The Riparian - Fall 2023

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Fall 2023 | RIPARIAN A

R I PAR I AN | FALL 2023





Artificial intelligence can answer just about any question—but can it deliver authenticity?



Our ninth head of school and the path that led to Rivers

The pandemic put travel programs on hold, but now they’re back and better than ever





Our new director of diversity, equity, and inclusion sees the work through a scientist’s lens



The Parsons Quad, Graduation, The Wedding Singer, and more


Five Questions for Yassine Talhaoui



MUSICAL THEATER Conservatory Program students Ally Giebutowski ’25, Ceci Giebutowski ’25, and Jordan Felice ’25 sang “The Star Spangled Banner” at the season’s first Friday Night Lights game.


CHARTING THE PATH FORWARD IT’S HARD TO BELIEVE that four months have passed since I boarded my Boston-bound flight from Los Angeles to begin my tenure as ninth head of school at Rivers. Anne and I, along with our son Colin, finally feel settled in our new home, watching fall unfold here so beautifully in New England. We are grateful to say that this community is now an extension of our family. So many moments in my early days on campus have reinforced my excitement about this special place. In September, with members of the senior class by my side, we opened the 2023–24 academic year with optimism. We cheered (loudly) for our Red Wings athletic teams—cross country, field hockey, football, soccer, volleyball. We marveled at the talent of our performing artists. We held art gallery openings, a Red and White competition, and assemblies. We invited guest speakers to classrooms and alumni back to campus, and we watched our students invent, discover, and create in our labs, classrooms, and art studios. And we are laying the foundation for our AISNE self-study and strategic planning work that will inform a bold new chapter for Rivers. Day in and day out, I see our philosophy of Excellence with Humanity in action. It is the essence of this remarkable institution: balancing high expectations for students while challenging them to become the best versions of themselves, all in the context of close, caring relationships with supportive adults. This community— students, parents and caregivers, members of our professional community, trustees, and alumni—is why my family and I chose Rivers. As the year continues to unfold, I am filled with excitement about the journey before us. “Connection before content” is a favorite phrase of mine, and one you’ll be sure to hear me repeat

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frequently. In the weeks, months, and years ahead, I look forward to connecting with every member of this community. We will all be doing the exciting work of setting the school’s trajectory together, as we help create the priorities, programs, classes, and facilities that will lead us forward. I am confident that this work will be built on the firmest possible foundation: connection. In this issue of the Riparian, you’ll read about the connections students forged around the world as our travel programs resumed post-COVID (page 20). We’re also taking a look at artificial intelligence and its role in the classroom (page 26) as we lean into ways this new technology can augment (or diminish) connection. And we’re chatting with Jenny Jun-lei Kravitz, our new director of diversity, equity, and inclusion (page 24), who is prioritizing listening and observing as she forges connections during her first year at Rivers. We live in complex times, and each aspect of our work is important, especially as our students remain at the forefront of all we do. Our mission charges us with preparing students for “leadership in a world that needs their talents, imagination, intellect, and compassion.” Those words resonate today more than ever. I am humbled, honored, and inspired to have joined such an extraordinary community and excited about creating the future of Rivers, together. With gratitude,

Ryan S. Dahlem


HEAD OF SCHOOL Ryan S. Dahlem EDITOR Jane Dornbusch ASSOCIATE HEAD OF SCHOOL FOR DEVELOPMENT AND EXTERNAL RELATIONS Krissie Kelleher P’22, ’25 DIRECTOR OF MARKETING AND COMMUNICATIONS Colette Porter DIRECTOR OF ALUMNI ENGAGEMENT Janet McKeeney CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Rachael Chen, Alexandra Ghiz, Catherine O’Neill Grace, Jacob Werrick ’16 CREATIVE DIRECTOR Ianka De La Rosa CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS Kristie Rae Dean, John Hurley, Tom Kates, Leah O’Brien, Gil Talbot, Bethany Versoy

The Rivers School 333 Winter Street Weston, MA 02493-1040 781.235.9300

RIPARIAN: “One that lives or has property on the bank of a river or lake.”

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“ Laura’s House was a piece I drew using pencil and pastel. Laura is a great friend of my grandparents, and we visit her pool, surrounded by a magical garden, each summer. I chose to create this piece in these two mediums to demonstrate the contrast between the soft, fuzzy memories of childhood summers and the crisp reality of the actual place.” —PEPPER TAYLOR ’25

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A RIVERS SCHOOL EDUCATION emphasizes connection and belonging, placing students at the center of all we do. Our entire professional community of faculty, administrators, and staff encourage healthy risk taking and work to develop resilience in our students. The Rivers Fund—the school’s primary philanthropic priority—underwrites opportunities for exploration of interests and content that complement our curriculum. Last year, more than 1,475 donors supported our annual giving program, with parents and caregivers, alumni, faculty, staff, and friends of Rivers contributing over $3.2 million. Every gift makes an impact, and your yearly participation in this important effort serves as a testament to the dedication and talent of our professional community—and your commitment to Rivers.

To learn more about how The Rivers Fund supports teaching and learning at Rivers, as well as many other aspects of school life, visit our website,

Make your gift to The Rivers Fund today!


NEWS THE PARSONS QUADRANGLE WHEN STUDENTS AND FACULTY returned to campus in September, they were greeted by the sight of the new Parsons Quadrangle, a revitalized outdoor space for the Middle School. Named in honor of former Head of School Edward V. Parsons and his wife, Lisa, P’17, the refreshed community space—which covers the area bordered by Prince, Haynes, Allen, and Carlin—makes those buildings accessible without ramps or steps and provides an updated recreational zone for students in Grades 6 through 8. It also serves as a functional outdoor area for classes, meetings, and advisory spaces. The idea for the renovation of the Middle School quad came about quietly over the summer of 2022 as a way to honor and celebrate the contributions of Ned and Lisa

over their nine years of service to Rivers. Ned Parsons completed his transformative run as Rivers’ eighth head of school in June 2023. Under Parsons’ leadership and his oversight of the $67 million FutureMakers campaign, the physical landscape of the Rivers campus was transformed, the endowment for financial aid and faculty development increased significantly, and the community rallied to grow the annual fund in support of new and expanded programming. The reach of the campaign, and of Parsons’ leadership, have elevated the Rivers experience for generations to come. It is only fitting that a project to honor Ned and Lisa will be added to the long list of recent campus upgrades. The project plans were unveiled at a community celebration to

honor Ned and Lisa in May. Project highlights include removing the covered walkways in the quad and raising the grade of the quad to meet the entryways. New entryway canopies were added to all building entryways in the quad, and the space was refreshed with a turf surface to match the feel of the Lank Quadrangle. Finally, new plantings have been added to the perimeter of the quad. Those who know Parsons best feel the project is an appropriate capstone to his tenure as head of school. Krissie Kelleher, associate head of school for development and external relations, shared, “Through removing the covered walkways, enhancing the landscaping, and refinishing the facades of the buildings, this project will complement and celebrate Ned’s vision of a transformed campus.” R

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PRIZE DAY brought smiles and cheers as members of the Rivers community were recognized for their contributions. Students and faculty alike were honored at the traditional ceremony.

ON MAY 25, STUDENTS, faculty, staff, and senior administrators gathered for Prize Day 2023 under the tent on the Lank Quadrangle. Several prizes honoring staff and faculty were announced: The BergenDecker Award went to Bruce Taylor ’73, the Mida van Zuylen Dunn Award for Teaching was given to Dan Shaud and Jeff “Doc” Meropol P’98, ’03, and Katie Henderson received the Excellence with Humanity Award. Following the awards for faculty and staff, the prizes for students were bestowed. The Faculty Prize, Rivers’ highest honor, went to Jacqueline Lee ’23. Other significant prizes for seniors were also announced, along with the departmental honors and Cum Laude Society members. The F. Ervin Prince Award, which honors Middle School students, was given to Ulrika Karlsson ’27 and Jaideep Gardner ’27. There were also several prizes for athletics. Top honors went to Kalyl Lindsey ’23, who received the James A. Navoni Athletic Prize for Boys, and Skylar Holmes ’23, recipient of the Priscilla Wallace Strauss Athletic Prize for Girls. The entire community was delighted to celebrate the outstanding accomplishments of faculty and students alike. The day served as a look at the year past—and for the Class of 2023, a fitting prelude to the graduation ceremony itself. R



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BRIGHT FUTURES AHEAD Forecast for the Class of 2023

RIVERS CELEBRATED ITS 100th graduation ceremony on Friday, May 26, and as befits a centennial, the weather was picture perfect, the festivities went off seamlessly, and the 98 members of the Class of 2023 were delighted to mark this milestone surrounded by friends and family. Under the packed tent on the Lank Quadrangle, Head of School Ned Parsons addressed the class and acknowledged its unique struggles and triumphs in his opening remarks. Board President Alan D. Rose Jr. ’87 also spoke, and Melissa Anderson, head of the Upper School, introduced the student-elected faculty

speaker, Jeff Nisbet. Finally, the student speaker from the Class of 2023, Crystie Frometa, opened her speech by noting, “I’m beyond honored to be the first woman of color in Rivers history to be appointed as a graduation speaker.” The graduates then received their diplomas. As each student stood near the podium, Parsons delivered personal remarks about their time at Rivers, their accomplishments, and their impact on the school. Following his final remarks, he dismissed the newly minted alumni, all of them ready and eager to explore whatever the future might hold. R




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THE WEDDING SINGER Makes Bells Ring at Regis CAN A BANQUET-HALL waitress find happiness with the lead singer of a cheesy ’80s wedding band? The question was asked and answered by The Wedding Singer, the 2023 Rivers winter musical. A cast and crew of dozens of students brought boundless energy and talent to the Eleanor Welch Casey Theatre at Regis College, lighting up the stage with razzle-dazzle big numbers, moving ballads, and all the glitzy glamor of New Jersey in the Reagan era. Robbie Hart, the wedding singer of the title, is a starry-eyed romantic who is jilted at the altar early in Act 1. In the Rivers production, Robbie was

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played by Alex Massarotti ’23. He met his match in Sarah DuBard ’25, who played Julia, the kind-hearted waitress who befriends Robbie when he’s down in the dumps—and literally down in a dumpster, at one point. Since this is a rom-com, there isn’t much doubt about whether Robbie and Julia will end up together, but their castmates provide plenty of amusing detours along the way. Not all the talent was up on the stage. The singers were accompanied by a live orchestra comprising mostly student musicians, overseen by music director John Bower, head of Middle School. Behind the scenes, students

helped with costumes and served as tech crew, overseen by Cathy Favreau and Ben Leeming, respectively. For the first time since the Covid outbreak, performers and audience members alike enjoyed an unmasked experience. The joy in the room, both on and off stage, was palpable. Director Zoë Iacovelli said, “I could not be more proud of the positivity, energy, professionalism, and heart that these kids put into the show. It really proved that theater takes a village, as the show wouldn’t have been what it was without each individual cast and crew member.” R




IF YOU COULD cultivate one area of your life that would help you live longer, avoid illness, stave off depression, flourish in your relationships, and even strengthen democracy, what would it be? Professor and psychologist Marisa Franco’s research reveals that the key to all these areas is forging human connection through secure friendships. A frequent speaker on the topic of fostering belonging and improving mental health, Franco visited the Rivers campus in April as the 2023 Hall Family Speaker. Established in 2019, the Hall Family Speaker Series at Rivers brings to campus noted thought leaders who are shaping opinion in the moment. In her time on campus, Franco met with students, parents, and alumni to dissect key themes in her 2022 New York Times best-seller Platonic: How the Science of Attachment Can Help You Make—and Keep—Friends. Speaking to students and faculty at an all-school meeting, Franco

explored these themes through the perspective of a hypothetical student who doesn’t have many friends, delineating the steps she might take to become less lonely. “Friends expand our identity,” Franco said. “Many of us have hobbies and interests shared with some friends but not with others, and many of us figure out who we are through other people, because that brings out different sides of ourselves.” Earlier in the day, parents, guardians, and alumni were invited to campus to meet the author for a roundtable discussion. Franco shared her early perceptions on adult friendships: “What I had been taught is that this is a lesser form of love,” she stated. But her research shows that adult friendships are actually crucial, even vital, to our well-being. Using the language of attachment theory, Franco explained the premise of the book is to offer a roadmap on how to make and keep friends.

MARISA FRANCO (left) and trustee Alison Hall P’19 connected during Franco’s campus visit, which was part of the Hall Family Speaker Series.

Securely attached people—that is, those who are secure in their relationships—develop a set of assumptions based on past healthy relationships. For those who find such attachments challenging to form and maintain, Franco offered some hope, noting that we are not stuck in our attachment styles. They can change and evolve over time, just as people do. “If you can understand your assumptions that might be getting in the way of your connections,” said Franco, “you can make better assumptions” and thus forge stronger connections. She went on to share the six behaviors we can adopt to become a more securely attached friend: taking initiative, expressing vulnerability, pursuing authenticity, giving affection, offering generosity, and “harmonizing with anger”—that is, using anger to work through conflicts. Franco believes the critical work of making and keeping friends, while sometimes challenging, also proceeds from simple principles. At the all-school meeting, she shared with students the “first rule of thumb” in making friends: Assume people like you. “We tend to underestimate just how much people like us,” Franco told the audience. “When we are afraid of rejection, we reject people.” When we make the positive assumption that others like us, she continued, we “actually become warmer and friendlier, and in this way we make more positive assumptions about our friendships, and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.” R

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TOP: Ryan S. Dahlem’s family—including his parents, Sioux and John, his wife, Anne, and his younger two children, Colin and Ella—attended the festivities. CENTER: Parents, alumni, and professional community members mingled in Kraft Dining Hall. BOTTOM LEFT: Students gathered in the “Fan Zone” for their own celebration before the Friday Night Lights kickoff. BOTTOM RIGHT: Board President Alan D. Rose, Jr. ’87 welcomed the crowd and introduced Dahlem.

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A CELEBRATION FOR Head of School Ryan S. Dahlem and his family was held on the evening of Friday, September 22. More than 300 members of the Rivers community gathered in Kraft Dining Hall to welcome the school’s ninth head and his family to Rivers, preceding the season’s inaugural Friday Night Lights game. Board President Alan D. Rose, Jr. ’87 welcomed the crowd and introduced the Dahlems; student body co-presidents Leila Saponaro ’24 and Jack Renaud ’24 shared some advice for the new head of school. And then Dahlem addressed the assembled crowd: “I see tonight as a celebration of this entire remarkable community. This is the main reason my family and I chose Rivers. It’s because of all of you— students, parents and caregivers, professional-community members, Board of Trustees, and alumni. Thank you for bringing your Red Wing spirit in full force.” Dahlem concluded by expressing his boundless optimism about the school’s next chapter. “I feel like my life’s journey has brought me to this moment, here in this very special place. At the same time, I know all of your paths have brought you to Rivers as well, and our journeys are interconnected. Together, we will move Rivers into a very bright future.” R


YASSINE TALHAOUI ASK DIRECTOR OF ENROLLMENT MANAGEMENT Yassine Talhaoui about his role, and you’ll certainly hear the word “strategic”—along with the words “magical” and “fun.” Since joining Rivers in July 2022, Talhaoui, a native of Germany who speaks five languages, has taken up the challenge of strengthening the school’s position in an ever-evolving admission landscape. But, he says, it’s the joy of seeing students thrive at Rivers that keeps the work fresh and exciting. 1. S OMEONE IN YOUR ROLE WAS TRADITIONALLY CALLED “DIRECTOR OF ADMISSION,” BUT YOUR TITLE IS DIRECTOR OF ENROLLMENT MANAGEMENT. CAN YOU EXPLAIN THE DIFFERENCE AND THE REASON FOR THE SHIFT? The responsibilities of the director of enrollment management are not limited to attracting and admitting the best possible students. I see enrollment management as a much broader concept that encompasses all aspects of attracting, enrolling, and retaining students. It includes admission, but it also includes financial aid, research, marketing, and student life. It’s a far more holistic approach to the student experience than the historic approach to admission work.

2. COLLEGE ADMISSION PEOPLE OFTEN TALK ABOUT “BUILDING A CLASS,” RATHER THAN JUST ADMITTING INDIVIDUALS. DOES THAT ALSO APPLY AT A SCHOOL LIKE RIVERS? Absolutely. As I always say, we are an intentionally diverse community, and our students have varied experiences, beliefs, socioeconomic backgrounds, and more. We want our students to be fully prepared for the complex world that awaits them and to be leaders in their respective communities, and that is only possible if they gain the necessary competencies and skills. They do so in part by being inspired by their peers. They ultimately complement one another and bring out the best in one another.

3. WHAT IS THE MOST CHALLENGING PART OF YOUR JOB? THE MOST REWARDING? The most challenging part of my job is having to select from a pool of many deserving and impressive candidates. We have limited spots and far more applicants than space available. But it is magical and very rewarding to see students thrive here. Watching students grow, helping them find their authentic voices, and observing the impacts they make is a privilege; it’s the reason I have chosen to commit my professional career to providing access to high-quality education.

4. W HAT DREW YOU TO ADMISSION WORK? No one grows up dreaming of becoming an admission professional. I started as a classroom teacher at an independent day school after graduate school. I immediately fell in love with the resources, access, and sense of community that independent schools offer. When I was given an opportunity to participate in admission work, I quickly realized how much I enjoyed it. Every student is different, and I enjoy learning their stories and finding out about their interests, goals, and aspirations. In short, it’s fun!

5. HOW HAS THAT WORK CHANGED OVER THE TIME YOU’VE SPENT IN THE FIELD? I genuinely appreciate how much more complex the work has become—it’s far more intentional and holistic. To ensure the long-term success of our school, we have to be strategic thinkers in a very complex market and anticipate trends and demographic shifts. At the end of the day, we want to continue to attract and educate the brightest minds and strongest citizens. R

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BETTY BLOCH, Science Department chair (center), embraces errors in her classroom.



Getting it Right by Getting it Wrong “SCIENCE IS ALL about making mistakes,” says Betty Bloch. Any true scientist would understand the sentiment, and Bloch, who heads the Rivers Science Department, is a true scientist to her core. But when Bloch talks about mistakes, she doesn’t mean gaffes or slip-ups; she’s talking about the trial-and-error that is an inevitable part of the process. She strives to make her classroom a safe space where students feel free to come up with the wrong answers on their pathway to comprehension. Bloch’s early years may have contributed to her comfort level with “wrong answers.” Her mother is a native of Japan, and when Bloch and her identical twin sister, Middle School math teacher Sam Vandergrift, were still infants, the 12 RIPARIAN | Fall 2023

family relocated from New York to a small town outside of Osaka. They remained there until the girls were in fourth grade. “My parents thought it was important that we learn the language, so we grew up speaking Japanese, and not English,” explains Bloch. “It was a great way to build my identity as a biracial person.” But Bloch experienced some culture shock upon her return. Coming from a classroom where conformity was prized and looking a teacher in the eye was considered disrespectful, Bloch needed to shift her perspective. “Finding my voice was something new I had to learn when I got here,” she recalls. Her English was rudimentary at first, but the Japanese approach to teaching math had put her way

ahead of her American peers in that area. She found herself drawn to STEM subjects, and after college, she earned a Ph.D. in biochemistry at Lehigh University, planning a career as a researcher or perhaps in academia. Meanwhile, though, Vandergrift was teaching at Rivers, and, says Bloch, “She told me amazing stories about changing students’ lives. That was the kind of difference I wanted to make.” Bloch taught at Pomfret School for three years, but when an opening came up at Rivers, she leapt at the opportunity. She joined the school in 2021 and took on the role of department head this past summer. At Rivers, Bloch is excited about serving as a role model for what a scientist can be, particularly to female students and students of color. She has had the opportunity to create and teach an elective on molecular genetics and biotechnology, and she has mentored students through research projects made possible, she says, by the state-of-the-art facilities of The Revers Center. And it all begins in a classroom where the approach is “learning through failure.” At the start of the school year, Bloch says, “the students don’t want to say anything, in case it’s wrong. But by mid-fall, tons of students are shouting out the wrong answers. That lets me know I’m doing my job. ” R



RIVERS JAZZ BRINGS HOME THE GOLD THE RIVERS HONORS BIG BAND and Select 1 Combo won their fourth consecutive gold after wowing the judges at the 2023 Massachusetts Association for Jazz Education (MAJE) State Finals in the spring. “At every competition, the bands are improving consistently,” remarked Philippe Crettien, director of the jazz department. Five students received Outstanding Musician Awards throughout the MAJE competition: Jack Benson ’24, Ethan Kasparian Weisman ’24, Arianna Martinez Cavero ’24, Jon Snow ’23, and Jason Zermani “ At every competition, ’23. Zermani also the bands are received a statewide MVP award. improving “These honors consistently.” are a testament to the students in the Conservatory Program, because they’re so well prepared and they really shine,” said Crettien. He also mentioned that, in addition to their gold award at the MAJE state finals, the Honors Big Band received fourth place in the nation at the 2023 Charles Mingus Competition. In recognition of their achievement in the competition, both bands were invited to perform at the MAJE Gold Medal Showcase at Boston’s iconic Hatch Shell along the Esplanade. “[The showcase] was a really huge celebration and recognition of the students’ effort,” Crettien said, “and it

IN MAY, Rivers jazz students performed at the Hatch Shell on the Esplanade in Boston, in recognition of their gold-medal performance at the MAJE State Finals.

featured our bands well, since we were the final performances of that day.” Each of their performances was met with roaring applause, especially for Jack Benson’s arrangement of George and Ira Gershwin’s “But Not For Me.” Like the jazz greats, Benson wrote his arrangement with a particular band in mind—in this case, the Honors Big Band. Benson highlighted the group’s distinctive sound, which the members have been shaping together at Rivers.

Not one to rest on his laurels, Crettien said, “We’re already preparing for next year. We have commissioned Cuban music to prepare for the fall jazz festival, and then we are going to Cuba in March [see page 22 for more about the trip]. Everyone is on board—the whole Honors Big Band and Select 1, and they’ll play with Cuban musicians— conservatory students—in Havana. It’s already an exciting year.” R

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MEET THE NEW POWER BEHIND THE STOVE AT RIVERS NOT MANY OF US can claim to have been set on a career path by second grade. Ed Rome, The Rivers School’s new executive chef, is one of the fortunate few. “When I was 7, I baked a cake,” Rome recalls. “I really enjoyed it, and after that, I decided I wanted to be a chef.” Today, he is living out that childhood ambition in the Kraft Dining Hall kitchen, having joined Rivers over the summer. As executive chef, he oversees lunch menus and meals for the on-campus community throughout the week, as well as countless catered events throughout the year. After baking that seminal first cake, he says, other formative

experiences followed: At 15, he held his first restaurant job, at a Howard Johnson’s on the Mass Pike. He earned a bachelor’s degree in food-service management and an associate’s degree in culinary arts from Johnson & Wales University in Providence, worked at various restaurants in Providence, and later opened a New York–style deli in his hometown of Natick. But the restaurant business can be tough and capricious. After two years, Rome decided he’d had enough of being a restaurateur and took a food-service job at the College of the Holy Cross. He spent 23 years there, making his way up the ladder and eventually serving as interim director of food service. But being director, he says,

AS THE SCHOOL’S new executive chef, Ed Rome plays a pivotal role at Rivers.

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was not a fit: too much bureaucracy, too little cooking. When he heard about the opening at Rivers, he jumped at the opportunity. Rome is cognizant of having “big spoons to fill” at Rivers, as Head of School Ryan Dahlem put it at a startof-school gathering. His predecessor, Chef Michael Clancy, was a high-profile and pivotal member of the community whose food was enjoyed by all. Says Rome, “Mike Clancy did a fabulous job, and everyone loved what he was doing. The bar was set pretty high.” Rome had the opportunity to work alongside Clancy for a month over the summer, which, he says, was invaluable. “It gave me a fantastic introduction to the job and a chance to pick his brains.” Like his predecessor, Rome plans to serve a mix of the familiar and the novel, citing poke bowls and queso birria tacos as potential future menu items. Korean beef bulgogi and Moroccan spiced chicken have made recent lunchtime appearances. Rome will also continue the tradition of making meals that reflect the diversity of our community, such as September’s Rosh Hashanah lunch celebrating the Jewish new year. At the start-of-school meeting where new faculty and staff were introduced, Rome was pleased, but not really surprised, to receive the biggest round of applause. He understands the importance and visibility of his role, which touches every person on campus: “The chef,” he says, “is always the most popular person at the party.” R


RETURN TO THE NEST: RIVERS REUNITED Anyone who has ever participated in team sports knows that lasting bonds are formed on the court, the field, the track, and the ice. Many such connections have been formed here at Rivers—and many of those relationships continue at the collegiate level, as our student-athletes go on to be teammates (or perhaps competitors). Alumni athletes report that these “reunions” strengthen these special friendships, providing support on and off the field.

Having a familiar teammate can help adjust to playing at the next level. Mel Mortarelli ’22, who is playing hockey at Williams, battled through hip injuries all season; having his former co-captain and roommate Ziv Deener Chodirker ’22 as well as Henry Muller ’18 alongside helped him manage that challenge. “Going into school with familiar faces made the transition effortless,” says Mortarelli. “Having Henry again as a captain gave us someone we could always turn to and someone who always had your back. The previous relationship from Rivers is pretty special and made my new school feel like home since the first day.” Jenna Letterie ’18 and Britt Nawrocki ’22 teamed up on the first line this past year for the Middlebury women’s ice hockey team and helped lead it to the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals. The duo were first and second on the team in scoring; Letterie led the way with 31 points and Nawrocki was close behind with 27. “Going into my last year at Middlebury, I was super excited to gain a new teammate who was also a Rivers alum,” says Letterie. “Britt and I were lucky enough to be linemates this year, as well as sit next to one another in the locker room. It was so fun getting to play alongside another Red Wing.” For her part, says Nawrocki, “Transitioning into my freshman year, Jenna welcomed me with open arms to the team and Middlebury. I felt incredibly lucky to be linemates with her.”

you look forward to seeing in the locker room before practice or a game. They keep it light and fun, and I think that’s what made us such good friends.” Corrigan may even have had a small role in his fellow Red Wing’s matriculation at Babson. “When Coach Rice called me to ask me about how they would fit on and off the ice at Babson, I knew it would be a smooth transition.” He continues, “Our friendship grew at Babson. Rory and I have graduated, but we still go back and watch Matt play. Playing with these guys for so long, we have become very tight.” R

Annabelle and Mallory Hasselbeck

Boston College lacrosse teammates Annabelle Hasselbeck ’20 and Mallory Hasselbeck ’21 are not only former Red Wings but siblings. Both report that playing with a sister at the college level has been “a blessing.” Says Annabelle, “Sharing a college experience with my sister has perfectly depicted what it means to have your teammate’s back.” Mallory chimes in, “It’s definitely not something I take for granted.” At Babson, John Corrigan ’18 shared the ice with Rory Casey ’19 and Matt Cormier ’20 for his senior year, playing for coach and fellow Rivers alum Jamie Rice ’85. “Rory, Matt, and I were all really close at Rivers,” reports Corrigan. “They were the kind of guys

Matt Cormier, John Corrigan, and Rory Casey

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YAN DAHLEM’S initial experience in the classroom was dark—literally. Rivers’ new head of school likes to recount the story of his first teaching job, serving as a long-term substitute teacher at a public school in Southern California. “I was brought into an environment with very low expectations for students, basically just to make sure nothing went wrong,” he recalls. “I was working in a portable classroom in the corner of a former parking lot, and the windows were covered with paper.” Dahlem’s first step was to dispel the gloom by removing the paper, decorating the walls, and bringing in plants. As he tells it, the students were appreciative of the changes. But he wasn’t truly able to make an impact until he’d shed light in a more metaphorical sense, by building relationships with his students. It was there in that modest portable classroom, says Dahlem, that he first came to understand “the tremendous potential in young people that is often unseen and the crucial role of a teacher.” And it inspired and motivated him, he says, not only to be the best teacher he could be but to devote his life to an educational philosophy that he often distills to the motto “Connection before content.” “That really cemented it for me,” says Dahlem. “There are a lot of dark classrooms out there that need light, and a lot of young people who need connection.” In some sense, Dahlem’s journey as an educator began much earlier. He cites several “inflection points” that set him on the path, the first of which was growing up with parents who both worked in education. He also found inspiration in his own experiences as a student. “I had some extraordinary teachers who were pivotal to my own learning and growth, and who inspired me to pay that impact forward,” he says. Dahlem taught and coached in public schools for several years, completing a master’s degree in teaching and curriculum at Harvard Graduate School of Education along the way (a compelling first chapter in New England that would be pivotal in his return years later to Rivers). Dahlem had also long been curious about the college admission process, so when an opportunity came along to step into an admission role (or “get inside the black box,” as he put it) at his undergraduate alma mater, Stanford, he pursued it.

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He truly listens and seeks to understand, which is powerful.” — VICTOR COTA, DIRECTOR OF EQUITY AND INCLUSION, ST. MARGARET’S EPISCOPAL SCHOOL

FROM HIS earliest days as an educator, Ryan Dahlem (shown here teaching high school math in Southern California) understood the power of connection.

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“I missed the classroom,” he says, “but gaining insight into the world of highly selective admission was incredibly valuable.” He says the experience of serving as a freshman advisor at Stanford also showed him how students were prepared to thrive in college and where they had gaps, which has informed his perspective as an educator ever since. Perhaps more importantly, it was in that role, he says, that he “discovered independent schools.” “I didn’t attend or teach in an independent school, but I was recruiting students from them, and one of my territories was New England,” he recalls. “I was amazed at what those schools were able to do— to innovate and be nimble, to know students deeply, to build community… It really illuminated what was possible in education, and set my trajectory toward independent schools.” A job in admission and financial aid at St. Margaret’s Episcopal School followed. St. Margaret’s is an independent school in San Juan Capistrano, CA, serving 1,240 students in grades pre-K through 12. The school was Dahlem’s professional home from 2006 until this year, and he held a range of leadership positions there, most recently serving as assistant head of school from 2016 on. As Dahlem’s first year at Rivers got underway, former colleagues expressed excitement about his new role. To say those colleagues were sorry to see him go would be an understatement—although they are delighted for their friend and mentor as he steps into his first headship position. “He announced his departure in a professional community meeting, and you could feel the ‘oh no’ in the room,” recalls Victor Cota, St. Margaret’s director of equity and

inclusion. But, he adds, “That was quickly followed by a standing ovation, because we were so excited about this. This is so right for Ryan, and everyone knew it.” Dahlem’s gifts as an educator and a leader were just as obvious to his former boss, Will Moseley, who served as head of school at St. Margaret’s until recently and will next take up the reins at Columbia Grammar and Preparatory School in New York City. “He’s an extraordinary educator with great passion, a tremendous work ethic, and a commitment to fulfilling the school’s mission and core values,” Moseley says of Dahlem. Moseley points to Dahlem’s ascension to the role of assistant head of school as just one of many examples. “As head of school, there are choices you can make in terms of filling positions like assistant head,” says Moseley. “It was just so clear that, as I looked for an assistant head to oversee strategy, Ryan was the most qualified and best person. I pulled together the entire professional community and explained my thinking, and they all cheered.” That choice, explains Moseley, led St. Margaret’s down a previously untrodden path. He and Dahlem were determined that the school’s new strategic plan would break the mold. “Strategic plans are often campaigns in disguise,” says Moseley. “We decided that instead, we would make sure it’s all done in the best interest of the students.” This new plan, he continues, “would not be something we just put in a drawer, but rather an actual document we use each and every day.” That seemingly simple change, he says, led to a radical rethinking of the process—one that prioritized student needs and that, at least initially, faced skepticism from some board members. The key, says Moseley, was truly placing the end users—that is, the students—at the center of the process, a core tenet of the design-thinking

IN SEPTEMBER, Dahlem dropped by a Grade 6 humanities class at Rivers.

approach Dahlem favors. “All schools are going to say they’re studentcentered, but when you do a closer analysis, you realize that the schedules and classes offered are much more tilted toward [adult] preferences than student interest and experience,” says Moseley. “But when you shift it, you get this change in culture, where the students are happier, the faculty feels empowered, and the school can really grow.” In the end, the strategic plan spearheaded by Dahlem was so successful and so innovative that he and Moseley were asked to create a presentation to share with peers at the 2019 National Association of Independent Schools conference. But to Moseley and the rest of the St. Margaret’s community, the most remarkable aspect of the process was Dahlem’s ability to build consensus and make every community member feel heard, eventually winning over the skeptics. Cota also lauds Dahlem’s consensusbuilding capabilities. Under his leadership, says Cota, “the school elevated its DEI work, and he was someone who acted as a practitioner.” To move the needle on this crucial work, says Cota, Dahlem “talked to

everyone and collected opinions. He truly listens and seeks to understand, which is powerful.” St. Margaret’s math department chair, Elizabeth O’Shea, agrees. Dahlem is “a great listener” who “really shifted the way we implement change at the school,” says O’Shea. She cites a schedule update initiated and led by Dahlem. “I never would have thought it was that important, but I came to realize that a schedule symbolizes what a school values. If you say you value service learning, but you don’t make time for it, do you really value it? Every school says they value health and wellness, but is it part of the daily schedule?” The school, says O’Shea, went through “a yearlong process where every person on campus was involved.” There was a bit of pushback, she notes, with some asking if it was really necessary to spend so much time on the schedule. But in the end, the new schedule had broad buy-in and made a profound positive impact on student experience. Dahlem and his wife, Anne, have three children: Peter, a sophomore at Syracuse University; Ella, who stayed in California to finish her senior year at St. Margaret’s; and Colin, now a

third grader at Tenacre Country Day School. Moseley is quick to point out that Anne, who served as director of communications and marketing at St. Margaret’s and now holds a remote communications position with UCLA, will also prove an invaluable asset to the Rivers community. “They’re the dynamic duo—she’s extraordinary as well,” he says. “They’re a tremendous team.” O’Shea’s is one among several voices who say that St. Margaret’s loss is Rivers’ gain. “You couldn’t have selected a better head of school,” she says. And she adds that Rivers is poised to learn just how good a choice that was: “Never underestimate Ryan. Just when you think you know all his unique talents, you’ll find out something new.” For his part, says Dahlem, “The entire Rivers community has been so warm and welcoming. In this year of firsts, I have especially enjoyed connecting with the students, who bring me so much joy. Their curiosity, authenticity, and commitment to supporting one another continues to amaze me. I am committed to them and their promising future, which we will shape together in this very special place.” R

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A World of Possibilities



OT LONG AFTER Andrea Villagrán took over the Rivers travel programs, she faced an unusual task. “One of my first orders of business was to cancel all the trips that had been planned,” she recalls. Villagrán had stepped into the position in July 2019, and—as the entire world knows—travel was pretty much off the table a few months later, as the COVID pandemic took hold. While that might have seemed a setback of sorts, the perpetually sunny Villagrán saw a silver lining in the hiatus, which lasted just about three years. “It really gave us an opportunity to look inward and make sure we’re doing everything we can to prioritize health and safety.” Villagrán is the first person at Rivers to hold the title director of global education, now that the school’s travel programs have been consolidated under one office. But she also took on the role with a mandate to reevaluate and rethink student travel, looking at it through a lens of diversity and engagement. Rivers travel programs had long been substantive and educational; under Villagrán, they would also become more tied to broader concerns and issues, making them even more robust and relevant. And this year, travel has become more explicitly connected to the school’s diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts, as the Global Education office is now part of the broader Equity and Engagement team. The pandemic put all that on hold, but in 2023, Rivers’ travel programs came roaring back. With travel

restrictions finally lifted and a flood of pent-up demand, the first trip of the post-COVID era—the spring trip to Greece and Italy—attracted interest from nearly twice as many students as could be accommodated. “We had 70-something apply, and we narrowed it down to 39,” says Villagrán, adding that the group comprised “every type of student: musicians, athletes, actors, kids who really love classics and archaeology.” Villagrán served as one of the trip’s chaperones, and she says it was “very rewarding to see the students so invested and engaged.” She noted that Latin teacher Michael Girard, who spearheaded the Greece and Italy trip, sent the students daily videos about the classical world beforehand to prepare them for the experiences ahead. Come early summer, two trips were relaunched that have long been mainstays of Rivers’ travel programs: the summer study in Cádiz, Spain, for which students earn academic credit in language and interdisciplinary studies, and the French exchange program, with students staying at the homes of French students who visited Rivers in the spring. Before COVID, these were rich, immersive experiences, with students delving deeply into world cultures—and now that the pandemic seems to be behind us, they once again give students that opportunity. Faculty members who served as chaperones both pre- and post-COVID say the trips are much the same, but with a few subtle differences. “It was wonderful to return to a program that has been part of our community for so many years,” says language faculty member Mary Brown, who helped lead the

THIS PAST SPRING and summer, Rivers students visited Greece, Italy, France, and Spain as the school’s travel programs resumed.

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MAKING MUSIC AND BUILDING BRIDGES IN JUNE 2022, Philippe Crettien, director of the jazz

program at Rivers, visited Cuba with the support of a Faculty Enrichment Grant. Following the 2021 release of his CD The North African Suite, Crettien had been invited by the Havana Jazz Festival and the Alliance Française to play with Cuban musicians, including star saxophonist César López. “I was blown away by the richness of the culture, the amazing people, the marriage of all the influences on the music—I fell in love,” says Crettien. And he came away eager to share that love with Rivers students. Paul Lieberman, Crettien’s opposite number at Noble and Greenough School, had also recently been to Cuba and been similarly impressed. Says Crettien, “We said, ‘Let’s put our schools together and bring our students to Cuba.’” More than a year later, that goal will be realized when Rivers and Nobles take a joint trip to Cuba over spring break in March 2024. Rivers will bring the entire Honors Big Band, a group of about 18 students; they’ll be joined by some 15 students from Nobles. Planning a student trip to Cuba is no easy feat of logistics, and to pull it off, the schools teamed up with a Spain-based tour company with experience in the region. The itinerary includes master classes, cultural experiences, and—most exciting to Crettien—the opportunity to play and perform Cuban music with local musicians and conservatory students. The Rivers students are spending the year studying and practicing Cuban music in preparation for the trip; Crettien says November’s Jazz Festival served as a dress rehearsal of sorts. Crettien, who says visiting Cuba was “life changing” for him, is beyond excited about the upcoming trip. “This will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the students.” And he envisions an ongoing relationship with Cuba that will benefit Rivers down the road: “I hope this is a bridge for the whole school to connect with the most amazing place on the planet.”

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Cádiz trip this summer, as she had done twice previously. Brown says the experience of travel doesn’t seem to have changed during the pandemic years, noting that for the students, the journey is new and novel regardless. There was no mandatory maskwearing or enforced distancing, and Brown says she “applauds Rivers for recommitting to domestic and foreign travel” at a time when some schools aren’t yet willing to take the risk. Rivers is not only committing to its previous travel programs—the school is doubling down by offering two new trips this year: an October tour of Civil Rights sites throughout the South and a jazz-themed excursion to Cuba over spring break. (See sidebars, this page and opposite.) Middle School Latin teacher Cathy Favreau accompanied students on both the Greece and Italy trip and the French exchange program. In Greece and Italy, she says, there were extra protocols in place, such as timed visits and entrance fees for historic sites, that served as reminders of the pandemic. But in the south of France—the exchange program is based in Aix-en-Provence—you “didn’t find that so much,” she says. What she did see, says Favreau, was “a layer of gratitude for being able to do this—for being able to travel with each other and to have this opportunity.” She’s not sure if it’s COVID-related, but she says, “With this group, you always had a thank-you at the end of the day.” Both Brown and Favreau note that the inevitable challenges of travel are part of what makes the experience so valuable for students. Favreau says the homestays give them a window into the similarities and the differences between cultures. “The more we get kids out into the world and experience something like a homestay, the better. They learn they can do hard things, they can learn how other families live, and they learn that people are not so different.” Says Brown, “One of the biggest benefits is rising to the occasion when there are difficulties, and figuring it out on their own.” Students who traveled this summer seemed delighted to have the opportunity. Camille DeStefano ’24, who took part in the French exchange program, said the best part of the trip was

“getting to see my exchange partner and meeting her family.” Although this is the first time DeStefano had traveled since the pandemic, she says that “not much seems different, though people seem to be more aware of health in general.” The only aspect of the trip that came as a surprise, she says, was the number of activities the group was able to fit into a single day. Jack Willard ’24 traveled with the group to Cádiz—his second sojourn in Spain since the onset of the pandemic. Like DeStefano, he reports that a highlight of the experience was connecting with his counterparts abroad: “My favorite part was getting to make

friends with the Spanish students we met, especially because I’ve been able to connect with them on social media.” Students and faculty alike are thrilled that travel is once again an option. Brown, who has escorted countless students on trips overseas, calls it a “lifechanging experience. Some of it doesn’t hit the kids until six months later, or more. But then they get it. The impact is felt far beyond the trip.” And some of the lessons, of course, are immediately evident. Says DeStefano, “This trip taught me that if I try something new, I might end up really liking it.” R



that it would be offering a student trip to the Deep South to visit sites associated with the Civil Rights Movement, history faculty member Arturo Bagley—one of the trip organizers—wasn’t sure how much student interest to expect. Because it was a new program, it didn’t have the word-of-mouth buzz of more established trips. And he thought the sober nature of the subject matter might not be a draw. But, says Bagley, “Andrea [Villagrán] was really committed to doing the trip, regardless of the numbers. Even if we got only 10 students to sign up, we would do it.” As it transpired, he need not have worried. The trip was fully subscribed with 20 students, and a waitlist of several more. Students, it seemed, were eager to delve into this chapter of history and experience firsthand a place most had only read about in books or seen on the screen. And that’s really the point, says Bagley. “There’s something about experiencing it yourself, actually being at a historic site, that makes it more

real than reading can.” The group flew into Atlanta on the Thursday before Indigenous Peoples Day Weekend and took a bus the next morning to visit three sites in Montgomery, Alabama: The National Memorial for Peace and Justice, the Legacy Museum, and the Civil Rights Memorial Center, with its granite fountain designed by Maya Lin. “When you think of Montgomery, the first thing you think of is the bus boycott,” Bagley explains. “But I decided we needed to see more recent sites.” The

National Memorial, for instance, commemorates the victims of lynchings, and Bagley hopes it enabled students to make connections between incidents like the killing of George Floyd and the history of racialized violence that preceded it. Over the next few days, the group visited Selma and Birmingham, taking in memorials and significant sites along the way. Then it was back to Atlanta for more history and—just to lighten the mood for a moment—a visit to the World of Coca-Cola. Beforehand, Bagley acknowledged that the trip had the potential to stir up challenging and overwhelming emotions. But the students were accompanied by three faculty members—Bagley, Robin Sallie, and Debbie Argueta—who are well versed in helping young people understand and process issues around race and racism. Bagley had predicted that the trip would be difficult but worthwhile, adding that the difficulty should not discount the importance of learning this history. “History is not just the triumphal story. It’s how people have lived, and that includes tragedy.”

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During my formative years, I spent time both in New England and in the Midwest. I have found that having exposure to both places and both regional cultures has given me the ability to comfortably connect with a lot of different kinds of people. It’s served me well, not only in the classroom but also in equity work. Having lived in and known people from both places has allowed me to have a lot of nuance in what is not always a very nuanced space.

THE RIVERS SCHOOL’S new director of

diversity, equity, and inclusion, Jenny Jun-lei Kravitz P’28, holds a master’s degree in biology and worked as a scientist before becoming a classroom teacher. So perhaps it’s unsurprising that she sees DEI work through the lens of science and data. “There’s a certain curiosity driving science that I believe drives equitable practice as well,” says Kravitz. As we headed into the new school year, we spoke with Kravitz about her journey to Rivers, the joy of witnessing “aha” moments, and her hopes for her first year in the DEI director’s role at The Rivers School.

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If I’m counting correctly, this is my 24th year in education, and the bulk of that has been in public education. I came from biotech, and I think first and foremost I will always be a scientist. Science helps you always retain the perspective of not only looking at the data that you have on hand, but also really trying to understand the limitations of how the data is collected, how it’s applied, and what it means, recognizing that the source of the data is just as important as the data itself. When my career transitioned out of the classroom to more administrative

spaces, I got more excited about the larger impact of equity work. Something that I found really inspiring about Rivers is this idea, which aligns with my approach, that the most important thing is looking at the way you do things. More important than one specific policy is the idea of regularly reviewing and revising the policy. Ultimately, you’re not solving for a fixed point in time—you’re solving for a process that can evolve with a rapidly changing environment. WHAT IS RIVERS IS DOING WELL FROM A DEI PERSPECTIVE?

I find the philosophy of Excellence with Humanity so appealing—this recognition that success and thriving only happen when you are looking holistically at all the different facets of all the individuals coming together in the space. I think Rivers has done a great job of recognizing that and trying to understand what that means. COULD YOU SHARE SOMETHING ABOUT YOUR PREVIOUS WORK THAT MIGHT INFORM THE APPROACH YOU’LL TAKE HERE?

I’ve worked with adult learners, I’ve worked in educational spaces, and I’ve worked in non-educational spaces, and there is something that I’ve always found to be true: If someone can, then they will. And if something is not happening—this could be student achievement, or a teacher incorporating some instructional practice; it could be athletic performance, it could be leadership, it could be artistic expression, anything—it is always because there is some identifiable factor or

“We embrace difference in its myriad forms, encourage every individual to be their authentic self, and value the inherent dignity of every member of our community. As we confront issues of injustice, prejudice, and bigotry in the world around us, we challenge all members of our community to engage in courageous conversations.” —FROM THE RIVERS SCHOOL'S DEI MISSION STATEMENT

variable that is preventing that from happening. If you can identify that, if you can understand that, and if you can work collaboratively with an individual or within a system to address that, then you unlock success, thriving, and potential for any of those situations. DO YOU SEE ANY PARALLELS BETWEEN YOUR WORK IN THE SCIENCES AND THE KIND OF WORK YOU’RE DOING NOW?

There’s a certain curiosity driving science that I believe drives equitable practice as well. And there’s some humility in that, that you don’t know everything, you can’t possibly know everything. There’s an openness to that—that you’re not going to make assumptions. I think there’s a joy in there as well— in the scientific process of curiosity. It’s going to be messy, and we’re going to stumble through it, and that’s something that I try to bring into the work that I do, because ultimately the joy helps balance out the things that do feel heavy at times.


What I’m most looking forward to is just experiencing different spaces. The only way I can engage in the work that I think I’m being asked to do is to really know the community. That involves going into classrooms and interacting with different constituencies, getting to know all the different aspects of our operations in addition to academics. My dream is to be a fly on as many different walls in this place as I can get to. The best way to learn is to just listen and look, and I want to do as much of that as possible. There’s so much that needs to be directly experienced and observed. Plus, I just love being in a classroom; I love being in that space where learning is happening. There is no greater joy for me than to be in the moment where someone just gets it—where it somehow makes sense, it gains meaning, it impacts them. That’s what we’re trying to support and enable for everyone in this space, adults and students alike.


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HATGPT APPEARED on Michael Schlenker’s radar last November, when it first became available to the public. The Rivers science faculty member reports, “A student who had taken my AP Computer Science course the year before said, ‘Hey, Mr. Schlenker, have you checked out ChatGPT yet?’ And I said, ‘No. Have you?’ And she said, ‘Yeah, I just asked it to write my video game project from last year.’” Schlenker asked how that had gone. The student replied, “So in, say, 10 seconds, it did three to four weeks of work.” At that moment, Schlenker says, “[I realized] I’m going to have to rethink a lot of things.” ChatGPT is an LLM—a large language model generated by artificial intelligence (AI). Available for free to anyone with access to a computer, it has an extraordinary ability to mimic human language and to write computer code. ChatGPT can generate and edit content of all kinds, summarize material, even compose convincing love letters. It can invent computer games, solve math problems, make images, and create videos. The latest version, GPT4, can even pass the notoriously difficult AP Environmental Science exam with a 5 or ace a bar exam. New iterations continue to arrive, and other tech companies are gearing up AI applications, too. Microsoft uses AI for Bing; Google’s version is Bard; Anthropic makes Claude. None of these are regulated by the government at this point, though in July the Federal Trade Commission opened an investigation into OpenAI about how it collects data, and the U.S. House of Representatives has held hearings on copyright and cybersecurity issues raised by AI. On the Senate side, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has announced a series of nine “AI Insight Forums” this fall to explore both its promise and its dangers.

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ChatGPT can leave users breathless with its speed and accuracy, but it can also generate content riddled with errors and biases. Some of its answers are simply made up—“hallucinations,” in tech-speak. And, of course, it tempts users to pass off its work as their own, whether it’s a letter of recommendation or five-paragraph essay on Shakespeare. These systems are very new and very powerful— and have huge implications for education at every level. Head of School Ryan S. Dahlem, who began his tenure on July 1, has already been thinking about what AI might mean for a school like Rivers. “My initial thought is what an exciting time this is to be in education,” he says. “We’ve got this remarkable new technology that is incredibly powerful. It’s paradigm-shifting, it’s disruptive, and it’s going to be a part of our students’ lives, in both the next chapter of their education and in their professional lives.” Dahlem is confident that Rivers’ “culture of innovation and willingness to try new approaches, to pilot and to iterate,” will influence the school’s approach to AI. “We need to ask, ‘How are we teaching students to harness this powerful tool?


How are we learning alongside them? And how are we considering the ethical implications of the technology?’ AI presents a compelling opportunity in our role as educators and as models of lifelong learners.” Schlenker says AI is “a tool, like anything else.” But it’s a tool that has already changed, and will continue to change, what happens in the classroom. “It’s a different type of learning,” he says. Interacting with ChatGPT and using it to solve

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problems in the classroom means learning to ask it the right questions—a process called prompt engineering. Last spring, Schlenker’s class used ChatGPT to help build websites that could be of use to Rivers. “The prompt engineering side of things was big,” he says. “If you don’t include the right information in your prompt, you get stuff you can’t use or don’t know how to use. That was a big lesson for us.” One of the websites the students created hosted the Rivers student elections. “To build it, we had to work through security concerns and build logins to ensure data integrity,” Schlenker says. Another successful website managed the springtime schoolwide water-tag game. A third website was meant to create a lunch-line monitoring system, but the class ran out of time to get it up and running. Even so, says Schlenker, “Without ChatGPT, none of those websites would have happened. It was awesome.” But while Schlenker, who has a background in engineering, is intrigued about the potential of the technology, he’s also clear about its limitations. What AI can’t offer is the human interaction—the relationship between teacher and student—at the core of the Rivers experience, says Schlenker. “That can’t be replicated.”


The promise and the challenges inherent in AI have been on the Rivers radar for some time. Last year, the school formed a task force, led by Director of Academic Technology John Adams, to look at AI and its impact on teaching and learning at Rivers. “Rivers’ mission makes us well prepared to learn how to best utilize this technology,” says Adams, citing this section in particular: e cultivate a caring, respectful, and W collaborative environment that encourages student performance, including demonstration of logical thought, informed and articulate voice, creative vision, and integrity. Adams and his fellow task-force members have spent many months pondering the proper role of AI in the classroom across all subjects. “It’s going to be so important for our teachers, in their respective


disciplines, to think about it, to experiment, and keep learning about how it’s impacting their space, to make sure that we’re leveraging AI as an effective tool,” he says. “It’s about understanding how to ask really, really good questions to make sure you’re able to collect data that gives you meaningful results.” The task force is intentionally interdisciplinary. “We have an English teacher on it who also teaches ethics,” says Adams; the group also includes the robotics teacher, the computer science teacher, the Grade 10 dean, and a history teacher. “We wanted to get a mix, not only in disciplines but in experience level with the software generation,” says Adams. “The goal is to take a holistic approach toward thinking about AI.” The task force recently released a set of guidelines and principles that can be adapted to individual departments’ needs (see sidebar, page 30). But on a broader scale, “Rivers educators can play a significant role in shaping how this technology is used,” says Adams. “We are an amazing institution with a great mission and great people, and we can be at the forefront of using this effectively—if we continue collaborating, experimenting, trying new things, listening to our students, and seeing our students work with it.”


AI is raising questions in many areas of the school. Melissa Dolan ’98, formerly a humanities teacher and three-sport coach at Rivers, directs Middle School curriculum development. Last spring, she helped pull together a professional development day focused on AI. During the planning, “it was fascinating to see the different lenses that we all brought based on the age of the kids we were working with and the discipline,” she says. “It’s certainly uncharted territory, not just at Rivers, but everywhere—in government, in economics, and society. It’s raising huge questions that we don’t have all the answers for. But as educators in the world we’ve been navigating over the past number of years

with the pandemic, for better or for worse, we’re getting used to unfamiliar terrain.” Dolan looks at AI with a middle school lens, she says, taking into account students’ developmental needs. She says the media literacy course required for Grade 7 students is critical right now, at a time when social media messages are coming at students from every direction. Media literacy equips them with tools that empower them to navigate the online world with an appropriately critical lens. That begins with knowledge, Dolan says. Students need to understand ChatGPT’s algorithms, which enable its uncanny ability to mimic patterns of human speech and writing. “The algorithms weren’t brand new,” she says. “They were in existence on TikTok. But ChatGPT put them on steroids. And when those algorithms combine with adolescent development, they raise questions about identity development and mental health.” Dolan isn’t quite ready to embrace AI, she says, but she recognizes that it must be addressed. “When it first came out, I thought ‘I don’t even want to.’ But this is the world we’re living in, and we want our students to be able to navigate it.” AI is also shaking up the college application process, says Dave Lyons ’99, director of college counseling. It could potentially be used to write essays or letters of recommendation—but Lyons isn’t too worried about Rivers students getting swept up in AI-powered application interventions. “The number-one lesson that I have learned doing this work, and the thing we tout all the time, is authenticity,” he says. “There is nothing more powerful in the process than a kid who can stand up to a college and say, ‘Here’s who I am. Take me or leave me. If you don’t want me, I’m on to the next one.’ What the colleges don’t like is the kids who are answering the question in the way that they think

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the colleges want them to answer it. That’s what ChatGPT does. It’s really about believing in yourself and putting yourself out there—the exact opposite of ChatGPT. You can’t write a prompt that’s going to reveal your authentic self.”


Rivers alumni who work in the field of education are also grappling with the questions raised by AI. Jason Medeiros ’01 is principal of Hudson High School in Hudson, Massachusetts. He reports that—for now, at least—the school isn’t banning ChatGPT, as some other public school systems have. “We’ve opted to not necessarily press the panic button, although I’m not sure all of my teachers would agree,” says Medeiros. “We’re not trying to draft new policies or anything like that.” Rather, he says, the school is using existing policies as a template: “The idea is that if you use ChatGPT, it’s like using any other resource to plagiarize. If you’re caught using this, it’s no different from any other tool that you may use to gain an advantage.” That’s the practical, boots-on-the ground consideration, he says. But, he adds, “From a



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philosophical standpoint, I’m definitely worried about what AI means as a deterrent to students’ engaging in their own thinking.” Medeiros, who graduated from Dartmouth College and earned an M.A. at Stanford and an Ed.D. at Boston College, started his career in education as an English teacher, encouraging his students to think for themselves. AI’s potential to interrupt that developmental process gives him pause. “ChatGPT’s doing everything for them in a way that other tools aren’t,” he says. “I worry about that not only on the educational front, but also as a society. Are we giving away our capacity to think for ourselves, to be creative for ourselves, to generate ideas for ourselves?” Medeiros says that if educators don’t continue to create learning environments where students are invited and encouraged to take intellectual risks, we’re in trouble. “We cannot be educating students to be dependent on artificial intelligence to engage in higher-order thinking skills for them,” he says. Other alums are more sanguine. Jason Gorman ’92 isn’t too concerned about AI upending education; in fact, he applauds ChatGPT’s capacity to act as a peer tutor for students, freeing up teachers to


Rather than forbid, we as an institution will educate students about AI in order to prepare students to be able to critically, effectively, and ethically incorporate this powerful technology into their education and professional practice. Academic leaders will work with the faculty to decide where in the curriculum AI skills and competencies will be introduced, while individual teachers will have the autonomy to decide how (and even if) to incorporate this technology into their courses.

actually teach. Gorman is the founder of Jackrabbit Learning Experience, a consulting, design, and development agency that creates online courses and programs for its clients. The company’s clients have included a variety of health care organizations, nonprofits, and startups. In 2020, Jackrabbit worked with Boston University to imagine, design, and roll out fully online orientation, when all BU students were remote. “The whole goal of education technology has been exactly what AI is able to do now: create better one-to-one support for students,” Gorman says. “My feeling is it unburdens teachers and allows them to have a deeper understanding in terms of where a student is going wrong, how they’re challenged, what blocks they need to fix.” But Gorman agrees that managing AI thoughtfully and rigorously is important for Rivers—and he understands why some community members may approach it with anxiety or even fear. “I deeply empathize with pretty much every reaction to AI,” he says. “It’s very, very complicated. It’s unprecedented. I think it probably is the most important invention of humankind, and it raises existential questions of all kinds. If we’re


outsourcing our thinking and reasoning, then what does it mean to be human, if a nonhuman thing of our own creation can do that? Who are we, fundamentally?” As luck would have it, that’s the kind of question a Rivers education is designed to answer. R .................................................................................................... Catherine O’Neill Grace is a freelance writer based in Sherborn, Massachusetts. She did not use ChatGPT to write any portion of this article, though she was tempted.


There are times when it is appropriate for students and teachers to use generative AI, and there are times when it is not. (Departments will define appropriate use.) Since generative AI can and does generate inaccurate and biased results, students need to be taught how to critically evaluate its outputs. In keeping with ethical and transparent practices, content generated by AI should be acknowledged and/or cited.

Continue to prioritize human connections while also recognizing that AI is just an additional tool that can enhance teaching and learning within the context of a transparent and honest student-teacher relationship. AI is a rapidly changing technology that will require ongoing learning and reevaluation throughout the years to come; our approach needs to be adaptive and flexible.

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MULTI-STORY SET for Mamma Mia, the Upper School musical. Bowls of chili served up to spectators at Homecoming. An independent science research program and creative-writing electives that help students explore their academic passions. A Grade 10 overnight trip to Windsor Mountain, New Hampshire, that helps build community among classmates. These are the types of experiences that separate a good school from a great one. And at Rivers, all this is made possible in large part by The Rivers Fund, also known as the annual fund. Rivers values sedulitas et integritas—perseverance and integrity—with a shared commitment to providing an unparalleled educational experience both in and out of the classroom. That commitment is bolstered by the generosity of the school community—current and former families, alumni, faculty, and friends of the school—through their annual support of The Rivers Fund. Yet many in our community are uncertain about the role played by this vital fund and perhaps unaware of how and why the annual fund matters. As a nonprofit organization, Rivers operates at a budget deficit of approximately $4.5 million after tuition and other revenues are accounted for. Philanthropy helps to fill this gap. In the 2022–23 school year, the school received more than $7 million in donations; of that, around half—over $3.28 million—consisted of contributions to The Rivers Fund. Unlike endowed funds, which are often restricted to a specific purpose, The Rivers Fund provides flexible, annual revenue that supports the students, faculty, and programs that define and fulfill our mission of Excellence with Humanity.


The school increased Middle School math staffing, adding an assistant teacher in the Grade 6 classes. This has allowed for more one-on-one and smallgroup instruction and enabled teachers to more effectively tailor instruction to individual student needs.


I n response to student feedback, the student life team offered more grade-level trips to venues like escape rooms and Six Flags, whitewater rafting for seniors, movie nights, affinity groups, grade gatherings before Friday Night Lights, and Parents’ League “surprises,” where school provides funding for a special snack or activity.


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On the professional development front, faculty members attended conferences and workshops such as Project Zero, AISNE’s DEI Conference, the Center for Spiritual and Ethical Education, Open Up Curriculum’s HIVE Conference, and Climate Generation’s Summer Institute for Climate Change Education.


Guest speaker Liza Talusan came to campus to work with the entire professional community. The focus of her session was engaging in difficult conversations around identity and bias with colleagues and students.



The Conservatory Program’s classical track is now able to offer multiple smallgroup pairings for chamber music study, which includes two hourlong coaching sessions per week.


Last year, RSC offered a master class with jazz musician Jose Delgado. This year, internationally renowned concert pianist Victor Cayres will coach a small group of students, culminating with their performance at the Seminar on Contemporary Music for the Young next spring.


The musical theater program has expanded to include a Middle School option, as well as a track in the Conservatory Program that includes more targeted music theory courses. Theater productions are able to include professional lighting and sound as well as costume and prop rentals, and are now coordinated by a faculty member who serves as the producer.


Participation in The Rivers Fund at any level makes a tremendous impact here at Rivers. The collective giving of more than 1,500 donors allows us to bring our student experience to the next level. The contributions that come in from every corner of our community serve as a testament to the exceptional work of our talented faculty and the relationships they build in support of our students. A robust annual fund allows the school to take advantage of opportunities and navigate unforeseen challenges. Participating is about being part of something bigger than oneself and engaging together in the pursuit of educational excellence. R ....................................................................................................... FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT SUPPORTING THE RIVERS FUND, please contact Kendall Grace ( or visit our website: .......................................................................................................

SCAN Additional funding was allocated for athletics transportation and a softball field was upgraded.



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1940s David Steinberg ’46 writes, “At 94, still writing and intellectually, but not physically, active. I have tried to contribute to nonprofits, government, and academia (the Asia Foundation, USAID, Georgetown University). It has been an eventful ride. Good luck to you all in your lovely campus.”

1960s Bud Corkin ’60 shares, “I just finished a mountain bike ride in St. George, UT. Mary and I live in the top of the Mojave Desert, about two hours north of Las Vegas. Pickleball is on my agenda for this afternoon. I would love to hear from and share experiences with my classmates or those I knew in the class of 1961.”

A PERENNIAL FAVORITE alumni event returned in October, as Rivers graduates and their families visited Lookout Farm in Natick to pick apples, sip cider, and celebrate the season.

Sandy Anstey ’65 writes that “aging isn’t for sissies! I have had a series of health challenges over the past two years (too boring to talk about specifically), but it does appear they are now mostly in the rearview mirror. We are moving on, and as my wife, Katti, likes to say, there is lightning at the end of the tunnel! Our daughter, Kea, lives with her husband, Tom, and two sons in Jackson, WY. Our son, Philip, lives with his wife, Aleks, and recent addition Sophie in Greenwich, CT. He runs his own proprietary oil-trading business with one outside investor—not me!” John Bottomley ’65 writes, “My 76th birthday is about to happen! It’s been many years since I took the Green Line out to meet the bus that deposited me on the Weston campus. Children (2) have come along, as well as two grandchildren! I stay in touch with John Hardenbergh and Sandy Anstey, complaining about our ‘gone over the hill’ golf games. My bride of 48 years, Nina, is fighting a battle versus the big ‘C,’ but we are hopeful and looking forward. North Hampton, NH, is still home, retired from the Fuller Foundations after 40 years and stints on the Yellowstone Park Foundation, now Yellowstone Forever.”

IT WAS A GREAT day to be a Red Wing, as alumni returned to campus for our annual Reunion celebration in June. Along with food, fun, mingling, and reminiscing, alumni received recognition at an afternoon awards ceremony. Members of the Class of 2018 were among those who gathered in Kraft Dining Hall for Reunion.

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Robert E. Williams ’66 shares, “Finally entered the world of retirement this past spring. I sold the restaurant to an employee who has been with me for the past 14 years. It may sound a little clichéd, but I’m looking forward to the extra time to spend with grandchildren (hopefully mine), extended travel with Robin (not just to the local grocery store), and serious improvement on my butchered golf game!”

Rodney MacPhie ’66 writes, “Every year in the month of June, fellow Class of ’66 classmates Bob Williams, Tom Swaim, Warren Ferguson, and I play at the beautiful Lake Sunapee Country Club! A great day of golf and reminiscing, hosted by Bob. Also, I’m enjoying yet another year working for the Portland Sea Dogs. As head usher, it’s a great way to increase my walking steps and keep my social skills intact! Any time any of you Rivers grads are in the Portland area, please come to a Sea Dogs game and look me up!”

1970s Nick Soloway ’70 shares, “Hey all! I am healthy and live in Helena, MT. I still work, helping lots of folks with so many problems. I plan on working until 95! I like what I do and there is everything, recreational-wise, here—lots of lakes within 20 minutes, ice boarding in the winter along with skating on clear ice, sailing/windsurfing, and mountain trails to hike just out my door. I hope everyone is well. Keep a kind heart and be nice to yourself and others!”

RODNEY MACPHIE, Warren Ferguson, Tom Swaim, and Bob Williams, Class of ’66, got together for their annual golf outing.

Robert Tremblay ’74 shares, “After more than 40 years working as a journalist, I am now retired. I spend my days—and nights—trying to sell one of my 21 screenplays. If anyone knows anyone who wants to buy one, I’d be eternally grateful for the information. As the song goes, I ain’t too proud to beg.” Bud Corkin ’60

John Bottomley ’65

Robert Tremblay ’74

John Randazzo ’74 writes, “Alive and well. Moved to Newport, RI. Formed Johnny Seafood Inc., a seafood brokerage company. Got married in 2020.” Elliott Birckhead ’76 shares, “On May 16, 2023, Sara and I were thrilled to welcome our first grandchild, Charlie Malcolm Birckhead, into our lives.”

1980s Dan Rabinovitz ’82 shares, “On June 16, 2023, my oldest son, Louis Rabinovitz ’14, was married to his college sweetheart, Olivia Joy, in a ceremony held in Waterford, CT. In attendance to help celebrate this joyous event were Michael H. Zafiropoulos ’82, Andrew Ferguson ’82, and Matthew McDonald ’14.”



Doug St. Amant ’83 writes, “Was great reconnecting on group text with the ’83 boys! Let’s get together soon!” Elliott Birckhead ’76 holds grandson Charlie.

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Josh Motta ’85 writes, “Living in Fort Myers, FL, and volunteering at my parish thrift store Catholic organization.” Kevin Hurley ’85 shares, “Living in Walpole at a retirement community with Mom.” Jeffrey Silverman ’85 writes, “Since 1994, I’ve proudly called NYC my home (but still a fanatic Boston sports fan) and have raised three grown children (also Boston sports fans)—two in NYC and one currently in London. My professional journey has led me to be a founding partner in three venture funds. Additionally, I’m involved with Proteus Collection, an investment fund centered around emerging artists. My passion extends beyond business, as I’m dedicated to fostering civic growth, youth development, and environmental preservation. This commitment comes to life through my roles on the nonprofit boards of Civics Unplugged, Project Morry, and Friends of the Lake. I feel blessed to have been successful balancing my career while enjoying all that comes with being a parent, friend, and traveler.”

Jeffrey Silverman ’85

Eliza Cohen ’06 at her August wedding.

Steve Safran ’86 shares, “I’ve spent the spring and summer producing the TV broadcast for the Worcester Red Sox on NESN. Working for the ‘WooSox’ has been a blast, and I invite my classmates to come to Polar Park and check out a game!” Joshua S. Narins ’87’s debut novel, False Neutral, was a 2022 finalist in the Wishing Shelf Book Awards in the UK. A contemporary character-driven drama set primarily in Boston’s Back Bay and the North End, False Neutral is a story of choices made and not made, and the collision of those paths. Prior to embarking on a writing career, Joshua was a veteran director of photography. In addition to principal unit production, Joshua specialized in all aspects of underwater, aerial, and second unit cinematography. Joshua’s second novel, Clear-Cuts, was released this fall.

Nicole Lomax-Montague ’99 and family

John Stimson ’88 writes, “My wife, Joanne, and my daughter, Dahlia, and I had a great vacation this summer in Rome and Tuscany. Was great to see so many of the artifacts that I learned about in Jack Jarzavek’s Art History class!” Kimberly Tutaj ’09 welcomed her first child, Aurelius, in October 2022.

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Naomi Wernick ’93 at her August wedding, with son Jonah in attendance.


ALUMNI EXCELLENCE AWARD 2023 BARRY SLOANE ’73 : FOREVER GRATEFUL TO RIVERS IS A RIVERS education truly transformative? Ask Barry Sloane ’73, this year’s winner of the Alumni Excellence Award. “Rivers changed my life,” said Sloane recently. And in a life that’s been replete with personal and professional successes, outstanding accomplishments, and top-notch education, that’s saying something. Sloane’s career in banking and investment management—he retired in 2021—took him around the globe, as he worked for such high-profile institutions as Citibank and Credit Suisse. But his proudest professional accomplishment may have been the nearly 20 years he spent back in Massachusetts, serving as president, CEO, and, ultimately, chairman of Century Bank, the business founded by his father. Capping that was the lucrative sale of Century Bank to Eastern Bank in November 2021. “Because of trends I foresaw,” said Sloane, “we sold the bank at a record price,” adding modestly, “It made me look smarter than I actually am.” Sloane arrived at Rivers as a ninth grader. He was, in his own telling, ready for a transformation—a selfdescribed “overweight, unathletic boy” who’d been a perennial target of bullies. He took up wrestling under coach and English teacher Eric Suby. “In my first year, I lost 30 pounds. I began to work out and bulk up, and lost my fear of the bullies,” he said. “I never was a great wrestler, but I became a self-confident young man.” Also transformative was his experience in Jack Jarzavek’s classroom. Jarzavek’s daily essay requirement turned the “decent writer” into an accomplished prose

stylist who was ready to take on a reporting role at the Harvard Crimson when he arrived at college. (Sloane also served as a producer for the famed Hasty Pudding Theatricals, resulting in memorable encounters with Johnny Carson and Elizabeth Taylor.) After college, Sloane spent a few years working for his father before returning to Harvard for a master’s degree in public administration. Twenty years of international banking followed, along with his marriage to Dr. Candace Lapidus Sloane. The couple had three sons in quick succession, and at a certain point, Sloane decided to prioritize family life and return to Century. “It was a very family-friendly way to live,” he explained. “You’re always home in time to put everybody to bed.” Under his stewardship, the bank grew to record levels of profitability, positioning it for the 2021 sale. Since retirement, Sloane has stepped up his volunteer activities, serving as chairman and treasurer of the Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation at the Rockefeller University; a trustee of Hebrew SeniorLife; an honorary trustee of Massachusetts General Hospital; president of the Medford Public Library Foundation; and co-trustee of the Candace L. and Barry R. Sloane Charitable Foundation, among many others. When he’s not volunteering, Sloane can be found with his wife on their Sirena 58 power boat, cruising around Cape Cod and environs. It comes as no surprise that Sloane has embraced the next stage with characteristic aplomb: After all, this lifelong learner has made a habit of transformation.

1990s Eric Miles ’91 was inducted as a fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers during the group’s spring meeting in Key Biscayne, FL. Founded in 1950, the college is composed of the best of the trial bar from the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico. Eric is a member of the law firm North Pursell & Ramos, PLC, in Nashville, TN. Naomi Wernick ’93 writes, “Ken and I got married on August 5 at Blair Hill Inn in Greenville, ME, on Moosehead Lake. Our 1½-year- old son, Jonah, was in attendance, as were our friends and family.” Dave Ames ’94 writes, “I was named Coach of the Year for the state of Ohio this past season after leading Hilliard Davidson HS lacrosse to a program best 19–3 record and our second straight Elite 8 state finish. My younger son, Vance (16), was my starting goalie and was named first team all-conference. My older son, Kaden (19), had 43 points as a freshman playing for Elmhurst University in Chicago.” Nicole Lomax-Montague ’99 shares, “I live in Long Island, NY, and have two boys. My 5-year-old started kindergarten in the fall and my 8-year-old is in fourth grade. After being a professor for 12 years, I decided to shift careers, and I am now the senior standardized patient educator at Northwell Health. Now, I train actors to portray patients for the medical students to practice on and diagnose.”

2000s Dana Amsbary ’02 shares, “I have been working as a registered nurse in the acute psychiatry service in the Emergency Department at Mass General Hospital for almost three years. I recently became board certified in psychiatric-mental health nursing (PMH-BC) through the American Nurses Credentialing Center.” The first two books in Karen J. Laakko ’05’s fantasy/sci-fi series, the “Beyond the Hostile Sky Cycle,” were recently published. She started the series during her last year at Rivers and was influenced by some of her coursework! Visit to learn more.

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THE RIVERS CUP RECIPIENTS, 2022 AND 2023 LISA HURWITCH RAFTERY ’93 AND LOUISE CUMMINGS ’98: DEDICATED TO RIVERS THE RIVERS CUP is given annually by the Alumni Association to the graduate who has shown extraordinary dedication to The Rivers School. And you’d be hard-pressed to find two alums who’ve shown greater dedication to Rivers than Lisa Hurwitch Raftery ’93 and Louise Cummings ’98, recipients of the Rivers Cup in 2022 and 2023, respectively. They were the first and second female graduates to receive this honor. “I believe Rivers changed my life,” says Raftery. The daughter and niece of Rivers graduates—her father is Peter Hurwitch ’65—she grew up steeped in stories about the school and the classmates who remained her father’s closest friends. It came together for her when her father hosted his 25th Rivers reunion, and, she says, “I got to know this wonderful, personable group of individuals.” She soon visited campus and found it was “alive and welcoming and friendly, and I felt it was the place for me.” Enrollment soon followed. For Cummings, the path to Rivers was less preordained. Growing up in Framingham, she says, “private school wasn’t anything I’d thought about.” But a friend of her mother had a son who’d gone to Rivers and encouraged

Eliza Cohen ’06 married Gregg Belbeck on August 20, 2022, at the Newbury Boston. They were honored to be surrounded by loved ones from across the globe and by connections made during special years at Rivers. Tara Davidson ’06, Barb and Dekkers Davidson P’06, Andy Donnelly ’06, Christopher Donnelly ’04, and Carolyn Bitetti P’04, ’06 were all in attendance. Eliza and Gregg currently reside in Austin, TX. Daniela Procopio ’07 recently launched SOLMA, the first ready-to-drink lactation support beverage that delivers a blend of active nutrients such as fenugreek, nettle leaf, and milk thistle, all linked to support

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Cummings to pursue it. “I went and took a look, and I thought it would be a great opportunity,” says Cummings. She continues, “I really appreciated how Rivers allowed me to be me. I didn’t feel like I had to fit in a certain box or be a certain person.” When she needed extra support in math, she got it; when she was the sole student who signed up for AP Spanish, the school created a class of one. The message, she says, was clear: “We want you to succeed. If you’re weak in a particular area, we’ll help you, and if you’re strong, we’ll challenge you.” Both women credit Rivers with laying the foundation for their professional success. Cummings, a lawyer by training, is executive director

lactation. It comes in a resealable format in order to support the mom on the go. Kimberly Tutaj ’09 writes, “On October 8, 2022, my husband and I became parents, with the birth of our first child, Aurelius Tutaj.”

2010s Debra Edelman ’10 is a lawyer and standup comedian in New York City, where she lives with her fiancée and her 3-year-old Shih Tzu, Teddy. She recently marked her birthday at a celebration where she emerged from a life-size pink cake to make her grand entrance.

of Supporting Kidds, a nonprofit that helps create a pathway to healing for grieving children. She also provides pro bono legal services to children in foster care. Raftery spent 17 years in health care IT before stepping back to be home with her family. Today, she works in special education for the Wayland Public Schools, after having run the district’s COVID-testing program for two years. Both of these alums doubled down on giving back to Rivers when the call came—Raftery as a member, and then president, of the Alumni Council, serving for some 20 years, and Cummings as a longtime trustee. Both welcomed the opportunity to become more involved and to gain a window into the school’s operations. Raftery was asked to join the council by Nick Petri ’72, then the group’s president. “I was shocked and flattered and nervous, but I said yes without hesitation,” she says. Likewise, Cummings was excited to be asked to take on a role for Rivers, particularly as her committee work involves addressing diversity issues. “Rivers showed up for me,” says Cummings, “so I showed up for Rivers.”

Connor Dempsey ’11 writes, “My wife, Natalie, and I welcomed our first child, Tucker Cole Dempsey, on May 31, 2023.” Amanda McGuinness ’12 married Christian Cosmer at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston on September 24, 2022, celebrating with many Rivers friends and parents. Luke Flood ’12 recently joined the national tour of the Broadway show Wicked, where he holds the Keyboard 1 chair. He credits Rivers, and especially former faculty members Susan Emmanouilidis and David Tierney, for their key role in preparing him for a career as a professional musician.


Winston Pingeon ’12 married his partner of over five years in June 2023 on a rainy day in Rhode Island. In attendance were his sisters, Alice and Clara Pingeon ’16, Emily Saperstone ’16, and Melanie Snider ’12. Taylor Cross ’12 graduated from nurse practitioner school at Simmons College and started a new job at the VA West Roxbury as a neurosurgery nurse practitioner. Stephanie (Merinoff) Kay ’12 writes, “I got married last September (2022) to Andrew Kay. I also am now a member of the Rivers faculty! I joined the Rivers History Department this spring and began teaching this September.”

Winston Pingeon ’12 (left) at his June wedding.

Devon Kelliher ’13 at her civil ceremony in New York. A wedding in India will follow.

Tom Barker ’13 recently teamed up with his former college roommate, Jake Helfrich, to launch Lakewood Real Estate Capital, a real estate investment and development company in Chicago specializing in manufactured housing communities and other workforce housing assets. Tom previously spent five-plus years at Chicago-based private equity real estate firm Harrison Street Real Estate Capital. Lakewood was launched to provide strong risk-adjusted returns to investors while helping address the affordable housing crisis across the country. Writes Tom, “I would love to connect (!” Tucker Taylor ’13 shares, “Howdy, all! I’m getting my master’s degree in entomology/natural resource ecology and management at Oklahoma State University, looking at the overlap between ticks, avian hosts, and public health. Oklahoma has been a departure from Massachusetts, but it’s been delightful seeing a completely different side of the American condition.”

Amanda McGuinness ’12 and Rivers friends at her September 2022 wedding

Devon Kelliher ’13 shares, “I married my college sweetheart in a civil ceremony in New York City this year, and we are now planning our big, cross-cultural wedding in India next January!” Louis Rabinovitz ’14. See Dan Rabinovitz ’82. Julia Holton ’18 writes, “I am pursuing an M.Sc. in classical art and archaeology at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland.”

Connor Dempsey ’11 welcomed his first child, Tucker, in May.

Luke Flood ’12 (center) has joined the national tour of Wicked as a keyboard player.

Tucker Taylor ’13

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NO ONE SEEMS more surprised about Brad Belin ’03’s career trajectory than Belin himself. Looking back on his years at Rivers, Belin—the recipient of this year’s Young Alumni Achievement Award—says, “I wasn’t a model student or necessarily someone who thought of school as a place for education. School was a convenient place to play sports and hang out with friends.” It’s probably fair to say he’s come around on that position: Belin has forged a career in education, working as a teacher, consultant, and administrator. He recently entered his second year as assistant head of school for curriculum and program/director of upper school at Glen Urquhart School (GUS), an independent school serving grades pre-kindergarten through 8 in Beverly, MA. School wasn’t always easy for Belin. Formally diagnosed with ADHD just prior to starting at Rivers in 1997, he sometimes struggled academically.

“But the majority of my teachers invested in me and held me accountable and taught me tough lessons about my expectations for myself. I wanted to work for them,” he says. Today, his neurodivergence has become an integral part of his identity as an educator. But when he went off to college at Quinnipiac University, he had a very different goal in mind. A dedicated athlete while at Rivers, Belin played football and lacrosse, earning seven varsity letters. He was drawn to a major in sports medicine— specifically, athletic training. But, he says, “I didn’t love it as much as I thought I would.” He instead focused on sociology and legal studies, with no particular career aim. In his senior year, he mentored at-risk teens through a local YMCA, which, he says, “got me thinking that maybe I could work with kids on a full-time basis.” He earned a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction and took a series of positions in independent

schools, as a teacher and, later, an administrator focusing on curriculum, program development, and DEI work. At GUS, he says, part of his role involves making sure that DEI “is not an added-on component but a part of our teachers’ everyday work.” His own background as a transracial adoptee from South Korea, he says, helps him “make sure we do our best to create equitable and inclusive conditions—so that every student is given a chance to feel as though they aren’t just part of a school, but truly of that school community.” Belin also found his sweet spot in working with middle school students. He acknowledges that it can be a challenging age group, but he appreciates their energy, enthusiasm, and humor. “I probably laugh too much at the things kids say or do,” says the married father of three. “They do some borderline crazy things, but it keeps me young and engaged and helps me build connections with students. Hopefully, I’m playing a small but important role in shaping their future.”

IN MEMORIAM Gordon Hall III ’48, October 9, 2022 Jeremiah D. Newbury ’51, December 27, 2022 Arthur Calfee ’56, August 1, 2023 John Lewis McConchie, Jr. ’56, October 11, 2023 Worthing “Winger” West ’56, August 23, 2022 William “Bill” Christmas ’57, October 11, 2023 Lee B. Wernick ’60, August 22, 2023 Marshall W. Flake ’61, August 20, 2022 Stephen A. Black ’63, July 2, 2023 Nicholas W. Miller ’65, March 22, 2022 Robert Y. Lider ’67, August 1, 2022 Jonathan S. Kusko ’69, July 15, 2022 Lincoln E. Barber III ’73, February 4, 2022 David R. Lilienthal ’77, September 15, 2023 Barrett W. Gilchrist ’80, August 8, 2023 James Ladge ’84, September 29, 2023 Aaron M. Krug ’89, February 15, 2023 Philippe G. Moufflet ’94, May 28, 2023 Price A. Meropol ’04, December 20, 2022

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BENJAMIN D. WILLIAMS MARCH 8, 1936–MARCH 7, 2023 FORMER HEAD OF SCHOOL BENJAMIN D. WILLIAMS III passed away on March 7, 2023. Williams served as interim head at Rivers during the 1996–1997 school year. Though his time at Rivers was short, Williams developed a deep connection with the school and was beloved by the Rivers community. Williams stepped in to take over the reins at a challenging moment in Rivers’ history. As a former head of school at Lawrence Academy and Worcester Academy, Williams brought an abundance of experience to the role, and he proved to be, in the words of Life Trustee Dudley Willis, who helped bring him to Rivers, “solid as a rock.” In his brief time at Rivers, Williams came to understand the school’s essence, stating later that Rivers was “my kind of school, with no arrogance or pretense…just a nice bunch of kids.” Williams is still remembered fondly by community members who knew him here. Donations in Williams’ name may be made to the Connecticut Audubon Society or the Wyndham Land Trust. Williams was predeceased by his wife, Nancy, and is survived by their three sons and nine grandchildren.


Evan Coleman ’05

A TRUE RIVERS GIVER THE NONESUCH SOCIETY was established to recognize the generosity of alumni, parents, and friends who have made provisions for Rivers in their estate plans. Its members have each made a commitment to ensure the continuation of excellence in teaching that is so critical to the education of our students.

EVAN COLEMAN ’05 believes in giving back. He has worked as a civil-rights attorney for the U.S. Department of Education and as an attorney-advisor and investigator at the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination. In his current role, as an attorney-advisor for the U.S. Department of the Interior, he represents the agency in matters related to employment and labor law. “I’ve always been interested in public service,” says Coleman, who held an AmeriCorps job between college and law school. “I was always interested in helping people.” So perhaps it’s not surprising that he also felt compelled to give back to Rivers, by joining the Nonesuch Society— Rivers supporters who have chosen to include the school in their estate plans. Coleman entered Rivers in Grade 10, having attended public schools in Plymouth up to that point. The commute from Plymouth to Weston was not easy, and Coleman, who played basketball and football at Rivers, remembers “a lot of really long days.” But, he says, “I really enjoyed the connections I made with my classmates and teammates,” adding that the rigor and discipline required by Rivers set him up for success later in life. “I felt really empowered; it felt like nothing would ever be more challenging, and I could do anything I wanted to do once I put my mind to it.” Today, he gives back to Rivers for two reasons: to show his Red Wing pride and to stay connected to the school that had such a profound impact on his life. “It’s a way to show how thankful I am,” says Coleman. “I don’t think I’d be where I am if not for Rivers.”

When you include Rivers in your will, you have a significant impact on the future generations of Rivers students and faculty members. At the same time, by taking advantage of tax laws that encourage philanthropy, making a bequest to Rivers can significantly reduce estate-tax burdens.

For more information about gifts to Rivers, such as bequests, living trusts, and gifts of life insurance or retirement plans, or if you would like more information about the Nonesuch Society, please contact Meret Nahas, director of leadership and planned giving, at or 339-686-2263.

333 Winter street, Weston, ma 02493

Non-Profit Organization U.S. Postage PAID Boston MA Permit No. 10


SHOWN HERE ARE STUDENTS using early computer technology in the ’90s—a far cry from today’s reckoning with artificial intelligence in education (see page 26).

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