Summer 2011 Taft Bulletin

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Summer 2011

in this issue h The Alumni Parade took a new route this year, ending in the new Mac House quad where the assembled group then adjourned for lunch in the Moorhead Wing. Robert Falcetti

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And Then There Were Girls

Coeducation at Taft turns 40 By Phoebe Vaughn Outerbridge ’84


Reading My Father An excerpt from her new book By Alexandra Styron ’83


121st Commencement

Remarks by Jake Cohen ’11, Melody Palmore P’11, Annie Oppenheim ’11, Nick Auer ’11 and Willy MacMullen ’78



Alumni Weekend

Photographs by Bob Falcetti, Phil Dutton, Peter Frew ’75 and Andre Li ’11

2 From the Editor 2 Bulletin Poll 3 Letters 4 Alumni Spotlight 11 Around the Pond 18 Sport 21 Annual Fund Report 48 Tales of a Taftie: Varian Fry ’26 49 From the Archives: The House That Winnie Built

from the EDITOR This May marked the 40th anniversary of Taft’s first graduating class that included girls, which also meant that the Class of 1971—the last all-male class—was back for its 40th Reunion. My brother-in-law Henry is in that class, and yet by the time his brother (my husband, Al ’80) graduated nine years later, it seemed as if girls had always been part of the mix here. As you will see in Phoebe Outerbridge’s article (page 24), Taft’s smooth transition to coeducation was the envy and indeed the model for the prep school world. But that transition is far from over. Until the alumni rolls reach the same parity as the study body, there will still be vestiges of the boys’ school days. To date there are 6,112 living alumni and 2,657 alumnae, so, yes, there will occasionally be issues of the Bulletin when men’s stories will dominate, and yes, the Citation of Merit wall will eventually have more women, but it may still be a few years before our alumnae reach the pinnacle of their careers. (They are still a bit young for this august group.)

This May also marked the first time the school welcomed THREE members of a 75th reunion class back for Alumni Weekend. What made this especially moving is that Curt Buttenheim, Matt Ely and Frank Killorin and their classmates were the last to know Horace Taft as their headmaster. We were honored to have them back at their alma mater and enjoyed their stories. Now, let’s hear yours! —Julie Reiff


Taft on the Web

Find a friend’s address or look up back issues of the Bulletin at Visit us on your phone with our mobile-friendly site What happened at this afternoon’s game? Visit Don’t forget you can shop online at 800-995-8238 or 860-945-7736

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Summer 2011 Volume 81, Number 4 Bulletin Staff Director of Development: Chris Latham Editor: Julie Reiff Alumni Notes: Linda Beyus Design: Good Design, LLC Proofreader: Nina Maynard Mail letters to: Julie Reiff, Editor Taft Bulletin The Taft School Watertown, CT 06795-2100 U.S.A. Send alumni news to: Linda Beyus Alumni Office The Taft School Watertown, CT 06795-2100 U.S.A.

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Scan this QR code with your smart phone to visit Taft’s mobile site. x

Bulletin Poll Instead of Trivia, let’s try a different sort of question this time… In 1969, the Taft Papyrus suggested the recent trustee vote for coeducation might be the most important decision in Taft’s then 80-year history. Do you agree? What decision or milestone would you rank at the top of the school’s 121-year past? Email your vote to Reiff Or take our poll on Facebook…just “friend” Horace Dutton Taft. We’ll publish the top choices in the fall issue. Congratulations to Bill Shiland ’73, who correctly named 1970 as the year the study hall desks were unbolted and removed from what we now call Potter’s Art Room.

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Deadlines for Alumni Notes: Fall–August 30 Winter–November 15 Spring–February 15 Summer–May 15 Send address corrections to: Sally Membrino Alumni Records The Taft School Watertown, CT 06795-2100 U.S.A. 1-860-945-7777 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.


Love it? Hate it? Read it? Tell us! We’d love to hear what you think about the stories in this Bulletin. We may edit your letters for length, clarity and content, but please write! Julie Reiff, editor Taft Bulletin 110 Woodbury Road Watertown, CT 06795-2100 or Reiff

Beyond the Bushes

I may not have all my facts right, but over 40 years ago I remember being a member of something called The Alumni Council, or some such animal! We had a meeting at Taft to discuss coeducation, and 10 or more of us sat around a big table debating the ins and outs and challenge of Taft going coed. As relatively young men, we focused on what would happen in the dormitories, behind the bushes, etc. The meeting went on for quite a while. Around the back of the room sat several of the committee’s wives knitting and reading, basically staying out of this discussion by the “boys.” Finally, one woman and then another stood up or sat up tall and said more or less: “You guys are a bunch of idiots, don’t worry about the bushes and dorms, we (the ladies, girls, new coeds) can handle those issues, get on with it, go coed!” With that, the discussion came to an abrupt halt at the big table, the committee voted to recommend to the trustees that Taft go coeducational. End of meeting. Congratulations on the 40th; coed has served Taft well.

struck others who have read the article that these former faculty and alumni certainly live the Taft motto. How lucky Taft has been to have had five headmasters who were mentors not only to students, but to faculty members whose will to serve was enhanced during their years at Taft.

—Francisco A. Besosa ’67

Love it? Hate it? Read It?

In response to your message requesting feedback on the Bulletin: yes, yes and yes. I read it pretty steadily, which says a lot given the many subscriptions, school bulletins and catalogues that come to our house. I have to congratulate you on the quality of the Bulletin, which has improved steadily from good to top-notch in the two decades I have been receiving it, mostly if not all under your editorship, I think. I like particularly the way it documents the best things about Taft and the school’s community and traditions in a serious and engaging way. These alumni pieces can so easily become clichés or celebratory hype, but the Bulletin manages to avoid this.

—Matt Lieber ’88

machine (dry copies replacing both ditto and mimeograph) and the IBM Selectric typewriter with changeable type. —Bob Foreman ’70

Heads On

In your article on headmasters (“Heads Up” spring 2011), I don’t see how you missed my husband, Phillips Stevens ’32. He became headmaster of Williston Academy in Easthampton, Massachusetts, in 1949 and retired in 1972 after 24 years at the helm. From Taft’s point of view, maybe it’s even more important that he was class secretary for many years. He had gone on to Williams (which he loved) after Taft, taught a few years at South Kent School, during which time we were married. After a job as a VP in a small factory doing war work in New Haven, he was elected to Williston, now Williston-Northampton School.

—Sarah Stevens

Ed note: Since this issue celebrates Taft’s 40 years of coeducation, it is worth noting that as headmaster of Williston, Phillips Stevens oversaw the school’s merger with Northampton School in 1971—the same year as Taft.

Guys and the Machine

Regarding the photo on page 42 of the spring Bulletin, at far right, seated, is Carleton Sexton ’70. Far left is possibly John Bell, ’70. The machine they are at I believe was a calculator. The computer I recall was in a six-foot-high rack and printed out in dits and dots on paper tape. One had to learn its language, Fortran, to speak with it. With a few exceptions, no one could be bothered. I certainly could not, preferring to spend my time in Bingham. At that time the more prominent innovations (in the Business Office) were the Xerox

On the Cover B










v The school’s first co-head monitors Story Viebranz ’12 and Will O’Meara ’12 (story on page 14). For more on coeducation, turn to page 24. Robert Falcetti

Summer 2011

—Larry Leonard ’48

[See also “And Then There Were Girls” on page 24.]

Motto Men (and Women)

What a great article about Taft faculty and alumni who have gone on to become headmasters and headmistresses of other schools! I poured through it because I knew that my classmate, Dan Lee, had gone on to head two schools. It struck me, as I’m sure it has

More Headmasters

As impressive as the list of headmasters in the spring issue is, of course we found more. Our apologies to those who were not listed. Peter Buttenheim ’60, Berkshire Country Day MA, 1979–1987 Tom Lord, faculty 1977–1987, Berkshire School MA, 1987–1992 Tom Nammack ’76, Montclair Kimberly Academy NJ, 2005–present Phillips Stevens ’32, Williston Academy MA, 1949–72 (See the entire list, revised, at

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The Waves of Suzy Wong

alumni Spotlight

By Julie Reiff

Steve Jackson ’53 never thought he’d write a book, but he has. “The Voyage of the Suzy Wong is the story of the voyage I made with three ex-servicemen directly after being released from military service in the Philippines in 1959.” The four men had the all-teak 41-foot yawl built by American Marine Limited in Hong Kong. They worked on the boat themselves, finishing the deck, installing electrical and plumbing systems, sanding and painting the hull and installing the rigging. The journey lasted 18 months and took them from Hong Kong to Miami, traveling west, a distance of 26,000 miles—via Manila, Borneo, Singapore, Ceylon, Seychelles, up the Red Sea and through the Suez Canal, to Beirut, Tripoli, Majorca and Casablanca. “Our story is not just about crossing oceans—it’s about the relationship between four servicemen, and how they were able to build a classic wooden boat and sail it home without financial backing and or any real sailing experience.” The book also tells about meeting actor William Holden, who starred in The World of Suzie Wong, for which their boat was named. The men had a contract with Paramount Pictures to promote the movie as they sailed from port to port. At the end of the trip, they sold the boat to William F. Buckley, who sailed it for 17 years. Now, 50 years and four owners later, the Suzy Wong is being restored to her original condition by a new owner and will be relaunched in April 2012. The book will also be available next year through Amazon.

v Aboard the Suzy Wong with fifth crew member, a white chow pup named Sart Tau, or “Killer.”

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Engineers Without Borders For the residents of the Gali Bhitra and Holi Chowkarea of Abheypur, India, clean drinking water can be hard to come by. Thanks to the efforts of Engineers Without Borders (EWB), that situation is changing. Seth Lentz ’05, president of the Hartford Professional Chapter (HPC) of EWB traveled there recently to help with a project. “It is very easy to take for granted that when you walk up to a sink and turn the handle, clean water will appear,” says Lentz. “But in the villages that I worked in, this was simply not the case.” HPC installed two 5,000-liter storage tanks that can be filled when electrical power is available and used as a source of potable water when power is not. The facility helps 150 households—close to 700 people. “The sincere gratitude that was expressed to our team when we opened the valve to the storage tanks and water poured out was fantastic,” adds Lentz, “and not something I will soon forget.”

Lentz previously traveled to Honduras twice with the Lehigh University Chapter of Engineers Without Borders, and worked with the village of Pueblo Nuevo on two major issues: contaminated water was and insufficient water pressure during times of peak demand. To combat these, a 20,000-gallon water storage tank was constructed and a hypochlorinator was installed EWB’s vision is a more stable and prosperous world in which communities have the capacity to sustainably meet their basic human needs by providing necessities such as clean water, power, sanitation and education. They provide professional educational opportunities and organize programs to help members gain enriched global perspectives. “It can be very challenging working in an environment that is foreign to you,” he says, “but I have found it to be extremely rewarding.” For more information, visit

n Seth Lentz ’05, far right, was the vice presi-

dent of the Engineers Without Borders student chapter at Lehigh. He is now the president of the Hartford Professional Chapter.

Baltic Reunion

It was no ordinary mini-reunion for classmates Steven Erlanger and Jerry Boak, 1970 classmates who had the chance to reconnect at, of all places, the Lennart Meri Conference in Tallinn, Estonia, in May. The conference focused on issues of global foreign and security policy and the values and institutions that underpin them: the prospects for a more united

European foreign policy; the future of the European neighborhood; the wider Middle East; the transatlantic link; the economy of the Eurozone; and Russia. “It may come as no surprise,” says Boak, “but the people of the Baltic states view with some anxiety their large Eastern neighbor.” Erlanger did panels on the euro and Libya and the political far right, but, as the Paris Bureau chief of the New York Times, his time got consumed halfway through the conference by the breaking scandal over the IMF chief—a potential French presidential candidate. Boak, meanwhile, “dazzled attendees with his expertise in oil shale” says Erlanger. (See “Rock of Our Energy

Salvation?” winter 2008 Bulletin.) “It was great to see Jerry again,” Erlanger adds. “I had dinner with him and the Swedish foreign minister, whom I’ve known for a long time and who drilled Jerry with questions about shale, nuclear waste disposal, Icelandic volcanoes and the like. It was a great pleasure, and very instructive, to listen.” “We did not get nearly enough time together,” says Boak. “But I think we both enjoyed the opportunity to catch up. I found the same bright, humorous, intellectual colleague I remembered from all-nighters putting an edition of the Papyrus to bed, with the added bonus of a wealth of interesting experiences from his diverse assignments over the years.”

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alumni Spotlight

Trailing Colors How do you wrap your heart around 800,000 strangers? Why bother to try? What power do words have against machetes? Do we have any reasonable grounds for hope? asks Gretchen Icenogle ’86 in her play Trailing Colors, a drama of love, loss and good intentions. “None of these questions will finally be answered,” she says, “but it does have elephants. So there’s that.” With the unlikely twin inspiration of Philip Gourevitch’s book about the Rwandan genocide and the Oakland Zoo’s valiant efforts to breed African elephants in captivity, Icenogle—a 2010 Oregon Literary Fellowship recipient in nonfiction—first wrote the story as a one-act play in 2000, which was later performed at a festival in Santa Barbara. Eleven years and at least that many drafts later, the full-length version of Trailing Colors opened at the Headwaters Theatre in Portland this May. (Not even elephants can compare to some plays in the time they need for their gestation, says Icenogle.)

“In times as dark as these, an invitation to dive vicariously into someone else’s suffering must seem outright perverse,” admits Icenogle. “And honestly, if suffering were all we had to offer, the play wouldn’t have made it this far. But there’s unexpected solace in recognizing the smallness of our hearts and imaginations (relative to the demands the world makes on them), and reaching out nonetheless to connect with other flawed creatures, be they American or African, human or pachyderm.” She adds that the show is also funny, though not in a South-Park-goesto-Africa kind of way, but there are elephant jokes. “The play moves with ease between its underlying call for action and the smaller but riveting plot lines among individual characters,” writes Natalie Baker in the Willamette Week. “Brutally honest in one moment...and hilarious in the next...Icenogle’s piece provides an emotional balance that keeps the two-hour

performance interesting and fresh.” “Trailing Colors needs to be seen by one and all,” agrees reviewer Kay Olsen. “How can a piece that is primarily about one woman’s experience with genocide be a romance and a horror story all at the same time?” A portion of the play’s proceeds benefited Partners In Health Rwanda, Human Rights Watch, Doctors Without Borders and the Elephant Sanctuary. For more information, visit

Japan Relief In response to the earthquake and tsunami that the northeastern part of that country has endured, Phish (lead guitarist Trey Anastasio ’83) released Japan Relief at

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and Phish Dry Goods to benefit Peace Winds America. All of the funds they collect for disaster relief will go to support operations through their sister organization, Peace Winds Japan. “Relief operations began March 15,” writes, “and are currently underway in Miyagi Prefecture, where Peace Winds is on the ground providing food, clothing, medicines and temporary shelter to survivors of the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. “Japan Relief features Phish’s entire show from July 31, 1999, which crackled with energy, intermingling classic and new material with an exploratory vibe that meshed with the

atmosphere of respect and beauty.” In the past, charitable downloads at have raised over $100,000 for four nonprofits: the Harbor House of New Jersey (The Headphones Jam), the New Orleans Musicians’ Clinic, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Fund (Katrina Relief) and the American Red Cross (Haiti Relief). Additionally, the Mockingbird Foundation receives funding on an ongoing basis from the proceeds at For more on Phish’s summer concert series, including a gig at the Hollywood Bowl, visit For more on Trey’s other recent activities, visit

TaArt Gathering Taft’s burgeoning group of alumni artists hosted their first gathering in April and continue to add new artists to the network. Andrew Belcher ’02, Octavia Giovannini-Torelli ’04 Will, Strumolo ’01 and Dan Teicher ’02 created TaArt, Taft Alumni in the Arts, last fall and held the inaugural reception on April 12 at a stylish Midtown loft in New York City. The reception was pleasingly crowded, and alumni of all ages attended. On the walls surrounding all the mingling alums and teachers were current student artwork, poetry written by alums, a slideshow of photographs and a reel of short films made by alums. The party offered a wonderful

environment to view the art, bounce ideas off of other Tafties and have fun listening to the live bands. The group wants to create a thriving community of Taft alumni in the arts— though Belcher emphasizes that TaArt is “not just for artists. It is meant to foster the creativity in all of us.” n Charlie Baker ’05, Greg de Gunzberg ’01, Teddy “The TaArt event was McCarthy ’01 and Andrew Belcher ’02 a blast for everyone who attended,” acting teacher Helena Fifer how many alumni had chosen to purtold the Taft Papyrus, “and it made sue the arts as their life’s calling.” me realize that there are endless pos Check out artist profiles at sibilities for ways alumni, faculty and, or join the Taft comstudents can use it as a resource for munity of artists. collaboration. It was exciting to see —Source: Nick Auer ’11

Walls of Prints Marc Chabot ’74 has made a life in fine prints, a vocation he calls “a gift.” Chabot buys and sells 19th- and 20th-century American and European works of art on paper, yes, but that doesn’t begin to describe his love for what he does. The hunt is the thing. He thrives on the daily challenge of finding good material he can readily sell; in 20 years he’s placed art in collections and museums across the country and in Great

Britain. When he says his work enhances his well-being you know he means it, and that is a rare event in any workplace. The Chabot focus is dramatically evident in his Southbury flat, where every wall is covered with framed prints and other works of art. More stock is stacked along the walls. Chabot’s “favorite room” is a room where he can roam and absorb the beauty and utility of prints and reflect on the skill with which they are made as well. “When you collect prints which speak to you, you are making a specific aesthetic pronouncement,” he said. “And this gives an observer a good idea of who you are.” Currently Chabot has for sale a rare and tempting piece of Americana, a print of George Washington made by Rembrandt Peale in 1827 and derived from the famous “porthole” portrait that a teenaged Peale painted of the first president, working alongside his father Charles Willson Peale. Artists represented range from Joseph Albers to Anders

Zorn, with many well-known names in between. In addition to classic prints from the 19th century, Chabot also favors works on paper produced by the artists of the 20th-century Modernist movement. He admires “everything the movement brought to American art.” As for Marc Chabot, he has sketched and drawn all his life and he immersed himself in the arts and mysteries of printmaking at Skidmore. “Everything I’ve done since is art-related,” he said. For 14 years Chabot has taught children’s art classes at Weir Farm in Wilton, where kids aged 6 to 13 draw and paint from nature. “Some of them came back seven years in a row,” said Chabot. To learn more, visit —By Richard W. Stevenson Litchfield County Times [] Reprinted with permission.

v Marc Chabot at home in Southbury. Walter Kidd/

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alumni Spotlight

Golden Age Mike Giobbe ’59 powered his way to a silver medal in the discus and a bronze in the shot put at the 25th National Veterans Golden Age Games in Honolulu, Hawaii. More than 900 competitors showed up from all over the United States, all age 55 and up and all military veterans. The National Veterans Golden Age Games concluded June 1. “It was quite an experience,” and the competition was intense. “Some were old, some disabled, some were woman but all were determined,” Giobbe, an Army veteran, said.

Competitive events included swimming, cycling, golf, shot put, discus, 10-meter air rifle, table tennis, dominoes, shuffleboard, horseshoes, nine-ball, bowling, checkers and croquet. The games are designed to improve the quality of life for all older veterans, including those with a wide range of disabilities and are sponsored by the Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Canteen Service and Help Hospitalized Veterans. The Games are supposed to demonstrate the value of regular exercise, recreation and friendly competition for all veterans, especially those dealing with age-related illnesses. Veterans competed in seven age categories in ambulatory, wheelchair or visually impaired divisions. “Sports and fitness are vital ingredients of VA’s national rehabilitation

n Mike Giobbe ’59 of Boca Grande celebrates

on Waikiki Beach with Diamond Head in the background still carrying his shot and discus.

special events,” said spokeswoman Tonya Lobbestal. The Games serve as a qualifying event for competition in the National Senior Games in a number of competitive events. —Terry O’Connor, Gasparilla Gazette

New Alumni Trustee Jennifer L. Burns ’93

Jennifer followed her siblings Christine, Gregory and Timothy to Taft. Arriving as a mid, she quickly began dividing her time between classroom, rink and the offices of the Taft Papyrus. She remembers Bill Nicholson’s honors English class as the place she first learned the craft of writing, and credits Lance Odden, Mike Maher and Bob Boothby with sparking a lifelong love of history. Jennifer played defense for the three-time New England Championship ice hockey team and was co-editor of the Papyrus during her senior year. She graduated magna cum laude and was awarded the Bourne Medal in history. At Harvard, she was a history major, writer and editor for the Let’s Go series of travel books and star of her dorm’s intramural hockey team. After graduating, Jennifer worked

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at Harvard Business School, writing cases on Nike’s global labor practices, Chevron and environmental regulation and the De Beers diamond cartel. Pursuing her own scholarly interests full time, Jennifer began a Ph.D. at the University of California, Berkeley, and wrote a dissertation about the novelist and philosopher Ayn Rand. After two years of postdoctoral teaching at Berkeley and a one-year fellowship at Stanford, Jennifer became an assistant professor of history at the University of Virginia, where she teaches courses on modern American political, cultural and intellectual history. At UVA, Jennifer served as a resident faculty fellow in an undergraduate dorm, a member of her department’s graduate committee and as an informal mentor to graduate students. In 2009, she published her first

book, Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right, which received rave reviews in the New Yorker, Time and the Washington Post, among other publications. She appeared on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and on NPR and was named a Top Young Historian by the History News Network. In 2010, she was named a distinguished lecturer by the Organization of American Historians. She maintains free podcasts of her history lectures on iTunes. Jennifer lives in Arlington, Virginia, with her husband, Nick Cizek, a physicist. In their free time, she and Nick enjoy salsa dancing, biking and skiing. Each year, Taft alumni elect a member of their own to serve a four-year term on the school’s Board of Trustees. Results are announced at the Alumni Luncheon on campus in May.

In Print Shapely Ankle Preferr’d: A History of the Lonely Hearts Ad 1695–2010 Fran Beauman ’95 What do women look for in a man? And what do men look for in a woman? And how and why has this changed over the centuries? Every week thousands of people advertise for love either in newspapers, magazines or online. But if you think this is a modern phenomenon, think again—the ads have been running for over three hundred years. In 1695, a popular London pamphlet published the brave plea of a young gentleman who “would willingly Match himself to some Good Young Gentlewoman, that has a Fortune of £3000 or thereabouts.” This was just the beginning. In the 1730s, papers carried regular ads in which income or respectability were the most desired qualities, though some asked for a “shapely ankle” or a “non-dancer.” By 1900, 25 British newspapers were dedicated solely to matrimonial ads. Shapely Ankle Preferr’d tells the story of ads of

all kinds—from aristocrats and MPs, bus conductors and nurses, country squires and city swells, and even from a man who had lost a leg “due to the kick of an Ostrich, in the East Indies.” The reasons are strangely familiar: the size of the city makes it hard to meet people; they’re busy at work; they’ve just returned from abroad. Loneliness is not new. The surprising views of Lord Byron, Charlotte Brontë and George Orwell are revealed, and every ad is a snapshot of its age, from the criminal scams of the 1890s to the sad appeals of widows after the Second World War. Beauman, author of The Pineapple: King of Fruits, uses newly uncovered evidence to answer crucial questions about how humans choose their mates. The result is a startling history of sex, marriage and society over three centuries—hilarious and heartbreaking by turn.

Listen to the Wind Kristin Flagg ’83 Born and raised in Washington, Connecticut, where her brother and sister used to have her act out skits from Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In, Kristin (known at Taft as Kristy Kunhardt) was weaned on her parents’ collection of musical theatre LPs and old Italian operas and her siblings’ diverse collection of 45s. “I spent hours digging through their records singing along with a pool cue as my microphone while at the same time singing in choirs and choruses. While my sister practiced piano and taught me Peter, Paul and Mary and Bob Dylan, my brother was showing me guitar licks on his Les Paul Gold Top and teaching me how to count out Grateful Dead time signatures. I like to think that my grandmothers (one a vocalist and pianist who studied at Juilliard and loved Puccini, the other a concert violinist in D.C.) were pointing out my life path.”

At Northwestern University she studied theater and classical voice with an emphasis on cultural anthropology and ethnomusicology while part of a college band called Ice-9 and a one-woman show on Margaret Mead Then, with a 4-track cassette recorder in hand, she headed to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where I began to write songs and experiment with multiple vocal harmonies. From there she moved to Boston, playing gigs at The Old Vienna Coffeehouse, Tatnuck Bookseller, Johnny D’s and The Iron Horse and making her first first full-length recording. For the last several years she has been building a recording studio, playing guitar and piano, and has a day gig that allows her ample time with ample canines. Listen to sample clips at

Original Sin: A Sally Sin Adventure Beth McMullen ’87 She has a license to kill. And carpool. On the surface, Lucy Hamilton looks just like all the other stay-at-home San Francisco moms. She takes her threeyear-old son, Theo, to the beach, to the playground and to the zoo. She feeds him organic applesauce and

free-range chicken. She folds laundry and plays on the floor with Matchbox cars until her knees ache. What no one knows about Lucy, not even her adoring husband, is that for nine years Lucy was Sally Sin, a spy for the United States Agency for Weapons Taft Bulletin Summer 2011 9

of Mass Destruction. And that’s just the way Lucy wants to keep it—a secret. But when Lucy’s nemesis Ian Blackford, a notorious illegal arms dealer, hits the USAWMD’s radar, the Agency calls Lucy back to action to lure Blackford out into the open. As Lucy struggles to unravel the mystery that surrounds Blackford’s return, she realizes that the answers she needs lie in a past she’s tried very hard to forget. Racing against time, Lucy must fight to save herself and her loving family—and, oh right—the world. Beth McMullen graduated from Boston University with a degree in English Literature. After landing a gig with Reader’s Digest, she eventually

realized she’d rather write books than condense them. She relocated to San Francisco, California, and worked in Silicon Valley to pay the bills, trying to do as much writing and traveling as possible. Finally, after getting married, she and her husband decided to take one year and see as much of the world as they could before they ran out of money. It’s a big world. McMullen currently lives in Davis, California, with her husband and their two children. She divides her time between writing and, well, we’re not allowed to say. The book is the first in a series. Read the first chapter at

The Way of the Happy Woman Sara Avant Stover ’95 The Way of the Happy Woman playfully prescribes how to honor each season of the year with wholesome foods, yoga, meditation and reflections. When we listen to and follow our biorhythms, health and happiness follow. Yoga teacher and retreat leader Sara Avant Stover presents suggestions for yoga sequences, meditations, affirmations, journaling exercises, and healthy meals and recipes for each season. The book makes the case that the key to a woman’s health and happiness resides in the ancient, and nearly forgotten, knowledge of how to live in accordance with daily, seasonal and yearly rhythms. Women need this wisdom now more than ever, says Stover. Natural nurturers, women instinctually

care for others and think that paying too much attention to their own needs is “selfish.” Over time this approach to life can take a heavy toll, leaving women depleted and defeated and not knowing why. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Women don’t have to stop helping others to fulfill their own needs and desires. Readers learn to prepare simple, healthful foods according to ayurvedic wisdom for spring, summer, fall and winter. Yoga postures and contemplations can help to synchronize readers’ inner and outer worlds. Women are ready for a powerful shift, a shift toward self-nurture and an empowered, happy life. The Way of the Happy Woman is an owner’s manual for the radiant mind, body and spirit every woman craves.

Reading My Father Alexandra Styron ’83 Few novelists of the past 50 years have enjoyed the huge success and lengthy renown of William Styron. With Sophie’s Choice, Lie Down in Darkness and Pulitzer Prize-winning The Confessions of Nat Turner, Styron established himself as a masterful chronicler of the American experience. But his gift for fiction came at a heavy price. The last 25 years of Styron’s life were marked by episodes of devastating depression, the first of which he documented with stunning candor in Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness. Reading My Father is a portrait of this towering, mesmerizing, occasionally crippled man by his youngest daughter, Alexandra Styron, wrought with intimacy, incisiveness, integrity and love. (See page 30 to read an excerpt from the book.) The challenge, and the theme of Alexandra’s childhood, was to navigate the tempest of her father’s titanic personality. But when depression pulled 10 Taft Bulletin Summer 2011

Styron under, the rules—and the life his family had long known—would change completely. Synthesizing discoveries made in her father’s Duke University archives with her own memories, some long forgotten, Alexandra offers a vivid look at the experiences that shaped William Styron’s life and his novels. Expanding on a beloved New Yorker essay, and casting light, not judgment, Alexandra has written a memoir every bit as compelling and beautifully cadenced as her father’s novels, and with grace to spare. She is also the author of the novel All the Finest Girls. A graduate of Barnard College and the MFA program at Columbia University, she has contributed to several anthologies as well as The New Yorker, the New York Times, Avenue, Real Simple and Interview. She lives with her husband and two children in Brooklyn, New York.

For the latest news on campus events, please visit

around the Pond

By Maggie Dietrich

Photos by Phil Dutton

n At the museum: Jackie Topete with her mom and “baby Ruben”

n Jason Feinman is set to tackle the Appalachian Trail

n Matt Bacco and Mimi Picotte load up their bike-powered blender.

Project Time It was a perfect spring evening for the Senior Project Museum, unleashing a festive and celebratory spirit. Students’ projects took over the faculty room, Lincoln Lobby, Bingham and spilled out around the pond. Senior Projects, now in their sixth year, give seniors the ability to explore special passions and interests, collaborate with peers, faculty and staff, and exhibit publicly the ways in which they embody the Portrait of the Graduate. This year’s crop of projects included many interesting and creative ones.

Caroline O’Neill and Sasha Bogdanovics learned to design and construct birdhouses, which they modeled on Taft buildings. To raise awareness about a serious issue, Jackie Topete’s “Diapers and Dorm Life: My Teen Mom Experiment” entailed a month-long teen pregnancy simulation. The baby simulator, Ruben Topete, acted like a real baby, needing to be fed, burped, rocked or changed, and waking up every two hours. Topete kept a journal to document the experience. “I wanted to understand what it was

like to raise a child as a teenager and teach the Taft community about this national issue,” said Topete. “During the simulation, I was always tired and rarely saw my friends. I had to take my baby to classes with me and he cried the whole time. The experience was much more difficult that I thought it would be, but it was a very interesting project and I am glad I did it.” Nick Auer showcased his singing and comic talents, hosting a cabaret continued on next page— Taft Bulletin Summer 2011 11

around the POND —continued from previous page


Nearly 150 students and faculty Spotlight participated in the National “Day of Silence” to raise awareness of the bullying and harassment of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) students. Participants took a vow of silence for a day as a way to help “end the silence.” This powerful event was organized by SHOUT (Students Homosexual and Other United at Taft), a club that has gained momentum this year with a group of about 25 students and faculty advisers Andi Orben and Simón Ponce. The club promoted the Day of Silence with a series of stark photographs of Taft students and faculty with bandanas over their mouths. These images were displayed in the hallways, on posters and in a video clip at Morning Meeting. Participants remained silent for part or all of the day, wore all black, ate lunch in the silent East Dining Hall and/or

participated in the SHOUT-Out on the Jig patio following dinner that broke the silence with music. “It’s great to see how the community responded to the day,” said student organizer Kash Griffith ’13. “There was so much positive energy leading up to and on the day itself. At the SHOUT-Out, we counted down and then just started shouting. It felt so good!” Another successful new SHOUTaffiliated program, Rainbow Rhino, entails a two-hour training that creates formalized allies for the LGBTQ community. After the training, participants display a sign by their room or office that formally identifies them as safe and affirming to talk to about LGBTQ issues. Orben developed the training to increase awareness and acceptance of the LGBTQ community and has run ten “Rainbow Rhino” sessions since September. More than 80 students, faculty and staff completed the training.

n Members of SHOUT organize an annual Day of Silence.

12 Taft Bulletin Summer 2011

show to a packed Choral Room. The show was a true collaborative effort, with the chamber orchestra and director of instrumental music T.J. Thompson accompanying him. Over in Woodward Chapel, Sam Willson gave an organ demonstration. But Senior Projects were not the only game in town. Now in its 47th year, the Independent Studies Project (ISP) is a unique program where students in any class can express their independence, creativity and personal interest and passion through a yearlong project. For his ISP, Matt Petroff ’11 designed and built a small linear particle accelerator that accelerates molecules from the air into a copper target. For his work, Petroff was a finalist at the Connecticut Science Fair, won prizes from the IEEE, a professional association for the advancement of technology, and Connecticut College, and met the governor. At Commencement, Petroff received the David Edward Goldberg Memorial Award for outstanding independent work. “Constructing this sort of device is normally only in the realm of large institutions with equally large research budgets,” said Petroff. “However, the concept is simple in principle and an accelerator can be built without extensive resources.” For her ISP, uppermiddler Connie Chung, who also earned a Goldberg award, embarked on a more “classical” line of study through her paper “The Augustan Rise to Power,” which she presented and defended like an Honor Thesis and may look to publish it in a history journal as well. “I was so impressed by her ability to engage in discussion and debate with faculty members in a truly collegial manner during her final presentation,” said ISP director Rick Lansdale. Nine of the ISPs were completed by nonseniors this year, including Ina Kosova ’12, who translated her grandparents’ memoirs from Albanian into English.

Hollywood Comes to Taft

h Modern Family’s

Ty Burell during filming on campus

Andre Li ’11

Taft’s idyllic campus is featured on the big screen yet again. The cast and crew of the movie Goats came to campus for three days to film this spring, a follow-up to a shorter filming session last fall. In the movie, Taft’s campus serves as Gates Academy, an East Coast prep school.

Some Taft students had the unique experience of being extras in the film. “Being an extra was such a fun experience,” said Sarah Kaufman ’12. “It made me realize how much work goes into making just 30 seconds of a movie. The cast was so friendly and fun to be around

and the six hours we were working went by so fast!” Filming brought Hollywood stars to Taft, including Ty Burrell, Dakota Johnson, Graham Phillips and Anthony Anderson. The director of the film is Christopher Neil. “I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw Ty Burell, especially since I had just watched his show, Modern Family, the night before,” said Sebby Orman ’11, who also got hired as an extra. “Working on the set was actually very, very exhausting. I was an extra in only one scene, but it took four hours to film! Meeting Ty, however, was totally worth the time and effort.” Actors were spotted all over campus, watching sports practices, eating in the dining hall and chatting with students. “I can’t wait to be forever immortalized in the cinematic adventures of Goats!” said Dani Lewis ’11, which is true for her as well as for Taft.

Front Lines Military expert Francis J. “Bing” West shared his perspective on military and international affairs, based on firsthand experiences. West is a Vietnam veteran, military scholar and author of The Village, a counterinsurgency classic. His provocative, new book, The Wrong War: Grit, Strategy, and the Way Out of Afghanistan, provides a sober assessment of the war in Afghanistan. West’s visit came right on the heels of Osama bin Laden’s death, making for a highly topical discussion about international relations and military conflicts. At his Morning Meeting presentation, West discussed the nature of war, the challenges of the Afghanistan conflict, and drew a connection between Taft students following the school motto, “Not to be served but to serve,”

and those who serve in the military. West served as assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs in the Reagan administration. He has been on hundreds of patrols and operations throughout Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. For more information on West, visit West’s visit was made possible by the Rear Admiral Raymond F. DuBois Fellowship in International Affairs, which offers Taft students the opportunity to learn more about n Former Assistant Secretary of Defense international affairs through annual “Bing” West was this year’s DuBois Fellowship speaker presentations by guest lecturers. Among other guest speakers Remembrance Day. Vertes is an awardthis spring, Agnes Vertes, president winning independent documentary of Holocaust Child Survivors of filmmaker and a child survivor of the Connecticut, shared her personal and Holocaust in Budapest. tragic experience to mark Holocaust

Taft Bulletin Summer 2011 13

Andre Li ’11

Co-Head Monitors

Elephant in the Room The spring performance of The Elephant Man by Bernard Pomerance made for a moving and inspiring evening in Woodward Black Box Theater. Performed in the round, the show brought to life the real-life story of John Merrick, a horribly deformed man in 19thcentury London. “It is always good, as a director, to take on complicated characters,” said Rick Doyle. “For this show in particular it was a challenge to try and see the characters’ world as they see it and then get the student actors to see the same world. This cast was a wonderful group that relished the experience.” The show featured the acting talent of Ben Johnson ’12 playing John Merrick, Tommy Robertshaw ’14 as Frederick Treves, the surgeon who rescues him from a freak show act, Will O’Meara ’12 playing his manager and Emily Nelson ’12 as the actress who befriends Merrick. Uppermids Ben Johnson and Emily Nelson in The Elephant Man.

14 Taft Bulletin Summer 2011

It was a historic moment in Bingham when Headmaster Willy MacMullen ’78 announced the new co-head monitors and co-chairs for next year to a cheering student body. New this year, one boy and one girl from each class were elected as the new student leaders. Will O’Meara and Story Viebranz are the newly elected cohead monitors for the Class of 2012. Assistant headmaster Rusty Davis chaired a student-faculty committee to examine all areas of student leadership elections, from the election process to the possibility of co-head monitors. The committee suggested several subtle but substantive changes to the process and also recommended that the school elect co-chairs of all class committees as well as co-head monitors. “The committee did remarkable

work,” MacMullen said, “and their recommendations were really well received. One of the reasons for the head monitor recommendation was that we have had numerous ties over the years for class committee chairs, and cochairs have always worked out well. But more importantly, we saw this as an opportunity to expand leadership opportunity. I am really excited— not just about Story and Will, who will be terrific, but also about the change in general.” Students must also “opt-in” now if they are interested in serving on their class committee, and head monitor candidates need to complete personal statements that are shared with the student body.

In the Gallery Rockwell Visiting Artist Bruce Stiglich visited art classes and spoke with students at Morning Meeting this spring. “My work begins with a discovery of found images that to me seem incomplete,” he explained. “The process of completing the image is selfreferential in nature. They deal with issues of memory, chance, mysticism, puzzles and pieces. That these pieces fit and don’t fit simultaneously, create a logical formal order and a less logical meaning.” His show Accumulation/ Hallucination was in the Mark Potter ’48 Gallery for the month of May. For more information, visit

h Charles Keating, a former Royal Shakespeare Company actor, helps English teachers Rick Lansdale and Linda Saarnijoki with a scene from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, as Pam MacMullen looks on. Peter Frew ’75

Acting Out English teachers acted out Shakespeare and explored ways to incorporate performance work into classroom teaching and assessment at their department day. “This day helped us shape the English curriculum for next year in ways that are exciting,” said Jennifer Zaccara, head of the English Department. “In addition, it was a lot of fun to see colleagues acting

out Pyramus and Thisbe scenes from A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” As a result of the day’s activities, Shakespeare and performance work will now take a more central role in the English curriculum. New next year, uppermids and seniors will read Shakespeare and all classes will do sonnet recitations.

New Tradition

This year’s senior class established a Senior Community Service Day to give back to the community and reflect the school motto en masse in their final days on campus. The entire class participated, volunteering at either Flanders Nature Center or Audubon Society. Both organizations are longtime partners

of Taft, committed to the conservation, preservation and restoration of natural resources. On a very rainy Thursday morning, seniors worked at these sites, removing invasive plant species, cleaning up trails and cutting brush. “Even though it was a wet day, the seniors embraced the spirit of the day, worked hard and had a lot of fun,” said head of Global Service and Scholarship Jamella Lee. “I expect this is a tradition that future senior classes will carry on.” Student organizers were Lillie Belle Viebranz ’11 and Meg Cavazuti ’11 of the Volunteer Council as well as the school monitors. In addition to Lee, faculty members Jeremy Clifford and Baba Frew provided support to make the day successful.

The Power of One The all-school summer reading book is the compelling memoir The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay. “When the young protagonist faces an uncaring adult world with little support from others and a negligible sense of self, he uses his friendships as a means to understand the world,” writes one senior who recommends the book, “giving him the courage, intelligence, and power to survive. The Power of One is an empowering story that illustrates the trials of adolescence and the value of friendship...” “Courtenay’s The Power of One is South Africa’s Forrest Gump,” writes another. Previous selections for the allschool summer read, which dates back to 2001, include Zeitoun by Dave Eggers, Namesake by Jhumpa Lahirir, Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich, Tracy Kidder’s Mountains Beyond Mountains, Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, Never Cry Wolf by Farley Mowat, House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus, Color of Water by James McBride and Ishmael by Daniel Quinn. You can find more summer reading suggestions from students and faculty on the website: readinglist.aspx

Taft Bulletin Summer 2011 15

around the POND

in brief Summer Fellowships Kilbourne Summer Enrichment Fund in the arts

Bulletin Wins Bronze The Council for the Advancement of Support of Education recognized the Taft Bulletin with a bronze medal for excellence among Independent School Magazines.

Natalie Bell ’12--------------------------------------------Architectural design, Columbia University Katerina Rosen ’12-------------------------------------------- Creative writing, Columbia University Oliver Salk ’13----------------------Summer camp for film and acting, New York Film Academy Cassie Willson ’13-------------------- Music, Center for Creative Youth at Wesleyan University Sam Lamy ’14-----------------Photography, Center for Creative Youth at Wesleyan University Kasey Pietro ’13---------------- Musical theater, Boston University Summer Theatre Institute

Meg Page ’74 Fellowships

A.J. Fields ’12---------------------------------------National Youth Leadership Forum on Medicine Paige Rogers ’12-------------------------------------------- Biology course, University of Richmond Zinhe Zheng ’13-------------------- Biomedical Research Academy, University of Pennsylvania

Robert Poole Fellowships

Brazen Brass Collegium’s 15th annual concert at St. John the Divine was packed with family, friends and alumni. The program, entitled Brazen Brass, featured music for choir, brass and organ including Renaissance music and contemporary Paul Halley tunes. As always, all Collegium alumni were invited to join in singing the final piece, Freedom Trilogy by Halley. “It continues to be a glorious close to our Collegium Musicum concert season,” said music director Bruce Fifer. Collegium also performed Brazen Brass at the final Music For a Great Space concert in Woodward Chapel on campus.

Teens and Sleep “We looked at recent research on the sleep patterns of adolescents and realized that a later start time would bring academic benefits and make for healthier, better-rested students,” said dean of academic affairs Jon Willson ’82. So after much debate, the faculty voted in favor of a schedule change for next year that moves the start of the class day from 7:50 to 8:15 am. Nearly 70 percent of the faculty voted for the change. 16 Taft Bulletin Summer 2011

Christopher Browner ’12------------------------------------------Waterbury Police Activity League Everett Brownstein ’12-------------------------------- Helambru Project, Omprakash Foundation Katie Drinkwater ’11------------------------------------------------------- WISER, Muhuru Bay, Kenya Ben Johnson ’12---------------------------------------- Helambru Project, Omprakash Foundation Grace Kalnins ’11----------------------------------------------------------- WISER, Muhuru Bay, Kenya Claire Moore ’12-------------------------------------------------------------Trinity Yard School, Ghana Mai Nguyen ’12---------------------------------------------------------------------Tinkuy program, Peru Carl Sangree ’14------------------------------------------------------------- AMC teen crew work, N.H. Blake Turner ’12---------------------------------------------- Immokalee Guadalupe Center, Florida Lily Tyson ’13-----------------------------------------------------------Rustic Pathways program, India Irene Villafane Sanz ’13---------------------------------------------------------- Travel to Teach, China Dima Yankova ’12------------------------------------------------------------------Tinkuy program, Peru Will Ziesing ’12-------------------------------------------------------Wetlands remediation, Wyoming

Comedy of Errors Helena Fifer’s advanced acting class presented William Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors in the Black Box in May. While the original plan was to perform outside in front of Congdon, the weather did not cooperate. “This production was definitely an ensemble effort, with many of the actors playing multiple roles, changing costumes—and genders—at breakneck speed,” said Fifer. “We performed with no set but great lighting and sound, and the students did a stupendous job.” The cast included Maggie Alisberg, Katherine Carroll, Elias Clough, Liz Demmon, Charlie Garcia, Jack Kenyon, KC Pietro, Cassie Willson and Erin Wilson. Special guests were

Nick Auer, Jake Cohen, Molly Tuohy and Ebony Easley. Fifer is eager to work with the English Department next year as they introduce more Shakespeare and performance work into their curriculum. “I know my students are going to be the experts when it comes to reading, understanding and coming up with innovative ways to perform Shakespeare,” said Fifer.

Walk MS A team of over 30 students and faculty participated in the 2011 Walk MS in Litchfield, raising more than $1,300 to support multiple sclerosis. This is the second year that Taft has participated.

College Process Gets Real The McCullough field house was packed for this year’s annual College Fair, which hosted representatives from over 125 schools from across the country. Mids and uppermids attended, as did students from local high schools, including Watertown, Waterbury, Westover, Trinity-Pawling and Gunnery. 

 “Meeting people from the different schools made the college process very real,” said Eliza Davis ’12. “It didn’t really hit me until I went home with seven viewbooks that now I actually have to start thinking about college. The college process isn’t far away anymore!”

College Choices This year, Taft seniors chose the following schools in the highest number: Amherst College..............................................3 Bates College...................................................5 Boston College.................................................9 Bowdoin College..............................................4 Bucknell University..........................................5 Colorado College.............................................3 Columbia University........................................3 Cornell University............................................6 George Washington University........................9 Georgetown University....................................7 Gettysburg College..........................................3 Johns Hopkins University.................................3 Lehigh University.............................................3 Middlebury College.........................................3 New York University........................................4 Northeastern University..................................3 Trinity College..................................................6 Tufts University................................................5 Villanova University.........................................4 Wesleyan University........................................3 Williams College..............................................3

Awards Violinists Michelle Chang ’12 and TaeYoung Woo ’12 were accepted into select orchestras. Chang was accepted into the MENC (Music Education National Conference) All National Orchestra this year. Woo was accepted to the Connecticut All State Orchestra.

n Chemistry teacher

David Hostage was awarded the 2010–11 High School Teacher Award from the Connecticut Valley Section of the American Chemical Society.


• Alison Carlson, senior class dean • Jeremy Clifford, middle class dean • Shannon Lenz Guidotti, upper middle class dean • Ellen Hinman, Classics Department head • Steve Palmer, English Department head • Al Reiff ’80, director of Taft Educational Center • Jen Reilly, middle class dean • Rachael Ryan, lower middle class dean • Sarah Sanborn, associate dean of students • Jen Zaccara, associate dean of faculty


• Rohan Arjun, global scholarship & service fellow, admissions • Kevin Conroy, Spanish (returning) • John Dawson, history, admissions • Brianne Foley, history • Amanda Getty, science • Caitlin Hincker, English • Ken Hincker, English • Michael Hoffman ’97, admissions, history • Shaadi Khoury, history • Matt LaBrie, English fellow • Matt Mason, classics & admissions fellow • Nick MacDonald, history • Luis Mendoza, Spanish • Ben Pastor ’97, alumni & development • Ledlie Pastor, alumni & development • Moriah Petersen, science fellow • Peter Saltsman, director of environmental studies & stewardship; GSS, science • Kate Seethaler, dance

n John Boyd ’11 received the Award of Excellence for his contributions to the historical committee at the 2011 Harvard Model Congress.

n Head Athletic Trainer Maryann Laska was inducted into the class of 2011 Connecticut Athletic Trainers’ Association (CATA) Hall of Fame.

• Will Shotwell, English • Charles Thompson, information technology director • Johanna Valdez, English fellow • Walt Warner, science

Departed • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Kendall Adams ’05, science Tom Adams, information technology Brandan Baran, history Mark Bodnar, information technology Chris Brown ’64, English Chris Dietrich, admissions Joe Freeman, English Nicole Glazer ’05, Spanish Mike Harrington, science Jess Hayward, mathematics Leon Hayward, mathematics Bill Kron, science Meredith Lyons, dance Rob Madden ’03, Spanish Simón Ponce, Spanish Geordie Richards, mathematics Edie Traina, history Mark Traina, history Nikki Willis, English

Sabbatical • David Hostage

Taft Bulletin Summer 2011 17

For more on the spring season, please visit

spring SPORT wrap-up By steve Palmer

h Rhydian Glass ’12 pitched a strong game for Taft, earning six strikeouts in six innings against Westminster in the championship game of the Western New England Tournament.

n Capping a season that included wins over Deerfield, Hotchkiss and Choate, co-captain Philippe Simard ’11 received the Alban Barker League Sportsmanship award. Peter Frew ’75

Rob Madden ’03

Boys’ Lacrosse 6–10 This was a season of close games in a very tight league for Taft, including four one-goal losses and three one-goal wins. Two of the best games came late in the season, a 9–8 win over Loomis followed by a 12–13 loss to Avon. Offensively, Matt Hauck ’11 led the way, with 32 goals and 12 assists, earning All-Western New England honors and a spot in the New England East-West Game. Jeff Kratky ’13, Taft’s second leading goal scorer, also earned All-WNE honors and won 62% of his face-offs. Defensively, Peter Mistretta ’11 and Matt Tetro ’11 were solid and were named Founders League All-Stars. With some talented young players, Taft returns five of its top six scorers, along with goalie Chase Murphy ’12 who had a huge second half of the year, saving 58% of shots faced. 18 Taft Bulletin Summer 2011

Girls’ Lacrosse 11–4 The girls’ varsity lacrosse season started with a spring break to Baltimore to play two of the top teams in the nation, Severn and McDonogh schools, and Taft followed with four straight wins for a 4–0 start. Captains Julia Van Sant ’11 and Pell Bermingham ’11 led the team all season and in many ways on the field. Laurel Pascal ’12 was the leading scorer while Jordan McCarthy ’12 defensively marked opponents’ best players. Both were named NEPSWLA All Stars for their efforts. Highlights down the stretch included a victory over the always strong Greenwich Academy (14–6) and an exciting one-goal win against undefeated rival Hotchkiss (11–10). Taft will miss the all-around talents of Van Sant, Bermingham, Jenny Janeck ’11 and

Claire Wilson ’11, but returns 12 players for the 2012 season, including leading offensive threat Charlotte O’Leary ’12, and goalie Lexi Dwyer ’12.

Girls’ Golf 12–2

New England Champions Founders League Champions

After sweeping league rivals Choate (6–0) and Loomis (5–0) during the season, Taft earned its first New England Championship by winning the 26th Pippy O’Connor Independent School Girls Golf Classic held at Blue Hill Country Club in Canton, MA. Captain Ali Eleey ’12 was the individual Medalist out of the 72 girls in the field, shooting a 77, and her teammates Nikki Yatsenick ’12 (84), Caroline Quamme ’13 (85),

and Erin McPhee ’11 (94) combined for the lowest team score of 340 to defeat a strong Greenwich Academy team. Taft has won the 18-hole team division for three years now, but this was the first year the event was sanctioned as the New England championship. The Rhinos were also crowned Founders League Champions a week later, again with Eleey as Medalist (36), and again with Quamme, Yatsenick, and McPhee leading the way for the team score.

Boys’ Golf 10–1 The rough spring weather made for an uneven season for Taft’s young golf squad, with a total of six canceled matches. Despite starting three lower middlers for most matches, the Rhinos played well as a team throughout the regular season, going 10–1 with key wins over Choate (422–423) and eventual KIT champion Kingswood (408–412). Matt Schimenti ’14 and Henry Wesson ’13 earned All League honors and played in the top two spots for much of the spring, while captain and Galeski Award winner John Wawer ’11 played well in every match and steadied the team. At the 22-team KIT tournament, the season’s finale, Taft finished 7th behind uppermid Brandon Sousa’s 78, with Schimenti (79) and Wesson (80) close behind.

Softball 11–3

Western New England Runner-Up

Although Taft suffered two losses right off the bat to tough Canterbury and Westminster teams, this was a determined team that worked hard each day together. The Rhinos went on to win nine consecutive games, giving up only 14 runs while racking up 94 runs during that streak. This was also a season of firsts for the program, as the team defeated Choate (4–0) for the first time in many years to win the semifinal

game of the Western New England Championship. Moreover, it was the first time in Taft’s history that the softball team made it to the championship game of the Western New England Tournament, a great game despite the 1–3 loss to Westminster. Captains Jess Desorcie ’11 and Kate Moreau ’11 were the heart of the infield and were very productive at the plate. Rhydian Glass ’12 was stellar on the mound throughout the season and one of the leading batters along with Cassie Ruscz ’13.

came through with their best match of the season, an improbable win over top-ranked Kingswood Oxford, 4–3. Taft’s doubles teams would sweep—the strength of the team all season—and then Carlotta Nocivelli ’11 won the deciding three-set battle at #3 singles. This was the start of a fabulous 4 match run, including wins over Choate and Hopkins to clinch a winning record. With nine returners, the future looks bright for 2012.

Baseball 9–6–1 Early season wins over Hotchkiss (7–5) and Kent (16–8) propelled Taft to second place in both the Founders and Colonial leagues with a record of 9–6–1. However, the Rhinos’ real highlight came in dealing first-place Avon Old Farms its only loss of the season, a 6–4 victory behind senior Mike West’s great pitching. Taft then defeated third-place Loomis Chaffee in the exciting season finale. Co-captain Mike Moran ’11 hit a monster, walk-off home run in the bottom of the tenth for the win, and that came after he pitched a complete teninning game with 10 strikeouts. Moran finished the season with a 1.42 ERA and a .327 BA. Fellow seniors co-captain Nick Manfreda ’11 (.412 BA, .508 OBP, 3 HR), Sam French ’11 (.393 BA, .443 OBP, 13 RBI), and West (.316 BA, .469 OBP, 4.57 ERA) also had tremendous seasons. Kyle Considine ’12 (1.74 ERA) and Jackson McGonagle ’12 will return to lead next year’s team.

Girls’ Tennis 7–6 Captain Lydie Abood ’11 and Courtney Jones ’13 took over at #1 and #2 singles this spring and helped Taft race out to a 3–0 start to the season. That momentum was halted in a heartbreaking 3–4 loss to Westminster that spiraled to six straight losses. However, the Rhinos

n Captain Louie Reed ’11 on his way to a 49.29 in the 400m at the New England Championship meet. Courtesy of Risley Sports Photography

Boys’ Tennis 15–4

Founders League Champions Southern New England Champions New England Runner Up

Taft again won the Southern New England Tennis League and Founders League, but the 2011 squad may be the strongest in recent memory. Four players won individual league titles: co-captain Herbie Klotz ’11 at #3 singles, Jagger Riefler ’13 at #4, Andy Cannon ’11 at #5 and Austen Dixon ’11 at #6. Co-captain Phil Simard ’11 was Taft’s top player for the third year and was honored to win the League Sportsmanship award, voted on by all the league coaches. Taft Bulletin Summer 2011 19

spring SPORT Benedikt Burckhardt ’11 also had a great season at #2 singles and teamed up with Klotz to form a formidable #1 doubles team. The Rhinos defeated Groton (4–0) in the first round of the New England Tournament, then Deerfield (4–0) in the semifinals to set up the championship final with Andover, a 2–4 loss. That final battle was made up of incredibly close matches and monumental swings, with the most dramatic comeback staged by Riefler, who won after being down 1–5 in the third set.

in the 200 meters. A.J. Fields ’11 led the throwers all season and placed 6th at the New England meet with a new personal best of 44′6″ in the shot put.

Girls’ Track 7–2 This strong, balanced team came within a few points of winning the Founders League title. Taft was solid in nearly every event, led by co-captain Idara Foster

SPRING 2011 ATHLETIC AWARD WINNERS Seymour Willis Beardsley Track Award-----------------------Xavier Louis Reed ’11 Idara A. Foster ’11 Crew Awards------------------------------------------------------------Emerson Davis ’11 Emily K. Ewing ’11 Galeski Golf Award------------------------------------------------------John J. Wawer ’11 George D. Gould Tennis Award--------------------------------Philippe S. Simard ’11 Girls’ Golf Award------------------------------------------------------ Erin E. McPhee ’11 Odden Lacrosse Award------------------------------------------ Matthew C. Hauck ’11 Alrick H. Man, Jr., Tennis Award----------------------------------Lydia H. Abood ’11 Softball Award-------------------------------------------------------Rhydian W. Glass ’12 Stone Baseball Award--------------------------------------------- Michael R. Moran ’11 Wandelt Lacrosse Award------------------------------- Katherine P. Bermingham ’11 Julia C. Van Sant ’11

Boys’ Track 5–6 The season started well with wins over Avon, Trinity Pawling and a strong team from Brunswick, but Taft had too many holes to compete with league champions Loomis and a powerful Choate team. The strength of the Rhinos was in the sprints, especially the 400 meters, led by captain Louie Reed ’11, who won the Founders League Meet and placed 2nd at the New England meet with a time of 49.29. Mike Williams ’11 had a hand in tying two school records in our fantastic tri-meet versus Suffield and Hotchkiss. Williams won the 100m in 10.84 to tie the mark set in 1996, then he anchored the 4x100m relay with Mitch Wagner ’12, Zach Karlan ’12, and Reed, winning in 43.71. Karlan placed 3rd at the league meet and 5th at the New England meet 20 Taft Bulletin Summer 2011

’11 who tied the school record in the 100 meters (12.4) and anchored the new school record in the 4x100m relay with Lexi Rogers ’12, Candice Dyce ’13, and Sammi Morrill ’13 (50.93). Lucy Aziz ’11 came close to being undefeated in the PV and discus through the dual meet season, and was 2nd in both at the league meet. Taft throwers were dominant all season, with Maggie O’Neil ’13 (3rd) and Katie Harpin ’13 (4th) placing at the New England meet in the shot put, and Harpin (4th) and Ellen Kalnins ’12 (5th) placing in the javelin. Leah McIntosh ’13 was a leading hurdler and jumper and scored in every event she entered all season, while teammate Candice Dyce ’13 was a double Founders League champion, finishing with season-best marks of 16′5″ in the long jump and 35′9″ in the triple jump.

With so many strong, young athletes, this team should be in the championship mix for the next two years.

Girls’ Crew 7–2 The 2011 crew team was the largest in school history, with six boats. This depth allowed Taft to be quite competitive, defeating crews from Choate, Berkshire, Gunnery and always-strong Porters on the way to winning most of its dual and tri races. At the Founders Day Regatta, all six of Taft’s crews made the finals, and the fifth boat won a bronze medal. The first boat won the Petite Final while the fourth boat finished fourth. At the New England Championship, Taft received invitations for all four of the eligible boats. The second boat made it to the Grand Final, and the first boat won the Petite Final to lead Taft to a 7th-place finish for the points trophy. The crew of Hanna Dethlefs ’12, Liz Sangree ’11, Sasha Bogdanovics ’11 and co-captains Emily Ewing ’11 and cox Neve Schadler ’11 made for a powerful first boat and has been at the core of this team for the past two years.

Boys’ Crew 5–2 This was a deep crew team, with talent across all five boats. The Rhinos swept Gunnery and Canterbury early in the season, then did the same in defeating Pomfret and Middlesex just before the New England Championships, where the third boat made it to the Grand Final. Taft had its best day at the Founders Day Regatta, a 23-team field hosted by The Gunnery. Taft’s second boat won the Petite Finals, while first and fourth boats made it to the Grand Finals. Injuries to co-captains Emerson Davis ’11 and Tommy Mulroy ’11 and tough weather made for an uneven season in the top boats, but Kris Bae ’11, Sam Willson ’11, David Hanke ’12, William Fitzgerald ’12 and cox Amanda Crown ’11 powered the first boat in its fastest races.

annual fund report


This has been a remarkably successful year for the Taft Annual Fund—a banner year, for sure. Taft alumni/ae, parents,

$3.6 million goal, by raising $3,815,989, breaking our record of previous years. These new funds equate to almost $6,500 per student, and provide grandparents and friends helped us exceed our

critical operating support to the school. Our loyal and generous alumni raised an impressive


The Class of 1966 celebrated its 45th reunion by

contributing more than any other class, at


and the Class of 1961 demonstrated the highest level of participation among classes 50 or fewer years out, with

59% of its members contributing. I offer my most sincere thanks and congratulations to those reunion-year donors, and to the entire Taft community for its selfless generosity and loyalty in this great achievement.


Taft Bulletin Summer 2011 21

annual fund report 2010–11 …continued from previous page

Overall alumni participation came in at 38%, in line with recent year levels, but short of

historical highs. We should all congratulate ourselves on this result, but I believe that we can do much better. That we were still able to realize record-level giving stands as testament to the outstanding effort of our class agents and volunteers, who work very hard to advocate on behalf of the Annual Fund and who build and sustain vibrant connections between Taft and our alumni body. Few of us enjoy being solicited for donations, and fewer still prize the responsibility to conduct that work. It requires discipline, fortitude, time and enthusiasm to make “the ask,” and hundreds of Taft alumni and student volunteers have taken on this role in the true spirit of service. This year’s performance, and the consistent contributions of our corps of volunteers, bodes very well for next year’s campaign, and for Taft’s future.

Extending its remarkable fundraising streak, the Taft Parents’ Fund had another amazing year

by reaching 95% participation and generating $1,546,425 in support from current parents. Our parents’ fund continues to set the standard among all such funds at the nation’s best independent schools. Such phenomenal success would not be possible without the continued largesse of our current parents, the exemplary leadership of the Parents’ Fund chairs, Tim and Nan O’Neill, and the determination and toil of the Parents’ Committee. If history is any guide, this team is poised to produce amazing results again, next year, under the guidance of incoming chairs Don and Maris Pascal.

As chair of the Annual Fund, I am fortunate and honored to work with many talented and

dedicated volunteers and staff in service to Taft and its future. The Taft Annual Fund continues to generate financial resources that are critical to providing the best possible learning environment for our students, and the engagement of the larger Taft community is fundamental to that undertaking. Thank you for your partnership and generosity in support of Taft. With warm regards,

Dylan Simonds ’89 Annual Fund Chair

22 Taft Bulletin Summer 2011

n New Parents’ Committee Chairs Don and Maris Pascal

n Parents’ Committee Chairs Tim and Nan O’Neill with daughters Jarvy, Caroline ’11, Eleanor ’11 and Maggie ’14

2010–11 Parents’ Fund Committee Nan and Tim O’Neill, chairs Marion Markham and Randy Abood ’68 Jan and Eric Albert ’77 Rachel Cohan Albert and Jonathan Albert ’79 Heidi and Andrew Arthur ’81 Liisa and Kenneth Bacco Kathryn and Roy Beller Ann and Douglass Bermingham Jody and Brian Boland Constance and Michael Carroll Sheilah and Tom Chatjaval

Irene and Albert Cheng Stasha and Mark Cohen Jane and Jack Cooney Kathy and Brian Daigle John Davidge III and Deborah Lott Jane DeBevoise Doone and George Estey Linn ’82 and Robert Feidelson ’82 Melissa and Trevor Fetter Libby and Terry Fitzgerald Kristine and Peter Glazer

2011 Class Agent Awards* Snyder Award

Largest amount contributed by a reunion class Class of 1966: $126,132 Class Agent: McKim Symington

Chairman of the Board Award

Highest percent participation from a class 50 years out or less Class of 1961: 59% (includes capital) Class Agent: Jerry Mitchell

McCabe Award

Largest amount contributed by a non-reunion class Class of 1962: $97,513 Class Agent: Fred Nagle

Young Alumni Dollars Award

Largest amount contributed from a class 10 years out or less Class of 2001: $6,546 Class Agent: Kat Tuckerman *Awards determined by gifts and pledges to the Annual Fund as of June 30, 2011.

Nicky and Jamie Grant Nana-Yaa and Ebenezer B. Gyasi Anne and Randy Harrell James R. Hedges IV Ken Hubbard and Tori Dauphinot Jean Marie and Douglas Jamieson Radford Klotz and Shahnaz Batmanghelidj Barbara and David Knowlton Val and John Kratky Karin and John Kukral Elizabeth and Gavin Leckie Susan and Robert Long Lisa and Joe Lovering Alice and Albert Ma Christiana and Ferdy Masucci Lisa and Jay McDermott Barbara and Rai Mehta Laura and Frank Michnoff Regina and Dennis Olmstead Ellen and Bill Oppenheim Melody and Marvin Palmore Maris and Don Pascal Jacqueline and Harry Pierandri Lee and Michael Profenius Elizabeth and Frank Queally Carla and Fred Reed Staley and Carter Sednaoui Cindy and John Sites Chris and James Smith Randi and Mitchell Solomon Claudia and Allen M. Sperry Daniel Standish and Melanie Dorsey Joyce and Wing Suen Mimi and Marc Tabah Denise and John Trevenen Kimberly and Michael Tucci Nancy and Robert Turner Sarah and Robert Underhill Cissy and Curt Viebranz Beverly and Mark Wawer Susan and John Wilson Won Hi Yoo and Kyung Ae Song Peter and Jo Ziesing ’78

Taft Bulletin Summer 2011 23

And then there were


Coeducation at Taft turns 40 By Phoebe Vaughn Outerbridge ’84

Illustrations by Nicole Alesi


hen Leslie Herrlinger Lanahan ’73 first arrived on the Taft campus in the fall of 1971 as a new junior, and as one of only 82 girls in a student body of 489, she turned the handle of her door in Mac House and was pleasantly surprised. Fresh paint. Shag carpeting. Groovy curtains. “I had a huge single, and it was all decorated in purple and white Marimekko. They were trying to make it look fabulous!” recalls Lanahan. Laughing, she adds that she was admitted the same day as her admissions interview. The spacious singles in Mac House are mostly doubles now, and much has changed on campus, and indeed the world, since the first years of coeducation in the early 1970s when Taft was eagerly beckoning girls to come to the school. The red carpet treatment isn’t really necessary these days, since about 740 girls apply to Taft for approximately 95 spots each year. The school reached gender parity (48 or 49 percent) almost 20 years ago, and new opportunities continue to abound for girls on campus. Having enjoyed a healthy infancy and a rapid growth spurt, what is the state of coeducation at Taft today? Has it reached its cruising altitude or is there still work to be done? “What is all this rush to coeducation? Isn’t this just flabby yielding to the fad of instant entertainment and gratification?” wrote Headmaster John Esty in the fall 1969

issue of the Taft Bulletin, exemplifying some of the doubts and questions that were naturally raised in the process of turning 80 years of tradition on its side. Outlining the evolution of the school’s coeducation deliberations in his article, “Coeducation: Frantic, Faddish, and Fundamental,” Esty wrote, “The addition of girls would greatly enhance two traditional goals at Taft: diversification of the student body…and realistic preparation for college and a mature, adult life.” While there were more mundane, pragmatic concerns that accompanied the loftier reasons to accept girls (Esty noted the “greater economy of operation” of admitting girls, in the context of diminishing applications to single-sex schools), the concept of adding females to the Taft equation was a reflection of current culture and educational trends. “There was this gigantic shift that went on in the sixties,” recalls Tony Guernsey ’66, who was graduating just as Taft’s Long Range Planning Committee issued its recommendation to explore the idea of admitting girls. “To give you an example, at my college in 1966 there were parietals, and women had to be in their dorms by 10 p.m. By 1970, there were coed dorms.” By then, several top colleges had also begun to admit women [see Timeline]. Taft did in fact dabble in coeducation before 1971. In 1965 the school began a tri-school experiment with the nearby girls’ schools Westover and St. Margaret’s, in an effort to provide access to science courses to the girls, in return for courses in philosophy, religion and Russian. The logistical complications of transportation and conflicting schedules proved tough to overcome. The Taft Summer Enrichment Program, however, which was one-third girls, was a truly coed experience. While it may have initially appeared “faddish,” the process of exploring coeducation was, and still is, a very deliberate, continually self-evaluative process at Taft. After years of thorough discussion and consultation by an executive committee of the Alumni Taft Bulletin Summer 2011 25

Association, the board announced its support for a move to coeducation in 1969 and Esty commissioned several joint committees of faculty, staff and students, who gave the coed movement momentum. The committees examined admissions, athletics, dormitories, curriculum and student life in order to create a complete plan for the transition. Rather than merge, Taft made the decision to admit girls in their own right for the 1971–72 academic year. And the girls jumped right into the swim. “We were adventurous, and the stakes weren’t so high,” notes Jean Piacenza ’75, director of counseling and community health at Taft and one of 15 lowermids that first year. “We were well rounded; we weren’t afraid to try to be athletes, students, singers, dancers. My kids said to me once, ‘Wow, mom, you were a three-sport athlete!’ And my reply to them was, ‘Yes—any caterpillar could be on a team back then!’” Athletics played a large role in helping the girls assimilate on campus. And with the passing of Title IX in 1972, a new door opened for female athletes everywhere. Guernsey, who sent two daughters to Taft, credits much of the female empowerment at Taft to Patsy

The X X Factor


Kent School admits girls.


Taft hires its first female faculty member, Sabra Johnson.


Taft enters a tri-school agreement with Westover and St. Margaret’s as a coeducational experiment. 26 Taft Bulletin Summer 2011

Odden, wife of headmaster Lance Odden (and, according to Guernsey, one of very few females on the Taft campus in the mid-1960s—four of whom were the daughters of language teacher John Noyes). Patsy spearheaded the formation of the girls’ varsity ice hockey team—a team that enjoyed many undefeated seasons and produced two Olympians. “I think Patsy and Lance brought the status of a woman to equal or even greater than that of a male student,” says Guernsey. Opportunities for girls expanded quickly and Taft’s transition to coeducation was quite smooth. “Taft was the envy of those schools who merged in the ’70s. We were also the model for places like Lawrenceville and Deerfield who went coed later,” says Lance Odden, who took the reins from John Esty in 1972. Esty agrees. “When I became president of the National Association of Independent Schools, I discovered our story was considered a model that was sent out to schools who asked for help and guidance in their own undertaking in becoming coed. In fact, Deerfield’s headmaster invited me to address his faculty twice on how Taft became coeducational.” By 1980, the year that Elizabeth Lewis ’81 was elected Taft’s first female head monitor, girls comprised 40 percent of the Taft student body, the original goal set by Esty and the board. Both the curricular and the extracurricular programs expanded greatly with the addition of girls, with more opportunities than ever for both girls and boys to participate in sports, music, dance, theater and community service among other areas. “I think the opportunities for Taft girls get better and better,” says Sara Guernsey ’11, daughter of Tony Guernsey. “Our softball program is growing exponentially. Some of the best records the past few years have been in field hockey, volleyball and girls’ golf. And when it comes to extracurriculars, girls take over!” Both Guernseys suggest, however, that there is still work to be done. Reading from a plaque on Main Hall, Sara was stunned that out of the last 40 head monitors, only five were female. Jean Piacenza agrees, adding, “I’m surprised that girls haven’t taken over. It’s ironic.”


I had a huge single, and it was all decorated in purple and white Marimekko. They were trying to make it look fabulous!


John Esty initiates discussion on coeducation. Vassar declines Yale’s invitation to merge.

Taft officially announces it will admit girls as Taft students. Williams College and Phillips Exeter go coed.


Taft’s board of trustees makes decision to admit girls. Princeton and Yale admit girls; Vassar admits boys.


Taft opens in the fall with 82 girls.

Taft Bulletin Summer 2011 27

I think the opportunities for Taft girls get better and better... And when it comes to extracurriculars, girls take over!

Lily Lanahan ’06, daughter of Leslie Lanahan and a former head monitor, finds Taft to be a place of equal opportunity, but is also perplexed by the female leadership conundrum. “I’m not sure why there have been so few female head monitors. I think there have been a lot of capable nominees, male and female. I believe it comes down to finding someone who can bridge the gap between both genders and who is eager to get the job done.” Jean’s daughter Emily Piacenza ’00, the first child of an alumna to come to Taft, also wonders why, for example, boys’ varsity sports tend to be higher profile, maybe everywhere but certainly when she was at Taft. Emily (one of few female teachers at an all-boys school in Washington, D.C.) adds, “I also think having a very strong female role model makes an important difference in a girl’s life. For me, my mother set an example that showed me it was okay to be confident, opinionated and smart. Other girls do not always have that, and at a time that can be really stressful (high school), it mattered to me that I felt supported.” The issue of female leadership is now in the purview of the newly created Gender Committee, whose overall mission is to help foster gender equity on campus. Comprised of 16 Taft faculty and staff, the committee is designed to be an open forum to discuss and identify, in the words of its mission, “…areas for promoting leadership with regards to the multidimensional nature of gender, [seeking] to correct any barriers to the equal treatment of individuals on campus.” The formation of the Gender Committee is partly a result of Taft’s participation in a 2008 study designed by the Independent School Gender Project, which set out to measure the progress of girls and women and the attitudes toward gender at independent schools. A previous self-study on gender, initiated in 1985 by Lance Odden and conducted by Harvard researcher Carol Gilligan and the Wellesley Center for Research on Women, yielded the key recommendation to move from a 60/40 male/ female enrollment ratio to 50/50 and to hire more female faculty, among other recommendations. Today, women comprise 44 percent of the faculty. Jennifer Zaccara, co-chair of the Gender Committee, recently attended an eye-opening national Gender Project Conference. “I found out that while a great deal of progress in terms of gender equity had occurred in the ’70s and ’80s, we have



Molly Baldrige ’72 becomes first alumna trustee.

Andover merges with Abbott.


Lance Odden becomes headmaster. Kitten Gahagan becomes first female trustee.

28 Taft Bulletin Summer 2011


Hotchkiss admits girls.


Liz Lewis ’81 is elected as Taft’s first female head monitor.

slipped from that strong footing,” she explains. “We have now recognized that by not keeping the major issues of equity before us, we end up losing ground.” She underscores that the issue is not unique to Taft. “From my perspective, there is so much positive change right now that I cannot help but be excited about the future at Taft.” As a result of the recent study, and work on the Gender Committee, one major, measurable change took place this spring: the election of two head monitors—one male, one female (see page 14). Other changes include reexamining the administrative structure to open up more opportunities in administrative leadership. Fewer and fewer boys’ school vestiges exist at Taft now as the school—and society—evolves and works toward gender equity from the ground up. The relative success of Taft’s coeducation transition stems largely from its organic roots. By accepting girls in their own right from the get-go instead of merging the Taft culture with that of a girls’ school, the process was almost seamless. Leslie Lanahan, today a trustee of the school, reflects: “The school has had time to absorb and assimilate girls and the potential they bring to campus.” j



Taft undertakes study on gender and development with Harvard researcher Carol Gilligan.


Vogelstein girls’ dormitory is built. Girls represent 49% of student body.


First new girls’ dormitory, Centennial, is built. Girls represent 43% of student body.

Taft institutes co-head monitors, male and female (see page 14).


Taft forms Gender Committee.

v Author William Styron and daughter Alexandra at their home in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, in 1975. Alfred Eisenstaedt/ Time & Life Pictures/ Getty Images

Reading My Father

Rex Bonomelli

Excerpted from READING MY FATHER, by Alexandra Styron. Copyright © 2011 by Alexandra Styron. Excerpted with permission by Scribner, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

By Alexandra Styron ’83


We buried my father on a remarkably mild morning in November 2006. From our family’s house on Martha’s Vineyard to the small graveyard is less than a quarter mile, so we walked along the road, where, it being off-season, not a single car disturbed our quiet formation. Beneath the shade of a tall pin oak, we gathered around the grave site. Joining us were a dozen or so of my parents’ closest friends. The ceremony had been planned the way we thought he’d have liked it—short on pomp, and shorter still on religion. A couple of people spoke; my father’s friend Peter Matthiessen, a Zen priest, performed a simple blessing; and, as a family, we read the Emily Dickinson poem that my father had quoted at the end of his novel Sophie’s Choice.

Ample make this bed. Make this bed with awe; In it wait till judgment break Excellent and fair. Be its mattress straight, Be its pillow round; Let no sunrise’ yellow noise Interrupt this ground.

“It was an experience I would not care to miss, if only because of the way it tested my endurance and my capacity for sheer misery, physical and of the spirit.”

My father had been a Marine, so the local VA offered us a full military funeral. Mindful of his sensibilities, we declined the chaplain. We also nixed the three-volley salute. But we were sure Daddy would have been pleased by the six local honor guards who folded the flag for my mother, and the lone bugler who played taps before we dispersed. Of military service, my father once wrote, “It was an experience I would not care to miss, if only because of the way it tested my endurance and my capacity for sheer misery, physical and of the spirit.” The bugler, then, had honored another of my father’s quirks: his penchant for a good metaphor. A year and a half later, I was walking across the West Campus Quad of Duke University, my father’s alma mater. Passing beneath the chapel’s Gothic spire, I opened the heavy doors of Perkins Library and headed for the Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library. It is there that the William Styron Papers, 22,500 items pertaining to his life and work, are housed. I was at the end of my third trip to North Carolina in as many months. Before I flew home to New York that afternoon, there were two big boxes I still hoped to get a look through. In 1952, when he was twenty-six, my father published his first novel, Lie Down in Darkness. The book was an immediate success, and he was soon hailed as one of the great literary voices of his generation. Descendants of the so-called Lost Generation, my father and his crowd, including Norman Mailer, James Jones, and Irwin Shaw, embraced their roles as Big Male Writers. For years they perpetuated, without apology, the cliché of the gifted, hard drinking, bellicose writer that gave so much of twentieth-century literature a muscular, glamorous aura. In 1967, after the disappointing reception of his second novel, Set This House on Fire, my father published The Confessions of Nat Turner. It became a number one bestseller, helped fuel the tense national debate over race, and provoked another one regarding the boundaries of artistic license. Sophie’s Choice, published in 1979, won him critical and popular success around the world. Three years later, with the release of the film adaptation starring Meryl Streep and Kevin Kline, that story also brought him an extraliterary measure of fame. Winner of the Prix de Rome, American Book Award, Pulitzer Prize, the Howells Medal from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and France’s Légion d’Honneur, my father was considered one of the finest novelists of his time. He was also praised, perhaps by an even larger readership, for Darkness Visible, his frank account of battling, in 1985, with major clinical depression. A tale of descent and recovery, the book brought tremendous hope to fellow sufferers and their families. His eloquent prose dissuaded legions of would-be suicides and gave him an unlikely second act as the public face of unipolar depression. As it turned out, the illness wasn’t finished with my father. I think we all recognized, in the aftermath of his cataclysmic breakdown, that Bill Styron had always been depressed. A serious drinker, he relied on alcohol not only to self-medicate but to charm the considerable powers of his creative muse. When, at sixty, liquor began to disagree with him, he was surprised to find himself thoroughly unmanned. For many years after his ’85 episode, he maintained a fragile equilibrium. But the scars were deep, and left him profoundly changed. He was stalked by feelings of guilt and shame. Several setbacks, mini major depressions, humbled him further and wore a still deeper cavity in the underpinnings of his confidence. It seems that my father’s Get out of Jail Free card had been unceremoniously revoked. And though he went about his business, he’d become a man both hunted and haunted.

* * * One day when I was still a baby, not yet old enough to walk, my mother went out, leaving me in the care of my seven-year-old brother, Tommy, and nine-year-old sister, Polly. Before she left, my mother placed me in my walker. For a while, Polly, Tommy, and the two friends they had over played on the ground floor of our house while I gummed my hands and tooled around the kitchen island. Then, one by one, 32 Taft Bulletin Summer 2011

…our father was upstairs napping the whole time. Afraid for her own life as much as for mine, she couldn’t bring herself to wake him.

the older kids drifted outside. Maybe a half hour later, they found themselves together at Carl Carlson’s farm stand at the bottom of our hill. On the makeshift counter of his small shed, Carl sold penny candy; no one could resist a visit on the couple of days a week he was open. It took a little while, scrabbling over bubble gum and fireballs, before, with a sickening feeling, my siblings realized that nobody was watching the Baby. Racing back up the hill, Polly burst into the kitchen but couldn’t find me. After a minute or so, she heard a small moaning sound and followed it to the basement door. I was still strapped in my walker, but upside down on the concrete floor at the bottom of the rickety wood stairs. My forehead had swelled into a grotesque mound. My eyes were glassy and still. Cradling me, Polly and Tommy passed another stricken, terrified hour before my mother got home and rushed me to the hospital. I’ve known this famous family story for as long as I can remember. But I was in my thirties before Polly confessed a detail I’d never known: our father was upstairs napping the whole time. Afraid for her own life as much as for mine, she couldn’t bring herself to wake him. Until 1985, my father’s tempestuous spirit ruled our family’s private life as surely as his eminence defined the more public one. At times querulous and taciturn, cutting and remote, melancholy when he was sober and rageful when in his cups, he inspired fear and loathing in us a good deal more often than it feels comfortable to admit. But the same malaise that so decimated my father’s equanimity when he was depressed also quelled his inner storm when he recovered. In my adult years, he became remarkably mellow. A lion in winter, he drank less and relaxed more. He showed some patience, was mild, and expressed flashes of great tenderness for his children, his growing tribe of grandchildren, and, most especially, his wife. He also managed, for the first time, to access some of his childhood’s unexamined but corrosive sorrows. In 1987 my father wrote “A Tidewater Morning,” a short story in which he delivered a poignant chronicle of his mother’s death from cancer

He showed some patience, was mild, and expressed flashes of great tenderness for his children, his growing tribe of grandchildren, and, most especially, his wife.

Excerpted from READING MY FATHER, by Alexandra Styron. Copyright © 2011 by Alexandra Styron. Excerpted with permission by Scribner, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

when he was thirteen. The story would become the title of a collection of short fiction, published in 1993, that centered on the most significant themes of his youth. During these years he also wrote several essays for The New Yorker, Esquire, The New York Times, Newsweek, and other magazines. He published a clutch of editorials; wrote thirty some odd speeches, commencement addresses, eulogies, and tributes; and traveled frequently to speak on the subject of mental illness. As for long fiction, it was less clear what he was doing. (If there was a golden rule in our house when I was growing up, it was, unequivocally, “Don’t ask Daddy about his work.”) First and foremost, my father was a novelist. “A high priest at the altar of fiction,” as Carlos Fuentes describes him, he consecrated himself to the Novel. He wrote in order to explore the sorts of grand and sometimes existential themes whose complexity and scope are best served by long fiction. With a kind of sacred devotion, he kept at it, maintaining his belief in the narrative powers of a great story—and he suffered accordingly in the process. His prose, laid down in an elegant hand on yellow legal pads with Venus Velvet No. 2 pencils, came at a trickle. He labored over every word, editing as he went, to produce manuscripts that, when he placed the final period, needed very little in the way of revision. But, even at the height of his powers, this meant sometimes a decade or more between major works. Like that of a marathoner running in the dark, my father’s path was sometimes as murky as it was long. j Taft Bulletin Summer 2011 33



Commencement Exercises Real World

Jake Cohen ’11, head monitor

34 Taft Bulletin Summer 2011

Photographs by Robert Falcetti

The real world. We like to throw this phrase around a lot at Taft, but today it sounds more like a destination. Usually, we hear these words introducing the vague hypothetical. Many at Taft dread this phrase for faculty often use it as a launch pad for lectures about the ugly world, far beneath our ivory tower. In the real world, if you cheat, you get arrested. Sometimes, the phrase is subbed out for the hit euphemism “in the business world,” which I’m led to believe is just a slightly more dogeat-dog version of the real world. Dog-eat-doggier if you will. In the business world, if you show up for a meeting late, you get fired. I heard that one from Mr. Magee a lot, actually. If all I were working on were the words of my teachers, I would think the real world is some miserable place, far, far away from here, where everyone is just constantly getting fired and arrested in some purgatorial cycle. Now, I don’t mean to harp on the faculty too much. They’ve taught me a great deal, both about academics and about life. For the past four years, they have in many ways stood in the stead for the parents in front of me. Where my parents could not support me, the teachers picked up the slack. And where the faculty’s jurisdiction ends, I turned to my peers in the Class of 2011. For your help and guidance, I thank you all. But regardless of our debt to the faculty, we students still clash with teachers on our interpretation of the real world. While their picture of the real world is painted with grim strokes, as teenagers, we cast the real world in naïve splashes of color. If you hear a Taft senior start a sentence with, “In the real world,” you’re likely to hear them extol the kingdom outside Taft as liberal, lax, loosey-goosey. (My speech writing book said to use alliteration.) All 18-year-olds expect to live lives of philanthropy, opera and heli-skiing, after they sell their internet startups in five years. So, we’re presented with two conflicting visions: The real world as a grim, ugly, unforgiving pit of sin, or the real world as a lavish utopia, where anything is possible. The problem is neither one is entirely accurate. The real real world settles somewhere between our dueling depictions on either end of the spectrum. The real world is equally our oyster and our headache. When we cross over to the broader world outside Taft, the

j Head monitor Jake Cohen holds up the class stone before placing it in the wall of Centennial.

m Neve Schadler receives

the 1908 Medal.

m Cousins Pell and Sara Bermingham get to share the front row at graduation.

m Senior Dean Jack Kenerson ’82 presents Lauren Bly with the Berkley F. Matthews Award. She also received the Maurice Pollak Scholarship Award.

structure and rules we have come to know so well will fall away. This prospect makes many Taft seniors giddy with pride and excitement. I know I’m in that club. At various points in my life, if I’ve graduated from Velcro shoes, training wheels, braces and diapers, although not necessarily in that order. However, when those training wheels are popped off, we can fall farther, and fall harder. We could even get arrested or worse, fired, banished from the business world, or finance, as Mr. Magee would like to call it. As we go out into the real world, the principles of a Taft education will be more important to us than ever before. Now, make no mistake about it, we do have a lot of rules here. Taft institutes rules with the intent of creating good habits. Curfews make you sleep, breakfast sign-in makes you eat, and study hall makes you work. Now, I would hope that eating, sleeping and working are all habits that we take with us outside Taft. Or, at the very least, we’ll continue to eat and sleep. I didn’t intend to write an ode to the Taft Student Handbook. Do I enjoy tucking in my flannel shirts or signing out on a piece of paper every time I travel somewhere? The answer is an emphatic No. But those rules and regulations are dwarfed by the honor code—the cornerstone of a Taft education. The honor code sets forth a simple message. Do not lie. Do not cheat. Do not steal. This culture of honor and 36 Taft Bulletin Summer 2011

integrity distinguishes Taft. You know that satisfying feeling when you do the right thing and no one is looking? Well, at its very best, Taft embraces the essence of that decency. Taft is an ethical community, but it is by no means John Winthrop’s city upon a hill. While we are removed from the poverty, war and hunger that make the headlines, we are not insulated from the basic human struggle. We bicker. We bully. We scapegoat, and we even stereotype. We’re imperfect, sometimes very imperfect. This is where I disagree with the ivory tower image. We face the same world dilemmas as any other people, just on a cozy, beautiful brick campus. Psychologists have long debated exactly how much people are shaped by their environment, and how much of their character is inherent. I believe people grow like trees; like trees we start with some core beliefs at our center, but then we add new rings. Each new person we meet, new book we read, new knot we tie, forms a ring of growth on our trees. My four years at Taft have forged an indelible core of experience. While I can’t wait to see what sorts of fresh rings the Class of 2011 develops, I would urge you never to forget the rings we earned here at Taft, the humor, the values, and the will to serve that Taft has imparted us with will prove invaluable. So, Class of 2011, venture out into the real world—whatever it may contain. But don’t forget the most important lesson Taft has taught us: to do the right thing when no one is looking.

Simple Acts

c Guest Speaker Dr. Melody Palmore, mother of Sarah ’11

Dr. Melody Palmore P’11, guest speaker

I was born one of four children to Sierra Leonean parents, in Sierra Leone, a small, beautiful country that was still an English colony at the time, on the west coast of Africa. Both of my parents had a medical background. My father was an Americantrained physician, who worked as a missionary, and practiced general medicine, surgery pediatrics and a little bit of dentistry. My mother was an English-trained midwife, and the daughter of the first African physician in Sierra Leone. I went away to school at the age of 6. I was sent to an American boarding school, and I was sent there for the same reason many of you came to Taft. My parents wanted me to have the best education that was available. Like you, we had a rigorous academic schedule and attended school six days a week. But the days were idyllic in the equatorial tropics, though short, because despite having our own generator, we only had electricity from 6 to 11 at night, and once darkness fell, if you’re interested in studying or finishing that chapter you’re reading, it was usually by the light of an Aladdin kerosene lamp. The tropical environment shaped our extracurricular activities. For gym class, we often hacked our way through the bush, armed with machetes, enjoying long hikes. Or, we would go down to the swamp to shoot for frogs with our bows and arrows, later frying up some tasty frog legs for a tasty afternoon snack. We interacted quite frequently with the American Peace Corps that was stationed in the town, and on the weekends, they would come up the hill to join us in a rousing game of baseball or basketball or soccer, and twice weekly, one of the volunteers would come up to give us piano lessons. And I have to admit the reason why I have not mastered that particular instrument is that the practice room often had other occupants: venomous snakes and spiders—spitting cobras, green mambas, night adders, tarantulas to be specific. They enjoyed the music, but I didn’t enjoy them. Summers at home were relaxing, and we spent time picnicking with other missionary children, and while our parents were at work, we played in the river that was used for everything from laundry and bathing to transportation, and even as a dumping ground for the upriver mining company. The lifeguards’ primary duty was to look out for the crocodiles that lived in the river. Needless to say, I never learned to swim either. But by the time I was 8, I would accompany my father on trek, and this meant taking the canoe upriver, or hiking into remote areas, often with cutlasses, and blazing our own paths to reach people who didn’t have access to health care. My father did what he could to treat malaria, trachoma, tetanus and other illnesses that plagued the tropics. Though there was not a lot to offer in those early days, he dispensed

antibiotics and administered quinine to those who had malaria. But he and others also educated individuals on how to improve their hygiene and how to prevent illness. That is when I began to dream about studying medicine in the United States with the hope that I would continue the work that my parents had started. And in my child’s eye, the road to my dream appeared to be paved, but was I up a creek without a paddle? The school I attended ended at the eighth grade. And how was I, a little African girl, to further my education? When I was 11, an opportunity presented itself out of the blue, and I immigrated on my own to the United States to live with one of my father’s acquaintances. Theirs was a friendship that stretched back to when my father earned a medical degree at Indiana University. From this out-of-the-blue opportunity, my dreams suddenly seemed to be within reach. High school and college came and went, though several serious setbacks would test my mettle: illness during medical school and civil unrest in Sierra Leone forced minor adjustments to be made to the dream. But the dream formulated at the age of 8 still had room to grow. So, I did become a doctor, but instead of returning to Sierra Leone to practice tropical medicine, I chose to participate in the fight, as an AIDS researcher, HIV specialist and community clinician, against an emerging global epidemic that if left unimpeded, would destroy sub-Saharan Africa, and continue to ravage men and women and children in marginalized communities all over the world. HIV has no real social or socioeconomic boundaries, and, despite decades of education, research and now even effective treatment, it continues in the United States and the world to be a disease behaving as a brushfire epidemic among the impoverished and minority communities. We do not have a vaccine. We do not have a cure. There’s still much to be done to curb and eliminate this dreaded disease, and I look to you to work on that. I’ve been truly fortunate to do the work that I do in the field that I’ve chosen, and I’m especially humbled to be able to participate in individuals’ lives when they’re at the most vulnerable. I’ve learned that what really matters, that which feeds your spirit, are the small acts along the way that can create an interpersonal momentum that can result in a difference in someone’s life. For me, this was the Peace Corps Volunteers and missionary friends from my childhood, who in serving out their dreams touched my life and helped me formulate mine. Or, the family that invited me to come and live with them in the United States, who helped make it possible for me to continue my education. Allow me to share an anecdote. I was leading a team of young doctors and students on medical rounds, when we Taft Bulletin Summer 2011 37

encountered a young crack-cocaine addicted patient, suffering from a drug and schizophrenic delirium. In what appeared to be a lucid moment, this young woman asked me for a drink of water. Fifteen years later, this young woman was in my office on a medical visit, and she recounted that story, recalling that I interrupted rounds to bring her a glass of ice water. That act of kindness, she said, was the turning point of her life. From that time on, with the support of her mother, she was able to stop her cocaine use and be compliant with her medical treatments, and she is now healthy, working and preparing to remarry. A glass of water. Small, seemingly insignificant acts, along with life’s journey, create the moment that can change an individual’s life.

You have achieved the skills and knowledge to take the next step in your lives. You have been steeped in the philosophy of service, and the need to give of yourself and your work, with the knowledge that in the act of giving, you will find an acquired meaning for your life. So, graduates, carve out your dream, and find your purpose. Find your voice, and speak it clearly. Visualize your potential and be open to new ideas. Strive not only for success, but to be significant and to leave your imprint. Remember all things of lasting value come through travail, and determined intelligent effort. Accept the challenge to improve the world, and be good stewards of the gifts you have been given from your family, your friends, and the community here at Taft.

. Jim Mooney presents the Physics Prize to

Supanath Juthacharoenwong.

m The Class of 2011 was one of the largest in the school’s history and the 40th coed class to graduate from Taft.

. Graduating seniors Annie Oppenheim, Abby Purcell, Michelle Long and Claire Wilson

m The headmaster congratulates Valedictorian Michael Perugini, who also earned the Sherman Cawley Award and the Bourne Medal in History.

Marathon Run

c Class Speaker Annie Oppenheim, who received the Berkley F. Matthews Award and a Senior Athletic Award

Annie Oppenheim ’11, class speaker

Taft is a marathon, and the Class of 2011 just ran it. We started running the day we stepped onto this campus for orientation, and it wasn’t always an easy run, but I guess that’s the point. The important achievements are never easy. There’s nothing more daunting than the sound of a 26.2-mile run. Arriving at Taft, too, presents itself as a somewhat formidable mission. Seeing the seniors in their element and the level of comfort they had reached with both their classmates and their teachers, was both intimidating and unsettling that first year, and I distinctly remember wondering if I would ever be that close to people; if I would ever make it that far and have 26.2 in my rear view. Mile 4: It’s an infamous story that occurred in the middle of lowermid year. One classmate, already in a cast, decided to stick a finger of his free hand in a broken water fountain. His finger got stuck, and several firemen and paramedics arrived to free him. I think we could all say this is one of our classmate’s first cramps. We take Taft day by day. You can’t jump from a 6-mile run to a 16-mile run, but if you increase it by a few miles each week, that long run might very possibly be easier. Mile 8: Our workload was manageable, and, as sophomores, many of us girls were still excited by the simple pleasures of Taft, such as class dinners. In an effort to impress our male peers, many girls wore heels to sit down, a decision that clearly annoyed the senior girls. They decided to raid the dorms while we were at dinner and take our shoes, so we had to wear heels to class the next day. A minor uphill rather than a cramp, we didn’t let it phase us. At Mile 15, just after the half, we faced the stress of junior year, and our lives at Taft intensified. However, with the added pressure came additional fans, new relationships and more networks of support. We continued to push through, and as Mile 18 rolled around, we were feeling stronger than ever. The Hawaiian Dance and exam week last spring was an easy mile, boosting our confidence that we would enter the final segment of our run stronger than ever. Mile 20 was tough. Our class confronted challenges as a whole, and some of the runners fell off the course, unable to see the race through. Yet we took care of ourselves, we

bonded and worked together to heal. You run your marathon with your classmates. Everyone runs at a different pace, but you’re never really alone. When you pass one person or fall behind another, there’s always someone ahead that you’ll catch up to, and someone there when you fall behind. But your low point might occur at another runner’s high point, and vice versa. The power of empathy and understanding becomes so strong that these runners become closer to you than most others in your life. Mile 25, so close to the finish line, was our best yet. All other pain disappeared, and the thrill and excitement of finishing brought classmates together for our final push. We even got to spend a day at the beach. Our fans are the faculty and our families. They cheer us on and support us because they want more than anything for us to succeed. The faculty guides us and meets us at each mile marker, to ensure that we don’t fall behind and that we push through the pain. That cup of water or packet of goo that they hand us at Mile 17 could be the gesture that makes all the difference. That extended hand from a faculty member reminds us that we’re here for a reason, and there’s no doubt that we’re going to finish. And we did. We are here, past the finish line, right here and right now. There is so much to be proud of, and we have accomplished so much. But for most of us, Taft has been who we are, and what we have defined ourselves by from the moment we first stepped on campus. And now, it is over, and it is normal and OK to feel this intense combination of emotions. In fact, I think you should try to hold onto it. Remember this feeling of love for this institution, your teachers and your friends, and carry it with you a year from now, when we are all absorbed in our new lives. Remember why it is so important to keep in touch, and how much our classmates mean to us. We are so prepared, and I know each of our next marathons will be even more successful, but there is something about your first marathon that you always remember. So, hold it close while simultaneously taking the time to heal, so you’re ready and able to start training for the next one. We are off and running.

b Class Speaker Nick Auer, who received the George H. Morgan Award, Theater Award and the Joseph I. Cunningham Award

Taft Tweets

Nick Auer ’11, class speaker

Our time at Taft has been marked by tremendous change. During our years here, we saw the transformation of the dining halls, the change of the grading system, and the implementation of coed dormitories and roommates. And yes, that last one was a lie. Just making sure you’re all awake. But in all seriousness, this educational institution has changed with the world around it, and these past four years have marked great advances in the ways we communicate with each other. The newest and hottest of these developments is Twitter, a micro-blogging website, where users post messages called tweets of 140 characters or fewer that simply answer the question, What’s happening? Twitter began its rise to popularity in 2007, coincidentally the year a lot of our class arrived as small, unsure lowermids. We rose to the top, however, just as Twitter was multiplying in popularity. During 2007, approximately 60,000 tweets were posted per day. By the end of 2010, 65 million tweets were being sent every day. The free service is used heavily for news coverage of world events, pop culture updates, and what one market research firm calls pointless babble. For protesters in the Middle East, Twitter exposed the local injustices to the rest of the world. Alternatively, you could also find out which Starbucks drink Lindsay Lohan ordered today. Twitter and the Class of 2011’s parallel histories got me thinking. What if our class had a Twitter throughout our entire time at Taft? What would our tweets sound like? What key themes would the tweets develop? A message from September of our first year might simply read, “Wow, this is awkward.” While it was awkward and uncomfortable being thrown into the swooshing laundry machine that is Taft, we’ve emerged together, and not smelling too bad. And today’s tweet could be, “We are ready. We will miss so much, but we must keep moving forward.” What happened during all the time between that awkward September and commencement? Two concepts we learned along the way are the power of humor and the willingness to serve. A late January tweet, “Who needs Eminem when you’ve got Mr. Willson? Best prank ever.” Our fun sense of humor was perhaps most apparent when 40 Taft Bulletin Summer 2011

members of our class organized a harmless prank in which seniors stole historic photos of former teachers from the faculty room, and assigned current teachers hilarious tasks that had to be completed in order for them to get the pictures back. Mr. Willson was forced to lay down some rhymes about obeying the honor code. Another tweet would have inevitably discussed Mrs. O’Shea’s task, “Mrs. O’Shea just did the stanky leg at assembly in front of the entire school. Bingham hasn’t been this wild since Robert Pattinson.” It takes a tremendous group of adults to support us in our laughter, and submit to our strange demands. We cannot thank the Taft faculty enough for all they continue to do, including their refreshing funniness. As we move forward, we should never let go of our humor. After having a good laugh, we also learned to embrace the Taft motto. Service has become a part of each of us. A tweet from just a couple days ago, “A large group of seniors pitched in to clean up the beach we created on the side of the pond. Non Ut Sibi at its finest.” The work we have done has been more than just hard labor. We’ve come at it with a smile. We have learned that service is a sum of small moments. “Just saw a senior in the library drop what she was doing to help a lowermid on physics homework,” or, “Have you given blood today? Make your way to the Choral Room by 6:15 and save a life.” That’s not to say we don’t have our big moments too. Last week, we participated in the first Senior Community Service Day, so we could combine our numbers and produce substantial results. I know each of us will continue to serve long after Taft. Twitter has only just begun to take its rightful place in our society. Just as we begin to take ours. We may not remember our individual tweets, but we will carry their collective themes forever. This has been a remarkable few years, and there is no one with whom I would’ve rather spent my time here at Taft than this class. Just remember to keep the humor, keep serving, and keep tweeting. [Editor’s note: You can follow TaftSchool on Twitter.]

c Headmaster Willy MacMullen reminds the graduating class of the first talk he gave them, in which he compared them to the Pilgrims in the way they would each commit to the privilege of creating a new community.

The Taft Compact Willy MacMullen ’78

At their first School Meeting four years ago, I told a story that to me seems accidently prophetic, because it is one about a group of extremely brave people, with very different perspectives, thrown together under confining and stressful conditions and against long odds—and intent, as a group, in a fierce and inspiring way, to create something noble and enduring. The story is of the Mayflower as it edged into Provincetown Harbor on November 11, 1620. They were a hundred-odd men and women, and history shows us that they were far more diverse in background and perspective than commonly thought. Many were to meet each other for the first time on the boat—little unified them other than the fact that they shared berth on a tiny vessel. I said to the new 2011 class, “They wanted what you do: to be able to be part of a community that allowed them to complete themselves.” Their trials were staggering. They had sailed for 65 days, nearly shipwrecked, saw two deaths and one birth, and teetered between agitation and outright mutiny. What was extraordinary was that even as they were exhausted and frightened and hungry, they did not set foot on land until they had answered that question—until they had explicitly stated that they would each commit to the privilege of creating a new community. In the space of a single day, they penned what you and I know as the “Mayflower Compact,” saying, … [we] covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politic…and enact, constitute, and frame such just and equal laws…as shall be thought most convenient for the general good of the colony, unto which we promise all due submission and obedience. I return to that moment in history and suggest that there is an inescapable if accidental parallel between that crew and this class. Substitute our brick campus for that leaky boat; instead of those Puritans, fill our holds with students from around the globe; exchange the Atlantic storms for the institutional and global tempests they have faced; swap the establishment of a civil and functioning colony with the creation of a school of

b Seniors process into Centennial Quad for the Commencement ceremony (Neve Schadler, Deirdre Shea, Devon Shiland, JC Sites, Kate Standish, Phil Simard and Doug Solomon.)

respectful scholars and leaders; bequeath the resolve, courage and vision of the men and women who penned that compact to the members of this class; and translate the phrase “combine ourselves…for the general good of the community” to “Not to Be Served But to Serve”—and you will be able to understand the Class of 2011. And so that is where I return, to the 177 pilgrims who sit before me. They have shown an astonishing resilience and even personal courage. There are several who have lost parents in their years here, and who persevered in the darkest of days; many lost loved ones: grandparents, godmothers, close friends; more than a few suffered serious injury, illness, or surgery; many experienced painful family situations: job loss and financial uncertainty, tangled divorce, untreatable illness; dozens of others left homes thousands of miles away. They have exhibited an inspiring moral tenacity and a willingness to stand on principle; and it is this that has made ours a better school, as they have pushed each other, younger students, and the faculty to ask the kind of important cultural and ideological questions that shape our globe, nation and school. We are a better school for their stubborn faith that they could create change and that they would follow their own moral compass. They have looked like a family: combative, emotional, passionate—and yet in the end, respectful, conciliatory, forgiving and even loving. That there were times of dispute and contention is obvious, but this is inevitable and healthy when you have a class of smart and strong students and we should not forget that the same voices also brought the class together. They did not sail across an ocean; that’s the stuff of dusty textbooks, an old tale. But it is not a vain conceit to look on this class and note its comparable challenges and struggles, a similar convening of hopes, an analogous catalogue of acts of courage, a comparable desire to wrestle harmony from discord, and a familiar vision and hope for an enduring community. For this retelling, I will always feel indebted to this class, and believe that they will fare well, on whatever shores they are cast. j

*The remarks above are excerpted from the talks given on graduation day. To listen to them in their entirety, and see more photographs, visit

m Thu Hoang shows her class spirit.

A record turnout for a 75th Reunion class:

curt Buttenheim, frank Killorin and matt Ely ’36

celebrate at the Old Guard Dinner. As members of Mr. Taft’s last class they were proud to get a 50 percent turnout of living classmates.

harry Gridley ’51

gives Lincoln’s nose a rub for good luck, again. Sadly, Harry died in July. Please see the Class of ’51 notes for more on Harry.



Alumnae artists’ show in the Moorhead Wing. The hammerhead shark in the foreground is by

shirley Reid ’73

ted Wetherill ’71

checking out the Graduate Panels in the East Dining Room during the Alumni Luncheon on Saturday.

42 Taft Bulletin Summer 2011

Longtime athletic trainer

maryann Laska greets scott Willard ’91

at the Alumni Lacrosse Game.

It derek Chan ’06 and alice Sun

A number of alumni golfers tested the Watertown links on Friday, among them were from left,

rocky Gaut, jack McLeod, j.b. Morris, clayton Spencer, don O’Kieffe, ken Gillett —all from the great Class of 1956.

has been 75 years since Horace Taft retired as headmaster of the school, and three of his “old boys” returned to mark the occasion— their 75th Reunion. It’s easy to wonder what the King would have made of his realm today. Completion of the dining halls meant the Alumni Luncheon could be held there at the heart of the campus instead of in the field house, which took all elevation gain out of the parade! Alumnae artists exhibited their works in the Moorhead Wing to help celebrate the 40th Anniversary of Coeducation, as did a morning panel talk, celebrate that is. And there were alumni back for the first time in 50 years—who were probably as amazed at the place as Mr. Taft would be. The presence of girls perhaps the most striking difference for them both. But other things had not changed. The pond is still a great place to hang out with friends, there were games to watch and others to play and Lincoln’s nose was as shiny as ever by Sunday evening. With friendships rekindled, the banners have been put away for another year.


mandy Shepard Brooks and celia Gerard ’91 at the 20th Reunion Dinner at the Litchfield Country Club

larry lu

and Stone were welcome guests at the 45th Reunion celebration.

patty Buttenheim ’79 accompanies her father curt ’36

to the Old Guard Luncheon.


Chaplain Ganung dedicates a new bench by the pond in memory of

will Keys ’06.


Headmaster MacMullen ’78 greets science teacher emeritus

neil Currie ’41—back for his 70th Reunion—at the Alumni Luncheon.

44 Taft Bulletin Summer 2011

Collegium Revisited moves to the newly acquired Woodward Chapel (Christ Church) for its morning concert.

School monitors

jake Cohen and sara Guernsey ’11 lead the parade.

Citation of Merit lowell Thomas, Jr. ’42 (listen to Thomas’s remarks online at Arriving at Taft as a middler, you quickly established your presence as an athlete, singer, debater, and school leader respected by all. You advanced your education at Dartmouth College, taking time off to join the Army Air Corps. Upon graduation, you were assigned duty as an instructor pilot teaching cadets how to fly B-25 bombers during World War II. Your passion for flying and adventure set the course of your life. You became a photographer and lecturer reporting on your travels around the globe. Later at your father’s invitation, you ventured to Tibet establishing a strong bond with a struggling country. This expedition was the basis for the book, Out of This World, Tibet, which helped shape our country’s view of that region of the world. You received the Light of Truth Award in 2005, and the Dalai Lama proclaimed you the genuine grandfather of the Tibetan movement in the United States. Expanding your communication skills to film, you collaborated with your father to produce some of the first Cinerama productions. You followed a little-traveled route to Alaska and became a bush pilot, forming your own air taxi company. Later you entered the political world and served as a state senator and became lieutenant governor of Alaska. As an environmental activist you led the efforts to establish a state park and were recognized for your work to preserve the wildlife, ecosystems and communities for present and future generations. Alaska’s inhabitants look to you for visionary leadership in the conservation of their land and will be forever grateful for your role in the state’s saga. You and your beloved wife, Tay, have written of travels together and your life in Alaska. You have shared your love for the rugged expanse of Alaska’s terrain and the awe of its arctic treasures so that others can learn of the wonders of our 49th state and understand the importance of its role in our country’s future. We admire the wonderful ways in which you have conveyed a life of adventure and travel—making the marvels of the world accessible to all. Your constant efforts to preserve the environment, your passionate dedication to wildlife, and your loyal service to the state of Alaska continue to demonstrate a life of commitment to others and to nature. It is with enormous pride and gratitude that we acknowledge your accomplishments and confer upon you Taft School’s highest honor, the Citation of Merit. For more on Thomas, see “Angel of Denali,” fall 2009.

Face painting adds a festive feel to the day.

Taft Bulletin Summer 2011 45

dick Parrish ’41

proudly representing the 70th Reunion class, is welcomed by Associate Development Director and parade marshal

bonnie Welch.

bo Chapin, jack Hill and herb Carlson

lead the 50th Reunion class.

Discussing 40 years of coeducation at Taft are moderator

linda Saarnijoki, panelists dick Cobb, rob Clark ’72, karen Stevenson ’75, lizy Lewis Matthews ’81 and sara Guernsey ’11.

A gathering of ’66 classmates at the home of

ferdie Wandelt, left, doug Johnson, chip Cinnamond, spike Bermingham and alex Gerster.


46 Taft Bulletin Summer 2011

Alumni Lacrosse Team: back from left,

rob Madden ’03,

5th Reunion classmates

toren Kutnick, hasaan Dawood, orlando Watson and cole Ciaburri

at the Headmaster’s Supper on Saturday

casey D’Annolfo-faculty, scott Zoellner ’83, dave Jenkins ’97, rob Peterson ’80, scott Willard ’91, jake Odden ’86, patrick Kerney ’95, john DePeters ’10, whit Brighton ’06, chris Dietrich-faculty; front, kevin Nee ’02, bo Redpath ’10, henry Millson ’09, will Bunker ’09, willy MacMullen ’78, brendan Gangl ’06, dan Hillman ’06, andy King ’86 and rory Shepard ’04.

sam Orton ’61,

who made the trip from Australia, with classmates

brad Tomlinson and duncan Burke.

winston Lord, alison Bower and greg Seitz ’86

at the 25th Reunion Dinner

Taft Bulletin Summer 2011 47

v Varian Fry ’26 offered aid, advice and when possible exit visas to more than 2,500 anti-Nazi refugees in Vichy France during World War II.

tales of a TAFTIE

By Julie Reiff

Varian Fry, Class of 1926 Journalist and American Schindler

It was 1940, and France had fallen to Hitler. The armistice decreed that France must “surrender on demand” any German refugees wanted by the Gestapo. France was also divided into occupied and unoccupied regions, the unoccupied zone being run by the Vichy French government in cooperation with the Gestapo. And so what has been called the largest manhunt in history began as thousands of politicals, artists and intellectuals from across Europe who had fled Hitler’s regime sought refuge in the South of France on their way—hopefully—to some place safer. At age 32, journalist Varian Fry ’26 took a one-month leave of absence from his job as an editor at the Foreign Policy Association to go to Marseilles (with $3,000 taped to his leg) and smuggle out two hundred of the most famous intellectual refugees. By the time he was done, over a year later, he had helped over 1,200 men and women out of France. He did all this with little or no help from the U.S. government, which was still trying to stay out of the war and to cooperate with the Vichy French government. The U.S. consul in Marseilles repeatedly warned Fry to leave France. And so Fry’s work went increasingly underground. Where once he had tried to obtain visas and exit permits legally, he soon undertook all means necessary to help get much of the artistic and intellectual talent of a generation to safety. Reminiscent of Casablanca, forgeries, bribes, smuggling routes through the mountains, illegal ships on night missions to North Africa now became part of the everyday life of this Harvard classics major and son of a New York stockbroker. The refugees Fry worked with were amazed that one man, an American, would accept such a task by himself. They were surprised both by his idealism and his naïveté. Fry was besieged with nearly two thousand refugees, only a few of them on his list.

He set up the Centre Américain de Secours (American Relief Center), both as a cover to the underground operations and to help some of the thousands of refugees trapped in Marseilles. Increased pressure from several quarters for Fry to stop his work eventually led him to rent a house outside of town. The long-neglected villa quickly earned the nickname “Château Espère-Visa, since half its inhabitants were waiting for proper papers to leave the country.” At any other time it would have been idyllic, Fry wrote, but war rations, lack of central heating, and police searches detracted from its splendor. It was clearly the company that more than made up for any detriments. Here, Fry was able to spend time with some of the century’s great talents he was hoping to rescue. Among those Fry helped escape France: Marc Chagall, André Breton, Max Ernst, Hannah Arendt, Marcel Duchamp and Nobel physicist Otto Meyerhauf. Imprisoned once and brought in for questioning several times, Fry was eventually forced to leave France. Authorities refused to renew his passport until he was ready to leave, and then escorted him to the border. He used the opportunity to check out escape routes and contacts in Spain and Portugal first hand. But his work for the committee was finally over. Fry spent 13 months in France, longer than he stayed at Taft. (He spent one semester here after an unhappy career at Hotchkiss but wound up graduating from Riverdale Country School in New York.) Upon his return he got a job at the New Republic. In 1942, with information from his recent contacts in France, he wrote frightening accounts of the Nazi atrocities—slow starvations, human cattle cars, gas chambers, death camps, mass executions—accounts most people in the U.S. were still dismissing as exaggerated wartime propaganda. Again, he pleaded for the U.S.

This profile is excerpted from summer 1998 Taft Bulletin feature “Never Surrender.” Thanks to Jennifer Zaccara for the suggestion.

to “offer those few fortunate enough to escape from the Aryan paradise.” But his tenure at the magazine didn’t last long. He resigned in 1945 because, wrote Alfred Kazin, “he could not bear the lingering Popular Front sentimentality about Stalin at the New Republic.” The rest of his life was surprisingly quiet. Max Frankel wrote in the New York Times, “Fry lived on obscurely to age 59 with the art, letters, and books of his former clients but little of their friendship.” Only after France is liberated could Fry safely publish his book, Surrender on Demand, without endangering his former colleagues still in Europe. It receives critical acclaim but little public notice. (It has been reprinted by the United States Holocaust Museum.) Fry remained active as a member of the boards of directors for the American Civil Liberties Union and the International League for the Rights of Man. In 1967, he received the French Croix du Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur. In 1991, he was posthumously awarded the Eisenhower Liberation Medal, and in 1996 he was honored at Israel’s Yad Vashem as the first American “Righteous Among Nations” (one of only three gentiles, along with Schindler and Wallenberg). Hans Sahl, who came to America under the auspices of Fry’s committee, remarked, “[Fry] gave us the impression of something particularly American: that confidence in man which we, in Europe, had lost between two world wars.” One of Fry’s co-workers later wrote, “I should confess here that I and the other ‘Europeans’ on the committee occasionally criticized him for being a ‘typical American,’ an ‘innocent abroad.’ But we had it all wrong. That seeming innocence turned out to be precisely his strength. Had he known from the outset the odds he was up against, he might never have achieved what he did.” j

from the ARCHIVES

Summer in the Hamptons The House That Winnie Built By Anne Romano, archivist emerita

The summer of 1906 was a glorious one for Horace and Winnie Taft. They spent a good part of their summer holidays in their cottage in the little breeze-swept village of Wainscott in East Hampton. Winifred had fallen in love with the area in 1900 when they went to visit the Whitneys, their friends from New Haven. On August 26, 1900, Horace wrote to [his brother] Will from East Hampton: We came here to try something as different as possible from Mt. Desert. It is delightful. Yesterday afternoon we went to a tea that the Whitneys (at Wainscott) gave to Arthur and Mrs. Hadley who are staying with them for a few days. It was a delightful company. H. Newton was there and a number of other bright and well-known people. In 1902, “bowing to Winifred’s wishes,” Horace started building a summer cottage at Wainscott on three and one-half acres of land on the shore of Georgia Pond overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Ted D. Peck, Waterbury architect, was ahead of his time. His innovative design for the Taft cottage resembled that of Frank Lloyd Wright homes on the West Coast.

The house had seven bedrooms and two baths, and the third floor had additional bedrooms reserved for the housekeeping staff. The cottage had large roof overhangs and a very large living-dining room with full picture windows that looked out to the Atlantic. Winnie loved the ocean and the on the white sandy beaches she spent many restful hours reading. She loved Dickens, Trollope, Whitman and Dickinson. Horace enjoyed his game of golf and joined the Maidstone Club. Indeed, one of his purest pleasures was to play golf with his brother Will. As members of Maidstone, the Tafts enjoyed the company of those who were prominent in social, scientific, literary and artistic circles. In some instances, their children attended the Taft School. Horace tried to persuade his brother Will to summer in East Hampton, but the New York Times reported that the “scheme only fell short when no available cottage could be found.” Winnie and Horace would spend only three more summers at their cottage. Winnie died in 1909, and in 1911 Horace sold the cottage to a Mr. George Ingraham of New

York, “who bought the cottage for his daughter who was married to William Willis.” The couple had just had their fifth child, whom they named George Ingraham Willis, after his grandfather. Horace told Mr. Ingraham that “he could not bear to be at the cottage without Winifred.” Subsequently, five generations of Willises would summer there…. In the fall of 1994, upon closing the cottage for the season, Mrs. George Willis removed a set of books and donated them to the Taft School archives. Most of the 16 volumes of British Authors by Anthony Trollope are inscribed with Horace’s signature; a few, in Winnie’s handwriting, simply said “Taft.” The collection remains as a reminder of the couple’s few summer months of happiness and time together at a place so cherished by Winifred Taft. Excerpted from Winnie Taft by Anne Romano, published in 1997. The house has since changed hands. My thanks to Debbie Shepherd, friend of the current owners as well as daughter of Dave Fenton ’48 and mother of Elizabeth Shepherd ’05, for suggesting this story. Taft Bulletin Summer 2011 49

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