Winter 2003 Taft Bulletin

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Alumni in






• Spiritual Life & Religion • Profiles of Service • A VIBRANT WALKER HALL W I N T E R

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B U L L E T I N Winter 2003 Volume 73 Number 2 Bulletin Staff Director of Development Chip Spencer ’56

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Editor Julie Reiff Acting Editor Linda Beyus Alumni Notes Anne Gahl Jackie Maloney Design Good Design Proofreaders Nina Maynard Bob Campbell ’76

Bulletin Advisory Board Todd Gipstein ’70 Peter Kilborn ’57 Nancy Novogrod P’98, ’01 Bonnie Blackburn Penhollow ’84 Josh Quittner ’75 Peter Frew ’75, ex officio Julie Reiff, ex officio Bonnie Welch, ex officio Mail letters to: Linda Beyus, Acting Editor Taft Bulletin The Taft School Watertown, CT 06795-2100 U.S.A. Send alumni news to: Anne Gahl Alumni Office The Taft School Watertown, CT 06795-2100 U.S.A. Deadlines for Alumni Notes: Spring–February 15 Summer–May 30 Fall–August 30 Winter–November 15 Send address corrections to: Sally Membrino Alumni Records The Taft School Watertown, CT 06795-2100 U.S.A. 1-860-945-7777 This magazine is printed on recycled paper.


On the Cover Walker Hall is one of many places that helps foster spiritual reflection, religious inquiry, and cultural knowledge. Its motto of Justice Through Service fits this issue’s theme: Alumni in Ministry. Drawing by art teacher and Potter Gallery director Loueta Chickadaunce.


Taft’s Relationship to Religion & Spiritual Life


By Michael E.C.Spencer

Profiles of Ministry


Alumni serving in hospice care, a Unitarian parish, an Episcopal private school and church, and meditation training By David Morse, Bonnie Blackburn Penhollow ’84, and Linda Beyus

Walker Hall


The Taft Bulletin 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. E-Mail Us! Send your latest news, address change, birth announcement, or letter to the editor via e-mail. Our address is We continue to accept your communiqués by fax machine (860-945-7756), telephone (860-945-7777), or U.S. Mail (110 Woodbury Road, Watertown, CT 06795-2100). So let’s hear from you!

The dedication, spiritual and cultural activities

Taft on the Web: News? Stocks? Entertainment? Weather? Catch up with old friends or make new ones, get a job and more!—all at the Taft Alumni Community online. Visit us at


What happened at this afternoon's game?—Visit us at for the latest Big Red coverage.

From the Editor




Alumni Spotlight


For other campus news and events, including admissions information, visit our main site at, with improved calendar features and Around the Pond stories.

Visiting China with Lance Odden, serving in the Army Reserve Medical Corps, legal advice and NATO, breaking into filmmaking, singer-songwriter’s debut CD, Hotchkiss Day

Around the Pond


Rockwell Visiting Artists, Potter Gallery, jazz pianist, Ishmael’s author, Fathers’ Weekend, Community Service Day



Fall Wrap-Up By Steve Palmer

䉳 Two of the lead actors Jennifer Palleria ’03 and Sam Dangremond ’05 in Guys and Dolls GUYS AND DOLLS PHOTOS BY BOB FALCETTI








From the Editor The Winter issue of the Bulletin has the theme “Alumni in Ministry” for good reason. We know that there are many Taft graduates serving in vocations to which they feel called. Within these pages we highlight the work of five fellow alumni doing ministry in the broadest sense of the word. In addition, we celebrate Taft’s new spiritual life center, Walker Hall. Chaplain Michael Spencer, whose help on this issue was invaluable, looks at the topic of Taft and religion, both as Horace D. Taft saw it and how that vision is being creatively lived out at the school today. We know many others of you serve in your own ways, in your families, civic organizations, in expressing yourselves for the enrichment of others, and even in business. Ministry appears in both overt and subtle ways within our lives. Thanks for continuing to stay in touch with us so we can share your stories.

Thanks for your interest in my late husband’s book Parachute Infantry (by David Kenyon Webster ’40). I’ve just returned from a reunion of E.Co. paratroopers—the same company David wrote about and that was featured in the HBO series Band of Brothers as well as Stephen Ambrose’s book of the same name. Still buddies after all these years, one never met a more modest, gentle group. Hard to imagine them doing what they did. —Barbara Webster Embree

I always read the Bulletin with keen interest. Remembering dearly the occasions when alumni came to Taft and gave presentations about what was going on outside of the world of academia, I sometimes thought of how meaningful it might be if I were asked to make a Vespers talk. Being so far away [in Belgium], of course that was rather idle speculation. Upon reflection, one of the key shortcomings I felt of my three years at Taft was the absence of coeducation, which has now been corrected. I think those formative years of 10th-12th grades without the presence of females didn’t help young males interrelate with the opposite sex, particularly when going on to a school like Johns Hopkins which was all-male in my time. Also, having gone to a lacrosse Mecca, it is with regret that that game was not a sport played at Taft in my time there, a game I learned to play quite well at Hopkins and a game I will always love even now that practicing it is out of the question. I look forward to future issues of the Bulletin so I can keep in touch with an institution that was key to my intellectual formation and life work.

—Linda Beyus Acting Editor

—Max Johnson ’58 Ed. note: See article on page 8 about Max’s work at NATO’s military headquarters in Belgium.

Correction: Larry Bergreen’s class year is 1968, not 1967 as the fall issue reported in the Alumni in Print section. Our apologies for the error. 4

Taft Bulletin Winter 2003

We welcome Letters to the Editor relating to the content of the magazine. Letters may be edited for length, clarity, and content, and are published at the editor’s discretion. Send correspondence to: Linda Beyus, Acting Editor • Taft Bulletin 110 Woodbury Road Watertown, CT 06795-2100 U.S.A. or to



Alumni S P OT L I G H T

Taft in China

by Lance Odden In early October a hearty band of Tafties and friends embarked on a 17-day trip to the People’s Republic of China and Hong Kong. In spite of Patsy’s and my familiarity with China, we were eager but apprehensive, never before having been responsible for leading and lecturing 36 adults. We would soon be amazed at how well everyone would get along and even more so by the rapid changes transforming China. It is difficult to highlight our trip in a few words. Nothing can prepare one for the sweeping changes of China’s major cities, particularly Beijing and Shanghai. Once, urban China was a land of bikes and lanes; today it is highways 䉲 Patsy with Lance Odden as he is given a jade Confucius figure from the group at farewell dinner. 䉱 At the Great Wall of China: First row (left to right): George and Sheila Largay P’94, ’99, Abby Wells, Edoardo Ginocchio, Pamela Walker, Judy Frew P’70, ’75, GP’05, Ann Costello, Marianne Chaikin, tour manager Roland Andrews Second row: National guide Jack Liu, Biff and Connie Barnard ’63, Lance and Patsy Odden, Laura Danforth P’78, ’96, ’02, Whitey Frew P’70, ’75, GP’05, Sally and Hoby Kreitler, Kathy and John Byers P’91 Third row: John Costello, Carole and Nicho Parks P’93, ’95, Linda Kenerson P’80, ’82, Kathy and Mark Gleason, Joyce and Bill Sullivan Fourth row: Fred and Dinny Genung ’63, P’91, ’94, Maggie and John Picotte, Danielle and Tom Gronauer ’71, Ann Dilworth, John Lathrop, Corliss and Jack Mueller ’52, Lon Chaiken

Taft Bulletin Winter 2003




Front Row: Raymond Kwok P’99, ’00, ’04, Lance Odden P’86, ’89, Charles Chow P’93, ’95, ’00. Back Row: Patsy Odden P’86, ’89, Helen Kwok P’99, ’00, ’04, Ivy Cheng P’95, ’99, Lady Ivy Kwok Wu P’88, ’89, ’90, Pat Chow P’93, ’95, ’00. Missing from photo is Christopher Cheng P’95, ’99 who hosted the party.

Biff and Connie Barnard ’63, Fred and Dinny Genung ’63, P’91, ’94, Lance and Patsy Odden

and traffic jams. Once, the back lane hotungs characterized Beijing and the Bund represented Shanghai. Today Beijing is building for the Olympics, and Shanghai creating Asia’s financial center in one of the world’s most modern cities. When Patsy and I first visited the People’s Republic of China in 1979, the total dominance of a state-controlled economy left China with a gray-clad population, little room for personal initiative, and little hope for freedom from totalitarian rule. The odd card game played for money or the occasional farmer selling watermelon or vegetables provided our only glimpse into individual risk taking. In 2002 such a world seemed unimaginable as free enterprise is omnipresent from street vendors to restaurants

to private enterprise, with the state now less than 40 percent of the economy. In early November the Communist Party not only changed leaders peacefully, but also voted to admit capitalists into the Communist party itself! Mao and Marx must be churning. Exhilarating for our group was China’s renewed pride in her past. From the Forbidden City to the terra cotta armies of 220 B.C. to the stunning excellence of the Shanghai Museum, we were delighted daily by China’s rediscovery of her history, nearly eradicated by the Cultural Revolution. Of course, we were equally amazed by the Three Gorge’s Dam project on the Yangtze River—the largest man-made project in history. Irrespective of whether one sees

Martial arts instructor and Lance Odden

Tom and Danielle Gronauer ’71


Taft Bulletin Winter 2003

it providing clean electricity to one-third of China’s population, as an ecological disaster in the making, or as the forced uprooting of 1.4 million people, the very mass of the undertaking seems to foreshadow China’s re-emergence as a major power sometime in the twenty-first century. Put another way—what other nation can claim undertakings of the order of the Great Wall and the Three Gorge’s project? For 17 days we learned about this complex, ever-changing land, where so much still remains the same, particularly in the countryside and West. We made new friends, we laughed a lot, we ate some unthinkables, and, best of all, there wasn’t an “Ugly American” amongst us. A great cultural Outward Bound!

Whitey and Judy Frew P’70, ’75, GP’05, and Kathy and John Byers P’91.



Singer-Songwriter Jason Spooner ’91 New England-based songwriter Jason Spooner ’91 discovered the family stereo at a very early age and never looked back. He attributes his musical roots to his father’s secret stash of eight-track tapes. “My parents always stayed visibly hip when it came to the records they displayed publicly…disco in the ’70s, pop in the ’80s,” says Jason. “It was finding my dad’s collection of tunes early on that really set me off on the right foot.” Whether it was the intricate songsmanship of Jim Croce and early Van Morrison or the heartfelt soul of Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye, Jason began to absorb a variety of styles and influences. “If I’d stuck to the Bee Gee’s records that my parents kept out for house guests to peruse,” he says, “things may have been very different…scarily different.” Jason was naturally drawn to the acoustic guitar and began writing and performing at local coffeehouses in his teens. His unique style began to take shape during a year in Europe living in London, England, and then in Seville, Spain. In London, Jason became a regular at local folk and blues clubs throughout the city and became recognized as a skilled songwriter known for smooth, soulful vocals. In Spain, he continued to perform in clubs, public squares, and festivals. After Europe, Jason produced a demo tape of original music that made its way into the hands of college and community radio stations in the U.S. A producer at a local independent record label heard a track and invited Jason to join his operation that focused on blues and American roots music. While at Taft, Jason played acoustic guitar with two other students, calling their bluesy band The Sweathogs. “Three guitars, if you can imagine,” Jason laughs. “That’s a lot of guitar.” They played everything from Cream tunes to Black Crow to Eric Clapton.

Recently, he’s been in touch with his two former band mates, Tom Davis ’92 and Ben Randol ’93, who are both playing together in New York and are called Even So. Jason remembers that Taft alumnus Jeff Baxter ’67 who went on to the Doobie Brothers had set up a small recording studio in the Taft library’s basement where, Jason says, it had “pretty cutting edge technology at that time.” Using that studio he said, was a major formative experience, since he had to be both recording engineer and performer. In the last few years, Jason has been building a strong following with little more than a demo, an acoustic guitar and a bag full of good songs. His distinctive vocal style has been compared to the understated soul of Kelly Joe Phelps and the smooth, casual tenor of Paul Simon. In preparation for his debut CD, Lost Houses Jason has been touring as a trio which has given a solid rhythmic backbone to his well-crafted songs and vocals. “The band has really added a great deal of dimension to the record and to the live shows,” says Jason. “We keep things interesting and throw whatever feels right at the audience…blues, folk, funk, country…you name it.” Maine’s Casco Bay Weekly wrote of Spooner, “His singing is effective, and his guitar playing is beautiful without being showy. Anybody with an interest in singer-songwriter music will definitely be interested in Jason Spooner.” Biographical material above excerpted from Jason’s website, Taft Bulletin Winter 2003




NATO Unclassified: The Thorny Issue of Humanitarian Intervention An e-mail from Max Johnson ’58 to the Bulletin had these arresting words at the top: “NATO Unclassified.” Since 1984 Max has served as legal advisor to a succession of Supreme Allied Commanders Europe (SACEUR), the current being General Ralston, an American Air Force four-star general, in addition to writing on international law. The headquarters where Max serves is the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE), located in Mons, Belgium, about 40 miles southwest of Brussels. SHAPE, and the Allied Command Atlantic, located in Norfolk, Virginia, are the two supreme military headquarters of NATO. Max and his four assistants are house counsel for SHAPE. Max writes, “My duties span a very wide spectrum. SHAPE employs four distinct types of civilian employees—it engages in multimillion dollar procurement, it supervises 12 subordinate HQs in nine European countries, it ‘legislates’ for the entire chain of command, and since 1995, it has had major ‘peacekeeping’ operations in the Balkans. When I graduated from Georgetown Law Center in 1965, I never thought that my legal studies would lead to the career I’ve had. In fact, I was due to return to Washington, D.C., in 1967 to go into private practice, but a courtship that resulted in marriage to a Belgian, caused me to defer returning. Here [in Belgium] since 1966, my roots go pretty deep; more so than any I had previously as the son of an army officer. The oldest daughter is a medical doctor here and the youngest is a physical therapist in Brussels. “In the ’80s and early ’90s my work was rather routine with few ‘highs,’” He says, “but from 1994, it’s been breathtaking. I’ve lectured to young postgraduates in Moscow, addressed parliamentarians from a number of former Soviet Republics in Kiev, assisted the Moldovan Ministry of Defense restructure, and helped Estonia prepare for entry to 8

Taft Bulletin Winter 2003

NATO. It was amazing to officially visit countries where for two decades I couldn’t go even as a tourist. The financial rewards are nothing like they would be in private practice in the U.S., but the quality of life is a significant compensation. “My job is now to superintend the day-to-day operations in the Balkans (both SFOR in Bosnia Herzegovina and KFOR in Kosovo) and to see that the laws, such as they are, are respected, but as you might imagine, there’s a lot of gray area out there.” He also says that he is drawn to intellectual aspects of this area, which prompted him “to delve into the arcane subject of humanitarian intervention.” Max says that living outside one’s own country offers a vastly different perspective, one that he personally believes is more objective. This objectivity played a role in his writing an article entitled “NATO’s Phased Air Operation in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.” The article made an assessment of the legality of the air campaign. It had been considered for publication in a European law journal, but was withdrawn by Max after Yugoslavia initiated a case in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) charging ten NATO countries with aggression. He explained the unpublished article’s status, saying, “I have not released it due to the fact that eight NATO countries (the US not being one) are still before the ICJ.” He stated it would not be seemly to have the Yugoslavians cite an article written by him (the legal advisor of the headquarters that directed the air campaign). When asked why he wrote the article, he candidly said, “I think the underlying reason was a certain objection to power politics instead of respect for law as it is at any given moment.” Max leans toward the position that the air campaign was not legal in terms of public international law as it stood at that time (and still stands today). “The planning of a phased air operation, as early as the spring of 1998,” he points out, “pro-

Max Johnson ’58 and his wife Paule at a salt mine near Krakow and Auschwitz, on an official visit sponsored by the Polish Ministry of Defense

ceeded on the presumption that there would be an authorizing United Nations Security Council Resolution. Humanitarian intervention without a UNSCR is not yet accepted by enough countries to have worked a change to the UN Charter that forbids aggression.” Max states, “While NATO can be said to have had the moral high ground, ‘black letter law’ supporting an armed intervention was not there.” He notes that NATO countries felt that what was happening in Yugoslavia was a tragedy of enormous proportions. There is little doubt that genocide was occurring in Yugoslavia, he states, and that “Mr. Milosevic will eventually find out whether an international criminal court concurs. Reflecting on how both states and citizens react to world crises now, Max says, “CNN and other similar television networks have had a singular impact on reaction to massive breaches of human rights. We simply can’t stand having the kinds of images shown in our living rooms while we imbibe or dine sumptuously, or at least more than adequately, while others go without food and shelter.” Max is truly a seasoned professional, who ponders both the complex legal and ethical dilemmas of international proportion. He also contributed to The Handbook of the Law of Visiting Forces, (Oxford University Press 2001) in chapter 5, “International Military Headquarters,” that focuses on NATO military headquarters as well as on its KFOR headquarters in Kosovo. The publisher says, “This handbook elaborates clear status provisions for military and civilian personnel of foreign armed forces in a receiving state.”



Serving When the Corps Calls From Kosovo to Afghanistan and back to the U.S., James Wu ’69 continues to carry on his family’s tradition as a dedicated member of the armed services. He has served in the military for 14 years, earning a prolific number of awards from the Army Achievement Medal to A surprise meeting of former headmaster the Kosovo Campaign Lance Odden and Col. James Wu ’69 at Medal, and the NATO St. Louis’ Lambert Airport in May Medal, and these for only the year 2001. Jim has an A.B. from about what I did in the Dartmouth and a Ph.D. from Yale, both military but, briefly, on in chemistry, and earned his M.D. at why I think military serWashington University School of Medi- vice is a good thing. cine in St. Louis. He has recently been I joined because I working in Cleveland as staff surgeon for was inspired by several the Cleveland Clinic Foundation. who were close to me. Jim sent the Bulletin the following James Chin, my godfaletter. It is too well-stated not to print it ther, immigrated to the Col. James Wu ’69, Commander of the Forward Surgical in its entirety. United States in the late Team at the U.S. air base at Kandahar, Afghanistan, exam“In May, by chance, I met Mr. 1930s. At the War’s ines Ghulam Mohammad, 5, while assessing Mir Wais Odden at Lambert Airport in St Louis. start, he enlisted and was Hospital on July 2 after a nearby civilian strike in which many lives were lost. This photograph appeared on all the major It had been 30 years since I had last sent back to China as an web news sites in July when Dr. Wu was serving as a memseen him when he was my lacrosse interpreter. At the War’s ber of the Army medical corps in Afghanistan. coach and headmaster at Taft. I was on end, he settled in Syra- CHARLES REX ARBOGAST FOR AP my way to Afghanistan. Mr. Odden cuse, New York, and asked me if I would write about my there, lived out the rest of his life. His wife’s sense of Australian identity. service experience and I told him that name is inscribed alongside the other My father tried to enlist in the MaI would be pleased to do so. veterans in the municipal center. I am rine Corps and in the Army during I joined the U.S. Army Reserve very proud of his contribution. All of the World War II. He was turned down beMedical Corps when I was a surgical resi- men in my wife’s family served. For them cause of a physical ailment and never got dent. I have been called to active service not to serve was unthinkable. My father- over being excluded. When I was much twice, once to Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo, in-law, Henry Inkster, was a signaler with younger I asked him why it was so imand most recently to Kandahar Airfield. the Corps of Engineers in the Australian portant to him, given that he might have My tours have been a brief three months Army. Corporal Inkster fought in New been killed had he been fortunate enough each. It goes without saying that such a Guinea and Rabaul during the war and to be accepted. He put it to me this way: short period of time is nothing compared then spent four years in Japan with the By serving, a person earns for themselves with the commitment made by others Occupying Forces. My mother-in-law and for their family the rights and priviwho have preceded me, who sometimes was notified that he was MIA twice. He leges of citizenship. This made sense to were gone until the conflict was done or did not return home for ten years. Mr. me then and still makes sense to me now.” until they could not carry on. I cannot Inkster’s father had fought at Gallipoli think of anything that I have done that where he lost a finger during a frontal —James Wu ’69 was in any way special or extraordinary. assault but survived. I know that the serPh.D., M.D., Col. USARMC Therefore, I would like to speak not vice of these men is at the heart of my October 13, 2002 Taft Bulletin Winter 2003




Hong Kong Visit The Taft Hong Kong family welcome Pam and Willy MacMullen on their inaugural visit, accompanied by Ferdie Wandelt ’66 and former trustee Alex Chu ’66, for the school’s annual admissions tour. Ferdie and Alex continued their travels in the Far East visiting schools in Shanghai, while Ferdie went on to visit Taiwan, Thailand, North and South Vietnam, and Bombay, India. 䉱 Left to right, back row: Joseph Lam P’05, Philip Lee P’04, ’05, Stephen Winningham P’05, Francis Hung P’03, 05, Patrick Wang P’05, Michael Tien P’05. Front row: Elizabeth Hung P’03, 05, Mabel Lee P’04, 05, Pam and Willy MacMullen ’78, Lucy Wang P’05, Frances Tien P’05, Judy Lam P’05

䉳 Left to right, back row: Daniel Lam ’75, P’03, Alex Chu ’66, P’99, Ferdie Wandelt ’66, Helen Siu P’03, Francis Hung P’03, ’05. Front row: Antace Kan P’03, Irene Chu P’99, Pam and Willy MacMullen ’78, Gina Lam P’03, Elizabeth Hung P’03, ’05

Young Alumni Party in NYC Tafties of the ’90s gathered at Solas in New York City on November 21 for the first annual Young Alumni party. There will be more regional events for young alumni to attend so keep your ears open! Thanks to Will Porteous ’90, Jonathan Harris ’90, Jamie Hedges ’94, Chauncey Upson ’94, Dan Oneglia ’95, Brett Chodorow ’96, Christie Johnson ’97, John Frechette ’98 and Shannon Murphy ’98 for helping to organize the event. Go to for more photos.

䉱 Pete Hallock, Liz Murphy, Jamie Menapace and Dan Oneglia all class of ’95 10

Taft Bulletin Winter 2003

䉱 Rob Carrillo ’95, Jazmin Hogan ’98, Carl Brown ’96 and Melanie Royster ’98


Parents’ Committee Dinner


Holiday Gathering in NYC

Leslie and Angus Littlejohn P’03, ’05, Chairs of the Parents’ Fund, hosted a lovely dinner for their committee at the Sky Club on October 10 in New York City. Over 50 committee members attended to help kickoff this year’s fund. Last year, the Parents’ Fund raised over $1 million with 95 percent of parents participating.

䉱 1995 classmates enjoying Taft’s Holiday Gathering in New York, from left, are, Tony Pasquariello, Paget Roach, Stu Woody, Jeremy Randol, and Jonathan Evans

䉱 Chris Cleary P’05, Leslie Littlejohn P’03, ’05, Donna Cleary P’05

䉲 Celebrating at the Holiday Gathering, from left, are, Matt Donaldson ’88, Nate Whiteley ’88, Darcy Bentley ’88, and Nick Finn ’87

䉱 Bill Water P’04, Angus Littlejohn P’03, ’05, Jane Waters P’04

Pittsburgh Reception On November 20, Lea Simonds, mother of Dylan ’89, Talbot ’91, and Henry ’93 and a former Trustee, hosted a reception welcoming Pam and Willy MacMullen ’78 to Pittsburgh. Over 50 alumni, parents and friends gathered at the Pittsburgh Golf Club. 䉳 David Hillman P’06 and Sally and Mabon Childs P’68, ’75, GP’02, ’03

䉴 Dave Root ’78, Kathy Root, Tom Sullivan ’55 Taft Bulletin Winter 2003




Taft Inaugurates Hotchkiss Day A warm fall day served as the perfect backdrop for the first time Hotchkiss Day, held on November 9, where Taft met its longtime rival from Lakeville. Five hundred guests, including parents, former parents, and alumni, gathered to support their teams and to see old friends. During the morning, volunteers for the school met with Taft’s key administrators to hear about the state of the school and this year’s Annual Fund. Lending a festive air to the day, a picnic luncheon was served under a tent near the playing fields, while a group of student musicians, led by faculty member T.J. Thompson, played Dixieland jazz. Students in the band included Jon Acquaviva ’04, Freddie Gonzalez ’05, Cyrus McGoldrick ’05, Eric Schwartz ’06, John Spatola ’03, and Alex Toegel ’03. The sports scores for the day were evenly split between Taft and Hotchkiss— Taft won boys’ and girls’ varsity soccer, boys’ thirds soccer, girls’ j.v. soccer, girls’ thirds field hockey; they tied in girls’ j.v. field hockey.


Taft Bulletin Winter 2003



In Brief Parachute Infantry: An American Paratrooper’s Memoir of D-Day and the Fall of the Third Reich By David Kenyon Webster ’40 Dell Publishing, 2002. $12.95 paperback David Kenyon Webster’s book, published in hard cover in 1994 (see article in Fall 2001 Bulletin, p. 3), is now available in a paperback edition. Mr. Webster’s widow, Barbara Webster Embree, kindly sent the Bulletin this newest version of a moving memoir of World War II.

New School for Traditional Architecture Charleston, S.C., now has a professional school for working architects thanks to John Massengale ’69 and his four co-founders. It’s called the New School for Traditional Architecture and offered its first events last fall and courses early this year. Massengale notes that Charleston is a beautiful city with many lessons to teach architects about both traditional architecture and urbanism. Taft Bulletin Winter 2003




In Brief continued

Breaking into Filmmaking

John Massengale told the Post and Courier that the innovative school also benefits from its location due to Charleston’s having some exceptional new urban projects. He reported that, “We’re setting up this program to teach traditional architecture and urbanism because universities aren’t teaching it.” Traditional urban design also goes by the name “new urbanism” which, Massengale points out, has many factors, but concisely described is “walkable neighborhoods.” This can include taking into account mixed-use for buildings, sidewalks, modest-sized yards, and overall considerations of scale. Massengale served as the town architect for Seaside, Florida, in 1986, one of the nation’s best-known new urbanism projects. John told the Post and Courier, “We’re not anti-modern. The biggest problem is not modernism, but bad traditionalism.”

䉱 Toby Arturi ’02 on sound with Dennis Liu ’02 hidden behind the camera while filming 45.

䉴 Cordy Wagner ’01 and Dennis Liu ’02 at Taft’s holiday party in NYC

Eight Taft graduates joined together to make an independent film called 45. The 20-minute film was written and directed by Dennis Liu ’02 and was shot mainly as an intense film exercise by Toby Arturi ’02, David Ruchman ’02, and Dennis before they went to NYU’s Tisch Film School. The rules of the project were to tell a story without the aid of dialogue, to devote an entire week to shooting the film, and, as Dennis said, “to have fun together for the last time as Tafties since our graduation parties were nonexistent.” The story is really simple, according to Dennis. During a 45-minute lunch break, Eric Lydon, played by three-year Taftie Timothy Dzurilla ’01, accidentally hits the car of fellow and arch nemesis classmate, Laura Hatchwell, played by Julia

Taft alumni who worked on the film 45 are: Dennis Liu ’02 ........................................................................... Writer/Director T’ai Chu-Richardson ’02 ........................................................ Assistant Director Kristina Rice ’03 .................................................................................. Producer Corydon Wagner ’01 ..............................................................Assistant Producer David Ruchman ’02 ................................................................. Camera Assistant Toby Arturi ’02 ........................................................................................ Sound Timothy Dzurilla ’01 ............................................................................... Talent Julia Shlyankevich ’02 .............................................................................. Talent Jennifer Higgins ’02 ................................................................................. Talent 14

Taft Bulletin Winter 2003

Shlyankevich ’02, in an empty parking lot. After Eric drives away without taking responsibility for his actions, he becomes overwhelmed with guilt and ultimately has to decide whether or not he should confess his misdeeds to this girl that he loathes. “David and I are currently taking the same production class,” Dennis says, “and we see Toby all the time. Our ideal goal is ultimately to finish film school together… employed!” Dennis and Toby also worked together on a short film called, The Realization, selected as an entry to Tisch’s Freshman Film Festival. David’s submission, The Anniversary was also among the selected films that were screened. Throughout his recent filming projects, Dennis had the helpful support of Al Klingenstein ’72, a producer. “After speaking with him over the phone, Al has been a great inspiration to me,” Dennis said. “I hope that I can follow his footsteps and work in the producing/directing area.” As if all of this was not enough to keep Dennis busy, he was chosen to direct and produce a music video for MTV, to be aired on the show TRL (Total Request Live), a huge honor (per his co-alums) for a young film student.


pond Rockwell Visiting Artists their work in the Potter Art Gallery. Professional artists involved in painting, drawing, photography, pottery, sculpture, fabric design, printmaking, and other visual arts are included in the program. 䉳 Kate Jellinghaus ’89 helps Catherine Jensen ’03 on her painting while Alanna Waters ’04 (far left) works on her own still life during Loueta Chickadaunce’s class. LINDA BEYUS

䉲 Kate Jellinghaus ’89 and Kendall Ayoub ’92 chat with Bruce Fifer, head of Taft’s art department, during Kendall’s opening reception. PETER FREW

Kate Jellinghaus ’89 and Kendall Ayoub ’92 assisted in teaching art classes during the fall as Rockwell Visiting Artists, helping Taft art students refine and expand their techniques. Both painters also had well-attended individual exhibits of their work shown at the Mark W. Potter ’48

Gallery while here at the school. The Rockwell Visiting Artists Fund was established in 1997 by Sherburne B. Rockwell Jr. ’41 and H.P. Davis Rockwell ’44 to support a program of visiting artists to speak with students and faculty, work with art classes, and exhibit Taft Bulletin Winter 2003



The Wisdom of a Gorilla Daniel Quinn, author of the inspirational novel Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit spoke at Morning Meeting in late September to a crowded room of students and faculty. Ishmael was the required reading for the entire school community in summer 2002. Chaplain Michael Spencer, who suggested this book for Taft’s student body, introduced Quinn, noting that Ishmael is a novel ideal for a community to read since it is, and can foster, a quest for transformation. Quinn’s protagonist is a gorilla who is the teacher, and a human is his pupil. The paradigm of how life began on Earth is turned on its head by the perspective of animals and primitive peoples, called Leavers. Human beings are called Takers, a slightly pejorative name fittingly bestowed by Ishmael the teacher.

The Ishmael community web site ( describes the book’s protagonist this way: “Ishmael is a half ton silverback gorilla. He is a student of ecology, life, freedom, and the human condition. He is also a teacher. He teaches that which all humans need to learn—must learn—if our species, and the rest of life on earth as we know it, is to survive.” Since its publication in 1992, Ishmael has rippled around the world through word of mouth and by winning the Turner Tomorrow Fellowship in 1991. The book is being used in many schools and in a wide range of courses including anthropology, ecology, history, literature, philosophy, ethics, and biology. The question Quinn is most often asked by readers, he pointed out to the

Author Daniel Quinn speaks about the response to Ishmael at Morning Meeting. SAM DANGREMOND ’05

Taft audience, is, “But what are we supposed to do about it?” Quinn went on to quote Thorstein Veblen, an early twentieth-century economist, who proposed that social change happens only when habits of thought change in people and society. Quinn’s comment had a Zen koan quality to it—Ishmael and his other books are to influence the way we think about all of life, not just human beings; it doesn’t propose exact formulaic solutions to a world in ecological danger. Ishmael asks the deeper, more difficult, ethical questions.

Mark W. Potter ’48 Gallery Schedule for 2003 January–February – Laura Harrington Ms. Harrington’s work uses traditional photographic methods, as well as alternative printing processes such as kallitype and cyanotype, and focuses on ideas of preservation and ecology. She has taught at the Taft School for four years.

March–April – Taft Student Visual Arts Current student work in drawing, painting, sculpture, printmaking, photography, and ceramics is displayed every year in the Gallery.

May – Ralph Lee ’53 Theater masks, giant figures, and puppets by the founder and director of the Mettawee River Theatre Company.

䉱 Well-known jazz pianist Judy Carmichael performs at Morning Meeting prior to showing film clips of Fats Waller playing, and dancers doing the lindy hop. PETER FREW

Similar to the rejections that Harry Potter’s author experienced early on, Quinn sent his Ishmael manuscript to a book agent who told him that no one was interested in saving the world anymore—that was a very ’70s type of idea and wouldn’t sell. Quinn knew the agent was wrong and went on to successfully find a publisher. Ishmael has

been used in thousands of classrooms around the world and has been translated into 20 languages. Daniel Quinn has had a twenty-year career in educational and consumer publishing, and is the author of nine books. His visit was sponsored by the Paduano Lecture Series in Philosophy and Ethics (see box at right).

Quinn talks over lunch with student Emily Andrysick ’06 and faculty members, Michael Spencer (left) and Jim Lehner (right). SAM DANGREMOND ’05

The Paduano Lecture Series in Philosophy and Ethics, established in 1999 by Daniel P. and Nancy Paduano, parents of John P. Paduano, Class of 1999, funds a program of visiting speakers in support of the Philosophy, Religion, and Ethics Department at Taft. Visiting speakers, selected from a diversity of backgrounds and perspectives, speak to the students and faculty and visit classes during their stay at the school. This year, the Paduano Lecture Series supports Taft’s Green Theme, by funding the speakers and programs devoted to environmental ethics and awareness: The Tibetan Buddhist Monks of the Drepung Gomang Monastery, author Daniel Quinn, Dr. Alan Thornhill, Executive Director of the International Center for Conservation Biology, and Georgetown Professor John R. McNeill. The yearlong consideration of environmental awareness will culminate in a performance of the powerful Missa Gaia (Earth Mass) by composer-performer Paul Halley on May 9.

Fathers’ Weekend The Taft School held its annual Fathers’ Weekend on October 18–20, 2002. Students and their parents attended an upbeat performance of the musical, Guys and Dolls, in Bingham Auditorium on Friday evening. On Saturday morning,

䉱 Guys and Dolls trio James Martin ’03, Matt Chazen ’05, and Barron Weyerhaeuser ’04 䉳 Jennifer Palleria ’03 sings in the nightclub set of Guys and Dolls

parents sat in on classes with their children and met with faculty. Headmaster Willy MacMullen ’78 gave a welcome address, followed by a buffet luncheon and performances of the talented groups Collegium Musicum, the Taft Chorus, Jazz Ensemble, Chamber Ensemble, and Taft’s improvisation troupe. A full slate of sports contests filled the afternoon as Taft teams competed against Avon Old Farms, Deerfield, Greenwich Academy, Salisbury, and Williston in soccer, football, volleyball, field hockey and cross country. At the Saturday evening reception for all fathers and students, Taft’s student-led a cappella singing groups, the Eighth Notes, Oriocos and Hydrox performed. Art exhibits that included pottery, drawings, paintings, batiks, and photography were on view on campus during the entire weekend. Taft Bulletin Winter 2003



䉲 Seth Lentz ’05 and Whitney Brighton ’06 painting the porch at the Greater Waterbury Red Cross PETER FREW

䉳 Billy Blase ’06 sweeping leaves at the Mattatuck Museum PETER FREW

䉲 Students and faculty after working at Girls Inc. of Waterbury PETER FREW

Community Service Comes to Life at Taft Taft proudly continued its tradition of service, begun by the school’s founder Horace Dutton Taft, at the annual Community Service Day. On Monday, October 28, Taft’s students and faculty took a day off from classes to sharpen that focus by participating in a day of volunteer service, begun in 1995, within the wider geographical community. Headmaster Willy MacMullen ’78 affirmed this, saying, “Horace Taft believed strongly in the obligation of students and graduates to give back to society, and his motto for the School: 18

Taft Bulletin Winter 2003

Non ut sibi ministretur sed ut ministret— ‘Not to be served but to serve’—is as much a part of our focus now as it was in 1890.” Approximately 650 faculty and students participated in 30 separate projects in the greater Waterbury area. Work projects included trail maintenance and cleanup at Flanders Nature Center, Whittemore Sanctuary, and the YMCA Camp Mataucha; landscaping at Watertown schools and for Habitat for Humanity in Litchfield; painting at St. Paul’s Church in Woodbury and United

Methodist Church and Christ Church in Watertown; preparing and serving meals through the Waterbury Interfaith Ministries and the Salvation Army, and collecting food for the Watertown Food Bank. Other groups worked with the Crownbrook Neighborhood Association to clear vacant lots and plant flowers and shrubs, taught children through Head Start’s program in Waterbury, and worked with the Waterbury Association for Retarded Citizens. Members of Collegium Musicum sang at area nursing facilities.


䉱 Boys’ assistant varsity soccer coach Dan Sheff teaches young visitors the finer points of soccer while seniors Casey Ftorek, Rob Madden, and Mike Bryan look on.

䉲 Reisa Bloch ’05, volleyball captain, shows aspiring young athlete how to set.



On the Taft campus, 120 thirdgrade children from Judson and Polk schools took part in a day of educational workshops and extracurricular activities that included creative writing, origami, and calligraphy. Also, athletic clinics for basketball, squash, and field hockey were held. Each elementary school student was paired with a Taft student who served as their guide for the day. Taft School chaplain Michael Spencer and chaplaincy fellow Jen Dunfee coordinated this year’s event. Mr. Spencer estimated that a total of

5,200 man and woman hours was expended in a single day. He cited the various civic organizations in the Waterbury area, Young’s Nursery, and The Garden in Woodbury, for their “wonderfully supportive efforts and generous donations of trees, shrubs, flowers, bulbs, equipment, expertise, and time that were critical to the success of this day.” Mr. Spencer noted that, “Opportunities for service remind us that we do not exist in a vacuum but are part of a larger community that has much to offer and teach us. As we

䉱 Will Blanden ’03 with visiting elementary school student at library with Taft’s motto in library window

䉲 Gardening in Crownbrook neighborhood of Waterbury



reach out to help charitable organizations that exist to be Samaritans to others, we will be Samaritans to them.” He added that, “Our Community Service Day is the one day of the year devoted exclusively to service, but in any given term, one in four students is involved in volunteer programs of one sort or another in Greater Waterbury, and all students contribute their time and energy daily to serving Taft. We are always mindful of our motto and its influence on the way in which we conduct ourselves.” Taft Bulletin Winter 2003







sport Fall 2002 Athletic Season Wrap-Up by Steve Palmer year’s team was stingier on defense and more dominant in possession time, resulting in the 16–2 record and a number three ranking in New England. In the end, it was the passion and commitment of the seniors, who have won over 30 games in the last two years, that made this season so remarkable. Casey Ftorek (a record 30 goals this year and 46 total) and Michael Bryan combined to form the most talented offense in the team’s history, and Robbie Madden, Alex Ginman, Carter Leggett, Drew Murphy and goalie Chris Pettit anchored the impressive midfield and defense.

GIRLS’ VARSITY SOCCER Casey Ftorek ’03 blows by Hotchkiss defender en route to setting Taft’s all-time scoring record: 46 goals in two seasons, 30 this year.

BOYS’ VARSITY SOCCER Captains: Michael A. Bryan ’03, Robert W. Madden ’03 Record: 16–2 New England Quarterfinalists Captains-Elect: Jonathan E. Carlos ’05, Webster C. Walker ’05 The Livingston Carroll Soccer Award: Robert W. Madden ’03, Casey S. Ftorek ’03 20

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The varsity soccer team established new records for wins (16), goals scored (80), goals allowed (13) and the longest unscored-upon streak (385 minutes), leading coach MacMullen to define the team as “the best we’ve ever had at Taft.” And that is saying something, given the remarkable run the team enjoyed last year on its way to the semifinals of the New England tournament. But this

Captains: Katherine A. Franklin ’03, Jennifer E. Sifers ’03, Shannon K. Sylvester ’03 Record: 14–2–2 New England Finalists, Tied for Founders League Captains-Elect: Katherine McCabe ’04, Jaclyn Hawkins ’04, and Katherine Simmons ’04 The 1976 Girls’ Soccer Award: Shannon K. Sylvester ’03

After coming within one overtime goal of the championship game last year, the girls’ soccer team had plenty of motivation throughout this spectacular season.






was led by Reisa Bloch, who made the All-New England team as one of the top 12 players in the region. Meaghan Martin and Amy Freeman were also chosen as all-stars for Western New England, and senior Kirsten Pfeiffer was an offensive power, but this was a team that played wonderfully together with tenacious defense and great unity.


Halfback Meaghan Edwards ’06 goes to goal during girls’ varsity soccer’s brilliant run to the finals of the New England tournament. The girls placed second to Brooks (1–0) in the finals.

A sloppy first half against rival LoomisChaffee led to a disappointing 3-5 loss during the season, but the team learned their lessons, marched through the regular season with 11 shutouts on the way to a 12–1–2 record and a number three ranking for the tournament. Then Taft hit its stride, overpowering a strong team from Milton Academy, 4–0, and later outplaying and defeating Loomis in overtime in a game that came down to penalty kicks and three fine saves by keeper Mackenzie Snyder. The championship game, played on a cold, wet Sunday when every other tournament final was canceled, saw Taft dominate a good Brooks team but never score in a tough 0–1 loss. Katherine Simmons, Katie McCabe and Shannon Sylvester were selected as Western New England All-Stars and All-State players.

For the second year in a row, the volleyball team went toe-to-toe with the best teams in New England, earning commanding wins over Deerfield, Choate, and Andover before falling to eventual champion Hotchkiss in the semifinals of the tournament. Once again, the team

Captains: Catherine S. Jensen ’03, Nicole Mandras ’03, Katherine M. Wilks ’03 Record: 10–5 New England Semifinalists Captain-Elect: Merrill A. Chester ’04 The Field Hockey Award: Samantha K. Hyner ’03

The field hockey team entered the New England tournament for the ninth time in the last ten years, but this season had more ups and downs to it, including a 4–3 start, making their run to the semifinals of the tournament all the more inspiring. The highlights came with a dominant 3–1 win over Greenwich Acad-

VARSITY VOLLEYBALL Captains: Reisa E. Bloch ’05, Amy L. Freeman ’03 Record: 14–4 New England Semifinalists Captains-Elect: Reisa E. Bloch ’05 The Volleyball Award: Kirsten E. Pfeiffer ’03

Kelley Rabjohns ’04 and co-captain Amy Freeman ’03 block a spike as Meaghan Martin ’06 holds the midcourt. Taft Bulletin Winter 2003







The varsity football team continued its run of gritty play and difficult losses, coming oh-so-close on several occasions again this fall, including an impressive final game against league champ Hotchkiss. Trailing by one point in the third quarter, Taft had chances to take the lead and close out the season with a much-deserved victory, but it was not to be, though the Big Red outgained Hotchkiss in terms of offensive yardage and first downs. As with any football season, some close calls and key injuries got in Marisa Ryan ’03 (164) grits her way to 4th in the World Jr. Duathlon the way of the Championship held in Atlanta. close games against Choate, Hotchkiss, emy (who went on to win the tournament Lawrenceville and Avon. Senior Steve championship and only lost the one Richard and upper mid Alex Bisset were game to Taft) and a 1–0 overtime win selected to the All-League team. over number three ranked Andover in the quarterfinals. Senior captains Catherine Jensen, Nicole Mandras, and Katy Wilks GIRLS’ VARSITY CROSS COUNTRY led the team, and goalie Samantha Hyner Captains: Jessica S. Little ’03, Marisa A. Ryan ’03 kept Taft in many close games.

VARSITY FOOTBALL Captain: Maxwell S. Nipon ’03 Record: 0–8 Captains-Elect: Andrew G. Sparks ’04, Tyler J. Whitley ’04 The Black Cup Award: Steven G. Richard ’03 The Harry K. Cross Football Award: Justin T. Krusko ’03


Taft Bulletin Winter 2003

Record: 5–5, 2nd Founders’ League Meet Captains-Elect: Allie C. Berkley ’04, Ann A. Kidder ’04 The Girls’ Cross Country Award: Marisa A. Ryan ’03

Led by senior Marisa Ryan who set course records at Taft, Loomis, and Westminster, the girls came in second at the League Meet to Loomis-Chaffee and held off rival Hotchkiss by a slim

three points. Marisa Ryan won her second Founders’ League title and was backed up by three other All-League finishes: Jess Little (6th), Jenn Boone (10th) and Ann Kidder (13th). The girls then placed 5th at the New England meet, again edging Hotchkiss and also defeating solid teams from Choate and Northfield Mount Hermon. Individually, Ryan placed second, securing her place as the most accomplished runner in Taft history as the only runner to earn four consecutive finishes in the top 10 at the New Englands (8th in ’99, 4th in ’00, 5th in ’01, and 2nd this year). In addition, during the season, she placed an impressive 4th at the World Duathlon Championships, held in Georgia.

BOYS’ VARSITY CROSS COUNTRY Captains: S. Gordon Calder ’03, W. Tucker Serenbetz ’03 Record: 6–6, 3rd Founders’ League Meet Captains-Elect: William L. Ireland ’05, Peter L. Murphy ’05, Sean R. O’Mealia ’05 The John B. Small Cross Country Award: W. Tucker Serenbetz ’03

The cross country team rebounded from a tough year in 2001 on the strength of a young but deep group of new runners. Highlights of the season included hard-fought victories over rival Hotchkiss and a strong Williston team on Parents’ Weekend. Led by the All-League finishes from co-captain Tucker Serenbetz (10th) and Peter Murphy (14th), the varsity’s 3rd place finish at the league meet was surprising and impressive. Even more encouraging was the junior varsity’s 9–3 record and 2nd place finish at the league meet, and the fact that this year’s mid class accounted for seven of the team’s top ten runners—perhaps the most talented group of runners in one class since Coach Small retired in 1987.

“It has been said quite truly that we should teach religion in everything and everywhere, in the classroom, on the ball field, in all the relations of life; and there is grand opportunity for it in school life.” Horace Taft, Memories and Opinions

Taft’s Relationship to


by Michael E.C. Spencer

& Spiritual Life

Rediscovering the Meaning of Religion It may seem odd to speak of Taft and religion in the same breath. After all, Taft is a nondenominational school. Although the school has maintained a long line of chaplains since its founding, required attendance at religious services was discarded in the 1960s, and the dominant image possessed by most Tafties is of a secular school committed to the life of the mind. However, those same Taft graduates will fondly recall time spent in Vespers as truly unique and in some special way, sacred. These same old boys and old girls will remember the focus on the school’s motto and how the opportunity to reach out to others taught them simple lessons about what it means to be divinely human. Although the stereotypical definition of religion certainly does not apply to Taft, the school is true to the fundamental religious perspective of its founder. From its very beginning, the influence of religion was prominent in the mind of Horace Taft. As an educational visionary, Mr. Taft practiced a religious humanism that maintained a deep connection between religion and morality for the sake of transforming society. Horace was not ashamed of this religion, but in his own day he sought to rediscover its essence by creating a school where the soul was nurtured in the midst of a caring and


Taft Bulletin Winter 2003

committed community. For Horace, all of Taft was an arena for the sacred; Taft was a religious space. Mr. Taft not only looked upward for divine inspiration, but most importantly, he discovered it in the hearts of his students. Mr. Taft did not mince his words. He was direct and did not compromise his principles and high ideals. A holistic approach was the cornerstone of his educational philosophy. To “educate the whole person” involved the astoundingly bold claim to nurture the mind, body, and spirit through a unique educational vision. Mr. Taft was also a classicist by training. Accordingly, his approach to education involved the process of drawing knowledge out of students (educere, to lead, draw out of ). This is a highly interactive process, and Mr. Taft knew full well that the key to educational success lay with the teacher-student relationship. Like Socratic midwives, the masters were charged with the humbling task of helping their students give birth to the life-giving potential and knowledge contained within. Mr. Taft charged his school with the audacious task of becoming a “kind, firm molder” in the midst of an unfolding century of ideological tension, moral confusion, and dramatic sociopolitical change. Standing on the bedrock of a classical approach, Mr. Taft crafted a community that reflected his values and ideals while grounding them in the sacred act of education. The Taft School was to be a place where youth were guided through educational formation for the sake of societal transformation. Like all good schools, Taft sought not to simply reflect

culture, but at its finest moments, to create culture. For Mr. Taft, this education was ultimately a sacred process, and in the truest sense of the term, it was a religious activity. As a Latin scholar, Mr. Taft would have been keenly aware of the literal meaning of religion (religio, to link back). Like the Protestant theologian Paul Tillich, writing decades after the founding of Taft, Mr. Taft believed that ultimate meaning could be discovered in the process of reconnecting, linking back, to the ground of existence and the wellspring of meaning—what Tillich called the “ultimate concern.” The modern inclination is to isolate the relentless pursuit of knowledge as an individual and often narcissistic quest, best encapsulated in the hero of Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s poem Ulysses, who vows to pursue knowledge to the end, “to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.” The classical understanding of the educational quest eschews this modern interpretation by placing the intellectual pursuit against the backdrop of sacred community. The ultimate purpose of education was to enable the individual to link back to the sacred roots of community, to move out of the self to find the ground of meaning. This is no less than a truly religious activity, and in this sense, religion was for Mr. Taft, “the greatest thing in the world [and] the most important part of a student’s education” (Memories and Opinions, p. 291). Religion became a shield against the very strains of moral relativism and narcissistic indulgence that characterized the emerging century.

In the context of recent history, the classical definition of religion has been lost. Now, when the word religion is intoned, the image that comes to mind is usually organized religion. This is clearly inconsistent with Mr. Taft’s more liberal perspective. As a Unitarian, Horace Taft was influenced by a tradition that embraced the intellectual pursuit of knowledge, the centrality of community, and the acknowledgment of divine presence in the midst of human life. The classical definition of religion would have been very comfortable for a late nineteenth-century Unitarian. Mr. Taft’s religious perspective enabled him to articulate a holistic approach to education that did not dismiss religion, but instead underscored its importance in the overall education of students. He knew that religion was a slippery term, so he boiled it down to its classical roots. In the same way, when forced to grasp for a description that encompassed the whole of religion, Taft turned to a biblical source: “For myself [I] much prefer the words of Jesus, ‘hunger and thirst after righteousness (justice).’” For him, religion was not worth considering unless “the desire to realize the ethical ideal” was a central part of it (Memories and Opinions, p. 291). The fact that the school was never affiliated with any religious denomination is testimony to Horace’s commitment to a humanistic interpretation of religion and its ethical implications beyond the boundaries of faith and potential denominational barriers. While the school was not religiously affiliated, it is clear

Taft Bulletin Winter 2003


that religion was extremely important to Mr. Taft. Rev. John Dallas, the first chaplain chosen by Mr. Taft, admired Horace so greatly that even after he left the school to become the first Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire, Dallas felt compelled to write a biography of Mr. Taft in 1949 as a way to preserve “his personality, his method of work, the times in which he worked, and the humanness of the man” (Mr. Taft, p. 6). Concerning Horace’s religious sensibilities, Dallas wrote about Mr. Taft’s fondness for walking with his boys to the church in town where he would lead them by belting out the hymns during the service. At the same time, lest we think that Taft’s religiosity was limited to Sunday worship, we only have to consider Horace’s own attempts at religious dialogue. In the years before his retirement, Mr. Taft gathered a group of senior boys together one evening each week. He would identify the biggest skeptic in the senior class and then tell him to bring his skeptical and agnostic friends. The group of boys would gather with Mr. Taft not to talk about creedal statements of faith, but to discuss topics of a “religious” nature, ranging from “family life, honesty, sex, a man’s political duty, the students’ bearing on school life, and the responsibility of the older boys for the school spirit” (Memories and Opinions, p. 297). Mr. Taft successfully blurred the distinctions between sacred and secular. The end result was a healthy and integrated approach to life, a perspective that opened the inclusiveness of religion in a thoroughly modern way.


Taft Bulletin Winter 2003

Horace Taft offered a redefinition of religion that harkened back to both biblical and classical roots. His concern was not with dogmatic statements of faith, but with intentional and honest reconnection with the ground of meaning. This deep linkage with the ultimate concern would necessarily lead to a lived response of ethical idealism. Religion and service were inextricably connected. Thus, Taft appropriately chose the school’s motto, “Not to be ministered unto, but to minister” (Gospel of Mark, 10:45), to underscore the importance of moving outside of the self through public service to others. Through service, in the daily interactions between teacher and student, in the halls and on the fields, Mr. Taft called his community to become more aware of the religious “dimension of depth”—in their lives. His Vespers notebooks read like the research notes for a preacher’s sermons. The attention to the sacred, to the community, and to placing a Taft education into a broader context is central. Mr. Taft sought to pull things together for his community. Rather than segmenting intellectual disciplines into disparate islands of knowledge, Mr. Taft tied these approaches together through his holistic vision. Religion and service were the unifying threads of this educational philosophy: “It has been said quite truly that we should teach religion in everything and everywhere, in the classroom, on the ball field, in all the relations of life; and there is grand opportunity for it in school life” (Memories and Opinions, p. 294).

Spiritual Life at Taft While the guiding values of Horace Taft remain unchanged, the religious makeup of the school has developed significantly since Mr. Taft’s tenure as headmaster. Taft is now a school comprised of individuals from many different faiths. While the school remains deeply rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition, the interfaith approach to chaplaincy underscores the commitment to support members of all religious faiths. The mission statement of the spiritual life committee, composed of faculty and students, reads: “To foster a sense of community, promote a sense of thoughtfulness and understanding, and support the spiritual life of Taft. We seek to provide information about the diversity of religious traditions within the school, and to celebrate those traditions while respecting the differences and integrity of each.” The spiritual life committee is the realization of a team approach to ministry at Taft. In a way, all members of the community are called to be chaplains— caretakers of the sacred—for the rest of the school. In the past, some faculty members have developed ways to support the spiritual life of students. This has been most recently seen in the offerings of Quaker Meeting and transportation to Mormon worship in the area. The chaplains include the school chaplain and director of spiritual life,

who also serves as the head of the Philosophy, Religion, and Ethics Department, director of Walker Hall, teaches, coaches, lives on campus, and organizes the offerings of the Chaplain’s Office, a rabbi who serves as the associate chaplain for Jewish students, a yoga/meditation instructor, and a chaplaincy fellow mainly responsible for social ministry. Over the past six years, the Taft Chaplain’s Office has developed an interfaith approach that combines opportunities for worship with other more secular moments of reflection. In some instances, these moments are born out of crisis such as on September 11, 2001, when the community gathered for a special meeting and prayer during the day, and for an interfaith candlelight prayer service that evening. One year later, students once again gathered for a voluntary service of remembrance. Soon after the Columbine massacre, students and faculty met for a voluntary prayer vigil. In the

wake of rising uncertainty over political turmoil in the Middle East, students gathered for an evening service of reflection. These events, and those that will unfold in the future, highlight the need for sacred moments in sacred spaces where the community can discover sanctuary, peace, and healing. The Chaplain’s Office seeks to provide these moments and spaces on a regular basis and as the needs arise. A Sunday evening worship service, winter Wednesday Bible study, and a Friday evening gathering of Christian students are held. Also on Friday evenings, members of the Jewish Students Organization frequently gather for a candle lighting service, while a more formal Shabbat dinner and service is held once a month. Throughout the year, the Chaplain’s Office also helps students and faculty celebrate specific holidays by arranging transportation for the Jewish High Holy Days, organizing a lessons and carols service during the Christmas season, offering Ash Wednesday, Palm Sunday, and Good Friday services during Lent, and supporting Muslim students who wish to fast during Ramadan. During the winter, small groups of students are invited to have dinner once a week at the chaplain’s residence. Informal meditation sessions are offered, and students can also participate in yoga classes that are offered as athletic exercise. Over the past five years, Taft has developed a strong relationship with the Drepung Gomang Buddhist Monastery in southern India, hosting a traveling group of Tibetan monks every two to

three years. The monks spend their time teaching the fundamental tenets of Buddhism, sharing Tibet’s cultural heritage, performing multiphonic chanting, and creating an elaborate sand mandala for the school. The Chaplain’s Office is also developing stronger connections with local Muslim scholars who can effectively educate the community regarding this rich religious tradition. It is also looking into the potential of offering Confirmation classes for Roman Catholic and Protestant students respectively. To avoid collapsing all religions into the muddy waters of pluralism, the Chaplain’s Office honors the integrity of each faith by giving students the opportunity to enrich the knowledge of their own faith traditions, and celebrate the divine in a way that is familiar. This office helps students gain an awareness of the spiritual and religious dimensions of their own lives, so that they might embark on a quest for meaning and purpose. To this end, the Chaplain’s Office supports some initiatives that are intentionally denominational, and others that are not specifically related to a religious tradition. Three mornings each week, the entire school gathers in Bingham Auditorium for School Meeting with the headmaster, chaplain, a student, faculty member, or outside artist/performer/lecturer as the guest speaker. Several times each term, an evening Vespers service of readings and music is held at Walker Hall, and students organize coffeehouse performances to celebrate the creative spirit of the school. During the spring, seniors are invited

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to share their reflections on life at Taft and their own personal journey during “Senior Voices” presentations. In addition, believing that service is the cornerstone of a vibrant spirituality, the Taft Chaplain’s Office sponsors and administers Community Service Day in the fall, as well as offering support to the initiatives of the community service committee and volunteer council. Each year, a number of speakers and programs are funded by the Chaplain’s Office and also by the Paduano Lecture Series in Philosophy and Ethics which underscores Horace’s commitment to help students “realize the ethical ideal,” by bringing noted poets, authors, ethicists, and religious figures to campus to speak on provocative issues in the field of philosophy and ethics. The Chaplain’s Office also collaborates with student organizations and faculty committees to support special programs, including the annual remembrance of Martin Luther King, Jr., displays of selected portions of the AIDS quilt, and this year’s ongoing theme of environmental ethics and awareness. The need for a reflective sacred space has become more apparent in the past year. The recent acquisition of Walker Hall addresses this need by expanding the offerings of the Chaplain’s Office and providing a much-needed space. Through voluntary opportunities for worship and reflection, the academic offerings of the Philosophy, Religion, and Ethics Department, community service, and pastoral counseling, Taft affirms the guiding vision and religious perspective of Horace Taft.


Taft Bulletin Winter 2003

Rediscovery into the Future While the Taft School chaplaincy continues to expand, there are a number of key areas to which we should turn in the future. While the school has provided significant opportunities for those students of Judeo-Christian background, there is a need to reach out more to the students who belong to religious faiths with minority representation at the school. It is my hope that Muslim and Hindu students might also find opportunities to celebrate their unique traditions at Taft if they so choose. Similarly, those students who identify themselves as atheist or agnostic should also be invited to engage in active and healthy dialogue regarding their perspectives. The recent offerings of the open forums provide one opportunity for interactive discussion on a number of topics (not unlike Mr. Taft’s late-night skeptics talks). Given the global sociopolitical climate, there is also a need to offer more opportunities for interfaith dialogue. At the same time, the approach to nurturing the spiritual life of the community needs to remain respectful of those students who do not wish to investigate religion through voluntary worship, while continuing to offer education regarding the importance of religion for many people.

Finally, the guiding vision for Taft’s approach to nurturing the spiritual life of the community must remain grounded in Horace Taft’s enduring religious observations. Beyond the often-divisive language of dogma, the heart of religion involves an honest reconnection to the ground of life: an activity into which all are invited. Religion involves a hunger and thirst, the same insatiate yearning for knowledge equated with the classical approach to education, and ultimately fulfilled through the self-effacing activity of service to community, country, and world. The following pages profile just a few of the many Taft graduates who have embodied this perspective born at Taft. They have taken the Taft motto to heart through vocations in ministry. They minister in a myriad of ways and in a variety of settings. Together they form patches of Taft’s multicolored quilt of service. They honor Horace’s vision, even as they inspire a new generation “Not to be ministered unto, but to minister.” Michael E.C. Spencer serves as school chaplain and director of spiritual life, and is head of the Philosophy, Religion, and Ethics Department, as well as director of Walker Hall, and head girls’ crew coach. Works cited: Dallas, John T. Mr. Taft. 1949. Horace Dutton Taft. Memories and Opinions. 1942.

profiles of ministry


aft alumni are engaged in a multitude of professions and volunteer work.

We’re proud to profile a few graduates whose vocations and avocations are what we, and they, call ministry. Some are lay people while others are ordained. These selected women and men have chosen to dedicate part of their lives to serving others in one way or another.

profiles of ministry Fred Small ’70 Witness for the Earth by David Morse


aped to the door of the Rev. Fred Small’s office at the First Church Unitarian in Littleton, Mass. is a clutch of

cartoons. One from The New Yorker shows a senior clergyman advising a younger colleague that he will do fine, as long as he avoids “politics and religion.” The cartoons offer a glimpse into Fred’s concerns as an activist minister willing to confront issues involving social justice and environmental policy. Last February he founded a group called Religious Witness for the Earth, which calls on political leaders to address the problem of global warming. “We wanted to take our prayers out of the sanctuary and into the public square,” he says. “What inspires us is the vision of essentially a civil rights movement for the environment—for all the earth’s creatures and for future generations.” The allusion to civil rights hints at Fred’s own evolution, since graduating from Taft in 1970: B.A. at Yale, followed by a J.D. and M.S. at the University of Michigan; while practicing environmental law, he became a guitar-playing folk singer acclaimed for his original lyrics. Pete Seeger has called him “one of America’s best songwriters.” Then, his life took another turn. Having fled the Episcopal church at the age of 14 and been “unchurched” for more than 20 years, Fred took a master’s of divinity at Harvard in 1999. His models for political activism are Gandhi and Martin Luther King. Asked how and when he felt called to the ministry, he says, “In a sense I’ve been called to ministry all my life, but I haven’t always called it a ministry. I have 30

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always felt aggrieved by injustice and suffering, always felt that the privileges I was given demanded that I apply them to some purpose greater than myself.” A special hallmark of Fred’s ministry is that in confronting issues as ponderous and intractable as global warming, overpopulation, deforestation, and runaway consumerism, he has learned to use humor. Driving to Littleton to interview Fred, a copy of his Everything Possible playing in my tape deck, I found myself laughing out loud. Yet I get the feeling that for all the cartoons and comic lyrics, this multifaceted man is not someone to whom humor comes naturally. He has to work at it—at least among strangers. And despite his informal attire—plaid flannel shirt, spotless work boots—the trim six-footer has the ascetic, driven look of a man whose default mode is business. When I knock on his door, he has a laptop going in front of a desktop computer, and a spiral notebook in front of the laptop. “How would I have recognized you,” I ask, “if I had visited Taft when you were a student?” Fred smiles. “By my purposeful stride, as I walked to my next appointment.” He supposes he appeared happy

and confident at Taft, but also a little bit tense, “so busy excelling at everything I thought I had a chance to excel at, and avoiding everything else, I fear I neglected forming really close friendships.” Although the school “enabled my addiction to success,” he says he had a blast and did make some good friends. He was graduated salutatorian, having distinguished himself in wrestling and as captain of the football team, president of the glee club and co-head of Oriocos, vice president of Masque & Dagger, and editor of the Taft Papyrus. New York Times foreign correspondent Steve Erlanger ’70, who was Fred’s roommate for two years when they were both at Taft, calls Fred “probably the most competitive person I knew at Taft, both academically and athletically. That came from fierce intelligence, diligence, ambition and the desire to excel…whether it was wrestling or horseplay.” Erlanger fondly recalls obtaining a copy of the justpublished Portnoy’s Complaint and “sitting

in our one armchair laughing hysterically while Fred was at his desk trying to study Moliere for Advanced Placement French.” I ask Fred whether he had to unlearn anything from those days. “Sure,” he says. “I think the great unlearning of my life was to accept that any goodness did not depend upon achievement, and the approval of others. Goodness is inherent in every human being.” We talk about God and love and music, and humor in different contexts. One of his funniest songs, “The Marine’s Lament,” was written when the brouhaha about gays in the military had reached a particularly ugly stage. “I probably wouldn’t write the song today—because in satirizing homophobia, it veers too far

toward demonizing the homophobe.” Many of his songs are pleas for inner peace. “Buddha Behind the Wheel,” from his new album, Only Love, offers spiritual alternatives to road rage. “Simple Living” turns from media overload to images that he calls Buddhist and which strike me as also Whitmanesque: Gonna turn off the video the audio too Open my eyes take in the view See the divine in the veins of a leaf In the hands of a beggar in the eyes of a thief.* It’s a wide-ranging and demanding ministry, from tending to the spiritual needs of his parishioners to collective

political action, to a more lonely spiritual discipline. Indeed, as Fred walks to his next appointment, I can’t help but observe the purposefulness of his stride. * Fred Small, “Simple Living,” on Only Love, copyright 1991, Pine Barrens Music (BMI). Used by permission. Note: Fred has seven cassettes and CDs available through music stores or online at David Morse is an independent journalist based in Connecticut. He is author of a novel, The Iron Bridge and essays that have appeared in Esquire, the New York Times Magazine, Boulevard, Dissent, and Yes!

Melissa Wilcox ’90 Outreach from Africa to Illinois by Bonnie Blackburn Penhollow ’84


red dirt road in Tanzania may be far removed from the cool stone hallways at Taft, but for the Rev. Melissa Wilcox, class of 1990,

they both symbolized a commitment to others. That commitment led Wilcox to become an Episcopal priest in 2001. “Taft’s emphasis on Non ut sibi ministretur sed ut ministret,” Wilcox recalled, appealed to her growing sense of a spiritual calling. “Taft did a wonderful job of making a difference in the larger community and that really carried over to me.” That Wilcox would enter into the ministry was perhaps not so surprising to her classmates. While a student, Wilcox took an active role in Taft’s volunteer program, working first at a Waterbury soup kitchen, then with a Watertown hospice program.

“My dad died of cancer and I knew he had had hospice,” she said. “I was very interested in that. My second and third year I was assigned patients. I came and The Rev. Melissa Wilcox ’90 shows children at her played cards or talked with them.” parish how palms are burned each year to make The commitment to helping ashes for Ash Wednesday. others continued into Wilcox’s college years at Colby. She worked on a tion from Colby, she spent a year domestic violence hotline before spend- working for the International Rescue ing her junior year in Kenya, where she Committee’s Commission for Refugee spent a month interviewing women in Women and Children, which assists with refugee camps. After her 1994 gradua- refugee camps overseas. Taft Bulletin Winter 2003


profiles of ministry Wilcox then began working in Tanzania, just a few miles from the Rwandan border, assisting the Anglican Church. It was there that she realized the vague stirrings inside were pulling her to a life in ministry. She had been asked to give a sermon on the Trinity at a small church. Though she was not theologically trained, she was able to demonstrate the sometimecomplex topic using three stones to hold up a cooking pot. Remove one of the stones, and the pot would fall over. As she bicycled home through lush banana fields she knew where her path lay. “All of a sudden it was so clear to me,” she said. “I felt this incredible sense of this is where my calling is. My vocation…is preaching and writing and that’s the part I really thrive on. [A calling] is something that unfolds—most people don’t have that lightning bolt.” When she returned to the United States, Wilcox enrolled in the Virginia Theological Seminary and graduated in May 2001. In July 2001, she married fellow seminarian Adam Kradel and, that September, she became a deacon. In February 2002, she was ordained as an Episcopal priest at the Church of the Holy Comforter in Kenilworth, Ill., outside Chicago, where she now serves as curate.

Wilcox’s calling to the priesthood was not unprecedented in her family. It’s something of a family business. Her father, grandfather and great-grandfather were Episcopal priests. In fact, her grandfather, the late Bradford Hastings, was the Episcopal bishop of Connecticut while Wilcox was a student at Taft. Indeed, during her ordination process, Wilcox had to struggle with her family’s legacy. “Is this something you are called to do, Melissa, or is it something you’re meant to do because of your family?” she remembers being asked. “Is this a calling for me or is it stepping into comfortable shoes?” But the complex process through which Episcopalians become ordained helped refine her vocation. Wilcox continues her outreach work with the elderly and homebound, as well as combining forces with a nearby AfroCaribbean parish, whose pastor, like Wilcox, speaks Swahili. “It’s wonderful,” she said with a laugh. “I get to practice my Swahili!” At 30, Wilcox is a young force in the rapidly aging Episcopalian priesthood, a factor that sometimes disconcerts her parishioners. “I’m young and I look young, it’s assumed that wisdom is associated with age,” she said. “But I can talk of things of life

and death and hope…because of my priesthood, not because of being Melissa.” Yet as she talks with parishioners, prepares her sermons, ministers to the sick and the dying, Wilcox says she knows she is doing what God wants her to do: being a window to the work of God. “It is my work to discern where God is in my life, in the life of the parish, in the world,” she said. “I am with people as they are at the cusp of some of the most significant events in their lives. As I prepare a couple for marriage, I listen to them, to who they are, to what they would like to become, but I also try to help them see God in their relationship and in their upcoming marriage. At death, in the hospital, I am not the focus of the ministry, but it is my office, the priesthood, that allows me to hold hands with the dying and their families and to pray with them. “As priests we have taken vows to live our lives in such a way that people may see us pointing them to God. It is not about seeing God in us, but seeing through us to God.” Bonnie Blackburn Penhollow, class of 1984, is an award-winning journalist who lives in Fort Wayne, Ind. She and her husband Steve are the proud parents of Emma, born in June 2002.

David Brooks ’60 The Holy Ground of Hospice by Bonnie Blackburn Penhollow ’84


s a Taft student in the late 1950s, David Brooks planned to follow in the footsteps of his international businessman father. He didn’t envision a life

spent ministering to the dying.


Taft Bulletin Winter 2003

He served in the Navy. He worked in hospital administration. But something was missing—the faith he’d lost as a young man. “I think I’ve always had a spiritual sensibility, but it took me a long time…to find my way back,” Brooks said. “That sensibility was dormant.”

Raised Roman Catholic, as a youth Brooks attended St. Margaret’s in Waterbury, Conn., and then St. John of the Cross in Middlebury, Conn. But after graduating from Yale with a degree in economics in 1964, Brooks spent three years as a commissioned officer in the Navy before moving to Boston, where he began working in hospital administration. In his quest for a more meaningful life, Brooks became involved in a young Catholics group in Boston, and began attending St. Ann’s Church in the Fenway area. While socializing over coffee and doughnuts in the church basement, Brooks met students attending the nearby Weston Jesuit School of Theology. “Just talking to them,” Brooks, 60, recalled, “that’s where the idea was really birthed.” The idea was to attend divinity school, and develop his growing faith. He was 46 when he enrolled at the Jesuit school. Quitting his job was “a big risk and a big gamble,” Brooks said. He spent three years in school to earn his master of divinity degree and become a lay Roman Catholic chaplain. He also spent some 1,600 hours in clinical pastoral education that included professional— and personal—development. “How you minister comes out of who you are,” he noted. During the training, “You’re not only out there interacting with patients, but you’re looking at who you are.” After graduation, Brooks worked as a hospital chaplain, and then at a residence for people with AIDS. From there, he began work with hospices. Hospice, Brooks said, involves a “holistic” plan of care for a terminally ill person who has less than six months to live. Hospice services include not only physical care, but care of the mind and spirit. A team of nurses, health aides, social workers and other volunteers focuses on palliative care—treating pain and other physical symptoms, without aggressive medical intervention. Hospice

chaplains help patients focus on unresolved emotional and spiritual issues. “A person being terminally ill, that very fact is obviously very significant,” he said. “It causes a lot of people to look at spiritual things…We’re not there to convert, we’re not there to proselytize. We’re trying to uncover what’s already there.” Brooks’ role includes helping patients discover their “core spirituality.” “We make a big distinction between spirituality and religion,” he noted. “We say now everyone is spiritual, [but] not everyone is ‘religious.’ Part of what we try to do as chaplains is to…encourage the patients to tell their story in their own words. It’s usually from those stories that we can get an idea of the core spirituality of the person.” People facing terminal illnesses, and their families, often hope for a miraculous cure. But what they often find is a different kind of healing—one that involves coming to terms with their condition and finding a spiritual and emotional peace within themselves and in their relationships with family and friends. “All these different areas…of untidiness need to be cleaned up for that person to feel peace,” Brooks noted. “It’s an invitation to a person to go wherever they want, do whatever they need to do in these last days. There’s a reverence of the person, of their life journey, of their spirituality. We’re on holy ground when we’re in this place with this patient,” Brooks said. He usually visits about four patients a day, seeing each person once a week. Brooks works with two different hospices, the Brighton, Mass., Caritas Good Samaritan hospice, affiliated with the Boston archdiocese, and Hospice of the North Shore, based in Danvers, Mass. Though many might think working with the dying is depressing, Brooks says it is just the opposite. “I find it the most rewarding work,” Brooks said. “I’m filled with a sense of joy.

David Brooks ’60 with his brother Chris ’63 at the Litchfield Hills Road Race

I am the instrument, if you will, of God to help effect what I believe [is] what God wants to happen to a patient and the family during this time of transition.” Still, the work can be draining. He recharges physically by running, and emotionally and spiritually by attending thrice-weekly prayer groups. A certified member of the National Association of Catholic Chaplains, he continues to study various facets of Catholicism. “I’m on fire with it. For me, it’s a passion,” he said. “God for me is a passionate God.” Brooks shares that passion with the patients he sees. “It’s all about love. We’re there to surround the patient and the family as we try to help the transition from this life into the next life,…into the divine life. “It’s God’s work. I’m the earthen vessel. I’m the instrument. I’m learning to get out of the way and let the process take care of itself.” Bonnie Blackburn Penhollow, class of 1984, is an award-winning journalist who lives in Fort Wayne, Ind.

Taft Bulletin Winter 2003


profiles of ministry Parker Mills ’69 Balancing Thoughts by Linda Beyus


hen asked how he became involved in leading Vipassana meditation workshops, Parker Mills ’69 recalled that in 1978 he went to a ten-day

Parker Mills ’69 with his wife Laura

meditation course a friend was holding at his house in California. Parker, describing himself as a seeker, was so moved by the experience that he attended more workshops in Canada, Asia, and the US led by S.N. Goenka, the renowned teacher who has taught meditation technique for the past 30 years. After his first course, Parker volunteered at various workshops for over ten years, assisting with tasks such as orienting students, and helping to cook meals. In 1991, he and his wife, Laura, became teachers for the organization. “You feel gratitude as a result of these courses, so you want to help by offering your service,” he says. Parker met his wife, Laura, a former Peace Corps volunteer in Asia, through the international Vipassana courses; they now live and work in California. Vipassana meditation technique is said to have been the essence of the teachings of Buddha who lived and taught in India for 45 years. The practice of Vipassana spread over time to Burma, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and later China, Tibet, and Japan. Vipassana practice is nonsectarian and, as Parker puts it, “is not an ism of any kind.” It is practiced by people of many religious traditions as well as by those with none. Mr. Goenka writes: Everyone faces the problem of suffering. When one suffers from anger it is not Buddhist anger, Hindu anger, or Christian anger. Anger is anger. The malady is universal…[so] the remedy must be universal. Vipassana is such a remedy. No one will object to a code of living which 34

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respects the peace and harmony of others…No one will object to developing insight into one’s own reality, by which it is possible to free the mind of negativities. It is a universal path. It is not a cult. It is not a dogma. It is not blind faith. “Developing the capacity to have a balanced mind,” Parker says, “is the goal of the workshops.” Men and women are taught in separate groups to foster concentration. The minimum course length of ten days is found to be the necessary time for individuals to learn this specific meditation technique, and most importantly, to apply it to all parts of daily life, not just when one does the sitting practice. During the course, participants

refrain from reading, writing, and interaction with the outside world, spending concentrated amounts of time listening to instructions and practicing meditation. The worldwide network of Vipassana centers, serving over 35,000 students each year, is unique because it has no paid staff or teachers, charges no fees, and is run completely by volunteer efforts (see This approach is something Mr. Goenka, who still travels some and lives in India, held to firmly since the beginning, believing that spiritual training should not be corrupted by outside interests or commercialization of any kind. Vipassana training (Parker says it is like training for any sport—it requires discipline) includes the following guidelines: One must abstain from any action—physical or vocal—which disturbs the peace and harmony of others. Second, in order to quiet the mind during meditation practice, one focuses on the breath, enabling the mind to become sharper and not crowded by “violent negativities,” as Mr. Goenka phrases it. Third, one needs to purify the mind of distractions and negativity by developing insight into one’s own nature. How to dispel the sometimesWestern presumption that meditation is self-centered “navel gazing” is not simple, but if one reads reliable modern writings on meditation practice, one learns that this historical practice leads to being more observant and aware of all aspects of life and, para-

doxically, lessens self-centeredness. Vipassana centers and their practice are not like a cult in any way, shape, or form, a misunderstanding Westerners might make when encountering a worldwide community of practitioners following one teacher’s methods. Mills’ time as a Taft student made him comfortable with communal situations, he says, noting that this helped when, as an adult, he went to work on freighters, for the logging industry, on retreats, and in the workshops he now teaches. Parker told the Bulletin that it was interesting that two Taft alumni, he and Peter Martin ’63, are both committed to helping teach Vipassana meditation in the tradition of S.N. Goenka. This coincidence is certainly noteworthy,

prompting Parker to write, “Clearly we embody the motto of the school, and both of us look forward to giving more service to the Vipassana organization.” Parker, a long-distance runner at Taft, learned that training regularly, whether in a sport or a spiritual discipline, is vital. [Parker’s father, William ’31, and grandfather, Charles ’06, also attended Taft.] Parker received teaching credentials at UC Berkeley, but ended up doing other work that included logging in northern California. He now runs his own logging company, H & M Logging, started 12 years ago with a partner, using a mostly-Mexican crew. The technique they use is called cable logging in which a yarder lifts logs high into

the air, minimizing any environmental damage. He stayed in logging because he likes being outside, likes that it is physically challenging, and, because the work is seasonal, it allows him to have time off for his other interests, especially living up to his commitment to teaching and practicing meditation. When the rainy weather hits California in the winter, Parker and Laura spend time teaching at courses or traveling, as they are this winter, to “the big center” in India, near Bombay. While Parker does not refer to his work as ministry, his deep commitment to teaching a practice that helps balance peoples’ lives and reduce suffering, is surely ministry as service to others, fully living out the school’s motto.

Reverend Lee H. “Chip” Bristol III ’78 Educating from the Heart by Michael E.C. Spencer


hip Bristol vividly remembers the day, when, as a new student at Taft, his father pulled him aside and pointed to the Latin inscription of the

school’s motto over the main door to Horace Dutton Taft Hall—“Not to be ministered unto, but to minister.” While this literal translation grounds the school’s motto in public ministry, Chip did not make the connection. For him, the motto became “ingrained in my head” as a reminder that we are called to a life of service in one way or another. Although he teasingly declares that he “majored in sin while at Taft,” Chip also readily acknowledges the profound impact that Taft had in directing him towards ministry in general and into a teaching vocation in particular. Taft influenced his choice of vocation in positive and negative ways. Reflecting on his time at Taft, Chip

commented on a spiritual void. Although there was a wonderfully committed chaplain, the school was

overwhelmingly secular, with little room for spiritual reflection. The questions of meaning and purpose, which would normally be asked in the context of community chapel meetings or academic courses, were as conspicuously absent from the Taft landscape as the presence of a chapel building itself. Chip suggested that “something was lacking,” and this awareness urged him later in life to “become the teacher, the presence, I wished I had had in high school.” Yet, in the midst of this secular culture, Taft did offer Chip opportunities for engaging the sacred. Nowhere was this more true than in the weekly Vespers meetings. For Chip, Vespers was “absolutely a chapel experience.” He recalled listening to Lance Odden during one Vespers meeting late in Bristol’s senior year. “I listened to Mr. Odden talking about life, Taft Bulletin Winter 2003


profiles of ministry

Rev. Lee “Chip” Bristol III, ’78, head of Canterbury School, with three students in front of their new Phillips Chapel, opening at Easter.

urging us to think and look beyond ourselves, and I saw that leading a school was just like leading a parish. Both communities are made up of people searching for truth, and I began to think that I wanted to follow the path of school leadership as well.” After graduating from Taft, and later Hamilton College, Chip spent a few years fund raising for public television and later for Northfield Mount Hermon School. Seeking to address a lingering interest in theology, Chip enrolled at Virginia Theological Seminary where he ultimately began to pursue a career in formal ministry. Although ordination was not in the picture originally, eventually he saw that it was something he needed to consider. From experiencing a communion service with children, and a soul-searching trip to Israel, Chip eventually accepted a call to ordained ministry. He knew that he always wanted to stay in schools, and so when he graduated with a master of divinity degree, Chip took a position as the 36

Taft Bulletin Winter 2003

chaplain of Trinity Episcopal School in New Orleans, where he was eventually ordained as an Episcopal priest in 1992. After three years in New Orleans, Chip had the rare opportunity to become the first American chaplain at Eton College in England. Although serving as chaplain at Eton was a unique experience (especially to share it with the Taft students who came over and sang at Eton), he soon became weary of the life of an expatriate and returned home to New Hampshire, where he took a position as the chaplain of the Holderness School. Soon thereafter, the whispers of possibility that once echoed in the Vespers light of Taft became a reality. Chip Bristol was invited to become head of Canterbury School, and independent K-8 Episcopal day school in North Carolina. During his journey, Chip married Jane Cunningham Bristol and began to raise a family of four children: Wells (10), Greg (7), Charlotte (5), and

McLaren (2). They are all an integral part of the life of Canterbury School, where Chip relishes the opportunity to walk with younger kids—his own children included—through the early and crucial stages of their education. Now in his fourth year at Canterbury, Chip Bristol’s day seems without end. As only the second head of school in Canterbury’s ten-year history, Chip replaced the founding head and took on the challenges associated with guiding a new school into the unfolding future. Under his leadership, this K-8 school has expanded to support the needs of 350 students, and is in the midst of a building campaign including the construction of an impressive Gothic chapel and a lower school building. Each day is busy and builds on the last, with Chip navigating between academic classrooms, crowds of kids pulsing with playful energy, construction projects, and the administrative concerns that weigh heavy on the minds of all headmasters. Through it all, Chip still considers his work a ministry. In his role as Episcopal priest and school head, Chip is a fine example of lived commitment to the Taft call of ministry. What is a great head of school if not a pastor, a watchful shepherd of those in his care? Surrounded by a community of students and faculty that he shepherds, nurtured by the love of his family, and sustained by his faith, Chip Bristol has become the presence and the pastor that he longed for at Taft. As he prepares to celebrate his 25th Taft reunion, he looks forward to returning to the alma mater that helped him begin this journey “Not to be ministered unto, but to minister.” Michael E.C. Spencer serves as school chaplain and director of spiritual life, and is head of the Philosophy, Religion, and Ethics Department, as well as director of Walker Hall, and head girls’ crew coach.

The motto of Walker Hall, Justice Through Service, combines the Taft school motto with Horace Taft’s preferred definition for religion. The mission statement of Walker Hall conveys the hope for this evolving space: Walker Hall fulfills Horace Taft’s vision of a vibrant, community-centered spirituality grounded in the ministry of service to others. Embracing the importance of religion and ritual, celebrating the sanctity and uniqueness of Taft’s interfaith community, affirming the spiritual quest of each individual, and calling all members of the school community to seek justice and follow the path of service in the world, Walker Hall serves as the communal space for spiritual, musical, and intellectual reflection. In addition to supporting the programs offered by the Chaplain’s Office, Music Department, and select student groups through secular and religious opportunities for reflection, Walker Hall also serves as the center for outreach to the town through educational lectures, musical performances, and community service. Walker Hall is a sacred space in which the spirit of community is honored and celebrated, a space where individuals from various faiths and perspectives—Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, atheists, agnostics, and others—can gather together to celebrate the power of a community striving for justice through service in the world.

The Dedication of

Walker Hall

October 25, 2002

䉳 Pictured in front of Walker Hall, left to right, Willy MacMullen ’78, Web Walker, Thea and Harry Walker ’40, granddaughter Emily Overholser, Gil Walker ’74, grandson Camp ’05. BOB FALCETTI

The fading daylight of a fall afternoon outside the windows of Walker Hall was offset by the warm glow of lights on the beautifully restored wooden interior as the dedication ceremony began word38

Taft Bulletin Winter 2003

lessly, with soft harp and flute music. On Oct. 25, invited and honored guests filled Taft’s new “sacred communal space,” words Chaplain Michael Spencer uses to describe this multiple use,

spiritually-oriented center. The generosity of Harry W. Walker II ’40 allowed the school to purchase the former Lutheran Church and former library that is contiguous to Taft’s campus.

Michael Spencer Chaplain Michael Spencer currently serves as the Taft School chaplain. He received his A.B. magna cum laude in philosophy and classics from the College of the Holy Cross in 1993. After teaching classics at Tabor Academy and philosophy at Milton Academy, he completed the curriculum requirements for Yale’s teacher preparation program. Michael subsequently attended Yale Divinity School and received his master of divinity summa cum laude in 1998 with concentrations in ethics and religion, and literature. He was awarded the divinity school’s Julia A. Archibald Scholarship Prize for the highest-ranking member of the graduation class, as well as receiving three other key academic awards. Michael is currently pursuing a master of sacred theology from Yale Divinity School and preparing for ordination to the priesthood in the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut. He also teaches in the advanced studies program and serves as chaplain at St. Paul’s School during the summer. In 1999 his applied ethics course curriculum was published by the Council for Spiritual and Ethical Education, and his poetry has also been published. For the past six years he has served as chaplain at Taft, building an interfaith chaplaincy program. In addition to running the offerings of campus ministry, he also developed the curriculum for, and is now the head of the Philosophy, Religion, and Ethics Department, director of Walker Hall, and the head girls’ crew coach. He coordinates the school’s Morning Meeting program, plans and implements Community Service Day, and advises the Christian students group, the Taft Aids Awareness Program, and Students for a Free Tibet. Together with the spiritual life committee composed of students and faculty, the Associate Chaplain Rabbi Eric Polokoff and yoga/meditation instructor Janaki Pierson, Michael is committed to fostering the moral and spiritual life of the Taft community.

The opening of the building’s exquisite wooden doors initiated the dedication ceremony as Harry Walker and his wife, Thea, walked through, punctuated by the tones of a corkscrew-

䉱 Thea and Harry Walker ’40, Assistant Chaplain Rabbi Eric Polokoff, Chaplain Michael Spencer

䉲 Collegium Musicum preparing to sing for Walker Hall’s large audience.



shaped ceremonial ram’s horn, a shofar, blown by Taft’s Assistant Chaplain Rabbi Eric Polokoff, and a brass trumpet fanfare. A procession of invited guests from Taft’s academic community and the

wider religious community followed. Michael Spencer’s invocation of this uniquely conceived sacred space, not simply a chapel, was highlighted by a scripture reading from 1 Kings which Taft Bulletin Winter 2003


Rabbi Eric Polokoff Assistant Chaplain Eric Polokoff has served as Taft’s assistant chaplain since 2000 alongside chaplain Michael Spencer. Rabbi Polokoff runs the monthly Shabbat services and Shabbat dinner as well as serving with the chaplain as advisor to the Jewish Students Organization. As assistant chaplain, he meets individually with students, and serves as adjunct member of Taft’s spiritual life committee. In addition to sharing his many skills at Taft, Eric is the founding Rabbi for B’nai Israel of Southbury, Conn., a merged congregation of 280 member families, where he has served for the past five years. Prior to serving the Jewish community at B’nai Israel, he served at B’nai Chaim of Southbury. Rabbi Polokoff is attending Yale Divinity School, where he will receive his master’s in sacred theology in 2003. He became a rabbi in 1990 after attending Hebrew Union College, Jewish Institute of Religion. Eric earned both his M.A. in Hebrew Literature and B.A. in history from Johns Hopkins University where he was awarded the Keenan Award for Playwriting. Eric was employed by the Union of American Hebrew Congregations in New York from 1987 to 1994 in a number of positions—as assistant director of the New York Federation of Reform Synagogues, assistant director of the program department, and as a student intern. His active community participation encompasses work with the Connecticut Region, Anti-Defamation League on their executive committee, serving as chairman for the Confronting Anti-Semitism Project. Eric is a co-founder of the Connecticut Interfaith Coalition for Religious Freedom and is on the board of directors for the Federation: Jewish Communities of Northwest Connecticut. His rabbinical affiliations include the Central Conference of American Rabbis, New England Rabbis CCAR Region, New Haven Board of Rabbis, and New Haven Area Reform Rabbis Council.

䉲 Assistant Chaplain Rabbi Eric Polokoff blowing the shofar, made from a ram’s horn to begin the dedication ceremony. BOB FALCETTI

Some of Eric’s publications include A Legacy of Jewish Commitment: Siddur , 2001; A Legacy of Jewish History: The Commemorative Megillah, 1998; A Legacy of Jewish Faith: The Commemorative Haggadah, 1995; A Treasury of Jewish Heritage, 1994.

repeats a prayer to the divine asking, “That your eyes may be open night and day toward this house…and that you may heed the prayer your servant prays toward this place.” 40

Taft Bulletin Winter 2003

Headmaster Willy MacMullen ’78 thanked Harry Walker for his generosity, noting that the school, prior to the gift of Walker Hall, was missing a place for reflection. “Harry was like the Coast

Guard—he came to the rescue when help was needed,” Willy stated, explaining that the school wasn’t sure how or if the majestic historic building could be purchased. “I feel the curve of oak and

Walker Hall Schedule January 16 䊏 Coffeehouse in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. January 28 䊏 Operatic Duo, Patricia Schuman, soprano, David Pittsinger, bass February 14 䊏 Mothers’ Day Vespers Service 䊏 Kabbalat Shabbat Service

䉴 Shabbat service held at Walker Hall attended by (left to right) Alex Brittel ’03, A.G. Leventhal ’04, Matthew Bloch ’05, Chaplain Michael Spencer breaking the challah bread, faculty member Ted Heavenrich; in foreground, Vanessa Brownstein ’06 SAM DANGREMOND ’05

February 18 䊏 Author of Lafayette, Harlow G. Unger ’49 February 21 䊏 Bluegrass/Folk Singer Willy Porter March 5 䊏 Ash Wednesday Morning Vespers April 9 䊏 Yom HaShoah Holocaust Remembrance Service April 18 䊏 Good Friday Vespers May 䊏 ISP Performances 䊏 Hydrox/Oriocos Recording Sessions and Concerts May 9 䊏 Earth Day Performance of the Missa Gaia. Reception in Walker Hall following concert in Congregational Church May 28 䊏 Senior Vespers (tentative)

䉱 The inaugural concert in the Walker Hall Music Series featured the world-renowned Manhattan String Quartet. Joined by Taft cello instructor Thirzah Bendokas, the Quintet performed Schubert’s Quintet in C major, D.956, “The Great.” PETER FREW

Weekly Events Wednesday—Bible Study Thursday—Senior Voices (spring) Sunday—Evening Worship Monthly Events 䊏 Jewish Student Group Shabbat Service 䊏 FOCUS Meetings 䊏 Coffeehouse Performances 䊏 Vespers—Student Performances

the cool metal railing when I think of this place,” Willy noted of the 1883 granite structure listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Mr. Walker spoke briefly about his

interest in providing a place for interfaith knowledge and the enjoyment of music, both of which mean a great deal in his own life. He proudly affirmed the fact that “Taft provides the nation with young Taft Bulletin Winter 2003


䉱 Seniors Eliza Clark and Taylor Walle perform at inaugural Walker Hall coffeehouse attended by over 300 students and faculty. SAM DANGREMOND ’05 䉳 Performer Peter Granquist ’03 SAM DANGREMOND ’05

䉴 Left to right, Sam Calder ’03, Graham Dickson ’03, and faculty member Jim Lehner SAM DANGREMOND ’05

leaders.” Walker, a former trustee of the school, is a parent of Gil ’74 and a grandparent of Camp ’05. Throughout the dedication ceremony, the music set the right tone, 42

Taft Bulletin Winter 2003

from Collegium Musicum’s anthems, instrumentals by students, to hymns sung by all who filled Walker Hall. Guests headed out into the darkened early evening knowing that Taft has gained a

sanctuary to live up to a phrase that aptly captures the planned activities of Walker Hall: Justice Through Service. —Linda Beyus

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