Fall 2014 Taft Bulletin

Page 1


Meet the

MAKERS with Dyllan McGee ’89

AheAd of the CulinAry Curve


& children

Fall 2014

In this iSSuE

Fall 2014


ahead of the Culinary Curve


Alex Talbot ’92 By Lori Ferguson


Meeting the “MaKERS” Dyllan McGee ’89 Conveys the Power and Impact of Women By Neil Vigdor ’95


Of Chimps and Children Unlocking the Origins of Human Uniqueness with Developmental Psychologist Michael Tomasello ’68 By Phoebe Vaughn Outerbridge ’84



3 5 5 5 6 11 12 38 40 83 88

On Main Hall From the Editor Letters Taft Trivia Alumni Spotlight In Print Around the Pond Tales of a Taftie: Barent Friele ’42 Alumni Notes Milestones From the Archives: Regatta Days


m Taft students explore the world of masks and commedia dell’arte during their week-in-residence in Faicchio, Italy, as part of the school’s Living the Arts in Italy program. Peter

Frew ’78

Taft Bulletin / Fall 2014


On Main Hall

a WORD FROM hEaDMaStER Willy MaCMullEn ’78 Fall 2014

Volume 85, Number 1


EdITor Linda Hedman Beyus dIrEcTor oF MArkETINg ANd coMMuNIcATIoNs Kaitlin Thomas Orfitelli Meet the


with Dyllan McGee ’89

AheAd of the CulinAry Curve

dEsIgN good design, LLc | www.gooddesignusa.com


& children:

ALuMNI NoTEs AssIsTANT katey geer

Fall 2014

On thE COvER

dyllan Mcgee ’89 at home. robert Falcetti

Taft OnlinE Find a friend or past Bulletin: taftalumni.com Visit us on your phone: taftschool.org/m what happened at today’s game? taftsports.com shop online: taftstore.com

sENd ALuMNI NEws To Linda Hedman Beyus Alumni Office The Taft school watertown, cT 06795-2100 taftbulletin@taftschool.org dEAdLINEs For ALuMNI NoTEs winter–November 15 spring–February 15 summer–May 15 Fall–August 30 sENd AddrEss corrEcTIoNs To cathy Mancini Alumni records The Taft school watertown, cT 06795-2100 taftrhino@taftschool.org 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.



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Taft Bulletin / Fall 2014

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To Alumni, Parents and Friends, As wE cELEBrATE 125 yEArs oF HIsTory, I share with you an excerpt from my address to the entire school in Bingham Auditorium on our first day of classes. It’s a story of vision, perseverance and luck—and it includes a scene that for me is iconic and shapes much of what I believe about Taft.

Horace Taft had graduated from Yale in 1883, and, like many graduates, he was flailing a bit, not sure what he wanted to do. He traveled in Europe for a year, and when he came back, following family tradition, he got a law degree, and practiced in Cincinnati. But he didn’t like it, just wasn’t cut out for it; and he also had some nagging idea, some seed that insisted on flowering even in those arid years of the law, that he might have his own school. And so he gave up his law practice, talked with his great friend and Yale roommate Sherman Thacher about their mutual interest in teaching, and began tutoring Yale freshmen in Latin. And then there was that kind of twist of fate that changes everything: everyone in this narrative seemed to get sick. In those days—and here we are in 1889—when you got really ill, the doctor often recommended a change of climate. Horace Taft’s own father was gravely ill with pneumonia and typhoid and had moved west to San Diego, hoping the air there would be good for him. Sherman Thacher, too, was sick. He had gone to the lovely Ojai Valley not far from Los Angeles. And then as the fall term began in New Haven, Taft came down with a severe case of typhoid fever. Gravely ill, Taft took the train west to San Diego to live with his parents. In February, Taft traveled up the coast for a monthlong visit with Thacher, who was slowly recuperating. “It was a delightful month,” Taft recalled. Thacher was tutoring one student, coincidentally a sick boy from Connecticut. He seemed happy at it, and he was good at it. There’s no doubt that he and his old friend Horace spent a lot of time talking about teaching. In March, Taft had recovered, and he took the train east with an idea: he would start a school. It’s funny to think that we might not be here today had Taft not taken ill with the typhoid, had he not stayed with Sherman Thacher, and had Thacher not been tutoring that boy. That year, Thacher hung up a sign in the Ojai Valley, and a great western boarding school was born. The two headmasters would remain dear friends. How do you start a school? Taft didn’t have a campus, he had little experience, and he didn’t have a lot of money. This school started the way lots of start-ups do: with a bold idea, a visionary leader, a bit of capital and some good luck. The good luck and capital came from a family friend, Mrs. Robert Black, in Pelham Manor, New York: she had a house, she wanted to start a school, and would Taft take the headmastership? And that’s how your school came into being 125 years ago. Taft had some leaflets made up advertising the school, and he passed them out to friends. Soon enough he had a letter from a Mr. Eels in Cleveland, and was there room in

“Even with all the ways we have changed as an institution, we still can be, must be, the school that gathers around that table.”

. students with Horace Taft for the school’s first year in watertown, 1894. leslie D. Manning archives

Taft Bulletin / Fall 2014



Headmaster the school for his boy? Taft wrote in his memoir, “I replied, calmly, that I had room. I might have added he could have the whole school.” Inquiries came in slowly—one imagines Taft anxiously checking his mail every day—and when September rolled around, he had 17 students arriving. The furniture arrived the same day as the boys, so Taft, the new parents and the students opened boxes, banged nails, set up beds. “It was a most comical sight,” Taft wrote. And here, with that first night, we come to the sight that we might use always as a symbol of all we can be as a school. With a new school, you have to start somewhere, and the dining room table is as good a place as any. That night, they all sat down together. It was our first sit-down dinner: Taft, his two teachers, a handful of students. I am sure they said grace, and then they began the school year. All we are today is right there, in that tableau. There’s a group of nervous students, in coats and ties, fidgeting perhaps. There’s a tall, mustached teacher at the head of the table, passing plates. They break bread, make awkward introductions, begin talking. It’s our school. You see a passionate and caring faculty; close relationships among students and the teachers; high standards of character and conduct; a close and intimate campus. Nothing in our history guides my thinking about Taft today more than that scene. Even with all the ways we have changed as an institution, we still can be, must be, the school that gathers around that table. What did he say that night at that dinner? There is no record. His memoir is silent. That night, after all, was almost half a century away from the year he penned his memoir. But something powerful, even magical started that night. All we can do is honor that night this year and every year. And that’s how we began this year, with a sit-down dinner for the entire school. In the days following, several students approached me about my talk. Interestingly, they wanted to talk about the idea that we do not know what Taft said that night. One student asked if she might make a movie dramatizing the dinner; another wanted to collect student essays imagining they were Taft speaking. And so to you, I ask, “What do you think he said to those boys?” I welcome your thoughts, at MacMullenW@taftschool.org.



Fall’s an exciting time around Taft and also in the lives of our many alums, who continue to impress and astonish us with what they do both in their careers and their avocations. You’ll see what we mean as you peruse the Alumni Spotlight section and our features. And you can see our newest column in this issue: We’ve decided it’s time to give the headmaster a voice. Hasn’t he had a voice, you ask? Well…not in his own column. Willy MacMullen ’78 shares what was on his mind as the school year kicked off, with his historical lens on a certain school’s founder. Finally, welcome to Taft’s new Director of Marketing and Communications Kaitlin Orfitelli, who’s making her mark online, in print and more. Check out our social media channels at www.taftschool.org/social. —Linda Hedman Beyus



In the summer issue, in the 1979 “Making a Splash” photo on p. 57, the mystery cannonballer is none other than the effervescent Greg Douglas ’79 (1979 yearbook, p. 139).

I was so delighted to see the list of college choices for the senior class and to see that the highest number of Tafties chose to go to what has often been called the university. That would be the University of Virginia for those of you not in the know.... I remember in my senior year Mr. Nicholson being rather dumbfounded at my choice of UVa. Specifically, he wanted to know if would I choose a state school over Williams?! Yes, sir, I did. In fact, I did it twice, as I also attended graduate school in Thomas Jefferson’s little “academical village.” I have a daughter graduating from Virginia this year and another waiting in the wings to apply. Best of luck to all the Tafties heading this way!

—Jim Ramsey ’80

Roof Runners I appreciate Dick Cobb’s noble efforts to expose a hitherto concealed (though not entirely unsung) chapter of Taft’s history—and my own. Reading his article caught me by surprise—surprise accompanied by nostalgic pangs for a youth long past and for my partners in crime, like classmate Derrick Niederman ’72, Alan Klingenstein ’72 and others. Firstly, a warning to today’s more innocent and sheltered youth: Do not do as we once did. And Mr. Cobb, for the record, I would never be seen in a black cape! I wore chartreuse. Always chartreuse.

—Katharine Close Brown ’76

Non Ut Sibi, —John Hagelin ’72 Willy MacMullen ’78


. Horace Taft at a living room discussion with students.

. In Prentice dining room today.

On page 104 of the summer issue’s From the Archives article, “Pioneers on the Field,” we incorrectly identified the lacrosse player as Faith Bushby ’74. In fact, it was Harriet Staub Huston ’74.

love it? Comments? 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! Linda Hedman Beyus, editor Taft Bulletin 110 woodbury road watertown, cT 06795-2100 or beyusl@taftschool.org


Taft Bulletin / Fall 2014

Taft tRivia Do you know where this fellow lives on campus? Send your guess to lindabeyus@taftschool.org. The winner, whose name will be randomly chosen, will win a Taft pewter dish. Congratulations to George Allen ’55 who, among others, had the correct answer to the golf tee location question: Back nine it is…..Fore!

Taft Bulletin / Fall 2014


Alumni SpOtlight

Alumni SpOtlight by linDa heDMan beyus

Bold and Bohemian EyE-PoPPINg coLors, textures

and patterns from a host of countries have seeped into Jenny Sulger Blanchard ’77 and her home decor business, Chez Bohème. As a former tropical medicine nurse, Blanchard has a mind-boggling background and a fully-stamped passport. The seeds of her Vermontbased business were planted during hard work in rough settings. Blanchard started a TB clinic in Ethiopia during the famine of 1985 while a volunteer with the International Rescue Committee. “Our ‘hospitals’ were grass-thatched shelters with rope beds,” she says. “We expats worked at least 14 hours a day—best job of my life, except for the 120-degree heat!” Blanchard studied at the Prince Leopold Institute for Tropical Medicine in Antwerp, Belgium, taking all courses in French—an added challenge, she says. In between stints with Americares in the Philippines and work with the IRC in Malawi and South Sudan, she met her French husband, who worked for Médicins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders). Marrying and having a child didn’t stop her international work: on to Ethiopia again. One child was born in France, another adopted from Ethiopia and a third from Guatemala. “Between b Jenny sulger Blanchard ’77 with some of her vivid chez Bohème selections.


Taft Bulletin / Fall 2014

them, our children have been to at least 30 countries,” Blanchard says. This Renaissance woman also lived in France for 18 years, where she became a French citizen and nurtured her artistic life—she’s a skilled oil painter, an actor and has studied drama therapy. “For work, we’ve chosen jobs that allow us and our children to engage in the world at a grass-roots level whenever possible,” Blanchard says. “This has not always been easy, but saying ‘yes’ to opportunities that arrive has been the engine oil. Foregoing more traditional, career-minded choices in favor of lifeenlarging choices has given us the chance to get out there and be ‘in it’—neck deep.” In 2002, Blanchard and family settled (for now) in Vermont. “We moved to the U.S. to provide our children with an American experience to match their French backgrounds, so their

biculturalism would be complete.” Decorating an old farmhouse in lime green, lavender and lemon, “I began painting old furniture for added spunk,” she says. Plus they had a raft of eclectic treasures from their globe-trotting travels. Blanchard opened Chez Bohème in 2010 and ran it in between international NGO assignments for both her and her husband. Tribal artistry and handmade objects make the business tick. Chez Bohème’s affinity for saturated colors, patterns and textures evokes an emotional response in visitors, Blanchard says. “Many refer to it as ‘an experience,’ and claim to be overcome with joy in the midst of the alchemy. For me, creating that aesthetic of joy has become a mission in itself and is the core value of the Chez Bohème style.” Not only does the business sell sculpted coffee trays from Ethiopia, 1930s

dressers refinished in turquoise, colorful Turkish kilims and armchairs upholstered in Mali mudcloth, but Blanchard also sells her wonderfully bold paintings on both the website and in her shop. Its name is fitting—as the website states: “A French name, as homage to my…love for France, suggesting the Bohemian notions of travel, living for art, a passion for color and a disdain for convention.” Next steps are to relocate the brickand-mortar store to a barn in Charlotte, Vermont. The home-based showroom will have event-style “flash sales.” The Chez Bohème barn will also host art shows, concerts, plays and creative parties, “where the atmosphere will mimic the barefoot extravagance of a gypsy caravan,” Blanchard says. She even hopes to have a restored gypsy wagon equipped for overnight guests. j

Beyond a Film AT HIs MoNTANA wEddINg last

year, Campbell Gerrish ’99 performed with his local band, did some sketch improv comedy and a rap and percussion performance with his brother. Shortly after that, a trusted mentor remarked about how alive Gerrish seemed when he was performing. Perhaps, his mentor suggested, he should swap his career in business and make a go of it in a creative vocation. Lightbulb moment. The words were like a godsend, Gerrish says. “I took it as a sign to dedicate myself to working in a creative field, somehow.” He soon spoke with a filmmaker friend who needed help with his documentary. “We had a similar vision for films we might like to make together,” Gerrish says. They joined forces, and Gerrish became the head of marketing and outreach for the powerful documentary A Place to Stand, the story of the formerly incarcerated Jimmy Santiago Baca and his transformation through writing.

Baca entered Arizona State Prison at 21 functionally illiterate, and during his time in prison he taught himself to read and write and became an award-winning poet. He now leads a successful career writing, teaching and performing his poetry. A Place to Stand, Gerrish says, was made to serve people in need and to inspire anyone with a desire to transform their lives. Baca’s story and his poetry have already changed the lives of thousands around the world. Gerrish and the Catamount Films team plan to “carry the momentum of this by getting the film in front of at-risk youth, incarcerated populations and their families, and anyone with a mind for personal growth and creative fulfillment,” Gerrish says. “The arts and English programs at Taft are part of what got me through [school],” Gerrish says. “Barclay Johnson’s English class remains the highlight of my time there and was what inspired me to be

m gerrish campbell ’99, far right, at the santa Fe premiere of A Place to Stand, with author Jimmy Baca (in cap), Baca’s family and film director daniel glick, far left.

an English major at Bucknell. I’m now having a resurgence in my interest in literature, poetry, music and art, and have started to write and perform once again.” Along with a world premiere in Santa Fe, New Mexico, this fall—a four-day celebration with theater performances, music, poetry readings and screenings—Gerrish and his partners plan a big educational outreach movement going forward and the founding of a nonprofit dedicated to providing education in the arts. j Taft Bulletin / Fall 2014


Alumni SpOtlight

Alumni SpOtlight

in Writers’ Footsteps IN woody ALLEN’s 2011 film

Midnight in Paris, protagonist Gil Pender spends his nights roaming the streets of Paris, where he runs with a fast crowd—Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald. Gil’s adventures are not so different from those of David Burke ’54—though Burke’s adventures delve much deeper into the infamous lives of the Parisian literati. Burke, author of Writers in Paris: Literary Lives in the City of Light, brings his book and its subjects to life in a most intimate way through his latest undertaking, “David Burke’s Writers in Paris Walking Tours.” “My book is this venture’s daddy, to be sure,” he notes. “But there are other things too: my quarter of a

b Paris author and walkingtour creator david Burke ’54 on the Pont des Arts in the city of Light. Julia browne

century living in Paris, my Access Paris travel guides for HarperCollins, my studies of Balzac, Proust, Camus, and my fascination with the expatriate life when I was young—Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Joyce, Beckett.” In his book, Burke visits nearly 80 authors whose Parisian ties span several centuries, from the 12th century and Pierre Abélard to the end of the 20th century, the era of Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, “Beat Generation” poet Allen Ginsberg, Marguerite Duras and Samuel Beckett, his hero. But it is the book’s unique structure that all but demanded the creation of the walks. It is laid out by neighborhood and brimming with stories of writers’ lives and characters in their works, from the Latin Quarter, to Saint Germain-des-Prés, “Lost Generation” Montparnasse, the Père-Lachaise Cemetery, the Marais and the other literary corners of the city. Burke offers eight different walking

tours through city neighborhoods soaked in literary lore; he will also customize tours to focus on specific writers, interests or themes. All of the tours are more than a quick look at historic sites, they are intimate, detailed portraits of a city, its rich literary history and, most important, a view inside the lives of some of the world’s most best-known and most beloved authors. For example, one walk takes people to the “leprous” hotel in a Latin Quarter slum where a young George Orwell was living when all his money was stolen from his room and he plunged into instant poverty. The result: Down and Out in Paris and London, his first book. All of the walks feature writers’ homes, haunts and historic influences. Burke punctuates each tour with fascinating anecdotes and little-known facts about the lives—and loves—of the writers. The tours also include stops at the sites of some of the more dramatic

scenes in print. In Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables, there is a well-known scene in which Inspector Javert disguises himself as a beggar and squats in front of the church of Saint Médard, hoping to find Jean Valjean. The church is a stop on Burke’s tour, and Burke, a skilled and witty raconteur, brings the story of Valjean’s escape across the river with Cosette to life in dramatic style. “My long years of visual storytelling deeply influenced my book, and it continues to do so in my walks,” says Burke. “As one of my walkers put it, ‘It seemed that the writers’ spirits were walking along with us, pointing out their favorite haunts and whispering their stories in our ears.’” j —debra Meyers To learn more about Burke’s walking tours, book or life in Paris, visit www.writersinpariswalkingtours. blogspot.com.

Chris Olsen: Diamonds in the Rust (Belt) cHrIs oLsEN ’98, has always been

drawn to innovation and entrepreneurship. Those are what took him to Silicon Valley and made him a successful venture capitalist there. But, tired of competing with other firms chasing the new hot initial public offering (IPO), Olsen began looking for new challenges. Surprisingly, he found them far from the tech capitals on the coasts. Instead, he found them in the Midwest: Ohio, to be exact. Olsen’s former partner in the highoctane Silicon Valley venture capital firm Sequoia Capital, Mark Kvamme, had been asked to head Ohio’s economic development efforts. Olsen—who grew up in Cincinnati and had gone back for 8

Taft Bulletin / Fall 2014

a visit—says he called up his old friend to “rescue” him and bring him back to California. Instead, it was Kvamme who showed Olsen the tremendous opportunities to be found in the Midwest. “He had a tremendous vantage point to see all the entrepreneurs” in the country’s midsection, Olsen says. “Big companies, small companies—these are great companies and [he said] we should get somebody to invest in them.” That somebody turned out to be Olsen and Kvamme. Excited by the possibilities, Olsen relocated to Columbus, Ohio, and he and Kvamme founded Drive Capital. The pair eventually raised $250 million, and they began investing in Midwestern

technology services companies. “We found there’s a real misperception between investors and the reality in the Midwest,” Olsen says. “It’s true that a big chunk of manufacturing is based here. But beneath the rust is a technology and information services economy that’s getting bigger and bigger and bigger. There’s a lot more going on here than you might think.” Olsen is enthusiastic about what’s happening in the center of the country. “I believe we’re in the early days of what will be a trend for the next couple of decades,” he says. “Technology is growing out of Silicon Valley. Major industries are changing [and] embracing technology.”

The firm partnered with Ohio State University and other groups to raise the quarter-billion dollars. Drive Capital has invested in Midwestern companies that create medical technology that thwarts identity thieves as well as an app that helps farmers determine crop management, according to an article about the pair in Forbes. “The plan is to build a firm that has the capacity to be a business partner,” Olsen says. “We’re investing in lots of great companies. It’s interesting. To the people on the ground, it’s obvious” that the Midwest is a hotbed of innovation. j

chris olsen ’98 is betting on the Midwest’s opportunities with his venture capital firm, drive capital.

—Bonnie Blackburn Penhollow ’84

Taft Bulletin / Fall 2014


Alumni SpOtlight

steve sclar ’07 in a Tibetan family’s yak-hair tent where he did indoor air quality research.



My interesting life: the Memoirs of Sam pryor sAMuEL F. Pryor III ’46

Beyond good intentions sTEVE scLAr ’07 never imagined

he would be building partnerships in far-flung corners of the world and working with another Taft alum. The summer after his sophomore year at the College of William & Mary, Sclar decided he wanted to travel internationally, a first for him. “The first resource that popped into my mind was Omprakash,” he says. Willy Oppenheim ’04 had earlier created the organization, which connects volunteers with worldwide grassroots organizations. Sclar ended up spending the summer with an Omprakash partner in Tibet. The experience, he says, was life changing. A few years later, he went on another trip with students to Ghana. As far as he knew, that trip had “zero connection to Omprakash.” After college, Sclar had returned from working in Iceland and was living in a cabin in the woods, working odd jobs, “but hopelessly underemployed,” he says. Sclar then learned, by chance, that the group he had worked with in Ghana was actually an Omprakash partner. “It 10

Taft Bulletin / Fall 2014

was a wild discovery,” he says. “I immediately emailed Willy to tell him about it. Things somehow snowballed.” “I had lots of ideas,” Sclar says, an understatement for this innovator. One idea was to create a pre-departure online classroom training program for international volunteers. “Since my experiences in Tibet and Ghana, I had developed a more critical understanding of what it means to volunteer abroad and all the messy implications that come bundled with good intentions,” he says. Omprakash EdGE (Education through Global Engagement) launched in spring 2013 and aims to help students maximize their learning opportunities when they volunteer or intern abroad. The 12-week classroom experience uses social science and critical theory to help participants situate the social, political, environmental and economic contexts of their lives in relation to their upcoming work. EdGE is finding success by building strong partnerships with colleges and universities in the U.S., Canada and U.K,

and helping to generate revenue. And this fall an ’09 alum joined Sclar at EdGE. What’s key to EdGE, Sclar says, is that it reflects Omprakash’s ethical and educational values. “I’m not interested in working within the overcrowded ‘industry’ of ‘volunteering abroad’ if I’m not also working on an initiative that [helps] revolutionize the mind-sets of participants,” he says. “With EdGE, we are raising expectations and standards in a way that no one else is doing—a challenge because the dominant message throughout this ‘industry’ is that all you need is a plane ticket, a visa and some good intentions. We have to convince people otherwise.” “Steve is a radical in the true sense of the word,” Oppenheim says. “He wants to go to the root of things. He came to Omprakash with a clear vision for how to go beyond sentimental efforts at ‘helping others’ and how to become something bigger and more fundamentally educational. Working with him is like playing with fire, in the very best way.” j

In the year of his 86th birthday, Sam Pryor presents his own story of the most memorable places and people he encountered in his life. From Greenwich, Paris and Wall Street to the Amazon, Africa and the Arctic, Pryor led the way as a sailor, hiker, explorer, legal expert and conservationist. Chapters are dedicated to the organizations and causes to which Pryor gave his time and counsel and, here, his sincere thanks: the Appalachian Mountain Club, the Westchester Land Trust, the Land Trust Alliance, Palisades Interstate Park and the National Forest Foundation, all leaders in the effort to conserve and protect natural open spaces. Other stories include a glimpse into the early days of international aviation, and travels to the Himalayas, the Arctic, Africa and the Amazon. Pryor also shares profiles of friends and colleagues from Davis Polk & Wardwell, J.P. Morgan, Morgan Stanley, Pan American Airways, the Marine Corps, the University of Pennsylvania Law School and a number of other institutions, including Taft School. (Ed. note: Sadly, Sam Pryor passed away as this issue went to press. We are honored to include his memoir here.)

Small talk: learning from My Children about What Matters Most AMy JuLIA TruEsdELL BEckEr ’94

Small Talk is based upon the things Becker’s children say or ask that prompt her to think more carefully. “If the children who died went to heaven, then why are we sad?” Penny asks, when she passes by a funeral for a victim of the Sandy Hook shootings.

It does not offer prescriptive lessons about how to talk with children. Instead, it tells stories based upon the questions and statements her children have made about the things that make life good (such as love, kindness, beauty, laughter and friendship), the things that make life hard (such as death, failure and tragedy), and what we believe (such as prayer, God and miracles). Becker relates the basic questions her kids asked when they were very young to the more intellectual and spiritual questions of later childhood. Moving from humorous exchanges to profound questions, Becker encourages parents to ask themselves—and to talk with their children about—what matters most. Becker writes and speaks about family, faith, disability and culture. She is the author of several books and has written essays for many publications. She also blogs at Thin Places (www.patheos.com/community/thinplaces).

John Marshall: the Chief Justice Who Saved the nation HArLow g. uNgEr ’49

Harlow Unger reveals how Virginiaborn John Marshall emerged from the Revolutionary War’s bloodiest battlefields as a hero to become one of the nation’s most important Founding Fathers: America’s greatest chief justice. Marshall served his country as an officer, congressman, diplomat and secretary of state before President John Adams named him the nation’s fourth chief justice, the longest-serving in American history. Marshall transformed the Supreme Court from an irrelevant appeals court into a powerful branch of government—and provoked the ire of thousands of Americans who accused him and the court of issuing decisions that were tantamount to new laws and Constitutional amendments. The Court’s critics were

right, and Marshall admitted as much. With nine decisions that shocked the nation, Marshall and his court assumed powers to strike down laws it deemed unconstitutional. In doing so, Marshall’s court acted without Constitutional authority, but its decisions saved American liberty by protecting individual rights and the rights of private business against tyranny by federal, state and local government. Unger has authored more than 20 books, including 10 biographies of America’s Founding Fathers and three histories of the early republic.

the gift of Cancer: turn your tragedy into a treasure...a treasure Map to happiness! wENdy TrEyNor ’93

Wendy Treynor warns of her book: “Read it at your own risk. You want to be happy? Then follow me!” as she communicates a little-known secret—a universal cause of human suffering and its cure—that offers breakthrough understanding to help you heal yourself and our world. An endorsement by author Peter Zuckerman notes, “[Cancer] sent Treynor on a journey of self-discovery, providing her with an enlightened understanding of the problem, its solution and what it means to be happy. Weaving scholarship and story, this powerful book is more than just a compelling read. The Gift of Cancer is a transformational tool for anyone who wants to live a happier and more fulfilling life.” Wendy Treynor is a happiness expert, psychologist, inspirational speaker, selfhelp author and social scientist who has published on depression and emotion in peer reviewed journals. She resides in Southern California, where she is founder and director of Healing Consulting. j

If you would like a copy of your work added to the Hulbert Taft Library’s Alumni Authors collection and listed in this column, please send a copy to: Taft Bulletin | The Taft school | 110 woodbury road | watertown, cT 06795-2100

Taft Bulletin / Fall 2014


Around the pOnD For more information, visit www.taftschool.org/news

By DeBra Meyers anD Kaitlin thoMas orfitelli

a Completed (and Complete) Renovation for Congdon orIgINALLy coNsTrucTEd IN 1926

as a staff residence, Congdon House has served for decades as a home for Tafties. Now, after 88 years, the dorm has undergone its first renovation. The building was taken down to its exterior walls this past summer and then rebuilt. The result: a lighter, brighter building with all new mechanicals and completely rehabbed dorm rooms, faculty apartments, bathrooms, common areas, entryways and terraces. “It’s so important that we steward our campus wisely and prudently for the future, especially our dorms, which are so vital to the life of the school. That’s what we have done here,” says Headmaster Willy MacMullen ’78. “We now have a lovely residential space renovated at a reasonable cost.” The renovation came after a year of

Makari chung ’16 and Pam Armas ’16 enjoying the new common room.


Taft Bulletin / Fall 2014

analysis, the result of which was a clear strategy that would allow the school to substantially renovate Congdon for a fraction of the price of new construction. “The dorm is now filled with small details that the girls love,” says Jim Shepard, Taft’s director of facilities. The door to each room is adorned with chalkboards and corkboards for message writing. The bathrooms are outfitted with individual cubbies. And teak furniture and benches make the new, radiant-heated bluestone terraces on the east and west sides of the dorm natural gathering places. A new, fully-appointed kitchen and common room also serve as communitybuilding spaces for the dorm, and the addition of an elevator makes the building ADA compliant. An open, central stairwell now connects the first floor to the five

new basement-level dorm rooms. And, as Shepard points out, “Congdon had never had a front door. Now it has one.” Congdon’s bathrooms have also been completely renovated with materials that ensure longevity and a clean, modern finish. The architects and builders worked hard to maintain Congdon’s historical feel; to that end, some of the building’s beautiful details have been

PhotograPhy by robert Falcetti anD leDlie Pastor

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uncovered and restored. The original slate staircases (which had been covered by layers of linoleum and carpet over the years) have been refurbished, as have the original brick walls on the north and south staircases.

The maze of copper pipes and tubing in the dorm’s mechanical room is also a thing of beauty. The building’s mechanicals are all new—from plumbing to heating to electrical to sprinklers to energy-efficient LED lighting.

Architect David Thompson, who designed and spearheaded the MacIntosh House renovations (completed in 2012), was, along with Shepard, at the helm of the Congdon renovations. Many of the final appointments in Congdon are in

Louise gagnon ’18, a day student in congdon’s new study room. The study nook includes chalkboard cubbies for each day student assigned to congdon.

congdon House east facade.

The new east terrace of congdon House.

keeping with the Mac House renovation. “We were asked to bring the same quality standard to Congdon as we did to Mac House, while tailoring the design to assure it maintained a personality of its own,” says Thompson. “Most of that took care of itself, as the two buildings are so inherently different. Congdon had long been characterized by narrow corridors, no clear front door and no particular relationship to its site, sandwiched between Centennial Quad and Potter’s Pond. Our task was to improve upon all those things or find a way to make them assets. So the strategic changes we introduced—the intimately detailed hallways, multiple entries, spacious entrance stair, fully renovated common room and especially the east terrace overlooking the pond—all capitalize on the best of Congdon’s intrinsic qualities.” In all, Congdon can now house 69 students and includes four faculty apartments. In the coming year, the Martin Health Center, located on the north side of Congdon, will also undergo a complete renovation. j Taft Bulletin / Fall 2014


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Studying Fruit Morphology For A sEcoNd yEAr IN A row,

from the U.S. and abroad. She presented a report of her work and findings to this group of NYBG scientists at the conclusion of her internship and will speak at a future Morning Meeting at Taft. “My time in the lab was enormously interesting and different from my normal science classes, as well as uniquely fun,” Natasha says. “I explored in-depth one of my passions, and this experience shaped how I imagine myself in college and beyond.” “We are very grateful to Linda and Andy Safran ’71, who made this wonderful opportunity possible,” says Headmaster Willy MacMullen ’78. j

robert Falcetti

NyBg intern Natasha Batten ’15

a Taft student completed a six-week internship at the New York Botanical Garden this summer. Natasha Batten ’15 worked with and learned from NYBG scientist Dr. Barbara Ambrose and technician Tynisha Smalls from midJuly through August, identifying genes involved in determining fruit morphology. “The genes that I worked with are called SPATULA (SPT) and ALCATRAZ (ALC),” Natasha explains. During the internship, Natasha worked in the garden’s state-of-the art laboratory and attended various enrichment events at NYBG while working with other interns

a new Beginning for an Educational landmark taft Purchases WatertoWn’s BalDWin school

pal Receives grant TAFT’s cENTEr For gLoBAL

Leadership and Service (CGLS) recently received a three-year grant from Ion Bank Foundation for $13,200 in support of the Taft School–Police Activity League (PAL) Summer Enrichment & Mentorship Program. Enrollment for the program, which is now in its fourth year, has increased from 26 students in 2013 to 42 students for summer 2014. Students in the program receive academic enrichment over the summer with the goal of reversing the “academic slide” that many students experience while on summer break. Research shows students typically lose two to three months of learning each summer. Whether students enroll at Taft or another school after the summer program, their participation helps close the learning gap. Thanks to the grant, the program was able to add Tamara Sinclair as an 14

Taft Bulletin / Fall 2014

m charles J. Boulier III, president and cEo of Ion Bank (far left), at Taft school with Headmaster willy MacMullen ’78 and PAL tutors chris capece ’14, shasha Alvares ’16 and christian Thompson ’15.

instructor this past summer. A 2005 Taft School graduate who now serves as the associate director of multicultural recruitment at Taft, Sinclair attended the University of Pennsylvania, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in the biological basis of behavior. She has taught English in Japan and worked for Berlitz English in Thailand as an instructor and seminar leader. The Ion Bank Foundation grant, a match against a $250,000 challenge grant to the CGLS from the Edward E. Ford Foundation, will also cover the cost of meals for students in the Taft–PAL

Summer Enrichment Program. “We work with the students on applications to all academic programs they are interested in,” says co-founder and Taft faculty member Laura Monti ’89, “including Chase Collegiate, Holy Cross, Sacred Heart and the SOAR program at Kennedy High School.” Four Taft–PAL graduates are now enrolled as students at Taft. Participants in the Taft–PAL Summer Enrichment Program report that they feel better prepared for school and comfortable being around other talented kids where it’s “finally cool to be smart.” j

For MorE THAN 90 yEArs, Baldwin School—proud and tidy and alive with students and teachers—served as a school for the children of Watertown. In 2000, with the opening of a new school, Baldwin was mothballed and the halls and classrooms at 68 North Street were silenced. This past summer Taft purchased the Baldwin School building with the hope of bringing the school back to its original vibrancy. “Taft and Watertown have shared such an intimate and wonderful history since the day Horace Taft moved his school here in 1893—and buying Baldwin seemed such a perfect way to honor that history and the partnership between the school and the town, our neighbors and the municipal leaders. I could not be more excited,” says Headmaster Willy MacMullen ’78. “It simply is too lovely and too historic a building for Watertown for it to sit idle and slowly decline. The board of trustees and I felt an obligation to preserve it—for the neighborhood, for the town, for all of us.” With more than 20,000 square feet

spread over three floors, the building offers high ceilings, wide hallways and large windows. The property sits on almost three acres of land just a short walk from Taft’s main campus. Though much analysis and planning work will need to be completed before the building can again be put to use, Taft’s plan is to restore the building and return it to a well-maintained, lively part of Watertown’s historic district. The building’s purchase came after the Watertown Town Council voted in July to lift a deed restriction that would have limited the property to residential units for those aged 55 and older. The building’s purchase was made possible, in part, by a partnership between Taft and town leaders and the support of Watertown residents—as well as the remarkable generosity of the David, Helen and Marion Woodward Foundation. “As was the case when Taft purchased and renovated the church on the Green, the Woodward Foundation stepped forward in a way that was simply inspiring,” MacMullen says.

As Woodward Foundation board member M. Heminway Merriman II ’67 notes, Taft’s purchase and restoration of the Baldwin School aligns well with the Foundation’s mission. “When Mrs. Marion Woodward Ottley established her trusts,” Merriman explains, “she hoped that by doing so it would allow the trustees of her funds the ability ‘to leave the world a better place than we found it.’ She lived in the house next door to the present Health Complex (known by us old-timers as the P.O. Drug Store) and loved the neighborhood and the Taft School.” “When I was approached by Willy MacMullen to see if the Woodward Foundation would have an interest in helping with the purchase of Baldwin School, we as a board were as enthusiastic as he was with his wonderful vision for Taft’s use of the old school. The grand old building, with Taft’s care and attention, will be the best way to maintain the neighborhood,” says Merriman. “Watertown is fortunate to have the Taft School as neighbors and residents of Watertown.” j Taft Bulletin / Fall 2014


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TAFT’s coLLEgIuM MusIcuM traveled to Italy for its Living the Arts in Italy concert tour in June. The group performed in the country town of Faicchio and in rome’s Basilica di santa Maria del Popolo. They also sang in Positano, Florence and chiusi, and during Masses in Benevento and st. Peter’s Basilica. Peter Frew ’78

m Tafties took to Nyc in september for the People’s climate March.

March of the green Rhinos

go pro TAFT’s sENIor Food sErVIcE

Director Jerry Reveron has earned ProChef Level III certification from the Culinary Institute of America. The ProChef Certification program provides hands-on skill validation, recognizes professional achievement, and prepares chefs to deliver food and service at the highest level. Reveron is one of an elite few with a PCIII certification. The rigorous four-day exam process requires chefs to create authentic menus from both Latin and Asian cuisines and to produce a menu from a market basket to pair with selected wines. Business acumen and human resources skills are also tested. “The process took close to a year of preparation and studying,” says Chef Reveron. “There were times I wanted to give up, as this exam is next-toimpossible to pass. I am so proud of the accomplishment. Now it is time to pay it back and continue to create the best dining program I can for Taft.” j 16

Taft Bulletin / Fall 2014

Wearing Green Rhino T-shirts, 21 Taft students and faculty were among the 400,000 people who demonstrated at the People’s Climate March in New York City in September. “For our students, many of whom don’t yet fully understand the facets of climate change yet—‘What is fracking?’ ‘What does 350 ppm of CO2 mean?’—it was a highly educational experience,” says Director of Environmental Stewardship Carly Borken, who led the trip. “They spoke with people on the train to NYC and in the march, asking them why they were at this demonstration too: ‘Why was a nurses’ union marching? What do nurses care about climate change?’

It was such an eye-opening experience for kids to see people other than the stereotypical tree-hugger out in action. Mothers, students, transportation workers, island-nation members, corporate and nonprofit workers, all with a common concern to have the whole world, including the U.S., make the right choice about emissions and climate change.” Lidia Gutu ’16 was particularly impressed with the way marchers of different backgrounds were united. “I also understood that, even though marching itself does not directly solve the problem, expressing that you care and interacting with other people makes the world better,” she says. j

Photos of the trip are available to view and download at www.taftphotos.com.

LIVINg THE MoTTo IN guATEMALA Fourteen Tafties and two faculty members participated in Taft’s seventh annual service trip to guatemala this past summer. The group built three houses in and around Antigua, the colonial capital, and also volunteered at the dreamer center, playing with children and helping with malnourished infants at casa Jackson. “It was a full and exciting 10 days!” says trip leader david dethlefs, who started the trip in 2008. Additional activities included running clothing and food distributions and serving dinner at a homeless shelter. The group spent two days at Lake Atitlan, visiting the Mayan ruins at Iximche, and exploring the indigenous market at chichicastenango.

m wEsLEyAN uNIVErsITy PrEsIdENT MIcHAEL roTH takes a moment outside of charles Phelps Taft Hall to meet with Taft faculty members who are wesleyan grads. roth spoke about the importance of a pragmatic liberal arts education at Taft’s opening faculty meetings. over the summer Taft faculty read roth’s book, Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matters. Peter Frew ’78

Taft Bulletin / Fall 2014


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taft Welcomes the Class of 2018

The Taft Educational center is the largest Advanced summer Placement Institute in New England, offering workshops for close to 1,000 teachers each summer.

Building a Community of Educators through tEC IN 1975, longtime Taft physics teacher

Ed North organized a summer workshop for fellow teachers on Taft’s campus. The workshop’s goal: to help teachers become better at teaching. Fast-forward to this past summer— the 39th for those teacher workshops, which are now offered under the umbrella of the Taft Educational Center (TEC) and continue that original mission set out by North. Nine hundred thirty-five veteran and new teachers from across the globe traveled to Taft this summer to devote some of their vacation to growing their skills as educators. While the workshops were originally focused on advanced classroom skills for physics teachers, participants now choose from 75 workshops over a five-week period, honing their teaching skills and subject expertise in

c ALoNg wITH NEw sTudENTs, Taft welcomed 17 new faculty members this fall. Front: sara Patterson, Patrick Pothel, Lisa klein, Matthew Mullane, diana Lacasse. Middle: Martin Aspholm, Kaitlin Orfitelli, Rosy cohane-Mann, ranbel sun, Michael corbelle, stuart guthrie. Back: Micaela desimone, Lauren Henry ’99, Franz ritt, Jillian stanley, Jeremy Lacasse and Jonas katkavich P’12. Peter Frew ’78


Taft Bulletin / Fall 2014

everything from art history to multivariable calculus. The majority of today’s TEC workshops are focused on teaching Advanced Placement (AP) courses. The Center has been approved by the College Board as an Advanced Summer Placement Institute and is the largest such institute in New England. TEC’s instructors are the key to making the workshops such a great experience. “Most of our instructors have been AP readers in their subjects and have scored AP exams,” says Al Reiff ’80, who serves as director of TEC. This past summer, seven Taft faculty members were among those who presented workshops at TEC. One of the greatest benefits to TEC participants is the community of teachers that they gain while at Taft. “Many teachers are actually in isolation throughout the school year,” Reiff

says. “Physics is the perfect example. If you are the AP physics teacher, you are it—most schools only have one AP physics teacher. When TEC participants are here they get to spend a week with a dozen people who are as passionate and excited about that subject as they are. That’s something they don’t get during the other 51 weeks a year.” The time spent with other participants in the dining hall and outside the classroom can prove to be invaluable. “Getting to discuss issues with teachers from other disciplines like art, government or English gave me a perspective I might not get in my math classes,” says Rob Papp, a math teacher who participated in five weeks of TEC workshops this summer. “I learned how different teachers deal with discipline issues, difficult lesson topics, and how they use assessment for learning.” j

m Arianna Bowden and Tyrek Edwards. Kathryn Foley

taft Summer School Challengers Soar sINcE 2005, Taft has welcomed Work hArd. Carry in equal amounts

resilience, perseverance and humor. Be nice. Recognize the edges of your comfort zone—and then step right over them. Get to know your teachers well. This was just some of the advice that Headmaster Willy MacMullen ’78 offered to students during his welcoming address to new students and families on arrival day. Two hundred new students joined the Taft School community this fall. In all, 596 students are enrolled at Taft this year— the school’s largest student body ever. As always, the admissions process was highly selective: Taft received 1,670 applications for the 200 spots available for new students this year. Students hail from 34 states and 32 countries (Taft’s student body includes 100 international students from countries including Brazil, Bulgaria, Egypt, Georgia, Germany, Lithuania, Moldova, Mozambique and Somaliland). Thirty-seven percent of current students are receiving financial aid. In all, Taft has 113 day students and 483 boarders. Sixty-three current

students are the children of Taft graduates, and 24 students have a grandparent who attended Taft. Students of color make up a third of the student body. “Horace Taft had an idea that you could be a school that tried to do a number of things at the same time, and that all these goals could come together, like strands in rope, in a unique and enduring mission, which would bind us all together,” MacMullen said during his remarks on arrival day. “Taft called it the ‘education of the whole student,’ a traditional, liberal education—at once intellectual, moral, aesthetic, spiritual and physical—and that’s what we will begin tomorrow. Taft thought you could be a school of profound intellectual rigor, achievement and challenge; high expectations of honor, perseverance and integrity; and warmth, humor and love. And every year we set out, once again, to become that school we have always been and the one we are not yet. It’s glorious work we do, and you are now part of it.” j

two academically gifted students from the Challengers Boys & Girls Club in Los Angeles to campus each summer to participate in Taft’s Summer School. LA resident and Taft alumnus Lisa Firestone von Winterfeldt ’85 worked with Challengers founder Lou Dantzler and Taft’s former admissions director Ferdie Wandelt ’66 to establish the Challengers Scholars program at Taft. Challengers Scholars receive an all-inclusive scholarship, funded in part by the Roger S. Firestone Foundation. This year, 14-year old Tyrek Edwards and 13-year old Arianna Bowden made the trip east. At Taft, Tyrek honed his acting and photography skills while preparing for the geometry class he faced this fall back in LA. Arianna studied both algebra and literature at Taft, and also created ceramic pieces for every member of her family. j

Taft Bulletin / Fall 2014


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Faculty and Student Summer Enrichment TAFT sTudENTs ANd FAcuLTy participate in internships and professional development projects around the world each summer,

thanks to the support from endowed funds at Taft. Twenty-seven students immersed themselves in new experiences during the summer of 2014 with the support of the Robert Keyes Poole Fellowship, Meg Page ’74 Fellowship, William H. Hatfield ’32 Grant and Kilbourne Summer Enrichment Fund. Similarly, faculty members—36 of them this summer—engaged in professional development with the support of 16 endowed funds. The stories here give examples of the kind of work that Taft faculty and students completed with the support of these funds. More stories of Taft-supported summer projects are available at www.taftschool.org/news.

Elephant Conservation project For 11 dAys THIs suMMEr, Emma

Belak ’16 and Ai Bui ’16 lived the life of a mahout as they trained to become certified elephant handlers. Mahouts, or Thai elephant keepers, dedicate their lives to caring for elephants, which have represented Thai culture, tradition and royal

m Emma Belak ’16 and Ai Bui ’16 with an elephant in Thailand this summer.


Taft Bulletin / Fall 2014

power for centuries. The mahout is essential to the survival of elephants, which are endangered, making the mahout esteemed and respected in Thai culture. Throughout their visit, Emma and Ai were each paired with an elephant and a mahout. They spent many hours each day learning—through full-immersion and hands-on training—to ride, bathe, feed and care for their elephants. “We woke up at around 6:45 a.m. each day, walked through the jungle with our mahouts and retrieved our elephants from where they slept the night before,” Emma explains. “We then rode our elephants to the lake where we bathed them by riding them into the water, commanding them to sit, and using our hands to wash the dirt off their fully submerged bodies.” The elephants are the center of the mahout’s life, and their primary responsibility: only after the animals had been bathed and fed could Emma, Ai and their mahouts begin to think about their own needs each day. “We spent the second-to-last night of our trip at a camp in the jungle, and while we were there one of the staff members interviewed my mahout,” says Emma. “I was present for the interview, and when asked what he likes to do in his free time, my mahout said he likes to be alone so he can write in his journal about his elephant, who he has worked with for more than 25 years. He also said he is sad because he will

the Essence of art be forced to retire in two years and will miss his elephant very much.” Ai and Emma also spent time learning how elephants have become endangered and about current worldwide conservation initiatives. They visited an elephant hospital to more fully understand the perils facing the animals, how injured elephants are treated and cared for, and about elephant abuse and rehabilitation. For Ai, the visit to the hospital was especially powerful. “I have recently taken a deeper look at bioengineering, and seeing how the elephant hospital functions with all its advanced and specialized technology, such as portable X-ray scanners for elephants, was quite mesmerizing,” says Ai. Even greater, though, was the bond Ai formed with both her elephant and her mahout. “In the early mornings when we walked to the jungle to get our elephant, our mahout, Sak, always found ways to make us laugh,” says Ai. “Throughout the week, the three of us were the prankster trio of the whole camp, following the lead of our mahout. On one of our last nights in the jungle, we were brought to tears when Sak gave us the tightest hugs and called us his own daughters.” j Emma and Ai traveled to Thailand with assistance from robert keyes Poole Fellowships and the William W. Hatfield ’32 Grant.

faculty MeMBer yee-fun yin stuDies the roots of PhotograPhy THE orIgIN oF PHoTogrAPHy

is inextricably linked with the art of printmaking through etching. In the first half of the 19th century, artists were experimenting with a variety of techniques designed to make stable, fixed images or “etchings by light.” Early successes, including the first “camera” image, were borne of the same materials and techniques used in etching. This past summer, with help from the Palamar Fellowships Fund, photography teacher Yee-Fun Yin explored the roots and essence of his art through workshop study in photogravure with renowned artist and Cape Fear Press founder Jennifer Page. Photogravure is a printmaking technique where a continuous-tone photograph is etched into a copper plate with a sensitized gelatin pigment paper resist, then transferred to an acid-free paper. The process was developed in the late 1800s for reproducing fine archival photographic prints. And while it remains the best way to make photographic intaglio plates for printing, the process uses highly toxic, solvent-based liquid photoresists. Page has found a better way. “Jennifer has experimented with several technical innovations and has developed a dry film process using photopolymer positive and pigment inks,” Yin explains. “Her technique is the merging of technology with tradition, and

m Laurie with Magu, yee-Fun yin, 2014, photogravure, 9 3/4" x 6 3/4”.

provides better stability and repeatability without any of the toxic chemicals.” Yin has worked with the largeformat camera in his photography, and works almost exclusively in black and white. Both are prerequisites for understanding and mastering historical processes like photogravure. “The photographic art is increasingly digital-based, but the value of the product

is also less substantive. For classically trained artists like myself, it is still the unique handmade pieces of work that compel, inspire, enchant and affirm the creative spirit,” says Yin. “The impact of studying with Page will be long lasting, both on my art and in my teaching.” j yin’s work was supported by the Palamar Fellowship Fund.

Taft Bulletin / Fall 2014


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m olivia Paige ’15 authored a chapter about making the most of orientation in Peterson’s new Boarding School Survival Guide.

paige ’15 in print

Mark Lewis meeting with an Advanced Placement art class. anne KowalsKi

iin the gallery rockwELL VIsITINg ArTIsT rockw

m oak (Woodward Park), Mark Lewis, 2014, graphite and paper collage.


Taft Bulletin / Fall 2014

Mark Lewis was in residence at Taft in September, meeting with art students and addressing the entire Taft comcom munity during a Morning Meeting. An exhibit of Lewis’s work—titled “Streets, Trees, and Signs”—was at the Mark W. Potter Gallery from September 12 through October 20. Painting, drawing and mixed media are Lewis’s main mediums. He has exhibexhib ited widely over the past 30 years and currently serves as an associate profesprofes sor of art and director of the Alexandre Hogue Gallery at the University of Tulsa. Lewis received an MFA in painting from Yale University and a BFA in painting from Kansas City Art Institute. “When I choose a scene or a place to work in the landscape, I imagine that it is like a jazz musician choosing a standard tune to create or to invent with,” Lewis says about his work. “Each time

the musician returns to the standard tune they might hold to a structural aspect of the piece but build unique ideas each time the music is played. There are irregular formats in many of my works. In one way or another I enjoy finding and locating the format while I’m working.” Taft’s Rockwell Visiting Artists Fund, established in 1997 by Sherburne B. Rockwell Jr., Class of 1941, and H. P. Davis Rockwell, Class of 1944, supports a program of visiting artists to speak with students and faculty, work with art classes and exhibit their work in the Potter Art Gallery. Professional artists involved in painting, drawing, photography, pottery, sculpture, fabric design, printmaking and other visual arts are included in the program. j For more information about past or upcoming gallery events, visit www.taftschool.org/pottergallery.

TAFT sENIor oLIVIA PAIgE has penned a chapter in the newly published The Boarding School Survival Guide. Olivia’s topic? Orientation— and how to make the most of it. “I had some pretty funny moments when I went through orientation that I definitely knew I had to share,” Olivia says. Among Olivia’s recommendations locked-in syndrome. Senior Livvy to new boarding school students: Barnett took first place overall in the Do make the most of orientation by female division while setting a new indulging fully in every opportunity, female course record of 19:59, and mid including the “ridiculous icebreakers”; Caroline Winicki took first place in the reach out to other new students, 13-19 female division with 21:54. j returning students, and the adults on campus during those important first days of school; don’t be afraid chal to try new things, to chalmance Series or rf Pe ol lenge yourself and, most ho Sc 2014–15 Taft of all, to just be yourself. 30 Y R A Since its publication JANU ble 21 d Vocal Ensem Earthly Soun NOVEMBER ist, with in June, the book has on, Flut Rhonda Lars 27 Y ist R A enjoyed steady sales an U Pi , R B ay FE Tim R h: Music from and positive reviews. La Belle Epoc lon the French Sa 16 (Tuesday) “It’s kind of surreal,” DECEMBER ice ol’s 79th Serv APRIL 10 The Taft Scho & Carols Olivia says. “I don’t e ass Ensembl of Lessons Brass City Br really believe that I’ve 6pm & 8pm l 26 (Sunday) pe IL ha been published, or in C PR A d ar Woodw Great Space: Music for a an rg such a big book with O & stra Choir, Orche 9 JANUARY or ct du Peterson’s publishing on C stra Tom Brand, o Jazz Orche Harold Zinn Chapel d ar dw oo company. All in all 5pm • W posi it’s been a really posiwise noted. all unless other H r tive experience.” j ke al W in at 7pm

Service through Sports THIrTy-Two MEMBErs of Taft’s cross-country teams ran the the Bob Veillette 5K Road Race in Waterbury on September 6. The race is a fundraiser for Bob Veillette, former editor of Waterbury’s Republican-American and former music teacher, who has

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Taft Bulletin / Fall 2014


AheAd of the CulinAry Curve

Alex TAlboT ’92

T b culinary whizzes Alex Talbot ’92 and Aki kamozawa strike an “American gothic” pose at their New Hampshire home.

he sunny yellow farmhouse sits nestled in an expanse of green, on a rolling country road in Bow, New Hampshire. One would never suspect that behind its walls two of the country’s most creative, cutting-edge chefs are trying out new recipes that bring science and technology to bear on foods as commonplace as tomatoes and rib roast. This idyllic setting is the new home of Ideas in Food, the wildly successful blog, book and culinary consulting business owned by the husband-and-wife chef team of Alex Talbot ’92 and Aki Kamozawa. Upon entering the couple’s new home—they recently relocated to New Hampshire from Levittown, Pennsylvania, in search of more space—we head immediately to the kitchen, a warm and open space that’s clearly the heart of the enterprise. From there, it’s into the couple’s two-car garage, which has been temporarily appropriated as a library cum storage unit,

complete with antique wooden farm table, row upon row of cookbooks, stacks of neatly labeled pasta dyes and an array of miscellaneous cooking implements. A few more steps and we’re in Talbot and Kamozawa’s new food lab, a spacious room filled with moveable tables bearing beakers, dehydrators, a milkshake maker and other tools of their trade, stacked together in bunches. “We’re still in the process of getting settled,” Talbot says with an easy shrug. Relocating an enterprise such as this—together with a dog and a fiveyear-old in tow—cannot be easy, yet somehow Talbot and Kamozawa make it look effortless. It’s much the same with their cooking. The couple makes their living tackling tough culinary questions and offering inventive methods for maximizing the flavor of food, whether you’re a home cook or a classically trained chef. In fact, the title of their most recent book is Maximum Flavor. Taft Bulletin / Fall 2014



Alex TAlboT ’92

ager to see Alex and Aki in action and learn how to implement some of their inventive techniques in your own kitchen? The couple offers a variety of one-on-one daylong workshops such as Making Cheese & butter and The Complete lobster—and customized classes are another option. They also do a two-day sous vide/low temperature cooking class that explores a variety of recipes using fruits, vegetables, meat, fish and dairy, with sweet and savory applications and a two-day introduction to hydrocolloids that provides an overview of thickening ingredients.

m Talbot and kamozawa fine-tune a recipe at their Ideas in Food lab.


Taft Bulletin / Fall 2014

Talbot and Kamozawa are constantly pushing the envelope of accepted culinary practice, testing and probing the boundaries of cooking to unite science and technique through the use of high-quality ingredients, modern equipment and innovative approaches. Employing everything from rotary evaporators to hydrocolloids (substances such as xanthan gum, pectin and starch that are used in cooking to stabilize, thicken and emulsify), these experimental chefs evaporate, blend, stabilize and extract in an endless quest to squeeze out every possible bit of flavor from the object of their attentions. As a quick glance through their blog posts reveals, they succeed regularly, but like every cook, the two do have experiments go awry. “We make a lot of mistakes and we learn from them,” Talbot admits cheerfully. “We’re a failurebased operation—people pay us to fail so that we can show them the right way.” But for Talbot and Kamozawa, failures are relative and usually lead to success. When asked to describe his

perfect day in the kitchen, for instance, Talbot pauses for a moment and then observes, “It’s a good day when you discover something or learn something new.” But, he continues, that good day may only emerge upon reflection: “While you’re in it, it may seem like a really bad day, but [later], you often realize that an experiment that seemed disastrous at the time has actually brought you closer to some new knowledge.” And new knowledge is what Talbot and Kamozawa are renowned for, by everyone from chefs and home cooks to restaurants and food service companies including the Institute of Culinary Education and Unilever. “We have a good following,” Talbot says, “but we’re on the fringe. We’re really ahead of the curve in the culinary world— so far ahead, in fact, that many don’t even know we’re there. We’re looked at as an idea source.” Ideas proliferate between the two, and have since the couple began cooking together after meeting in the kitchen of Boston’s renowned restaurant Clio in 1997. They married in 2000,

and in 2004 they decided to begin sharing the work they were doing in their restaurant kitchen through a blog called Ideas in Food. Though at the time blogging was still a relatively novel mode of communication, the pair quickly developed a devoted following. The blog became a springboard for the couple’s burgeoning culinary offerings, and today is widely viewed as a benchmark for culinary blogs. Last year, in fact, Ideas in Food was named Best Culinary Science Blog in the Saveur Best Food Blog Awards. As their following has grown, so, too, have the couple’s offerings. They now host customized classes that embolden home chefs to explore new ideas in the kitchen, teach fellow chefs to express their own culinary concepts more clearly and effectively, help restaurants develop and implement new menus, and consult with large companies on such topics as the future of food. They’ve authored two books so far—Ideas in Food: Great Recipes and Why They Work, and Maximum Flavor: Recipes That Will Change the Way You Cook—and a third, Gluten Free Flour Power: Bringing Your Favorite Foods

“star turn” while at Taft when he commandeered the apartment kitchen of current headmaster Willy MacMullen ’78, then an instructor in the English department. “A good friend of mine asked me if I could prepare a nice meal for him so that he could impress a date,” Talbot recalls with a grin. “He told me he wanted me to fix the meal and then disappear, and Mr. MacMullen was kind enough to let me use his kitchen.” After graduating from Taft, Talbot went to Colby College, where he majored in English but continued to cook, at one point wowing family friend Tom Haas with his preparation of a multi-layered baked Brie. “Tom told me that if I was ever interested in cooking professionally, I should let him know,” Talbot recalls, “so after graduating, I gave him a call.” Haas helped Talbot land a job with the chef at the Shenorock Shore Club in Rye, New York, and he was off and running. From Rye it was on to New York City, and from there to Boston, where Talbot landed in the kitchen of renowned chef and restaurateur Ken Oringer. “My time at Clio was the biggest learning experience of

“…these experimental chefs evaporate, blend, stabilize and extract in an endless quest to squeeze out every possible bit of flavor from the object of their attentions.” Back to the Table, will be published by Norton in 2015. They also spread their ideas in forums that range from a guest column in Popular Science to presentations at conferences worldwide. Yet for all the public acclaim he receives, Talbot’s demeanor and culinary roots are remarkably humble. “I started cooking when I was young by watching my parents and cooking at summer camp,” Talbot explains. He laughingly recalls a

my life,” Talbot says enthusiastically. “I was immersed in a knowledge base of cooking!” Talbot has carried this immersion into the present, teaming up with Kamozawa to share their collective knowledge in venues from private classes to public forums. “We do a little bit of everything, which is great,” he says. “The diversity keeps us fresh and sharp, and everything we teach provides us with more knowledge than we impart.” Taft Bulletin / Fall 2014


Alex TAlboT ’92

Ideas in Food is truly a word-of-mouth business, Talbot explains, and as such is heavily dependent upon the couple’s ability to strike a chord with readers and students. “We try to reach people through many different avenues,” he explains. “We offer classes and workshops, we write books,

and we maintain our website and blog. We update the website every day, and while we never know who’s looking at it, we hope that our posts ignite a spark of creativity in our readers. We’ve been very fortunate to work with a wide range of entities, from restaurants to multinational companies,

KoreAn-Style ChiCKen WinGS

“We do a little bit of everything, which is great. the diversity keeps us fresh and sharp, and everything we teach provides us with more knowledge than we impart.” but it always starts with an individual, usually a chef or a food enthusiast, who makes a connection to something we’ve said or done. In the end, we’re in the business of helping people.” To help professional chefs, for instance, Talbot and Kamozawa provide offerings such as “dinner and a workshop,” which includes a guest-chef dinner prepared at the restaurant as well as a workshop for the restaurant staff. They also offer recipe development for food companies, restaurants and cookbooks, and can even provide organizational and writing services for fellow chefs working on their own cookbooks. Asked how the couple keep their own approach fresh, Talbot says, “We don’t stop writing stuff down. We’re always looking at our own practices, watching what people are doing in classes, reflecting on the questions people are asking and evaluating how our readers are responding to our offerings. We try to stay open, rather than getting locked into a specific belief system, because when you do that, you put up walls. And discovery comes without walls. “Many people think that cooking is hard, but it doesn’t have to be,” Talbot concludes. “People don’t want to just throw things on the table—they want to cook delicious things and they want to learn. Even if they’re not cooking all the time, they want to know why and how to make the best food possible. And we want to help them.” j Lori L. Ferguson is a freelance writer based in southern New Hampshire.

b Talbot with his state-of-the art wood-fired oven.


Taft Bulletin / Fall 2014

3 large egg whites 2 teaspoons / 10 grams baking soda 1¾ teaspoons / 10.5 grams fine sea salt 4 pounds / 1.8 kilograms whole chicken wings ¼ cup / 65 grams tamari soy sauce 3 tablespoons / 42 grams apple juice 1 tablespoon / 16 grams honey 1 tablespoon / 14 grams rice vinegar 1 tablespoon / 14 grams toasted sesame oil 1 teaspoons / 2 grams Korean red chile flakes 1 tablespoon / 3.75 grams toasted sesame seeds, chopped 1 garlic clove, grated ½ teaspoon / 2.5 grams grated fresh ginger 1 scallion, finely sliced


ut the egg whites, baking soda, and salt in a bowl and stir to dissolve the salt and baking soda. Add the chicken wings and stir to coat evenly. remove the wings from the bowl and lay them out on 2 wire racks, each set over a baking sheet. refrigerate the wings uncovered overnight for them to dry out. Preheat the oven to 450°F (235°c). Put the wings, still on the racks on the baking sheets, into the oven and cook for 15

minutes. Flip the wings over and bake for 10 minutes. Flip the wings over again and bake until a deep golden brown with a crackling skin, about 10 more minutes. Take the pans out of the oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, apple juice, honey, rice vinegar, sesame oil, chile flakes, sesame seeds, garlic, ginger, and scallion. Pile the wings on a serving platter and serve the sauce alongside.

reprinted from Maximum Flavor. copyright © 2013 by Aki kamozawa and H. Alexander Talbot. Photographs copyright © 2013 by Aki kamozawa and H. Alexander Talbot. Published by clarkson Potter/Publishers, a division of Penguin random House, LLc.

Meeting the

j Dyllan McGee ’89 at the MAKERS office. Keith


“MAKeRS” Dyllan McGee ’89 conveys the Power anD iMPact of woMen By Neil Vigdor ’95

Female intuition is measurable. Just ask Dyllan McGee ’89. It’s quantified in Tweets, web traffic and, in perhaps the most telling metric of them all—MAKERS. From Oprah Winfrey and Ellen DeGeneres to Gloria Steinem and Hillary Clinton, McGee, the Emmy-Award winning executive producer of the critically acclaimed PBS documentary series MAKERS: Women Who Make America, is on first-name basis with many of them. They break through the glass ceiling and stereotypes. They’re whistleblowers and innovators. The common thread is that they are all women. “The hope is that MAKERS can play a role in sparking a movement of equality for women through storytelling,” McGee said. At the Pleasantville, New York, offices of her production company, Kunhardt McGee Productions, McGee was surrounded by storyboards, historic photos and archived footage. An Emmy Award haul was gleaming on top of a shelf. Debuting online at MAKERS.com in 2012 and on PBS in 2013, the series made its much-anticipated return to the small screen in late September, with six one-hour episodes that aired on Tuesday nights.


A collection of interviews, many of them conducted by McGee herself, each show focuses on women from different walks of life such as politics, business, war, comedy, space and Hollywood. The concept instantly resonated with giants such as Steinem, the feminist icon and bestselling author. “For many years, people had been asking me why there was no Eyes on the Prize for the women’s movement and trying to make it happen,” Steinem said, referring to the PBS documentary series on the American civil rights movement. “Finally, only Dyllan combined the creativity, fundraising, hard work and filmmaking skills that made an even larger record possible. If I wanted other people to be part of it, I needed to be there too.” The appointment book of the 43-year-old McGee, who is married with two children and resides in Katonah, New York, rivals those of the women she profiles. This year, she visited China, where MAKERS launched MAKERS China, profiling 10 groundbreaking Chinese women’s stories. There was no summertime lull for McGee, who was up against the clock for a conference call on the day of this interview. “I’m on the road a lot,” said McGee, who is also an executive producer of the popular PBS celebrity ancestry show, Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. McGee’s path to becoming the “it woman” of documentary filmmaking started on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, where she spent her childhood before heading off to Taft. During her upper-mid year, McGee started a video yearbook. Little did she know that the medium of video would become her calling. “I think I’ve been entrepreneurial since my young years,” she said. “I liked the idea of shaping things from the ground up. My goal in life was to be the next Katie Couric. I thought she was smart and funny.” Senior year, McGee scored an interview with the Today show, thinking it was the holy grail of a budding career in television. But it wasn’t for McGee, who realized working for a smaller company might get her more hands-on experience. She accepted an 32

Taft Bulletin / Fall 2014

tt ce

“It was so important for young women to really understand and appreciate how fAR woMen hAve CoMe in AMeRiCAn SoCieTy—in a relatively short period of time—and the incredible impact of that on their lives.”



j dyllan Mcgee ’89 with members of the MAkErs team. Keith





offer from Kunhardt Productions, a small but highly respected incubator for television biographies. It turned out to be a smart decision for McGee, who became a partner in the production company in 2008. “Literally, I’ve had one résumé in my life,” McGee said. Kunhardt McGee Productions averages about 10 hours of programming a year, with as many as 50 people working on various projects. Supported by advertising and seed money from its digital partner, AOL, MAKERS is headquartered at AOL’s headquarters in New York City. When the series premiered last year, it was the top trending topic on Twitter. “You always wonder what kind of impact your shows are making,” McGee said. Despite the obvious feminist subject matter, McGee said that half of the traffic to MAKERS.com is men. MAKERS aims to be the largest collection of women’s stories ever assembled. McGee attributes much of the success to AOL. It’s not your mother’s oral history project. In 2010, McGee invited Nancy Armstrong, whom she had met through a mutual friend and is married to AOL CEO Tim Armstrong, to a fundraiser that she hosted with Steinem in New York City. They made an immediate connection. “I was not only deeply moved and inspired, but it also struck me, being the mother of two girls, that it was so important for young women to really understand and appreciate how far women have come in American society—in a relatively short period of time—and the incredible impact of that on their lives,” Armstrong said. Armstrong pitched the idea to her husband, who offered to partner with McGee on the project. “It took about three seconds before I could see all of the lightbulbs going on in his head,” Armstrong said. “At the time, he was in the process of rebuilding AOL, and one of his focuses was on women’s content, which he saw as a white space on the internet.

He instantly recognized that AOL could play an important role in developing the game-changing project.” McGee’s dogged pursuit of rare audiences with America’s leading women even caught the attention of her role model, Katie Couric, who gave one of several tongue-in-cheek testimonials for a video on McGee when she received a Matrix Award from New York Women in Communications in April. “Katie Couric calls me ‘relentless McGee,’” she said. Many of the interviews in the series are conducted by McGee, who said she meticulously studies up every time. “I get nervous going into each one of them,” she said. “When you only have an hour, you don’t want to screw it up.” Each interview culminates with a lightning round of either/ or questions designed to give viewers a sense of what makes McGee’s subjects tick. Early bird or late riser? iPad or notebook? “We wanted something that was short and bold,” McGee said. “Those are just a few examples—we wanted to see if there is a recipe for being a MAKER, and luckily there isn’t. MAKERS come in all shapes and sizes.” As if MAKERS wasn’t already a showcase for McGee’s work, a second season of Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. will air again nationally this fall on PBS. “The idea is to look at what race really means,” McGee said. “We’re always trying to look through that lens of stories that can make an impact and spark a dialogue.” The show is hosted by Henry Louis Gates Jr., a Harvard scholar who helps celebrities such as Derek Jeter, Anderson

Cooper, Billie Jean King, Stephen King and rapper Nas discover their ancestry. McGee also worked with Gates on the PBS series The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross, which aired in 2013. “I like to think of him as the next Ken Burns,” McGee said of Gates. “You don’t have to be an Oprah Winfrey or Lena Dunham to be a MAKER,” McGee said. This fall also marks the launch of a MAKERS smartphone app that will allow anyone to become a filmmaker and capture a MAKERS story. “We haven’t touched tape on our projects in a couple of years,” she added. “We don’t want to capture hundreds of stories, we want to capture millions.” While juggling deadlines, the pressure to produce content and motherhood, McGee found time to serve as a Taft trustee for a decade. She was on the search committee in 2001 that recommended Willy MacMullen ’78 to be the school’s fifth headmaster. McGee also presided over a strategic planning committee that reviewed athletic and student life programming. McGee is already plotting her next move. “My dream is to do something similar to MAKERS for the gay rights movement,” McGee said. “That would be the dream gig.” Not that interviewing Oprah and Ellen isn’t incredibly rewarding. “They’re all so eloquent,” McGee said. “I could cough and get good answers.” j Neil Vigdor ’95 is the statewide political writer for Hearst connecticut Newspapers, which includes Greenwich Time, the (stamford) Advocate, Connecticut Post, danbury News-Times and five weekly newspapers.

“We wanted to see if there is a recipe for being a MAKER, and luckily there isn’t. MAKeRS CoMe in All ShAPeS And SizeS.” Taft Bulletin / Fall 2014


of chimps

and children

gins i r O e h t g n i k Unloc eness u q i n U n a m u H of

I m Michael Tomasello ’68, co-director of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, focuses his research on social cognition, social learning, cooperation and communication between young children and great apes. Jacobs FounDation

By Phoebe Vaughn Outerbridge ’84


illustration Juliane uMbreit

n an experiment at a preeminent research facility in Germany, a 14-month-old toddler looks at two upside-down buckets. An adult has previously hidden a toy underneath one bucket and pointed to that bucket. The toddler immediately knows to find the toy under that bucket—and does. This exact experiment is conducted with a great ape at a nearby primate research center, with very different results: the ape fails to find the hidden toy. Why? This study, seemingly simple but with far-reaching implications, is part of a body of research supporting a theory advanced by Dr. Michael Tomasello ’68, who seeks to answer a question that has vexed primatologists and spurred debates among anthropologists for years: What is it that distinguishes us humans from our closest primate relatives? “People have been asking this for a long time. You’ve probably heard the phrase, ‘Man is the only rational animal,” says Tomasello, a developmental psychologist. “But it’s just in the last few decades

that we have done systematic experimentation where we actually compared apes to humans.” Tomasello is co-director of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, a prestigious research institution in Leipzig, Germany, that has been a pioneer in conducting these systematic comparisons of apes and young children, in addition to other interdisciplinary studies in evolution, genetics, linguistics and psychology. Through his research, Tomasello suggests that what separates Homo sapiens from Pan troglodytes is not just brain size or our ability to develop tools or to reason. He has theorized that the gaping discrepancy between human and primate evolution—why we have built space stations, nuclear bombs and iPhones, while apes are still doing what they did millions of years ago—comes down to a small but significant distinction he calls “shared intentionality.” How can we be so different from a species whose DNA is 99 percent identical to ours? According to Tomasello, the difference between thriving and surviving is an evolutionary adaptation rooted in

Taft Bulletin / Fall 2014


of chimps

and children

“Human communication probably evolved to coordinate our cooperative activities, which were the driving force behind all these adaptations to engage in shared intentionality.” b Tomasello observing the behavior of children. Max PlancK institute

c Tomasello’s

humans’ predisposition toward cooperation and communication—a meeting of the minds. In the hidden-toy experiment, he explains, the toddler understands through inference and reasoning where the toy is, while the apes simply see a bucket and a person pointing—without connecting the two concepts. Collaboration with others also makes human cognition unique from that of great apes, says Tomasello. “Differences emerge when we collaborate and work together,” he explains. “Part of this collaboration is communication, which includes language but also pointing and gesturing.” His studies have shown these cognitive differences to emerge in children as young as nine months old. Another revealing experiment conducted by Tomasello involves toddlers, apes and gummy bears. Two children are given a shared task that involves a rope that, when pulled in tandem, will release the candies. The catch is that one child ends up with three candies as a reward; the other child gets just one. Take your gummies and run? Not necessarily. “In almost 90 percent of the cases, the kids will give up the extra piece of candy to the other child to equalize the situation,” says Tomasello, who notes that this does not happen if the candies aren’t mutually earned. “Kids share the spoils equally only when they have cooperated.” Hundreds of thousands of years ago, Tomasello hypothesizes, this melding of the minds to allowed hunter-gatherers to work in harmony, requiring cognitive changes that ultimately helped evolve into gesturing and then language. Natural selection therefore came to favor cooperation; those hunters who didn’t play their part in tracking an animal would most likely be remembered as being bad cooperators and be excluded from future hunts. It is this kind of collaboration, he argues, that was needed to build complex societies and cultural institutions. And language was almost a by-product: “Indeed, I think that uniquely human communication probably evolved to coordinate our cooperative activities, which were the driving force behind 36

Taft Bulletin / Fall 2014

all these adaptations to engage in shared intentionality.” Investigating the history of humankind is the work of erudite scholars, but Tomasello converses with an ease and informality that can be traced to his upbringing as an “average” kid in Florida. In a self-depracating manner, he says the evolution of his own career was more of an epiphany than a preordained path: “I was moderately smart in science, but nothing had ever grabbed me. Then I took a psychology class at Duke. The professor was lecturing about Aristotle’s view on animals, and I thought, Wow, they are paying him to do this!” he recalls, saying he became hooked on some of the ideas discussed in that class. Tomasello majored in psychology and after Duke enrolled in graduate school at the University of Georgia. His dissertation was on language acquisition in toddlers, and luckily he had a subject conveniently at home in the form of his own two-year-old daughter, Travis. “I kept a diary of her language development,” he recalls. “It was fun and very enlightening.” His research on language and toddlers’ trial-and-error approaches would be the baby steps toward his current thesis on the interrelation of culture and human evolution. While studying developmental psychology at the University of Georgia, Tomasello worked primarily with children, but had his first opportunity to study primate behavior at the nearby Yerkes Primate Center. After earning his doctorate, he moved to Emory University, becoming a professor of psychology and anthropology (and continuing scientific work at Yerkes). He had been at Emory for 18 years when, in 1998, he says he got “the call” from the Institute. One does not apply to the Max Planck Institute, the world’s largest research facility dedicated to examining behavioral differences between humans and apes. Leading scientists from every corner of the world are cultivated and curated to join the Institute, which currently employs about 330 people. Though

daughter, chiara, befriending one of the apes.

he loved teaching at Emory, this was simply an opportunity he could not pass up. Plus, who wouldn’t want to work with chimps and kids? “Chimpanzees and children are just inherently interesting,” Tomasello says. “They are so similar to us in the way they think and do things, but at the same time they are so different. I could watch them both for hours on end.” His typical day involves a mix of working at the Institute with the children and great apes (there are gorillas, orangutans, chimpanzees and bonobos), attending research meetings with University of Leipzig graduate students and post-docs about the various projects underway, and writing at home. Tomasello remarried four years ago and has a three-year-old daughter, Chiara. Though he reports that she is trilingual (his wife, Rita, is Russian), Tomasello muses that he is a bit too busy now to incorporate her toddler speak into his official research, as he did before. Tomasello has written seven books on topics ranging from language acquisition to A Natural History of Human Thinking. The evolution of cooperation and morality, especially as it relates to primates and humans, is the topic of his next book. He has also authored or coauthored several hundred articles and white papers that have appeared in scholarly publications and more mainstream media such as the New York Times and Nature magazine. (Scientific American also published a feature about Tomasello and his research in its September 2014 issue.) He encapsulates his research trajectory as such: “I started out studying arguably one of the

most complex things—language—which is so responsible for human uniqueness, and have dug deeper from there to more foundational things that enable language acquisition.” Part of what makes his cultural and social anthropological studies especially relevant is the fact that they help decipher human behavior today and offer insight into how we might better get along as a society. As the gummy bear experiment suggests, children who collaborate on a project are naturally inclined to share. Tomasello emphasizes the relevancy of this concept: “People are interested in cooperation in all societal contexts—everything from schools to business to politics.” The German press has covered the research of Tomasello and the Max Planck Institute and is particularly interested in the societal implications of shared intentionality and of cooperation/collaboration. His lectures are frequently featured in the newspapers and media, which he says is a bonus to living in this culturally rich, beautiful, small city. (The University of Leipzig also happens to be the alma mater of Goethe, Nietzsche and Angela Merkel.) “This is an intellectually oriented city—it’s a good place to work as a scientist,” he asserts. His salary is paid by the German government, which has in place a mandatory retirement age of 68. That’s a few years off for Tomasello, who for now is content to continue his ever-deeper dig to discover what separates humans from our hairy predecessors. j Phoebe Vaughn outerbridge ’84 is a freelance writer living in Pennington, New Jersey.

Taft Bulletin / Fall 2014


Tales of a taFtiE

Tales of a taFtiE

c Barent Friele ’42, at left,

By JiM Morrison ’43

Berent E. Friele, Jr., Class of 1942

ran into Jim Morrison ’43 on a surfer’s beach with locals ghanaians in Accra in 1945. Photo taken with a homemade instant camera, pre-Polaroid.

a Brief WartiMe encounter

This is a story about a Taft School pal I knew when Hitler’s armies were at the gates of Moscow and Roosevelt was president. His name was Berent Friele. Americans don’t have a word to describe his type, but the British do: “cheeky”—“cheek” being a cheerful kind of disobedience, insolence. For the five years he spent at Taft, Friele took pleasure setting the headmaster’s teeth on edge. Hair too long, tie loose and collar up. He was slight in build. Friele’s wit was softly spoken (and subversive) but when on stage, he was outrageous and most at home. That’s where I came to know him. But we were not good friends; he was an upperclassman, after all.

And no sooner had this sorry buck private put foot to pavement than here comes not one, but two huge, six-striped master sergeants. Paratroopers…beribboned…warriors. Scary. And they are staring—right at me. Friele went right into the Army in 1942 after graduating, as did I a year later. I went through the brutal basic training and then off to school learning the greasy innards of fourengine bombers. After three years, I was still a lowly buck private, when suddenly one winter day my orders came down to report to station in Miami to await space on a cargo plane that would fly me somewhere across the Atlantic. Meanwhile, the delights of Miami nights were mine to plunder, so I headed into the sultry dusk. And no sooner had this sorry buck private put foot to pavement than here comes 38

Taft Bulletin / Fall 2014

not one, but two huge, six-striped master sergeants. Paratroopers…beribboned…warriors. Scary. And they are staring—right at me. “Don’t look!” I told myself. “They can’t hurt you.” But there are two of them. I tried looking the other way. “Hey kid!” Sure enough, trouble. I stopped and turned, standing at tight attention and then the question: “Didn’t you go to the Taft School?” “Friele!” I yelled. No tight embrace. Just two friends, now professionals, meeting in another place with a swift swap of hands and an introduction. “This is my pal, Don Spear,” said Friele, as I shook the hand of the other master sergeant. “Aren’t you Doc Morrison’s kid?” Spear asked. Ever so slowly I recognized a face, familiar and so out of place; that of a neighbor, the former short-order cook in the diner back home. In no more than a few minutes the surprise wore off, and it all became so normal, Friele saying they were headed for China, “To save the Chinese from the Chinese.” “We just got in this morning,” he said. Where are all the girls?” As if I would know. An awkward pause, and, with nothing more to say, they walked off into the night. My new assignment turned out to be Accra, the capital city of the British colony called the Gold Coast, what is now Ghana. Surfers know Accra as having one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. A few days after my arrival there, I came out of the surf to run smack into a soaking wet Berent Friele. We threw towels under a palm tree, lay down and talked about life at Taft. His time there had been a bitter five years of confrontation with tedious rules and weeks

of punishment, called “bounds” as I recall. My time was quite the opposite. One of the happiest moments of my life. In the service Friele had volunteered to become a Ranger, the elite branch of the Army taking on the most dangerous missions. He described parachuting at night into Normandy several days before the Normandy invasion with orders to destroy bridges and rail yards—a near-suicidal assignment, which for survivors would win them three weeks leave in London. Friele told me of a quiet moment behind the lines. He’d shot a farmer’s cow and his pal, Don Spear, the short-order cook, butchered it, cut out streaks and grilled them over an open fire. After a few days dodging Nazis, he made it out alive and went on leave in London, where in a pub he met a bomber pilot who had flown 30 missions and was about to rotate his plane and crew back to the U.S. Friele decided to go along for the ride, although it meant being AWOL, a criminal offense. (As I said, he was cheeky.) As luck would have it, a high-ranking general was also aboard and to pass the hours a poker game broke out, Friele joining in. By the time they got to Bangor, Maine, the general owed Sergeant Friele money. Lots of it. And was embarrassed because he couldn’t pay. Friele framed it this way: “General, sir, I’m embarrassed too. By the time I get to New York I’ll be AWOL, and so I need a two-week furlough or I’m off to jail. The general, taking in the rows of ribbons on Friele’s chest, saw a clear path to exoneration, saving both time and money, but leaving behind badly bent rules to the satisfaction of both parties.

And so we laughed. But during all the time we spent under that palm tree there was not a word from Friele describing what must have been sheer horror behind the Nazi lines. Then, a Ghanaian gentleman walked by toting a camera. It was simply a crude homemade black box—a wet reversal print camera atop a shaky tripod. Friele beckoned him, gathered a few locals to sit beside us as the photographer took off the lens cap for 10 seconds, replaced it and dipped the paper into the solution. Friele got up from the chair, brushed off some sand and, throwing a towel over his shoulder, said, “I’ll catch up with you later,” and wandered off, tossing a wave over his shoulder. He went back to Brazil after the war, returning to live in Connecticut at the end of his life. I called him one day to remind him of our encounters so long ago. We laughed about those pleasant encounters, but we never saw each other again. j

what successful Taftie, no longer living, would you like to see profiled in this space? send your suggestions to beyusl@taftschool.org.

Taft Bulletin / Fall 2014




m Burgees were crafted

rndon ’79 Berg ’80 on ter Pe w cre d an other Taft 420s Winnifred, with rting line. crossing the sta

He b skipper Peasie

ing ar ch ive s les lie D. Ma nn

from old, worn sails and sold for $10 each to raise money. “Nothing went to waste,” recalled Toby Baker about the shoestring-budget Taft sailing program. The Taft burgee and the bumper sticker are part of Baker’s personal archive, which he recently donated to Taft.

Supporting a Distinguished and Dedicated Faculty Our challenge is simple: to find, recruit and retain the finest teachers.

innovative teaching inspire their students daily. Our goal is to be a school that is marked by

Teachers are, and have always been, the single

excellence in teaching, and so it follows that we

most important resource at Taft. Every graduate can

must invest deeply in teachers. In order to remain

tell a story about a Taft teacher who made a difference

competitive with the nation’s great schools, we need

in his or her life. The roll call of these extraordinary

to raise $55 million in endowment to increase our

teachers is a long one. They are gifted and committed

compensation and benefits, endow a number of senior-

scholars whose lifelong curiosity and commitment to

level chairs and increase professional growth funding.

Who was the Taft faculty member who made a difference in your life? b coach Toby Ba

ker: “I tried to get studen ts building models, for m y own fun, but we also staged some model ‘regatta s’ on the Pond.” br aD Jo bl in ’73

Regatta Days IT wAs LIkE No oTHEr TEAM sPorT.

For a few brisk springs during the 1970s, as soon as the ice disappeared from Bantam Lake, the Taft sailing team was out on the water. Almost every afternoon, an intrepid group of boys and girls cast off from the dock in a small fleet of 420 Class dinghies (13-foot, 9-inch performance racing sailboats). For a short season, they would hone their racing skills and strategies for competition on the lakes and coastal waters of New England. Inspired and coached by math teacher and lifelong sailor Toby Baker, Jr., team members learned not only to sail and race but to rig and repair the boats, many of which had been purchased secondhand from Yale. Fun, safety and success depended upon everyone’s attention to detail and sense of responsibility. Shifting lake winds and chilly spring conditions presented ever-changing challenges to sailor and boat, and while some on the team were already accomplished sailors, 88

Taft Bulletin / Fall 2014

some students were learning from scratch. Named for the wives of Taft’s headmasters, dinghies Winifred, Edith, Katherine and Patricia were each manned by a skipper and a crew of one. Racing required close observation of the team’s boats and opponents’ boats and constant course adjustment and sail trimming. Students learned tactics, such as timing one’s approach to cross the starting line with the gun, and blanketing—that is, sailing just upwind of an opponent’s boat to block its wind—in order to gain position. There could be too much or too little wind, and if you capsized, you had to know how to right your boat and not let it turn turtle (upside down). From 1972 to 1979, the Taft sailors grew from a small group into varsity and junior varsity teams and made their mark as top competitors in the independent school circuit. In 1976, the varsity won the New England Schools Sailing Championships. In 1978, the varsity placed first in the

Interscholastic Invitational Regatta sailed at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. Coach Baker left Taft that year for his home waters on Massachusetts’ Buzzards Bay to teach and coach at Tabor Academy. The next year, Taft roundly beat Tabor’s boats. By 1982 the wind had gone out of the team’s sails, and the program stopped. Baker, in the meantime, was becoming a legend in the world of youth sailing and racing. In 1989 the Interscholastic Sailing Association, which was expanding to include high school teams across the U.S., established the Toby Baker Trophy (thereafter known as “The Baker”), awarded annually to the National High School Team Racing Champions. Happily, this fall the white sails of a new, revived Sailing Team were seen beating and reaching across the waters of Bantam Lake as they reentered interschool competition. j —Alison gilchrist, The Leslie d. Manning Archives

“One of the teachers who had a big

“I grew to both respect and really

“I’m particularly close with

influence on me when I came to

love Larry Stone. He taught us a

Ms. Saarnijoki, who I had for my

Taft was Robin Blackburn. She was

sense of discipline and ethics in

sophomore English class. I love

the sort of person who could take

sports that very few coaches offer

her enthusiasm. I love that she

you into a classroom and demand

anywhere. He taught us that we

teaches every book and talks

your best work. But if you didn’t

could always accomplish more

about every book like it’s her

have your best work that day, she

than we thought if we pushed

favorite thing in the world. She

could still support you.”

ourselves, and he was right—I’ve

really encourages you to love

—Greg Hawes ’85,

remembered that throughout my

reading and think about literature

Head of the Taft History

life. Whenever I’m facing a major

as much as she does.”


challenge of any type, I remember

—Charlotte Anrig ’14

the lessons that Larry taught us.” —George Boggs ’65

Sustaining Taft’s faculty is just one of the priorities of the current capital campaign. To find out more, visit www.taftschool.org/campaign, or contact Director of Development Chris Latham at 860-945-5923 or chrislatham@taftschool.org.

NoNProFIT org


u.s. PosTAgE PAId

The Taft School 110 Woodbury Road Watertown, CT 06795-2100 860-945-7777 www.taftalumni.com

BurLINgToN VT PErMIT # 101

Change Service Requested

Winter Events at taft 79th Service of Lessons and Carols—December 16 Alumni Hockey, Basketball and Squash—January 31 Parents’ Weekend—February 20–21

On the road in December, January and February Atlanta New York City St. Louis Boston Washington, D.C. for More inforMation on our events, Please visit WWW.taFtSChOOl.ORg/EvEntS

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