Fall 2000 Taft Bulletin

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IN THIS ISSUE Photography Around the World Scaling the World’s Highest Peaks Spain’s Athletic Architecture Poole Fellows


Bulletin Staff Editor Julie Reiff Director of Development Jerry Romano Alumni Notes Karen Dost Design Good Design Proofreaders Nina Maynard Karen Taylor

CONT

Mail letters to: Julie Reiff, Editor Taft Bulletin The Taft School Watertown, CT 06795-2100 ReiffJ@TaftSchool.org Send alumni news to: Karen Dost Alumni Office The Taft School Watertown, CT 06795-2100 TaftBulletin@TaftSchool.org

Deadlines for Alumni Notes: Winter–November 15, 2000 Spring–February 15, 2001 Summer–May 30, 2001 Fall–August 30, 2001 Send address corrections to: Sally Membrino Alumni Records The Taft School Watertown, CT 06795-2100 TaftRhino@TaftSchool.org 1-860-945-7777 http://www.TaftSchool.org This magazine is printed on recycled paper.


BU L L E T I N F A L L • 2 0 0 0 Volume 71 Number 1

SPOTLIGHT From HDT to Bora-Bora .......................................... 14

ENTS

One Photographer’s View of the World

By Todd A. Gipstein ’70 On the Ascent ........................................................... 22 Taking On the Climb of His Life

By Chris Shaw ’80 Athletic Architecture in Cataluña .............................. 28 The Beauty of Defiance

By Peter Frew ’75

Tribute to Donald F. McCullough ’42 ......................... 5

DEPARTMENTS Alumni in the News .................................................... 6 Presidential candidate, covers, words to remember, film award, and more

Around the Pond ...................................................... 10 Page 12

Poole Fellows, new faculty, admissions, Parents’ Fund heads, and more

From the Editor .......................................................... 4 Letters ......................................................................... 4 Endnote by Jon Willson ’82 ...................................... 32 On the Covers Front: Todd Gipstein ’70 took this photograph of a fisherman in Wuhan, China. “At dawn, I walk out of my hotel to get a ride to some tombs. With a few minutes to kill, I round the corner and find this image before me. The fisherman mirrored in the lake seemed a vision right out of an ancient watercolor. It was the best picture I made that day, and one I just happened upon.” See page 12. Back: Summer Poole Fellow Karen Kwok ’01 performs the ancient Buddhist ritual of casting prayers into the air. Karen spent her summer in the Tibetan region of China, where she served as an English-Mandarin interpreter. See page 8.

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The Taft Bulletin is published quarterly, in February, May, August, and November, by The Taft School, 110 Woodbury Road, Watertown, CT 06795-2100 and is distributed free of charge to alumni, parents, grandparents, and friends of the school. E-Mail Us! Now you can send your latest news, address change, birth announcement, or letter to the editor to us via e-mail. Our address is Taft Bulletin@TaftSchool.org. Of course we’ll continue to accept your communiqués by such “low -tech” methods as the fax machine (860-945-7756), telephone (860-945-7777), or U.S. Mail (110 Woodbury Road, Watertown, CT 06795-2100). So let’s hear from you! Visit Taft on the Web to find the latest news, sports schedules, or to locate a classmate’s e-mail address: www.TaftSchool.org or www.TaftSports.com. The password to access alumni or faculty e-mail addresses—or to add your own—is

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From the Editor

Letters

By now you’ve received the letter announcing Lance Odden’s retirement in June after 29 years as headmaster and 40 years at the school. He and Patsy have left their marks at Taft in innumerable ways, and yet, in the spring issue of the Bulletin we will attempt to describe what their leadership has meant to our community. I welcome your thoughts and recollections for this special tribute. Meanwhile, I would like to draw your attention to some of the highlights of the current issue. One of the benefits of printing the Bulletin completely in color now is that it finally allows us to portray the work of artists and photographers, such as Todd Gipstein ’70. I have long been familiar with his work as a student in early Taft Bulletins and was thrilled earlier this year when Todd agreed to write about his work with the National Geographic Society and to share some of his favorite images. What a wonderful treat it is to be able to share them with you. Of course all of the features in this issue are well served by printing them in color, from Peter Frew’s sabbatical photos in Spain to Chris Shaw’s breathtaking images on K2. I’ll admit that a great deal of serendipity goes into finding interesting articles for the Bulletin, but this summer saw one of the more unusual turns of events. Chris Shaw, who returned to campus in May for his 20th Reunion, left only a few days later for Pakistan. As a classmate of my husband’s, he was at our house for a while after the barbecue, but not a whisper about the upcoming climb. (He says he was so excited he thought he was only keeping it to a dull roar.) Two months later, faculty member Ted Heavenrich tells me he’s been getting e-mails from Chris at Base Camp and asks if I think they’d make a good article. Little did I know my husband had been getting the same e-mails the whole time! The experiences of these alumni are unusual; not many of us climb 8,000-meter peaks, shoot photographs from the mast of a racing sailboat, or pack up our families and move to Spain for a year, but I think you’ll agree the chance to live vicariously for a few minutes is well worth the time. Enjoy!

Older Than They Look

—Julie Reiff We welcome Letters to the Editor relating to the content of the magazine. Letters may be edited for length, clarity, and content, and are published at the editor’s discretion. Send correspondence to: Julie Reiff, Editor • Taft Bulletin 110 Woodbury Road Watertown, CT 06795-210 or to ReiffJ@TaftSchool.org

The football team being looked over by Al Fusonie on page 35 [of the summer issue] is way ahead of your estimate of the late ’40s. It is the undefeated, untied team of 1935. The second guy in the front line is Bob Clarke, and the third guy is Phil Weston. Phil was in the Class of ’36 with me. Sadly he was killed as a pilot cadet in the U.S. Army Air Corps. I was a cadet, too, at the time he was killed, but I was at a different school. My bet is that others of the nine pictured can be identified. —John A. Vanderpoel ’36

Almost Famous The “Before They Were Famous” photo of my classmate Peter Berg on page 22 [summer] caught my attention. I’m 99 percent certain the blond boy behind him is John Connolly ’79 and the boy behind him is Andrew Plant ’80. Just passing it along. —Jim Ramsey ’80

A Teacher, Too On Alumni Day, Charles A. Coit—who was listed only as a member of the Class of ’35 in the program at the Memorial Service—was mourned not just by his classmates but by all who knew him as coach and French teacher from 1939 until he was called into military service. With his infectious smile and informal manner, he made the intricacies of French grammar something I actually looked forward to and his classroom one I entered without the fear of cold disapproval or scathing remarks. I remember once coming to class without having read the latest episode in Phileas Fogg’s 80-day trip and being asked, along with the others, to write an account of what the intrepid traveler had done. Knowing only that he was somewhere in the wild West, I placed him aboard John Ford’s Stagecoach and had him shooting Apaches with the best of them. Charlie, on seeing my effort, roared with laughter and read it aloud to the class. They joined in the laughter and, inexplicably, so did I, for he had the ability to criticize a student’s work without humiliating him. This was a gift not shared by all my masters. —Ted Mason ’43

Faculty Friend or Foe I read with much interest Barclay Johnson’s comments in the summer issue. I came to Taft as a mid

in the summer (that’s right) of 1963, and I remember the school much differently. I had all the interaction with masters that I wanted, or could stand. They were everywhere you looked—on your corridor, at your meal table morning, noon, and night, in your classes, on the sports fields, even on the squash courts. About the only refuge was when you got away to Watertown. Even there, I was always running into masters or their wives. You were almost forced into conversation, and I realized sometime later that it was this constant proximity that forced you to get to know masters as people. I never had the feeling that masters were aloof or not available. I even remember once when I was a resident on Barclay’s floor, that he came into my room at about 5 a.m. I was reading Browning for class, and he smiled with a wink as he noticed me sipping coffee from my very illegal percolator and listening to tunes on my equally illegal transistor radio. He said something like: “I think we need a little discretion in our enforcement of some of the corridor rules” and that was that. And I’ll never forget that Tom Cherry and I were permitted to pack shotguns around the countryside during grouse season instead of doing “real” sports each afternoon. Can you imagine that happening today? Are kids less trustworthy today than we were, or are we just more politically correct? I do agree with one thing Barc said. Those forced mixers with St. Margaret’s and other girls’ schools were awful for everyone. More than any other thing, I’m sure that life at Taft has been enriched by the presence of girls. —Bob Bloch ’65

Revisionist History All of us see things differently, but Barclay Johnson’s memories in his “Spirit of Learning” remarks to the Class of 2000 are so unlike mine, I must respond. The Taft of the Cruikshank years was formal as were all other boys’ schools. Contrasting it with the informality of today in schools—as well as in the rest of our society—is not fair. Times change. In relating his memories over decades at Taft, he almost totally skips and actually distorts one of the most tumultuous and yet productive decades in Taft’s history. John Esty, a friend whom I admire and respect, was headmaster from 1963–72. While Johnson suggests that Cruikshank took the first risk of his life by hiring him, I would say that was no risk at all compared to the one he took when he turned over the reins to Esty. John was attuned to greater informality and to giving the student more freedom thereby better preparing him for college days ahead. Cruikshank recognized those needs and, importantly and to his credit, understood that Esty was going to manage quite differently. Taft has prospered and matured since the Cruikshank/Esty eras. The Odden era boasts yet continued on page 50

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In Memoriam

Camille Vickers

Donald F. McCullough ’42 It is an honor to be asked to speak about Don and to share our love and sympathy with Lulu, Greg, Nina, Sally, Tracey, and the great McCullough family. Simply put, it is impossible to believe that Don McCullough is no longer here. It is as if a force of nature has been extinguished. His energy, his enthusiasm for life, and his convictions about everything surpassed those of any man I have every known. Where once there was a personal whirlwind, a tornado, now there is only silence; but we have our memories, our own stories Former Chairman of the Board Don McCullough ’42 with his that we will cherish forever, Patsy and Lance Odden and Don’s legacies are the making of legends. lacrosse and was undefeated in his years as a member I saw Don two weeks ago just before he was of the varsity wrestling team. He made the Sheffield struck down for the last time. His physical frailty Honor Society in his senior year, much to the delight was undeniable, but his mind and spirit were as of his old headmaster. By nineteen, he was an honors if he had a common cold. Typically, we were not graduate of Yale University and proudly called to allowed to dwell on him but on Taft, the future, duty as an officer in the United States Navy, serving and our plans to play golf together in Lyford Cay. his country in World War II. After the war, Don To the very end, his energy and spirit radiated. barely had time to adjust to civilian life before he was For a moment, let us go back to Don’s youth. In called back to the bridge in the Korean War, where the words of his headmaster at Brunswick, written he served for two and a half years as an officer on to the headmaster of Taft in 1936, “Don is healthy destroyer duty. His years at Taft, Yale, and as a naval and very, very, active. He has good marks and has officer forged the man we would know so well. Whether he was balancing the budget or bringdisplayed evidence of leadership. He is extremely fond of his brother, Bob, and patterns himself after ing the Wildcat into the pier, Don was precise him as much as possible. Since Bob is determined and always in command. Whether he was facing perilous conditions on to enter the Naval Academy, Don wishes to do the same thing. However, their parents hope that Bob the seas, his own mortality, or the early fears of war, and Don will ultimately decide to enter a civilian he was a man of certain courage. He did not blink. Whatever the venue, whether it was a wrescollege, for example, Yale, Princeton, Brown, or Amherst.” That same application tells us that Don tling match, the high seas, arguing about which McCullough loves sports, particularly football and club was better, or shamelessly negotiating on the sailing in junior yacht club races, and that he is golf course to make up for his lack of practice, fascinated by ships of all kinds and how they work. competition coursed through Don’s veins. He His curiosity was endless. The boy of twelve would rarely lost and never admitted it. Whether it was Stoneleigh-Burnham, the Girls’ become the man we knew, and quite quickly. Five years later, Paul Cruikshank, Taft’s headmas- and Boys’ Clubs of America, Yale University, or ter, wrote to Don’s parents commenting on their Taft, Don McCullough believed in assuring that sixteen-year-old graduate. “This has been Don’s youth get the future they deserved. In fact, he was so finest year at Taft. Scholastically, he has excelled. He proud of his school, so certain of his cause, and such has done a splendid job as a monitor. His leadership an able fundraiser, that Lulu told me that crowds is of the right kind, and he has done a good job for the would part like the Red Sea at a cocktail party when school and for himself. Yale will not be easy, but if he they saw Don coming, fearing he was going to put the “arm on them” for Taft yet one more time. No devotes himself to it, he will do well.” And so he did. He played varsity football and one was a better fund raiser.

While he was a demanding boss, he was loved by his employees at Collins and Aikman, where for years after his retirement they would say, “If only Mr. Mac would come back, he would straighten this out.” To the boys on the Wildcat or the team in Lyford, to the group in Greenwich, to the great Nantucket Gang, Don McCullough was loved by all who worked for him, in large part because he so respected and loved them. They all knew what it meant when they heard that Mr. Mac was coming to “kick the tires;” they also knew what it meant to be wife, Lulu, and there at the end of a party when so often there would be one last round and the best stories would be told. Don would be unhappy if I didn’t highlight his way with women. They loved his tall, handsome looks, his style, and he lifted their spirits with a genuine interest in them and more than a little flirtation. He was a great ladies man, but he was also absolutely devoted to his beloved Lulu, his best friend, and the one person able to command his complete attention. I want to end by talking about the visionary leader, which he was whether leading C&A or Taft. He created successes beyond anyone’s greatest hopes. He was never afraid to make a decision and was contemptuous of discursive discussion by people afraid to move ahead. Enough said, he would utter. Let’s get it done. Action was his watchword. And so, Don built C&A into a billion dollar corporation and raised Taft’s endowment from $30 to $130 million, while entirely rebuilding our campus. He returned our school to a place of pride equal to Horace Taft’s days. James McGregor Burns, one of the most insightful scholars of presidential leadership, wrote, “Most leaders manage, but great ones transform their organizations.” Don McCullough was such a leader. He transformed his company, his school, and in one way or another, each of us here. Perhaps this was destined to be, for in his senior yearbook it was written, “Great has been his popularity, great has been his activity, and you can be sure he will so continue at Yale and throughout life.” And so he did by transforming organizations, by touching the lives of each of us here, and by making the world a better place for us all. The tornado is still, but his successes and our memories endure forever. —Eulogy delivered on October 3, 2000, by Lance Odden at Donald F. McCullough’s memorial service. Taft Bulletin

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ALUMNI IN THE NEWS

Alumni IN THE NEWS

Hagelin Favored by Perot While Republicans and Democrats convened over the summer to rubber-stamp their candidates in the presidential election, the Reform Party split into two camps— one supporting Pat Buchanan and the other hoping to nominate Third Party Coalition candidate John Hagelin ’72. Despite a walkout at the convention by a number of delegates who felt Buchanan’s tactics were less than ethical, Buchanan won out, making it onto most state ballots on the Reform Party ticket. The Federal Election Commission eventually recognized Buchanan as the party’s official candidate, awarding him the $12.6 million in campaign funds to which the Reform Party is entitled because of Ross Perot’s 8 percent share of the electorate in the last presidential election. Hagelin pointed out that the FEC decision went against the wishes of party

John Hagelin ’72

founder Ross Perot, who filed an affidavit siding with Mr. Hagelin as “the only proper candidate to receive public funding based

on the votes I received in the 1996 election.’’ Still, Hagelin received much more media attention this year than in both of his previous campaigns combined. He ran on the Natural Law Party ticket in 1992 and 1996. Hagelin was still on the ballot in 42 states this year as the Natural Law Party candidate. “Government should be what works,” Hagelin told the Seattle Times, “not what is bought and paid for by political interests.” Prior to his campaign, Hagelin headed the Physics Department and a public policy program at Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa. He received his doctorate in physics from Harvard University. With the election over, he is considering creating a public policy think tank in Washington.

Phish Phrenzy “The Biggest Cult Band in America!” bragged the August 4 cover of Entertainment Weekly, sporting the likeness of Trey Anastasio ’83. Anastasio and his fellow band members have been called Generation X’s answer to the Grateful Dead. Like Jerry Garcia, they, too, even have a flavor of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream named after them: Phish Food. Best-known for their live performances, this band from Vermont has yet to release a hit single, despite grossing over $93 million in concert sales between 1996 and 1999. That may be in no small part because of the openly accepted practice of recording and trading tapes of live concerts. Anastasio doesn’t know how the band got so popular. “It started off with the four of us playing in bars for, like, two people,” he told EW. “People would tell their friends, and it’s somehow grown into this.” Not long after the release its eleventh album, Farmhouse, the band announced it would take a much-needed break. Manager John Paluska told the New York Times that not only was the band exhausted, but they also want time to re-envision their careers in a way that’s consistent with being family men.” Anastasio lives in Vermont with his wife and two daughters.

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Trey Anastasio ’83, one of the new Phab Four covers featuring Phish. Photo by Joseph Cultice.


ALUMNI IN THE NEWS

Alan Klingenstein ’72 gave up a career in finance to enter the movie business, and the gamble paid off as his company’s first feature film beat out 1,600 other submissions to make it to the Sundance Film Festival this year and came away with the festival’s prestigious Audience Award for best drama. The film, Two Family House, was directed by Oscar-nominated Raymond DeFelitta. Michael Rispoli (Summer of Sam) stars as Buddy Visalo, a failed singerturned-factory worker who lives on New York’s Staten Island. In his latest moneymaking scheme, Visalo buys a duplex so he can convert the ground floor into a bar where he can perform. But he also inherits a pregnant woman and her abusive, alcoholic husband who live upstairs.

“I can’t tell you what it feels like to have 500 people stand up and applaud your work,” Al says. The film received another coveted prize for independent film producers: distribution. Lions Gate paid Al’s production company, Filbert Steps, an undisclosed sum for the drama in exchange for worldwide rights. Filbert Steps also received an offer from USA Films. “As long as people keep letting me do this,” Al says of his new career, “it sure beats being a lawyer or a banker.” Trained as both—he has a law degree and an MBA from Cornell—Al traded in 12 years of number crunching “to do something more fulfilling.” His film career began in 1996, when he produced the half-hour documentary “The Church of Saint Coltrane” with friend and former NBC Dateline producer Jeff Swimmer. The short film won awards at seven film festivals and was ultimately picked up and aired on Bravo and cable outlets in Europe and Asia. In the meantime, to pay the rent, Al moonlighted on a project-by-project basis at the investment firm Kohlberg & Company with longtime friend Jim Kohlberg. It was here that Al and Jim decided to form a production company, and named it after the Filbert Steps on the eastern end of Telegraph Hill, San Francisco, where each of them had previously lived. Filbert Steps Productions was formed in 1998 to

Kathy Klingenstein

Audiences Love It

Former financier Al Klingenstein ’72 now happily produces movies.

produce low-budget independent feature films. “Unlike most companies who call themselves ‘independent,’ our company is in a rare position when it comes to financing: We bring our own sources of capital and private equity, through long-standing connections on Wall Street and in the financial community, to our projects. Our focus is on well-told stories of any genre with heart, wit, and style,” Al says. “We simply want to make films with good stories that we’d like to see.” Two Family House, a 104-minute drama, also screened at the Boston Film Festival in August, the Toronto International Film Festival in September, and the Floating Film Festival. Al hopes to hold a special screening in Bingham Auditorium this winter. For more information on the film, or Al’s company, visit www.filbertsteps.com.

Winner of the Sundance Film Festival’s Audience Award, Two Family House is a drama about a 1950s factory worker and his latest dream.

Taft Bulletin

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ALUMNI IN THE NEWS

Timely Editing The Virginia Quarterly Review celebrated three-quarters of a century this spring with the release of an anthology, We Write for Our Own Time: Selected Essays From 75 Years of the Virginia Quarterly Review, edited by Alexander Burnham ’45. Longtime VQR editor Staige D. Blackford says he had long thought of putting together a collection but lacked the time to do so. When Burnham—who had published essays in the VQR—approached him with the same idea, he pounced. The VQR has published pieces by the 20th-century’s leading lights— D. H. Lawrence, Andre Gidé, Aldous Huxley, Jean-Paul Sartre, Katherine Anne Porter, and C. Vann Woodward, to name just a few. Its selections appear frequently in the annual Best American Short Stories, Best American Poetry, and Best American Essays series. Considered by some to be The New Yorker’s quieter country cousin, the VQR published articles supporting civil rights for black people as early as 1925. It was also one of the first national journals with

a woman at the helm: Charlotte Kohler, who edited it from 1942 to 1975, and published many of the writers now known for leading the Southern Renaissance. In the anthology’s introduction, Burnham takes a swipe at certain unnamed contemporary publications for “their slavish attention to the notorious” and lauds the VQR’s refusal to be impressed by “mere celebrity.” The title comes from a VQR essay by Sartre reflecting on art and immortality. “It’s the perfect title,” says Burnham, because all the authors— from Thomas Mann writing about the rise of Nazism to Frances Mayes remembering her years as a student— “were writing for their time.” That’s not to say their essays were ephemeral. In fact, Burnham decided to omit pieces by Dean Acheson and Adlai Stevenson that he thought were too much “of the moment.” A former New York Times reporter, Burnham lives in Sharon, Connecticut, with his wife, Joan.

Source: Geoffrey Maslen and Jennifer K. Ruark, The Chronicle of Higher Education

Kerney Helping Kids Atlanta Falcons defensive end Patrick Kerney ’95 [see summer ’99] has established two endowment funds for dependent children of slain law enforcement officers. The funds are in memory of his only brother, Lt. Thomas L. Kerney, who was killed in the line of duty on December 15, 1988, in Leesville, South Carolina. Speaking to an audience of several hundred children who had lost parents in the line of duty, at the opening of National Police Week in Washington, DC, Kerney described the special relationship he had with his brother even though there was a 14-year age difference between them. He told how his late brother inspired him to succeed in

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the classroom and on the playing field, as well as his desire to be involved with community children. Like his audience, Kerney is a member of Concerns of Police Survivors (COPS), and spent the day touring the FBI Academy with the children. One of the two funds he is creating will go toward college scholarships for COPS children. The other will help defray transportation costs to COPS Kids summer camp in the Ozarks for children who need professional counseling to help adjust to the loss of a law enforcement parent or sibling. In addition to a discretionary amount, Kerney will donate $500 per sack of an opposing quarterback during his professional ca-

Patrick Kerney ’95 visits with COPS Kids at the opening of National Police Week in Washington, DC.

reer, plus $5,000 for any year he has 10 or more sacks and will match up to $5,000 in scholarship donations. To learn more about COPS, visit their Website at www.nationalcops.org or e-mail kerney97@aol.com.


ALUMNI IN THE NEWS

Charitable Contributions

Sevanne on Stage Sevanne Kassarjian ’87, known professionally as Sevanne Martin, spent the summer performing with the Peterborough Players in Peterborough, NH. What was special about this summer, her fifth with the company, is that they performed Thorton Wilder’s Our Town, written about the town of Peterborough while Wilder was at the nearby renowned MacDowell Artists Colony. Vanni, as “Emily,” played alongside Emmy-Award-winner James Whitmore and Mary Beth Hurt. After five years teaching and acting in New York, Vanni moved to Los Angeles this fall “to pursue her career there even in the extra-dubious environment of the actors’ union strikes.” Her husband, Paul Griffin, runs a nonprofit organization called City at Peace. The subject of a recent HBO documentary, the group works with teenagers using the performing arts to teach conflict resolution, violence prevention, and leadership skills. Vanni’s classmate Garrett Wyman ’87 is now on the group’s national board of directors.

Deb Porter-Hayes

Planned Parenthood Association of the Mercer area in Trenton, New Jersey, recently presented Edgar M. Buttenheim ’40 with its distinguished Sanger Circle Award. The award is presented to individuals who have made significant contributions to the advancement of Planned Parenthood’s mission and acknowledges outstanding loyalty and generous support. Geg Buttenheim is a long-standing member of the organization’s Board of Trustees, having served as both board president and chairman of the agency’s enormously successful $3.2 million Campaign for the Future. Geg and his wife, Elizabeth, also a longtime supporter of Planned Parenthood, live in Princeton.

Sevanne Martin ’87, center, with James Whitmore and Kraig Swartz in Thornton Wilder’s Our Town. Taft Bulletin

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pond Poole Fellowships One of the most prestigious awards at Taft isn’t given out at graduation; it isn’t even limited to seniors. A Poole Fellowship is travel grant money awarded each spring to help students fund service projects around the globe over their summer vacations. The fellowships are named for Bob Poole ’50, who returned to Taft to teach history and make a name for himself coaching football before embarking on a lifelong career of service, first with the Peace Corps and later with the African Wildlife Federation. His legacy of serving others lives on.

ters, painted schools, refurbished a community center, and cleaned beaches. “I was there for a month,” says Kirk, “and the best part was the remodeling of a community center in the capital city, Castries, where we also got to work with kids our age.”

Karen Kwok ’01 went to Tibetan regions of China, where she served as an EnglishMandarin interpreter for Americans doing charity work there. As an interpreter, she spent four weeks visiting a Tibetan hospital, a boarding school, a monastery, a factory for processing yak wool, an elderly home, a few nomads’ Dennis Liu ’02, second from left, travels with his group up into the tents, and sat in on meetings mountains of Costa Rica. with town officials. (See photo on back cover.) Dennis Liu ’02 spent a month “My best moment,” Karen says, in Palmares, Costa Rica. “We did all sorts camera along and presented a movie of “was probably at the elderly home. of community service,” he says, “painting his trip at School Meeting this fall. They were incredibly friendly and classrooms and houses.” Work was also done individually; Dennis took an intern- Kirk Kozel ’01 went to St. Lucia, in the happy to see visitors. One of the ship at a local day-care center with 4- to southern Caribbean. While there he helped women extended the warmest welcome 7-year-olds. Dennis brought his video build a house, worked with day-care cen- by simply looking at me and holding 10

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Admissions at a Glance

Leigh Fisher ’01 and new friends in La Sabila, Dominican Republic.

my hands. We didn’t understand each other because she spoke only Tibetan. She just looked at me, held my hands, and started to chant prayers while the others surrounding us did the same. It made me feel special and appreciated because although they didn’t know me, they still treasured my company.” Leigh Fisher ’01 was in a small town called La Sabila in the Dominican Republic for two months. Although her group did bring in resources to do a home improvement project, they focused on “strengthening the community so that the people there could improve their situation without being dependent on Americans.” They formed a youth group and worked with a mothers’ group as well. “Most importantly,” says Leigh, “we taught the community about basic health issues.” “The people of La Sabila are incredible!” she says. “They are the most generous, caring, and loving people I have ever met. They were certainly the most important part of my trip and what I miss more than anything else.” Dubois Thomas ’02 spent six weeks in Costa Rica, where he volunteered in a youth hostel with the park service. “Making lasting relationships with people in another country and in another language” is what he’ll remember most of his time there.

The school opened this fall with 189 new students who were chosen from the largest applicant pool in Taft history. Also noteworthy is this year’s record yield of 50.4 percent. These numbers represent a steady upward climb. Applications are up 20 percent in fifteen years. Campus visits have increased 116 percent since 1975. In the past year, 4,443 prospective students requested information. Admissions officers conducted 1,700 interviews on campus, and with the help of the Alumni-Parent Network, gave another 200 interviews off campus. This year’s 1,290 applications represent a 6 percent rise over the previous admissions season. The clear message that Taft is a school with the highest of personal and academic standards as well as tremendous heart and tremendous soul accounts for the school’s consistent success in a highly competitive market, says Admissions Director Ferdie Wandelt ’66. “At the end of the day, students choose Taft for the faculty and their unwavering belief in the potential of young people.” Classes of 2001–04 • 552 students: 279 boys, 273 girls; 446 boarding, 106 day • 189 new: 96 boys, 93 girls • Representing 37 states, 25 countries • 19 percent are students of color • 31 percent of students receive a combined $3.1 million in aid

Worldwide Network Admissions Director Ferdie Wandelt ’66, center, and Mr. and Mrs. Darrell Zander P’86, longtime parent representatives in Caracas, pictured with Daniella Gellini ’00, Maria Garci ’99 and her sister Anna ’01, Eduardo Perez ’00, and Pedro Mendoza ’01 at a reception in June. Ferdie interviewed candidates and hosted a dinner for Taft families in Venezuela. Taft students upheld a tradition in Hong Kong over the summer as they welcomed new Tafties at a dinner hosted annually by longtime parent representative Pat Chow P’93,’95,’00. Seated from left, Annabelle Razack ’02, Hilary Hung ’03, Iris Chow ’02, Natalie Ie ’02, Florence Ng ’01. Back row, Cyrus Wen ’04, Arthur Lam ’03, Nick Kotewall ’01, Vincent Ng ’01, Jason Chen ’02, and Brian Cheng ’01.

Addition: The Alumni Offspring list published in the summer issue neglected to include Henry Ludeke 1900 as the great-grandfather of Ilan S. McKenna ’02 in addition to her grandfather, Benjamin E. Cole ’36. Taft Bulletin

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AROUND THE POND

New Faculty 2000–01

Erik V. Berg, Physics, University of Notre Dame, BA Claudia J. Black, Art, Parsons School of Design/ Bank Street, MA Sheila M. Boyd, History, UPenn, BA Brett M. Carroll, Assistant Business Manager, UConn, BS Loueta K. Chickadaunce, Art, Yale, MFA Thibault De Chazal, Teaching Fellow–French/ Economics, University of Virginia, BA Katherine B. Fritz, College Counseling, Boston College, MA Thomas J. Fritz, Upper Middler Dean/History, University of Virginia, M.Ed Pauline E. Goolkasian, Learning Center, Loyola College of Maryland, MEd Tyler Hardy, Teaching Fellow–History, Duke, BA Gregory B. Hawes ’85, History, The American Film Institute, MFA Paul J. Henley, Teaching Fellow–Technology Support/Math, University of Chicago, BS William H. Hinrichs, Spanish, Princeton, AB

David H. Kim, Chemistry, Johns Hopkins University, BS Christine Lalande, French, York University (Canada), BA* Anthony P. Lambert, Spanish, Middlebury, MA Lauren G. Lambert, English, Middlebury, MA Jim J. Lehner, Physics, University of New Haven, MS Jessica Matzkin ’90, Spanish, University of Wyoming, MA* Camilla Moore, Carpenter Teaching Fellow– Mathematics, Bates, BA Mark R. Novom, English, Yale, MFA

Timothy Palombo, Mailliard Teaching Fellow– Physics/Math, Wesleyan University, BA Peter L. Press, Library Director, University of Wisconsin, MLS Rachael Hawes Ryan, History, Georgetown, BA Jo-Ann E. Schieffelin, Art, Southern CT State University, BA Thomas J. Thompson, Music, University of Illinois, MM Russell F. Wasden, Japanese, University of Washington, MA *Fall term only

Laura Harrington

A record number of new faculty took their posts this fall, among them a few familiar faces. Brett Carroll and Jo-Ann Schieffelin, who have worked at Taft for a while, were promoted to faculty positions. Loueta Chickadaunce returns (see below), and Greg Hawes ’85 came back to experience Taft from the other side of the desk.

A Familiar Face

Campus Projects

There’s continuity in Potter’s art room this year. Loueta Chickadaunce returned to Taft this fall, having served on the faculty for three years in the early ’80s. She was hired then to cover Gail Wynne’s sabbatical after receiving an MFA from Yale in 1979 and “stayed on for a bit.” While here, she not only worked with the late Mark Potter ’48, but she also taught outgoing art instructor Jenny Glenn Wuerker ’83, who’d been holding down the easels since Mark’s death. This time, Lou reigns over the painting studio (the old study hall) instead of the art room. Claudia Black was hired to replace Gail Wynne, who retired in June. Before returning to Taft, Lou spent 12 years as the Visual Art Department chair at the Santa Catalina School in Monterey, California, and four years as the Art Department chair at Forsyth Country Day School in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

The school completed an ambitious wiring project over the summer, installing state-of-the-art fire alarms, phones, and data connections in every student room, as well as a new school-wide database. Students were thrilled to have phones in their dorm rooms for the first time, and slightly less thrilled to discover that all but 911 service is turned off at 10:30 p.m. More visible are the new Mark Potter ’48 Gallery, the new dance studio located in the old Black squash courts, and the still-to-be-completed ice hockey rink. The construction of the rink also called for extensive renovations to the Cruikshank Athletic Center, to which it is attached. The new rink should be ready early in the hockey season.

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AROUND THE POND

Character Training

New Chairs

Dr. Eli Newberger of Boston Children’s Hospital, author of The Men They Will Become: The Nature and Nurture of Male Character, addressed the faculty at the opening meetings this fall. He highlighted what he calls the “five essential elements” for developing character in boys. Each boy, he said, needs at least one adult in his life who is crazy about him; boys need a vocabulary to express a full range of emotions; they should learn through inductive discipline—which starts with the assumption of a loving, caring relationship between adult and child; boys need protection from exposure to violence, and finally boys need to have “opportunities to give back.” Dr. Newberger applauded Horace Taft in his selection of a motto for his school, noting its “transformation power” that can “change one’s sense of self.”

Last year, the 1999–2000 Current Parents’ Fund, led by Joan and John Goodwin P’00, lifted the levels of parent giving at Taft to extraordinary new heights. Ninety-four percent of the school’s current parent body participated, raising a recordbreaking $1,010,447 for the Annual Fund! The success of last year’s ParNew Parents’ Fund Chairmen Carol and Will Browne ents’ Fund could not have P’98,’01 happened without the dedicated efforts of the Goodwins, the Parents’ Committee, and the hundreds of parents who have given so much, in so many ways, to this great school. Joan and John Goodwin have handed over the reins to Carol and Will Browne, members of the Parents’ Committee for the past five years and parents of Alex ’98 and David ’01.

Excelling at APs Taft students had another record-breaking year on the College Board’s Advanced Placement exams. Three-quarters of the Class of 2000 took one or more exams, for a record total of 422 exams taken. Ninety-three percent scored 3 or above (traditionally the standard grade to receive advanced placement in that subject in college). Despite the heavy number of students writing exams, the average increased to 4.1 on a 5-point scale.

Mind-Body Connection Lowermid biology students are involved this fall in a study with the Mind/Body Institute at Harvard University as part of the Lowermid Biology curriculum. “The study will give our students a unique opportunity to learn the techniques of the scientific method,” says Science Department Head Laura Erickson, “while actually participating as subjects of a real study.” The project, directed by Dr. Gloria Deckro looks at the effect of relaxation techniques on memory and learning.

The Alumni Office extends sincere apologies to the following alumni/ae and their spouses who were inadvertently excluded from the 1999-2000 Current Parent Donor Report: Robin and Michael Aleksinas ’72, P’02, ’02 Joyce and Bruce Alspach ’71, P’01,’03 Melanie and Bob Barry ’59, P’96 Claudia and Richard Bell ’71, P’03 Annie and Chad Bessette ’74, P’02 Jody and Art Blake ’67, P’02 Ellen and Kirk Blanchard ’68, P’97,’00 Mimi and George Boggs ’65, P’02 Donna and Gordon Calder, Jr. ’65, P’03 Mary Alice and Hank Candler ’54, P’00 Joan and Ed Cavazuti ’70, P’02 Lisa and David Gillespie ’60, P’02 Ann and Clark Griffith ’68, P’01 Harriette and John Gussenhoven ’65, P’02 Megan and Ti Hack, Jr. ’65, P’96,’03 Penny and Rob Jennings ’67, P’02 Laura Gieg Kell ’73, P’02 David Killam ’70, P’98 Robby and Jeff Levy ’65, P’01 Sue and Bill Morris, Jr. ’69, P’97,’99,’02

Susan and Fred Nagle ’62, P’00 Cassandra Pan ’77, P’01 Joni and Carlisle Peet III ’70, P’00 Neil Peterson III ’61, P’03 Carol and Joe Petrelli, Jr. ’56, P’91,’93,’00 John and Jean Strumolo Piacenza ’75, P’00,’01,’04 Christy and Grant Porter ’69, P’00 Mike Powers ’69, P’00 Jocelyn and Peter Rose ’74, P’02,’04 Polly Dammann and Michael Shaheen, Jr. ’58, P’00 Coco and Townsend Shean, Jr. ’66, P’00 Daisy and Jamie Smythe ’70, P’03 Ted and Laney Barroll Stark ’79, P’02 Ann Havemeyer and Tom Strumolo ’70, P’98,’01 Sioe and Mel Thompson, Jr. ’64, P’92,’00 Mary and Dean Tseretopoulos ’72, P’01,’03 Connie and Jim Volling ’72, P’02 Kirstin and Chuck Wardell III ’63, P’97,’01 Cindi and Chris Wardell ’69, P’03 Hildy and Jack Wold ’71, P’02

Sincere apologies also go to the following alumni/ae who have been loyal and generous donors to Taft. The star representing five or more years of Annual Fund giving was inadvertently left off their names in the 1999–2000 Donor Recognition Report: Edward C. Armbrecht, Jr. ’50 Daniel B.C. Cote ’74 Sherrard Upham Cote ’73

John H. Denny ’51 Herbert S. Frisbee ’44 Robert D. Gries ’47

Taft Bulletin

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From HDT —By Todd A. Gipstein ’70


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BORA-BORA: I’m in a helicopter swooping over the island of Bora-Bora in the South Pacific. I peer through the camera as we bank on a roller-coaster trajectory. Below me the coral seas are rendered in a spectrum of blues and greens. Ahead, the mountain peaks of the island loom against the tropical sky. I try to keep the horizon straight as I frame my shots

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It’s a typical day at the office for me. A long way from shooting for The Papyrus back at Taft 30 years ago. And yet, not so very far away at all. For I am still pursuing a passion I was lucky to discover early—a passion that was nurtured and allowed to blossom at Taft. It’s a passion for exploring the world around me, interpreting it with camera and words, and sharing my viewpoint with others. My photography for The Papyrus, The Annual, and for an ISP project provided me with a miniature, self-contained world to explore and experience and document. It taught me how to work on deadline. In my four years at Taft, I nurtured a hobby that would become a way of life. Eventually, it became a profession that would take me around the world and create a richness of experiences impossible to describe. Along with my photography, all those essays I wrote, especially in Mr. Lovelace’s English classes, proved to be invaluable experience. I discovered I liked to write and had a knack for it. And when I later evolved into a producer, I was able to write my own scripts as well as take my own pictures. This is unique in my business. It gives my work a strong personal viewpoint, and allows me to manage a powerful harmony between words and images. I create in a variety of media. Mostly large-scale audiovisual presentations using multiple projectors synchronized to lavish sound tracks. These slide shows use the extraordinary power of still images to convey their messages. I also create videos and, nowadays, DVDs. All of it involves writing, interviewing, selecting and editing music, working with composers, directing the sound-track editing and con-

Bora-Bora

through the shake, rattle, and roll of

the copter. I’m concentrating on taking my pictures, yet at the same time stunned by the beauty of the scene and the thrill of the moment.

struction, creating computer graphics, and the final work of editing and coordinating the sound and the images. It’s a very interesting blend of highly technical and very creative work. What I have learned is that photographers are explorers and the camera is our compass. It’s the tool we use to navigate toward and through experiences. It is a magical machine that lets us capture dramas of life—both large and small—in a little black box. Later, (Opposite) Kids (Suva, Fiji) We didn’t speak each other’s language very well. But we didn’t have to. Smiles, a hand on the shoulder, and sometimes a magic trick. I have found I can interact with people almost anywhere. It’s my body language, my facial expressions, the aura I project that will either invite or stifle interactions. As a photographer, you learn that shooting is a kind of performance. Almost a dance. With a stranger. Taft Bulletin

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Oia Cubism (Santorini, Greece) The architecture of the small town of Oia, on the Greek island of Santorini, is a color jumble of planes and angles. Walking around, I feel as if I am in a cubist painting and take a picture that tries to capture this feeling.

Vendor (St. Lucia, Caribbean) He rows out, hoping to sell us fruit. He waits as we make our boat secure. I look at him and wonder how many boats he’s greeted, how hard he’s worked to gather his fruit, how long his day will be hawking his wares under the relentless searing sun. When you take someone’s picture, you connect to them. Even if it’s only for an instant. I wonder about the people I photograph. Though I do not know their names, I will never forget their faces. 16

Fall 2000


we share the images with others so they can experience some of it for themselves. Photography is not something you do; it’s something you are—a way of looking at the world. For 35 years my work has made me look closely at my world, and at worlds I might otherwise never have seen. It’s a gift, one I try to share. And so, over the course of my career, I’ve shot on the tops of mountains, in rain forests, deserts, and the bottom of the sea.

What I have learned is that photographers are explorers and the camera is our compass. It’s the tool we use to navigate toward and through experiences. It is a magical machine that lets us capture dramas of life—both large and small—in a little black box. I’ve photographed from everything that can possibly be airborne, from a hot-air balloon to a glider, from helicopters to jets. I’ve photographed newborns and a 100-year-old survivor of the Titanic. I’ve shot at the World Series, the Boston Marathon, the Kentucky Derby, and aboard an America’s Cup yacht in New Zealand. I’ve shot fashion and fantasy, entire islands, and the world inside a single flower. I’ve shot when it was 20 degrees below zero and a withering 110 above. I’ve photographed politicians campaigning, Greek villagers sacrificing a bull, fire dancers, Chinese opera, Earth Day, and Pilgrims cooking a goose. Just a few years ago, within just nine months, I took pictures on the Great Wall of China, the Parthenon, and Machu

Shadow and Light (Taft School, Watertown) I shot this portrait of my Taft classmate Richard Tietjen in 1968, and I still have a print of it at home. It taught me a lot about minimalism and simplicity. About how just a few strokes of light could make a picture and evoke a mood. I try to make most of my pictures visual haiku.

Imitators (Venice, Italy) One of the joys of being a photographer is that you notice the little dramas and ironies of life. In Venice, in the shadow of so many picturesque places, I find a common cat sitting by the statue of a lion and wonder: Is the statue imitating the real cat, or does the cat have delusions of grandeur? Taft Bulletin

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Picchu. To get the best viewpoint, I’ve had myself hoisted up the masts of ships, ridden on the back of subways and horses, rappeled down hills, scuba dived at night, and stood on a friend’s shoulders. I’ve been threatened by a gorilla, charged by an angry bull, menaced by barracudas, mugged, and pelted with fruit. I’ve taken photos of famous people and unknowns, shot in rat-infested back alleys and aboard Air Force Two. I’ve sat at Napoleon’s desk and on a Chinese

The deal is that we are ambassadors, that we are the eyes and ears and minds and hearts of others, and that we must share what we have experienced and absorbed.

Storm (Machu Picchu, Peru) It was the end of the day at the legendary lost Inca city of Machu Picchu. The sunny day had given way to a violent storm that came ripping through the Andes, lightning and thunder cracking and echoing through the valleys and the ruins. It felt like the ancient gods were returning to the mystical city, and I was spellbound by the moment.

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emperor’s throne. I’ve photographed a mummy being unwrapped, lambs being born, and buildings being blown up. My work as a documentary producer has also taken me out from behind the camera and put me across the table from innumerable people to interview. I’ve been privileged to meet some extraordinary explorers, adventurers, photographers, athletes, artists, politicians, scientists and entertainers. I have had the chance to probe their minds and hearts.


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Though I have been given privileged access and opportunities, with them comes the responsibility of sharing the experiences with others. That is the role of a photographer or journalist. We don’t get paid to have neat experiences just for the fun of it. The deal is that we are ambassadors, that we are the eyes and ears and minds and hearts of others, and that we must share what we have experienced and absorbed. Over the years, I have evolved my own style of photography and shows.

I’m not really a journalist. I don’t shoot news. I think of myself, both behind the camera and as a producer, as a poet. I interpret what I experience on my travels, and often try to boil it down to a symbolic abstraction. The idea of something—its essence. I like my pictures simple and lyrical, with a strong graphic composition. Often there is a sense of mystery to my work. I hope it invites people to think. To wonder. To smile. To see a piece of

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life they might never have seen, or see it in a new way. I want to make them feel like they’ve been there. It’s been a great career. It’s been a perfect life for a guy like me. For someone who is curious, adventurous, artistic, and loves travel, my work has been an open ticket to the whole world. No two weeks have been alike, and I’ve loved it all. I’ve seen a lot. I hope I’ve gotten some of it on film and shared it. I hope I’ve opened a few eyes and touched a few hearts.

Survivor (Southampton, England) I met Edith Haisman when she was 100 years old. She was a survivor of the sinking of the Titanic. As he placed her in a lifeboat, her father told her not to worry, that he’d see her again. But he went down with the ship. Eighty-five years later, salvagers found his pocket watch on the ocean floor and returned it to her. At long last, father and daughter were reunited, as he’d promised. In shooting the picture, I decided to focus on the essence of the moment: her aged hands clutching the frame with the watch—her link to her lost father.

Friends (Shanghai, China) This is a picture that means a lot to me, even though it’s just a snapshot. Traveling with my dad in China in 1979, we spent a day in the company of a guide, a Mr. Lee. As we toured Shanghai, my dad and Mr. Lee hit it off. At day’s end, as I boarded our bus, they asked me to snap their picture. The smiles and handshakes are genuine. It’s a picture of hope. A reminder that we can look at strangers not as potential enemies but as possible friends.

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Boy (Cuzco, Peru) In the mountains outside of Cuzco, Peru, I encounter a family. The little boy stares at me. The picture captures the intensity of his glare. It’s interesting how people respond to the camera. Sometimes, they seem to look at the lens as if it’s a mirror. Sometimes for a second, their souls are revealed and captured on film.

Nocturne (Peter Island, Caribbean) I trek to a high point on Peter Island and watch as a distant sailboat makes its way toward shelter for the night. As a sailor, I know how it feels to find a quiet place to anchor after a day of sailing. I photograph a scene of suspended tranquillity. The clouds seem to imitate the land in shape and hue as the day winds down and night slowly creeps across the Caribbean. 20

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Different Perspective (Mutianyu, China) Over the years, I’d seen a lot of photographs of the Great Wall of China. Most were similar, including mine from my first visit. When I went there again, I was determined to find a different perspective. Something that would give viewers a feel for actually being on the wall. I crouched in one of the guard towers and composed a picture through the archway. And waited. Finally, someone walked by, and for just one frame, the composition was there. I got that different shot I was after. This picture ended up as a full page in National Geographic magazine.

odd Gipstein is the person responsible for introducing photography to the arts program at Taft. As part of an Independent Study Project, he worked with Gail Wynne, teaching photography to her introductory art students. While at Harvard, Todd studied English, writing, and filmmaking, and first began to experiment in creating multiimage shows. After college, he worked for Time-Life Films in New York, before starting Gipstein Multi-Media Productions. He began working for the National Geographic Society in 1987 and two years later gave up his business to work there full-time. His photographs have appeared in the Society’s magazines, books, and educational products, and his shows have been screened all over the world. Todd has won more than 50 gold awards, more than a dozen grand prizes, several lifetime achievement awards, and was inducted into the Association for Multi-Media International Producers’ Hall of Fame. His photographs are represented by the National Geographic’s Image Collection and by Corbis/ Bettman Archives. The photographs in this article were selected from his work of over 300,000 images. When not traveling for the NGS, Todd lives in Arlington, Virginia. © Todd Gipstein

Todd on Top of the Mast (Tobago Cays, BWI) Sometimes, you have to search for a different perspective. And sometimes, that takes a little daring. In the Caribbean, I had myself hoisted to the top of a ship’s mast. I had an ultra-wide-angle lens on my camera for a panoramic view. I held it out at arms’ length and snapped this selfportrait of yet another day at the office. My Popeye arms are from eating spinach— and carrying camera gear. Taft Bulletin

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On the Asc ent

K

2 has been

a dream for Chris Shaw since he started climbing in

1989, but he says “It’s been firmly on my sched-

ule (as much as these things ever are before your butt’s in the seat and the plane’s in the air) since May 1998, when I climbed Kanchenjunga in Nepal. Gary Pfisterer, who put that trip together, proposed K2 for summer 2000, and I sent him a check as soon as I got back home.” With a few ads in climbing magazines, and a lot of word-of-mouth, they wound up with a team of ten. Everyone had scaled at least one 8000m peak (there are 14 mountains above 8000m in the world), and five had climbed Everest. “All together, we had 23 8000m summits and 44 attempts,” Chris says. “Most important, we had 100 fingers and toes among us—nobody had had any frostbite injuries, despite all of the climbing we had done.”


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Chris Shaw’s expedition was unusual in that they only used porters to get their equipment to Base Camp. After that, members of the expedition hauled their own gear up the mountain without guides, sherpas, or porters. This is no small accomplishment on —

By

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what climbing experts agree is the most formidable of the 8000m Sh

aw

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peaks, more challenging than Everest itself. Although commercial air travel and electronic communication have made the mountain somewhat more accessible,

(Left) Billy Pierson, climbing on the lower slopes of the mountain. The angle of the slope is about average for the ABC to C1 section of the climb. Billy found an old backpack frozen into the ice and exposed by the melting snow. (Top right) K2 as seen from Base Camp. Their route, the Abruzzi Ridge, is the righthand skyline. C2 is just above where the ridge changes from rock to mostly snow. C3 is at the next place along the ridge where the angle eases a bit, and C4 is on the flat shoulder, below the final summit pyramid. The summit is 3600m above BC.

weather and altitude still require patience on the part of the climber. Chris left for Pakistan at the end of May and didn’t return home to Colorado until mid-August. While away, Chris sent regular e-mails to family and friends, recounting his adventure, bringing the mountain that much closer to those of us who will never see it in person. —Editor Taft Bulletin

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Message from BC It’s another sunny, clear, windless day on the glacier—a perfect summit day if ever there was one. It’s even better than yesterday, when four members of a Korean team on the SSE Spur route reached the summit, becoming the first of the season and some of the earliest summitters of K2 ever. We have been in Base Camp for 16 days now, and we’ve had one three-day storm that barely qualified as such. In other seasons, it probably would have been climbing weather, but nobody wanted to set up tents at 6700m (Camp 2) in a storm if they didn’t have to. Nasuh and I climbed up to C1 the day after the storm, carrying heavy loads of personal gear (a week’s worth of food, a couple of gas cylinders for the stove, our down suits, miscellaneous other stuff), supplemented by a 200m coil of rope for fixing the route above C2. The tent, shovel, stoves, and climbing hardware had already been left in a cache at the end of the ropes about 30m below C2.

The Chimney

One of the tents in C2 (6700m) with a view straight down to BC (5000m) on the glacial moraine below. The high peak on the skyline is Masherbrum (K1), at 7821m, another Karakoram giant. 24

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Climbing from Advanced Base Camp to C1 is primarily a steep snow climb, with two short rock scrambles. From C1 to C2, though, there’s a lot more rock, as well as a bit of hard ice, to contend with, ending with House’s Chimney, a 20m high, 1m wide, more-or-less vertical slot that leads to the top of the ridge. I’ve seen pictures of House’s filled with snow, but this year it’s bare rock and blue ice. From the top of the chimney, it’s not much more than walking up a broad snowcovered ridge to get to C2—uphill, of course, but not too steep for a change. For the first time, we could see down to BC— 6000 ft of air! C2 is a tent graveyard. There are nylon tatters, broken poles, gas canisters, old socks—you name it. We found two oxygen bottles from the 1977 Japanese expedition that made the second ascent of the mountain! All carved into a 45-degree snow/ice slope. The old tents make the best platforms for the new ones, and so, like

many before us, we pitched our tent on top of the remnants of at least five others.

The Wait We’ve had a weather-enforced seven-day rest period for the whole team. We just sat here in BC, looking at the gray cloud that used to be K2, playing cards, and trying not to guess when we could climb again. Sentences that started with “It’s getting lighter around Concordia...,” “If only it’s like this tomorrow...,” “Look, there’s the summit, through that hole in the clouds...,” and the like got very old very quickly. Even bad weather ends, and we got back up the hill on 6 July, after letting the route shed its new snow for a day. We wanted to see what shape the route and the camps were in after a week, and hoped to get C3 set up on this push.

On the Hill When I arrived at C1, it was cloudy and a bit blustery with a few flurries, but still pretty calm, and Nasuh agreed that we should plan on going up to C2 the next day, if the weather didn’t get any worse. As it turned out, we didn’t get hammered nearly as badly getting to C2 as the others had the day before. It just shows how different each person’s experience can be, even on the same mountain, in almost the same place, at the same time. Which is not to say that we got off scot-free, either. By the time I reached the Chimney it was snowing pretty steadily, and by the time I got to the top of it, Nasuh’s footprints were completely covered. I was glad that there was a rope for the last 200m to camp, because there wasn’t always enough visibility to get there otherwise. By the time Nasuh and I arrived, it had been snowing for an hour or two, and it didn’t stop until sometime that night. It was the most new snow that we’ve seen on the mountain, even including the long storm that kept us in BC. By morning it had stopped snowing, and there were quite a few clear spots in


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The Team the cloud layer both above and below us (we were at 6700m), so we decided to give C3 a try. Nasuh and I brought along our sleeping bags, mattresses, food, gas and down suits, so that if we did get a tent up, we could stay there. This was the “real” Black Pyramid— what little I’d seen on a push ten days earlier had been just a taste. It’s mostly steep rock, with many awkward steps, and steep snow-covered scree between. If the average angle of the whole route is 45 degrees (so “they” say), then this section must average at least 55. It took us seven hours to climb 450m (vertical) with the ropes already in place, and another two to lead and fix another 150m to the edge of the Shoulder.

Now You See It... We were hoping to establish C3 at 7450m, but for the night we would take whatever we could get. We saw a serac a ways above that looked like it might actually be sheltered. Even though it was farther away than we were hoping for, it was the best place around, and we headed for it. It turned out to be perfect—sheltered from the prevailing wind, and at least 7350m high. We had to find our headlamps to get the tent up, but by 8:30 p.m. we were in our bags and waiting for the water to get hot. Camp 3 on K2 is usually quite exposed to wind—and destruction—and many groups dig snow caves to try to avoid losing their camps. Since we had such a safe spot, Nasuh and I decided to sacrifice 100m of height for safety, and put up the second tent that Andy had cached, and call it C3. It probably won’t hold much more than our two tents, but at least we can be pretty sure of finding them there when we go back up. We then headed back down toward BC.

Try, Try Again On 16 July, I went up to C1 again. The weather looked good in the morning, but four of us spent the windiest night of the trip that

The 2000 International K2 Expedition was one of seven teams on the mountain and the only one unsupported by high altitude porters or the use of bottled oxygen. Chris Shaw ’80 Andy Evans Billy Pierson Andy Collins Nasuh Mahruki Ivan Vallejo Fabrizio Zangrilli Tony Tonsing Hamish Robertson Gary Pfisterer

USA Canada USA UK Turkey Ecuador USA USA Australia USA

night. It’s hard to sleep when it sounds—constantly—as if someone were beating on your tent with bamboo wands. Andy E and I hung on until 2 p.m., but it was useless. Fast-forward—through a lot of grumbling and weather watching—to 21 July, when the weather again looked tempting. Four of us headed for C1, with three more promising to jump all the way to C2 and meet us the next day if the weather held. Joining us were about 23 members and porters from the three other teams. Also joining us that night were wind and snow—lots of it. After a third night of violently shaking tents and drifting snow, only four of us were left in camp. We spent the next morning in somewhat improved conditions trying to decide which way to go. An unfavorable weather report finally sent us back to BC in wind, rain, and snow. Today, we awoke to an almost cloudless sky. The morning winds up high on the ridge were impressive, but they died as the day wore on. By sunset, the whole mountain was practically still. It probably won’t last more than a day or two, but... Andy E and I will leave at first light tomorrow with Billy and head straight for C2. I don’t know what to expect, but my porters arrive on 3 August, so whatever happens, this will be my last shot.

The Push We had planned on making a big push with seven of us from our team to plow through the couple of weeks’ worth of new snow high on the route, but now there were just four of us anywhere on the mountain. The wind had lessened noticeably from the previous two days, but was still strong enough to stagger me with a gust when I made my daily “walk behind a rock.” Finally, at around 11 a.m., Nasuh announced that whatever Andy and I decided, he at least was going down. The day might be climbable from C2 to C3, he argued, but unless the weather got a whole lot better the next day, we would have done it for nothing. A forecast of high winds for the next few days that we got over the radio finally pushed him to make the decision. Andy and I were unconvinced, but with only three people now above BC, we felt that we had little choice beyond following Nasuh down. All the way to BC, Andy and I were wondering if we hadn’t made an incredibly bad choice and worried that we may have just thrown away the closest thing to a chance at the top that we would get. The lousy weather didn’t make us feel any better, but it at least seemed to justify our decision.

Regrets, I’ve Had a Few I woke the next morning to hear Peter, our resident photographer, call out, “Look at it!” It was about 5:30 and there was nothing—no cloud, no snow, no rain, no wind plumes—to look at but K2 in the morning light. It was a perfect summit day, and I was in BC. Andy and I tried to be civil to Nasuh (and there really wasn’t anything to be mad at him for—we’d each made our own call), but all we could think was that we should have been in C3 that morning, not BC. Nasuh, for his part, was as impatient as we were, if not more so. Taft Bulletin

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About K2 ...Now You Don’t Of course, any plan on a mountain like K2 is subject to change without notice, and this time, the change turned out to be pretty dramatic. When Nasuh, leaving a day ahead of me, reached the serac where he and I had put the C3 tents two weeks previously, there was nothing to be found. Anywhere. The only sign that anything had ever been there was a hole in the ice where the ice screw (which had been tied to both tents) had apparently melted out. Either C3 had blown away, or it had been buried. The only solution was to start digging. They dug a couple of trenches, and sank one hole 2.5 meters deep and 1.5 meters in diameter, without finding the slightest trace of anything besides hard, wind-compacted snow. As it was getting late, the three of them turned their attention to shelter for the night, sleeping in a gear tent and using another group’s C3 tent. The loss of our camp meant even more problems, though. Nasuh and I had left our down suits there when we had established the camp, and Ivan had left his there as well when he carried up to C3 the following day. These were gone, and the three of us would have to find alternatives if we wanted to go much higher. We lost 100m of ultralight 6mm rope that was going to be used in and above the Bottleneck on summit day, and a small, light radio that we were going to take to the summit. The food and gas that was lost was almost—but not quite—incidental.

The Eve of It All That night the wind got a bit gusty, but 29 July was yet another clear day, with almost no wind by the time the sun rose. It was a perfect day for the four of us leaving C3. Those ahead of us laid marker wands along the route— sparsely, since we had lost about two-thirds of our wands with the old C3—and some Sherpas had made a carry the day before, so the climbing was about as easy and straightforward as things get above 25,000 feet. I got up to another group’s C4 around 2 p.m. As Andy E, then Andy C 26

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• The world’s second highest peak at 8,611 meters (28,251 feet). • Part of the Karakoram Range in the Himalayas, it lies on the border between Pakistan and China. • First discovered and measured in 1856. It was given the name K2 because it was the second peak measured in the Karakoram Range. • First known summit attempt in 1902. • First successful expedition on July 31, 1954. The next successful ascent was not until 1977.

and Billy arrived, we could see dots moving oh-so-slowly higher on the slopes above us on their way to the summit. The four of us decided to climb up to a spot about 150m above to place our own C4; it would make for a shorter summit day, and we had plenty of daylight left. We did the climbing, leveled the platform, put the tent up and anchored it, got our mattresses and bags set up inside, and had both stoves going by about 5 p.m.

four of us camped at 7900m (and not really sleeping) could just hear the shouts, and sometimes make out words, or a name. They were sometimes calling for Nasuh, as well, because they didn’t know where he was, either. It was one of the eeriest experiences I’ve ever had in the mountains, listening in the dark to those cries getting increasingly desperate as the night wore on. We would occasionally look out, and see their headlights on the Traverse, or in the Bottleneck, but the whole situation had the feeling of a dream that couldn’t be real, even though we knew it was. Eventually, at about 2 a.m., the two guides arrived at our tent on their way down to theirs. One had lost his overmitts, and they were both obviously trashed, barely able to keep walking. They told us that Waldemar was lost, and Nasuh as well, and that maybe they had fallen into a crevasse—we should look, and help them if we could find them. Then they stumbled on down, leaving all four of us wondering what we would find above, and if we were off to the summit, or a rescue.

Passers in the Night

Summit Day

Nasuh told me later that he had had a 17-hour summit day—not including the descent. He headed down pretty soon after summitting, but it was already fully dark and he had to move slowly and carefully on really steep and treacherous terrain. By this time, he was pretty exhausted and afraid of what he might do if he didn’t pay close attention to every step. Nasuh made it down to the 60-degree slope next to the summit serac, across the Traverse beneath the serac, and down the Bottleneck couloir, all by headlamp. As the Bottleneck widened out to become a steep slope above C4, at about 8200m, he decided that he was too tired to continue safely, planted his axe into the 45-degree slope, and fell asleep on top of it. Another climber, Waldemar, got separated from his group that night, and the others called for him for hours as they made their own descent. The night was so still that the

We had decided that Andy E and I would set off first (four people trying to brew up, get dressed and ready to go in a threeman tent at the same time would have been—let’s be polite here—unworkable), and Andy C and Billy would follow. I left at about 3:20 with Andy right behind me, about an hour and a half before dawn. It was a beautiful morning, still and clear. As we climbed, the slope grew steeper, the Bottleneck got closer, and the world lit up. As it grew lighter, I could see a figure, descending. As I got closer, I recognized Nasuh, and I got to him just as he started down the long snow slope below the Bottleneck. He looked dazed, but in good shape, and he was moving steadily, if slowly. He told me that he had slept in the Bottleneck, and that his rucksack was gone, he didn’t know where. I guess it fell down the slope in the night. He said he was all right (though he was worried about his toes), and that he


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would get down OK, now that he had gotten some sleep. I continued on up, and he continued down. I saw Waldemar about an hour later. He, too, spent the night out on a ledge—at about 8400m. Both of them owe their lives to the fact that the night was completely still and relatively warm. The slope here steepened and narrowed to become a rocky couloir, with deep, loose powder on top of slanting rock slabs. We climbed up the left side of this, sometimes almost swimming through the snow, sometimes balancing on the rock with our crampons. At the top, just three or four meters below the serac, the entire couloir was crossed by a rock band—a few more tricky balancing moves, and it was into the Traverse. The snow was still deep, but the rocks weren’t as much of a problem, and the now-frozen footsteps from the group the day before were much more of a help. I came around the left end of the serac. Here, the snow thinned out, and the angle increased to around 60 degrees. The surface was hard snow for most of the next 75m or so, but there were a few places where even that thinned out, and I was kicking into hard ice for a meter or three. This wouldn’t normally be a big problem, but since a) we had no rope, b) I had only one ice axe, and c) there was about a 10,000 foot drop below me, it was one of the more terrifying ice-climbs I’ve done. Fortunately, Waldemar left a rope behind that I later used to descend—unfortunately, it was far out of reach for the ascent. I still had a crevasse to cross. It was

bridged by snow—not very secure, but good enough. The only problem was that the upper lip was about 10 feet of hard ice at 65–70 degrees, and despite all the wishing I had done below, I still only had one ice axe. I spent about half an hour chipping small steps in this before climbing it—there was no rope here, and I did want to be able to get back to the tent that night. This turned out to be the last really technical obstacle, and soon after I got past it, I came to a ledge at 8400m—the only flat area I saw between C4 and the summit. I sat down, ate a snack, and watched Andy C and Billy approaching from below. Andy E was just starting out above me. The sky was still clear, the air still, and we had our borrowed down suits rolled down to our waists. The only cloud we could see was valley cloud—all 1000m or so below us. We knew that all we had to do at this point was to keep on—it was still early in the day, and no weather anywhere in sight. I got going before Andy got too far ahead, and passed him at about 8500m. I got to the top at 12:50, 9 1/2 hours after leaving C4. Andy arrived just after 1 p.m., and we spent an hour enjoying the view, and trying to believe that we’d made it.

The Descent Andy C and Billy turned up next, and we all started down just after 2. Andy went first, tired and anxious to get down, and I fol-

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lowed just behind. We reversed the whole climb, except for two places where Waldemar had left ropes for descent, and all arrived safely back at C4 by 7. We did get the stoves going, but I’m pretty sure that none of us were still awake at, say, 8:30. The tent was still crowded, and the altitude the same, but somehow, it was easier to sleep. The four of us didn’t get out of camp until almost 10 the next morning, and by that time we were engulfed by the rapidly rising valley clouds. We groped our way down through what was by now a complete whiteout. No doubt about it— the weather had broken.

Off the Mountain On 1 August, there were still a lot of clouds around, and probably a lot of wind up high, but C1 was peaceful. I took one of the tents down (we wouldn’t need two in C1 anymore, and this way I could help clear the mountain), loaded it into my pack, and left by 8:45. By 10:30, I was in ABC, and off the mountain for good. One more trip through the icefall, and I was eating a late lunch in BC. So, the 2000 International K2 Expedition put six out of ten members on top, from six different nations. Nobody killed, nobody injured, and all 100 fingers and toes still intact. I’m the 179th to climb K2, and the 13th American. It’s far and away the hardest climb I’ve done, and it was one of the most enjoyable trips. I’ve only got one question now: What’s next?

Chris Shaw summitted K2 on 30 July, 49 days after his arrival in Base Camp. He had flown to Pakistan in May, after returning from his 20th Reunion at Taft. He says he spent a good part of that weekend trying to figure out what he was forgetting to pack for the trip. If Chris makes the trip sound relatively easy, it’s important to remember that 31 people died climbing K2 between 1978 and 1994, many of them on the descent, and 16 consecutive expeditions failed between 1987 and 1990 alone.

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Athletic Architecture in Cataluña The Beauty of Defiance —By Peter Frew ’75

As rebellious in art as in politics, the fiercely independent people of Cataluña—Spain’s New England—have a love affair with towers. If the spires of Catalan Gothic churches aren’t quite as grand as their sisters to the north—Chartres, Cologne, and Canterbury spring to mind—Gaudí’s moderniste Sagrada Familia is in a league of its own. Even the weariest eight-year-old tourist, cool to his parents’ promise of another special rose window, reliquary, or crucifix, springs ecstatically up the spiraling towers of Barcelona’s centerpiece. Surely the world’s most unusual temple, La Sagrada Familia does, however, have competition. Each weekend, in neighborhood plaças throughout Cataluña, teams of citizens erect human towers or castells. These castellers (pronounced cast-eye-airs), clad in crisp white pants, black belly sashes, and bright matching shirts, defy gravity and human doubt in triumphant structures of sinew, bone, and muscle.


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Perhaps the castellers’ geologic and architectural heritage makes their endeavor inevitable. Gazing north on a rare clear day from Mount Tibidabo, the highest point in Barcelona, one sees the bizarre mountains of Montserrat sprout from the plains like a forest of petrified morels. Land of legendary giants and supposed resting place of the Holy Grail, Montserrat’s weird karstic formations lure nearly as many rock climbers as her black virgin, La Moreneta, draws Christian pilgrims. From Romanesque altars to Gothic tapestries to the canvases of Salvador Dalí and Pablo Picasso, these mystical rock towers have been indelibly frescoed, sculpted, woven, and brushed into the Catalan imagination. Montserrat’s quest for the heavens is powerful, but Barcelona’s castellers draw from another potent source of inspiration. Still 50 years from completion, and forged not by God but by one of his disciples, Antoni Gaudí’s fantastic, irrational Sagrada Familia is the city’s lightning rod. Only eight of the temple’s eventual 18 towers are finished, twisting heavenward encrusted with Gaudí’s signature cracked tile mosaics. Today’s stonemasons, steelworkers, sculptors, and ceramists labor 400 feet above Gaudí’s tomb in the crypt, from which the pulse of the moderniste movement courses, 80 years after its greatest practitioners— Lluis Domnech i Muntaner, Josep Puig i Cadafalch, and Gaudí—died. Every day, teams of workers push the towers higher and higher, a concrete assertion of man’s ability, through community and teamwork, to achieve heights unattainable through individual effort. No Barcelona tourist skips the Sagrada Familia, nor should miss the 13th-century Gothic towers of Santa María del Mar. But only the lucky find themselves witness to Cataluña’s

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most unique towers, or castells, formed by humans. Blessed by Taft’s sabbatical program, I became a devoted fan of Barcelona’s castellers, and was thus plunged into the midst of one of the most singular expressions of Catalan character. My fascination stemmed from the visceral combination of music, costume, coordination, strength, balance, and risk. Castells, even more than Barcelona’s beloved soccer, require teamwork and self-sacrifice. They provide a perfect symbol for society, with energetic cooperation being paramount. Each member simultaneously contributes to and depends upon the whole, and the joy and sense of triumph over elements more powerful than one man is as palpable as the final drumbeat signaling a successful castell. Finding the location of casteller events was a challenge itself. Each morning, Baba and I would drop our children, Max and Amanda, off at school and head for the café in our local market. Flanked by geometric displays of fresh figs and mangoes, we negotiated busy cleavers, isles of hanging rabbits, pheasants, goat heads, and ubiquitous hind legs of Iberian jamón to which I became an ardent devotee. Every neighborhood café has its regulars’ orders memorized, and as the espresso machine oozed its staple into glass, we would be greeted with “zumo de naranja y café con leche para los Americanos!” and a kind grin. One of the great luxuries of our sabbatical was reading the newspaper cover to cover. We volleyed stories back and forth, I from the International Herald Tribune and Baba from La Vanguardia. A typical Monday morning casteller review might headline “ELS XIQUETS DE VALLS CARGAN UN QUATRE DE NOU AMB FOLRE” (Valls Boys Load Nine StoTaft Bulletin

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Suppressed during Franco’s dictatorship (1936–75) along with Catalan language, music, poetry, and dance, castellers have rebounded enthusiastically. Since the 1980s this athletic architecture has enjoyed a renaissance, and new colles or teams are being formed to accommodate the popularity of the movement.

ries of Four with Peak). Wednesday’s Vanguardia carried the “Setmana Casteller” with details of which castellers would be performing over the weekend and where. Armed with map and cameras, I grew to know the city far better than I know Watertown, tracking down castellers in all neighborhoods, from the tony to the tarnished. Equal parts art, sport, right of passage, and club social, the appeal of castells is irresistible. Mimicking the natural and architectural spires of their culture, groups of 50 to 75 neighbors, friends, and relatives challenge the heavens by elevating their children 50 feet above the ground. A multigenerational event, grandparents and middle-aged men and women join arms with pierced, neon-haired teens and young parents, whose little ones climb their way to the crest. There is a peculiar beauty, watching villages raise a child, a glimpse of a culture fulfilling its essential obligation. It is also a dangerous venture, undertaken only after meticulous planning and practice, and an ambulance always ready in the wings. 30

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At the bottom level are the barrel-chested 40- and 50-year-old men wrapped in 20-foot-long weight lifters’ sashes to support backs and bellies. Surrounding them like a rugby scrum, men and women from 20 to 70 years old bolster the foundation and form a 30-foot diameter apron to cushion, when needed, the fall of a child. Standing on their shoulders are lighter, yet powerful 20- and 30year-olds, while the succeeding levels are built of descending ages and weights all the way up to the very top element, a tiny but intrepid boy or girl of 6 or 7 who scrambles up the outside of the castell, finding hand- and toe-holds in belly sashes, and raises a hand in a hurried wave of triumph before quickly shinnying down. The window of opportunity is very narrow, and each level must be completed like clockwork. Imagine supporting a stack of eight humans on your shoulders for close to three minutes. Veins bulge, brows bead


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with sweat, while the captain shouts directions, anxiously monitoring the stability and confidence of each layer. Getting the agulla to the top is only half the battle; everyone must get down safely as well, and the dismantling is as tense and as carefully orchestrated as the assembly. Part of the magic is musical. The whole event is metered by a band called the cobla, featuring the nasal, oboe-like flaviol, and snare and bass drums. Eyes glued, they play as the castell evolves, part inspiration part accompaniment, carefully timing their crescendo with the little hand wave, then pick up their beat as gravity speeds the dismantling of the tower. Of course, if you’ve ever seen a castell buckle and crash—if you’ve ever seen the tiniest children from the uppermost levels floating leaf-like down upon the older generations below—you not only worry about the little fellows, but you also sense the metaphor, the truth, of the way our parents and grandparents provide the foundation, the base, upon which we erect our dreams, our castles in the air.

Peter and Baba Frew spent 1999– 2000 on sabbatical in Barcelona, Spain. While Baba took courses at the University of Barcelona, stuyding Spanish history, post-civil war literature, and contemporary Spanish society, Peter took 5,000 photographs of Catalan festivals and

popular culture. Peter is working on a book of his work featuring castellers, gegants, cap grossos, and corre focs. Peter is Taft’s associate director of admissions, director of communications, and varsity squash and tennis coach. A former teacher of English, he dreams of castells in Centennial Quadrangle.

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Embracing Seeming Difference —By Jon Willson ’82 I grew up in Easton, PA, in the late ’60s and early ’70s. Both my mother and her sister had moved there when their marriages ended in messy divorces. Easton—where my maternal grandfather was a history professor at Lafayette College—was a mostly working class, smallish city right on the Delaware River, which separates Pennsylvania from New Jersey. It was also segregated; white folks lived on the north side of town, while black folks lived on the south side. In Easton, if you were a boy, you were an athlete first—and anything else about fourth—even on College Hill, where all the Lafayette professors and their families lived. About the only thing I remember doing in Easton is playing sports. By the time I was 11, I had been competing against black kids from the south side for four years, but had not been particularly friendly with any of them. It was an economically depressed and racially charged era, and race relations were pretty strained in Easton. I was 11, so I didn’t think much about all that; I just wanted to play ball. I was also white, and a member of the majority, so like most members of the majority, I hadn’t done much thinking about members of the minority. But then something happened. Several weeks after a basketball game in which I had made the winning shot just as time expired—against a team from the south side—a kid named Sporty and about six of his friends showed up at “my” playground when I was shooting baskets all by myself. I saw them coming from a full block away and thought that if I ran for it, I could probably make it to some sanctuary or other, but decided against that option since A) it went against my 11-year-old’s notion of what a man is supposed to do in these situations, B) 32

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because to run as fast as I would have had to, to outrun them, I would have had to drop my new basketball, and C) because I couldn’t really believe that they were coming to beat me up just because I had made a shot in a basketball game. So, I just kept on shooting, and they just kept on coming—and then I was faceto-face with Sporty. He didn’t say much, but we both knew why he was there. Instead, I suppose in an effort to get me to throw the first punch, he tried to spit on me. And I, ball tucked under one arm, refused to let myself be spit on. He kept spitting; I kept ducking. Finally, his boys still behind him, Sporty, probably realizing that he’d better not hang around too long lest my older brother and HIS boys show up, decided to let me go with just a few choice words. I went back to shooting. But as I shot, I kept thinking, why was he so mad at me? And I knew, even at 11, that this wasn’t just about basketball, it was about race—and there began my interest in trying to understand discrimination, and prejudice, and racial misunderstanding— where all these things come from, and how they can be dealt with. Now, why I had that puzzled reaction brings me to my father, who had been a brilliant student, a stellar athlete, a handsome and rich graduate of Harvard and Harvard Law. “Great catch, great match,” thought my mother’s family. She was a smart, attractive, well-educated society girl. Perfect. But there was one hitch. My father was schizophrenic. My mother didn’t learn of his early breakdowns until after their marriage; she knew that there was something strange about him, but he was so charming and everything that she married him anyway. And remember, this was the 1950s, when even well-educated women like my mother were expected to find them-

selves a nice husband, not to question anything too much, and to hold on tight. My mother did hold tight, for eight years, but finally let go when my father was in the hospital through her entire third pregnancy. Six weeks after I was born, she ended the marriage and moved home. My father, after his release from the hospital, moved to New Jersey to be near us—but had no visitation rights owing to his condition. So, about once a year or so, he would show up unannounced with some bizarre assortment of foods, spend a few uncomfortable minutes in our house, then convince my mom to let him take us three kids bowling in whatever jalopy he was driving that year. To me, he was my tall, strong, handsome dad, and he clearly loved us. I was too young to understand much of anything other than what I was told to say when anyone asked about my father: “My parents are divorced.” As the years went by, and I became a teenager and then a man, I would try to visit him more frequently. But by then he had let his hair and beard grow, wore torn up, second-hand clothes, and lived in a shack with no heat or shower. He continued to read and study his whole life, mostly history and ancient languages, and would always ramble on, out of nowhere, about the Hebrew word for this, or how in 17th century Russia they did that. He appeared to lead a hermetic existence, with no friends or acquaintances outside the library and his church. So whenever I visited, usually with my brother or sister, we would drive away crying—and cursing the illness that had stolen my father’s career, family, and any semblance of a meaningful life. Meanwhile, little sports-crazed me was raised entirely by women—my older sister, my aunt, my mother, and my grandmother. And all of them were responsible


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for how I reacted when Sporty tried to spit on me. In a neighborhood where the use of racial epithets was commonplace, my mother and grandmother let us know early on that if they EVER heard any of us use those words, our mouths would be washed out with soap, and we’d be grounded indefinitely. They were both lenient, loving women, but the use of racial epithets of any kind was one thing they would not tolerate. I don’t remember their ever giving me a lecture on the equality of all peoples or races; they didn’t have to. After my mother remarried, we moved to an all-white suburb of Rochester, NY. There I had few chances to become friendly with students of color. Then I came to Taft, and the same was true—Taft was a much whiter place in 1980 than it is today. After college, when I knew that I wanted to teach, a multiethnic, inner-city public school was the only place I could imagine myself. And I taught at just such a place for nine years in Brooklyn. (When my wife and I decided in 1996 to move out of New York with our—then, two—small children, one of the things that attracted me to Taft was how much more diverse it had become since I was a student.) Teaching and advising kids at Brooklyn Technical High School put me in touch with African-American, Caribbean, Latino, Chinese, Korean, Indian, Russian, and many other cultures to a degree I never would have known otherwise. I loved, and in some ways envied, those kids and maintain close contact with many of them. And I learned both how unique their cultures were, and also of the humanity that was common to them all. Would I have sought out this teaching experience had I not been raised by my mother and grandmother to be accepting of diversity and seeming otherness? If they had not laid a foundation which allowed me to question rather than condemn Sporty’s actions? If my father had maintained his sanity and I had been raised wealthy, insulated, and far away from my grandmother in an all-white suburb, with

my father—not, despite his brilliance, a particularly open or loving man—playing a significant role in my upbringing? When I was in my teens, I learned that my one and only uncle, whom I adored, was gay. Had the cards of my youth been played differently, would I have accepted him and his homosexuality and opened the door to another culture somewhat foreign to my own— and, while I lived in New York City in my 20s, have had two best friends who were gay? When my oldest son Sam was four, his teacher, an African-American woman, was doing an exercise with him about identifying how things are different. When she held her hand next to his and asked him to name the ways that they were different, he said that her fingers were taller than his, and that all of her fingers were thicker and wrinklier— and that was it. I liked that. Would my son have been unable to identify differences in skin tone if I had been raised under other circumstances, and developed other sensibilities? I got a classic middle-of-the-night phone call in 1993. It was a police detective telling me that my father had been killed. He had been walking on the shoulder of a stretch of highway that he walked twice a day for 25 years, and had been hit by a drunk driver. My uncle arranged for the service to be held in my father’s hometown church in Tom’s River, and my sister, brother, and I drove there expecting the worst—a sermon, about what my father’s life might have been, to a church, aside from us, empty. But when we arrived…the church was packed. There were local businessmen, little old ladies, families with small children, even longhaired teenagers. It turns out that my father, unknown to any of his family, had been a most beloved person—quirky, but beloved. I was aware of people staring curiously at us—we three “normal looking” grown-up children—as we must have been at them. We were struck by the tears in these strangers’ eyes.

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My father had been famous, we learned, for his acts of kindness, usually performed with no discussion at all. He would carry groceries for overburdened women, help local high school kids with their research. And then he would stand quietly in the back of the church during services, with his long, unkempt hair and noble, upright bearing, just like—according to the minister—some Old Testament prophet. The biggest bouquet of flowers at the service, donated anonymously, was accompanied by a note. “He marched to the beat of his own drum. It was a very gentle beat. In time may we grow to accept his silence. The keeper of the road is gone.” I was unlucky not to have really known my father. Even more, my father was unlucky to have been debilitated by mental illness—and I would never suggest otherwise. But had he somehow been able to stay the course of his intended track and become a high-powered lawyer, making big money but logging 80-hour weeks, would he ever have had the opportunities to touch an entire town the way he did? To become the gentle and giving soul that he obviously did? Would the people of Tom’s River ever have had the chance to learn from him about acceptance, about embracing seeming difference, and about the basic humanity within us all? Most of us are faced at some point with what seem to be cruel or unfortunate developments in our lives. But with a little luck—something all of you have just by virtue of your being here— an open mind, and even more important, an open heart, those seemingly unfortunate twists and turns may, in the end, be your greatest good fortune.

Jon Willson teaches history and co-chairs the Diversity Committee with Lynette Sumpter ’90. These remarks are excerpted from his school meeting talk in October.

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Winter Alumni Games and Dedication of The Odden Arena in honor of Patsy and Lance Odden SATURDAY, JANUARY 13 3:00 p.m. MEN’S ALUMNI HOCKEY GAME 5:00 p.m. GIRLS’ VARSITY HOCKEY versus CHOATE 6:45 p.m. DEDICATION OF NEW RINK 7:30 p.m. BOYS’ VARSITY HOCKEY versus CHOATE

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SUNDAY, JANUARY 14 11:00 a.m. ALUMNI versus GIRLS’ VARSITY HOCKEY 11:00 a.m. ALUMNI versus BOYS’ VARSITY BASKETBALL 11:00 a.m. ALUMNI SQUASH 12:15 p.m. ALUMNI versus GIRLS’ VARSITY BASKETBALL