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B U L L E T I N Fall 2004 Volume 75 Number 1 Bulletin Staff Director of Development John E. Ormiston Editor Julie Reiff Alumni Notes Linda Beyus Anne Gahl Jackie Maloney Design Good Design www.goodgraphics.com Proofreader Nina Maynard Mail letters to: Julie Reiff, Editor Taft Bulletin The Taft School Watertown, CT 06795-2100 U.S.A. ReiffJ@TaftSchool.org Send alumni news to: Linda Beyus Alumni Office The Taft School Watertown, CT 06795-2100 U.S.A. TaftBulletin@TaftSchool.org Deadlines for Alumni Notes: Winter–November 15 Spring–February 15 Summer–May 30 Fall–August 30 Send address corrections to: Sally Membrino Alumni Records The Taft School Watertown, CT 06795-2100 U.S.A. TaftRhino@TaftSchool.org 1-860-945-7777 www.TaftAlumni.com 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.

This magazine is printed on recycled paper.


FEATURES Building a Better Athlete ................................... 18 In a culture of specialization, are three-season athletes headed toward extinction? By Andrew Everett ’88

The Guardian ...................................................... 23

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In New York City—where demand for real estate is soaring, land is scarce, and money is plentiful—the stakes are high. Bob Tierney ’61, who chairs the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission, helps protect its heritage while still allowing for growth. By David Lombino ’96

Navigating the Waters of College Admission ............................................. 28 How parents and students can steer clear of myths and misinformation to find the college that is right for them. By Andrew McNeill

DEPARTMENTS

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From the Editor .................................................. 4 Letters ................................................................. 4 Alumni Spotlight ................................................ 6 Around the Pond ................................................ 10 Endnote............................................................... 34 On the Cover Bob Tierney ’61 shows off the rotunda in New York’s landmark City Hall. The rotunda has been the site of municipal as well as national events; Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses Grant were laid in state here, attracting enormous crowds to pay their respects. DON HAMERMAN  The Heroic and Pathetic Escapades of Karagiozis, designed and directed by Guggenheim Fellow Ralph Lee ’53 and performed at Taft by his Mettawee River Theatre Company in September. PETER FREW ’75

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E-Mail Us! Send your latest news, address change, birth announcement, or letter to the editor via e-mail. Our address is TaftBulletin@TaftSchool.org. We continue to accept your communiqués by 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: Find a friend’s new address or look up back issues of the Bulletin at www.TaftAlumni.com. What happened at this afternoon’s game?—Visit us at www.TaftSports.com for the latest Big Red coverage. For other campus news and events, including admissions information, visit our main site at www.TaftSchool.org, with improved calendar features and Around the Pond stories.

Don’t forget you can shop online at www.TaftStore.com


FROM

THE

EDITOR

From the Editor There’s no doubt about it; I have a fun job. It has its difficulties, of course, but most days I find myself fortunate to indulge my own curiosity and busybody nature as I seek to tell the stories that define the larger Taft community. I am intrigued by your tales of success and adversity, of daring and commitment, and above all your concern for others. One challenge I face is convincing the more modest among you that your story is worth telling. Why me? some ask. It’s a fair question. With nearly 8,000 living graduates how do we highlight some over others? I have my own prejudices, and find some subjects more interesting than others, but in most of our lives there is some moment, some choice, some commitment, that makes our tale worth sharing. The trick is connecting at the right time. I get plenty of help, too, from proud parents and humbled friends who tell me about the exploits of their children and classmates. Others include the Bulletin in their list of publicity contacts, happy for whatever exposure their endeavor might gain. One bias I will admit to is my conviction that people want to see faces. Eye contact seems as important in print as it is in person. In an age of increasing isolation, we want to

connect, to read expressions, to make the story personal. Which is why we ask for photos of you, why we include so many images in class notes, and why we’re picky about the quality. We live in an age when we are inundated with information. I find my own house gets buried periodically in an onslaught of paper—things I keep intending to read, or file away for the future. So I make it a point to value your time, by keeping stories to a reasonable length and trying to find stories you’ll find useful or interesting. I imagine many of you, like me, also like to live vicariously through the adventures of graduates who have dared to do things the rest of us only dream about. We have those dreams in common, and we gain the opportunity to find out what might happen if we choose to move to another part of the globe, if we climb a mountain, race sports cars, or adopt a dozen kids. It may be a cautionary tale, or it may give us courage, but it helps us connect to one another, to share more than our memories of a small campus in suburban Connecticut. As always, I welcome your stories, even though I can’t print them all. I also want to thank all of you who completed the readership survey* in the summer issue. Your

feedback is enormously helpful. I encourage you to continue the critique by sharing your thoughts on each issue in our letters column. So, please, let me hear from you.

interfere with my 50th—which seems a lot closer now than it did back in May 1959. Your father-in-law, Al Reiff, was a wonderful teacher. He was a friend and mentor to me and the teacher I remember most fondly from my years at Taft. —J. Stephen Buckley ’59

Ind., in the whole state, as well as all he did for Taft and Yale. I knew his sister, Clementine Tangeman, much better because she preceded me as president of the board at Emma Willard. What a model she was! —Don Buttenheim ’33

—Julie Reiff, editor

*Congratulations to Wilma Johnson, a Taft employee for 16 years now living in New Mexico, who won the Taft chair. Her survey was chosen at random from all entries received before September 30. Thanks again to all who responded.

Recipe Alert Sandy Saxten’s recipe for Poke Rolls in the summer issue of the Bulletin (p. 29) was missing a key line of instructions: “After assembling the rolls in wonton wrappers, sauté in a small amount of olive oil for two minutes or until golden brown. Slice and serve with dipping sauce.” Our apologies for the omission. —Julie Reiff, editor

Letters 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 • Taft Bulletin 110 Woodbury Road Watertown, CT 06795-2100 U.S.A. or to ReiffJ@TaftSchool.org

I want to take this opportunity to tell you what a good job you are doing with the magazine. The editorial balance is terrific, and I like the layout and design. I especially like the picture pages you have interspersed with the class notes. I missed my 45th Reunion in May, as I had to be in Atlanta for a business meeting. I guess I’ll have to make it a point to let nothing 4

Taft Bulletin Fall 2004

Just finished a page-by-page scan—alternated with intense reading—of the summer Bulletin. Special thanks for the treatment of ’33 as usual. I do wish Kay and I had swelled that luncheon picture to seven. That Citation of Merit award to Wesley Williams ’59 was really inspiring, and I mean to drop him a note of admiration. Hope I do! Speaking of that group. We lost a real standout recently in J. Irwin Miller ’27. I knew him a bit personally and was always in awe of his accomplishments in Columbus,

I was immensely pleased to see the photo of my little granddaughter in the Bulletin. It came out really well. I think the magazine is outstanding. I can even see it in the stack of mail in the mailbox. It is visually very appealing, and the colors are vivid. There seems to be a good balance of photos and print. I probably read about half the articles, but am much more likely to read an article like the one on Oscie than one on someone I didn’t know. I also like “From the Archives.” The photo in the summer issue is much earlier than 1954 (see next page); that tree was gone by the


FROM THE ARCHIVES

The cameraman is, indeed, Ken Parker, who came to Taft in 1942. Ken taught French and Spanish and was the director of public relations. —Harry Hyde ’52 The picture had to be taken around 1947. Bill Browning is second from the left in front of the tree. The first man on the left might be George Gershel, and Jerry Rogers on the far right, all of whom graduated in 1948. By 1954, Bill and I had been married for two years. —Jane Browning

Summer Bulletin, page 46

Ken Parker but not in 1954 The archive photo in the summer issue was probably “snapped” in 1945–46. Not realizing Ken was a faculty member, someone along the way must have attached his son’s year to the name on the photo. Thanks to the following readers who helped us identify most of the film crew. —Editor

The picture could not possibly have been taken in 1954, when two-tone cars with fins were at the height of their popularity. Running boards died out right after the war. —Chris Davenport ’56

There was a master at Taft named Ken Parker; his son was a member of the Class of 1954. Mrs. Parker succeeded Mrs. Shons as librarian in 1953 and was librarian for two years. The Parkers left in 1955, when he became public relations director at Trinity College.

I recognize all but the man peering from the 1941 Ford wood-sided station wagon. [Alan] Ward ’46 is the first on the left. Hester, who worked backstage for the theater productions, wears the gloves. I don’t remember enough about the next two to call their names. [Thomas] Merrill ’47, the last on the right, played clarinet. —Alexander King ’47

time I got there, probably when the street was widened for the intersection. One suggestion for an article would be on day students or Taft’s relation with the town. Being a boarder whose family had been in Watertown since 1678, I saw things a whole lot differently than my peers. The older generation, my grandmother in particular, always referred to it as Mr. Taft’s School, presumably since she knew Mr. Taft. —Tommy Hickcox ’57

not to place the photo on the cover of the Bulletin, it is on the school’s web site for all the world to see. Even if the photograph were excluded, one wonders what moral and ethical values Taft is inculcating to its students. Are any of Taft’s 577 students pro-life, and did any participate in the Pro-Life March in D.C. on January 23? I hope future issues of the Bulletin will be more discreet and discerning about all aspects of sensitive issues. —Henry N. Giguere ’52

I was disturbed and saddened by the Taft Bulletin staff in the insensitivity of its coverage of the Women’s Pro-Choice March in D.C. It’s one thing to report an event in print, but quite another thing to include an “in your face” color photograph of teenage students holding placards advocating abortion. Although some discretion apparently was made

My wife Sally and I were positively delighted to read in the latest issue about the award given to Wes Williams. As chaplain from 1955–60 [for more on Dave, see page 61), Wes was one of my favorite young men. I’ve often wondered what happened to him— and now I know! —Dave Duncombe

Photo vintage is 1944–48 as most autos in background are pre-WWII. Only recognizable student is Bill Browning ’48, second from left. —Craig Bristol ’48 George “Tony” Allerton ’46 also checked in via telephone to identify Alan Ward ’46 as the boy on the far left. If you have more information about the photograph from the summer issue or this one (see page 32), please contact: Alison Picton, archivist Taft School, 110 Woodbury Road Watertown, CT 06795 or e-mail pictona@taftschool.org

We all know Taft’s reputation for excellence at the highest level, but the Bulletin excels even Taft’s lofty standards. The layout, the photos—ever crisper and clearer—every facet of the magazine is superb. One singular advantage you have is the incredibly broad and varied lives and careers and doings of your students and alumni. They range the four corners of the globe, using their talents and commitments in art, music, writing, community service, athletics, and involvement at the highest level. You must be aware that you set the standard that so many independent schools are emulating. I receive several publications from my and my children’s schools—sadly none of them Taft—and the pattern is clear. They’re all following your lead. —Fran Snyder [widow of Philip ’38] Taft Bulletin Fall 2004

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ALUMNI

SPOTLIGHT

Alumni S P OT L I G H T

A Concert to End All Concerts

Despite mud and other hardships, some 70,000 fans made the pilgrimage to Coventry, Vt., to sing and cry along with Phish during its final concerts over the August weekend. Fans left an estimated 5,000 cars parked in neat rows along Interstate 91 and hiked for miles to reach the concert. TONY CENICOLA/THE NEW YORK TIMES

The news broke at the end of May that the Vermont-based band Phish—often referred to as a younger version of the Grateful Dead—was breaking up. The band’s leader, Trey Anastasio ’83, said at the time that “Phish has run its course and that we should end it now while it’s still on a high note….We don’t want to become caricatures of ourselves, or worse yet, a nostalgia act. We realized that after almost 21 years together we were faced with the opportunity to graciously step away in unison, as a group, 6

Taft Bulletin Fall 2004

united in our friendship and our feelings of gratitude. So Coventry will be the final Phish show. We are proud and thrilled that it will be in our home state of Vermont. This is not like the hiatus, which was our last attempt to revitalize ourselves. We’re done. It’s been an amazing and incredible journey.” Anastasio later gave an hourlong interview with PBS’s Charlie Rose, and the band played on the David Letterman show a few weeks later—performing from the top of the Ed Sullivan Theatre marquee,

two stories up from the street. After the show ended, the band performed an additional 20 to 25 minutes for fans. Despite a summer schedule of 13 concerts, the final August festival in Coventry sold out in June. The band auctioned off 80 pairs of tickets, donating the proceeds to Vermont nonprofits through The Waterwheel Foundation, created by Phish in 1997 to oversee the band’s various charitable activities. To meet the enormous demand from “phans,” the two-day festival was simulcast in high-definition video and Dolby surround sound at theaters across the nation as well as on XM satellite radio, making it possible to listen in to the concert from anywhere in the U.S. An onsite radio station—a regular feature at other Phish festivals (each with its own name: The Badger, Thin Air, or The Bunny)—also pumped out “an eclectic mix of music, traffic reports, event updates, interviews with fans and festival crew, a double session of Phish archivist Kevin Shapiro’s ‘From The Archives’ programs, late-night audio freakouts and of course all of Phish’s sets” from Thursday through Monday. Capturing some of the frenzy surrounding this final summer, select public television stations aired a 90minute special on Phish’s 2003 festival in Limestone, Maine. Shot in highdefinition video, It combines exclusive interviews interwoven with live material. The official Phish web site refers to


It as “unquestionably the best footage ever captured of the band playing live.” When it came time for the final concert, held at the Newport State Airport in Coventry, Vt., more than 70,000 fans came from all over the country to say goodbye creating a daylong traffic jam on Interstate 91. Record precipitation, though, turned much of the parking areas to mud, causing some ticket holders to be turned away. In tears during the final show, Anastasio reportedly told the crowd, “We’re having some emotional ups and downs up here, as I’m sure you are. When we started we had so many ideas, we were going to do this thing and that thing and break down that rule. When I think back on it now, I think of how little I knew about music and about friendship.” “Although Phish was at the center of a jam-band scene that’s full of collaborations and connections,” wrote the New York Times, “it also stood alone. Phish operated on a scale to rival the Grateful Dead, its career model and sometime musical model as well. One thing Phish takes with it as it disbands is the ambition to put on one-band events like Coventry.”

Medea Turns Muslim With the New York debut of Medea in Jerusalem, Roger Kirby ’65 has transported Euripedes’s play from the Mediterranean to the Middle East. But the shift in geography is not as great as the shift in time. Instead of 406 B.C.E., Kirby updates the story by casting Medea as a Muslim woman who marries a Jew and moves to Israel. Critics praised Kirby for bringing new life to the classic play, updating the language and developing the plot around contemporary events, while remaining faithful to the original. The New York Times described the play as “wilder and bloodier than Euripedes imagined.” Not surprisingly, the play “provoked considerable controversy and very heated reviews” as well, says Kirby. “To the very positive side, a memo was circulated within the U.N. suggesting that it be seen.” A Mideast broadcasting system did a segment on the show that was shown throughout the region, including Iraq, in September. The reason Kirby wrote about the crisis in the Middle East, he told the New

Sean Haberle as Jason and Rebecca Wisocky as Medea in Roger Kirby’s recent New York production

York Daily News, is that “no sentient person, especially living in New York, cannot not take an interest. Apart from the terror issue, there’s the seeming stupidity and blindness and lack of common sense on the part of so many different entities. One can’t just stand by and let events take their natural course. Twenty-four hundred years of violence is enough.” A New York lawyer by trade, Kirby’s three previous plays, Natural Inclinations, Modern Man [Fall 2003], and Burleigh Grimes each had its debut in London. Medea in Jerusalem was performed at NYC’s Rattlestick Theater from August 5 through September 4.

Friday Night Lights It has been a busy year for actor/director Peter Berg ’80, who appeared in the film Collateral with Tom Cruise and directed

Director Peter Berg ’80 and Actor Billy Bob Thornton on the set of Friday Night Lights

his own movie, Friday Night Lights, about a Texas high-school football team. Based on the novel of the same name by H.G. Bissinger (Berg’s cousin), Friday Night Lights is the story of the 1988 Permian High School football season, but it’s really a “story about community and the sociology of a town,” said Berg, who starred as the hockey-playing doctor Billy Cronk on the television series Chicago Hope. As director and co-screenwriter, Berg spent much of last year’s football season in Austin and Odessa, Texas, staying with the players and their families. “What I saw [at games] was absolute chaos, with the coaches talking to these 17-year-old boys like they were soldiers,” Berg recalls. “Everything is happening at

once, there’s pure desperation in the air, and 40,000 people are screaming in the stands. It was a lot like the beginning minutes of Saving Private Ryan.” These were big schools and football was big time there, said Berg, who played for Larry Stone at Taft. “Coach Stone was a very intense character,” said Berg. “He used to traumatize me. He’d say, ‘It takes a special breed of cat, Berg. Are you a special breed of cat?’ I always remember him saying that to me. I even put it in a speech one of the characters says in a television show I did called Wonderland.” Friday Night Lights opened in theaters in October. Berg also directed last year’s The Rundown. Taft Bulletin Fall 2004

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ALUMNI

SPOTLIGHT

From Connecticut to Cork Jaywalking with the Irish David Monagan ’70 Lonely Planet Publications, 2004

Other Alumni Works in Print Over the Edge of the World Magellan’s Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe Laurence Bergreen ’68 HarperCollins, 2003

PATRICK LYNCH

For David Monagan, the dream of dropping everything to pack off to another country for a great family adventure became real when he and his family left the “Volvo-purring perfection of the Connecticut hills” to move to Ireland for one, two, or three years—or perhaps a lifetime. What he and his family discover upon landing in a peculiar Cork City, is an Ireland transformed. By turns hilarious and withering, Monagan’s book, Jaywalking with the Irish, is the tale of how profoundly the new Ireland differed from the Monagan’s dreams. What they found was a world still whirling with eccentricity and abiding heart. The result is a uniquely nostalgia-free portrait of a country wrestling with its place as the fastest growing economy in Europe. “You won’t find a better or truer

Singing Her Praises Between Here and Gone Mary Chapin Carpenter ’76 Columbia Records, 2004 8

Taft Bulletin Fall 2004

House of Holy Fools A Family Portrait in Six Cracked Parts Amy Biancolli ’81 Lulu Press, 2004

depiction of Ireland than this one,” says Frank McCourt, author of Angela’s Ashes. “David Monagan captures the country and its landscape in exquisite detail and does it with wit, charm, and compassion.” Monagan is a longtime journalist and publisher whose numerous credits include the New York Times, Boston Globe Magazine, Forbes, Discover, Psychology Today, The Irish Times, Irish Examiner, and Reader’s Digest. He is currently writing a nonfiction book called Explorers of the Heart. A former Dublin college student, Monagan says he can “talk about most anything Irish,” from his adventures on lifeboats or in building Kerry megaliths or in the mother of all eccentric pubs.

Mary Chapin Carpenter ’76 has a new album out, Between Here and Gone from Columbia Records. Released in April, this is her first collection of new songs since getting married in 2002. The Chicago Sun-Times called it her “most pointed and poignant songwriting” yet. “Carpenter sustains an introspective tone throughout the album,” agreed the Washington Post, “crafting thoughtful songs about unresolved emotions (‘What Would You Say to Me’), spiritual refuge (‘My Heaven’) and hard-won love (‘Elysium’). The Paul Simon-like portrait ‘Grand Central Station,’ beautifully

Back to Life Introducing the Simple Cure for Back Pain and Sitting Ills Condict Moore ’33 Butler Books, 2004

Kindness of Strangers, edited by Don George ’70 [Fall 2003] was named the winner in the Best Travel Essay category at the eighth annual Independent Publisher Book Awards. The IPPY Awards, as they are known, were presented at BookExpo America 2004 in Chicago. “We are extremely honored,” said George. “From the beginning, we believed that these tales of human compassion and connection around the globe would resonate with readers and inspire them to create acts of kindness in their own lives.”

drawn and hauntingly arranged, ranks among her finest ballads.” Between Here and Gone “addresses the theme of travel and transition, the fragility of life, and the ephemeral nature of happiness,” said Amazon.com. “Carpenter reestablishes herself not only as a world-class poet, but as an artist of the first order.” Fans flocked to her summer concerts around the country to hear her latest songs as well as her Grammy-winning favorites. Carpenter also appeared on CBS Sunday Morning in late August and the Jane Pauley Show in early September.


ALUMNI

SPOTLIGHT

On and Off the Wall Other recent and upcoming alumni artists exhibits Adam Brent ’91 “Cooked Green” June 12 through August 31 The Art Lot Brooklyn, New York John R. Whitton Bria ’69 “New York Points of View” September 17 through December 31 The Gallery in the Park Cross River, New York William Hudders ’82 “Summer Light” September 5 through October 30 Ahlum Gallery Easton, Pennsylvania Marc Leuthold ’80 “Expanding Vortex” March 22 through May 15 Gallery Pahk New York, New York [For a list of exhibits in the Mark W. Potter Gallery, please turn to page 15.]

“Bend,” 2004, 48" x 60", oil on linen

COURTESY

KATHARINA RICH PERLOW GALLERY

Upcoming Exhibits for Ken Rush Artist Ken Rush ’67 will have a selection of his recent landscapes included in a three-artist exhibition at Katharina Rich Perlow Gallery in New York City that opens January 6. He will also be having a solo exhibition opening February 18 at the Southern Vermont Arts Center in Manchester, Vermont. Spending time in New York and Vermont, Rush is entering his 26th year of teaching art at Packer Collegiate Institute in Brooklyn. “I work from, with, and in the landscape,” says Rush. “At first, my painting made very specific reference to what I saw. Now I am no longer working from any specific reference or source.”

Rush’s landscape has been internalized into thematic series that basically find voice in his studio. They are neither memory images nor observed ones, he explains, but instead are personal explorations of the act of painting. “I consider them,” he says, “in spite of their elements of familiarity and recognition, to be essentially abstract.” Rush has studied at some of the finest institutes worldwide, including the Sir John Cass College of Art in London and the Syracuse University School of Fine Arts. He is the author and illustrator of several children’s books, including The Seltzer Man and Friday’s Journey. Taft Bulletin Fall 2004

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AROUND THE POND

pond


AROUND THE POND

 The new Moorhead Learning Center, located in the former “Kitchen Corridor,” as it neared completion in September. PETER FREW ’75

The newest addition to the campus this fall is the Moorhead Learning Center. A warm, beautifully lighted environment, the new center—still under the direction of Karen May—will continue to offer students help with strategic reading techniques, study and writing skills, organizational and time management skills, as well as evaluations and peer tutoring. The new center is named in honor of Rodman W. Moorhead ’62 and his family, who have assisted the school in

students succeed. The first person a Taft student should go to will always be his classroom teacher. The center is simply an extension of what we already do really well.” “What I think distinguishes us from the nation’s best day schools,” Liz Shepherd ’05 wrote in The Papyrus last spring, “are the resources we have on campus—resources that remain open long after that last class bell sounds. The Learning Center is a sacred haven for those

Expanded Learning Center Moves to New Quarters its efforts to provide more support for student learners over the years. “Rod Moorhead is one of the school’s most remarkable, generous, and committed graduates,” said Headmaster Willy MacMullen ’78. “In addition to being a longtime trustee, he has supported the school in every way imaginable, and his unique commitment to student learning has changed this place. Without his intellectual curiosity, this center would never have happened. This is clear: We will meet the school’s mission of educating the whole student even better now.” The Moorhead Learning Center was a project years in the making; and in some ways it is the end result of research showing that students learn in very different ways. “In the same way that our nation’s best universities created learning centers, Taft is also committed to providing both the space and resources to ensuring that its students meet their potential,” MacMullen said. “People like Don Oscarson ’47, who exemplified the role a tutor can play in the lives of Taft students, taught us how important that can be,” explains MacMullen. “Taft has always been and will always be a rigorous academic experience. The Moorhead Learning Center is simply one more resource among many that we use to help students, another tool we have to help

who seek a more nurturing educational environment. Some of Taft’s brightest students spend time there just to gain some extra confidence on their writing or other areas they feel need some work.” What’s remarkable, adds MacMullen, is that so many students are interested in how they learn, often honors students. The learning center in the Arts and Humanities Center proved so successful that more space was needed. With the additional room, May is hoping to work more with teachers, to run department workshops and help them better understand ways in which different learners learn. She also hopes the new facility will allow them to develop the existing Peer Tutoring program. “Our learning center is open to all students,” explains May, “which is rarely found at other schools.” Designed by architect David Thompson, who was responsible for the renovations to Walker Hall two years ago, the Moorhead Learning Center includes study space, three new offices, a conference room, and several tutoring rooms. In addition to the learning center, the renovation also includes a counseling wing where school counselors Jean Strumolo Piacenza ’75 and Jonathan Bernon have their offices. A dedication of the new facility, located in the former Pond Wing, will be held in the spring. Taft Bulletin Fall 2004

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AROUND THE POND

Purely Artists for a Time Seven students were awarded Kilbourne Summer Enrichment Grants in the Arts this year, helping them underwrite all or part of the expense of “summer programs, classes, seminars, or trips which are enriching and will encourage and expand the students’ interest and skill in the performing and visual arts.” Established by John Kilbourne ’58, the grants were all given to seniors this year, although younger students are welcome to apply. Six of them share their experiences here.

 CAROLYN LUPPENS ’05 loves the Kilbourne program “because it gives students the chance to be purely artists for a time. At school,” she says, “there are too many pressures from too many different things for the environment to be conducive to a solitary focus, but that is often the discipline required to excel at any art.” Carolyn went to St. Andrews University in Scotland for a month to study creative writing with some of the foremost Scottish authors and poets. “As excellent as the professors were,” she said, “as inspiring as the location was, and as incredible as my peers were, the most valuable thing I learned was how to be a writer, an opportunity for which I am eternally grateful.”  JESSICA GIANNETTO ’05 attended a weeklong photography course at the College of Southampton on Long Island that heightened her love for pho12

Taft Bulletin Fall 2004

tography. She said her professor, a photographer for the New York Times, gave her a piece of advice that she took to heart: “Take every picture as if it is your last.” She also said that the darkroom was her sanctuary and that she spent much of the day in it printing. “I learned a few new

techniques that I am anxious to experiment with and plan to do an independent study project during the year.” ELSPETH MICHAELS ’05 took a sculpture class at Yale University. “It was one of the most rewarding, intimidating, challenging, and fun experiences I’ve ever had,” she said. Learning plastering, welding, and woodworking, Elspeth says the class totally changed her perspective on art. She says her classmates, who were mostly upperclassmen at Yale, challenged her to think more and care more about her art. “After submitting my A.P. Art portfolio last spring, I felt I needed to take a break from 2D art and try sculpture, something I’ve had little experience with. Since this class, I’ve approached art with a new attitude, clearer perspective, more creative ambition, and a willingness to be more adventurous.”


AROUND THE POND

 Monica Raymunt ’05, right, with fellow acting student Michal, who came from Miami, at the Yale Summer Program.

 Also at Yale, MONICA RAYMUNT ’05 studied acting techniques at the University’s School of Drama. “We took five classes each day in voice, movement, acting, improvisation, and text analysis, in addition to scene study and other events every evening,” she said. “While the schedule and workload were demanding, I honestly reveled in every moment and wish I could experience it all over again. The program strengthened my passion for theater in ways I never dreamed possible.”  NELL MALTMAN ’05 went to a Second City training camp for two weeks. She spent two and a half hours learning improv and the same amount of time for comedy writing each day. “The class was, honestly,” she said, “the best experience of my life.”

WILL SEALY ’05 chose to study filmmaking in New York. “While many other students in the five-week program chose to study 18mm film production,” explains Will, “I decided on the alternate digital course. Over the program, I wrote, directed, and edited three short films. The second,

a four-minute-long music video of an upand-coming New York City band, was so well received that I decided to send it to the Hollywood Student Film Festival.” Senior Sara Rubin also received a Kilbourne grant, to study art.

A look at the numbers For the school’s 179 openings for new students this fall, the Admissions Office received over 1,400 applications. The current student body of 564 is made up of the following: • 288 Boys and 276 Girls • 96 Lower Mids, 147 Mids, 158 Upper Mids, and 163 Seniors • 462 Boarding and 102 Day • • • • •

45 percent are from private schools and 44 percent from public schools. 22 percent are students of color. They hail from 34 states and 18 foreign countries. 34 percent are on financial aid, receiving $4,250,000 in total grants. Tuition for boarders is $32,900 and $24,000 for day students.

Taft Bulletin Fall 2004

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Poole Days One of the most prestigious awards at Taft isn’t given out at graduation; it isn’t even limited to seniors. Named for Bob Poole ’50, Poole Fellowships are travel grant money awarded each summer to help students fund service projects around the globe. Poole, who returned to Taft to teach and coach football, went on to devote his life to conservation in Africa. His legacy of serving others lives on. There were seven recipients this year. Their stories enrich our community and inspire others to make a difference. Four of them share the highlights of their experiences and what made it worthwhile.  VANESSA BROWNSTEIN ’06 had “an amazing time” on her Poole Fellowship in Belize! “During our orientation week, we hiked up Mayan ruins, canoed through caves, and learned about the country and its culture before we went to our homestays,” she explained. “We spent a little over two weeks in a remote town building a resource center. It was hard physical work, which taught me to push my personal limits both physically and mentally. My host family spoke Spanish, so the language barrier provided us an opportunity to find different ways to communicate as well as teach each other our native languages.”

Jade Scott ’05 with Charity, 3, at the New Day foster home for children with special needs in China.

 JADE SCOTT ’05 spent three weeks in China working with special needs children in the New Day foster home and helping at the New Day Factory in a small town outside Beijing. “It was very much a culture shock,” says Jade, “but the most amazing and eyeopening experience I have ever had. I got to work with children, to practice my Chinese [promoting her to Chinese 3 at Taft this year from level 1 last year], and met the most incredibly generous people. I went independently, without a program, and that was one of the best decisions I could have made.”  NICHOLAS CHU ’05 traveled to Kuala Lumpur and Penang, Malaysia, where he volunteered for five days at an orphanage called Rumah Hope, as well

as at an orphanage for handicapped and disabled children for another five days. In Penang, he volunteered at an orphanage managed by the Salvation Army. “My Poole grant was simply a great experience,” said Nick. “I was given the opportunity to travel to a country I’ve always been interested in, to volunteer in a way I’ve always loved—playing with kids. It was a new and unforgettable experience.” In Thailand, TAMARA SINCLAIR ’05 taught English and played games with children between the ages of 3 and 5. “It was an institution set up by monks and was therefore adjacent to a temple,” she explained. “The children approached me with apprehension at first, but they soon grew to love and trust me and in the same way I grew to love these children and rely on them for my daily dose of innocence, simple happiness, and sheer unbridled energy. Some days, after the children were taking naps, I taught the attendants basic English; this was the most rewarding part of my trip. To be able to hold conversations in English with women who just two weeks before knew only a very limited number of English words was a great feeling.” Other Poole Fellows for 2005 were Samantha Glazer ’06, who went to Australia; Jacob Hammer ’05, who went to Tibet; and Leah Nestico ’05, who went to Thailand also.


AROUND THE POND

PETER FREW ’75

Self Portraits in Learning

“Everything we write is a self-portrait,” observed Joe Gordon, dean of undergraduate education at Yale College, who

addressed the faculty at their opening meeting in September. Speaking about plagiarism and Taft’s mission as described in the recent “Portrait of a Graduate” (see summer 2003), he offered the following observations. “We can understand [in the Taft Portrait] why the appeal to integrity comes first and foremost. If everything we write is a self-portrait, then our integrity is always at stake when we write: we can either be working to build it, or we can be risking its dissolution.” “As anyone who has compiled a writing portfolio or read through one knows, our essays show us at different stages in our development and in a variety of professional and social roles. Our writing reflects how we see the world and how we have come to terms with it.”

Invoking famous portraits in literature, Gordon quoted Oscar Wilde’s Picture of Dorian Gray: “Every portrait…is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter.” A member of Yale’s disciplinary committee, Gordon explained that students who’ve plagiarized “don’t anticipate that the greatest injury was somehow in failing themselves.” “We make portraits and value them because they show us who we, or others, are at a particular moment, in a particular place. They are human reflections. They are never immediate, that is, never unmediated; they may be flattering or critical, but either way they are inevitably ‘alienated’ from persons, both from the subject and from the viewer. Both because of this alienation and despite it, they are among the greatest teaching tools we have.”

Advanced Placement Studio Art at The Taft School April 1 to April 16

Taft Student Work in Drawing, Design, Painting, Sculpture, Photography, and Ceramics May 16 through the summer

In the Gallery This year’s exhibits at the Mark W. Potter Gallery Marine Painting Today Selected Work from the J. Russell Jinishian Gallery September 16 to October 9 Questions of Travel Photography by Joan M. Hurley October 15 to November 20 Bridget Starr Taylor ’77* Illustrations and Drawings January 7 to February 3 Jamie Fuller* Drawing, Paintings, Prints, Sculpture February 11 to March 11 This exhibition is made possible by a grant from The Andrew R. Heminway ’47 Endowment Fund.

Taft Independent Studies Program Exhibits April 19 to April 26

*Rockwell Visiting Artists

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AROUND THE POND

New Faces on the Faculty Otis Bryant M.A., Trinity, Howard History Matthew Budzyn M.A., Northern Illinois, Middlebury Spanish Roberto d’Erizans M.A., Wofford, Middlebury Spanish Herbert Erick Dalton ’00 B.A., Middlebury Teaching Fellow in History Chad Faber M.A.T., Georgetown, Brown History

Catherine Guiffre B.Ed., University of Reading (England) Mathematics Jonathan Guiffre B.A., University of Vermont Development, Publicity Peter Hanby B.A., Colby Science Anna Hastings B.A., Middlebury English Theodore Jewell M.S., Harvard, University of North Carolina School of Law, Yale Mathematics

Legacy Students Current students and their alumni connections R. George Abood ’07 ......................... Randolph G. Abood ’68, parent Lindsay C. Albert ’06 ................................... Eric D. Albert ’77, parent Jamie E. Albert ’08 ...................................... Eric D. Albert ’77, parent Cody E. Auer ’05 .......................... Bernhard M. Auer ’35, grandparent Jacob B. L. Baldwin ’07 ................. Thayer Baldwin* ’31, grandparent; Thayer Baldwin, Jr. ’58, parent Martha J. Barber ’08 ............................... Robert C. Barber ’75, parent Charles A. L. Bartlett ’08 ............... Charles A. Lamb ’42, grandparent; Susan Condie Lamb ’77, parent Alexander N. Bermingham ’08 ............. Eldredge L. Bermingham ’43, grandparent Max P. Biedermann ’08 ..................... John W. Biedermann ’77, parent Marika K. Bigler ’06 ............ Edward Madden Bigler ’40, grandparent; Paul G. Bigler II ’74, parent Griffith B. Bigler ’08 ............ Edward Madden Bigler ’40, grandparent; Paul G. Bigler II ’74, parent Carissa Blossom ’08 ........................... Richard W. Blossom ’66, parent Emily C. Boyd ’07 ............................... Martha Stine Boyd ’73, parent Mary O. Brauer ’08 ................................ Henry G. Brauer ’74, parent Elizabeth K. Brey ’08 ................................ Amy E. Upjohn ’79, parent Renfrew M. Brighton, Jr. ’05 .. G. Renfrew Brighton, Jr. ’43, grandparent; Renfrew M. Brighton ’74, parent Whitney Z. Brighton ’06 ... G. Renfrew Brighton, Jr. ’43, grandparent; Renfrew M. Brighton ’74, parent John S. Brittain V ’06 .......................... John S. Brittain, Jr. ’77, parent Charlotte G. Bromley ’08 ....... Dexter Barnes Blake* ’33, grandparent; Arthur F. Blake ’67, parent Eli M. Bronfman ’07 .......................... Matthew Bronfman ’77, parent Vanessa R. Brownstein ’06 ................... Fred X. Brownstein ’64, parent William C. Calder ’07 ...................... Gordon S. Calder, Jr. ’65, parent 16

Taft Bulletin Fall 2004

Marilyn Katz B.S., University of Pennsylvania Teaching Fellow in Science

Manna Ohmoto-Whitfield M.S., Princeton, Rutgers Science

Daniel Keating B.A., Duke Teaching Fellow in History

Andrea Orben B.S., B.A., University of Colorado, Boulder Learning Center

Bonnie Lui B.A., Williams Teaching Fellow in Chinese Daniel Murphy B.S., University of Maine History Jamie Nichols M.S., University of Michigan Science

Katherine Papay M.S., Franklin & Marshall, Cornell Science Sharon Phelan M.A., Wesleyan, Bread Loaf School of English English Melissa Sullivan M.A.T., Duke, Suffolk Science

Robert A. Campbell II ’07 ...... Robert A. Campbell* ’34, grandparent; Robert C. Campbell ’76, parent David J. Carroll-Kenny ’07 ......... Livingston Carroll* ’37, grandparent Nicholas W. K. Chu ’05 .............. Cassandra Chia-Wei Pan ’77, parent Spencer T. Clark ’05 ............... Elias C. Atkins* ’15, great-grandparent; June Pratt Clark ’72, parent; Robert T. Clark ’72, parent Caroline M. Coit ’05 ....................... Charles A. Coit* ’35, grandparent Reed E. Coston ’06 ...................................... Bridget Taylor ’77, parent Elias P. Coston ’08 ....................................... Bridget Taylor ’77, parent Edward R. Downe II ’07 ......................... Hugh W. Downe ’73, parent Madeleine E. R. Dubus ’05 .................. Peggy D. Rambach ’76, parent Benjamin A. Ehrlich ’06 ........................... Paul M. Ehrlich ’62, parent J. Keith Fell, Jr. ’08 ......................................... J. Keith Fell ’72, parent Kristina V. Felske ’07 ......................... Peter V. Snyder ’34, grandparent Andrew J. Foote ’05 ....................................... Jeffrey Foote ’73, parent Amanda L. Frew ’05 ..................................... Peter A. Frew ’75, parent William D. Gahagan ’06 ....................... Alexis D. Gahagan ’74, parent Ashley I. Gambone ’05 .................. Michael D. Gambone* ’78, parent Kyle S. Gambone ’06 ..................... Michael D. Gambone* ’78, parent Helen P. Gazin ’07 ........................... Barnaby Conrad ’40, grandparent Lindsay S. Gordon ’08 ................. Audley C. Britton* ’43, grandparent Julia B. Griffin ’08 .................................. David W. Griffin ’74, parent Joseph S. Guthrie ’07 ...................... Gordon P. Guthrie, Jr. ’62, parent Caroline C. Hall ’06 ............................ Laura Weyher Hall ’78, parent Carter E. Hibbs ’05 ..................... Elizabeth Christie Hibbs ’78, parent Daniel M. Hillman ’06 ...... Roth F. Herrlinger* ’22, great-grandparent; Edward F. Herrlinger II ’46, grandparent; Katharine Herrlinger Hillman ’76, parent Cai S. Hurt ’08 ........................ Nancy Goldsborough Hurt ’79, parent Thomas S. Ide ’05 .............................. Herbert S. Ide* ’21, grandparent Arthur L Kell ’08 ...................................... Laura Gieg Kell ’73, parent Jane I. E. Kinney ’06 ................................ H. Craig Kinney ’68, parent Arden V. Klemmer ’05 ........................ Andrew J. Klemmer ’75, parent


AROUND THE POND

Lee Whitfield M.A., Princeton, Columbia Mathematics PROMOTED Carl Carlson has been named dean of students. DEPARTING Business manager Eric Norman ’81 has announced his departure at the end of the fall semester. FACULTY STATS Male 64 Female 50 Average age 41 Average years at Taft 9

Austin G. Klemmer ’07 ....................... Andrew J. Klemmer ’75, parent Adrienne P. Y. Lam ’07 ............................ Daniel K. F. Lam ’75, parent Elizabeth L. Lanahan ’08 ... Roth F. Herrlinger* ’22, great-grandparent; Edward F. Herrlinger II ’46, grandparent; Leslie Herrlinger Lanahan ’73, parent Gray B. Lincoln ’05 ................................ Brian C. Lincoln ’74, parent Lysandra D. Lincoln ’07 ......................... Brian C. Lincoln ’74, parent Claire W. Longfield ’06 ........................ John S. Wold ’34, grandparent Charlotte D. Luckey ’08 ..... Charles P. Luckey* ’18, great-grandparent; Charles P. Luckey Jr.* ’43, grandparent; Todd W. Luckey ’75, parent Drew W. Mayer ’08 .................................. Lisa Reid Mayer ’75, parent Paige T. McGough ’07 ........................ Myles R. McGough ’68, parent Laura R. McLaughlin ’06 ............... Sharon G. McLaughlin ’73, parent Elisabeth T. McMorris ’05 ......... Gordon B. Tweedy* ’24, grandparent Clare E. Mooney ’05 ............................... Laird A. Mooney ’73, parent Emily L. Moore ’07 ......................... Condict Moore ’34, grandparent; James I. Moore* ’41, grandparent; James I. Moore, Jr. ’74, parent Alexandra d. Nielsen ’07 ........................... W. Sam Carpenter III* ’34, great-grandparent; Jeffrey M. Nielsen ’77, parent Kendra B. Pettis ’06 ................................ Kenneth A. Pettis ’74, parent Thomas F. Piacenza ’06 ................. Jean Strumolo Piacenza ’75, parent Antonia R. Pryor ’07 ......... Samuel F. Pryor, Jr.* ’17, great-grandparent; Samuel F. Pryor III ’46, grandparent; Samuel F. Pryor IV ’73, parent Langdon C. Quin IV ’05 .................. Langdon C. Quin III ’66, parent Adrian F. Quin ’08 ............................ Langdon C. Quin III ’66, parent Diana P. Sands ’06 ...................... Edward Van Volkenburg Sands* ’14, grandparent; Edward Van V. Sands ’65, parent Hilary C. Saverin ’06 ........................... Kenneth A. Saverin ’72, parent Zachary S. Schonbrun ’05 .................... Roy A. Schonbrun ’68, parent

Stephanie D. Schonbrun ’07 ................. Roy A. Schonbrun ’68, parent Elizabeth W. Shepherd ’05 ............. David W. Fenton ’48, grandparent Hillary N. Simpson ’06 .................. Ronald H. Chase ’54, grandparent Spyros S. Skouras III ’06 ............... Spyros S. Skouras ’41, grandparent; Spyros S. Skouras, Jr. ’72, parent Samuel M. Smythe ’05 ............ Thomas F. Moore, Jr. ’43, grandparent; Cheves McC. Smythe ’42, grandparent; L. Smythe ’70, parent Mackenzie M. Snyder ’05 ...................... John P. Snyder III ’65, parent Emma T. Strubell ’07 .............................. Taylor J. Strubell ’63, parent Andrew C. Strumolo ’06 ........................ Tom R. Strumolo ’70, parent Harriet E. Strumolo ’07 ......................... Tom R. Strumolo ’70, parent Bridget K. Sylvester ’08 ............................ Paul A. Sylvester ’74, parent Katharine T. Thayer ’07 ................... Samuel W. M. Thayer ’72, parent Denisia K. Tseretopoulos ’07 ......... C. Dean Tseretopoulos ’72, parent Hannah D. Utley ’07 .......................... George D. Utley III ’74, parent Elinore F. Van Sant ’07 ............. Elizabeth Brown Van Sant ’75, parent Susannah M. Walden ’06 ......... John B. S. Campbell* ’34, grandparent W. Camp Walker ’05 .................. Harry W. Walker II ’40, grandparent Holland E. Walker ’07 ................ Harry W. Walker II ’40, grandparent Mary C. Walsh ’06 ................................ Sally Childs Walsh ’75, parent Clayton C. H. Wardell ’06 ............ Christopher C. Wardell ’69, parent James H. Wheeler ’05 ...................... Page Chapman* ’29, grandparent Margaret H. Widdoes ’08 .......... Brooks Hendrie Widdoes ’73, parent Mercer T. L. Wu ’05 .............................. Michael S. C. Wu ’73, parent Peter H. Wyman, Jr. ’05 . Thomas W. Chrystie* ’21, great-grandparent; Thomas L. Chrystie ’51, grandparent Henry T. Wyman ’07 ..... Thomas W. Chrystie* ’21, great-grandparent; Thomas L. Chrystie ’51, grandparent Benjamin B. Yeager ’07 ..................... W. Dewees Yeager III ’75, parent Lee S. Ziesing ’07 ................... Lee Paul Klingenstein ’44, grandparent; Joanne Klingenstein Ziesing ’78, parent *deceased Taft Bulletin Fall 2004

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Athlete BUILDING A BETTER

In a culture of specialization, are three-season athletes headed toward extinction?

By Andrew Everett ’88


Athlete

BUILDING A BETTER

Peter Frew ’75 remembers discussions 15 years ago about the Larry Stone Award, given at graduation to the student who contributes most to Taft athletics. Taft coaches were convinced that that year’s three-sport star was the end of an era, that the great three-sport athletes were going the way of the dodo. Luckily for Taft—and in contrast to what has been happening at other high schools around the country—that has not been the case. Frew, who has worked in Admissions and coached for the last 20 years at Taft, and Headmaster Willy MacMullen ’78 point to recent graduates like Venroy July ’00 and Rob Madden ’03 as embodiments of the Taft ideal. Why is it that Taft has been able to resist what Williams College athletic director and noted author on kids’ sports Harry Sheehy calls a “tidal wave” of specialization? MacMullen thinks it is due to the nature of a liberal arts education in general and Taft’s culture particularly. “It is so clear that in the current landscape, specialization is the coin of the realm,” explained MacMullen. “We understand and see it, but the nature of a liberal arts education at Taft is to take risks and try things.” And MacMullen makes it clear that this philosophy extends well beyond the athletic realm. Taft’s mission is to broaden

a student’s horizons, not just on the playing fields, but off them too. “As a school, even though we recognize that kids have focused on one sport, we push them to embrace all the opportunities at the school. It is bigger than just athletics. Kids should audition for Collegium or try out for a play. This is a time in their life, and a place, to take risks and take advantage of opportunities.” July, who recently graduated from the University of North Carolina, where he was a Morehead Scholar and varsity wrestler, praises Taft for differing from a disconcerting norm. “Specialization is a part of our entire culture now. Kids are not trying to broaden their horizons. They are trying to find the one thing they can be good at. People seem to want to stick with only the things they are good at versus trying new things.” July says Taft opened his eyes by forcing him to do the opposite. The only sport he knew before he came to Taft was track and field. And while a strong student, his extracurricular activities were likewise limited. At Taft, July not only became a football star and New England champion wrestler, but also a tour guide, a debater, corridor monitor, and the aforementioned Morehead Scholar. Said July, “Taft gave me a push and opened up opportunities.” This push is a built-in part of the Taft philosophy. As Dave Hinman ’87,

Taft’s athletic director, notes, the school requires students to participate in a sport, or an “ex” in Taft lingo, every season. “We do not allow exemptions from the athletic program,” Hinman stated. While many schools in America are devolving towards pay-to-play, or are losing players to out-of-school select teams, Taft has the luxury of not just offering but requiring participation every season. Rob Madden, a sophomore at Amherst College, is also a great example of a three-sport athlete. A three-sport captain by the time he was a senior, he started out on the JV teams of each sport. Madden had opportunities to specialize in soccer as a youngster, but he valued a summer camp he attended and enjoyed other sports too much. “I wanted to do other things, too,” he said. “I just loved to play all sports. As Mr. Mac and I joked a lot at Taft, whenever he asked me what my favorite sport was, I told him it was whatever one I was playing at the time.” One of the best athletes to graduate from Taft, however, was also one of the few to step outside of the three-sport system, and she says it was the right decision for her. Barbie Potter ’79 rose to the top 10 on the women’s professional tennis tour after starring at the number one spot on the boys’ varsity tennis team at Taft as a 14-year-old lower mid.

“TAFT’S GIG IS TO PUSH YOUNG ADULTS TO EXPLORE THEIR HORIZONS. In an

increasingly professional culture, it is what differentiates Taft.” —Barbie Potter ’79

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Athlete

BUILDING A BETTER

Because of her superior skills and potential pro ambition, Potter was allowed to train on her own during her last three years. She was fully engaged in the academic and social life at Taft, but got full “ex” credit for her daily individual tennis practice. While she sometimes wonders whether she might have been a more balanced athlete if she had played soccer or lacrosse as well, Potter made it clear that “time invested in other things might have made it impossible to get to the tour.” “Taft is good at challenging preconceptions, regardless of the clarity the kid brings. It’s what Taft is about,” she said. “Taft’s gig is to push young adults to explore their horizons. In an increasingly professional culture, it is what differentiates Taft.” Even if a student arrives on campus having been significantly committed to one sport, the Taft culture is dynamically opposed to specialization. “Ultimately it is the kid’s choice,” explains Hinman. “But Taft has a few things in place that help. We ask coaches to encourage kids to play other sports, and the Founders League does not let seasons overlap— except for New England Tournaments.” July, for one, knows this system drove him to discover both football and wrestling, the latter which he continued to great Division I success at UNC. “If I had not gone to Taft, I am pretty sure I would

have specialized in one sport. Wrestling was not even an option where I grew up. Taft helps you recognize how much else is out there. I will always know there are other things out there in life. If wrestling had not gone well for me in college, I know I could have found something else.” After a short pause, July added: “Doing all three made me a better person. I sometimes wonder what would have happened if I had not gone to Taft….” Another alum with similar sentiments is Patrick Kerney ’95, who came to Taft with a primary focus on ice hockey, but now patrols NFL stadiums as the starting defensive end for the Atlanta Falcons. “If I had put all my eggs in the hockey basket at Taft, I would not be where I am today,” Kerney said. “I almost gave up football to run cross country in order to get in great shape for hockey. I was counseled out of it.” He credits coaches like Mike Maher, Jol Everett, and especially Steve McCabe with encouraging his participation in other sports. Doing so made him not only a better athlete, but a better person. “With one sport, you do not branch out,” he explained. “It is not as good for the person. What it does in the long run is identify you as, say, a hockey player. There is no other way to see yourself. You do not see yourself as also an intellectual,

or a musician, or whatever else might be inside. I love the Taft mission to build the whole person.” Another alum who feels just as passionately about his Taft experience, and the lessons it taught him, is Colin Aymond ’88. “I grew up in Michigan essentially playing hockey year-round. Going to Taft opened my eyes up. It forced me to pick other sports, because all the guys I was hanging out with played three sports.” Added Aymond: “It also forced me to try new things outside of sports. I got into an acting class, which opened my eyes. I want my son to go to Taft so he is forced to do things not in his comfort zone. The Taft culture breeds it. You have great teachers and coaches. They recognize your talents and push you to extend and develop them.” Clearly, some onus is on the student as well. Aymond or Kerney or July could have resisted the push to try new things, but their willingness to embrace new experiences is what made them perfect for Taft. Katey Stone ’84, women’s ice hockey coach at Harvard University, is a firm believer in a variety of athletic experiences. She noted that although she liked field hockey least of her sports at Taft, her experiences there, especially personal struggle, were as valuable as her starring roles and success in ice hockey

“I TELL [KIDS] TO PLAY LOTS OF SPORTS, THAT I SKIED, SAILED, AND PLAYED TENNIS, LACROSSE, AND FIELD HOCKEY. There was no rink

in the summer, so I did not even skate from March to September.”

—A.J. Mleczko Griswold ’93

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Taft Bulletin Fall 2004


Athlete

BUILDING A BETTER

and lacrosse. She also relished the variety of coaching she got by playing three sports, something she looks for when recruiting for Harvard. “I am a firm believer in players being coached by other people,” she said. “You need different perspectives. I try to recruit the kid I was. I hated to lose. I loved to compete. I do not want a narrow focus. I want kids with a long-term outlook.” Jill Bermingham Isenhart ’82, a hall of fame athlete at Bowdoin College, agreed wholeheartedly. “The variety of sports is so important because it forces a change in the people around you, the coaches and the experience,” she noted. July, despite leaving Taft almost two decades after Stone and Isenhart, thought those sentiments held true for his experiences as well. “At Taft, my sophomore and junior year, the football team really struggled. But I learned a lot from losing. I knew how it felt to lose, so I had no fear of losing in wrestling.” When he got to UNC, he was initially fearful of facing teammates and opponents who had done nothing but wrestle since they were five or six years old. He thought his lack of focus would be a detriment. But the opposite was true. Noted July, “A wrestling specialist is not used to losing. In college everyone is a winner in high school, but someone has to lose. Many specialists can’t handle it.”

And Stone sees the same thing at Harvard. “The multisport athletes I see are more emotionally balanced,” she said. “The specialists, who have been overcoached, are becoming a huge problem. They have no idea how to figure things out on their own. They struggle when dealing with adversity and conflict resolution.” Her older brother Mike Stone ’75, baseball coach at the University of Massachusetts, agreed heartily. “People at the next level are more impressed with a well-rounded athlete. I look for the kids who also played other sports like football and hockey. They have toughness. They’ve been knocked down, or have dug a puck out of the corners. I encourage kids to play as many sports as possible. They need to struggle in some things to find ways to grind it out.” Even A.J. Mleczko Griswold ’93, who won gold and silver medals as a member of the U.S. Olympic women’s ice hockey teams, cannot fathom the need or desire to specialize. “The more sports the better,” she proclaimed. “I love to play other sports. I am constantly amazed by the parents who ask how their daughter can make the Olympic team, and the kid is nine! I tell them to play lots of sports, that I skied, sailed, and played tennis, lacrosse, and field hockey. There was no rink in the summer, so I did not even skate from March to September.”

While winning Olympic medals may have been the highlight of her athletic career, ironically her participation on the national team also led to her biggest disappointment—having to give up lacrosse at Harvard. “I was thrilled [to make the national team], but it eliminated all spring participation in lacrosse. I would not trade my U.S. team experience because of all that I got out of it, but it is still a bummer to me to have to have given up lacrosse.” And Griswold remains passionate about competing, whatever the sport. “I still look for that competitive outlet,” she said with a laugh. “I play golf and tennis, and love beach volleyball on Nantucket. I’m also looking for a men’s hockey league to join this winter.” An interesting coincidence would be if she ended up in the same Boston-area league as James Driscoll ’96. While he is best-known for his golf prowess—after Taft he starred at UVa, finished second at the U.S. Amateur, played in the Masters, and currently ranks in the top 20 on the Nationwide Tour, golf ’s top minor league—Driscoll’s real passion is hockey. He came to Taft as a postgraduate, but there was no way he was going to spend the winter working on his swing. He had to play his “favorite sport,” even though he was not quite good enough to play varsity hockey. He said he “just loved

“I LOOK FOR THE KIDS WHO ALSO PLAYED OTHER SPORTS LIKE FOOTBALL AND HOCKEY. They have toughness. THEY’VE BEEN KNOCKED DOWN, OR HAVE DUG A PUCK OUT OF THE CORNERS. I encourage kids to play as many sports as possible. THEY NEED TO STRUGGLE IN SOME THINGS TO FIND WAYS TO GRIND IT OUT.” —Mike Stone ’75 Taft Bulletin Fall 2004

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Athlete

BUILDING A BETTER

to play,” so willingly started for and was a great leader on the JV team. “Playing another sport can never hurt you,” said Driscoll, “and will likely help you.” He points to both mental and physical rewards hockey gives his golf game. “My hockey helped, and still helps, my golf.” In addition to similar hand-eye coordination needs, Driscoll explained that hockey “allows me to get away from golf, so that when I return I remember how much I want to be out there and how excited I am to play golf. Focus in golf is hard to come by, and if you are out there for long periods, you can lose it. After my time off [playing hockey], my desire increases my focus to the point that I play better.” Madden said that his experience at Amherst is another great example of this. While he felt he was a better soccer player than lacrosse player, he found a role on the lacrosse team as a long-stick midfielder. “Having kids who play many sports benefits the team,” he said. “While individual skills may not all carry over, some will. For example, I learned more about a solid soccer tackle by hitting guys in lacrosse. But, more importantly, you learn how to be a good team member.” This willingness to contribute and compete is what MacMullen says separates the typical Taftie from many of his or her high-school peers around the

country. “We celebrate those who contribute to the school, those who do tend to learn by competing wherever and whenever they can, to represent the school and learn.” Isenhart hopes Taft can keep up this stand, as she is dismayed by what she sees with local sports near her home in Boulder, Colo. “There seems to be too much pressure to keep specializing and increasing the level of competition. Kids need the opposite—to be competitive but diverse. I don’t like seeing good athletes being forced to choose. It keeps upping the ante for other kids.” And Sheehy of Williams College agrees that these other kids are the most harmed. The best athletes will likely get to the next level, be that college or pro, whether they specialize or not. It is the kids who try to specialize to keep up that are denied potential opportunities to find other outlets. “The worry is that if they do not specialize, they will be selected out of the system. And parents fear this for their kids.” Even MacMullen is not immune. “As a parent, I am sympathetic to the pressures to follow that trend. Every parent faces it. If you want to do everything you can for your child, then it follows that you might need to do what everyone else is doing. It can be difficult to resist.” And resistance is exactly what Sheehy said is needed to change the mo-

mentum. “What we need is for the parents of a few key players to have the courage to say this is wrong.” Hinman, father of two, is willing to be one of those parents. “With my children,” he declared, “I’m just going to fight it. I want them to do what they want, but I also want them to do a lot of things.” When Mr. Taft founded the school, he did it to educate the entire child— mind and body. One hundred fourteen years later, the physical plant, student body, and curriculum continue to change with the times, but, says MacMullen, the school’s athletic philosophy will not. “Specialization will always happen less at Taft,” MacMullen declared. “As coaches and an entire school, we are united in a belief that kids should do as much as they can. We know this is counter to the national trend and will continue to run counter, and we’re proud of it.” Former “faculty brat” Andrew Everett ’88 played soccer, ice hockey, and lacrosse at Taft. A high-school All-American in lacrosse, he captained the lacrosse team his senior year at Williams College. He currently lives with wife Elise in Charlottesville, Va., where he continues to play ice hockey two or three times a week. Formerly senior associate editor of NFL.com, he now works in sales for Expedia Corporate Travel.

“THERE SEEMS TO BE TOO MUCH PRESSURE TO KEEP SPECIALIZING AND INCREASING THE LEVEL OF COMPETITION. Kids need the opposite—to be competitive but diverse. I DON’T LIKE SEEING GOOD ATHLETES BEING FORCED TO CHOOSE.

It keeps upping the ante for other kids.” —Jill Bermingham Isenhart ’82

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PHOTOGRAPHS BY DON HAMERMAN

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In New York City—where demand for real estate is soaring, land is scarce, and money is plentiful—the stakes are high. Bob Tierney ’61, who chairs the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission, helps protect its heritage while still allowing for growth.

By David Lombino ’96


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is greatest challenge is to make sure the city preserves the best of our history, while allowing for intelligent and wise use of historic buildings.”

 Previous page, A former Koch adviser, Bob Tierney knows his way around City Hall. The seat of New York City government since 1812, the building is one of the city’s most treasured landmarks. When the site was chosen in 1803, it was at the northern limits of the City. Today it stands only two blocks from Ground Zero. DON HAMERMAN

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New York is a city of superlatives, some more warranted and flattering than others. Yet few would argue that two fitting descriptions are the unparalleled beauty of its historic and modern built environment, and its citizens’ relentless pursuit of prosperity. These two characteristics, not unrelated, can often come to blows as they did in 1963 when the beloved old Pennsylvania Station was demolished to make room for, well, a less lovable Madison Square Garden. Visions of a New York that is unfettered to rebuild and develop itself on demand are scary indeed—where market fluctuations and fleeting design fads would alternatively flatten and remake the city, leveling the rich history that lines its urban canyons. At the crux of these conflicting interests is the Landmarks Preservation Commission, chaired by Robert Tierney, whose career in public service to New York City has spanned four decades and now permanently influences the city’s built environment. “It is a contentious town. It’s filled with people with strong opinions,” said Tierney, a tall and lanky man with an articulate manner and a crowded room’s most commanding voice. “Everything we do is open and very public. It is a governmental-political process with a small p.” The Landmarks Preservation Commission is responsible for identifying and designating local landmarks and historic districts, and regulating changes to designated properties. The five boroughs of New York City contain more than 1,200 individual landmarks, and more than 23,000 buildings housed in the city’s 79 historic districts. The agency has a fulltime staff of 45 employees that reviews more than 8,000 applications a year,

making it the largest municipal preservation agency in the U.S. By charter, the goals of the agency are to safeguard the city’s historic, aesthetic, and cultural heritage, help improve property values in historic districts, encourage civic pride, protect the city’s attractions for tourism, and strengthen the economy. The nature of the commission’s mandate is not to designate zones for commercial or residential use, but to make the scale of proposed projects suit the historical character of an area, its sense of place. A research wing looks at the city’s one million buildings and proposes new structures and areas for landmark or historic designation. The 11-person commission holds public hearings every Tuesday in a big, bright boardroom overlooking City Hall Park, in an area of town with a high concentration of bow-ties, a stylistic nod to another era of public service and urban politics. Depending on the issue, a small army of local residents, historical advocates, developers, architects, and lawyers


will attend. “Interests are in conflict. The owner may say he wants A, B, and C, and we might say D, E, and F are more appropriate,” said Tierney. Mitchell Moss, a professor of urban planning at New York University for more than 30 years and director of the Taub Urban Research Center at NYU, where Tierney was a visiting scholar in 2002, put the chairman’s role in perspective. “His challenge is to balance the importance of preserving the historic integrity of buildings and neighborhoods with the need and opportunity for new development. His greatest challenge is to make sure the city preserves the best of our history, while allowing for intelligent and wise use of historic buildings.” In New York—where demand for real estate is soaring, land is scarce, and money is plentiful—the stakes are high. At one commission hearing, an architect and a developer presented a bird’s nest of plans, elevations, sections, and fictional photos of a proposed three-story addition to a building in the historic district of Tribeca. A three-story penthouse in Tribeca, now one of the city’s trendiest locations, is worth millions, and acceptance of the addition probably means life or death for the entire project. In a courtroom-like atmosphere, the architect and a team of lawyers and developers took notes and listened attentively over the drone of air conditioners. Although the architect designed the addition to pull back from the street in order to be invisible to pedestrians, some commissioners still worried that the 47foot top of the proposed addition could be seen from certain angles from the sidewalk, diminishing ever so slightly the historic nature of the area. A local resident appeared with a petition signed by neighbors and compared the three-floor addition to an “antique slot-machine” and called it “completely out of control.” Tierney acknowledged a “positive start” and asked for more detailed information and sightline drawings to prove there

would be no surprises, before closing the hearing. The team grabbed their plans from the front of the room, and, within seconds, another mess of plans appeared for a renovation of a historic 1880s house on the Upper East Side. Missteps in urban planning are costly. A case in point is the 1963 demolition of the old Penn Station, designed by the revered architectural firm of McKim, Mead, and White—an act Tierney characterizes as “civic vandalism.” The Landmarks Commission was founded in the wake of that tragedy. Ten years later, its authority was tested when Grand Central Station was threatened with similar destruction. The commission rejected the plan, and developers, who argued the city was robbing them of their property rights, appealed the case all the way to the Supreme Court. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the 1979 Supreme Court decision that upheld the charter of the Landmarks Commission and paved the way for its modern existence and relevance. Tierney encountered the source of his future passion for the built environment in Vincent Scully, a professor of art history at Yale, still today lecturing into his 80s. “In his last lecture to us, he said, ‘You are a graduate of Yale. You will go off, and you will have in your lives an opportunity to put into practice what we have been talking about, what we have learned here: to think about design, architecture,’” said Tierney, who graduated in 1965 with a degree in English. “It took a while, but I always remembered it.” After Vanderbilt Law School, Tierney did “the straight Wall Street thing,” practicing law for the New York corporate law firm of Millbank, Tweed, Hadley, and McCloy. But he was naturally interested in city politics. Living in the West Village, he became acquainted with his congressman and the future mayor, Ed Koch, for whom he volunteered his free time. Through that relationship, he had the opportunity to work for New York

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eople here care about what they are doing,” Tierney said, “and they are not only passionate, but also skilled and dedicated. In lieu of making a lot of money, they are here for the service, and there is a tangible feeling that the city will be better because of the work they do here.”

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verybody’s eyes are on Lower Manhattan. The economy is surging again down here, but we need to be as careful about what we tear down as what we put back up. There is a renewed sense of design and architecture since 9/11, and it’s great for the future of urban design.”

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governor Hugh Carey, for whom he served as an assistant counsel in the mid-1970s. The motivation to work in government and in public service stemmed from a familiar place. “It sounds corny, but the Taft motto is actually a very serious thing to me. It’s real, and it was a factor.” In 1977, Koch took the city by surprise by winning a seven-person primary and becoming mayor, defeating future Governor Mario Cuomo in a runoff election. After three years in Albany working with the governor, Tierney went to work for his old friend, first as assistant counsel and eventually general counsel, for six of Koch’s 12 years as mayor. The honorable Robert Keating, now the dean of the New York state Judicial Institute who, as a prominent New York judge, knew Tierney from his days as a Koch adviser, described Tierney’s role in government. “Bob has an extraordinary combination of good judgment, intelligence, and integrity. When you put those three together, you have someone who is exceptional at advising someone at the highest level. Because of his access to and impact on these people, he has had a more significant impact on the city than the city can know,” he said. “In my experience, his has always been a concern for the private citizen, while recommending that executives have a responsibility to lead, to change. It is a difficult and enormous responsibility.” From 1983 to 2001, Tierney worked as the head of public affairs for AT&T. He left government behind after a more than a decade of service. “I wanted to try something different. It was not a Wall Street law firm; it was a way to have a less stressful job and stay close to government and politics,” he said. “If you are a lifer in either [sector], it’s not as interesting, you are not as effective. I can be better at what I do by experiencing the different worlds.” When Michael Bloomberg was elected mayor in 2002, Tierney had an opportunity to rejoin the public sector in a different capacity as Landmarks commissioner. Af-

ter a year as a visiting scholar at NYU, he was confirmed unanimously by the City Council as chairman of the commission in January 2003. Tierney praises Mayor Bloomberg for his new approach. “He is a great manager. There is no politics, and you’re never looking over your shoulder.” So far, Tierney considers his greatest achievement as commissioner the designation of the Meat Packing area as a historic district in 2003. Photos of the Meat Packing District will never adorn the cover of Town and Country. A mix of low-lying, nondescript residences and a few still functioning wholesale meat warehouses line cobbled-stone streets as Manhattan slopes towards the Hudson River, just northwest of the West Village. Five cobbled streets come together to a point outside of the trendy French brasserie Pastis. It is not uncommon to see a large container filled with steer bones parked next to a thriving nightclub. “Some would argue about the architecture, but it tells a story,” said Tierney. “When you walk around that area, you know you are in a special place. If we didn’t act, that would certainly be jeopardized.” Professor Moss agreed. “There were three great pressures: owners who wanted to tear down the structures and put up hotels and high rises; groups who wanted big-box retailers; and other groups who were trying to have it become a destination for nightlife,” he explained. “They have preserved the buildings, and there will be intelligent reuse of them. The area will forever be one of those naturally occurring places—people like being there. It could turn out to be one of the great successes on the West Side.” Fiscal belt-tightening in the city hit the commission hard, and they currently have nearly half the full-time staff that they used to. With more than a million buildings in the city, the commission cannot possibly keep tabs on all of them, and needs to rely on citizens and community groups for proposals. Some complain that designations are concentrated in the


wealthy borough of Manhattan and lacking in the other four. “I’m trying hard to go outside, and I’m very interested in working on designating buildings outside Manhattan,” Tierney said. “But sometimes we lose one. We’ll get a phone call. Occasionally it will happen.” Yet Tierney smirks at the widely held idea that the public sector is a frustrating, inefficient bureaucracy. “Believe me, Ed Koch and Michael Bloomberg make more decisions in a morning than people in a well-known communications company make in a year,” he said. “This myth of the private sector CEO is misplaced. The myth of government workers and bureaucracies is misplaced, and I’ve seen both of them. People here care about what they are doing, and they are not only passionate, but also skilled and dedicated. In lieu of making a lot of money, they are here for the service, and there is a tangible feeling that the city will be better because of the work they do here.” The agency’s offices on Centre Street are just a short walk from Ground Zero, where developers recently broke ground to build the Freedom Towers and a permanent memorial in the footprint of the fallen World Trade Center. Tierney was personally appointed to a commission that will advise the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation as to what artifacts from the twin towers wreckage should be brought to the site and incorporated in the memorial design. “Everybody’s eyes are on Lower Manhattan. The economy is surging again down here, but we need to be as careful about what we tear down as what we put back up. There is a renewed sense of design and architecture since 9/11, and it’s great for the future of urban design.” Looking ahead, Tierney, a jazz enthusiast and still a West Village resident, seems purposely vague, but he cannot imagine ever wanting to leave his current position through a hypothetical second Bloomberg term. A registered Democrat, he claims not to be a political ideologue, merely

enamored with the process of politics and government. “Politics is irrelevant in this administration, which is great,” he said. No matter his future course, Tierney’s years of service to New York City will have a permanent impression on its landscape. Professor Moss said, “You take a walk with Bob Tierney around New York, and it’s a great learning experience. He has a remarkable sense of the city’s history, and he understands the role of community in the political process. He is one of the most respected landmark chairmen ever, and he has had an enormous impact on the commission with his fairness, wisdom and experience.” David Lombino is working toward a master’s degree in U.S. foreign policy and media from Columbia University. Last summer he worked as a diplomatic reporter for one of Japan’s largest daily newspapers, covering the U.N., the Republican Convention, and the New York Yankees.

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Navigating the Waters of College Admission How parents and students can steer clear of myths and misinformation to find the college that is right for them By Andrew McNeill


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ark Twain described the process of negotiating the Mississippi Delta as more a matter of instinct than memory, that last year’s clear channel might well have a shoal this year. And so it is with the world of college admission. As a college counselor, one must recognize the greater influences and currents that shape the admissions policies and decisions of colleges, and intuit what lies downstream. Staying abreast of the latest trends or strategies in admission leaves too many counselors and parents ill-equipped to gauge the shifting currents of admission. The popular media has picked up on this, and into the fray surged a phalanx of writers who would deign to inform the public. Some writers, like Jacques Steinberg who spent over a year researching before writing The Gatekeepers, get it right for the most part; others are willing to prey upon the anxieties of

students and parents in order to get a headline. Often, these articles are, like a skillful politician’s answer to a nuanced question, accurate while also misleading. It is not a matter of malice; the popular media is motivated to make sweeping generalizations to catch the eye—and heart—of as many readers as possible, but there are very few questions pertaining to admissions that can be answered without a careful, individual, examination. Almost any question posed to a college counselor should be answered, “It depends…,” for nothing is obvious. Unless you have navigated the river many times, it is easy to miss the telltale signs that suggest a better or worse channel lies ahead. To make navigating that river a little easier, let’s map out a dozen of the most frequent myths or half-truths that students and parents are likely to hear. ILLUSTRATION BY ALISON KOLESAR


“Everyone in the class is applying to the same schools I am. Is this going to kill me?” How much will that competition hurt your chances? It depends. Two years ago we sent 1,053 applications to over 200 colleges, but 75 percent of those went to only 39 schools. Every year we know which schools will be sought out by our students, and each student chooses to apply to those schools or to look beyond the in-crowd. A small college will not want to enroll a large number of students from one school, but how many they will offer admission to is quite variable. Most colleges have ways of predicting the likelihood of a given student enrolling if admitted. Larger universities don’t worry about the “school group” at all, except to make sure their decisions are consistent and sensible.

“Joe and Mary love this college, I think I want to apply there.” First ask why they love the college? If Joe loves it because his girlfriend is going there, and Mary likes it because the soccer team is so much fun, do these factors apply to you? Know your own priorities, then find out how the school matches them. Critical thinking and informed decision-making are at the heart of any good college process. Not only will this help assure that you wind up at an appropriate school, it also helps you get in. Increasingly, applications ask, “Why did you decide to apply to our college.” The only compelling answer is a detailed analysis of your interests and the fit with the programs offered by the college.

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Duke’s dean of admission once told me that a marine biology applicant who fails to mention the fact that Duke owns a research island is all but certain to be denied. An applicant who didn’t scratch the surface enough to see how the school would serve the student clearly is applying for a superficial reason. He doesn’t want students simply looking to get in to a “top” school; he wants students who can demonstrate that they would get a lot out of Duke and in so doing contribute to the university. He speaks for all schools.

“I’ve done a whole lot of extracurricular work. How much will that help?” The value of a strong extracurricular record varies from college to college, but as a general rule, smaller ones care more. Every college will tell you that they care more about depth than breadth, meaning they would like to see a developed passion for something—almost anything—than a little of this and that. Behind your activities are personal qualities such as initiative, follow-through, commitment, and leadership that can enhance the quality of life on their campus. In extracurricular matters, leadership is the hardest quality for colleges to measure. If you are elected captain or school monitor they know that you are respected, but they don’t know if you can lead. Most of the highly selective colleges will admit, when pressed, that their well-rounded student bodies are made up of students who are pretty strong at everything, and exceptional at something.


“Admission is random. Colleges accept one student with an SAT of 1000 and deny another with a 1600.” Decisions often appear random when they are not. Every college has its priorities, and those can overcome a student’s weakness in the academic record. Legacy, athletic or artistic talents, ethnicity, gender, geography, potential major, even political inclination can make any given candidate more or less attractive. These priorities can change from one year to the next. Some colleges have very specific requirements that are not widely known. To have anything like a reasonable body of data from which to draw useful conclusions one must look at dozens of admissions decisions, preferably over time. Since these currents are always shifting and beyond your control, it is best to steer your own course with the knowledge that there is an excellent college out there that values who and what you are.

“Getting in is impossible these days.” It often feels that way, but remember that only about 50 colleges out of over 2,500 accept fewer than 50 percent of their applicants. Among those that accept most applicants are literally hundreds of colleges with excellent records of placing graduates in top graduate programs and jobs. Judging a college by its selectivity is like judging a hospital by how healthy the patients were before admission. In the absence of hard numbers that describe the quality of teaching and thinking on a campus, that is exactly what most families do. As a result, highly selective colleges attract more applications and get even more selective without necessarily improving their student bodies.

For years now, the most selective colleges have wrestled with whom to turn down, not whom to admit. One admissions officer described her job as “separating the wheat from the wheat.” At these schools the numbers of rejected students has skyrocketed, but the average SAT scores, GPAs and other concrete data of the inrolled classes have improved very marginally. If one looks beyond the most well-known colleges, there are plenty of excellent options.

“How do I know how many colleges to apply to? If I apply to a whole lot of top colleges my chance of getting into at least one of them is better, right?” Probably not. Appearances aside, decisions are not random events. If your credentials do not suggest that you are competitive in a college’s pool, applying to a score of colleges at that level doesn’t help you appear competitive at any of them. If you are competitive at that level—your grades, SAT, and extracurricular record are such that you might or might not be admitted—it is wise to apply to more than one college, but not too many. Applying to a dozen colleges probably indicates a lack of careful thought and research, and can cost you when the letters come. If you apply to ten colleges you are likely to be writing ten or more essays, each of which will require multiple drafts and great care. Unless you write them over the summer, that effort is taken out of your homework, and that will drop your grades, and that is going to keep you out of the colleges you just labored over. And, a shoddy essay that didn’t get proper attention will also keep you out. Instead, examine each of the “reach” colleges carefully, find those three schools that best match your interests, and focus your attention on them.

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There is no right number to apply to. In rare cases, when the student knows just what he wants and there is a wellmatched college that we know is all but sure to admit him, two or three is sufficient. In equally rare cases, when the student shows a confusing record with both real strengths and clear weaknesses, ten or twelve are advisable. In general, I advise one or two “reach” schools, two or three “possibles,” and two or three “likely” colleges—or a total of five to eight. As with any investment, it is important to take into account how risk-averse the student is. A student whose self-worth is determined by the college process should assure herself of options in at least equal ratio to her rejections. A student with great reserves of ego strength can more easily go for broke.

“I want to apply early, but I don’t know where.” This is classic cart-before-the-horse thinking. Treat Early Decision like a marriage: you don’t do it just to get it done, you do it when you are in love. That said, the option of applying early could force some strategic thinking. If college A is the perfect fit but also a reach, and B is a very good fit and a school that you might or might not be admitted to, and all the others are unattractive to you—do you apply early to B in order to assure not having to go to one of the others and give up on A—or do you try for A, knowing you might end up at C or D as a result? That’s why we call it college counseling, not college science. In any case, never apply early decision unless you are 100 percent certain that you are well matched to the college; it is terribly sad when students come to me in the spring and say “I’ve changed my mind, I don’t want to go there anymore.”

“You say this college is a long shot, but there’s nothing to lose, right?” “I keep hearing about taking a year off; why do people do that?” While I appreciate the pluck, I generally try to advise students to steer away from applying to schools to which—experience tells us—a given student simply will not be admitted. If he or she has real ego strength and can say “their loss” when the thin letter comes, there really is nothing to lose. But, for most teenagers, this is not the case. Every year we work with seemingly confident young people who forge ahead with early applications contrary to advice, and when that rejection comes they collapse—sometimes ruining their final exams and hurting their chances for regular decision. If the rejection is in the regular round, they feel stuck at a “safety” school. Sometimes it is wiser to let go of the dream, focus on what is realistic, and let yourself get excited about your new “first choice.” Has a student ever gotten in when I said the chances were minimal? Yes, twice that I can remember; and that is why we support every candidate at every school regardless of what we think his or her chances are.

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In England gap years have been common for a long time, and they are gaining popularity here. Admissions deans at Harvard, Princeton, Penn, and others have encouraged students to think seriously about taking a year to recharge the batteries, to explore one’s passion, to find direction, and to mature a little. Studies have shown that kids who take the gap do better in college than similarly able students who do not, and, despite some people’s concerns, I have never heard of a student deciding not to go to college afterward. I don’t recommend just hanging out for a year, but there are a myriad of exciting, potentially life-transforming programs available.


“When should we start “What if I don’t get into SAT prep?” a school I’ve heard of?” Before committing the money and time to test prep, I’d make sure it is necessary. Take the test twice before deciding if the scores will be a negative in the student’s file. If his grades are weaker than the scores, flashy scores might suggest he is underachieving at school. And, remember that investment in test prep increases the pressure on the student to perform. I often hear a frustrated student lament, “Mom spent all that money, I wasted my summer, and I still got rotten scores!” Maybe those resources should have gone elsewhere. When test prep is called for, avoid doing it during a school year. To get value from test prep, homework is essential, but a student’s focus should be on doing work assigned for school. Generally, the summer after junior year is the best time, but of course it depends on what else might be done that summer.

“What should I do this summer to help me get in?” If you have never been active in community service, the summer at a soup kitchen or in a third-world country will impress no one—unless you have a transforming experience and follow it up with new commitment. I once worked with a student who helped deliver an AIDS baby in sub-Saharan Africa, then held that baby when it died two months later. She came back to school and started raising money to fight AIDS, and her essay would draw tears out of a statue. That helped. But colleges know that many students try to improve their credentials, and they read quite cynically. Magic bullet summers are very, very rare. For most students I recommend further development of something about which they are passionate, whether it is a sport, acting, or writing poetry. While having a great tan won’t help, getting ready for senior fall and writing drafts of killer college essays is probably better than an artificially constructed experience. A recent Harvard admissions article, “Time Out or Burn Out for the Next Generation,” encouraged parents to remember that their children are learning, growing, vulnerable people, not products to be packaged, and went on to note that too many students arriving at elite universities have no energy left to take advantage of the opportunity they earned.

Statements about getting into the “right” places reflect a sense that certain colleges represent necessary credentials to predict success. An exhaustive study by MIT economist Robert Samuelson, however, found that students who had been admitted to Ivies but did not enroll at one outperformed (if income is the measure of success) those who did enroll. In other words, it isn’t about being at such schools, it is about being a person who could get in. If admissions offices were still separating the wheat from the chaff, being offered admission could be important; now that they separate the wheat from the wheat, it matters less. Today, being denied admission at the hyperselective colleges is not at all a statement about one’s future. Further, I often see students who did not get into their top choice who come up and cheerfully announce on Alumni Day, “You should recommend my college to more people. It’s great!” 





A person heading into the college process might, at this point, be ready to throw up their hands and say, “This is impossible, these waters are too treacherous!” I would answer that, well, it depends. It depends whether you seek a college or university at which you can learn, grow, and step up, or whether you want a certain college upon which you have set your sights with your eyes clenched shut by your determination to achieve it. Even today those students who present themselves honestly and without cunning find that though they may not be able to find a channel that leads to a dreamed of goal, the river takes them where they can, indeed, learn, grow, and step up. If they relax and take the channel that seems best, they escape the shoals of hubris, and make their way to the open sea where anything is possible. Somewhere along that journey they are likely to write back to Taft that in hindsight, they would not have wanted it any other way. There is still a certain Zen to the college process. Andrew McNeill has been Taft’s director of college counseling since 1998 and has been navigating the college admission waters at Choate, the Gunnery, and Lawrence University since 1983. When opportunity arises, he kayaks the wide open waters of Otis Reservoir with his children Kaley, Ian, Maggie, and Ryan, and his wife Holly.

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The LOST and The FOUND By Chaplain Michael E. C. Spencer “there is something special about the place where you grow up, your home. It is the ground, the rock, the center, maybe the one place you can be sure of.”

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Seven tons. This past summer I sold my parents’ house, my home for 23 years. My job, one that I had been putting off relentlessly, was to sort through all of the rooms, closets, and hidden corners, throw away the old stuff, and salvage what I could. Now, I had been dreading this. I had been putting it off ever since my mom died and my father had moved out of the house. But, I ordered one threeand-a-half-ton dumpster and with three of my cousins, I got to work. In four days, we swept through the house and filled up that dumpster, not once, but twice. Seven tons. Needless to say, my parents were professional packrats. My mom never threw anything away, and my dad had a knack for accumulating piles of broken junk in the basement and garage—reserved, as he said, for that chance occurrence when he would need some spare parts for whatever project interested him at the time. There were endless piles of power tools and five different appliances— all of which were broken and had to be picked up separately from the seven tons, making me think now that I probably should add another half ton to the total. My parents had a lot of stuff, and as the only son, I was left to go through all of it. Now, in a way this was like a very cool treasure hunt. In the course of moving through

my parents’ house, I found some pretty interesting things: 30 o f m y m o m’s o l d pocketbooks, clothes my father hadn’t worn in 40 years, art supplies from his days as a painter, a shotgun and the live shells from his hunting days, old medals from World War II and Korea, old highschool yearbooks, cut Brazilian gemstones purchased by my mom in 1955, endless books from their library, my grandmother’s fivefoot-high 1920 radio (still working), not to mention all of my childhood games, toys, and equipment that I hadn’t seen in years. I saved some things and donated some things, but most everything else I threw away. Seven tons. What I’ve come to realize is that the reason why I put this off for so long, and the reason why it was so disturbing, was because the seven tons was not just junk, but represented seven tons (or more) of memories from home. In selling my parents’ house, I was dismantling home. I was dismantling the very place where I grew up. And that dismantling is tough stuff, and I felt lost and alone. It’s true, I may have a home here with my family, but there is something special about the place where you grow up, your home. It is the ground, the rock, the center, maybe the one place you can be sure of. That house holds memories for me. It provides me


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“She stepped into the chaplain’s office and asked, ‘Is this the Lost and Found?’”

with a sense of place that no other house can. I climbed on the huge maple tree in the backyard, I learned to ride my bike on the sidewalk, I celebrated birthdays and Christmas in the huge living room, I spent countless hours in the adolescent oasis of my bedroom, I wrestled with my father on the kitchen floor, I spent two weeks tending my mom as she lay dying in the sun porch—her favorite room in the house. This was more than just a roof over my head, this house was the foundation for my heart, the place where it was formed and where it was broken. And so in a way, now without it, I feel lost and I feel homeless. With empty rooms echoing with memory, I keep thinking, when all is lost, where do we find home? One day, five years ago, in the first few days of school, a wide-eyed lower mid wandered into the living room area at the back of the dining hall and then into my office. She had lost something during the rush of the opening of school. She stepped into the chaplain’s office and asked, “Is this the Lost and Found?” I had to smile, wishing I had thought of it myself. And I said, “Yes, this is the lost and found, but I may not have exactly what you’re looking for.” It is disturbing to lose things, and it is disturbing to watch other people lose things as well. I lose two to three pens a day and my keys each week. Some of you may know that I am a big “Lord of the Rings” fan. In the first book of the trilogy, The Fellowship of the Ring, Frodo inquires about the mysterious Aragorn who wanders through the mountains and forests. The wizard Gandalf says, “Remember, Frodo, all who wander are not lost.” All who wander are not lost. There is a fine line between wandering and being lost, but the line is there. I saw a poster once. It pictured a late night foggy road, and in the distance one bright streetlight. The caption on the bottom read, “How can you be found, if you’ve never been lost?” You may at times feel very lost while you are at Taft. Now, you may not want to admit it, but deep down you may be feeling lost. You may get a hint of the fears of physical,

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psychological, and emotional homelessness. You may be far from home. Home is not lost, but it may be distant, and you may long for it. Don’t worry; everyone here has experienced the exact same thing. You may be lost, but you are never alone. And even if this is your second, or third, or fourth year at Taft, you may feel lost just the same. You may be wandering. You may be found. You may be completely lost. When all is lost where will we find home? When all is lost, where will we be found? Five years ago I told that lower mid that my office was the lost and found. I would take it one step further. This whole school is one big lost and found. We all come here, and we choose to give something up. As scary as it is, we choose to lose something. It may be loss of freedom, loss of friends from home, loss of number one star status at a smaller school. And we all deal with this loss, this dislocation, and this homelessness in different ways, some are healthy and some are addictive. We often feel disconnected, we often feel like our sense of place is slightly out of whack, or that our home is being shaped differently. We all lose something when we come to Taft. And that’s OK. We all choose to lose, so that we can discover something greater in ourselves. For how can you be found, if you’ve never been lost? When all is lost, we are found. Remember that all who wander are not lost. Sometimes we lose and sometimes we discover, and in the process here we create a home. So, welcome to Taft wanderers. You are the lost, and you are the found. Michael Spencer holds a master of divinity degree from Yale University, summa cum laude, and will soon complete a master of sacred theology degree from Yale and Berkeley Episcopal Divinity School. He is a transitional deacon in the Episcopal Church and will be ordained to the priesthood this winter. In addition to serving as school chaplain, he is head of the Humanities Department and coaches girls crew. He came to Taft in 1997 and lives on North Street with his wife Amy and children Aidan and Katherine.

Taft Bulletin Fall 2004

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Taft Bulletin

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Seniors Don Molosi as Mr. Applegate and Monica Raymunt as Lola in the fall production of Damn Yankees, directed by Rick Doyle PETER FREW ’75

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Fall 2004 Taft Bulletin  
Fall 2004 Taft Bulletin