Fashion forward Alumni Weekend Vintage Racing Summer 2009
Alumni in this issue Weekend in Pictures Photographs by Bob Falcetti, Phil Dutton, Peter Frew ’75 & Andre Li ’11
The Sweetest Melodies Excerpts from the 119th Commencement remarks By Tom Strickland, Willy MacMullen ’78, Paul Kiernan ’09 and Hannah Vazquez ’09
Driven By Racecars
Joe Freeman ’62 collects, competes and champions classic cars. By Ethan Gilsdorf
The Fashionistas Six alumni entrepreneurs have one thing in common: they love looking—and helping others look—fabulous. By Bonnie Blackburn Penhollow ’84
h Bruce Powell ’59 and grandson Jack Kneisel ’11 lead the 50th Reunion class in the parade along with Class Secretary Stallworth Larson ’59.
3 Letters 3 Taft Trivia 4 Alumni Spotlight 8 Around the Pond 16 Sport 18 Annual Fund
from the EDITOR Connections. My mission for the magazine has always been to keep people connected with the school, or to reconnect them. So I was pleased to see in the results of a recent survey we did (to a random selection of readers) that half of you contacted a friend or classmates after reading the Bulletin. And 92 percent of you felt the magazine strengthened your connection to the institution. Dare I say “Mission Accomplished”? Not yet. As communications director for Taft, I have increasingly sought to make sure that communication goes both ways, to invite responses and reader participation. Now, with the advent of Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, we have a lot of help on that front. Still, for those of us who are digital immigrants, navigating the ins and outs of social networking can seem as challenging as driving around downtown Boston without a map (or a Garmin). Fear not. If you feel like dipping your toes into the virtual realm, why not start by “friending” Horace Dutton Taft—our online alter ego on Facebook. Who better to speak for the school, after all, than the man who founded it? Spend more time with a Blackberry than a computer? Try following TaftSchool on Twitter. That way you’re only committing to 140 characters at a time. As connected as this generation of students obviously is, though, rest assured that as a community we continue to stress the value of face time over Facebook. As always, I want to hear your stories... and now you have several more ways to keep in touch. —Julie Reiff, editor
On the Cover B
Seniors Sarah Albert and Wells Andres were among the many graduates recognized at the school’s 119th Commencement Exercises in May. For more, turn to page 26.
Fashion forward Alumni Weekend Vintage Racing Summer 2009
2 Taft Bulletin SUMMER 2009
ANDRE LI ’11
This is the third issue of Taft Bulletin published on 100 percent postconsumer recycled fiber. What difference does that make? Well, the summer issue, our largest, consumes more than six tons of paper. Not using virgin fiber translates into the following savings:
Summer 2009 Volume 79, Number 4 Bulletin Staff
156 trees preserved, which generate enough oxygen for roughly 78 people a year
Director of Development: Chris Latham Editor: Julie Reiff
71,208 gallons of water, or enough to take 4,140 eight-minute showers
Alumni Notes: Linda Beyus Design: Good Design, LLC www.gooddesignusa.com
9,550 lbs. net greenhouse gases prevented, could help a polar bear or two
Proofreader: Nina Maynard
enough BTUs to power your home for more than six months
Mail letters to: Julie Reiff, Editor Taft Bulletin The Taft School Watertown, CT 06795-2100 U.S.A. ReiffJ@TaftSchool.org
4,323 lbs. of waste that doesn’t go to a landfill Environmental impact estimates provided by Neenah Papers, except that bit about the polar bear.
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 15
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The Taft Bulletin (ISSN 0148-0855) is published quarterly, in February, May, August and November, by The Taft School, 110 Woodbury Road, Watertown, CT 06795-2100, and is distributed free of charge to alumni, parents, grandparents and friends of the school. All rights reserved.
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seen that suffocation from both sides of the bench—I am anxious to read Life Without Lawyers and his previous work, The Collapse of the Common Good. —Francisco A. Besosa, ’67 U.S. District Judge, San Juan, P.R.
Julie Reiff, editor Taft Bulletin 110 Woodbury Road Watertown, CT 06795-2100 or Reiff J@TaftSchool.org
Courtly Company I want to congratulate you on the spring edition of the Bulletin. The three articles published jointly under “Legal Tafties” were quite informative and a pleasure to read. I especially enjoyed the article about my colleague on the federal bench, Robert Sweet ’40, and the reprint from the latest book by Philip Howard ’66. Judge Sweet is certainly a judge to be admired and emulated by his fellow judges. As someone who has been on the bench only three years, I certainly will do so. As someone who has already read Mr. Howard’s The Death of Common Sense: How Law Is Suffocating America—and who has
A Checkered Past The two main clues to the date of the photograph [on page 28 of the spring issue) are 1) the car which is definitely a pre-WWII model, and 2) the fact that the checkerboard pattern is still at the top of the square tower in the brickwork. Of course, a ’30s model car could have been parked there after WWII, but it’s highly unlikely. No new cars were made for about five years during the war, and people had to manage as best they could with the ones they got before the war. We had a ’37 Chevy
??? Taft Trivia The student literary magazine today is known as Red Inc., but what was the name of the Taft literary magazine that debuted in 1906 and lasted until 1952? A Vineyard Vines key ring will be sent to the winner, whose name will be drawn from all correct entries received. Please send your replies to the editor at the address or e-mail above. The last question must have been too difficult (or no one wanted coasters) judging by the paltry number of replies. If you need a little help this issue, you’ll find the answer at www.TaftSchool.org, with a little hunting. (Did you know the site has a search function?) Congratulations to Paul Zantzinger ’76, who knew that HDT attended Cincinnati Law School.
convertible that was being held together with baling wire until we were finally able to get a new ’47 Chevy. —Chris Davenport ’56 Ed. note: The checkerboard was the main clue for me, as well as the absence of the “new gym,” built in 1955. My source, the late Rick Davis ’59, told me once that the HDT tower suffered damage in the 1938 hurricane that hit Connecticut, but that by the time the damage was noticed/ or needed repair the war had started and skilled masons to repair the checkerboard pattern could not be found so they went with plain brick. About that shot of the two guys beside the pond, I could be wrong, but I remember a big photo shoot in 1940 or 41 that Hank Estabrook ’43 was invited to be in (tea with Edith Cruikshank) and I was not. And I think this shot of the guys and pond was part of that, and if I’m right (and the last time I was wrong was in 1943), those guys are Berent Friele (left) and Ned Andrews, both Class of 1942. x Master Sgt Friele ’43
(left) and classmate Jim Morrison in Accra, Ghana, April 1945— “a few days after we bumped into each other in Miami. We’d crossed the Atlantic in Liberator bombers. Friele was headed for China; I ended up in Liberia.”
Friele went to war and was a hero of the battle of Normandy. We met up by accident in Miami in 1945, both on our way to Africa and beyond. Funny, funny man. —Jim Morrison ’43
Getting a Grip I love the photo of Horace Taft at bat (page 64 of the spring issue) but am puzzled by his grip. Although he is batting right-handed, he is gripping the bat with his left hand superimposed on his right, as would a leftie. What gives? Was he dyslexic, or was this the style back then?
—John M. Lord ’63
—continued on page 58 Taft Bulletin SUMMER 2009 3
alumni Spotlight h George Potts ’69,
right, with Project Troubador at a primary school in the village of Ait Hani in the High Atlas Mountains, Morocco.
Music in Morocco While other members of his class were celebrating their 40th Reunion here on campus, Reunion Co-Chair George Potts ’69 was in Morocco, taking in all of the sights and sounds on the Djemaa el-Fna square in Marrakech with his friends from Project Troubador (see www.projecttroubador.org). “Talk about two different worlds,” says George. “Normally we play music around Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts as a trio called the joint chiefs (www.jointchiefsmusic.com), but in this case I finally took my friends up on a standing invitation I had to join them on one of their organization’s foreign journeys.” 4 Taft Bulletin Summer 2009
Every trip that Project Troubador funds is planned around performances for small communities in developing countries. “Unlike State Department tours, where musicians stay at nice hotels and play for Foreign Service personnel and dignitaries, Project Troubador works at a much ‘lower altitude,’ with a goal of creating better communication between diverse cultures— something my friends believe can only be done through direct one-on-one contact.” The Morocco trip was also made in support of Association Atlas, a local educational and ecotourism nonprofit operated by a French woman who runs a bed-andbreakfast in the remote village of Ait Daoud,
high in the Atlas Mountains. “She uses money raised through her work to fund the primary school in the village; her ultimate goal is to create better economic opportunities for the indigenous Berber people, especially the young girls.” “We played 18 gigs in 15 days and traveled more than 2,500 km through one of the most beautiful countries I have ever seen. For one whose idea of camping is staying at a Days Inn when I cannot find a Hilton, this trip was way out of my comfort zone. On the other hand, it was precisely for that reason that I had to go!” You can read more at http://georgepotts.wordpress.com/
Citation of Merit acknowledges a career devoted to education highest alumni honor and is given each year to a person whose lifework best typifies the school motto: Not to be ministered unto but to minister. “I fear that many students today leave college with anchors, not roots,” Merrow told the audience. “The anchor is, of course, the crushing debt that accompanies the college diploma, debt brought on by a national spasm of selfishness. Some of you (and many of our parents) benefited from the GI Bill after World War II, when our country invested in higher education. Back then we recognized that, when any one of us is well educated, the entire society is lifted up. It was a social investment, and it paid off with the largest expansion of wealth in history and the creation of a strong American middle class. It wasn’t all Courtesy of the Baltimore Sun Media Group. All rights reserved.
Time Turns Phantastic The Phish Reunion concert at Boston’s historic Fenway Park in May may have garnered more media attention, but ten days earlier Phish founder and lead singer Trey Anastasio ’83 headlined a ground-breaking concert with the Grammy Award-winning Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. Rolling Stone called it a “decidedly casual night at the symphony,” which Trey dedicated to his sister, Kristy Manning, who died three weeks before after a long battle with cancer. Her son Jason was in the audience.
John Merrow ’59 has built a career reporting on education. From newspaper to radio and finally television, his reports have examined the status quo of public education, asking the hard questions and following up weeks, months or even years later to see what changes have, or haven’t been made. On Alumni Day this year, he was awarded Taft’s Citation of Merit for his dedication. “You understood that education is more than learning in a classroom,” the citation reads in part, “and that the gift of life carries with it the obligation to try to make the world a better place. Your ability to impart knowledge has motivated others to change how we educate children to improve the quality of their lives.” The Citation of Merit is the school’s
rosy, of course. Most of higher education actually opposed the GI Bill, because it didn’t want millions of unwashed hardscrabble veterans on their campuses. And America didn’t pass the GI Bill for purely selfless reasons. Fear was a factor too: we did not want millions of GIs out of work and on the streets.” Follow his blog, Taking Note, at http://learningmatters.tv/blog/op-ed/
Trey joined the BSO and Music Director Marin Alsop, the first woman to head a major American orchestra, on May 21. The first half of the program featured classic Phish songs and Trey compositions, while the second half of the program featured the East Coast première of “Time Turns Elastic,” an innovative work, co-composed with Don Hart, with long, orchestral passages intertwined with epic guitar lines and vocals in the classic Phish vein. “Most of the time when people use an electric instrument with an orchestra, they destroy the capability to blend,” Trey said. “Our approach is to handle it as any other solo instrument. I play at the volume of say, an oboe, so Don can orchestrate around the guitar.” The performance got five standing ovations. “For their part, the orchestra seemed to be having a ball with the music,” the Baltimore Sun wrote, “playing with vigor and smiling whenever Anastasio went off on one of his trademark noodling solos” The Sun noted that Trey has been collaborating with traditional classical ensembles for several years now, but called “Time Turns Elastic” his “most ambitious effort in this field.” A recording of the work, performed by Trey and the Northwest Sinfonia, was also released in May (see In Print, page 6). The May 31 Fenway concert marked the start of a Phish Reunion tour that landed in New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, Tennessee, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Indiana and Wisconsin before the end of June.
Taft Bulletin SUMMER 2009 5
Alumni Trustee Steve B. Turner ’86 was elected to a four-year term on the Taft Board of Trustees in May. He became executive managing director at Standard & Poor’s in 2004, where he co-headed the Financial Data & Analytics Division and served as a member of the Operating Committee. Prior to that, Steve co-founded and was co-CEO of Capital IQ, which provided high-impact information and workflow solutions to leading financial institutions, advisory firms and corporations. Steve left S&P in July 2008 and moved to New Zealand, initially to take a year off and travel with his family, but that has recently turned into a more permanent move to New Zealand. This was the first time all three alumni trustee candidates were married to fellow Tafties. Steve married classmate Shannon Engels in 1995 and they now live in Wanaka, New Zealand, with their three kids, Sam, Callie and Will.
Time Turns Elastic Trey Anastasio ’83 Rubber Jungle Records, 2009
Morning Glory Farm and the family that feeds an island Tom Dunlop ’79 Vineyard Stories, 2009
Flashbacks Art Hansl ’49 Robertson Publishing, 2009 v Eliza Geddes ’97, 2008 Untitled, wood, silk and cardboard, 34’’ x 24’’
Eliza Geddes ’97 showed some of her recent sculptures in April at the Boomerang exhibition at “Room” in Lower Manhattan. Eliza’s sculpture works “examine her interests in surface and texture,” writes New York Art Beat. “Her assemblages examine the breakdown between painting and sculpture by combining painterly methods with sculptural uses of space.” There is no reverential treatment of the canvas in her work; it is ripped up, sculpted and treated with various wood stains and other substances, often incorporating ordinary items such as T-shirts and rubber bands with more traditional fine art materials. By combining both mediums of 6 Taft Bulletin SUMMER 2009
painting and sculpture into one work of art her sculpture work is an ongoing study of the two. Major influences in Eliza’s work have been Antoni Tapies, Eva Hesse, Robert Rauschenberg, Jackson Pollock and Cy Twombly. A portion of the proceeds from the exhibition went to New York Restoration Project, a nonprofit organization founded in 1995 by Bette Midler, dedicated to reclaiming and restoring New York City parks, community gardens and open space. Eliza also had a duo show in London last December at “Holster Projects” called Collective Disorder.
The Bitter Road to Freedom: A New History of the Liberation of Europe William I. Hitchcock ’82 Simon & Schuster, 2008
This ground-breaking work for vocals, guitar and orchestra composed by Trey Anastasio and Don Hart, blends the intrinsic elegance of classical music with searing blues-rock guitar, resulting in an exhilarating work that engages and challenges fans of both genres. “Neither of us had ever heard anything that uses a guitar as a serious instrument intermingled with an orchestra in the same way one would write a concerto for a violin and orchestra,” says
Trey, who first collaborated with Hart at the 2004 Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival while staging a piece from one of his solo albums, Seis de Mayo. “I grew up loving Ravel and Eric Clapton equally,” he continues. “So I kept saying to Don, ‘why can’t we have a piece of music that’s half Ravel and half Cream’s ‘Disraeli Gears’?” Both Trey, named one of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time by Rolling Stone and a founding member of the genre-melding rock
band Phish, and Don, who’s worked with a diverse group of musicians that includes Martina McBride, Collective Soul and Randy Travis and is currently composer-in-residence for Orchestra Nashville, are musical chameleons whose tastes cross all boundaries. While the pair’s collaborations on Trey’s Shine (2005) and Bar 17 (2006) may prefigure “Time Turns Elastic,” the composition actually began as a Phish song. More information at www.trey.com
Everyone on Martha’s Vineyard eventually ends up at Morning Glory Farm—celebrities, Islanders, summer visitors, foodies. Buying fresh, locally grown and prepared foods from Morning Glory is a rite of passage. The Athearn family, including daughter Prudy and sons Simon and Dan, became “real” farmers in 1979 when they bought a used tractor and set up a
table under a huge umbrella to sell vegetables— and moved into the vanguard of what’s known today as the “locally grown” movement Here, rich in detail and lush with the photographs of Alison Shaw, is the story of how the farm came to exist, the family that makes it happen, and the food that excites us all. The 70 recipes include favorites from both the farm
stand and some well-known island chefs. Tom Dunlop, a lifelong resident of the Island, is a former editor of and now contributing writer to Martha’s Vineyard Magazine. He is the co-editor of the second edition of the Vineyard Gazette Reader. Tom lives in New York City, where he also works as a film producer.
Flashbacks takes you on Art Hansl’s journey through life—Marine Corps, Mexico, Europe, a film career, all the adventures he experienced along the way and the interesting people he met. He was cast in action pictures that enabled him to travel to exotic places including Mexico, Italy, Morocco, Switzerland and Yugoslavia. Art was born in New York City with a silver spoon in his mouth—a spoon the size of a shovel, though it melted away during the Depression. His mother was a writer with a play on Broadway
at age 22; his father an associate of J.P. Morgan & Company. They fired him off to private schools at an early age, where he found an aptitude for languages. Commercials were a steppingstone to feature films—his first a barely visible gig in Cast a Giant Shadow with Kirk Douglas. He was usually cast in action pictures because he looked good and moved well, though his acting clearly hadn’t been nurtured by the Hollywood studio system. Location work took him to slave markets in
Marrakech, through an avalanche in Switzerland, and he survived a mob in Yugoslavia. But the dolce vita ended around 1968 and Art, among other expat actors, headed for California. Eventually he turned to writing with the encouragement of an outrageously beautiful French girl with whom he fell in love and married in a rare moment of insight. Art has written four novels, and now he has decided to tell the truth, as he remembers it, in Flashbacks.
In recounting the heroism of the “greatest generation,” Americans often overlook the wartime experiences of European people themselves—the very people for whom the war was fought. In this new book, historian William I. Hitchcock surveys the European continent from D-Day to the final battles of the war and the first few months of the peace. Based on exhaustive research in five nations and dozens of archives, Hitchcock’s ground-breaking account shows that the liberation of Europe was both a military triumph and a human tragedy of epic proportions. Will gives voice to those who were on the receiving end of liberation, moving them from
the edge of the story to the center. From France to Poland to Germany, from concentration-camp internees to refugees, farmers to shopkeepers, husbands and wives to children, the experience of liberation was often difficult and dangerous. Their gratitude was mixed with guilt or resentment. Their lives were difficult to reassemble. Bitter Road to Freedom was named a finalist for the 2009 Pulitzer Prize in general nonfiction. The Pulitzer jury described it as “a heavily documented exploration of the overlooked suffering of noncombatants in the victory over Nazi Germany, written with the dash of a novelist and the authority of a scholar.”
Will teaches history at Temple University in Philadelphia. He was born in Fukuoka, Japan, in 1965, and has lived in Tokyo, Tel Aviv, Paris, Brussels, Washington, DC, Boston and New Haven. He received a B.A. from Kenyon and a Ph.D. from Yale in 1994. He has also taught at Yale, where he won a teaching prize, and at Wellesley College. He is the author of France Restored: Cold War Diplomacy and the Quest for Leadership in Europe and The Struggle for Europe: The Turbulent History of a Divided Continent, 1945–present.
Taft Bulletin SUMMER 2009 7
For the latest news on campus events, please visit www.TaftSchool.org.
around the Pond
By Sam Routhier
h Art teacher emerita Gail Wynne at the joint show she had with daugher Amy ’84 in the Mark W. Potter Gallery. Bob Falcetti
Mother-Daughter Show Paintings by Amy Wynne-Derry ’84 provided the perfect complement to faculty emerita Gail Wynne’s work in clay sculpture in the Mark W. Potter Gallery’s first mother-daughter show. “I have always been consumed by the connections between science and art,” says Amy. “Lately, I have adopted the 8 Taft Bulletin SUMMER 2009
character of chronicler or scientific recorder in the studio as I make the work. I am documenting the degradation of the planet, recording futuristic topographical data and the last fleeting glimpses of the beasts that inhabit the earth.” Gail taught art at Taft from 1968 to 2000. After retiring, she taught ceramic
art at the Dunedin Fine Arts Center in Florida from 2001 to 2006. She now works on her clay sculpture and writing in her studio on Cape Cod, where she lives with her husband, John. They have four children, including Amy, and four grandchildren.
Field of Dreams Hardhat Headlines
v Larry Stone throws out the first pitch at the season’s home opener as current Athletic Director Dave Hinman ’87 looks on. Peter Frew ’75
The renovation of HDT and the addition of the new dining hall were not the only construction on campus this year. One of the other projects involved combining Facilities Director Jim Shepard’s zeal for improving Taft’s plant with a love of America’s pastime.
“I have a lot of heart for baseball,” Jim says. “There’s nothing like watching your kids play baseball, and I want our community to take pride in the sport.” Ideas began percolating early in 2008 about ways to honor athletic director emeritus and longtime coach Larry Stone
and thoughts quickly turned to a reconstruction of Rockwell Field. Jim shared the opportunity for brainstorming with Justin Lentz ’09, who is an aspiring architect. Justin used time in Loueta Chickadaunce’s art class to come up with a blueprint, and by the end of February, the project was in the works. The renovation includes two new dugouts with comfortable benches, water fountains, and lockers for helmets and bats, as well as new sod for the field, new bases and pitcher’s mound, as well as two bullpens and a batting cage. Because the field is contiguous with the main campus, they used the same bricks and mortar as Vogelstein dormitory. “I wanted the feel of a major league dugout,” Shepard said, “while maintaining the feel of the rest of the campus. People will drive by campus and wish they could play baseball here.”
Kabuki Music Ryo Tsuneoka visited from Tokyo, Japan, to share his knowledge of Tokiwazu, 300-year-old Japanese traditional music developed to accompany Kabuki theater. It was Tsuneoka’s first time performing in a Western country, and his enthusiasm was palpable as his smile graced the Bingham stage. With the assistance of Japanese teacher Seiko Michaels, Tsuneoka played a “matching game” with the audience to see if they could figure out which of his pieces recalled a winter scene, a thunderstorm, the spring and a residential atmosphere. He is the cousin of uppermids Rei and Ko Yazaki.
Taft Bulletin SUMMER 2009 9
around the POND
Legacy of 911 Yee-Fun Yin
“This is the most difficult decision a president has to make,” Former Deputy National Security Adviser Dr. J. D. Crouch told students at a Morning Meeting in April. “Put in context of what came before and the shock of 9/11 itself,” he said, “the decision to go to war in Iraq is easier to understand.” Reading from the Iraqi Liberation Act of 1998, he said: “It should be the policy of the United States to seek to remove Saddam Hussein’s regime from power and to replace it with a democratic government.” He went on to explain why he believes those words are so similar to those spoken by President Bush in 2003. “The risk calculus that a president has to make: Were we willing to live with it or did we believe we needed to fight against it? The dangers that appeared remote before the 9/11 now appeared very large, very upfront.” Dr. Crouch was deputy national security adviser until June 2007. He was a senior adviser to the president on national security matters, chaired the sub-cabinet Deputies Committee and was second in command at the National Security Council. He is currently a senior scholar at the National Institute for Public Policy and an independent consultant. His visit was sponsored by the Rear Admiral Raymond F. DuBois Fellowship in International Affairs.
A Ton of (Yee)-Fun The Potter Gallery hosted an in-house treat this spring. From April 2 to 20, photography teacher Yee-Fun Yin mounted an exhibit of his own work. Entitled “Daily Bread,” it featured shots taken of farms in the Watertown and Woodbury areas. The entire campus rallied around Yin’s impressive shots, demonstrating how in his two years of teaching, he has become a beloved member of the community. The photographs, which are a mix of black-and-white and color and are all digital prints, evoke the persisting relevance of agriculture in America. Yin told the Bulletin, “The sense of timelessness that the traditional film renders, using a large format 4 by 5 inch camera, helps to remind us of the long tradition of agriculture in our society.” Yin’s exhibit certainly reminded the campus that while we may exist in a world focused on technological advancement, agriculture remains both vital and vibrant right in Taft’s backyard. After the “Daily Bread” exhibit wrapped up, Yin took down those works
and replaced them with “Portrait of a Graduate.” From April 20 to 24, Yin’s prints, each 55 by 20 inches, took to the walls. Earlier in the year, Yin had solicited volunteers among the senior class to pose in a manner that would reflect what they bring to the Taft community. After the overwhelming response, Yin’s exhibit captured the diversity, talent and dynamism of the Class of ’09. “The ‘Portrait of a Graduate’ series, although it could only picture 30 students, was the best visual representation of the Taft community that I’ve seen,” said Dean of Multicultural Affairs Greg Ricks. “Having those images up made me extremely proud to work at this school.” On campus, Yin teaches all levels of photography courses and also advises several independent study projects each year. He can also be found frequently photographing campus events and battling fellow teachers on the squash courts. Away from Taft, he teaches photography at New Haven’s Gateway Community College.
v Kathy Demmon and Alexis McNamee were two of the seniors who volunteered for Yee-Fun’s “Portrait of a Graduate” project.
10 Taft Bulletin SUMMER 2009
Green Fair Taft enjoyed its first ever Green Fair this spring, an afternoon-long festival that encouraged the community to buy local goods and live in a sustainable manner. The fair was the culmination of a great year for TEAM [Taft Environmental Action Movement] and its new faculty co-adviser, biology teacher Carly Borken. Borken, who taught in Hawaii before arriving at Taft this year, has made an imprint on campus through her passion for environmentalism. The inspiration for the Green Fair came from two sources. First, Borken attended a sustainability conference last fall, which provided “a powerful message” to work with one’s neighbors to create an economic, educational and ecological
Andre Li ’11
On April 21, Taft hosted Eboo Patel, adviser to President Obama on issues of faith and author of the recent book, Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim. Patel spoke of the difference between pluralism and extremism, and how he sees interfaith cooperation as necessary for peace in the new century. In this vein, he founded the Interfaith Youth Corps, a national movement focusing on training “bridge builders.” Patel’s speech had such an impact that uppermid Jahdai Kilkenny decided to start an interfaith youth group on campus. Kilkenny told the Bulletin, “I loved Patel’s message, and I think it would go a long way to building community on campus to talk openly about our faith.”
relationship and build sustainability efforts. Second, during Borken’s six years of living in Hawaii, she enjoyed the annual Kokua festival, a day of music and local merchandising put on by musician and Honolulu resident Jack Johnson. Behind Vogelstein Dormitory, nine different vendors and three sets of students set up tables for visitors to enjoy. These vendors included the Housatonic Valley Association, the Northeast Organic Farming Association, La Palette bakery and Watertown Wicks candle shop. Student tables included a tie-dyed T-shirt station, a face-painting table and a seed planting station. “I think it went great!” said Borken. “The weather was wonderful, the students were wonderful and every vendor that came said it was totally worth their time to be a part of the day. I am excited to see it grow in the future, but I think it was the perfect start for the first year.”
n Students plant seeds at the first annual Green Fair on Earth Day this spring. John Lombard ’09
Borken is excited about the potential that TEAM has built this year, and looks forward to continuing on that success. “It has taken a lot of people here to get the ball rolling,” she said. “It’s been lots of little baby steps in terms of talking about issues more openly. We have an excited community with a lot potential to do what’s right.”
x Seniors Clifton Bonner-Desravines
and Patrick Salazar perform works from the album they created as a senior project. Andre Li ’11
Leaving Their Mark Each spring, dozens of seniors explore passions through their senior projects, culminating experiences that allow graduating students a new sense of academic freedom. This year, Taft has enjoyed 31 projects from 52 different seniors. These endeavors are of great variety: a few are physical changes to the Taft plant, while some are more academic and others are of a category all to themselves. Highlights from this year’s selection include: the creation of a curriculum for a women’s studies course, to be taught next spring in the History Department; the construction of a fire pit on the Jig Patio; a trio of senior boys learning how to breakdance; and the production of a Spinal Tap-style documentary about Taft. The chair of the senior projects committee is former “Around the Pond” writer Joe Freeman, who told the Bulletin, “This year’s projects are among the most creative and provocative that we’ve seen in recent years. I’m excited that the Class of ’09 has shown such independent initiative.”
Taft Bulletin SUMMER 2009 11
around the POND
v Congressman Chris Murphy visits Rachel Ryan’s government class after his Morning Meeting talk. Peter Frew ’75
Congressman Chris Murphy spoke about the power of youth and his hope for government at a Morning Meeting in April. He is currently in his second term representing Connecticut’s Fifth District, and serves on the Energy and Commerce Committee and on the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and its National Security and Foreign Affairs and Government Management, Organization and Procurement subcommittees. “One of the things that impressed me is his willingness to reach out to his constituents,” said AP Government teacher Rachel Ryan, who met him last winter while he was collecting for a local food bank. Describing himself as frequently “the youngest guy in the room,” Congressman Murphy outlined how his relative youth has been a distinct advantage on many
occasions. “We are at a unique moment in history,” he told students. “You’ve got to be in this game right now, in whatever way you can. This may be the most important two years—from a policy perspective—in a number of decades, especially in respect to this nation’s energy policy.” “I am unconditionally optimistic about government,” he added. “Sometime that means the government has to get out of the way. I get that; it’s not the solution for everything. But I think government can be a positive agent for change.” Above all, he wanted to share that optimism with students. “Everyone is going to tell you that the door is closed when you want to do big things…. If you just try to jiggle the handle and push a little bit you’re going to find that there really are a lot of doors that are open to you.”
Summer Reading The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
The Namesake takes one family from their tradition-bound life in Calcutta through their fraught transformation into Americans. On the heels of an arranged marriage, the young couple settles in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he does his best to adapt while his wife pines for home. When their son is born, the task of naming him betrays their hope of respecting old ways in a new world. And we watch as the son stumbles along the first-generation path, strewn with conflicting loyalties, comic detours, and wrenching love affairs. With empathy and penetrating insight, Lahiri explores the expectations bestowed on us by our parents and the means by which we come to define who we are.
12 Taft Bulletin SUMMER 2009
n Phil, played by Jake Cohen ’11, comes looking for his brother Benny (Sam Isaac ’10) to drag him off the bible movie set and back to the family farm in the spring production of Epic Proportions. Andre Li ’11
Epic Proportions In late May, Helena Fifer’s intermediate and advanced acting classes teamed up for Epic Proportions. The production featured nine students taking on the roles of extras on a movie set that combines elements of any classical film one could think of, from Ben Hur to Queen of the Nile. Two of the extras, brothers Phil and Benny, played by Jake Cohen ’11 and Sam Isaac ’10, fall in love with assistant director Louise Goldman, played by Lara Watling ’10, and a mix of hilarity and romance ensues. The show ran for two nights, May 24 and 25, and provided enjoyable relief as the student body moved into final exam study mode. Director Helena Fifer told the Bulletin, “We were glad to put on a play that both showcased the actors’ talents and made the audience laugh. It was challenging for the kids to take on such a variety of roles, and rapid-fire costume changes, but they met that challenge head-on.”
A Blast in the Black Box One small-scale theatrical productions made a huge splash this spring. Rick Doyle’s adaptation of Twelve Angry Jurors took the stage on three consecutive nights, from April 23 to the 25. In the renowned play, senior Nick Hurt played the lead role in convincing a group of largely impatient and cynical peers to uphold the “innocent until proven guilty” mantra of the American legal system. Other stars of the play included Ben Zucker ’09, who played the jury’s extreme curmudgeon, Sam Isaac ’10, Lara Watling ’10 and Julie Nam ’11, who played an East Asian immigrant who extolled the freedoms granted by due process in the U.S.
h Tempers flair in the jury room as twelve ordinary citizens decide a man’s fate. Andre Li ’11
Top College Choices for the Class of ’09 Let the Cranes Fall Down In the fall of 2008, seniors Sydney Low and Mel Mendez were looking to make their mark on Taft’s campus in a new way. As they brainstormed, they remembered the creation of an origami club by Ben Grinberg ’07 two years ago, and so they seized the opportunity to revive the club’s activity this year. In so doing, they have invigorated interest in origami all around campus, and have also made themselves visible in other campus events. Their biggest projects this year were helping community service chair Baba Frew with Christmas ornaments for the Choral Room’s tree, and helping student Deanna Kim ’11 with
constructing one thousand paper cranes. Although Low and Mendez have graduated, they have certainly gotten their club off the ground and are hopeful that origami will sustain its popularity down the road. Low told the Bulletin, “There are some underclassmen that really got into origami this year who had never tried it before. I hope that the club can work more with modular origami next year, since having multiple people to work on those makes it less boring and can lead to large impressive things.” Certainly, the Origami Club has potential to add excitement to an already vibrant arts community at Taft.
Wake Forest was the most popular college choice for the senior class this year, with 6, but together they selected more than 90 colleges and universities. Three or more members of the class plan to attend the following schools: Amherst, Boston University, Bucknell, Carnegie Mellon, Colby, Colgate, Colorado College, Columbia University, Columbia College, Cornell, Fairfield, Franklin and Marshall, Georgetown, Johns Hopkins, Princeton, Stanford, Trinity College, Tufts, University of Richmond, University of Virginia, Vanderbilt, Villanova, Wake Forest and Yale.
Taft Bulletin SUMMER 2009 13
around the POND
Success for Mathletes
The math achievements do not end with Phan, though, and Taft’s team is going a long way as well. A team featuring Phan, Jenny Jin, Brian Jang, Chris Zheng, Cathy Chen and Marieta Kenkovova participated in a team competition called the Purple Comet! Math Meet. This is an international competition with teams from 25 countries and 45 U.S. states. The team listed above finished in 2nd place overall!
Led by faculty adviser Tony Wion, the Taft math team has put together some extremely impressive results during the spring term. In the United States Math Olympiad, a two-day, nine-hour contest for the top 60 performers on prior national math tests, Taft uppermid Toan Phan earned the second place prize and an invitation to Washington, D.C.
Updates Promoted 1 Linda Chandler (Global Service and Scholarship interim head) 2 Baba Frew (Douglas Chair) 3 David Hostage (Hillman Chair) 4 Laura Monti ’89 (Littlejohn Chair) 5 Rachael Ryan (Mid Class Dean) 6 Nikki Willis (additional Senior Class Dean with Jack Kenerson ’82) 7 Jennifer Zacarra (Green Chair, English) Departing • Otis Bryant (History) • Ben Chartoff (Science) • Kris Fairey (History) • Anna Hastings (English) • Enyi Koene (Admissions) • Annabel Smith (Global Service and Scholarship) Hired • Emily Fontaine (History Fellow) • Ashley Goodrich-Mahoney (History) • Oscar Parente (Science Fellow) • Nick Smith (Science Fellow) • Shannon Tarrant (History Fellow) • Kisha Watts (Admissions) Head monitor 8 Bo Redpath ’10
14 Taft Bulletin SUMMER 2009
Lincoln Center Jo Goldberger ’84, Senior Project Manager for the Lincoln Center Redevelopment Project, spoke at Morning Meeting in April about her recent work. In spite of economic challenges, New York has been able to move forward on this $1 billion project during the past year. Goldberger has been the point person on a huge range of aspects of this project, and stressed to students how meticulous each element of the job has to be. In her presentation, titled “From Design through Construction,” Goldberger gave a brief history of Lincoln Center and made clear to students how the new project takes all aspects of the site into account in order to make the center more aesthetically pleasing as well as pedestrian friendly.
Something to SHOUT about Taft’s version of the Gay-Straight Alliance, SHOUT, has been in existence on campus for the past decade. SHOUT stands for Students, Homosexuals and Others, Uniting Taft, and the group took a step up this spring to increase their visibility and on-campus presence. After months of fundraising, co-chair Sydney Low did some research and hired the Boston-based gender-bending comedy troupe, “All the King’s Men,” to come to Taft on Saturday night, April 25. After that show was over, the campus turned to the Choral Room for a rainbow-themed dance, where all students who dressed in rainbow colors earned a dollar toward SHOUT’s account from the Headmaster’s budget. Said SHOUT co-chair Nick Tyson ’09, “The night was great for SHOUT; we showed that we could bring the whole campus together, and we were impressed with how everyone rallied around our cause. It was worth all the effort.”
For more on the spring season, please visit www.TaftSports.com.
spring SPORT wrap-up By steve Palmer
Girls’ Golf 12–1–1
Independent School Tournament Champions This talented team, which returns all of its players next year, won the Pippy O’Connor Independent School Golf Classic, the New England championship for girls’ golf teams. At Brae Burn Country Club in Newton, MA, Taft put together a very solid team effort for a 379 total, eight strokes up on rival Loomis. The Rhinos were led by the top-ten finishes of Bridget Wilcox ’10 and Nikki Yatsenick ’12, who both shot 87. Taft finished 2nd at the Founders League Championship and finished the season by hosting its own intra-squad match with the boys’ team to raise money for victims of domestic violence. Throughout this great season, co-captains Wilcox and Alex Dowling ’10 played well in the top two positions.
Boys’ Golf 14–1
Founders League Champions
h Captain Louis Carter ’09 tees off at Watertown Golf Club’s #10.
This was one of the finest golf teams Taft has seen, with a core of steady senior talent. They avenged their only regular season loss to Brunswick from early in the season by winning a very close match at home in the rain, 11.5–9.5. Also in wet, foggy conditions, Taft again won the Andover Invitational in Newport, RI, defeating a fine field of Deerfield, Exeter, Loomis, Tabor, Taft Bulletin SUMMER 2009 15
h Senior Co-Captain and 2009 All-American Johnny DePeters scores one of his three goals vs. Deerfield.
Andover, Salisbury and Hotchkiss. And the team’s first Founders League Championship since 2000 came on another wet day, at home, as Taft edged Choate by three strokes for the title. Though the Rhinos would finish sixth at the K.I.T. to end the season, throughout it all seniors Erik Hansen, Louis Carter, Max Winkler and Harry Russell played like a great team. Captain-elect Hunter Yale ’10 played an important role on this squad and will lead the team next year.
Boys’ Track 4–6 The big wins on the season came over Kingswood, Trinity Pawling and a close 74–70 score against Berkshire, for the annual Berkshire-Taft track trophy, created by the Harrison Williams family (Berkshire) in memory of Russell Jones (Taft). That exciting meet, under perfect conditions in Sheffield, MA, came down to the final event, the 4x400-meter relay. Taft’s strength this year was in the 400 meters, and the team of Connor Partridge ’10, John Barr ’10, Louie Reed ’11 and Mike Petchonka ’10 won the meet and went on to set a new school record of 3:28 in placing second at the Division 1 New England Championship meet. At that meet, Petchonka also placed 3rd in the open 400 meters (50.4). 16 Taft Bulletin SUMMER 2009
Girls’ Track 4–6 The highlights on the season included wins over Porters, Kingswood and Greenwich Academy, all solid teams, but the Rhinos were thin in several events. Scoring points in the Founders League and New England championship meets at the end of the season were tri-captains Lindsay Dittman ’09 in the 400 meters (60.8) and Katie Van Dorsten ’09 in the javelin (95′) and 4x400-meter relay, along with captain-elect Kristen Proe ’10 in the 300m hurdles (50.2) and discus (94′). Jahdai Kilkenny ’10 (shot put), Lindsay Karcher ’12 (4x400 relay) and Grace Kalnins ’11 (4x400 relay) also scored at the championship meets.
Girls’ Lacrosse 10–5 This was a unified, hard-working team with a good balance of senior leadership and younger talent. Co-captain Liesl Morris ’09 was a force all over the field throughout the season, and Erin Flanagan ’10 led the team offensively (32 goals). Both were named Western New England All Stars for their dominant play. Highlights for Taft included victories over strong teams from Andover (8–4), Westminster (16–7) and Choate (13–11, a game in which
middler Laurel Pascal ’11 tallied 7 goals. Co-captain MJ Van Sant ’09 (offensive) and Pell Bermingham ’10 (defense) were important contributors all season, and Julia Van Sant ’11 was named a Founders League All Star.
Boys’ Lacrosse 10–5 This year’s team, a group of incredibly hard-working young men with 19 seniors, went from 4–10 a year ago to 10–5 this year, a great turnaround that earned a 2nd place finish in the Founders League. Big wins came over Choate (8–2) and Loomis (11–4), but the key victory of the season came in the last home game versus Avon (8–5), to set Taft’s home record at 8–1. Leading the attack, Johnny DePeters ’09 scored 44 goals (102 career goals) and was named an All-American, one of two from our league. Jack Nuland ’09 put up a very strong 69.3 save percentage in net, and Henry Millson ’09 (League All Star) and Pat Clare ’09 had great seasons. For their impressive play throughout the season, Bo Redpath ’10 (22 assists) and Jesse Root ’09 (League’s top long-stick midfielder) received All Western New England honors. The performance and camaraderie of this special group of seniors will be missed.
very strong teams from Choate (4–3) and Deerfield (4–3) proved the talent and competitiveness of this young team. Throughout the season, Phil Simard ’11 played well at the #1 singles spot and the #1 doubles with captain Charlie Wagner ’09. Middlers Max Brazo ’11 and Herbie Klotz ’11 played in the #2 and 3 singles positions, while the team’s strongest spot was the doubles team of Cam Mullen ’10 and Ryan Collier ’10, who made it all the way to the New England finals.
h Captains Annie Morse and Schuyler Dalton ’09 christen the girls’ new crew shell, Oh Eight, before the boat’s inaugural home race as coach Brendan Baran and teammates look on.
Baseball 10–8 The 2009 Baseball squad had great team chemistry, and perseverance was their theme. Big wins against Deerfield (11–8), Kent (2–1) and Salisbury (11–2), and two against Hotchkiss, highlighted this season when Taft played competitively with all the best teams. So many games proved to be close, but co-captain and starting pitcher Alex Kendall ’09 was strong on the mound all season (4 wins, 29 strike outs, 9 walks), and also tied for the team lead in RBIs (22). Mike Moreau ’09 finished with a 2.08 ERA and had key hits in several games. At the plate, Greg Bayliss ’10 had a great season and put up a team-leading .512 batting average. Conor McEvoy ’10 was also powerful at the plate (.413 average) and as a pitcher, and Mike Moran ’11 put up 22 RBIs and 3 HRs. Kendall, Bayliss and McEvoy were named Colonial League All Stars for their fine play.
Softball 7–5 The Rhinos finished in the top five of the New England Class A Softball rankings, thanks to important wins over Greenwich Academy (5–0) and Loomis (21–0). Perhaps the most exciting game was early, a 5–4 come-from-behind win over Berkshire in the bottom of the 7th inning. Taft had some powerful pitching, with Rhydian
Girls’ Crew Glass ’12 (77 strike outs, 1.21 ERA), Sophie Kearney ’11 and Meg Boland ’11 on the mound. Glass also led the team at the plate, with a .490 batting average, followed by Kate Moreau ’11 at .485, who also had 13 stolen bases. Katie Carden ’10 was also a significant all-around contributor and will help next year’s team that returns six of the nine starters.
Girls’ Tennis 7–6 Exciting 4–3 wins over Kent and Hopkins, the final match, gave this spirited team a winning record for the season. Julia Cole ’09 clinched both matches with a hardfought, three-set victory. The #3 doubles team of Ali Connolly ’10 and Katie Drinkwater ’11 finished with an 11–2 record, while Kahini Dalal ’10 was a strong #1 singles all season. With the return of Dalal, Lydie Abood ’11 (#4 singles) and Maddie James ’12 (#1 doubles), Taft will be competitive again next year.
Boys’ Tennis 10–6 Taft came agonizingly close to winning the SNETL tournament again this year, falling a mere two points short of eventual New England champion Loomis-Chaffee. Yet, the 2nd place finish and wins over
Early wins over Choate and Berkshire set the pace for the season, while the highlight was winning the Alumnae Cup on Lake Waramaug late in the season. At that regatta, Taft swept all four races against Gunnery, Berkshire and Canterbury. They followed this up with a very strong performance at the New Englands, with the 2nd and 4th boats making it to the Grand Finals. Taft’s first boat (Schuyler Dalton ’09, Rachel Barnes ’11, Emily Ewing ’11, Annie Morse ’09 and Annie Ziesing ’09) also had a great day, placing 3rd in the Petite Finals and putting the team in 6th place. Ziesing, Dalton, Morse and Kira Parks ’09 have all been on the team for three or more years.
Boys’ Crew The season started with wins over Berkshire and South Kent and close losses to Choate and Gunnery. At the du Pont Cup, at Pomfret, Taft’s 5th and 4th boats earned outright wins over strong teams from Pomfret, St. Marks and BB&N, making for a solid team showing. Throughout the season, the first boat ( Jimmy Kukral ’09, Alex Cernichiari ’09, Zach Brazo ’09, Julian Siegelmann ’09, Max Mortimer ’10) raced hard and set the tone for the rest of this solid team. At the New Englands, the 4th boat would take an exciting 6th place, while the first boat finished 10th overall. Julian also set a new Taft record for the 2000-meter ERG test (6:15.6). Taft Bulletin SUMMER 2009 17
annual fund report 2008–09 I am pleased to announce that the 2008–09 Taft Annual Fund raised $3,551,985 for our school. This is a new record for the Annual Fund and a phenomenal result in a difficult environment. Thank you very much to all alumni/ae, parents, grandparents and friends of Taft for their generosity. Taft alumni contributed $1,775,380 to the Annual Fund, with 39% participating. Thank you to all of the class agents and volunteers who worked very hard to generate these results. Congratulations to the 50th Reunion Class of 1959—particularly to Bob Barry, class agent, and Mike Giobbe, gift committee chair—for contributing $500,000 in both cash and pledges to the Taft annual and capital funds this year. Thanks are also due to Brian Lincoln and the Class of 1974 for contributing $164,127 to the Annual Fund. John and Karin Kukral turned in another great performance leading the Parents’ Fund, raising $1,397,922 from current parents with 90% participating. With Tim and Nan O’Neill chairing the Parents’ Fund next year, I am confident that the Taft Parents’ Fund will continue to be one of the best among our peer schools. Thank you also to Leslie and Angus Littlejohn P’03,’05 and Anne and Bill Kneisel, P’96,’99, chairs of the Former Parents’ Fund, and to Daney and Lee Klingenstein, GP’07,’09,’12, Grandparents’ Fund chairs, whose leadership has been very important to our success. Finally, thank you to the Development Office staff, especially Kelsey Pascoe P’07, Amy Gorman P’12 and Joyce Romano ’92, who do fantastic work managing the Annual Fund and Parents’ Fund. This concludes my tenure as Annual Fund chair. I am pleased to announce that Dylan Simonds ’89 will take over next year. Dylan will be a terrific chair. Good luck! I am fortunate to be associated with the finest school in the world and to have had the opportunity to meet and speak with so many Tafties during these four years. Thank you all again for your support of our great school. Go Big Red! Holcombe T. Green III ’87 Annual Fund Chair
18 Taft Bulletin SUMMER 2009
2009 Class Agent Awards
v Parents’ Fund chairs Karin and John Kukral (pictured with children Johnny ’11, Julie, Jimmy ’09, and Karin’s father, John Bain) led a dedicated committee that raised $1,397,922 from 90% of the school’s current parents. Nan and Tim O’Neill, parents of Ellie ’11 and Caroline ’11, will chair the 2009–10 Parents’ Fund.
Snyder Award Largest amount contributed by a reunion class Class of 1974: $164,127 Class Agent: Brian Lincoln
Chairman of the Board Award Highest percent participation Class of 1959: 87% Class Agent: Bob Barry Gift Committee Chair: Mike Giobbe
McCabe Award Largest amount contributed by a non-reunion class Class of 1962: $92,471 Class Agent: Fred Nagle
Young Alumni Dollars Award Largest amount contributed from a class 10 years out or less Class of 2000: $7,320 Class Agents: John McCardell, Andrew Ford Goodwin *Awards determined by gifts and pledges to the Annual Fund as of June 30, 2009.
2008–09 Parents’ Committee Marion Markham and Randy Abood ’68 • Rachel Cohan Albert and Jonathan Albert ’79 • Colette and Dick Atkins • Liisa and Kenneth Bacco • Suzanne and Jeffrey Barrow ’82 • Nancy Cooley Benasuli • Ann and Douglass Bermingham • Jody and Brian Boland • Elizabeth and Bob Bostrom • Ellie and Doug Boyd • Callie and Hank Brauer ’74 • Vivian and Richard Castellano • Sharon Charles • Sheilah and Tom Chatjaval • Nancy Demmon Clifford ’81 • Cathy and Greg Crockett • Alanna and Tim Cronin • Mary and David Dangremond • Kathanne and Bob Fowler • Pippa and Bob Gerard • Kristine and Peter Glazer • Trish and George Grieve • Nana-Yaa and Ebenezer B. Gyasi • Kitty Herrlinger Hillman ’76 • Jane and Bob Hottensen • Ken Hubbard and Tori Dauphinot • Leslie and Herb Ide • Karen
and Paul Isaac • Barbara and Bob Jones • Elisabeth and Chansoo Joung • Susan and Tom Kendall • Lisa and John Kiernan • Meg and Stuart Kirkpatrick • Radford Klotz and Shahnaz Batmanghelidj • Val and John Kratky • Lorrie Landis • Karen and T.J. Letarte • Suzy and Joe Loughlin • Lisa and Joe Lovering • Christiana and Ferdy Masucci • Caroline and Guy Merison • Rory Millson • Kate and Hans Morris • Gigi and Averell Mortimer • Jill and Tom Mullen • Kippy and Peter North ’62 • Nan and Tim O’Neill • Valerie and Jeffrey Paley ’56 • Margi and Mike Picotte • Christine Plata • Lee and Michael Profenius • Carrie and Ted Pryor • Rosemarie and Scott Reardon • Seraphim and Tom Reycraft • Sue and Steve Rooney • Laura Childs and Ken Saverin ’72 • Staley and Carter Sednaoui • Jean and Stuart Serenbetz • Mary and Carl Siegel • John A. Slowik • Randi and Mitchell Solomon • Marnell and Rick Stover • Kristin and Don Taylor ’76 • Nancy and Robert Turner • Beverly and Mark Wawer • Lori Welch-Rubin ’77 • Alice and Peter Wyman • Jo Klingenstein Ziesing ’78 and Peter Ziesing
Taft Bulletin SUMMER 2009 19
ighlights of the festivities
this year include the dedication of the new baseball pavilion to Larry Stone, a mother-daughter show in the the Mark W. Potter Gallery by Gail Wynne and Amy Wynne-Derry ’84, and a stirring talk by Citation of Merit recipient John Merrow ’59 at the Alumni Luncheon. While the Collegium Musicum reunion concert has become a welcome new tradition, other annual events like the Service of Remembrance have been a part of the weekend for as long as any could remember.
alumni Weekend 2009 1
Members of the Class of ’74 enjoy the afternoon out on the Jig patio on Saturday.
Hord Armstrong ’59 and Muriel Losee, widow of Tom ’59, wait for the parade to start.
Dan ’74 and Sherrard Upham Côté ’73 get ready to tee off with Pete Rose ’74 at the Watertown Golf Club on Friday.
Taft Bulletin SUMMER 2009 21
alumni Weekend 2009 4
Laurie Odden Brown ’89, Patsy and Lance Odden, Lu Stone and daughter Katey ’84 at the dedication on Saturday of the new baseball pavilion honoring Larry Stone
22 Taft Bulletin SPRING 2009
Peggy Lou and Bob Feldmeier ’39 with granddaughter Julie ’99 at the Old Guard Dinner
Joe Knowlton ’64 with Joanne Caldara (wife of Hugh ’64) and Jane Beddall (wife of Kit Brown ’64) at the dinner on Friday
Classmates Joe Dillard and Brooke Sheppard Stahl at the 25th Reunion Dinner on Friday
The 50th Reunion Class of ’59 starts the weekend off with a dinner on Thursday.
The girls of ’04
Pete Petitt, Matt Wilcox and Jonathan Rademaekers perform for their classmates at the Class of ’89 reunion party in Litchfield.
Reunion Chairs Holly Sweet Burt and Nancy Goldsborough Hurt at the Class of ’79 party at the Watertown Golf Club on Saturday
Headmaster Willy MacMullen ’78 welcomes Carol Wu ’89.
Ro and Bill Hoblitzelle ’49 and Dave Forster ’62 at the Class Secretaries and Agents Breakfast
Taft Bulletin SUMMER 2009 23
alumni Weekend 2009 Lawrence Hunter Stone Baseball Pavilion
The school honored longtime coach and athletic director emeritus Larry Stone on Saturday with the dedication of the new Lawrence Hunter Stone Baseball Pavilion at Rockwell Field. Hundreds of alumni and friends, and even former umpires turned out for the occasion, which included the unveiling of a bronze plaque to be placed in the dugouts as well as a souvenir painting by Loueta Chickadaunce for the Stone family to remember the occasion. For Larry, the best part of the day was perhaps the varsity team’s win over Westminster.
Larry Stone thanks Jim Neil ’72 and Headmaster Willy MacMullen ’78.
24 Taft Bulletin SPRING 2009
Artist Amy Wynne-Derry ’84 visits with classmate Tolly Gibbs Zonenberg at a reception for Amy’s joint show with her mother, longtime art teacher Gail Wynne, in the Mark W. Potter Gallery.
1984 Classmates Derek Pierce and Brad Ring visit with former faculty member Jim Mooney ’74.
Ed Fowler ’84 rallies his class during the parade.
David Penning ’49 and Ed Borcherdt ’49 enjoy the afternoon on campus.
School monitor Julie Foote ’09 and rising head monitor Bo Redpath ’10 help lead the parade.
Lincoln dons a newboy tie for the occasion of the 50th Reunion Dinner. j
Photography by Bob Falcetti Phil Dutton Peter Frew ’75 Andre Li ’11
Taft Bulletin SUMMER 2009 25
by Tom Strickland
You can listen to the complete remarks from the day at www.TaftSchool.org/news/grad/audio09.aspx. 26 Taft Bulletin Summer 2009
v Aurelian Award winner Diana Saverin x Tom Strickland reminds graduates to chart their own paths and find joy in the journey.
hen I first set foot on the Taft campus in 1999, I was immediately struck by the natural beauty and exquisite architecture. As I listened to then headmaster Lance Odden address a group of parents, I learned of the vision of Horace Taft: to create a school with an ethos of preparing students to serve. As I look back now a decade and two graduates later, I know that this vision from the 19th century is still very much alive at 21st-century Taft. My wife, Beth, and I watched over the years as Annie ’04 and Callie ’09 were inspired by the idealism of so many outstanding teachers. I saw this spirit nurtured by the community service programs at Taft and admired how our daughters and so many of their classmates journeyed around the world during their summers to perform volunteer work from Fiji to Vietnam. In a country and a world so desperate for leadership, I can think of no greater educational mission than to teach the importance of helping others, and I applaud and thank Willy MacMullen and this fabulous faculty for keeping this flame burning brightly. As we came to know Taft, Beth and I also learned of its culture of excellence—a culture that demands the best efforts of its students in every activity—in the classroom, on the sports field, in the performing arts. At every turn, doing good work is not enough; doing your best work is what is expected. Effort grades matter, and more than once we read a teacher evaluation that acknowledged superior performance but also challenged our daughters to do even better. A third pillar of the Taft educational experience we came to learn is the high standard of integrity expected from every student. Honesty and playing by the rules are demanded, and from time to time this is brought home in difficult fashion when some students are faced with the painful consequences of their behavior. None of this would work without the extraordinary faculty that fills this beautiful campus with intellectual energy and sparks the creative minds of these students. Over the years our daughters have been inspired and challenged by great teachers.
Taft Bulletin Summer 2009 27
n Japanese teacher Seiko Michaels
with John Lombard, who, in addition to winning the Japanese Prize, also earned the P.T. Young Music Award, the Sherman Cawley Award for excellence in English scholarship and high honors recognition for his senior research thesis. He also received the David Edward Goldberg Memorial Award for his Independent Studies Projects.
Graduates, as you set out on your journey, think big, because your task is nothing short of saving the world. Our task, as parents, is to cheer you on and get out of your way. You are, along with your peers throughout the country, America’s best hope for the future. We need you to reach your full potential, as we look to a world beset by war, economic uncertainty and environmental challenges. This point is made well by one of my favorite singers/songwriters, Bono from U2: Every generation gets a chance to change the world Pity the nation that won’t listen to its boys and girls ’Cos the sweetest melody is the one we haven’t heard As you go about preparing yourselves for your place in history, let me offer a few observations based on my experience. First, let me encourage you to remember the lessons you learned at Taft, starting with a commitment to excellence. Always bring your “A” game to everything you do, whether it’s your summer job bagging groceries or writing your first college paper. You never know who’s watching, and you will learn that first impressions go a long way. More importantly, if you get in the habit of putting forth your best effort at everything you do you will find that the world will come to your doorstep. And you will outdistance others with equal or more talent who lack that commitment. More often than not, successful people in every field—the arts, academia, sports and business—attribute their success less 28 Taft Bulletin Summer 2009
to natural ability than to their refusal to do less than their best. For me, it was taking my modest athletic skills and pushing myself hard enough that I ended up playing in the Orange Bowl for the LSU Tigers. Or doing the very best I could as a volunteer knocking on doors in my first foray into politics in 1980 and seeing that lead eventually into challenging and rewarding opportunities in public service. I was always surrounded by better athletes and smarter people, but I have tried to separate myself by hard work and focus. Hand in hand with bringing your “A” game to everything you do is the lesson of perseverance. You will define yourself more by how you deal with adversity than how you deal with success. There will be setbacks, and how you respond will determine how far you go in life. In my pursuit of elective office I developed a skill I never really wanted—delivering concession speeches. I ran for the U.S. Senate in 1996, won a tough primary but lost a very close general election. Bowed, but not broken, I threw myself back into my law practice and was later appointed as the U.S. Attorney for Colorado. I was sworn in the day after the Columbine tragedy and spent my first day on the job at the school with the attorney general. I ran for the U.S. Senate again and lost another equally close race, but I knew that I didn’t want to be defined by those defeats, nor did I want our three daughters to fear failure and to shy away from dreaming big dreams. So I got up, brushed myself off and forged ahead. In retrospect, I also learned a lot about humility, and I know I’m a better man for these lessons. In this regard, I’m reminded of a story of an acquaintance of mine. In 2000 he was a 39-year-old little known state senator in the Midwest. Having run once for Congress and lost in a primary, he still aspired to higher office. He was in Los Angeles at the Democratic Convention but couldn’t get credentials to get inside. He called his wife from a pay phone and got an earful about needing to be back home with her and their daughter. He went to a cash machine and tried to get some cash but was rejected. All
, The faculty in full regalia
, Seniors give
Valedictorian Jenny Jin, left, a standing ovation.
in all, not a great day. That person was Barack Obama, and eight years later he was elected president of the United States. Clearly, he was determined to push through adversity and setbacks and to pursue his dreams. From Lincoln to Churchill, the biographies of our greatest leaders include such experiences. Without a doubt my decisions to leave high-paying jobs in the private sector in order to pursue public service were the best I’ve ever made, and I’ve been happiest when I’ve been involved in public service. Most recently, I gave up a job as a top executive in order to join the Obama Administration. The hours are long and the pay is a fraction of what I was making, but do I have a cool job—overseeing all the National Parks and Wildlife Refuges and enforcing the Endangered Species Act. I deal with climate change and renewable energy, with polar bears and wolves. Earlier this week I spent two days in the Everglades with blue herons, egrets and alligators. I would like to make a pitch to those of you drawn to environmental issues to consider public service in this arena. The challenges have never been greater, and the need for talented leadership more urgent. And, finally and most importantly, find joy in the journey. There is much to celebrate in life, and having fun is not only okay but also essential for the soul. As I first sat down to work on my remarks I thought back to my own mindset in 1970 and my high school graduation. I remember how my generation believed that we had to find our own way, and we weren’t very interested in what our parents had to say. One of my favorite songs from that era is now one of Callie’s, Cat Stevens’ “Father/Son.” First, the father offers his advice:
I was once like you are now and I know that it’s not easy To be calm when you’ve found something going on But take your time, think a lot Think of everything you’ve got For you will still be here tomorrow, but your dreams may not. Then, the son responds: How can I try to explain, when I do he turns away again It’s always been the same, same old story From the moment I could talk I was ordered to listen Now there’s a way, and I know that I have to go away I know I have to go. As you sit here today surrounded by those who love you the most, our message to you is that we recognize that you must chart your own way. So, we wish you God speed to write the sweetest melodies the world has not yet heard. Tom Strickland currently serves as chief of staff to U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and as assistant secretary of Fish and Wildlife and Parks with the Department of the Interior. Before joining the Interior, he was executive vice president and chief legal officer of UnitedHealth Group. An attorney for a prominent Denver law firm for 15 years, he then served as U.S. Attorney for the District of Colorado. In 1996 and 2002 he was a Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate. From 1982 to 1984, he served as chief policy adviser for Colorado Governor Richard Lamm.
Taft Bulletin Summer 2009 29
It is so difficult to capture the essence of a class, and perhaps I should resist the urge, but that’s what you do. A class becomes a single living thing, a being—with its attendant strengths and frailties. When I asked seniors what made this group unique, I heard this: “We are outspoken and fearless…[and also] reliable friends, dedicated scholars and active participants”; “We move forward even in tough times”; “We are driven, we are stubborn, and we don’t accept failure”; “We are independent and bold, powerful thinkers and advocates for free will.” The poet would say you were like flint and steel, hard-edged and sharp, and throwing sparks, then flame, then warmth. You were like an August thunderstorm, your years a single hour that sees a full display of power: potent charge and released energy, flashes of lightning, rumbles of thunder, the arcing rainbow. I think you have been like some large, loud family, in a small car, on a long drive: a lot of love, a lot of noise. At times I wanted to turn around to the back seat and say, “We’re almost there!” You fought with each other, the way strong, smart siblings do, each of you convinced you were right. When the faculty said, “I think we are going to turn to the left,” you said, “The right looks kind of interesting, too.” So now we’ve arrived, and I can’t tell you how glad I am we took the trip together. Seniors, you have been given an opportunity that is staggering, and I hope you realize it. If I am right, you’ll carry the lessons of Taft like DNA. If I am right, you will need to work really hard in the years ahead. And if I am right, you might serve and better our world, and this destiny that is both daunting and thrilling. It is that destiny that lies just beyond that arch.
x The school’s newest alumni, from left: Dan Henry, Daniela Garcia, Jessica Yu and MJ VanSant
30 Taft Bulletin Summer 2009
n Guest Speaker Tom
Strickland P’04,’09 and Headmaster Willy MacMullen ’78
As we get older, we both grow and shrink. We gain knowledge of our significance as well as our insignificance. Knowledge of how significant we are, comes from interactions with our peers. In school, in sports, on the stage and in the dorms, we come to realize how smart, athletic, talented or compassionate we are using our classmates as a benchmark. We become cognizant of our insignificance in the same manner, through interactions. As children, we have a heightened sense of our importance as the world revolves around our family and our family revolves around us, but as we grow, the world gets bigger with us, and we realize that there are thousands to whom we mean nothing. We learn to appreciate our parents and our teachers, those who do treat us as though our existence is not only relevant but also meaningful. After Taft, if we don’t make a difference in the world, it won’t be because we couldn’t. It will be because we wouldn’t. Our future really comes down to the question of what to fear; I fear only insignificance—not making a positive impact. Only we can render ourselves impotent with our excuses and our insecurities or even the lack of a sense of urgency. Let’s not allow ourselves to give anything less than our best, not sacrifice the gifts we’ve been given and, most of all, not doubt that we can become someone significant in a world of millions striving for the same thing.
Photographs by Andre Li ’11 and Peter Frew ’75
v Family and friends try to capture the moment for posterity.
, Class speakers Hannah Vazquez and Paul Kiernan
The past few days I’ve been asking people what they think makes the Class of 2009 special. I jotted down certain key words that people consistently used to describe us—words like passionate, stubborn, determined and independent, all of which are qualities that have contributed to our success as individuals. However, the list also contains words like respectful, openminded and accepting, and it is these words that have allowed us to thrive as a class. We arrived at Taft—some of us four years ago, some of us later—as young individuals confused about our place in a new community. Since then, we’ve developed alongside one another and, with the guidance of the incredibly caring faculty, have discovered our own identities and niches in the school. Each member of our class has firm opinions and passions that we are convinced of and will fight for, but we are still always open to what others have to say. This attitude has created an environment in which we have fed off of one another and grown together. As I think about my experience at Taft and the effect this class has had on me, I am drawn once again to Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem, Ulysses, which states, “I am a part of all that I have met.” Class of 2009, each and every one of you has become a part of me, and I am without a doubt better for it. j
Taft Bulletin Summer 2009 31
Joe Freeman â€™62
collects, competes and champions classic cars.
by Ethan Gilsdorf
Dirk de Jager
he New Hampshire Motor Speedway’s 19th Annual Vintage Racing Celebration and Classic Car Show is no typical day at the races. For starters, the grandstand’s 95,491 seats are empty. Instead, the vintage racecar enthusiasts gather in the infield. They’re generally not big Dale Earnhardt or Jeff Gordon fans, either. In fact, they tend to look down on stock car racing. Nor is the noise rising from the 1.058-mile track that homogenous, ear-splitting NASCAR-style whine. Rather, in late-spring sun glare, the racecars rounding the oval rattle, buzz and tear open the air. They’re a motley crew of some of the most illustrious vintage Midgets, Sprint cars, Championship cars, and Roadsters ever made. And the car that Joe Freeman ’62 drives, number 25, a 1915 Duesenberg, resembles a long white cigar on wheels, not a vehicle, and its sputtering sounds more like an airplane than a racecar. Suddenly, fire bellows from number 77. The car spins a full 360 degrees and stops. The few dozen spectators perk up to see the damage. Out come the yellow flags, the fire truck and ambulance. The driver walks away, unhurt, but due to the oil and debris on the track, the rest of the race is called off. “The guy blew his engine,” says Freeman, after driving his Duesenberg back to the North Garage and stripping out of his fire-retardant suit. “That guy was not driving well. He was driving dangerously.” Freeman curses. “I don’t think he’ll be invited back. You’re going fast and you can hurt here.” Freeman, red-faced from his days spent on the hot track, owes his zeal for racing in part to Taft. He recalls a teacher who periodically took him for a spin in his Porsche. After the rides, Freeman was hooked. “I remember I was up all night reading a book called The Racing Driver: The Theory and Practice of Fast Driving.” (Another book, The Great Savannah Races, written by Julian Quattlebaum ’44, Freeman found in the school library.) He began going to races. After graduating from Yale, and three years with the Peace Corps in Micronesia, he began working for anti-poverty programs in New Haven. In 1970, he attended the driving school at Lime Rock Park (not far from Taft) and the Jim Russell School
in Mont Tremblant, Quebec. That same year, he bought his first racecar, qualified for his first race and thus begun his long love affair with racing. Retired from regular full-time work, he’s now fully immersed in the hobby. He owns a collection of antique cars; he has served in the nonprofit world as president of the Society of Automotive Historians and board president of the Larz Anderson Auto Museum in Boston and served on other nonprofit boards like the School of the Museum of Fine Arts and he judges races and car shows. It’s safe to say, the man is driven by racecars.
“At a time when most people are winding down their careers, I’m winding up.”
v Previous page: Joe Freeman ’62 gets his 1938 Sparks-Thorne up to speed on the racecourse. x This 1915 Duesenberg is Freeman’s prize possession— the second oldest in existence.
“At a time when most people are winding down their careers,” he says with a chuckle, “I’m winding up. I like what I do. It’s a passion. It’s exhausting, but it’s a passion. And not a small part of that passion is sitting behind the wheel of these things and driving them.” Along the road, Freeman almost became a serious driver himself. During a five-year racing career in the early ’70s, he even qualified for a national championship runoff, finishing seventh in a Brabham BT-35 Formula B car. But in 1975, calamity struck. After a serious accident at Lime Rock on a practice day, that caused two broken legs, a compression fracture in his back and a concussion, he decided perhaps his dream of checkered flags was dead. “My wife said at the time, ‘You don’t have enough money for alimony and racing,’” he jokes. “‘You gotta stop.’” Freeman did, attending the Kennedy School of Government, working on and off in public health and public administration, all the while ramping up a second career as an author of articles about racing history for such publications as Automobile Quarterly, Vintage Motorsport and others. He began collecting memorabilia and photos. He now runs a publishing company, Racemaker Press, based in Boston, which has put out or distributes a dozen books on racing history like the aptly-titled Damn Few Died in Bed. “I can’t believe he’s making money, but he’s going full bore. He’s still going at it,” says
Gordon White, a former newspaper reporter from Deltaville, Virginia, and Freeman’s friend of 20 years. The two run into each other on the classic car circuit at racetracks in Loudon, Milwaukee, Indianapolis and Monterey. Racemaker is publishing Gordon’s book, Leader Card Racers: A Dynasty of Speed, later this year. “It’s a lot of nostalgia,” he says. “We both do it because we enjoy it.” But to participate in the hobby at Freeman’s level requires a financial commitment—hiring mechanics, finding a place to store a collection and getting the cars to the various venues. Ever since his accident, Freeman sticks to classic cars—“I think it’s safer,” he says—and he owns 12 of them, “some operational, some not.” There’s his oldest, a 1914 Mercer Raceabout, what he calls one of the best preserved of the approximately 20 still in existence; his 1956 Cooper-Norton (“all original, down to the leather on the seats and the steering wheel,” he says with obvious glee); his 1969 Lotus Elan; and a 1925 Bugatti Type 30. Many of the cars can claim so-called Championship or “Champ” pedigree. That is, the actual car once competed and won. For example, his 1938 Sparks-Thorne Little 6 finished second at Indy in 1939 and third in 1941. Driving it today takes considerable skill: it only has a handbrake. Going into a turn, Freeman has to take his hand off the steering wheel, use the handbrake and downshift, all at the same time. Freeman calls it “multitasking.” His prize possession is that 1915 Duesenberg, the second oldest in existence. (The oldest, a 1913, is in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum.) It is believed Freeman’s took second place at Indy in 1916. Knowing its original parts wouldn’t last, Freeman commissioned a custom casting of a new engine block. After an expensive, five-year process he had a new engine. “It’s a piece of American history that’s important to preserve,” he says. “I want to preserve it as an operating automobile.” Back in his cramped Beacon Hill office, surrounded by stacks of books on his favorite cars like the Bugatti and Aston Martin, he reflects on his passion for the older cars. (Of the modern NASCAR cars, “We call them taxicabs,” he says. “Why would I want to get into a 200-mile-perhour traffic jam?”) Compared with street cars, stock cars and touring cars, which have their
wheels below the body or behind fenders, with open-wheel cars like Freeman’s, the wheels lie outside the car’s main body. “The wheels [of adjacent cars] touch each other and there’s no metal between you. You can go flying,” he admits. “It’s a bit snobbish but I’ve always felt that open-wheel racing separates the men from the boys.” As the custodian of these cars, he’s had his share of close calls. The danger of a crash always lurks, but the risk, he says, is worth it. Even though some vintage cars, like the Duesenberg, are priceless, Freeman feels getting them out on the track is a better fate than gathering dust in some barn or being stuck in some museum. “To see them run the way they were intended to be run,” Freeman says. “These were designed for nothing but racing.” And racing is where Freeman is clearly most in his element, bopping around the country, New Hampshire one week, Indianapolis the next, running his cars and talking shop. “We’re all gear heads!” he yells over a revving engine as he walks down the rows of cars, chatting up the other drivers and mechanics. “What’s that? A 255? A 270? Wow.” The guys, and it’s mostly guys, know the cars, the drivers, who won what when and where. Yet Freeman, White and many of the other vintage racecar fans keeping the sport alive at Loudon are far from their prime. He worries about the future of the hobby, whether kids today can get as excited about racing as he did.
“Who’s going to care about these vintage cars in 30, 40 years?” he laments. He’s concerned about the potential collapse of the American automobile industry. And he’s occasionally wistful about the racing career, the “pipe dream” that could have been. “There’s a little Walter Mitty in it.” But he accepts his age with grace. “At 66 my eyes aren’t like they were when I was 24,” Freeman admits. “[Cars] could bite you then and they can bite you now.” What happens at Loudon and other vintage events is not competitive. It’s not real racing. As one bystander puts it, “They’re not here to race. They’re here to get the heart pumping.” Or, as Freeman says back at the garage, “We’re just getting them up to speed.” The drivers and cars may be old, but the speeds are impressive. “Today I was going 90-plus, 100 on the straights, 85 on the curves.” His 1938 Sparks-Thorne and his 1960 Indy Roadster will go 160 to 165 mph. It’s not hard to see the teenage Taft kid smiling beneath the older man he has become. Freeman’s heart still revs and roars. And when he’s not tooling around town in his 1994 Jeep Cherokee, he’s been known to take his 2003 Audi A4 wagon on the Mass Pike, step on the accelerator and see how far back to his youth he can travel. j Ethan Gilsdorf writes for the New York Times, Boston Globe and National Geographic Traveler. His book Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks: An Epic Quest for Reality Among Role Players, Online Gamers, and Other Dwellers of Imaginary Realms comes out in September.
s a t s i n o i h s a f e th
by Bonnie Blackburn Penhollow ’84
The world of high fashion may seem a long way from the dress-coded halls of Taft, but for these six alumni, beautiful and stylish clothing has become their life’s work. They are entrepreneurs and fashion critics, but all have one thing in common: they love looking—and helping others look—fabulous.
36 Taft Bulletin Summer 2009
alexis maybank ’93 In some cases, going viral is a bad thing. But when it comes to Alexis Maybank, going viral has been great for business. Maybank is the founder, along with long-time friend Alexandra Wilkis Wilson, of the Gilt Groupe, an online company that offers invitation-only sample sales from many of the country’s top fashion houses. In May, the group surpassed 1 million members, all of whom came at the invitation of earlier members and the company itself. The company offers 30 sales per week. Each sale lasts 36 hours and features handselected styles from a single designer at prices up to 70 percent off the retail price. And unlike traditional sample sales, there’s no fighting in the fitting rooms. “It’s unbelievable how quickly people can make a decision on brands they love,” Maybank said. “It’s the thrill of the chase. We call them our shopping athletes.” Maybank’s company may be new, but she’s an old hand at the online retail world. She was one of the first employees of a little company known as eBay, where she helped found eBay Motors and launched eBay Canada. Deciding to leave the security of eBay to venture into the unknown was a bit scary, she said. “We really had no idea what to expect, we … had no idea if we’d get another sale. That very first sale we watched and wondered who would come, and when we watched our first sale sell out in two hours, we thought, this might actually work,” she said. “Then brands started calling us … as soon as you start seeing people say, wow this is cool and inviting their friends… that little buzz you start to feel, it had that underground feel. Everything has grown virally by people inviting their friends. It’s been something that totally evolved.”
Designers work directly with the Gilt Groupe’s buyers to sell exclusive collections, and the company now has a 100,000-squarefoot distribution center in Brooklyn where the company ships thousands of items each week. “We offer a bigger distribution channel for [designers],” she said. “At this point, because we’re a meaningful channel for them, they’re making special lines and collections that are only available on Gilt Groupe.” Maybank now serves as chief strategy officer, looking at new ways to expand the business. The Gilt Groupe recently expanded into Japan, and will be rolling out a travel-oriented sale site in the coming months. She said her business is booming in spite of
v Alexis Maybank ’93, left, and partner Alexandra took Manhattan’s famous sample sales online. She extends a special invitation link for Tafties interested in learning more: www.gilt.com/taft
Taft Bulletin SUMMER 2009 37
the fashionistas x Theodore Crispino ’95 left the law two years ago to become VP of operations at the Savile-Row styled Duncan Quinn, which now has stores in New York, L.A. and Dallas.
the recession—even, perhaps, because of it. “People still want to care how they present themselves, they’re certainly trying to obtain value—and there’s a psychological aspect to it. It’s not acceptable to walk out of a department store with 10 bags,” because the era of conspicuous consumption seems to be at an end. “In many ways you’re quicker to point out your savings than your spending,” she said.
theodore crispino ’95 Theodore “Teddy” Crispino wasn’t always a high-fashion maven. In fact, he’s also a lawyer. It was at a law firm that Crispino met Duncan Quinn, who was always very nattily turned out. “I was working as a paralegal in a law firm,” he said. “The firm was business casual, but we kept wearing suits. We became really good friends, and Duncan began bringing me shirts from England. Pretty much just because of the love of dressing like that, we decided to open a store—he wanted to bring that here.” “That” is Savile Row-style high fashion for men. Duncan Quinn’s self-named shop is one of the top stores for fashionably dressed men in New York City, Los Angeles and Dallas. The store has kitted out fashionable men such as basketball star LeBron James and actor Willem Dafoe. The pair opened shop six years ago, but it wasn’t until two years ago that Crispino quit being a lawyer and moved full time into being the vice president of operations, where he oversees everything from measuring the perfect inseam to ensuring all suits are completed in their 38 Taft Bulletin SUMMER 2009
proper time frame. Neither he nor Quinn has any formal fashion design training. “It’s all self-taught. We design everything ourselves. We sit down and figure it out,” he said. “The fall stuff ’s inspiration is coming from Viggo Mortensen’s Russian gang tattoos [from the 2007 film Eastern Promises]. We sit down and come up with this stuff. We’re guys and we like wearing this stuff.” The suits take 53 hours to create, and are fitted and tailored by English and Italian tailors in the same manner as 100 years ago, Crispino said. “It’s so much better than working at a law firm, which isn’t too much of a stretch,” he said. “It’s extremely rewarding .”
anne kerr kennedy ’90
aaron dickson ’98
n One of Aaron Dickson’s
designs for Vera Wang. “We are a very hands-on company,” she says. “It’s very artisanal, very artistic … which is why I enjoy working there so much.”
Vera Wang is one of the nation’s top designers, and Aaron Dickson is one of Vera Wang’s top designers. Her days are spent at Wang’s side, coming up with new designs for Vera Wang’s ready-to-wear line that sells in high-end department stores. She’s been with Vera Wang since interning with the designer as a student at the Rhode Island School of Design. “It was all about luck and timing,” Dickson said of getting hired with the famed designer. “I had interned with her my senior year in college … and when I graduated I checked to see if I could come back. One of the assistant [designers] was leaving” and Dickson got the job. A typical day for Dickson involves fitting different designs beside Wang. “I spend most of my day fitting with Vera,” she said. “We are a very hands-on company. It’s very artisanal, very artistic. It’s more like sculpture. It’s very hands on … which is why I enjoy working there so much.” She’s currently working on the Spring 2010 line, and said Wang’s inspirations come mainly from artists. “We work with different artists, different periods of paintings, colors and textures and patterns and prints,” she said. “That’s usually where we find a lot of inspirations.” Dickson said Vera Wang’s recent move into mass-market fashion with entry into department stores such as Kohl’s lets the designer’s work be worn by everyone. “We want to make clothes that people want to wear, that are easy,” she said. “Fashion should be accessible. We’re excited that everyone can appreciate [Vera Wang’s] aesthetic.”
Anne Kerr Kennedy used to do brand strategy for a large corporation. She hated it. Feeling stifled, she longed to run a small business of some sort. She left the corporate world and went to art school, seeking a way to capitalize on her creative nature. She began designing rugs, but another problem was also bothering her. An avid practitioner of yoga, she said she had trouble finding well-fitting, comfortable yoga clothes. The seed for Hyde Yoga was planted. “During that time [of designing rugs] I discovered the love of doing something creative and doing something with a small business. I determined I wanted to have my own small business, but it took me a year or two to figure it out,” she said. An avid runner, Kennedy began practicing yoga after injuring herself. She hated it at first. But she continued to go, and she said yoga changed her life. “There are no distractions,” she said. “Yoga is about the idea of not thinking.” But her yoga togs were distracting. What , Anne Kerr Kennedy ’90, in the scor-
pion pose, wanted yoga clothes that weren’t distracting—something between the slippery athletic gear and hippy-dippy options that never seemed to fit well—so she started her own brand.
Taft Bulletin SUMMER 2009 39
the fashionistas clothes she could find were made by athletic companies out of slippery, synthetic materials. The alternatives she could find were natural fabrics lacking in style (“hippy dippy,” is how Kennedy described them). “Those didn’t fit very well, or they fell apart. I didn’t see why I had to sacrifice good fit and attention to detail because I was looking for something organic and natural feeling,” she said. “Hyde was born out of the need for natural, comfortable, yoga clothes that were stylish, fit well but still affordable. Like many of my yogi friends, I wanted clothes that were as considered and thoughtful as my practice. I saw an opportunity to make graceful gear my business,” she noted. And thus, Hyde Yoga was born. The clothing line boasts some very happy customers, including lifestyle guru Deepak Chopra, who praised the yoga wear as “elegant, simplicity, comfort and style. I love them.” Starting a new business was nerve-wracking, especially because Kennedy was not only the designer, but also the chief salesperson. Her first sample designs were terrible, she said. “I got these five [design samples] back, the first iterations of my designs, and they were awful! I spent months developing them. How on earth was I going to sell them if I wouldn’t buy them? I burst into tears—everything was wrong—the fabric wasn’t soft enough, they weren’t different, they weren’t what I was intending to do, they weren’t remarkable,” she said. “I really needed a product that could sell itself, and at that point I didn’t feel as if I had that. That was my moment where I thought I’m not going to be able to get off the ground, I’ve wasted six months and all the money I invested.” Fortunately, she didn’t give up. Once she was able to iron out the problems, she would don her designs, then attend various yoga classes to model them. After class would finish, she would then approach the yoga teacher to try to sell her products. Kennedy designs the clothing to assist in proper poses, with details such as a straight line sewn down the front of a shirt, or a split-knee knicker that helps position the knee properly. Her designs are primarily sold through yoga studios, though Hyde has a growing online catalog as well. But she’s content to stay a small business. “The nature of yoga is very conducive to small businesses—[yoga studios are] small businesses and they want to support small business.” 40 Taft Bulletin SUMMER 2009
whitney o’brien ’96 Trying to find a decent, comfortable and affordably priced cashmere sweater was so frustrating for Whitney Tremaine O’Brien that she founded her own line in 2003. The result is Two Bees Cashmere, a line of women’s and children’s cashmere clothing that’s made from cashmere sourced in Inner Mongolia, spun on state-of-the-art Italian spinning machines, and dyed with eco-friendly Swiss dyes that result in lightweight, classic outfits. “I never studied design. I have a business school background,” she said. “There’s nothing [in my collection] that follows the super-trend. They are timeless looks. I have pictures from the ’60s of my mom wearing twin sets. You can see women wearing that today.” Her collection features simple, elegant pullovers as well as twin sets, cardigans and soft, cozy wraps. O’Brien said she gets inspirations from everywhere. “A lot is the culture around. The Asian cardigan [was inspired by a] trip to Hong Kong. My goal is to bring a sense of beauty and elegancy to everyone. Classic understated elegant, mixed with preppy attire.” And while the recession has affected her sales, people are still buying. Two Bees Cashmere sells in boutiques and trade shows, as well as online.
x With a business school background instead of design training, Whitney Tremaine O’Brien ’96 focuses on timeless classics.
the fashion Maven:
7 9 ’ s r e e m l a t s y cr Have you had your Daily Candy today? If you have, you can thank Crystal Meers for it. As Los Angeles editor for the online fashion website www.DailyCandy.com, Meers offers up a daily dose of fashion items and shopping tidbits. She’s been there for four and a half years, dishing up witty and succinct vignettes of local stores and products that catch her eye. “I credit Mr. McKibben, my 10th grade English teacher, for that,” she said of her often pun-filled descriptions of products and services she ferrets out of Los Angeles life. One example: Describing a store that offers eyelash extensions as having “fringe benefits.” Meers started out writing for the print magazine Nylon, before briefly dipping her toes into the world of teen celebrities for L Girl. “I could really talk to real girls and see what was going on in their lives. I was like, I really miss writing about shoes,” she said. The editor in chief of www.DailyCandy.com was a “friend of a friend,” and when the Los Angeles job opened up, Meers applied. “We immediately clicked. After two seconds it didn’t feel like an interview,” she said of the editor and founder. “They are really doing something different and special. It didn’t matter if a celebrity was wearing it, it just mattered if it was new and undiscovered and the person behind it was very dedicated. You can talk to these people who are fully engrossed in what they are doing.” She said she was nervous about leaving the world of print journalism, but that fear didn’t last. www.DailyCandy.com has more than 2.5 million subscribers across the country. “We have a really special connection with our readers,” she said. “They like the things that we cover. It’s a really positive endorsement. It’s not that kind of snarky journalism that’s so prevalent—that is a lot of what sets Daily Candy apart. We have a lot of subscribers and it’s really fun because everyone is so
, Crystal Meers ’97 is the wit behind the L.A. edition of Daily Candy, where you can find great tips on fashion, shopping and travel.
active. We test everything that comes through. We always talk to the people on the other end, who are behind it—[to make sure they will] be there for the customer.” Meers’ work garnered a fashion correspondent award in 2007 as well as a loyal following online. “That comes from covering the small designers, the real up and comers. It really is a testament. We find the good stuff, we’re here saying, look at what we found, it’s incredible and you’re going to like it as well,” she said. For example, she said, Daily Candy was the first to write about designer Rebecca Minkoff ’s handbags. “She’s got a multimillion-dollar company now. We’re also read pretty widely by people who want to stay in the know.” j Bonnie Blackburn Penhollow ’84 is a writer living in Fort Wayne, Indiana, with her husband Steve and their children Emma and Max. Taft Bulletin SUMMER 2009 41
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Nine Taft students, led by faculty members David Dethlefs and Chamby Zepeda, traveled to Guatemala in June, where they spent 10 days building houses, volunteering at two malnutrition centers and a homeless shelter and helping with a food distribution program. For more information, visit www.TaftSchool.org.
Serving in Guatemala