NORTH YA RMO U T H
ACAD E MY
CHRONICLE FALL 2010
NYA Says Goodbye To Peter Mertz
VOL. 34, NO. 1
CHRONICLE FALL 2010
VOL. 34, NO. 1
ANNUAL REPORT OF DONORS
Peter mertz Pages 3-5
PARENTS’ ASSOCIATION/ PROJECT: REACH OUT
INTO the woods/BICENTENNIAL KIDS
NEw FACULTY & STAFF/5th grade
CLASS OF 2010
HEAD OF SCHOOL
Dear NYA Community,
Lisa and Peter Mertz
In the hallway outside my office hang the portraits of past NYA Headmasters. Each contributed wisdom, energy, determination and creativity. I am sure they also gave long nights of worry, moments of frustration and privately held doubts. We are here because of their perseverance and dedication. We might wonder if they thought of those yet to come, or were they too busy managing the challenges of the moment? Having shared that leadership seat, I can assure you that each worked diligently for the students they knew during their time here, but they also were inspired by their vision of what the school could become. “We drink from wells that others have dug.” I have thought of this phrase several times over my ten years as Headmaster of North Yarmouth Academy. The phrase is a bridge between the past and the future that connects us to each in a personal manner. It is a statement of gratitude, acknowledging the work of our antecedents. In realizing that we benefit from the work done by others before us, we are obligated and challenged to do the same for those who will come. We dig our wells today. They become our legacy tomorrow.
Personified in the Roman god Janus, it is our nature to look back and forward at the same time. Institutions do that as well. Now, as NYA looks forward with a sense of excitement and optimism to new leadership, it is appropriate to review the past to remind us of where we once were and how we arrived at this new stepping off place. The next Headmaster will inherit a school that was well led by caring, competent leaders over the years, sustained by incredibly talented teachers and staff, and guided by committed Trustees. We know we have created an exceptional place for young men and women to grow, learn and become better people. We can be certain that there will be good clear water in those wells to refresh and inspire a new vision for our future. I look forward to watching that path unfold. Sincerely,
Peter W. Mertz, Headmaster
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Cover Photo: Fred Field
ON TO new adventUreS Photo: Fred Field
Imagine a premier college preparatory day school located in coastal Maine. The facilities are so out-of-date that students working with flammable materials in chemistry labs run the risk of electrocution if they need to use the emergency shower in an accident. Imagine sixth graders stuffed into one overheated classroom on the top floor of an old wooden building, sequestered away from the rest of the campus and their older counterparts. And then imagine the beauty of a gorgeous fall day in Maine - bright, happy kids competing on the soccer and field hockey fields and hanging out with their friends, delighted to engage a visiting Headmaster candidate in conversation. That’s exactly what Headmaster Peter Mertz and his wife Lisa encountered on their finalist visit to NYA in the fall of 2000. “I remember being on campus and watching a field hockey game and then heading to my car. There were four or five boys leaning on a car, just having fun with each other. I walked over, and we chatted awhile. I was so impressed with their ease of conversation with an adult they didn’t know, with their good questions and thoughtful responses to mine. I remember thinking, this is where my son would go to school and these boys would be his role models. That’s what sold me on NYA,” Mertz explained. Ross Markonish, English Department Chair at NYA, was a member of the search committee that ultimately selected Mertz to lead the Academy. “We were impressed with Peter’s open-mindedness and willingness to immerse himself fully in the search process, sure signs that he would act the same way as Headmaster,” said Markonish. “After all, this was a man who flew seven times (that’s 42,000 total miles!) from Washington to Maine for interviews. This was a man who lost his luggage prior to one of these interviews, resulting in a late night shopping spree at Bean’s. This was a man who had one of his rental cars damaged by a late-night collision with a wayward deer in the parking lot of the Down-East Village Motel. To survive all of these adventures and still keep coming back to NYA surely signifies either complete lunacy or absolute dedication on Peter’s part,” Markonish remarked in a speech delivered at Mertz’s installation as the new Headmaster.
After ten years at North Yarmouth Academy, Peter Mertz is stepping down at the end of the fiscal year in June 2011.
After ten years at North Yarmouth Academy, Mertz is stepping down in June 2011. During his tenure, he has had an extraordinary impact on all aspects of the NYA program. “Peter has led NYA through an unprecedented period of expansion and improvement. When he arrived, many of our facilities on campus were in need of serious maintenance and renovation, and there was also a need for additional facilities that would advance and strengthen the educational program at the Academy. During his tenure, he has made great strides in that regard. He has reached out to alumni and brought many of them back to support NYA, with many of them serving on the Board of Trustees. Our reputation as an academic institution of excellence has continued to grow under his leadership and the public recognition of the quality of our school is a tribute to his hard work, character and success,” said Richard Abbondanza, current president of the NYA Board of Trustees. Reflecting on Mertz’s tenure at NYA, Markonish said, “I think Peter’s greatest impact over the past 10 years has been the physical growth of the campus. The days that the Middle School and Science Center opened, I could see the palpable excitement emanating from him. Those new buildings are his legacy here.” Alanna Olivadoti, assistant to the Headmaster, echoed Markonish’s thoughts. “The improvements to the physical plant are without a doubt, the most tangible measure of the results of a concerted effort that Peter led while here at the Academy. It wasn’t always easy, but he navigated us through the tough times. Our campus is definitely a better place now than when he arrived,” she said.
“ I think Peter’s greatest impact over the past 10 years has been the physical growth of the campus. The days that the middle school and science center opened, I could see the palpable excitement emanating from him. Those new buildings are his legacy here.”
– Ross Markonish English Department Chair
Photo: Fred Field
pride in the way our whole community responded. I was brand new here, and I realized in those 24 hours that there couldn’t be a better place anywhere to weather the mental and emotional devastation that time evoked. I’ve never seen nor experienced the strength of a community pulling together like I did here,” he said.
Students were sad to hear the news that Mertz would be leaving NYA after this school year. “I will really miss him,” said sophomore Jen Brown. “He’s so engaging with the students and really approachable. He knows everybody’s name and when he talks with us, he makes us feel like equal members of the community. He respects our opinions,” she said. Eryn Dioli, another sophomore, said that she will miss his great sense of humor as well as his open door policy. “His door is always open to students. He’ll always find the time to sit and listen when someone needs help or advice. I will really miss him when he’s gone,” she said.
“The day we received the first million dollar gift for the Securing Their Future campaign is another top five memory for me,’ Mertz explained. “There were so many doubters back then as to whether we could ever raise that kind of money for NYA. Up until that moment, there were folks who were afraid that we’d get half way through the construction and leave blue tarps blowing from unfinished buildings. That gift created the confidence throughout the community that we could indeed raise the money, and that we HAD to go forward successfully. It really was a pivotal moment, not just for the campaign, but for the enduring future of the school.”
Although his legacy will undoubtedly include the opening of the Priscilla Savage Middle School and new Science Center, as well as the renovation of historic Russell Hall into its current use as a state-of-the-art foreign language center, and the new turf field, there are other memories that share equal importance for Mertz. “I think about the day after 9/11 and still feel such
PE TER Mertz Accomplishments timeline 2001
July 2001 Purchase of Vreeland property where the Science Center and Grizzy Quad are now located Summer 2002 Room 109 in Curtis Building renovated
February 2003 Ground breaking for Priscilla Savage Middle School Summer 2003 Room 203 in Curtis Building renovated/student lounge created September 2003 Asbestos eradicated from entire NYA campus September 2003 PRISCILLA SAVAGE MIDDLE SCHOOL OPEN! September 2003 Panther’s ReTail opens Summer 2004 Room 110 in Curtis Building renovated
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January 2006 SCIENCE CENTER OPEN! Summer 2006 Lewis Field becomes a turf field Fall 2006 NYA awarded NEASC ten year accreditation
Summer 2007 Cooling system, floorboards and glass replaced in Travis Roy Arena Summer 2007 Academy Hall cupola restored March 2008 Russell Hall gutted, renovation work begins Summer 2008 Compressors replaced in Travis Roy Arena
January 2009 RUSSELL HALL REOPENS! June 2009 Varney property purchased June 2010 First athletes inducted into the Edgar F. White ’38 Athletic Hall of Fame Summer 2010 NYA named Best Private School in Maine by DownEast Magazine
Just as the relationships between students and teachers are the hallmarks of an NYA experience, the relationships that Mertz has forged with individual members of the community have been tantamount to his experiences at the Academy. “There are so many people I have met over the past decade who have given me great council, great friendship and wonderful opportunities to advance the mission of the school, but no one has made more of an impression on me than Frank Knight ‘25. He introduced me to the rich history of NYA and fostered my love for learning all that I could about the early days of the Academy. Through Frank, the history came alive for me,” said Mertz. “We also worked very closely together on the elm tree plantings on the campus. Frank’s living legacy at NYA will be the 22 or more elm trees we planted all over campus.” Mertz added, “Howard Small is another person who comes to mind. To a large extent, for many years Howard was an unrecognized benefactor to the school who provided many gifts to NYA, including the donation of the land bordering US Route 1 where the hockey arena, tennis courts and softball field were built. He passed away just a year ago, but we had a great relationship that grew from our mutual love of NYA.” Besides forming strong relationships with alumni, parents, faculty, staff and students, a Headmaster must also create a working bond with the members of the Board of Trustees. “I have had the privilege to work with several dedicated NYA Board Presidents, but Bruce Poliquin stands alone as unquestionably the best Board President of any school I’ve led,” said Mertz. “Bruce truly understood best Board practices and he insisted, no demanded, that Board members really abide by those standards. Working as intensely as we did together, we were able to accomplish some very important successes for NYA. I will always remember Bruce’s energy and commitment to making NYA an even better school.” When Mertz leaves the Academy, he will also take with him one of the greatest gifts he brought to NYA ten years ago—his wife Lisa. As the receptionist in the Middle School, Lisa has been jack-of-many-trades, always cheerful and welcoming to students, parents, teachers and visitors. “I always call her Mama Lisa,” said Lynne Werner, president of the NYA Parents’ Association, “because she has the pulse of the Middle School. She keeps all those children in tow with her fabulous sense of humor.” In addition to her duties in the Middle School, Lisa has also tutored many NYA students in Spanish, as well as running the Panther’s ReTail store “in her spare time.” She has been a member of the Auction Committee, serving as chair of the Publicity Committee and Fine Art Committee. Faculty, staff, students, trustees and parents all agree that Lisa will be a very hard act to follow. “She’s been a true gift to NYA, always going the extra mile, always generous with her talents and time. We will miss her so much,” said Marissa Markonish, Head of the Middle School. After ten years of leading NYA, Mertz made the difficult decision to leave the school after his contract ends in June 2011. He will assume the Head of School position at Hampton Roads Academy in Newport News, Virginia in July 2011. “My decision to leave NYA was based entirely on professional and personal reasons. I’m 57 years old and have the opportunity to move on to a career-culminating school where I can contribute 10 years or more of my professional experience and expertise. When we came to NYA, Lisa and I committed ourselves to coming for a minimum of seven years to ensure that our son Pete would attend and graduate from the Academy. He graduated from NYA in 2008 and is currently a junior at Williams College. Although I am very proud of all that I’ve accomplished here and will miss the wonderful community of NYA, now is the right time to move on to the next challenge and opportunity,” he said.
“ I knew I wanted to be Headmaster here because of the kids, and I wanted (our son) Pete to go to school here for the same reason.”
– Peter Mertz
The Parents’ Association members meet monthly, and at these meetings, members update Peter on the status of grants, discuss issues that parents have noticed, and prepare for upcoming fundraising events.
parents UNITE The Parents’ Association gets behind the faculty, staff, and kids.
“One thing that always humbles me, Peter (Mertz) has always said that NYA could not exist without the Parents’ Association.”
– Lynne Werner
A very happy six year old was munching on a chocolate chip cookie outside the NYA gymnasium recently while he waited for his older sister to finish playing her middle school field hockey game. He delighted the crowd around him by pointing to one of the “snack shack” volunteers and claiming “she was waaaaay nicer than HIS mother because she gave him the cookie even though he was a little short on change!” That boy and his cookie are just one example of the many ways the NYA Parents’ Association volunteers influence the positive atmosphere of the Academy. “The good work that the Parents’ Association does for NYA touches our students’ lives every single day,” said Headmaster Peter Mertz. “The countless hours of volunteer service they provide has a huge impact on the whole campus—from the grounds to the classrooms and everywhere in between.” The Parents’ Association provides constant support for the faculty, staff and students both through their presence as volunteers and their fundraising efforts. Parent volunteers are involved in all aspects of the school, whether it’s managing and staffing the Snack Shack and Panther’s ReTail or helping with Grandparents’ Day or driving
students to community service work. They also raise funds through a variety of activities that are awarded through a grants program to faculty and staff. In recent years the grants have provided the light blocking curtains in Safford Center, new pans for the steel drum band, six Mimio boards used in classrooms, flip video and digital cameras and many other classroom enhancements. Over the past ten years, the Parents’ Association has worked closely with Mertz and welcomed his involvement. Long time NYA parent and former Parents’ Association president Janet Bowne said that Mertz “felt the Parents’ Association was an extension of his reach into the community, using it as a conduit from the parents directly into his office.” That connection manifests itself in many ways, including the monthly Parents’ Association meetings with the Head as well as the monthly Headmaster Roundtable meetings where all parents can come to ask Mertz questions and talk about topics that range from student parking to dress code to curriculum. “Peter has a great appreciation for the work the Parents’ Association does. One thing that always humbles me, Peter has always said that NYA could not exist without the Parents’ Association,” said Lynne Werner, current president of the group. “We will miss his energy and positive attitude as well as the guidance and leadership he has provided. The parents of NYA are very thankful for all that he has done here,” she said.
Wendy Briggs, Janet Bowne, Pat Wellenbach, and Kathy Slack
Maura and Beth Perry