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PRIDE THE

Spring 2015 Volume 20, Issue 1 St. Mark’s School of Texas Alumni Magazine

In this issue:

The Future of Science David Dini’s First Year The New Sound of St. Mark’s: The Roosevelt Family Pipe Organ

Endless Be Your Fame: Remembering J.J. Connolly


The Future of Science at St. Mark’s In every scientist, engineer, explorer, and researcher a spark of curiosity was ignited at a young age. Before stepping onto the moon, Neil Armstrong built wind tunnels in his parents’ basement. Before his 13th birthday, Alexander Graham Bell invented a device to quickly husk wheat. Before graduating from high school, Bill Gates formed his first tech start-up. Scientific curiosity may be a power harnessed by adults, but it is a trait formed in youth.

F

or Class of 2014 Valedictorian and current

University of Pennsylvania Benjamin Franklin Scholar Halbert Bai, John Mead’s sixth-grade biology class first ignited his spark. The experiment

was simple enough: examine a drop of water from the pond outside the McDermott-Green Quadrangle under the microscope. But within that single drop of water, Mr. Mead led his students on a bio-safari, revealing an intricate world beyond the range of human vision. Halbert had always enjoyed learning about science from teachers and textbooks, but at St. Mark’s, he experienced it firsthand. “Even as a sixth-grader, I was able to not only see and perform some major historical experiments but also come up with my own hypotheses that I validated or refuted in experiments that I designed on my own,” Halbert said. “My curiosity in science truly blossomed at St. Mark’s.”


Features

(above) Biology teacher Mark Adame leads iGEM students in a lab.

Arriving at St. Mark’s, Halbert found a science program built

Inside labs and classrooms in the Science

on experiential learning. Students don’t just study theories,

Quadrangle, learning is truly hands-on. Lower

solve equations, follow preset experiments, and read about their subjects. Teachers at St. Mark’s bring science to life.

Schoolers stare up in awe at the planetarium’s domed ceiling as Dr. Steve Balog, Cecil H. and Ida Green Master Teaching Chair, takes them on an interactive tour of the zodiac.

“The inquiry-focused curriculum prepares Marksmen for the real world,”

Middle Schoolers hold their breath as they

Halbert said. “Having the content we learn in the classroom be applied through

release meticulously crafted spaceships

hands-on experiments allowed us to learn skills we could not attain just by

made of paper and straws, hoping their small

listening to lectures or reading textbooks.”

marshmallow astronauts won’t bounce out on impact. And Upper Schoolers use centrifuges in college-level labs to identify missing ions.

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Features | THE PRIDE

St. Mark’s School of Texas


Features

Leading the sciences at St. Mark’s as Stephen M.

After poring through scientific literature and

Seay ’68 Science Department Chair, Fletch Carron

journals, the team decided to research lung cancer

has great respect for the School’s long history of

and the possibility of creating a biosensor for the

scientific education. “Ever since the construction

disease. Meeting almost daily over the summer of

of the McDermott-Green Quadgrangle, St. Mark’s

2013, Halbert and the 14 other iGEM Team members

served as a beacon for students interested in the

designed gene circuits and refined their experiment

sciences and an incubator for their passions.”

methods for implementation. At the end of the

In the same year that the United States first put a

around the world and, out of the 11 special prizes

man in space, St. Mark’s cemented its dedication to

available, they received the Safety Commendation

the sciences with the opening of the McDermott-

Award—an impressive feat for a first-time team.

(below) Ken Owens ’89 leads an explosive demonstration.

season, they competed against 55 other teams from

Green Science & Mathematics Quadrangle. Built in 1961 with support from the founders of Texas

But the team wasn’t satisfied with simply competing.

Instruments, the building elevated St. Mark’s to the

After all, Marksmen are taught that with knowledge

national stage and led TIME magazine to declare

and privilege comes a responsibility to serve. During

that the School was the “best-equipped day school

their intensive summer of research, the iGEM

in the country.” More than half a century later,

Team partnered with the Brendan Court Summer

scientific curiosity continues to flourish.

Enrichment Program and Jubilee Center to teach local students about the consequences of smoking

In true Marksman fashion, learning doesn’t stop

as related to their lung cancer research, while also

when the school day ends. It’s not unusual to walk

introducing basic concepts of genetic engineering.

through the Science Quadrangle long after the campus has emptied to find both students and teachers hard at work. Halbert was one of those students, attending biology club meetings after school. In the spring of his junior year, Halbert

“I hope that the St. Mark’s science teams will focus not only on solving the larger problems,” Halbert said, “but also strive to make positive contributions in the here and now.”

decided to expand the club beyond a simple interest group. With input from biology teacher Mark Adame, Halbert formed the St. Mark’s iGEM Team. Through participation in the International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition, the iGEM Team turned a group of students into full-fledged researchers. As Halbert explains, “We had already done most of the basic biotechnology techniques in club meetings, so we thought that iGEM was a wonderful way to put our knowledge into action.”

St. Mark’s School of Texas

Spring 2015 | Features

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Features Fifty years ago, St. Mark’s built the Quadrangle to inspire a new generation of thinkers and explorers. This generation included a young Hillcrest High School student who, after seeing St. Mark’s new state-of-the-art science center, asked his parents if he could transfer to 10600 Preston Road. His parents agreed and, after graduating with the Class of 1964, Steve Winn went on to found a tremendously successful software business. Now, Steve wants to provide inspiration to the next generation of Marksmen. “St. Mark’s is truly unique,” Steve said at a (above) Fletch Carron, Stephen M. Seay ’68 Science Department Chair, teaches an Upper School physics class.

meeting of the St. Mark’s faculty and staff on October 28, 2014. “It’s an incubator that turns boys’ dreams into a man’s delight. Our greatest leaders, scientists, mathematicians, and the people who will change the world in a positive manner come from this place.” In front of the very teachers who will shape those Marksmen, Steve announced that the Winn Family Foundation is committing $10,000,000 to serve as the catalyst for a new state-of-the-art science center. The future Winn Family Science Center will once again put St. Mark’s at the forefront of science education in America.

After walking across the stage at Commencement, Halbert

While the new Science Center will usher in an

headed north to Philadelphia and the University of

exciting chapter in St. Mark’s history, the Winns

Pennsylvania, where he is pursuing science and business as a prestigious Benjamin Franklin Scholar. Just as Halbert is

emphasize that a building is just a building. The real investment being made is in the teachers who take advantage of the classrooms, labs, and

excited to explore all of the possibilities ahead of him, he

equipment to shape the thinkers and leaders

remains convinced that St. Mark’s will lead the future of

of tomorrow. This fact was underscored by

science education.

the Winns’ decision to announce their gift in a special meeting with the faculty.

There are others who share in this vision for the future and understand that to keep up with the ever-evolving world of science, commitment is needed.

“You faculty are the custodians of our dreamers,”

The McDermott-Green Science Quadrangle was once on the cutting edge

Steve said during the announcement. “I’ve seen

of education, and incremental improvements have helped St. Mark’s keep

what you are capable of in the past 50 years.

pace with the times. But now a major leap forward is needed to take science

Now it’s time to think about the next 50 years

education from good to great.

and the young dreamers who will delight us by graduating from this institution and change our future forever.”

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Features | THE PRIDE

St. Mark’s School of Texas


Features

“Our greatest leaders, scientists, mathematicians, and the people who will change the world in a positive —Steve Winn ’64 manner come from this place.”

Board of Trustees President Taylor Wilson ’81, Chris Winn ’99, Melinda and Steve Winn ’64, and Eugene McDermott Headmaster David Dini.


Features

Today, we can already see the beginning

But his father worked hard with him late into the

of the next generation of dreamers in

nights and, by fifth grade, Halbert entered an

Halbert Bai. Arriving in Middle School,

advanced English class. His homeroom teacher,

it became clear that Halbert excelled in science. But as St. Mark’s aims to educate the whole boy, Halbert’s teachers encouraged him to explore his passions and curiosities across every discipline. This was an experience and a challenge that the young boy had not found at his previous schools.

Mrs. Irving, encouraged Halbert to apply to St. Mark’s, but she soon became ill with breast cancer. On her deathbed, she wrote Halbert’s St. Mark’s recommendation. At 10600 Preston Road, Halbert found a completely new kind of learning. While Halbert proved himself as an excellent science student, he found his artistic pursuits to be

Halbert’s journey to St. Mark’s was anything but typical. His father, who

equally rewarding.

escaped Communist China on a scholarship, raised Halbert alone, working

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long hours at a small medical clinic just to make ends meet. Their early

In the 2014 Marksmen yearbook’s “Most Likely

life together was simple, in a small home that contained little more than a

To…” page, the senior class voted Halbert “Most

refrigerator, a stove, and a single mattress. Halbert’s English was so poor that

Likely to Teach Photography.” On campus,

in first grade he was placed in an ESL class at Plano’s Daffron Elementary

Halbert spent almost as much time in the

School. He fondly remembered how he “thought the word and was a letter

photography lab as he did in the biology lab.

that followed y, and came before z, as in w, x, y, and, z.”

During his Upper School career, Halbert served

Features | THE PRIDE

St. Mark’s School of Texas


Features

as the photography editor and editor-in-chief of

St. Mark’s. While his teachers saw the incredible

The Marque literary magazine, was a member of

potential in this science student, Halbert was

St. Mark’s top-ranked photography program, was

encouraged to embrace an interdisciplinary

named a Texas Imagemaker, and was a winner in

education. In the end, this approach paid off as

the national YoungArts competition.

Halbert picked up concepts and lessons from other fields that he then applied directly back to science.

When photography instructor Scott Hunt, Arnold E. Holtberg Master Teaching Chair, remembered

Now the School looks forward to the next

Halbert in the 2014 Marksmen yearbook, he

generation of students who will embrace the

made it clear how Halbert’s scientific passions

sciences as part of their education and ultimately

crossed over to the arts: “Halbert has a passion for

shape the future. In his commencement address to

researching and finding out the latest technological

the Class of 2010, Silicon Valley venture capitalist

advances—looking at what other contemporary

Steve Jurvetson ’85 told students that “we are

photographers are doing.”

entering an intellectual renaissance, interwoven across the sciences. Consider your destiny on this

Halbert quickly found his pursuits into the artistic

planet as something grand. Change the world for

world not as diversion or recreation, but as solid

the better.”

building blocks on which to grow his academic education.

Thanks to the vision of the Winn Family, St. Mark’s stands ready to prepare its students for

“My work in the arts provided challenges and opportunities that I could not find in the academic classroom,” he said. “The skills I learned in the photography lab have given me a different set of mental tools to approach complex problems.” By branching out into so many areas with ambition and success, Halbert has truly embodied the interdisciplinary ideal that is at the core of

St. Mark’s School of Texas

this renaissance.

(below) Halbert posing with his camera for a yearbook article.


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