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B U L L E T I N Summer 2006 Volume 76 Number 4 Bulletin Staff Interim Director of Development Bonnie Welch Editor Julie Reiff Alumni Notes Linda Beyus 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: Fall–August 30 Winter–November 15 Spring–February 15 Summer–May 30 Send address corrections to: Sally Membrino Alumni Records The Taft School Watertown, CT 06795-2100 U.S.A. TaftRhino@TaftSchool.org 1-860-945-7777 www.TaftAlumni.com The Taft Bulletin (ISSN 0148-0855) is published quarterly, in February, May, August, and November, by The Taft School, 110 Woodbury Road, Watertown, CT 067952100, and is distributed free of charge to alumni, parents, grandparents, and friends of the school. All rights reserved.

This magazine is printed on recycled paper.


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F E AT U R E S Reunion 2006: Bourbon Street Comes to Taft:.............. 20 By Ryan Nerz ’92

Senior Moments..................................... 28 Senior Projects allow students the opportunity to create their own learning experiences one more culminating time at Taft. By Chris Torino

When the Journey Is Worth the Risks.... 34 Excerpts from the 116th Commencement Exercises By Headmaster William R. MacMullen ’78 and Academic Dean Debora Phipps P’05,’06

The Third Goodbye................................ 42

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On his third trip to the Middle East in as many years, Marine Lt. Col. Oliver Spencer ’85 faces the longest deployment of his career—nine to twelve months away from home. By Brady Dennis

D E PA R T M E N T S Letters.................................................... 2 Alumni Spotlight.................................... 3 Around the Pond.................................... 8 Sport....................................................... 14 Spring Season Wrap-Up by Steve Palmer

Annual Fund Report............................... 18 From the Archives.................................. 46 The letters and poems of Maynard Mack ’27

42 on the cover: Walking the gauntlet: Seniors process through the faculty into Centennial Quadrangle for the school’s 116th Commencement Exercises. Bob Falcetti

Taft on the Web Find a friend’s address or look up back issues of the Bulletin at www.TaftAlumni.com For more campus news and events, including admissions information, visit www.TaftSchool.org What happened at this afternoon’s game? Visit www.TaftSports.com

j Moonrise over Walnut Hill Roger Kirkpatrick ’06

Don’t forget you can shop online at www.TaftStore.com 800-995-8238 or 860-945-7736


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From the Editor In my 18 years at Taft there have been lots of changes, to schedules, to traditions, and especially to the campus. I have been here long enough now to watch some things come full circle, as when Assistant Headmaster Rusty Davis announced this spring that for the

. Residents of the Senior Girls Dorm (SGD) pose for a yearbook photo on the patio in 1981. Note the Lanz nightgown. Leslie Manning Archives

Memories of Mayer

In that photo…

Thank you for the wonderful profile of Tim Mayer ’62 in the spring issue of the Bulletin.

I have taken a magnifying glass to the picture (page 2 of the winter issue). I am pretty sure that the guy in the back to the left of Bill Fonville ’56 is Hugo Swan ’57. Swan also said he remembers meeting Fonville on that bus to Taft! 

—Geoff Sloan ’62 The article “The Mysterious Tim Mayer” was very good. It’s right on the mark. The only things I’d add would be that Tim was the funniest man alive and that people who knew him still remember the intensity and vital quality of the experience. —Henry Lanier ’61  Taft Bulletin Summer 2006

—Chris Davenport ’56

coming school year the Upper School Boys Dorm would house girls—again. It was news to many residents of “the Rock,” as it is now known, that girls had ever lived in their dorm. In fact, girls occupied that collection of 22 single rooms from the late ’70s until the opening of Centennial in 1989. The dorm’s small size makes it the perfect “swing” building to match incoming numbers of boys and girls. So, will there be more girls on campus this fall? No, the numbers are similar to last year: 292 boys and 280 girls, although there are more girls in the upper school. As a result, boys will live in ISP (Mr. Taft’s former quarters at the end of the dining hall) and upper school girls will move into “the Rock,” which is larger. Although most dorms have nicknames, few of the residential groups do. So, Davis wonders, will these girls decide to call themselves Rockettes? Only time will tell.

Love it? Hate it? Read it? Tell us!

We’d love to hear what you think about the stories in this Bulletin. We may edit your letters for length, clarity, and content, but please write! Julie Reiff, editor Taft Bulletin 110 Woodbury Road Watertown, CT 06795-2100 or ReiffJ@TaftSchool.org


S P OT L I G H T Citation of Merit Nominations

m Citation of Merit recipient Sam Pryor ’46, center, with his son Sam ’73 and wife Lindsey and their children Jack and Toni ’07 on Alumni Weekend. Bob Falcetti

Pryor Awarded Citation of Merit When the Citation of Merit Committee met in February to consider candidates for this year’s award, Samuel F. Pryor III ’46 was in Pakistan, at the site of the recent earthquake, as chairman of the World Rehabilitation Fund, whose mission is to train doctors and technicians in the distribution of artificial limbs and is especially active in wartorn areas. A former Marine, Pryor has testified in Congress on behalf of the disabled around the world. A lawyer by trade, Pryor spent 40 years with the well-known firm Davis, Polk, and Wardwell, where he continues as senior counsel, but

the former head monitor still found time to champion the causes he cared most about. His outstanding record for conservation has been recognized by the Appalachian Mountain Club and the Audubon Society. An experienced mountain climber and native New Yorker, he serves as commissioner and co-president of the Palisades Interstate Park Commission, chair of the Westchester Land Trust, honorary co-chair of the Highlands Coalition, chair of the Open Space Acquisition Committee of Bedford, New York, and director of the Land Trust Alliance. “A man of truth and lord of your

The Citation of Merit, created in 1960, is awarded annually on Alumni Day to that alumnus/a whose lifework, best typifies the motto of the school, Not to be ministered unto but to minister. The award recognizes broader humanitarian efforts—something above and beyond the ordinary demands of life or of one’s chosen occupation. Ideally, recipients are eminently successful in their chosen fields and at the same time go beyond the call of duty in serving humanity. The Taft Alumni Citation of Merit Committee reviews the careers and accomplishments of alumni to determine who might be candidates for the school’s highest award. To nominate someone for the Citation of Merit, please e-mail CitationofMerit@TaftSchool.org.

own actions,” the citation reads, “you have been steadfast in your vision…. You continue to dedicate yourself to making the world a better place, without any expectation of gratitude or personal benefit, serving others because that alone is its own reward.” Read the full citation online at http:// www.taftschool.org/alumni/citationmerit/ index.htm. Taft Bulletin Summer 2006




ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT

Yang Elected Alumni Trustee Yi-ming Yang ’87 arrived at Taft in 1986 for his senior year as the school’s first international exchange student from mainland China, thanks to Director of Admissions Ferdie Wandelt’s involvement with ASSIST (American Secondary Schools for International Students and Teachers). After returning to China in 1987, Yi-ming enrolled in Peking Union Medical College in Beijing, serving as class president during his three years of premed studies at Peking University,

Yi-ming came back to the United States in 1993 as an exchange student to University of California San Francisco Medical School, where he worked on the HIV/AIDS ward and the cardiology consult rotation for three months at San Francisco General Hospital. He later transferred to Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City, where he obtained his M.D. degree. He completed his internal medicine residency and a cardiology fellowship at Columbia Presbyterian

“Yi-ming Yang ’87 arrived at Taft in 1986 for his senior year as the school’s first international exchange student from mainland China.”

m Sue and Yi-ming Yang ’87, who was elected to a four-year term on the school’s Board of Trustees. Bob Falcetti

and witnessed the tumultuous political changes in China triggered by the student movement on that campus in 1989 and the events surrounding Tiananmen Square. He was elected vice president of the student union in 1991 and led his school to a successful bid for a research project studying the public-health impact of rural water sanitation sponsored by the Chinese Ministry of Health in 1992, the only such project granted to medical students in the ministry’s history.

Medical Center. He then underwent interventional cardiology training at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City and is now an attending interventional cardiologist in their Department of Interventional Cardiac and Vascular Services. He lives with his wife, Sue, in New York City and volunteers at the Charles B. Wang Chinatown Health Clinic. He also serves on the Board of Directors for ASSIST, where he is instrumental in helping the organization to re-enter China after a 17-year hiatus.

Moorhead Chairs Board

m New board chair Rod Moorhead ’62 has served for 15 years as a trustee of the school. Michael Kodas

 Taft Bulletin Summer 2006

First elected to the school’s board in 1991 as an alumni trustee, Rodman W. Moorhead III ’62 stayed on after the completion of his four-year term, becoming a corporate trustee and eventually the treasurer. He now succeeds Will Miller ’74 as board chair. “Rod is a natural choice as board chair, and there are few who have served the school so loyally and well over the years,” says Headmaster Willy MacMullen ’78. “As a graduate and parent (Rod ’97, Clay ’98), he knows the magic and mission of this school; and as a trustee of many years (as well as former chair of the Finance Committee, he brings incredible wisdom, passion and enthusiasm.” Moorhead is a senior adviser and a mem-

ber of the Operating Committee at Warburg Pincus. Prior to joining the firm in 1973, he was with Rosenthal & Company. He is a director of Chancellor Beacon Academies, Coventry Health Care, ElderTrust, 4GL School Solutions, Scientific Learning Corporation, and Transkaryotic Therapies, Inc. He graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College with a degree in economics and earned his M.B.A. from Harvard Business School. In addition to his work for Taft, he is a member of the Board of Overseers’ Committee on University Resources at Harvard College, a director of the Stroud Water Research Center, and a trustee of the Brandywine Conservancy and the Cheshire Hunt Conservancy.


ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT

A Legacy of Linens When Jane Scott Offutt Hodges ’87 was engaged to be married, she looked enthusiastically for trousseau items to monogram with her new initials. A Kentucky native, she was disappointed not to find any near her new home in New Orleans, despite the fact the city is a well-known resource for Old World things. She broadened her search but discovered that beautiful linens with high quality monograms had become “seemingly extinct.” Seeing a niche in the marketplace, she founded Leontine Linens. Linens are very personal, explains Hodges. “What could be more personal than what you

wrap your baby in? Our products are heirloom quality, but they are also meant to be lived with and enjoyed—and then thrown in the washing machine.” Hodges started the company out of a back bedroom in her home. The company began to take off after she met with a decorator in New York who was intrigued by the concept and the quality of her products. At that time she realized there was a national market as well. “I finally moved my office out of the house when I felt I could separate work from the rest of my life.” But the separation wasn’t complete, as her husband Philip soon joined the

company. “I am the products person, and he is the numbers person,” she says. “Having your own business is a huge commitment. If you don’t have a partner who is willing to give as much as you are to your family, then you are in trouble.” Having him on board allowed the company to expand and eventually purchase their Kentucky-based manufacturing studio. But other troubles came last fall with Hurricane Katrina. They were running the marketing and operations out of their new shop in New Orleans, which opened just prior to the storm. “We lived in New Orleans because we loved it,” says Hodges, whose grandmother was a New Orleanian, “but the evacuation allowed us to focus on the manufacturing end of the business in Kentucky. She says that settling back into the family homestead has been their silver lining. “It is a wonderful place to raise our children,” she adds. In fact, when they were watching the TV one evening last fall, the mayor of New Orleans came on and mentioned the city would be back in action in five to eight years. Her daughter Talley sat there counting out loud and declared, “Mommy, I will be at Taft by then!” Hodges has no doubt that New Orleans’ recovery will be much quicker than that. Their shop has been up and running since October, and she says, will remain open. The company is now celebrating its 10th year, and Leontine Linens have appeared in House Beautiful, House & Garden, New Orleans Magazine, Elle Décor, Southern Accents, InStyle, Washington Post, Martha Stewart Living, Better Homes & Gardens, and Traditional Home. For more information, visit www.leontinelinens.com. b Jane Scott Offutt Hodges ’87 displays Leontine’s heirloom linens at her shop in New Orleans. Doug Keese Taft Bulletin Summer 2006




ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT

Korea Remembered It’s 1950, and United Nations forces have crossed the 38th Parallel, marking the beginning of the invasion of North Korea. Producer Henry Simonds ’93 looks back at what many have called the forgotten war in his first feature film, released on DVD this year. The Forgotten, written and directed by Vincente Stasolla, won the Director’s Choice award for best feature at the Sedona International Film Festival. The 90-minute film follows an idealistic army corporal thrust into the command of a disintegrating tank platoon hopelessly lost behind enemy lines. Death, dissension, and a wounded North Korean prisoner of war test his will as he struggles to maintain his faith. His only escape from the suffering and frustration of war are the memories of his wife. To view the movie trailer, purchase the DVD, or visit the “War Room” online forum, visit www.theforgottenthemovie.com. Ten percent of each DVD sale will go to veterans charities.

Simonds is now producing a documentary on football coach Bobby Bowden and the Florida State Seminoles, working with director George Butler (who also directed the new IMAX film Roving Mars). Simonds co-wrote and edited the short documentaries Women in the Wings: Pittsburgh’s World War II Workers and Holocaust Story: A Look in the Eyes of Resistance, which received the CINE Eagle and CINE Golden Eagle awards respectively. He worked as editor, archivist, and co-producer on the awardwinning documentary on legendary Pittsburgh photographer Teenie Harris. He founded Headwater Films and Media in 2001.

m Producer Henry Simonds ’93 recently released his Korean War film, The Forgotten, on DVD.

Running for Their Lives

m Dan Santanello ’77 and his children Kristin, Steven, and Daniel, who supported his 10th Boston Marathon fundraising run for Massachusetts General’s pediatric oncology program in April  Taft Bulletin Summer 2006

Dan Santanello ’77 ran his 10th Boston Marathon to raise money for Massachusetts General Hospital’s pediatric oncology and the Kids with Cancer clinic. His daughter Kristin, who will be a high-school sophomore, is a leukemia survivor thanks to this hospital’s care—she’s doing well and is a star field hockey player. Regarding the grueling demands of the marathon, Dan told the Daily Item [Lynn, Massachusetts], “I can suck it up for one day. Whatever I go through for one day, it’s nothing like what these kids have to go through on a daily basis.” A Swampscott selectman, Dan raised more than $300,000 for the clinic so far. The Massachusetts General team he helped start a decade ago has grown from 10 runners to nearly 100 and raised $3 million.


Roosevelt and the Holocaust Robert Beir ’36 with Brian Josepher Barricade Books, 2006 There is a great debate among historians regarding Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s actions during the Holocaust: was FDR the hero who defeated the Germans, or did he turn a blind eye to the plight of the Jews as long as he possibly could? In Roosevelt and the Holocaust, Robert Beir gets to the truth behind Roosevelt’s role. Beir has a unique perspective: he is

a Jew who was raised during the extreme anti-Semitism of the Great Depression. Having witnessed the outcome of the “New Deal” firsthand, Beir became a Roosevelt scholar. Later, when confronted by a student about Roosevelt’s role in the Holocaust, Beir began to research the subject intensely. He ultimately concludes that Roosevelt acted nei-

ther out of anti-Semitism nor moral outrage over the persecution of the Jews; rather, he acted in a way he felt would best navigate the United States through this tumultuous time. Beir “grapples with familiar accusations waged posthumously against FDR,” writes Publishers Weekly, “intertwining Roosevelt’s career with memories from his own long life.”

Forbidden Faith: The Gnostic Legacy from the Gospels to the Da Vinci Code Richard Smoley ’74 HarperSanFrancisco, 2006 Throughout most of Christian history, Gnosticism was the “forbidden faith,” and such condemnation by the official Church might actually have served to endow the movement with glamour. But that explanation goes only so far. For the Gnostics to have such lasting appeal, it seems logical that they must offer solutions to some problems, solutions overlooked by mainstream religion. Forbidden Faith provides the enduring story and continuing legacy of those errant faithful who have had direct experi-

ences of the divine that can’t be explained by the official beliefs of the Church. Smoley, an expert in esoteric Christianity, traces the Gnostic legacy from its ancient roots in the Gospel of Thomas, discovered in Egypt; early second-century Gnostic communities of the Roman Empire; and the Manichaeans of Central Asia. He tracks how the Gnostic impulse was publicly repressed but survived underground in various forms of Christianity, surfacing again in the Middle Ages with the Cathars, a myste-

rious group of heretics who inspired the medieval tradition of courtly love but were then wiped out by the Inquisition. Library Journal called Forbidden Faith “a compelling and accessible argument” and “a thoroughly enjoyable read.” Publishers Weekly writes, “Smoley is at once thoughtful and thought-provoking.... He paves a wide, clear path to understanding it, accessible even to the weekend seeker.” Smoley is also the author of Hidden Wisdom: A Guide to the Western Inner Traditions (1999) with Jay Kinney.

The Unexpected George Washington: His Private Life Harlow Giles Unger ’49 Wiley, 2006 A first-ever close-up of the all-too-human soul behind the stern presidential portraits—his loves, his passions, his genius. Leaving the well-known public man to other biographers, historian Harlow Giles Unger reveals the little-known private Washington, who laughed, loved, and lived life to the full. He adored women,

children, hunting, gambling, fine wines, and luxury. His social graces left ladies swooning as he spun them around the ballroom; his funny tales sent children convulsing with giggles as he bounced them on his knee. More than Franklin, more than Jefferson, Washington was a genius scientist, inventor, architect, schol-

ar, and entrepreneur. Drawing on letters, diaries, and neglected primary sources, The Unexpected George Washington reveals a passionate lover, husband, father, grandfather, and friend. Unger is the author of the award-winning Lafayette, John Hancock, Noah Webster, and, most recently, The French War Against America.

The Order of the Golden Fleece at Chapel Hill, 1904–2004: America’s First Honor Society for University Leaders G. Nicholas Herman ’73 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2005 “After 100 years of secrecy, the Order of the Golden Fleece decided to reveal some of the mysteries behind its involvement in shaping the University [of North Carolina],” writes the Daily Tar Heel. A new book by Nick Herman, who spent more than two years researching the order’s history to help celebrate its 100th anniversary, tells many stories of how members, called Argonauts, worked

behind the scenes for the welfare of the university. In spring 1904, 11 Carolina students who had distinguished themselves in various branches of campus life founded the Fleece as a senior class society that would “subordinate local interests to the welfare of the university and join together in closer harmony the different branches of (campus) life.”

The Golden Fleece has been involved in addressing issues such as hazing, the student Honor Code, the Speaker Ban Law of the 1960s, and race relations explains the Daily Tar Heel. “Things were going on all the time,” said Herman, a 1977 Carolina graduate, law professor at N.C. Central University, and an Argonaut himself. “The Golden Fleece has tried to address every important issue of the day.” Taft Bulletin Summer 2006



In Print

ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT


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Orphanage Outreach

m Kara Iacovello ’07, who volunteered to spend part of her Spring Break helping at Orphanage Outreach in the Dominican Republic, and her new friend Maria

Spanish teacher Roberto D’Erizans again led a group of volunteers to the Dominican Republic over Spring Break to work with a program called Orphanage Outreach [Taft Bulletin, Summer 2005].  Taft Bulletin Summer 2006

This spring, however, was lower middler Dan Lima’s first trip there. “These were some of the happiest and most grateful kids I had ever come to meet,” says Dan. Kara Iacovello ’07 agrees. “The children

changed me more than we changed them. I never expected to feel this much of a difference, or to have been rewarded this much.” For more information, visit www.orphanage-outreach.org


AROUND THE POND

Raptor Project Is a Hoot

m Esther Yoo ’06 and Justin Williams from Kent School were awarded top prizes for two-dimensional and three-dimensional works respectively. Jon Guiffre

The Jury’s In Senior Esther Yoo was awarded “Best Work in a Two-Dimensional Medium” for her Self-Portrait, Oil, at the Juried High School Art Exhibition at Taft this spring. The competition is held biennially in honor of artist and teacher Mark Potter ’48. This year, students from 18 schools submitted 91 works. Kit Thayer ’07, Amy Jang ’08, and seniors Claire Longfield and Jeff Au also had works chosen for the show. Three jurors—Barbara Grossman, Cora Marshall, and Ken Rush ’67—made the selections for the final exhibition. Grossman is a painter and teaches at Yale University, Western Carolina University, National Academy School of Fine Art, and

Brandeis University. Marshall is an artist and associate professor of art at Central Connecticut State University. Rush, who studied at Taft under Potter, is a painter as well as a visual arts teacher at Packer Collegiate Institute. His work is represented by Katharina Rich Perlow Gallery. “The jurors worked for more than three hours, looking and deliberating and arguing about their choices,” explained the gallery director and art teacher Loueta Chickadaunce, who organized the event. “When I checked on them at 11:30, they refused lunch and kept on working!” The March-April exhibition was made possible by a grant from the Andrew R. Heminway ’47 Endowment Fund. b The student step dancing group Anonymous puts on a spring show in Bingham Auditorium: Zuwena Plata ’09, Ariana Maloney ’07, Shanika Audige ’08, and Bisi Thompson ’09

Snowman, aka Hedwig, may have thought he was back at Hogwarts as he flew over the seats in Bingham Auditorium during a Morning Meeting. Students were also impressed with the falcon who played Mordecai in The Royal Tenenbaums. These two movie stars were among the 20 birds of prey that visited the school in May with the Raptor Project. Project founder Jonathan Wood is a master falconer and wildlife rehabilitator with 35 years of handling experience. Along with his wife, Susan, he has assembled a traveling collection of feathered predators that is unrivaled in scope and size anywhere in the world. From owls and fledgling falcons to majestic eagles with six- to eightfoot wingspans, many of the birds in the Raptor Project have permanent handicaps that prevent them from being reintroduced to the wild. Their visit—sponsored by the Paduano Lecture Series in Philosophy and Ethics—was designed to tie into the year’s theme of the relationship between the human community and the animal world. “The performance by Jonathan Wood and his raptors was highly informative and entertaining,” adds Chaplain Michael Spencer, “and most of all gave us an up-close-and-personal encounter with these majestic birds.” . Assistant IT Director Jana Draper holds an Eurasian eagle owl, one of the many visitors from the Raptor Project.

Simone Foxman ’07

Peter Frew ’75

Taft Bulletin Summer 2006




AROUND THE POND

Summer Reading

m It felt a little like the sixties again in the lower dining hall as students donned tie dye and danced to the music of the band John Brown’s Body in April. For more information, visit www.johnbrownsbody.com. Peter Frew ’75

College Choices

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini An epic tale of fathers and sons, of friendship and betrayal, that takes us from the final days of Afghanistan’s monarchy to the atrocities of the present.

Pressure

2006 Boston College proved to be the top choice for members of the Class of ’06, with eight seniors. Other popular schools this year: • Middlebury College and Boston University, 6 each • Colorado College and Georgetown University, 5 each • Four each to Bucknell, Cornell, Davidson, Hamilton, NYU, Northwestern, and UPenn

Dr. Michael Thompson spoke in Morning Meeting about the work that led to his book The Pressured Child, focusing on the pressures students now face in the college admissions process. Thompson is a consultant, author, and psychologist specializing in children and families. He and his co-author,

Dan Kindlon, wrote the New York Times best-selling book, Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys, among others. Thompson has appeared on The Today Show, The Oprah Winfrey Show, ABC 20/20, 60 Minutes, The Early Show, and Good Morning America. Peter Frew ’75


AROUND THE POND

On Stage

Faces Elections

Gordon Atkins of Somers, New York, has been elected head monitor for the coming school year. Other school monitors for the Class of ’07 are McKay Claghorn, Holly Donaldson, Michael Furman, Johanna Isaac, Oat Naviroj, Stephanie Schonbrun, Steve Sclar, Grace Scott, Penelope Smith, Colleen Sweeney, and Hank Wyman.

Appointments Admissions Director Ferdie Wandelt ’66 and science teacher Jim Mooney have been granted sabbatical leaves for the coming school year.

m The campus was alive with theater this spring. Among the numerous performances was Rick Doyle’s production of To Kill a Mockingbird in the Woodward Black Box Theater, featuring Michael Moreau ’09 (Jem Finch), Kate Sutton ’08 (Scout Finch), Shanika Audige ’08 (Calpurnia), and Michael Furman ’07 (Atticus Finch). Peter Frew ’75 Peter Frew ’75 has been named director of admissions, and Suzanne Campbell will succeed him as associate director of admissions.

Chris Torino is the new dean of faculty.

Jack Kenerson ’82 was named senior class dean.

Al Reiff ’80 now holds the Green Chair in Mathematics.

All Faces photos by Bob Falcetti

m Helena Fifer’s Advanced Acting class staged a production of Neil Simon’s Rumors in the Woodward Black Box Theater in May. From left, Brendan Maaghul ’08, Helena Smith ’06, Chad Thomas ’06, Grace Scott ’07, Stephanie Menke ’08, Ben Grinberg ’07, and Skye Priestley ’06. Jon Guiffre

Bonnie Welch will serve as interim director of development.

Taft Bulletin Summer 2006

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AROUND THE POND

Departing Faculty j Senior Class Dean Mike Townsend and Dean of Faculty Penny Townsend. Penny is the new head of the Pennington School in New Jersey. j Director of Development John Ormiston j Multicultural Affairs Director Felecia Washington Williams ’84 j French teacher Molly MacLean j History teacher Chad Faber j Science teachers Greg Emerson and Peter Hanby j Teaching fellows Erick Dalton ’00, Lydia Finley, Kaitlin Harvie, Cheryl Setchell New Faculty j Thomas Antonucci, history j Dana Carbone, science* j Jeremy Clifford, mathematics j Casey D’Annolfo, English fellow j Shannon Lenz, science j F. Michael McAloon, science j Aurélie Miller, French fellow j W.T. Miller, French* j Laura Monti ’89, science j Robert O’Connor, science j Greg Ricks, multicultural affairs j Edie Traina, history j Mark Traina, history/admissions* j Laurel Waterhouse, history fellow

Singing in Spain m The 40-member Taft Collegium Musicum stages an impromptu concert in the Alhambra on day four of their 12-day tour of Spain in March. “There were numerous moments like this,” says director Bruce Fifer. “This particular spot, however, had absolutely perfect acoustics for the person standing in the middle—me!” The group later performed to a packed audience of about 750 people in the Basilica de Nuestra Señora de las Angustias in Granada, receiving a standing ovation. The group also visited Toledo, Seville, Cordova, Segovia, and Madrid. Peter Frew ’75

*Returning former faculty member. More information will follow in the fall issue. A.P. Grading Just as students are finishing their exams, faculty head out across the country to grade exams for the College Board. Advanced Placement test graders this year are as follows: j Sara Beasley, English Language and Composition j Brian Denyer, French Language j David Hostage, Chemistry (test development committee) j Jim Lehner, Environmental Science j Al Reiff ’80, Statistics (table leader) j Rachael Ryan, U.S. Government j Pilar Santos, Spanish Language j T.J. Thompson, Music Theory 12 Taft Bulletin Summer 2006

m The Taft Jazz Ensemble plays “Freddie Freeloader” by Miles Davis at a small group concert this spring. Querino Maia ’09-piano, Risa Sakuma ’07-trumpet, John Riggins ’08-alto, Bob Vulfov ’09-tenor, Seth Tinkle ’09-bass, and Joseph Secor-Taddia ’07-drums. Peter Frew ’75


AROUND THE POND

In Brief Model Congress The school’s Model Congress contingent had an extremely successful trip in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in March. “All the kids really learned a lot about government and politics,” said adviser Rachael Ryan, “and they had a great time.” Nate Breg ’08 won the award for excellence for his position on the historical National Security Committee from 1992 that dealt with the crisis in Somalia and Rwanda. Nate also served as the Under secretary of State. “Not an easy task,” adds Ryan. “He began to prepare for the trip in the fall and was by far and away the most prepared participant I have ever seen. He represented Taft extremely well.” Silence Dr. Lainey Richardson spoke at Morning Meeting in honor of the Day of Silence regarding gay/lesbian issues and awareness, emphasizing that one’s sexual orientation is but a small part of the whole person (which is why she prefers the term gay to homosexual since the latter emphasizes sexuality too much). Offhand hurtful comments directed toward GLBT youth, she stressed, really should not be tolerated. “She was very entertaining, funny, and accessible,” adds Diversity Committee co-chair Jon Willson ’82. “Those are needed messages.” Her visit was organized by Ashley Barronnette ’07 through the Diversity Committee and SHOUT. The Bad Bard Award-winning director Hank Rogerson came to campus to share his film Shakespeare Behind Bars (which was accepted for the Sundance Film Festival). A documentary about his experience producing Shakespeare’s The Tempest at a state

penitentiary, the film is the stories of the inmates who play the roles and how the experience changed their lives During his visit, sponsored by the Oppenheim Visiting Writers Fund, Rogerson also visited classes and lunched with interested students. Day Out The acting company from the Felsted School in England performed Willy Russell’s Our Day Out in April. First seen on BBC2 in 1977, Our Day Out is sad, humorous, and true to life as it tells the story of a group of underprivileged schoolchildren who are taken on an outing by their teachers to a zoo, a castle, and a beach. A joyous celebration of the joys and agonies of growing up, the play also marks the sharp contrast to their depressing present and future, for a day out is as much as these children can expect. JETS results Teams of eight students worked together to solve difficult problems designed to test engineering aptitude in the nationwide JETS/TEAMS competition. Two varsity and two JV teams went to the regional competition at the University of New Haven. They were among 1,338 teams spread over 80 locations across the country. “Our Varsity A team and JV A team each earned second place in their respective divisions on Part I of the test,” reports adviser Jim Mooney. Part II of the test was forwarded to the national competition, in which the Varsity A team placed fifth and the JV A team placed seventh. Science Fair Upper middler Lily Shen’s Independent Study Project, “An Experiment Showing the Necessity of Battery Recycling Using

Brine Shrimp,” won the second honors at the Connecticut Science Fair, and the Audubon CT/Arch Chemicals, Inc., Environmental Awards. This is the first time a Taft student ever took part in CT Science Fair. Her project also garnered her the David Edward Goldberg Memorial Award for Independent Work at Taft. More on Math Lily Shen ’07 and Khoa Do Ba ’07 qualified to participate in the USA Math Olympiad. (Khoa also qualified last year, the first since Jack Langsdorf ’93.) Sixteen of 20 Taft students qualified for the American Invitational Mathematics Exam (the most ever). Taft finished as the top private school in Connecticut (2nd in the state overall) in the New England Mathematics League. The team finished seventh in New England (best showing ever), second only to Andover among private schools. Shen was one of 11 students with a perfect season score. Taft also tied for third nationally in the category of high schools with fewer than 1,200 students in the Whitewater Purple Comet Online Contest, hosted by the University of Wisconsin. “It’s a neat, 90-minute contest with some very good problems,” says team adviser Ted Heavenrich. Roughly 1,000 schools participated. Helping in Hartford Seventeen students visited an inner-city elementary school in Hartford to participate in Mayor Eddie Perez’s Early College Awareness Program. The program is run by the Mayor’s Office in conjunction with the Foundation for Excellent Schools, an organization run by Rick Dalton, father of Erick ’00 and Sarah ’05; Heather Lambert ’97 coordinates the program. This marks the second year in which Taft students participated. Taft Bulletin Summer 2006

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Spring Season Wrap-Up by Steve Palmer

m The girls’ first boat posted a 7–4 record this season.

Girls’ Crew 7–4 The team finished a successful season by winning the Alumnae Cup in the final race of the year versus strong 14 Taft Bulletin Summer 2006

teams from Berkshire, Gunnery, and E.O. Smith. Their cumulative record left them ranked 2nd in the Founders League and within the top ten in New England. Perhaps their best win of the season came early against Deerfield, but at the Founders Regatta three boats

made it into the grand finals—an indication of this team’s solid depth. At the core of that depth are seven seniors making up the most successful group of rowers in the program’s history, including six New England Medalists and three Gold Medalists over the past few years:


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Alexandra Lauren, co-captain, moves on to row at Div. I UCLA; Sarah Fierberg, co-captain, and Founders League Award winner; Sarah Ewing, Founders League Award winner and top ERG scorer on the team; Kaitlin Hardy, Kirsten Scheu, Shannon Sisk, and Susannah Walden. Boys’ Crew 6–6 The weather made for an uneven spring crew season, with several regattas, including the New Englands, cancelled due to wind and rain. The boys’ crew earned 2nd place in their final race of the season, the Smith Cup, defeating Berkshire and E.O. Smith. Perhaps their best race of the choppy spring came with a .5 second loss to a strong Gunnery crew. Taft’s first boat was powered by four strong seniors: captain Reed Coston, Red Sammons, Nick Wirth, and Frank Cheske, with Rigel Bricken ’07 as the coxswain.

Invitational Tournament. Their finest day came at home in defeating Kent, Berkshire, and Suffield with a new Taft School Record of 383 at the Watertown Golf Club course: Reid Longley ’06 (73), Will Asmundsen ’08 (76), Brad Roche ’07 (77), Gus Thompson ’07 (78), Alex Bermingham ’08 (79). Thompson and Cole Ciaburri ’06 led the team to its 4th place finish in the Founders League Tournament, shooting a 79 and 82 respectively, while Longley shot the low round for the season, a 73 at Watertown, and earned the Galeski Golf Award for his outstanding sportsmanship.

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Girls’ Lacrosse 8–6 This was a season of close games as the team finished in 5th place in Western New England and 4th in the Founders League. The key wins came over Choate (11–8) and Deerfield (10–7), while the team’s best games were tough losses to Andover (9–11), Greenwich (11–15), and Hotchkiss (10–14). Liz Nelson ’06 was named an Honorable Mention AllAmerican and was the leading scorer with 57 goals, while co-captain elect Heidi Woodworth ’07 finished with 39 goals and was a NEPSWLA All-Star. Lexi Comstock ’06 was a Founders

Girls’ Golf 5–5–1 The girls’ golf team’s first official varsity season included important victories over established teams such as Miss Porter’s, Williston, and Loomis. The team also hosted the Independent School Girls’ Golf Classic, the New England tournament for golf. Over 100 golfers participated at the Watertown Golf Club in two divisions (18 hole and 9 hole), and Mary Walsh ’06 finished 6th in the 9-hole division. Captain Sammy Glazer ’06 was the pioneering leader of the team and received the first Girls’ Golf Award. Walsh and Chrissy Anderson ’06 also received All-League recognition. Boys’ Golf 13–4–1 This talented and incredibly deep golf team defeated strong teams from Deerfield and Brunswick during the season and placed 6th at the Kingswood c Cole Ciaburri ’06 tees off on #3 with Gus Thompson ’07 up next. Taft Bulletin Summer 2006

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b Lee McKenna ’06 scores in Taft’s win over Convent of the Sacred Heart.

’06 set a new school record for the 100-meter relay (50.95) to place 2nd at the New England Championships, leading the team to its 4th place finish. At that meet, Wiater also broke the school record for the 100 meters (12.62) while Bodnar placed 3rd in three other events (300 hurdles, long jump, 400-meter relay). Bartlett (long jump), Wiater, (100m), Chelsea Berry ’08 (triple jump) and Liz Carlos ’06 (javelin) were individual Founders League champions.

League All-Star and leading offensive player, while Lee McKenna ’06 played well all season to center the defense. Boys’ Lacrosse 6–8 This was a solid team that found themselves on the wrong end of three of their four overtime games. An early 7–6 OT win over Brunswick got the season going strong, but two of the team’s best games were heartbreakers, a 5–6 loss to Salisbury, and a double overtime loss to rival Hotchkiss. Brendan Gangl ’06, the team’s leading goal scorer, and Whit Brighton ’06 were named First Team All New England players. Teddy Barber ’06 was an All Founders League defender, while Charlie Townsend ’06 and 16 Taft Bulletin Summer 2006

Brooks Stroud ’06 were strong at attack and in the midfield respectively. Co-captains-elect Patrick Milnamow ’07 and Bryan Curran ’07 will lead a core of talented uppermids next year, including Eric Baier, McKay Claghorn, Brendan Letarte, Drew MacKenzie, and Peter Northrop.

Boys’ Track 7–4 The team surprised many by pulling off wins over Choate, Deerfield, and Westminster on the way to a great season. They finished with a strong 5th place finish at the New England Championship Meet, behind individual champions Phil Thompson ’06 in the javelin (170'11") and Mike McCabe ’07 in the shot put (55'10.75", a new school record). McCabe also placed 2nd in the discus, while the jumping crew of David Greco ’06 (5th long jump), Chad Thomas ’06 (6th triple jump), Afolabi Saliu ’07 (3rd long jump, 3rd triple jump), Thompson (5th high jump), and Thomas Baudinet (6th high jump), scored big points for the team. Thompson also broke his own school record for the high jump (6'3") this season.

Girls’ Track 6–4 The girls’ track team came within inches of winning their 4th Founders League Meet title in the past five years, placing second with 110 pts. to Hotchkiss’ 117 pts. The team had good balance in all the events, but the real strength was in the sprints, where Ashley Wiater ’06, Casey Bartlett ’06, Ari Maloney ’07, and Taylor Bodnar

Softball 1–10 The team had some solid offense all season but was without a true starting pitcher, which proved to be the key factor in many games. Lauren McGowan ’08 filled in strongly for most of the spring on the mound, while infielders Allyson Flores ’06, Spencer Barton ’06, Arielle Palladino ’06, and outfielder Stephanie Schonbrun ’07 provided


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much of the power at the plate. The highlight came against rival Hotchkiss when the Rhinos stormed back for a 12–4 win after going down 0–4 early. In that game, senior Ally Carr moved from the field to the mound and pitched a great game while piling up three hits, and Flores and Palladino made some great plays in the field. Baseball 8–9 The team had plenty of power at the plate and could play with anybody when their pitching was on. Key wins came over Kent (13–2), T-P (12–5),

and a very strong Loomis squad (10–3) in the best game of the season. Co-captain Hunter Serenbetz ’06 finished the season with a 3–2 record on the mound and was one of the leading hitters (.345 average). Three-year starting catcher and co-captain Tommy Piacenza ’06 came off of an injury and finished with impressive offensive numbers (.440 avg, 3 HR, 19 RBI), and fellow senior Steve Blomberg (.479 avg, 6HR, 25 RBI) was the team’s leading hitter. Taft will sorely miss this crew of seniors, along with Peter Holland ’06, Ryan Krusko ’06, and Brian Gaulzetti ’06, who have all played together for several years.

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Girls’ Tennis 6–6 Three of the team’s six wins were by a 4–3 score, in tough matches over Hopkins, Westminster and, in the best match of the season, Loomis. Senior Annie McGillicuddy, a four-year varsity player, was strong at #1 singles all season, backed up by Caroline Greenberg ’07 at #2, and Nellie Beach ’07 at #3. Diana Sands ’06, a three-year player, and captain-elect Holly Donaldson ’07, were perhaps the team’s most consistent spot at #1 doubles, along with the #2 tandem of Jo Isaac ’07 and Padget Crossman ’06, also a three-year player. Boys’ Tennis 15–2, New England Semifinalists, Founders League Champions One of the great tennis teams for Taft, this squad won eleven matches in a row to post the best record in over thirty years. The highlight for this fine season came against rival Choate, who had a 49-match winning streak in the league until they came to Taft. In that 4–3 win, Tim Chambers ’07, Alex Strunz ’07, and Peter James ’07 pulled out the #4, 5, and 6 singles matches for the win. Taft then defeated Deerfield 4–2 in the quarterfinals of the New England Tournament to set up their 2nd battle against Choate in the semifinals. The match was a mirror image of their first battle, this time with Taft coming up just short. Captain Will Minter ’06 and Adam Donaldson ’08 were undefeated at the #1 doubles spot for the season, and both, along with Chambers, Strunz, and James, won their draws at the SNETL Tournament, where Taft finished first among eight schools. Donaldson went on to place 3rd at the New England singles tournament. Captain-elect Oat Naviroj ’07 will try to fill big shoes left by Will Minter, who has led the team at #1 singles over the past three years. b David Greco ’06 leaps 20’8” in the first meet versus Choate. Taft Bulletin Summer 2006

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A nnual F und N e w s

fund annual

50th Reunion Reaches 96 Percent Participation On behalf of the Alumni & Development Office, I am pleased to announce that the 2005–06 Taft Annual Fund raised $2,974,422 in gifts and pledges. This is a new record for the Annual Fund and we are so very grateful to all alumni/ae, current parents, former parents, grandparents and friends of Taft for their generosity and loyalty. I am pleased to report that the alumni raised $1,467,450 from 40 percent of the total alumni body. Thank you to all the Class Agents who worked so hard to raise these funds. Special thanks and congratulations go to Class Agent Jack McLeod and the 50th Reunion Class of 1956 for contributing $320,207, to both the Annual Fund and Capital Fund from 96 percent of the class! It is important to recognize a few Class Agents for the extra effort that they have put forth this year—Jim Baker ’49, Jerry Mitchell ’61, Randy Abood ’68, John Sagan ’68, Brian Lincoln ’74, John Clifford ’81, Will Porteous ’90, Pete Bowden ’91, and Ella Foshay-Rothfeld ’01. Many thanks to Hans and Kate Morris for their tireless efforts on behalf of the Parents’ Fund. The Morrises and their network of volunteers led a terrific campaign with 93 percent of Taft parents contributing. 18 Taft Bulletin Summer 2006

Jack McLeod, Jeff Paley and son Austin ’09, and Chip and Susan Spencer rally the Class of ’56 for the Alumni Weekend parade. Bob Falcetti

I would also like to thank the Alumni & Development Office. Taft has built one of the strongest development offices in the country. I would like to particularly thank the Annual Fund staff members Kelsey Pascoe, Amy Gorman, and Joyce Romano who have made my job so enjoyable and rewarding. This year marks my final year as Annual Fund Chair. I am pleased to announce that Holcombe Green ’87 will be taking the reins as Annual Fund Chair beginning July 1. Holcombe has been on the Taft Board of Trustees for the past six years and is already very active in the Taft community. He is bright,

energetic and perfectly suited to engage, rally, and inspire the Taft network of volunteers. Good luck Holcombe! So a final thank-you to all who have been a part of the successes of the 2003–06 Annual Funds! I think each of us that benefited from our days at Taft recognize how imperative it is that we give of our time and financial resources in order for future generations of Taft students and faculty to prosper. Have a great summer! —David F. Kirkpatrick ’89 Alumni Annual Fund Chair


A nnual F und N e w s

2006 Class Agent Awards* Snyder Award Largest amount contributed by a reunion class Class of 1956: $134,199 Annual Fund, $186,008 capital Class Agent: Jack McLeod Chairman of the Board Award Highest percent participation from a class 50 years out or less Class of 1956: 96% Class Agent: Jack McLeod McCabe Award Largest amount contributed by a non-reunion class Class of 1974: $78,038 Class Agent: Brian Lincoln Class of 1920 Award Greatest increase in dollars from a non-reunion class Class of 1982: $23,614 increase Class Agent: Chris Hunter The Romano Award Greatest increase in participation from a non-reunion class less than 50 years out Class of 1968: 40% from 17% Class Agents: Randy Abood and John Sagan Young Alumni Dollars Award Largest amount contributed from a class 10 years out or less Class of 1997: $18,098 Class Agent: Charlie Wardell Young Alumni Participation Award Highest participation from a class 10 years out or less Class of 2005: 86% Class Agent: Cyrus McGoldrick The Spencer Award Largest number of gifts from classmates who have not given in the last five years Class of 1991: 11 Class Agent: Pete Bowden *Awards determined by gifts and pledges raised as of June 30, 2006.

A First in the History of the Parents’ Fund We are delighted to announce that the 2005–06 Parents’ Fund met and exceeded its million dollar goal. In fact, a record-breaking $1,190,438 was raised by 93 percent of the current parent body! A parent body that so extensively supports a school speaks to the conviction that academics must remain strong, athletics competitive, and the arts flourishing. The ringing endorsement of the Taft parent body has become a hallmark of this great school and a critical factor in enabling Taft to compete on every level with the most highly endowed schools in the nation. The success of the Parents’ Fund this year could not have happened without the dedicated efforts of the Parents’ Committee volunteers and the hundreds of parents who generously gave their support. Thank you all!

2005–06 Parents’ Committee Kate & Hans Morris, Chairs Marion & Randy Abood ’68 Jan & Eric Albert ’77 Rosanne & Steve Anderson Colette & Dick Atkins Ann & Douglass Bermingham Callie & Hank Brauer ’74 Vivian & Richard Castellano Susan & Wick Chambers ’66 Gail & Dan Ciaburri Peg & John Claghorn Tani Conrad Alanna & Tim Cronin Betty & Carl Crosetto Susie & Chip Delaporte Nancy Demmon ’81 Karen & John Downing Pippa & Bob Gerard Randi & Andrew Heine David Hillman Kitty Herrlinger Hillman ’76 Robin Houston Donna & Jerry Iacoviello

Kate, Mac ’06, Lucy ’10, and Hans Morris at Mac’s graduation in May Highpoint Pictures

Leslie & Herb Ide Karen & Paul Isaac Pam & Michael Jackson Linda & Bill Jacobs Moira & Lance James Nancy & Andrew Kirby Meg & Stuart Kirkpatrick Val & John Kratky Meg & Charlie Krause Laura & Dale Kutnick Michael & Leslie Herrlinger Lanahan ’73 Lorrie Lands Karen & T.J. Letarte Liné & Church Lewis Diane & Chris Liotta Lisa & Joe Lovering Mary & Joe Mastrocola Bob & Lisa Reid Mayer ’75 K.T. & Alan McFarland Linda & Clem McGillicuddy Rose & Paul McGowan Darina & Allan McKelvie Lynn & Michael McKenna Michael Minter & Emmie Hill

—Kate and Hans Morris Chairs of the 2005–06 and 2006–07 Parents’ Fund

Fiona & Martin Mittag-Lenkheym Marlene Moore Kenny & Gordon Nelson Paula & Carmine Paolino Tammy & Charlie Pompea Lindsey & Sam Pryor ’73 Adam & Mandy Quinton Andrea Reid Sera & Tom Reycraft Ann & James Rickards Rosemarie & John Riggins Sr. Carol & Bill Sammons Laura Childs & Ken Saverin ’72 Lindsay & Edgar Scott Jean & Stuart Serenbetz John A. Slowik Charlotte & Richard Smith Maria & Glenn Taylor Anne K. Thompson Doug & Teri Thompson Francie & Bob Thompson Donna & Darryl Tookes Ellen & George Utley III ’74 Ellen & Chris White Brooks Hendrie Widdoes ’73 Peter & Alice Wyman

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Bour bon Str eet Taft Comes to

By Ryan Ner z '92 ~ Photogr aphy by Bob Falcetti


Reun ion

2006 m Signs, signs, everywhere are signs... b Who is this masked family having a little Mardi Gras fun at the Saturday barbecue? c The highlight of the weekend was without doubt the Saturday barbecue featuring the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, thanks to the efforts of Jonn Hankins ’71. NOJO capped off a beautiful day with the sounds of Louis Armstrong and Jelly Roll Morton.

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warms of Taft alumni have gathered in clumps, and there are enough red baseball caps to outfit a communist rally. Each group carries a sign indicating the year they graduated—’46, ’61, ’66, ’81. I don’t immediately recognize anyone, but that’s no surprise considering this is my 14th-year reunion. A Frisbee whizzes by and I can’t help but smile. The green grasses and CPT dorm are exactly as I remember them, so a warm sentimentality washes over me. I know that, beyond these walls, the scenery will sometimes feel foreign, but here at Main Circle I can indulge myself in a brief time warp. I walk up and say hello to Jon Bernon, my beloved former calculus teacher and soccer referee. Now a school counselor, he jokes that my recalcitrance as a student was the reason he

quit teaching math. As the procession begins, I explain that today I am an intrepid reporter, so duty calls. My first stop along the uphill alumni stampede is with a group of women from the Class of ’86. Sarah Curi describes the new buildings and meticulous landscaping as “fabulous in an overwhelming sort of way.” I ask the woman next to her, Nici Tietjen-Derosier, if she still keeps in touch with Taft friends. Turns out she’s still best friends with her best friend from Taft. It’s the woman standing right next to her, Patience Smith. “Well that’s a nice conceptual name,” I say. “Are you patient?” “No,” Patience says, laughing. “Absolutely not,” Nici adds. “She’s a very restless person.” I ask about their time at Taft, and am surprised to hear Taft Bulletin Summer 2006

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m 1966 teammates Ferdie Wandelt and Ray DuBois catch up with the coach of their undefeated lacrosse team, Headmaster Emeritus Lance Odden. c English teacher Pam MacMullen with Brett Chodorow ’96 and his wife Lisa at the barbecue

1941 1946 them rattle off a list of teacher-centric memories. Mr. Cobb scared Sarah at first but then became her adviser. Mr. Small coached cross country, smoked a big stogie, and affected the lives of countless young men. They could never forget Mr. Oscarson, Mr. McCabe, and Barclay Johnson ’53, who advised Nici to “feel the words” while composing poetry. Nici says that Mrs. Wynne influenced her to become an artist. And all three women say they were deeply influenced by Ms. Madison. “I think I became a health care lawyer because of Charlotte Madison’s biomedical ethics class,” Sarah says. “She had a big crush on Tom Selleck. We used to go up to her apartment and watch Magnum P.I.” “She’ll probably wish you didn’t mention that little tidbit,” I say. 22 Taft Bulletin Summer 2006

“Well we hope that brings her out of hiding,” Nici says. “Because we haven’t seen her in years.”

~ * ~ * ~

The rest of the afternoon feels like a tug of war between the forces of change and stasis. I approach Headmaster Willy MacMullen at the luncheon and he looks as fit as he did back when he was my English teacher and soccer coach. He tells me that, at a panel discussion earlier that morning, an alumnus asked a group of seniors what they would change about Taft. With commencement on the horizon, the seniors were so puffed-up with pride that they came up empty. “I said, ‘They were probably just saying that because I am standing right here,’” he says, chuckling.


b The day was also a family reunion for John Vanderpoel ’36 and son Eric ’61 at the luncheon. c Jonn Hankins ’71, visits the Harley Roberts Room exhibit of prints by Shawn Brackat '93 (right) organized by Nikki Mayhew Greene ’93 (left). .John MacMullen, son of Pam and Willy MacMullen ’78, watches as Sam, son of Steve and Shannon Engels Turner ’86, has his face painted during the children's program on Saturday afternoon.

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m Michele and Peter Jennings ’61 with classmate Neil Peterson b The 50th Reunion Class of 1956

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m Peter Frew ’75 welcomes back Tarik Asmerom ’01.

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c Sara MacDonell, Jocelyn Gamble Childs, Kitty Herrlinger Hillman, mother of Dan ‘06 and Scott ‘09, and Leslie Weeden

1961 Talking to Fred Genung ’63 about his Taft experience, the focus shifts toward change. He says life at Taft in the early ’60s was fun but quite regimented. The daily schedule started at 7:15 a.m., attendance was taken five times a day, and three meals were mandatory. There were no radios, no telephones, no TVs, and most regrettably, no females. But Genung says he enjoyed his Taft experience, especially his two years as a left winger on the undefeated varsity hockey team. “Prep school is like the Marine Corps,” he says in summation. “You forget the hard parts and you remember the good parts.” After the banquet, I walk over to the Taft-Hotchkiss varsity lacrosse game. Hoping to get a wider range of perspectives, I approach a gray-haired man in a tweed sports coat 24 Taft Bulletin Summer 2006

named John Hammerslough ’46. He says he’s very pleased that his classmate, Samuel Pryor just won the Citation of Merit award. John is here for his 60th Reunion and, coincidentally, I spoke earlier to his son Charlie ’76. I recall having oft heard the phrase “the Taft family” as a student, but I’m just starting to realize the literal applications of the term. Nici TietjenDerosier mentioned that her dad and sister were both Tafties, and Sarah Curi’s sister, Katherine ’92, was in my class and is now a cyclist on the American national team. I knew Fred Genung’s daughter Kate ’94, and his son Alec ’91 played on three sports teams with me. Taft family, indeed. Considering that John Hammerslough attended Taft during World War II, his perspective strikes me as disarm-


b Nici Tietjen Derosier ’86 and Patience Smith ’86 visit with classics teacher Dick Cobb at the luncheon.

50th Reun ioners

c Marcia and Jerry MacDonald ’56 with Peter and Barbara Fish ’56

1966 1971 b Headmaster Willy MacMullen ’78 greets Julie Brenton ’81. c Jo Tragakiss and husband Kip Cheney ’52 arrive for the

Old Guar d Dinner .

1976 ingly modern. John started using computers in the mid1960s to analyze stocks. While he is impressed by Taft’s technologically upgraded campus, he predicts that computers will also serve to keep prep schools like Taft in check. “If a school is run poorly these days, some kid’s gonna make a blog out of it.” Hammerslough turns toward the game, and I notice the weather has gone from sunny to gray. Hulking cumulus clouds lurk overhead. Immediately after Hotchkiss’ goal in sudden-death overtime, it starts raining. Fans scurry down the hill, cutting their victory celebration short, and it feels a bit like divine intervention. But it’s just a spring shower and passes quickly. The sun emerges and alumni take the field, dividing themselves up

into red and white jerseys. Ray DuBois ’66 is remarkably spry despite being the most senior of the bunch, and the cheerleaders rooting for George Utley ’74 bear a suspicious resemblance to him. Jon Bernon is still as dramatic a referee as ever, and he nobly ignores my heckling. Some fans migrate downhill toward the varsity baseball game, but in no time, everyone is backtracking up the hill toward the Headmaster’s Supper. The huge white tent quickly fills with conversation and clinking glasses, and then, with the melodious bleats of the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra (NOJO). As a jazz fan, I’m elated. NOJO?! These are top-flight, world-class jazz musicians, assembled here under the tent for…Taft Alumni Day? How did this come about? I soon discover that it’s the work of Jonn Hankins ’71, NOJO’s chief operating officer. Taft Bulletin Summer 2006

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c Bruce Fifer and alumni at the Collegium Musicum reunion at Walker Hall . Jake Odden and reunion chair Phoebe Sylvester Kaylor ’86 march with their class in the parade.

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Hankins explains that, despite the destruction of Hurricane Katrina, he’s determined to implement the Taft School motto in maintaining New Orleans as the Jazz capital of the world. While waiting for the highly anticipated National Jazz Center and park to be constructed, Hankins is pushing hard to book gigs for NOJO. “There was the real possibility that many of the top musicians, like these guys, may not be able to make a living in the city. So that’s why I felt it was important to take a more active role, because right now in New Orleans everyone is committed to bringing the city back.” Having not spoken to many recent graduates, I approach former head monitor Tarik Asmerom ’01. She’s surrounded by a group of classmates who are abuzz with postbarbecue plans. “I’ve only been back ten minutes and it’s 26 Taft Bulletin Summer 2006

too many sensations at once,” she says. “People are saying it still smells the same.” Tarik says she’s teaching 10th-grade math and science in southwest Philadelphia and attending the Graduate School of Education at UPenn. I ask if she’s experiencing anxiety about having to hit the “real world” after her relatively recent college graduation. She’s not really stressed, she says, but she does have a new empathy for what her Taft teachers went through. “After teaching adolescents,” she says with a chuckle, “there’s really nothing that can throw me off.” Ryan Nerz ’92 is a freelance writer who recently published Eat This Book: A Year of Gorging and Glory on the Competitive Eating Circuit. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.


m Richard Blossom ’66 and Texanne Corrigan get ready for the parade. b Lucy, daughter of Hilary Klotz Steinman ’86 with the rhino

m 1996 classmates Ru Reath, Albert Lai, and Randy DePree . Citation of Merit honoree Sam Pryor ’46 and his granddaughter Toni ’07 at the Old Guard Dinner

c Reunion chair Lou Frank ’71 readies for the parade. . When alumni lacrosse players compete against each other on Saturday afternoon, Steve Janeck ’76 really has to elevate his game.

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senior moments

The Senior Project program, begun in 2005, allows seniors the opportunity to create t h e i r o w n l e a r n i n g e x p e r i e n c e s a n d m e a n i n g — o n e m o r e c u l m i n a t i n g t i m e a t Ta f t . first encountered what they did not expect to encounter. Whether or not the final outcomes were exactly what these seniors imagined and initially expressed three months earlier in their proposals, every project surprised them time and time again—teaching them innumerable lessons about themselves right up until graduation. In response to every surprise, these seniors demonstrated who they had become at Taft. And for the Taft community during the Senior Project Museum at the end of May, the 38 project displays—live dramatic and musical performances, readings, interactive exhibits, and films—demonstrated so many of the skills and habits of mind they acquired and honed as a result of a Taft education. —Chris Torino, Senior Project director

Photography by seniors Alex Lauren and Jamie Oppenheim, who documented their classmates’ work on film as their project.

Reid Longley and W i l l M i n t e r, Producing a DVD: Break: A Time of C h a o s a t Ta f t

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All photographs by Alex Lauren ’06 and Jamie Oppenheim ’06

Many people say they don’t really have a clear sense of their ideas, or a clear understanding of what it is they think they know, until they articulate it—until they express it in written or spoken words, or in paint, sculpture, or some other medium. This year, 57 seniors voluntarily completed 38 Senior Projects. Their January proposals included detailed descriptions, reasoning, planning, and reflection. Beginning to work on their projects in April, seniors continuously shaped their plans—to adapt them, to allow them to evolve. Even in the final week, many of these seniors were forced to solve problems creatively and, at times, seek new directions. These seniors made all of these adjustments—these responses to obstacles or changing ideas—independently. Their most significant education began when they


senior moments

Wo o d y R e d p a t h and Michael Shrubb (pictured), Experiments i n Wo o d w o r k i n g : Building an Adirondack Bench

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senior moments

All photographs by Alex Lauren ’06 and Jamie Oppenheim ’06

Michael Davis and Jon F r a k e r, W r i t i n g a n d Recording a Musical CD

Brian Gaulzetti, Experimenting with Keel Design

30 Taft Bulletin Summer 2006


senior moments

Lindsay Albert, Wo r k i n g w i t h C e r a m i c s

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senior moments

All photographs by Alex Lauren ’06 and Jamie Oppenheim ’06

Peter Irving and Roger K i r k p a t r i c k , Ta f t Outdoor Guidebook

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senior moments

Padget Crossman, Sewing a Business

Lexie Comstock and Laura McLaughlin, Collecting School Supplies for Myanmar

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m It’s a long-standing tradition for a parent of a graduating senior to give the Commencement address. Headmaster Willy MacMullen ’78 asked Academic Dean Debora Phipps, mother of Michael ’06 and Matthew ’05, to do the honors.

When the Journey Is Worth the Risks Excerpts from the 116th Commencement Exercises

Photography by Bob Falcetti Headmaster William R. MacMullen ’78 In her collection of stories about women traveling, Lisa St. Aubin de Teran writes of what stories she chose to include: “The ultimate qualification was merely to have set foot [on the

road of life].” To set foot on the Taft path was to undertake a journey of more than a little danger and considerable risk, but also of illumination, power, and even love. My first congratulation is to you for starting; my last is for you finishing. The first and greatest story of travel is The Odyssey. It is a simple story with all the great human themes: a man has just fought a war and must make his way home. He faces one-eyed monsters, howling storms and singing sirens who try to lure him onto the rocks; those challenges mean he must find in himself strengths and virtues greater than he has ever known; and he triumphs and finds home, a more reflective, wise and complete man. But of all the themes, two mark the travel genre: facing adversity and the acquisition of self-knowledge. Whether we read Steinbeck, Twain, Cervantes, or Voltaire, the story is the same: the protagonist sets out, he successfully meets the challenges, and as a result, he comes to a fuller sense of self and world. Going out he comes back. Getting lost he is found. It is a good tale. You have all had your odysseys, and the adversity you faced— the trivial and great—no doubt seemed epic. Odysseus saw the

. David Hostage presents the Chemistry Prize to a surprised Bill Lane.


gods scoop up the seas and hurl them in thundering storms, and haven’t you as well? I know some of the tempests you weathered, and can never know the courage with which you met those secret squalls, and yet you are here. I know the siren calls of temptation, the rocks on which you might have foundered, and yet you are here. Your triumphs are many—the private, painful victories no one saw: when you stayed up until 2 a.m. to labor over an essay, when you stopped yourself from shaking before you uttered the first line on opening night, when you went into the game terrified you would make a mistake, when late at night you reached out to a friend. And those public triumphs: when you bowed to the audience or listened to the cheers, or hung your photographs and paintings, or tapped your sticks on the ice and raised them to the crowd. None of this was easy. This school was intended to be an odyssey, not a stroll. It has demanding teachers—some of them Cyclops, you might add—and a difficult curriculum, a relentless pace, and plenty of places to founder. A senior put it best, writing to me, “School is meant to push and prod and make you feel un-

m Sitting in the rain: Families got a bit soggy during part of the ceremony, but no one seemed to mind being outside. c Class speaker Chad Thomas prepares to address his classmates.

. Almost late: Seniors Leah Morris and Kiel Stroupe rush to line up.

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m Skies threatened to soak the end of the luncheon, but the rain held off.

b Class speaker Helena Smith addresses her fellow graduates.

comfortable. I think you have to be a little uneasy to get the most out of a situation. It is this challenge that has revealed my flaws but also showed me what I am capable of.” And all these trials lead to that other great theme: selfknowledge. Odysseus came to know himself: his yearnings, his flaws, and his virtues. Have you come to know yourself through this journey? You are not the boy or girl who appeared here four years or nine months ago. You have explored the higher latitudes of your intellect and the vast interior of your soul. I hope that some of what you found was what we value here: • The belief that serving others is noble • The conviction that honor should mark all we do • The habit of empathy and the practice of respect • The ability to persevere in the face of disappointment • The need to question, study, and learn. Odysseus returned home, fatigued but bold, unsure about tomorrow, feeling as restless as you must. He could not sit still.


Head monitor and 1908 Medal winner Michael Shrubb places the class stone in the wall of Centennial Dormitory. m

In his poem, Alfred Lord Tennyson depicted him as a restive king, a blade that needed burnishing. His end, like yours here, was simply a beginning. Tennyson concludes with that great line: “To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield.” Tomorrow is the epic poem you will write. You will be like Odysseus, completed in all your fractured perfection, flawed beauty and humble strength. We marvel at your journey. Congratulations.

Academic Dean Debora Phipps P’05,06 I am an English teacher, and I know that the three safe answers in English class are the Bible, Shakespeare, and symbol. And maybe, in some ways, I do stand for, or stand in for, the faculty who have kids graduating today. Both Townsends, both Piacenzas, and I all arrived at Taft in 1983, together with a very young Mr. MacMullen, and today, three of those families watch their youngest child leave the place they came home to after they were born. But more, I think, I’m here to

represent all of the parents in the audience, who recognize the bittersweet nature of this day. I’ve always loved the notion of “bittersweet.” The bittersweet plant is a fast-growing vine that blooms in May, appropriately enough, the month of graduations. But it’s the feeling of bittersweet—the emotion, not the vine—that I love. It’s one of poignancy, felt deep in the stomach and behind the heart. The sweet makes sense—who doesn’t like sweet things?—but it’s the bitter that creates the tension and makes the sweet more memorable in contrast. My favorite ice cream is dark chocolate with habaneros—it’s true—and that’s the way this day of your graduation tastes to me—with just enough of an edge to it to make the intense sweetness tolerable. John Keats, in his ode “To Autumn,” addresses his imminent death in exactly this bittersweet mode. What makes Keats’ poem so effective is that he takes the rules for a Horatian ode—carefully regulated and rhymed ten-line stanzas in a reflection on some subject—and subverts them. He adds one extra line to each stanza, which tricks the ear that’s used to

The long blue-and-red line .


m The Boys of Almost-Summer: Seniors Alex Kramer, Woody Redpath, Spyros Skouras, Will Rickards, Skye Priestley, and Will Minter

the standard ten. Just when the listener thinks the stanza is ending, when she’s waiting for the rhyme to tie things up and resolve the tension, Keats sneaks in this extra line—and with it, creates a sense of suspension as we wait for the closing that isn’t there yet. It feels like that moment, in music, before a chord is resolved, or in soccer, when the ball arcs through the air and you’re not sure it’s going in the net. Today is like that one extra line, a chance to linger, unexpectedly and for an extra minute or two, in something that’s coming to an end in a resolving rhyme. In fact, that’s how your whole senior year at Taft has felt to me: it’s not that we want you to stay forever—you’re ready for the next thing for sure—but I wish that you, like this day, would hang around a little longer. But that rhyme’s coming. You started in Mr. MacMullen’s second year as headmaster, and took to heart his Morning Meeting advice about the importance of emulating Shackleton and taking risks. Some of you know that not all your risks were wise ones, but since all great inventions and ideas come of risk, your future as innovators seems

promising. Many of those risks showed in your creative output, and your creativity stretched beyond Taft: you wrote for newspapers outside of school, sold your first pieces of art, took your bands to other schools, and, in managing to tour a prospective applicant to Hotchkiss, at Hotchkiss, without Hotchkiss’ or the applicant’s discovering the error until the fake tour ended, created the most memorable prank in recent memory. Creativity, however, can thrive only in an atmosphere of trust. You have to know that others will be there in the audience, that they’ll try to understand and appreciate your work, and perhaps, to celebrate your contribution. And that’s what I’ve loved most about you all. You’ve supported one another in remarkably loyal ways. Some times, that’s been painful, when you watch a classmate who’s hurting or leaving, but at others, it’s been deeply moving and restorative. This spring, when you opened your college letters outside the P.O.s, you showed more care for what others were feeling than I’ve seen any class exhibit. I was struck, one day, when a senior girl told me she really looked forward to the graduation issue of the Papyrus because

. Shayna Bryan steps up to receive the Marion Hole Makepeace Award for her contributions to girls’ athletics; while at Taft Shayna earned 11 varsity letters in soccer, basketball, and track.


m Co-valedictorian Derek Chan also received the math and physics prizes.

she wanted to know where her classmates were going to college. She hadn’t wanted to ask, but she still cared about her peers—not in a competitive way, but in a thoughtful one. There’s a spirit of collective enterprise among you that bonds you more deeply than something as simple as shared interests or a similar approach to life. Your variety makes you interesting to one another, and your trust and care turn that interest into affection. I heard a talk recently in which someone shared his personal ten commandments, the tenth of which stayed with me. He suggested that we should do unto others as we would have others do unto us, plus 20 percent. The 20 percent, he explained, was to account for errors in estimation—it’s likely that we’d underestimate the kindness others might expend on us, and therefore not give back enough kindness into the world. I don’t think your class subscribes to that sort of statistical error—there’s a pretty even exchange of kindness and generosity. Those of you who took psychology know that an ability to laugh at oneself is considered a sign of maturity, an authen-

c Helena Smith and Marika Bigler check out the chalk messages underclassmen left that morning for the graduating seniors.

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m English teacher and senior class dean Mike Townsend receives the Abramowitz Award for teaching excellence.

tication of an adult and independent and confident self. And along the way, you’ve helped your parents and teachers and relatives and friends not to take the world too seriously, or at least not all the time. So here’s the extra line, the one I’m sneaking in to create suspension in my ode to your class. William Faulkner wrote about the importance of living life without fear, something you’ve emulated throughout your years here. There may have been times in which a little fear might have been a good thing, I suppose, but these times in which you live are ones that benefit from those who live boldly, and you have. He boldly wrote that “the basest of all things is to be afraid,” and that if one could learn that, then there would be room for “the old verities and truths of the heart, the universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed—love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice.” If forgetting fear leaves room for those things that matter—risk and community, the respect and honor that characterize your atmosphere of shared trust, the compassion that leads you to

. Who’s afraid of a little rain? Spencer Barton, perhaps?

say the right things at the right times—or say nothing when appropriate—and the love for one another that you may not acknowledge now, but will when you come back some day, then you’ve lived the fearlessness that Faulkner describes. And finally, here’s the closure that comes with the final line. One of my favorite poets, Mary Oliver, describes a sort of mission statement for her life by imagining what she hopes to feel when she leaves it: “I was a bride married to amazement, I was a bridegroom taking the world into my arms,” and ends: “I don’t want to end up simply having visited the world.” You have never “simply visited” this world of Taft— you’ve made it your own. And I suspect that you’ll do the same wherever you go next. The world’s a big place, and you’re ready for it. Please be safe, because your parents worry, and be happy, because you’ve shown you can be. And leave it all a little better than you found it, because that’s what you’ve done while you were here.


116th Commencement

b Co-valedictorian Laura McLaughlin and classmate Sophie Quinton

Commencement Awards Saturday, May 27 . All dressed up, younger guests find time to play. William and Lee Abramowitz Award for Teaching Excellence J. Michael Townsend Maurice Pollak Award Taylor Renee Bodnar Roberts Scholarship Michael Ramsey Davis Marion Hole Makepeace Award Shayna Antoinette Bryan Lawrence Hunter Stone Award Thomas Francis Piacenza Theater Award John McInerney Morris Bill Waldron ’72 Memorial Prize Susannah Mitchell Walden Mark Potter ’48 Award in Art Elizabeth M. Whetzel Thomas Sabin Chase ’50 Award in Art Kelly Patricia O’Mealia George H. Morgan Award Andrew Christopher Strumolo P.T. Young Music Award Jason Eugene Kim Eric Stuart Schwartz

David Edward Goldberg ’62 Memorial Award Elizabeth Blair Walle Sherman Cawley Award Laura Ruth McLaughlin David Kenyon Webster ’40 Prize for Excellence in Writing Helena Anne Smith

Chemistry Prize William P. Lane Physics Prize Chun Ho Derek Chan Harry W. Walker ’40 “Non Ut Sibi” Award Michelle Nina Kulikauskas

Bourne Medal in History Diana Patterson Sands

Heminway Merriman ’30 Award Francis Christopher Cheske Charles Armstrong Townsend

Daniel Higgins Fenton Classics Award Zaynah Abid William P. Lane

Berkley F. Matthews ’96 Award Taylor Renee Bodnar Hillary Nelrose Simpson

John S. Noyes French Prize Susannah Mitchell Walden

Class of 1981 Award John C. Ale, Jr. William Peck Minter Chad Justin Thomas

Spanish Prize Natalie Renee Lescroart Chinese Prize Alexandra Alden Comstock Joshua Eugene Kim Japanese Prize Vanessa Yu-ning Kwong Wilson‑Douglas Mathematics Prize Chun Ho Derek Chan

Valedictorians Chun Ho Derek Chan Laura Ruth McLaughlin Joseph I. Cunningham Award Reid McClellan Longley Arielle Marie Palladino The Aurelian Award Laura Ruth McLaughlin The 1908 Medal David Michael Shrubb

Alvin I. Reiff Biology Prize Laura Ruth McLaughlin

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Brian Cassella

Jill Spencer and son Ollie

The Third Goodbye On his third trip to the Middle East since the war began, Marine Lt. Col. Oliver Spencer ’85 faces the longest deployment of his career— nine to twelve months away from home.

By Brady Dennis

42 Taft Bulletin Summer 2006


Brian Cassella

“I volunteered to go to Iraq,” Oliver said. “You cannot fight the global war on terrorism from Tampa. You have to go where the enemy is.”

t’s a flawless, blue-sky Saturday in South Tampa, and the Little Leaguers are working their way through the second inning of the season’s last baseball game. The Yankees are batting against the White Sox, and 9-year-old Clayton Spencer steps to the plate. A shout rises from the third base line: “All right, Clay! Let’s go, Clayton!” The voice belongs to a 39-year-old man in khaki shorts and white Converse Chuck Taylor All-Star sneakers. A New England Patriots cap covers his tight military haircut. Clayton takes one swing, then another. “C’mon, Clay, two strikes now! You got two against you. Two strikes, buddy!” The boy waits on the next pitch. A ball. “Good eye!” his father, an assistant coach, yells from his third-base post. And then, a third swing. Another miss. Strike out. The father watches his son, head hanging in disappointment, walk back to the dugout. “That’s painful,” he says. But not nearly as painful as what goes unsaid on this perfect, late spring afternoon. Lt. Col. Oliver Spencer ’85, a Marine intelligence officer, soon will head back to Iraq for the third time since 2003. In a few weeks, he will say goodbye to his wife Jill and

the three children he so clearly adores—Clayton, their oldest; Beatrice, 8; and Ollie, 5. As his last days at home slip away, he’s preparing to trade these All-American afternoons for a war zone halfway around the world. Oliver Spencer, the Marine, feels duty-bound to go. Oliver Spencer, the father and husband, aches for what he’s leaving behind. www He has grown used to goodbyes. Long ago, the Connecticut native chose a life of adventure and danger over the predictability of the 9-to-5 world. After his graduation from Taft and a summer spent traveling Europe and climbing Mt. McKinley in Alaska, Oliver headed to Tulane University in New Orleans on a track scholarship. He met Jill Gfroerer, a music major, during his junior year. Their first date: a costume ball. After graduation, he dressed up again, this time in the uniform of the United States Marine Corps. Family tradition helped steer the decision. His father, Chip Spencer ’56, a former history teacher and development director at Taft, served in the Navy. An uncle served in the Air Force, and his grandfathers served in the Army. The young man soon traveled the world, though often to its most war-torn corners. He served as an infantry platoon commander in the Persian Gulf during operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield and later joined a reconnaissance unit. He spent time in Chile during 1991 and 1992. The Marines sent him to Somalia for four months to scope out Taft Bulletin Summer 2006

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Brian Cassella

Oliver and the kids get ready for Ollie’s 6th birthday, which they are celebrating early at their home in South Tampa.

beaches in the dead of night and make sure they were fit for boat landings. No matter the destination, he would go—the good Marine, full of adrenaline, young and brash and hankering for a challenge. In October 1994, he and Jill married. That same year, he left active duty, seeking a change of pace. He spent the next two years working in Boston, first as an Outward Bound instructor and later as a manager for Airborne Express. The money was good. But the Marine was restless. “I just didn’t feel like I was making a difference,” he said. So Oliver returned to active duty in 1996. This time, he chose intelligence work over the infantry. He and Jill started a family, and the years have seen them stationed back in New Orleans, at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina and, most recently, at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, where he took a job working on counterterrorism planning for Southeast Asia. He could have spent a comfortable few years working from an office. Instead, Oliver raised his hand. “I volunteered to go to Iraq,” he said. “You cannot fight the global war on terrorism from Tampa. You have to go where the enemy is.” www His first trip came in early 2003. He spent six months in the Middle East—five in Afghanistan and the last in Iraq. His second deployment to Iraq came in January 2005 and lasted three months. 44 Taft Bulletin Summer 2006

He doesn’t talk particulars about his duties during those first two trips, but he’s clearly no stranger to interrogating detainees. “I collect information from human beings,” he says, and leaves it at that. This time around, he’s facing nine to 12 months away from home—the longest deployment yet and the first since each of his children have begun to understand the magnitude of the situation. During this tour, he will coordinate intelligence operations in Iraq’s Al Anbar province, the “most difficult province in the whole country,” Oliver says. The region is part of the turbulent Sunni Triangle, which has become deadly ground for U.S. troops. Oliver will work mostly out of Fallujah, about 45 miles west of Baghdad. “Guys are going to die,” the man who has seen war before says matter-of-factly. “You get to the point where you just sort of deal with it.” Besides, there’s plenty to worry about back in America. www The families of those fighting the war shoulder much of its burden. That burden begins to weigh on the Spencer household the minute Oliver says goodbye. “The first couple weeks are hard,” Jill says. Although they can talk with Oliver often—several times a day if they want, thanks to modern technology—a voice on the phone can’t compare to a father and husband at home.


The Third Goodbye “It’s a huge, huge burden on my wife to be the mother and father when I’m gone,” Oliver says

Jill and Oliver Spencer ’85 with their children Clayton, Beatrice, and Ollie, at Oliver’s promotion last summer

“As hard as it is on us, it’s harder for him to be doing what he’s doing over there,” Jill says.

Clay usually grows quiet and broods. Beatrice “wears her heart on her sleeve,” her mother says. She cries often, missing the man who snuggles with her at night and calls her “my princess.” Ollie usually manages to keep his spirits up. “He’s still young enough to not let it affect him too much,” Jill says. The Spencers have learned to lean on others—their neighbors, their friends, their church. When Oliver leaves, the family will stay in New Hampshire with Jill’s parents. But even with the extra help, Jill must carry a heavy load. “It’s a huge, huge burden on my wife to be the mother and father when I’m gone,” Oliver says. In addition to his absence, she must help their children cope with another round of new schools and new surroundings. Just part of the job, Jill says. “As hard as it is on us, it’s harder for him to be doing what he’s doing over there,” she says. She knows that over there, with war all around him, Oliver must fight another battle—the one inside his head. “The Marine in me feels I need to do this; I have to do this for our nation. It makes perfect sense to go,” Oliver says. “For the father and the husband [in me], I really question what I’m doing.” www It would be easy to dwell on all he will miss in the coming year. For his 40th birthday on July 26, he had planned to celebrate by running 40 miles, from his parents’ house in Litchfield to Taft and back.

He will miss Ollie’s birthday in August, Clay’s in September. He will miss his wedding anniversary in October. He’ll miss the kids’ costumes on Halloween, the gatherings at Thanksgiving and the excitement of Christmas morning. He’ll miss coaching soccer in the fall. But for now, it’s enough to savor the time he has left—to take his children for a walk on the beach and watch them play in the surf, to teach one son to ride a bike, to toss the football with another, to snuggle with his princess, to give them noogies and kiss each of them good night, every night. “It’s so important to take the time to share those moments,” he says. On a recent Saturday, as Oliver’s deployment drew near, he could have spent time packing up the house or getting ready for Iraq. Instead, he and Jill threw a 6th birthday party for Ollie, even though his birthday was two months away. They ordered a cake, hung balloons, bought presents, lit candles. Kids played dodgeball in the front yard. A clown performed. Ollie smiled his way through another sunny spring afternoon. When it came time to sing “Happy Birthday,” a 39-yearold man in the room stood with a video camera, recording the moment. Sometimes, wars just have to wait. Brady Dennis is a reporter for the St. Petersburg Times in Florida.

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F rom the A rchi v es

Wooing a

Language

Taft English master Rollo DeWilton

Yale English professor Maynard Mack ’27, who died in 2001. 46 Taft Bulletin Summer 2006

When four manila envelopes arrived in the mail in February, I was thrilled to discover they contained a trove of unpublished poems and letters written by Maynard Mack ’27 in his own hand. Mack, the son of an English professor at Oberlin College, went on to become Yale’s Sterling Professor of English as well as one of the world’s leading Shakespearean scholars. He expressed profound observations in his poetry with an eloquence and ease far beyond his years, but it is the letters to his Taft English teacher, Rollo DeWilton [English and drama 1921–28] that are most intriguing. Writing from Paris during his sophomore year (at Yale), his letters are vivid and humorous with details of French life and his tussles with the language: “My chief objective…is to insinuate myself into the graces of the unlovely language. A skittish mistress she is, too, fleeing from your embrace just when you believe you have most successfully wooed her.” Crediting DeWilton for the “perennial delight” he finds in Shakespeare, Mack adds, “Though it is a dubious honor for you, I count you as one of the chief architects of my way of life.” The collection was a gift of Robert Beeler ’35. [One of Mack’s many letters to DeWilton.]

—Archivist Alison Picton


Discover the Benefits of Giving Wisely Did you know… • that you can donate your house to Taft, take a deduction, and still live there the rest of your life? • that giving appreciated securities delivers more tax benefits to you than giving cash? • that you can turn surplus life insurance coverage into a gift for Taft— or use a new policy to create an endowment from your income rather than from your principal? • that you can partner with the school to deliver years of income to Taft and increase your estate for your children? Visit Taft’s new, interactive gift-planning website to learn how gifts like this could work for you. We hope you will use the website as a resource as you manage your assets, develop your estate plan, and consider the role you want to play in building Taft’s future. Find out more at:

www.TaftSchool.planyourlegacy.org.


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Leah Morris, illustrating h e r m o t h e r ’s c h i l d r e n ’s s t o r y a s her senior project

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Summer 2006 Taft Bulletin