Spring 1996 Taft Bulletin

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BULLETIN S P R I N G • 1 9 9 6

Volume 66

Number 3

In this Issue SPOTLIGHT


By Willy MacMullen ’78

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15 EXPERIENCING JAPAN By Rob Dranitzke ’94

20 MANY NAMES OF TAFT McIntosh House and Martin Health Center Page 11

DEPARTMENTS 22—NEWS OF THE SCHOOL New Trustee, Tribute to Joan Atwood, Holiday Photos, Taft Establishes Name in Hungary, Boys’ Club Award, Alumni Games, and more Page 15 On the cover: Lanterns have long been a symbol of education and the search for truth. Senior art student Chris Tucker captures that tradition in his oil painting of one of the lanterns adorning Horace Dutton Taft Hall.




Spring 1996


Four Kind, Firm Molders By Willy MacMullen ’78


am not much of a mathematician, but I figure it something like this: when Bob Boothby, Dan Comiskey, Eric Drake, and Hector Pagan retire this year, eight college degrees, over one hundred years of teaching at Taft, somewhere in the range of twelve thousand classes taught, at least a million conversations with students.... It’s a laughable exercise: the loss can’t be calculated. I am not sure there’s ever been a year like it, when so much experience exited together. When you begin to think how hard it is to teach well, when you understand how long it takes to become adequate, much less good or great, when you think of all the teachers who have come and gone, you can become gloomy about the prospects of replacing this foursome. When we stand up and applaud Bob, Dan, Eric, and Hector after that final faculty meeting in June, it’s a century of commitment that walks out of that room. Taft Bulletin



Bob Boothby With Bob Boothby, I think of one scene: he is sitting on his sailboat in the Maine waters, done with the knot retying and general fiddling men like to do on their boats, and he is leaning against the gunwales reading a book—history, or economics, or a biography. There’s obviously some envy here on my part, but that’s what he intends to do when he retires, at least some of the time. He and his wife, Sue, have bought land in Brunswick, and


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this quintessential Maine-iac, a man perfectly at home in the small town or on lonely waters, will have the chance to do what is so difficult to do when you teach: rejuvenate and nourish the intellect. For Bob is a great historian and a relentless questioner, and he has a curious and expansive mind suited for lengthy and unhurried contemplation. He envisions years of family gatherings, sailing, computer programming, reading in economics, history, and finance. It’s time, he feels. Lance Odden says, “Bob is retiring at the top of his game. He is beloved and

respected by students. Last week, I had one kid in my office who thinks Bob just about walks on water. What is it about him? I think it is his unique love of history, combined with a renewed commitment to the students. He loves seeing kids, watching them find joy in understanding history, spectating their triumphs. I think he is feeling that now as much as his first year teaching. As I say, he is at the top of his game.” That is a sense shared by many. I recall a scene two years ago, when Mark Davis, the college counselor, came to me and shared a conversation he had had with a senior. “Who has been your favorite teacher?” he asked a girl, and without hesitation she answered, Mr. Boothby. And why? Because, she argued, he combined all a teacher should have: absolute clarity of presentation, contagious passion for the discipline, and extremely tough but fair standards. Those mark his career. Bob came to Taft with Sue (and threeyear-old Deidre ’83, with Kevin ’87 to follow) in 1967, after receiving his B.A. at St. Lawrence and his master’s at Columbia. He had been teaching in Maine, at Masson College, when cuts in the department meant he was going to lose his job. “A Taftie,” he shares, “recommended me. So down I came. It was a totally different world for me since I had not been in prep school. We were in the dorm, and with a wife and a young child...it was tough. And I was wet behind the ears.” In addition, Bob recalls, the school was a much different place than today. He says, “This was under John Esty, and there were tremendous changes in the curriculum, and we were moving toward coeducation. They were exciting, but complicated and trying times. You have to remember that the late ’60s and early ’70s were so different. It was the time when students were suspicious of anyone over age thirty. All that was happening on college campuses made its way down. Remember, this was Vietnam, Kent State.... We were constantly challenged by students. It was exciting, but it was turbulent.”


For over the next quarter of a century, Bob would teach history. Lance describes him as “perhaps the most devoted student of history in the department. He reads all the time. He constantly seeks new fields of historical study—biography, economics, and political science. History is who he is more than what he does.” While his expertise was primarily in European history—and he would teach the Advanced Placement course— he was willing and eager to learn more. John Wynne, a long-time colleague and ex-history department head, recalls,

jammed with information, presented impeccably. If you wanted to do well, you had to work. His was not a hand-holding style. It was old school. He expected a lot from himself and the same from you. In some ways a private man who is happiest miles from land in a small boat, Bob nonetheless enjoyed a deep love for students. History was the point of contact. I ask him what he will miss. “What did I enjoy the most? What will I miss? Teaching history to kids and learning myself. I loved the chance to learn more and more. I continue to learn, and I still

He loves seeing kids, watching them find joy in understanding history, spectating their triumphs. And I think he is feeling that now as much as his first year teaching. “His training was European, but he had a real interest in learning, and he learned American history and taught it. And you should know that Bob was way ahead of any of us in terms of computer use. He was doing things with technology long before anyone in the department.” Bob’s interest in economics also blossomed. He read widely and steadily, and soon he had put together and was teaching a regular section, with Advanced Placement soon to follow. The AP was a grueling course, not for the faint hearted. Perhaps shaped to some extent by his college teaching background, and certainly informed by his tough personal standards, Bob was never an easy teacher. Some students balked at taking his courses or even asked to switch classes. His brutal tests were well known, but students sometimes talked with pride about getting a grade on a Boothby test which would have frustrated them in another course. His classes were tight and organized,

love the intellectual challenge: I’ve learned so much about fields I once knew little about: economics, American history, finance.... And to be able to talk about those subjects with students, now that was really great.” Of course, he may teach less, but Bob is hardly done learning. He plans to enjoy the family, continue his computer work, read extensively, and sail. He has sailed all over the Atlantic, in tiny rocky Maine harbors, past the wrist of Cape Cod, in thirty-foot seas far off shore. He describes his voyages much as he does his teaching: with obvious passion, but also considerable reserve and total humility. He doesn’t seem to feel what he has done has been particularly noteworthy. While perfectly cooperative, Bob would rather not have been interviewed, I suspect. He has had a great career, but he just doesn’t want much fuss made over him. Bob is the kind who doesn’t like a crowd on the docks when he sets off. He just wants to untie the knots, cast off.

Dan Comiskey With Dan Comiskey I think of the pipe. We all do. He is never seen without it, and there are thirty-six Taft Annuals with pictures of him, probably most with his pipe. Were he a literary character, even the slowest student would see that the pipe symbolizes him: it is intellect, inquiry, scholarship, professorial distance, Einsteinian preoccupation with mathematical truths. When you see Dan walking slowly to class, tall and gray haired, his pipe smoke curling behind him, or see him puffing alone on the bench outside the math building, you wonder where his mind is. And with good reason. He is probably the greatest mathematical mind the department has known. Ted Heavenrich, the current department head, says, “We have some great people and always have. John Philpit a few years ago. John Piacenza is a tremendous mathematician, as is Sam Hsiao and others. But Dan is maybe the most brilliant. And he has such a unique interest in educating young people in problem solving. What is fascinating is that even at his age and after so long he still loves the challenge of a tough problem. That’s why he so good with the brightest kids in one-on-one tutorials. That’s why you see some of our best kids today hanging out talking problems with him after class.” Last year, when Dan and I had nearby offices, I saw the same phenomenon. I would walk by, and Dan would be working something out alone, holding a piece of chalk, standing near a small blackboard he had on the wall. Of course, it was all hieroglyphics to me, and I would wonder where his mind was. It was even spookier when I would pass by and he and Jamie Copeland ’95 would be sitting opposite each other, each with an open book, the board covered with their strange but impeccably neat writings, both of them motionless and brooding and staring silently. As

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Lance said to me, “Dan could teach anyone well, but the brightest students he took into outer space.” Dan and Alice Comiskey came to Taft in 1960. He would coach wrestling in his early years, be a fixture timing varsity hockey games, and teach math for more than three decades, and together they would raise two children (Alice ’80 and Dan ’84, both of whom followed Dan Sr. in going to Williams). Alice would tutor scores of students in spelling and study and organizational skills. Dan had gone to Williams, done gradu-


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ate work at Brown, served in the army as a code breaker, and done actuarial work for Equitable Life for three years. “But I was disenchanted and knew I wanted to teach math,” he says. “So I came down to Taft. Actually, Bob Woolsey interviewed me for Classics since I knew Greek and Latin, but it was Ed Douglas in math who needed me, I guess. I was offered a job that day.” He echoes many of the themes Bob Boothby articulated, and he speaks slowly and heavily, waiting several seconds between statements, as if he were pausing to draw on his pipe.

“It was an exciting time. There were big changes in math and science. Joe Cunningham was trying to get good students for the new building (the 70th Anniversary Science Center). And it was the post-Sputnik era, a decade before Vietnam. So there was this sense that education was going to save the world, especially math and science. It was a heady time. You cannot imagine how hard students worked. We would talk in faculty meetings with concern about kids who were in the library on Saturday nights. Students took enormous intellectual risks, more so than today.” Dan recalls how early in his first year, he “did not know what he was doing,” but later in the year he received his first significant endorsement when in classic adolescent fashion, a student told him “he was not the worst new teacher he had seen.” For the next third of a century, Dan taught math students, from the basics of algebra to the slowest of learners to the abstract theories of calculus to the brightest in the school. But unlike many teachers who secretly want only the brilliant minds, Dan has always loved the challenge of instruction at all levels. “Sure, there have been some great ones,” he says. “Jack Langsdorf ’93 was maybe the most advanced.... And Vance Lauderdale ’69, John Hagelin ’72, others.... But some of the weakest were the most rewarding. The reward is getting a student from point A to point B, and it doesn’t matter where A and B are. If you can achieve process and some level of self-esteem, their level of proficiency doesn’t matter. Identifying why the student is struggling is what is fascinating.” To Dan, figuring out how to teach is what makes the profession permanently new—each class presents its problems, and above all, he is a problem solver, a code breaker. Lance adds: “He served brilliantly the best and the worst math students. He has always had great insights into how to teach to a particular student. Dan could read a file on a new student and draw conclusions that were perfect. And no head I


have known knew the styles and philosophies of a department as he did. So he was brilliant in his assessment of students and teachers, and he could match them better than anyone. In that sense, he was way ahead of any of us in his awareness of teaching and learning styles—long before those became buzz words.” Dan the problem solver has also served on the Disciplinary Committee for over thirty years, and as someone who has accompanied many students to face that group, I know his presence well. In a room that is often excruciatingly tense,

did not even notice this one. Many students, while never intimidated by him, simply acknowledged that he was operating on an unapproachably high plane, perhaps highest when he was alone and thinking and smoking. That he might be so deep in his own internal problem solving dialogue that he could leave his pipe smoldering in his pocket surprises no one. So of course, I had to ask. “Yes, it really did. I had been outside, and I went to put the pipe in the office and I got talking to someone. And my pocket caught fire—I had to douse it out in the

Were he a literary character, even the slowest student would see that the pipe symbolizes him: it is intellect, inquiry, scholarship, professorial distance, Einsteinian preoccupation with mathematical truths. and at times tremendously emotional, Dan is objective, clear thinking, logical, and even humorous, in an odd, ironic, and grave way. He seems to view the problem from a long way off. He asks precise questions, in long ponderous sentences, and you can almost see him juggling the possibilities. Lance called him “the conscience of the academic life here,” and he clearly was in those meetings. “I wasn’t consciously trying to be anything in those meetings,” he answers when I asked him about his role. “I simply wanted to process the information before me. You always end up trying to balance the needs of the individual with the needs of the community. What is wrenching is when there is a conflict.” But back to the pipe: Legend has it that his jacket once caught fire with his pipe in the pocket, and this did much in past years to feed the myth of the genius so preoccupied with other worlds that he

restroom.” Naturally, nothing changed. Dan never stopped taking his walk between classes, puffing away near the pond, stopping to rest on his bench, preparing, thinking, and problem solving, before the bell rang for BC Calculus and he pocketed the pipe and walked in. “That’s what I’ll miss,” he says. “The classroom, the teaching, working with those students. The rest you can have.”

Eric Drake With Eric Drake, now sixty-eight years old, I think of his bright red hair bristling from his head, his worn Army coat, his frayed rucksack slung over his shoulder, his cracked hiking boots, and seeing him walking: downtown, across the campus, and through the halls. The walk seems many things at once: his physical toughness, his refusal to be a lazy American, and

his great independence. He has a car, an ancient Volvo, but he never uses it. A colleague passed him last week coming back from marketing in town, on a bitter cold and blustery day, and asked if Eric wanted a ride back to campus. “No,” he replied cheerfully, in the British accent and clipped voice so unique it has spawned scores of imitators, “I would rather walk.” Eric is a small man, all bones and sinew, but he has always had extraordinary strength and energy. He has hiked mountains all over the world, from Montana to Switzerland. I know of no one his age so vital, and while I am half his years, I cannot keep up with him. Night in, night out, he may be up later than any other teacher at Taft—and this while teaching a full load, leading the “Running and Rock Climbing” program, and running the dormitory. He is almost literally ageless. When I was on his floor a few years ago, he was still challenging and beating the mid boys to sit-up and push-up contests. Eric graduated from Cambridge in 1948, taught for seventeen years at a boarding school in England and two years at the University of Illinois at Chicago, received his Ph.D. in math from Montana State, taught one year at Northern Montana College and one year at The Mountain School, all before he did his twenty years here. Lance recalls his arrival: “We hired Eric since we saw a brilliant physicist and mathematician—a distinguished scientist and a massive and inquisitive mind. But we never anticipated how devoted he would be in the dorm. He was, quite literally, the salvation to many kids who found adolescence troubling and painful. He was the great school master in the old sense of the word. We forget that simply being there is important, and Eric has always been there for kids. And his counsel, though tough, was never judgmental. He was loyal to the kids more than the institution, which he questioned in provocative and thoughtful ways.” After years in educational institutions so different from Taft, Eric found Taft Bulletin



He was, quite literally, the salvation to many kids who found adolescence troubling and painful. He was the great school master in the old sense of the word. We forget that simply being there is important, and Eric has always been there for kids. Taft almost shockingly different. “It was exotic,” he recalls. “The drug scene pervaded much of the school. I had come from a strait-laced boarding school in England, and then Montana, where none of this was going on. This, though, was the hangover from the early ’70s, the collapse of Vietnam, and so on. The general behavior was troubling. There was a lot going on, and there were some real individuals who stuck out. Yes, things


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have changed bit by bit. Compared to then, the students today can seem almost drab. But the ones I am working with now are the nicest I’ve ever had.” But Taft was the right place for him, at least for a couple of decades, and the dorm was to become his defining place. He was out of the college world, and it was this shift in priorities, from mastery of subject to concern for the whole student, that shaped Eric’s career here.

At Taft, he recalls, “The entire emphasis is on the student. And that is where my greatest satisfaction lies.” Eric set up shop on HDT3 and has never moved. I am not sure anything has changed in his apartment; the things most of us tend to think about—it’s time for a new couch, this stereo is no good anymore— don’t interest Eric. He has as few needs as anyone I have ever known. What he wants is simply to be able to work with


kids, and it has been in the dorm that he has left his mark on literally hundreds of students. He is something of a legend for his presence. Students never know if he is asleep or not, and indeed, Eric will often pop out for a walk about the floor at 1:00 AM. The bathroom graffiti says, “Drake knows all!” and there is truth to the rumor. He wants to know all, because he cares about helping. I asked him about his philosophy and style in the dorm, and he said, “My model was a teacher I knew in England. He had the reputation of knowing everything that was going on. He would talk to a kid and show that he not only knew what the student was doing but also who he was. He had the ability to know a kid fully. I don’t know if I have done that, but it is an ideal: to know, to penetrate. So I have always tried to find time to be out and about, even if that meant walking and talking to students well after midnight.” It is impossible to exaggerate the effect he has had on the boys of HDT3 in the past twenty years. I doubt that any teacher at Taft has spent as many hours in the dorm as Eric; and it is there, of course, in the early, fatigued mornings, in the loneliness of late nights, that students reveal most. Students come back and look for him years after they have graduated. David Lombino, a senior this year, gave a School Meeting dedicated to Eric, or “E,” as he is called by most, and said, “He has become a second advisor to me—a life advisor. I hope to see, read, and do as much as he has— perhaps influence as many. We were lucky to have him. His legacy will always remain on corridor on HDT3.” As he retires, Eric sees huge challenges left for Taft and America, especially as the world becomes increasingly technological: “The contrast between science teaching and the rest of the world is staggering— by the time a student graduates high school in England, he may have had six years of physics. It can be frustrating to teach here. Sooner or later the government

will have to face this, and right now I only hear faint bleats of protest. Now what will I do in retirement? It’s time for me to read a book, to compose music, to see great drama. But I will miss so much. Dave Lombino asked—and what a remarkable question—whether I would be lonely. Yes. I’ll miss the great companionship of teachers and students.” Eric plans to buy a house in the Lake District, close enough to make it into London to see Shakespeare plays, and close enough to the mountains to make for daily walking. He is so active, mentally and physically, that you cannot help but feel he is simply making a career change; it is impossible to think of Eric slowing down. He is, as David said, simply moving on, continuing a great journey. Eric has invited visitors, but be rested and properly booted: your visit will entail some walking, and good luck keeping up.

Hector Pagan With Hector Pagan, one word comes to mind for all who know him: “Señor.” Hector has never been “Mr. Pagan;” he has always been “Señor,” and the title says everything about the man, the teacher, and his students who loved him. It is a term of respect, an indication of the enthusiasm he instilled in learning Spanish, and a nickname that symbolizes the

He taught so many because he wanted to. Early in his career, Hector approached Lance and said essentially this: I am no good at sports and have little interest in coaching, so why don’t you relieve me of those duties and let me do what I do well: teach more. Lance recalls the conversation: “He knew he was good in the classroom. He was the one who asked to teach extra classes, six rather than four. So for essentially his entire career here, he has taught half again as much as anyone.” Hector felt appreciated in that conversation, and typically, in talking about it, he downplays his own accomplishments and describes what all of us see as testimony to almost unthinkable commitment as hardly worth mentioning. Hector feels today that the decision was one which reflected no great virtue in him, instead just a certain institutional wisdom: “I appreciated it. It was wise of Lance to take advantage of people’s strengths. And I didn’t think it was admirable on my part. I had come from Catholic schools where I had classes with forty students. A class with ten kids? Bright and interested kids? That was gravy. I loved it.” When you add up twenty-four years of teaching six classes, you realize he touched more young people than most teachers ever hope to. And he did it well.

While not ordained, his training and temperament together made for a teacher as concerned with the spirit as the mind. close relationship he has enjoyed with students. Even at a school where some masters stayed on a very long time, Hector’s has been a remarkable career. He may have taught as many students as anyone in the school’s history.

Hector’s approach and presence in his classes, I now understand, was shaped by his training. A gentle, kind, soft-spoken man, he grew up in Puerto Rico, received his B.A. at St. Edward’s and his master’s at Southern ConnectiTaft Bulletin



cut, and was trained in the Teaching Brotherhood. While not ordained, his training and temperament together made for a teacher as concerned with the spirit as the mind. But after teaching at Notre Dame in New Haven for nine years, and Holy Cross in Waterbury for three, he began to feel that the changes in the Catholic church were making his job less and less satisfying. “With the Second Vatican Council,” he explains, “all of a sudden education, and responsible contemplation, took a back seat behind social activism. I wanted to teach.”


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And Taft provided the perfect opportunity. Boarding school meant that “the one-on-one contact was terrific. I saw that at Taft immediately. I interviewed at other schools, but this one was so humane, so down to earth. It is hard to describe it, but it was clear this was the right place.” Hector, of course, has taught every level imaginable, but he feels that he picked up the “banner of the under dog” after Jack Snow retired. To Hector, ability does not matter. His optimism is the stuff of faith really, so perhaps he has never strayed far from his first teachings. No one is beyond

reach in Hector’s class. He says, “I feel every one is teachable—every one has something to be discovered, something redeemable. Why could I work with the weaker students? I don’t know, but I guess it has something to do with patience. I don’t mind repeating things over and over, and when I saw results, that made my day. I believe every one can be redeemed.” He also taught the best students we have had, but as he tells it, what he did was unremarkable: “Any one can teach the best.” He drilled repeatedly, exposed kids to new literature and poetry, and inspired them to speak even when they were halting and unsure. He brought the weakest through their language requirement, and the best to the Advanced Placement exam. And ask any teacher here who struggles to keep head above water with four classes: to do six classes, year in and year out, is absolutely mind boggling. So pinning Hector down has something to do with great classroom instruction for hundreds of students. But were that all that marked him—and that is as much as most of us hope for in teaching— he would not be “Señor.” Instead, what finally defines him is his love of others and his essential faith in the goodness of all mankind. Lance feels that with his early training, his “approach was spiritual rather than pedagogical, and at the heart of Hector’s teaching was a pastoral concern for the student. He is a kind, loving man, of great gentility, and is deeply respected.” In a job that can from time to time exhaust and sour even the most resilient, Hector never seemed to lose faith. Some irreplaceable goodness and humility are departing with him; he is one of those rare people who make you feel fortunate just to have known them. Of course, the way he tells it, he was the lucky one: “It was so much fun. I will miss that daily contact with the kids, especially those I had for three years. I remember so many—Bobby DeAngelis ’88, John ’88 and Beth Long ’87, Joyce Romano ’92, and others. There was a chemistry I will never, never forget.”



Then & Now By Debora Phipps Davis


his fall marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the arrival of girls at Taft. In celebration of this landmark, we have devoted much of this year to evaluating coeducation in its current form.

▲ “Taft is often cited by others in independent education as having made one of the most successful transitions from a single-sex to a coeducational school.” —Monie Hardwick in her spring 1986 article on the Gilligan Study. Shown here is the 1973 staff of The Forum. Taft Bulletin



The project is two-fold: first, through surveying current students and following up with individual and small group discussions, we can more accurately assess exactly where we’ve done well, and what we need to improve, in our current efforts to educate boys and girls equally. The second component involves a survey of the alumni of the last thirty years—the five years preceding coeducation, and the twenty-five years since—from which we will compile a social history of the school,

divided into eras, with attention to the ways in which people’s experiences at Taft were shaped by, and continue to be shaped by, coeducation and school leadership. As a first step, we asked all students last spring to complete a lengthy questionnaire addressing various aspects of their lives at Taft. Students wrote thoughtfully and perceptively, and I spent the summer reading their responses and comparing these with the results of a similar survey administered in 1985 by Carol Gilligan,

In 1985, Gilligan’s study told us that “the great majority of Taft students share an acceptance of common values and personal priorities that recognize success in interesting, renumerative careers and a happy family life.” Here, members of the Class of ’85 present self portraits for a Photography II class. 12

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the Harvard researcher who chose Taft as one of the schools for her study of the ways in which girls learn. While ours was not a scientific survey, and the results cited reflect trends in responses rather than highly specific tabulations, the results were quite encouraging. Today, both boys and girls perceive themselves as more independent and able to make their own decisions; additionally, there is greater consensus between male and female responses to questions about conformity, choices, and opportunities. Girls express more confidence than their predecessors in 1985, and boys exhibit more awareness and thoughtfulness about the differences between boys and girls and about any disparities that were noted. Some comparisons between the two studies demonstrate the distance the school has traveled in the last ten years. Gilligan’s 1985 study suggested that girls primarily valued social concerns, while boys focused on measurable, specific accomplishments. Now, however, nearly one third of boys list establishing strong friendships as a goal for their time at Taft. Furthermore, while friendship continues to be important to girls’ lists of accomplishments, they now list academic and extracurricular achievements as often as they do social accomplishments; it seems that both boys and girls seek more well-rounded, varied definitions of success for their high school years. Popularity, a word that appeared often in the surveys of 1985, is no longer listed as an accomplishment. Instead, students care about establishing trust and feeling supported by their peers. While males continue to lead the student government of the school, students now attribute this trend less to a belief that males have better innate capability for leadership; instead, they point out that positions such as head monitor require those qualities they associated with more “male” leadership styles: organization, ability to control a group, independence in decision-making, and


Today, students believe that boys are expected to excel at academic work, while girls have to prove themselves—yet girls are more likely to list academic success as one of their most important goals at Taft. vitality. Many cite the tradition of male leadership at Taft and in society: “male authority figures are all we’ve ever seen.” Both male and female students recognize that girls now lead in different areas— such as clubs, publications, social programs, and as corridor monitors—and these draw on the leadership qualities students associate with “female” leadership styles: dedication to people, the ability to listen well, encouragement of morale, and the desire to bring people together. A majority of students support the school’s recent decision to have students vote for an equal number of boys and girls in primary elections for class committees; while this does not guarantee parity on these committees, it does result in more equal distribution of student government leadership. Most students—75 percent of the boys and 50 percent of the girls—feel that their parents share their expectations. Of the remainder, an equal number of stu-

dents observed that their parents “care about social and personal goals. I care about academics” as did those commenting on parents’ fixation on grades. This fall’s survey of parents of new students shows little difference in parental expectation of sons and daughters. An overwhelming majority of parents—regardless of whether their child is a girl or boy—are most concerned with academics, followed by “increased opportunities for personal and social development,” and “extracurricular opportunities” as priorities for their children’s development during secondary school. Parents express the desire that their children remain or become more confident, a desire shared by students. One parent writes that her primary hope for her child at Taft is that he “come away with good self-esteem. I feel very strongly that we can give kids many things, but if we do not make them feel good about themselves, we’ve given them nothing.”

Students also feel that they share Taft’s expectations, summarized in one boy’s comment that “Taft expects students to be achievers first.” They do, however, identify several areas where perceived expectations for boys and girls differ at the school. Boys, they feel, are expected to excel at academic work, while girls have to prove themselves—yet girls are more likely to list academic success as one of their most important goals at Taft. Students also feel that boys are more encouraged to lead and are given less supervision in the dormitory, while girls are allowed to be more emotional: they receive more nurturance in the dormitories, but are allowed less independence. One senior boys writes, “although girls at Taft are strong-willed and independent, boys find themselves with the authority,” while a successful male athlete cites the pressure of the expectations that “men have to show little or no emotion and must be tough and into sports.” Taft Bulletin



Issues about athletic involvement— perceived by students as the most valued extracurricular area of the school—center on differences in attendance at games (girls’ games are poorly attended, even when the teams are first in their division) and varied treatment by coaches. Girls feel that they are just as successful athletically as boys, but they are not always taken as seriously, an observation that led several female athletes to wish that practices were more consistently serious and that coaches would expect the same mental toughness from girls. In ensuing discussions with students, we have found that students are not necessarily distressed about these perceived differences. To a degree, they accept these as the result of different dormitory situations and the various faculty members with whom they have contact, as well as the different behaviors of boys and girls. Some, however, look for greater parity in the ways girls and boys are treated, and one of the goals of the Coeducation Committee is to develop a process through which students can continue to share their ideas and discuss perceived disparities of treatment in an effective and thoughtful manner. Following up on observations from student surveys in informal discussions has proven critical in understanding some of the differences apparent in their responses. In describing their goals for the future, for instance, students respond in 1995 much as they did in 1985: lower school students describe professional goals for their futures, followed by statements about the importance of family in approximately half of their responses. Among seniors, however, boys continue to list professional goals, while nearly every girl writes about her desire to be happy, with fewer than 10 percent listing a professional goal; a typical responses was “I’d like to think I’ll be happy, giving, fun, loving, loved—really what most people seek in life.” In talking with upper school girls, they seem surprised not by these results, but by the fact 14

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that we would assume that a focus on happiness meant less emphasis on career. For many of them, the word “happiness” necessarily encompasses professional as well family goals, and they simply assumed that anyone reading their surveys would understand these implicit expectations. Many older students exude confidence in their ability to meet their goals, writing “If I can succeed here, I can succeed anywhere,” and “For sure I will never give up in any situation—on the one hand because of myself, and on the other hand, because I know I’ve the best friends ever.” A younger student writes that “change is less scary after being away at boarding school.” As we move forward with the evaluation of coeducation, we plan to address issues of school unity—which has been a focus of the school monitors in their planning of events this year—as well as ways of helping students get to know other students with whom they don’t have regular contact. Students feel strongly the absence of free time and the opportunity simply to spend time with others: “I wish that it didn’t have to happen all at a certain time—we need more time for relaxing with both sexes, getting to know people on a human/real basis.” While they recognize that this results from their own desires to be widely involved in a variety of activities, they also bemoan the limited

opportunities for relaxed social time, and recognize the importance of this in combating the stress they feel in their daily existence. “Learning to know oneself ” is repeatedly listed as a goal, one for which some students feel there isn’t sufficient time; one girl writes, “Something gets lost along the way, and there isn’t enough time for one to feel healthy and loved.” And while Taft continues to be perceived as a competitive place, students recognize that “it would happen at any school;” unlike the students in 1985, a majority of current respondents see competition as healthy and realistic, a reflection of the “real world” they will one day enter and a motivating force for many. If the confidence of the classes completing the 1995 survey is any indication, the status of girls at Taft is strong and should improve as we continue to examine the issues raised by students and alumni as we celebrate a quarter century of coeducation. If we have learned one thing in those twenty-five years, it is that girls and boys have both benefited from learning side by side. Debbie Phipps Davis is a member of the English Department and, prior to launching this study on coeducation, has been a class dean and directed the school’s Fellowship Program.

If you have not had a chance to complete your alumni survey, please do so as soon as possible: the more responses we receive, the more thoughtful we can be in evaluating the success of coeducation at Taft today. The results will form the basis for an article in the fall issue of the Taft Bulletin, which will be devoted to women atTaft. If you need a new survey, please call 1-800-995-TAFT and leave a message for Debbie Phipps Davis.



JAPAN By Robert Thor Dranitzke ’94


ver the course of ten months in Japan, I had the learning and enjoyment experience of a lifetime. I started the year not knowing what I had gotten myself into. I had decided to forgo a year at Princeton University in order to go to a country that I had a vague interest in and knew little about, hopefully to pick up some of the language, giving up all that was familiar to me and plunging headlong into the unknown. It is a decision that has since brought me great rewards, and a decision that I now look back upon with pride, Rob with some of his fifth-grade friends at Keimei. joy, and gratitude. Taft Bulletin



Keimei Gakuen and the Keimei community introduced me to and helped me feel comfortable in Japanese society. Arriving at Narita airport, I was met by a smiling, helpful Matsuda sensei (teacher). Indicative of what I was to find at my new school, Matsuda did everything he could to make my arrival pleasant and easy. My first night in Japan, I met the men who would constitute my living mates, and who would make up some of my best friends at school. Although I had been traveling for over twenty-four hours, their surprise welcome party invigorated me; we stayed up and began to get to know each other until I finally went to bed at around three in the morning. The dorm students quickly accepted me and made me feel like a part of their family from day one. Life in the dorm was good. The bathrooms were suitable, the rooms were nice, and the food was quite tasty. But none of this was what made me enjoy the dorm. It was the people that helped me delight in the time that I spent there. From the meals we shared to the activities we participated in, our time together was always fun. They taught me things about the culture that you won’t learn from a teacher, such as all the subtleties of nanpa (picking up girls). They also educated me in the conversational skills you may not study in a classroom, but you will definitely hear and be forced to use on the streets of modern-day Japan. Living in the dorm was a great way for me to begin my assimilation into Japanese culture and Keimei Gakuen. Starting school, I found that Keimei is comprised of three groups of students. Japanese students make up the majority of the school. Second are the returnees. They are Japanese young people that have lived all or part of their lives in a foreign country. Third are the foreign and exchange students. Keimei specializes in these last two groups. The school takes these gaijin and repatriated nationals and teaches them Japanese and helps them 16

Spring 1996

It was the people that helped me delight in the time that I spent there. From the meals we shared to the activities we participated in, our time together was always fun.

A friend in traditional Japanese dress.


adjust to Japan. (Being a gaijin, I experienced this first hand.) The school’s beginner level Japanese courses are phenomenal. Studying with other exchange students and foreigners from Mexico, Thailand, and China, to name just a few, made every day stimulating and fun. In addition to language, I took many other valuable courses. Classes such as tea ceremony, calligraphy, cooking, Japanese history, kendo, and judo added to my learning. Although these courses were geared for Japanese students, the teachers and students went out of their way to help me. Besides the classes, Keimei offered me a lot more. Not only did I get to meet kids who were in my grade, but I also had the opportunity to meet and teach students younger than myself, and this proved to be very beneficial. The fifth graders at the elementary school were some of my favorite people I met in Japan. Every time as I was walking outside, these children took it upon themselves to scream out of their window a “hello” or a “good morning.” And no matter how poor the weather or how tired I was, these greetings always made me feel better. Through Keimei, I also participated in outside activities. Whether it was traveling in Nagasaki with classmates, planting rice with local farmers, or having dinner next to the Pirates of the Caribbean at Tokyo Disneyland, school-sponsored trips offered a great change of pace and environment. My time at Keimei always seemed to be well spent. On weekends and vacations, the content of my life completely changed. During my time off from school, I would be welcomed as a member of a host family. With great adoptive families like the Uesugis, the Ishizakis, and the Itos, I always looked forward to my next day off. My first household, the Uesugis, were an ideal first family for me. My sister Hiroko had spent the previous year at Taft with me, and her kindness and mastery of the English language was a

Golden Pavillion Temple in Kyoto.

In addition to language, I took many other valuable courses. Classes such as tea ceremony, calligraphy, cooking, Japanese history, kendo, and judo added to my learning. Taft Bulletin



blessing. My three brothers and my father, while knowing a few words of English, spoke only Japanese. This situation led to extremely intriguing conversations that required much use of the dictionary. It’s hard to believe how explaining that your father is a doctor can be exciting, but, when you’re doing it in a foreign tongue, it can as rewarding as breaking top secret codes. While Hiroko often aided me in the beginning by translating, she did even more to help me when she would force me to speak Japanese. It

was frustrating at first, but with time I came to realize the importance of what she was doing. Hiroko was effectively making me study. And my gradual learning of Japanese brought great dividends. I became close with my first host family. I was truly honored when my father invited me to his Shinto wedding and asked me to speak at the reception afterward. Traditionally, only the immediate family witnesses the ceremony, so it really was quite special to be there. My second family was the Ishizakis:

Great Buddha in Kamakura, the second largest in Japan. 18

Spring 1996

mother, father, brother, grandfather, and grandmother. The grandmother wasn’t from the Tokyo area, so her dialect was very difficult for me to understand. But this obstacle wasn’t so daunting that it kept us from developing a friendship and spending a lot of time together. On Fridays, I would come home from school, speak to and learn from my grandmother while I helped her to prepare dinner. When things became awkward due to the communicating difficulties, my grandmother had a great knack for laughing it all off and making me feel at ease. My time with the Ishizakis was always pleasant and easy. Never was the spirit of family stronger than the last couple of months I spent with the Itos. Together with my host sister Mai and mother and father, I went on trips to the Japan Sea and Yokohama, explored different areas of Tokyo, ate at tasty sushi restaurants, went on company picnics, and had fun parties at the house. It seemed that whenever I wasn’t busy, the Itos were making sure that we would be doing something together as a family. By this time my Japanese was at a level where I could begin to understand a good deal of what the family was speaking, and this understanding helped to foster the feeling that we were very close. Whatever it was, the Itos and I grew fond of each other. In Japan, I was fortunate to have families that were trusting and offered me a good deal of freedom. The families saw that I could handle the responsibility, and just as my true parents had the faith to send me to a country on the other side of the dateline, so too did my Japanese families allow me to work jobs and to travel on my own. I took advantage of this opportunity by engaging in part-time employment as well as by going out often and making friends throughout Tokyo. In order to have some extra money in the astronomically expensive capital of Japan, I made approximately six visits over three months to a government office in order to get a part-time work per-


mit. With the permit in hand, I set out to find employment. I started by giving private English lessons at students’ homes and at restaurants such as Mister Donuts and Mos Burger. These jobs proved to be quite entertaining and profitable. The only problem was the lack of working hours that the jobs provided. My next job I just lucked into. I went to visit a friend in Nagano, Kaoru Shiki, whose parents owned and ran a pension. I expected to spend the first few days of my spring break there. Instead I began helping out and spent my whole break working there. I had my afternoons off to ski, to go to a spa, or anything else that I wanted to do. My few weeks with the Shikis was a fabulous change from what I was doing in Tokyo and a splendid way to spend my spring break. Upon returning to school, Keimei offered me a teaching opportunity in the night school. Helping Dr. Bevet to teach a small group of eager high school students every Tuesday and Thursday evening was an interesting journey into the realms of teaching and learning. My last job was working at a restaurant in Roppongi. I had a great opportunity to really test my Japanese knowledge. Between my waitering job and my different English teaching commitments, I finally had the type of income to keep my finances in the black. In my free time, I wasn’t just working. I was going out with friends, seeing the sights of Tokyo and the surrounding areas, working out daily at a gym, and running regularly. I traveled to Kamakura, Nikko, Kyoto, Kanazawa, Koyasan, Osaka, Kobe, and many other great sites. My time spent away from Keimei was just as enlightening and beneficial as my time spent at the school. Many of the things that I experienced and learned with my host family and on my own were things that one could not discover in a classroom. My ten months in Japan are a time that I will never forget. The memories, experiences, and lessons are something that will stay with me forever. While I am

Robert Thor ’94 and his father Richard Dranitzke ’58 at a traditional Japanese inn.

In Japan, I was fortunate to have families that were trusting and offered me a good deal of freedom. The families saw that I could handle the responsibility, and just as my true parents had the faith to send me to a country on the other side of the dateline, so too did my Japanese families allow me to work jobs and to travel on my own. continuing my Japanese studies at Princeton University this year, I know that I can never hope to recapture the feeling that I had during my Keimei year in Nippon. Even if my hope to spend this summer working in Japan comes to fruition, my Keimei experience will never be duplicated. I can’t begin to thank the

people who were responsible for the things that I learned and all that I experienced, but I would hope that they realize that I do wish to express my humblest, warmest thank you. You have given me a gift that I will be able to use, cherish, and enjoy throughout my years. Domo arigato gozaimashita. (Thank you). Taft Bulletin



The Many Names of Taft


n this issue, we continue our series focusing on the men and women whose names are memorialized in so many of Taft’s buildings and rooms. Although the column is about the people who, in their turn, molded key parts of “our kind, firm molder,” in this case a brief history of the buildings themselves is also useful because their names are so intertwined.

THE MARTIN HEALTH CENTER In grateful remembrance of Dr. James S. Martin The school’s first physician, Dr. Martin retired in 1946 after nearly forty years. Taft shares the parallel distinction of having only four headmasters in its 105year history and only four physicians: Dr. Martin was followed by Dr. Reade, who was succeeded by Dr. Bassford, and today the post is held by Dr. Charles McNair. By today’s standards it seems inconceivable that the original Martin Infirmary was built to accommodate over 70 students, but before the advent of modern antibiotics, any boarding school physician had to be prepared to quarantine a third of the population in any epidemic, such as the dreadful influenza epidemics of the early ’20s. Remarkably, during Dr. Martin’s tenure, only one boarding student died of disease—a record Mr. Taft believed was unequaled at any other boarding school. Today, the substantially smaller Martin Health Center is located in the north side of Congdon House. Both McIntosh House and Congdon House were designed by the renowned architect James Gamble Rogers. 20

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MCINTOSH HOUSE In Memory of Andrew Duncan McIntosh

“Mac House,” as it more commonly known, was built in 1927 by Mr. Taft and originally named the Martin Infirmary, in honor of Dr. James Martin, the school’s first physician. For several years, the building was more familiarly known as “Grant’s Tomb,” after Catherine Grant,a long-time nurse at the school. It was converted to a girls’ dormitory in 1971, at which time it was renamed McIntosh House, and today houses all tenth grade boarding girls. The first

McIntosh House, as some alumni will remember, was the single-story structure built in 1963 (and known today as Upper School Boys’ Dormitory). Andrew McIntosh, known as “The Mac” or “Dean Mac,” taught history and eventually became chairman of the department. He is principally known, however, as Dick Lovelace tells us, as the school’s first dean. In photographs, he is frequently seated on Mr. Taft’s right, and in many ways became his “right-hand”

man after the death of Harley Roberts. Some alumni believed Dean Mac would succeed Mr. Taft as the school’s second headmaster. In the early years of Paul Cruikshank’s administration, “he was a strong and direct link with Horace Dutton Taft.” He retired in 1947 after 44 years at Taft, a record of service to the school that is still unsurpassed. Those who wish to know more about “Dean Mac” may wish to read his chapter in Bill Nicholson’s book, Those Who Served. Taft Bulletin



Nicola Grover Johnson Joins Board of Trustees This spring, the Nominating Committee of the Taft School Board of Trustees named Dr. Nicola Johnson, mother of Christina ’97, the newest member of the board as a corporate trustee. The board is made up of twenty-five trustees, four of whom are elected by the alumni. The remainder are corporate trustees. She holds a Ph.D in medicine from London University, a doctorate in dental surgery and a master of science degree in experimental oral pathology plus a bachelor’s degree in dental surgery from The London Hospital Medical School, London University. Dr. Johnson has been the head of a research unit at New York University Medical Center for the National Institute of Health. She has specialized in children’s diseases, diabe-

tes, vascular disease, and neuropathology. She has also worked as a research assistant at Northwestern University Medical School, anatomy teacher at Northwestern, assistant professor in pediatrics at New York University Medical Center, and clinical teacher in pedodontics at New York University Dental School. Dr. Johnson has been an active member of her community, holding chair positions with Greenwich Country Day School, the Historical Society of Greenwich, the Bruce Museum, the Greenfingers Garden Club, and the Greenwich Polo Club’s fund raising events for medicine. She has also worked with the Greenwich Health Association, the Greenwich Boys’ Club, and the

American Red Cross. She lives in Greenwich with her husband, Brook; son, Senter; and daughter, Christina.

Lu Stone Retires Since the fall of 1976 she has been welcoming visitors to the school with a warmth and friendliness that students and their families remember for years. We asked Lu to reflect on her work here: “I try to make people feel at home. I’ve met some great people—some famous, some not so famous—really terrific people. It’s easy to remember the celebrities. I try to respect their privacy, but it can be hard with kids lining up in the hall for a look. It’s different in their business, but it’s their kids’ day. It’s the people who are warmest and friendliest in return who make the job so enjoyable. It’s nice when people stop in again when their kids are here. I’ve made some real friends that way. I am going to 22

Spring 1996

miss it—that exchange with visitors and with the people I work with in the Admissions Office. And I’ve gotten to know the kids well, too, because I’m in the hall all the time. They stop by to check the list, to see if someone is coming from their state or hometown, or just to say ‘Hi.’ It does get busy, but, after all, if we aren’t busy then no one here will be busy for long.” Her departure poses a challenge to the Admissions Office. “You never finally replace Lu Stone,” says Director of Admissions Ferdie Wandelt. “Rather you find someone else to serve as the school’s receptionist. Her warmth, dignity, and total commitment for over twenty years of service has been extraordinary.”


A Legacy of Artists Mark Potter and His Students Over 45 amateur and professional artists, including David Armstrong ’65, Langdon Quinn ’66, and Kenneth Rush ’67, will show their work along with select pieces from the Potter Collection.

May 16-19 Woolworth Faculty Room Thursday and Friday 2-6; Saturday 9-5; Sunday 1-4 There will be a reception at 2:30 on Saturday. For more information, please contact Kirsten Nixa in the Alumni Office at 860-274-7229.

Joan Barnett Atwood August 26, 1931 — January 20, 1996 The school marks with great sadness the loss of Joan Atwood on January 20, after a valiant struggle with cancer. For over seventeen years, from 1975 until her retirement in 1992, Joan ably served in the Alumni Office, coordinating reunion events, editing class notes for the bulletin, and providing a home base for countless alumni across the country and abroad. As Alumni Weekend drew near each year, Joan assumed her role as the person at Taft who got all the details in order for reuning classes. The highlight of her career was her role in helping to coordinate the events celebrating the school’s Centennial year, when more than 3,800 alumni, parents, and friends returned to Taft to join in the festivities.

In the Watertown area, Joan upheld the school’s motto selflessly through her service to community organizations. She was a member and past president of the

American Field Service, the Junior League of Waterbury, and Family Services of Greater Waterbury. In addition, Joan was a member of the Board of Directors of the Child Guidance Clinic of Greater Waterbury, the Watertown Historical District Study Committee, and the First Congregational Church, where she was a member of the nominating committee. Besides her husband, Donald C. Atwood, Joan is survived by her five children, Martha (Marcy) Jean Sanders, Peter S. Atwood, H. James A. Atwood ’79, Wendy Joan Stacey, and Jeffrey B. Atwood ’85; a sister, Jean Walters; and seven granddaughters. An endowment fund has been established in Joan’s memory at Taft. Taft Bulletin



Taft New York Holiday Party December 1995

Current Parents Brook and Nicky Johnson with Gib Harris.

Lisi Madden ’98, center, with her mother, Mary, and brother Sam.

Senior parents Tom Israel and Gib Harris with former parent Polyvios Vintiadis.

Former parent Robert Froelich with current parent Nicky Johnson and former parent Regina Vintiadis at the holiday party in New York.

Collegium director Chris Shepard with Coco Kopelman and Will Kopelman ’96. 24

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Don Challis ’60 and former parent Nancy Davis.

Christina Hale ’97 and her parents Maria and Dick.


Taft Joins Consortium to Further Educational Innovation Taft is joining a consortium of independent schools to explore the question, “Are educational innovation and college admission requirements compatible?” The consortium will investigate the impact of current college admissions testing and procedures on secondary school teaching and whether such tests impede or prevent secondary school reform, as is widely claimed by teachers. The consortium plans to launch the development of new tran-

scripts, performance standards, and collaborative approaches to quality control in curricular design to reduce the influence of external testing and to improve assessment at the site level. The work will culminate in a national database of model curricula and assessments as well as a report offering samples of models and advice to schools and colleges on how to support responsible innovation in secondary teaching. Grant Wiggins, who worked

with Taft faculty last spring on curriculum design, is currently seeking foundation funding for the consortium. Dean of Academic Affairs Bill Morris ’69 is enthusiastic about the project: “I believe independent secondary schools are in a unique position to explore alternative approaches to educating adolescents. This consortium will help us to examine the roadblocks to innovation, the necessary first step in unfreezing schools.”

Wynne Receives Coaching Award:

Team Takes New England Title Not believing that this year’s wrestling season could surpass last year’s undefeated record (the first in thirty years) and Western New England title, Coach John Wynne took his grapplers over to Choate this March, in one of the many snowstorms for which the winter of 1996 will be remembered, to compete for the New England Championship. Individual wrestlers had high hopes of taking home trophies, but the team championship seemed less likely this year for the 10-1-1 squad. But as the day wore on, several members of the team were doing better than expected. Six out of nine qualifying wrestlers placed in the top six, earning points for the team. By the time senior Ryan Raveis took the title at 171 pounds, the championship was assured.

But if the growing anticipation of winning the championship weren’t enough, shortly before the final round of matches, John Wynne was singled out by his fellow coaches and honored with the New England Independent Schools’ Wrestling Coaches’ Association Award for Outstanding Contribution. John’s coaching style has earned him the lasting affection of his athletes as well as coaches; he is able to take an extremely demanding sport and make it fun for all participating. His own relaxed demeanor and casual attire at practices has helped ease the atmosphere in the usually superheated wrestling room. While other coaches often scream and yell during matches, John is known for his quiet approach. “If the coaches have done their jobs during practice, then there shouldn’t

be much to yell during a match,” he says. The award reads, “John Wynne: coach at The Taft School 1966-95; dual meet record 244-96-7; 1995 Western New England Championship. At the start of your fourth decade as the Taft wrestling coach, your fellow coaches wish to recognize the level of excellence and superb record you have achieved with your grapplers at Taft. We can only assume that the secret of your success comes from the ‘tie-dyed shirts and cutoff shorts’ in which you’ve taught hundreds of young wrestlers ‘WYNNING’ techniques.” At the beginning of the season, when the association chose John for the award, they had no way of knowing his team would bring home their first New England title this year, but what a nice bonus for him. Taft Bulletin



From the Archives

Time Capsule Unearthed During recent excavation for the new learning center, a time capsule was unearthed in the foundation of the Hulbert Taft, Jr., Library. The capsule, a copper box, has

no exterior markings and has not yet been opened. The school would welcome any information from alumni who remember the project.

Taft Establishes Name in Hungary Thanks to the Landegger Scholars program, Taft has for seven years sought and educated talented students from Eastern Europe. In January, Director of Instrumental Music Alex Nagy accompanied Ferdie Wandelt on his trip to Budapest. There, with the help of former parent Arpad Molnar, they brought together Hungarian alumni and prospective students. Mr. Molnar has been instrumental in organizing interviews and giving out applications and has agreed to be the coordinator of the Hungarian Scholar Program. With his help, and that of Hungarian alumni, the Taft name is gaining recognition throughout Eastern Europe. All four alums are continuing their studies in English: Szilvia Bakator ’92 is in her third year at Budapest College studying international business. Reka Molnar ’93 credits the late Mark Potter ’48 with her decision to study architecture. Kati Viszmeg ’95 is doing extremely well and is a promising violinist; she recently took third prize at the prestigious Franz Liszt competition. Gergely Huszti ’95 is also at Budapest University, where he chose to join the fledgling American Studies program thanks to his experience at Taft, especially his American history course 26

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At the reception in Budapest at the Hotel Gellert: Szilvia Bakator ’92, Reka Molnar ’93, Arpad Molnar, Ferdie Wandelt ’66, Kati Viszmeg ’95, Alex Nagy, Sara Matheidesz ’96, and Gergely Huszti ’95. with R. M. Davis ’59. This college is also a training school for Hungarians who want to be diplomats or to work in the foreign service. “It was exciting to visit with talented young men and

women who are working to be leaders in their country,” added Ferdie Wandelt. “Most of them were not at Taft at the same time, but the Taft experience is a bond they share.”


Taft Honored by

Boys’ Club of New York The Boys’ Club of New York honored The Taft School with its Educational Service Award at a dinner in New York in December. The award reads, “In recognition of its commitment to providing Boys’ Club of New York members with the opportunity to attend The Taft School and for its contribution to their intellectual, moral, and social development.” John Merrow ’59 was the featured speaker (his remarks appear on page 55). Director of Admissions Ferdie Wandelt ’66 accepted on behalf of the school. Current Boys’ Club members at Taft are Noel Peña ’97, Raul Rodriguez ’97, and Kayode Leonard ’99. At the Boys’ Club of New York Dinner: seated from left, Ferdie Wandelt ’66, Patricia Merrow, John Merrow ’59, Allison Wandelt ’91, and Joanna Wandelt; standing, a friend, Noel Peña ’97, Raul Rodriguez ’97, and Christoph Teves ’97.

Save the Date! May 16-19, 1995 Taft Alumni Weekend

Taft Bulletin



Alumni Games Dozens of alumni braved the blizzard of ’96 to compete in—or watch— this year’s winter alumni games. Despite limited numbers on some teams, the alumni gave the varsity teams some exciting competition.

Alumni Hockey Team: front from left, Jim Southard ’61, Chris Watson ’91, Matt Donaldson ’88, Eric Magac ’88, Doug Freedman ’88; standing from left, Jeff Potter ’80, Garry Rogers ’83, Joe Bishop ’74, faculty member Chris Ledwick, Scott Richardson ’82, and varsity coach Mike Maher.

Alumni Basketball Team: Jonathan Dodd ’92, Brad Ali ’91, Chris Persley ’91, David Kilborn ’86, Jon Wright ’95, and Courtland Weisleder ’95. 28

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Alumnae Basketball Team: Sara Curi ’86, Loren Wright ’92, and Sarah DePolo ’94

Alumni Squash Team: front from left, Jon Griswold ’94, Drummond Bell ’90, Eric Bentz ’88, Peter Frew ’75; standing from left, Peter North ’62, Jeff Blum ’73, Bill Morris ’69, Andrew Bogardus ’88, Bob Campbell ’76, and Chip Spencer ’56.


Winter Big Red Scoreboard Boys’ Ice Hockey

Girls’ Ski Racing – 2nd in New England

Coaches: ............................................ Mike Maher, Chris Ledwick Captain: ................................................................ Jeff Dessner ’96 Record: ............................................................................... 15-6-1 Angier Hockey Trophy: ........................... Christopher Wandelt ’96 Coach’s Hockey Award: ......................................... Jeff Dessner ’96 Captain-Elect: .................................................... David Jenkins ’97

Coach: ..................................................................... Beth Wheeler Captain: ...................................................... Whitney Tremaine ’96 Record: ......................................................... 2nd in New England Ski Racing Award: ....................................... Whitney Tremaine ’96 Captain-Elect: .................................................. Caitlin Pollock ’97

Boys’ Basketball Girls’ Ice Hockey Coaches: ............................................. Patsy Odden, Kelly Roberts Captains: ............................... Laura Dickman ’96, Molly Hall ’96 Record: ............................................................................... 17-3-1 Patsy Odden Hockey Award: .......................... Laura Dickman ’96 Molly Hall ’96 Captains-Elect: ................ Jennifer Buckley ’97, Lucy Firestone ’97

Coaches: ...................................... John Piacenza, Steve McKibben Captains: ................................... Chris Barnes ’97, Carl Brown ’96 Record: .................................................................................. 5-16 James Paynter Logan Trophy: ................................. Carl Brown ’96 Captains-Elect: ........................ Dewey Ames ’97, Chris Barnes ’97

Girls’ Basketball – W.N.E.G.P.S.B.A. League Champions Boys’ Squash – Founders League Champions, 2nd in New England Coach: .......................................................................... Peter Frew Captain: ................................................................ Brian Smith ’96 Record: .................................................................................. 12-2 Squash Award: ...................................................... Brian Smith ’96 Captains-Elect: .......................... Matt Bastien ’97, Will Morris ’97 N.E.I.S.A. Team Sportsmanship Award:

Girls’ Squash Coach: .................................................................... Susan McCabe Captain: ............................................................ Randy DePree ’96 Record: .................................................................................. 11-3 1986 Girls’ Squash Award: ................................ Randy DePree ’96 Captain-Elect: ............................................... Whitney Dayton ’97

Boys’ Ski Racing Coach: ........................................................................ Chris Butler Captain: .............................................................. E.J. Chicoski ’96 Record: ............................................... 2nd place Berkshire League Ski Racing Award: ............................................... E.J. Chicoski ’96 Captains-Elect: .................. Doug Blanchard ’97, Justin Kreizel ’97

Coaches: ............................................Dick Cobb, Mike Townsend Captain: ....................................................... Charlotte Atwood ’97 Record: .................................................................................. 8-10 1978 Girls’ Basketball Cup: ......................... Charlotte Atwood ’97 Captain-Elect: .............................................. Charlotte Atwood ’97

Wrestling – New England Champions Coaches: ...................................................... John Wynne, Al Reiff Captains: .................................. Ryan Raveis ’96, David Torres ’96 Record: ............................................................................... 10-1-1 Harry F. Hitch Award: ......................................... David Torres ’96 John L. Wynne Award: .......................................... Ryan Raveis ’96 Captains-Elect: ........................... Ben Gross ’97, Ryan Osborn ’97

Volleyball Coach: ................................................................... Ingrid Johnson Captains: ........................... Emily Israel ’96, Caroline Murphy ’96 Alison Sauter ’96 Record: .................................................................................... 9-5 Volleyball Award: .................................................. Emily Israel ’96 Captains-Elect: ............... Brooke Hill ’97, Caroline Montgelas ’97

Taft Bulletin









Building a Self By John Merrow ’59


n my job, I spend a fair amount of

ing out how far you can go. Anchors are

26. She died 18 months ago of AIDS.

time in schools and with young

not the same as roots. Roots we have, and

She spent her last weeks and months in

people. I also have four children,

should value, but anchors are man-made

schools, trying to educate young people.

all of whom have taught me a lot.

weights that hold you down.

She was determined to make the world

I often ask, “When I give a speech to your

Three years ago, I asked a 24-year-

around her better, and safer, for young

peers, what should I stress? What’s im-

old friend of mine from California the

people. Her specific message was, “Avoid

portant to hear?”

same question: What advice would she

risky sexual behavior and intravenous

My 17-year-old was straightforward:

give to young people? “Tell them to live

drugs,” but fundamentally it was about

“Say something important, but don’t be

their lives in a way that will make the

valuing oneself.

too serious. Be funny. Don’t talk about

world around them a better place. Make

When you value yourself, you don’t

politics, and don’t tell us the world is an

a difference,” she said. “And start now,

habitually engage in destructive behav-

awful place.”

because you may not have time later.”

ior. When you value yourself, you don’t

My 25-year-old daughter says to warn you not to take any of those credit cards that banks and others will be sending you. “They’re just trying to get you hooked.” My son who’s 27 and a high school teacher in Brooklyn says, “Tell them to

“…live their lives in a way that will make the world around them a better place. Make a difference… And start now, because you may not have time later.”

avoid anchors.” “Avoid anchors. What does that

That’s good advice: make a differ-

create anchors that weigh you down and

mean?” I asked him? Simple: Stay out of

ence, and do it where you are. Start

keep you from testing yourself. When

debt, avoid long-term leases, don’t buy

small, but start now. So that if you die

you value yourself, you don’t fabricate

stuff on credit, don’t get married young.

tomorrow, or in a week or in a year, one

reasons and excuses for not taking ad-

Those are anchors. They weigh you down,

part of the world will know that you were

vantage of opportunities.

keep you from taking chances. Keep you

there, and it will be a better place because

from doing things you’ve wondered

you were there.

But just what is this “self” that we’re supposed to value? What kind of

about. Keep you from going places you’ve

As it happens, my 24-year-old friend

“self” does a 13-year-old, or an 18-year-

dreamed of going. Keep you from find-

who gave that advice did not live to be

old have? or a 50(plus)-year-old, for

Taft Bulletin



that matter? First of all, I’m not talking

You don’t build a self by yourself.

build that “self” that is going to keep

about your “academic self”, your stu-

That’s a contradiction. You need oth-

you company for the next sixty, sev-

dent self. That’s your job now, being a

ers, and you need the past, your roots,

enty, or eighty years. But start now, just

student. For adults, I’m not talking

as building materials.

in case you don’t have sixty, seventy, or

about your career as a designer or re-

How will you know when you are

porter or stock broker or musician.

finished the construction work? I don’t

A story to close: A father is watching

That’s your job, and it’s important, but

think the job is ever done—I hope I’m

a ball game and wants peace and quiet.

it’s not your “self.”

still busy working on my own project.

His son, however, wants to go outside

Work—whether it’s making busi-

Incidentally, a strong self doesn’t mean

and play ball, not watch TV. He keeps

ness deals or getting an “A” in history—

that you will never be afraid again, or

pestering his dad. Finally, the dad gets a

won’t sustain you in the dark hours and

racked by doubts. You will be; I guaran-

brainstorm. He opens a magazine and

days that are a part of every life. Work

tee it. But with the support of a strong

finds a map of the world, shows it to his

won’t sustain you when your energy

“self,” you will be able to admit, “Yes,

son, and then proceeds to tear it into

and hope are at a low ebb. Nor can you

I’m scared,” and then figure out how to

little pieces. “Put this back together and

count on friends or acquaintances (or

conquer those fears.

then we’ll go outside and play ball,” he

eighty years.

video games) to drive away fear and

One recipe for building a self: Read,

says and settles back in to watch TV,

doubt. That’s when you need a well-

read, read. Ask questions. Reject preju-

thinking he has an hour or two at least.

developed, growing and changing “self”

dice, ignorance, and half-truths. Be skep-

But the son is back in ten minutes, the

to keep you company, and nourish you,

tical but not cynical. Give yourself to

picture taped together perfectly. The fa-

and see you through.

others. Value your time.

ther is stunned. “How did you do that?”

It’s not just who you are right

“Valuing time.” The opposite is a

“Easy, Dad. There was a picture

now. It’s the self that’s being formed,

cliché. “What are your doing? Oh, just

of a child on the other side. I put the

that’s being nurtured, by you and by

killing time.” In one sense, time is all we

child together and the world took care

those you respect and learn from, and

have. And what do we do with our time?

of itself.”

by your experiences. So how does one

Often, we kill it. What a terrible, ob-

grow and nurture a “self?” How do you

scene concept. Can you imagine my

The remarks above are excerpted from a

build a “self?” In a sense, it’s like body

friend, now dead from AIDS, killing

talk given to the Boys’ Club of New York in

building, in that it requires discipline.

time? Use your time—don’t kill it—to


When you value yourself, you don’t habitually engage in destructive behavior. When you value yourself, you don’t create anchors that weigh you down and keep you from testing yourself. When you value yourself, you don’t fabricate reasons and excuses for not taking advantage of opportunities. 56

Spring 1996

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