Winter 2016 Taft Bulletin

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Ted Heavenrich retires

Winter 2016

In this issue

m Teacher Laura Monti ’89 offers a “Silly Science” class for local visiting students on Community Service Day.

Winter 2016



Why Financial Aid Matters By Michael J. Hoffman ’97



An Educator of the Very Highest Order Ted Heavenrich Retires Edited by Debra Meyers

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On Main Hall Letters Taft Trivia Alumni Spotlight In Print Around the Pond Sports Alumni Notes Milestones From the Archives: Shinny

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Taft Bulletin / Winter 2016


Winter 2016

Volume 86, Number 2 Editor Linda Hedman Beyus Director of Marketing and Communications Kaitlin Thomas Orfitelli Assistant Director of Marketing and Communications Debra Meyers photography Robert Falcetti Alumni Notes Assistant Natascha Schwartz

On the Cover

Math teacher Ted Heavenrich, who retires this year after 40 years of teaching and mentoring Taft students. Heavenrich recently received the Tien Family Teaching Award.

Taft online Find a friend or past Bulletin: Visit us on your phone: What happened at today’s game? Shop online:

Design Good Design, LLC | Send alumni news to Taft Bulletin | Alumni Office The Taft School 110 Woodbury Road, Watertown, CT 06795-2100 Deadlines for Alumni Notes Spring–February 15 | Summer–May 15 | Fall–August 30 | Winter–November 15 Send address corrections to Cathy Mancini | Alumni Records The Taft School 110 Woodbury Road, Watertown, CT 06795-2100 860-945-7777 | Comments? Tell us! We’d love to hear what you think about the stories in this Bulletin. We may edit your letters for length, clarity and content, but please write. Linda Hedman Beyus, editor Taft Bulletin 110 Woodbury Road Watertown, CT 06795-2100 The Taft Bulletin (ISSN 0148-0855) is published quarterly, in February, May, August, and November, by The Taft School, 110 Woodbury Road, Watertown, CT 06795-2100, and is distributed free of charge to alumni, parents, grandparents, and friends of the school. All rights reserved.

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Taft Bulletin / Winter 2016

On Main Hall

A Word from Headmaster Willy MacMullen ’78 Faculty Turnover: On Loss, Gain, and Opportunity

I’ve been thinking about faculty turnover at Taft: why it happens and what it means for a school. Turnover, of course, is an inevitable and necessary part of all organizations: schools, universities, law firms, hospitals, and corporations. It’s how they change and grow. If there is loss, there is also gain. A small percentage of Taft’s 125 faculty leave each year. There are many reasons. Teachers just want a change, switch professions, go to graduate school, move to be closer to an aging parent, take on a new role at another school, decide to be at a day school, or seek more social life than you find in Watertown. I’ll have these conversations this year. I always hope that all teachers can find what they seek professionally and personally at Taft, but I know some—maybe six, maybe a dozen— will leave. That’s the loss part. The gain part happens when I remind myself that every departure means a new face in September. Every great teacher you knew in your student days or you see on campus today? He or she came because someone left. So, turnover is opportunity. This spring, we will see another part of faculty turnover: retirement. Several great teachers will end amazing careers. Take Don Padgett. He has “only” been at Taft for 14 years, but he’s been a math teacher, department chair, curriculum designer, and track coach since 1976, at several great schools—a true schoolman. They don’t make math teachers much better than Don, and his ability to challenge and stretch all kinds of students—from BC calculus to lower level algebra—is legendary. Don’s known as a brilliant classroom teacher, with a tough, no-nonsense approach, and if there was an award given to the teacher who gave the most extra help, it might go to Don. He just won’t let students fail. He sets a really high bar and then says, “You can reach it, it won’t be easy, and I’ll help you.” He has also been a revered cross country and track coach: he’s worked with some recordsetting runners and relay teams, and loyalty to him runs incredibly deep in his athletes. I don’t recall who left in 2002 to open up a place when I interviewed him, but I knew we would be getting a singularly committed, passionate, and experienced teacher. How lucky we were. Take math teacher Ted Jewell, who came in 2004. Ted graduated from Harvard, got a law degree from the University of North Carolina, and spent most of his career practicing in Florida. He came into teaching almost by accident: he found an old undergraduate math exam he had taken at Harvard, and almost on a lark he solved a couple problems he had missed decades earlier. That got Ted thinking: “This math stuff is pretty fun.” So he started tutoring and teaching, picking up a master’s in computer science from Yale on the way. When he interviewed at Taft, I knew he was a man of rare and fascinating intellect. Ted’s passion for problem solving and for trying to figure out how each student’s brain works is inspiring. You see this when he gives help to an AP computer science whiz, or when he talks about why a student struggled with a basic concept, or when he summarizes data he has gathered from a football game. When Ted left the law, a lot of Taft students and teachers were really fortunate. Of course, as many of you know, we will also see three legends retire: Ted Heavenrich, Rusty Davis, and Linda Saarnijoki. One alumnus said this to me: “Those are some tall trees falling in the forest.” Indeed. This column hardly offers the space needed to pay tribute to these great figures, but I’ll give it a try, knowing we will celebrate them in print and person in the months ahead. Ted seemed a fixture already when I arrived as an upper mid in the fall of 1976. Holder of the Mary and Robert Stott Chair, he has served as department chair, math teacher, soccer and hockey coach, dorm head, advisor, outdoor club leader, class dean, and on and on. Ted graduated from

“Every departure means a new face in September. Every great teacher you knew in your student days or you see on campus today? He or she came because someone left. So, turnover is opportunity.”

Taft Bulletin / Winter 2016


From the


“When I think of these amazing teachers, it is impossible to calculate what we lose. But turnover is part of every school—it’s loss and gain—and I remind myself of how lucky we have been, how enduring will be their legacy, and how important an opportunity we have to shake the hand of a new teacher in September and say, ‘Welcome to Taft.’”

Cranbrook School in Michigan, where his father was on the faculty, and he was a math major and varsity hockey player at Oberlin, a camp counselor during summers. It’s as if he was born to be a teacher. In my travels, alumni often ask about Ted, or “Heavy Ted”: “I see pictures of him, and he never changes!” It’s true, at least if you mean that for about 40 years he has brought incredible warmth, passion, humor, expertise, energy, and intelligence, every day, in and out of the classroom. When you think “school man,” you think Ted Heavenrich. He’s still at the top of his game, and it’s impossible to put a number on how many students he inspired and counseled and taught, how many colleagues he mentored, since the day he arrived in 1975. (For more about Ted’s life, see the feature on him in this issue.) As for Rusty and Linda? A place to begin is here: Can a teaching couple do more for a school, together and individually, than Rusty and Linda? I’m at the front of a long line of teachers who were mentored by them, blessed with their friendship, and inspired by their dedication. Linda, a graduate of Middlebury and then Columbia, holder of the William E. Sullivan Chair in English, deserves a book on her role in the school as a teacher, administrator, and visionary leader. She has done basically everything at Taft, and all of it incredibly well: teacher, coach, advisor, dorm head, class dean, department chair, section leader, director of professional education and growth, dean of faculty, director of the library, chair of too-many-to-count ad hoc committees, and on and on. She has brought singular professional commitment, depth of compassion, insight into school culture, and passion for learning. She mentored scores of teachers and inspired a generation of women leaders. She is the absolute model of what teaching at Taft at its very best can look like. And what of Rusty, holder of the Donald Oscarson ’47 Master Chair? It’s hard to know where to begin: one of our greatest coaches ever, a fascinating and riveting physics teacher, class dean and dean of students with the rarest of perspective on adolescence, and an assistant headmaster with unique wisdom, humor, and judgment. He led some of our most important ad hoc committees, including ones that examined our daily schedule, interdorming policies, and student leadership and elections. He has guided Taft in some of our most challenging moments. A summer camp counselor at Camp Dudley, Rusty arrived in 1972, a Choate and Princeton graduate, with degrees in aerospace engineering, not sure how long he would teach. Forty years later he is still at it, teaching physics and life. Great organizations have a compass that points the way forward, no matter the conditions: Linda and Rusty have been Taft’s compass. When I think of these amazing teachers, it is impossible to calculate what we lose. But turnover is part of every school—it’s loss and gain—and I remind myself of how lucky we have been, how enduring will be their legacy, and how important an opportunity we have to shake the hand of a new teacher in September and say, “Welcome to Taft. You are joining an incredible faculty.”

Willy MacMullen ’78


Taft Bulletin / Winter 2016

Letters Esty Remembered Editor’s Note: Because the fall issue was already at press, we were unable to include this fine tribute to John Esty by Headmaster Emeritus Lance Odden in our previous article. The Bulletin regrets this unfortunate timing and thanks Mr. Odden for his remembrance. In the tumultuous decade of the 1960s, John Esty introduced profound changes beginning in his first year when he challenged Taft’s well-entrenched faculty to consider moving from our traditional pedagogy and curriculum to a world where the excitement of learning might take hold. His love of John Dewey was palpable and contrasted so with the Thorndikean ethos which had held sway under Paul Cruikshank. John believed that students should be granted far greater freedom to explore intellectually, to manage their lives, and to learn from their mistakes. He challenged the faculty not to dictate or to tell, but to inspire student learning by helping them come to their own understandings, while highlighting their strengths and clarifying their weaknesses. He opened Taft’s windows

m Former headmasters Lance Odden and John Esty

and in flew the excitement of change. However, change did not stop with the life of the mind. John dramatically expanded Taft’s racial and socioeconomic reach. He introduced the process by which Taft became coeducational, one of the very first residential schools to do so. That these dramatic changes were endorsed by the entire faculty contrasts markedly with the agonizing experience

of so many of our fellow boarding schools and is a true testimony to the power of his vision and leadership. My own life was profoundly influenced by John Esty. When he was selected headmaster, he visited the school, met with faculty, and, in my case, persuaded me to stay on through his first years. continued on page 6—

Taft TRIVIA Taft has an excellent collection of works of art throughout its buildings, many of which were donated. Do you know who did this painting and where it hangs at the school? Send your guess to the editor ( The winner, whose name will be randomly chosen, will win a surprise Taft gift.

Taft Bulletin / Winter 2016



The rest is history. I became one of his agents of change, beginning with the Independent Studies Program, which we created in 1964 and introduced the next year. John appointed me head of the History Department at the tender age of 27, and, three years later, assistant headmaster—what a chance he was taking! Every day I learned at his side. Other than my parents, no one had a greater influence on my early life. I was also privileged to serve on the board of the National Association of Independent Schools while he was president. Again I watched his determination to change institutions for reasons of social justice as he built bridges to public education, challenged all schools to be socially inclusive, and moved NAIS from Boston to Washington to influence the educational conversation nationally, while protecting the freedom of independent schools. A creative thinker and bold leader, John Esty would go on to lead throughout his life. However, no institution was more essentially changed for the better than was the Taft School

developmental crises would be felt at Taft as well, and of course as in fact they did during the upheavals of the ’60s. The last time I saw John was years later at an NAIS meeting in Los Angeles, and we enjoyed a beer and a long talk about those years at Taft, and I reminded him about that talk and what it had meant to me in my own role in education. —Richard Geldard ’53, former Taft faculty member

The Real Lesson Editor’s Note: Here, we have included a letter sent to Headmaster Willy MacMullen ’78 about his column On Main Hall: Today I reread your “why” column in the fall issue of the Bulletin, and the reality came to me and prompted this letter. Taft meant a great deal to me and by this I mean both the masters who stretched my mind and my fellow students who made me feel important. I learned the necessary rudiments of subject matter,

but I also learned more about myself, and that was the real lesson. I had never been a “leader” and thus I was never a class president or anything like it, but I was beginning to feel that I might have something to offer; I was also beginning to get involved. By the time I attained a doctorate, I also had the assurance necessary to help mold other minds, and I spent 35 years of my life as a college professor. More importantly, I was becoming involved in community and social organizations to the point that in each instance I soon became the leader and endeavored to make each group the best that it could be. In other words, my Taft experience helped me to realize my own potential and, by extension, to benefit others, which meant that I had truly lived up to the motto, not to be served but to serve. Thank you for your message because it was a true awakener; my life no longer is writ in big strokes, but still I feel I can make a difference. —Bill Thompson ’49

—Lance Odden, headmaster emeritus John Esty and I both came to Taft in the fall of 1963, he as head and I as a new member of the English Department. What I recall so vividly was his opening faculty meeting, when John chose to highlight the work of the psychologist Eric Ericson of Harvard and his work with what he first coined “the identity crisis,” that often critical time in the life of adolescents when they left the familiar world of family and home and became independent and at liberty to become themselves. John then posed a challenge to the faculty to watch carefully for this crisis or development and to be caring and informed listeners. I knew right then that Taft was embarking on a new and bold path. John’s sensitivity to the challenges of maturity and assuming the responsibilities of adulthood came from his role as freshman advisor at Amherst, and he knew rightly that these 6

Taft Bulletin / Winter 2016

We asked if anyone could tell us more about this photo of the girls’ hockey team in the last issue’s Alumni Notes section. Here is one response: The hockey photo in the [fall] Bulletin most likely was the 1979–80 season, based on the players and coaches in the picture. My guess would be March of 1980. —Mike Karin ’81

Alumni spOtligHt unpacking advanced Computing STaNDiNg aBoVE BaSE CaMp oN

Mount Everest a few years ago, Murray Sargent ’59, had, quite literally, a peak experience. “Exhilarating and extraordinary,” he says, and those are fitting words to describe his career. This is a man who built early computers, who studied and taught laser physics, who continues to work with a new generation of engineers at Microsoft and blog about advanced computing even though he’s at an age when most of his peers are retired. Sargent is a software engineer for Global Experience Text in Microsoft Office, developing ways for international text to be incorporated into the software giant’s word processing programs. That means helping computers decipher characters used in languages like Vietnamese and Korean so that users can employ Microsoft programs. He’s even looking at ways to include Egyptian hieroglyphics into Microsoft programs. He began working with Microsoft in 1992, devising ways to incorporate mathematical typography and editing into Microsoft’s various programs. His blog, Math in Office, (another project that keeps him busy) delves into the technical side of computing most laypeople would find bewildering. The blog features “a lot of technical stuff,” Sargent says. “Some of the posts are generally relatable; others are totally far out and technical.” Making advanced computing accessible

Murray Sargent ’59 hiking in the grand Canyon with a friend.

continued on page 11—

Taft Bulletin / Winter 2016


Alumni spOtligHt

landmark ruling

Magistrate Judge karen Stevenson ’75 on the bench with the Honorable george H. king, chief judge of the Central District of California. BarNeT PHOTOGraPHY

karEN STEVENSoN ’75 doesn’t

need to consult court rulings or transcripts to discover a legal precedent. She is one in her own right. And the Los Angeles-based jurist has the robe to prove it.

Stevenson is the first AfricanAmerican woman to serve as a federal magistrate judge in the Central District of California. Her appointment last August to the bench—the district covers seven counties and nearly 20 million

people—burnished Stevenson’s already impressive résumé as a trial lawyer. “The whole thing is very challenging,” Stevenson says. “You just never know what the next case will bring.” The career-making opportunity for Stevenson, who applied to be a judge, followed an exhaustive vetting process that took nearly a year. There are 24 full-time magistrate judges and one parttimer for the district. The job comes with a heavy load of homework and a learning curve for the Rhodes Scholar. There are 120 active cases on Stevenson’s docket, a mix of civil and criminal proceedings at various levels of development. “I have a mountain of filings that come in from litigants every day,” Stevenson says, crediting her two clerks for helping her navigate the legal maze. One of Stevenson’s first cases that garnered media attention involved a Peruvian national who was caught by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service smuggling endangered orchids from Australia during

sunny skies for tropical start-up THE wEBSiTE iS a VirTuaL vacation.

Photos of crystalline waters and sugary white beaches beckon, viscerally pulling the viewer in, instigating spontaneous mental calendar clearing and trip planning. The menu tabs are equally enticing: “Discover,” “Live,” “Experience,” “Taste.” And while news is a major feature of the site, there’s also a tab titled “Rum.” Alex Britell ’03 wouldn’t have it any other way. As founder, publisher, and editorin-chief of Caribbean Journal, a leading digital magazine (, Britell has created a unique and popular website that delivers original content, news, and information on the greater Caribbean—about 20 countries in all, from Anguilla to the U.S. Virgin Islands. 8

Taft Bulletin / Winter 2016

“We are now the world’s biggest website on the Caribbean, with over 400,000 unique visitors a month,” says Britell, who has become a rum expert in the process of growing his business. “Our Rum Journal is also among the most influential sources on rum.” Need to know about the election results in Belize? Want to read about the Caribbean’s conservation efforts and climate change discussions? Want to learn how to make the Caribbean’s coolest new rum punch? Caribbean Journal publishes content on news, travel, trade news, tourism, politics, and opinion geared to anyone with an interest in the islands. “The site continues to transform. Right now most of our readership is from

travelers, but locals and investors also make up our base market,” Britell states. While Britell has always enjoyed writing—as an undergraduate at Harvard he contributed to the Crimson and to the New York Sun newspaper—it was not until he was on a fellowship to study archaeology in Israel following his graduation that he realized he wanted to pursue it more seriously. The Caribbean website idea gelled after he entered law school. “I took a class in Caribbean law, taught by a Jamaican professor, and it opened up the world of the Caribbean to me, including its culture and British Common Law,” explains Britell, who also had spent many years traveling to the Bahamas with his family.

Alumni Spotlight

a layover at Los Angeles International Airport. She sentenced the man, who stashed the flowers in a pillow and toy box, to two years of probation and a $7,500 fine. “The criminal side of it is all new to me,” Stevenson says. Another major function of the job is signing search and arrest warrants, which requires Stevenson to be on call once every few months. “You can get a call at any time,” she says. Her first exposure to criminal matters came as a pro bono prosecutor in Los Angeles County handling misdemeanor cases. “This was a wonderful way as a young lawyer to get trial law experience,” she says. Stevenson’s area of expertise is civil litigation, much of it complex and involving major corporations. It has earned her acclaim from her peers, who nominated her to the Top 100 Women Litigators by the Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles. In March 2015, Savoy Magazine named Stevenson one of the

nation’s most influential black lawyers. Some of her highest-profile cases came at the height of the housing crisis of 2008, when financial institutions were unwinding mortgage-backed securities. She worked both sides of the legal morass, representing plaintiffs and defendants. “I’ve represented investors suing to recover for alleged securities fraud,” Stevenson says. “I’ve also defended financial institutions and shareholders from such claims.” Stevenson is accustomed to breaking down barriers. As a teenager from Washington, D.C., she was among the first group of young women admitted to Taft when the school became coed. “When you’re 14 you don’t really think about it,” Stevenson says. “You don’t really have the long view.” Stevenson, who has 22-year-old twin sons, served as a Taft trustee under current Headmaster William R. MacMullen ’78. “I just marvel at how the school has continued to be very progressive while

After the law class, Britell worked with his professor on a project, the Caribbean Law Yearbook, while simultaneously writing for a New York real estate online news platform, The Real Deal. The two projects helped him conceive the business opportunity. “I realized nobody was doing anything digitally on the Caribbean, so I started Caribbean Journal during my last semester of law school, in 2011,” explains Britell. As with any start-up, Britell’s fledgling business was not without its hurdles. He had plenty of writing and editorial experience but less advertising and marketing expertise, so he had to learn on the job. The first few years the website evolved from featuring strictly news content to

including tourism and travel topics in order to broaden the audience organically through targeted content. Britell notes that it’s this combination of news and travel information that differentiates Caribbean Journal from other sites. At the end of 2012 he brought a partner on board; other employees include a travel editor, a contributing writer, and a web designer. Britell’s day-to-day activities include regular travel from his home base of Miami to Caribbean destinations to meet with contacts, write stories, and take photos for the website. Caribbean Journal continues to grow: this year, Britell launched Cuba Journal ( with a new partner. “There’s so much interest

never retreating from its commitment to academic excellence,” she says. Stevenson personifies that excellence, having earned a Morehead Scholarship to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she was track and field captain. She later attended Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar and earned her law degree from Stanford University. Stevenson is a trustee for the Rhodes Trust and district secretary for the Rhodes Scholarship selection committee in Southern California. She is also a board member of the Arts and Sciences Foundation of UNC-Chapel Hill. “I have really been blessed by the institutions I have been associated with,” Stevenson says. When she’s not engrossed in motions and briefs, Stevenson practices yoga and is a huge fan of the Stanford Cardinal sports teams. She’s taking piano lessons and went to Costa Rica for a monthlong Spanish immersion program. j —Neil Vigdor ’95

and so little information about Cuba. People want to know how to invest, how to travel there, and it’s still difficult to do. This site covers all these topics and more,” he explains. And fear not—a recent article in Cuba Journal also discusses the best rum in Cuba. j —Phoebe Vaughn Outerbridge ’84

Taft Bulletin / Winter 2016


Alumni spOtligHt

Opening Hearts and minds Chris arnold ’65 during the editing process for TRANS, an award-winning documentary film he directed.

CHriS arNoLD ’65 waS, he says,

“a fish out of water” at Taft. By senior year he found oxygen through performing. “Theater and singing became my means of tunneling out of darkness toward the light.” Arnold acted and directed “almost nonstop” throughout his college years. But theater was changing in the late 1960s, he explains. “People were taking their clothes off onstage and doing guerrilla theater on street corners, trying to figure out what theater was all about. I was just coming out of adolescence, and I wasn’t looking to experience another identity crisis with theater.” So Arnold turned to film. “I fell in love with editing, with documentaries and, of course, rock and roll,” says Arnold, who learned the craft 10

Taft Bulletin / Winter 2016

of film inside and out at the London Film School. “I filmed the Rolling Stones in a free concert in Hyde Park. I was there the day the Beatles played on the roof of Abbey Road. I was the cameraman in a tower at a rain-soaked music festival in the Midlands, where an unknown piano player named Elton John played his first live concert.” Arnold returned to the United States in 1973, and soon joined Kaleidoscope, then the largest producer of movie trailers in Hollywood. “Trailers were an editor’s dream— making two-and-a-half to three-minute mini-movies with amazing footage and the biggest stars in Hollywood,” notes Arnold. The first trailer he worked on was for Jaws. The film made box-office

history, and Kaleidoscope was in demand. Trailers for movies like The Exorcist, Taxi Driver, and Star Wars soon followed. And so did opportunity: Arnold was promoted to a trailer and “featurette” producer at Kaleidoscope. “I was getting promoted out of the editing room, where I wanted to be,” explains Arnold. “I found myself wanting to get back to editing.” Arnold left Kaleidoscope and struck out on his own, hoping to work on feature films. But he was soon persuaded to help out a friend at Warner Bros. by producing a trailer on short notice— then another and another. Warner Bros. wanted Arnold’s talent, and for the next 20 years, his company, Cimarron, grew. It became bigger than Kaleidoscope, creating more than 1,000 trailers for movies

Alumni Spotlight

like Home Alone, Terminator 2, Unforgiven, Basic Instinct, and Ghostbusters. “After Total Recall,” Arnold Schwarzenegger had it put in his contract that I was to cut the trailer to any movie he did at any studio,” says Arnold. “After Unforgiven, Clint Eastwood had a similar clause in his contract at Warner’s.” In 2001, Arnold sold the business, bought a ranch in Montana, and returned to one of his first loves—documentary filmmaking. The O Tapes, which openly explores female sexuality, aired on Showtime and the Movie Channel, and was embraced by the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT). It was through AASECT that Arnold met Dr. Christine McGinn, one of the nation’s leading gender reassignment surgeons, and one of only two who is,

herself, transgender. McGinn had been approached by MSNBC to tell her story. Wary of even well-meaning networks whom she claims “can’t resist bringing a little circus into any discussion of transgender issues,” she turned to Arnold to make a much-needed film about the transgender experience. That film is called TRANS; it was released in March 2012. “It is a film,” notes Arnold, “of which I am truly proud. It has opened hearts and minds across America for a community that is currently under siege and that I believe to be the last frontier in civil rights.” TRANS has been shown in more than 52 film festivals worldwide, winning prizes at many of them, including Best Documentary and Best Director. The film tells “stories of confusion and courage, excitement, and emotion” as brave

individuals journey through “gender dysphoria” and transition. Featured in the film is Dr. McGinn, once a lieutenant commander and a flight surgeon for the Navy and for several NASA space missions. Also featured are teenagers, older men, and women who were married with families before finally coming out, and a seven-year-old child born male, now living as a female. “If you know any people who are, or may be, trans or who have a family member or loved one struggling with their gender identity,” says Arnold, “I believe they will thank you for turning them on to this film.” j

He began work with Microsoft in 1992 after years teaching at the University of Arizona and consulting with Los Alamos National Laboratory, the White Sands Army Missile Range, and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics. His job at Microsoft involved the display and editing of mathematical text in Microsoft Word. “The first half of my career was laser physics, developing theories on how lasers work and how to use the laser,” he says. “My efforts were devoted to trying to understand the interaction of light with matter and teaching that to students. “[But] I was always a computer nut. I got into computers before any computer science departments existed,” Sargent says. “Programming itself is a fabulous game. You can get seriously hooked on it. You can go in at the beginning of the day, and…the time just goes by. It’s a thing where you sort of wake up a few hours later—it doesn’t seem to be work.”

That’s how he feels about hiking as well. He chose to work at the University of Arizona in part because there were mountains nearby to explore. His love of climbing developed when he would visit his grandmother in Maine. “I developed a real love of big trees,” he says. “I feel there’s something missing if I’m not in a mountainous area.” That love led him and his wife to Everest, though he didn’t attempt the summit. It was enough to climb to 18,500 feet—1,000 feet above base camp—to see the world spread out below him. He’s not done climbing, though. He still has Mount Kilimanjaro in his sights. “To some degree, I am sort of driven,” he admits. “It’s just fun to do things rather than sit around. These mountains are wonderful, and they keep you in shape.” And, for Sargent, mathematics does exactly that. j

—Debra Meyers

TRANS is available on iTunes and Amazon Prime. You can learn more and view the trailer at

—Sargent, continued from page 7

has been a passion for Sargent since the early computing eras of the 1970s. “It’s always fun to try to explain it to family members,” Sargent says. “It’s fun to find the areas that are approachable…to take some aspect of computing and explain it in a way that someone can understand.” Sargent even computerized his home in the 1970s, much to the amusement of his neighbors. His children would type in a code to unlock the door, dispensing with the need for a key. Pushing his limits, both mental and physical, keeps Sargent active, he says. That’s where mountain climbing and hiking come in. These days, you’re as likely to find him scaling the peaks around his home in Tucson, Arizona, and those near Seattle, Washington. He divides his time between the two locales, thanks to his work both for Microsoft and for the University of Arizona, where he is an emeritus professor and does occasional work with other professors.

—Bonnie Blackburn-Penhollow ’84

Taft Bulletin / Winter 2016


Alumni spOtligHt

Clinic in the Cloud iN THE CoMpLiCaTED worLD of

medicine today, it can sometimes seem nearly impossible to get an appointment with a doctor. And even once an appointment is secured, the issue of whether that provider accepts your insurance can make an already complex situation even more difficult. So much so that if you didn’t have anxiety before, the process of simply booking an appointment could induce it. Maven, an app that was launched by Katherine Ryder ’00, aims to change that whole process by offering what it calls “the first digital clinic for women.” Here’s how it works: a woman downloads the app to her iOS device and then searches for a provider based on her medical issue—the choices include general health, nutrition and physiotherapy, mental health, prenatal and postpartum, and family medicine. From there, she sees a list of providers available for online video appointments (often within the next 10 minutes) and can read profiles of each and choose one. Besides the increased convenience of being able to see a health care provider almost immediately and from anywhere (on a phone or tablet), the cost is also often even less than an insurance co-pay; appointments start at $18 for a 10-minute video meeting with a nurse practitioner, and go to $35 for 10 minutes with a doctor. If the provider determines that the patient/client needs a prescription, after the call there is a prompt for her to enter her pharmacy information—and the prescription can be at her pharmacy within an hour. So how did Ryder, a former journalist who wrote for The Economist and The Wall Street Journal in Singapore and helped former U.S. Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson write his memoirs, come to launch this app? “My dad’s an entrepreneur and my mom and my aunt started a small business, so entrepreneurship


Taft Bulletin / Winter 2016

kate ryder ’00 speaking at the 2xinTech conference for female founders.

is in my blood,” Ryder says. After a failed first attempt at launching a company (a travel website aimed at the Chinese market), Ryder and her husband moved to London, where she got a job at a venture capital firm, Index Ventures. “One of the reasons I was incredibly attracted to health care is that it’s an industry that affects women disproportionately more than men,” she says, pointing out that women experience the health system differently than their male counterparts by, for instance, needing to get prescriptions for birth control and providing much of the caregiving once they start a family. In fact, Ryder notes, 80 percent of health care decisions in the U.S. are made by women. Ryder wanted “to create a product that women would engage with and trust and would much more practically support what they wanted but also not use just primary care physicians.” After assembling a team and working on developing the project for six months, Ryder quit her job at the VC firm—with the blessing of her first angel investment of $50,000 from one of the firm’s partners—and launched Maven in April 2015. The health care industry recognizes that 70 percent of the time patients don’t actually need to go into a doctor’s office for an in-person appointment or may simply need a low-level prescription,

Ryder says, making Maven an attractive solution for an array of health care issues. Since its launch, the app has had more than 1,500 health care providers apply, but an advisory committee of 15 practitioners who act as gatekeepers for the community has accepted only a select group of them, resulting in an acceptance rate of about 35 percent. Additionally, for every appointment purchased on Maven, the Maven Foundation donates $1 toward care for women in need. The foundation supports Maven’s practitioners’ ability to provide their services, free of cost, to women and children who lack access to quality health care. So far, the customer response has been positive; one out of four users is booking again and again, sometimes for the same provider, but often for a different type of specialist (a woman who first saw a nurse practitioner for a sinus infection, for example, might come back to the app for an appointment with a physical therapist to discuss a yoga injury). “There’s really no iconic consumer brand in health care,” says Ryder. “We want to be the platform that all women come to for any information or service that they need.” j —Sam Dangremond ’05



George Washington’s Journey: The President Forges a New Nation

Timothy H. Breen ’60 Simon & Schuster

Historian T.H. Breen introduces us to a George Washington we rarely meet—in the surprising role of political strategist. During his first term as president, Washington decided that the only way to fulfill the Revolution was to take the new federal government directly to the people. He organized an extraordinary journey carrying him to all 13 states, which transformed American political culture. The stakes were high. If the nation fragmented, as it had almost done after the war, it could never become the strong, independent nation for which he had fought. In scores of communities, he conveyed a powerful message—that America was now a nation, not a loose collection of states. And the people responded to his invitation in ways that he could never have predicted. Breen is currently the James Marsh Professor At-Large at the University of Vermont and is the author of a dozen monographs and collections. Gumptionade: The Booster for Your Self-Improvement Plan

Robert B. O’Connor ’74 OKPI Publishing

O’Connor’s book shows readers how to stay strong when plans come in contact with reality—the reality of how difficult it is to make real and lasting change.

As a consultant and philosopher, the author puts a name on what needs to be done and when: gumption—courage, resourcefulness, and common sense working together. Sixteen chapters and worksheets spell out how to cultivate what you can control and show how properly applied “doses of gumption” can root out fears, head off destructive responses, and help do what needs to be done. Advice in this book is supported by real-life examples of problem-solving success. O’Connor states that his book is essentially about how to be true to yourself, a characteristic he unknowingly absorbed from Taft teachers, “particularly John Small, Larry Stone, and Dick Cobb.” Richard Smoley ’74, an awardwinning writer, says of this book, “Warm, wise, and witty, Gumptionade carries on the best American tradition of courage, resourcefulness, and common sense. Highly recommended.” Digitized Writing Solutions

Richard Arnon Mathews ’51 CreateSpace

This remedial book illustrates a 10-yearproven method for teaching English grammar and multiple writing insights and techniques to students and writers of all ages and capabilities. Digital CipherCopy© expands on a radically new way of writing impressive sentences and understanding English grammar based on our computer-age thinking.

Digitized Writing Solutions uses a unique digitized approach to help students and all writers understand every choice faced in both their writing and English grammar. Simply put, Digital CipherCopy helps analyze all grammar and writing decisions: first, as opposite choices in grammar, then as multiple choices in writing expert sentences into superb documents. Mathews taught at high schools and community and state colleges for 10 years after a 20-year career in advertising as a NYC copywriter. He has authored several other books, including fiction. Post Road and the Putnam Plaque

Jim Ramsey ’80

PathBinder Publishing

Life in a small, affluent town is disrupted when a cherished historical landmark, the Putnam plaque, is stolen in the winter of 1980 in this second of Jim Ramsey’s Post Road books. The previous summer, newspaper reporter Steven Rollins helped the town avert a massive embezzlement scheme. Now he becomes ensnared in yet another captivating crime. Just when a trail of clues becomes clearer, the mayor of Greenwich, Connecticut, disappears and his body is found in a most astonishing place! A stolen plaque and the death of the mayor—are these two stories too hot for one reporter to handle? Ramsey, whose hometown is Greenwich, has spent 30 years writing professionally, for newspapers, magazines, television, and books. j

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

Taft Bulletin / Winter 2016


for more information, visit


Closing the gender gap: girls Who Code EMiLy wEaVEr ’17 stood out among her middle school peers for many reasons. Among them: She loved to write code. “I started coding at my old school as part of a required course,” explained Emily. “Everyone thought coding was hard and boring. I really thought it was interesting and a lot of fun.” Emily spent her eighth- and ninthgrade summers at coding camp. As a mid, she took AP Computer Science at Taft. This year, she started a coding club on campus. Taft’s Girls Who Code club is an affiliate program of the national nonprofit organization that shares its name. Founded in 2012, Girls Who Code works to close the gender gap in technology through programs and partnerships designed to “inspire, educate, and equip girls with the computing skills to pursue 21st-century opportunities.” Those partnerships connect Girls Who Code with organizations like Adobe, Amazon, Facebook, GE, Goldman Sachs, Google, Microsoft, and Twitter. In just three years, Girls Who Code has served nearly 4,000 girls in 29 states, using what they describe as “a new model for computer science education, pairing intensive instruction in robotics, web design, and mobile development with high-touch mentorship and exposure led by the industry’s top female engineers and entrepreneurs.” 14

Taft Bulletin / Winter 2016

The Girls Who Code model is built on two major components: summer immersion programs and Girls Who Code clubs like the one Emily brought to Taft. Members of the Girls Who Code clubs start by working through a 40-hour curriculum designed to teach a wide range of skill sets through multilevel content. Volunteer instructors who are trained and supported by Girls Who Code staff implement the curriculum. Science teacher Theresa Albon is the Girls Who Code advisor at Taft, with support from Director of Multicultural Recruitment Tamara Sinclair ’05. “Coding can be daunting and hard to understand,” explained Albon. “If we can break it down in a highly systematic and specific way, it will be less daunting and more interesting. The Girls Who Code curriculum does that by introducing coding in a fun, project-based, low-risk way.” For one hour each week, roughly 30 young women gather in the Faculty Room to work through the Girls Who Code curriculum. Through web-based and collaborative instruction, the Taft students are learning to write code. “The curriculum is a series of lessons and tasks that build in complexity,” said Emily. “As we complete our work, we submit it to Girls Who Code. The first coding language we learn is Ruby, which is an object-oriented,

Emily weaver ’17 brought the national nonprofit girls who Code to Taft’s campus this year.

general purpose scripting language.” Emily hopes that club members will ultimately take on more advanced coding projects and consider careers in computer science. “My goal is to inspire students to share my excitement, to understand some of the basics of coding, and to see that computer science can be fun,” explained Emily. Albon agrees. “This is an opportunity for us to help girls feel connected and interested in STEM fields. There has been great interest so far—much greater than we anticipated—and I expect it to remain a growing club at Taft.” j

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Change Agents: The Voices of Social Justice The fall of 2015 was a time of renewed and visible social activism at colleges and universities across the country. From large, urban schools like Yale and the University of Missouri, to smaller, more suburban campuses like Amherst and Dartmouth, issues of race, free speech, and privilege have shaped the collective narrative and driven students and faculty to push for more open dialogue and meaningful social change. At Taft, the fall was also a time of heightened social awareness. Through a series of speakers and events, Taft students gained insight into the issues, emotion, and vocabulary shaping the conversation across the country; were invited to think critically, consider a broad range of perspectives; and, most important, become informed participants in a national conversation.

. Hillary Jordan, Author

Hillary Jordan is the author of Mudbound, Taft’s 2015 summer reading selection. The assignment laid the groundwork for a continued exploration of issues surrounding race and social justice. Mudbound is set on a Mississippi farm near the end of World War II, and is told by several narrators. Among them: Ronsel, a black serviceman just back from the war, whose sharecropper family lives and works on that Mississippi farm. “Once the black characters started speaking, the nature of the story changed dramatically,” Jordan told Taft students. “I decided to move the black characters to the foreground to answer the ugliness of Jim Crow in their own voices.…I decided that letting my African-American characters speak was the only way to give them a small measure of justice.” To some, the notion of a white female author assuming the voice of a young black sharecropper seemed arrogant at best, a “theft”—a form of cultural appropriation—at worst. “It is my job as a fiction writer to plunge headlong into the lives of people who are totally unlike myself,” noted Jordan. “In my opinion,

nothing is better at breaking down those barriers and illuminating our common humanity than literature.” Extending Jordan’s intent to other art forms, Taft students considered questions of social justice through music and dance.

. Hairspray Hairspray, the ambitious musical mounted at Taft last fall, is set in 1962 Baltimore. When unconventional teen Tracy Turnblad wins a role on a television dance program, she becomes a local celebrity and uses that platform to launch a campaign to integrate the show. “I decided on Hairspray before leaving on sabbatical last winter,” explains director and Taft theater teacher Helena Fifer. “At that time, Ferguson had

happened, but the Freddie Gray incident in Baltimore had not.…When we returned to campus this fall, we struggled with the decision as a team—Hairspray deals with important issues in a lighthearted, idealistic way.…In the wake of such a tragedy, we wondered whether it would be seen as an insensitive gesture to present these issues through musical comedy. We decided that even a funny, irreverent, upbeat piece of entertainment can shine a meaningful light on serious issues.” Fifer notes that while racial injustice is central to the message of the musical, there are other important messages as well: “It is not just about race, it is about body image, inclusiveness, and exclusiveness. We’re all fighting for the same thing. Wouldn’t it be great if the world was a fair place?”

Taft Bulletin / Winter 2016


Around the POND . Carolyn Dorfman, Carolyn Dorfman Dance

“I make dances about the world as it is; I make dances about the world as I wish it could be,” said choreographer Carolyn Dorfman. “Every one of us in this room has a history, a legacy, foundations, and family that have made us who we are today. For me, the single most defining element of who I am…is being a child of survivors of the Holocaust...It has shaped every fabric of who I am—my sense of equality, my sense of justice, my sense of humanism.” In her piece Cat’s Cradle, Dorfman visits Theresienstadt, a ghetto in Czechoslovakia meant to house 5,000, but swollen to 50,000 during World War II. She explains: “You were there because you were a Jew, a gypsy, a homosexual, handicapped, of was a concentration camp. And the reward for surviving Theresienstadt was the gas chambers of Auschwitz.…Despite it

shaping understanding around the atrocities of the past through a sense of shared emotion and common experience. Through it all, she celebrates the joys of connection. In a piece dedicated to her father, we see “one who can fall, endure, and rise again,” Dorfman said it is “a sense of faith in the broadest sense.” Dorfman carried the social justice conversation beyond the constructs of race in America, to consider a broader oppression in other parts of the world by groups afforded status through majority and authority, an imperative embraced by Rwandan students.

. iDebate Rwanda, Voices of the Post-Genocide Generation

In 1994, more than one million Rwandan citizens were murdered in 100 days. Twenty years later, a new generation is working not only to make sense of the tragedy, but to prevent it from happening

again. iDebate Rwanda is a nongovernmental organization that teaches and promotes debate as a means of helping young Rwandans speak about and process the 1994 genocide. iDebate members visited classes and Morning Meeting to talk to Taft students about the history of Rwanda, the roots of the genocide, and the struggles they face as they work to find their own identities while living side by side with genocide survivors. “Perpetrators could do the things they did because no one would speak up,” iDebate’s Jean Michel Habineza said. “Through debate you learn how to put yourself in others’ shoes. You learn how to question. You learn how to speak up. When people don’t speak up, atrocities happen.…Rwanda stands as a mirror to every man’s soul. Rwanda is also a testament not only to how much evil each one of us can do, but also to how much good each one of us can do.… If Rwandans are able to work together every day to make sure that what happened in Rwanda doesn’t happen again, then there is no excuse. There is no excuse for anyone around the world to say that it is too hard. There is no excuse for each one of you to say that you can’t make the world a little bit better.” Ultimately, and as stated by History Department Head Greg Hawes ’85, it is race in America that is the “omnipresent question,” and that which Taft students worked to more fully understand through historical and firsthand perspectives.

being so horrific a place, people continued to create; they did it then, they do it today. It’s amazing how the human spirit can rise above its circumstance. So you will find operas, symphonies, visual art, plays that were created by inmates in Theresienstadt.…Most of this work is just as prevalent today; just the faces have changed, the culture has changed, the ethnicity has changed.” Through her work, Dorfman honors the legacy of sorrow that belongs to her family and so many others, while 16

Taft Bulletin / Winter 2016

m Quinton Dixie, Indiana University/ Purdue University

m DeRay Mckesson, Social Activist

DeRay Mckesson was sitting on his couch at home in Minnesota on August 9, 2013, when Michael Brown was shot by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. A sixth-grade math teacher in a school that serves one of the nation’s largest housing projects, Mckesson felt compelled to pack up and travel nine hours to Ferguson, he said, to “bear witness” to the story that was unfolding there, and that felt so very wrong. On Mckesson’s second night in Ferguson, a protestor threw a water bottle at a police officer. The police responded, Mckesson says, with tear gas, pepper spray, sound cannons, and smoke bombs. He said, “In that moment I became a protestor. I will never forget what it was like to be tear-gassed on an American street because we were saying that the police shouldn’t kill people.…This just doesn’t have to be the world that we live in. So much of this for us is exposing that and saying, ‘There is another way we can do this work around safety,’ and also challenging people to think about safety differently.…The police are not all over Taft, and it’s a safe space. What makes this space safe is that it is resourced differently, that people have come together around their values of what it means to be in a safe space like this. We can actually do this in communities around the country.”

Quinton Dixie is an associate professor and program director of Ethnic and Cultural Studies at Indiana University/ Purdue University in Fort Wayne, Indiana. As a child, he traveled by bus to a school outside of his own neighborhood, where, he said, few of his classmates looked like him. Throughout the day, students learned together, sang together, competed together. But at the end of the day, there was a retreat; there was no true sense of community. Dixie told the story of Howard Thurman, an influential AfricanAmerican author, philosopher, theologian, educator, and civil rights leader. He spent his life living and working in segregated communities, longing for shared equality in each, and always working to make that so. Thurman believed that the best way to build community was by not cooperating with evil, by not engaging with “anything that does not affirm human dignity. If it destroys rather than builds up human worth, it is evil.” “That’s what it means to have community…we choose to be connected, we share all things good and bad,” concluded Dixie.

c Greg Hawes ’85, History Department Head

“Race has become the omnipresent question in America today,” History Department Head Greg Hawes ’85 told Taft students “Of course, race has always been central to understanding America.” Hawes walked students through three centuries of American history, marking

our long record of racial subjugation along the way. Despite this “cultural programming,” there is hope, Hawes noted. “The very ideals that motivated slave owners like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, created a system where change was slow but change was possible. And those changes, once won, would be very hard to undo.…Our culture today, both at Taft and more generally, denies the logic of racism. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t still exist, but it has difficulty surviving in daylight. We must understand our history—we must understand all the complicated, messy parts of it—but we must not be bound by it. In fact, only by truly understanding a Thomas Jefferson, a Woodrow Wilson, a man like my grandfather— fully and completely understanding them—can we fully understand the path we, ourselves must make.…And as Taft students, that is your obligation to the world. Know the rocky terrain you and your ancestors have trod, but take that perspective and keep your eyes always fixed on that broad horizon.” j

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tawanda mulalu ’16 Honored in the Queen’s Commonwealth essay Competition TawaNDa MuLaLu ’16 TraVELED

to Buckingham Palace in October to be honored for his prize-winning entry in the Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition, held annually by the Royal Commonwealth Society (RCS). Tawanda received his award from the Duchess of Cornwall, Camilla Parker Bowles. Tawanda is a native of Botswana, one of 53 Commonwealth of Nations (formerly the British Commonwealth) member states. Now a PG at Taft, Tawanda was previously a student at the Maru-a-Pula School in Gaborone, Botswana, where Andy Taylor ’72 is currently the principal. The RCS is a nonprofit organization devoted to youth empowerment, education, support, and advocacy throughout each of the Commonwealth’s member states. It has organized the international schools’ writing contest since 1883, making it the oldest and largest studentwriting contest in the world. The event is currently held in partnership with sponsor Cambridge University Press. In 2015, the highly regarded essay competition attracted a record number of submissions: the Royal Commonwealth Society received more than 13,000 entries from over 600 schools in 49 Commonwealth countries and territories. A winner and a runner-up are named in both the Junior and Senior classes; Tawanda was named Senior runner-up for his essay detailing his hopes and dreams for the future. (Read the full essay online in Taft News.) “When I entered the essay competition I had little to no expectations of making it anywhere near to a runner-up. I entered last year and barely managed a Silver Award,” recalls Tawanda. “I actually completely forgot about the contest 18

Taft Bulletin / Winter 2016

until the last two hours and pieced together some old writing I’d been using for school and college application stuff.” In announcing Tawanda’s honor, RCS judges wrote, “Tawanda’s entry is a mature and informed essay which shows a great awareness of the relationship between the physical and life sciences and the future of Africa. Its humble voice is balanced with a marked confidence, and has great ambitions.…Tawanda describes himself as having ‘Small chest. Big dreams.’ In his essay he dreams big about the scientific future for Africa and his part in that. His thoughtful analysis of the power of those dreams and his arresting descriptions make this a prize-winning entry.” Beyond thoughtful analysis and arresting descriptions, the essay is both deeply personal and served as an important reminder about the value of each day.

“I have to extend my gratitude towards whatever higher consciousness gifted me with the opportunity of going to London,” says Tawanda. “Even if it is an odd collection of vignettes, I still think there was some sort of purpose in gathering them. At the end of the day I just wanted to remind myself that my life is a story that I want to be the author of. And that’s what the whole journey was and still is about.” Tawanda is not only grateful for the recognition and the opportunity to travel to London (where he reunited with his mother for the first time since coming to Taft), but for the perspective the win brings. “I just feel really happy to have something like this happen to me,” says Tawanda. “Not just as a confidence booster, but also as a reminder of how ludicrously large the world is, and how filled it is with adventure.” j

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b “One of the things that

makes this place so special is the pride we have in each

other’s achievement,” Headmaster Willy MacMullen ’78 said in welcoming the following scholars to the Cum Laude Society last fall: Seniors Ai Thi Minh Bui, Natasha Yasmine Cheung, Lidia Gutu, Isabelle E. Homberg, Xinran Huang, Kayla Marie Kim (missing from photo), Audrey Chi Hei Lam, Jae Hong Lee, Lanting Lu, Michael Rousseau Molder, Brian Alexander Tomasco, Leon Alexander Vortmeyer, Hannah Kathryn Wilczynski, Alexander Jusuf Yan, Yiwei Zhang.

Taft Students Shine in International Competitions Six Taft students traveled to

Cambridge, Massachusetts, last fall to compete against more than 700 students from 130 school and regional teams in the biannual Harvard-MIT Math Tournament (HMMT). First held in 1998, HMMT is considered one of the most prestigious high school math competitions in the world. In recent years, teams have represented more than 20 states and five continents. Team Red Rhinos was coached by math teacher Ted Heavenrich and included Ivory Zhu ’17, Yejin Kim ’18, Steve Le ’19, Sonny An ’17, Daniel Yi ’18, and Ton Kosolpatanadurong ’16. The team finished 13th overall, second among teams representing schools; Exeter was both the first school and the overall winner of the tournament for the fourth consecutive year. In the morning, competitors took a 50-minute individual general knowledge test, then a 50-minute individual themed test. Of the more than 700 individual competitors, Ivory finished 34th on the first test, and Sonny finished 19th on the second. After a break, the competition resumed with a one-hour team test where all six team members were allowed to collaborate and, Heavenrich explained, “divvy up the problems.”

“We finished 11th out of 130 teams on this portion,” said Heavenrich. “The most exciting part wraps up the contest in the afternoon after lunch. It is 80 minutes, and it is called the Guts round. The team is in a big lecture hall, and there is live scoring on the screen at the front of the room. Each team has one runner who brings a set of three problems back to the team. You cannot get the next set of three problems until you turn in answers for the previous set. The team needs to balance speed, accuracy, and self-knowledge. The problems get harder, but are worth more, as you progress through the rounds. A weaker team should not be in a hurry, because by the fifth or sixth round (of 12) they will have little chance of getting any of the problems correct. On the other hand, a strong team should push through the early rounds, even at the risk of making a careless error or two, in order to get to the higherpoint problems which they can still do.” At the end of the daylong competition, Ivory secured the 28th spot overall in the field of 700, Ton was 59th, and Sonny 62nd. For Sonny, HMMT was his second major academic competition of the fall. Sonny was named a regional finalist in the 2015 Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology. Launched by the Siemens Foundation in 1999, the

event is considered the nation’s premier competition in the STEM arena. Nearly 4,000 students registered for this year’s competition; 3,162 projects were submitted for consideration, and 466 students were named semifinalists and 97 were named regional finalists, Sonny being among that elite group. The students presented their research in a closed, online forum; entries were judged at the regional level by esteemed scientists at six leading research universities that host the regional competitions: Georgia Institute of Technology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, California Institute of Technology, Carnegie Mellon University, University of Notre Dame, and the University of Texas at Austin. Working under the tutelage of mentor and Hofstra University Mathematics Professor Dan Ismailescu, Sonny teamed up with Kobe Ko from Cushing Academy to present a project based on the Euclidean Ramsey Theorems. Their project focused on the cases of 3,4,5 colorings, and their use in explaining natural phenomena that are constructed in certain patterns, and how they might make things like designing a subway blueprint more efficient. Sonny and Kobe “believe that STEM is intended to understand the world in simple, logical fashion.” j Taft Bulletin / Winter 2016


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TafTiES SENT THEir SupporT To pariS in December, where representatives of 195 nations had gathered for a major summit on climate change. The international delegation reached a landmark accord that committed them to lowering planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions.

reduce, recycle, reuse aCCorDiNg To,

c Taft’s econ mons introduced the switch from disposable coffee cups to reusable plastic cups in December, when students were invited to turn the plain white cups into art pieces. Lower mid Eleanor Streit ’19 submitted a seasonal design in the Starbucks’ cup challenge.


Taft Bulletin / Winter 2016

Americans consume 400 million cups of coffee per day—the equivalent of 146 billion cups per year— making the United States the leading consumer of coffee in the world. If you drink just one cup of coffee or tea in a disposable cup every day, they tell us, you will create about 23 pounds of trash in a year. Taft’s servery has traditionally offered beverages in both reusable and disposable cups. But no more: beginning January 4, disposable cups were no longer available in the dining hall. Taft instead offers students, faculty, and staff the option to borrow and return plastic Starbucks cups when taking their beverages to go. “It is asking our community to make a large behavioral change that was quite controversial this fall, but one that many believe is essential to developing good stewards,” says Director of Environmental Stewardship Carly Borken. “It is not only about reducing our waste, but also developing habits and being thoughtful in our actions. The convenience still exists but hopefully in a much more resource- and community-conscious way.” j

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a shared and lasting tribute TafT’S aNNuaL CoMMuNiTy SErViCE Day is an opportunity, notes

organizer and Global and Diversity Education Dean Jamella Lee, for Taft to both build new partnerships in the community and strengthen relationships with our existing service partners. In the case of Children’s Community School (CCS) in Waterbury, this year’s Service Day project not only reflected the depth of the ongoing relationship between Taft and CCS, but created a lasting and shared tribute to that partnership. The “Let It Be a Quilt” project was created by Taft art teacher Loueta Chickadaunce. Taft English teacher Kerry Bracco and eight Taft student volunteers assisted with the project’s execution. The team guided CCS students in grades K-5 through the process of creating their own personalized paper quilt squares. Taft students then took the artwork back to campus, organized it by grade,

and added artistic touches by designing the borders and unifying designs. The end result: a quilt for each CCS classroom, with a square crafted by and representing each member of the class. “I am most excited about this project because it gave us an opportunity to bridge art and service at Taft and in the community,” says Lee. “And what quilts represent—diversity or a coming together of unique, individual parts to form a wonderfully blended and special whole—speaks so beautifully to our partnership with Children’s Community School.” On December 11, the completed quilts were hung in Potter Gallery for a special show and celebration benefitting Children’s Community School. CCS students, board members, parents, and other community partners attended the reception celebrating the partnership and the project. j

CCS is a private nonprofit school educating waterbury’s underserved children in pre-k through grade 5. To learn more, visit

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STuDENT pErforMErS closed out the fall term with a spectacular dance showcase in Bingham auditorium.

m raLLy oN rHiNoS! one of the highlights of the fall term at Taft is always Taft-Hotchkiss Day. Most athletic competitions took place in Lakeville this year, but there was no place like home for the traditional (and fantastic) red rally.

STuDENTS, faCuLTy, STaff, aND NEigHBorS gathered in woodward Chapel in December for Taft’s 80th annual Service of Lessons and Carols. first celebrated in England in 1880, the venerable tradition helps mark the start of the holiday season.


Taft Bulletin / Winter 2016

LED By TENNaNT MaxEy ’16 and in the spirit of global citizenship, Taft and Hotchkiss students expressed their solidarity with the french people after the paris bombings in November by pausing during the TaftHotchkiss Day festivities to form a human french flag. “in honor of the lives lost on friday night, Taft and Hotchkiss stand together. our prayers go out to all those that were affected by this catastrophe, for they will receive eternal life and never perish. Love, Tennant”

b MoNkS froM TiBET’S

DrEpuNg goMaNg MoNaSTEry were in residence at Taft in November. During their visit the group led chants at Morning Meeting, visited classrooms, and held an evening meditation session. Their primary work, however, was the creation of a peace mandala in potter gallery. according to Tibetan tradition, the creation of a sand mandala effects purification and healing. The monks’ visit to Taft is part of a yearlong Sacred art Tour, designed to share prayers of hope and compassion while spotlighting both Tibetan Buddhist teachings and practices and the plight and abuses of the Tibetan people and culture.

Taft Bulletin / Winter 2016


Tise Ben-Eka ’17 in action against andover.


Taft Bulletin / Winter 2016

Fall Sports Wrap-up

for more on the fall season, please visit

BY STEVE PALMER Photography by Robert Falcetti

Volleyball 11–7

NEW ENGLAND TOURNAMENT QUARTERFINALIST The 2015 varsity volleyball team’s theme was “You’re either in or you’re out. Commit.” This year’s team was focused on making it to the New England Tournament and they accomplished this by being the 6th seed. Unfortunately, they lost to Andover in the quarterfinals in a very close battle (3–1). Highlights of the regular season were defeating Hotchkiss twice and Deerfield (3–0) in the final home game with an all-senior starting lineup. The volleyball team also conducted volleyball clinics for the PAL Special Olympians, raised funds to support breast cancer research, as well as supporting research for the assistant coach’s husband at Hotchkiss with his cancer battle. The team had great wins against Greenwich Academy, where

head coach Ginger O’Shea earned her 450th career win. Other victories were over Convent of the Sacred Heart, Miss Porter’s, Hopkins, Canterbury, and Northfield Mount Hermon. New England All-Stars were Helen Hofelt ’16 Agnes Wong ’16, Mary Collette ’17, and Tise Ben-Eka ’17. Founders League honors went to captains Hofelt and Wong.


It was a special year for this team that compiled an impressive record and qualified for the Class A New England Tournament. As the No. 6 seed, Taft traveled to Northfield Mount Hermon, where the Rhinos fell to the eventual runner-up in the tournament. The Taft team was characterized by remarkable camaraderie,

toughness in the face of adversity, and exceptional athleticism. Following hardfought draws against Andover (2–2) and Suffield (2–2), Taft rattled off a seven-game win streak, highlighted by consecutive home wins over Kent (4–2), Choate (3–1), and Loomis (4–2). As a team, Taft scored an astonishing 61 goals this season, led by Matteo Mangiardi ’17, who tied Taft’s single-season goal-scoring record of 29 goals. Other key offensive contributors were Mthabisi Tshuma ’18 (8 goals, 3 assists), Will Dittrich ’16 (5 goals, 5 assists), Jay Lavallee ’17 (3 goals, 5 assists), and Miguel Ridruejo ’17 (2 goals, 7 assists). Alongside Ridruejo, A.J. Barre ’17 controlled the midfield for Taft, while the back line of Walani Ndhlovu ’16, Mat Maier ’16, John Nugent ’17, and Jevaughn Sinclair ’16 was tenacious on defense and aggressive in attack. Eric Sodero ’17 was excellent in goal, helping the Big Red to six shutout victories.

b Boys’ varsity soccer’s Brandon reid ’17 in midair after scoring a goal against St. Mark’s.

for the Rhinos. What followed was an avalanche of injuries, culminating in the loss of nine starters. In short, Taft played the most difficult schedule in all of New England, facing four Class A New England Championship teams. Throughout the difficult season, the squad stayed together and persevered. Co-captain Alex Salytchev ’16 was one of the most dynamic two-way players in New England and received All-New England accolades for his play at wide receiver and defensive back, while co-captain Sam Sweet ’16 was a steady force at tight end and defensive end. Postgraduate Pat Ford ’16 steered the offense and consistently found Aidan Majury ’16 as one of his favorite targets. Sam Okpan ’16 led the team in tackles from his linebacker spot. Jon Jacobs ’16 (All Erickson League, All Founders League) was a dominant two-way lineman, while Chris Bedigian ’16 and Alex Hughes ’16 (All Founders League) were rocks on both sides of the ball.

Juliana yamin ’18 makes a play against kent.


The 11 regular-season wins is the most by the program since the early 2000s and earned the team a playoff berth for the first time since 2010. Under the leadership of phenomenal captains Madie Leidt ’16 and Steph Houghton ’16 (Founders League All-Star) and a strong 2016 class of leaders, including Cecilia Sousa ’16 and Jules Falkow ’16, the team played better as the season elapsed. Season highlights include victories against Deerfield and Hotchkiss, and winning seven of the final nine games. In arguably the best result for the program in the past 15 years, Taft beat two-time defending New England Champions Nobles (1–0) in the first round of the New England tournament to earn their first New England semifinal appearance since 2001. Taft had breakout seasons 26

Taft Bulletin / Winter 2016

from Kristin Manfreda ’18 (8 goals, 6 assists, and a WWNEPSSA All-Star and a Connecticut All-State team selection), Sojung Kim ’17 (6 goals, 5 assists), Emilee Adami ’19 (7 goals, 1 assist), and Grace Adams ’17 (6 goals, 1 assist, WWNEPSSA All-Star). Seniors Emma Belak ’16 and Emma Pottenger ’16 helped lock down the center of the field. Goalkeeper Leidt capped her illustrious career with her finest season to date, earning All-State team honors as well as her third straight Boston Globe All-State selection.

Football 0–8 The 2015 season began with promise, but was fraught with adversity. Taft lost early close games to Kent (21–20), Trinity-Pawling (40–34 in overtime), and Avon Old Farms (43–39) on strange bounces and missed opportunities, a start that easily could have been 3–0

Fall atHletiC aWarD Winners John B. small Cross Country award robert a. Dettmann ’16 Tyler M. Dullinger ’16 Evan a. Miller ’16 girls’ Cross Country award Sophia E. Dawn ’16 Field Hockey award isabella w. Horstmann ’16 alexandra M. Long ’16 Brooke a. Majewski ’16 livingston Carroll soccer award Mathew B. Maier ’16 Jevaughn C. Sinclair ’16 1976 girls’ soccer award Madeline r. Leidt ’16 Black Football award alexander N. Salytchev ’16 Cross Football award Samuel B. Sweet ’16 Volleyball award Liana B. Hickey ’16

Fall spOrts Field Hockey 4–10–2 The season started in mid-August with a fantastic trip to the Netherlands, Belgium, and France, where the Rhinos worked with top international coaches and had the opportunity to play very talented Dutch, Belgian, and French club teams. The trip made for a very strong team camaraderie throughout this challenging season. Seven of Taft’s 10 losses were only by one or two goals, and most of the games could have gone either way. Despite a lack of goal scoring, the Rhinos stayed focused and positive, coming through with key ties against talented teams from Choate (2–2) and Williston (1–1). Taft was led by six seniors, including tri-captains Isabella Horstmann, Brooke Majewski, and Lexi Long. Majewski and Long were named WNESPFHA All-Stars, and Lucy Feidelson ’16 and Horstmann were our Founders All-Stars. With 12 very talented returners next year, Taft looks to rebound behind captains-elect Katherine Queally ’17 and Emma Vermylen ’17.

Boys’ Cross Country 2–5 The depth of this team was unexpected and on display in the opening hard-fought win over Choate (24–31) and TrinityPawling (27–29). With several four-year runners, several talented former soccer players, and one postgraduate from Kenya, the 2015 Taft harriers put 11 runners under the 18-minute mark during the season (5K course), an unusual mark of talent. Led by tri-captains Evan Miller ’16, Tyler Dullinger ’16, and Robert Dettmann ’16 all season, the team came together with an impressive 8th place finish out of the 15 teams when Taft hosted 500 runners for the NEPSTA Division I championships. Miller (16:33), Dullinger (16:33), and postgrad Alex Kiiru ’16 (16:32) all ran exceptionally fast 5K times during the season and created a strong 1–2–3 for Taft. Seniors Dettmann, Abokor Ismael, Johnny Morgart, Kevin Molder, and Michael Molder combined

Varsity field hockey’s Bella Horstmann ’16 makes a play in front of the Taft net against greenwich academy.

for the strongest 4th through 10th runners Taft has had in many years. Dullinger (13th) and Kiiru (15th) earned All-New England honors for their great races at the New England Championship race.

girls’ Cross Country 4–4 Ten girls vied for position in the varsity top seven throughout the season, and this depth led the Rhino runners to dual meet victories against Miss Porter’s, NMH, Kent, and rival Hotchkiss. The girls’ cross country team worked hard throughout the fall to avenge an early season loss to Choate, and the varsity group met their goal by finishing second at the Founders League Championships, bested only by perennial powerhouse Loomis. At the same Founders League race, three of Taft’s varsity runners earned All-Founders honors: Hanna Murphy ’18 for her 7th place finish, Maggie Swomley ’16 for her 8th place finish, and Sophia Dawn ’16 for her 10th place finish.

The team was most proud of improving by two places at both the Founders League and New England Conference Championships, placing 2nd and 7th respectively, and they have aspirations of even higher finishes for the 2016 season. Next year’s team will be captained by Caroline Moore ’17, Juste Simanauskaite ’17, and Caroline Winicki ’17. j

m kate Tewksbury ’16, a varsity volleyball player, has a visit from her goldendoodle kenzie after playing against Hotchkiss.

Taft Bulletin / Winter 2016


“Twilight fell: The sky turned to a light, dusky purple littered with tiny silver stars.” —J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix


Financial Aid Matters

An inside look at how financial aid enriches Taft’s entire school community while creating profound opportunities for academic, social, and cultural growth. By Michael J. Hoffman ’97

Photography by Robert Falcetti

I am standing in the back corner of the Choral Room on Parents’ Day trying to hold back tears. Conductor T.J. Thompson is taking the string section through “Summer,” part of Vivaldi’s Concerto Number 2 in G Minor, and as the tempo and tenor of the piece intensify, a convergence of thoughts floods me with emotion. Taft’s Chamber Ensemble has never been stronger, and this group of exceptional young musicians plays at a level well beyond their years. Thompson conducts a near-flawless 30-minute program with a group he sees for less than five hours a week. This group of student musicians has to balance Advanced Placement classes, varsity sports, student leadership, and the social landscape of the 21st-century teenager, while also perfecting 500-plus measures of master-class music. As financial aid director, I know how many parts of this exceptional orchestra would be silent without Taft’s deep commitment to financial aid. This story repeats itself all around campus every day: everywhere you see excellence at Taft there are students who could not contribute without the support of our financial aid program. If you attended Taft in the 20th century like me, you probably realize that our campus has transformed over the past 20 years. The Ivy Kwok Wu Science Center, Vogelstein Dormitory, Odden Arena, and the Moorhead Wing have greatly expanded the physical plant, and our ongoing commitment to updating our original living and

learning spaces means that the Taft campus is beautifully equipped for the next 125 years. Taft’s student body now represents the diverse, global, interconnected world that our campus has been created to serve. With students from 33 states and 47 nations on six continents, a Taft education is known and sought after in places that would have seemed unthinkable 50 years ago. The makeup of a 21st-century Taft class can certainly be attributed to the vision and work of Lance Odden, former headmaster, and Ferdie Wandelt ’66, former director of admissions, but what may be overlooked is the role an expanding financial aid budget has played in our transformation. Over the past 40 years, the school’s commitment to financial aid has increased 3,850 percent! Forty years ago our $200,000 financial aid budget could support only 16 percent of students. During Headmaster Willy MacMullen’s tenure in particular, the board of trustees has prioritized increasing the financial aid budget, so that today 36 percent of Taft students are supported through need-based financial aid totaling over $7.5 million. As the Ever Taft, Even Stronger campaign comes to a successful conclusion, Taft will further expand our allocation of aid. What does that investment of resources bring to the school? Our financial aid budget ensures diversity of all kinds at Taft: geographic, racial, religious, socioeconomic, of course, but diversity of thought and experience are also particularly Taft Bulletin / Winter 2016


powerful to the Taft education. As MacMullen says, “Twenty-first-century organizations want students who have developed the skills you can only get at places where you must consider daily the opinions and ideas of diverse groups.” Look today at any Taft classroom, any sit-down dinner table, any


exceeds the range of our budget. With an expanding commitment to financial aid, we can ensure that Taft is able to admit and enroll the most dynamic, diverse class of students possible. Access, achievement, and affordability are the three goals of the Taft Financial Aid Office. Although

Financial Aid

awards for domestic students admitted in 2015* Family Income (Boarding Students)

Average Award

Average Tuition

# of Awards





















Family Income (Day Students)

Average Award

Average Tuition

# of Awards





















*Family income, family size, and the number of students in tuition-charging schools are all considered in awarding aid. 22 international students were admitted with an average award of $45,159.

advisee “feed,” and you will see real opportunities for future leaders to learn from the tremendously varied life experiences of their classmates. I spend a large part of every fall in cities around the country speaking to prospective families about the boarding school experience in general, and Taft in particular, and for many, receiving financial aid is critical to their enrollment. But the point I try to stress to all families is that if you are interested in highly selective boarding schools (like Taft), the talented, diverse, enthusiastic student population you seek is a direct result of financial aid commitment. Put very simply, financial aid allows Taft to enroll the best student body possible. With 1,700 annual applicants for 180 places, our Admissions Office has the benefit of great selectivity, but each spring we must deny admission to a few dozen highly qualified candidates whose financial need

most students receiving financial aid likely overlap in multiple categories, the “AAA” definition is the simplest way to categorize how our office allocates aid. Access in financial aid means providing enrollment opportunities to talented students for whom the resources of a Taft education and diploma can truly be life-changing. As Director of Admissions Peter Frew ’75 says, “Through long-standing partnerships with organizations like Prep for Prep, A Better Chance, and Hartford Youth Scholars, we know we can change the trajectory of lives.” While every new student brings a strong record of academic and extracurricular success to Taft, a robust financial aid budget ensures that high achievement is found in every corner of campus. Within every applicant pool exists a handful of uniquely skilled young people with the potential to have a disproportionately large impact on the Taft

community but without the financial means to afford the full cost. Financial aid ensures that we can enroll these students who will bring their talents while they also grow and benefit from Taft’s offerings. Affordability is the broadest and most critical area of financial aid at Taft. Our school has always been an expensive investment, but as tuitions continue to rise (faster than the Consumer Price Index) and wage growth stagnates among the great majority of U.S. households, affording the full cost of Taft becomes impossible for more and more families each year. To send two children to Taft and then a private university now approaches $1 million in total cost. Forty years ago, Taft tuition represented around 20 percent of household pretax income at the 80th income percentile (the top of the “middle class”). Today, Taft tuition represents just under 50 percent of that same group’s income. With this reality, a sustained and growing commitment to increasing financial aid budgets can enable more and more families to consider the possibility of a Taft education. Every independent school, Taft included, works to avoid the “barbell effect” of only enrolling full-paying and high financial need students. Our office strives to allocate our budget across the income spectrum. While all families receiving aid at Taft must qualify on the basis of their income and assets, the divergence of tuition costs from income growth means more and more families qualify for financial aid each year. Nearly every Taft student receiving financial aid benefits from Taft’s many endowed, named scholarships. Some of these endowed gifts date back to Horace Taft’s time and others are newly created. While more than $80 million of Taft’s endowment is dedicated to scholarship aid, at least another $50 million is necessary before our current aid budget could be allocated without being augmented by other sources like the Annual Fund. Within every endowed scholarship, however, exists the perpetual opportunity for education, personal growth, and a life-changing experience. One of the joys of my job is assigning students to named scholarships and then reading the thankyou letters our students write to the scholarship donors every fall. I could spend another 1,000

words trying to convince you “Why Financial Aid Matters,” but the words of our students speak much more powerfully. Here are some excerpts:

“Never have I been around a group of people who love and care for others as much as Taft students and faculty do, and the only way I would be able to experience a community this compassionate is with your help.” “The relationships I am building, with people from all different countries and backgrounds, are long lasting, and not to be forgotten. I still cannot believe that there are students from Ecuador, Nigeria, and Zimbabwe in my math class!” “For my life, the 15 miles from my house to Taft were like a whole vast ocean separating two continents: mediocrity and excellence. When I traveled those 15 miles every day to school, I was leaving behind my quiet and secure existence— stepping outside my comfort zone. After reflecting on all the ways attending Taft has transformed my life, I can say with certainty that your generosity—your gift of a Taft education— has proven more valuable to me than any other gift I have ever received.” “Your generosity has given me nothing less than life. For the rest of my life I will cherish my time here with a sigh, somewhere ages and ages hence. I will cherish my friends, all that I have learned, and who I have become. And for this, I am forever grateful.”

These words of gratitude are a small window into the minds of students whose lives have been changed by the opportunity of a Taft education. And for every new scholarship that is endowed and for every Annual Fund goal we meet, the impact is seen in over 200 talented young people each year, who are given the opportunity to experience an exceptional education. That’s why financial aid matters. j

For 40 years, Ted Heavenrich has helped shape the minds and lives of Taft students not just in the classroom, but on the hiking trail, the playing field, and the ice rink; and in dorms, hallways, and meeting spaces, both on and away from campus. By all accounts an exceptional teacher, Heavenrich has also been a most extraordinary coach, mentor, colleague, and friend. As Ted prepares to retire at the end of this academic year, we look back in admiration and celebration on 40 years of excellence.

An educator of the

very highest order

Ted Heavenrich retires Edited by Debra Meyers


hen I see alumni from the 1970s and 1980s, they often ask about some of the “old legends,” and when I share that Ted Heavenrich is still here, and when I speak of him, or if I show a picture of him, there is invariably a wonderfully affectionate exclamation, and often some version of “He has not changed!” And he has not changed, if we mean he is the same friendly, funny, bearded, woodsy, fit man who came to Taft some 40 years ago. Ted does look the same: a ready smile, a loud laugh, and endearing way of greeting you, perhaps putting a hand on your shoulder as you share a story. I can think of few teachers in my years who have been so constant in presence and energy and spirit. Don’t take for granted how hard it is to be as good as Ted has been for as long. That constancy is remarkable when you reflect on what it really means—in this case, that for his entire career he has been one of the best, most respected, and most loved teachers Taft has known.

Start with his teaching. I lost count years ago of advisees, players, and others who share stories of falling in love with math because of Ted, or getting through math because of Ted, or advancing in math because of Ted. Many years ago he moved into the rarified altitude of “master teacher,” and it is impossible to even guess at how many students would say he was their favorite teacher—and note I have heard that from nervous mids solving for X and high-flying seniors doing college-level calculus. He never has lost his love of the classroom, and Ted at his craft is about as good as it gets. Of course, if you really want to see something special, observe him giving one-on-one extra help, in his office, over lunch in the dining hall, or at the Math Table. When you talk to his colleagues, especially younger teachers who were mentored by him and modeled their teaching after him, you hear a level of respect and affection that is singular. I like thinking that a lot of teachers

started their careers hoping they might be one-tenth as good as Ted Heavenrich. And what is remarkable is that being a math teacher is only part of what he has been at Taft. He was a really good coach, in hockey and in soccer, with boys and girls: competitive, balanced, humorous, knowledgeable. He ran our climbing wall for years, and so that group of students that did not want to play a team sport but were drawn to the camaraderie and competition of the wall—well, you would see them standing next to Ted, climbing harnesses and carabiners dangling off their waists, peering up at the rope and trying to figure a way up. For years he was the face of our outdoor programs, and he led hikes with students, near and far—and he seemed to embody a Sierra Club ethos and passion for the wilderness years before it became trendy. He was an avid runner, and lots of faculty and students trained with him. I certainly did on plenty of occasions when I was younger, and we huffed and puffed around the neighborhood. Taft Bulletin / Winter 2016


He was a class dean as well, and a really good one: caring, firm, wise, calm. For a lot of men and women faculty skaters, he was our “commissioner” for our Tuesday night “Senile Six” hockey sessions. There he reached out to friends from town to invite them, and so his popularity extended well beyond our walls. And what we should remember with this partial list is that Ted did all this—and more—with humor, good will, a can-do team attitude that is precious in a place as busy as Taft. It’s hard to measure what he has meant to Taft. I know you don’t replace a guy like Ted. You just feel lucky you knew him and had the privilege of being a colleague of an educator of the very highest order, of excellence and passion and caring, and every day, for a really long time.

—William R. MacMullen ’78



ed Heavenrich was one of a group of unusually talented young teachers who joined the faculty in the early to mid-1970s. Little did I imagine that he would go on to be one of Taft’s classic bachelor masters in the tradition of John Small, Don Oscarson, and Dick Cobb, to mention just a few. Math teachers are not easy to find and Ted became one of our best—clear, inclusive, and always there for extra help. He was a renaissance school person, founding the Outdoor Program and Taft’s outstanding Math Team; coach of soccer goalies for both the boys’ and girls’ programs; and lead organizer of the “Senile Six,” Taft’s faculty hockey team. Ever present at student events, he was a fine advisor and deeply loyal to all whose lives he touched. His retirement will leave a real hole in the fabric of Taft life.

—Lance Odden

headmaster emeritus


Taft Bulletin / Winter 2016


he highest praise I or anyone else can give Ted Heavenrich is to say that he is the quintessential schoolmaster. More than anything, he has valued and found absolute joy in the opportunity teaching has given him to guide young people to become their best selves intellectually, morally, and emotionally. His method is always to present his students with a challenge they don’t think they can overcome, whether it’s a difficult math problem, a seemingly impossible route on the rock climbing wall, or a steep trail up a mountain, and then to give them the tools and encouragement to enable them to succeed and achieve independently. That is the best learning and the best teaching. Teaching has always come first for Ted. While he served with distinction, characteristic thoroughness, and sensitivity as a class dean and department head,

and friend, a person who in his dedicated work with adolescents and with his fellow teachers every day has been the bedrock on which Taft stands.

—Linda Saarnijoki English


strophysicist Neil Degrasse Tyson said, “If you ask adults how many teachers…made a singular impression on who and what they are, it’s never more than three or four teachers….When we finally create a cloning machine, we should clone these teachers.” Ted should be cloned. From my first day on campus at preseason varsity soccer to 30 years later visiting him at his lovely home in Vermont, Ted has been a teacher and a mentor to me. The most amazing

“Anyone who knows Ted realizes that students have always been at the center of his universe. With his departure, there will be an enormous void, not just in the math department, but in the entire school.” —Al Reiff, Jr. ’80 he was always restless to get back to the classroom full time. Throughout his career he has been sought after for committee assignments, administrative roles, and any number of other duties, but, while willing to serve wherever he could be most useful, he has usually concluded that that is in the classroom, and his grateful students can only agree. He has always jealously guarded his preparation time and his class time, unwilling to give up a moment that could help him serve his students. In the decades we have served together at Taft, there is no one whom I have respected more as a teacher, colleague,

thing about this is that I never had Ted as a teacher in the classroom. He taught me (and many others) on the soccer field, out on the ice, and even at eating extravaganzas at Pizza Hut or Friendly’s. There were so many interactions that I remember fondly that helped shape who I am today and that helped me think about life in a positive way. Ted exemplifies the impact, both in and out of the classroom, that Taft strives to have on all its students. While Taft will miss him, his positive impact will continue as he enjoys new adventures in his retirement.

—Kelley Coyne Campoli ’86

Ted Heavenrich, back row far left, with the Taft students who went to China in 1981, the first high school group to go to mainland China since 1966 as the Cultural revolution (1966–81) was ending. also pictured is former faculty member/alumnus Jim Mooney ’74, at upper right.


ed has done it all. He has been a class dean, a corridor head, a department head, and a longtime soccer coach. Through it all, he has been a consummate teacher who strives daily to make adjustments to improve his teaching. He thinks about how to improve not just his own teaching, but also how the department’s presentation of math can better serve students. Anyone who knows Ted realizes that students have always been at the center of his universe. With his departure, there will be an enormous void, not just in the Math Department, but in the entire school. He is driven to find ways to better serve kids, and for over 40 years, he has been helping kids in so many ways. We all remark on how young Ted looks—how he never seems to age. The youth of his charges seems to rub off on him daily,

whether it is organizing the Math Team, which he has done since its inception and with great success, guiding soccer players, or simply helping kids learn math. I mention that last, and perhaps that is grossly unfair. Ted has always been a phenomenal teacher, and teaching math is what has driven him for four decades.

—Al Reiff, Jr. ’80

mathematics, director of the taft educational center “


r. Heavenrich? Oh no! Try to get out of his class,” instructed my family upon finding out that he would be my teacher. Both my father and sister dropped his class their freshman years; I feared my inevitable future

and prepared myself for failure. While in my head he threw erasers at us when we answered incorrectly, in real life Mr. Heavenrich jumps with excitement that he has stumped us. I soon learned Mr. Heavenrich is far from the fearsome teacher I was anticipating. He takes the time to get to know each of us, not just as students but as people. He is a tough teacher, but Mr. Heavenrich pushes us, and we are better for it. His never-ending devotion, support, and kindness are present every day. There are no words to describe how grateful the rest of the students and I are to have had the opportunity to be in his class. He has influenced all of his past students, he is inspiring all of his current students, and, although he is retiring, his legacy will impact future students.

—Julia Ordway ’19 Taft Bulletin / Winter 2016



hen I arrived at Taft School in the fall of 1985, Ted Heavenrich was one of the first teachers I encountered. After 23-years in public schools, I knew that there were many new aspects of everyday life at Taft that I did not understand and had to learn very quickly. Ted was the most open and easy person to converse with, and he willingly gave of his time and energy to me and to others. His understanding of life and commitments in a private boarding school was outstanding. He mentored me through the grading system, comment writing, and the advisor-advisee relationship, just to mention a few. In all my dealings with Ted, I found him to be professional, ethical, dedicated, and an excellent classroom teacher. He is the consummate teacher, coach, and advisor. He always gave freely of his time to his colleagues, students, and advisees, and committee responsibilities. Ted’s intellect is thorough, consistent, and of the highest caliber. His approach to problem solving was always unique in dealing with some of the most abstract concepts of mathematics. He clearly manifested a deep understanding of the subject matter and was able to convey these ideas to his students. I was privileged to be associated with Ted Heavenrich, and I know that I grew professionally because he was my colleague. The essence of this man is compassion, and I know that he will be missed at Taft School.

Student rock climbers in the outdoor program Heavenrich founded.

—Jerry DePolo

faculty emeritus, mathematics

“His method is always to present his students with a challenge they don’t think they can overcome… and then to give them the tools and encouragement to enable them to succeed and achieve independently.” —Linda Saarnijoki


Taft Bulletin / Winter 2016


never actually sat in his classroom, but Ted remains among my most important teachers and mentors. Though some of the mentoring took place indoors—conversational give-and-take late afternoons in Main Hall, the shorter words of a wrestling fan’s encouragement—the better part happened outside and over time, as he jogged with us on those green campus hills, led us backpacking on New England’s trails, and taught us to climb on Woodbury’s trap rock crags. There were, to be sure, lessons more or less technical: stretching and good breathing may help with cramps; a down bag is by weight warmer than synthetic, until it gets wet; the bowline on a coil can tie you in securely, hip belays do the job, and one can, if needed, rappel with rope and body alone. But through and beyond the technical played more important stakes: to test, during a run, the subtle balances between pain and one’s own right pace; to consider, along the trail, differences between essential and inessential, or relations between selfreliance and teamwork; to cultivate, on the climb, the clear-headed poise that might counter your “sewing-machine leg,” until the unforeseen hold appears, or the subtle shift of weight or position, which opens the face’s line in all of its simple beauty. Ted’s teaching was very much about beauty—that of math’s power and elegance, to be sure, of which he spoke often even outside the classroom, but also that of our natural world, which became the more beautiful insofar as we explored and enjoyed it together, and because we learned there about ourselves and others, about persistence and patience, trust and courage, friendship, and fidelity. But perhaps most fundamentally, the teaching was about what all of these should entail: the kind of deep, calm, ever-open thoughtfulness that Ted taught us by practicing it. It is the kind of thoughtfulness that cannot be rushed. It takes a lifetime. It leaves us in admiration and gratitude.

—Tom Carlson ’83


ed Heavenrich has been a trusted colleague, mentor, and friend for 35 years; it is hard to picture what the Math Department will look like next year without him. When we arrived at Taft in September 1981, Ted was one of the veteran teachers who reached out to us and helped guide us through the trials of our adjustment; he was ready to help in any possible way. Over the last three and a half decades, he’s meant a great deal to our family as a colleague, friend, and teacher [to our children]. Ted has been a supportive friend of our family, and our shared interests in birds, the outdoors, and UConn Huskies basketball have always provided hot topics for conversation.

In the classroom, his versatility will be hard to replace—he is perfectly capable of teaching any course offered by the department, from the beginners to the most challenging. In his interactions with his students, he has a special knack for being simultaneously demanding and compassionate—they always know he cares and is rooting for them. And he takes an interest in his students beyond the classroom. Ted is a frequent spectator at their sporting events and other extracurricular performances. Dedicated and involved, Ted embodies all the qualities that make his presence at Taft so special. We will miss him, but wish him the best in his well-earned retirement.

—Sue and Steve McCabe mathematics

the beauty and symmetry of open spaces, and the respect for the outdoors that is derivative of immersing oneself in the wilderness. Correspondingly, these lessons were integral in giving me the confidence to visit some of the most beautiful and out-of-the-way corners of the world, points which I would otherwise not have explored. Through the Outdoor Program, Ted provided experiences that gave another dimension to my personality, the product of which has been a lasting gift that I can now share with my family. I cannot thank Ted enough for the difference he has made, and wish him boundless happiness.

—Rich Possemato ’97



will always cherish the hours spent working with Ted on Math Olympiad problems that seemed to increase exponentially in difficulty, and the semester that Ted devoted to an independent study course which culminated in pitting his and my calculators (and wits) against each other to see who could write a program that could most efficiently factor large numbers. Ted’s enthusiasm for teaching and mathematics served as an invaluable foundation for my future pursuits, and those of countless others over the years; it is the common denominator in our successes. 40

Taft Bulletin / Winter 2016

As an advisor and friend, Ted shared his wisdom and passion for educating the whole student. Because I was a particularly bookish teenager whose self-identity was largely defined by academic ability, what paradoxically made the most lasting impression on my life was the time spent with Ted in the Outdoor Program. Ted taught us the strategy and calculus required to scale a natural rock wall and how to wedge ourselves between two parallel rock faces to shimmy upwards, bringing the patience and analysis of the academic mind to a complex physical activity. On our weekend camping and hiking, Ted taught us the basics of outdoor survival,

received a chapter test back and had earned a lower grade than on previous tests. On the top of my paper Mr. Heavenrich wrote, “disappointing,” right next to the score. I was honestly distraught; Mr. Heavenrich’s opinion mattered to me....I came to realize that Mr. Heavenrich put this word at the top of my paper because he knew that it would help me want more for myself…just as he wanted more for me and knew I could get there—he sincerely believed that I could do better. I have come to love geometry because of the endless passion Mr. Heavenrich radiates in class and in life. His authenticity and straightforward approach make me feel completely comfortable in sharing my ideas and taking risks in class. It feels like we have built a family in the classroom, a safe place for all of us to retreat to and escape the pressures of high school. Thank you, Mr. Heavenrich, for creating a class that feels like a family and for holding me true to my standards. I hope that I will live up to your expectations for the rest of my career at Taft, because if I do, I know I will have succeeded.

—Julia Dawson ’19


ed Heavenrich was my geometry teacher during his first year at Taft, but his influence on me and my family literally spans generations. I’m glad that I had the opportunity to greet Mr. Heavenrich at the start of his Taft career, but I’m grateful that his tenure at Taft has extended long enough for two of my sons to also have him as a teacher. Mr. Heavenrich always had that knack for knowing when to give you the space to figure things out on your own, but he also knew when to step in and offer just enough advice or encouragement to keep you going. His ability to reframe complex abstract problems in a simpler and more concrete manner made solutions seem obvious. In or out of the classroom, he was always ready to listen, to cajole, or lighten the mood with a touch of humor. Thank you, Mr. Heavenrich, for your years of dedicated service and for making such a difference in my life and the lives of my kids.

—Steve Molder ’78


or many teachers, it could have been the moment of greatest humiliation, but for Ted Heavenrich it was a moment to demonstrate dignity, and to teach. My roommate, Brad Ring, and I were coming out of sit-down dinner with senior swagger. Brad had openly pilfered a full cream pie that was left behind on one of the tables. Mr. Heavenrich spotted Brad with the contraband and frowned. “Ringo, what are you doing?” “I’m taking this pie back to my room for later. It was just sitting there.” “No, you’re not, Brad. Take it back.” In a flick of the wild, as if to prove for all time that the frontal lobe of the 17-year-old male is not fully developed, Brad turned on Mr. Heavenrich and smooshed the pie in his face. Brad was as stunned by his actions as Mr. Heavenrich, whose beard acted like Velcro for the cream filling. We waited for the inevitable explosion and outrage. From our dorm master—from authority. But Mr. Heavenrich did not oblige. He made clear that a boundary was crossed and that he was very disappointed. And there were concrete consequences (though Brad and I do not remember them). But fundamentally, there was just an adult educating wanna-be adults: this is not how we treat one another.

Most of what I learned at Taft occurred outside its classrooms, and Ted Heavenrich was one of my greatest teachers. As we bowled down the lane of high school, Mr. Heavenrich was that inflatable bumper that nudged us reliably, necessarily back on course. A year earlier, when Brad and I cut down a six-foot pine at the Watertown Golf Course, lugged it into our dorm room on HDT2, and decorated it for Christmas with jock straps and Taft-issued socks, he came in, offered a half smile and said, “Not bad. But that needs to come down in two hours.” Mr. Heavenrich greeted the everyday challenge of raising 40 teenage boys with steadiness, humor, and unimpeachable integrity. At reunions over the next 30 years, he was always one of the first I sought out. And he was always there. Looking exactly the same—the Dick Clark of the Taft faculty. Once the stories started, the real reward came when you earned his iconic laugh; it sounded like machine-gun fire from within a sudsy bath. Congrats on an epic career, Mr. Heavenrich. And thanks for all you taught me about how to be an educator. And an adult.

—Derek Pierce ’84


archival photos courtesy of Taft’s Leslie D. Manning archives.

“Most of what I learned at Taft occurred outside its classrooms, and Ted Heavenrich was one of my greatest teachers.” —Derek Pierce ’84

Heavenrich, on the field in 1983, has coached JV boys,’ varsity girls,’ and JV girls’ soccer.

Taft Bulletin / Winter 2016


FrOm tHe



m Standing, Clarence E. winton, guy C. Lamson, James Henderson, Edward J. Mann; sitting, Henry B. Stoddard, george Lear

Why do we love these old images? First, there is often that curious mix of dapper gentleman and scruffy schoolboy. Clad in rumpled wool sweaters, shin pads, and skates, looking as though they’ve just finished playing a pick-up game, one group poses in a photographer’s studio before a bowery of palm fronds and potted floral bouquets. Another group of boys poses on the steps of the old school building. They are serious and self-consciously casual—the fashion at the time—and covered in a careful dusting of artificial snow. Note the cravat on the team manager and the houndstooth knickers. (Did the photographer notice the young lad in the doorway?) Then there is the story. The group on the steps is the first Taft hockey team of 1900–01. The group in the other photo represents the precursor sport—ice polo. “Shinny,” as it was then called, had come down from Canada in the 1880s, more often than not played with a small block of ice or a frozen animal dropping. Or even a real ball. Think field hockey on ice, with skates. In the 1890s, American ice polo had a brief but popular run in high school and college athletics. Because it was played with a ball instead of a puck, and with shorter, curved sticks, and no rules 88

Taft Bulletin / Winter 2016

. roger alling, Charles Sherwood, Jr., Sam Shepard, Bob Chamberlain, walbridge Taft, george Baldwin, guy Samson, Jack Doran

forbidding offside play, the game was much looser than hockey. The first American club formed in 1883 in St. Paul, Minnesota. It caught on quickly, with Yale, Brown, Harvard, MIT, Boston College, and Tufts organizing teams in the 1890s. High schools picked it up and it migrated south to the New York City area. Taft’s ice polo team formed in 1898, late to the trend. After two years, the Taft Athletic Association decided to replace polo with hockey, because, as a student wrote in the Papyrus, “Polo is no longer a university game.” There was no Pond then on campus, just wet fields and a stream. The early ice teams practiced on Lake Winnemaug (south of town,) Merriman’s Pond (near the Watertown railroad depot), or on a flooded area on campus. That first hockey team skated against the New Haven Clippers and the Yale senior class team and other schools, finishing undefeated. At the end of the season, the Papyrus staff proudly displayed this photo of the team on its April 18, 1901 front page. —alison gilchrist, The Leslie D. Manning archives, Taft School

A Sustained and Relevant Curriculum: Securing Taft’s Next 125 Years The close of the 2015 calendar year brought us ever closer to the completion of the Ever Taft, Even Stronger campaign; it also brought us even closer to our campaign goal: As of December 31, 2015, we have raised $166 million toward our goal of $175 million. Thousands of donors have supported our campaign initiative to increase financial aid, support faculty, and enhance facilities. Alumni, parents, and friends of Taft have also shown their support for Taft’s programs. Our challenge is to create a sustained and relevant curriculum, with staffing to meet our vision of a school that graduates globally literate, intellectually robust, technically skilled, and ethically principled students. Here’s how we’re making that happen:

Global Studies

Science Education and Environmental Initiatives

Taft’s commitment to global issues is stronger than ever. Through courses in human rights and international relations; travel experiences that build understanding of global issues; and talks by visiting artists, writers, scientists, and renowned figures from a variety of fields, students gain a thoroughly international perspective. Premised on the philosophy “think globally, act locally,” Taft’s Center for Global Leadership and Service also allows students from Taft and Waterbury Public Schools to collaboratively explore global issues while developing leadership skills to address them.

A school relevant to the 21st century must graduate students who are scientifically literate and good environmental stewards. We continue to expand our academic offerings in science so that a Taft graduate will leave with the knowledge to make informed decisions concerning the rapidly growing areas of scientific discovery and understand the impact science will have in the areas of health, medicine, ethics, and political and fiscal decision-making. Along with new courses in environmental science and partnerships with organizations like The New York Botanical Garden, students are involved in campus efforts to lower the school’s carbon footprint and to learn from Taft’s new LEEDcertified buildings.

Service Learning Inspired by the school motto—Not to be served but to serve— Taft’s commitment to service has never been more vibrant than it is today, from local efforts that include a school-wide Community Service Day and thriving year-round partnerships with nonprofits across the greater Waterbury area, to summer travel grants and service trips around the world. The catalog of on- and off-campus service opportunities for students is truly staggering, and we hope to raise the funds that can match our vision.

Academic Technology Academic technology has dramatically changed the way students learn. It is not merely the “hardware” or “software” that has proven benefits for teaching; it is that our entire understanding of how we share information, connect to other learning communities, develop critical thinking skills, and collaborate and create has been revolutionized by advances in technology. Taft believes that continuing to invest in evolving technologies is key to all future learning.

The Ever Taft, Even Stronger campaign closes June 30, 2016. We hope you will support this important initiative, designed to sustain Taft and ensure innovation and excellence in programming, financial aid, faculty, and facilities in the next 125 years. To find out more, visit or contact Director of Development Chris Latham at 860-945-5923 or

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The Taft School 110 Woodbury Road Watertown, CT 06795-2100 860-945-7777

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1, 2016 May 20–2