Ralph Lee’s Myths & Masks TAFT ALUMNI A Command of Her Own for
Return to Teach F A L L
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B U L L E T I N Fall 2001 Volume 72 Number 1 Bulletin Staff Editor Julie Reiff Director of Development Jerry Romano Alumni Notes Anne Gahl Karen Taylor Design Good Design www.goodgraphics.com Proofreader Nina Maynard
Bulletin Advisory Board Bonnie Blackburn ’84 Todd Gipstein ’70 Thomas P. Losee Jr. ’59 Rachel Morton Nancy Novogrod P’98, ’01 Josh Quittner ’75 Peter Frew ’75, ex officio Julie Reiff, ex officio Bonnie Welch, ex officio Mail letters to: Julie Reiff, Editor Taft Bulletin The Taft School Watertown, CT 06795-2100 ReiffJ@TaftSchool.org Send alumni news to: Anne Gahl Alumni Office The Taft School Watertown, CT 06795-2100 TaftBulletin@TaftSchool.org Deadlines for Alumni Notes: Spring–February 15, 2002 Summer–May 30, 2002 Fall–August 30, 2002 Winter–November 15, 2002 Send address corrections to: Sally Membrino Alumni Records The Taft School Watertown, CT 06795-2100 TaftRhino@TaftSchool.org 1-860-945-7777 www.TaftAlumni.com This magazine is printed on recycled paper.
On the Cover
The Man Behind the Masks
Front: Ralph Lee’s masks and puppets help him explore the myths and folklore of other cultures with his Mettawee River Theatre Company.
The creator of the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade, Ralph Lee ’53 builds a life telling stories. By Mark Novom
Beyond the Promise of Command 20
She loved to sail as a young girl. Now U.S. Naval Commander Cindy Thebaud ’81 is taking charge of a guided missile destroyer. By Bill Slocum, Greenwich Magazine
On the Other Side of the Desk
Alumni return to their alma mater and find surprising rewards of teaching and a second life at Taft. By Julie Reiff Page 9
From the Editor
Alumni in Print
The latest work from alumni in fiction, history, and tales of personal tragedy, along with a new HBO miniseries featuring one of our own from the Band of Brothers.
Bishop Paul Moore, award-winning author Andrea Barrett, campus happenings, and a look back at students’ summer adventures.
Endnote By Bishop Paul Moore
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 TaftBulletin@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! Taft on the Web: News? Stocks? Entertainment? Weather? Catch up with old friends or make new ones, get a job and more!—all at the new Taft Alumni Community online. Visit us at www.TaftAlumni.com. What happened at this afternoon's game?—Visit us at the new www.TaftSports.com for the latest Big Red coverage.
Around the Pond
Back: A campus scene in oil pastel by A.P. Studio Art student Mimi Luse ’02
For other campus news and events, including admissions information, visit our NEW main site at www.TaftSchool.org, with improved calendar features and Around the Pond stories.
䉳 Caitlin Keys ’03 gathers with other students and faculty for a candlelight vigil, as many Americans did, the Friday evening following the attacks of September 11. BOB FALCETTI
From the Editor Little did we know what events would rock the world the next day when we welcomed new students to campus on September 10. Although few Americans were unaffected by the tragedy, you already know from Head of School Willy MacMullen ’78 that our community of parents and alumni miraculously escaped casualties. Still, many of us now reference events in our lives as taking place before or after those terrorist attacks. It is all the more amazing to me every time I read them, that the remarks by the Right Reverend Bishop Paul Moore Jr. (page 35) were delivered to the assembled faculty on September 7. The role of the late David Kenyon Webster ’40 in the recent HBO miniseries Band of Brothers also seems astonishingly timely (page 5). So many everyday occurrences hold increased meaning; despite the magnitude of world events everything I read now reads truer. In that way, each of the alumni works highlighted in this issue seems somehow more poignant. Artist Ralph Lee ’53, our cover profile, lives only blocks from “Ground Zero” when he is in the city, but like his fellow New Yorkers he proved amazingly resilient. Like others he continued his work. And students here were, and continue to be, supported by our terrific faculty, some of whose faces may be familiar to you from your own days here. Some may even be your classmates (page 28). But no story in this issue brings my mind to the current state of world affairs more than the profile of Commander Cindy Thebaud ’81, and I promise to include an update on her activities, along with those of several of her fellow servicemen, in the winter issue. Please let us hear from you. May peace be with you all. —Julie Reiff 4
Taft Bulletin Fall 2001
It was with pride and pleasure that I read question 2 of the Commencement Trivia in the summer issue. I am one of the granddaughters of Edward G. Bourne, for whom the history medal is named, and a daughter of Edward W. Bourne ’15, who with his sister originally funded this award. Thank you so very much. The supplied answer to the question is, however, not correct. Horace Taft was, in fact, Edward G. Bourne’s roommate at Yale. He died in 1908, and it was through the generosity of Horace Taft that all four Bourne boys went to Taft. My father often spoke of this, with a great deal of gratitude. Both Horace Taft and my grandfather were in the Class of 1883 at Yale. My grandfather remained there, first as a student and then as an instructor in history and political science until 1888, when he went to Adelbert College. In 1895, he returned to Yale as professor of history (he had received his Ph.D. from Yale in 1892) and remained there until his death. It appears from some of my grandfather’s Yale yearbooks that he and Horace Taft were together again briefly in 1887. [Horace Taft was a tutor in Latin at Yale for three years.] By the time my grandfather returned to Yale in 1895, Horace Taft had already started his new school. —Margaret Bourne Pedersen
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 06795-2100 or to ReiffJ@TaftSchool.org
Correction: The cover image on the summer issue was photographed by Craig Ambrosio. Our apologies for the error.
Alumni IN PRINT
Parachute Infantry: An American Paratrooper’s Memoir of D-Day and the Fall of the Third Reich by David Kenyon Webster ’40 LOUISIANA STATE UNIVERSITY PRESS, 1994. $29.95
When Stephen Ambrose wrote Band of Brothers, the recent 10-part HBO miniseries produced by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg, he went right to the source—which included interviews with veterans as well as classic wartime memoirs like Webster’s Parachute Infantry. In the series, Webster is played by Eion Bailey (Almost Famous). Webster, who left Harvard in 1942 to join the infantry, got shot in the leg in Holland, but rejoined Easy Company following the Battle of the Bulge, and was later wounded a second time. Although Webster wrote the book shortly after the war, relying on his letters home and recollections he penned right after his discharge—making this memoir much closer to the war than most such works—the work was published many years after his death. He spent his career as a journalist and was lost at sea in 1961 while shark fishing off the coast of Santa Monica, California, leaving a wife and three children. “It is a bit surreal to think that these stories are being told after all these years,” Webster’s widow Barbara told TV Guide, “but it is just fabulous,
because [our children] didn’t have a lifetime with him.” Band of Brothers follows the paratroopers of E Company from training in Georgia through the end of World War II. E Company jumped into Normandy on the night before D-Day and into Holland as part of Operation Market-Garden. The unit later fought in the Battle of the Bulge, and captured Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest at the end of the war; it suffered 150 percent casualties. Webster’s “motives for insisting on being a member of a parachute infantry regiment went beyond patriotism,” writes Stephen Ambrose in the introduction to Parachute Infantry. “Webster wanted to be a writer.” “I recommend this memoir,” Ambrose adds, “to anyone who wants to know more about World War II, about combat, about being a paratrooper, about discovering oneself and being involved when the whole world was being tested and threatened. It
䉱 The author during the liberation of Eindhoven. Photo by Hans Wesenhagen. Visit www.davidkenyonwebster.com for more information.
brings back a place and a time, a sense of commitment, the feeling of ‘we are all in this together’ as the United States and her allies fought for freedom.” Taft Bulletin Fall 2001
All the Finest Girls by Alexandra Styron ’83 LITTLE, BROWN AND COMPANY, 2001. $23.95
The Daily News praises Styron’s “ability to worry out race’s many conflicting layers,” while the New York Times says her writing “is frequently accomplished and the insights wise.” Read more about the book at twbookmark.com.
Art restorer Addy Abraham lives a quiet existence trying to attract as little attention as possible. “I had always relied on the museum as a place where I could disappear,” she explains after a mental and physical collapse that leaves her numb. Upon the subsequent death of her childhood nanny, Addy visits the woman’s family in a “bid for self-preservation.” While there, Addy uncovers her nanny’s other life, learning about herself at the same time. Waking from some quasi-existential state, she begins to make sense of her life, to accept it for what it is instead of trying to hide from it. Rather than renounce her dysfunctional life for a new beginning, she finds comfort in the idea that loving someone is enough—I love, therefore I am. “Rarely do we take wholesale analy-
sis of our lives and make deep discoveries. That isn’t how people’s lives work,” says author Alexandra Styron. “The act of growing up is accepting the tough truths and making the best of them. You can’t go back. That’s why the metaphor of art restoration; the aging process becomes part of the work, who you are.” Comparisons to Styron’s famous father were inevitable, she says, but even though Addy’s parents are also highprofile creative people who summer at the shore, the book—her first—truly is a work of fiction. “We all write somewhat from what we know. I started with this character and tried to imagine what would make a troubled child. It’s all made up.” A former actress, Styron lives in New York City and Martha’s Vineyard and was married in September to Ed Beason. She is already working on her next novel.
Coming to Term: A Father’s Story of Birth, Loss, and Survival by William H. Woodwell Jr. ’81 UNIVERSITY PRESS OF MISSISSIPPI, 2001. $25
William Woodwell with his daughter Josie. KIM WOODWELL
Taft Bulletin Fall 2001
When Kim Woodwell visited the doctor for a routine checkup on the progress of the twin girls she was carrying, she received startling news. Nearly four months before term, the babies would have to be delivered in a matter of days. Kim had preeclampsia, a rare condition in which a pregnant mother’s blood pressure soars, threatening child and mother. Her condition and early delivery, the loss of one of the twins, and the agonizing suspense of premature intensive care are covered in Woodwell’s book.
“After the doctors left,” he writes, “I sat on the edge of Kim’s bed and we cried. It had all come to this. All the back-andforth about whether to have children; all the thinking and talking about what we’d need; all the books and the articles and the prenatal classes; all the morning sickness Kim had endured; and all the excitement about the twins. And now here we were, 100 miles from home in a hospital room in Charlottesville, Virginia, sixteen weeks before term and waiting for Kim to get sick—very sick—
Dematerializing: Taming the Power of Possessions by Jane Hammerslough ’78 PERSEUS PUBLISHING, 2001. $25
Dematerializing is the book for the person who has everything—and for whom everything is not enough. This is not, however, a book about cutting material
things out of your life, or about how living simply will lead to happiness. Rather, Hammerslough suggests— through examples, research, and her own experiences—that we take control over our complicated relationship with what we own and what we want to possess. “It’s a process of deciding what objects can and can’t do for our lives,” she writes. “We may not expect possessions to perform magic, but we sure hear about the magic of owning something. We hear that possessions promise to deliver all sorts of feelings and qualities such as love, belonging, control, authenticity. It’s easy to believe that objects can transform situations, turning 䉳 Dematerializing is a personal process, Hammerslough tells us, with no “right” answers. Ask yourself why you’re acquiring something—out of boredom, frustration, or some other feeling—and see if there’s a better way to meet that need. See www.dematerializing.com for more information.
so the doctors could cut her open and bring our babies into the world too early.” The birth of the twins later that week—each weighing less than a pound and a half—marked the start of a monthlong roller coaster ride that reminded the parents and everyone around them how fragile and how precious life can be. This is a gripping account of the day-to-day struggles facing the thousands of families every year whose pregnancies end far too soon and whose babies have to fight to survive. It offers a firsthand view of the anger, grief, hope, and the joy that can follow in the wake of a too-early birth.
“And it proves,” says Woodwell, “that the smallest human beings can teach us the biggest lessons we will ever learn.” Woodwell, an independent writer and editor, is also the author of Choosing the President: The Citizen’s Guide to the 2000 Election. His work has also appeared in the Washington Post. To read an excerpt from Coming to Term, visit www.upress.state.ms.us or www.amazon.com. 䉴 Kirkus Reviews calls the book “an absorbing blow-by-blow account of life and death in the NICU” that is “told with emotional honesty and couched in suspense.”
things from bad to good, from good to better. Rationally, we know that they can only do so much, but we hear about the magic so often we begin to believe it to some extent.” Hammerslough encourages us to ask ourselves what we expect from our objects, and shows how we can work to retrieve that power from possessions in order to find what we value most. An award-winning journalist and college writing instructor, Hammerslough has worked as a columnist for the New York Post and other newspapers. Her feature stories and essays have appeared in Parenting, Child, Saveur, Travel & Leisure, Country Living, and other national magazines. She lives with her husband and two sons in Westport, Connecticut.
The Lost Art of Drawing the Line: How Fairness Went Too Far by Philip K. Howard ’66 RANDOM HOUSE, 2001. $22.95 CHARLES NESBIT
After the release of his best-selling book, The Death of Common Sense: How Law is Suffocating America (Random House, 1995), people asked Phil Howard for a solution to the problem. At first, he writes, it seemed obvious, “unchain people from detailed rules and bureaucratic process and let them take responsibility, to succeed or fail.” But it turned out not to be so simple. “Authority,” writes Howard, “has become a suspect concept, the enemy of individual rights.” And that is what his second book does: “explores the relationship between individual rights and authority in a free society.”
There are several parts to the problem. First, in an overlylitigious society, where it is no longer even necessary to sue, the potential for litigation is sufficient to immobilize anyone tempted to do “the right thing.” Then there is the lack of incentive—with some notable exceptions—in the public sector. “In public service especially, any notion of a common purpose is pushed aside by obsession with personal entitlement,” he writes. And why bother if initiative is rarely rewarded and frequently punished? Still, Howard finds that leaders and other success stories are people who break a lot of rules in the name of common sense. That, however, takes a form of personal courage rarely seen today, when one needs to break the rules to do what one thinks is right. Howard is a partner at the New York law firm of Covington & Burling and a contributor to the op-ed pages of the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. He has served as an advisor on regulatory reform to members of both political parties, including former Vice Presidents Al Gore and Bob Dole. “This book sits at the center of important questions about frivolous litigiousness, disdain for authority and the tendency of bureaucracy to stifle judgment and initiative…,” writes the New York Times, about “our failure to use our freedom responsibly.” Share your comments and suggestions at www.drawing-the-line.com.
Taft Bulletin Fall 2001
Other books received in the Alumni Collection:
The Enthusiasms of Centerbrook, The Master Architect Series, IV by William H. Grover, Jefferson B. Riley ’64, Mark Simon, Chad Floyd, and James C. Childress AIA PRESS/ROCKPORT PUBLISHERS, 2001. $60
A History of the United States According to Franciscus and Related Families (1710–2000) by John Allen Franciscus ’50
The Bouchayers of Grenoble and French Industrial Enterprise 1850–1970 by Robert J. Smith ’53
Take on the World! Rules of the Road by Seth Taft ’40
Hello Cherry Tree by George Napier Wilson ’39
AROUND THE POND
pond Those Teaching Moments Describing how his high school English teacher sent the class outside to sit in the woods for two hours, to write down what they saw, Bishop Paul Moore talked to faculty at the opening meetings in September about “those” teaching moments—like this one that helped develop in him a love of nature—and the chances teachers have to touch students’ lives. “It was because of teachers I had, time I had out of class, not what they taught, but who they were,” he said, that made the difference. The Right Rev. Paul Moore Jr., bishop of New York, retired, remarked that “like the priesthood, teaching is a high privilege,… to enter the sensitive, secret places in someone’s mind, someone’s soul. In teaching, it is not as important who you are, but that you convey a genuine, caring love to the students.” Moore cited four issues—values, freedom, religion, and politics—as being the preeminent topics with which students are faced. Each one stirs the emotional adolescent mind, yet all are imperative
to kindle the essential growth of human experience. Moore exhorted the faculty to make students aware of these issues and to confront them head-on, with the understanding that “kids are changing, you are changing, and the process continues as long as you are here.” He advised people not to avoid politics, that in order to change things people must “go to the source if they can, not just minister to the pain.” A man who more than practices what he preaches, Moore—among his many activities— serves on the board of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. He was senior fellow of the Yale Corporation and has been a trustee of The General Theological Seminary, Berkeley Divinity School, Bard College, and Trinity School. He was also president of the Episcopal Mission Society and serves on the Asia committee of Human Rights Watch.
Moore’s deep and unflagging interest in the plight of cities and his concern for their survival is well known, earning him the Social Sciences Award, the New York Urban League Award, and the Freedom of Worship Medal from the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute. He has also received the Margaret Sanger Award of Planned Parenthood, the Alumni Medal from St. Paul’s School, and the General John Russell Leadership Award of the United States Marine Corps. Excerpts from his remarks to the faculty are on page 35. Taft Bulletin Fall 2001
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For the Love of Writing
Author Andrea Barrett talks with seniors Nick Fisser and Sarah Bromley before her presentation at Morning Meeting in September. PETER FINGER
Author Andrea Barrett describes her love for writing as the one constant for her throughout a ten-year period in which she held 13 different jobs, “none pleasant or well-paying or interesting in any way.”
Barrett, whose short story collection Ship Fever won the National Book Award for fiction in 1996, spoke to a packed audience in Bingham Auditorium in September.
Barrett urged Taft’s students to be “passionate in pursuit of their interests, regardless of what those interests are.” A self-described “geek,” Barrett noted that she, like many writers and adolescents, felt awkward expressing herself publicly, but was at home alone in a dark room putting down her thoughts on paper. “When I am writing, the world just drifts by,” she said. Following her talk, Barrett attended several English classes and met informally with aspiring authors. “I felt in each class that I was in the company of those who really cared about books and reading,” Barrett said. “Really there is no greater gift for a writer.” Ship Fever was required summer reading for all Taft students and faculty. Her visit to Taft was sponsored by the Paduano Lecture Series, established to bring speakers and groups to the school to share their diverse and culturallyenriching experiences with the community.
A Taste of Tibet Bingham Auditorium was filled with chanting earlier this fall as ten Tibetan Buddhist monks from the Drepung Gomang Monastic University performed from the Milarepa festival, a traditional Tibetan cultural pageant featuring harmonic overtone chanting of traditional prayers, accompanied PETER FREW ’75
Taft Bulletin Fall 2001
by temple instruments including horns, flutes, bells, and drums. The event provided the community with a fascinating and warm glimpse into Tibetan culture in general, and the ritual lives of monks in particular. The evening performance was open to the public. The purpose of the monks’ 14-month tour was to share the compassion and wisdom of the ancient Tibetan Buddhist culture with the West while raising funds to insure the survival of this culture-in-exile. The original monastery was founded in 1416 and was reestablished in South India under the direction of His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, in 1969. There are close to 1,500 monks studying at the monastery. The performance was the last of the monks’ tour of North America, and the second of two visits to Taft, the first in October 2000 when they spent several days creating a sand mandala. The monks’ visit was again sponsored by the Paduano Lecture Series in Philosophy and Ethics. “We were honored and thrilled to welcome the monks back to our campus,” said Taft’s Chaplain Michael Spencer, “as they are a unique and compelling group who reached out to our entire community in a singular manner.”
AROUND THE POND
Opening Day William R. MacMullen ’78 welcomed 187 new students and parents on September 10 as he began his tenure as Taft’s fifth head of school. New students join 369 old boys and girls, bringing this year’s enrollment to 556. They were selected from a competitive applicant pool of nearly 1,400 candidates and hail from 35 states and 25 foreign countries; 21 percent are students of color and 33 percent were awarded $3,300,000 in financial aid. In his opening address to the faculty, MacMullen called on them to awaken the intellect in each child. “If you came into teaching because you were passionate about working with adolescents, you entered a profession that needs you more than ever,” he said. “I think we are all charged and entrusted to give to the intellectual community, but we are never off duty, in the dorm, the dining room, and in the halls. Our willingness to make contact is imperative. That is where we do some of our best teaching. That is where we touch, perhaps, most often.”
Faculty Show Visual arts teachers Claudia Black, Loueta Chickadaunce, and Laura Harrington exhibited the fruits of their summer labors at a faculty show in the Mark Potter ’48 Art Gallery. The exhibit ran through October 28, followed by the works of the late Andrew Heminway ’47. His work was on display through December 8. Works by first semester visual art students will follow in January, with an opening reception for that show on January 4. Please check the website for more details: www.TaftSchool.org.
Barclay’s Room After a while a classroom becomes more than an assemblage of desks and chalkboards; it begins to take on the personality of its teachers. And so it seemed only fitting that the room in which Barclay Johnson ’53 taught English to so many students in his 39 years at the school should also bear his likeness even after his retirement. Head of School Willy MacMullen ’78 and the other members of the English Department gathered for the dedication in September. Taft Bulletin Fall 2001
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New Faces on the Faculty: Elizabeth F. Barisser, Dance Michael F. Berger, Teaching Fellow in Physics Neil C. Cifuentes, Spanish Kevin E. Conroy, Spanish Athena D. Fliakos, English Kathleen M. Fox, Teaching Fellow in English Michael L. Friesner, Carpenter Teaching Fellow in French Dana C. Hardy, Chemistry Simon Rhys Jones, French Ginger O’shea, Admissions, Psychology Maria Pilar Santos Pestonit, Spanish Gina Sauceda, History Sunny Sharma, Physics, Chemistry Daniel M. Sheff, Mailliard Teaching Fellow in Spanish Kumudini Yapa, Mathematics Jennifer L. Zaccara, English
Light a Candle Students held two candlelight vigils following the terrorist attacks on September 11, one on Tuesday evening, and another with the rest of the nation that Friday night. “The sun was just going down as we gathered by the pond,” said Chaplain Michael Spencer, “and as we looked over beyond the Arts and Humanities Center there was this amazing sky, and it reflected with our candles on the water. It was a sad but beautifully moving moment to watch hundreds of students and teachers come together this way.” In his letter home to the community, Head of School Willy MacMullen ’78 shared the unbelievable news that, although many faculty and students knew someone who was lost, no parent or alumnus was listed among the dead and missing. Efforts to help the victims continued on campus as students “showed a resilience and a generosity of heart that brought faith to us all,” Willy wrote.
Alumna Speaks Out Kippy Phelps ’79 returned to campus in October with her teen theatre troupe called SPEAK-OUT, a group of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and straight teens who use improvisational drama as a tool to promote diversity and transform homophobia. The troupe spoke openly with students and faculty at a question-and-answer session following their skits. “I was pleasantly surprised,” said Phelps, “at the number of students who felt comfortable enough to ask questions.” 12
Taft Bulletin Fall 2001
“We were very pleased with the widespread discussion and questioning of beliefs, with respect to people’s sexual orientation, that SPEAK-OUT provoked among both students and faculty,” said Diversity Committee cochair Jon Willson ’82. “Obviously, not all agreed with SPEAK-OUT’s message, but the goal was to promote introspection and discussion, not to change minds, and we feel that that goal was achieved.”
AROUND THE POND
Summer Explorations Instead of fireworks and a barbecue on the Fourth of July, imagine walking through tobacco fields and listening to Fidel Castro speak on Cuban Independence Day, as Ali Rickards ’02 did last summer while working on a documentary film. Hers is just one of hundreds of incredible student adventures over the summer break. Here are a few of the more unusual or noteworthy:
• Writers • Senior Sera Reycraft won the Pulitzer Award at the High School Journalism Program hosted by Regis College and UMass Boston. Sera served as the news editor for their paper, while Dennis Liu ’02, who also participated, served as editor-in-chief. Jess Haberman ’02 attended the Sewanee Young Writers Conference. Julie Church ’03 and seniors Grace Morris, Elena Sorokin, and Greg Stevens spent a week in August working at the Yale Daily News.
• Entrepreneurs • Jordan Gussenhoven ’02 did more than talk trash this summer, he did something about it. Jordan and his friend Charles Wilson created their own company, Intracoastal Recycling, to earn some money while helping the environment. “To be
Ali Rickards ’02 explores Cuba’s viñales, tobacco fields, for a documentary film she is working on that looks at the effects of communism on the people of that country.
honest,” Jordan told the Morning Star [Wilmington, NC], “I was surprised somebody hadn’t done this before.” They plan to resume their work next summer, and to expand their customer base on Figure Eight Island and other nearby areas still not served by the county.
• Immersion • Jessie Little ’03 took a leap of faith when she packed an extra large suitcase and took a twelve-hour flight to Japan to spend a month in the little town of Komatsu. After only two years of Japanese at Taft, Jessie immersed herself in the culture and found the experience and the people very rewarding. Although she has traveled to many continents, Asia was, she says, “by far the best.”
• Competition •
Poole Fellow David Gambone ’03 shared a love of football with his new friends at a summer camp in St. Lucia.
This summer crew captain Ted Thompson ’02 rowed the pair-with (2+) for the Men’s Junior National Crew. After six weeks of selection and training in Philadelphia on the Schukyl River, the team (8+, 4+, 2+, 2x, 1x) flew to Duisburg, Germany, for the World Championship. Ted’s boat placed eighth in the pair-with event, losing in the B finals to Yugoslavia, whom they had beaten the day before. Audrey Banks ’02 spent nearly the entire summer competing in horse shows everywhere from Vermont to Saratoga, Taft Bulletin Fall 2001
AROUND THE POND
Boston, and Mimi Luse, who studied art at the Massachusetts College of Art, were the other two recipients.
• Fellowships •
Ted Thompson ’02, center, warms up on the race course in Duisburg, Germany, where he placed 8th in the World Championship pair-with event. TED WALKLEY
NY, in order to accumulate points to qualify for regional and national finals this fall. She competed in the national AHSA medal finals in Harrisburg, PA, as well as the New England Finals in October, for which she qualified over the summer. Her sister Emily ’04 also qualified for the New Englands.
• Artists • Anton Yupangco ’03 participated in the Lee Strasburg Acting Workshop in Los Angeles through Taft’s Kilbourne Fellowship. Seniors Tom Keidel, who studied jazz at the Berklee College of Music in
Although she was originally headed for Nepal, political unrest there sent Kirsten Pfeiffer ’03 to northern India instead on a Where There Be Dragons program. Traveling briefly to Bangkok and Delhi, the group embarked on two multiday treks through the Ladakh mountains, visited a local school where they learned more about the Tibetan-influenced Ladakhi culture, and later saw the Taj Mahal. Kirsten’s stay with a “gracious and hospitable” family was among the highlights of her travels, along with meeting the Karmapa (a religious leader second to the Dalai Lama), ex-political prisoners, a reincarnate Lama who gave the group a lesson in Tibetan Buddhism, and respected radical writer and activist Lahsang Tsering. For someone who had never traveled very far from Watertown, David Gambone ’03 expanded his horizons and ventured to the Caribbean island of St. Lucia, where he taught the game of “American football” to the children at a summer camp.
Taylor Snyder ’02 in Nasiui Coso, Fiji, with her host brother Jim at the sauusauu, a gift-giving ritual in which her adopted family says good-bye.
Marci McCormack ’02 went to Virgin Gorda, where her group of 21 teens built a park, painted a church hall, ran a summer camp, taught swimming lessons for local children, helped vaccinate goats for local farmers, and worked on building a dock for a local beach. On her Cuban adventure, Ali Rickards ’02 lived in Ernest Hemingway’s town of Cojimar, just a few miles outside Havana. Traveling with Putney-Excel, she went to film in viñales (tobacco fields), the Bay of Pigs, in addition to her Castro sighting on Independence Day. Ali was one of 11 Poole grant recipients, along with David, Marci, and seniors Faith Rose, Blair Boggs, Andrew Yarbrough, Taylor Snyder, Christina Jankowski, Dan Riley, Marc Moorer, and Elise Mariner.
• By Example •
Faculty member Lynette Sumpter ’90 examines wood-carved rhinos in one of the many images from her West African photojournal.
Taft Bulletin Fall 2001
Not to be outdone, faculty member Lynette Sumpter ’90 traveled to Ghana, West Africa, on a Davis Fellowship, creating a photojournal for Taft on the history of the transatlantic slave trade. Two of the largest slave castles in West Africa (from where most Africans were transported) are in Ghana: Elmina Castle and Cape Coast Castle. “It was a great experience to visit these historical sites,” she said, “and to experience the present cultures of Ghana.”
The Man Behind the
Masks By Mark Novom
The creator of the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade, Ralph Lee â€™53 builds a life telling stories.
o you have a favorite moment in your career?” I ask Ralph Lee as we sit on the porch of his house in Salem, New York. “Sometimes there are moments in these outdoor performances that are just really earth shattering. The moon comes out at the right moment. We were doing this play that had this huge monster that came on and devoured all creatures. And it happened that it rained earlier in the day, so there was a lot of ground fog. And man, this creature came out of the fog and flew.” I arrived here two hours earlier at 10:40 in the morning—this small town near the Adirondack Mountains. A four-hour drive from Taft, it is a straight shot up Route 22 just west of the New YorkVermont border. I turned left onto a dirt road. I feel that I have less control of the car. About half a mile down, a moderately sized white house stands in a clearing. I pull into the driveway, which is grass with wear and tear tire tracks. The house is pure country. A porch with an old rocking chair and bench. What looks like a converted old milktruck with the words “Mettawee River Theatre Company” sits parked under a tree. The only sound is crickets rubbing their legs together. The door is open. I knock and peer through the screen. No one is home. I’m twenty minutes early, so I decide to sit on the bench, read, and wait for Ralph Lee. A couple of minutes later, a woodpaneled station wagon made years before the SUV craze pulls into the grassy driveway. Two-by-fours are strapped to the top and bags of asphalt litter the back— supplies for a new roof over a shed.
Previous page: From a production of Psyche 䉳 Ralph Lee ’53 at his home in Salem, NY 16
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Ralph drives. He steps out of the car and a cairn terrier jumps out with him. “Have I kept you long?” he asks politely through his short, white beard. He sits in the rocking chair and offers me something to drink. His boots are untied. His dark blue khakis are as worn-in as his reddish button-down shirt. He looks like a man who has spent the better part of the past fifty years working with his hands. “I grew up in Middlebury, Vermont. My parents worked there,” Ralph begins while keeping a watchful eye on Bluebell, the cairn terrier, who has been running in the front lawn. “From the time I was seven, theater was it,” he laughs. “I was in a oneroom schoolhouse for the first four years and my first performance was in a Halloween play.” Living in Middlebury helped Ralph develop his passion for theater. “Whenever they needed a kid to be in a play, there I was.” He laughs again. His mother taught modern dance and his father, an amateur writer, was dean of men. Also, a summer stock theater that made its home in Middlebury let Ralph paint the scenery, and he performed puppet shows for schools and birthday parties when he was twelve. I watch Ralph as he recalls his childhood. I am envious. Some people live their entire lives without finding their passion. And here is this man who has done it for the past fifty-five years. He arrived at Taft in the early ’50s. Even though it took him some time to fit in, Ralph soon found a home in the theater department. He built the sets for a number of plays, but did little acting.
Ralph cajoles the god Jupiter into acceptable behavior during a rehearsal. 䉴
Taft Bulletin Fall 2001
Later at Amherst, Ralph directed his first plays: Chekhov’s The Marriage Proposal and a couple of original pieces written by his roommate. After two years studying modern dance in Paris on a Fulbright grant and acting in London, Ralph returned to New York City hoping to make a career as a performer. There, performing occasionally on Broadway, he stumbled upon Julian Beck’s The Living Theater—the pioneer in American avant-garde theater in the 1960s. “I was interested in what they were doing. I just went by there and asked them if they needed anybody to make them masks,” he says. Ralph also started acting at Joseph Chaiken’s Open Theater—another leading experimental theater in the 1960s. “You just felt like you were doing something beyond rehearsing a show and performing. You were exploring the whole idea of what acting was about and I was really happy. I felt that there was no place in this world I’d rather be. To The Mettawee River Theatre Company, founded in 1975, creates original theater productions which incorporate masks, giant figures, puppets, and other visual elements, drawing on myths, legends and folklore of the world’s many cultures for its material. The company is committed to bringing theater to people who may have little or no access to live professional theater. Each year Mettawee presents outdoor performances in rural communities of upstate New York and New England as well as performing in the New York City area. For more information, a full schedule, or to view images from the company’s 26 years’ of productions, visit www.Mettawee.org.
Taft Bulletin Fall 2001
feel that way was really great.” Ralph worked at the Open Theater on and off for five years. Ralph hears a car approaching. He continues speaking with his head turned toward the dirt road in front of his house. A black pickup truck drives by. The driver waves. Ralph waves back. He turns back to me and continues talking through his smile. Soon after his involvement in the New York experimental theater scene of the 1960s, Ralph taught at Bennington College in Vermont during the spring of 1974. He was to direct a play with the undergraduates. After toying with the idea of directing a Bertolt Brecht play, Ralph came up with a better idea. “I had made all these masks and giant puppets and I had them lying around, so I thought, why don’t I just put them all together and see what kind of show I could do and incorporate them? So we did this very loose play that took place outdoors and went all around the Bennington campus.” This outdoor production was the genesis for another one of Ralph’s ideas that would soon grow beyond expectations: the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade. It started out very small with him begging his friends to participate, but now attracts over 20,000 marchers and nearly 2 million spectators, requires a police motorcade, and is televised nationally. Ralph stayed on as parade director for twelve years and bowed out when it became too big. Many of Ralph’s puppets and masks from other productions have also appeared in the parade. He has received commis-
sions from the Lincoln Center Repertory Theatre, New York Shakespeare Festival, Joffrey Ballet, and NBC’s Saturday Night Live (the land shark). He is now content being the head of the Mettawee River Theatre Company, founded in 1975 by some of his former Bennington students. A year later, they asked him to come on board as artistic director. All of the founding members have moved on except for one, Casey Compton, his wife and company manager. Why bring theater to upstate New York? Ralph got tired of doing it in New York City, “which is such a glut of theater.” “One thing that is very important to me is the whole idea of bringing theater to places that don’t have any. People are so excited and grateful that you are making an impact on their lives. Every show I do uses a lot of visual elements such as masks and puppets. We’re exploring different ways of storytelling.” And what kind of stories does he tell? “We have spent many times over the years working with folklore in one culture or another—from Navaho and Iroquois creation myths to Greek, Egyptian, or Eskimo stories. Most myths and legends deal with natural phenomena. I just feel like people today tend to lose sight of the natural world. I never try to preach a lesson with my plays, but I feel that they’re such rich stories that people can pull whatever they want from them.” Ralph now makes an annual pilgrimage to Chiapas, Mexico, to help the Mayan writers’ collective—not trained actors— create their own shows based on local legends. There, even with the language
barrier, he and his Mayan actors have been able to produce meaningful theater that touches many. “For them Spanish is the language of the oppressor. The performance may start in Spanish then slip into their own Mayan language and the performance becomes much more musical and spontaneous. They really enjoy playing around with words.” At times a professor (he is on the faculty at New York University and has taught at Hamilton, Hampshire, and Smith colleges as well as Bennington) or, for many years now, an artist-in-residence at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City, you can tell that Ralph really enjoys what he does. Bruce Fifer, Taft’s choral director and head of the Arts Department, was formerly director of music and head of productions at St. John the Divine. In 1985, he was actually responsible for bringing Ralph to the Cathedral, and for about ten years, they collaborated in numerous productions. The Boar’s Head Festival, Wildman, Halloween procession of ghosts and ghouls, and their very moving staged production of Bach’s St. John Passion, are some of the highlights of their creative years there together. Ralph readjusts himself in his rocking chair, trying to get comfortable. He looks down at Bluebell and smiles. He is a man whose job is his passion. I hope we all could be that lucky. So when I ask him if he has a favorite moment, I expect him to say that it was that first Halloween parade in the Village, or when his company won a Village Voice Obie Award in 1991, or when in 1996 Ralph received a New
York State Governor’s Arts Award, or in 1998 when the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center presented an exhibition of his work. Instead, after thinking back over his career, a smile emerges behind his white beard, and he says, “We were doing this play that had this huge monster that came on and devoured all creatures…” and he tells the story of an audience being moved by a huge puppet monster emerging out of a natural ground fog
that happened to be passing by at the right moment. “I want this experience to be woven into the audience’s lives. Not to be something that is totally apart from them. I want them to be included.” They are, Ralph. We are. Mark Novom is a member of the English Department and has written and directed some of his own plays at Taft, including oneacts Bagging Groceries and Morning Way.
The Woman Who Fell From the Sky 䉴 SAM ZUCKERMAN
Taft Bulletin Fall 2001
She loved to sail as a young girl. Now U.S. Naval Commander Cindy Thebaud â€™81 is taking charge of a guided missile destroyer.
By Bill Slocum, Greenwich Magazine
BEYOND the Promise of COMMAND
he cigarette boat slammed through the rough Caribbean chop, twin engines on full throttle. The man at the controls swerved his vessel hard from port to starboard, leaving behind a serpentine wake. The rest of the crew lifted bales of cargo and threw them overboard. Not a hundred yards behind, a 563-foot guided-missile cruiser barreled after them, closing fast. On the bridge of the USS Ticonderoga all was dark except the dim, green glow that pulsated from a handful of control monitors. Cynthia Thebaud ’81, then a lieutenant commander in the United States Navy and executive officer of the Ticonderoga, peered out through her night-vision goggles as the evening’s prey disappeared and reappeared from under the cruiser’s bow. It was late November 1998. Cindy had assumed her duties as the ship’s second-in-command just days before. “There were times we worried we might have run over the boat, because we were right on top of it,” she recalls. “The attitude on the bridge was quiet and professional, but there was an electricity in the air, a good, positive tenseness. You
䉳 Previous page, left: With the USS Hayler looming in the background, its chief engineer Cindy Thebaud poses with retired Capt. Robert Hayler, a former commander of several ships and a son of the admiral for whom the Spruance class destroyer is named. 䉳 Right: Now a full-fledged naval commander, Cindy looks over the side of the USS Kinkaid for other ships in the harbor.
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had to keep track of this guy and be attentive to how you were handling the ship. We had a helo overhead we had to keep track of, and call on if we needed light. And one of the LEDETs (Law Enforcement Detachment personnel) said he saw someone on the boat with a gun.” The chase finally ended more than three hours after it began, when the cigarette boat blew an engine. The boarding party from the Ticonderoga found nothing except an empty cargo bay and a crew who claimed it was enjoying an evening joyride off the Colombian coast. Any cocaine bales it may have been carrying were deep underwater. As far as the war on drugs went, no cartel lord in Cali was going to lose sleep
over this one. But looking out at the cigarette boat roped to the Ticonderoga’s side, Cindy felt a small measure of satisfaction. “A lot of the time, in the Navy, you don’t get to see a lot in the way of positive results when you do your job, but here you did,” she says. “You don’t have the drugs, but they don’t have them, either. So it has the same effect, because the drugs aren’t being brought into the country,” Positive results mean a lot to this Navy officer, and have since she earned her commission upon graduation from Annapolis in 1985. Soon Commander Cynthia Thebaud will reap her most positive result in uniform when she assumes command of the guided-missile destroyer USS Decatur. Turning down Brown for a Navy career has never felt more worth it. She calls her first command assignment “a culmination point.” It’s more than a personal milestone. Cindy is one of four women slated to captain a destroyer by the end of 2002, duty which has up to now been filled entirely by men. Throw out terms like “pioneer” and “example,” though, and she groans: “There’s enough going on as it is when you’re in command of a ship. You don’t need the public looking over your shoulder.”
Much of Cindy’s control was honed from her exposure to the sea, a journey that began when she was not yet in the fourth grade and the prospect of going out on her parents’ sloop for an afternoon filled her with dread. “She hated the tipping of the boat,” recalls her mother Sally, a former chemistry teacher at the old Rosemary Hall school when it was based in Greenwich. Sally raised Cindy and her two younger sisters, Beth and Ander, in north Greenwich with her husband Mike, a program engineer at IBM now retired. “Her sisters would tease her because she clung so to the side. But she got over it. We told her we were going out sailing, and we weren’t going to hire a babysitter. By the time she was ten or eleven, she couldn’t wait to go out. Now I don’t think you could put enough sail on a boat to please her.” The Thebauds were, and Cindy’s parents remain, members of the American Yacht Club in Rye, a place Cindy credits for her development as a sailor. By the time she came to Taft, Cindy was an eager member of the school’s highly touted sailing team. “The Navy ran a couple of high school regattas I’d go down and race in,” Cindy recalls. “Once a year, they’d host a regatta at Annapolis. There’d be people
there who had sailed the Great Lakes, people from California, from the Gulf Coast. One of the reasons the Navy does this is for recruiting.” It worked on Cindy. When it came time for college, Cindy had Annapolis down on her short list along with Brown. She collected the necessary letters of recommendation from Senator Abe Ribicoff and Congressman Stewart McKinney. Sally knew which school she wanted her daughter at: the one without the uniform requirement and a mandatory five-year postgrad service commitment. “It’s like joining a nunnery,” she remembers thinking of Annapolis, “only when you become a nun, you can get out before five years.” But Cindy heard a different drum. Both Brown and Annapolis had sterling academic credentials, but at Brown, undergraduates wrote their own majors and designed their own curriculums. For someone who always sought a degree of structure in her life, Annapolis was more attractive. “It was 1980, too, the year the Ivies just went over ten grand a year,” Cindy says. “It seems like a pittance now, but back then it was a big deal. So either you paid a huge tuition at Brown or you got paid an active-duty midshipman’s stipend at the Naval Academy!”
䉳 There is life beyond the ocean blue. Cindy, at far left, joined the women’s glee club at the Naval Academy. When she can get away, she loves to drive in a convertible—with the top down.
䉱 Sisters Beth, Ander, and Cindy enjoy a happy moment during a Christmas reunion.
䉱 Cindy crawls out of a foxhole during a summer training session between her second and third year at the Naval Academy.
䉲 Young Cindy was not particularly fond of being on the water, but since her parents were sailors, she had to accept it. Now as a Naval commander, she will live months at a time on the sea.
Sally got over her misgivings about Annapolis; but even with her boardingschool background, Cindy’s transition was not easy. “She would call us sometimes, especially the first two years, when she was bumming,” Sally remembers. “We’d worry, but she’d have forgotten it already when we brought it up later.” “There are not a lot of sounding boards at the academy,” Mike adds. “The chaplains were helpful. One day a chaplain spotted her in the library looking sad and asked if something was the matter. She said there was, and he told her to be at his office at three the next afternoon. That’s one good thing about Annapolis, the counselors can order you to come talk about your problems.” Cindy describes her deepening involvement in the Navy as a series of progressions, “not a snap decision at any one point.” When it came time to decide whether to commit at the end of her sophomore year, Cindy decided to stay where she was. She thought seriously about getting out a few years later, though, while running the propulsion system of the destroyer tender USS Prairie. “I didn’t particularly like some of the people I was working with, and I didn’t find my job that rewarding,” she recalls. “But the captain at the time told me I
was crazy not to stay in the Navy. He said: ‘Stop this nonsense and baloney. You’re not getting out.’ ” She didn’t, and then in 1988, she was named the ship’s navigator. “It was a big step up for me, a big responsibility,” she says. Baby steps were more what Cindy was used to at the time. Throughout the 1980s, women in the U.S. Navy hardly enjoyed equal footing with their male counterparts. When she accepted her commission, the Combat Exclusion Law forbade women to serve on any vessel with weapons systems on board, effectively limiting her to logistical ships like tenders and oilers. Between stints at sea, she did time as a NROTC instructor and as an intern with the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Getting her subordinates to accept her orders wasn’t easy, either, especially in the eighties. There was resistance from some male personnel who didn’t think Cindy or any other woman should be in a position of authority on their ship and weren’t subtle about letting her know it. “People had to be careful not to be overt about it, there were rules, but people told me I had no business being in the job I was in,” she says. “It wasn’t everyone, or most people, but enough that I noticed. Even just one would have
been enough for me to have noticed.” There was another kind of attitude Cindy had to deal with, too, among many she had known in her youth. “In the early eighties, military service wasn’t the profession of choice in the mainstream, not among upper-class people, anyway,” she said. “It certainly wasn’t looked upon as a great career choice by people I grew up with. That was probably a good reason why I didn’t maintain close contact with a lot of them.” Sally remembers a time when she was with her daughter at Yale University, which Navy was about to play in a football game. Cindy was in uniform with the other midshipmen, and, as they walked across the New Haven campus, Ivy undergraduates sneered and made derogatory comments. “Cindy and her fellow plebes just ignored them,” Sally says. “A few older people, in their forties and fifties, stopped to tell the kids they were proud of them, which was nice.” Much has changed, Cindy notes. Military service today is looked upon in a different and more favorable light. Cindy credits the success of Operation Desert Storm for much of this. And through the 1990s, the U.S. Navy gradually lifted bans on women serving in all
䉳 On the USS Kinkaid Cindy is ever on the alert.
䉱 Headed for some R and R in Istanbul, Turkey, are Cindy, right, and her three officers (all the officers in the engineering department were women).
Taft Bulletin Fall 2001
but submarine or SEAL commando capacities. It’s a change reflected in the warmer climate Cindy says female servicemen experience today. While feminists may feel gratitude toward Cindy, she is no willing critic when it comes to discussing current practices. Asked how she feels about the continued restriction on submarine duty, Cindy claims there is more going on than blinkered sexism. “How would you like it if your sister slept in a bunk surrounded by men?” she asks. “Now in Sweden that wouldn’t be a problem, and that’s why they have women in submarines there. It’s a cultural issue.” Bob McCullough of Riverside, a former lieutenant commander and thirtyyear member of Annapolis’s seamanship studies oversight committee, recalls his own reservations about women serving on warships. “I didn’t think it was such a hot idea,” says McCullough, who commanded a destroyer escort during World War II. But meeting Cindy at veterans’ reunions the Navy has hosted over the years helped change his mind. “I would say she’s equally as impressive as the men in her situation,” he says. “In fact, she’s outstanding. I was on the Fales Committee at the Naval Academy [an advisory committee] for years, and
䉴 As photographers snapped away, Cindy, who graduated near the top of her class, received her diploma f ro m P r e s i d e n t R o n a l d Reagan on Commissioning Day, May 22, 1985.
I got to know a lot of the young officers. She represents the very best of them. She’s a very meticulous person, a fine personality, and commands the respect of her colleagues.” One colleague is Commander Rob Newell, the public affairs officer of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, which is headquartered in San Diego. There, Cindy works as the executive assistant to the U.S. Pacific Fleet’s commander, Vice Admiral Ed Moore. “I’ve been in the Navy fifteen years, and I’ve seen a lot of EAs, but she’s the best,” Newell said. “She knows immediately what is important and needs to be focused on. She can juggle a lot of balls in the air. Also, more important, she is a professional surface-warfare officer, so she has an essential understanding of what goes on.” Cindy’s surface-warfare background consists of having served on five vessels since receiving her commission, going from communications officer on a weapons-testing ship to command of the engineering department of an oiler. She never did get to serve on an amphibious vessel, which she recalls as something of a disappointment. Though never in a combat situation, she was on the Prairie in the eighties when it was stationed at the mouth of the Strait of
䉱 Cindy gets pinned—but this time in the Navy—by husband Mike and VDM Ed Moore, right, to the rank of commander in July 2000.
Hormuz; American ships farther along the channel protected tankers passing through from attack. Talking about the Hormuz operation brings up the issue of military mishaps and their sometimes-tragic consequences. Whether it was the shooting down of a commercial airliner during the Hormuz operation, or this year’s fatal sinking of a Japanese fishing boat by a submarine, the cases point up in Cindy’s mind the need for “training, training, training, and more training.” “Everything you do is a risk assessment,” she says. “If I’m a stock fund manager, I’m playing with people’s money. When you are out underway on a ship, it’s people’s lives.” Last year was a defining time for Cindy, both professionally and personally. In January 2000, Commander Thebaud was assigned to her present position running the headquarters for Vice Admiral Moore. “You learn a lot about decisionmaking,” she says. “You have to resolve the allocation of a finite amount of resources available to us.” In July, she became eligible for command duty when she marked fifteen years of commission service. The other big change came on Memorial Day weekend, when she married Mike Fierro, a fellow Navy commander.
The two had been midshipmen at Annapolis for a time, and their paths crossed again in 1993 at the Surface Warfare Officers School in Newport, Rhode Island, where she took his engineering class. She didn’t waste time making an impression on her instructor. “Many students skim the surface of the material and do just well enough to get by,” Mike says. “Cindy was a topnotch student who took her lessons seriously as a means of preparation for her next assignment. That doesn’t mean she didn’t have fun, but she knew what was important.” Mike and Cindy had more in common than a love for engineering. They had grown up in close proximity to one another. Mike’s family was from Port Chester. That gave them something to talk about other than pressure levels and steam turbines. The romance took off while the Ticonderoga was in its homeport of Pascagoula, Mississippi, and Mike was stationed six hours away in Tennessee. Being a Navy couple, they knew that physical distance would be a constant in their relationship. Today Mike is in command of a destroyer, USS Kinkaid, which began a six-month assignment in the Pacific Ocean in March.
Cindy insists it’s no big deal that she and her husband are both in the Navy and thus are forced to spend so much time apart. If only one was in the Navy, she noted, they would still face six months of separation a year. Her mother recalls her telling a class at Taft, “Would you rather be the one going out to sea, or the one waiting at home? I’d rather be the one going out.” “It’s one of those things you deal with,” Cindy said. “If nothing else, we have an advantage, because we both understand why we have to go out and get underway. There are no surprises. We keep in touch by letters and e-mail. E-mail is a great morale booster for people in the Navy.” When she isn’t tapping out a missive to her husband, or running the vice admiral’s headquarters, Cindy cooks, does needlepoint, and sings in the church choir. Mike noted her abiding love for ragtops: “You won’t catch her driving anything other than a convertible.” Cindy tries to take advantage of her present West Coast location with an occasional sailing jaunt. When Cindy was named to her first command assignment, she had time to share the news with Mike before he embarked on his own command. The couple went to an Italian restaurant and ordered a bottle of champagne. “Trust your gut,” Mike told her. “Knowledge gained
䉳 A proud family—father Mike, sister Ander, and mother Sally—pose with newly commissioned Cindy.
䉱 At a friend’s wedding, they’re the ones in full white uniform—the bridegroom is in black behind them. They were in his Arch of Swords.
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through experience may be internalized, but it makes itself felt when necessary.” Beyond the promise of command, much remains unclear about the future, near-term and beyond. In 2005, assuming she remains in the Navy until then, Cindy will become eligible for a full retirement pension. “Would I stay on for twenty years?” she asks. “A lot of things factor into that. Would we start a family? How do I do in command?” For his part, Mike envisions him and Cindy “doing the family thing or the retired thing” in ten years’ time: “I’d even be Mr. Mom if the situation required. In either case, I expect we’ll do some traveling and exploring together.” One thing Mike says impresses him most about Cindy as an officer is the way she connects with the sailors who serve under her. While she may wonder at times where her life would have led had she chosen stockbroking or some other civilian career, Cindy said she has no reservations that her choice has been the right one. “You get to meet people from all walks of life,” she says. “There’s a huge opportunity to have a phenomenal influence on the development of young people. You get hands-on leadership opportunity at a very early age. You learn how to be responsible for a lot of things, including people’s lives.”
䉴 LCDR Cindy Thebaud and her bridegroom CDR Mike Fierro pass under the Arch of Swords formed by the men of the wardroom of the Kinkaid, Mike’s ship at the time.
Sally Thebaud says she still has trouble figuring out what Cindy’s Navy responsibilities entail, even after her daughter has been explaining them to her for the better part of an hour. But she likes how those duties have shaped her daughter. “Mike and I were with her a few years ago after she had been reassigned and was having her stuff moved. Every half-hour or so she’d be on the phone talking to someone. You could tell when it was business and when it wasn’t, because when it was business she talked twice as fast, and her tone changed. She is very straightforward and no-nonsense. Mostly it was the people moving her furniture. She was telling them what she wanted done, and how to do it. “It was all very impressive, how she was ordering them around by phone, but the most impressive part came at the end, when she told the guy on the line she wanted to speak to his boss. She told him, ‘I want you to put your boss on, because he needs to know how good a job you did for me.’ That was nice. I was very proud that she did that.” “Beyond the Promise of Command” originally appeared in the June 2001 issue of Greenwich Magazine. This excerpt is reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.
䉱 Occasionally, Cindy finds time to take her parents’ boat for a sail with her sister Beth.
Alumni return to their alma mater and find surprising rewards of teaching and a second life at Taft By Julie Reiff Willy MacMullen ’78 may be the first alumnus to head the school, but what few people may realize is that roughly 20 percent of the faculty, in any given year, are also Taft graduates. For some alums the return to Watertown is only a brief stop on the way to graduate school. For others it may be the beginning of a lifelong career. Many are surprised that the number of alumni is that high. But who better understands the values and goals of this place, the ins and outs of boarding life in general, than those who sat on the other side of the desks? So we asked those who’ve returned to reflect
on what brought them back to Taft, how the place has changed, and what changes they value most. In addition to some of the more obvious changes, such as coeducation and new facilities, faculty talk about the draw of raising children here or having the good fortune to meet and work with a spouse—prospects they probably didn’t consider when filling out their admission applications to Taft. The traditional model for the boarding school job is the “triple threat” of teaching, coaching, and running a dormitory. Clearly the faculty here represent
Frederick H. Wandelt III ’66 “Ferdie” B.A. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; M.A.L.S. Wesleyan University Returned in 1971 Director of admissions, former lacrosse coach, history teacher CPT, HDT, 7 years in the dorms
I came back to the school because of Lance Odden; except for my parents, no one has had a greater influ28
Taft Bulletin Fall 2001
that well, but what is harder to portray is the change in responsibilities over the course of their careers. How can we possibly do justice to all the teams coached, committees led, and courses taught and designed over the years? Contributing to a community means meeting its needs today and tomorrow; roles change with those needs and faculty rise to meet them. Always at Taft, students have come first. Developing the whole person is and has been the core of our philosophy, and it is a calling that can last a lifetime.
ence on my life. During my years at Taft, he taught me Asian history, was my adviser, my coach, and I served as a monitor on his corridor. How has the school changed? Taft is more academic and diverse now than when I was a student. There is a greater sense of institutional pride. As a facility, our school now rivals any in the country; surely not the case in 1963. Coeducation is the biggest improvement of all. What do I like best about Taft now? Non ut Sibi.... The soul, culture, and excellence our school stands for across the board are unparalleled.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY PETER FINGER
On the Other Side of the Desk
Andrew Bogardus ’88 “Bogie” B.A. Denison University; diploma in African Studies, University of Cape Town, South Africa Returned in 1997 Admissions officer, history teacher, international student adviser, squash and lacrosse coach HDT, 5 years in the dorms and counting
Before returning, I taught, coached and lived for four years at the Marvelwood School. Once offered a job, I returned to
Taft because I knew firsthand of its many strengths—particularly the positive energy of the students and the healthy priorities of the faculty and administration. In addition, I wanted to become involved in admissions and I knew certainly that Taft’s department was the one for which I wanted to work. I also looked forward to getting involved once again with squash and lacrosse. Most importantly though, as it turns out, I returned to meet my lovely wife, a fellow teacher, and life is good. Certainly the physical plant and facilities have changed drastically since I was a student and are now stunning. The intan-
Lynette Sumpter ’90 B.A. Brown University Returned in 1999 Director of multicultural affairs, admissions officer, psychology teacher Congdon, 3 years in the dorms and counting
Before returning, I ran an electrical contracting firm with my dad, Ampere Electric, Inc., in Newark, NJ, developed and taught the STEP Program for eighthgrade Wight Foundation Scholars (an enrichment program to prepare students for boarding school), and did coursework for a master’s program in religion and psychology. I came back for a change of venue. I needed to be in an educational setting. It nurtures the “nerd” in me!
Clayton B. Spencer ’56 “Chip” B.A. Yale University; M.A. Trinity College Returned from June 1964–June 1970; again in January 1994 Interim director of development, director of planned giving, former director of development CPT, HDT, 4 years in the dorms
gibles on campus, however, are largely the same: the consistent emphasis on learning in all arenas, the demand always for high standards, honesty, and integrity, the distinctive ability of the students and faculty to blend work, focus, and fun. I do think, however, that students are now more interested in the quantifiable aspects of achievement. I appreciate most the energy of the students here. They take on incredible loads, they achieve at such a high level, and they do it with a positive attitude that is infectious.
I also wanted to be supportive of diversity objectives and add to the diversity of the faculty. I love Taft and wanted to give back to a place that gave me so much! The plant is much more “high class” now; there are many new facilities! It’s incredible! The support services we provide our students—the Learning Center, school counselors, Peer Advocates, Diversity Committee, and having a director of multicultural affairs, just to name a few—have progressed tremendously. My own perspective has changed in terms of my understanding of the awesome privilege afforded me as a result of my experiences as a student, and now as a faculty member. I like the classes offered now, the classes I teach, the food! I like the energy around innovation, and I like that we are constantly reviewing ourselves and making changes. It keeps life around here interesting!
Between stints at Taft, I have been headmaster of St. Margaret’s-McTernan, a marketing manager for a securities firm, and a financial planner. I wanted to become involved again with a school I loved, known as a parent of Oliver ’85 and Jonathan ’88 for seven years, and knew was on an incredible roll for the past 25 years. I was also not wild about the financial planner job. There have been huge changes here! Taft Bulletin Fall 2001
The place is warmer, friendlier, and there are girls. The campus is twice the size now; there are closer student-faculty relationships as well as better facilities, but having my daughter Jane ’03—a third-generation Taftie—here is the best part of all!
“L.T.” B.A. Princeton University Returned in 1996 History teacher, football, wrestling, track and field coach, Diversity Committee HDT, 6 years in the dorms and counting
I was interested in giving current students what I did not have, African American male influence in the faculty. I wanted to be that someone who allowed minor-
Richard M. Davis ’59 “R.M.” “Rick” A.B. Princeton University; M.A. University of Michigan Returned in 1965 History teacher, former department head, Debating Society adviser HDT, CPT, 32 years in the dorms
Inspired to become an educator by the superb examples of my Taft teachers Al Reiff Sr. and John Small, I applied to several schools. I had been a student under Paul Cruikshank and found Taft, during an interview in the winter of 1964 with John Esty, to be in so many ways a new and different school. I was so intrigued by the blend of the familiar and the new that I accepted a teaching position here.
Jessica Clark ’94 “Jess” B.A. Dartmouth College Returned in 1998 Science teacher, ice hockey, lacrosse, and field hockey coach McIntosh, 4 years in the dorms and counting
The school in 2001 barely resembles the Taft of 1959 in many ways, yet in others it is unchanged. Taft still cares about the whole student, still has warm facultystudent relations, still places academics and character building on equal footing, and still preserves the overall spirit and mission of Mr. Taft. The school is quite different physically, not only with the new buildings and facilities, but with major transformations of the old ones; the rule and daily life structure is much more liberal and realistic. Obviously coeducation has made the most important difference to the institution. Taft is a much more connected-to-the-world place now rather than the selfcontained and inward-looking place it was. Taft is a school with compassion, standards, character, a sense of mission, and now has the physical facilities to permit all these to flourish.
I was looking for a supportive community as a new teacher, and I thought my connections at Taft would provide that. I was very much looking forward to coaching with Patsy Odden during my first few years as a coach. It has been exciting and often difficult the past three years watching my views on the school and faculty change. I think the kids are much more competitive than when I was here in both the classroom and on the fields, and I often think that is why the school has lost some of its spirit. Nevertheless, I 30
is computer friendly, in a way that would not have been possible ten years ago. Also, the support networks for students, thanks to the likes of Jean Piacenza, have increased and improved so much that I feel Taft is ready to handle any issues that may arise from students. I like the ability to help students rethink their positions in society. I like allowing them to not feel smug about their level of privilege, but to help others, who represent the masses of those that “don’t have.” I love being able to learn from kids as they grow and learn from us!
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feel the community structure is much more welcoming because of its support outlets like the learning center and the counseling office that keep the community up and running. Students are entering the school in a time when the world around them is often unforgiving. The support network does not change our most important goal of educating a whole person. The continued closeness between the faculty and the students today is imperative, and it is the reason I stay at Taft.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY PETER FINGER
Leonard Tucker ’92
ity students to see that separating from their roots, at least educationally, did not destroy the innate elements that made them a minority and proud, but it also made them inherently connected to this American Dream principle. When I pursue my dream of local politics in New Jersey, education will be the major tabletop my views will rest upon. I feel that much of the Taft Spirit has given way to the preparatory aspect of the school. Students, while smarter than those in the past in a lot of ways, are definitely less self-sufficient. Books seem to have become less important! On a better note, Taft
Robert Campbell ’76 “Bob” B.B. Washington and Lee; M.B.A. University of Hartford Returned in 1990 Associate dean of students, former director of the Annual Fund 1781 House, Congdon, CPT, 12 years in the dorms and counting
Before I joined Taft I was a product manager at Bank of New England. I came back because the bank failed; I was laid off and looking for a new career path. Today, more students seem to be increasingly connected to a greater number of faculty. The facilities are more impressive and less “worn.” There seems to be more pressure on the students. Twenty-five years ago, you couldn’t have
Jean Strumolo Piacenza ’75 B.A. Yale University; M.S.W. University of Connecticut School of Social Work, licensed clinical social worker Returned in 1983 Director of counseling and community health, former math teacher McIntosh, 10 years in the dorms
My husband John wanted to try teaching, so I called Lance Odden, asking for information on schools that might be looking for math teachers. Taft had an opening, as it turned out, and Lance encour-
Donald Oscarson ’47 “Oscie” B.A., M.A. Yale University Returned in 1954 Latin teacher, dean of students for 20 years, head of dining room, middle class dean, coached “Jumpers,” transportation, tutoring HDT, CPT, 5 years in the dorms
paid me enough to work here. Now, I can’t imagine a better work environment. I work with a great group of colleagues, and the students keep me young, mentally anyway. There is still a real sense of community; that is what attracted me as a student and what keeps me here on the faculty.
aged him to apply. I thought it would be weird working here, and that transition from student to colleague took awhile. I was certified to teach music at the time, but eventually joined the Math Department, too, before returning to school to study counseling. I believe we spend an enormous amount of time and energy attempting to build and teach community responsibility. Although that has always been true to some degree, I believe we are more thoughtful, determined, and therefore more successful at it now.
I had several talks with Mr. Cruikshank during my years at Yale and I returned, in part, because of my great respect for the man. The school is now much less rigid, but also much less clear on what its moral message is. The atmosphere here is more normal, less artificial, since the arrival of coeducation.
David Hinman ’87 B.A. Hobart College; M.A. Boston University Returned in 1999 Director of Athletics Congdon, 3 years in the dorms and counting
Before returning, I taught for six years at Rippowam Cisqua and two years at St. Sebastian’s. I came back to Taft because I had so much respect for the teachers and coaches
who worked with me as a student. I also wanted to work for Lance Odden, who in my mind was one of the very best educators in the boarding school community. I believe that Taft is a more diverse place today than it was in 1987. The Admissions Office has done a terrific job finding talented kids with varied interests and backgrounds. What I like most about Taft now is what I enjoyed most about the school as a student. There is a close relationship between students and faculty which creates a learning environment that is beneficial to all at Taft. Taft Bulletin Fall 2001
“Willy” “Mr. Mac” B.A. Yale University; M.A. Middlebury College Returned in 1983 Head of school, English teacher, former class dean, soccer and ice hockey coach CPT, HDT, 11 years in the dorms
John Kenerson ’82 “Jack” B.A. Colgate University; M.A.L.S. Dartmouth College Returned in 1986 Head of the History Department, admissions officer, golf and football coach HDT, CPT, 12 years in the dorms
Three Taft teachers were key in getting me interested in teaching: Larry Stone, Monie Harwick, and Jol Everett. Jol’s history classes were great: interesting, full of discussion, and challenging. I had Monie in upper middle English, and I struggled! She was always there to help me and at the same time kept the standards high. Monie showed me you could be both compassionate and hold students to high standards, and I thought it would be neat to do that for students. Larry Stone, too, had a huge impact on me; he made me believe in myself. He pushed me, challenged me, demanded perfection, and I came to thrive on that. My senior year playing for Larry was one of the best experi-
Eric Norman ’81 B.A., M.B.A. University of Connecticut Returned in 1998 Business manager, former assistant business manager
(See also Willy’s interview, “Steering the Course,” in the summer issue.)
ences of my life. I loved everything about Taft Football. I did not miss a practice, a weight room session, or a film session, and when we beat a previously undefeated Hotchkiss team, I realized something about myself: If I put my mind to it, I could accomplish most anything. I still remember it clear as day—Larry was carried onto the field and we were all jumping around like we had won the Super Bowl! My continued love of football and of coaching stems directly from Larry. As America becomes more diverse and more welcoming, Taft does as well, whether it be increasing the percentage of girls in the student body or recognizing the need to increase the number of students on financial aid. Taft has changed a tremendous amount for the better. I like interacting with Taft kids on all levels. Whether in the classroom, on a Saturday afternoon in the fall on the football field, or with a couple of students who are babysitting for my son Peter, having the opportunity to work with motivated, interested, and, most importantly, good kids is a real joy. I feel fortunate that my “job” involves working close to my family and with young people in a variety of ways.
Before returning, I spent ten years in a Big 6 public accounting firm as a practicing CPA for primarily SEC registrants. Taft was my smallest audit client, which kept the connection alive. I saw a strong need here, and felt that I could address it, as well as create a nice career opportunity for myself. I was completely unaware of this side of the school when I was a student, but I
[Blackburn] Osborn had on me. The school has become a better place in every imaginable way, and yet without losing its soul. I have wonderful colleagues, terrific students, and a beautiful campus; and each day I come to work excited. Best of all, I work with my best friend— my wife Pam.
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would say that Taft seems much more dynamic these days in terms of facilities and finance. We also seem to have lost some of the more colorful faculty members who were here when I was a student. As a student, you hope that the school’s existence makes a difference in your life; as a faculty member, you hope that your existence makes a difference in the school’s life.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY PETER FINGER
William R. MacMullen ’78
I taught at a wilderness-based school for mentally retarded and delinquent boys. It was a wonderful, exhausting, meaningful job, but after a year, I felt it was time to move on. I wanted to teach and coach—and work with children who had the intellect, character, and opportunity to change the world. And I had great memories of Taft—I think I hoped I could have the effect on students that people like Tim Briney, Rick Davis ’59, and Robin
Greg Hawes ’85 B.A. Dartmouth College; M.F.A. The American Film Institute Returned in 2000 History teacher, wrestling coach, Outdoor Program CPT, 2 years in the dorms and counting
I spent three years in L.A. getting a master’s in screenwriting and trying to break into the film business. Then I taught English and history for six years at Blair Academy under former Taft faculty Chan Hardwick.
My wife and I were thinking about exploring the boarding school world beyond Blair, but we were going to put off our search until after we had a child. I met John Wynne by chance at the Prep Nationals, and he informed me that he and a number of other history teachers were leaving and suggested I apply. A month later it seemed it wasn’t going to happen and then two weeks after that we had the job. Certainly we were looking for a more challenging academic environment, as well to broaden our own experiences as educators. It’s harder for me to notice the changes here, since I spent twice as long
William G. Morris Jr. ’69 “Mo” B.A. Bucknell University; M.A. University of Connecticut; M.A. Columbia University Returned in 1976 Dean of academic affairs, history and humanities teacher, former director of college counseling, lower mid and senior class dean, director of financial aid, and assistant director of admissions McIntosh, Congdon, 7 years in the dorms
Jonathan Willson ’82 “Jon” B.A. Amherst College; M.A. Brooklyn College Returned in 1996 History teacher, basketball coach, Diversity Committee co-chair CPT, 5 years in the dorms
I taught at Brooklyn Technical High School for nine years before coming back to Taft. After our second child was born, my wife and I looked at how we might escape the perils and costs of child-rearing in New York City. About the only way we could figure out for me to keep
at Blair as I did as a student at Taft. I’ve changed so much since then. On the other hand, the opportunity for individual student academic exploration is fascinating. If you wish to pursue the study of something on your own, the resources here are remarkable. The artistic talent manifested by the student body is impressive. While we still do a great job of teaching the fundamentals, it seems to me that we are much more experimental in what we teach and how we teach it. That’s a fun environment in which to work.
I came back to work with Lance Odden, whom I had known well as a student, and to try teaching for a few years; it has turned into 25 and still going. Coeducation and Lance’s leadership have made Taft a more humane and sensitive school. I think we do a much better job of fulfilling Mr. Taft’s original mission—to educate the whole person—than at any other time in the history of the school. Working with students is what it is all about, but the combination of autonomy and a strong sense of community also make this a great place to live.
teaching in the involved manner (beyond “just” the classroom part of it) to which I had grown accustomed, and still be a major presence in my children’s lives, was to teach at a boarding school. Taft was my first choice because I had had such a positive experience here as a student and felt much gratitude toward and affection for the place, in addition to its having become one of the truly elite schools in the time since I had graduated. The facilities, solid when I was a student, have become spectacular, and it just keeps getting better. The overall options available to students also expanded, especially those in the arts. The percentage of students of color also increased, and rather Taft Bulletin Fall 2001
dramatically. But beyond that, the fundamentals of the school have changed little: strong teaching, involved and caring faculty, a small-school feel in a medium-size school, across-the-board competitive athletics, and (paramount) the idea of “educating the whole student” really does pervade Taft, then and now. It’s a fantastic environment in which to teach, coach, and advise other people’s children and an equally fantastic one in which to raise my own.
B.A., M.A. Middlebury College Returned in 1985 English teacher, director of communications, associate director of admissions, squash and tennis coach, head of the Discipline Committee Congdon, CPT, HDT, 5 years in the dorms
Before returning, I was head pro at an indoor tennis center for three years. I played the Satellite Tennis Circuit for a year, traveling around the world, and I was a journalist for a year, writing articles and shooting photos. I had Barclay Johnson ’53 as a middler, and he led me to love literature. My senior year at Middlebury, I enrolled at The Bread Loaf School of
Al Reiff Jr. ’80 A.B. Harvard University; M.A.L.S. Wesleyan University Returned in 1985 Head of the Math Department, wrestling and cross-country coach, former crew coach CPT, SGD, 10 years in the dorms
I had interned at Taft’s summer school and had a teaching offer from Lawrenceville when I got a call from my father, who was dean of faculty here at the time. A math teacher had made a lastminute decision not to return, and Taft
and computer labs. Speaking of computers, I remember Andrew Potter ’75 feeding paper tape into a state-of-theart computer that took up a whole room in the old science center and was less capable than the graphing calculators kids now carry to class. One thing hasn’t changed—the friendships students make with roommates, classmates, and teammates from all over the nation and the world are extremely strong and last a lifetime. These kids are phenomenal ... filled with energy and enthusiasm, bright, talented, and idealistic. Working with them every day is a privilege. I can’t imagine a more meaningful, satisfying job than preparing kids to be leaders and citizens of the world. They appreciate adults in their lives who push them to do their best, and who stress integrity, sportsmanship, and service to others. Teaching here is uniquely gratifying work.
was a little desperate. Although I’m glad I had three years working with my dad, I’ll admit that I came because Taft made the better offer. Despite the incredible improvement in the physical plant, it is the atmosphere here that has changed the most. As a student, I felt a real us/them dichotomy between students and faculty. I don’t think there was a whole lot of trust between the two sides. Given that most of my schooling was in the late ’70s, there probably shouldn’t have been much, but it still made the school feel less like a home. I think Taft is now a much more trusting, more caring place. I think kids genuinely are happy to be here and enjoy their relationships with the faculty. Kids now are much more talented and capable than 20 years ago, too. Their plates are much fuller. Expectations are
higher and the vast majority of kids live up to their high billing. There is a scholarly pride about the place; it’s perfectly okay to be smart these days. As a student, I certainly appreciated the quality instruction I received. When I went to Harvard, I longed for the quality of teaching I had at Taft. But now, as a teacher, I realize how much more the faculty put into the school than I ever knew as a student. Teaching here is not just a job. Now I see how much passion and energy goes into teaching. I see how exhilarating and draining it is to coach; how trying and rewarding it can be to work in the dorms. Now that I am a teacher (or perhaps now that I am an adult), I have so much more respect for those teachers who touched my life—who gave of themselves to help out a teenage kid.
Taft Bulletin Fall 2001
PHOTOGRAPHY BY PETER FINGER
Peter Allan Frew ’75
English, fairly sure I wanted to teach. As I worked on my master’s and met other high school teachers, I became convinced that teaching was more noble than a lucrative job offer I had at the same time. Ten years after Taft, I bumped into Al Reiff Sr., who encouraged me to come work at my alma mater. I thought he was kidding at first, but after interviews with Lance Odden, Robin [Blackburn] Osborn, Ferdie Wandelt, and Rusty Davis, I was hooked. I am still amazed that the people who knew me as a teenager would hire me. The most obvious change here is the way the campus has evolved. The facilities are unbelievable now. I think back to the days when I’d sneak into the gyms to shoot baskets between periods in what is now the Potter Gallery, the Woodward Theater, the Pailey Dance Studio, electronic music studios,
By Bishop Paul Moore
Longing for Freedom Freedom happens to be one of my passions. Although a much, much abused word, it is still terribly important as a concept, as an ideal. We all thought we were fighting for freedom in World War II, at least we were told we were, but I never quite put it that way in my head, although I almost got killed in combat. Later on I came back to the United States, and in the early ’50s I got to know Thurgood Marshall. He asked me to go on an expedition to Florida, where four black kids were accused of raping a white girl. Our job was to find out whether the venue where they were to be tried was an appropriate, unprejudiced place. We knew the answer before we got there,
people who would have to stay there after we left, whose houses had been burned down, whose churches had been burned down, who might be lynched. And yet, day after day they would go out—some of them kids—on the dusty roads with us to register black voters. We’d come back at night to eat in a hot Baptist church and hear those incredible freedom songs—this wonderful passionate singing, holding hands and swaying back and forth. I felt palpably free for the first time with people who were less free than anybody I’d ever known. Their souls were freer, so free that it infected the atmosphere with this quality of freedom.
“I felt palpably free for the first time with people who were less free than anybody I’d ever known.” but we needed evidence. So we drove down to this beat-up old town in the middle of the orange groves. We got out of our car—Thurgood had on a three-piece suit, looking immaculate—and were walking down the street when this great big guy, he actually had a red neck, says, “What are you all doing here?” And we replied that we were there to investigate…. “I knew you were here to cause trouble. What’s that nigger doing in a three-piece suit? And what are you doing in those funny looking clothes and a round collar, kid like you?” As he was talking, about twenty other men looking just like him began to circle around us. Finally he said, “You all better get out in about five minutes or I’m gonna ride you out on the rail.” And all the other rednecks sort of closed in, so we got in our car and left very quickly. On the morning of the trial we learned that the sheriff shot all four of the boys and killed three, alleging that they tried to run away as he was driving them down from the state prison. So here’s this idealistic ex-marine who fought for freedom, finding this in our country, and that got me thinking about race. I went to Mississippi in the summer of 1964 to work on voter registration. There I experienced the incredible courage, not just of the civil rights workers who came in from the North—even though three of them were murdered that summer—but also of the black
Over the years I’ve been privileged to go to some of the trouble spots in the world, and I’ve found in the eyes of young people, this incredible passion for freedom—whatever their culture, whatever their race, whatever their religion. Kids in South Africa before apartheid: I remember preaching in Soweto and seeing hundreds of kids ready to go out even though there had already been massacres. In Nicaragua: the young people’s glorious beginning of the Sandinista revolution. I went to Saigon in 1970. After a rally, the Buddhist kids talked to us about their experiences being tortured, having their fingernails pulled out and being beaten. They, having just got out of the tiger cages, wanted us to join them in a manifestation, a demonstration, the next day. We went there only to talk, but we stayed up all night and finally decided that we would. The worst that could happen to us was that we’d be sent home—which we were—but these kids, willing to go back to their deaths or to terrible torture in the tiger cages, were out there on the street. How could we refuse to go with them? I remember my first visit to East Timor, right after the Pope’s visit. A group of young people had been demonstrating for freedom, and the Indonesian militia arrested some of them and hauled them off to prison; some of them “disappeared,” others rushed into the Bishop’s compound for sanctuary. Some of
them were still there when we visited, and I saw the same longing for freedom and the willingness to give their lives for it shining in their eyes that I saw in South Africa, in Mississippi, and in Nicaragua. Sometimes in schools you run across this thirst for freedom in rather unattractive ways. I remember a few years ago one school that had a custom where two seniors would speak to alumni about how wonderful the place was, but this time, these kids got up and were nearly shouting about the oppression they had felt because there was no freedom of religion there. This was a church school. The headmaster has a rabbi there part time, he’s had Buddhist monks come to visit, he’s had Muslim leaders come in, but it is a church school. Even though these kids were arrogant, unreasonable, and outrageous, if you trace what’s going on inside, what makes kids rebellious, it may be the downside of this freedom longing. So even though you have to tell them where to get off, never forget that that instinct of rebellion can be one of the most positive parts of their beings. That instinct may even be embedded in their souls, but if channeled, gradually and tentatively and with difficulty, then you may be bringing someone into the world who will fight for freedom in whatever way he or she is called, whether it be by teaching or political action, or whether it be by war, should that terrible thing ever happen again. The beginning of Judaism, and therefore Christianity, was when the Israelites, who were slaves in Egypt, followed Moses to freedom. So the dynamic of the Christian and Jewish faiths started with the longing for freedom. And it still is the heart of any religion that you must be free to choose, otherwise you cannot be free to love or to be loved or to be fulfilled. Freedom is not just a political concept, not simply a social concept, it is also at the very heart of spirituality. The Right Rev. Moore is the author of The Church Reclaims the City, 1965; Take A Bishop Like Me, 1979; and Presences, 1997. He became bishop of New York in 1972 and retired in 1989. He retired from the marines with the rank of captain, receiving the Navy Cross, the Silver Star, and the Purple Heart. These remarks are excerpted from his opening address to faculty on September 7. For more on his visit, turn to page 9.
Taft Bulletin Fall 2001
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