College Counseling j My Life with Julia Child j Angel of Denali j
America Fall 2009
in this issue
College Counseling Today A conversation with Terry Giffen
h Seniors Galen Sanderson, Jan Stransky, Sam Fifer â€™11 and Max Frew were among the nearly three dozen Tafties who volunteered to help set up and organize the W-A-L-K for Juvenile Diabetes in Litchfield in September. Some even left Taft at 6 a.m.! Peter Frew â€™75
by John Gussenhoven ’65
My Life With Julia Child Q & A with Alex Prud’homme ’80
Angel of Denali Lowell Thomas ’42 by Mike Macy ’69
Departments 2 From the Editor 3 Letters 3 Taft Trivia 4 Alumni Spotlight 8 Around the Pond 40 From the Archives
from the EDITOR A movable feast. That’s what I called the plan to keep us fed here at Taft while the dining hall undergoes a major transformation. The biggest news on campus this fall has been the opening of the new “servery” (see page 9). Although the view of the old kitchen corridor this fall, as seen from the pond, has looked more like a scene from Beirut than it has the Gund Partnership’s beautiful sketches, arriving at the new market-style serving area to select our meal each day has been a welcome light near the end of our construction tunnel. To be honest, the process has gone far more smoothly than anyone anticipated. Using the Jigger Shop as a second dining hall until the new spaces are completed has eased the crowding and been a very pleasant spot for faculty and students alike. If all goes well, seniors are hoping to have the Jig and adjacent student union back for part of spring term. In any event, Horace Dutton Taft Hall should be looking mighty fine by Alumni Weekend in May. So please come back and see it for yourselves. You’ll find details about the weekend, and specific reunion plans as they unfold, on our website: www.TaftAlumni.com.
This is the fourth issue of Taft Bulletin published on 100 percent postconsumer recycled fiber. Please note that we’ve also lightened the weight this issue. What difference does that make? Well, this issue consumes nearly five tons of paper. Not using virgin fiber translates into the following savings:
Volume 80, Number 1 Bulletin Staff Director of Development: Chris Latham
130 trees, which supply enough oxygen for roughly 65 people a year
Editor: Julie Reiff Alumni Notes: Linda Beyus Design: Good Design, LLC www.gooddesignusa.com
59,236 gallons of water, or enough to take 3,444 eightminute showers
Proofreader: Nina Maynard
enough BTUs to power your home for more than five months
Mail letters to: Julie Reiff, Editor Taft Bulletin The Taft School Watertown, CT 06795-2100 U.S.A. ReiffJ@TaftSchool.org
3,596 lbs. of solid waste that doesn’t go to a landfill Environmental impact estimates provided by Neenah Papers and are based on the U.S. EPA Power Profiler and other publicly available sources.
Send alumni news to: Linda Beyus Alumni Office The Taft School Watertown, CT 06795-2100 U.S.A. TaftBulletin@TaftSchool.org
—Julie Reiff, editor
On the Cover
Deadlines for Alumni Notes: Winter–November 15 Spring–February 15 Summer–May 15 Fall–August 30
WWW Taft on the Web
College Counseling j My Life with Julia Child j Angel of Denali j
Send address corrections to: Sally Membrino Alumni Records The Taft School Watertown, CT 06795-2100 U.S.A. TaftRhino@TaftSchool.org
Find a friend’s address or look up back issues of the Bulletin at www.TaftAlumni.com
America Fall 2009
n John Gussenhoven ’65 parks his Harley
to capture this image of the Anza-Borrego Desert, east of Julian, California, for his book, Crisscrossing America (p. 22). “Even though there is no visible water source for miles across this imposing landscape,” writes John, “these colorful, healthy ocotillo plants oddly flourish in these dry, desert climes.” 2 Taft Bulletin Fall 2009
For more campus news and events, including admissions information, visit www.TaftSchool.org
What happened at this afternoon’s game? Visit www.TaftSports.com
The Taft Bulletin (ISSN 0148-0855) is published quarterly, in February, May, August and November, by The Taft School, 110 Woodbury Road, Watertown, CT 06795-2100, and is distributed free of charge to alumni, parents, grandparents and friends of the school. All rights reserved.
Don’t forget you can shop online at www.TaftStore.com 800.995.8238 or 860.945.7736
This magazine is printed on 100% recycled paper.
Letters I’ve just finished reading the latest issue. It is an excellent publication from all points—the recycled paper, the photographs, the layout and the many and varied stories. You and your associates did a great job and I thought I would send you a note, both of appreciation and of praise. I look forward to many more issues. —Frank Martin Reichenbach ’52 I was surprised to open the cover to see Jack, Marlene, and me leading the parade. It was especially clever of you to include the Lincoln head with his newboy tie on page 25. Thanks again for making our
reunion a success. My job as chairman of the directory turned out to be one of the most rewarding things that I have done in a long, long time. —Bruce Powell ’59 I have noted the statement that this summer Bulletin is the third issue on 100% postconsumer recycled fiber. The weight of the paper seems quite a bit heavier than I remember the two earlier issues and I am curious why. Frankly, the heavier pages makes the whole Bulletin a little more difficult to handle. Be that as it may, I enjoyed going through it. —Dan Van Soelen ’42
??? Taft Trivia Can you identify the year students all received a day off from classes to schlep stacks of books, in Dewey decimal order, from the Woolworth Library of CPT into the newly constructed Hulbert Taft Jr. Library? Not only did the school save on moving costs, but the books also stayed in perfect sequence. A sleeve of Taft golf balls will be sent to the winner, whose name will be drawn from all correct entries received. Please send your replies to the editor at the address or e-mail at right. Congratulations to Julian Erde ’52, who correctly identified The Taft Oracle as the literary magazine that debuted in 1906. Thanks to all who wrote in.
Printing the Taft Bulletin on recycled paper seems to make good sense in some ways and I also prefer the matte finish to the shiny high gloss stuff. As a professional forester, however, I call into question the figure of 103.18 trees being “preserved for the future.” I doubt the trees have been preserved, and I wonder why you wish to spare trees from the saw and really wonder why you wish to spare a pulpwood-quality stem. Sound forest practices coupled with timber harvesting provide landowners with income incentives not to sell out to development. My focus is on preserving the land base and stopping urban sprawl, not preserving trees. In New England, many of our forests have suffered from a “cut the best, leave the rest” philosophy. Are the figures provided to make us feel better about our massive amount of consumption? —Peter T. Hasler ’84
Editor’s Reply The figures in that issue are from the Neenah Green Eco-Calculator and are based on information from publicly available information sources like www.Savatree.com. You may notice that we also lightened the paper weight on this issue.
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 J@TaftSchool.org
Taft Bulletin Fall 2009 3
Yuma Crossing The Colorado River, known as America’s Nile, is arguably the most important river in the Southwest. For millions of years it flowed unchecked, flooding annually, and creating some of the most incredible landscapes on the planet. Yuma’s strategic location at the only practical crossing point on the lower Colorado River assured its importance as a transportation hub in both prehistoric and modern times. But soon, the river, “bounded by levees for flood control, choked by non-native vegetation, a haven for illegal activity and the homeless, and starved of an adequate water supply, this 1,400-acre area became a ‘forgotten land,’” says Charlie Flynn ’70, “a parched patch of river bottom where once cottonwoods and willows grew, where the Quechan Indian tribal members once hunted and fished, and where hundreds of birds nested.”
4 Taft Bulletin Fall 2009
For decades, the community of Yuma, Arizona, sought to improve a five-mile stretch of the Colorado. Then, in 2000, their efforts got an enormous boost when Congress created the Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area and authorized up to $10 million in federal matching funds for a 15-year period to conserve, enhance, and interpret the natural and cultural resources of the community. And Flynn serves as the project’s executive director. The Yuma Area is rich in historical resources, buildings, bridges, neighborhoods and archaeological sites, but many original structures on Yuma’s Main Street were destroyed in flooding. “The highlight has been the Yuma East Wetlands,” says Charlie. “It seemed technically impossible from a restoration standpoint, but even more gratifying has been helping bring historically distant groups together to achieve restoration—
particularly, my work with the Quechan Indian tribe. I also want to give credit to our consultant, Fred Phillips, who is now considered the leading environmental expert on the lower Colorado River.” Over the last eight years, the Yuma East Wetlands has evolved from a trash-strewn jungle of non-native vegetation into one of the largest, most ambitious restoration projects in the Southwest. “The story of the East Wetlands is the story of a growing partnership among the Quechan Indian Tribe, the City of Yuma, private landowners, federal agencies and the Heritage Area,” says Flynn. The partnership between the City of Yuma and the Quechan Indian Tribe was greatly strengthened when they agreed to jointly fund the restoration and reopening of the Oceanto-Ocean Bridge. For more information, visit www.yumaheritage.com.
h Charlie Flynn ’70 at the Ocean-toOcean Bridge, part of the Yuma Crossing National Heritage project. Gene Doten
h In between carting and toting, Bill Crane ’76 captured some amazing photos of his daughter’s crew, left, racing in Italy.
Kings’ Ransom on ESPN Director Peter Berg ’80, who first gained notoriety as a hockey-playing doctor on Chicago Hope (and is now better known for his work on Friday Night Lights), has turned his attention to the ice again. His documentary on NHL legend Wayne Gretzky, whom he’s known since the ’90s, premiered at the Toronto Film Festival and aired on ESPN in October. “Knowing Wayne,” Berg told www.NHL.com, “is like knowing one of those rare human beings like Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods, who are so utterly dominant in their sport that it’s mesmerizing to be around them. The trade to the Kings was not only a huge moment in his career, but also a very contained and interesting way to look at this incredible athlete’s life.” In his interview with Berg, Gretzky points out that he was newly married and
already living in Los Angeles at the time of the famous trade to the Kings in 1988. “Through the years, I went to lots of Kings games,” Berg adds, “and we played lots of golf and poker together.”
When Bill Crane ’76 introduced his children to his passion—sailing—little did he know one day he would become their “head Sherpa.” Last summer he “carted and toted for 16-year-old daughter, Olivia,” at the International 420 World Championships in Riva del Garda, Italy. She has been sailing on the international circuit for about four years, and she and her crew were the youngest on the U.S. team. “They represented themselves and the U.S. well and had a really exciting regatta.” Not long after, she competed in the Buzzards Bay Regatta and then sailed in the C420 North American Championships in Macatawa Bay, Michigan. “In the midst of this, my wife, Tory (sister of Tonia Falconer ’79), was in California with our two sons at the Optimist National Championships and then in Newport, Rhode Island, for the Optimist New England Championships. And, yes we are nuts.” Bill still finds time to sail himself as well, competing most recently in September at the Lightning World Championship at the Mallets Bay Boat Club in Burlington, Vermont.
h Peter Berg ’80 interviews hockey legend Wayne Gretzky for ESPN’s 30 for 30. Courtesy of ESPN
Taft Bulletin Fall 2009 5
In Print Crisscrossing America: Discovering America From the Road John Gussenhoven ’65 Rizzoli, 2009
n Freddy Gonzalez ’05 plays trombone on the New York Subway.
Discs or Downloads Classmates Mia Borders, Freddy “Fuego” Gonzalez and Cyrus McGoldrick ’05 have all been busy making music and have two albums out this fall to prove it. Mia released her debut album, Southern Fried Soul, in August under her own label, Blaxican Records. The album features eleven original songs written by her and composed by the band. A New Orleans native, Mia played at the Blue Nile this fall and sang with Big Sam’s Funky Nation at the Voodoo Music Festival on Halloween. Her band, who played under the title MNSKP, has been hailed as “New Orleans hottest buzz band” by Where Y’at magazine. Take a listen at www.miaborders.com. Freddy chose an online release of his debut album, the New York Chapter. And an auspicious date: 09.09.09. And listeners returned to the site for a new song each week. Cyrus, a New York saxophonist who plays under the name Cyrus Khan, lent his talents to both endeavors. “This first album is a compilation of the first songs I’ve ever written,” says Freddy. “I was always hesitant to turn my ideas into songs because I never felt that I was ‘ready,’ that I had to reach a certain level of musicianship before I could allow myself to make my own music. Freddy studied at Boston’s Berklee College of Music and has returned to New York to actively pursue his music education. “Music is the simplest form of self-expression,” he adds. “It’s a universal form of communication that has allowed me to break barriers of race, language and social standing.” To have a listen, visit www.myspace.com/ freddyfuego v Mia Borders’ new CD,
Southern Fried Soul 6 Taft Bulletin Fall 2009
Towards a General Theory of Social Psychology: Understanding Human Cruelty, Human Misery, and, Perhaps, a Remedy Wendy Treynor ’93 Euphoria Press, 2009
The Last Founding Father: James Monroe and a Nation’s Call to Greatness Harlow Giles Unger ’49 Da Capo Press, 2009
A History of Modern Britain: 1714 to the Present Ellis Wasson ’66 Wiley-Blackwell, 2009
small towns and oddities that can be discovered only by traveling the open roads one mile at a time. The unique coupling of ground and aerial photographs highlights details that most of us would miss if we were to see them from only one perspective. The images, as supplemented by the author’s travel logs, arouse a beautiful and poignant vision of America. An excerpt can be found on page 22 of this issue.
Who has not been tempted to escape the daily grind, hit the open road and truly find America? Crisscrossing America is such an odyssey—a photographic journal of a two-year, two-leg, 27-state epic crisscrossing of the United States—from Mount Vernon, Washington, to Naples, Florida, and then from San Diego, California, to Eastport, Maine. It all started with a Harley-Davidson Road King Classic. In 2004, Gussenhoven purchased his first Harley and almost instantly conceived a plan to crisscross the
country. For someone who was born of American parents, but in Mexico City, he spent most of his childhood and youth in South America and missed growing up in the United States. As an adult he yearned to know this country that was “foreign” to him and did so by taking off on an American bike to complete a genuinely American journey. The author’s quest to experience America has resulted in this photographically stunning view of this nation’s richly diverse landscape, roadside attractions,
After ten years of intensive inquiry and research, Treynor offers scientifically informed answers to long-standing questions about human nature that philosophers have debated for centuries. She offers insight into how wartime atrocities
can be committed with a clear conscience by well-meaning individuals, and how the peer pressure process is the culprit. Treynor earned her Ph.D. in social psychology at the University of Michigan
Kirkus Review called Unger’s latest biography a “cogent reexamination of a relatively neglected American icon…. Unger makes a solid and cohesive argument for Monroe’s importance in the early years of the United States…A worthy attempt to rescue Monroe from obscurity for a mainstream audience.”
Decorated by George Washington for his exploits as a soldier, Monroe became a congressman, a senator, U.S. minister to France and Britain, governor of Virginia, secretary of state, secretary of war and finally America’s fifth president. The country embraced Monroe’s dreams of empire and elected him to two terms, the second
time unanimously. Mentored by each of America’s first four presidents, Monroe was unquestionably the best-prepared president in our history. Unger has also written biographies of Lafayette, Washington, Hancock and other early-American icons.
A History of Modern Britain: 1714 to the Present presents a lively introduction to the history of the modern British Isles from the Hanoverian succession to the present day. The book conveys the broad sweep of the period’s major events with particular emphasis placed on observing Britain’s past from a global context, including imperialism’s role in shaping social, economic and political developments at home. Ellis Wasson explores the relationships between Great Britain’s three nations—Scotland, England and
Wales—and Ireland, and the development of their unique national identities. He also discusses controversies that remain in dispute between historians today and reflects on new perspectives in British history. The story is punctuated throughout with description of fascinating personalities from Britain’s past, from celebrated statesmen to lesser known characters, including the 18th-century shopkeeper Thomas Turner, the arsonist James Aitken, the female adventurer Jane Digby, the celebrity footballer George
Best and the writer Dorothy Sayers. The vignettes complement the broader story and give the reader a sense of the rich variety of British life during the modern era. The book is accompanied by a companion website, including online supplements and a preliminary chapter covering events from 1688. A History of Modern Britain provides readers with a firm understanding of the period of Britain’s history that defined its role in the modern world.
Taft Bulletin Fall 2009 7
For the latest news on campus events, please visit TaftSchool.org.
around the Pond
By Sam Routhier
h Dance teacher Meredith Lyons received summer grant funds to participate in the Bates Dance Festival last summer. Arthur Fink
Faculty Make the Most of Summer While summer break marks a respite from the intensity and pace of the school year for some teachers, more than 25 Taft faculty members used the vacation to help develop their curricular passions and the depth and breadth of their own learning and experience. Dean of Faculty Chris Torino awarded more than $125,000 in grants from the school’s endowed funds for professional development. 8 Taft Bulletin Fall 2009
Assistant athletic director Ginger O’Shea used the new Sheppard Family Grant to explore one of her passions and one of the many areas in which she has a significant impact at Taft: the potential for athletics to empower young women. O’Shea traveled to Ireland for 12 days in June to network with golf coaches there, in hopes of putting together an international tournament for independent school girls. O’Shea
has directed the Pippy O’Connor Independent School Girls’ Golf Classic for the past five years and used that role as a starting point for establishing relationships with schools overseas. “With potential for global understanding, growth for female athletes, and lessons in sportsmanship and competition,” she explains, “this opportunity seemed to fit well with the Portrait of the Graduate. It was a fantastic opportunity.”
Meredith Lyons, now in her second year directing Taft’s dance program, spent six weeks at two nationally renowned dance festivals at Bates College in Maine as a recipient of a grant from the Davis Family Junior Faculty Fund. For the Young Dancers Workshop, she brought Taft seniors Ally Hamilton and Thu Pham and worked as a counselor. The second, more geared toward Lyons’ own advancement, was the Bates Dance Festival Professional Training Program. “I was able to step away from the Taft campus and fully immerse myself with fellow professional dancers and enjoy our passion for dance,” Lyons says. With the help of the Penny and Michael Townsend Faculty Fund, Lowermid Class Dean and English teacher Bob Campbell ’76 returned to the classroom as a student, taking a course on 19th-century American literature at Yale University. Although he was initially surprised at sharing a classroom with six undergraduates, he reaped significant rewards from the course. “My professor made me realize how to think as a student,” says Bob, “and my hope is that I can engage my kids as effectively as he engaged me.” Twelve endowed funds now support professional development for faculty in the summer. (There are 47 endowed funds for faculty support overall.) Although the pursuit of graduate degrees predominates, faculty also traveled, attended conferences and workshops or developed new curricula. Two teachers completed degrees: Chamby Zepeda earned an M.A. in Spanish literature, language and culture at Middlebury College, and Rick Lansdale finished an Ed.M. in educational leadership studies at Columbia. “Summer opportunities for teachers support Taft’s credo of producing lifelong learners,” says physics teacher Chris Ritacco, who pursued graduate work at Wesleyan with support from the Drummond and Ruth Bell Fellowship, “by helping its faculty be lifelong learners themselves.”
Making Headway Since Spring 2008, the Bulletin has been updating readers on the progress of the HDT Dining Hall Renovation Project. This marks the latest installment in those updates. After more than a year of construction, the progress on the HDT Dining Hall renovation is still igniting excitement among the Taft community. As athletes rolled in for preseason in early September, the school rolled out the new serving area to accompany the east dining hall. With almost too many options as well as enhanced quality of food, the dining hall has already gone a long way in bringing this community together. “I didn’t realize how big a deal it was going to be to have a new dining hall,” says Head Monitor Bo Redpath ’10, “For a long time, construction just felt like something constantly going on at the school, but now that we can see what’s turned out, all the waiting was totally worth it.” “The food here is so good,” uppermid Chiamanka Anonyuo says, “and the atmosphere of the dining hall is really happy. It’s made the start of school more fun I think.” While most attention has certainly been focused on the dining hall renovation, plenty of other work has occurred around campus thanks to Jim Shepard and the facilities
crew. Bingham Auditorium got an updated sound system, 27 faculty apartments and houses were painted or received other renovations and the Security Office upgraded its camera surveillance system. Additionally, the Woodward Black Box Theater has a new, more polished look. With new, more comfortable chairs and a fresh coat of paint, spectators will enjoy a true theater-in-the-round experience. “The Black Box renovations are really exciting,” says acting teacher Helena Fifer. “I’m hopeful that the newer space will have effects in raising interest for the arts and building even more camaraderie in my classes, improv group and theatrical productions. We’re even more excited about the arrival of David Kievit, our new performing arts technical director. While the success of construction projects is certainly astounding, the Taft community looks forward to their continuation and culmination. The west dining hall looks to open up in January, when finish work resumes on the east dining hall. By spring, the entire school should be able to eat in one location and the Jigger Shop will return to its former role as a student union. , The dining hall’s new servery, which opened this fall. Other sections of the HDT dining hall renovation will open progressively throughout the year. Peter Frew ’75
Taft Bulletin Fall 2009 9
around the POND
The Princes of Denmark
n The combined “football” teams after Taft’s scrimmage with FC North Zealand, north of Copenhagen, in August. New middler Alexander Bang from Denmark joined the team there for his first Taft game. Chip Orben
For Will Orben ’92, there are few greater passions than the Taft soccer program and the culture and discipline of European football. When the varsity boys’ coach got a chance this summer to combine the two, he and 20 Taft soccer players took it and ran. Orben has close ties with Danish soccer. Seven years after his graduation from Taft, he joined FC Copenhagen, where he played until 2001 under Flemming Pedersen, who currently coaches at FC Nordsjaelland, a top-flight Danish professional team. During Orben’s first year as Taft’s head coach, in 2004, he took his team to Denmark for a training trip, and was excited to head back this year. “There is no better way to cultivate passion for soccer than to immerse yourself in the European game,” Orben says. “I was so lucky to have that experience, and I wanted to share it with my players.” The team arrived in mid-August in London, where their tour included a mix of soccer and sightseeing—Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, Buckingham Palace and the Tower of London. Their introduction to English soccer included watching clubs Tottenham FC and West Ham United compete in preseason matches and playing against an U-17 English team called Euro Dagenham. After London, the team headed to Copenhagen for three days, where they worked with former colleagues of Coach 10 Taft Bulletin Fall 2009
Orben. Further treats included a Q & A session with U.S. National Team member Michael Parkhurst, who plays for FC Nordsjaelland, as well as a trip to a Denmark-Chile friendly match. “It felt like every Chilean in Europe was there!” said Orben. Rounding out the trip, the team crossed the Oresund Bridge to Malmö, Sweden, where they spent their final two days. Orben noted a huge improvement
as they played their last match of the trip against Malmö F.F., and he was delighted to enjoy the vibe of the Malmö festival. The team visited three countries, watched three pro matches, played in four training matches and had four training sessions with some of European soccer’s finest. The trip included eight varsity returners, seven new players, and five players from both the JV and thirds levels who certainly represented Big Red well.
New Faculty New arrivals this fall are Ozzie Parente, Alex Kelly ’05, Kisha Watts, Emily Fontaine, Kendall Adams ’05, Johnny Webster, Ashley Goodrich-Mahoney, Kristin Honsel, Shannon Tarrant and Nick Smith. Peter Frew ’75
h Uppermid Ujal Santchurn enjoys some time on the beach with his cousins in Mauritius.
Namesake Looking out as the blue waves crashed onto the yellow sand while sipping water from a coconut, I sat on the beach in the company of my extended family in the beautiful island of Mauritius. Mauritius is a small island nation in the Indian Ocean roughly 600 miles east of Madagascar. A popular tourist destination, Mauritius combines its rich and vibrant culture, beautiful landscape and wide array of people whose backgrounds lie primarily in India, as well as China, Africa and Europe, to create a utopia. In fact, Mark Twain once said after visiting the island, “You gather the idea that Mauritius was made first and then heaven, and that heaven was copied after Mauritius.” My story is similar to that of Gogol Ganguli, the main character in Taft’s school-wide summer reading book, The Namesake, by Jhumpa Lahiri. Gogol’s story relates to tension with identity, as his family is Bengali but he yearns to fit in with his American peers. Born in London, I have lived in the U.S. since
I was seven, but my parents have lived the majority of their lives in Mauritius. Navigating cultural pride with immersing myself in Western culture has been challenging but also exciting. Unlike Gogol, who is reluctant to hop on a long haul flight to see his homeland, I have grown fond of Mauritius with its tradition, culture and way of life. Through my summer experiences, I have learned to incorporate some Mauritian culture in my life, as well as bring some American culture there. Mauritius runs deep in my veins. I can speak the native tongue, FrenchMauritian Creole, and I look forward to eating Mauritian cuisine—which has hints of Indian food—and listening to Mauritian Sega music. I spend only a few months a year with my family, so I try to make the most of my time there, whether it is playing soccer with my cousins or cooking with my grandmother. I continue to be amazed at the importance of courtesy, hospitality and decorum in Mauritian society.
Through my cousins, I learned that community service was a rare activity there. This lack of support stunned me as it is so prominent in American society and is even the focus of Taft’s motto, so I decided to go to a shelter for the elderly and disabled called Human Services Trust. There, I spoke to the director of the program and I asked about the volunteering situation in Mauritius. He informed me that it is not a common activity and most schools do not incorporate it in their missions. Therefore, I proposed to create a volunteering program, whereby it would encourage students to serve their community more. To my cousins in Mauritius, they see visiting America as a thrilling experience that holds much excitement, but as I reflect on my summer expeditions, I realize that I feel the same way about visiting Mauritius. Come fall, though, I do miss my family and the attraction I feel for Mauritius. —Ujal Santchurn ’11 Taft Bulletin Fall 2009 11
around the POND Angela Lamond
The Taft Papyrus Club
The Taft Papyrus, the student newspaper that has been a foSpotlight rum for campus discussion since 1893, has hit the presses for the new school year. The organization is coming off the heels of an extremely successful spring season, as its first April Fools edition complemented some fiery editorial pieces to create all kinds of stir at Taft. In this vein, editors-in-chief Caroline Castellano ’10 and Hailey Karcher ’10 are excited about the upcoming opportunities and challenges. “We plan to expand our creativity when it comes to our articles,” Caroline says, “ranging from serious matters to silly ones and from traditional formatting to new, innovative techniques.” The group hopes to put out three issues for the fall semester, with the help of its staff and faculty adviser John Magee. Caroline praised Magee’s ability to push them as editors to “take risks, stir controversy and just have fun.” Running the Papyrus is an exciting opportunity for both seniors. The staff includes nine section editors, who each select and mentor contributors to the paper and report back to the editors-in-chief. It is a real challenge to get such a big group of busy students together in order to publish it, explains Hailey, but they are confident that everyone views the Papyrus as a high enough priority. “We are proud of the dedication of our entire staff,” she says, “and look forward to sharing in their enthusiasm for our paper.” x Editors-inChief Caroline Castellano and Hailey Karcher ’10. Andre Li ’11
12 Taft Bulletin Fall 2009
Prep for Prep Campus plays host to Prep For Prep’s 3-day summer program The campus played host to Prep for Prep in August. Nearly 100 students entering grades 7 and 8, along with 23 advisers and 21 other staff, arrived at Taft for three days of bonding, taking advantage of the opportunity to help build on their sense of community. Prep for Prep students complete a rigorous 14-month course of study to prepare them for independent-school success. Once placed, Prep offers support services and leadership development opportunities that foster success at whatever students choose to pursue. “Taft has had a long and wonderful relationship with Prep for Prep,” says Headmaster Willy MacMullen ’78, “in part because John Vogelstein ’52 and Lance Odden were both such committed leaders in creating a relationship that has thrived to this day. I was delighted that we could host them this summer.” Prep for Prep students meet on Wednesday and Saturdays throughout the year to build their academic readiness for private schools. The time at Taft also gave them the opportunity to meet their post-placement counselors. Facilities director Jim Shepard and Angela Lamond from the Business Office coordinated the visit. “They were extremely accommodating and pleasant,” says Prep for Prep’s Jeff Roth. “They were always asking if there was anything more they could do.” The appreciation was mutual. “These kids were absolutely wonderful,” says Business Manager Gil Thornfeldt. “You couldn’t have asked for a nicer group.”
Opening Faculty Speaker Starting the year off for the Taft faculty is no easy job, but this year’s speaker, Robert Evans, hit a home run. Evans is the head of the Human Relations Service, a mental-health agency in Wellesley, Massachusetts. He also is the author of two books, The Human Side of School Change and Family Matters, a look at the relationship between schools and family in contemporary America. Evans had a sharp perspective on the challenges of independent schools and impressed the faculty with his understanding of the major issues “We’ve become so obsessed with outcomes that we’ve forgotten the importance of the journey,” he told the faculty, “which is what your students are likely to remember most.” x Clinical and organizational psychologist Robert Evans speaks to the assembled faculty at the opening meetings. Yee-Fun Yin
Summer Fellowships Meg Page ’74 Fellowship • Aislinn McLaughlin ’10—Antigua, Guatemala, with Surgicorps International, a medical mission team of doctors, nurses and other medical professionals that travels around the world performing operations on people with physical defects.
h Aislinn McLaughlin assists hand surgeon David Kim in Guatemala. “The woman had been burned on her hand,” explains Aislinn. “We had to remove the scar tissue, open the hand, and then do a skin graft with skin from her stomach.”
Robert Keyes Poole ’50 Fellowship • Cara Maaghul ’10—Helped improve the standard of living for the inhabitants of the small village of Malakati, Fiji, with Rustic Pathways. Kilbourne Summer Enrichment Fund • Senior Jeffrey Yam attended a photo workshop at the High Cascade Snowboard Camp. • Brian Sengdala ’10 participated in Summer Portals Choral Workshop. • Uppermid Sam Willson went to a pipe organ workshop with the American Guild of Organists. • Nicholas Auer ’11 attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. • Max Brazo ’11 studied architecture through the Julian Krinsky Program at UPenn. • Deirdre Shea ’11 studied Irish step dance with master teacher Tony Nolan in Limerick, Ireland.
Taft Bulletin Fall 2009 13
around the POND
2009–10 Music For A While Concert Series In Walker Hall
Sarkis D. Izmirlian ’90
October 2 Basically Baroque Taft School Music Faculty October 16 Five Play Jazz Quintet www.Divajazz.com/Fiveplay November 6 Hudson Shad Men’s Vocal Sextet www.HudsonShad.net December 4 Chris Norman Wooden Flute www.ChrisNorman.com
December 15 Taft School Annual Service of Lessons and Carols 7:30 p.m., First Congregational Church, Watertown January 8 Rani Arbo and Daisy Mayhem Folk/Blues www.Raniarbo.com January 22 Darmon Meader Quartet Jazz www.DarmonMeader.com
G. Carter Sednaoui P’10,13
February 12 Manhattan String Quartet www.ManhattanStringQuartet.com February 26 Art From the Heart Taft School Music Faculty April 9 Divi Zheni Bulgarian Women’s Choir www.Divizheni.net
Unless noted, all performances are at 7:00 p.m. on Fridays and last approximately one hour. Concerts are free and open to the public. No tickets are required.
14 Taft Bulletin Fall 2009
Timothy A. and Nancy N. O’Neill, P’11 Julie Reiff
September 25 Beyond the High Valley— A Quechua Story Mettawee River Theater Company Ralph Lee ’53, Director 40 North Street www.Mettawee.org
Dylan T. Simonds ’89
In addition to welcoming Steve Turner ’86 as the newly elected alumni trustee, the board welcomes the following new members this fall. Sarkis resides in the Bahamas with his wife and children. He is a 1994 graduate of Georgetown University with a b.s. degree and a double major in international business and finance. From May 1994 to June 1996 he was employed in the New York
Portfolio Management Department of JP Morgan. He has been actively involved in his family’s businesses since 1996. Such businesses include commodities trading, agricultural equipment manufacturing, commercial real estate investment and
development and financial investments. He is also a board member of the Izmirlian Foundation, which contributes regularly to various projects in Armenia in such fields as education, health care and varied development assistance.
Tim graduated with a B.A. from Colgate University in 1978 and an M.B.A. from Columbia Business School in 1983. After business school, Tim worked for the First Boston Corporation, Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns, where he held various management positions in capital markets and corporate finance. Tim is a founding
partner of Parsonage Point Partners in Rye, New York, and a managing partner of Golden Seeds. He is on the board of CSI Group Holdings and currently serves on the board of the Rye YMCA. Nan is a 1978 graduate of St. Lawrence, and formerly worked in securities sales and trading. She serves on
the board of the Carver Center in Port Chester, New York, and is involved with other charitable organizations. Tim and Nan live in Rye and have four daughters: Ellie ’11, Caroline ’11, Maggie, 14, and Jarvy, 11.
Carter lives in Skillman, New Jersey, with his wife, Staley, and their son Carter, while Coco ’10 and Betsy ’13 attend Taft. He has been an active alumnus and supporter of St. Albans School, including serving on the Governing Board from 2002 to 2008 and as co-chair of its $80 million Centennial Campaign. He received a B.S. in economics from the Wharton School of the University
of Pennsylvania and then worked for Marine Midland Bank in New York City, where he specialized in loan workouts. After an M.B.A. degree from the University of Virginia’s Darden School in 1986, he joined the San Francisco office of Eastdil Realty, a New York-based real estate investment-banking firm. For the eleven years ending in December 2001, he served as CFO, administrative partner
and general partner of Accel Partners, a Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm specializing in information technology start-ups. He is currently chairman of Premium Power Corporation, a Boston area cleantech company that produces the world’s lowest-cost, grid-scalable flow batteries based on proprietary advanced energy storage technology.
Dylan began his career at the Oregon nonprofit, Ecotrust, developing programs in sustainable forestry and green enterprise. During that time, he also helped to establish a regional chapter of the Good Wood Alliance, working to promote environmentally conscientious wood use and to strengthen regional forest-dependent businesses. He worked subsequently for an oil and gas development joint venture in Texas, where he led resident leasehold negotiations, supervised environmental compliance efforts, and oversaw investor relations. Currently,
Dylan invests privately in a wide array of early-stage green businesses, ranging in focus from home furnishings to algae-derived chemicals for the renewable energy, industrial chemical, and specialty ingredient markets. Through the Dylan Todd Simonds Foundation, he supports environmental and civic projects in Pennsylvania and on the West Coast. He serves on the boards of the Headlands Center for the Arts in Marin County (California), the Pittsburghbased Elsie H. Hillman Foundation, the Brooklyn-based Cardamom Project, and
Q Collection, a leading environmentally sound furnishings company. He is an advisory board member of both Ecotrust, where he previously served three terms as a director, and the Center for Business and the Environment at Yale University. Dylan holds a B.A. from Middlebury College, a master of environmental management degree from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, and an M.B.A. from the Yale School of Management. He lives in Mill Valley, California, with his wife, Dorlon, and their sons Will, 2, and Andrew, 1. Taft Bulletin Fall 2009 15
e g e l l o C 16 Taft Bulletin Fall 2009
How did you become interested in college counseling?
“Once I got here, it was pretty clear to me that Taft was a special place. There’s a sense of family here that was different than lots of places I’ve been.”
I was in my third year at the Kiski School near Pittsburgh—teaching English, coaching, living in the dorm—when the headmaster asked me to become their college counselor. I said to him, “What’s a college counselor?” Becoming a college counselor literally changed my life. It has provided me with not simply a job, but also a career that I have loved. Two years into that stint at Kiski, the dean of admissions at Allegheny, my alma mater, asked me to consider coming over to that side of the desk and to join the staff there, which I did.
You’ve been around schools most of your life. Can you give us a snapshot of your career? Apparently I was doing fairly well because I had a few college and university presidents start to call me to ask me to take over their admissions operations. I passed on several of them initially because I didn’t think I was ready for that challenge. When the president of Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, called me, I went out and took a look at it, and ultimately made a
decision to move the family from northwestern Pennsylvania to the heart of the Corn Belt. I cut my teeth on the admissions world out there. I also learned a great deal about what it meant to be of service to students and families as they were in the midst of the college search and selection process. Ultimately I found that college recruiting was not necessarily where I needed or wanted to be; I really, truly, enjoyed working with kids on a day-to-day basis. So I looked for an opportunity to get back to college counseling. I literally applied through an ad that I found in the Chronicle of Higher Education for the director of college counseling position at Choate Rosemary Hall. I spent 11 years there, raised my family there, educated my children there; and made friendships that continue to be strong. In 2000, after my kids went off to college, we went across the pond, and I became head of the upper school at TASIS The American School in England. After the first year, I became the assistant headmaster for external relations and dean of admissions, but I missed being a college counselor. Looking to come back to the States, I accepted the job as director of college counseling at Montgomery Bell Academy in Nashville, and for the next six years had a great time.
g n i l e s n Cou today A conversation with Terry Giffen
Taft Bulletin Fall 2009 17
College counseling What attracted you to Taft?
“...here I think one can still be a wellrounded student, be involved in art, music, and theater, academics, student life. That makes Taft different.”
What initially drew me to Taft was both personal and professional. My wife and I had lost both of our remaining parents and being more than 1,000 miles away from both of our children suddenly began to feel too far. We also missed living in a boarding school community. As luck would have it, there were major changes going on here at Taft. Andy McNeill, whom I’d worked with at Choate, had been looking to step aside to devote more time to his four kids, and as it all unfolded Willy MacMullen ultimately offered me the job as director of college counseling here in 2008, and I jumped at the chance.
What are your impressions now that you’ve been here more than a year? Once I got here, it was pretty clear to me that Taft was a special place. There’s a sense of family here that was different than lots of places I’ve been. We all work in and off this main hall here at school so we see each other constantly. That ability to see my professional colleagues every day, to talk about students, and to get to know students in several different ways, has made this place very, very special. The college counseling world has changed dramatically. It’s become big business, so Taft has really put its money where its mouth is in supporting this office. We now have four fulltime college counselors in the office and our job is to work day-to-day with our students as they negotiate the college process.
Can you tell us about how you work? I’ve tried to build a strong team approach into this process. Having four full-time college counselors here with more than 85 years of collective experience in both college admissions and college counseling, including a former financial aid officer, is awesome. We meet twice a week as a staff here in the college office, the first time to talk about the nuts and bolts of what’s going on, planning for deadlines, programs, travel and the like. But we also meet a second time every week to talk exclusively about students. 18 Taft Bulletin Fall 2009
What stands out most for you about Taft students? There’s a balance here that I really appreciate. We frequently see students who are varsity athletes become involved in the plays, students who are phenomenal vocal and instrumental musicians be involved with other activities like a math team or be involved in leadership roles on the newspaper or the yearbook. At larger places you find pockets of specialization; here I think one can still be a well-rounded student, be involved in art, music, and theater, academics, student life. That makes Taft different.
What about the faculty? I really am struck by the collegiality of this place. The fact that we are one school under virtually one roof allows us all to work together. I sit in on the department head’s meetings once a week, and one thing with which I have been particularly impressed has been the level of collegiality and support for one another. Here I see an educational community where people are working together with the ultimate goal of helping kids move through this place and be prepared for college. Willy MacMullen’s support and confidence in me has been tremendous. I am also very grateful to the faculty for the superb work they do on behalf of our students. I’d also like to thank my college office colleagues: our office manager Cheryl Gatling, who helps keep all the pieces together, and the other counselors, Andy McNeill, Catherine Ganung and Jason Honsel, who all work tirelessly on behalf of Taft students.
Can you describe your philosophy toward college counseling? What we do is not college placement, as some people call it, it is college counseling. We are here to help support students in what truly is a rite of passage. The application process has gotten very complex, so as fulltime college counselors we follow that changing world carefully.
What we strive to do is to work together with students, parents and faculty to assure that our students have done all that is possible to maximize their ability to be admitted to our nation’s best colleges and universities. I want our kids to get into the best schools possible for them. I want to help our students find the best place for them, a school where they can continue to grow, and where they can take this incredible Taft education, to use it as a foundation for further learning on this journey that is our life.
How do you get started with students?
What does the “calendar” of the process look like? The ultimate goal for us is to create, by the end of the second semester, a working list of colleges that students can research more fully over the summer—hopefully making visits to a number of these schools so that when they come back to school in the fall of the senior
Photography by Peter Frew ’75
In some ways, the college counseling process starts when students enroll at Taft, by encouraging them to branch out, to try new things. We begin the formal college counseling process here at Taft in January of the uppermid
year. We start by asking students to complete a self-assessment that gives us extensive information about their educational background, their academic strengths and weaknesses, their extracurricular involvements, and their thoughts about potential colleges. From there, students begin to meet individually with their assigned college counselor and we work carefully with them to help shape their academic and extracurricular programs.
Taft Bulletin Fall 2009 19
“I want to help our students find the best place for them, a school where they can continue to grow, and where they can take this incredible Taft education, to use it as a foundation for further learning on this journey that is our life.”
x The College Counseling team includes Director Terry Giffen, Senior Associate Director Andrew McNeill (right), Associate Director Jason B. Honsel (left) and Associate Director Catherine Ganung.
20 Taft Bulletin Fall 2009
year we can quickly work toward creating a final list of colleges to which they will apply. We’ll also work very carefully to help them finalize work on college application essays that we encouraged them to write during the summer. After January 1 or so, most of the applications are—have been—submitted and it becomes a little bit of a waiting game until the admissions decisions start to appear in late March and early April. We are there to support kids all the way through this process, to counsel, to comfort, to celebrate as the decisions start to appear and then throughout the spring to work with students as they strive to make the best choice possible as to where they might enroll
given the options that are presented in April. In some cases, kids are placed on waiting lists and we work very carefully with them to help them build a wait-list strategy, so to speak, to keep their name and face in front of the colleges.
What are the important trends in the admissions landscape? Throughout the year we certainly monitor trends in the admissions landscape, and the recent trends that have been interesting for us to monitor have really related to the financial crisis that our country has faced.
Other trends we see are the increasing levels of sophistication with regards to admissions marketing and that the process is becoming a paperless one. So much so that this year we will be submitting virtually all the application materials from Taft to colleges in electronic form.
How did the most recent senior class fare? And how do you measure success? The 170 members of the Class of 2009 submitted well over 1,200 applications to over 240 colleges and universities and now attend 90 different schools in 25 states. (See “Where Did They Go?”) I believe that we’ve been successful when our students feel that they’ve been supported. My ultimate goal, as I mentioned earlier, is that kids have choices come April.
In what ways does Taft stand out to colleges? What makes Taft unique in today’s world is the breadth of focus that our students have. While we know that many colleges are admitting lots of kids with really sharp points (less wellrounded), with strong academics and strong special skills in many, many areas, I think Taft can still hold its head up very proudly by saying we do educate that whole person, as our mission states. And that we are preparing students for a lifetime of learning. We’re preparing them to become contributors to a campus community both in the classroom and out of the classroom. We’re preparing kids who really value serving others as Horace Dutton Taft made so clear; that’s something we value. And that’s something I tell colleges all over the country. I think if a college takes a student from Taft, they can know that that student is well prepared for the classroom; they’re going to engage with the faculty, they are going to be out there in the community participating and in many cases leading teams and clubs and groups throughout their college careers.
Where Did They Go?
The top ten percent of the most recent graduating class attends the following colleges and universities: 1. Princeton 2. Columbia 3. Cornell 4. Amherst 5. Carnegie Mellon 6. University of Virginia 7. Dartmouth 8. Stanford 9. University of Pennsylvania
10. Columbia 11. University of Pennsylvania 12. Yale 13. Notre Dame 14. Stanford 15. Johns Hopkins 16. Columbia 17. Vassar
How does your experience help your work here? Given the gray hair I have, it’s pretty obvious that I’ve been involved in this business for a long time. I believe that I’ve built a national reputation among my peers and pride myself on continuing to build and maintain relationships with college admissions officers around the country. In many cases that includes the deans and directors of admission, but it’s equally important to get to know the younger staff members. They are very likely the first reader of a Taft application. Our other counselors do this as well, so when we phone a college, we can assure folks that when someone takes a call from us, our story is going to be heard. I plan to set deep roots here at Taft. I’ve felt immediately welcomed into the community, and it’s my full intent to be here as long as they’ll have me, finishing out my career here, providing counsel and mentorship to my colleagues, and keeping the seat warm for my eventual successor. I’m glad to say that, with many people’s help, we have put together one of the strongest counseling offices in America—I will hold them up beside anybody. I’m proud to be at Taft and look forward to helping many Tafties in their college hunt for years to come. j
“I think if a college takes a student from Taft, they can know that that student is well prepared for the classroom; they’re going to engage with the faculty, they are going to be out there in the community....”
Taft Bulletin Fall 2009 21
America by John Gussenhoven ’65
47°51’28.61”N, 121°42’05.47”W Gold Bar, Washington This stationary train at the western foothills of the Cascade Mountain Range was a welcome taste of what was to come: a daily encounter with east- and west-bound freight trains conducting commerce across America. Here, only the familiar rhythm of steel wheels rolling over the track seams was missing. 22 Taft Bulletin Fall 2009
It began with the purchase of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle on November 2, 2004.â€Ś Taft Bulletin Fall 2009 23
47°52’01.52”N, 121°44’54.85”W Startup, Washington The ironic starting point of the first leg of my journey. Sure, I was disheartened that my bike was not waiting for me when I arrived in Seattle, Washington, in 2005. However, if not for this delay I might not have enjoyed how fitting it was to begin my northwest-to-southeast trip in Startup, Washington.
Have you ever ridden a Harley? I hadn’t, so this would be a new experience for me, one that many people might find risky or puzzling for someone who had spent his entire corporate life dressed in a suit and tie. But, yes, here I was, almost 60, buying a Harley—with the express purpose of exploring a country, which until 2005 was truly “foreign” to me. While I am an American citizen, as are my parents, I was born in Mexico City. Because of my father’s work, I spent most of my youth in South America. I attended schools in the United States starting at age 14 and began my business career living and working primarily in the Northeast, save for a seven-year stint in the Midwest and a few years abroad. It was not hard to see why, after all these years (almost a lifetime), I had an intense curiosity about the vast sections of America that I had never seen. 24 Taft Bulletin Fall 2009
I planned the trip by placing a map on the table and drew an “X” across the country, like two traversing plumb lines that crossed in the middle This crisscross served as my guiding itinerary and expanded the scope of the geography and riding experience more than if I had traveled along a more horizontal route.
Facing my own personal crossroads back in the winter of 2004, I made the decision to travel across the United States. I created a two-legged “discover America” itinerary in which I would cross the country in west-to-east journeys that would occur in two separate two-week excursions. On the first leg of the journey (May 2005), I would travel from the Northwest to the Southeast, and on the second leg of my trip (May 2006), I would ride from the Southwest to the Northeast. Somewhere in the middle of the “X” that would be formed by these two trips, I would find myself in the center of the country. I was drawn by the urge to make the crossings by motorcycle. That, in my mind, would be the best vantage point from which to capture all that one could see from the road—unobstructed by roof posts, tinted windshields, headrests and rearview mirrors. Taft Bulletin Fall 2009 25
Photography had always been one of my great passions, and I wanted to use this opportunity to record my impressions of the country. Fewer than six months after I purchased the Harley and Jim Wark had signed on for the aerial photos, I shipped the bike from my home in Naples, Florida, to Seattle, Washington, where I launched the first leg. I intentionally began each journey on May 15 so that I could capture what was left of the colorful new growth of spring and witness the rebirth that this glorious season represents. It would also be the time of year when our roads and highways would be largely devoid of summer travelers. I oriented both legs of my trip from west to east so that I could keep the afternoon sun and evening sunset at my backâ€”the time of day when fatigue would usually set in. 26 Taft Bulletin Fall 2009
32°50’46.71”N, 90°24’50.87”W North Main Street, Yazoo City, Mississippi This is a fine example of America’s quintessential Main Street—memories of yesteryear that we long for and strive to recreate in our urban renewals. Yazoo City has restored its historic district with dazzling color that preserves the charm of its architecture. If you’ve never visited a Hollywood movie lot, this is a dead ringer. The linear, functional layout of the buildings can be especially appreciated in Jim Wark’s aerial photograph above Yazoo City! I’d never heard of it, but leave it to me to happen upon this extraordinary little town as I made my way toward Jackson. What struck me most was the wildly creative, artistic use of color that embellished some of the town’s most dignified commercial buildings, located on South Main Street.
Though the experience was unforgettable and life altering, the book is not about me. It is about what I saw through the lens of my camera. I photographed images without people in them so that you could become the observer that I was and so that you could see America through your own eyes. Ironically, the book is as much about what I did not see as it is about what I saw. If you could hover above the ground at 500 or 1,000 feet as you traveled across the country, you would see what Jim Wark captured from his airplane—vistas or sites that were only hundreds of yards from the main road, but that I was unable to see even from that close distance. I achieved this by marking and recording every ground shot on a GPS device. Taft Bulletin Fall 2009 27
31°58’20.14”N, 87°29’10.86”W A Weyerhaeuser lumber mill on Highway 10, in Yellow Bluff, Alabama From my limited roadside viewpoint, I imagined that behind the security fence there would likely be a traditional manufacturing plant. But this aerial image reveals something far more intriguing: the uncanny symmetry of neatly circled piles of uncut tree trunks waiting to be stripped of their bark and cut into floorboards. Had I not known better, I might have thought this was the underside of an industrial floor polisher, with its twin-bristle brushes. Call it nostalgia, but of all the pictures I took during my trip, I was almost always mesmerized by abandoned factories and old mills that you could see from the roads leading into the larger, industrial cities, especially in the Midwest and Northeast.
I crossed a total of 27 of the 49 continental states, passing through only two of them twice: Oklahoma and Kansas. The total mileage recorded on my Road King Classic for the two legs was 8,556.5 miles. I welcomed the idea of traveling on some of these lesser-traveled roads, since it would be in the spirit of my quest for discovery. While the interstates were unavoidable (albeit safer, in my view, for motorcyclists), they offered generous opportunities for unique and memorable pictures. I did not select in advance the precise route for each leg, but did so on a day-to-day basis, depending on weather and traffic conditions, road construction and my personal stamina. For many who have wondered about the safety of such an expedition, I made the entire trip without accident, traffic violation, flat tire, spill, bruise, bump or hangnail. 28 Taft Bulletin Fall 2009
34°11’41.01”N, 91°54’31.97”W Southeast of Pine Bluff, Arkansas The mounds of dirt in the rice fields are made to contain the water used to flood these fields. The green is paler because the light reflects from the shallow water covering the ground. This mesmerizing image looks like a delicate, Italian-designed silk fabric.
As I read through the daily logs I had kept, I couldn’t help but remember the extraordinary hospitality and generosity of the many people I had met on the road. Each encounter had its own story, but the common theme that linked them all was that of genuine kindness and courtesy. You might think of these complete strangers as Good Samaritans, especially since what struck me most about their memorable contributions to my trip (delicious, home-cooked meals; assistance with my Harley; evenings spent in local bistros and bars hearing about families and local folklore) was that most, but not all, of these generous people seemed to be just getting by, yet gave freely of what they had. All of them, however, were rich in character and spirit. Collectively, they helped me realize that this kind of goodwill and kindness is the essence of America’s greatness. Taft Bulletin Fall 2009 29
In large part, thanks to these good people, I began to understand that this book could have a greater purpose than being merely a vehicle to share my passion for photography. I came to see that Crisscrossing America could acknowledge, if even in a modest way, people who quietly touch the lives of others without seeking anything in return. So in April of 2006, I funded a trust from which money or gifts could be directed to those who were in need, or who deserved some form of recognition or a lift. The book is dedicated to my beloved twin sister, Nini Gussenhoven (Westover Class of â€™65), who passed away unexpectedly in October 2006. She lived the journey with me vicariously from her New York City apartment through 30 Taft Bulletin Fall 2009
44°56’46.49”N, 67°11’44.65”W West of Pembroke, Maine Things looked pretty quiet at this roadside motel on a post-holiday weekend day. Nevertheless, the shoulder-wide motel rooms look appealing and comfortable, given the few choices in this most remote eastern part of Maine.
32˚03’20.75”N, 87˚48’28.26”W East of Marengo, Alabama As I traveled at more than 60 mph, I would capture a scene from the corner of my eye, then take a second or two to decide if the subject was worth photographing. If so, I would slow down my bike, check for traffic behind me, then circle back to the object I had spotted. I repeated this cycle hundreds and hundreds of times. The journal entries in the book describe the only “close encounter” on the trip at this package store.
telephone conversations and e-mails during both legs of my trip. I had planned to surprise her with the first proofs of the book on our 60th birthday, but she left us just a month before this milestone celebration. While I have had a few willing riders on the back of my motorcycle, none was more enthusiastic than Nini on her first and only Harley experience. I will cherish that one ride with her forever. j Photographs and excerpts are from John Gussenhoven’s book, Crisscrossing Americ. For more, visit www.crisscrossingamerica.org where you will see photographs and journal entries, in their entirety, that are not included in the book. Taft Bulletin Fall 2009 31
32 Taft Bulletin Fall 2009
My Life with Julia
Q&A with Alex Prud’homme ’80
Fans of the popular summer movie Julie & Julia may already know that the film is based on two true stories: Julie Powell’s Julie & Julia and My Life in France by Julia Child with Alex Prud’homme. For the growing number of Julia fans, here’s the rest of that story…
Q: what was your original connection to Julia Child?
Q: how well did you know Julia and Paul Child growing up?
Julia’s husband, Paul, was the twin brother of my grandfather, Charles Child. So she was my great-aunt. I grew up knowing her on TV and in person; the two Julias were one and the same. The personality you saw on TV was the same personality I saw at home—funny, smart and happiest when cooking something delicious for an appreciative audience. Paul had been a diplomat, was an accomplished artist and was an essential part of Julia’s success. In fact, our book is dedicated to him. He was ten years older than she was, knew all about wine and entertained us with unusual tricks. He and I shared a love of bacon and bananas, and Julia thought we looked alike—which is probably one reason she liked me.
Quite well. Although they lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and we lived in New York, they were frequently in Manhattan as Julia’s career flourished. We’d often have Thanksgiving together, and we’d see each other in Maine during the summer, where Paul helped my grandfather build a log cabin. They never had children of their own but were close to Charlie’s children (my mother, aunt and uncle). They weren’t quite another set of grandparents to us—Julia was a celebrity, and they were always flying off to exotic places like France or California—but they were very down-to-earth people, and always curious about what WE were up to. Julia and Paul were generous, and would pass on gifts of food and cookbooks they’d been given from well-meaning friends. But their biggest gift was to live their lives in an exemplary way: they taught us the importance of passion, doggedness, creativity and humor.
Taft Bulletin Fall 2009 33
My Life with Julia
“…their biggest gift was to live their lives in an exemplary way: they taught us the importance of passion, doggedness, creativity and humor.”
Q: what are some of your favorite memories of Julia and Paul? A:
Mostly about eating, of course. Julia’s kitchen in Cambridge was her laboratory, and the center of the house. We’d sit around the big table there talking—about movies, politics, food—while she tinkered with some new recipe on her old Garland stove. There were all sorts of giant knives and copper pots and exotic culinary contraptions in her kitchen—like the giant mortar and pestle she bought in Paris. (Her entire kitchen is on display at the Smithsonian.) This seemed natural to me, and it was only much later that I realized how lucky I was to spend time with her. In Maine, Julia would join us in picking strawberries, fishing for mackerel and digging for clams. She’d make chowder, bouillabaisse, lobsters, bread, jams and berry pies, and—our favorite—lace cookies. In New York, Julia would sometimes take us along to a fund-raiser she was doing, and then we’d go out to a restaurant, where they’d seat us in the middle of the room and feed us way too much food. Afterward, Julia made a point of going into the kitchen to thank everyone from the dishwasher to the head chef. Entering a restaurant with her was an experience; I’ve seen near-riots break out when Julia walked into a room. Once, a woman at a fancy restaurant set her napkin on fire when she knocked a candle over in a rush to get Julia’s autograph. Julia handled the crush of attention very well; Paul didn’t like it much but put up with it for her sake. We visited Paul and Julia in Provence a number of times. Shopping at the great outdoor market in Cannes, Julia spoke to every vegetable and meat purveyor, and, naturally,
34 Taft Bulletin Fall 2009
they loved her. In 1976, when I was 14, she took us to La Colombe d’Or, a restaurant in St. Paul de Vence, where I had my first really extraordinary, three-plus-hour French lunch. Then Paul set up a TV on the veranda, and we watched the Montreal Olympics while Julia grilled the most delicious chicken I’ve ever eaten. Of course, one of my best memories of all is spending time with Julia at the end of her life: we were writing this book together, and getting to know each other—and our family stories—all over again. I feel very lucky to have spent this private, reflective time with her.
Q: when did you first learn that Julia was writing a book about her life?
The years she lived in France, Julia said, were “among the best of my life.” It was there that she figured out who she was and what she wanted to do with herself. And for almost as long as I can remember, she talked about writing a book about that time—“the France book.” In 1969, Paul suggested printing the letters that he and Julia had written to my grandparents from France. But the publishers weren’t interested. Julia liked the idea, though, and kept notes about it. In her desk, I found files of things she had written about her experiences there—her first meal in Rouen; how to shop for partridge in Paris, or fish in Marseille; the trials and tribulations of getting Mastering the Art of French Cooking written and published. But for some reason, “the France book” never got written.
“All right, dearie, maybe we should work on it together.”
Talk about the process of writing this book with Julia.
Q: how did you first become involved in the writing of My Life in France?
I was a professional writer, and had long wanted to do something collaborative with Julia. But she was selfreliant, and for years had politely resisted my offer. By December 2003, Julia had retired to Santa Barbara, California, and when I made my annual visit, she once again mentioned “the France book” in a wistful tone. She was 91, and growing frail, and I once again offered to assist her. This time she surprised me by saying, “All right, dearie, maybe we should work on it together.” I wasn’t especially prepared, but we sat down and did our first interview the next day. Our collaboration grew from there.
For a few days every month, I would sit in Julia’s modest living room, asking questions, reading from a stack of family letters, looking at Paul’s evocative photographs, and listening to her stories. Occasionally we’d watch a tape of one of her old TV shows, and she’d tell me about it. It wasn’t always easy, though. Julia could only work for a couple of hours at a time. She didn’t like to talk about her innermost thoughts. My tape recorder distracted her, so I took notes instead. But after some fits and starts, we finally got into a good working rhythm. Many of our best conversations took place over a meal, on a car ride, or while I rolled her wheelchair through the farmers’ market. Something would trigger her memory, and she’d suddenly tell me how she learned to make baguettes in a home oven, or how one had to speak very loudly in order to be heard at a French dinner party. When I had enough material, I would write up a vignette. Julia would read it, correct it, and add new thoughts. She loved this process, and was an exacting editor. “This book energizes me!” she’d say. We worked like this from mid-January to mid-August 2004, when she passed away in her sleep from kidney failure. She died on August 13, two days before her 92nd birthday. I spent the next year finishing My Life in France, and wishing I could call on her to fill in the gaps. The final product is a true collaboration, featuring the voices of Julia, Paul and a bit of me. I wrote some exposition and transitions, and used her funny words—“Yuck!” “Plop!” “Hooray!” In some places I have blended Paul’s and Julia’s words. Not only was this practical, but Julia encouraged it, noting that they often signed their letters “PJ,” or “Pulia,” as if they were two halves of one person. j
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n Denali from the north by air: the Muldrow Glacier and North Summit (19,470’) with South Summit (20,320’) visible behind and to the left. Rising 18,000’ above the lowlands just to the north, Denali has more vertical relief than Mount Everest. The cirrus clouds are a good indication that foul weather is coming.
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Angel _ of_Denali A Love For Adventure Lures Lowell Thomas To Alask a by Mike Macy ’69 It is about -20 F. The air is sm No snow blowing off the rid ooth. No sign of downdrafts. ges. Just a gentle north wind, 5 to 10 knots. And Lowell Thomas, Jr. ’4 2 is searching for Japanese cl im Naomi Uemura, the first m an to summit Denali alone ber in winter.
“I’ve had five forced landin gs in my career,” says Thom as, “but I’ve never damage injured a passenger—which d an airplane or I mostly attribute to good luck and The Good Lord. searching for Uemura, was That day in 1984, probably the closest I ever came. “I was at 20,000 feet, on oxygen, in my wheel-skied HelioCourier, on the north mountain. The next thing side of the I knew, we were in a free fal l. We pulled out of the down 30 seconds later, at about draft less than 14,000 feet, just above the surface of the Ruth Glacier— ible rate of descent, more tha an incredn 12,000 feet per minute. W hat probably saved me was stopped flying. That, and ou that I never r momentum had carried us just beyond the rock and ice Denali’s east face.” cliffs of To put Thomas’s Niaga ra-like plunge in perspecti ve, most small planes are de and descend at rates of hund signed to climb reds of feet per minute, no t thousands. Today, Air Force high-a ltitude helicopters routinely rescue climbers on Denali. ever, Thomas was the only For years, howfixed-wing pilot the Natio nal Park Ser vice authorized the mountain. to land high on Uemura, who was forced by weather on his descent to bivouac high on the mo never found. Other injured untain, was or sick climbers did sur viv e, however, thanks to Thomas’s braver y. All but one or two skill and of his dozen landings at 14 ,000 feet were evacuations.
v Tay and Lowell Thomas with the wheel-skied “Helio,” known for its outstanding short takeoff and landing capability. Rob Stapleton Photography
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v One of the last Westerners to visit Tibet in 1949 before the borders closed, Lowell Thomas ’42, left, is pictured across the valley from the Potala, one of the wonders of the world, with interpreter Rimshi Kyipup, Luishahr Dzaza and Lama Dorje Changwaba from the Tibet Foreign Ministry, and Lowell Thomas, Sr.
The saw is that Alaska has old pilots, and bold pilots, but no old, bold pilots. And for good reason: Alaska’s weather is hostile and fickle; until recently, navigational aids were scarce and unreliable; and the terrain is unforgiving. But Thomas, now 86, is a signal exception: In an aviation career spanning six decades, he spent nearly two flying Denali, one of the world’s most challenging aviation environments. At 20,320 feet Denali—or Mount McKinley as it is officially known—is North America’s highest. Like all great mountains, Denali makes its own weather. But the world’s other great mountains are closer to the Equator, where the atmosphere is significantly thicker; consequently, Denali’s effective altitude equals that of a 24,000-footer in the Himalaya. Furthermore, Denali’s position on the boundary between the North Pacific/ Bering Sea and Arctic/Continental weather systems means that bad weather can come from two directions, sometimes at once. If you press Thomas about his flying record and his emerging unscathed from those five forced landings, the most that he will allow is that, “Well, I always knew what to do.”
Thomas grew up on a dairy farm in Pawling, New York. His dad, Lowell Thomas, Sr., author and radio news commentator, was one of the most recognized voices in America and a friend of many explorers. And so it was that as a mere 16-year-old, Lowell Jr. joined the great mountaineer and photographer Bradford Washburn, his wife, Barbara, and four college seniors from the Harvard Alpine Club on the first ascent of Mount Bertha, in Alaska’s Fairweather Range. Thomas didn’t get a shot at the summit; nonetheless, he “fell in love with Alaska, its mountains and glaciers.” He also became lifelong friends with the Washburns. In 1942, during his senior year at Taft, a classmate’s father buzzed the school in a Grumman Wildcat, which would become the Navy’s preeminent fighter during WWII. The Wildcat then landed on the athletic fields. “That was really exciting!” recalls Thomas, who went on to Dartmouth the following year, before enlisting in the Army Air Corps. He trained to fly B-25 Mitchells, the twin-engine, twin-tailed medium bomber that carried Jimmy Doolittle in his 1942 raid over Tokyo. Thomas proved so adept with the B-25 that he spent the rest of the war training others to fly it. He graduated from Dartmouth in 1948 and joined forces with his dad, filming and producing movies. In 1949, the Tibetan government made an exception to their policy of excluding foreigners and invited Thomas father and son to Lhasa in the hopes that the Thomases’ reports would help persuade the U.S. government to defend Tibet against the Chinese. The journey by foot and donkey from Sikkim across the monsoon-drenched, leachinfested Himalaya took 40 days, with taped reports dispatched back to India by runner every day. The Thomases became the last Westerners to reach Lhasa before the Chinese. On the way home, Lowell Jr. had to evacuate his dad after Sr. was thrown from his horse, breaking his hip in eight places. Published in 1950, Out of This World, Jr.’s book about the expedition, became a best seller. Though both father and son continued to write and lecture about Tibet, the U.S. largely declined to intervene. In the face of Soviet hostilities and with war looming in Korea, the U.S. was leery of tangling with an increasingly belligerent China. CBS
v A good day at the office: Thomas is a signal exception to the Alaskan saying that there are old pilots and bold pilots, but no old, bold pilots. He has landed numerous climbing parties and personally made several first ascents on Denali’s Tordrillo Range.
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did not broadcast the resultant film, Expedition to Lhasa, Tibet, until years later. Lowell Jr. had been the cameraman. Although the results were not as hoped for, the Tibetans remain grateful for the Thomases’ efforts; in 2005, the Dalai Lama bestowed the International Campaign for Tibet’s Light of Truth Award on Lowell Jr. Thomas followed his Tibetan adventure by taking his young wife, Tay Pryor (whose own Taft connections are numerous), on a 45,000-mile flying odyssey by Cessna 180 through Europe, Africa, the Middle East and South Asia. Throughout the 1950s, he continued to film and produce movies. In 1958, with statehood imminent, Thomas and his dad returned to Alaska to film a series about whether a wild place like Alaska could support young families from elsewhere in the U.S. Lowell Jr. flew wife Tay and first child north, again in a Cessna 180. Tay immediately fell in love with Alaska, so the family stayed on after the project. [Tay has written six books about their life and three National Geographic features, including “Night of Terror,” her hair-raising account of the 1964 Alaska Earthquake that destroyed their neighborhood.] While making films, Lowell and Tay met and befriended Alaskans from many walks of life, some of whom persuaded him to run for public office. “They needed cannon fodder, I suppose,” says Thomas, who at the time was a Republican in a Democratic state. After two unsuccessful runs for Congress, the second ending in a recount, he was elected to the State Senate, eventually serving two terms. From the outset, Thomas’s mission was conservation. At the request of Alaskans seeking protection for the mountains in Anchorage’s backyard, Thomas introduced legislation to create Chugach State Park. Despite stiff opposition stirred up by the concurrent battle to protect federal lands, the legislation passed. Today, the half-million-acre Chugach State Park is universally acclaimed as one of Anchorage’s greatest assets. A generous supporter of conservation, Thomas made a million dollar bequest to Alaska Conservation Foundation in 2000, still their largest ever. He had another target: end bounty hunting, which he viewed as ethically and environmentally wrong. Right or wrong, many Alaskans were habituated to receiving government money for killing predators and therefore vigorously opposed his proposed legislation. Thomas had an unlikely ally in Charles Lindbergh, who was appalled by the notion of using aircraft to slaughter defenseless wildlife. When Lindbergh heard that prospects for Thomas’s bill were bleak, he volunteered to help. Within days, Lindbergh was in Juneau, addressing the legislature and governor behind closed doors. Ultimately, the legislature scrapped bounty hunting. Two years later, Thomas flew Lindbergh over the Chugach and Kenai mountains, landing on several glaciers in the process. Few aviators can claim to have piloted one of the most famous of them all. In 1972, Jay Hammond ran for governor and asked Thomas to run with him as lieutenant governor. “I liked Jay Hammond.
I would have done whatever I could to help him,” says Thomas. They won and he served one term before retiring from politics. “Throughout my time in Juneau, I kept flying and landing on glaciers at every opportunity,” says Thomas. Very few climbers fly; even fewer flyers climb. Again, he was the exception. He helped explore and climb the most prominent summits in the Tordrillo Range, the glaciated peaks and volcanos dominating Anchorage’s southwestern horizon. Over several years, Thomas landed a score of climbing parties above the mudflats and alder thickets that guard the Range’s flanks and personally made several of the first ascents. Looking for a post-political career, he was already thinking about glacier flying when the guide Ray Genet asked if he was interested in helping shuttle his climbing clients on and off Denali. After seven years flying climbers as owner of Talkeetna Air Taxi, Thomas spent another 12 years flying guests of Camp Denali/North Face Lodge around, and sometimes landing on, the mountain.
“Everyone wanted to fly with Lowell Thomas, Jr.,” says Wally Cole, Camp Denali’s owner during that period and still a good friend today. “For many of our guests, flying with him was the highlight of their Alaska trip.” And for a few, it was a flight that saved their lives. j A craniosacral therapist, Mike Macy ’69, who lives in Anchorage, first moved to Alaska in 1976.
n The National Park Trust honored Thomas with its first Annual Bruce Vento Public Service Award in 2001 for his lifetime contributions to conservation. Thomas helped establish Chugach State Park and also led the fight to end bounty hunting in Alaska.
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from the ARCHIVES
Thunder and Stagecraft for Sun-Up On February 24, 1935, the Taft Dramatic Association, under the direction of science teacher Robert Olmstead, put on Sun-Up (1932), a play by Lula Vollmer. This was the Golden Age of dramatic stagecraft at Taft (with apologies to Rick Doyle), when English teacher and “aesthete” Rollo DeWilton directed set design, taking full advantage of the new, state-of-the-art Bingham Auditorium’s backstage apparatus. The results were always elegant and real-life. An article in the Papyrus of the time describes the effort to create the World War Iera, North Carolina log cabin interior and the atmospheric effects of the mountain setting. “…flats are divided into doors and windows… and painted. The fireplace…is made of boxes 40 Taft Bulletin Fall 2009
covered with canvas frames, with bulges here and there to give it the lifelike appearance of hewn stone…Lighting effects are created from an intricate switchboard system, by throwing certain lights on an external blue cyclorama in order to suggest bright daylight…” Stage crew made the sounds of a heavy windstorm by turning a drum of slats at high speed over a canvas-covered frame. “Thunder is created by merely pounding on a sheet of tin.” And to complete the sensory experience, “members of the cast will cook bacon and other food…on a small electric grill placed inside the fireplace.” —Alison Gilchrist, Leslie Manning Archives
n The hillbilly Widow Cagle (played by Robert Chapman ’36), grieving the death of her son in the war, hears his voice telling her to spare the life of the stranger (Henry Bertram ’36), whose father killed her husband, since the act would only be of the same blind nature. Also shown are Bud (Charles Coit ’35) and Emmy (John Packard ’37).
Blake Joblin ’13
Mark W. Potter ’48 Gallery 2009–10 Season
September 1 to 26 Taft Visual Arts Students 2008–09 Taft Student Work in Drawing, Design, Painting, Sculpture, Photography and Ceramics
November 6 to December 4 Ubuntu: I Am Because We Are Art from the Juvenile Justice System and Beyond www.artisticnoise.org Opening reception November 6
October 2 to 31 Susan Mastrangelo: Slice of Life Rockwell Visiting Artist www.susanmastrangelo.com
December/January 2009 Student Work Taft Student Work in Drawing, Design, Painting, Sculpture, Photography and Ceramics
January 29 to March 5, 2010 Greenswards, New Work by Nancy Friese Tremendous Trees, Bending Skies and Greenswards Rockwell Visiting Artist www.nancyfriese.com This exhibition is funded by the Andrew R. Heminway ’47 Endowment Fund. Opening reception January 29
March 26 to April 24 Celia Gerard ’91: Drawings www.celiagerard.com Opening reception March 26 April 29 to June 29 Eladio Fernandez ’85 Caribbean Landscape Photography www.eladiofernandez.com Opening reception April 29
The Taft School 110 Woodbury Road Watertown, CT 06795-2100 860.945.7777 www.TaftAlumni.com
Nonprofit Org U.S. Postage PAID Burlington, VT Permit No. 101
Change Service Requested
Thad Reycraft ’10 happily tackles the Crisco slide for the light blue team on Super Sunday in September. Held on one of the opening weekends of school, Super Sunday is a longstanding tradition at Taft. Can anyone identify the year it began? Peter Frew ’75