ChanginG the Game: Alumni Entrepreneurs
h Be Our Guest! Lumière [Chris Browner ’12] invites Belle [Jillian Wipfler ’13] to “put their service to the test” in Beauty and the Beast, onstage in Bingham for Parents’ Weekend in October. Yee-Fun Yin
in this issue
The Education of Bill Crutchfield ’61 By Brady Dennis
Business at Its Best
How Bill Taylor ’77 Raises the Bar By G. Jeffrey MacDonald
The Maybank Touch
The founding CEO of Gilt Groupe shares her entrepreneurial secrets. By Julie Reiff
Departments 2 From the Editor 2 Taft Trivia 3 Letters 4 Alumni Spotlight 10 Around the Pond 30 Tales of a Taftie: Michael P. W. Stone ’42 31 From the Archives: Mr. Taft’s Chairs
from the EDITOR Taft alumni have always been innovators. In this issue, we introduce you to three, but of course there are so many others. Could Alexis Maybank ’93 have created Gilt (see page 26) without the pioneering work of Roger Lee ’90 in web-based commerce back in 1995? Would Bill Taylor’s Fast Company magazine (page 22) have looked as it did had it not been for Robert L. Johnson, Class of 1914, who helped start Time magazine back in 1923. Taft is above all a community—a community of highly talented people. There are pioneers in education, science, arts, media and even running nonprofits. A quick glance at the class notes shows startups and innovators all the time. Who will be Taft’s next big business pioneer? This fall we asked alumni to log in to our revised Online Alumni Directory to review their information, and even to look up a friend. But for those who would like to network more actively, there is also the Taft group on LinkedIn. Have you joined us?
How about on Facebook? Or Twitter? Many of us face withdrawal symptoms if we are away from our cell phones for too long. Headmaster Willy MacMullen (www.taftschool.org/about/headmaster.aspx) spoke this fall about the “tethered generation.” Perhaps the Bulletin is simply an old-school form of tethering. How relevant is “print” in our modern lives? Do you feel connected? We’d love to hear your stories. —Julie Reiff
Taft on the Web
Find a friend’s address or look up back issues of the Bulletin at www.TaftAlumni.com Visit us on your phone with our mobile-friendly site www.TaftSchool.org/m What happened at this afternoon’s game? Visit www.TaftSports.com Don’t forget you can shop online at www.TaftStore.com 800-995-8238 or 860-945-7736
Please recycle this Bulletin.
Taft Trivia How many Taft faculty can you name who head coached a varsity team for 25 years or more? We’ll print our tally in the next issue, but we’ll send a set of pewter coasters to one lucky winner, whose name we’ll drawn from all entries received. Email your entry to JulieReiff@TaftSchool.org.
2 Taft Bulletin Fall 2011
Scan this QR code with your smart phone to visit Taft’s mobile site. x
Fall 2011 Volume 82, Number 1 Bulletin Staff Director of Development: Chris Latham Editor: Julie Reiff Alumni Notes: Linda Beyus Design: Good Design, LLC www.gooddesignusa.com Proofreader: Nina Maynard Mail letters to: Julie Reiff, Editor Taft Bulletin The Taft School Watertown, CT 06795-2100 U.S.A. ReiffJ@TaftSchool.org Send alumni news to: Linda Beyus Alumni Office The Taft School Watertown, CT 06795-2100 U.S.A. TaftBulletin@TaftSchool.org Deadlines for Alumni Notes: Winter–November 15 Spring–February 15 Summer–May 15 Fall–August 30 Send address corrections to: Sally Membrino Alumni Records The Taft School Watertown, CT 06795-2100 U.S.A. TaftRhino@TaftSchool.org 1-860-945-7777 www.TaftAlumni.com The Taft Bulletin (ISSN 0148-0855) is published quarterly, in February, May, August and November, by The Taft School, 110 Woodbury Road, Watertown, CT 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 J@TaftSchool.org
Not only am I a great believer in a Taft education I am also more than satisfied with the communications. I also believe the choice of headmasters is most important however allowing young ladies on board was of co-importance. The idea of young ladies being bused to Taft from various women’s schools was always an important happening. I wonder how that would be considered in our current standards of behavior! —Robert Mongeau ’55 In 1954, 64 years into Taft’s history, I was the first Black admitted to Taft. In 1956, Wesley Williams was admitted as Taft’s second, and the two of us were there for my senior year. The decision to admit Blacks transformed and redirected the course of Taft’s history. My daughter, Alisa Jackson DeSilva, who graduated in 1989, is a beneficiary of both decisions (including the one to go coed). I believe Alisa to be the first Black alumna of the first Black Taft alumnus. That decision 57 years ago made it possible for the first time for young Black men to attend Taft and, later in 1971, for young Black ladies to do so as well. The 1954 decision is Taft’s most important. —W. Wayne Jackson ’57 Ed: We’d like to continue to hear from alumni on what you believe is the most important institutional decision in Taft’s 121-year history? Coeducation received the most votes in our Bulletin poll, followed by the choice of headmasters, but there was at least one write-in vote for the creation of the school’s honor code. What say you all?
The article on coeducation brought back great memories. John Esty had a wonderful alumni advisory council, sometimes referred to as his “kitchen cabinet.” It was this group in conjunction with John who furnished the impetus for Taft’s foray into coeducation. I was privileged to be part of that group. I was also touched and moved by your article on Varian Fry. The ’40s and the courageous people who saved some from Hitler’s Germany are seared in my memory. Too bad we can’t claim Mr. Fry as a complete Taft alumnus, but it’s great to have some connection with him. We recently returned from a cruise/ art tour including southern France with a noted Metropolitan Museum art lecturer, Olivier Bernier. At one of the museums I was surprised and interested to hear him tell a story of Varian Fry and how he managed to get so many artists and writers of that era out of France and to the United States. It turns out that Olivier was a close friend of Varian and his family. —Lee P. Klingenstein ’44
I was delighted to see the article on Varian Fry in the Taft Bulletin and to learn he was a Taft student. I have long been interested in Fry since reading about his incredible work to liberate intellectuals in a book by Claude Lévi-Strauss, the famous father of structuralism. You might be interested to know that in Berlin there is a bus stop called Varian Fry. I was astounded to see it when I traveled there a few years ago. —Helen Minton P’62
While I’m sure that the early days of coeducation will be analyzed and interpreted by many of us that were there (and any number of those who were not) for a long time, I’d like to comment about the early days of girls’ sports at Taft. While it was true that, given the small pool of girls (82 in 1971), there were opportunities to do things that we would perhaps not have been able to pursue in more established schools, I think that Jean Piacenza’s statement that “…any caterpillar could be on a team back then” underplays the talent and drive of the girls that played varsity sports at Taft in the first few years. Relying on the sports records documented in my Taft Annuals, consider the following: In 1971–72, Taft fielded three varsity teams (field hockey, basketball and softball) with a combined record of 5 wins, 2 ties and 18 losses. By 1973–74, with 165 girls enrolled there were six varsity teams—field hockey, soccer, basketball, tennis, softball and lacrosse). All six had winning records with a total of 49 wins, 5 ties and 7 losses. That year, we consistently beat the wellestablished powerhouses of Rosemary Hall, Miss Porter’s, Westover, Ethel Walker, Kent, etc., as well as Princeton and Trinity. While the first few years of coeducation…
On the Cover B
ChanginG the Game:
v Game changer is an oft-used term these days, but in this issue we look at three innovators who clearly deserve the label. shutterstock/ antoniomas
As impressive as the list of headmasters in the spring issue was, of course we continue to find more. Our apologies for the omissions, but please keep the information coming. You can see the entire list, revised, at www.TaftSchool.org/headsup. Richard W. Davis ’40 Buffalo Seminary NY, 1959–66 Miss Porter’s School CT, 1966–75 Renbrook School CT, 1977–86
Fred Burr (faculty 1942–43) Saint Andrew’s School FL, 1971–73
Taft Bulletin Fall 2011 3
By Julie Reiff
Gloria When Dyllan McGee ’89 was at Taft she remembers saying, “I’m not a feminist, but...” Feminism, she explains, was a dirty word back then. The perception was that you had to be ugly and angry to be a feminist. “It makes me laugh thinking back on it,” she adds. Lately, McGee has found herself exploring the path of the women’s movement as executive producer of Gloria: In Her Own Words, a recent HBO documentary on Gloria Steinem. “Our goal with the Gloria film is to get the next generation,” says McGee, “the girls and boys at Taft now who have no idea who Gloria Steinem is, to connect to her story and appreciate the changes that have occurred for women over the past 40 years, which really isn’t that long ago.” McGee, along with partner Peter Kunhardt, wanted people to see how human, funny and lovable Gloria is. “As I got to know Gloria over the course of the production, I was blown away by how accessible she was to us and how little ego she had. I remember sitting with her in the dressing room before our interview and she said, ‘I hope I don’t disappoint you,’ as if she wasn’t sure her life was worthy of a film! “When I first asked her if we could do the film she said, ‘No!’” explains McGee. “Her response was that her story is an example of a collective effort, and 4 Taft Bulletin Fall 2011
n Executive Producer Dyllan McGee ’89
she didn’t want to be singled out. So we created a larger initiative with PBS and AOL to capture oral histories of women’s advancement in America. With that project in development, I asked her again and she said, ‘Yes!’ It was a thrilling moment I will never forget.” That other project is Makers: Women Who Make America, a multiplatform project that includes a major online initiative with AOL and a three-part documentary series that will launch online early next year and premiere on PBS in early 2013. Steinem called it “the Eyes on the Prize of the women’s movement” in her interview with the New York Times.
“We want viewers to understand that the advancement of women has not been the result of a single, unified campaign or the actions of a few,” added McGee. “Rather it has been the product of a tremendous number of women from all walks of life who, step by step, have changed the landscape of opportunity.” McGee started at Kunhardt Productions as an intern right out of Trinity College in 1993. She joined Peter Kunhardt as a partner in 2008. Among their many other productions are the Emmy award-winning Teddy In His Own Words (HBO) and Faces of America with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (PBS). She is currently developing a weekly series with Gates for PBS that will launch in March. For more information, visit www.kunhardtmcgee.com.
Next Stop, Abu Dhabi Jonathan Gyurko ’92 spent part of August in the Kingdom of Bahrain helping Gulf University develop its strategic plan and meet accreditation standards. In September, he was in Haiti assessing school reconstruction efforts. His education services and advisory firm, Leeds Global Partners, also formed a close partnership with the government of Abu Dhabi to dramatically improve public schools there. As Gyurko recently explained by email from Abu Dhabi, Leeds Global is working to implement the Emirate’s “New School Model,” an effort that includes the adoption of world-class standards, a transition to studentcentered classrooms and pedagogies, and the introduction of a bi-literate curriculum. To jump-start the effort, Abu Dhabi hired more than 900 English-fluent teachers from the United States, the United Kingdom and elsewhere to teamteach with local, Arabic-fluent educators. Abu Dhabi, the capital and secondlargest city in the United Arab Emirates,
has 125,000 students in more than 250 schools. Leeds Global, which Gyurko co-founded in early 2010 with CUNY chairman and former Yale president Benno Schmidt, former Edison Learning chief executive John Chubb, and Jeffrey Leeds, president of Leeds Equity Advisors, is spearheading the professional development of the system’s school heads and lead teachers. Each month Leeds Global designs and delivers bilingual training to more than 700 educators. Their program assessment data indicate that the new approaches are quickly taking hold in schools. Gyurko previously served as director of Charter Schools for the New York City Department of Education and also worked with the United Federation of Teachers to found the first union-supported charter schools in the United States—and he did all that before enrolling at Teachers College, Columbia University, where he is now a doctoral candidate. For his dissertation, he is conducting a large-scale study of the city’s
n Jonathan Gyurko ’92 working globally to
district and charter school teachers to understand how teacher “voice and loyalty”—the amount and quality of interaction that teachers have with their colleagues and supervisors on professional issues—affect teacher turnover. In the meantime, he is spending about two weeks a month in Abu Dhabi, convinced that his work can help the city achieve its goal to be the economic and cultural standard-bearer in the Middle East: “Abu Dhabi is well on its way to becoming a world-class city. Central to their plan is a thriving system of education and research. It’s an honor to be part of this work.” —Patricia Lamiell Reprinted by permission of Teachers College, Columbia University
Zoo Story Every other Sunday for the past year Laura Whitman ’85 puts on her official safari vest and volunteers as a guide at New York’s Central Park Zoo. There, she talks to visitors about the animals, narrates the sea lion feeding and will soon be giving live animal shows. Sundays are especially enjoyable at the zoo, says Whitman, because of all the foreign travelers. “Seeing a family from Delhi delight over their first experience with penguins or explaining to a Frenchman that the raccoon he saw in the trash can is not an escaped puma both have their charm.” But what motivated Whitman was the example she was setting for her son. “He only saw volunteer work as
Mommy on the phone asking for money or writing letters. I wanted him to see other more tangible ways of helping an organization.” So she decided to go back to school—Zoo School. The Whitmans live only eight blocks from the Central Park Zoo, part of the Wildlife Conservation Society, and walked by and visited it all the time. In order to help out, though, Whitman needed to apply to the three-month training program. “There was an essay and an interview and everything,” she says. “I was so excited when I was accepted, it was like getting in to Taft all over again.” Whitman has always had an interest
n Laura Whitman ’85 in uniform at the
Central Park Zoo
in wild animals and saving wild places, and she considers her volunteer work with the Wildlife Conservation Society a terrific break from regular family and art world life. “It doesn’t hurt that my son, 8, thinks I am so cool for doing it too!”
Taft Bulletin Fall 2011 5
n Don Spencer ’55 with one of the original hockey goaltender masks he wore while playing in amateur leagues in the late 1950s. Bob Gay/The Dominion Post
Friday the 13th movies aside, the goalie mask may have its origins with none other than Don Spencer ’55 while he played ice hockey for Hamilton College. Spencer loved hockey and in four years tending goal never missed a game due to injury, but—after a broken nose—wound up the next game wearing a plexiglass face shield that
was totally ineffective. He worked with Hamilton athletic trainer Gene Long to come up with a better design. Long made a custom-fit mask based on work he had done in track to prevent heel trauma, using a fiberglass cup to distribute the shock over a larger area. “I never understood the reluctance to wear a mask,” Spencer told USA Today. “It gave you confidence. If you took a puck to the mask, it hurt. But it didn’t break bones. You didn’t cut, you didn’t lose teeth, and your eyes were not in danger.” Spencer’s final college season ended before he could use Long’s mask in a game, but that spring Spencer saw an article in the New York Times in which Montreal Canadiens goaltender Jacques Plante mentioned his interest in wearing a mask. Spencer sent him a letter explaining how Long had used fiberglass to custom fit a design. “I was hoping
Amy Nichole Harris/www.Shutterstock.com
in Hong Kong
I might get a couple of tickets to the Stanley Cup playoffs,” Spencer added. “Although I never heard back from Plante,” Spencer said, “hockey historian Fred Addis credits the work at Hamilton as providing the missing link in development of the fiberglass facemask. Fiberglass had been around for some time, but obviously the information and expertise Jacques Plante gathered from Gene Long’s work was integral to creating that first mask worn by Plante on November 1, 1959.” On that night, in a game against the New York Rangers, Plante was struck in the face. After being stitched up, he refused to go back out onto the ice without a mask. He donned a mask for the rest of his career, introducing it to the NHL. Sources: USA Today, Hamilton College, Wikipedia, Total Hockey, NPR
Join Headmaster William R. MacMullen ’78 for a Taft Reception for alumni, parents and friends in Hong Kong
For more information, visit www.TaftSchool.org/events
6 Taft Bulletin Fall 2011
Terrible Twos Running late one morning, getting his two girls off to school, Jack Peltz ’92 asks his oldest in a stern voice to put her breakfast plate by the sink. “No!” she says in a loud voice. “It’s too heavy.” “Graycie, you’re strong enough to put it up by the sink,” he says, frustrated that they are running late, but hoping that his comment will somehow instill in her the belief that she is strong and capable of more than she thinks. “No!” she says again, fists balled, foot stamping, and starts to cry. The tantrum erupts. Even though he is a doctoral student in clinical psychology and a therapist, Peltz is exasperated. But he knows he’s not alone in that feeling Tantrums, he explains, are both developmentally appropriate and a normal part of how toddlers learn to deal with negative emotions. Even the happiest toddlers throw tantrums, but Peltz also tries to take the focus off the child and
broaden the perspective to those living in the home on a daily basis. “Despite our best intentions, the templates of parenting imprinted on us by our own parents are hard to dismiss,” he says. “Selma Fraiberg refers to them as ‘ghosts in the nursery’.” Current stressors on adults, from work or marriage, can also have a negative impact on children’s behavior. Peltz’s research and clinical training has involved a form of therapy called childparent psychotherapy, a therapeutic approach that attempts to change the negative representations a parent may hold of his or her child. In research for his dissertation at the University of Rochester, he is currently investigating how families grow and change over time. “We know a lot about how children develop, how the parent-child relationship evolves, and even how romantic relationships change over time,” Peltz says, “but there has been little research on the larger family system. Families, like
n Clinical therapist and doctoral candidate Jack Peltz ’92 explores the joys and drama of parenting at home and at work.
children, are all different and deserve individual attention.” In fact, if you are interested and have a 2- or 3-year-old child at home, he would love for you to take part in his online study, the Family Dynamics Survey (www.couples-research.com). Even as a trained therapist Peltz wishes he had the tantrum solution. “I would love to not have to pull out my hair each time my screaming child pounds her fists on the floor,” he adds. “Sometimes, though, we get so focused on the issue of our children’s reactions and behaviors that it is hard to see the larger environment in which they, just like us, are living. And if we can widen our scopes, the answers to some of our concerns will sometimes present themselves.”
Making the Cut After six years on the PGA tour James Driscoll ’96 is still going strong. He made the cut ten times this year with two top-ten finishes. In March, he shot a 9-under 63 in the PGA Tour’s Puerto Rico Open, missing a chance to break 60 when he played the final four holes in 2 over.
Driscoll matched the course record set by Derek Lamely in the third round of his victory last year. He had his best showing of the year at the Travelers Championship in June, placing fifth overall with 16 under. Golf has been good to Driscoll, who joined the PGA tour in 2007 and
finished the season with more than $3.7 million in career winnings. “I thought I would have had more wins at this point,” Driscoll told www.PGAtour.com. “But you also realize how good the other guys are. And it’s been a long learning process just trying to find little ways to get better, and you know, stay positive because the game will really make you discouraged at times. But I think if you just try and keep a good attitude throughout, even though it hasn’t gone exactly as planned, just try to stay patient.” v James Driscoll ’96 in action at the Travelers Championship held at the Tournament Players Club in Cromwell, Connecticut, in June. Darren Carroll/Sports Illustrated/Getty Images
Taft Bulletin Fall 2011 7
Legacy of the Light Todd Gipstein ’70 Legacy of the Light is the story of two generations of keepers at Race Rock Lighthouse off the shore of New London, Connecticut. This historical thriller is the story of how the past influences the present, of fathers and sons, failure, guilt, love and redemption. As the story unfolds, men and women visit the lighthouse and objects wash up on its rocks. Storms bear down on this man-made island in the middle of the sea, and those trapped at Race Rock—the keeper, his fiancée, and a mysterious stranger—must fight the forces of nature and the
demons within that threaten to destroy them. It is the story of Nathaniel Bowen and his son, Caleb, who mans the light as the worst hurricane in New England history hits the area. Caleb also tries to unravel a puzzle created by his father that could dramatically change all their lives. All the while, ships at sea in the nightmarish storm are searching for Race Rock’s beacon to guide them to safety. To read a sample chapter, visit www.gipstein.com/legacyofthelight.html
Birds of Brazil: The Pantanal & Cerrado of Central Brazil By John A. Gwynne ’67, Robert S. Ridgely, Guy Tudor and Martha Argel Published in Portuguese and English, Birds of Brazil: The Pantanal & Cerrado of Central Brazil highlights the bird life of one of the greatest wild places on Earth. More importantly, the guide strives to inspire a nation of potential conservationists to enjoy and safeguard Brazil’s vibrant ecosystems and natural heritage. This is the first in a series of five regional field guides (to include more than 1,830 known species in Brazil) that will promote conservation through the hobby of birding.
8 Taft Bulletin Fall 2011
This landmark guide is specifically targeted toward Brazilians, and its low cost facilitates a conservation strategy to make the guide widely available. The book will also be supplemented by an extensive educational website in Portuguese that will contain tips on how to become a birder, with basic information on how to use binoculars, identify species from key field marks and find and explore the rich diversity of habitats throughout the country.
The Ripple Effect: The Fate of Fresh Water in the Twenty-First Century Alex Prud’homme ’80 As Alex Prud’homme and his great-aunt Julia Child were completing their collaboration on her memoir, My Life in France, they began to talk about the French obsession with bottled water, which had finally spread to America. From this spark of interest, Prud’homme began a quest to understand the evolving story of fresh water. What he found was shocking: as the climate warms and world population grows, demand for water has surged, but supplies of fresh water are static or dropping, and new threats to water quality appear every day. The Ripple Effect is Prud’homme’s vivid and engaging inquiry into the fate of fresh water in the 21st century. The questions he asks are urgent: Will there be enough water to satisfy demand? What are the threats to its quality? What is the state of our water infrastructure—both the pipes that bring us fresh water and the levees that keep it out? How secure is our water supply from natural disasters and terrorist attacks? Can we create new sources for our water supply through scientific innovation? Is water a right like air or
a commodity like oil—and who should control the tap? Will the wars of the 21st century be fought over water? “Both drought and flood are on the rise, and Alex Prud’homme, in this fine new account, helps you understand why,” praises Bill McKibben, author of The End of Nature and Earth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet. “We’ve taken the planet’s hydrology for granted for the 10,000 years of human civilization; that’s a luxury we can no longer afford.” Prud’homme traversed the country, and he takes readers into the heart of the daily dramas that will determine the future of this essential resource—from the alleged murder of a water scientist in a New Jersey purification plant, to the epic confrontation between salmon fishermen and copper miners in Alaska, to the poisoning of Wisconsin wells, to the epidemic of intersex fish in the Chesapeake Bay, to the controversy over fracking for natural gas. Listen to Prud’homme explain the idea for the book at www.alexprudhomme.com/ media-download
Improbable Patriot: The Secret History of Monsieur de Beaumarchais, the French Playwright Who Saved the American Revolution Harlow Giles Unger ’49 The outrageous true story of the French plot to supply arms and ammunition to Washington’s Continental Army, and the bold French spy, inventor, playwright, and rogue behind it all. Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais was an 18th-century French inventor, famed playwright and upstart near-aristocrat in the court of King Louis XVI. In 1776, he conceived an audacious plan to send aid to the American rebels. What’s more, he convinced the king to bankroll the project, and singlehandedly carried it out. By war’s end, he had supplied Washington’s army with most of its weapons and powder, though he was never
paid or acknowledged by the United States. To some, he was a dashing hero—a towering intellect who saved the American Revolution. To others, he was pure rogue—a double-dealing adventurer who stopped at nothing to advance his fame and fortune. In fact, he was both, and more: an adviser to kings, an arms dealer, and author of some of the most enduring works of the stage, including The Marriage of Figaro and The Barber of Seville. Unger is a veteran journalist, broadcaster, educator and historian, he is author of 16 books, including five biographies of America’s founders. Taft Bulletin Fall 2011 9
For the latest news on campus events, please visit www.TaftSchool.org.
around the Pond
By Debra Meyers
Summer Projects, Year-round Improvement June, July and August were exceptionally busy months on campus, as new construction projects got underway and ongoing projects moved forward.
Pinto Family Language Lab With a curriculum that includes more than 40 courses in three foreign languages—and with a quarter of those taught at the honors and AP level—Taft is among the top independent schools for foreign language study. The Pinto Family Language Lab not only secures that position but also takes the language program to new heights. The renovations, made possible through the generosity of Maurice Pinto ’51 and Marc Pinto ’79, converted the lab from one large room into two separate but adjoining spaces, with a total 10 Taft Bulletin Fall 2011
of 32 workstations and the functional capacity for group and individual listening, recording and internet access. While the smaller space functions much like a traditional language lab, the larger room has workstations wrapped around the central Harkness-style table that offers new opportunities for program delivery and a computer-driven Smartboard. “We worked closely with the team from David Thompson Architects to create an environment that would enrich learning and support both large and small group activity,” explained Baba Frew, head of the Modern Language
Department. “This new space allows us to meet as a class for our lesson, utilize the Smartboard, then break into smaller groups to more fully explore the concepts and content of the material.” In addition to internet access and the usual software, each workstation is equipped with a computer that runs Digital Language Learning Lab (DiLL), an advanced audio network technology tool that converts a traditional lab into virtual space. Developed at Northwestern University, DiLL allows instructors to communicate with students individually, as a group or in small teams. It also gives students the option to slow down audio while maintaining the original pitch. “We are stressing the communicative aspect of language learning more than ever, and enhancing our curriculum with the technological advances that are a natural part of our students’ lives. In all,” added Frew, “the way we present information has been revolutionized.” Tremaine Art Studio The Tremaine Art Studio is the quintessential artist’s space: bright, airy and inspired. Named in recognition of the generosity of the Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation and given in honor of B. Tyler Tremaine ’95 and Whitney Tremaine O’Brien ’96, the space has undergone months of renovation that both preserves and enhances its original beauty. New energy-efficient windows are among the 1,100 Taft has replaced around campus so far, and are the same windows used at both Yale and Harvard. Electric shades with east and west controls allow art teacher Loueta
Chickadaunce to maximize the benefit of the natural light in the studio; ceiling fans and new artificial lighting were also installed. The renovation updated the studio’s floors and ceilings and extended the wood paneling around new office space within the room. “This is such a brilliant gift to the school,” said Chickadaunce, “I can’t express my joy over the revelation of a truly beautiful space at Taft; I’m sure that it surpasses even the original designers’ wishes. “The students are thrilled,” added Chickadaunce. “As am I.”
Ongoing Projects • McIntosh House completed phase 2 of a complete renovation, which will conclude next summer. • The 12 outdoor tennis courts have also been completely reconstructed and will be unveiled this spring along with two new viewing pavilions.
Peter Frew ’75
Laube Auditorium Things in Laube Auditorium not only look better after months of renovation, they sound better. Used by faculty and students for panel discussions, debates, poetry readings, lectures and movie viewing, Laube was originally created as part of the Hulbert Taft Library in 1969 and named in memory of Justus Laube by his wife, Charlotte, and son Brad ’51. The 100-seat amphitheaterstyle auditorium is now completely wired for technology and boasts a new sound system, lighting and upgraded seating. Funded by Brad Laube’s estate, the renovation also gave the room ADAcompliant accessibility and included renovation of the lobby and stairwell.
Taft Bulletin Fall 2011 11
around the POND
Stellar Year for AP Students Taft students performed exceptionally well on the most recent round of Advanced Placement (AP) exams, including one record-setting performance by Al Reiff’s BC Calculus students. BC Calculus is equivalent to a fullyear freshman college calculus course. It includes all topics covered in AB Calculus and more. That 20 students took the course this year is significant. That all 20 earned a perfect score of 5 on the AP exam is remarkable. “This was the largest BC Calculus
class we have had,” noted Al. “I was tempted to whittle the group down to Taft’s standard cap of 16 students per course, however, the quality of the students was too good and obvious from the start. We powered through the material and knew the results would be good on the AP exam. Still, that each student received the highest score possible exceeded all of our expectations, and is a tribute to the effort and dedication of the group.”
Taft offers courses in 29 AP subjects. This year, 255 students sat for 676 exams. Ninety percent of those students earned scores of 3 or better; 74 percent received a grade of 4 or 5.
Among the more extraordinary performances in multi-section courses were these: j English Literature: 32 of the 35 exams received 4 or 5 j U.S. History: 35 of the 41 exams received 4 or 5 j Psychology: 21 of the 26 exams received 4 or 5 j AB Calculus: 45 of the 48 exams received 4 or 5 j Biology: 42 of the 49 exams received 4 or 5 j Spanish Language: 24 of the 25 exams received 4 or 5
Joie de Vivre
n Jacky Susskind ’13, Will McElroy ’13, Ryder Smith ’13, Katie McLaughlin ’13, W.T. Miller, Freddy Schueler ’13, Kayla Romano-Pringle ’14 and Rebecca Karabus ’14 at the Tour Eiffel in Paris. Aurélie Miller
12 Taft Bulletin Fall 2011
This summer French teachers Aurélie and W.T. Miller led seven Taft students on a two-week adventure through the streets of Paris and the hills of the French countryside. The group was immersed in the country’s rich and storied culture from the start: In their first three days they visited the Louvre, Musée d’Orsay, Montmartre, Sacre Coeur, Notre Dame, and the Quartiers Latin and St. Germain. They also spent a week living in a 16th-century farmhouse in the country village of Ducey. Blending history with culture, the Millers led the group through Chambord, Chenonceau and the Chateau de Blois before heading to Normandy and Brittany, where their stops included the D-Day beaches and memorial, as well as the medieval towns of Fougères and Dinard.
n Dr. Ned Hallowell addresses the faculty at the opening meeting this fall. Peter Frew ’75
City. He was a member of the faculty of the Harvard Medical School from 1983 to 2004, when he retired to devote his attention to his clinical practice, lectures and writing books. Hallowell’s most recent book, SHINE: Using Brain Science to Get the Best from Your People, draws on brain science, performance research and his own experience helping people maximize their potential to present a proven process for getting the best from your people. He is the co-author, with Dr. John Ratey, of Driven to Distraction, Answers to Distraction and Delivered from Distraction.
Peter Frew ’75
At his opening address to faculty this fall, Dr. Ned Hallowell explained that the attitudes one develops growing up are the
best predictors of future success—confidence, optimism, persistence in the face of disappointment and enthusiasm. And those attitudes can be developed through what he calls the “cycle of excellence.” Along the way “you get hooked on possibility,” he explains. “It feels good to make things and grow things—and by the way, it might help the world, but you do it because it feels good.” A graduate of Harvard College and Tulane School of Medicine, Hallowell is a child and adult psychiatrist and the founder of the Hallowell Center for Cognitive and Emotional Health in Sudbury, Massachusetts, and New York
New Faculty This year’s additions to the faculty include a couple of alumni and a returning teacher. From left, Matt Mason, Kevin Conroy, Ken Hincker, John Dawson, Shaadi Khoury, Will Shotwell, Brianne Foley, Rohan Arjun, Amanda Getty, Michael Hoffman ’97, Kate Seethaler, Nick MacDonald, Ledlie Pastor, Johanna Valdez, Peter Saltsman, Caitlin Hincker, Charles Thompson, Moriah Petersen, Matt LaBrie, Luis Mendoza, Ben Pastor ’97 and Walt Warner.
Taft Bulletin Fall 2011 13
around the POND
Taking on the World If “all the world’s a stage,” then Kasey Pietro ’13 has truly taken on the world. With the support of the Kilbourne Summer Enrichment Fund, Kasey spent five weeks this summer at the Boston University Summer Theatre Institute (BUSTI). BUSTI is a highly-regarded summer theatre conservatory for high school juniors and seniors. During her five weeks there, KC took classes in singing, acting, voice, movement and design; she also studied Shakespeare. “The classes were inspiring on their own, but I also had the opportunity to take a variety of amazing master classes,” Kasey said. Master class topics included vocal health, stage combat, physical acting,
improv, directing and monologue writing. The program concluded with each student presenting an original performance piece inspired by glass artist Dale Chihuly’s sculptures. Kasey was one of six students to explore the arts this summer with the help of a Kilbourne grant. Cassie Willson ’13 and Sam Lamy ’14 both attended master classes at Wesleyan University’s Center for Creative Youth,
where Cassie concentrated on music and Sam on photography. Budding filmmaker Oliver Salk ’13 enrolled at the New York Film Academy for film and acting camps, while two Taft students participated in Summer Program for High School Students at Columbia University. Natalie Bell ’12 focused on architectural design and theory, while Katerina Rosen ’12 completed a master class in creative writing.
n PAL tutors Chris Browner ’12, Laura Monti ’89, Cassie Ruscz ’13, Jeremy Clifford and Kayla Romano-Pringle ’14. Peter Frew ’75
For the past four years, Taft has partnered with the Waterbury Police Activity League (PAL) to offer full-time summer school scholarships to two students from Waterbury public schools. This summer, faculty members Laura Monti ’89 and Jeremy Clifford expanded the Taft/PAL partnership through a new program for 14 Taft Bulletin Fall 2011
SSAT preparation and general academic enrichment. The four-week mentoring matched Taft students with seventh-graders from Waterbury. Using curricula developed by Laura and Jeremy, the Taft volunteers taught hands-on lessons that included science experiments, topical debates and creative writing. Vocabulary and reading skills were central to the SSAT preparation component of the program. “I’m very interested in becoming a teacher, and thought this was the perfect way to test my ambitions,” said Cassie Ruscz ’13, one of six Taft mentors. “In my English classes, students learned how to express their opinions in an intelligent manner, using facts and evidence to support them in conversation as well as on
paper. They were exposed to both the type of learning and the level of work they will face in a prep school.” Students were given mock SSATs at both the beginning and the end of the four-week program. On average, students raised their scores by 50 points. “It was definitely a very successful program,” said Laura. “We would absolutely like to see it continue, and to see it grow.” The Monti-Cliffords were awarded Palamar Fellowships to help start the program. Student volunteer Chris Browner ’12 applied his Poole grant to the initiative. Moving forward, the Monti-Cliffords hope to secure funding that would enable them to offer transportation to participants, and to increase overall participation.
This summer more than 60 members of the Taft community were awarded over $160,000 to pursue programs of study and enrichment through Taft’s many fellowship, grant and foundation programs.
Who Done It? Dana Bertuglia
For five days this summer, Dana Bertuglia was knee-deep in trace evidence, hair samples and minute bits of fiber—and there was plenty of blood. Through a grant from the Largay Faculty Support Fund, Dana attended a five-day intensive course at the worldrenowned Henry C. Lee Institute of Forensic Science in New Haven. Recognized for its advanced technology and methodologies, the institute specializes in research, training, consultation and education in forensic science, particularly as it relates to crime-scene investigation and reconstruction. “The course I took was specifically designed for educators who are currently teaching—or who are interested in teaching—forensic science at the middle- and
high-school levels,” explained Dana, who teaches both chemistry and forensic science at Taft. “I am quite eager to share this experience with my students during the coming academic year.” The course was taught from two perspectives: that of a scientist, and that of a crime-scene investigator. While there, Dana spent many hours in the laboratory examining bloodstain patterns, paint splatter and DNA, and many more hours listening to scientists from the institute and from the Connecticut State Crime Lab. “Forensics is such a dynamic and fascinating field,” she added. “It was incredible to be on the cutting edge, and at the institute that sets the standard for forensic study.”
Poole Fellows Serve the Children of Nepal Taft seniors Ben Johnson and Everett Brownstein carried the Taft motto to Nepal this summer for their work with a group whose mission is based on a remarkably similar principle: Before self, put others. Ben and Everett spent one month living and working in the mountains of northern Nepal. Both were awarded Poole Fellowships to help fund their work with the Helambu Project. Established in 2008, the Helambu Project works to improve the quality of life in the remote Helambu region by increasing access to education and healthcare and creating opportunities for economic development. One of the project’s first initiatives was the construction of the Pasang Memorial Community Boarding School (PMCBS) in the remote village of Gangkharka. Ben and Everett both volunteered at PMCBS. “We lived with a host family in the village,” Ben explained.” During the
day, we worked at the school teaching English and science. The kids we saw ranged in age from 5 to 16.” The Helambu region of the Nepali Himalayas is culturally rich and ethnically diverse. Its mountains are dotted with monasteries, and the meditative properties of its remote caves have attracted Buddhist lamas for centuries. It is also a popular destination for trekking and tourism. Still, the area lacks infrastructure, and
its residents have limited access to healthcare, employment, and educational opportunities. Volunteers like Ben and Everett are helping to bridge those gaps. “We had an amazing experience,” Ben concluded. “The kids were so happy that we were there to teach them; it was clear that we were making a difference.” , Everett Brownstein ’12 with his students in Nepal.
around the POND
Last summer, Ricardo Urrutia ’12 worked with Operation Smile, an international charity dedicated to providing surgical care for children living with facial deformities, including cleft lip and cleft palate. Operation Smile delivers no-cost surgical care directly to patients. For many, surgical intervention means speaking, eating and smiling for the first time. “We completed more than two hundred surgeries during my one week mission in Panama,” Ricardo explained. “I learned that Operation Smile not only provides free surgeries for children with conditions affecting the upper lip, but also for children born with things we don’t imagine— like extra fingers or no ears.” Ricardo has now started an Operation Smile club at Taft. “I spoke to the Operation Smile representative about starting a club here to support their mission,” Ricardo said. “He was very excited. Our goal will be to raise both money and awareness, to support prevention and surgical reconstruction programs through Operation Smile.”
n Lady Hibiscus by Airlie Anderson, 18" x 24" Acrylic
Potter Gallery The work of Rockwell Visiting Artist Airlie Anderson is currently on display in the Mark W. Potter ’48 Gallery. A graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, Airlie is best known for her charming children’s book illustrations. Her preferred medium is gouache on paper. “In high school I found that I didn’t want to leave the art room,” Airlie recalls, “with its still lifes and closet full of unlimited art supplies, including the exotic gouache!” Airlie works from her own studio near Princeton, N.J., where she is inspired by the fireflies, rabbits, deer and woodchucks that surround her. Her work is on display through December 9. Earlier in the term, the gallery
featured the New England landscape paintings of Rockwell Visiting Artist Curtis Hanson. Hanson’s paintings are highly sought after by collectors from around the globe. He has formed a deep connection with nature and uses the canvas to express this bond, while celebrating the essence of New England’s beauty. Hanson’s love of the sacred landscape leads him on painting sojourns. He recently returned from an extended stay in Thailand, where he reveled in the magnificent beauty of Southeast Asia. The Rockwell Visiting Artists program invites professional artists to campus to speak with students and faculty, work with art classes and exhibit their work in the gallery.
More Music For a While The annual performance series, Music For a While, opened this year with what has become a celebrated Taft tradition: Ralph Lee ’53 and his Mettawee River Company. This year the company thrilled the audience with The Old Boat Goddess: Songs of the Ainu, which draws deeply from centuries of Japanese culture and lore. The series continued to delight in October with the lively piano quartet Mad River Music, and November brings a number of exciting performances, including the jazz quintet Five Play, the popular Beatles tribute Beatlemania, and Adele Myers and Dancers.
The semester concludes with the Annual Service of Lessons and Carols on December 13, with two performances this year in Woodward Chapel.
For more information on these and all performances in the series, visit www.TaftSchool.org/concerts.
Lights, Camera, Action! h From left, Chris Hylwa
’14, Michael Dikegoros, Emily Nelson ’12, Emmanuel Mennesson ’13, Leonna Hill ’11 and Kevin Mott on the “set” in Maine.
Charlotte’s Web, The Shawshank Redemption, The Cider House Rules. Add two original Taft School productions, and you are looking at a list of movies shot in the state of Maine. On the heels of a successful movie
shoot in Montana last summer, Taft theater and film teacher Richard Doyle took nine Taft students to Maine’s Spruce Island over the summer to shoot another original movie. “It was a really great place to make
a movie,” said Oliver Salk ’13 who also shot his own film during the trip. “The island itself was a highlight for me, and since we had it to ourselves, it was easy to find beautiful spots for shooting.” Both films feature Taft students, as well as a few students from other schools who also made the trip. Doyle’s film, Option 61, is still in production and explores the idea of a parental love that is so great and deep that they create a dream world to protect their child from the tremendous suffering of living on earth. “There were so many special moments on this trip,” said Emily Nelson ’12, “from getting up at 4 to shoot a morning scene on the beach to studying the bright, beautiful stars from the crow’s nest of the house. I had many, many good times on the trip!” Oliver and Emily were joined in Maine by Taft students Emmanuel Mennesson ’13, Battle Kenney ’13, Ben Sasani ’13, Leonna Hill ’11, Olivia Taylor-Butler ’13, Chris Browner ’12, Bob Zucker ’11 and Chris Hylwa ’14. Taft Bulletin Fall 2011 17
n Bill Crutchfield ’61 at his office in Charlottesville, Virginia.
The Education of
n newspaper articles and magazine features, in official bios and in his own telling, the story of Bill Crutchfield’s success almost always begins in the same place: His mother’s basement in Charlottesville, Va. It was 1974, and the former Air Force officer, University of Virginia alumnus and Taft ’61 graduate had $1,000 in the bank and a dream of restoring classic sports cars. He soon discovered an unfilled niche for higher-quality car stereos than the ones that came standard in most automobiles at the time. The result: a mail-order business that has grown into
n This is the stereo that came out of one of the cars Crutchfield restored. You can see why he wanted to replace it. He figured there were a lot of people out there with the same desire for good sound.
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one of the largest and most respected consumer electronic retailers in the country, with more than 8,000 products that range from televisions to digital cameras, $250 million in annual revenues, 500 employees, and an ever-growing list of awards for exceptional customer service. In reality, Bill Crutchfield’s entrepreneurial education began long before those early days in his mother’s basement. The story just as easily could start in the 1940s, when his father, who was chairman of the University of Virginia’s department of neurosurgery, invented a tool known as “Crutchfield tong” that became important in the treatment of spinal injuries. The father possessed an insatiable curiosity and a fervor for new technology—he was one of the first people in Charlottesville with a high-fidelity record player and a television receiver— that undoubtedly rubbed off on his son. The younger Crutchfield was 9 when he built his first radio. He was 15 when he started his own business installing home stereo systems. Over the years, he worked as a freelance photographer, repaired aircraft radios and did accounting for a forklift truck dealer. He kept searching for the right idea, the right time, the right place to venture out on his own. When he found it, he never looked back.
“Knowing what not to do in business is equally as important as knowing what to do.”
Bill Crutchfield To understand the Crutchfield of today, the one whose catalog now reaches 10 million customers and who not long ago was enshrined in the Consumer Electronics Association hall of fame, it’s useful to understand the road he has traveled. Not surprisingly, his path is one defined by hard work, persistence and ingenuity, as well as more than a touch of luck. But more than that, it is a story of lessons learned and lessons followed. As Crutchfield once wrote, “Knowing what not to do in business is equally as important as knowing what to do.” Here are three crucial—and universal—maxims that have helped Crutchfield stay on the right side of that equation:
Don’t be afraid to take risks
(and even to fail)
In 1970, fresh out of a stint in the Air Force as the commander of a Titan II intercontinental missile crew, Crutchfield headed to Hollywood. He wrote a screenplay based on his experiences, a Cold War-era thriller about a crew wrestling
By Brady Dennis
with whether to launch a missile attack on the Soviet Union. The movie never sold, and before long he had exhausted his savings and returned to Charlottesville “flat broke,” he said. What seemed like failure at the time unwittingly set him down a path toward success. Back home, facing a weak economy with few job opportunities, Crutchfield worked for a couple different companies, which he later said gave him valuable lessons in how not to run a business. He started Crutchfield Corp. in his mother’s basement while still working for a materials handling supplier. He had little to lose, and his California adventure had taught him the sky wouldn’t fall if it didn’t pan out. He began with the aim of restoring vintage sports cars. Before he could finish the first one, a Porsche 356B, he discovered a void in the market for custom car stereos, and set out to fill it. “It’s like throwing mud balls against a wall and seeing what sticks,” he said. “That’s part of what it takes in any field, that persistence.” It was a lesson Crutchfield employed repeatedly as he worked to get his fledgling electronics business off the ground, as he expanded it in the years that followed and as
Taft Bulletin Fall 2011 19
he guided the company through a series of recessions. Some of his ventures floundered, others flourished. In 1978, Crutchfield created an independent magazine called Car Stereo, aimed at enthusiasts. He shuttered it before the second issue and took an $84,000 loss. Then again, he also invested heavily in the company’s website in the early days of the Internet, going live in Sept. 1995, one month after www.Amazon.com. He also built a call center in rural Wise County, Va., rather than overseas or in other established areas in the state. Both decisions proved prescient. “I don’t have a deadly fear of failure,” Crutchfield said. “You don’t want to be such a gunslinger that failure doesn’t matter, but on the other hand, failure is not a death sentence.”
Innovate, innovate, innovate Crutchfield has never been the sort to watch what the competition does and then fall in line. If anything, he pays attention to which way others are going and takes a contrary approach. In the 1970s, when the conventional wisdom in the mail-
“…he pays attention to which way others are going and takes a contrary approach.” order business stated that catalogs needed to be filled entirely with products, he began what is now known as a “magalog,” dedicating about 30 percent of the space to how-to articles and other content. “How I Evaluate & Install Quality Car Stereo,” read the headline of the first article, which ran above a picture of Crutchfield in a plaid sports coat. “Between what is in this catalog and the added material we provide with each purchase,” he wrote, “you will have more detailed information than many professional installers.” Customers embraced the unconventional format. Sales skyrocketed, and a business that literally had been on the brink of bankruptcy never looked back. “That was the key to the kingdom,” he recalled. “That’s what made it work.” Crutchfield was among the first catalog retailers in the country to provide toll-free customer service and technical advice. The company also has built the industry’s largest informational database by literally taking apart more than 12,000 vehicles and creating detailed reports on each one. The result: a customer who needs to know how to install
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speakers in a 1998 Nissan Altima, for instance, can count on finding a detailed guide created by Crutchfield’s team. The same business that started with a primitive-looking catalog now has its own channel on YouTube with scores of instructional videos. It has a Facebook page with more than 35,000 fans and a popular electronics blog. It maintains four separate Twitter accounts, including one that highlights current deals. Crutchfield’s latest project is a prototype for what he calls a “Discovery Store.” He sees it as part retail operation, part educational experience. Unlike the big-box operations that have dominated in recent years, Crutchfield imagines stores with a much smaller footprint that allow customers to test a wide range of electronics in new and different ways. For example, one element will be rooms where customers can experience “hundreds of types of speakers in different situations” by simulating different environments. They can change the acoustics, say, to account for wood floors or carpet, or to mimic the inside of a Honda Accord traveling 60 mph. “That’s a case of innovating,” said Crutchfield, whose staff has been honing the technology in their own lab in Blacksburg, Va. “A CEO’s job is not in the present; a CEO’s job is in the future. You can’t be reactive. If you’re reactive, then you’re in trouble.”
Take care of those who
take care of you
Crutchfield learned early that several groups loom above all else. “We just start with what’s right. And what’s right is being fair with customers, employees and business partners,” he said. “It’s good business.” Whereas many new employees get only a few hours training, new hires at Crutchfield undergo a three-month baptism, and even veteran employees must undergo recurring training. Crutchfield hammers home the culture he expects: consistent excellence, integrity, innovation and genuine concern for customers and vendors. That approach, he says, makes workers more focused on performance and more loyal to the company. He is fiercely loyal in return. “Some of these people, I’ve seen them marry, I’ve seen their children grow up. I’ve seen their children have children,” he said. “You go through life with them.” Crutchfield, whose aversion to debt began early on, has never laid off an employee in 37 years. In the wake of the recent financial crisis, he was forced to freeze hiring and trim salaries, but no one got pink slips. The company has cash in the bank, no interest-bearing debt and no public
n Responding to customer feedback, Bill wrote his first article on how to install a car stereo. Sales skyrocketed.
shareholders demanding short-term profits at the expense of long-term stability. As for the customers, almost everything about the business is geared toward pleasing them—from the round-the-clock customer support to the reams of technical expertise, from the lightning quick shipping to taking returns with no questions asked. There’s even an email address where customers can send their feedback straight to Crutchfield himself. The result has been consistent industry awards for customer service. “Companies that take really good care of their customers do better in the long run than companies that don’t,” he said. “I run my business with soul. They have to be run that way.”
Crutchfield’s life has changed drastically since those lean days in his mother’s basement. He has his own Beechcraft King Air that he pilots himself to work meetings and to his family’s vacation home in Hilton Head. He owns a sailboat and a powerboat. He spends time restoring the 80-year-old house he shares with his wife. At 68, he could have retired long ago, but he still shows
up by 8 a.m. most mornings in his office at 1 Crutchfield Park. He’s having too much fun exploring new ideas, he says, and he believes he still has much to contribute to the business that he built from the ground up. “The journey has been fascinating,” he says, but “I’ve still got many years to go.” In a basement on the company’s campus in Charlottesville sits a partly-restored Porsche 356B, the very car that Crutchfield had been working on nearly four decades ago when his mail-order business took off, changing the course of his life. “Over the past 36 years, I have not had the time to return to it,” he said. “I doubt if I will ever truly finish it.” j Brady Dennis is a staff writer for the Washington Post.
“The journey has been fascinating, but I’ve still got many years to go.”
Taft Bulletin Fall 2011 21
Business At Its Best How Bill Taylor â€™77 Raises the Bar By G. Jeffrey MacDonald
rowing up in Watertown, Conn., William C. Taylor ’77 listened many a night at the kitchen table as his father, a mid-level executive, told what happened when new owners took control of companies where he worked. “I saw his level of commitment to operational excellence and believing in the organization, and then these raiders and sharks would come along and tear it apart,” Taylor says. “That was looking at…a company as nothing more than a collection of assets that you can dismember, reassemble and sell to the highest bidder. It was just such an inhuman, unsatisfying way of looking at what a company should be like or what a career should be like…I often said to myself, ‘there’s got to be a better way to do this’.”
verything he has done has been directed toward building a society that reflects the right values.”
It’s not that Taylor has anything against profit. After all, he co-founded Fast Company magazine in 1995 and sold it five years later for a whopping $340 million. Rather, he believes most organizations can do better than to shed assets in tough times. He’s seen hundreds of stressed companies innovate by lifting insights from other industries and eliciting latent know-how from within their own ranks. Such stories fill pages in his new book, Practically Radical: Not-So-Crazy Ways to Transform Your Company, Shake Up Your Industry and Challenge Yourself (William Morrow, 2011). At 52, Taylor gives about 70 speeches a year, always urging business leaders to win by thinking more broadly and more creatively than their competition. Entrepreneurs in Berlin, Moscow and other European cities lined up earlier this year to hear him flesh out trademark themes, such as reconceiving of one’s business as not merely an enterprise but
a cause. Example: Southwest Airlines enjoys an advantage, Taylor says, as employees rally around a mission to “democratize the skies” by making it possible for people of limited means to fly. These days, Taylor coaches some unlikely underdogs: long-established companies, beholden to tradition and hard-pressed to seize opportunities in a fast-changing world. He’s urging them to do as the Girl Scouts of the USA have done and invoke the past, including strong opinions of founders, as a focusing, energizing guide to the future. In this, he’s preaching what he practices. His creative thinking on innovation has grown largely out of eye-opening experiences that continue to bear fruit years later. After graduating from Taft, Taylor enrolled at Princeton University, where political activism led him to engage the private sector. To bring pressure on an apartheid regime, Taylor led campaigns calling on Princeton to divest
Taft Bulletin Fall 2011 23
ork can and should be a venue for living out one’s deepest personal values, in part because doing so unleashes the passion that sustains great leaders and employees.
endowment funds from companies with business interests in South Africa. “Everything he has done has been directed toward building a society that reflects the right values,” says former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, who was Taylor’s roommate at Princeton and has been his friend ever since. Activism at Princeton allowed Taylor to meet consumer advocate Ralph Nader. Taylor helped launch a Nader magazine, Multinational Monitor, which served as a watchdog for corporate behavior. The two co-authored Big Boys: Power & Position in American Business (Pantheon, 1986), which profiles in painstaking detail the working lives of 10 corporate executives. In that formative project, Taylor witnessed the positive power of business by watching William McGowan, CEO of MCI, as he took on what was then the world’s most powerful company, AT&T. “If Ralph Nader is all about political populism, then Bill McGowan is all about business populism,” Taylor recalls. “That’s what Fast Company was doing. We were business populists. [McGowan showed] an infectious enthusiasm for using entrepreneurship and competition as a way of challenging established power.” From then on, Taylor was hooked on business. He earned an MBA from MIT’s Sloan School of Management, where he received a free ride as editor of the MIT Sloan Management Review. Hungry to refine and debate ideas, he went on to work at the Harvard Business Review (HBR), where he is now a blogger. As Taylor goes about his work these days, reminders of past adventures and influences are never far away. In his tidy office on the third floor of his sprawling Georgian home,
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books bear the marks of dialogue partners. Yellow sticky notes, emblazoned with the Fast Company name, mark dozens of pages and points he plans to revisit soon. Books he’s authored serve as our coasters. One bookshelf houses, in chronological order, every issue of Fast Company ever published. As we talk, he grabs one archived edition of the magazine after another, pointing to articles that reflect its brand as repository for fresh, challenging thinking about business. One piece is titled, “Built to Last”—a counterpoint to the prevailing get-rich-quick mindset of the dotcom bubble years. Other stories posit how work can and should be a venue for living out one’s deepest personal values, in part because doing so unleashes the passion that sustains great leaders and employees. “Fast Company represents a very logical collection or synthesis of all the things Bill Taylor cares about, believes in, practices and preaches,” says the magazine’s co-founder, Alan Webber. “One of those strands [says] work is not something you’re condemned to do. Work is an expression of who you are… It is frankly an ennobling opportunity. That leads you to the idea that everybody is an entrepreneur—not that everybody should be starting companies, but everybody should embrace work as an entrepreneurial expression of who they are.” Innovation grows from habits of mind, Taylor argues, that explode conventional thinking and finds insight in settings where competitors aren’t looking. In Practically Radical, for instance, he recounts how Henry Ford got his assembly line concept from an experience observing how men cut meat in a Chicago slaughterhouse.
f you see the patterns that produce positive sustainable human enterprise, you can use them in anything.”
Just as he admires those who drink from many different influences, so also does Taylor enrich his own life with a lot more than business. Family is a priority: after our interview, he darts off to pick up one of his two daughters. He shares a passion for politics with his wife, Chloe Mantel, who’s worked on Democratic presidential campaigns and supported Ralph Nader’s bid for the White House in 2000. He savors the unvarnished, richly lyrical rock-androll of Bruce Springsteen, whom he’s seen in concert some 100 times. He’s a basketball fan and enough of an athlete in his own right that a visit with Spitzer in New York sometimes involves strapping on sneakers and heading off for a somewhat competitive run. Though he loves the business world, his ravenous curiosity takes him far beyond offices and cubicles to just about anywhere he finds interesting ideas, principled commitments and people performing at the top of their games. “His approach is very attractive to people because it’s not rigid,” Webber says. “This model of thinking, entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation allows you to look across the boundaries that we typically use to define categories of life and erase the boundaries. What’s true for a great rock and roll band is true for a technology company or a university… If you see the patterns that produce positive sustainable human enterprise, you can use them in anything.” Not everyone is convinced that Taylor’s big-tent approach to innovation is a ticket to business success. This summer, for instance, he elicited pushback from young hi-tech professionals on his HBR blog when he posited that “great people are overrated.” In that provocative claim, he questions Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s notion that one superstar
engineer is literally more valuable than 100 good engineers. Many in Silicon Valley’s entrepreneurial culture, he learned, take Zuckerberg’s side on that one. He also admits to reading headlines about egregious business practices and wondering how much impact he’s had by chronicling, for 25 years, what he terms “business at its best.” But others attest that Taylor’s thinking about organizations has significantly shaped their own work. Spitzer, for example, says he used to call Taylor and seek his counsel when deciding which white-collar cases to prosecute and which measures to mete out as Attorney General of New York. “He’s always somebody I’d want to talk to and say, ‘Are we right about this? Give me your sensibility about whether we’re acting properly in imposing a sanction or coming up with a remedy,’” Spitzer says. “I’d want his view because his judgment is so sound.” These days, Taylor might not have a direct line to the current AG, but he does have a basis for his enduring optimism. “We’re in a world today where there are still very different approaches to business, leadership and success,” Taylor says. “I don’t pretend for a moment that the world I care about and chronicle represents how most organizations do things today. I am happy to concede that the companies I spend time with and learn from are in the distinct minority. But I also think it’s where the world is going. My job is to move that positive evolution along a little bit faster.” j G. Jeffrey MacDonald is a freelance journalist in Massachusetts. He’s author of Thieves in the Temple: The Christian Church and the Selling of the American Soul.
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26 Taft Bulletin Fall 2011
The Maybank Touch
Taking what she learned at eBay to heart, Alexis Maybank ’93 had the novel idea to take the designer sample sale online. The founding CEO of Gilt Groupe now shares her entrepreneurial secrets with the Bulletin.
By Julie Reiff
Where did the idea for Gilt Groupe come from?
When my co-founder, Alexandra, and I started the company over four years ago, we chose a business model that we were personally passionate about, meaning we modeled it after the New York City sample sale. We used to sneak out of our offices to attend these designer sales—come wind, rain, snow or any impediment—and it was just a source of this great excitement. We thought that this—which was really a New York established pastime, but was not really much available outside—could be fantastic to bring online to a national audience. We knew we were the target consumer. We understood the motivation. We understood what would be highly desirable. We had access to some of these brands through friends and relationships, so we had a sense that we could convince them to come on board and sell this way.
Where did you begin?
We pounded the pavement. We convinced designer brands that were terrified of selling online, brands that didn’t understand the Internet, to not just sell online, but also to do it with us in kind of a discount flash sale environment as we call it. We had to convince them that this was a great way to introduce their brands to a wider audience. When we got started, there was no guarantee, but with our very first sale, on November 13, 2007, with Zac Posen, a popular up and coming brand in New York City—the sale sold out. And the initial eight brands we lined up watched their beautiful wares sell out—in some cases within an hour. The initial group of about 15,000 site members started inviting their friends, who invited their friends, who invited their friends. So a couple of things took off very early for us—that word of mouth, that viral marketing. That was a big part of the success. [Shopping] is something people just naturally talk about among friends. By launching in this way, the site got tremendous momentum early, and we didn’t have to pay millions to do it. Designers thought, “Gosh, this is great. I never could have done this in any other way. Customers are loving it.” So they actually started telling other designers about it. We started getting inbound calls. Today we work with something like 3,000 brands across the entire business. Initially in our first year, we expected to do just $5 million in sales, and that went immediately to $25. And we’ve gone and grown in a few short years to half a billion dollars in sales. So an emphasis on hiring great people made it so that as this astronomical growth started to set in, we were able to put in place the infrastructure, to help scale the business.
Taft Bulletin Fall 2011 27
How do you account for that early word of mouth and your rate of success when there are so many other online retailers?
A big area of focus for me was building the website and the online user experience. That’s very much in my background. I looked at how product was currently being sold online, and it was always in this very boring setting. It lacked emotion. These big gleaming white environments made you feel like you were in a huge shopping mall. What we sell is not things you need; it’s really things you want. So it was about inspiration. It was desire. It was playing on a lot of those factors. And we pioneered an online display of products that told a story. It was captivating looking through our site, much like the glossy pages of a fashion magazine. We brought that kind of pastime online, the desire to just flip through the Gilt pages. But, for the first time, the purchase was a click away. That made it more exciting. You come in, you can get a sense of how to wear it. You’re thinking about how, if you’re a woman, you might wear your hair or makeup with it, and what type of shoes. So it was an editorial experience, and it was the first that existed online.
Did that affect the naming of the company?
Gilt was a name that appealed to women because they thought of guilty pleasures and excitement, and timeless beauty—that escape that you’re dying for during the day. Literally, people pop on for five minutes over lunch or coffee. Gilt, the gold leaf, perpetually beautiful. It was certainly the play on words that we found fun. When it comes to naming a business in the consumer space, if you want to have men involved, you have to design and name for men, and you still get women, but not vice versa. At the launch of the business we had 10 percent men. Six months in, 25 percent of our membership was male. Men see Gilt and think Knights of the Round Table. Things that stand for prestige and strength. And so the name worked well for both audiences. And in an online environment, there’s nothing closer to nirvana than four letters for a name that’s easy to type and easy to spell.
It had to be a little frightening to start your own business. What was the scariest part? What kept you up at night?
For me as a founding CEO, it’s the hiring. You’re bringing in people from stable jobs, prominent companies and you’re convincing them to come into the trenches with you. It’s such a great responsibility. And there’s no guarantee of success. In fact, there’s usually a greater guarantee of failure in a startup, as only one or two out of ten really succeed that are venture capital backed. You have such loyalty in the trenches for your early team. That for me, was the greatest source of anxiety, making sure that I was doing everything possible not to let them down.
28 Taft Bulletin Fall 2011
What were some of the other challenges?
Raising capital. We started with our Series A funding for $5 million, and now we’re up to our Series V round and have raised hundreds of millions. And with investors come partners with expectations, who are very much responsible for managing the business alongside you. And then we happen to also be in one of the most competitive environments: one, because it’s the internet, and anything can be created, put out there, tested on customers, iterated, relaunched, all in what’s now measured in weeks, if not at longest a month. So it’s unlike in traditional industries where something’s coming to the market three years from now, and what am I going to do about it. Some of the largest e-commerce conglomerates in the world have taken a shot at doing this themselves, too, from an eBay to an Amazon. If you’re laissez-faire about competition, you’re always going to get in trouble for it.
How did your eBay experience lead you to Gilt?
I probably took more out of my experience at eBay from so many different facets, and used it in the creation of Gilt. It was such a formative experience. Starting first with leadership, I got to see Meg Whitman, a female leader with a very distinct style, run a business from about 40 employees to about 6,000 in the four years I was there. I was able to watch founders Jeff Skoll, Pierre Omidyar recruit and integrate in a new CEO, something that I later did at Gilt. I was able to watch founders and CEOs focus on the importance of culture, thinking about how you maintain it as you scale up. So those were really important lessons. From a marketing standpoint, eBay grew through word of mouth and grassroots marketing, two things I used heavily in the initial spread and launch of Gilt. Gilt, too, scaled at an astronomical rate, where what originally was 600,000 members at the time of going public quickly became 25 million, and is now way beyond that in the number of site users. As eBay went from its awkward teenage phase into a more full-fledged Fortune 500 phase, they re-addressed infrastructure. They took a step back and looked at their systems. They dealt with things that could have derailed them entirely as a company, like outages to their service and systems, things that I learned a tremendous amount about when we started to get a hint of the same thing happening. Those past experiences helped shape what we did with Gilt as we expanded our business internationally as well.
What was some of the best advice you received as you launched a new business?
Some of the best advice I got was from an executive coach, who was fantastic and stayed with our business for four years. He works with mostly Fortune 500 boards and focuses on helping leaders shape high performing teams. He really helped me think about how to build a cohesive team with trust at its base and very complementary people. A lot of startups tend to hire people just like them, meaning they’re all big-eyed, bright-eyed and all focused. There’s never an idea they don’t love, so they easily go down the wrong path. Or they lack a person on the team who’s very focused on details, on infrastructure, who is focused on spotting the thing that can derail you. So you need balanced personalities to make the team high performing.
What’s next for you? My co-founder, Alexandra, and I are writing a book on entrepreneurship that comes out in April called By Invitation Only, that’s being published by Penguin. j
Taft Bulletin Fall 2011 29
tales of a TAFTIE
By Julie Reiff
Michael P. W. Stone, Class of 1942 Only Foreign-Born Secretary of the Army
Sources: www.SFGate.com www.army.mil www.presidency.ucsb.edu PHOTO: Russell Roederer/ www.dodmedia.osd.mil
What successful Taftie, no longer living, would you like to see profiled in this space? Send your suggestions to JulieReiff@TaftSchool.org
Born in London, England, in 1925, Michael Patrick William Stone moved to the United States in 1929. He served with the British Royal Navy during World War II, and received pilot training in the United States. He served in the Mediterranean and Far East as a member of the Royal Naval Air Squadron 1831, which participated in the surrender of the Japanese forces at Rabaul, New Guinea, in September 1945. A cum laude student at Taft, Stone spent five years here, back when the school still had an 8th grade, and was involved in nearly everything from the Debate Team and Biology Club to captaining the hockey squad and serving as sports editor of the Papyrus. Stone began his studies at Yale University before the war and graduated in 1948. He later studied law at New York University Law School and then married Ann Donogh in 1952. He was a founding partner of Sterling International, a paper marketing and manufacturing company in San Francisco in the early 1950s and was vice president of that company and president of several of its subsidiaries, including Sterling Vineyards, from 1960 to 1982. In 1982, he sold his business and joined the U.S. Government as director of the U.S. Mission for the Agency for International Development (USAID) in Cairo, Egypt, where he stayed until 1985. He was later involved in implementing the
Kissinger Commission recommendations in the Caribbean Basin Initiative countries, before being named assistant secretary of the Army for financial management in 1986. There, he co-chaired the Army’s Commission to Implement the Defense Reorganization Act of 1986 (GoldwaterNichols), resulting in the most sweeping changes to the Army in years. He served as acting undersecretary of the Army in 1988 and was undersecretary of the Army and Army acquisition executive from 1988 to 1989. He was sworn in as the 15th secretary of the Army in 1989. Under his direction, the Army participated in Operations Just Cause (Panama) and Desert Shield and Desert Storm (Southwest Asia); during his tenure the Cold War victory was finally achieved and the Army reshaped itself for the post-Cold War era. The New York Times wrote that Stone’s tenure “was marked by a shrinking military, the debate over the role of women in combat and by the Persian Gulf war.” He served until 1993 while at the same time heading the board of the Panama Canal Commission, which oversaw canal operations. He was also a director of the American University in Cairo, a trustee of the Golden Gate National Park Association and a fellow at the Hoover Institute at Stanford University. Stone died in San Francisco, California, in 1995. j
from the ARCHIVES Leslie D. Manning Archive s
Mr. Taft’s Chairs
have an Old World expressiveness. There are two contrasting types of designs few would choose today. One is tall, curvaceously carved and ornate, the other, stout, hardseated and rectilinear. One seems fit for a baron, perhaps; the other for a peasant, and in this sense they seem foreign, not Yankee. In their shared formality and severity they speak to an age when one might have chosen furnishings to communicate authority, hard work and discipline. Mostly, that is. As headmaster, Mr. Taft (a.k.a. “The King”) chose to have a formal photograph taken in one of the tall, Jacobean-style chairs, which have ornately carved crests. Today they are complete curiosities, like fearsome relics of some autocratic regime. From old pictures it’s clear that a simpler version of this chair, dark and upright, with a shorter, plain back and studded leather seats, was used plentifully in school offices and common rooms. The stouter chair has 16th-century English origins and is called, variously, a wainscot,
There is a story, perhaps apocryphal, that while Horace Taft’s father, Alphonso Taft, was serving as Minister to Austria in the 1880s, someone in the family purchased a set of chairs that for years has lived in the school’s archives. After his graduation from Yale in 1883, Horace began a yearlong European tour, stopping first in Vienna to visit his parents and siblings. For the family, the highlight of the season was attending the grand ball at the Emperor’s Palace. At the time, the Court of Franz Joseph was the most elegant and extravagant in Europe; this required of the Tafts some modifications in their straightforward, Yankee ways. Horace writes amusingly of his father’s chafing at the pomp and ceremony at these formally choreographed functions, with the expectation of correctness in every detail of dress and social gesture. Even outside the Palace, “he had to learn that he must not buy fruit at a street corner and carry it home in a bag. A Minister Plenipotentiary could not do that.” Wherever they came from, the chairs
joined, or panel chair; if it has no arms, a back stool. A carved crest atop the solid back is the only flourish relieving the hard, right-angled lines. There are three like this in the archives; they are probably late 19th-century reproductions. A fourth member of the set is at the Watertown Historical Museum. These chairs, too, seem as much like souvenirs as anything. Is that how the Tafts saw them? They do not, in any case, suggest comfort. But look: Carved into each chairback is a cartoonlike scene of bawdy, medieval peasant life. The armchair depicts three fellows, two of them at a table, drinking and arguing over a game in a taproom or some such place. The third man seems to have passed out. Another chair shows two men having a laugh and smoking pipes. A third chair has a similar scene of three men perched on barrels, amusing themselves. The fourth chair (at the Historical Museum) shows a group of dancing revelers. As it turned out, the chairs’ general demeanor suited architect Bertram Goodhue’s sober, medieval HDT building—itself a design that does not suggest comfort. But the fun is that if you look carefully up at the towers and details of HDT’s doorways, there are those scholarly little Chaucerian figures in the shadows, huddled not with jugs and games and smoking pipes, but with their heads in their books and their minds on their studies. —Alison Gilchrist, Leslie D. Manning Archives Taft Bulletin Fall 2011 31
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Scenes from Taft’s 17th Annual Community Service Day
< Gwen McGee ’14, Zeyad Elshorfy ’12 and Esprenza Li ’14 plant bulbs at Meridian Manor in Waterbury. John Piacenza
Headmaster Willy MacMullen ’78, center, hauls firewood at Flander’s Nature Center in Woodbury with Henry Lardner ’15, Doug Goldstone ’15, James Matons '15, and Owen McGowan ’15. Yee-Fun Yin
< Rebecca Bendheim ’13 helps at Children’s Community School fair in Waterbury. Blake Joblin ’13