Winter 2010 Taft Bulletin

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Alumni in

AFRICA Winter 2010


Chaba’s Story Launching Africa’s Leaders, One Orphan at a Time By Andy Taylor ’72

h Students, faculty and special guests kick off MLK Day with a prayer breakfast in the new west dining hall. Connecticut Lt. Gov. Michael Fedele was the speaker. Andre Li ‘11

Faces: ©

in this issue


B ulletin

Winter 2010

The Water Carriers

Learning To Fit In In Madagascar By Libby Cox ’92


Confronting a Dark Pandemic Amidst a Technicolor Dreamscape Linda Zackin ’80 Propels Health Programs Against the Beguiling Backdrop of Namibia By Phoebe Vaughn Outerbridge ’84


An Advocate for Africa Jennifer Cooke ’81 Helps Shape U.S. Policy By Tom Frank ’80

Departments 2 From the Editor 3 Letters 3 Taft Trivia 4 Alumni Spotlight 10 Around the Pond 17 Sport 38 From the Archives

from the EDITOR Most of you loved the electronic version of the Bulletin we sent out with the fall issue, but we realize that reading online isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, so rest assured that we’ll continue to mail the printed version as well. Once we are better able to track your preferences, we hope to let you choose, but in the meantime please excuse us for sending you both (there is no additional cost to the school). Benefits of the e-version: • It’s environmentally friendly and very economical. • You can click on most websites mentioned and go directly to that page. • You can forward it to anyone you choose, wherever that person may be. • Those of you who change locations more often than e-mail addresses are much more likely to receive the electronic version. • You can also search for your name or any classmates’, to be sure you don’t overlook any news that might be in another class or another section of the magazine. Still, despite all those advantages, the electronic version is hard to settle down with for any length of time, and so we understand and appreciate those of you who still love print. We hope that you’ll proudly display the Bulletin on your coffee table, or hand it to a friend after you’ve read it, and eventually we trust that you will recycle it. Above all, we hope this and every issue of the Bulletin prompts you to get in touch with a classmate, that you feel a bit more connected to your school, or that you’ll send us your story! We want to hear from you. Didn’t receive the electronic version of the Bulletin? We may not have your current email address, so please send it our way. Many thanks! —Julie Reiff, editor

On the Cover B







v Theme issues are rare for the Bulletin, but combining the remarkable stories of these alums in a single issue makes them all the more powerful. They begin on page 20.


Alumni in

AFRICA Winter 2010

© duncan1890

2 Taft Bulletin Winter 2010

This is the fourth issue of Taft Bulletin published on 100 percent postconsumer recycled fiber. What difference does that make? Well, this issue consumes nearly five tons of paper. Not using virgin fiber translates into the following savings:

B ulletin

Winter 2010 Volume 80, Number 2 Bulletin Staff

118 trees, which supply enough oxygen for roughly 59 people a year

Director of Development: Chris Latham Editor: Julie Reiff

54,082 gallons of water, or roughly enough for every varsity, JV or thirds boys’ hockey player to shower for the entire season

Alumni Notes: Linda Beyus Design: Good Design, LLC Proofreader: Nina Maynard

enough BTUs to power your home for 150 days

Mail letters to: Julie Reiff, Editor Taft Bulletin The Taft School Watertown, CT 06795-2100 U.S.A.

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Send alumni news to: Linda Beyus Alumni Office The Taft School Watertown, CT 06795-2100 U.S.A. Deadlines for Alumni Notes: Spring–February 15 Summer–May 15 Fall–August 30 Winter–November 15

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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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Letters The picture on page 40 is of 1980 classmates Craig Kravit, Paul Todd, Dave Evans, Larry Stabler, Rob Peterson, Slade Mead, Corey Griffin, Jeff Thompson, Bob Kelly and Jeff Potter. It was given to our dear friend, The Old Beezer, when he was ill about five years after we graduated. I recall that the picture was taken after dinner senior year during an early fall snow flurry. I apologize but the rest of the story is highly classified information. Perhaps, if you’re buying the beer, you may be able to get some of the details out of one of us at our upcoming 30th reunion! —Rob Peterson ’80 I believe many of my ten former classmates in the photo lived in the “Senior Boys Dorm,” a converted Common Room off HDT-2 near the Art Room above the Dining Hall. My IDs left to right are: Craig Kravit, Paul Todd, Gary Edwards, Larry Stabler, Rob Peterson, Slade Mead, Corey Griffin, Jeff Thompson, Rob Kelly and Jeff Potter. Alas, I have no insight about the cryptic message or the circumstances of the photo. However, this was one of the legendary yearbook photos of our era, ranking up there with Toby Fleming and Jeff Atwood’s photo in the 1979 yearbook (page 90), which featured the two wearing togas while surrounded by 15 of the school’s prettiest girls and headmaster Lance Odden. That may be worthy of reprinting and discussion as well! —Jim Ramsey ’80 My former colleague at Taft, Amy Jones, and I both taught French—and “book ended” most of the boys in the pond. For a reason that escapes me, six of them were moved from CPT into an old classroom on the second floor of HDT, between HDT2 and the ISP wing. Amy was in the apartment above the dining hall, and I had the first apartment on HDT2. They were in the middle. We were assured that they would be angelic. Well, I can attest that they were fun. As for angelic... —Jim Mooney ’74, former faculty 1978-83 Quite a good Bulletin. On page 3, the guy carrying books, second from left, is Parker Griffin, ’71. The others I can’t recall. However, the books were transported in Library of Congress order, not Dewey

Decimal. This was a pet project of librarian Walter Frankel, and he re-cataloged all the books prior to the new library’s opening. On page 80, you name 1935 as “the Golden Age of dramatic stagecraft.” Please refer to my article in the fall 1970 Bulletin. Those sets were lavish, but the golden age was under the direction of Peter Candler in the ’50s. —Bob Foreman ’70 I should know the answer to the trivia question since I am the one leading the book carriers. I think it was my junior year so would have been 1969–70 school year. I think I remember the names of those in the picture including the slacker (Rich Bell ’71) leaning against the wall in the background. I believe behind me is Don George, next I couldn’t remember, followed by Ned Doudican and as I said I think it is Rich Bell without any books. I would have to dig out my yearbook to be sure and am not really sure I know where it is. —Fred Erdman ’71 I was a bit disturbed that your lead story [fall 2009] was about an alumnus who crisscrossed America on a motorcycle. Not my idea of a goal I would welcome for my grandson. It is hard for me to envision any Taft student aspiring to such a trip. Sorry I am such a stick in the mud, but the majority of people riding around on motorcycles that I see are not role models for students of Taft. And even more important is the danger inherent on traveling by motorcycle. I know two people who had dreadful accidents that left them paralyzed for life. No drugs or alcohol were involved. One suddenly hit a part of the highway with oil on it. The other gravel. Both on a curve in the road. No one else hurt, but it was devastating for both. —Margaret Foster When I read, with keen interest, the Fall 2009 article “College Counseling Today,” it reminded me of many prior decades when college access was taken much more for granted. I recall that 14 of my fellow 81 graduates matriculated at Yale, where 28 had applied. The only college counselor at Taft in the fall of 1963 was Mr. Sullivan, head of the

??? Taft Trivia Which member of the Taft faculty has been teaching here the longest? (Current faculty are not eligible for the prize this time.) A Taft T-shirt will be sent to the winner, whose name will be drawn from all correct entries received. Congratulations to Fred Erdman ’71, who correctly guessed 1969 as the year in which the Hulbert Taft Jr. Library opened.

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

—letters continued on page 60

Taft Bulletin Winter 2010 3

alumni Spotlight

By Julie Reiff

v Venture capitalist Paul Klingenstein ’74 helps tackle the disease that is devastating Africa. “At Taft I learned to take the needs of the greater community very seriously,” he says, “and I am grateful for that lesson.”

Key Research An HIV vaccine: we need one, and we don’t have one, says Paul Klingenstein ’74, a venture capitalist who also serves as chair of the board of directors for the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI), a nonprofit organization working in 24 countries to ensure the development of safe, effective, accessible, preventive HIV vaccines for use throughout the world. IAVI works with more than 40 academic, commercial and government institutions, spending around $100 million a year, to discover and assess possible HIV vaccines. So far, they have helped evaluate six vaccines in early-stage clinical trials on four continents. Finding a vaccine “has become an increasingly urgent undertaking,” reported Scientific American magazine in November. “Despite advances in therapies, HIV/ AIDS is still incurable. Some 7,400 people worldwide contract HIV every day. Preventing people from getting the virus would save millions of lives as well as greatly reduce health care costs associated with treatment.” “At its core now, this is a big science problem,” says Klingenstein. “We have to do a lot of work in the lab, but we think we now know where to focus. The number of people getting infected every year is larger than the number of additional people that we can treat with drugs. So treatment is important, but without a vaccine it just 4 Taft Bulletin Winter 2010

gets worse and worse and worse.” In short, without a vaccine we’ll never get ahead of the epidemic. Still, there is an ongoing struggle for funding between AIDS treatment and research toward a vaccine. Twelve years ago Klingenstein, who was previously involved with a vaccine company, was working at the Rockefeller Foundation when IAVI was being formed. “We had this raging epidemic and there was talk of vaccines but nobody was working on them,” he says. “The major vaccine companies didn’t have substantial HIV vaccine discovery efforts going on.” So Klingenstein talked to people he knew in the industry—“and knew well enough for them to be honest with me”— and it became clear why. Yes, it was about the risk and potential financial return, “but really it was because the science behind it wasn’t well enough understood.” So IAVI set out to create an environment for a vaccine to be developed—not discovered—because, says Klingenstein, “at that time we thought people could take their best vaccine constructs for other diseases, dust them off and try them on HIV.” After years of clinical development programs IAVI ran more than a dozen trials to determine safety and immunogenicity, to see how the immune system responded. “I went around to the field sites, which were not only conducting tests but also

delivering care to those communities. We were doing trials in some of the most challenging places on the planet—places where the infection rates are really high. We also did the first trials in India. “It’s very powerful to see the devastation caused by this disease. Actually some of it’s very inspiring. There are a lot of infected people now who get drug therapy and are doing fine, who are very encouraged to help their peers and their peers’ kids and their communities. But there are many, many devastated communities as well. “Last summer I was in Kwazulu Natal, and around Cape Town. If you go through these townships they look very unusual. It takes awhile to process that they are missing whole age groups—they’re not there. There are no adults. There are old people and there are a bunch of kids, and that’s it. “This has proved to be the world’s toughest vaccinology problem,” he says. “The HIV virus is constantly evolving, even in a single patient. So for a vaccine to work, it has to trick the body into making these broadly neutralizing antibodies. None had been found in 10 years and IAVI has recently found two, and we know exactly where they actually bind to the virus. “We’ve found the lock,” says Klingenstein, “now we just need to design the key. And we’ll get there, because we have some of the best minds on the planet working it.”

h UN Ambassador Augustine Mahiga, Ann Hanin, Judy Smith, Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, Stephen Smith ’51 and Professor Jumanne Maghembe

A New Library in Tanzania In January 2009, a new, expanded Jifundishe Free Library opened its doors. Helped by a team of volunteers from the U.S., the library was ready to open to the public with many more programs and books. Judy and Steve Smith ’51, representing the Crawford-Smith Foundation, were on hand for the formal dedication in July, with their family, including son Steve Jr. ’80. Tanzanian ambassador to the UN Augustine Mahiga was the keynote speaker. The day was a celebration of the village and the opportunities that the library provided to everyone living in the area.

The success of Jifundishe’s first library led to the beautiful new building with space for more than 5,000 books, a community room for workshops, classes and presentations as well as an office for Jifundishe staff. The library now hosts another women’s cooperative project, evening adult literacy classes, film nights, after-school tutoring programs and educational enrichment competitions for secondary students. Because this library/community center has been so successful, Judy and Steve are proceeding with plans to duplicate its model to other rural areas of Tanzania. In September, they met in New York

with Tanzanian President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete and Minister of Education Jumanne Maghembe, and received their full support and cooperation. Judy and Steve also worked with Jifundishe to create a school science lab in 2007 [see “Lab Report,” winter 2008]. Jifundishe is the Swahili word for “teach yourself.” The organization was founded in 2004 when local students, teachers and villagers together with foreign volunteers, identified the need for a library. In many rural areas in Tanzania, literacy rates have been on the decline. For more information, visit Taft Bulletin Winter 2010 5

alumni Spotlight

Remembering Margaux

n Margaux Powers ’00—left, along with her father Mike Powers ’69 and her sister Dana—

is remembered through a new scholarship at Taft.

When tragedy strikes it can bring people together in unexpected ways, and that has never been truer than it was for the family and friends of Margaux Powers ’00, who was killed in May 2008. “We were looking forward to watching her life continue to blossom,” her father, Mike Powers ’69 said at the time. “But her future has been tragically cut short and we are overcome with grief.” But Mike and others have taken that grief and used it to find ways to come together to remember their friend, sister and daughter. Among the more enduring legacies is the Taft scholarship in her name. To date, 432 donors have contributed more than $1 million to this lasting memorial. “The creation and continued growth of this scholarship will serve as an enduring tribute to Margaux and do a great deal to sustain her memory in perpetuity,” says Mike, who was on campus in January with daughter Dana to meet the first Powers Scholar. “In so doing, we celebrate a magnificent life.” The first recipient is returning middler Sachika Balvani, a highly talented girl from Mumbai, India, who placed first at the New England Squash Tournament last year. 6 Taft Bulletin Winter 2010

Many people contributed effort, time and money to establish Margaux’s memorial scholarship but special thanks go to Mike’s Taft teammate and friend Rafe de la Gueronniere ’70, who was instrumental in raising support for the fund. Margaux’s classmates, organized by Ribby Goodfellow, are raising funds for the scholarship in her name through the sale of Patagonia fleece vests customized with the alum’s Taft year. Margaux and her father were both passionate about sports in general and shared an interest in tennis. At Brown University, Mike’s alma mater, the Bruno Classic in Honor of Margaux Powers, was created as an annual event on the tennis schedule ( Margaux “was an enthusiastic fan of the team for many years and attended countless Brown matches, both home and away, and would join me there on Alumni Days,” says Mike. And watching over the courts at the Piping Rock Club near their home in Long Island, there is a memorial bench that bears her name. Her family and friends also had a Margaux sports day a year later, just a casual word-of-mouth event with her Taft, Cornell and Long Island friends that Mike hopes will continue, and he extends an invitation for all

her friends to join them this summer. Tina Porter Teagle ’00, who was a lifelong friend and classmate of Margaux’s, first on Long Island and then at Taft—and whose fathers (Grant and Mike) were also Taft classmates—was married in the fall in the same chapel where Margaux’s memorial service was held, and so they a lit candle in her honor as part of the ceremony. Amy Pasquariello Millette, Margaux’s dear friend and roommate at Taft, asked Mike to be a reader at her wedding last summer. Knowing that Father’s Day would be incredibly difficult for him, Margaux’s friends, organized by Sam Hall ’00, created an album of letters and photographs of her and presented it to Mike in June. “It might be the nicest present I’ve ever gotten,” he says. “There were photos of Margaux that I’d never seen. Her friends have been so nice. They’ll stop by often and we’ll get flowers and visit Margaux together. And so I’ve gained this wonderful group of young friends. “Margaux made so many wonderful friends at Taft,” Mike adds. “She entered as a homesick middler, but by the time she graduated three years later many of her happiest days were spent at Taft.” The Margaux Powers ’00 Memorial Scholarship was established in 2008 in memory of Margaux E. Powers by her father, Michael S. Powers ’69, her sister, Dana A. Powers, family, classmates and friends. This scholarship stands as a lasting tribute to a remarkable woman, of warm heart and beautiful spirit, beloved by family and friends. Her genuine and caring nature, her intelligence, her confidence and strength, her skills as an outstanding competitor and athlete inspired all who knew her. In awarding this scholarship to deserving students, preference is given to young women attending Taft who exemplify these outstanding qualities.

Oppenheim Named Rhodes Scholar Spending summers working construction in rural Maine while at Taft, Willy Oppenheim ’04 felt a chasm between this environment and his affluent hometown in Connecticut. He was determined to forgo college until he “felt certain my elite education could benefit someone other than myself,” he wrote in his essay for the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship. So, at 18, he headed to India and discovered that he could “amplify the voices” of local educators before a global audience and help avoid “the tendency of ‘development’ efforts to patronize and disempower those they intend to serve.” Back in Colorado the next winter, and living in a tent, he worked from a public computer to build a database of Indian schools seeking foreign support, which has evolved into the Omprakash Foundation [see “Connecting the Dots,” Spring 2008]. At Bowdoin College, where he continued to live in a tent all four years, he designed his own major in international educational policy, with courses in religion, anthropology and education. He wrote his thesis on Muslim schooling in South India. He now teaches for the National Outdoor Leadership School and continues to volunteer his time with Omprakash. “My ambitions and accomplishments as a student, a teacher and a nonprofit founder emerge from a unitary intention to ‘lead out’ the citizens of the world toward an awareness of the greater human and ecological community from which we are indivisible and within which we can enact change,” Willy wrote. He will use the Rhodes Scholarship to study comparative and international education at Oxford.

n Willy Oppenheim ’04, greeted by Headmaster Willy MacMullen ’78, was back on campus to present a Morning Meeting about Omprakash only days after being named a Rhodes Scholar. Ben Pastor ’97

Paranormal Marketing “The campaign to bring Paranormal Activity to the public is already a movieindustry legend,” wrote Time magazine in October. Originally made three years ago by director Oren Peli on a budget of $11,000, the film was eventually picked up by Paramount and scheduled only to play at midnight in 16 college towns last fall. Soon audience demand expanded that to all-day runs on 159 screens in 44 cities, and, Time predicted, “it’s headed for a box-office breakout.” “Once every five years, a guy makes a movie for a nickel that can cross over to a broad audience,” PA producer Jason Blum ’87 told the LA Times. But as unique as the film’s marketing plan was, part of its appeal was clearly its less-is-more approach. “In a genre where a fresh mutilated corpse every 15 minutes has become a reasonable expectation,” writes, “this slow-paced but relentless spooker is refreshingly un-extreme. It comes by its screams honestly, earning them with incremental, at times agonizing gradations of old-fashioned, what’s-that-noisein-the-hallway suspense.” Since opening his own company in 2000, Blum has produced 12 feature films. He served as co-executive producer of The Reader, directed by Stephen Daldry, for which Kate Winslet won an Academy Award. His next projects include Tooth Fairy, for 20th Century Fox, and Area 51, again directed by Peli.

Taft Bulletin Winter 2010 7

alumni Spotlight

In Print

Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right Jennifer Burns ’93 Oxford University Press, 2009

Worshiped by her fans, denounced by her enemies and forever shadowed by controversy and scandal, the novelist and philosopher Ayn Rand was a powerful thinker whose views on government and markets shaped the conservative movement from its earliest days. Drawing on unprecedented access to Rand’s private papers and the original, unedited versions of Rand’s journals, Jennifer Burns reassesses this key cultural figure, examining her life, her ideas and her impact on conservative political thought. Goddess of the Market follows Rand from her childhood in Russia through her meteoric rise from struggling Hollywood screenwriter to bestselling novelist, including the writing of her wildly successful The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. Burns highlights the two facets of Rand’s work that make her a perennial draw for those on the right: her promotion of capitalism, and her defense of limited government. “What Burns does well,” says Publishers Weekly, “is to explicate the evolution of Rand’s individualist worldview, placing her within the context of American conservative and libertarian thought: from H.L. Mencken to William Buckley and later the Vietnam War.” Burns is assistant professor of history at the University of Virginia. She has published extensively on the history of 8 Taft Bulletin Winter 2010

conservative thought, and her podcasted lectures on American history have won an appreciative worldwide audience.

My Baby Rides the Short Bus: The Unabashedly Human Experience of Raising Kids with Disabilities “A View Through the Woods” Christy Everett ’901 PM Press, 2009

she gave birth to Olivia Everett Jordan. (Yes, Christy is the daughter of faculty emeriti Oliver “Jol” and Susan Everett.) You can read her current blog, as well as her earlier columns, at

Grow from Within: Mastering Corporate Entrepreneurship and Innovation Robert C. Wolcott and Mike J. Lippitz ’80 McGraw-Hill, 2010

The stories in this collection provide parents of special needs kids with a dose of both laughter and reality. Featuring works by so-called alternative parents who have attempted to move away from mainstream thought, this anthology carefully considers the implications of raising children with disabilities. This assortment of authentic, shared experiences from parents in the know is a partial antidote to the stories that misrepresent, ridicule, and objectify disabled children and their parents. Christy Everett writes about her son Elias, who was born in 2004 via emergency C-section, between 24 and 25 weeks gestation. He spent 94 days in the NICU and has multiple disabilities as a result of his premature birth. She started writing about Elias as a way to keep family and friends informed on his status. As the days in the NICU turned into months, she says she found the written outlet “as important for my own healing and growth as it was to tell my loved ones about Elias’s.” started carrying her blog in 2007. In December,

Grow from Within is targeted to all those responsible for, or interested in, creating growth and future directions for their organization: internal venture leaders, business development managers, R&D executives, brand/channel managers, and of course the senior executives ultimately accountable for growth. It will substantially benefit budding corporate entrepreneurs looking for inspiration and strategies to build significant value through innovation and new business creation. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to building entrepreneurial capabilities within an established firm, Wolcott and Lippitz write. Instead, the book explains the four basic models— opportunist, enabler, advocate and producer—around which companies successfully drive new business creation and innovation initiatives more generally. Lippitz is a senior research fellow at the Center for Research in Technology at the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University, and a principal with Clareo Partners,

LLC, a strategy consultancy based in Chicago, Illinois. For more information visit

Those Who Work, Those Who Don’t: Poverty, Morality, and Family in Rural America Jennifer Sherman ’90 University of Minnesota Press, 2009

When the rural poor prioritize issues such as the right to bear arms, and disapprove of welfare despite their economic concerns, they are often dismissed as uneducated and backward by academics and political analysts. In Those Who Work, Those Who Don’t, Jennifer Sherman offers a much-needed sympathetic understanding of poor rural Americans, persuasively arguing that the growing cultural significance of moral values is a reasonable and inevitable response to economic collapse and political powerlessness. Those Who Work, Those Who Don’t is based on the intimate interviews and in-depth research Sherman conducted while spending a year living in “Golden Valley,” a remote logging town in Northern California. Economically devastated by the 1990 ruling that listed the northern spotted owl as a threatened species, Golden Valley proved to be a rich case study for Sherman. She looks at how the members of the community coped with downward mobility caused by the loss of timber industry jobs and examines a wide range of reactions. She shows how substance abuse, domestic violence,

and gender roles fluctuated under the town’s economic strain. Compellingly written, shot through with honesty and empathy, Those Who Work, Those Who Don’t is a rare firsthand account that studies the rural poor. As incomes erode and the American dream becomes more and more inaccessible, Sherman reveals that moral values and practices become a way for the poor to gain status and maintain a sense of dignity in the face of economic ruin. Sherman is an assistant professor of sociology at Washington State University.

The Dice Game of Shiva: How Consciousness Creates the Universe Richard Smoley ’70 New World Library, 2009

Richard Smoley examines the roles God has played for us and reconciles them with what we today know through science and reason. In the process, he shows that consciousness is the underlying reality beneath everything in the universe. In one of Hinduism’s great myths, Shiva plays a dice game with his consort, Parvati, and loses consistently. If he is the greatest god, why does he lose? Through this story, Smoley explores the interplay between consciousness, represented by Shiva, and experience, exemplified by Parvati. He draws on numerous disciplines to offer an illuminating exploration of mind and matter and a provocative understanding of consciousness, the self, and the world. Publishers Weekly writes, “This

is a serious, almost old-fashioned history of ideas about transcendent and human thought.” Educated at Harvard and Oxford universities, Smoley worked at a wide range of journalistic positions before becoming editor of Gnosis, the award-winning journal of the Western spiritual traditions. He is also the author of Forbidden Faith: The Secret History of Gnosticism, Inner Christianity, Hidden Wisdom; Conscious Love and The Essential Nostradamus.

MAP: A memoir Audrey Beth Stein ’93 It was 1996: the Indigo Girls had just performed their first explicitly gay songs, Ellen DeGeneres was preparing to come out on national television, and and JDate did not yet exist. A time when being queer was a little bit easier than admitting you’d met someone through the internet. As a late-blooming, sexually confused senior at the University of Pennsylvania, Audrey Beth Stein was looking for love, but she never expected it to arrive via email. This coming-of-age memoir combines the exuberance of falling in love for the first time with the disorienting clarity of loss, and the triumph of letting go of the training wheels. Stein earned her MFA in creative writing from Emerson College and is a two-time national winner in the David Dornstein Memorial Short Story Contest. She teaches memoir and novel development at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education. For more information, visit Taft Bulletin Winter 2010 9

For the latest news on campus events, please visit

around the Pond

By Sam Routhier

n Sophie Kearney on stage with her mother at the

Light the Night for Leukemia walk in New York.

Taft Students Light the Night for Leukemia Uppermiddler Sophie Kearney may have shared the stage with Tina Fey at the Light the Night for Leukemia event in New York in October, but she says it was standing up there beside her mom that was truly amazing. “After my mother was diagnosed with hairy cell leukemia in 2006,” Sophie explains, “she asked me to write a letter describing what it was like to be a cancer kid. Within the first month I had raised over $20,000 toward finding a cure.” Since her initial efforts were so successful, Sophie decided to bring the issue to Taft and organize a contingent to participate in the walk. 10 Taft Bulletin Winter 2010

“Most people at Taft never knew my mother was sick. It was hard telling everyone because I didn’t want that to have any effect on people when my family came to visit. But Mr. Hayward, being the greatest adviser ever, pushed me to expand my comfort zone and trust the community around me.” The Taft community responded, and more than 50 of Sophie’s friends and classmates accompanied her to South Street Seaport in the freezing wind and sleet to listen to her talk about the hardships of being someone whose life is affected by this disease. “At first, I thought everyone would

think this was just another community service project, but I was pleasantly surprised,” she says. “When we got there I was rushed on stage (with Tina Fey) and within ten minutes I was looking out at a crowd over a thousand people. After my speech, the walk began and we followed the crowd through the streets of the Lower East Side onto the Brooklyn Bridge. That night was the most magical night of my life. “My mother is one of the strongest people I know,” adds Sophie. “She spends every day trying to send a message to people affected: You can never give up on life—every day is a gift.”

Courtesy of Film 44

Holiday Goes Hollywood

Director Peter Berg ’80 and Hollywood legend Will Smith pulled a few strings and convinced Mr. Mac to declare a Headmaster’s Holiday—a day off from classes—in mid-November, and filmed the announcement at Paramount Studios. After playing the video in Assembly, Headmaster Willy MacMullen ’78 urged

students—five days into a campus outbreak of H1N1—to get plenty of sleep. “It was great fun talking to Peter about this announcement,” MacMullen said later. “He’s a great friend of Taft, and while I might be popular for an hour or two because of this announcement, he is a god in the kids’ minds today.” The announcement had apparently

been in the works for weeks, ever since Berg’s October visit to campus to host a special screening of his film Friday Night Lights for the senior class. To kick off the holiday, the school showed Berg’s film The Kingdom in Bingham Auditorium. To view the video, visit and type “Berg” in the search box.

Taft Papyrus/Andre Li ’11

Swine ’09 Comes and Goes Sports teams opted for post-game fist-pounds instead of the traditional handshake, and apple bobbing was abandoned from the annual Super Sunday festivities as Taft, with fingers crossed, watched H1N1 sweep the country and begin to affect peer campuses. For weeks, it seemed that all our precautions—hand sanitizers and continued emphasis on cleanliness and sleep—might save us, but on October 29, Taft had its first confirmed case. Most cases were very mild, reports Health Center Director Lisa Keys. Students exhibiting fevers were sent home if they lived close enough, so the health center’s dozen beds, though fully occupied for several days, were always sufficient. “In total we had about 80 students with flulike symptoms, lasting about 3 to 4 days,” says Keys. “I believe what saved us

were the isolation techniques: we did not send ill students back into the dorms.” As an additional precaution, students enjoyed a delayed start to classes during the week before Thanksgiving, to encourage more sleep. “It was not a surprise to me when it started,” said senior Katie Carden, “but at the same time, we lasted so long without it I was a little shocked when it finally hit us. I think the school handled the situation well.” To be sure, the nature of Taft as a close-knit community was cause for concern, but continued vigilance and good planning meant the school never needed to cancel events, and, for the most part, school life proceeded as usual. Twenty students in higher risk categories took advantage of early vaccines in November, and 50 more doses were made available in December. Taft Bulletin Winter 2010 11

around the POND

Morning Meeting speaker Ian Pounds recently returned from Kabul, Afghanistan, where he lived and volunteered for nearly five months in Mehan Orphanage, one of three run by Afghan Children Education and Care Organization (AFCECO). Isolated in a section of the city otherwise off limits to Western workers, Pounds taught English, drama, photography and computer skills to 180 children. He could not stray outside the gates of the family’s house where he lived for fear of kidnapping or worse, had contact only with Afghans, studied the language and history and had daily talks with a man who lived in Kabul through the Soviet era, civil war, Taliban and the present war. After his talk he spent time with Chaplain Bob Ganung’s philosophy and Buddhism classes. Pounds’ visit was supported by the Paduano Lecture Series in Philosophy and Ethics. Other outside speakers at Morning Meeting this fall included Charles Rose and City Year corps members, Patrick Atkinson, executive director of God’s Child Project, as well as representatives from The Curriculum Initiative, which supports Jewish culture and identity at independent schools. In addition to student and faculty speakers, a number of alumni gave Meetings as well. Recently named Rhodes Scholar Willy Oppenheim ’04, also a Paduano speaker, spoke about his work with Omprakash Foundation (see Alumni Spotlight), Kate Jellinghaus ’89 (see p. 16) discussed her work with Artistic Noise in Boston in connection with their exhibit in the Potter Gallery and former Navy pilot T.J. Oneglia ’93 spoke to the school about the history and meaning of Veterans Day. To listen to a Morning Meeting talk, visit 12 Taft Bulletin Winter 2010

Climate 350 Scientists believe that 350 parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere is the safe limit for humanity—a limit we have already surpassed. The mission of is to inspire the world to rise to the challenge of the climate crisis—to create a new sense of urgency and of possibility for the planet. Toward that end Taft students, motivated by TEAM (Taft’s Environmental Action Movement), planned events as part of that organization’s International Day of Climate Action on October 24. Booths were set up outside the dining hall with various products, information and demonstrations. “We Add Up” T-shirts were sold at the event, which were a way of demonstrating support for the UN meeting in Copenhagen in December. A portion of the profits go to Taft’s sustainability fund, which will be used to buy recycling bins for Taft’s athletic fields and gyms. Another 15 percent goes to an organization of the action described on the shirt, for example “recycle” or “drink tap.” TEAM also worked closely together with the dining hall to create a local dinner. One of TEAM’s main goals for the evening was to teach the Taft community about the amount of carbon that is emitted in producing the food we eat and which foods lead to a larger carbon footprint. Eating locally is a great way to reduce one’s footprint, so the dining hall served butternut squash soup, apple crisp and winter squash all grown locally. To relate the sustainability back to the dorms, TEAM set up a station that showed students how much electricity each appliance uses up when it is plugged in or left on. TEAM wanted to emphasize how much energy can be saved by unplugging appliances and how the little things really add up. Each event like this one makes Taft a more sustainable community. — Ali Connolly ’10

Sarah Nyquist ’12

Blake Joblin ’13

Look Who Came to Meeting

h Jane Yeager ’10 and members of A.P. Studio Art paint a mural at the Watertown Convalarium. Loueta Chickadaunce

Community Service Day Spreads the Good Vibes Math teacher Jeremy Clifford, now in his fourth year here, stepped up to lead the school’s 15th Annual Community Service Day. “I passionately believe that Community Service Day is an important event for our community,” said Clifford, “so it was an easy decision to agree to help out.” Creating a top-notch team, Clifford was joined by teaching fellow Kendall Adams ’05, who spent her afternoons

on the organizational side of things, along with students Becca Brinkley ’11 and Deirdre Shea ’11. In addition, faculty member Kristin Honsel pitched in to inventory all supplies, Director of Information Technology Mark Bodnar provided all support for managing the assignments database, and Librarian Lillian Serafine managed all plant donations from local nurseries to Community Service Day

Eleven seniors were inducted into the Cum Laude society this fall. The society welcomes a maximum of 20 percent of a senior class each year, with more students added at graduation. Students are chosen in the fall based on their academic records from the mid and uppermid years. Class of ’10 inductees, so far, are Alice Cho, Brian Jang, Hailey Karcher, Haroon Khera, Carly McCabe, Aislinn McLaughlin, Ron Park, Toan Phan, Kristen Proe, Cara Welch-Rubin and Rei Yazaki.

Yee-Fun Yin

Cum Laude

projects, such as landscaping the front of the Woodrow Wilson School. Clifford estimates that the day involved roughly 3,000 man-hours of service, with 700 people spreading Taft’s motto to the surrounding community. “The day is a profound opportunity,” Clifford says, “to explore and embody the unique Taft motto, to ourselves and to others.

Taft Bulletin Winter 2010 13

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Dance Club Uppermid Ally Hamilton, a Jamaica native, has added new spunk to the community’s dance repertoire with the Dance Club this Spotlight fall. The group consists of roughly 15 members of varying abilities and ages who all have one thing in common: a desire to improve in a wide variety of dance genres. The club’s chairs announce each week what they will be learning, and so they attract both the regulars as well as students interested in adding that one perfect move to their arsenal. The group’s greatest success so far has been a performance at the annual Hotchkiss Day Big Red Rally. Said Hamilton, “We worked extremely hard on the combination, and every one gave it 100 percent. We were so proud of our hard work.”

Cover image by Andre Li ’11


Global Journal Takes Off

Courtesy of Taft Annual

Last spring saw the first edition of the Global Journal, a periodical capturing Taft students’ and teachers’ thoughts on international issues, travel and volunteering. The journal was founded last year as a way for students to share their amazing experiences in other cultures. Advised now by Tom Adams, the journal’s first edition of the 2009–10 year includes reflections on home countries from international students, write-ups of summer travel experiences to Germany and Ireland, a recipe for making fresh pasta and a report on volunteering in Vietnam from Senior Thu Pham. “The world extends far beyond the town where one lives,” Adams writes in his own contribution to the journal, “and exploring it is an invaluable path to understanding others and oneself.”

Taft Volleyball Digs Pink Assistant athletic director, admissions officer and everyone’s favorite volleyball coach Ginger O’Shea is widely known around campus for injecting enthusiasm and love into everything she does. In that vein, it’s no surprise that her varsity volleyball squad has spent the fall raising awareness for breast cancer through various events and fundraisers, all tied to the Side-Out Foundation. O’Shea was inspired last year by the

14 Taft Bulletin Winter 2010

story of Rick Duretz, a volleyball coach in Virginia, whose mother suffered from breast cancer. As a result, she has found various ways for her team to get involved. Taft’s varsity volleyball squad hosted four fundraisers this fall: a “Dig Pink” game against Hotchkiss, a 50–50 raffle during their night game against Choate, an interscholastic tournament featuring a star-studded faculty team and a “denim day” in which students pay to wear jeans for a day.

The comprehensive effort made a tangible impact on the community. Said O’Shea, “I hope my players are able to look back at high school and see that they were ahead of the proverbial breast cancer game; that they brought awareness up to the front and perhaps saved a life by encouraging someone to consult her doctor.” The team raised nearly $4,000 over the course of the season. For more on the team’s season, see page 18.

When faculty member Rick Doyle looks for a musical each year, his highest priority is finding something with a strong and compelling storyline. “If you are lucky enough to find a good story in a musical, then you are truly blessed,” says Doyle. “With that in mind, we could not pass up the opportunity to perform Ragtime last fall.” Ragtime, as Doyle puts it, is the story of America as “the melting pot before it melted.” The story follows three different groups—a white Westchester family, an immigrant Pole and his family, and a group of urban African-Americans—through their interactions in the early part of the 20th century. It demonstrates the profound differences between the three groups, but also gives hope to the idea of racial integration in America. The show certainly had its challenges. Cast member Peter Tweedley ’11, an experienced actor in Taft musicals, says that “doing Ragtime at Taft was a big risk.” It was extremely difficult at first for the cast to fully embrace the script. “When we started this rehearsal, it was somewhat difficult to get used to the language,” Doyle notes in the program. “We needed to use those ‘hateful’ words that were, and sometimes are, a part of our history. So all of us, a very diverse group of actors, went through a period of a little uneasiness with the dialogue, but it was truly well worth it because it all lent itself to a better understanding and appreciation of our relationships with one another.” Ultimately, the cast braved these challenges and was flying high as show time arrived. “Once the run-throughs in Bingham began,” said Tweedley, “we simply felt exhilarated to be together.”

Peter Frew ’75

Taking Risks With Ragtime

Physics Olympians Go to Work (Get it? Work?)

Peter Frew ’75

On October 24, four Taft students competed in the 12th annual Yale Physics Olympiad. The team—featuring Toan

Phan ’10, Brian Jang ’10, Haroon Khera ’10 and Alyssa Chen ’11—placed second overall in the 40-team competition,

behind top team Shelton High School. The group worked on problems ranging from determining the time it would take for a given volume of water to pass through a funnel to actually engineering a structure from glue and toothpicks that satisfied certain requirements. According to Yale Physics Professor Peter Parker, “There is an emphasis on thinking outside the box and being creative. There is no right way to solve each problem.” The Taft group should certainly be proud of their accomplishments. Said Jang, “As much as we would have loved to have finished first, it was great working so hard on those interesting, creative problems all day, and we were happy to represent Taft.” Taft Bulletin Winter 2010 15

around the POND

Board of Ed Longtime math teacher Susan McCabe successfully ran for a seat on Watertown’s Board of Education this fall. Although a number of faculty are involved in local civic organizations, Susan is the first to hold elected office since Bill Nicholson served on the board in the 1990s.

Walker Hall Concerts The Music For a While series kept Walker Hall hopping in the fall, with performances by noted jazz artists Five Play, Chris Norman’s authentic Scottish tunes on the wooden flute, and of course Taft’s own Jazz Band hosting a holiday celebration after the annual Service of Lessons and Carols. To see a list of upcoming events, visit

16 Taft Bulletin Winter 2010

Artistic Noise Resounds in Gallery Last fall, the Mark W. Potter Gallery featured works from Artistic Noise, a nonprofit organization that brings the wonders of visual art to children in the juvenile justice system in Boston and New York. The exhibit, “Ubuntu: I Am Because We Are,” features 20 pieces of varying media by children ages 13 to 18. The art evokes feelings of community, empowerment for the downtrodden, and collaboration toward a better future. One project was a quilt made by more than 50 people. Girls from the Spectrum Detainment Center in Dorcester partnered with college students from Wheelock and Boston College, as well as artists like Kate Jellinghaus ’89, and spent more than a year building the quilt.

The content of the squares focuses on hair-braiding in Africa and describes how it is a process that is both difficult and community-building. Other pieces on display included works by both professional artists like Jellinghaus and individual students. Ashley, 14, created a photo collage called “Color Don’t Matter.” In its caption, she writes uplifting messages in spite of her situation in the juvenile justice system. Jellinghaus’s work included a mixed-media piece called “Sit Down!” in which she explores the idea of forcing at-risk youth into confinement. She writes, “The chair represents both how we choose to discipline our youth and questions what such confinement can do, long-term, to the human person.”

For more on the fall season, please visit

, Girls’ cross country, at the starting line of the Founders League Meet, experienced a dramatic turnaround from their 1–8 season a year ago to finish 6–2 this fall. Marylou Iannone

Girls’ Cross Country 6–2 The 2009 team represented a dramatic turnaround for girls’ cross country, posting a 6–2 and placing 3rd in the Founders League after winning one meet in 2008. In addition, the junior varsity team was undefeated, attesting to the Rhinos’ newfound depth and unity. Highlights of the season included wins over Choate (25– 36) and at home against Kent (18–43), and even the two losses were close ones to strong teams from Loomis (30–25) and Hotchkiss (32–25). This success was due to a mixture of solid veterans in Emma Nealon ’11, Abby Purcell ’11, Kristen

fall SPORT wrap-up By steve Palmer

Proe ’10, Chelsea Maloney ’10, and Zoe Hetzner ’10, and competitive newcomers in Sara Iannone ’13 and Courtney Jones ’13. Nealon and Iannone were Founders League All Stars, placing in the top 15 at that meet and helping Taft to its strongest finish in several seasons. Although the team will lose three seniors it hopes to improve on this fine season next year.

Boys’ Cross Country 6–2 The Rhinos opened the season with a 6th place finish at the 31-team Canterbury Invitational, and followed that up with a tough one-point loss to Choate, 29–28.

In perhaps their best race of the season, Taft defeated solid teams from Suffield (27–29) and Berkshire (23–34), led by senior Hunter Yale’s win and new course record at Berkshire. Both Yale (7th) and co-captain Tom O’Mealia ’10 (9th) were Founders League All Stars for finishing in the top 15 at the championship meet. Along with the fine races of Max Kachur ’10 (23rd) and Chris Yang ’11 (24th), Taft finished third in the nine-team Founders League. The boys finished the season in the mud and rain at Northfield Mount Hermon, placing 7th in the New England Championship. The team will surely miss four-year runners O’Mealia, Kachur, and co-captain Ben North ’10. Taft Bulletin Winter 2010 17

fall SPORT

Field Hockey 7–8

h 1976 Girls’ Soccer

Award recipient Jenny Janeck ’11 anchors Taft’s defense against Hopkins. Brian Boland

ATHLETIC AWARD WINNERS The John B. Small Award Thomas G. O’Mealia ’10 The Girls’ Cross Country Award Zoe K. Hetzner ’10 Kristen E. Proe ’10 The Field Hockey Award Erin M. Flanagan ’10 The Livingston Carroll Soccer Award Brooks Taylor ’10 The 1976 Girls’ Soccer Award Jennifer J. Janeck ’11 The Black Football Award Christopher J. Evans ’10 Jake A. Cantoni ’10 The Cross Football Award Conor J. McEvoy ’10 The Volleyball Award Carolyn F. McCabe ’10

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This was a team that never gave up and found themselves locked in so many onegoal games that came down to the last seconds. Taft opened the season with a come-from-behind 3–2 win over Sacred Heart, followed by wins over Suffield (2– 1) and Greens Farms Academy (2–0). The Rhinos then came within inches of tying Greenwich Academy in the final seconds of a 1–2 loss. In their most exciting game, Taft defeated a strong Kent team 2–1 when Jordan McCarthy ’12 tipped in an Erin Flanagan ’10 cross with 27 seconds left. Tri-captain Flanagan led the team in points (15), while McCarthy had the most goals (8). Flanagan and tri-captain Claire Queally ’10 were named Western New England All Stars, while goalie Emy Farrow-German ’11 was a Founders League All Star.

Volleyball 10–9

Girls’ Soccer 9–7–1

New England Quarterfinalists This was an uneven season for this talented team, but the final two games showed their real character. The regular season finale was a critical game against rival Hotchkiss, with the winner earning a spot in the New England Tournament. Taft would take that one, 3–1, on a water-logged field behind goals by Ellie O’Neill ’11, Sophia Garrow ’11, and Laurel Pascal ’12. The next game, a first-round tournament game against top seed Loomis, was nothing short of spectacular. Taft battled the undefeated New England finalists all the way, finishing regulation in a 1–1 tie before dropping a 2–3 double overtime loss. Shelby Meckstroth ’13 and Jenny Janeck ’11 both scored great goals in that game, a contest that showed just how strong this team was. Bess Lovern ’11 and Janeck were named Western New England All Stars for their fine play all season.

New England Quarterfinalists

Boys’ Soccer 8–3–4

Taft made the New England Tournament for the sixth time in the past eight years, a testament to the unity and spirit of this well-balanced team. Though the Rhinos would drop the first-round match to rival Choate, they played with heart all season, not the least when they donned all-pink uniforms in their home match against Hotchkiss to raise Breast Cancer awareness, and almost $4,000 for the Dig Pink-Side Out Foundation in the process. The highlight of the season was the double-header win over Greenwich Academy (3–2) and Sacred Heart (3–1)—both tough contests. In these matches, newcomer Idara Foster ’11 had several key kills (against her former GA team), while seniors Danielle Donnelly and Carly McCabe were the team’s best server and blocker respectively. Seniors Kendall Cronin, Sarah Maxwell, Pam Scalise and Lucy Morris all played key defensive roles in those big wins and throughout the season. McCabe, Maxwell and Donnelly were all New England All Stars.

The 2009 team was wellbalanced from front to back, with Omar Bravo ’11 (7 goals) and co-captain Brooks Taylor ’10 (6 goals) leading the way to a 4–0–1 start to the season, including a 2–0 win over Deerfield, an exciting 2–2 draw with Avon, and later on a convincing 3–1 win over Choate. The strong defensive play of Thad Reycraft ’10, Max Brazo ’11, co-captain John Barr ’10, and Kevin Spotts ’10 was also critical throughout the season, as was the all-around play of Bo Redpath ’10, Sebby Orman ’11 and Brandon Sousa ’12. In their final game, the Rhinos faced top-ranked and eventual New England champion Hotchkiss. The game was one to remember in the wind and rain at Lakeville, as Taft gave up an early goal but evened things when Alex Bang ’12 scored with seconds to go in the first half. Will Orben’s crew then played their best soccer of the season, taking control in the second half and winning the game 2–1 on a beautiful header from John Wyman ’11. For their strong allaround play, Spotts and Taylor were named Founders League All Stars.

Football 6–2 This special season started with a bang as Taft fully displayed its offensive power in a 41–7 win over perennial Erickson Conference leaders Avon Old Farms. In that game, quarterback Jake Cantoni ’10 ran for 141 yards and three touchdowns and would throw for another two TDs to receiver Chris Evans ’10, and Alex Kershaw ’10 returned a kickoff 85 yards for another score. Along with running back Quincy Bagsby ’10 and leading defensive players Kershaw (team-leading 83 tackles), co-captain Conor McEvoy ’10 (61 tackles) and Reed Shapiro ’10 (60 tackles), this relatively small but fast team showed that it was as talented and hungry as any team in New England. Taft would roll over Choate (19–0) and Loomis (39–13), while winning tight battles with Deerfield (20–14) and Trinity-Pawling (31– 23). On a wet Parents’ Day game, the 4–1 Taft team went down 0–19 in the first half to a strong 4–1 Kent team. The many fans who stayed through the early going were witness to one of the great games on the Rockefeller Field, as Taft stormed back to take a 20–19 lead on Evans’ touchdown catch—he would finish the game with 186 receiving yards (and the season with 810 yards on 40

receptions). Kent again took the lead, 27–20, with a few minutes to go, but Cantoni led the Rhinos back down the field, made the score 26–27 on a short TD run, and punched in the two-point conversion with 1:30 left to play to put Taft back up, 28–27. Kent was not done, and a good kickoff return and fantastic fourth-down reception put them on Taft’s one-yard line with 6 seconds to go. The short field goal looked almost certain, but several Taft linemen burst through the Kent line, and McEvoy squarely blocked the kick to decide this great game. For their inspiring play, Cantoni, Evans, Kershaw, and all-around specialist/kicker Mike Moran ’11, were named Erickson Conference All Stars. Cantoni was also named the Conference’s Offensive Player of the Year, for his 438 rushing yards, 1,434 passing yards, and 16 touchdowns. Cantoni and Evans were also named to the All-New England team. Following this special season, the Western Connecticut Football Officials Association recognized Athletic Director David Hinman ’87 with an award: “In recognition of your outstanding service, commitment, dedication and loyalty to the sport of football at The Taft School.” In Hinman’s acceptance speech, he gave much deserved credit to coach Panos Voulgaris.

CAPTAINS-ELECT Boys’ Varsity Cross Country Christopher C. Y. Yang ’11 William P. Luckey ’11 Girls’ Varsity Cross Country Emma K. Nealon ’11 Abigail S. Purcell ’11 Varsity Field Hockey Katherine P. Bermingham ’11 Kelley E. Quirk ’11 Julia C. Van Sant ’11 Boys’ Varsity Soccer Omar Bravo ’11 Maxwell D. Brazo ’11 Girls’ Varsity Soccer Caroline C. O’Neill ’11 Annie L. Oppenheim ’11 Varsity Football John S. Beller ’11 Michael R. Moran ’11 Varsity Volleyball Anna E. Ortega ’11

h The varsity football team celebrates its fifth win of the season, a 28–27 victory over Kent after holding opponents off at the one-yard line with only seconds remaining. Peter Frew ’75

Taft Bulletin Winter 2010 19

Photography by Phil Sandick and Harrison Glazer ’12

Chaba’s Story Launching Africa’s Leaders, One Orphan at a Time by Andy Taylor ’72

I want to tell you the story of one 16-year-old boy; a boy by the name of Chabaesele Makoti, or “Chaba.”

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h The campus of Maru-a-Pula School in Gaborone, Botswana. v Chaba meeting with Maru-a-Pula Principal Andy Taylor ’72 when he first arrived at the school.

haba was born in a small village perched on the edge of the vast Kalahari Desert—think of lots of red sand covered, in most places, by some very thirsty bushes and the occasional thorn tree. When he was just six years old, Chaba lost his single-parent mother to HIV/AIDS. His surviving family decided that an aunt should adopt him; she decided that Chaba should work as a herd boy. “The work was difficult,” Chaba explains. “The goats would run away. I would run after them to show them the way.” Showing goats the way is not the kind of work experience you would put on a CV. Luckily, Chaba had another aunt who came to hear about his job and she did NOT like what she heard. So, she stepped in and changed his life. She asked that Chaba be sent to stay with her. This new, second aunt didn’t have that much to offer, apart from the absolute belief that Chaba deserved better. She was taking care of 16 children at the time and living in an overcrowded set of three rooms—one of these rooms, Chaba’s bedroom, shared by at least three other children, was little more than a shack with a roof of plastic sheeting


to keep out the hot sun and the cold rain. So Chaba left his goats and came to live in his new home in Botswana’s capital city of Gaborone. This aunt served as Chaba’s guardian angel; she’s a cross between Mother Teresa and the “old woman who lived in a shoe.” You might remember how the old nursery rhyme goes on to say—she “had so many children, she didn’t know what to do.” Well, Chaba’s aunt knew what to do. She wanted to give Chaba some love and attention and some basic meals; a bit more than a herd boy might expect. But even this kindness wasn’t easy. She could only hug Chaba with one arm—she’d lost her right arm in a factory accident. She wanted to feed him, but food was too costly. Her family survived on monthly government food rations after the accident left her unable to work. “We would eat bread for a whole week or soft porridge sometimes,” Chaba says. “We only ate good food at the end of the month.” But Chaba’s aunt knew that he hungered for more. So she saw to it that he went to the local primary school—48 children to a class—in one of Gaborone’s poorest areas, Old Naledi.

Alumni in AFRICA Taft Bulletin Winter 2010 21

This is where I caught up with him. At the suggestion of a social worker in Old Naledi, where Maru-a-Pula’s students run a weekly feeding program, I went to visit Chaba’s school. We opened the classroom door and, sure enough, there was Chaba, sitting right at the front, dead center, totally focused, soaking up everything his teacher had to say. Chaba was the star pupil in his class. You could have kindled a fire with the determined look in his eyes. So, Chaba came to Maru-a-Pula, where he passed our entrance test and earned a place in our Form 1 class. He is just one of 28 orphans currently attending Maru-a-Pula. We’re aiming to enroll 60 orphans by 2012. Maru-a-Pula is trying to respond to one of Africa’s great-

opportunity? I see it as Africa’s greatest opportunity. Why? Because when you see Africa’s orphans—those with the fewest advantages in life—being given a world-class education, there is cause for hope. A fundamental measure of the greatness of a nation, or of a school, is how it treats those who are the most vulnerable. In short, Africa needs leaders whose voices are informed by a rigorous education and tempered by personal experience. We believe that students who have suffered the most profound deprivation will emerge as the most passionate advocates of change. As the playwright George Bernard Shaw observed: “Some people see things as they are and ask why; others dream of things that never were and ask: Why not?”

“These ripples will create a wave, school by school”; says Taylor, “a wave that will break down the walls of privilege and exclusion, that will wash away the spoken and unspoken stigma of being an AIDS orphan.” est challenges: the fact that one in six children in sub-Saharan Africa is an orphan; in Botswana, it’s closer to one in five. Is this Africa’s greatest tragedy? Or is this Africa’s greatest

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We need to take this tiny ripple of hope and join it with many others. These ripples will create a wave, school by school; a wave that will break down the walls of privilege

Chaba’s story

Clockwise from top left: A verdant corner of campus; Gobakwe Montshiwa, Taft ’09 leaping above 6’ or so at the MaP House Games in 2007; a recent photo of Chaba; and Ponatshego, another AIDS orphan at MaP, at a soccer tournament in South Africa.

and exclusion, that will wash away the spoken and unspoken stigma of being an AIDS orphan, that will open the doors of schools across the continent to Africa’s most needy children. And it won’t end there. Once orphan scholars are in the classroom, their very presence changes the understanding of their classmates. It makes other students aware, as so few students at world-class schools are, of the most fundamental challenges of their communities, their countries and their continents. So what about Chaba? He loves the plot and the language of Macbeth, his first taste of Shakespeare. His favorite out-of-school activity is our reading project in Old Naledi, where the children ask him about Maru-a-Pula. He tells them to work hard so that they might follow in his footsteps. Before he came to Maru-a-Pula, Chaba had never put his finger on a computer keyboard. He now has 245 friends on Facebook, one of whom is Gobakwe Montshiwa ’09, himself an orphan scholar, who attended Taft last year and is now at Stanford on a full scholarship. Chaba says that before coming to Maru-a-Pula, his dream was to be a football star. Now his career plans are more ambitious:

“I would like to be an engineer or a doctor.” What changes does Chaba want to see in the world? “I would build roads and schools, supply food and houses to poor families and stop the sale of alcohol,” he says. Chaba has seen the damage alcohol can do. His crowded bedroom in Old Naledi was close to noisy local shebeens—or bars—and Chaba found it difficult to study. Now that he stays in our Boys’ Boarding House, he is able to focus on his work. Chaba is also enjoying our cafeteria food because, he says, “It’s good throughout the month.” The new school year has started, and Chaba is back working on a basic life skill: swimming. When he first came to Maru-aPula, his “swimming” was more like controlled drowning. After considerable effort he learned to float. He’s able to thrash across a pool’s width now and, later in 2010, we expect he’ll make it the full length of the pool. Andy Taylor ’72 is the principal of the Maru-a-Pula School in Gaborone, Botswana. To find out more about the orphan program at Maru-a-Pula, contact Andy at or visit j

Alumni in AFRICA Taft Bulletin Winter 2010 23


x The terraced rice paddies of Manandriana that Libby Cox ’92 walked past on the way to and from school every day during her time in the Peace Corps. Located in the south-central highlands of Madagascar, the area is renowned for rice farming.

24 Taft Bulletin Winter 2010

Water Carriers Learning To Fit In In Madagascar by Libby Cox ’92


t’s 2004 and I am in Madagascar. My stint with the Peace Corps—if I make it through—will last two years. The day after my arrival I move into a house that lacks indoor plumbing to live with a family I cannot communicate with. Humbling does not quite sum it up. For the next ten weeks I spend 10-hour days studying the local culture and language, pedagogy and important but un-sexy topics such as water purification, diarrhea prevention and how to winnow rice. Peace Corps training seems designed to take all the fun out of

Madagascar. The message, though never explicitly stated, is clear enough: if you came to snap photos of lemurs and blog about your adventures in humanitarianism, you joined the wrong club. It’s an exhausting experience. During training, I find myself constantly setting goals—some are ambitious, but most are practical and a few are a little silly. By the time I leave this island, I resolve, I will be able to kill and butcher a chicken, speak Malagasy fluently, clean floors with a desiccated coconut and, above all, learn how to carry a bucket of water on my head.

Photographs courtesy of Jamie Cox ’87 and Sarah Takats

Alumni in AFRICA Taft Bulletin Winter 2010 25

”…if you came to snap photos of lemurs and blog about your adventures in humanitarianism, you joined the wrong club”

Every day I watch women and children roll up a piece of cloth, place it on their heads, perch a full bucket on top and walk smoothly, almost elegantly from Point A to Point B. Sometimes they brace the bucket with one hand but mostly they balance hands-free. I soon learn that many of my students wake at 4 a.m. to fetch water before school, making a hilly trip of several kilometers in the dark, usually barefoot. To the Malagasy, matsaka (to fetch water) is the most mundane of tasks, left to women and children, but to me it is supremely exotic and difficult—a cross between magic and art. Looking back through my three journals now, I notice that every third or fourth entry includes some mention of water: September 12

I have a mpatsaka (water fetcher) but I don’t know her name. 20¢/day for two buckets. It’s definitely worth it. September 19

A quiet Sunday. No water. Not sure what’s going on there. A friend told me I was being overcharged—should be 5¢ for two buckets—so I paid the 5¢ yesterday, but no water fetcher or water today. September 20

No water, so no coffee. September 22

My neighbor helped me fetch water. I tried to offer her money. No go. September 25

Yesterday some of my students showed up and tried to fetch water for me but the well water was dirty. And so on. Really?! Was my life—in Africa—so dull that all I could find to write about was water? v The arrival of lychees at the market means a welcome break from bananas. “Everyone gorges on them for a week or two,” says Cox. “You’d walk around town and the road would be littered with the bright red rinds.”

26 Taft Bulletin Winter 2010

v Omby, or zebu as the French call them, at the weekly cattle market. The local Betsileo people are very proud of their omby, which are a form of wealth and status. They were, for Cox, a constant source of entertainment and fascination, “especially as there were often rumors of cattle rustlers, some of whom were allegedly assisted by witches.”

Thinking back, I knew my life in Madagascar had rarely been dull. In addition to learning a new language and culture and teaching full time, I had seen lemurs dance through the trees, dodged a rogue zebu as it stampeded through my village, been interrupted mid-lesson by a chicken wandering into my classroom and attended my first famadihana, a ritual in which families honor and commune with the dead by throwing a huge party and dancing with their ancestors’ bones before returning them to the family tomb. And this was only three months in. On top of this I experienced a sometimes crushing combination of loneliness and homesickness, which made my first six months in country a bit of a blur. Slowly I adapted to my new reality. My mpatsaka never returned, but often my students would show up unexpectedly, clean my floor (a chore that involves at least four steps and is less about aesthetics than warding off an infestation of biting fleas), fetch water and then hang

around studying People magazine, practicing their English and keeping me company as we watched the sky change color and the zebu process back into town after a day of grazing. This, I thought, is what you do when you don’t have a TV or the Internet. I also learned to set priorities and ration accordingly. First to go was the hair. I’d wash it at most once a week. My dishes and my body were rarely as clean as I expect them to be in the States. Occasionally, I even resorted to buying bottled water. (Looking back, I wonder at my stubborn reluctance to purchase water; every shop in town stocked it and I certainly had the money. I realize now that I was simply desperate to fit in, and in a place where most people live on approximately a dollar a day, nobody was running out to buy water. In fact, in two years I never saw anyone in my village purchase a bottle of water). Eventually, I learned to fetch my own water. I bought a huge plastic barrel for storage and

Alumni in AFRICA Taft Bulletin Winter 2010 27

“In the end, I realized I could never fully know what it is to be Malagasy.…For me, it was enough to gain some understanding of how people in my village…struggle with something we take for granted: water.”

28 Taft Bulletin Winter 2010

discovered the best spots to position buckets during the rainy season’s daily downpours. In my later journal entries, water does not figure as prominently. Instead, I struggled to capture the spare beauty of my village and the odd, wonderful things that occur daily when you are the only American in a small African village. A year later… October 15

A uniquely Malagasy night. Sun setting as I look out my back window, and when I turn and look out the front, an almost full moon in the pale blue of the still daytime sky. The hills rolling on forever like a topographic map. Zebu strolling by—stately. The sunlight glowing on the red earth brick houses and the vivid fires of tavy in the hills.

I also wrote a great deal about all I read, saw, and experienced of poverty, and of the frustrations and problematic aspects of development work. While it’s interesting to trace my evolving thoughts on these issues, none of these entries is as evocative or powerful as my simple notes on water. I, like most Peace Corps volunteers, worked so hard to fit in and understand the people I lived with for two years. In the end, I realized I could never

October 24

Walking home I pass terraced rice paddies— pockets of green that shift shades as the growing season progresses. Men urge zebu back and forth to turn the red earth. Women stoop to plant each individual rice seedling. November 16

Walking home at the end of the day I am swarmed by the Catholic schoolkids— all little ones in their royal blue smocks. Francine, name embroidered in white on her smock, maybe 6 or 7, says “Goodbye teacher” again and again as she walks me all the way home. The boys are kicking a homemade soccer ball (plastic bags tied up with string or rubber bands) around and somehow I get drawn into the game. They run ahead and place the ball—very carefully—for me to kick and then run ahead and place it again. The kids are cracking up and adults along the way are smiling and laughing at me and my posse. I often wrote about sunsets and the electricityfree, star-studded night sky. Some of these entries are very embarrassing, but it’s difficult to avoid romantic hyperbole when describing such a strange, beautiful place.

fully know what it is to be Malagasy. It’s simply impossible. For me, it was enough to gain some understanding of how people in my village—like millions of Africans and people all over the developing world—struggle with something we take for granted: water. I never learned to carry a bucket of water on my head. In fact, somewhere between watching the sunset and simply living, I completely forgot about that ambition. And while it would have made a neat party trick, in the end, I’m okay with that one small failure. Libby Cox now lives near Boston, Massachusetts, and teaches at an alternative high school. j

Alumni in AFRICA Taft Bulletin Winter 2010 29

Confronting a Pandemic Technicolor Linda Zackin ’80 Propels Health Programs Against the Beguiling Backdrop of Namibia by Phoebe Vaughn Outerbridge ’84

v Linda Zackin ’80, front right, at the opening of the first military HIV/AIDS clinic in Namibia.

30 Taft Bulletin Winter 2010


hen Linda Zackin ’80 moved from the capital of the United States to the capital of Namibia, she had to get over somewhat of a reverse culture shock. “The hardest part was convincing my older family members that there weren’t any lions in the

mission, however, but a professional one. Zackin has spent the last two and a half years helping the Namibian government improve healthcare delivery to its population, specifically through HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis (TB) programs. “It’s essentially

backyard,” she jokes. Unlike the commotion and traffic she left behind in Washington, D.C., Zackin says the efficient city of Windhoek has no traffic and no pollution. One can even eat a salad and drink the water. “When I first got here,” she states, “I wondered, ‘What took me so long?’” It’s known as “the land of contrasts,” and anyone who has seen Namibia understands such a characterization: it is the richest source of diamonds on the planet yet half its population lives below the international poverty line; traditional tribal outfits juxtapose western dress in its modern capital city; and as Zackin points out, a popular local activity is skiing…on the sand dunes. “Sandboarding is popular in Namibia,” says Zackin, referring to snowboarding’s warmweather cousin. Zackin adds: “It’s actually one of the things I’m most looking forward to.” Linda Zackin didn’t come to Namibia on a recreational

their government’s program, and we’re helping them strengthen their capacity to expand it, and eventually run it on their own,” says Zackin. Zackin and her colleagues— about 100 strong in the Namibia office—work for International Training and Education Center for Health, or I-TECH, part of the University of Washington’s Department of Global Health. I-TECH, which also supports offices throughout Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean, operates through funding from the U.S. government (specifically the State Department) and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, one of the largest national health initiatives launched to combat the AIDS pandemic. I-TECH strives to support and develop a skilled health workforce and delivery system in developing countries, with a specific focus on integrating HIV/AIDS prevention, care, and treatment.

Dark Amidst a Dreamscape

h The Sousouvelt sand dunes, popular for sandboarding, but also tough to travel through. Keith Levit Photography /

Alumni in AFRICA Taft Bulletin Winter 2010 31

Developing a skilled healthcare workforce in a country like Namibia is the challenge, says Zackin. Namibia, the size of Texas and Louisiana combined but with a scant population of 1.8 million, is the second least populated country in the world (Mongolia is the first). “Because of Namibia’s small population, and the fact it has only been an independent country since 1990, there has been no medical, lab tech, or pharmacy school,” explains Zackin. “Very few Namibians go overseas to train and of those, even fewer come back to Namibia. So there are no trained locals.” Zackin states that a medical school and a lab technology school will be opening next year, and I-TECH will be providing scholarships to qualified students. In the meantime, Zackin and I-TECH have been focusing their energy on “task-shifting,” whereby the task normally carried out by a doctor is carried out by a nurse, the task of a nurse is shifted to a volunteer, and the workforce is modified to match the abilities of workers that are actually available. Zackin’s job at I-TECH isn’t just a desk job; between managing, budgeting, and coordinating projects she travels to different sites around the country every month. Her last project allowed her a chance to play film producer, a role she relished. The movie was shot with a specific audience in mind—the Namibian military— with the goal of erasing the stigma and discrimination associated with HIV among the soldiers.

32 Taft Bulletin Winter 2010

Despite the serious nature of the film, Zackin enjoyed the shooting. “We had so much fun filming it,” she recalls, adding that the film production was a far cry from slick Hollywood, especially in the casting department, for example. “We got a curveball thrown at us when we learned that all the roles, save the two leads, were to be played entirely by Namibian soldiers. Even the child extras had to be military children!” She adds, “Thankfully, we had a director with the patience of a saint!” Dealing with surprises, contrasts, and cultural differences is part of what makes life in Namibia continually intriguing for Zackin. Those differences can crop up in her job regularly, like in the shooting of the HIV film. “One part in this film was a funeral scene,” she recalls, “We had dug a grave and had a cameraman in it shooting upwards. The bystanders were really upset. They said ‘If you dig a grave you’re inviting someone in it.’ I’m sure we were all damned to a premature death!” It is largely the cultural contrast, however, that prompted Zackin to set her sights to working overseas in the first place. Zackin, who has a master’s degree in public health from Johns Hopkins University, had been working in the international health arena for various NGOs and their implementing partners for many years. “I really enjoyed communications and working to change people’s behavior about health-related issues,” she says.

, Shooting a graveside scene for their film, Remember Eliphas, a number of bystanders were upset by the fake grave, believing it to bring bad luck.

“I was looking to move overseas,” she explains. “My partner, Dennis Weeks, got his job here first, coordinating U.S. government assistance for HIV and AIDS, and I moved with him.” Her first position in Namibia was for the ministry of health working as a consultant on TB policy and on a drug resistance survey. Since she had been working on infectious diseases in Washington and California, the overseas job was a “perfect fit.” Zackin finds her work in Namibia invigorating and gratifying: “Actually seeing projects in action is energizing. Even the office work with my Namibian counterparts is more interesting than my work in the States,” she says. Given southern Africa’s reputation for having the highest rates of HIV, opening the first military HIV/AIDS clinic in early 2009 was a project Zackin deems a real success story. She and her colleagues refurbished the wing of a hospital and trained staff, a project that took about a year. The rewards extend beyond the workplace for Zackin, who in her off hours has a most captivating African country as her playground. “The Namibian geography is fascinating, with every corner of the country offering something different,” describes Zackin. “The north is more humid with wetlands; there are beautiful mountains rising from the desert…some dunes even spill out into the ocean,” she says, referring to the dramatic beauty of the Skeleton Coast, where the Namib Desert meets the

Atlantic Ocean. “Where else can you go on vacation and stay in a lodge by a river, listening to hippos at night?” says Zackin, describing a slice of her recreation life. The Namibian people, too, are a complex and diverse people depending on what part of the country you’re in, and if you can find them, muses Zackin. “I’ve traveled to more than 25 countries, and upon returning here, I wonder where the people have disappeared to, because the population density is so low,” she says, adding that the bulk of the population in Namibia live in the north region, far from Windhoek. Working in Windhoek has given Zackin a window into the cultural norms and how they contrast from city to country, and from Africa to America. “In the capital city, women hold powerful positions in government and business,” she explains. “In rural areas, girls and women don’t enjoy the same rights and opportunities as their counterparts in the U.S. The stark contrast makes me grateful for the opportunities and education I enjoyed in America.” In the end, it is those crosscultural contrasts and differences that Linda Zackin says are among the most interesting aspects of her tenure in Namibia. “You learn a lot from others, and also about yourself. And you question things you always took for granted.” Phoebe Vaughn Outerbridge ’84 is a freelance writer in Pennington, New Jersey, and mother of Bailey ’12 and Whitney. j

Alumni in AFRICA Taft Bulletin Winter 2010 33

An Advocate for Africa Jennifer Cooke ’81 Helps Shape U.S. Policy by Tom Frank ’80

n Though she lives in Washington, Jennifer Cooke ’81 is no stranger to Africa: at left with HIV positive community health workers in Kenya’s Mariakani District, and (right) on a trip last year with Congressman Keith Ellison (in the green shirt) to Dadaab refugee camp in northern Kenya, home to some 300,000 Somali refugees.

“Unlike many think-tank analysts who promote a political agenda, Cooke strives to develop a consensus of opinions and to convert that consensus into policy recommendations that have wide support.” 34 Taft Bulletin Winter 2010

he clinic sits next to an electronics shop in downtown Mombasa, the second-largest city in Kenya. Passersby would barely notice the storefront, but it was there that Jennifer Cooke spent a day last summer talking to 20 commercial sex workers—mostly women, but a few men—about their jobs and their practices. “There’s a certain frankness about it. It’s the hard reality of life that presses you into that type of work,” Cooke says. “Most have families to feed, and there are not a lot of jobs out there, even for the educated.” Cooke was not there to proselytize but rather to learn.


Africa. The variety can be mind-boggling. “One day it’s Qaddafi, one day it’s Madagascar, one day it’s São Tomé,” Cooke says. Unlike many think-tank analysts who promote a political agenda, Cooke strives to develop a consensus of opinions and to convert that consensus into policy recommendations that have wide support. The consensus often gets written into one-page papers—an ideal length for Congressional staffers with little time and opinion-page editors with a 700-word hole to fill. “It’s not deep thoughts from the mind of Jennifer Cooke,” Cooke says of her writing. “We bring together experts from the

n Cooke in northern Nigeria’s neighborhood of Kano surrounded by local children, and, at right, with Somalian President Sheikh Sharif at a CSIS panel in 2009.

The clinic ran a program, partially funded by the U.S. government, that provided health services for sex workers and supported safe-sex protocols. Cooke wanted to know how well the program was working so she could take the findings back to her Washington, D.C., office and incorporate them into a paper that would try to shape U.S. policy toward Africa. As one of Washington’s leading experts on U.S. policy toward Africa, Cooke spends a lot of time dispelling myths and judgments, particularly about activities such as sex work. “Often times, there are not a lot of choices for young women,” Cooke says. “Even as we empower them to have other options, we also should be working to make sure they’re healthy and safe.” Since August 2008, Cooke has been director of the Africa Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a serious-minded nonpartisan think tank whose scholars the Washington Post has dubbed “brainy insiders.” From her small office in downtown Washington, Cooke sits at the center of the city’s community of Africa experts, speaking regularly to scholars, journalists, members of Congress and nongovernmental organizations such as CARE that do humanitarian work in Africa. She does everything from interpret the latest events for journalists to lead high-level trips of U.S. dignitaries to

administration, the corporate world and academia. We try to ensure our policy recommendations are based on a broad set of views and interests. We see ourselves as trying more to offer constructive criticism.” Before President Barack Obama traveled to Ghana last July, Cooke organized a seminar of experts who discussed issues Obama would face in his trip. She organized a similar event a few weeks later before Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s trip to Africa. Both were well-attended, and the Clinton seminar was televised on C-Span. “She is recognized as being very well-informed, fair-minded and insightful on a broad range of foreign-policy issues pertaining to Africa,” says former boss Stephen Morrison, now head of the Center’s global health policy. “She’s a pretty nonpartisan personality. People go to her for a balanced, objective analysis of what’s going on.” When USA Today foreign-affairs reporter Ken Dilanian was assigned a story last year about the piracy epidemic in Somalia, Dilanian found Cooke through an internet search. It was a beneficial discovery. “She explained the history of U.S. involvement in Somalia, the current political situation, the role of African peacekeepers and how pirates were in Somalia with encouragement of some local

Alumni in AFRICA Taft Bulletin Winter 2010 35

authorities,” Dilanian recalls. “Our phone interview was so useful that her quotes were featured high in my story.” Carolyn Gramling, a reporter for Earth, a monthly science news magazine, called Cooke in November to get quick background on Chinese investments in the African country of Guinea. “She was incredibly informative and helpful,” Gramling says. The job is a logical outgrowth for Cooke, whose father was a foreign-service officer and who spent many years of her childhood living in Côte d’Ivoire on Africa’s west coast. She also lived in Rome, Brussels, Canada and the Central African Republic. But her years in Africa left the most-lasting impression, particularly the contrast between the relatively affluent Côte d’Ivoire and the impoverished Central African Republic, which was ruled by an Idi Amin-like strongman. Cooke recalls wondering, “What accounts for the different choices that leaders and countries make?” Arriving at Taft in 1977 as a lowermid was culture shock, Cooke says. Taft was her first American school, and Cooke was startled at how “socially advanced” students were about matters such as dating. “I think I was quite shy my first year there,” Cooke says. But Cooke overcame any initial reticence, flourished into a three-sport athlete, winning letters in cross-country, volleyball and track, and was a singer with the Hydrox girls’ a cappella group. As a senior, Cooke was co-captain of the powerful girls’ cross-country team. And she got into Harvard. Cooke came to Washington after college and landed an internship with the House Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health while working a paid job as a waitress at a trendy Georgetown restaurant. The mid-1980s were an exciting time for U.S. African policy, as a Democratic Congress overrode President Reagan’s veto of a bill placing sanctions on South Africa’s apartheid government. Cooke eventually earned a master’s degree in African studies and international economics from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and started working in the news office for the National Academy of Sciences.

Cooke’s move in 2000 to the Center for Strategic and International Studies as deputy director for the Africa program was a homecoming of sorts. “Africa was always my core interest,” Cooke says. More recently, Cooke has also rediscovered her love of running and logs 50-mile weeks through Washington’s Rock Creek Park. This year she ran the Cherry Blossom 10-mile race in 1:09—a sub-sevenminute-mile pace—and finished the Boston Marathon in 3:19, a pace of 7:36 per mile. That placed her 15th in the 45-to-49 age group. While Cooke may be politically nonpartisan, she is a fierce advocate for what she calls a thoughtful, long-range U.S. policy toward Africa “and not treating it as an afterthought.” Cooke saw short-sightedness when it came to dealing with piracy off the coast of Somalia or U.S. counterterrorism concerns. U.S. policy focused on “cordoning the country off and taking care of the most immediate threat without solving the bigger problem that will keep generating the threat,” Cooke says. The U.S. government ended up “abdicating our Somalia policy to the intelligence and defense establishment rather than investing diplomatic resources we need to build a long-term, strategic policy.” “There tends to be an ad hoc approach to Africa without thinking through how short-term actions affect long-term interests,” Cooke says. Despite the continent’s long problems with poverty and violence, Cooke sees the main problem as corrupt and incompetent governments. “In Africa, the key is governments that are competent, capable, accountable and able to manage challenges such as security, population growth and climate change,” Cooke says. Cooke’s goal in critiquing U.S. policy is to steer it toward promoting “a democratic, prosperous Africa.” “In some ways,” she says, “I sometimes feel more like an Africa advocate than a U.S.-interests advocate.” Tom Frank ’80 covers homeland security and aviation for USA Today. j

“[Cooke] spent many years of her childhood living in Côte d’Ivoire on Africa’s west coast. She also lived in Rome, Brussels, Canada and the Central African Republic. But her years in Africa left the most-lasting impression, particularly the contrast between the relatively affluent Côte d’Ivoire and the impoverished Central African Republic…” Alumni in AFRICA 36 Taft Bulletin Winter 2010

Taft Bulletin Winter 2010 36

from the Archives

—continued from page 38

1958 cover art by Deane Keller ’58

“In addition to the typical a cappella standards of the time for a singing group like ours, we had one number, ‘Get A Job,’ which was inspired and arranged by Art Mellor, I believe. It was a popular hip rock number of the day and stood out as entirely original for a group like the Oriocos to perform. It always brought down the house as a favorite.” —John Fink ’58

“I remember we went to a radio station in Hartford to make the recording. We had no time for mistakes, so we just sang each song once and that was it. Mr. Noyes had prepared us well and the session was flawless.”

To listen, visit

—David Burt ’58

From the Taft Papyrus

Other digitized recordings: Taft Dance Orchestra, ca. 1932 Taft School Dance Orchestra, 1935 The 1952 Glee Club and Concert Band The Taft Dance Band, 1953 Taft School Song, ca. 1955 Oriocos, 1956 The Taft School’s Oriocos, 1958 The Taft School Oriocos, 1961 Bing Bingham & Joe Knowlton, Daybreak, ca. 1964

“The Oriocos of 1958 sang at banquets and dances, but the most memorable time for me was going on tour after graduation. We sang at a number of graduation parties in New York and Connecticut, and we spent some time on Neal Love’s farm in Goshen, New York. When we went into the city of New York, we had dinner (and I think we sang) at a restaurant called Bill’s Gay Nineties, wearing cardboard moustaches. We had whiskey, too, and smoked cigars. After that the 1958 Oriocos finally dissolved, having consummated some of the themes of our songs, namely ‘Down over the hill there is a little still.’”

1958 Oriocos First Tenors Don Bartlett ’59 Dave Burt ’58 Lind Swenson ’60 Second Tenors John Gillespie ’59 Neil Love ’58 Mac Mellor ’59 Baritones Jack Bomer ’58 John Fink ’58 Harry Leonard ’58 Basses Randy Collins ’59 Jim Foote ’58 John McAdams ’58

Taft Bulletin Winter 2010 37

from the ARCHIVES

The Oriocos on Record The tradition of a cappella singing at Taft started with the Octet around 1935. Soon after, the Oriocos replaced the Octet, allowing for more or less than eight members. From 1950–75 the Oriocos were directed by French teacher John Noyes; since then they have been student-directed. In addition to their regular performances at dances, Fathers’ Days and various off-campus venues, the group has occasionally made recordings. Two of them, from 1956 and 1958, are featured here. Recently we converted these albums and seven other Taft student musical recordings to digital media to ensure their preservation and playability. —Alison Gilchrist, Leslie D. Manning Archives

1956: “…(Oriocos) rehearsals take place in the depths of the new building (CPT) basement each night after dinner. (They) are very informal. The First Tenors tend to be highly temperamental— particularly fond of warming up their voices at odd times—and the crooner soloists are natural targets for well placed jokes.” —from the 1956 album cover notes. If you know who created the 1956 cover, or where the name Oriocos comes from, please let us know!

1956 Oriocos Frank Chapin ’56 John Davies ’56 Roger Hartley ’57 Jim James ’56 Dick Johnson ’56 Jack McLeod ’56 Miles McNiff ’57 Jeff Paley ’56 Larry Pryor ’56 Steve Spencer ’56 George Waters ’57 Bill Weeks ’57 n 1955–56 Oriocos

38 Taft Bulletin Winter 2010

continued on page 37—

Alumni Weekend 2010 Thursday, May 13 6:30 pm: 50th Reunion Dinner, Class of 1960, Choral Room 6:30 pm: 60th Reunion Dinner, Class of 1950, The Heritage Hotel, Southbury Friday, May 14 8:00 am: Alumni Golf Tournament 8:00 am–6:00 pm: Registration 9:00–11:30 am: School Tours

Gund Partnership

11:00 am–1:00 pm: School Lunch

Noon: Reunion Class Luncheons, Classes of ’35, ’40, ’45, ’50 & ’55, Choral Room (Non-Reunion classes also welcome to attend) Noon: Class of 1960, Watertown Golf Club 5:00 pm: Service of Remembrance, Christ Church on the Green

Saturday, May 15 7:00–8:00 am: School Breakfast

9:30–10:30 am: Class Secretaries’ and Agents’ Breakfast

7:50–11:45 am: Classes open to visiting alumni

10:00–11:00 am: Collegium Musicum Revisited

8:00 am–3:00 pm: Registration

10:30–11:15 am: Taft Today and Tomorrow Panel hosted by Headmaster Willy MacMullen ’78

6:00 pm: Old Guard Dinner

8:00 am–5:00 pm: Mark W. Potter ’48 Gallery: Eladio Fernandez ’85, Caribbean Nature Photography

Evening: Reunion Class Dinners, Classes of ’65, ’70, ’80, ’85, ’90 & ’95

9:00–11:30 am: School Tours, Archives Open

11:30 am: Dedication of HDT Dining Hall Noon: Alumni Parade

1:30 pm: School Tours 2:00 pm: Alumni Lacrosse Game 2:15 pm: Alumni Crew Race 3:00 pm: Student Athletic Games 5:30–8:00 pm: Headmaster’s Buffet Dinner Evening: Reunion Class Dinners, Classes of ’75, ’00 and ’05

12:30 pm: Alumni Luncheon and Children’s Program

Come see the new dining halls!

Taft Bulletin

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Taft wins at FenwAY

h Taft claims first ever hockey win in Boston’s Fenway Park at December’s Prep Winter Classic. The team took the ice against Avon in the shadow of the Green Monster as Bruins legend Cam Neely dropped the opening puck. Taft had the edge in the exhibition match, 9 goals to 5, held 10 days before the NHL’s winter classic on New Year’s Day. Leah Latham

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