Fall 2015 Taft Bulletin

Page 1


rooted Fall 2015

In this issue

m Director of Facilities Jim Shepard surveys Bingham Auditorium before the new seats are installed, along with Taft carpenter Roger Pelletier, far right, and a contractor.

FALL 2015



Remembering Taft’s Third Headmaster John Cushing Esty, Jr.



Rooted in Place Rooted in Place: From Ancient Olive Trees on Mallorca to Lush Vineyards in Chile By Linda Hedman Beyus and Lori Ferguson

38 In Bloom

A Thriving Collaboration Between Taft and The New York Botanical Garden By Debra Meyers

3 5 14 46

On Main Hall Alumni Spotlight Around the Pond Tales of a Taftie: George Ripley Cutler Class of 1912 48 Alumni Notes 91 Milestones 96 From the Archives: Farming for Golf



Taft Bulletin / Fall 2015


Fall 2015

Volume 86, Number 1 Editor Linda Hedman Beyus Director of Marketing and Communications Kaitlin Thomas Orfitelli Assistant Director of Marketing and Communications Debra Meyers photography Robert Falcetti Alumni Notes Assistant Natasha Schwartz

On the Cover

Liz Barratt-Brown ’77 at her family’s working olive oil finca on the island of Mallorca, in Spain. An abcMallorca Production www.abc-mallorca.com

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




Design Good Design, LLC | www.gooddesignusa.com Send alumni news to Taft Bulletin | Alumni Office The Taft School 110 Woodbury Road, Watertown, CT 06795-2100 taftbulletin@taftschool.org Deadlines for Alumni Notes Fall–August 30 | Winter–November 15 | Spring–February 15 | Summer–May 15 Send address corrections to Cathy Mancini | Alumni Records The Taft School 110 Woodbury Road, Watertown, CT 06795-2100 taftrhino@taftschool.org 860-945-7777 | www.TaftAlumni.com 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 beyusl@taftschool.org 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 2015

On Main Hall

A Word from Headmaster Willy MacMullen ’78 Why We Do What We Do: The “Why” of Taft

A really successful organization has a very clear answer to the question, “Why do we do what we do?” That’s the argument Simon Sinek makes in his book Start with Why. And while the book’s focus is on the corporate world—on successful companies with effective leaders—there’s a lot for us here at Taft. Why we do what we do is where we should start every academic year, and that’s how the faculty and I started in the last week of August, when we gathered together for our opening faculty meeting. Sinek argues that it’s pretty easy to describe what an organization does (its services, offerings, practices, and so on), and not much harder to explain how it does it (its traditions and beliefs). And to be clear, what and how are important. But what and how don’t excite people, especially as most organizations—and even schools—have plenty of competitors that offer pretty much the same what and how. Great organizations understand something really profound: that they have to be able to confidently and clearly answer the question, “Why do we do what we do?” “People don’t buy WHAT you do,” Sinek writes repeatedly, “they buy WHY you do it.” It’s inside-out communication. When an organization “defines itself by what it does, that’s all it will ever be able to do….” But, he writes, when an organization “clearly communicates their WHY, what they believe” [emphasis mine], and then, in turn, “we believe what they believe, then we will sometimes go to extraordinary lengths to include that product in our lives.” You end up with people lining up a day in advance for the new iPhone, flying only Southwest Airlines, and tattooing the Harley-Davidson logo on their bodies. Putting aside the corporate “product” language, that’s what we want to be as a school: an organization that is clear, consistent, and compelling in articulating WHY we do what we do. It’s something we have done really well throughout our history—our mission has never changed. And we will remain a great school long into the future so long as everything we do—from the design of a course to the practices in our dormitories to the counsel we give an advisee—flows from a clear and shared sense of why we do what we do. I like to think that if you asked anyone in the Taft family—student, trustee, alumnus/ae, teacher, or parent—you would hear a lot of versions of the same thing. You would hear lots of iterations of “the education of the whole student.” I think Horace Taft had a really clear understanding of why he founded his school, and my guess is that he would be comfortable with the answer I offered the faculty when I asked myself why we did what we did: Because we believe that when we educate the whole student we shape the kind of people the world needs. It’s a pretty good answer, I said at our meeting, but it’s only one answer. Answering the question “Why do we do

“Because we believe that when we educate the whole student we shape the kind of people the world needs.”

Taft Bulletin / Fall 2015


From the


“I looked out on a group of 123 of the most extraordinary teachers I have known, men and women of passion, caring, and commitment, all of us about to start the beautiful work of a school year.”

what we do?” is where we should start every year and each day, I suggested. Is there a better place to start? Under each chair I had placed an index card and pencil. I asked my colleagues to write a single sentence, their answer to this essential question. The room went quiet. We were students again. We all scribbled responses. I looked out on a group of 123 of the most extraordinary teachers I have known, men and women of passion, caring, and commitment, all of us about to start the beautiful work of a school year. We stopped writing. I gathered the cards at the end of my remarks, and today they sit on my desk, wrapped in a rubber band like a wad of bills. It’s a kind of currency in aspiration, idealism, and hope. I leaf through them often. Most mornings begin with an email to the faculty, and I share a teacher’s response to the question on why we do what we do. The why is seminal. It’s existential. It’s a belief, and not just any belief. It’s the belief. It’s what that rests like bedrock beneath everything. In a school like Taft, it’s what awakens and inflames us each day. Here are a few. Can you imagine what it is like to be at a school where every teacher wakes up every day thinking like this? Teaching the whole student helps them become the best individual they can be, and they then, in turn, make their communities better, use a strong moral compass to improve conditions for those less fortunate, and pass on to all they meet the passion for lifelong learning instilled at Taft. To send out into the world well-educated and thoughtful and finely tuned minds to fulfill Horace Taft’s dream, “Not to be served but to serve.” To educate the whole student, beyond books and labs, and instill in them the courage to know and act on what is right. To share the love of my discipline, to be a good role model, and to be involved with teenagers every day. Because our students benefit so greatly from experiencing risk-taking and the failure or success that comes with it. Because we believe that helping these students become the best possible versions of themselves—smart, informed, thoughtful, critical, compassionate, with a deep sense of community connection and responsibility to use their gifts and time for the betterment of others—will make them, our world, and our collective future better. Because we love it.

Willy MacMullen ’78


Taft Bulletin / Fall 2015

Alumni Spotlight Game Day Every Day

An annual tradition, Weinberger (third from left) poses with his Game Day Morning crew (including former NFL coach Steve Mariucci, host Rich Eisen, and NFL legends Marshall Faulk, Michael Irvin, and Kurt Warner) before the start of his 12th season with NFL Network. NFL Network

Summer seems to keep getting

shorter for Eric Weinberger ’90, the executive producer of the NFL Network, the channel devoted to covering the league 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The six weeks between June 1 and July 15 are the quietest days on the NFL calendar, but it’s all relative. Aiming to please more than 70 million subscribers—all craving constant updates on their favorite

teams and players—as Weinberger puts it, “there is no slow period.” The collective anticipation for the start of another NFL season has only intensified since Weinberger helped launched the network in November 2003. He was there when host Rich Eisen opened the first broadcast with the line that captured so many feelings: “Your dreams have indeed come true.”

Standing in the control room, Weinberger might have sworn that Eisen was speaking directly about him. A New Jersey native, Weinberger captained the baseball team at Taft and played varsity hockey his junior and senior years (Weinberger never played football). After his hockey career dissolved a couple years later at Union College, he jumped into broadcasting, continued on page 9—

Taft Bulletin / Fall 2015


Alumni Spotlight

Interpreting the Natural World—Playfully Bridging the gap between science Jill Bermingham Isenhart ’82 and Chip Isenhart, with lifesized sculptures they designed for the Denver Zoo’s new entry plaza and courtyard.


Taft Bulletin / Fall 2015

and storytelling is where Jill Bermingham Isenhart ’82 and her husband, Chip, find the most satisfaction, and their lifelong love of environmental science and biology has translated into their business, ECOS Communications. Their firm, based in Boulder, Colorado, takes complex scientific information and translates that into compelling, interesting, and fun exhibits. “We wanted to bridge the gap” between scientists and graphic designers who were trying to communicate information about particular species or areas of conservation, she says. Their clients include parks, museums, nature centers, zoos, and research centers across the globe. “We’re always looking for that sweet spot with our clients: what story do they want their visitors to know, what’s unique about their sites,” she says. “Typically there are way too many stories. Our real mission is to instill conservation action. That’s why we got into it.” After graduating from Taft, Isenhart majored in environmental science at Bowdoin College and received a master’s degree from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies with an emphasis on environmental communication. She and Chip founded ECOS in 1991. “We did a bunch of interesting work with the Environmental Protection Agency on Superfund sites, but it wasn’t very rewarding personally,” she says. The couple wondered, “Is this where we want to put our energy?” As the company grew, the Isenharts decided to put their love of conservation of endangered species and habitats into their company. “It’s science and art combined—a transformation that leads visitors to new discoveries about their world, their lives, and themselves,” according to the company’s website. The company has created informational signage and exhibits for many different clients in the United States, but an urge to continue their

Alumni Spotlight  An interactive elephant ears exhibit is a playful way to combine learning and fun at a zoo.

m Working with senior park managers in Tanzania, Isenhart evaluates elements of the visitor experience at Serengeti National Park’s main entrance.

work on an international level led to a remarkable journey that found them designing interpretive material in Kenya and China with their children. “We wanted to expose our kids to what our passion was about,” she says. “It was an incredible six months and life-changing in many ways. We wanted to be in areas that could inspire us and where we could really make a difference and give back in

our field of conservation education.” Their work led to the creation of visitor center and trail designs for the Nature Conservancy at China’s first-ever private nature preserve. While in China, the family lived for two months with a local Chinese family that didn’t speak any English. “We had this grandmother who’d lived through the Cultural Revolution and

knew how to live off the plants and nuts in the forest preserve,” Isenhart says. “It was just an amazing experience.” This past June found the family working for Tanzania’s national parks. The Isenharts consulted on ways to improve the visitor experience in five different national parks, including the Serengeti. “We’re pinching ourselves,” Isenhart says. “I can’t imagine doing anything else. It’s a great blend of avocation and vocation.” The company has a variety of both international and American clients, especially the Denver Zoo, where they designed interpretive experiences and the conservation storylines for the Toyota Elephant Passage and Primate Panorama. ECOS also developed the identity and signage for the zoo’s Janus Welcome Center, along with a brand and exterior identity for one of the most important revenue-generating components of the institution—its gift shop. Currently, while ECOS is finalizing its master planning work in Tanzania, the company is also working on an interpretive center in Oakland, California, where endangered species will be the focus (for more about their work see www.ecos.us). “It’s one thing when [visitors] are reading the interpretive signs,” she says. “But our goal is to instill appreciation, then move them up the spectrum to take conservation action.” “That’s what keeps us going day to day,” she adds. “We don’t take on any projects unless they’re tied to our mission. You’ve got to start with having people care. That’s where we try to make it fun and accurate. It’s a tricky balance— they’re not thinking they are there to learn. We try to angle it so it’s empowering and [can] change the world.” j —Bonnie Blackburn-Penhollow ’84

Taft Bulletin / Fall 2015


 Don George ’71 takes in the landscape and culture of Bali.

Wanderlust For Don George ’71, life has been a magnificent journey so far, in every sense of the word. His travels have taken him to exotic locales both near and far, from the sheer rock face of Yosemite’s beloved Half Dome to a lonely stretch of sand in the Galápagos inhabited by red-footed boobies, black marine iguanas, and a family of sea lions, and on to Pakistan’s legendary Karakoram Highway, where he confronted the very real prospect of death through natural disaster or civil unrest. Throughout it all, George has maintained his sense of wonder and delight, sharing his observations and experiences in more than 700 published articles. Characterized as the most influential travel writer and editor of his generation, George has visited more than 90 countries in 40 years, sharing his adventures in publications from the San Francisco Examiner to National Geographic Traveler. Yet, when questioned, he seems genuinely astonished at his success and good


Taft Bulletin / Fall 2015

fortune. “The path I’ve traveled in my career has been a very organic journey,” he says. “I’ve never thought of the end point of my career—I’ve always just followed the road to see where it goes. And as fate would have it, I’ve been able to do what I love my whole life.” After graduating from Princeton with degrees in English and comparative literature, George set off for a year abroad—beginning with a Summer Work Abroad internship in Paris and then moving on to a teaching fellowship in Athens. It was during this period that the travel bug bit, and hard. Immersed in the language, literature, and life of these foreign cultures, George realized this way of learning delighted him as nothing had before. Upon returning to the States, he entered a one-year master’s program in creative writing, and when his essay on climbing Mount Kilimanjaro—written for a class assignment—was picked up by a national magazine, he realized

he had found his calling. Three-plus decades later, George’s enthusiasm for his craft shows no signs of abating. “I never tire of traveling,” he says with a rush of enthusiasm. “Every trip is a new experience. Each time I set out on a journey, I’m a different person than I was the last time, so even if I’m going to a place I know intimately, my interest in the adventure is fresh—return trips just provide a wonderful layering of experience.” And, George says, his response to each journey is visceral. “I have an amazing response to learning in this way,” he confesses. “I’m energized by being on the road. There’s all this newness to apprehend, and when you’re in a foreign place, you can be whomever you want, refashion yourself. I absolutely love the anonymity—it’s very liberating. ” George first fell under the thrall of the writing life while still a student at Taft, where he served as editor of the student-produced literary magazine and

Alumni Spotlight wrote poetry. A course with renowned Taft English teacher William Nicholson cemented his passions. “Mr. Nicholson communicated his passion for great literature so fervently that he inspired me to create my own,” he observes. The world is a vast cultural mosaic, George notes, and traveling has not only made him a keener observer of everyday life but also, he believes, a bigger human being with a bigger heart. “Writing about my travels has doubly reinforced my experiences for me, because I have to digest what I’ve learned and distill the lesson, for myself and for my readers.” This can be challenging, George concedes, since as a writer you’re trying to convey a personal, subjective experience in a way that resonates with someone who hasn’t had that experience, or perhaps even visited the place you’re describing. But in the end, he says, no matter the subject, you’re striving to say something

about the meaning of life. “The experiences you choose to highlight and the methods you invoke to make that message resonate with your reader, these are the things that make travel writing both challenging and incredibly rewarding.” George recently published a new book, The Way of Wanderlust, a series of essays that represent a culmination of 40 years of traveling and 38 years of publishing stories. “Producing this book gave me a wonderful chance to reflect on years past,” he notes, “and I’m filled with gratitude for the life that I’ve led—so many people have shown me such incredible kindnesses over the years. I came away from the project with a profound sense of wonder and gratitude. I hold the book and think, ‘This is my life!’ I’m thrilled that it’s out in the world.” j —Lori Ferguson

 C’est magnifique! George fully “at home” in France.

—Weinberger, continued from page 5

specifically directing and producing shows and events. His professional career began at ESPN before he and his wife, Alexandra, moved to Los Angeles to join a Fox Sports crew that launched national programming in 1996. “I’ve always been, even in my teenage years, producing performances,” Weinberger said. A noteworthy example of this was when he arranged a gameshow-like production modeled off of Hollywood Squares while at Taft, using the dorm room windows of HDT. When the opportunity arose in 2003 to leave Fox and join the burgeoning NFL Network, he considered it a “no-brainer.” Since its inception, the NFL Network’s audience has grown far beyond its initial reach of only 11.5 million homes to now commanding more than $1.1 billion in revenue. Its production staff ballooned

from 20 people to over 150 in 2015, which is partly why it was necessary to expand their original studio space in Culver City, California, into a sprawling complex of 135,000 square feet. The network also now televises 16 games a season, each of which Weinberger attends, normally sitting in the production trucks. On a daily basis, he oversees and manages all aspects of the network’s productions and has been responsible for recruiting and hiring the network’s considerable on-air talent. “We’re really proud of how far we’ve come,” Weinberger said. “I don’t think we really envisioned the scope of where we’re at right now.” Weinberger said the best parts of his job are when he gets to travel for major events like the Super Bowl or the Draft— and a signed Eli Manning jersey for his

youngest son, Eli, could be considered a nice perk. (He also has three other children, Jack, Emma, and Charlotte.) But it can be a stressful job with long hours. On Sundays during the season, Weinberger is at his office by 4 a.m., when the first pregame show airs for viewers just waking up on the East Coast. He stays until the last postgame show wraps up, a 19-hour workday. “I monitor the games, and the pregame and postgame shows,” Weinberger said. “Just to make sure technically, operationally, and editorially that we’re going down the right path.” On the other hand, he said he’s fulfilling a lifelong dream: producing sports entertainment for millions to enjoy, so a shorter summer may just be worth it. j —Zach Schonbrun ’05

Taft Bulletin / Fall 2015


Alumni Spotlight

Odd Mom Out is In Jill Kopelman Kargman ’92

describes her Bravo television show Odd Mom Out as “a love letter to New York.” The same could be said of “Wednesday Addams in Barbietown,” an essay in Kargman’s 2011 memoir Sometimes I Feel Like a Nut—although in the case of that essay, the love letter would be addressed to Taft. “When I got there in the late ’80s, Taft was not diverse at all,” Kargman says. “I was in the two Jew club. I [evoked] this darkness with my motorcycle jacket and I think people probably thought I was kind of an odd bird…. I felt like an outsider even though I was steeped in it.” (She grew up in New York City attending Spence and as the daughter of Arie Kopelman, an ad executive who went on to become the president of Chanel.) But now she credits Taft with being “the place where I came together as a person.” “Everything that made me came together at Taft and the codification of my personality happened at Taft,” she says. “Even though Yale is considered this challenging, academic apex of intellectual thought, I totally came together as a student at Taft.” Odd Mom Out, which is Bravo’s first scripted series and has been renewed for a second season, is really “kind of an echo of my Taft days,” she says.

Jill Kopelman Kargman ’92 on the set of her show Odd Mom Out. Bravo

Most of the show’s action takes place on the Upper East Side. “I’m in it and I love it and I appreciate it for what it is, especially the beauty and the quiet and the architecture and some of the traditional aspects,” Kargman says. “I like how children are well-mannered and...people are polished, [but] I can also recognize the excess and some of the over-thetop behavior, so I see it for what it is.” Like Kargman’s Taft essay, the show doesn’t put anyone down and she doesn’t believe any part of it is mean-spirited. Rather, it’s “all observations made with love.” Kargman plays a fictionalized version of herself whose sister-in-law Brooke, played by Saturday Night Live alum Abby Elliott, is a perky, blonde “momzilla” (Momzillas is the title of Kargman’s 2014 novel) who never shows during her pregnancy. (Kargman’s actual sister-in-law is another blonde, the actress Drew Barrymore.) “That came up as the symbol of the show for me,” Kargman says, “because I meet women who say, ‘I’m due any day now,’ and they just look like me after a Mexican meal. I swear their kid is going to be the size of a Diet Coke can and be on life support. Every time I say, ‘Wow, you are like a supermodel! You don’t even look three months pregnant!’

They’re like, ‘Please, I’m Shamu. Please, I’m Oprah and Gayle tied together.’ No one can take a compliment.” The show, therefore, is a “hyperbolized version of reality” in which Brooklyn mothers are still breastfeeding their children at age four. And there’s perhaps no one better than Kargman to be writing and starring in it. “I’m steeped in it, but I’ve always felt like I have one foot in and one foot out,” she says. After finding her writing voice in Barclay Johnson’s English classes at Taft and graduating with an art history degree after just three years at Yale, Kargman embarked on a tour of Europe that included filing a story for Vogue from Singapore at the ripe age of 20. A few years on the staff of Interview magazine followed before Kargman teamed up with Carrie Doyle Karasyov ’90, who at the time worked at Harper’s Bazaar, to write Intern, a movie based on their horror stories of the magazine world. It was shown at Sundance in 2000 and got the duo an agent, but they had no creative control during production and soon realized they preferred writing books. More books followed. Kargman eventually ended up as a copywriter at Ogilvy & Mather, where a client told her she could have a television show of her own. Her office mates helped her make a sizzle reel for a “morning show with more edge” called Wake the F--k Up. It never got off the ground, but it caught the eye of Bravo’s Andy Cohen, who said the network wanted to work with Kargman after seeing what she could do. Odd Mom Out is the result: “A show in the world of Momzillas but in the voice of Sometimes I Feel Like a Nut,” Kargman says. “It’s really just about fitting in and catching up…and being a black sheep, essentially.” j —Sam Dangremond ’05



The Way of Wanderlust: The Best Travel Writing of Don George

Don George ’71 As a professional travel writer and editor for the past 40 years, Don George has been paid to explore the world. Through the decades, his articles have been published in magazines, newspapers, and websites around the globe and have won numerous awards, yet his pieces have never been collected into one volume until now. The Way of Wanderlust: The Best Travel Writing of Don George is a moving and inspiring collection of tales and reflections from his traveling experiences and is inspired and visually rich writing. From his high-spirited account of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro on a whim when he was 22 years old to his moving description of a home-stay in a muddy compound in Cambodia as a 61-year-old, this collection ranges widely. As renowned for his insightful observations as for his poetic prose, George always absorbs the essence of the places he’s visiting. Other stories include a moving encounter with Australia’s sacred red rock monolith, Uluru; an immersion in kindness on the Japanese island of Shikoku; the trials and triumph of ascending Yosemite’s Half Dome with his wife and children; and a magical morning at Machu Picchu. Read more about Don George in this issue’s Spotlight section (see page 8).

Henry Clay: America’s

The East Is Black: Cold

Greatest Statesman

War China in the Black

Harlow Giles Unger ’49 In a critical and little-known chapter of early American history, Harlow Giles Unger tells how a fearless young Kentucky lawyer threw open the doors of Congress during the nation’s formative years and prevented dissolution of the infant American republic. The only freshman congressman ever elected speaker of the house, Henry Clay brought an arsenal of rhetorical weapons to subdue feuding members of the House of Representatives and established the speaker as the most powerful elected official after the president. During 50 years in public service— as congressman, senator, secretary of state, and four-time presidential candidate—Clay constantly battled to save the Union, summoning uncanny negotiating skills to force bitter foes from North and South to compromise on slavery and forego secession. His famous Missouri Compromise and four other compromises thwarted civil war “by a power and influence,” Lincoln said, “which belonged to no other statesman of his age and times.”

Radical Imagination

Robeson Taj Frazier ’99 During the Cold War, several prominent African American radical activistintellectuals—including W.E.B. Du Bois and Shirley Graham Du Bois, journalist William Worthy, Marxist feminist Vicki Garvin, and freedom fighters Mabel and Robert Williams— traveled and lived in China. There, they used a variety of media to express their solidarity with Chinese communism and to redefine the relationship between Asian struggles against imperialism and black American movements against social, racial, and economic injustice. In The East Is Black, Taj Frazier examines the ways in which these figures and the Chinese government embraced the idea of shared struggle against U.S. policies at home and abroad. He analyzes their diverse cultural output (newsletters, print journalism, radio broadcasts, political cartoons, lectures, and documentaries) to document how they imagined communist China’s role within a broader vision of a worldwide anticapitalist coalition against racism and imperialism. Frazier is an assistant professor at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at USC. j

If you would like your work added to the Hulbert Taft Library’s Alumni Authors Collection and considered for this column, please send a copy to: Taft Bulletin | The Taft School | 110 Woodbury Road | Watertown, CT 06795-2100

Taft Bulletin / Fall 2015


Remembering Taft’s Third Headmaster

John Cushing Esty, Jr. August 8, 1928–October 22, 2015

John Cushing Esty, Jr., Taft’s headmaster from 1963 to 1972, died on October 22 in Concord, Massachusetts, from complications related to stroke at the age of 87. He was known as an educator and foundation executive who spearheaded a number of national reform movements in a career spanning six decades. Esty was known as a modernizer of institutions, a leader who sought to integrate the best practices of the private and public school worlds, and a voice for the inclusion of women and people of color into educational and leadership opportunities of all kinds. After serving in the Air Force, he began his career as an admissions officer, mathematics teacher, and associate dean at Amherst College. In 1963, he was named headmaster of the Taft School. At Taft, Esty led the drive to admit girls and updated the curriculum to include an innovative independent studies program. Former Headmaster Lance Odden, Esty’s immediate successor at Taft, said, “John was the profound mentor who changed the course of my life. I will forever be grateful for his farsighted vision and wonderful sense of humor, so necessary in the tumultuous 1960s. That Taft survived and is a great school today is a testimony to his transformational leadership in difficult times.” According to Headmaster Willy MacMulllen ’78, Esty, “with his boldness and his restless intellect, took a school of


Taft Bulletin / Fall 2015

the 1950s and ushered it into the modern era. A product of several great and traditional schools—Deerfield, Amherst, and Yale—John was a nontraditional thinker.” “He was really concerned with how students learned,” MacMullen said. “This was a man who was brilliant, but at the same time had the right temperament to lead the school through a very turbulent period.” Esty served as board chair of A Better Chance, a nonprofit group whose mandate was to increase access to independent schools for people of color. A number of high-profile people benefitted from the nonprofit’s initiative, including President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick. In the early 1970s, as a young trustee at Amherst College, he pushed for coeducation and a broader social mission for elite liberal arts colleges. “His own father denounced him for it,” Dan Esty, Esty’s son and a Yale University professor, said of his father’s efforts to get Amherst to admit women. “People don’t realize it now, but what he did at Taft and at Amherst was tremendously difficult, given the time period. It took tremendous personal courage for him to do that.” After leaving Taft in 1972, he switched gears to work in the philanthropic world as a grantmaker and educational program officer at the Rockefeller Brothers Fund in New York. “John’s capacity for and commitment to friendship made him a hero to those of us privileged to

have worked for him and with him,” said William Dietel, former president of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. Moving between the worlds of nonprofit organizations, higher education, and secondary schools, Esty developed a national profile as a writer, thinker, and reformer on educational issues. In 1978, he was appointed president of the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS). As president of NAIS, he sought to reenergize a traditional organization and to respond to the national challenges facing both public and private schools in the 1980s. His brother, Peter Esty, said, “As president of NAIS, John led scores of independent schools in bringing racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic diversity to their enrollments, broadening their profiles, and expanding their reputation as beyond the old elite labels.” Esty also helped launch, and served as a founding board member for, the Recruiting New Teachers initiative, a national public service advertising campaign designed to rebuild the teaching

ranks; it paved the way for successor organizations such as Teach for America. After his retirement from NAIS, Esty taught the course Strategies for Institutional Change to public school administrators at the University of Massachusetts. Having devoted years to the independent school world, he nonetheless sent his four sons to public schools and served on the Concord school board. In recent years, he worked closely with Fenway High School, a Boston pilot school, as an advisor on administration and institutional advancement. According to Peggy Kemp, the head of Fenway, Esty’s “wisdom and warmth, his kindness to all, and his passion for bringing great education to young people of limited means, were an inspiration to teachers, students, and administrators. [An] endowed fund at Fenway, which has enabled skilled college counseling for hundreds of students, was named in his honor: the John C. Esty, Jr. College Advisory Fund.” He was known as a gifted writer and public speaker, and a committed, sometimes irreverent, executive who excelled at leading organizations to, and through, real change. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, as military services advisor at Amherst College, he wrote several widely read articles in The Nation and The New York Times aimed at rethinking the draft process for American college students. He was the author of Choosing a Private School (1974) and many editorials and essays on school issues ranging from tuition tax credits for private schools and the voucher movement to public and private school collaboration and the future of the teaching profession.

Esty served as a trustee or advisor to dozens of school and foundation boards, including Amherst College, Camp Agawam in Raymond, Maine, Robert College in Istanbul, Turkey, the Harlem Ministers Conference, the National Center for Nonprofit Boards, and the Charles Hayden Foundation. He was a longtime member of the Century Association in New York. He was born on August 9, 1928, in White Plains, New York, to John Cushing Esty and Virginia Place Esty. His father was an advertising executive in New York, then an apple grower and furniture maker in Amherst, Massachusetts. The Esty family has been in New England since the 1600s and includes Mary Towne Esty, who was hanged in Salem on charges of witchcraft in 1692. He was educated in the Chappaqua, New York, public schools, then at Deerfield Academy, before earning degrees at Amherst College and Yale. At Amherst, he was a member of the soccer team and the Double Quartet singing group. He served as a first lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force from 1951 to 1953 and then as a captain in the reserves until 1958. In 1959 to 1960, he did graduate work at UC Berkeley in the history of science; he was awarded an honorary doctorate from Amherst in 1970, and he was awarded Taft’s highest alumni honor in 1972, the Horace D. Taft Alumni Medal, then known as the Citation of Merit. A resident of Concord since 1972, he was a dedicated town citizen, having served over the years as board chair for the Greeley Foundation for Peace and Justice; as an enthusiastic tenor

in the Concord Chorus; as an avid participant in a retired men’s ping-pong club; a corporator of Emerson Hospital; a devoted member of the First Parish Unitarian church; and a longtime member of the Concord Social Circle, a civic issues group dating back to the 1780s. Known for his antic wit and curious mind, Esty visited every continent, studied mathematics and astronomy, built radios, made home-pressed cider in his driveway for family and friends, and always shopped at small, independent stores in Concord to support local entrepreneurs. He enjoyed singing, reading, writing, gardening, and traveling with his wife and family. He was a beloved husband, father, grandfather, brother, and friend with an unusual gift for music, magic, and merriment. He had a special capacity to connect with people from all walks of life, especially children. “My father was one of those miraculous, multitalented people whose skills appear to come as if from nowhere: he could pick up musical instruments and new languages with ease; he could fix engines and charm dogs; he was as happy on the floor doing card tricks for his grandchildren as he was testifying before Congress on educational policy,” notes his son, Jed Esty. He is survived by his wife of 60 years, Katharine, and their four sons, Dan, Paul, Ben, and Jed. He is also survived by his brothers, David and Peter, and by 10 grandchildren. j Courtesy of the MacRae-Tunnicliffe Concord Funeral Home and the New Haven Register. Photographs courtesy of The Leslie D. Manning Archives at Taft.

For more information, visit www.taftschool.org/news

Around the Pond By Debra Meyers

Partners, PALs, and Summer Prep Gerry Calles ’18 is a middler at Taft, but has been attending classes here much longer. A rising eighth grader in the summer of 2012, Gerry was among the first local students to participate in a unique program uniting Taft and the Waterbury Police Activity League (PAL), and preparing PAL students for the rigors of the SSAT. Gerry joined the Taft School-Police Activity League Summer Enrichment Academy in its second year, and has been part of it ever since. This past summer Gerry took on the role of teaching assistant and mentor. “From the first day of the PAL program, I realized that Taft was where I wanted to be,” said Gerry. “The summer school teachers were extremely helpful through the years in preparing me to meet that goal. Now I am able to help people in the same way—to give that same experience to other PAL students. It makes me very proud.” The Academy was the brainchild of Waterbury native and Taft alumna Laura Monti ’89. Before it was established in 2011, two PAL students each summer were awarded admission and full scholarships to Taft’s traditional five-week Summer School program. But there were always more than 20 applicants for the two prized spots, leading Monti to wonder, what can we do for the rest of them? Monti, along with husband and fellow faculty member Jeremy Clifford, began thinking about more and meaningful ways to provide not just summer opportunities for area students, but to open educational doors. “A lot of Waterbury students are


Taft Bulletin / Fall 2015

Taft’s Tamara Sinclair ’05 gives Janelle Obuobi-Djan tips on balancing her budget.

interested in applying to Taft, and schools like Taft,” said Clifford, “but sometimes do not do well on the required standardized testing. These are highly motivated learners with very good grades who are just not familiar with the kinds of questions they will see on the SSAT. It is not a question of ability so much as it is exposure to the type of material presented on the test.” With financial support from a Palamar Fellowship and boots-on-the-ground support from then Waterbury Police Lieutenant and PAL team member Robert Cizauskas, Monti and Clifford launched the Academy in 2011. There were seven rising eighth graders in the classroom, working primarily on SSAT preparation. Successful in both concept and execution, Monti was able to garner additional

m Program participant Anjavie Thompson finds the summer program both fun and rewarding.

This past summer, a record number of students enrolled in the Taft-PAL Summer Enrichment Academy.

 The music elective brought students (from left) Mia Parker, Genesis Mir, and Morrgan Damia to their feet this past summer.

financial resources to not only bring the program back in 2012, but to expand it to include rising seventh graders, as well. “We had past participants complete surveys about their experience with us,” explained Monti. “Overwhelmingly they complained about aging out—they wanted to stay with us longer, and mounted a campaign to add an academic enrichment component that would allow them to stay another year.” Today, the Academy welcomes rising sixth through ninth graders. The curriculum has expanded to include academic enrichment across the board, in addition to the SSAT mentoring at the heart of the initial program. Nearly 60 PAL students spent four weeks on campus this past summer, the largest group to date. They were taught and mentored by 17 current and former Taft students, including Gerry Calles. And in each of the last three years, multiple Academy graduates have been admitted to Taft. “What I love about this program—and what parents tell us all the time—is that it helps students recognize that they have the academic ability to strive for things they might not otherwise have thought possible,” explains Monti. “I want them to see that they have academic choices; that there is an environment

where being nerdy can be a cool thing.” Jia LiAn Stolfi completed her second year at the Academy this past summer. Her mother, Christine, has seen the impact of the program. “Jia enrolled in the program to expand her academic knowledge,” Stolfi said. “This is something she wanted to do—she really enjoys learning. She’s been challenged, which is great. She gained new focus and really, fully realized how much she loves to learn. Jia uses her new vocabulary words spontaneously, then laughs and says, ‘I used one of my new words.’ That’s what is important for me—that what she is learning here carries over into the real world.” The Academy goes a long way in preparing participants for the real world. Students attend three classes each day: math, English, and an elective of their choosing. Electives this past summer included astronomy, public speaking, and the enormously popular “Game of Life.” Led by Taft Director of Multicultural Recruitment Tamara Sinclair ’05, “Game of Life” was a crash course in real-world living. Sinclair randomly assigned each student a job and a corresponding salary; students got paid—and visited their banker—each day. They built budgets and, just like in the real world, paid bills, which might include mortgage or rent,

insurance, utilities, and car payments. They also needed to budget for gas, savings, charitable donations, entertainment, and, of course, a cell phone bill. “Just starting this kind of conversation is so important,” says Sinclair. The real-world applications also extend to the current and former Taft students working as teachers and mentors at the Academy. “It has been very important to me to share with them what a great career teaching is,” says Monti. “They have embraced the opportunity. Those students who have returned for multiple summers have taken the lead in updating and implementing curriculum, and in mentoring the firstyear teaching assistants. Their growth and autonomy as teachers is also incredible.” PAL student turned PAL mentor and assistant teacher Gerry Calles agrees. “The teachers have taught me strategies; they show me what helped them and what didn’t, and now I use those strategies with other PAL students. This program is filled with amazing people, challenging academics, and it is even a lot of fun. It has been rewarding to share my experience and to show people the school I’m so proud of.” j The Taft School-PAL Summer Enrichment Academy is funded in part by grants from the Edward E. Ford Foundation, and the Ion Bank Foundation. The Waterbury Police Activity League (PAL) is a not-for-profit organization which promotes partnerships between youth, law enforcement, and the community through educational, athletic, and recreational programs designed to encourage team building and foster positive relationships. For more information, visit www.waterburypal.org.

Taft Bulletin / Fall 2015


Around the POND

Playing to Win Eight budding squash players from around the country traveled to Watertown in July as part of an expanded partnership between Taft’s Summer School program and the National Urban Squash and Education Association (NUSEA). Based in New York City, NUSEA provides structure, guidance, and organizational know-how to 22 member programs across the globe. Those programs engage more than 2,000 students at every grade level through intensive after-school, weekend, and summer programming, which includes academic support and enrichment, squash instruction and competition, community service programming, college guidance, and mentoring. Seeds for the Taft/NUSEA partnership were first sown in 2009, when Taft Summer School hosted Andrew Cadienhead ’13. A rising lower mid, Andrew was also a member of CitySquash, NUSEA’s Bronx, New York, program.

“The concept is to provide students with a window into the world of private liberal education at a top-tier boarding school,” explained Taft Summer School Director Tom Antonucci. “It is a wonderful opportunity for students to see what academic life would be like at a school like Taft.” In 2013, Taft Summer School hosted a student from Squash Haven, NUSEA’s New Haven, Connecticut, affiliate; another Squash Haven student arrived in 2014. Last fall, Taft trustee Drummond Bell ’63, a member of NUSEA’s board of directors, met with Antonucci and Taft Admissions Director Peter Frew ’75 to talk about not only growing the number of NUSEA students attending Taft’s five-week summer session, but about expanding the geographic reach of the partnership, as well. Together, the team developed and executed a plan that brought eight squash scholars to Taft this summer. “Summer School agreed to provide

half-scholarships to each of the students,” notes Antonucci. “Drum and the Bell Foundation generously donated a large portion of the remaining cost. It shows the kind of person he is—always working to do more for Taft and for the community.” Christopher Olsen ’98 also helped sponsor the eight student athletes, who came to Watertown from NUSEA programs in New Haven, Detroit, San Diego, Chicago, New York City, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and the Bronx. “Thanks to Tom, Peter, Christopher, and Willy MacMullen, this summer’s program for these youngsters certainly reflects our school’s motto, non ut sibi ministretur sed ut ministret—not to be served, but to serve,” said Bell. “When we met with all eight of the participants, they talked about the community atmosphere and how thankful they were for the opportunity Taft now extends throughout the NUSEA organization.” The students also talked about the

Tilling the Soil: 2015 Convocation Address A school’s success and its achievement—the happiness of students and faculty and staff—it cannot be separated from culture…. It is created by each one of us in the room in a thousand acts, through a hundred practices, in scores of traditions. Headmaster Willy MacMullen ’78 explored Taft’s rich culture during his convocation address in September.


Taft Bulletin / Fall 2015

With those words, Headmaster William R. MacMullen ’78 opened the 2015–16 school year for 594 Taft students. In a convocation address that was at once instructive and inspiring, students, faculty, and staff were encouraged and empowered to embrace, build, and

Around the POND

solid academic preparation the program provides. “I’ve had a lot of fun, but also learned a lot while I’ve been here,” said San Diego native Angela Guzman. “I’m studying biology, which I know is really going to help me get ahead when I get back to school. I’ve also learned how to organize my time and plan my studying. It is very fast paced.” According to Antonucci, the academic impact of the program is powerful: One hundred percent of graduating Urban Squash seniors go on to four-year colleges and universities. But for the students attending Summer School, the academics are just one piece of the pie. “For me, this has been all about taking a chance,” explained Duane Rodgers, who took up squash a year ago through Philadelphia’s SquashSmarts program. “I am putting myself out there to meet new people, see new places, and learn new things. And I’m grateful to have accomplished that.” j

advance Taft culture—in word and in deed—throughout the new year. And culture, MacMullen notes, is not something that happens by chance. “You should recognize the root here, the Latin word ‘cultura,’ meaning to cultivate; meaning to till the land,” explained MacMullen. “I like that image. It reminds us that culture is something that is created seasonally, and it takes hard work by everybody.” Culture is created collectively through practices and traditions, MacMullen noted, and carried forth not only through those actions, but also through storytelling. “We tell stories because they carry meaning, because they transmit the

From left, NUSEA Executive Director Tim Wyant, Taft and NUSEA board member Drummond Bell ’63, and Taft Summer School Director Tom Antonucci.

m NUSEA program participants during their

To learn more about NUSEA and its member programs, visit www.NationalUrbanSquash.org.

culture, and they carry on the values we share.” And through a series of powerful stories, MacMullen brought Taft’s culture into clear focus for all in the Taft community. The story of Taft faculty members, who, under no directive other than their understanding of a culture “of almost unfathomable care” and compassion, wandered the halls, watching over students as they spent their first night at Taft amid the confusion, fear, and sadness of 9/11. Students embracing a culture of respect, empathy, and leadership, letting peers know in no uncertain terms that unkind, thoughtless, or derogatory remarks or actions are simply things that will not be tolerated. Stories of new students

time at Taft this past summer: Back row, left to right: Trina Madziwa, Alexandra Estrada, Angela Guzman, Khalip Dunston, and Christopher Lucero; front row, left to right: Dolores Brown, Duane Rodgers, and Retia Patton. Haley Kulikauskas

surprised by the warmth and genuine caring of faculty, of a culture where it is “cool” to be successful both academically and athletically, where “resilience and grit are prized,” and of a culture where, MacMullen said, “honor means everything.” “I hope that you will be a teller and also a listener. I hope that every teacher and student becomes part of the story that we tell years from now that holds some deep truth about our culture…. Remember, we cultivate culture. We till the soil of the school in hopes that something rare and beautiful might spring.” j For a video of the headmaster’s convocation address and other recent speakers at Taft, visit www.vimeo.com/taftschool.

Taft Bulletin / Fall 2015


Rising to the Top:

Tafties Enjoy Success on AP Testing Advanced Placement (AP)

courses offer college-level learning in a wide range of disciplines. AP exams offer students the opportunity to earn college credit by proving they have effectively mastered that college-level material. AP exam scoring is on a scale of 1 (low) to 5 (top), with many colleges and universities requiring a grade of 4 or 5 to merit college credit. Taft currently offers 31 AP courses. Last May, 372 Tafties took a total of 856 AP exams. More than 60% of our students prepared to take the college-level tests this year. Among the results: 60% of those 856 scores were 4s and 5s, indicating the high caliber of both teacher and learning that are hallmarks of a Taft education. Also of note: Luz Lara saw each of her 12 students in AP Spanish Language and Culture earn a 5. This was a first for any teacher in the Modern Language Department. Over in the Wu building, Al Reiff ’80 had all 23 students across two sections of BC Calculus bring home the highest scores available. “You let yourself daydream about results like these,” said Reiff, “but the credit has to go to the students who do the amazing work of producing such tremendous results.” j

m The Global Leadership Institute (GLI) is a program of the Center for Global Leadership and Service, a partnership between Taft School and the City of Waterbury. The program’s mission is to develop a generation of global leaders with a genuine concern for world problems, multiple perspectives on global issues, and skills to contribute toward the resolution of these issues. Each year, 10 students from Taft and 10 students from Waterbury schools are selected to participate in the program as GLI Scholars. A number of participants were honored for their work this summer with the Waterbury Department of Health and Brass City Harvest service internship program. Pictured, from left, are Jamella Lee, dean of global and diversity education; Shasha Alvares ’17; Lauren Fadiman ’17; Sue Pronovost, executive director of Brass City Harvest; Bill Quinn, director of health, city of Waterbury; Brennan Engelhard; Cynthia Vitone P’17; Waterbury Health Department; Christian Milian; Kevin Walston, instructional leadership director for Waterbury public high schools; and Darren Schwartz, chief academic officer for Waterbury public schools. j

e Music for aWhilSeries

2015–16 Taft School Performance

NOVEMBER 20 Carolyn Dorfman Dance Company 7pm • Bingham Auditorium DECEMBER 15 The Taft School’s 80th Service of Lessons and Carols 6pm & 8pm • Woodward Chapel JANUARY 8 Michael Davis, guitar; Jake Jolliff, mandolin (Bluegrass) 7pm • Walker Hall JANUARY 22 Crossover Jazz: Concerto Claude Bolling, composer 7pm • Walker Hall FEBRUARY 26 Ken Nigro Big Band 7pm • Walker Hall

MARCH 4 Pianist Andrew Armstrong and Friends 7pm • Walker Hall MARCH 13 The King of Instruments, Daniel Scifo, organist 5pm • Woodward Chapel

APRIL 15 7:30pm • Woodward Chapel & APRIL 17 3pm • Grace Church in New York City Music for a Great Space with Taft Collegium Musicum, Cantus Excelsus, Woodward Brass Ensemble; Bruce Fifer, conductor

s Visit www.taftschool.org/concert 18

Taft Bulletin / Fall 2015

Around the POND

Alumna Opens Gallery Year Jessica Wynne ’90 kicked off the Mark

W. Potter ’48 Gallery exhibition year with her photography show, 6. Wynne, a photography professor at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology and a Taft Rockwell Visiting Artist, also spoke at Morning Meeting in September, and worked with Taft students in the classroom. Six years ago Wynne started photographing her newborn daughter. Over time, she came to realize that these pictures, along with those she was taking of her mother, allowed her to examine the cyclical nature of life by looking at the beginning and later stages, and to show in these images the universality of such a natural phenomenon.

“As an observer and documentarian, I am witnessing what it looks like for a child to be set free in nature,” Wynne notes. “There is a wildness, or abandon, that the children in these pictures inhabit— having spent the rest of the year amid the organized chaos of a city, here they are liberated. But liberated to what? A natural world that is unknown and unpredictable. It is at once lush and mysterious, scary and dangerous. I want to get at the vulnerability intrinsic to childhood, especially in the face of nature’s grandeur.” After earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the San Francisco Art Institute, Wynne continued her studies at Yale University School of Art, where

she earned a Master in Fine Arts in 1999. Her work, which has been exhibited around the world, is housed in a number of collections, including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Wynne’s editorial and advertising clients include a wide array of magazines and corporations, including The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, Wired, W, BlackBook, Details, Fortune, Newsweek, and Kodak. Wynne currently resides in New York City. j To see more of her work, visit www.jessicawynnephoto.com. For a full gallery schedule, visit www.taftschool.org/pottergallery.

Taft Bulletin / Fall 2015


Around the POND New Faculty Residences

Summer Renewal The summer months are a time to refresh and renew, not only for Taft faculty but for the campus, as well. The Martin Health Center, Horace D. Taft Hall, and Bingham Auditorium were among the Taft spaces getting fresh looks and functional improvements over the past few months. Housed on the first floor of the recently renovated Congdon House, the Martin Health Center was completely gutted, redesigned, and rebuilt. “The new infirmary is configured to optimize the way the facility is used,” explained architect David Thompson, who worked on both the Congdon and Mac House renovations. “Ninety percent of the services provided here are outpatient; that naturally shaped the design of the facility.”

There are two exam rooms, a waiting area, offices, and a dispensary around the main foyer, with patient rooms down a hallway and away from the hub, for privacy and comfort. Each room has beds, a sink, and soft lighting for healing and relaxation. The effect is a warm but professional environment, reminiscent of a neighborhood physician’s office. “We wanted to create a space that not only met state regulations, but that also elevated the space aesthetically,” noted Thompson. “It was important that it not feel like a normal hospital environment.” HDT also underwent substantial renovation, though less obviously so: Much of the work done in the living

Health Center Renovations

space was groundwork for the massive facelift the dorm will get next summer. “The amount of work coordinated here was huge,” said Headmaster Willy MacMullen ’78 during a recent tour of the updated dormitory. “Much of the work done here was infrastructure improvement for the next phase of this two-phase project.” Those infrastructure improvements include the installation of a flush-head sprinkler system, upgraded insulation in the exterior walls, new electrical components—including lighting and power—and an improved data system. Most significantly, the heating system was converted from steam to hot water.

Bingham Auditorium Renovations

“The upgraded heating system was very badly needed,” noted Jim Shepard, Taft’s director of facilities. “It provides for more heating zones throughout the building, giving us better control of heat distribution.” It also eliminated the old, bulky radiators from each dorm room. The units have been replaced by sleeker components with a European flair that pair aesthetically with the complete Phase II room renovations planned for next summer.

“The Phase II work will be comparable in quality to what we have done in Congdon and Mac House, but will keep the original character of HDT,” said Shepard. The summer 2015 project with perhaps the broadest impact was the refurbishment of Bingham Auditorium. The light fixtures were removed and sent out for cleaning, the luster of the wood walls was revived and restored, the beauty of the ceilings rejuvenated and preserved, and windows enhanced with remotely controlled window treatments that include blackout shades. The most dramatic change, however, was the installation of new, custom seating. Every chair in the auditorium was replaced. An adapted installation

configuration allowed for a much-needed net gain of 22 theater seats; Bingham now has a seating capacity of 592. “Bingham has always been one of the more beautiful spots,” said Shepard. “But preserving the wood and ceilings was a challenge. The work that was done here this summer really brought the original beauty back to the space.” The former Alumni and Development Office, with Wade House attached, was also completely renovated this summer, and converted to two faculty residences. j

Taft Bulletin / Fall 2015


Faculty members David Dethlefs, Kerry Bracco, and Matt Mullane traveled to Guatemala this summer with 16 students, marking Taft’s eighth service trip to the country. This year’s group built four houses in addition to other service projects (and challenge soccer matches!) in association with The God’s Child Project. Once the houses were finished, the group traveled to Lake Atitlán and the indigenous market at Chichicastenango. Along the way they visited the Mayan ruins at Iximche. j

Taft Earns Accolades for Going Green LED Initiative Underway

The newest rankings published by the

Environmental Protection Agency place Taft at No. 4 on the list of the top 30 K-12 schools participating in the Green Power Partnership. The Partnership, which currently has more than 1,400 members, is a voluntary program that helps organizations secure electricity generated from renewable sources; it also provides support for groups working to expand and promote their green power leadership. The top 30 list represents the largest green power users among the Partnership’s K-12 member schools; rankings are updated quarterly. The combined green power used by this group totals more than 103 million kilowatt-hours of green power each year, which translates to roughly the same amount of electricity used by 10,000 average American homes. Since 2010, Taft has been purchasing 100 percent of its electricity as green power. According to the EPA, Taft’s annual green power usage of more than 4.5 million kilowatt-hours is equivalent to avoiding the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions 22

Taft Bulletin / Fall 2015

of nearly 700 passenger vehicles per year, or the CO2 emissions from the electricity use of nearly 500 average American homes annually. Taft’s newest green initiative began in earnest earlier this year and involves replacing all lighting on campus with LED fixtures and components. LEDs, or light-emitting diodes, can be more efficient, durable, versatile, and longer lasting than traditional lighting. “The installation of the LED lighting will save the school over $200,000 each year in electricity usage costs, with additional savings in avoided maintenance,” said Gil Thornfeldt, Taft’s CFO and business manager. “We were able to get a zero percent interest loan from Wells Fargo to initiate the project. The cost savings we will realize, in conjunction with supplier incentives, make this a self-funding project; it will pay for itself in the next four years.” Thornfeldt also notes that Taft is the first prep school to move completely to LED components. Both Hotchkiss and Canterbury have made smaller-scale LED conversions. j

Around the POND  New York Times bestselling author, clinical psychologist, and school consultant Dr. Michael Thompson visited campus in September, the first of three visits he will make to Taft this year. Thompson spent time talking with both faculty and students. His work is focused on topics that include the emotional lives of boys, friendships and social cruelty in childhood, the impact of summer camp experiences on child development, the tensions that arise in parent-teacher relationships, and psychological aspects of school leadership. j

m Tafties showed their true

colors during the annual and beloved “Super Sunday” celebration. The tradition helps start each new year with a spirit of collegiality and fun. Perennial favorites like the Crisco slide, egg toss, three-legged race, human pyramid, and tug-of-war continue to bring students together. j

m The girls’ cross

country team wrapped up their preseason-training week this year with a community service trip to Waterbury’s Acts 4 Ministry, a nondenominational, charitable organization that offers comfort while supporting the physical needs of families and individuals in financial distress in the Greater Waterbury area. Acts 4 Ministry distributes clothing to nearly 4,000 people each year, and provides over 1,000 pieces of furniture and housewares. The Taft runners helped sort through donations— folding clothes, organizing housewares, and testing donated electronics. j

“Recognize that hard work matters, have grit and perseverance, and get off to a good start,” Headmaster William R. MacMullen ’78 advised new students during his welcome address on move-in day, Wednesday, September 9. Nearly 200 new students joined the Taft community this year, selected from a pool of more than 1,700 applicants. In all, 594 students hailing from 33 states and 47 countries bring their talent, diversity, passions, and enthusiasm to campus. j

rooted in

Deep roots aren’t only about olive trees winding through the earth on an island for 500 to 1,000 years, or grapevines being pruned and thriving on five vineyards in the Southern Hemisphere. For two Taft alumni, roots are both inherited and embraced. Liz Barratt-Brown ’77 restored her family’s historic olive oil estate, and Alex Huber ’83 has created a new business in winemaking. Roots run deep for both, and their roll-up-your-sleeves commitment is starting to reap benefits that are both tangible and internally rewarding.

place from ancient olive trees on mallorca to lush vineyards in chile

grounding a life among olive trees and sheep by Linda Hedman Beyus


w The historic stone olive press or tafona, which presses esportins (flat baskets) filled with mash under the oak beam for the final pressing. Liz Barratt-Brown ’77 gathers some garden greens at her family’s 13th-century working finca on Mallorca.

ith its ancient olive trees, a watch tower and aqueduct built by the Moors (still carrying water), and traditional ways of harvesting, Liz BarrattBrown’s finca deserves the care she and her family have given it for 40 years. Pedruxella Gran, which means “place among the stones, sits high on a mountainside in Mallorca, Spain, and is the passion and business of Liz Barratt-Brown ’77. Several months each year, Barratt-Brown, together with her husband and their children, is there to work as well as unwind. The large working estate overlooking the Mediterranean has as many facets to it as the jagged mountains around it. The property is a certified organic farm, an olive oil estate, an inn and conference facility, and is home to an organic farming volunteer program off-season. “We work hard to respect nature and reduce our impact,” says Barratt-Brown, about

their life and business at Pedruxella. Barratt-Brown has worked for many years as an environmental attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) in the United States, and now serves as a senior advisor. Her dual-country work and home life has been going on since she and her husband took over the property in 1997, and they’ve put in years of upgrading the estate. Guests can rent houses on the property when the farming program is quieter, and some spaces may be rented for events. “My late British father, Hilary Barratt-Brown, and American stepmother, Patricia, made Pedruxella their home after falling in love with Mallorca in the mid-1970s,” Barratt-Brown says. “He spent a good part of the next 25 years of his life restoring the property, including the ancient olive press. He loved Pedruxella—its history, its tranquility, and the immersion in nature.”

Taft Bulletin / Fall 2015


rooted “After decades of battling some of our most contentious environmental challenges, I can look around me on Mallorca and feel that I am still in the nature that has surrounded this place for over thousands of years.”

The vista from Pedruxella Gran over the Val d’en March, an area so unique it is a UNESCO Heritage Site. An olive tree at Pedruxella—many are 500 years old and some are as old as 1,000 years.

The working estate produces a high-quality, artisanal extra virgin oil that is organic and “slow food” registered. Situated on the south-facing slope above the Val d’en March, its terraces get plenty of sun and are protected from weather. The estate’s roots date back to the 13th century when terraces were built and olive trees planted. The area is so unique that it is now designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Some of the olive trees are 500 to 1,000 years old. Pedruxella Gran is one of the last olive estates on the island to operate its own ancient tafona or olive press. (Its olive press, aqueduct, and Moorish Tower are included in Spain’s historic catalog.) During the fall olive season, it hosts tafonas, or olive pressings, for friends and guests. The day starts with traditional olive collecting on the farm, using nets and long sticks, and ends with a pa amb oli, a Mallorquin dish of farm bread, tomatoes, garlic, salt, and the oil freshly made by stone and oak beam presses. The key to Pedruxella Gran’s uniqueness is that

it has preserved a way of making oil that is rapidly disappearing. “Around us, the ancient trees are either abandoned or are pulled out to make way for younger, more productive trees that can be mechanically harvested,” Barratt-Brown says. The estate supports a herd of Mallorquin sheep, wild and domesticated goats, and carob trees. The farm also has fields for growing feed for the sheep, a large vegetable garden, fruit trees, and grapevines. And their farm manager, Tolo, does a superb job keeping everything going on the estate, she says. Barratt-Brown and her husband collaborate with World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF), a global organization that links people who want to volunteer on organic farms with those who are looking for volunteer help. Over the past nine years, more than 200 volunteers— including Taft alums Casey Nolen Jackson ’77 and Evelyn Windhager-Swanson ’77 and their families—have come from around the world to work at Pedruxella Gran.

Friends and guests assist with the olive harvest during a special fall tafona or olive-pressing gathering.

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We asked Barratt-Brown a few questions about her life on and off Pedruxella Gran:

When you inherited the property from your father, were you sure you would want to continue overseeing and owning it?

An interior courtyard at Pedruxella Gran, with the Moorish tower on the left.

Center: High up in the “place among the stones,” Barratt-Brown takes in the views. An abcMallorca Production


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“I visited my father many times over the years but I had never really put myself in his shoes. I had little understanding of how the farm worked and spoke no Spanish. The first few years were hard. In the beginning, I felt an obligation to carry on his vision. I missed my dad, and this was also a way of keeping him alive. The interesting thing is that we concluded around [that] time that we should sell the farm. I had recently married and had two little babies. And I was still working full time for NRDC, so it just didn’t seem practical to be in a long-distance relationship with a large working farm. Then, as a result of the feedback from prospective buyers that it was too big a project, we decided to move there and focus on the farm with 100 percent of our time and energy [for a given period of time]. We thought we would be there a year, but it stretched longer.


Over that time, we not only made significant upgrades and renovations to the house and property, but we started to put our imprint on its long history. We bottled and labeled our olive oil then, and we launched our volunteer program through WWOOF. We also decided to do more to make the farm available for events and for holiday rentals. Basically, we started down the long road to make it the self-sufficient enterprise it needs to be. We often joke about the myriad of books about buying the quaint little farm in southern France or Italy and restoring it. Well, those houses or farms are all on a few acres. Our farm is on over 600 acres. I guess that is why we haven’t had time to write one of those books!”

What is it like to have a dual home and work life in two countries? It has to be a huge challenge. “In many ways, it has been a huge challenge, but it has also made our family life much richer and stronger. Our children grew up scaling rocks and ledges on our mountaintop and were left to explore on their own from an early age. They grew up with a house full of guests and volunteers from around the world, who would join our family to pick olives and help on the farm. They were plunked full immersion into summer camps and schools where Mallorquin (a dialect of Catalan) was the only language spoken. There is no doubt in my mind that it has fundamentally shaped who they are today. For many environmental activists, it is hard to find peace in the nature that we are fighting to preserve. Spain has given me that lovely place where I can relax and be at peace. I have my hands in our green garden or am chasing after sheep that need to be corralled, or am hitting olive trees with sticks while surrounded by friends and family, something so rooted in time and place that that grounding comes back to ground me too. After decades of battling some of our most contentious environmental challenges, I can look around me [on Mallorca] and feel that I am still in the nature that has surrounded this place for over thousands of years.

When I inherited the farm, I had already worked for nearly two decades for NRDC, [which] gave me a lot of flexibility that I might not have had in another job. My team at NRDC is incredibly understanding, and we make the most of my time when I am in D.C. Luckily, the issues I have worked most on over the last nearly 10 years—tar sands oil and the Keystone XL pipeline—have somehow worked timing-wise with my need to be in Spain. That is not to say I haven’t had moments when I have been on a call with a [Capitol] Hill staffer or reporter [who may] think I am in D.C., when in fact I am searching for phone coverage outside one of our ancient stone houses whose thick walls preclude cell coverage. Instead of [being] in an office, I am instead looking up at falcons and eagles flying overhead and hoping that some wild goat doesn’t snort (they are big snorters). It’s a trade-off that on most days I am glad I have to make.” j Learn more about Pedruxella Gran at www.pedruxella.com.

“ We not only made significant upgrades and renovations to the house and property, but we started to put our imprint on its long history.”


Alex Huber ’83 building a business from vine to bottle

by Lori Ferguson


InVina’s modern facility houses its fermentation, aging, and bottling facilities, all aimed at capturing the flavors and complexity of its diverse vineyard production. Alex Huber ’83 in one InVina’s five robust vineyards in Chile’s Maule Valley.

t takes only a few minutes of conversation with vintner Alex Huber ’83 to realize that this is an individual who thrives on variety. As managing partner of InVina, a family-owned winery and five vineyards scattered across 900 acres in Talca, Chile—a thriving wine region approximately 150 miles south of the capital city of Santiago—Huber is as likely to face questions about malbec and merlot as he is about spider mites and sustainability, and he couldn’t be happier. “I’ve always been a jack of all trades, master of none,” Huber says with a chuckle, “so running a vineyard and winery is the ideal job for me. I have a wide array of issues to master and manage and a tremendous amount of things to get done each day, which I love. The job is extremely fulfilling.” Huber came to the wine business in a roundabout way. Born in Argentina to American parents, Huber was raised in Brazil and Japan and educated in the United States. After earning a bachelor’s degree in history and diplomacy from Georgetown

University’s School of Foreign Service and an MBA from Columbia, he worked briefly in the financial sector, spent time as an administrator with United Nations Peacekeeping operations in Cambodia, Mozambique, and Guatemala, and then returned to Brazil as a management consultant. He was living in São Paulo when his father broached the idea of launching a winemaking business in Chile. A short time later, the family became minority founding partners of VIA Wines and in 2001, Huber left the consulting world and joined the VIA team on-site in Chile, bringing his managerial expertise to the fast-growing organization. Living on the vineyard, Huber became increasingly interested in the grape-growing side of the business, and when he and his family were presented with an opportunity to create something wholly their own, they jumped at it. In 2007, they founded InVina and have never looked back. Huber has lived in Chile with his wife and two children year-round for more than 14 years now,

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and he says they’re unlikely to move anytime soon. His father and brother, both InVina investors, visit the country three or four times a year. “This region is ideal for growing grapes and making wines,” Huber explains. “The winters aren’t extremely cold, so we don’t lose vines; we have ample rainfall from snowmelt in the Andes; and our summers are very dry, with cool nights and very warm days, conditions that help to concentrate flavors in the grapes.” Land in Chile also costs a fraction of what it does in other parts of the world, Huber notes, so owning vineyards and operating a winery there is even more appealing. “The wine industry is extremely vertically integrated—there are very few industries where the farmer who scrapes the earth is also the


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individual putting the product on the table,” Huber points out, “but that’s the way it is for many in the wine business—the grape producer is telling the story.” This isn’t always the case, Huber says. There are many different avenues to involvement in the industry: some people grow the grapes, but don’t make any wine, while others make wine from grapes purchased elsewhere, and still others simply bottle and label the finished product. But at InVina, Huber and his team participate in every step of the process. “I’m involved at every level, from growing vines and making wines to selling the product and managing the marketing and finances for InVina,” Huber says. On a recent trip back to the U.S., for example, Huber spent several days traveling around Massachusetts with


“ We have ample rainfall from snowmelt in the Andes, and our summers are very dry, with cool nights and very warm days, conditions that help to concentrate flavors in the grapes.”

A view of the Batuco Vineyard in Maule’s coastal range, known for its deep clay soils, and warm days, with cool afternoon sea breezes and cold nights. InVina’s vineyard workers harvesting lush fruit.

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rooted “ I want to grow the company wisely, and our family believes deeply in the quality of Chilean wines.” the sales team for one of his distributors, talking with store owners about InVina’s lines and offering insights into the quality and diversity of the wines produced in the Maule Valley. “Any given day can be filled with many different tasks, and I find that variety incredibly compelling.” InVina offers consumers an exciting range of wines, Huber proudly notes, including many international award winners such as the Sierra Batuco Gran Reserva Lone Rider 2011, named a 2014 Gold Medal & Best Buy winner by the Beverage Testing Institute; and the Luma Chequén Reserva Carménère 2012, a 2014 Double Gold winner and recipient of the Best Carménère (94 points) at the San Francisco International Wine Competition. For those unfamiliar with InVina’s offerings, Huber recommends starting with wines that possess clear varietal characteristics, such as a sauvignon blanc, pinot noir, or carménère, a varietal that he explains is now virtually unique to Chile. “Our sauvignon blancs are delightful, with familiar herbal, grass, and citrus notes, and our Chilean pinot noirs are wonderful


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as well, a bit different than American pinot noirs, which tend to be more robust. And of course, the carménère is not to be missed.” While Huber is understandably proud of the quality wines he and his family create, he also concedes that making good wine does not guarantee success. “Great winemaking is just the beginning; you also have to package, market, and sell your product. Getting started in the industry is relatively easy—if you’ve got money to spend, you can buy a vineyard or a winery and turn out great wines.” But the marketplace is extremely competitive, Huber continues, so even though you have a good product and space on the shelf, you may not be selling enough wine to make a living. “The choices are so varied that I think it’s difficult for the average consumer to understand—it’s even difficult for me, and this is what I do! Many people have a romantic idea about winemaking, but at the end of the day, it’s a business, and you must understand this if you hope to succeed.” Huber never loses sight of this fact, and under his watchful eye, InVina is thriving. In less than a

Far left: InVina’s crew brings in the harvest at El Peral Vineyard, usually from late February to mid-May. Bottom left: Vines before the quiet, dormant season at Batuco Vineyard.

decade, the winery has built an international customer base and is profitable—company assets have doubled over the course of the last five years—and in 2013, the Hubers built a state-of-the-art winery, complete with a full bottling and labeling line as well as sufficient storage to age their wines on-site. Now that the foundation is solid, Huber is starting to think about the next phase of operations. He’s increasingly delegating authority for day-to-day growing and winemaking operations to other members of his team and turning more of his attention to the marketing and sales side of the

business. “My goal is to create value for our shareholders, and at this point, the best way to do that is to increase our market strength, probably through some sort of consolidation with another winery.” That said, Huber says no immediate changes are in the cards. “I want to grow the company wisely,” he concludes. “Our family believes deeply in the quality of Chilean wines, and we plan to be producing them for years to come.” j Lori Ferguson is a freelance writer based in southern New Hampshire. Photos courtesy of InVina.

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“Having the opportunity to work with thoughtful and creative young minds is inspiring to us.” —Dr. Barbara Thiers, NYBG

The iconic Enid A. Haupt Conservatory.

in bloom A Thriving Collaboration Between Taft and The New York Botanical Garden By Debra Meyers

he end of the 19th century was a time of great innovation in both science and the arts. From the discovery of radioactivity and X-rays, to the publication of literary classics penned by the likes of Oscar Wilde, Rudyard Kipling, and Thomas Hardy, the 1890s brought scientific advancement and cultural evolution to new and lasting heights. It was in this age— this context—that Horace Dutton Taft began preparing young men for well-rounded lives of intellectual, artistic, and athletic achievement. Taft’s mission to “educate the whole boy” was the heart and soul of life at his school in The William and Lynda Steere Herbarium, the centerpiece of NYBG’s botanical research program, is the fourth largest herbarium in the Pelham Manor, New York.

world and the largest in the Western Hemisphere, with a collection of more than seven million preserved specimens, some of which were collected by Taft student interns. ROBERT BENSON

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in bloom

Around the same time, and not more than a few miles down the road, another visionary leader was laying the groundwork for what would, like Mr. Taft’s School, become an iconic and enduring institution, “distinguished by the beauty of its landscape” and the “excellence of its programs.”1 Inspired by the Royal Botanic Gardens near London, England, Columbia University botanist Nathaniel Lord Britton and his wife, Elizabeth, led a public campaign to establish what would become The New York Botanical Garden (NYBG). In 1891, the Garden was chartered as a private, nonprofit corporation, on grounds owned by the city of New York. Now, 125 years since their founding, Taft School and The New York Botanical Garden have risen in prominence and expanded their missions, while fulfilling the promise of their founders. They have also come together in a unique partnership that brings NYBG scientists to the Taft campus and opens Garden doors for Taft students to work and to learn. “It seems fitting that two premier institutions should come together to

“It bodes well for the school to be aligned with one of the best research and education institutions in the world. It demonstrates not only the tremendous opportunities available to Taft students, but also the esteemed position Taft enjoys in the larger community.” —Paul Parvis, Taft School

share and complement their efforts,” says Taft Director of Planned Giving Paul Parvis. “It makes good sense for two organizations that are both very keen about opportunities in education to join forces.” Parvis came to Taft in the fall of 2010, after spending four and a half years as director of planned giving at The New York Botanical Garden. During that time, he not only came to know the scope of the science and the breadth of the educational resources that defined the Garden, but Parvis also came to know NYBG scientist Dr. Scott Mori. On their daily walks from the train station to the office, the two would talk about the Garden’s reach in the community. With Parvis moving on to Taft and the daily walks nearing an end, the talk turned to expanding the Garden’s

reach through a partnership between NYBG and Taft, and the short walk from the train station became a long journey toward a compelling collaboration. “Even in those early conversations we had a fairly clear idea of what we thought the partnership should look like,” explains Mori. “The components we envisioned are the components that are, for the most part, in place today.” Parvis and Mori talked about a lecture series at Taft featuring NYBG scientists. They envisioned regular lectures on topics that complemented work being done in Taft’s classrooms, and an internship program that would allow Taft students to engage in real-world research at the Garden. They also talked about eco-travel programs led by NYBG experts. Before his

Natasha Batten ’15 spent time working on several “mini projects,” with the goal of understanding the genetic basis of fruit diversity. During the first summer, Batten focused on the structural elements of fruits using classical botanical techniques. Last summer she focused on the molecular side, which involved extracting DNA, cloning, subcloning, and sequence analysis. Batten, who is now studying chemical and biological engineering at MIT, believes that her time at NYBG will be important moving forward. “The experience gave me a good introduction to molecular genetics. Though the work was with plants, the principles are really universal and will extend to human biology,” says Batten. “This experience has been an integral step in my academic and career path.”


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1. www.nybg.org

Camila Jingchen Jiang

for the partnership at Taft, Mori was busy with legwork at the Garden. He spoke with his colleagues and supervisors, including the Garden’s CEO and President Gregory Long. All agreed that it was an excellent concept. “We were excited about the idea of a partnership with the Taft School because education is a primary commitment of our Science Division, in order to mold the next generation of plant scientists,” says Dr. Barbara Thiers, the Garden’s vice president for science administration. “Most of our educational activities involve students at the graduate level,

R.F. Naczi

Camila Jingchen Jiang

first day on the job at Taft, Parvis pitched the idea to Development Director Chris Latham. An enthusiastic Latham took it to Headmaster Willy MacMullen ’78 and Science Department Head Jim Lehner. “Everyone was wholeheartedly intrigued by the idea,” says Parvis. “It bodes well for the school to be aligned with one of the best research and education institutions in the world. It demonstrates not only the tremendous opportunities available to Taft students, but also the esteemed position Taft enjoys in the larger community.” While Parvis worked to grow support

From field to physical file, Camila Jiang ’14 collected, processed, and created permanent records for more than 50 plant specimens during the summer of 2013. Herbarium records give Jiang sole credit for indentifying several specimens, including the Viburnum dilatatum (above), a perennial shrub in the Caprifoliaceae family. Opened in 2002, the Steere Herbarium is the largest in the Western Hemisphere, and is home to 7.3 million plant and fungi specimens, of which 2.3 million are currently digitized and searchable through the Virtual Herbarium system.

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in bloom and so extending our outreach to high school students contributes to one of our core missions. Having the opportunity to work with thoughtful and creative young minds is inspiring to us.” Between late 2010 and early 2012, Parvis and Mori worked in earnest to build a foundation and structure for the partnership. Meetings, site visits, and conference calls gave way to detailed proposals, action plans, and, finally, in February of 2012, the first event that cemented the pathway between Taft and the Garden: the debut of the scientific lecture series at Taft. Mori, then the Nathaniel Lord Britton Curator of Botany at The New York Botanical Garden, delivered the inaugural lecture. Around the same time, science teacher Laura Monti ’89 was working with a group of eight Taft students engaged in an independent, biomedical research tutorial. “Because of our relationship with NYBG, I was able to tour the Garden a few months earlier with other Taft teachers,” explains Monti. “I thought my students would also appreciate seeing a modern lab doing leading edge research, especially from a different perspective than the biomedical angle they more commonly see.” Monti arranged for the group to visit the Garden, where they had access to sights most of NYBG’s nearly one million visitors each year rarely get to see, including the William and Lynda Steere Herbarium and the molecular genetics lab in the Pfizer Plant Research Laboratory. The seeds Parvis and Mori had sown were not only taking root, but beginning to grow, one bloom nurturing the next: Dr. Amy Litt was the tour guide for Monti’s group; Litt later traveled to Taft as a lecture series speaker. Inspired by what she heard during that lecture, Natasha Batten ’15 wrote to Litt to inquire about internship opportunities at NYBG; Batten spent the next two summers interning at the Garden. And the synergistic growth continues. To date, Taft has hosted seven lectures featuring Garden scientists—now


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The Pfizer lab is a fantastic ” place to work notes Ezra Levy ’15. “There aren’t many labs in the world populated with a community of scientists so invested in both their work and the work of their mentees, be they graduate students or summer interns. I will be hard-pressed to find another lab so comfortable to work in, flooded with natural light, with a beautiful view over part of the Garden. “I hope my time at the Garden will be useful not only for me but for other scientists who may benefit from my tidbit of work. The project should help improve some results collected in the field, as it would nearly eliminate the need for transporting lab materials, while collating the same data more quickly and just as effectively. As for me, there is no question that my internship this summer has helped to shape my notions of what I want to accomplish in college and in a career in the sciences. I am exceedingly grateful to Taft, The New York Botanical Garden, and everyone involved in their partnership for this opportunity.”

sponsored by the Yerkes Family Botanical Art and Sciences Speakers Fund—with several more scheduled for the current academic year. In February of each year, Monti takes students to visit the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory and the Garden’s molecular labs. Which is where Ezra Levy ’15 met Dr. Damon Little, with whom he interned this past summer. “The internship is both the most complex and most successful component of the partnership,” explains Mori, who,

along with Dr. Robert Naczi, the Arthur J. Cronquist Curator of North American Botany, mentored Taft’s first NYBG intern, Camila Jingchen Jiang ’14. Jiang spent the summer of 2013 helping to build a botanical inventory of plant life found at the Zofnass Family Preserve of the Westchester County Land Trust, near Bedford Hills, New York. Assigned to ferns, mosses, and lichens, Jiang not only collected and processed fertile specimens, but created a detailed and permanent

record of each new specimen she found, scanning and photographing the plants, recording GPS coordinates for the plant locations, and in some cases, mounting, barcoding, and labeling her finds. Jiang’s records live physically in the William and Lynda Steere Herbarium, and electronically in the C.V. Starr Virtual Herbarium. Like the 2.3 million digitized specimens housed in the Virtual Herbarium, Jiang’s specimens are searchable by scientists and others throughout the world.

Jiang’s successful internship solidified the program, opening doors for future interns. Natasha Batten ’15 spent the past two summers working with Dr. Barbara Ambrose, associate curator of plant genomics, while Ezra Levy ’15 was mentored by Cullman Associate Curator of Bioinformatics Dr. Damon Little. Batten’s research projects were designed to expand scientific knowledge of the molecular genetic basis for plant diversity. Levy hoped to improve

options for collecting plant samples. For seven weeks, Levy worked on devising a rapid DNA extractor for use by botanists in the field. Isolating plant DNA usually takes place in a laboratory, where equipment, like the centrifuges needed to separate DNA from tissue, is readily available. Preserving sensitive samples between field and lab may also require specialized treatment, like refrigeration. Levy’s work involved developing a buffer solution that would

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in bloom Dr. Scott Mori, right, of The New York Botanical Garden, with artist Michael Rothman at Taft’s Potter Gallery show, Fields and Forests Afar: A New York Botanical Garden Scientific Expedition through Illustration.

defer the need for that equipment in the field by allowing scientists to sample plant DNA at collection, and preserve its stability for later sequencing. “I prepared solutions, tested them on plant samples, then recorded and interpreted the data,” Levy explains. “I needed to consider how chemicals optimize the pH or the buffer-base of the solution, and how solutions affect plants of different varieties, textures, chemistries, or morphologies. It was an opportunity for exposure to real-world science—to effectively move beyond the classroom.”

And Levy’s work could have far-reaching implications for field researchers. “Researchers are always trying to find a more efficient way to do our research,” said Little. “The protocol that Ezra is developing will provide a faster and cheaper option.” Now in its third year, the partnership between Taft and The New York Botanical Garden has never been stronger, or had more support. Donors, including Headmaster Willy MacMullen ’78, Linda and Andy Safran ’71, and Sonia and John Batten 'P15 have generously funded the

“We are eager to build on the successes of the past three years, for the benefit of both Taft students and The New York Botanical Garden. It’s a win-win scenario that we hope will continue.” —Dr. Robert Naczi, NYBG

internships. The Yerkes family has also established the Yerkes Family Botanical Art and Sciences Speakers Fund, which has sponsored all seven lectures to date, and which ensures the continuity and longevity of the program. And while the ecotourism component of the partnership envisioned by Parvis and Mori remains in development, new opportunities have been added to the mix, including an exhibition of botanical art in the Mark W. Potter ’48 Gallery. Known for both the beauty and scientific accuracy of his work, artist Michael Rothman travels the world with NYBG scientists documenting their field discoveries. Taft’s curated exhibition marked the first time Rothman’s work was collectively shown. There have also been changes. Mori has retired, turning the partnership reigns over to Naczi. “We are eager to build on the successes of the past three years, for the benefit of both Taft students and The New York Botanical Garden,”

Lecythis pisonis Pollination in French Guiana by Michael Rothman was commissioned by Dr. Scott Mori and exhibited in the artist’s month-long show at Taft’s Potter Gallery.

said Naczi. “It’s a win-win scenario that we hope will continue.” It is that win-win scenario—the give and take of the program—that all involved recognize as the deepest value of the relationship. “The true intent of the partnership is to give a new generation access to the science and the scientists, and in doing so, foster an interest in science; we hope to transfer, in some measure, these ‘gifts’ from one generation to the next,” explains Parvis. “I think we have done that, and done it well.” j Photography by Robert Falcetti and courtesy of The New York Botanical Garden

Taft’s Paul Parvis with Rain Forest Canopy in Central French Guiana, which artist Michael Rothman gave to the Taft School after his 2012 exhibit in Potter Gallery; the print is now displayed in the Lady Ivy Kwok Wu Science and Mathematics Center.

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Tales of a Taftie By Julie Reiff

George Ripley Cutler, Class of 1912

Of Battles Long Ago: Memoirs of an American Ambulance Driver in World War I

 Corporal G. Ripley Cutler wearing the Croix de Guerre in 1919


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In December 1916, as a graduate student at Yale studying English and music theory, G. Ripley Cutler signed on to be an ambulance driver in France. A ROTC student at Yale as an undergraduate, he’d had six weeks of basic military training in 1915 and was fluent in French, but the first thing he’d have to do when he arrived in Paris was learn to drive. Although Ford had introduced its Model T in 1908, most Americans still didn’t own cars. And since the United States had not yet entered the war, he joined the American Field Service (AFS), a private philanthropy created in 1914 to help the war effort. American volunteers were attached to French army units. They were expected to buy their own uniforms and pay their own travel expenses to Europe. The French army provided housing and meals (although Cutler frequently sought out local markets and cafes to supplement the often meager fare). Arriving in France in April 1917, Cutler would serve far longer than his six-month tour, receiving his U.S. Army discharge in April 1919. By the time U.S. troops arrive, Cutler reports that he felt “felt more like a French veteran than an American private.”

Although he appreciated the local expertise of the French soldiers—or poilus, as French infantryman were known—they were tired after three years of war. “Having steeled themselves to regard their own lives and deaths as a matter of no consequence, they applied the same philosophy to everybody else. The effect of a long war is not galvanizing,” he wrote, “but paralyzing.” (page 80) Ambulance drivers were usually stationed a few kilometers away from the fighting and shuttled the wounded from aid posts back to the hospitals. Although they could hear and even see German artillery, their days were often routine. Only once did Cutler encounter a gas attack, a diffused one that caused no damage. Seeking adventure, Cutler and some friends walked to the front on their day off in hopes of seeing the actual trenches. When they reached the trenches, or boyaux, an “amiable and courteous” captain offered them the best coffee they’d tasted outside of Paris and happily provided them with a guide. The driving, however, was treacherous. Finding the way through unknown villages, landmarks often destroyed, to the front (without overrunning the aid posts and winding up at the trenches. Frequently in the dark, with no headlights, over muddy roads pockmarked by artillery and bridges only wide enough for a single vehicle. Flat tires, broken fan belts and other mechanical woes could strand a driver—and his passengers—in less than ideal locations. Cutler made another run to the front at

Tales of a Taftie  Ambulances frequently transported the wounded at night, without headlights, over treacherous roads. The Ford Model Ts were reconfigured to carry three stretchers or four ambulatory patients, though they often held many more. Archives of the American Field Service and AFS Intercultural Programs

Les Tueries on what seemed a quiet day, to transport a number of walking wounded back to the main hospital. Just as he turned the ambulance around there came a whistle: “…this time with a frightful crescendo. We dove out and crouched by the roadside. There was no place to hide. The next few seconds were nothing but noise and smell, crashes of explosions, a highpitched ringing in the ears, an acrid hot sulphuric smell. Three shells broke, one in the middle of the road. I vividly recall the fine view I had of the nearest explosion—an eruption of mud instantly engulfed in a cloud of black smoke.” (page 210) One of the stretcher-bearers was killed. Only back in the dugout did Cutler realize he himself was hit. The wound seeming minor, he asked to stay on duty, but a doctor sent him back with the gas patients. After being X-rayed (“a prickly process”) the surgeon gave Cutler an injection

of cocaine before operating. A few days later, a French lieutenant came by “to present a small piece of dry goods”—the French Croix de Guerre. In the end, Cutler estimates the total number of wounded he transported at more than 500. He saw three major engagements—the French offensive at Verdun in 1917, the German breakthrough to the Marne in May 1918, and the Franco-American offensive in the fall of 1918. The two units in which he served both received citations for bravery. Cutler later married and became an investment counselor, living in Massachusetts and Maine. His nephew Charles Knickerbocker edited the final transcript of the memoir, which was finally published in 1979, 60 years after Cutler’s return from France. j Sources: Of Battles Long Ago: Memoirs of an American Ambulance Driver in World War I and American Field Service Archives, www.afs.org.

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 2015


From the


Farming for Golf One curious event in Taft School’s early history merits telling as much for Horace Taft’s account of it as for the story itself. It involved his right-hand man and Latin teacher Harley Roberts (whom Mr. Taft said lacked a sense of humor), and the golf links. Around the time of the First World War, Mr. Roberts, a golf enthusiast, played a key part in relocating the Watertown Golf Club and its course to its present Guernseytown Road location. Some of the Club’s links shared the school’s grounds—and still do—but they had to be mowed. “Waste Nothing!” admonished the posters on the home front. Not manpower to drive the horse-drawn reel mowers. Nor money or mutton. And, the school was in debt. In his 1942 memoir Horace Taft remarked on Mr. Roberts’ solution: “Not many of the older people of Watertown will forget the time when Harley conceived the idea that sheep would be a splendid investment for the golf course. They would save mowing the grass and at the same time be increasing in value. His enthusiasm carried everything before it, and I always thought it hard that one or two farmers who were interested made no objection. Anyhow, Mr. Roberts drafted Mr. Joline (who taught Greek), and


Taft Bulletin / FALL 2015

 Harley Roberts’ flock grazes on the campus links, ca. 1915.

we had the spectacle of these two elderly schoolteachers driving up Academy Hill and through the center an unruly and scraggly flock of sheep amid the hilarity of the neighbors. Not until they were housed in an old barn that stood on the golf links did the farmers suggest that the sheep could hardly live in such confined quarters. Harley had, in his calculations, just about left standing room for the poor creatures. His enthusiasm did not wane—yet. Then came the question of a shepherd. The sheep wandered at will all over the whole golf links, left the grass in clumps, and proved to be the most inefficient mowing machines. They seemed to think that the greens were especially intended as comfort stations, to the intense indignation of the players. Then they (the sheep) began to sicken—through pure cussedness, I think—and as their ranks thinned out the conviction stole upon us that the experiment was not a great success. I forget what the selling price was, except that it differed very much from the purchase price and not in our favor. However, those of us who had contributed felt that we had had our money’s worth in entertainment.” —Horace D. Taft, Memories and Opinions —Alison Gilchrist, The Leslie D. Manning Archives

Bingham Auditorium Stewarding a Community Space for the Next 125 Years

For 85 years, Bingham Auditorium has been home

was built into the rear of the auditorium’s lower level.

to some of the most important moments in the life of

Mr. Taft’s School. Generations of students have met

our strategic planning as a high priority, and much

each week in the auditorium for Vespers—now called

needed in a space that was built in 1929 and has

“This is an exciting project, one identified in

Morning Meeting—and for special

seen very heavy use over its

presentations and assemblies,

history,” said Headmaster Willy

where they have heard new voices

MacMullen ’78. “It’s such a lovely

and been introduced to new

and important space, worthy of

ideas. Students have rehearsed,

our stewardship and care.”

performed, listened to, and spoken

At the time that Bingham was

before their peers in Bingham.

built, Taft’s student body numbered

And they have met there in times

323 boys, the faculty 27. Since

of loss, as they did on December

that time, growth in enrollment

7, 1941—the day Pearl Harbor was

has outstripped the number

bombed—and again immediately

of seats in Bingham. Thanks to

following the terrorist attacks on

improvements in seating design

September 11, 2001. In many ways,

and creative layout, the renovation

Bingham Auditorium is a sacred

has resulted in a net gain of

space for the Taft community.

seats—Bingham now seats 592,

Over the summer, Bingham was

including six handicapped seats

renovated in preparation for the

(up from the 570 total seats pre-

next 125 years of Taft students. The

renovation). Custom wrought iron

auditorium’s wood paneling was

in the shape of the Taft “T” adorns

cleaned, treated, and refinished,

the ends of each row of seats.

giving the space a lighter, softer

One of the major goals

feel. Damaged wood sections and

of the Ever Taft Even Stronger

decorative pieces were repaired

Campaign is to ensure that we

and the walls painted. Bingham’s historic light fixtures

secure Taft’s endowment at an adequate level to support

were refurbished and the blackout panels on the windows

ongoing upkeep of the school’s facilities and campus.

were removed, allowing natural light into the auditorium for the first time in many years. LED lighting was installed,

In appreciation for future gifts of $1,000 through the close of

as were remotely controlled window treatments. The

the campaign on June 30, 2016, Taft will honor donors with a

balcony has a new brass railing, and a soundboard

plaque on one of the auditorium’s new seats.

Stewardship of Taft’s campus is just one of the priorities of the current 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

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winter events At Taft 80th Service of Lessons and Carols—December 15 Alumni Hockey, Basketball, and Squash—February 13 Parents’ Weekend—February 19–20 On the road in December, January, and February New York City • Boston • Washington, D.C. • Asia

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