits on the sidewalks of downtown

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Greenfield, Mass. NMH was “one of the most wonderful experiences of my life,” Harris wrote. “It shaped the person I am today to a greater extent than anything else during my formative years.” He studied physics at Columbia in New York, then earned master’s degrees in both philosophy and physics at the University of California at Riverside. He found a job at the Loma Linda University Medical Center and discovered the field of medical physics, which allowed him to use his training in a “meaningful and gratifying way,” he wrote. Meanwhile, he married, and in 2005, his son was born. Harris and his family left the West Coast for Bloomington, Ind., in 2006, so Harris could help launch a healthcare company called ProCure, which builds and manages proton radiation facilities across the country. As the company’s director of medical physics, Harris was a leader in setting up treatment centers at hospitals, spending weeks at a time away from home, training other physicists to design equipment, fix equipment, calculate dosages, configure software. “A medical physicist is the glue—solving the problems, making sure everything Ben and Rebecca Harris and their son, Rawden

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works,” said Niek Schreuder, the ProCure executive who wooed Harris to Bloomington. Mark Pankuch, a physicist whom Harris worked with in Oklahoma City and Chicago, calls him a “ brilliant teacher” and a “soldier.” “He would work seven days straight with six hours of sleep a night,” Pankuch said. “Ben was the kind of leader who, when you’re standing behind a wall and hear that charge, he was the first one out.” After the ALS diagnosis, Harris stopped traveling for work. He accepted that he would not grow old with his wife, Rebecca, and mourned the fact that ALS would rob his son, Rawden, of a father. But it had never been his way to fixate on things beyond his control. His approach to ALS was no different. “Wallowing serves no practical use, so I keep focused on the task at hand,” he wrote. The task he assigned himself was a big one: Help search for a cure for ALS. During the Neuraltus NP001 clinical trial, Harris met several likeminded patients in online ALS discussion forums, and they began trying to determine what was in the drug. It took roughly six months of detective work—researching scientific papers and patent documents connected to Neuraltus scientists—to figure out that one of the ingredients was sodium chlorite, a simple, readily available chemical that often is used to purify water. “This was where the clinical trial transitioned into a DIY (do-it-yourself ) trial,” Harris wrote. He and his collaborators began giving themselves intravenous infusions of sodium chlorite mixed with distilled water. They reported their findings on the website Patients Like Me and in their ALS forums. Harris documented temporary improvements in his swallowing after some of the infusions, but not nearly what he had experienced with NP001. So he looked elsewhere, experimenting with nearly two dozen chemicals,


drugs, and dietary supplements over the next year and a half. He underwent a stem cell procedure by an Alabama physician who had been using adipose (fat)-derived stem cells to treat joint injuries, and it improved his muscle function for a short time. He adopted a vegan diet last spring, which did nothing to slow the degenerative process of ALS, but it made him feel better overall. “That’s the philosophy Ben had, that everything is fixable,” Schreuder said. “You have to be willing to dig in and work long hours and try different avenues, and that’s just what he did.” At first, Harris felt strange directing his own care—which included starting his own IV—but when he realized that there were no physicians at his local ALS clinic who were willing to help him try new treatments, he forged ahead. Cathy Collet, an advocate for ALS research whose mother died of the disease 16 years ago, called Ben a “rock star in the world of ALS patients … a leader in a merry gang of people trying to figure this out.” In the spring of 2012, Harris’s sodium chlorite research drew the attention of The Wall Street Journal, which described his effort and that of his co-experimenters as “one of the most dramatic examples of how far the phenomenon of do-ityourself science has gone.”


lenty of ALS patients experiment with alternative or untested treatments, but what made Harris stand out was his effort to document and share everything he did. When he went online to report on his research, Harris signed each of his posts, “If it is done in secret, it is done in vain.” The stem cell procedure he underwent was performed on 21 people, but he was one of only two who recorded their results online. “Having data from those other 19 people could have resulted in an experiment with real statistical

significance,” Harris wrote. “We don’t know if they improved, felt no impact, or, just as important, if they had an adverse reaction.” The possibility of that adverse reaction is what worries scientists and medical researchers like Dr. Piera Pasinelli, who serves as science director at the Packard Center for ALS Research at Johns Hopkins University and is a professor of neuroscience at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia. “The main concern is safety,” Pasinelli said. “I understand and share ALS patients’ frustration and urgency, but I believe they and the medical community should work together rather than patients testing drugs—or worse, combinations of drugs—on their own. Each patient is different, and a self-tested drug that is not harmful to one person may be deleterious to others. “The goal is to have more drugs in the pipeline and more trials lined up,” Pasinelli said. “Every day we find another gene, another pathogenic pathway, another cell type that is involved in the disease, and each of these elements is a potential therapeutic target. Unfortunately, it takes time to develop the right drug for each, or all, of these targets.” Harris didn’t have time. He continued experimenting, even when he was predicting that he had only a month or two to live. One of his final tests focused on three peptides—small proteins—with the potential to treat ALS symptoms. He hunted down academic articles to determine the drugs’ chemical structures and ordered them from manufacturers, bypassing what he estimated to be 10 to 20 years of government-approved testing. “Two of these peptides have been tested in humans already, so I know they are safe,” Harris wrote in late June. “The other has not had any adverse effects in mice, and it is rare for a drug to harm a human but not a mouse. At this point, though, I

People often asked Harris if he took antidepressants, and they were usually surprised when he told them he was not depressed. “Despite knowing I would live only a few more years, I was still happy.” am not too concerned about adverse consequences.” When he was ordering the peptides, Harris could still move around his house using a walker, make his own meals, bathe himself, and use the bathroom on his own. He had decided not to accept a feeding tube or a ventilator. “The day I cannot get myself up and into the kitchen to make myself a meal is the day I stop eating altogether,” he wrote. That day came on Aug. 6, 2013. “I have decided to stop taking nutrition today,” he wrote. Harris’s physical decline changed what he called his “novice philosopher” belief in Descartes’s mind-body theory: that the defining characteristic of humans is the mind and the intellect. “I first realized this when I lost the ability to laugh,” Harris wrote. “I had a loud, probably annoying, laugh that came from deep in my gut. I can still see the humor in things, but I cannot experience humor anymore.” Being unable to do other physical activities such as play with his son, exercise, or work with his hands removed Harris, little by little, from the man he used to be. But it didn’t stop him from pursuing his relentless DIY research, nor did it change his pragmatic way of looking at the world. He kept working as long as he could. His wife worked, and his son went to school and played in chess tournaments. They spent quiet evenings at home, as they always had.

“I take life at its face value,” Harris wrote. “I simply ask myself, ‘Am I proud of what I am doing and how I am treating those around me?’” When Harris began joining online ALS discussion groups soon after his diagnosis, he chose the screen name “HappyPhysicist.” “People often ask me if I take antidepressants, and they are usually surprised when I tell them I am not depressed,” he wrote. “Despite knowing I would live only a few more years, I was still happy. Compared to the innumerable souls who have endured the cruelties of nature or of fellow humans, my life has been one touched only by fortune and compassion. I have nothing to be sad about.” Throughout his experience with ALS, throughout every experiment that didn’t yield the desired results, Harris understood that any treatment for ALS would come too late for him. His training as a physicist had taught him that all great scientific and medical advances come from getting something wrong many times before someone gets it right. He wrote, “Had Galileo or Kepler not meticulously recorded their observations, Newton never would have deduced the laws of motion.” Harris saw his role not as someone who might find a cure for ALS, but as “one of many who will keep careful records so that someday, someone else may see a pattern.” Ben Harris died at home in Bloomington on Aug. 15, 2013. [NMH]

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What Does It Take to Feed a School? by Megan Tady


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ere are a few of the items on Northfield Mount Hermon’s weekly grocery list: —240 dozen eggs —46 gallons of whole milk —1,000 apples —80 pounds of yogurt —60 pounds of turkey breast for sandwiches

To feed 650 students over the course of the school year, plus faculty and staff, NMH’s cooks, bakers, and pantry workers make approximately 5,000 pizzas, 2,500 pots of soup, 8,000 servings of stir-fry, and more than 31,000 muffins. With help from workjob students, they set up and break down the dining room for meals nearly 700 times. They wash some 2,500 plates a day. And they facilitate more than 600 campus events throughout the year. The variety of food they create ranges from the sophisticated—maple-glazed pork tenderloin, and black rice with lemon and edamame—to comfort-food staples such as spaghetti and make-your-own waffles. Menus are designed for every type of eater: carnivores, vegans, international students, people with food allergies. The chefs are prepared to cater a lobster dinner for a 50th reunion or grill hundreds of hot dogs for a last-minute picnic. Beyond the mountains of raw material and the ingenuity and physical skills required to please hundreds of different palates, feeding the NMH community takes a certain kind of passion. Last fall, when NMH’s football team battled Exeter, two hours away in New Hampshire, Dining Services director Rich Messer (P ’06, P ’13, P ’16) was there, hurrying to the rival school’s kitchen to warm up the dinner he had brought to the game. He wanted hot roast-chicken-and-bacon subs waiting for the tired athletes when they boarded their bus to head back to NMH. “You can give them a cold sub and it’s fine, or you can give it a little extra care, and boy, it makes a difference,” Messer says. The difference is this: Dining Services staff don’t just feed the school; they nourish it. That takes a bit of sociological know-how—taking into account how students think and feel about different foods. Case in point: sweet corn. It’s

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plentiful and sought after in western Massachusetts in September, but it turns out teenagers won’t eat it. “You show me 14-, 15-, 16-year-olds who are going to eat corn on the cob in front of kids they’ve never met before,” Messer says. “They’re not going to do it. They’re not going to have butter dripping down their faces.” Messer should know; he has worked in Dining Services at NMH for 25 years, 19 of them in his current position. He first stepped into the kitchen at the age of 16, during a summer job as a cook’s helper. “I watched the people I was working for and saw they enjoyed it,” he says. “I thought, ‘I can do this.’” Rich Messer These days, Messer’s goal is to make people in the NMH community feel satisfied, to “wow” them. He watches Food Network shows for inspiration, and each week, he and his staff try out new recipes in their quest for menus that

L E T ' S E AT

Every week, alumni send recipe requests to Sherry Margeson, the office manager in Dining Services, because they miss the cornbread, the apple fritters, the granola. We asked alumni on Facebook: What was your favorite thing to eat at NMH? Bishop’s bread, what else? —Charlie Charles ’71

Sunday sundaes and Mexican bar on Thursdays. And frost-your-own cupcakes. How I could eat and never gain weight in those days. —Rose Jackman Lynch ’00

Dinnertime in Alumni Hall

are diverse, high-quality, and appealing. The latest development: a grilled-cheese bar. Messer got the idea at a mall near Boston, snapped a few pictures with his iPhone, and shared them with the staff. Pesto, Vermont cheddar, bacon, fresh sourdough bread—“Picture Panera with the plastic basket, parchment paper, chips, and a pickle,” Messer says. Recognizing that some students might still want American cheese on white bread, Messer and his staff decided to offer multiple versions of grilled cheese: the kind students know they want and also what they might love if they tasted it. “We make tweaks, and kids begin to try things they’ve never tried before,” Messer says. “They see people eating it all around them, they get bolder, and all of a sudden it opens their eyes to a new flavor profile.” A weekly “chef ’s table” helps that effort along, featuring international foods such as calabacitas con elote (zucchini with corn and buttermilk), chana masala (chickpea curry), and chicken tagine (a stew with saffron, honey, fruit, and nuts). Meatless Mondays introduce


students to vegetarian dishes such as butternut squash slaw with apples and golden raisins, and arugula salad with grapes, goat cheese, and almonds. Food is made to order as often as possible; stir-fry is a popular example. Sauces, salad dressings, and soups are all homemade. The Alumni Hall bakery turns out sandwich rolls, muffins, desserts, and granola. Even the kimchi (spicy fermented cabbage) that appears at the Asian noodle bar each week is made by hand in the NMH kitchen. Messer also wants to raise awareness among students about how their eating habits affect the environment. Inspired by Michael Pollan’s book The Omnivore’s Dilemma, he has pledged to buy 10 to 15 percent of NMH’s food from farms within a 40-mile radius of campus. NMH’s own farm supplies the kitchen with ice cream, maple syrup, seasonal vegetables, milk, raspberries, cider, and cheese. To deter diners from taking more than they can chew, Messer and his staff host “weigh your waste” events, and they eliminated trays from the dining hall in 2005.

“Turkey tortilla casserole,” which looked like someone had cleaned out the dish machine, put it between tortillas, and baked it in the oven, but it tasted delicious. —Sarah Ruddy ’93

Make-your-own waffles on weekends. —Samantha Keniston ’05

London broil. I remember one night having the cook shut me off. It was after a game and I think we ate a side of beef. —Aaron Kuzmeskus ’90

Chocolate lush—a cross between chocolate pudding and chocolate cake. —Kate Hamlin Wehrle ’75

Grilled cheese for lunch made from French toast left over from breakfast. —David Kirk ’90

Grilled cheese and tomato soup after school vacations. —Ben Hoadley ’97

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“Kids see people eating new things all around them, they get bolder, and all of a sudden their eyes are opened to a new flavor profile.”

Kimchi made on campus

Long before that time, when Messer was starting out at NMH, students waited in one long line for their meals, and staff spooned out dinner portions from behind a serving counter. “You walked up and said, ‘I’ll have meatloaf and potatoes,’” Messer says. “And the next person said it. And the fifth person in line was vegetarian, but they were scared to death to say anything because they didn’t want to be different.” Messer had some changes in mind. “One of the first things I did was say, ‘Kids, you serve yourselves. You control the spoons,’” he says. “It allowed them to try a little bit of this and a little bit of that. It totally changed our operations.” Instead of one line funneling to a single serving station, Messer created “destinations” such as the salad bar and the soup and deli bar. Kids are free to roam and choose foods as they please, which makes it less likely that they’ll feel judged for their food choices. Messer also wanted to create a more inclusive environment that connected his staff with diners. In 1998, he knocked down the walls that separated the cooks from the students, making the entire kitchen visible. “I took those [walls] down and put the glass in to say, ‘These are fresh ingredients and professional people

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who care about what they do, so watch us with our work.’” Forty percent of the student body becomes even more connected to the kitchen through their workjobs—washing dishes, prepping vegetables, and baking cookies. “The kids feel comfortable in here,” says pantry supervisor Jody Kelleher, who has worked at NMH for 20 years. “They’re working really hard,” adds Messer. “They’ve got a lot of homework, they’ve got all the stresses of being a teenager, and they just need to get a bite to eat so they can face the rest of their day.” In the midst of the kitchen chaos, with hundreds of students streaming in and out of Alumni Hall, going the extra mile is more the rule than the exception for Dining Services staff. Kelleher cooks one student’s breakfast every morning in a separate pan to accommodate his food allergies. “His parents entrusted him to us to make sure he’s safe, and that’s what we do,” she says. Here’s what else they do: bake gluten-free peanut butter cookies for a visiting prospective student who can’t eat wheat flour. Start cooking chili at 2 .. on Mountain Day before trucking 800 pounds of the stuff to Mount Monadnock and Northfield Mountain. And, if they’re Rich Messer, they make sure they’re the last fan in the stands at an away football game, cheering on a tired team with the promise of a hot meal. [NMH]

NMH GRANOLA Preheat oven to 225°F. I N G R ED I EN T S UÊÊ£Ê/LðʫÕÃÊ£ÊÌë°ÊV>˜œ>ʜˆ UÊÊ{ʤÊ/Lðʓ>«iÊÃÞÀÕ«]ʅœ˜iÞ]Ê or a combination UÊÊ£Ê/LðʫÕÃÊ£ÊÌë°Ê orange juice UÊÊ¥ÊÊÌë°ÊÃ>Ì UÊÊ¥ÊÌë°Ê>Ã«ˆVi UÊÊ¥ÊÌë°ÊVˆ˜˜>“œ˜ UÊÊÏÊÌë°ÊÛ>˜ˆ> UÊÊÓÊV°Êœ>Ìà UÊÊ¥ÊV°Êœ>ÌÊLÀ>˜ UÊÊ¥ÊV°ÊÃiÃ>“iÊÃii`à UÊʦ|³ c. sunflower seeds UÊʤÊV°ÊV…œ««i`ʘÕÌà UÊʦ|³ c. flaked coconut UÊÊ£ÊV°ÊV…œ««i`Ê`Àˆi`ÊvÀՈÌÊ (any combination of apples, cranberries, bananas, apricots, raisins) 1. Heat first seven ingredients together over low heat. 2. Combine remaining ingredients, except for dried fruit, in a bowl. 3. Pour liquid mixture over dry ingredients and mix well. 4. Spread one-half-inch thick on sheet pans and bake one hour >ÌÊÓÓxc°Ê 5. After baking, mix in dried fruit. Store in airtight containers. Makes 2 pounds.


We asked NMH’s Dining Services staff: WHAT’S YOUR FAV O R I T E T H I N G T O MA KE IN A LUMNI HALL?

Cholin DelaCruz, Pantry Worker “Kimchi. We have a ton of Asian kids who love it. My secret ingredient is fish sauce. I put the kimchi in a big jar and let it sit outside for two days to ferment. I make it with lots of love.” Max Brody, Sous Chef “What brings me the most joy is seeing the kids eat the healthy food I make, like this dish: roasted Brussels sprouts with red onion, carrots, and grilled tofu in an Asian ginger sauce.”

Todd Draper, Executive Chef “Dishes that use the NMH farm’s produce—like the braised collard greens and lentils on our vegetarian line. I also like using our herb garden— it’s got parsley, three kinds of basil, sage, thyme, and rosemary.”

Andy Thompson, Cook “The ‘specials’—the other night I did a chicken casserole in individual casserole dishes, and an Italian melt sandwich. I like the freedom to be creative.”

Al Klaus, Cook “Stir-fry. It’s fast-paced, like line cooking in a busy restaurant. It takes many hours to prep, but I get to cook

Joe Ferrer, Catering Special Functions Chef “Szechuan beef. It’s dry-fried—intense heat and intense flavor. You can hear when it’s ready. And when the chilies

in front of the students and interact with them.”

hit the heat, it’s a dish you can feel as well.”

Heidi Haddad, Baker “The morning muffins. I bring them upstairs to the dining hall, still warm, at 6:30 A.M. The earlyrising students often greet me with smiles and ‘thank-yous.’”

fall 2013 I 31

Birth Culture B Y AL IC E P RO U J A N SKY â&#x20AC;&#x2122; 9 8

A photographer documents the universal stor y of childbir th.

A new mother eats her first postpartum meal of porridge with red palm oil in Lagos, Nigeria.

fall 2013 I 33

To see more photos, visit

34 I NMH Magazine


PHOTOS, CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: UĂ&#x160;Ă&#x160;Ă&#x160;Â&#x201C;Â&#x153;Ă&#x152;Â&#x2026;iĂ&#x20AC;Ă&#x160;Ă&#x20AC;iĂ&#x192;Ă&#x152;Ă&#x192;Ă&#x160;Ă&#x153;Â&#x2C6;Ă&#x152;Â&#x2026;Ă&#x160;Â&#x2026;iĂ&#x20AC;Ă&#x160;Â&#x2DC;iĂ&#x153;LÂ&#x153;Ă&#x20AC;Â&#x2DC;Ă&#x160;L>LĂ&#x17E;Ă&#x160;>Ă&#x152;Ă&#x160;Â&#x153;Ă&#x192;ÂŤÂ&#x2C6;Ă&#x152;>Â?Ă&#x160; Ă&#x2022;>Â&#x2DC;Ă&#x160;*>LÂ?Â&#x153;Ă&#x160;*Â&#x2C6;Â&#x161;>Ă&#x160;Â&#x2C6;Â&#x2DC;Ă&#x160;->Â&#x2DC;Ă&#x160; Ă&#x20AC;Â&#x2C6;Ă&#x192;Ă&#x152;Â?L>Â?]Ă&#x160; Â&#x153;Â&#x201C;Â&#x2C6;Â&#x2DC;Â&#x2C6;V>Â&#x2DC;Ă&#x160;,iÂŤĂ&#x2022;LÂ?Â&#x2C6;V°Ă&#x160; UĂ&#x160;Ă&#x160;Â&#x2C6;`Ă&#x153;Â&#x2C6;viĂ&#x160; Â&#x2026;Â&#x2C6;Â&#x153;Â&#x201C;>Ă&#x160;"VÂ&#x2026;Â&#x153;Â&#x201C;Â&#x201C;>Ă&#x160;Â?Â&#x2C6;Ă&#x192;Ă&#x152;iÂ&#x2DC;Ă&#x192;Ă&#x160;vÂ&#x153;Ă&#x20AC;Ă&#x160;>Ă&#x160;viĂ&#x152;>Â?Ă&#x160;Â&#x2026;i>Ă&#x20AC;Ă&#x152;Li>Ă&#x152;Ă&#x160;>Ă&#x152;Ă&#x160;Ă&#x152;Â&#x2026;iĂ&#x160;Â&#x2C6;Ă&#x17E;iĂ&#x152;Â&#x153;Ă&#x20AC;Â&#x153;Ă&#x160;i>Â?Ă&#x152;Â&#x2026;Ă&#x160; iÂ&#x2DC;Ă&#x152;Ă&#x20AC;iĂ&#x160;Â&#x2C6;Â&#x2DC;Ă&#x160;>}Â&#x153;Ă&#x192;]Ă&#x160; Â&#x2C6;}iĂ&#x20AC;Â&#x2C6;>°Ă&#x160; UĂ&#x160;Ă&#x160; iĂ&#x153;Ă&#x160;Â&#x201C;Â&#x153;Ă&#x152;Â&#x2026;iĂ&#x20AC;Ă&#x192;Ă&#x160;Ă&#x153;>Â&#x2C6;Ă&#x152;Ă&#x160;Ă&#x152;Â&#x153;Ă&#x160;Â&#x2026;>Ă&#x203A;iĂ&#x160;Ă&#x152;Â&#x2026;iÂ&#x2C6;Ă&#x20AC;Ă&#x160;Â&#x2C6;Â&#x2DC;v>Â&#x2DC;Ă&#x152;Ă&#x192;Ă&#x160;Ă&#x203A;>VVÂ&#x2C6;Â&#x2DC;>Ă&#x152;i`Ă&#x160; >Ă&#x152;Ă&#x160;Ă&#x152;Â&#x2026;iĂ&#x160;Â&#x2C6;Ă&#x17E;iĂ&#x152;Â&#x153;Ă&#x20AC;Â&#x153;Ă&#x160;i>Â?Ă&#x152;Â&#x2026;Ă&#x160; iÂ&#x2DC;Ă&#x152;Ă&#x20AC;i°Ă&#x160; UĂ&#x160;Ă&#x160;Ă&#x160;Â&#x201C;Â&#x153;Ă&#x152;Â&#x2026;iĂ&#x20AC;Ă&#x160;Â&#x2026;Â&#x153;Â?`Ă&#x192;Ă&#x160;Â&#x2026;iĂ&#x20AC;Ă&#x160;Ă&#x153;iiÂ&#x17D;Â&#x2021;Â&#x153;Â?`Ă&#x160;L>LĂ&#x17E;Ă&#x160;Â&#x2C6;Â&#x2DC;Ă&#x160;Ă&#x152;Â&#x2026;iĂ&#x160;Ă&#x20AC;Ă&#x2022;Ă&#x20AC;>Â?Ă&#x160;Ă&#x203A;Â&#x2C6;Â?Â?>}iĂ&#x160; Â&#x153;vĂ&#x160; Â&#x2026;Ă&#x2022;Â&#x2DC;Â&#x2026;Ă&#x2022;Â&#x2026;Ă&#x2022;L]Ă&#x160;iĂ?Â&#x2C6;VÂ&#x153;°Ă&#x160; UĂ&#x160;Ă&#x160;Ă&#x160;Ă&#x153;Â&#x153;Â&#x201C;>Â&#x2DC;Ă&#x160;Â?>LÂ&#x153;Ă&#x20AC;Ă&#x192;Ă&#x160;Ă&#x152;Â&#x153;Ă&#x160;`iÂ?Â&#x2C6;Ă&#x203A;iĂ&#x20AC;Ă&#x160;Â&#x2026;iĂ&#x20AC;Ă&#x160;Ă&#x192;Ă&#x152;Â&#x2C6;Â?Â?LÂ&#x153;Ă&#x20AC;Â&#x2DC;Ă&#x160;L>LĂ&#x17E;Ă&#x160;>Ă&#x152;Ă&#x160;Ă&#x152;Â&#x2026;iĂ&#x160; Â&#x2C6;Ă&#x17E;iĂ&#x152;Â&#x153;Ă&#x20AC;Â&#x153;Ă&#x160;i>Â?Ă&#x152;Â&#x2026;Ă&#x160; iÂ&#x2DC;Ă&#x152;Ă&#x20AC;i°Ă&#x160;Ă&#x160;


when I was 18 and a senior at Northfield Mount Hermon, I spent the winter term studying and working with a small group of classmates in San CristĂłbal, Dominican Republic. I was assigned a job in the maternity ward of a public hospital, where women gave birth without the safety of reliable electricity or hot water. I struggled to understand the fast-moving Spanish and the doctorsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; dismissive attitudes toward their patients, who couldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t afford better care at the nearby private clinics. I marveled at being the first person a newborn saw. At night, I wrote about seeing hospital staff throw used needles in open trashcans and mop floors with dirty water. Years later, I looked back on my experiences in disbelief. Had I really comforted a teenager in labor before Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d left high school? Did I insert catheters and IVs and watch women give birth over plastic buckets? By then, I had graduated from college with a photography degree, and I wanted to document what Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d seen. So I turned to my Dominican host mother from 1998, Yuli Castro, and asked if she could help me get back into the hospital. She said yes. Nine years after my first visit, I returned to the maternity ward, financing the trip with money earned from teaching photography. I talked my way past hospital guards and won over skeptical doctors, but soon doubts began to take over. I had no assignment and no outside funding. The sights and smells in the underresourced hospital overwhelmed me. If no one ever saw the pictures I was taking, then all I was doing was making a terrible travel album. But I reminded myself that I was a photographer, even if no one knew it yet, so I focused on organizing what I saw into coherent images. The hospitalâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s patients and staff wanted to share their stories, and I respected and appreciated their consent. I owed it to them as well as to myself to follow through. I went on to photograph maternity care in Nigeria, Mexico, the Navajo Nation, Florida, Brooklyn, New York, and Greenfield, Mass. Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve photographed births in hospitals, birthing centers, clinics, and in peopleâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s homes. I am always amazed that each woman and each situation is different, yet they still embody so many universal ideas: struggle, beauty, cultural identity, power, and, in the end, transformation. [NMH]

fall 2013 I 35

Twenty Minutes

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ON BOYLSTO N ST R E E T When a pair of bombs went off at the Boston Marathon, Bruce Mendelsohn ’86 took off running in the direction that mattered most.    ’,,

fall 2013 I 37


OGGING across the Massachusetts Avenue bridge that links Cambridge, Mass., and Boston, Bruce Mendelsohn ’86 is uneasy. He doesn’t seem the type, with his muscled arms, thick chest, and shaved head echoing his years in the military and law enforcement. But he says, “I didn’t sleep well last night thinking about going down there again.” “Down there” is 667 Boylston Street, where six weeks earlier, two pressure-cooker bombs tore through the crowds at the Boston Marathon finish area, spraying spectators with ball bearings and nails, killing three, maiming more than a dozen, and wounding hundreds. What Mendelsohn saw that afternoon—and more important, what he did—thrust him into a brief, bright spotlight. Mendelsohn, 45, is director of communications for the Gordon-MIT Engineering Leadership Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He’s also a longtime runner, with 17 marathons under his belt, and it was his idea for us to lace up and run down to Boylston Street last May. “Careful,” he says as a van turns in front of us. “I’m scared to get hit by a car in Boston.” We cut onto Commonwealth Avenue, toward downtown. Along the leafy boulevard, he points out spots where he gave interviews after the marathon. People magazine, NPR, “Nightline,” CNN, BBC, and the “Today” show kept his phone glowing for days. “People who know me know that I love attention. Middle-child syndrome and all that,” he says. “But this was way too much.”

April 15, 2013, 2:49  When the first bomb went off, Mendelsohn was at a post-race party across from the VIP stands. Normally, he avoids the Boston Marathon, and has never run it, preferring to spend the Massachusetts Patriots’ Day holiday with his wife at home in Auburn, about an hour west of the city. “The finish line is a zoo. People are stacked 10 deep on both sides,” he says. But this year, Mendelsohn’s younger brother, a sub-three-hour marathoner, was toeing the line, and the plan was to meet at the finish and celebrate. The brothers and other partygoers took turns at the open windows of a third-floor office at 667 Boylston Street, watching the middle-of-thepack runners, some bedraggled, some triumphant, stream down the iconic, flag-lined final stretch. Then they heard the boom. “I thought it was a cannon congratulating someone for finishing, but

38 I NMH Magazine

then I smelled cordite,” Mendelsohn says, referring to the gunpowder. After the second blast, 12 seconds later and a block away, Mendelsohn, a former Army lieutenant, rushed down the stairs, fueled by adrenaline and muscle memory. He pushed open the door to the sidewalk and was confronted with blood, a sea of glass, felled spectators, and screams and moans. “I really thought it was a suicide bomber with all the blood,” he says. “But then I saw people with injuries to the lower extremities and I thought: pipe bomb.” 2:50  EMTs, firefighters, police, and other citizens were pulling down barricades between the street and the sidewalks to get to the victims. Sirens filled the air. A few feet away, in front of a candy store, Mendelsohn saw a young blond woman whose left calf was torn open and gushing blood. He later learned who she was:


Victoria McGrath, a Northeastern University student. He spied a piece of cloth and tied it around her leg just below the knee, something he’d done in his military training two decades earlier. Then he yelled to a nearby firefighter and loaded McGrath into his arms. “Get her to the medical tent!” A photograph of Boston fireman Jimmy Plourde carrying a crumpled McGrath, a bloody T-shirt knotted around her black pants, would become one of the day’s iconic images. “My surgeon told me Bruce saved my life,” McGrath says. “If he hadn’t tied a tourniquet around my leg, I would have bled out right there at the candy store.” 2:54  Then Mendelsohn saw a woman screaming. “She was hysterical: ‘Where’s my son? I can’t find my son!’” Mendelsohn guided her to a doorway. “Wait here,” he told her.

“I go into this mess of people and I see a boy wandering around,” he says. “I run over to him and say, ‘Hey, buddy, is that your mommy over there? He said, ‘Yeah.’ So I grabbed him, brought him over, and told them to get out of there.” 2:56  Then, with an EMT, he came upon a couple on the ground in front of the Marathon Sports store, arms around each other. “We had to separate the two. We didn’t know who was injured and there was all this blood. So as we pry them apart, her insides are coming out. I look at the EMT. There’s nothing I can do. At that point, I just began helping people into the ambulances.” He wondered later if the woman was Krystle Campbell, the 29-year-old restaurant manager from Medford, Mass., who died at the scene. 3:07  Within 15 or 20 minutes of the explosions, Mendelsohn says, the casualties had been evacuated. The police remained, hustling bystanders away from the scene, including Mendelsohn. Back upstairs at 667 Boylston Street, before heading down a rear fire escape with the rest of his group, he snapped a picture from the window: an empty sidewalk streaked with blood and debris. He posted the image on Twitter, and it went viral. “People needed to know what the hell was going on,” he says.

WHEN WE REACH Marathon Sports at 671 Boylston Street, we see a few pieces of new sidewalk, and the boarded-up windows have been replaced with glass. People are walking to work, coffee cups in hand. Cabs purr along the sidewalk. “Jesus, it looks so different,” Mendelsohn says. A sign tacked to a tree is inscribed with an Old Testament passage: “Remove the sandals from your feet. For where you are standing is sacred

ground.” Mendelsohn heads for the doorway of 667, pointing to the spot where he came upon McGrath. He says, “All my life, I’ve wondered what I would do in that kind of situation. Would I run to the sound of the guns or run away?” When Mendelsohn went back to work at MIT and returned to his normal routine, the weight of that Monday stayed with him. People reacted to him differently. “Most people know me as a guy who likes to have a good time—fun-loving,” he says. “Now there’s a deeper degree of seriousness with how people view me, and how I view myself. If you’re the guy saving somebody’s life, you can’t act the fool.” Yet he finds himself feeling more vigilant in crowds, hesitant to leave his wife’s side, scanning faces for anything “off.” “I don’t know much about PTSD, but I’m sure I have a few things rattling around up there,” he says. The last stop on our run is the makeshift memorial at Copley Square, about a block away from the finish area. One section is strung with hundreds of pairs of running shoes that are scrawled with messages; barriers are draped with Boston Marathon medals, race bibs, stuffed animals, police department caps, and runningclub T-shirts. Mendelsohn removes his sunglasses and stands in front of the portraits of the dead, including MIT police officer Sean Collier, who was allegedly killed by the Tsarnaev brothers three days after the bombings. After his three-year stint in the Army, Mendelsohn worked for the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, helping organize services for slain officers around the country. At MIT, Mendelsohn knew Collier. “I used to rib him, called him ‘Rookie,’” Mendelsohn says. “He told me he wanted night shifts because he wanted to see action.” In the aftermath of the bombings, Mendelsohn says he was “spitting mad,” particularly with the attention

“All my life, I’ve wondered what I would do in that situation. Would I run to the sound of the guns or run away?”

paid to the 19-year-old bomber. “I was angry wıth the fact that people interviewed about the younger Tsarnaev were callıng him a ‘sweet, innocent kıd.’ What kind of sweet, innocent person does something like that?” Mendelsohn initially dealt with his anger through press appearances, dubbing it “therapy by media.” Time, along with talks with his wife and a few speaking engagements with local schoolchildren, has taken some of the edge off. But he feels a responsibility now that did not exist before the bombings. “I’m trying to figure out what I do with it, how I convey it into something meaningful and longlasting,” he says. He stares at a large banner beyond the portraits that reads: Feel Better. “I’ve been thinking about four-letter words lately,” he says. “Usually they’re profane, but I’ve been thinking about four-letter words that are sacred. Like ‘help,’ ‘hope,’ ‘heal.’ These are the words that I want to focus on. Each of us can be a helper or a healer. That’s what you see at this memorial.” Turning away from Copley Square, Mendelsohn puts his sunglasses on. We cross Boylston Street and head back toward the river to finish our run. [NMH]

fall 2013 I 39













Courtney Opalenik ’06 (left) stays dry with Paige Landry ’06.

40 I NMH Magazine


Reunion 2013


Nov. 11 Pie Race

And the Award Goes to… Each year at reunion, the NMH Alumni Association presents awards to alumni who have made remarkable contributions to the school, their own communities, and the world. The 2013 winners are: DISTINGUISHED SERVICE AWARD

Donald G. Glascoff Jr. ’63

The Class of 1963’s 50th Reunion Gift

Breaks Records

$6.5 MIL L ION

The record-breaking gift of outright donations, pledges, and planned gifts made over the five years leading up to the reunion.

Something Old, Something New

Dec. 8 Christmas Vespers on campus

Reunion isn’t just for catching up with old friends. It’s for learning something new at a classroom seminar. A sampling: What Martin Luther King Jr. Would Want Us to Know About Health Care Disparities Dr. Augustus White ’53 Harvard Medical School

Seeing the World by Bicycle


Joan Clausen Vander Vliet ’48 WILLIAM H. MORROW AWARD

Richard S. Messer P ’06, P ’13, P ’16 Director of NMH Dining Services YOUNG ALUMNI AWARD

Charis Law ’03

$5.8 MIL L ION

The amount that 14 class members dedicated to NMH in their estate plans.

Feb. 7–8 Winter Family Days March 1 Reunion Work Day May 4 Concert of Sacred Music

Carol Waaser ’63


Mark Chardack ’73, Hon ’12, P ’16

Dec. 19 Christmas Vespers in New York City

May 25 Commencement

The Evolving Experience of Women in Religion Sarah Warren, chair, NMH’s Dept. of Religious studies and Philosophy

June 5–8 Reunion

Telling the Story of Your Life Willem Lange ’53, journalist, storyteller, radio and television host

Keeping It Real: Upholding the Values of Fair Trade

$176,161 The Class of 1963’s Endowed Scholarship Fund, as of June 2013.

Heather Rice ’98 and Michael Skillicorn ’04, Dean’s Beans Organic Coffee Co.

Vibrant Health: Three Ways Your Beliefs Keep You from Feeling Your Best Dr. Angela Lambert ’83


Jean Fuller Farrington ’53 Barton P. Ferris Jr. ’58 John Gamel ’63 Deborah Eaton Peck ’63 Willard Ellsworth Thomen ’63 Sheila Woodson Horine ’73 Anastasia (Anne) Stemshorn George ’88


Dogfish Head Beer Tasting Sam Calagione ’88 Dogfish Head Brewery

A limited-edition Dogfish Head beer crafted for Reunion

NMH’s new bumper sticker debuted at Reunion 2013.

fall 2013 I 41

13 REUNION 20T CHECKLIS ⇨ Circus show d ⇨ Dogfish Hea tasting B rewery beer t ⇨ Quiet momen in the chapel er ⇨ Eating lobst wit h old friends HA LL , GL EN N MI NS PH OT OS BY

42 I NMH Magazine

aking ⇨ G roundbre nor ceremony to ho eller the late Mec P ⇨ Coffee at the Dean’s Beans uck Javatrekker tr ⇨ Lots of hugs



fall 2013 I 43


The Wisdom of Mistakes by TED DESMAISONS

If you want to succeed, embrace failure. A year ago, I would have expected such paradoxical advice to come from a Taoist monk or a Jedi master. Now, after a sabbatical year away from NMH, I find myself touting that same refrain as I explore questions about teaching and learning. How do I encourage the freshman boy who struggles on an early test? How do I help a rookie softball shortstop whose throw sails over the first baseman’s head? How do I support the senior who’s worried about getting rejected by her first-choice school? Even though we at NMH see ourselves as an open-minded prep school— getting kids to “top” colleges and to the schools and programs that fit them best—we still employ many of the same measuring sticks that our peers do. We want our kids to excel in academics, arts, and athletics—nail all three, even better. To the teenage mind, a single failure can sometimes feel ruinous. Lose one game and you miss the playoffs. Get one B and you might get rejected at Princeton. Such a high-pressure house of cards leaves little room for exploring uncertain ground and crowds out the benefits of healthy risk taking. On sabbatical, I studied how to foster a courageous, creative, and connected classroom. More specifically, I explored how four varied fields—contemplative practice, improvisational theater, positive reinforcement behavioral training, and growth mindset work—could overlap in such an effort. Some of my playful colleagues chuckled at the scope of my project—a yearlong drink at the fire hydrant, eh?—but I sensed I’d find valuable insights.

96 I NMH Magazine

Everything I learned, it seemed, invited me to shift my way of thinking about failure. For example, most contemplative traditions use a gentle approach to socalled mistakes. When attention strays from a focus point—the breath, for example—there’s no ridicule or shaming. One simply notices the straying and gets back to the focusing. When I struggled last summer to build a fragile trail of stones extending from a boulder into a tidal pool, I remembered the words of nature artist Andy Goldsworthy in the documentary Rivers and Tides, as he laments a fallen stone sculpture: “The moment when it collapses is intensely disappointing. [But] each time I got to know the stone a little bit more, it got higher. It grew in proportion to my understanding of the stone.” Again, no self-flagellation, only the recognition that he’s learning. The theater improvisers I met showed me how to rebound from muck-ups with a practice known as the Failure Bow. Rather than compound a mistake by wincing from expected punishment—external or internal—the actor defuses the failure by taking a proud step forward and throwing both arms in the air to declare, “I failed! Woo hoo!” In other words, “Yes, I messed up. And yes, I’m still here. I’m still growing.” Such cheerful resilience delights audiences and inspires stage mates. Behavioral trainers and coaches who employ positive reinforcement methods—reward movement toward the behavior you want and ignore the rest—don’t harp on failure, either. For example, I can use a “tag,” a nonverbal

audible marker like a snap or a click, to let a softball player know when she’s got her wrist in proper position to make a throw. The tag says “Yes.” I don’t point out errors or offer more instruction. If I stay silent, the player then determines the necessary adjustment and receives reinforcement from me the moment she finds the right alignment. Someone with a fixed mindset believes that whatever abilities we have come set in stone. A student might struggle with an English essay and decide with finality, “I’m not a good writer.” A growth mindset, in contrast, suggests greater fluidity in intelligence and ability. “I’m not a good writer” converts to “I’m becoming a better writer.” Students who see their apparent failures as prototypes for future success maintain the courage and resilience to keep going. These attitudes toward mistakes may seem revolutionary in educational settings, where we so often focus only on success. But errors in the classroom—or on the playing field, or the stage, or wherever students are absorbing new information—offer valuable lessons for incremental improvement and sometimes bust open a window to unforeseeable innovation. In failure, we can all find wisdom and opportunities for real learning. No Jedi master or Taoist sage needed. Ted DesMaisons teaches religious studies and philosophy and coaches the girls’ varsity softball team. Read more about his sabbatical experiences at


Kate Alling Throop ’61 In June 2011, Kate Alling Throop ’61 was about to fly east for her 50th Northfield reunion when she got the bad news: She had multiple myeloma. “I was shellshocked,” she recalls. She’d been feeling tired and not right for a few months—but cancer? She sadly skipped the reunion, and instead began diving into the hard business of chemotherapy and dialysis. Two years later, Kate finally made the trip from her home in California to NMH. This wasn’t a reunion visit, just a quick stop during a two-week New England tour with her husband, Terry Throop. It marked their first big trip since her diagnosis, as well as a return to normalcy—or at least a new version of it. She and Terry stopped at NMH just long enough to meet Head of School Peter Fayroian and hand him a generous check for the Northfield School for Girls Scholarship Fund. The gift honored Terry’s son, Chris Throop ’86, as well as Kate’s years at Northfield. She’d been a scholarship student herself and wanted to pay it forward. “I had always told Terry I’d like to leave something to NMH in my will,” Kate recalls. “That conversation quickly moved from ‘someday’ to ‘Let’s take a check and give it to Peter Fayroian.’ Handing over the check felt so good. It felt like the right thing to do.” Kate and her husband drove past the Northfield campus that day but didn’t have time to stop. That was ok with Kate. She has made her peace with the sale of the campus and its uncertain future. She knows a lot about uncertainty now, and the importance of an enduring spirit. Every day is a gift, in her view, and she is simply sharing that gift with NMH.




One Lamplighter Way Mount Hermon, MA 01354

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MOUNTAIN DAY Seniors make their presence known at the top of Mount Monadnock in New Hampshire. P H O TO B Y TJ FA R ME R

NMH Magazine, Fall 2013  

NMH Magazine, Fall 2013