Spring 2005 Taft Bulletin

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Peter Berg



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B U L L E T I N Spring 2005 Volume 75 Number 3 Bulletin Staff Director of Development John E. Ormiston Editor Julie Reiff Alumni Notes Linda Beyus Anne Gahl Jackie Maloney Design Good Design, LLC www.gooddesignusa.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: Summer–May 30 Fall–August 30 Winter–November 15 Spring–February 15 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.

F E AT U R E S The Quarterback Behind the Camera ...... 19 Actor/director Peter Berg ’80 calls the plays By Sara Beasley

School Bells and Wedding Bells ............ 23 Alumni who married alumni By Julie Reiff

Take Two ................................................ 38 Teaching couple Rachael Ryan and Greg Hawes ’85 By Jennifer Zaccara

D E PA R T M E N T S Letters ................................................... Alumni Spotlight ................................... Around the Pond ................................... Sport ..................................................... Course Notes ........................................ HU41 The Humanities

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Endnote: The Flower Girl ...................... 44 By Ben Steele ’98

On the Cover

Actor/director Peter Berg ’80 on location filming The Rundown. Berg says he’s happiest these days writing and directing (see page 19). MYLES ARONOWITZ

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 (860-9457756), 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.

 One of the favorites from the Potter Gallery show of works by Bridget Starr Taylor ’77 was this illustration from Gargoyles’ Christmas written by Louisa Campbell (see page 10). PETER FREW ’75

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








From the Editor This issue of the magazine is a real sea change from the previous one, where most of the articles featured alumni around the globe and their present-day efforts to improve our environment. This time, we asked a number of alumni to look back on their time at Taft, for various reasons. It’s not often we have a movie star grace the cover of the Bulletin, but our profile of Peter Berg ’80 has been long in coming (see page 19). I first noticed Berg in his 1991 film Late for Dinner, but didn’t realize he was a Taft graduate until I became a loyal fan of Chicago Hope (as much for Berg’s charming portrayal of hockey-playing doctor Billy Kronk as for the fact that it didn’t have as many gory scenes as E.R.). Since then I have followed his career with interest and finally had the chance to talk with him on the phone this fall about the release of Friday Night Lights (see Fall 2004).

It was natural to ask Berg about the path that has led to his success in Hollywood. Very little of it has to do with Taft, of course, but his interest in film was sparked here, and like many of us, he does look back on his adolescence and try to put some of those difficult years in perspective. Greg Hawes ’85, who returned to campus as a member of the faculty five years ago, has re-immersed himself in the scene of his adolescence, bringing with him his wife Rachael Ryan (see page 38). Together they form that increasingly rare breed at Taft: the teaching couple. And what’s more amazing is that, like Sue and Steve McCabe, they teach in the same department. Coaching, advising, and raising two boys of their own can be more than a full-time operation, but it is also, they say, very fulfilling.

And finally, I surveyed 62 graduates who married fellow Tafties—31 couples—asking them, among other things, how they came to be together and whether or not that relationship started at Taft (see page 23). It’s hard to imagine, most days, that teenagers are capable of choosing wisely at that age, and indeed, only a handful couples have had a continuous relationship since they started dating at Taft, but those bonds created at such vulnerable points in our lives can be powerful. We often talk about making lifelong friends in boarding school; how wonderful if one of those friends also turns out to be a partner for life. I look forward to hearing from you, so please keep those letters and stories coming. —Julie Reiff

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 Congratulations on a fine winter issue. Those identified as “Serving the Environment” are to be applauded, as they are working to enhance our planet. All best wishes to our 1947 mates and those of lesser classes. —David M. Marsh ’47 I was quite gratified to see the practical and nonideological approach to solving environmental problems portrayed in the recent Taft Bulletin. I feel a real kinship to these folks! Perhaps it should be the subject of ongoing programming on Alumni Weekend. I have been fortunate enough to be involved in a major wetlands restoration project on the Lower Colorado River—an area that, frankly, people had given up on. You can learn more about it on our website yumaheritage. com. We have also recently produced a half-hour documentary available on DVD. —Charles Flynn ’70

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I read “Serving the Environment” in the last Taft Bulletin. You all did a wonderful job, and it is nice to see that Taft alumni are doing their part to make the world a better place to live for us and our children. I now work at Navigant Consulting and have been consulting in this field for 26 years. Keep up the good work. Warm regards to all my old friends. I will be there for my 30th reunion in May! —Lisa Frantzis ’75 And in response to the archive photograph on page 46, we received the following letters. We asked “What’s up with the fishbowl?” Ask a silly question.... The fishbowl was the residence of Big Jean, of course. —Dexter Newton, former faculty At our request for further details, he also provided the following: Big Jean was given to me by a young lady friend outside a movie theater. “Happy birthday,” she said, and handed me a baggie full of water and a goldfish. She said she thought I needed some female companionship at the allboys school where I was teaching. She assured me that the fish was female; so I named it after her mother, and we went to the movie—Cool Hand Luke, which remained Big Jean’s favorite throughout her life. She loved the scene in which Newman eats all the hard-boiled eggs. That’s how I know that my friend was right; Big Jean was a female. A male would have

preferred the car-washing scene. Big Jean and I cohabitated in the Cruikshank Wing for the rest of my time at Taft. More than that about the nature of the Newtonian Society I am not at liberty to divulge. —Dexter Newton I observed with great amusement the photograph on page 46 of the winter 2005 Taft Bulletin. Standing, from left, are members of the Class of ’68 and the Newtonian Society as follows: Stephen Parsons, John Geer, Douglas Lawson, Peter Scherman, Richard deVillafranca, Robert Clark Jr., Charles Bahlman, and Thomas Shaw. Seated is faculty member Dexter Newton, who taught English. Naturally, I am unable to divulge the charter of the Newtonian Society. —Charles R. Bahlman ’68 Newton provided unfailing kindness, patience, and an immense sacrifice of his privacy to that small group of Taft seniors in the Class of ’68. —Peter Scherman ’68


S P OT L I G H T Kerney Goes to Pro Bowl

Number 97 Patrick Kerney ’95 was on fire last season, leading the Falcons in sacks.

The Atlanta Falcons’ most consistent pass rusher the last three seasons, Patrick Kerney ’95 made his first trip to the Pro Bowl this year following the third doubledigit sack season of his career. Kerney, a first-round draft pick in 1999 and former first team All-American at UVa, was also named NFC’s Defensive Player of the Month (September) by the NFL.


In addition to leading the team in sacks (13), he is quickly moving up on the Falcons’ all-time sacks list with 47 in six seasons. Kerney is tied with former Falcons defensive end John Zook (47 sacks from 1969–75) for third. The Falcons (11–5) lost to the Eagles in the NFC Championship game in January. The subject of numerous profiles

this season, Kerney, at 6 feet, 5 inches and 273 pounds, has been called a “free spirit” and “quirky.” He is an active board member for Special Olympics of Georgia and is the Falcons’ United Way spokesperson. He also raises money for the Lt. Thomas L. Kerney Fund, created in memory of his brother—a police officer who was killed in the line of duty. Taft Bulletin Spring 2005


Joe Knowlton and Bing Bingham, both Class of ’64, as The Coachmen at Taft with classmate Tony Howe (center), “who was smarter than either of us and became a doctor,” says Knowlton.

Best of Friends When classmates Joe Knowlton and Bing Bingham ’64 heard that an original pressing of their 1971 album Daybreak sold on eBay for $770, they decided it might be time to rerelease their music on CD. Their “white album,” as they called it, was a limited edition pressing of 1,500 they sold at live shows. Knowlton and Bingham say they remember many “late nights spent applying the Xeroxed paste-up slicks to the LP,” their “own faces lovingly sketched by pal Betsy Byrne staring back” at them. Thanks to George Klabin ’64, Brazilian record producer Roberto Quartin heard some of the demos they were recording in New York and asked for an album’s worth of material. The best thing to come from this experience, they said, was their introduction to Eumir Deodato, a talented arranger, composer, and musician. “Eumir wrote several of the arrangements on the record, played some piano, and has been a good friend and supporter ever since,” they said. All totaled, there are four “distinctly 4 Taft Bulletin Spring 2005

different pressings” of the album—each with unique covers and track orders— from three different countries, including a bootleg version in Italy. Unbeknownst to them, “Joe and Bing” acquired the band name Best of Friends on all but their “white album.” The remastered album includes seven previously unreleased tracks. All but three songs—Stephen Stills’ “Love the One You’re With,” Harry Nilsson’s “Without Her,” and the traditional folk tune “Fennario”—are originals by Knowlton and Bingham and published by Brandreth Music Company. “We are delighted (and surprised) at the rerelease,” said Knowlton. “And to think it all started at Taft.” In fact, their collaboration started when Knowlton was assigned as Bingham’s “old boy” back in 1962. They “got along famously thanks to a common love of music and its special ability to excite the mind, promote spiritual growth and (most importantly) to attract the attention of girls at nearby Westover School.”

In addition to regular appearances at Taft and neighboring schools, the band traveled as far south as Washington, D.C., for shows at the Madeira School and a number of clubs in Georgetown. Bingham and Knowlton went on to Williams College and still performed as The Coachmen, but took a break in 1965 when both of them enlisted in the Army. They reunited in New York after both spent time in Vietnam. In 1976, they made their national television debut on the Dinah Shore Show. After a flurry of activity that took them well into the late ’70s, they went their separate ways, pursuing a variety of artistic enterprises, but they stayed with music and stayed in touch. Bingham is now director of college counseling at The Marvelwood School, and Knowlton is director of academic technology at Greenwich Academy. A new CD is already in the works for 2005. This one, titled Destiny, will feature all previously unreleased tracks and three or four new songs, so stay tuned! For more information, visit www.joeandbing.com.


Energy in Iraq Joseph W. Bishop ’74 recently spent time in Iraq, working on a single Pratt & Whitney gas turbine in Bayji, about 150 miles north of Baghdad. The plant only generated about 20 megawatts, which is less than one percent of Iraq’s needs, he said, “but it did make a difference. Loud explosions, gunfire, and immense pipeline fires in the distance constantly hampered our efforts and reminded us of the danger at hand. The closest U.S. soldiers were a good 40 minutes away. “Security was on everyone’s minds,” he said. “I had committed to go only a few days before the Fallujah killings when everything changed for civilian contractors. The most dangerous part was transportation within country. We would travel in convoys of three to five SUVs at speeds of close to 100 mph. A number of our convoys were attacked, and one South African guard and a number of Iraqis were killed while transporting people I knew. “We were very isolated at our site. In five months I only left an area the size of several football fields a few times. I was one of the few Americans who

Joe Bishop ’74 and a guard at the Bayji Electric Generation facility in Iraq last September. The fire is in the Tigres River after an attack on a major pipeline, which would occur each month like clockwork at this location, he said.

did not have a firearm in my room. We never ventured into town although I did interface with a large number of Iraqi workers at the site. As part of our security training I avoided political discussions with them,” he said. “I put a lot of effort into letting the

Iraqis know I wanted to be their friend,” Bishop explained. “We were apprehensive of each other at first, but got along well with time. A few of them apparently received serious threats for working too closely with us. I can only hope that I made a difference.”

Athletic Association Coaching Staff of the Year honors in 1992 and again in March. “Simon’s specialty is picking off smart kids who just happen to be star basketball players,” wrote the Boston Globe, including some who pass up Division I scholarship offers to attend Brandeis. “I look for kids that are selfmotivated, disciplined, and who are willing to take on a challenge,” Simon told the Globe. “If they’re committed to athletics and academics, I know we’ll be fine.” Since 1987, Simon has led Brandeis to three New England Women’s Eight tournament titles, three regular season crowns, and three berths in the ECAC Division III New England tournament, including back-to-back titles last year and this year.

The nationally ranked Judges play in the University Athletic Association, a far-flung conference that includes Carnegie Mellon, Emory, NYU, and the University of Chicago. A native of Middlebury, Connecticut, Simon was a member of Colby’s ECAC Division III women’s basketball championship teams in 1984 and 1985. A threesport athlete, she captained the team her senior year, while also serving as captain of the soccer and softball teams. Perhaps a highlight to her personal athletic career, Simon represented the United States in the 1981 World Maccabiah Games.


Carol Simon recently completed her 18th season at the helm of the Brandeis University Judges women’s basketball team. Her success there has made her one of the most respected Division III coaches in New England, receiving the University

—Sources: Brandeis.edu and the Boston Globe Taft Bulletin Spring 2005



Techno Goalie

In Print Another Tree in the Yard By Lucia Sera Illustrated by John Iorio ’79 Vocalis, 2004 A Soulful Season A Jazz Celebration of Holiday Classics Niro Satchi Feliciano ’94 2004 All proceeds go to Angel Tree Ministry Means of Escape: Memoirs of Vietnamese Immigrants and Refugees Living in the Merrimack Valley of Massachusetts Peggy Rambach ’76 2004 Daybreak: Joe and Bing Originally released in 1971 as Best of Friends Joe Knowlton ’64 and Bing Bingham ‘64 Rev-Ola Records, 2004 (See page 4)

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It was a routine investigation into a “phishing” scam. Phishing is what computer hackers call a scheme setting up a fake Web site to look like a real one, say, a bank or an online store. The fake site acts as a depository for credit card and bank account numbers, and the scammer can then use those accounts to commit some serious identity theft and fraud. Chris Ries ’01, a senior at Colby College who also served as the starting goalie on the White Mules ice hockey team, was poking around the site trying to find out where all the illicitly obtained info was going, when he found an open directory. There, Ries found spam tools for sending out those nuisance mass e-mails, text files with hundreds of credit card numbers, and templates for dozens of fake web pages. “That was a big find for us,” Ries said. “We turned it over to law enforcement. A lot of stuff we were working on led to federal cases.” For Ries, it was another kick save, and a beauty. On the ice, Ries had his best season between the pipes for the Mules, including the first shutout in 42 games of defending national champion Middlebury. Off

the ice, Ries is using his computer science knowledge to keep your computer from becoming an expensive paperweight. “I’ve been into computers a very long time, since the fourth or fifth grade,” Ries, said. “I was interested in the Internet early on, and one of the big issues was security.” For his senior honors project, Ries is analyzing computer viruses and worms. Working with the Computer Emergency Response Team, based in his hometown of Pittsburgh, Ries is trying to find new variations of old viruses and worms. Just as the flu virus mutates every few years and becomes resistant to treatment, computer viruses are constantly being changed just enough to slip past the latest antivirus technology. “(Hackers) sort of tweak it so it can escape antivirus tools, then we update the antivirus and they change again,” Ries said. “What I’m sort of looking at is finding new variants based on old ones.” The goal of Ries’s project is to stay ahead of the hackers. If the antivirus developers can determine how a computer bug is going to change, they’ll be ready to knock it out when it does. Ries has a collection of approximately 130 viruses

Salud Neena Qasba ’02 chose to study at Johns Hopkins because she wants to go to medical school, but she has already discovered that “there’s a whole other side of medicine that’s just as important as the proteins and receptors we’re learning about.” A native of Torrington, Connecticut, Qasba has helped form an organization called Programa Salud to overcome the barriers that make it difficult for Baltimore’s Hispanic residents to receive proper health care. “The purpose of our organization is to alleviate the cultural and linguistic

Neena Qasba ’02, third from left, with fellow Salud members Shanti Shenoy, Mara Youdelman, and Elizabeth Kim at Salud’s third annual student leadership conference.


Galen Cheney ’80, After the Wave, oil and mixed media on canvas, 53 x 33 in., 2004 HOWARD ROMERO

On and Off the Wall and worms, picked up from old mailing list archives, hacker Web sites, and friends. He has them running safely on a computer in his room, where he can study them and try and find where the code hackers will try and change them. If there’s a virus out there ready to chew up your computer files, Ries is confident he can stop it.

After graduation in May, Ries has a job lined up with Vigilantminds, a Pittsburgh company specializing in computer security. He’ll approach the job the same way he approaches hockey. “I like the idea,” Ries said, “of being the last line of defense.”

barriers that many Hispanics/Latinos in Baltimore encounter when seeking medical care,” she said. To accomplish this goal, Programa Salud targets two populations. First, the Hispanic/Latino community itself through health fairs, health education presentations, and community outreach. Second, they target their healthcare providers through cultural competency training and interpretation services. “With our volunteers expanding from undergraduate students, to graduate, public health, and medical students, we are increasing our partner institutions

throughout Baltimore to achieve our goals of health promotion and cultural competency education,” Qasba said. She started the collaboration between other schools last year. In April, the group hosted its fourth leadership conference, Changing the Face of Health: Addressing Diversity and Disparities in Health Care, hoping to motivate students to start similar programs at their own schools. For more information, visit www.jhu.edu/salud.

—Travis Lazarczyk, Morning Sentinel

Recent and upcoming exhibits by alumni artists The Wave Galen Cheney ’80 February 24–March 26 Galerie 1225 Art et Vin Montréal, Québec Elements of Light William Hudders ’82 January 26–February 23 The Gallery Northampton Community College Bethlehem, Pennsylvania Surfacing Annie Olson ’01 January 29–February 5 Belk Visual Arts Center Davidson College Davidson, North Carolina

—Source: Baltimore Sun, Johns Hopkins Gazette Taft Bulletin Spring 2005



Beanpot Boston University goalie John Curry ’03 had something other than romance on his mind on Valentine’s Day this year as his team faced Northeastern in the final game of the annual Beanpot Tournament at the sold-out Fleet Center in Boston. The sophomore goalie might have faced a number of other Tafties in the tournament, including Boston College captain Ryan Shannon ’01, except for a separated shoulder that kept Curry out until the final game against Northeastern, with B.U. winning the game 3–2 in overtime. Despite B.U.’s frequent success in the tournament—winning 26 titles in its 53-year history—the Terriers were not expected to take the trophy this year, but upset top-ranked Boston College in the first round. Curry is a bit of an underdog himself. A third-string walk-on last year,

Boston University goalie John Curry ’03 came back from a separated-shoulder injury in time to defend the net against Northeastern in the finals of the Beanpot Tournament at the sold-out Fleet Center. BRIAN BABINEAU/GETTY IMAGES

he was expected to challenge for playing time, but started for more than 25 games this season and compiled a 15–8–2 record and .928 save percentage. Curry, Shannon, and Jamie Sifers

’02 (UVM) were among the 15 semifinalists this year for the Walter Brown Award, the oldest nationally recognized honor accorded to individual players in American college hockey.

In Brief Golden Eagle First to Worst, a PBS documentary by John Merrow ’59 that chronicles the rise and fall of California’s public school system, was awarded the CINE Golden Eagle in the investigative news category (www.cine.org). The CINE Golden Eagle Film and Video Competitions acknowledge high quality professional production in a variety of content categories. Merrow’s company, Learning Matters, previously received a Golden Eagle in 1995 for Caught in the Crossfire. First to Worst traces California’s education crisis to the anti-tax movement of the 1970s and ’80s and to civil rights lawsuits that aimed to equalize school spending but resulted instead in disastrous funding limits on schools.

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Op-Ed Lawyer and author Phil Howard ’66 wrote an Op-Ed for the New York Times that was published in December. In “You Can’t Buy Your Way Out of a Bureaucracy” he talked about a recent court panel’s attempts to fix America’s schools. “All things being equal,” he wrote, “more money is always welcome. But no one knows where it will come from. Worse, experience shows that failing social institutions are rarely resuscitated by money alone.” Howard is also the founder of Common Good, a bipartisan legal reform group (www.cgood.org). Access v. Accountability Arizona state senator Slade Mead ’80 had an article in the fall issue of the College Board Review’s Recommendations from Eight Great Leaders: Making Education Work in America. “Recent demands for

greater school accountability, by testing all students, have hurt the special needs population,” he wrote. Mead, the parent of a special needs child, praises the increased access children with disabilities have gained in the last 30 years, but stresses that standardized tests should only be applied to the mainstream population. “It is unfair to require special needs students to be tested in the same way.” The magazine also included viewpoints from Edward Kennedy and Jeb Bush. Soloist Violinist Katalin Viszmeg ’95 performed with the Hartt Symphony Orchestra in December at The Bushnell’s Belding Theater. Conducted by Christopher Zimmerman and Mickey Reisman, the orchestra performed Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite, Chausson’s Poème op. 25 for Violin and Orchestra featuring Viszmeg, and Rachmaninov’s Symphonic Dances.








Odds on Favorite Homer’s epic tales of Odysseus came alive on stage in Bingham Auditorium this spring through the talents of master storyteller Odds Bodkin, an award-winning performer, musician, and educator. He served as storyteller in residence for the day, performing scenes from The Odyssey in Morning Meeting, telling stories at the daycare center in late morning, holding a Doorway to Imagination workshop on storytelling for students, and closing the day with a collection of tales from around the world in the Choral Room.

A multivoiced character actor and instrumentalist, Bodkin tells a wide range of stories self-accompanied on twelve-string guitar, electric guitar, Celtic harp, grand piano, pipes, drums, African sanza, and Indian sitar. The New York Times dubbed him “a consummate storyteller” while Time Out New York wrote, “armed with only a guitar and a microphone, this versatile performer effortlessly creates sounds of weather, objects, animals, not to mention dozens of colorful characters.” His most recent recording, Little Proto and the

Volcano’s Fire, won the Parents’ Choice Silver Award. He also received the Oppenheim Platinum Award for Best Children’s Audio, in addition to many other awards and honors. Bodkin taught storytelling and imagination for seven years at Antioch New England Graduate School while pursuing a full-time career as a children’s author and musical storyteller. He has been a featured teller at the National Storytelling Festival and performed twice at the White House. For more information, visit www.oddsbodkin.com. Taft Bulletin Spring 2005



Kaffir Boy

Visiting author Mark Mathabane grew up in intense poverty in South Africa under apartheid. He recounts the story of his childhood and his escape from the ghetto of Alexandra—one of the country’s notorious black townships—in the autobiographical Kaffir Boy. Inspired by Arthur Ashe and aided by Stan Smith, Mathabane tells how tennis became his “passport to freedom.” Kaffir Boy won a prestigious Christopher Award and was a New York Times bestseller. Its sequel, Kaffir Boy in America, was also a national bestseller. Mathabane is also the author of Love in Black and White, African Women: Three Generations, Ubuntu, and Miriam’s Song. He studied at the Poynter Media Institute and Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. He was a White House Fellow in 1997. He spoke in Morning Meeting and visited with students throughout the day.

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The illustrious Miss Hildy brightened the Potter Gallery during an exhibit of works by illustrator Bridget Starr Taylor ’77. PETER FREW ’75

Making Books Come Alive Rockwell Visiting Artist Bridget Starr Taylor ’77 exhibited her beautiful drawings and illustrations in the Potter Gallery in January. Taylor lives and works in New York City and has illustrated numerous children’s books, including Animal Friends, Ten Surprise Packages for Squiggle Street, Where’s Whitney?, Miss Hildy’s Missing Cape Caper, Harry McNairy, Tooth Fairy.

Taylor has had illustrations published in the New York Times, Sports Illustrated, Highlights Magazine, Publishers Weekly, MacUser, and the National Review. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Rhode Island School of Design. She is married to John R. Coston, an editor at Wall Street Journal, and is the stepmother of Winnifred Coston and mother of Reed ’06 and Elias ’08.


Big Brothers, Big Sisters

Jessica Giannetto ’05 has recently resurrected the Big Brother Big Sister (BBBS) program on campus. “Taft had participated before,” she said, but not for a while. Her oldest sister, Stephanie ’01, was the head of

it when she was here. “I love kids and thought that it would be a great program at Taft,” said Jessica. “It gives us the chance of getting involved with the surrounding community.” BBBS is a mentor program that pairs

children with a mentor. For the Taft program, parents bring their kids between the ages of 6 and 12 to Taft to meet their “big” once a week for about two hours. Jessica and her co-head Abbey Cecchinato ’05 also organize events for the entire group; one was planned for March and another for May. Last year the kids scaled the climbing wall in Cruikshank at one party and played tag and capture the flag outside in the spring. “We have access to all Taft facilities, including the gym, student union, computer labs, and dining hall,” Jessica said. “Some play computer and video games or soccer or basketball. In the winter others go sledding or play cards, or hang out in the dorms.” Students who would like to be a Big Brother or Big Sister fill out an application and are interviewed by representatives from BBBS. For more information, visit www.bbbsi.org.

so thin that only the name remains. Bingham is one such name, but a recent bequest from Harry Payne Bingham ’32 has revived the tale of this family’s generosity. Students make their daily migration to Bingham Auditorium for Morning Meeting or assembly, and again on the weekend to watch a movie or a play, but few know of the family who made it possible. Given by Harry Bingham 1905 and his sister Elizabeth Bingham Blossom, the auditorium was the closest thing to a chapel on campus for 75 years. Bingham’s son Harry arrived in Watertown in the fall of 1928 and was a student here when Mr. Taft was conceiving his plans for the replacement of the old Warren House—the white gingerbread hotel to which he had moved the school in 1893. By 1929, the

wooden structure had been torn down and the construction of Charles Phelps Taft Hall was well underway. At the east end of the building, Taft wanted a place where the whole school could gather for assemblies and nightly Vespers. Bingham’s father had written, upon learning that the space would bear his name, “There is no institution in the country that I would rather have my name permanently connected with than The Taft School.” Young Harry died in January, leaving a legacy to the school surpassing his father’s. A quiet and mostly anonymous philanthropist, he was a major benefactor of many organizations and recently gave his Vermont home to the Southwestern Vermont Medical Center in Bennington. He had previously given his Florida ranch to the Audubon Society. A tribute appears on page 43.

Enduring Legacy

People are the foundation of our school. Thousands of students and faculty have walked these halls. Daily, as we make our own journey through the school, we are reminded of those who have gone before us—reminded by the names memorialized in so many of Taft’s buildings and rooms. But the passage of time wears away at memories until they are

Taft Bulletin Spring 2005




Walker Hall was filled with beautiful music in January as flutist Vanessa Holroyd ’90 returned to campus to perform with pianist Joy Cline Phinney. Their program presented sonatas by Bach, Poulenc, Taktakishvili, along with Bourne’s Carmen Fantasie. Holroyd is on the chamber music faculty for the Greater Boston Youth Symphony and a member of Acadian Winds, a Bostonbased professional woodwind quintet. A graduate of Yale and McGill universities, she was a top prizewinner in the 2002 Young Artist Competition sponsored by the National Flute Association and is a frequent soloist with Vermont’s Rochester Chamber Music Society. She is also the daughter of the late Chaplain Peter Holroyd (1969–92). Holroyd and Phinney have been featured artists with the Westford Chamber Music Society and the Steinert & Son Concert series among other. They have twice toured the U.S. Virgin Islands, performing at the Tillet Gardens Arts Alive festival and the Historic Whim House concert series.

Felecia Washington Williams ’84 and Chaplain Michael Spencer welcome Dr. Ibrahim Ramey

Martin Luther King Day Dean of Multicultural Affairs Felecia Washington Williams ’84 says she wanted this year’s celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. to “allow us to pause as an entire community and reflect on his legacy of diversity, justice and civil rights.” The celebration involved students and faculty and worked with various media—print, song, speech, and movie. Importantly, we stopped our “business as usual.” The Diversity Committee worked hard, she pointed out, to create a series of events that did justice not only to King but also to our community. Events included a screening of the movies Amistad and the civil rights documentary Eyes on the Prize. Dr. Ibrahim Ramey, the director of Disarmament for the Fellowship of

Reconciliation, was the keynote speaker at an all-school meeting in Bingham, followed by an optional question and answer session in the Choral Room. Student returned to Bingham in the afternoon for a celebration of song, music, poetry, and reading. Faculty prepared discussion groups and 30–45-minute workshops on such varied topics as the 1964 civil rights march to Selma; Jackie Robinson and the integration of major league baseball; poetry of Langston Hughes; the legacy of Malcolm X; Duke Ellington: the Man and His Music; integration and bussing in Boston; and a workshop of African-American dance. The dining hall provided a soulfood feast to end the day.


The entire school community was invited to attend the ordination service of school chaplain Michael Spencer in Waterbury at St. John’s Church on January 16. Collegium Musicum, members of the Chamber Ensemble, and other students and faculty were also involved in the service, which was followed by a “festive Feast.” Joining Michael for the ceremony were his wife Amy and children Aidan and Katherine. PETER FREW ’75



Vintage Comedy

Students and their families were treated to performances of Moss Hart’s and George Kaufman’s well-loved comedy You Can’t Take It With You on the February Parents Weekend. Directed by Helena Fifer, the play’s fabulous set sent audiences back to 1936, at the Manhattan home of patriarch Martin Vanderhof, played by Javier Garcia ’05. The cast also included seniors Lily Cowles and Mac Morris (at left) as well as Nell Maltman, Spenta Kutar, Camden Flath, Donald Molosi, Madeleine Dubus, Eric Roper, Alexandra Kelly, Monica Raymunt, and Mike Negron; upper mids Michael Davis, Brian Romaine, John Ale, Matt Nelsen, and Skye Priestley; middler Sara Partridge, and lower mid Charlie Fraker. Support for the production was provided by the James G. Franciscus ’53 and James Hollyday Webb ’92 theater funds.

Postcard from Watertown



Mr. MacMullen surprised us all by declaring Friday, February 25, a Headmaster’s Holiday. The day gave upper mids a chance to work on their term papers, and the school also offered students the opportunity to go to New York City and see “The Gates” by artists Christo and Jean-Claude. I was one of the 31 Tafties who went to see it. We had about four hours in the city. The bus dropped us off at The Met, and we walked south through the park. After ending up around 61st Street, a group of about ten of us ate lunch at the Italian restaurant Serafina. After lunch, we woefully boarded the bus to come back to campus for classes the next day. —Sam Dangremond ’05

Taft Bulletin Spring 2005



Tuning In Hockey fans were able to tune in to a live webcast of the girls’ and boys’ ice hockey games against Choate in February. Publicity director Jon Guiffre recruited the help of seniors Zach Schonbrun and Peter Murphy, who hosted the broadcast and provided color commentary as well as analysis and interviews during the intermissions. “We were also lucky to have John Mengual from ESPN, to do the play-byplay during both games,” said Guiffre, who had organized an earlier campusonly test broadcast. “Feedback was very positive, so we had cautiously high hopes for the Choate game. We overcame a few minor technical problems, and the broadcasting staff got a better idea of what it would take to get a good broadcast off. “I hope Zach and Peter pave the way for many more students who want to get involved with this project. Having a weekly radio sports show of their own already on WRED gave them an opportunity to hone their skills. And I hope we can continue to train a core of students who are interested in this sort of thing, by having them mentor with more experienced broadcasters.”

Seniors Zach Schonbrun and Peter Murphy are joined by ESPN’s Chris Berman during the school’s first live webcast. PETER FREW ’75

In a lucky coincidence, ESPN’s Chris Berman made an appearance on the webcast. “He was at the game watching his son’s roommate play for Choate,” said Guiffre, “and chatted with Mengual, and Zach and Peter between the first and second periods. The broadcasting trio seamlessly adjusted their intermission plans to accommodate the special guest.” “We’ve had great feedback so far,” he said. “An alum e-mailed from Middlebury saying it was great; she was folding laundry and listening to the game. Another family told us they made it home in time for the game and set up their computer in the kitchen and listened in while they made dinner.”

A lot of the credit goes to Mark Bodnar and Rob Prigioni from the Information Technology Department, he added, “who really enabled this to happen.” Guiffre intends to do several more tests, in an outdoor venue as well as trying to broadcast a musical performance or speaker. He hopes to provide webcasts on a much larger scale next year. “We envision a full three-season broadcast schedule of varsity sporting events, musical performances, speakers, and theatrical performances. Down the road, these broadcasts could include video as well.” To tune in, listeners need only connect to the Internet and visit www. taftsports.com, where there is a link for “Audio Broadcasts and Video Clips.”

Alumni on Ice

The Alumni Hockey Game on Feb. 26, organized by Jake Odden ’86, drew 36 alumni back to Watertown to play in a spirited game in Odden Arena, with a final score of 6–4. Willy MacMullen ’78 captured the first goal. Other scorers include Chris Wandelt ’96, Jeff Potter ’80, John Plume ’91, Carl Erdman ’77, John Lieber ’91, Jake Odden ’86, Nick Tuozzolo ’89, and varsity coach Dan Murphy. BONNIE WELCH

14 Taft Bulletin Spring 2005


Tsunami Relief The Volunteer Program was especially active in the wake of the major tsunami in December. Raising over $3,300 in a matter of weeks, students organized a rock concert, bake sales, and lapel ribbons to support the Red Cross. They also continued the recent tradition to “Redress for Charity,” in which girls traded dresses or wore ones they already owned to this year’s formal dance and donated what they would have spent to Save the Children.

A number of faculty participated as well, by showing off their fine cooking skills as well as their desire to make the world a better place. Students looking for an alternative to dining hall fare contributed $10 or more per person and in exchange, teachers opened their homes to students and their friends for a home-cooked meal. Proceeds went to AmeriCares, a nonprofit disaster relief and humanitarian aid organization pro-

viding immediate response to emergency medical needs, as well as supporting longterm humanitarian assistance programs. “The need is huge and the work has only just begun,” said Baba Frew. “Students will also be doing a local food drive for the Watertown Food Bank, a clothing drive for the St. Vincent dePaul shelter, and have a pajama day planned to help support continued relief efforts.”

To Recite or Not to Recite Sarah Pyfrom and Penelope Smith tied for first place in the Mid Class Sonnet Recitation Contest, with Ned Durgy taking second. An all-school Shakespeare Recitation competition followed, in which first place went to Tory Church. Sarah Pyfrom placed second, and honorable mentions were given to Mac Morris and Penelope Smith. Participants memorized a monologue of 17 to 20 lines, or a sonnet, to enter the competition. Costumes were not permitted. Judges in the all-school competition were drama teacher Helena Fifer, head monitor Sean O’Mealia ’05, Chaplain Michael Spencer, and English teacher Michael Townsend. Tory went on to represent the school at the regional competition in New Haven on March 2.

A Little Dixie Taft’s Dixieland Jazz Band performed songs by Jelly Roll Morton, Spencer Williams, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, D.J. LaRocca, and Wynton Marsalis in Walker Hall this January. Guest artists were Omar Butler and Louis Romao on banjo. A recent Juilliard graduate and current master of music student at Yale Conservatory, Butler has performed with Wynton Marsalis, Victor Goines, the James Carter Quartet, as well as the Carnegie Hall Jazz Orchestra. His classical experience includes performing with the Waterbury Symphony as well as Kathleen Battle and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. In addition to teaching guitar at Taft, Romao is also the music director of the Connecticut Classical Guitar Society Guitar Ensemble and is on the faculty at Naugatuck Valley Community College in Waterbury.

In Brief Math Team In the space of five Tuesdays, the school hosted three math contests, including the third and fourth round of the New England Mathematics League. The American Mathematics Competition took place on February 1. “It comes in two flavors,” said Math Team adviser Ted Heavenrich, “one aimed at lower schoolers and one aimed at kids in Honors PreCal and higher.” A 25-question multiple-choice test, the AMC is the first round in qualifying for the U.S. Mathematics Olympiad. Black History Month Director of Multicultural Affairs Felecia Washington Williams ’84 organized a number of events on campus in February in celebration of Black History Month. Screenings of the movies Rosewood and Malcolm X and a special soul-food dinner were among the activities, as well as an interschool dance and an interviewing Workshop with Jacqueline Rosa ’82. Students ended the month with a Spoken Word and Music Celebration. The highlight for many was a visit by author Mark Mathabane (see story on page 10).

Winter Dance Spree Dance classes are back! Students learned hip-hop with Josue Jasmin this winter. Evening classes, which took place in the Pailey Dance Studio, were open to students and faculty free of charge.

Taft Bulletin Spring 2005







Winter Season Wrap-Up by Steve Palmer BOYS’ BASKETBALL 20–5 Tri-State League Co-Champions, New England Semifinalists With the infusion of some talented new players and a core of steady veterans, the 2005 team made some noise as they

rumbled through the league on their way to a 19–4 record, Taft’s first league title in over thirty years, and a #4 ranking for the Class B New England Tournament. Highlights of the regular season included an exciting overtime win over Deerfield (78–66), and sweeping the home-and-

home games against Berkshire, Kent, Hotchkiss, and Avon. However, the game that defined the season came at home, in front of a capacity crowd, versus a very talented Westminster team in the first round of the tournament. The game was a high-octane affair from the start, with Taft falling behind by 15 points early and battling back with their up-tempo play and intense defense. The Rhinos muscled out a seven-point lead in the final minutes before Westy hit a long-range three and one foul shot in the waning seconds to send the game to overtime. The deafening crowd saw Taft down 83– 80 with 26 seconds left. Leading scorer Ryan Callahan ’06 (42 pts. in the game) drove the length of the floor for a layup, then grabbed a loose ball on the inbounds pass, missed his first shot but put back the rebound to give Taft the lead. Cory Keeling ’05 stole the final pass and made one free throw to seal the 85–83 win, one of the most exciting contests the Cruikshank gym has ever seen. Taft then gave Trinity-Pawling everything it could handle in the semifinal game, leading by  Cory Keeling ’05 helped lead boys’ basketball to their winningest season in recent history. The team finished 20–5, reached the semifinals of the New England tournament, and earned a share of the Tri-State League title. PETER FREW ’75

16 Taft Bulletin Spring 2005


 Dante Paolino ’07 executes a perfect double-leg shot in front of the home crowd in the 103-pound finals of the New England Wrestling Tournament. Dante won in commanding fashion to become the school’s first New England Champion since 2000 (and the first lower schooler). PETER FREW ’75

out of 19 schools. Dante Paolino ’07 was the top wrestler on the team as he won the Western and All-New England individual titles at 103 lbs. That final victory was exciting, as Taft hosted the New England Tournament, and Paolino won the championship match in front of a large Taft contingent; he was down early, but came back to win in the final periods, 11–8. Of note, Ariana Maloney ’07 (119 lbs.) became the first female letter winner in school history.

four at half time but unable to hold the eventual New England champs, 64–76. Callahan led the team in scoring and rebounds and was named the MVP for the Tri-State League. Guards Steve Trask ’05 and Keeling were also named to the All-League team; Frank Cheske ’06 and Chris Baudinet ’05 accounted for a lot of the inside muscle all season, and both captain David Halas ’05 and Tommy Piacenza ’06 were critical to the team’s great defense all year. WRESTLING 8–7 The team did not boast as many bodies as usual, but this tight, hard-working team was solid in the lower and middle weight classes, knocking off Salisbury and Choate along the way to a winning record. Co-captains Nick Chu ’05 and Jon Canary ’06 wrestled well all season at 152 lbs. and 140 lbs. respectively, as did Phil Martinez ’06 (145 lbs.) and Afolabi Saliu ’07 (130 lbs.). The team enjoyed its best day at the Western New England Championships where they placed 8th

GIRLS’ SQUASH 8–3 Founders’ League Champions, 4th at National Tournament For the third year in a row, Taft won the Founders’ League and placed 2nd behind Greenwich Academy at the New England Tournament. Highlights of the season included dominant 6–1 wins over Hotchkiss and Deerfield and the team’s 4th place finish at the National High School Team Championship held at Yale. Taft also boasted two individual New England champions: Sydney Scott ’06 at the #1 draw, and Alisha Mashruwala ’08, undefeated all season at the #2 spot. Captain Margot Webel ’05, Corey Staut ’05, and Jessica Lee ’05, also made it to the championship match for the 5th, 7th, and 6th draws respectively. Sydney Scott now has three New England titles to her credit and will be going for four straight next year.





GIRLS’ BASKETBALL 22–3 Founders’ League Champions, New England Finalists The Rhinos surprised everyone this year, though not because of their solid record, the fact that they challenged for the league title or earned a sport in the New England tournament—those have been common achievements for this program through the years. But this team, without a key scorer or dominating player, set school records for wins and consecutive wins and became the first team to make it to the New England championship game. This was truly a “team effort” season for Jon Willson’s squad, marked by tenacious defense and a relentless team attitude. The results were 21 consecutive wins, a cumulative 9–0 record against league rivals Hotchkiss, Choate, Kent and Loomis, and a #3 ranking in New England. Taft opened the tournament with a 44–35 win over Loomis at home, then traveled to Boston to knock off a strong Nobles team, 38–37, before falling to defending champion Tabor Academy in the finals. Colleen Sweeney ’07 led the team in scoring (11 points per game), co-captain Sha-Kayla Crockett ’05 led in rebounds (8 per game), and

 Ashley Russell ’06, set to take a free throw in a home game against Loomis Chaffee, played an important role in the team’s surprising success this winter. The team, which finished at 22–3, won a record 21 straight games, claimed the Founders League title, and made its first-ever appearance in the Class A New England championship game. PETER FREW ’75 Taft Bulletin Spring 2005


was 2nd in the 6th draw, and Andrew Kazakoff ’07 also finished 2nd in the #3 spot. As is often the case, the Taft boys’ team again won a share of the team sportsmanship award, and they placed 7th at the National High School Team Championships. The only real disappointment for this team was the loss of hard-driving captain Alastair Smith ’05 for the season due to injury.

 Will Roe ’07 taking his run at a blistering pace at the Giant Slalom Championship at Butternut Ski Area, where he finished 15th out of 66 racers. The boys’ team went on to win the overall championship—placing 1st out of 18 teams—at Mt. Sunapee, New Hampshire, for the NEPSAC Class C ski races on February 16. ROGER KIRKPATRICK ’06

both were league all-stars along with cocaptain Jill Fraker ’05. Crockett also was named a Class A New England All-Star for the second straight year. SKI RACING Class C New England Champions, 2nd Berkshire Ski League GS Taft won its first New England title as the boys took home the Class “C” combined championship behind the strong skiing of captain Wylie Johnston ’06 who placed 4th in the giant slalom and won the slalom title (out of 91 skiers). Will Roe ’07, Harry Weyher ’07, and Will Rickards ’06 also placed in the top eleven spots in either the SL or GS. Nick Wirth placed 7th in the GS following his 3rd place finish in the Berkshire League Championships, where the team finished 2nd. The girls’ team finished 8th of 15 teams at the New Englands, with Maggie Seay ’07 finishing as the top skier, 11th in the slalom (out of 65 skiers), and captain Mercer Wu ’05 finished in the top 20. GIRLS’ HOCKEY 2–15–2 This was a young team, particularly on offense, but twelve of those fifteen losses came by one or two goals, and that tells the story of the season for this hardskating team that had trouble scoring. 18 Taft Bulletin Spring 2005

Defensively, the team was solid, starting with two strong goalies; both Lacey Brown ’05 and Jackee Snikeris ’07 were named as Founders’ League All-Stars, and together they earned a save percentage of 92 for the season. Brianna Uliasz ’05, Molly Malloy ’06, Penelope Smith ’07, and Ashley Wiater ’06 provided sound defense all season, while Heidi Woodworth ’07 and Sarah Dalton ’05 led the team in scoring. The highlight of the season came in the most unlikely of places, up in Lakeville against a very strong Hotchkiss team. Taft played another of their close, tight games, but this time the puck bounced their way as they earned a convincing 2–0 win. BOYS’ SQUASH 10–2 Founders’ League Champions, 2nd New England Tournament Once again, Peter Frew’s squad marched through league play without losing a single game, defeating strong teams from Choate, Hotchkiss and Deerfield 7–0. Captain Michael Shrubb ’05 was a solid #1 and finished 3rd at the New England Championships. The team’s two losses came against a talented Brunswick team, the eventual New England champ, but Taft placed three players in the individual finals: McCay Claghorn ’07 finished 2nd in the #7 draw, Ben Macaskill ’05

BOYS’ HOCKEY 18–5 4th in New England Despite the loss of twelve seniors and not even a mention in pre-season rankings, Taft again showed why it is one of the top hockey teams in the country behind new coach Danny Murphy and their 18–4 regular season record. The Rhinos started the season 4–2, with a close loss to eventual New England champ Avon (3–1) and an overtime loss in the championship of the Lawrenceville Tournament to Choate despite dominating the game. January saw them tear through a challenging schedule with nine wins, including two against the top-ranked teams in New England: 1–0 over an undefeated Avon and 5–4 over #2 Salisbury. After key wins over Deerfield (5–3) and two over Choate to take the league title, Taft faced off against Salisbury in the first round of the New England tournament. Last year, the Rhinos came back from a 2–1 third period deficit to win, this year they had the 2–1 edge in the third but lost in overtime, 4–3—another classic, finely played game in this growing rivalry. Goalies Andrew Margolin ’07 and Alex Kremer ’06 combined for seven shutouts and gave up only 41 goals in 23 games. Leading scorers for the season were Shane Farrell ’05 (21 goals, 36 pts.), Jeff Beck ’05 (17 goals, 35 pts.), and Doug Jones ’06 (22 pts.). The core of the team were the very physical and skilled senior defensemen—captains Brendan Milnamow ’05 and Jack Christian ’05, and Peter Boldt ’05. Farrell and Jake Davis ’05 were named Founders’ League All-Stars.

The Quarterback the Camera Peter Berg ‘80 Calls the Plays By Sara Beasley


Peter Berg called me

from his office, “Universal City Studio” showed up on my caller ID, just above the 310 area code. My heart leapt. Like many (some of whom have created Web sites devoted to him), I count myself a big fan of Peter Berg the actor. I remembered well his rugged and charismatic Dr. Billy Kronk from Chicago Hope; over the eight years that I’ve been teaching my Elements of Film course at  Berg and actor Billy Taft, I’ve shown Berg’s excellent 1994 Bob Thornton film The Last Seduction many times, and on the set of always to enthusiastic student response. Friday Night What I discovered in our conversation, Lights however, is that his life has included many potential identities. While he is still perhaps best known for the three dozen acting roles he’s performed in the past twenty years, he is happiest these days in the challenging roles of director and writer. Certainly, if the phenomenal success of last fall’s Friday Night Lights is any indication, Berg has established himself securely as both. He still works as an actor, most recently in Michael Mann’s Collateral, in which he plays a cop who doggedly pursues Tom Cruise’s and Jamie Foxx’s characters into a crowded nightclub for an extraordinary shootout. But being an actor is simply not challenge enough for the energetic, articulate Berg: “An actor uses only 10–11 percent of his brain, sitting around, being told what to do,” he explained. “I wanted to use my brain, my ability to conceive something intricate and to see it through.” Although he works 19- to 20hour days with no breaks for weeks and months on end, his directing has taken him literally all over the world. “I was in northern Thailand and trekking to Burma when the tsunami hit,” he told me. Scouting locations for his projects has taken him to the heart of the Brazilian jungle, where he and several cast members were robbed and held at gunpoint for hours. Still, Berg is unfazed by the occasional unplanned event or unexpected delay: “I meet all kinds of people in my work. I work hard, but I also play hard.” I don’t know if the analogy will hold up, but I’m tempted to see Peter Berg’s career in Hollywood in terms of football. At Taft, Peter told me, he played football for Coach Stone. His mistake then, he says now, was to have seen himself as a quarterback instead of as a linebacker. Although “I found myself during my senior year,” his first three years at Taft were “miserable.” A fledgling when he picked up his first movie camera, he now cites the film production course he took—when he 20 Taft Bulletin Spring 2005

was but a ninth grader—as one of his most shaping experiences. His most vivid memory, in fact, is of a short film he made, initially, in order to meet a girl. “A film was much better than a puppy,” he laughed, when I said that most guys would have gone for the easier gambit. Using the classic Milton Bradley board game Stratego as the concept, he dressed all of the guys on his floor as characters from the popular board game, and staged a massive, highly choreographed action scene that culminated in a chaotic fight. His only regret about the film is that he didn’t keep a copy. Even now, he wonders, would anyone know where he could find the film? While he struggled to shape a coherent identity for himself—and “struggled to keep up”—Berg also emphasizes that he “did feel prepared by Taft to bloom in college.” He attended Macalester College, heading to Minnesota quite pleased with the knowledge that he was veering from his family’s wellestablished plan for his life. Having been “aggressively encouraged to go to Taft,” he’d come from Chappaqua, New York, perfectly aware that his family’s idea of success saw him going on to Yale, and then to Harvard for his law degree. With pride, however, Berg characterizes himself as having been both unfit and unwilling to pursue the traditional lifestyle that his family envisioned for him. Heading to Minnesota instead of to New Haven, Berg flourished. At Macalester, he found a home in the theater, and studied film production locally at the College of St. Thomas in St. Paul. Following Chris Bayes ’80 (“the best



actor at Taft”) who was also at Macalester, Berg headed West. His family was “nervous” when he moved to Los Angeles after graduating from Macalester, “convinced that they’d see him next on the soft-core porn channel.” When I scoffed, he said, simply, “Hey, it happens.” In Berg’s case, his rangy physique led him first to dock work in Los Angeles. Soon, however, he found work on a film crew: “I’ve had every job in film production. That became my film school.” While he never auditioned for a single role at Taft, he had known since making that Stratego film that he wanted to direct: “Taft had created the energy in me; I found an outlet in college and never looked back.” As we talked, the writer Matthew Carnahan was in the room with him, and Berg kept up a steady stream of joking references to Carnahan. Carnahan is writing the screenplay for one of Berg’s two ongoing directing projects, this one a Michael Mann-produced film called The Kingdom (due in 2006), about an American FBI agent who collides with the Saudi Arabian culture. Berg also will direct the highly anticipated adaptation of the Tom Clancy novel Splinter Cell, about international terrorism and a video game. Michael Mann has become a trusted friend and supporter for Berg, a mentor for someone who learned the ropes on his own. Berg made the leap into writing and directing from acting. “The first time was for Chicago Hope in 1994. I wrote an episode and then directed it. That went very well, and I

 Directing has was off.” Later, in 2000, he wrote literally taken a pilot and several episodes for Berg all over a TV series called Wonderland. the world. While well reviewed by critics, the series was cancelled after just a few episodes were shot. Characteristically, Berg was candid about the cancellation: “Running a TV show is ulcerproducing. It’s a ton of work, but more than that, television is cursed by a low-risk mentality. It’s simply not structured in a way to support the design of anything edgy.” “Edgy” is perhaps the just the word to describe Berg’s first feature film outing as a director, Very Bad Things. This 1998 film, which he also wrote, earned him a fair amount of attention, although not many reviews were favorable. Still, Berg established a reputation for being interested in dark themes and for pushing boundaries. Given the commercial success of The Rundown, the next film he directed, Berg found that he had the clout necessary to get Friday Night Lights made. Inspired by his belief in the source material, his cousin Buzz Bissinger’s 1990 book, Berg fought to make a film—and to write a screenplay—that would be aesthetically and narratively satisfying. “The book is just so rich in detail and so broad in scope,” he said. “I am really proud of that screenplay.” Berg found his years of work on Friday Night Lights to be an incredible experience. As many of his interviewers have noted, Berg’s film handles the complexities of the Taft Bulletin Spring 2005


Peter who find themselves “not fitting in at Taft.” For him, there was Donald Oscarson ’47 and his “Jumpers” program. “I was in the very first group,” Berg proudly admits. “Don Oscarson saved me.” Headmaster Willy MacMullen ’78 was a corridor monitor on Berg’s floor; indeed, Berg remembers that they lived next door to one another. Often “confused” while a student at Taft, Berg now sees his high school experience as having offered him important opportunities, resources, and challenges. In fact, he can imagine sending Emmett, his “awesome” five-year-old son “who goes with me everywhere—and I do mean everywhere,”—to Taft. That would be a Hollywood ending, perhaps, to Berg’s own narrative. Sara Beasley teaches English at Taft. An avid film buff, she is teaching her “Elements of Film” elective for the eighth consecutive year to 16 senior movie-lovers, and counts several active filmmakers among past students.

of Peter Berg Actor

book with great sensitivity. Like his cousin, who had moved to Odessa for a period of years in order to research the great football dynasty of the Permian Panthers, VINCE BUCCI/GETTY IMAGES Berg spent seven months in West Texas, studying the landscape, attending football games, and making friends. As he explained to me, we at Taft can barely imagine the notion of 20,000 people at a high-school football game. He immersed himself in West Texas football culture, though, and made many friends there. His film does a beautiful job of painting that gritty scene, using stark, washed-out visuals, and just the right number of establishing shots, each of which is of just the right duration. The lonely vistas are unbroken but for the bobbing pumps of oil derricks. Something in that loneliness evokes the particular pain of high school. Berg says now that he is most interested in those  Peter Berg explains the finer points of basketball to son Emmett at the Lakers home opener this season.

22 Taft Bulletin Spring 2005

• Collateral (2004) • Corky Romano (2001) • Very Bad Things (1998) • Cop Land (1997) • The Great White Hype (1996) • The Last Seduction (1994) • Across the Moon (1994) • A Case for Murder (1993) • Fire in the Sky (1993) • Aspen Extreme (1992) • A Midnight Clear (1992) • Crooked Hearts (1991) • Genuine Risk (1991) • Late for Dinner (1991) • Tale of Two Sisters (1990) • Never on Tuesday (1989) • Race for Glory (1989) • Shocker (1989)


• Friday Night Lights (2004) • The Rundown (2003) • Very Bad Things (1998)


• Friday Night Lights (2004) • Very Bad Things (1998)

School Be lls and Wedding B e l l s Alu mni who m

arried alum ni

By Julie R eiff

School Bells

This month marks the 28th wedding anniversary of Rob and June Pratt Clark ’72 24 Taft Bulletin Spring 2005

Wedding Bells


hen Laura Black Holt ’85 told her family that she wanted to leave Midland, Texas, to come to Taft, her West Texas-born father expressed concern that she might meet a Yankee and get married. “Dad, I’m only 15 years old,” she told him. He let her go, but sure enough he was right. “Laura was a tough catch,” says Stephen Holt ’85 “In fact, courting Laura was an exercise in humiliation.” He says he fell for Laura in the fall of their senior year while talking with her in the Jig about his summer studies in Beijing. “The mascara, the Texas accent; I was smitten. She was not.” He learned that she was auditioning for the fall play, and even though he was not that keen on participating, evening rehearsals provided an irresistible opportunity to pursue her, he said. She landed the role of Eve, and he the Serpent. “I figured this would seal the deal, but Laura was focused on practicing her lines and developing her character. She was not averse to flirting, however.” One evening, he felt the time had come to be more demonstrative in his interest for her. “Around midnight, I snuck out of CPT and skirted through the darkness until I reached Mac House, where Laura was a monitor. I could see her room on the second floor, but reaching the ledge in front of it required climbing the tree outside Mr. and Mrs. Piacenza’s bedroom window. If caught, I knew I would either be suspended or on penalty crew for the rest of the term, but the potential reward far outweighed the risk.” He climbed the tree and knocked on her window. She was surprised to see him but smiled and hurried over to open the window. “Convinced this was it I began to climb in,” he said, “when she announced with an air of incredulity, ‘You can’t come in.’ Shocked, I described the risk I had taken in coming over, the even greater risk of returning to my room, but she stood her ground even if she did seem a bit flattered. It would still be several long months until we really started dating. It was, however, and always has been, worth the wait.”


Laura and Stephen are not the only graduates to find a spouse among their fellow alumni. In only 34 years of coeducation, 31 couples have emerged, and who knows how many other romances will bloom at that next reunion party—or even tonight at the “walk back,” as students call the nightly stroll when boys are known to escort girls back to Mac House, Congdon, or Centennial. Only a few couples have confessed to dating at Taft, but many others describe close friendships and intense flirtations. Others noted the missed opportunities. Despite attending different colleges, four of those couples say the relationship never quit from that first Taft date. Some alumni married as little as three years after Taft and others as much as 17 years later! Ann Magnin ’76 says she met Michael Stein ’73, her future husband, at a party he was throwing for Steve Vaccaro ’75. “David Lefkowitz ’76 asked if I’d like to go,” said Ann. Ann and Michael married in 1990. Claire Laverge ’90 and Pete Petitt ’89 didn’t date at Taft either, but say they were good friends and “flirted a lot.” “Our courtship at Taft was a string of missed opportunities. We flirted like crazy every day on the ski team bus, but never went further, fearing the other considered us just good friends.” They fared no better on their first date when then met at The Wetlands to see a Phish show two days after the senior parties of 1990. “It was about 125 degrees in the club, and I passed out,” said Claire. “Pete gallantly carried me home and promptly left. The following year he invited me on the vacation of a lifetime: flying around the Rocky Mountains in a Cessna for two weeks of skiing. I couldn’t go. It took Pete two years to forgive me.” They kept in touch off and on in college, and when they both wound up in New York City, Pete gave Claire a call. “We made plans to meet downtown, and when we saw each other it was like dynamite,” she said. “Fireworks flew, and it’s been love, travel, and great skiing and adventure ever since.” Annagret Burtschy ’90 and Alex Sacerdote ’90 also reconnected in New York Taft Bulletin Spring 2005


School Bells City after college. They didn’t date at Taft, but were great friends and co-editors of the Papyrus. They’ve been married now for five years. Emily Hopper ’91 and Billy Carifa ’90 met in the City as well, although they never dated at Taft. “We both ended up in New York after college. There was a big group of Tafties from both of our classes, so we all ended up hanging out together. Billy likes to say I stalked him after a Taft party, when we all ended up at Dorian’s Bar. I like to say it was the other way around!” Another couple to connect years later, Lindsay Stanley ’93 and classmate Ian McConnel, met again at their Fifth Reunion and have been married now for three years. Janetje Chayes ’81 and Rob Peterson ’80, who’ve been married now for 13 years, also met at a reunion party. “I returned to Taft from Pittsburgh for the Centennial Celebration in 1990,” says Jan. “I crashed Rob’s class reunion party at the Sheraton in Waterbury on Friday night. Rob had organized it and was collecting money at the door. He tried to get me to pay, but I gave him a hard time. Eventually I did, and now he likes to say it’s the best investment I ever made. To tell the truth, he’s absolutely right!” Cindi Post and Mike Stone ’74 reconnected at their 10th Reunion and were married one year later. “Many people couldn’t believe we had gotten together,” Cindi said. “We were very different, very opposite in high school. What a difference a decade makes!” A decade after Taft, Amanda Costanzo ’93 and classmate Todd McGovern both happened to be spending the summer at the Jersey shore. “We ran into each other one night at the local bar. We hit it off, moved to Boston, and were engaged eight months later.” They married last May, and Todd was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer shortly after. Todd underwent chemotherapy from August to January. Severe abdominal pain brought them to the ER at one point, but tests showed that his cancer hadn’t spread (which is what they feared). “With huge grins, we were high-fiving each other in the ER—a priceless newlywed moment,” Amanda said. Knowing that physical activity would be his biggest help, Todd has stayed active kayaking, bike riding, and going to the gym. 26 Taft Bulletin Spring 2005

Ian and Lindsay Stanley McConnel ’93 married while Ian was still in the Marines. They now live outside of Boston.

Jennifer D’Angelo ’95 and Aaron Fabas ’94 married in July 2001 and had their photograph taken at Taft.

Wedding Bells

Steven and Shannon Engels Turner ’86 at their 1995 wedding, and more recently with their three children, Callie, William, and Sam.

Laura (Black) and Stephen Holt ’85 at their wedding in 1994 and 10 years later living in New York.

Taft Bulletin Spring 2005


School Bells

The romance between Amy Julia Truesdell ’94 and Peter Becker ’95 started when they were 16, after a weekend FOCUS retreat with 40 other Tafties.

Mike and Cindi Post Stone ’74, who married in 1985, finally connected at their 10th Reunion, but say they dated each others’ friends in school. They have three children: Jamie, Hunter, and Kylie.

28 Taft Bulletin Spring 2005

Wedding Bells

Liz Murphy and Peter Hallock ’95 were assigned to the same table for their first sit-down dinner at Taft. They married last July.

“After six months, we’ve learned to take things in stride and to ‘just keep digging in the corners’ as Todd’s hockey buddies have been wisely telling him. We are so thankful of our Taft connections,” Amanda said. When Todd had surgery in Pittsburgh in February, “Brooks Fisher ’92, Henry Simonds ’93, and Sara Sutton ’92 (all Pittsburgh natives) were very helpful in making this difficult trip seem manageable.” Although it has been a challenging first year together, Amanda has been keeping family and friends up to date through their Web site, www.gov21.com. A summer romance also started things off for Shannon Engels ’86 and classmate Steve Turner, who will celebrate their 10th anniversary this summer. “Steve and I lived across the street from each other one summer on Nantucket after our freshman year in college.” Even though they went to different schools, the relationship grew. Although it would be an off-again on-again relationship for Peter Hallock ’95 and classmate Elizabeth Murphy, they met when both were assigned to Reggie Brulotte’s table for sit-down dinner the first night of their mid year. She was a new mid, and Pete had already been at Taft for a year. “Pete made some joke at dinner,” she said, “and I knew he was going to make me laugh anytime he opened his mouth. I was also roommates with Katama Guernsey Eastman, who grew up with Pete, and she was the catalyst behind our getting to know each other better.” Pete and Liz dated for three months that year, deciding to break it off on Valentine’s Day. “We still have issues celebrating that day!” she said. They reconnected the summer following their Taft graduation “while working on Martha’s Vineyard with a bunch of other Tafties,” but decided to call it quits in the fall when Pete went to Princeton and she to Bucknell. “There were definitely trips made between the two to see mutual friends,” she said. “So we kept in touch.” The third time was definitely the charm for these two when they met up again at a party by classmate Mary Firestone in 2000, “and the rest was history.” They married last July. Laura Ellis ’84 and classmate Jonathan Dworken sat next to each other in Bingham Auditorium for Vespers and assemblies for three Taft Bulletin Spring 2005


School Bells years. “We were both always early so got to know each other well by chatting every day,” Laura said. “We started seeing each other outside Bingham just two weeks before our graduation.” Laura went off to Yale and Jonathan to Georgetown, but they kept up the romance over weekends and summer vacations. They eloped shortly after finishing college and now have three children: Michael, 10, David, 7, and Caroline, 2. Even though Jessica Oneglia and Jason Travelstead, both Class of ’88, dated for a few weeks their upper-mid year at Taft, the romance really started in 1993 when she was finishing up school in Boulder and he moved to Denver to start a business with his brother. “We had always been great friends,” said Jessica, “going out to play pool, or go to the movies—usually in groups. Then we decided to drive back to Connecticut together to attend our Fifth Reunion, in a sort of a caravan with Bob MacSweeney ’88— Bob in his Jeep and Jason, me, all of my stuff (two black labs and a rottweiler) in my car. We camped through Wyoming, through the Black Hills into South Dakota. Jason ended up staying with me at my parents’ house for three weeks after the reunion. When he agreed to take my dog back to Denver with him while I went on a two-month trip to Italy, I knew he was the guy for me!” When Jessica returned from Italy, she drove straight back to Denver, where they promptly decided to move north to Sun Valley, Idaho, for the ski season, but because of all their dogs, they had difficulty finding a place to live. So for the fourth road trip together in one year, they packed up again and headed south to Taos. After 130 straight days of working and skiing together they were engaged in April and married four months later. Amy Julia Truesdell ’94 and Peter Becker ’95 also started dating when they were 16, after a weekend FOCUS retreat with 40 other Tafties. “Although there were bumps along the road,” she says, “we have been together since.” A.J. was a senior and Peter an upper mid. “He was voted ‘class gigolo’ and I ‘class Biblebeater,’ so clearly our peers did not expect it to last! Andrew Holbrook ’95, who was one of our groomsmen, reminded me at our rehearsal dinner that he had implored me not to date Peter, in fear that he would be a bad influence. The beginning of our dating relationship was heralded by dozens 30 Taft Bulletin Spring 2005

Katharine Bryson ’86 met future classmate and husband Andy Winchell on a summer program in France. They married in 1990 and have two children: Jay and K.J.

Wedding Bells

Amanda Costanzo ’93 and classmate Todd McGovern both happened to spend the summer at the Jersey shore back in 2003. They married last May.

Emily Hopper ’91 and Billy Carifa ’90 at their wedding in 1998 and now

Taft Bulletin Spring 2005


School Bells

Michael Stein ’73 had just graduated when Ann Magnin ’76 arrived on campus, but the two met up years later and married in 1990.

Claire Laverge ’90 and Pete Petitt ’89, who married in 2000

32 Taft Bulletin Spring 2005

Wedding Bells

Annagret Burtschy ’90 and Alex Sacerdote ’90 were just friends when this photo was taken at the spring concert. They married five years ago.

of girls in Mac House (where I was a monitor) watching out the windows to see if he kissed me on the doorstep. They even had the song ‘Kiss the Girl’ from the The Little Mermaid playing.” Katharine Bryson ’86 met future classmate Andy Winchell before she even came to Taft. “I was still in school in North Carolina, and we met on a summer program in France after our sophomore year. We did the pen pal thing for a year until I came to Taft.” “Our senior year, Katharine had to fly home a week early for spring break because she had mono,” Andy said. “I volunteered to accompany her on the flight and spend the weekend at her parents’ house before flying back to Taft. That trip came with the perk of getting to sit at midcourt for the UNC-Duke game that weekend, which had nothing to do with my decision to escort her…nothing at all.” Andy went on to Amherst and Katharine to Brown. “They are 99.2 miles apart,” she said. “Trust me on that. I kept a notice on the ride board saying I was willing to drive over any weekend I could get enough people to go to pay for gas.” Apparently she made the trip often enough to be dubbed the ninth suite-mate by Andy’s roommates. “Both Andy and I chose to spend a semester of our junior year in Paris. Unfortunately for the relationship, I chose the first semester and he chose the second. One part that worked out really well was that we rented Gerry LeTendre’s (my adviser) apartment near the Bastille, and each got it for five months.” Another Taft couple, Sherrard Upham ’73 and Dan Côté ’74, started dating in 1972, and although Dan went to Trinity and Sherrard to New England College, they “never took a break,” Sherrard said. “We married after Dan’s junior year and lived in Hartford until he finished graduate school. We’ve been together for over 32 years.” They’ll celebrate their 28th wedding anniversary in June. Although Dan and Sherrard, who married in 1977, were the first Taft couple to have children—Sarah in 1981 and Dan in 1984—it is Rob and June Pratt Clark ’72 who hold the distinction of being the first husband and wife alums to send their kids to Taft. When Spencer ’05 graduates in May, he follows not only his Taft Bulletin Spring 2005


School Bells parents, but also his sister Eliza ’03, making every member of the family a Taft grad. As with the Winchells, June was not enrolled at Taft when she met Rob in Bingham Auditorium the fall of his lower-mid year. She soon joined him on campus in the fall of 1971 when the school went coed. “In the fall of our senior year, we were caught illegally driving together,” said Rob. “To this day we believe Oscie (Don Oscarson ’47) put the word out to catch us doing something wrong because the school needed switchboard coverage over long weekend. (June had run the switchboard as a summer job, and I was head of switchboard coverage for evening and weekend hours.) Conveniently, this was our punishment. We lost our long weekend, but hung out together all weekend at the switchboard.” Rob did not elaborate further, in the interest of not embarrassing their kids. After graduation, June took a year off from Beloit to train full-time in figure skating at Lake Placid. “Once June turned professional,” said Rob, “we spent more time together, since she was working around southern Connecticut and I was at Yale. Her career as a skating teacher was such a success that she never attended college. We used to kid that while I worked at school and a job, June had the benefit of attending Yale without actually having to go to class.” Rob and June have been together since 1968, becoming the first Taft husband-wife team in May 1977 (only a month before Sherrard and Dan). It is fitting that the first couple should come from the school’s first coed class. And Taft relationships seem to beat the odds, surviving at a much higher rate than the general population. Perhaps because so many of the couples started out as good friends they have a stronger base to build on than most. Knowing that few emotions are as powerful as that first love, numerous Web sites have emerged to reunite high-school sweethearts and find old flames. The school may not have had such romantic purposes in mind when it created TaftAlumni.com, but if you have an old friend you’d like to reconnect with, who knows, it may turn out to be something more. Editor Julie Reiff found an alum of her own in Al Reiff ’80. They’ve been married for 17 years. 34 Taft Bulletin Spring 2005

Sherrard Upham ’73 and Dan Côté ’74 started dating in 1972 and also celebrate their 28th wedding anniversary this year.

Wedding Bells Janetje Chayes ’81 and Rob Peterson ’80 at their wedding in 1991 and skiing at Whistler last winter.

Jason Travelstead ’88 courted classmate Jessica Oneglia over the course of four long road trips. They now live in Litchfield, Connecticut, with their daughter Eliza, 3.

Taft Bulletin Spring 2005



The second installment in our look at academic offerings available to Taft students. An interdisciplinary course introduced in 1982 by Robin (Blackburn) Osborn and John Philpit, the basic goals of Humanities have changed little.

Humanities and English teacher Steve Schieffelin asks Avery Clark ’05 about her reactions to a painting at the new MOMA on a class field trip to New York. 36 Taft Bulletin Spring 2005


The Humanities This interdisciplinary course is a chronological introduction to some major figures and ideas of Western civilization. Students explore how a seamless integration of philosophy, literature, history, the arts, and science comprises a cultural experience. As students learn about various cultures and periods, they will discuss the application of their un-

derstanding to their own lives in making responsible, informed decisions concerning philosophical, spiritual, and moral issues. Readings from the Old and New Testaments, and such authors as Homer, Plato, Sophocles, Dante, Chaucer, Machiavelli, Shakespeare, Galileo, Voltaire, Marx, Darwin, Nietzsche, Freud, Einstein, and Sartre

CourseNotes reveal the thoughts and experiences that have shaped societies and individuals over the last 3,500 years. Some recurring themes in the course are the nature and use of power; the relationships between men and women and between parents and children; the nature of spiritual experience and the divine; changing perceptions of the natural world and the position of human beings in the context of nature; and the causes and consequences of the development of science and technology. Discussions of art history illustrate the historical and social contexts of the readings. Various writing projects, period tests, oral presentations, and collaborative performances enable students to demonstrate

their understanding of the moral and intellectual positions represented in the material and to exercise personal critical judgment regarding the value or validity of the ideas to which they have been exposed. And periodically students are asked to form and share their own opinions about the essential questions raised in the course. Faculty: Steve Schieffelin “Our object is not to tell them what to see and think,” says current teacher SteveSchieffelin, “but to show them how to use their minds and to give them ample opportunity to apply that learning to a wide range of objects we SAMUEL P.C. DANGREMOND ’05

study. We do not ask them to agree with the great, creative minds we encounter in our studies, nor to agree with me or their classmates, but we do expect there to be courteous, well-reasoned, and vigorous dispute in our discussions.” Open only to seniors, the beauty of Humanities, says JamieWheeler, “is that it transcends the often monotonous and uniform structure of traditional classes. In Humanities, the beauty and power of culture is revealed through the great melting pot that boils away the distinctions between what was previously known only separately as literature, history, and art.” KateParks agrees that “the combination of English and history gives us the unique chance to look at history through a literal lens. We are able to synthesize ideas from all disciplines to create our own world views.” LoisTien says that art history has been her favorite part of the course, working with the book Arts & Ideas. “This book has really interesting stuff; the visuals (paintings, architecture, etc.) are simply amazing!” Studying Renaissance art and thinkers has been particulary interesting for LizShepherd, who went to Italy over spring break with Collegium Musicum. SarahPetrino says her favorite part of the course so far was the paper she wrote in which she compared a scene from the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel to Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale. “I’ve enjoyed all the works we studied so much that for graduation I asked my parents for a trip to Florence so I can see some of them,” Sarah admits. “It is by far my favorite class.” “Humanities synthesizes art, history, music, philosophy, and literature so we can experience the entire artistic perspective of the time in history that we’re studying,” explains ElspethMichaels, “which has really influenced my art in the studio. My work has become more complex, meaningful, and thoughtful as a result.” Taft Bulletin Spring 2005


TAKE TWO Teaching Couple Make Taft Their Home By Jennifer Zaccara



Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged, Missing me one place search another, I stop somewhere waiting for you. —Walt Whitman, Song of Myself

Down the hall in CPT, tucked away on the left beyond Lincoln Lobby, is a small office shared by history teachers Rachael Ryan and Greg Hawes ’85. There is a faded oriental carpet on the floor and two good-sized desks: a wooden one, hers, faces the window and has a Rosie-the-Riveter lunchbox at the back; his has a Dartmouth banner hanging above and is made of dated green metal with coffee-stains on the Formica top—although it’s hard to see the surface of either for all the books and papers stacked on them. There are so many books in the room, in fact, that it’s unclear which belong to whom. Clearly this is a joint operation. And it’s not unusual for teachers to share an office at Taft, but what makes this collaboration unique is that Greg and Rachael are also husband and wife. As such, they possess a unique vision of Taft, a gaze through the triple-threat kaleidoscope of teaching, coaching, and dorm duty, to what makes Taft a community. Greg’s story at Taft is one of multiple departures and returns, a drift and pull of tides. Greg left Dartmouth for a term in his sophomore year to return to Taft as a student teacher, working side by side with Barclay Johnson. After attending Taft classmate Dan Scheibe’s wedding and meeting with Chan Hardwick, former Taft dean and current head of Blair Academy in Montclair, New Jersey, Greg thought about a life of teaching and coaching. Greg had just spent three and a half years attending film school in Los Angeles, attempting to break into screenwriting. He wryly commented that watching the movie Sideways gave him a glimpse of what he might have become had he continued to pursue that path. “My life was like that Edward Hopper painting with the guy sitting alone in an apartment with bare walls.” Graduating from Georgetown with a focus in American government, Rachael Ryan had worked on political campaigns and considered an eventual run for office herself. Dynamic and deeply focused on national issues, she took a job at Blair Academy to experience a possible career path in teaching. Not yet abandoning a political career but remembering the powerful influence of strong teachers, Rachael tested the waters.

The story of Rachael and Greg’s meeting at Blair in 1994 contains all of the fits and starts that happen when two people are right for each other but the paths to one another and the timing are circuitous. Always the writer, Greg sent Rachael some romantic poems, but prior relationships were still hanging in balance. A chance meeting in Nantucket after Greg’s residency at Blair had concluded brought the startling realization that they both had family houses on the island. Still, their paths were going in different directions, and Rachael set off to travel in Spain. When Greg secured a permanent position in history at Blair in 1996, the relationship sparked. Rarely inspired by his history professors in college, Greg opened his textbook at Blair and began to remember that what made history alive for him were narratives. “That textbook brought me back to R.M. Davis’ classes at Taft.” Known for his uncanny recollection of the minute details of historical biographies and events, R.M. Davis ’59 inspired generations of students and eventual Taft teachers and administrators with the living quality of history. Reflecting on high school years at Taft, “You think about what you didn’t know as a teenager, and since I am in the place where I was a teenager, it feels especially strong. I was the classic underachiever, but teachers like Mark Potter ’48, Roger Stacey, John Philpit, and Jol Everett really seemed to care about what I was learning, about me as an individual. My old school did not have a place in their round holes for a triangle peg.” Desiring more challenge from students, an intensive curriculum, and the opportunity to work side by side in the same department, Rachael and Greg jumped at the chance to come to Taft in 2000. What makes Taft stand out as an exceptional community in which to live, teach, and raise a family? Here, Rachael remarked, “We are both doing what we love, we are always challenged. We understand each other’s work, share philosophies and beliefs. I can’t imagine what it would be like not doing the same thing.” What is her teaching philosophy? “Teaching is coaching and coaching is teaching,” for Rachael. Taft Bulletin Spring 2005


TAKE “When I am on the field, I teach like I would in the classroom and vice versa.” As the only woman teaching in the History Department, Rachael is an important role model. “Often it is the woman female students relate most to, and if she is the only one students have to identify with, that must put a great deal of pressure on her. Rachael is a great model for girls here at Taft. She retains her femininity while conveying her strength and drive,” says former co-coach Kelley Bogardus. Recently finishing her graduate thesis and degree at Harvard, Rachael brings her awareness of the history of women’s studies into the classroom. Her research in grad school ends up fueling so many of her classroom endeavors—whether in terms of curriculum or in her awareness of drawing out the girls in the classroom, aiming for “50/50 participation from girls and boys.” In deciding on the topic for her master’s thesis, a Taft connection made a real difference. Dr. Elizabeth Griffith, head of the Madeira School, mother of J.D. Deardourff ’04, and graduation speaker last year, helped Rachael to focus on 1963 as a pivotal year in the history of women’s rights. “It was great to have that connection with a Taft parent and scholar. My paper would not have been as focused and vital without Dr. Griffith’s input.” Overall, Taft is distinctive for Rachael because the students provide the challenge and that drives her to find “the most interesting material to bring into class.” In all of her classes, Rachael teaches with the passionate belief that “it is really important for kids to know what happened in the past in order to understand the complicated world we live in today.” With their busy lives, teaching and coaching, and now raising two boys, Peyton three and a half and Lachlan fifteen months, Rachael and Greg sometimes feel like they are passing ships. “Yet even if it is just a walk by or a quick hello or wave, it’s nice to see him,” Rachael reflects. Greg has been active as the leader of the freshman history program, revamping the curriculum by working from the ideals listed in the “Portrait of a Graduate.” “Post 9-11 we needed to have a focus on world religions and on some of the founding political and economic philosophies—capitalism, democracy, communism, etc. The students needed a basic vocabulary before entering World History.” Greg also considered the History Department’s responsibility in teaching writing, in helping students “to know the structure of argument, to defend their ideas with evidence.” Greg believes that their strengths and weaknesses complement each other. Both engage in “mutual mentoring,” often 40 Taft Bulletin Spring 2005


asking, “Can I run this essay question by you?” Greg marvels at how Rachael teaches. “It’s an education working with her. She has such a vital approach in the classroom. Her research skills are amazing.” As a team, they have made a lasting contribution to the History Department. “Rachael and Greg have been important members of the History Department for five years. Always willing to do whatever is asked of them, they are intelligent, engaging, and enthusiastic historians who have successfully brought history alive for a number of Taft students. Both Rachael and Greg have inspired students to major in history and political science upon graduation from Taft,” notes Jack Kenerson ’82, department head. As the faculty coordinator of Taft’s Model UN and Model Congress programs, Rachael takes Taft students every year to conferences at Georgetown, Columbia, Rutgers, or Princeton, coaching them to prepare their position papers and debating skills that will be tested in a forum with students at other private and public schools who represent various countries and political philosophies. Teaching AP Government is Rachael’s real love, and she has a passion for moving ideas out of the classroom and into action. “It’s a full-time job,” says Greg, “to teach, prepare for classes, grade, and inform oneself about the world to make the classes relevant, and yet I have never seen Rachael walk away from a kid with a question. She will upend her own life to find time to help a student.” The coaching and dorm duty make for two full-time jobs masquerading as one. Greg and Rachael are devoted coaches with Greg focusing on wrestling and Rachael, field hockey. Wrestling at Taft is thankfully more relaxed than at Blair, says Greg, and there is “more forgiveness of errors. We are more concerned with what the students are getting out of the sport than what the team is getting out of it.” Always the deeplyreflective philosopher, Greg believes that wrestling teaches selfreliance and independence. “You walk out on that mat alone.” Rachael has played field hockey since she was in seventh grade, and she has coached both JV and varsity field hockey at Taft. When Rachael took over the varsity field hockey program, she acquired a team with only four returning varsity players and several girls who moved up from junior varsity. Taking this team to the semi-finals of the New England Tournament was an impressive feat. Rachael is a talented coach who cares deeply about her players’ development. “Witnessing her coaching plan for each day and her organization of each practice, it is evident that she puts more than just a few minutes of thought

 The family environment at Taft is truly sustaining

 “As a team, they have made a lasting contribution to the History Department,” says Jack Kenerson ’82.

 “It’s great to win, but it is really all about the team, about that spirit and bond,” says Rachael

 The time spent away from Taft is rejuvenating for Rachael and Greg, who travel to Nantucket and to Greg’s family farm in Elberton, Georgia.

Taft Bulletin Spring 2005


TAKE into each practice. Each drill has a purpose and connects well with the next. Her players understand the reason behind practice, and this is what I think makes them better players,” Kelley Bogardus comments. With a blue ribbon season two years in a row, the team has been inspired—“It’s great to win, but it is really all about the team, about that spirit and bond,” notes Rachael. In addition to coaching and teaching, Greg has also worn the hat of Summer School dean at Taft. As dean, he has had to face tough questions and issues along with “setting the tone” in a constantly changing environment.” “Summer school kids do not have a sense of identity with Taft,” so things that we would expect from students during the year are just not possible. One of Greg’s trademarks as dean was the famous morning newsletter in which he revealed his wit and intelligence and kept teachers and students laughing. Positioned in a basement office, cool but remote during the sweltering summer, Greg was the “underground man,” scribing his witty missives in the news while maintaining Taft standards of conduct in student life as dean. With the birth of their first son, Peyton the day after 9-11, during Rachael and Greg’s second year at Taft, Greg sent an e-mail to the Taft faculty, “When the whole world seems to be falling down, it’s nice to know you belong to a great community.” “I felt the impotence and irrelevance of being a new father,” Greg continued, and “I remember it being cold his first night home from the hospital, and buttoning Peyton up in my shirt as he slept. It was something I could do.” The family environment at Taft is truly sustaining. “When we were living in the dorm,” Greg comments,” Peyton would wander into the boys’ rooms in CPT and get “yums, yums” or candies from Nick Smith or play someone’s guitar.” “He learned how to high-five from the boys on the hall, and he got a sense of security.” Greg laughs, “Peyton had a habit of running up to random women in clothing stores and hugging them. You just can’t get that sense of security and stability easily.” There is a baby boom at Taft, and Lachlan, Greg and Rachael’s fifteenmonth-old sees recognizable faces, smiling and reaching out to the babies who will eventually be his friends and possible classmates down the road. Life is not solely an idyll, however, and Greg admits that his son Peyton submitted his art project to the faculty children’s showing in the Taft art gallery—a cell phone melted in a toaster. He just decided to pop that phone in the toaster and see what would happen. Unplanned, spontaneous, but still art. There is a “master family calendar” that 42 Taft Bulletin Spring 2005


keeps everyone on track most of the time, but some nights when Greg faces dorm duty, leaving at 7 p.m., to Peyton’s “Don’t go, Daddy,” Greg says, “It takes something out of you.” Known for his wonderful voice, Greg will often sing songs to his children before bedtime. On occasion, he will run over to John and Jean Piacenza’s music night to give a performance like his lyrical rendition of Gillian Welch’s “Wind and Rain.” “We have to carve out time for each other or we will just keep working,” says Rachael. “Greg is really good about making that time. He had a New Year’s resolution to write a love letter once a week, which lasted for a while. It was great. Greg is the one who makes us stop and focus.” The time spent away from Taft is truly rejuvenating for Rachael and Greg, who travel to Nantucket and to Greg’s family farm in Elberton, Georgia. At the farm, they walk through pastures and woodland trails. “The simplest things matter there.” In Nantucket, “everyone comes together. So much that has been important in our lives happened there— all under the light of Peyton’s window.” Greg’s older brother and his first son’s namesake, Peyton, died at the age of four when Greg was two, and there is a stained glass window in the Episcopal church in Nantucket named after him. In that space, Greg and Rachael were married and the children had their baptisms. In each of the places that Greg and Rachael find their inspiration—Taft, the Georgia farm, Nantucket— there are those shards of memory that layer and filter over the experience of the present. The story of their work as teachers, coaches, and parents is one of separate paths that inevitably converged, and for Greg, in particular, the realization that T.S. Eliot made famous, “In my end is my beginning, and the end of all our exploring shall be to come to the place from which we started and know it for the first time.” Greg believes that they have been led back to Taft through a core set of shared values, and while high school may not have been the “glory years” for him, “now is the best time” of his life. “Being parents, doing essentially two jobs, makes us think we don’t have simple fun anymore, but we have these moments of joy that completely make up for it.” Jennifer Zaccara taught English at Rye Country Day, The Winsor School, and Trinity College before coming to Taft four years ago. Sister of Glenn ’88 and Adam Zaccara, who attended Taft, she is happy to be working at a school that has meant so much to her family. She lives in CPT with her sons Bryce ’07 and Keefe.


“She said that working for several months had given her a different outlook on her education. She had been talking to other expats on Bar Street and they had encouraged her to go back to school…”

the migrant workers! They are dirty, unsophisticated, and commit crimes!” Such opinions are common, even from well-educated Chinese: migrants are a favorite scapegoat of the media and government when attempting to explain China’s social problems. While some migrant communities have given officials cause for concern in such areas as public health and safety, their overall impact on the economy is enormous. I asked my friend how she expected the Beijing economy to function without the migrants who work in construction, in restaurants, in barbershops, in food markets, and in countless other trades that locals prefer not to work in. “Oh yes, they are necessary and even beneficial to the economy,” she replied, “but we still dislike them. In fact, we dislike all outsiders. You know what,” she continued in a lower voice, “I was born in Henan! But I never tell anyone from Beijing this because I know they will look down at me.” Could her aversion to outsiders reflect shame for her own provincial roots? Tiantian’s roots are humble (her parents were farmers before they moved to Beijing). Her accent, her clothes, and her occupation are all a dead giveaway that she is an outsider in Beijing. She may only be an overnight train ride away from the capital, but the cultural gap is much wider. Relaxation of China’s household registration laws have made a once rooted population quite mobile, and Tiantian is just one of the 10 percent of China’s overall population that has left their homes and communities for the frightening yet hopeful prospect of the city.    During our conversations in the fall, Tiantian seemed content to work and make money for her family. When I asked her when she would return home, she said, “Who knows!” with enough flair to indicate she was enjoying her sojourn in Beijing. But as the weather turned cold and business became more difficult, she said she was heading home at the end of November. “Working is hard,” she told me, with a look in her eye that said she just wanted to go home and be a kid again. She said that working for several months had given her a different outlook on her education. She had been talking to other expats on







Bar Street, and they had encouraged her to go back to school: “People here tell me if I go to school I can get knowledge and become cultured, and if I have knowledge and culture, I will have better opportunities.” She said this not just as if it was something people on Bar Street told her but also something she believed. The look on her face showed she understood the logic behind it. Perhaps it was even her parents’ idea to have her work so she could gain the proper perspective on school. Regardless, selling flowers for seven months had been a formative experience. Tiantian has realized that the best road out of her village is through hard work in school. Even with a middle-school education, she would be better prepared to find a job than she is now. It may be naïve to think she will suddenly turn into a diligent student, but it is not too much to say that so many late nights spent working in Beijing have left an impression. Her exposure to the big city and the welldressed and moneyed people there may give her something to strive for in school.    In mid-December I was surprised to see Tiantian still working at Bar Street. I told her I thought she would be home by now. “I was supposed to go home” she started, “but people were telling me that Christmas and New Year’s would be very busy, so I decided to stay and make some more money,” she said with a laugh. Even at 11, she is beginning to demonstrate the legendary Chinese business sense. She planned to return to school after the New Year’s holiday. Will she be ready? “My father has been tutoring me, so I think I will be OK.” She was smiling and in good spirits, wearing a down jacket she said a foreigner had given to her. She insisted she wasn’t cold: “Last winter was much worse at home; it snowed a lot. This isn’t so bad.” I said my goodbyes, wished her luck, and turned to go, walking past the cookie-cutter bars, the kebab stands, the beggars. I hoped that the next time I found myself on Bar Street, I would not see her. Ben Steele was formerly a Fulbright Fellow in Beijing, China, where he now lives. Taft Bulletin Spring 2005









The Flower Girl By Ben Steele ’98 “Children selling flowers are a common sight in the bar districts of Beijing. On a busy night when the weather is nice, they might make up to 100 yuan by capitalizing on the pity of the foreign students and businessmen and upper-middle-class Chinese that frequent the city’s bars and clubs.”

44 Taft Bulletin Spring 2005

On an unusually cold October night on Sanlitun Bar Street, most of the mostly foreign crowd was not quite dressed for the weather; such weather called for more than a fleece jacket or a Gore-Tex shell. Still, the patrons were crowded around the outdoor tables, leaning in over their drinks and ordering kebabs from the adjacent stands. Remonstrations were made against the cold and wind, but no one moved indoors; it was cold, but evidently not cold enough not to drink outside. A young Chinese girl worked her way through the crowd, patiently approaching each person and offering them a rose while saying in a low voice, “Buy flowers, buy flowers” in Chinese. She, too, was not dressed for the weather, wearing only a couple of thin, pink cotton sweaters as protection against the cold. Her face and clothes were dirty, and her justover shoulder-length hair was tied back in a ponytail. Most of her offers of a flower for 5 yuan (65 cents) were respectfully declined, but occasionally someone would buy one for his or her better half, eliciting a smile and a gush of appreciative language from the girl, who would then move on down the street. Children selling flowers are a common sight in the bar districts of Beijing. On a busy night when the weather is nice, they might make up to 100 yuan by capitalizing on the pity of the foreign students and businessmen and upper-middle-class Chinese that frequent the city’s bars and clubs. The money does not come easy, though; the flower sellers start in early evening and, when business is brisk, will work until 5:30 a.m., when the last of the bars has shut down and the last of the revelers has headed home. Until then they will canvas Bar Street (or one of its competing nightlife dis-

tricts), pouncing on new arrivals, hoping to make a sale before the patrons are beset by the beggars who are also a fixture of Beijing nightlife.    The work is surely frustrating, but this young girl is there every night, as much an institution as any of the landmark bars of Sanlitun. Her name is Tiantian; she’s an 11-year-old from Henan province, well south of Beijing. She came here the previous May after completing fifth grade and says she was not interested in school and wanted to try her hand at working. Her parents were already in the city, selling fruit at a market stall in the northeast part of town. I tried to ask where in Henan she was from, but I could not understand her reply. When I asked her to repeat herself, she blushed and said, “I can’t really speak Mandarin, we only speak our local dialect at home. You foreigners speak better Mandarin than us non-locals.” “Nonsense,” I told her, even though she was right. Her reply, however, was revealing about the way migrants feel they are perceived: southern Chinese speak an accented form of Mandarin that immediately brands them as an outsider here in the north; Tiantian was clearly self-conscious about her speech and knew the locals looked down on her because of it. Nationalism in China may be strong, but localism is stronger, and Chinese people are often fiercely suspicious of outsiders in their communities. A friend of mine, a young Chinese woman in her mid-20s who works for an import/ export company, shared that same sense of regional bias. When I first met her, I told her I was in Beijing to study migrant workers, and she responded with vigor, “We Beijingers hate

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