Focus on EDUCATI N B
Sculpting a Diverse Community Teaching Teachers from Around the Globe The Father of Paradigms Remembering Oscie Alumni in Education
W I N T E R
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B U L L E T I N Winter 2004 Volume 74 Number 2 Bulletin Staff Director of Development John E. Ormiston Editor Julie Reiff Alumni Notes Linda Beyus Anne Gahl Jackie Maloney Design Good Design www.goodgraphics.com Proofreader Nina Maynard
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: Julie Reiff, Editor Taft Bulletin The Taft School Watertown, CT 06795-2100 U.S.A. ReiffJ@TaftSchool.org Send alumni news to: Anne Gahl Alumni Office The Taft School Watertown, CT 06795-2100 U.S.A. TaftBulletin@TaftSchool.org 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. TaftRhino@TaftSchool.org 1-860-945-7777 www.TaftAlumni.com
This magazine is printed on recycled paper.
Around the Pond FEATURES
Sculpting a Diverse Community 18 Living in a racially diverse community brings many advantages to the students who experience it, but it is always a work in progress. By Jon Willson ’82
Teaching Teachers from Around the Globe 24 The Taft Educational Center has brought educators together for over 27 years. By Dave Lombino ’96
Living the Motto
Why They Teach: Third in a series highlighting alumni in service By Julie Reiff
Economic Principles: How Ideas Change 41 The Man Who Introduced Us to Paradigms By David Warsh, Boston Globe
Larger Than Life
A tribute to Don Oscarson ’47 By William R. MacMullen ’78
Visiting authors and artists, future guide dog on campus, student honors, fall show’s new talent, on stage in NYC, sharing a little history, a football game lights up the night, and parent gatherings
First Bell, Second Bell: Teaching In and Out of the Classroom By Headmaster William R. MacMullen ’78
On the Cover Preparing students to live in an increasingly global society is no small undertaking, but it makes life interesting. ILLUSTRATION BY CHRIS LYONS
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 TaftBulletin@TaftSchool.org. 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! 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 www.TaftAlumni.com.
From the Editor
What happened at this afternoon's game?—Visit us at www.TaftSports.com for the latest Big Red coverage. For other campus news and events, including admissions information, visit our main site at www.TaftSchool.org, with improved calendar features and Around the Pond stories.
Giving films a new direction, the Class of ’66’s power couples, a slave’s story as opera, nurturing cultural identity in Nepal, and recent works in print
Don’t forget you can shop online at www.TaftStore.com
Masters of the house Lela Ilyinski ’04 and Malcolm Miller ’06 in the fall production of Les Miz. SAM DANGREMOND ’05
From the Archives
It is no coincidence that this issue deals with both issues of education and globalization. In this ever-shrinking world, one has become inextricably entwined with the other. And Taft has answered the call to prepare students for this brave new world by putting the nurturing of a diverse student/faculty community high on its list of priorities. We asked history teacher and diversity committee co-head Jon Willson ’82 how this mission plays out in everyday life, but you’ll see throughout the magazine other evidence of the many benefits Jon describes. From Marshall Hoyler’s observations on teaching officers from other countries at the Naval War College (p. 32) to Charles Cheney’s exploration of globalized medicine and scientific research in his recent book (p. 5), alumni agree that preparing for life in a global society is more important than ever. A look at campus happenings testifies to the benefits we reap every day from our wonderfully diverse community. And this is important. Diversity not only helps us understand each other better, our daily lives are also simply richer by the variety of ideas and inspirations around us. 4
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Our apple pickers from 1942, on page 38 of the fall issue, are so far identified, from left, as William Hay ’42, Headmaster Paul Cruikshank, Dickson Smith ’43, unknown, Bernd Rose ’42, John Conant ’43, Sumner Powell ’42, Albie Johnson ’42, Barr Howard ’42, Fred Loehmann ’42, Paul Weld ’42, Thomas Connors ’42, Hugh Quin ’42, Deane Funk ’42, unknown, George Dill ’44, Hugh McMillan ’42, and Al Waycott ’42 (seated). Our thanks to James Armstrong ’37, Cheves Smythe ’42, Hugh McLean ’42, Audrey Weise, and Ted Mason ’43 for the names listed above. If you have more information about the photo, please contact the archives (email@example.com). For this issue’s archive photograph, please turn to page 50.
Education is our mission, and, as Headmaster Willy MacMullen makes clear (p. 76) real learning happens in and out of the classroom. In this issue, we asked ten alumni why they teach and what they’ve learned. Some turned to careers in education because they love making a difference in children’s lives, others because they need to share their passion for their subject and make it come alive for others. I thank all of those who took the time to share their thoughts with us. I also need to thank to David Mayer ’46, Mary Mason Young ’82, and Geg Buttenheim ’40 who, over a period of several years, have in turn suggested I include something about Thomas Kuhn ’40, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the author of The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, and perhaps the biggest name in his field, who passed
away in 1996. No Bulletin issue on education would be complete without him. Which only proves that sometimes I need to hear a good idea two or three times, before it finally sinks in. So keep those stories coming, and don’t give up on me. —Julie Reiff, editor
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: Julie Reiff • Taft Bulletin 110 Woodbury Road Watertown, CT 06795-2100 U.S.A. or to ReiffJ@TaftSchool.org
Alumni S P OT L I G H T
Little did American history professor Tim Breen ’60 suspect, when he delivered a paper about a slave known simply as Arthur, that one day others would hear the tale as a full-blown opera. When T.J. Anderson, an eclectic composer and musical giant, told Breen his idea, Breen “thought he was joking.” “One’s lucky to get a lecture published in a journal much less to see it leap from one medium to another,” he said. “That someone wanted to translate my research into music was simply extraordinary.” Breen stumbled quite by accident on the document upon which his research and the opera Slip Knot, which opened in Chicago last April, are based. Titled “The Life and Dying Speech of Arthur, a Negro Man,” it is part of a popular if ghoulish colonial-period genre in which ministers of the day extracted confessions from the condemned just before their execution. The opera interprets the true story of a Massachusetts slave named Arthur, who was executed in 1768 for the rape of a white woman who never charged him with the crime. “By planting doubts about the dispensation of justice and by insisting to the end that he was framed,” Breen argues, “Arthur helped move public opinion against the institution of slavery.” “When you read Arthur’s story,” Breen told the Chicago Tribune, “you can hear the voice of a fascinating individual. He brags about the women he has had, the places he has seen, the escapes he has managed.” “Slip Knot explores the collective guilt of a community,” the Tribune wrote, “as well as the heroism of one man trying to preserve his dignity despite the extraordinary social forces gathered against him.” The opera brings “to life an American story that needs to be told and retold for as many listeners as possible.” Breen is William Smith Mason Professor of American History at Northwestern University.
COURTESY OF NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY
History Comes to Life
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The Road Since Structure Thomas S. Kuhn ’40, edited by James Conant University of Chicago Press, 2000
A collection of Kuhn’s essays, assembled with his input before his death in 1996, The Road Since Structure includes a remarkable autobiographical interview that he gave late in life, along with a list of his other publications. “His work is central to the question of the relation of science and culture,” —Library Journal. The interview “brings out the extent to which the history of science was for him from the start a vehicle for philosophical inquiry,” wrote Peter Lipton in London Review of Books.
No Second Eden Anthony C. Moore ’55 Vantage Press, 2002
“A wistful and richly detailed coming of age story.” —Camden Courier Post
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The Right Direction Director Peter Berg ’80 released his latest film, The Rundown, in late September. The hard-hitting action adventure film for Universal Studios stars The Rock, Sean William Scott, Rosario Dawson, Christopher Walken, Ewen Bremner, and Jon Gries. In the story, a mob boss’s “retrieval expert” is sent to the Amazon to retrieve the boss’s son, who is currently looking for a priceless treasure. Berg, who is well known as a film and television actor (The Last Seduction and Cop Land), emerged as a director on the critically acclaimed television series Chicago Hope (in which he also starred as Billy Kronk) and made his feature debut as a writer/director with the black comedy Very Bad Things. “What made Pete a great choice,” said producer Karen Glasser, “is that I think he really understands conflict. Whether a movie is a comedy or an action film, there needs to be an underlying tension and Pete really gets that. His vision for the action has been very creative. He wanted to turn things upside down and play with them, which just comes from who he is.” “As it turns out, something nobody ever thought of before is pretty much Berg’s reigning aesthetic principle,” writes the Washington Post. “He knows how stale all this stuff can be, how generic, so he continually comes up with new ways of doing old things.”
Berg says he was enthusiastic about signing on to a project with The Rock in the lead. In addition to The Rock’s prior film work, Berg was struck by his WWE performances. “When The Rock appeared in these giant stadiums, he would deliver these long monologues where he would go off, taunting members of the audience or taunting other wrestlers, and it was real theater. And his audience was galvanized—35,000 people and he had them right in the palm of his hand. So I was confident in his ability to hold his own in any situation, even with a veteran like Christopher Walken.” “Peter’s a wonderful actor, and it enhances his direction,” said Walken. “He handles it all with total grace and ease.” Brazil was briefly considered for some of the film’s secondary locales, but a scouting trip in June, when Berg and others had an unexpected and frightening encounter with armed bandits outside the city of Manaus, reinforced the decision to film entirely in the U.S. Berg’s next film, also for Universal, is Friday Night Lights about a Texas high school football team. Sources: www.therundown.com and www.imdb.com. Director Peter Berg ’80 on the set of The Rundown with The Rock.
Biomedical Globalization: The International Migration of Scientists Sergio Diaz-Briquets, Charles C. Cheney ’59 Transaction Pub, 2002 Eve and Tony Guernsey Gillian Shepherd, MD, and Eduardo G. Mestre ’66 STEVE MELNICK
Eduardo Mestre ’66 and wife Gillian Shepherd P’98 along with Tony Guernsey ’66 and wife Eve P’95 were recently profiled in Quest magazine as two of six husband-and-wife teams for whom “charity is about more than giving money, it’s about donating time, talent, and hard work to the causes that are closest to their hearts.” “For us, family is the first priority, then our professions,” the Mestres told Quest, “and an important third dimension is our active involvement with charitable causes.” Mestre is longtime chair of the board of WNYC-New York Public Radio and is on the board of the Cold Spring Laboratory in Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y. Shepherd, a trustee of Choate Rosemary Hall, is also a former board member of
the Spence School. “Education,” she said, “has been the critical underlying foundation of our careers and for the development of our children, therefore we actively support it. “One of the most critical responsibilities that comes with having considerable wealth is the moral desire and obligation to give back to the society that enabled you to earn it,” said Guernsey, who is president of Wilmington Trust, New York, and senior executive in charge of Wilmington’s offices in Florida and California. “As a result, philanthropic guidance is paramount in the wealth-management industry, even more so since 9/11. It is also the most rewarding part of my job.” Eve Guernsey, who is CEO of Institutional Americas, JP Morgan Fleming Asset Management, is a board member of YWCA of the City of New York. “The mission of the YWCA is to empower women and girls, and achieve a just society,” she said. “Those were two keys for me.” The two classmates are also former members of Taft’s Board of Trustees.
“This book addresses two questions,” writes Gerald T. Keusch, M.D., in his review of the book for the New England Journal of Medicine. “Why are there so many foreign scientists in training and research positions at the National Institutes of Health (NIH)? What is their effect on postdoctoral fellows, academic institutions, industry, and labor policies in the United States?” “No matter what sinister sense the term globalization may conjure up,” the reviewer writes, “the study concludes that the NIH offers training to foreign scientists ‘primarily in compliance with its mandate to advance biomedical knowledge and to forge international research linkages.’… Science is an inherently global endeavor intended to generate and validate knowledge for the global public good, and NIH policies and the culture surrounding the conduct of scientific training and research are a clear expression of this global perspective…. Global collaborative research is now a reality, as well as a necessity. The NIH today works to ensure that future collaboration is possible, and investing in the training of qualified foreign scientists is one important mechanism for this work.”
Nurturing Cultural Identity Before college, Kate Harding ’97 taught English at the nonprofit Hands In Outreach, which sponsors underprivileged youth in Kathmandu. Six years later, she has returned to her beloved Nepal as program assistant for Children of Nepal. “It didn’t take long for me to fall head over heels in love with Kathmandu,” said Harding: “the
schools, kids as young as three were being forced to learn English and memorize history lessons that they didn’t understand. There was no time for play—for the development of the child,” Meyrav told her. The school was started, first, to provide for disadvantaged—often malnourished—children and, second, to develop a curriculum that allows chil-
Kate Harding ’97 and Meyrav Mor help Nepali children learn in ways suitable to their own culture.
twisting alleyways, the Buddhist stupas and Hindu temples, the surrounding green-blue foothills, the smells of curry and saffron, the invigorating vibe of Hindi music, and the friendliest, most generous people.” On her first visit, she met Meyrav Mor, who later started Tashi Waldorf School, serving underprivileged preprimary aged children in Kathmandu. “We found that in Kathmandu 8
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dren to learn naturally and in a way that is suitable to their own culture. With increasing globalization and tourism, the Nepali identity is at risk of disintegrating, and the school believes that if Nepali children are not raised to feel confident in their heritage, then we will see a backlash of nationalism, fundamentalism, and traditionalism, as is occurring in other parts of the world.
Its curriculum is based largely on Waldorf (Rudolf Steiner) education— a pedagogy that believes in teaching through creative means and incorporating natural materials and traditional heritage. Instead of “Humpty Dumpty,” the children learn traditional Nepali and Tibetan rhymes. “The goal is not to create ethnocentrism or a contrived sense of identity,” Harding explained, “but to give Nepalis a firm sense of self-esteem—a sense that their culture is strong and independent and that it deserves to be validated in their education.” One of the biggest challenges for the school is explaining to Nepali parents that playing is learning. The school holds frequent parent meetings in which families are invited to experience the curriculum firsthand—unusual for a Nepali school—hoping it will foster a sense that education should begin in the community. Of course, this is something Nepal has known for generations, but with the increasing pressure to “modernize,” much of this traditional education is getting lost. Tashi Waldorf School holds frequent teacher training seminars for educators throughout the region. To date, the school has hosted 15 seminars that 250 people have attended. They hope eventually to become affiliated with a local university so that education students can earn accreditation upon completion of their programs. “We won’t know for several years whether this kind of curriculum can benefit Nepal,” Harding said. “But we do know that children arrive at our school with signs of malnutrition and fear and leave as healthy, confident, and glowing individuals. More than a few mothers have told us that during school recesses their children burst into tears and beg, ‘I want to go back to school!’” For more information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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pond SAM DANGREMOND ’05
Here Comes McBride For the third consecutive year, the school invited the author of the summer reading pick to speak to the community at School Meeting. A former journalist and now jazz musician, The Color of Water author James McBride spoke in Bingham in October about his life and work, and proceeded to treat the audience to an amazing halfhour of improvisational music with members of his band. “Having read his book, over the summer,” Grace Wang ’05 told The Papyrus, “we had insight into McBride’s background that allowed him to speak openly, honestly, and humorously.” McBride went on to play “blues-inspired mainstream jazz.” “What a pleasure that was!” said Rusty Davis, assistant headmaster and serious jazz fan. “McBride is a solid saxophone player; they were all good players and gave us some very accessible music that the kids could understand.” A writer/musician, McBride did an eight-year stint as a full-time staff writer for the Boston Globe and the Washington Post among others, writing about everything from baseball scouts to Michael Jackson, with whom he toured exclusively for six months during Jackson’s 1984 Victory Tour. McBride’s latest book, Miracle at St. Anna, was released in January 2002. His CD The Process; Volume One, was released in August on the Cuddy Sounds label. McBride’s talk was sponsored by the Paduano Lecture Series in Philosophy and Ethics. For more information, visit www.jamesmcbride.com. Taft Bulletin Winter 2004
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Working Dog Most Wednesdays and Saturdays there’s an extra student in Laura Caldwell’s English class, her dog Eva. Laura is a “puppy walker” for the Guide Dog Foundation, but her responsibilities include more than walking the dog. By the end of her year with Laura, Eva is expected to know the basic commands: heel, sit, stay, down, and then some. “It’s especially important in a busy mall or other situation for her not to be distracted,” Laura said. So the foundation runs training programs at area shopping malls. Coming to campus is an important part of Eva’s training, too. Laura has helped to acclimate her to different situations by bringing her to Friendly’s, the movies, going out with friends, or over to other people’s houses for dinner. Those efforts are not without incident, and Laura has been told more than once, “I’m sorry, ma’am, you can’t have a dog in here.” Once people realize Eva is a guide-dog-in-training, she’s never been turned away; she can’t be. Part of Laura’s job is also to educate the public on guide dog etiquette. “People pet her, talk to her. It can be very distracting for a blind person. People need to realize that they should ask first.” “She’s cute, but she’s a working dog, and she isn’t allowed to play like other dogs, to fetch or have certain toys. She can’t chase or be distracted by food, or
bugs, or squirrels. I teach her to focus back on me and give her lots of praise.” Eva, a black lab-golden retriever mix, came to the Caldwells’ Southbury home in late March. “We have an ‘animalish’ household already,” said Laura, “but I wanted a dog of my own.” Her parents said no at first, until Laura told them about the guide dog training program. “You get to raise a puppy during the cutest part of its life,” she said. Eva is an intelligent dog, but anyone who has tried to train a dog knows that that isn’t always an advantage. “She figured out how to open things she wasn’t supposed to; I thought, ‘She’s never going to graduate!’” Laura uses a can full of coins to break her from barking, and has even taught Eva to relieve herself on command. The phrase “get busy” now has a whole new meaning. Eva also needs to get used to her special harness, and when she goes out or comes to campus she wears her yellow cape with the words “future guide dog” printed on the side. “When she puts the cape on, she’s like, ‘I’m working now.’” “The hardest part right now,” Laura said, “is me finding time to give her the attention she needs.” But she admits that parting with Eva is going to be very difficult.
Laura Caldwell ’04 and her guide-dogin-training Eva. SAM DANGREMOND ’05
“I’m very proud of my little angel. I want her to do well. I can’t be selfish; she’ll be an excellent guide dog.” For more information, visit www.guidedog.org.
Light Up the Night Fall Sports Day brought alumni and parents to campus for a full afternoon— and evening—of athletic events against Loomis-Chaffee. On that balmy November night, Taft football fans were treated to a game under lights. “This feels like the big time,” students said from the stands. “As expected the game was a ‘war’ between two well-matched, competitive 10
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teams,” said Coach Dave Bonner. “They played their hearts out. It was a shame either had to lose.” At the half, Taft was leading 14–7 after touchdowns from James Cabrera ’04 and Jon McDonald ’05, combined with a great two-point PAT catch from Tommy Piacenza ’06. In the end Taft came out two points shy; Loomis won the seesaw battle 34–32.
More than 300 parent and alumni fans gathered in the tent before the game and at the half for refreshments; a student jazz ensemble provided music. The event followed last year’s successful Hotchkiss Day event. The Hotchkiss games this year were in Lakeville. Fall Sports Day on November 1 culminated in the varsity football game against Loomis under the lights. PETER FREW ’75
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Using masks, puppets, and giant figures to create the particular realm of each story in Dancing Fox, Ralph Lee ’53 brought to life in the Woodward Black Box Theater a succession of stories drawn from the shared folk traditions of Jews and Arabs. Designed and directed by Lee, with music composed by Neal Kirkwood and costumes by Casey Compton, Dancing Fox was performed throughout the summer in parks and on town greens around the Northeast by Lee’s Mettawee River Theatre Company. The production at Taft, however, was forced indoors because of inclement weather. Still, the audience didn’t seem to mind. “I enjoyed the show immensely,” said Monica Raymunt ’05. “Having never seen anything like it, I was taken aback at the actors’ ability to become the puppet or masked character they portrayed. Everything about it was unconventional. I was most impressed with the way all five skits related to a theme of the animal kingdom versus mankind.” “It was pretty cool,” said Simone Foxman ’07. “The actors were amazingly talented and often expressed emotion without words. I especially enjoyed the story about the man and his shoes, because he acted the part very well and encouraged pity on his character as well as portraying a comedic character.” The show, praised by critics, portrays
PETER FREW ’75
Fox in the Box
the powerful relationship between human beings, their ancestry, and the natural environment. “The lion’s share of the show’s delights,” wrote Alexis Soloski of the Village Voice, “stems from Lee’s creations. His props and puppets entreat the imagination to conjure an entire seascape from some streamers and a whole village from a few ingenious lanterns. They invite a state-ofthe-art suspension system of disbelief.”
Many students and faculty had attended Lee’s amazing show of puppets and other phantasmagorical creatures in the Potter Gallery last May. In Dancing Fox, Lee, who received a Guggenheim Fellowship in April, once again created an array of masks, giant figures, and puppets to bring alive folklore of diverse world cultures. For more information, visit www.mettawee.org.
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Manhattan From Above
Voices Like Angels
Megan Craig ’93 with parents Susan and Peter Craig and gallery director Loueta Chickadaunce PETER FREW ’75
The view from the Potter Gallery was especially intriguing this fall while “Places: the Paintings of Megan Craig ’93” was on exhibit. Craig’s large canvases depict Manhattan’s cityscapes from above. “I started painting the city from the sixth-floor window of my apartment in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn. I had a view of rooftops, church steeples, and the fading outline of Queens. I was trying to find some space in the city, some clarity and distance, a place of my own. Painting let me get to know New York. The endless parade of concrete and stacked buildings lent itself to paint, and in the painting the city’s hardness gave way to a softer side—angry bricks blushing in afternoon light. As I painted those buildings, I felt like I was making room for them.” Megan has received many fellowships and grants in support of her work, including a residency of the Lower Manhattan 12
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Anonymous 4 performed American Angel, a program of 18th- and 19th-century hymns, spirituals, and shape-note music, “songs of hope, redemption, and glory” in Walker Hall in November. The concert was made possible by a gift from Fred and Wendy Parkin P’00,’03.
Cultural Council’s Studioscape program, during which she painted cityscapes from the 91st Floor of 1 World Trade Center from June to September 11, 2001. She had not yet gone to work the day the towers were destroyed [Summer 2002]. “From the top of the World Trade Center the chaos appeared deliberate,” writes Craig. “Every line fell away to an endless horizon. Some of these paintings remember that view and the brilliantly abstract composition that defines New York City from above. These paintings show New York as I remember and imagine it, lain out in a geometric carpet of light and shadows. All of this work owes something to that view and the lessons in looking I learned there.” “This was one of the largest openings yet for the Potter Gallery,” said gallery director Loueta Chickadaunce. “We had many people from the commu-
nity and from New Haven, and more students attended this opening than any other in the past three years.” Craig, who received a B.A. in philosophy with a minor in art from Yale and an M.A. in philosophy from the New School for Social Research, is currently pursuing her doctorate. She has exhibited her work in New Haven, New York, and Provincetown and has taught at Eugene Lang College, Parsons School of Design, and the Cooper Union School of Art in New York. While on campus, Craig visited Advanced Art, A.P. Studio Art, and Intermediate and Advanced Drawing classes as the first Rockwell Visiting Artist of the school year. She also spoke to the assembled student body at School Meeting. Her exhibition in the Mark W. Potter ’48 Gallery was made possible by a grant from the Andrew R. Heminway ’47 Endowment Fund.
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Les Miz “I have never experienced the kind of overwhelming sense of awe that I did on opening night,” said director Rick Doyle. “In all the shows that I have done in my life, this was the most remarkable. Not just for what was on the stage that night, but what led up to it, from where most of us started just six short weeks previous. It was one of the most endearing and thoroughly satisfying creative times for me as a director.” Les Miz played to packed houses for three nights leading into Fathers’ Weekend in late October. It marked the
first time in many years that the Arts Department took on an opera. Musical director T.J. Thompson assembled an orchestra whose “music blended beautifully with the overall production,” said Doyle. The talented international cast boasted many newcomers along with some seasoned talent. “The play was an awesome experience for me,” said Javier Garcia ’05. “I had never sung before, and I was certain that this task would be vocally impossible for me—especially with my
inexperience. But Mr. Doyle kept encouraging me and telling me that I was Jean Valjean and that all I needed to fix was the singing.” From that point on, voice teacher Betty Lee P’91,’93 met with Javier three times a week. “The effort we put into the play as a cast made it worth it,” Javier said. “Its success was just a bonus. Les Miz was definitely something I will never forget because I devoted myself to Valjean and to the play, having faith that somehow it would all work out. And it did.”
Sharing a Little History
Mac Morris ’06 as Marius, Javier Garcia ’05 as Jean Valjean, and Arden Klemmer ’05 as Cosette in the fall production of Les Miz SAM DANGREMOND ’05
The French Revolution comes to life in Bingham Auditorium.
SAM DANGREMOND ’05
History teacher Jack Kenerson ’82 was selected last spring by the American Historical Society and National History Day to attend their summer institute in Portland, Ore., and participate in a weeklong seminar exploring the new scholarship now being discussed/studied regarding the history of the American West. As part of his obligation for participating in the seminar, he gave two presentations to local audiences about the history of the American West and how it relates to this year’s National History Day theme: Exploration, Encounter, Exchange. Kenerson gave his talk at the Connecticut Historical Society on Oct. 29, focusing on the historical background, research ideas for teachers and students, and different classroom strategies. Roughly 25 teachers from around Connecticut attended along with members of the Connecticut Historical Society. “I enjoyed my opportunity to speak to an audience outside of Taft,” Kenerson said, “and I hope I represented our school well.”
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SAM DANGREMOND ’05
Cum Laude At a school already known for its rigorous academic standards, a few students distinguish themselves with particularly noteworthy records. In October, Headmaster Willy MacMullen ’78 welcomed twelve members of the Class of ’04 to The Taft School Chapter of the Cum Laude Society. Recognized seniors this year include, from back left, Becky Ward, Supriya Balsekar, Amy Rose, Lydia Chang, Sarah Marrison, Ann Kidder, Lauren Malaspina; in front, A.G. Leventhal, Jason Lee, Kittisak Pattamasaevi, Christopher Kwok, and Jeffrey Fielding.
By its charter, Taft can admit no more than 20 percent of any class to the society. Typically, Taft reserves the honor for the top 15 to 16 percent of the class. Students are selected on the basis of their weighted mid and upper-mid averages; another 7 or 8 percent of the class will
be recognized at graduation for their senior year performance. Founded in 1908, the Cum Laude Society is the secondary school equivalent of Phi Beta Kappa at colleges and universities. Taft’s chapter is one of the oldest, founded in 1911.
winner John Jesurun and has performed in about 52 episodes. One of the original five cast members, she has also worked with Jesurun in Shatterhand Massacree, Sunspot, Dog’s Eye View, and Black Maria. “I recommended Anton, who is a freshman at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, to the director,” says Fifer, “and Anton got to play an important role. It was a grueling rehearsal process, particu-
larly since we were given the script with only three days to learn our lines, but Anton did a great job.” Yupangco says he was excited to make his New York stage debut and to act alongside Fifer, his mentor and former teacher. Chang revolves around the exploits of a businessman by that name and his schemes to defraud the Peters clan, a wealthy family steeped in severe dysfunction. The show is influenced more by film, television, and radio than by theatrical convention. Most recently at La MaMa Annex, it has been performed all over New York as well as in Berlin, Munich, and Zurich. The Village Voice called the show “the world’s most demurely zany serial drama” and says the writing “suggests André Breton, Jim Thompson, and P.G. Wodehouse collaborating on a sample script for All My Children. Such insanity, such delight.” For more information, visit www.lamama.org.
Soap on Stage Acting teacher Helena Fifer co-starred with Anton Yupangco ’03 in two new episodes of Chang in a Void Moon, the first serialized play ever produced in New York. The ongoing drama began in 1982, won a Bessie Award in 1985, and has been highly acclaimed through 55 episodes to date. Helena “White,” as she’s known in the cast, says she “goes way back” with author and MacArthur “Genius” Award
Acting teacher Helena White Fifer as Theresa in Chang in a Void Moon at New York’s La MaMa Theatre. PETER CUNNINGHAM
AROUND THE POND
Talk About Fun Times Headmaster Willy MacMullen ’78 and wife Pam joined over 150 current parents at a series of three gatherings last fall: on November 11 at Bridget and John Macaskill’s home in New York City, on November 13 at Maria and Glenn Taylor’s Southbury, Conn., home, and on November 20 at Peggy and Joe Toce’s home in New Canaan, Conn. Parents took advantage of the occasions to connect and have a great time.
Ro Anderson P’04,’06, Jan Albert P’06, and Donna Iacoviello P’07 in Southbury
Bridget Macaskill P’02,’05, Linda Rappaport P’89,’05, and Fred Kneip P’92,’96,’04 in New York
Maria Taylor P’97,’06, Susan McCabe P’02,’04,’07, Diana Halas P’05, Steve McCabe P’02,’04,’07, and Audrey Andrysick P’05,’06 in Southbury
Pam and Willy MacMullen ’78, Peter Wyman P’05,’07, Frederick Gonzalez P’05, John Macaskill P’02,’05, and Leslie Littlejohn P’03,’05 in New York
Joe and Peggy Toce P’98,’01,’05, Sandi and Brian ’74 Lincoln P’05,’07, and Peter Rose ’74, P’02,’04 in New Canaan
Nancy Milnamow P’04, Bob Thompson P’07, Val Kratky P’07, and Angus Littlejohn P’03,’05 in New Canaan Taft Bulletin Winter 2004
sport Fall Highlights by Steve Palmer GIRLS’ VARSITY SOCCER 10–2–4 New England Quarterfinalists The team qualified for the New England tournament for the fourth consecutive year, earning a #5 ranking for their 10–1–4 regular season record. Despite dominating the play in their first round game, Taft lost 1–2 to a strong BB&N team. The season highlights included a 1–1 tie with then undefeated Choate and a convincing 4–1 victory over rival Deerfield. Senior teammates Katherine Simmons and Katie McCabe were named to the All-State, All-Western New England, and Boston Globe All-Star Teams. As four-year varsity players, they have lost only one home game, and no player on
this year’s team has lost more than two games in any single year. Upper middler Mackenzie Snyder again averaged less than one goal per game in the net and will lead the team next year in that role as the girls’ soccer program continues its tradition as one of the best in New England.
VARSITY VOLLEYBALL 16–1 Founders’ League Champions, New England Finalists This was the best volleyball team in school history, and the record speaks for itself: 14–0 in the regular season, ranked #1 in New England, three convincing wins against rival and 2002 N.E. champion Hotchkiss. After losing only five games all
season, the girls marched through the tournament before coming up against the only other undefeated team in New England—Andover. The final match was one for the ages, with two great, undefeated teams going head to head. Taft won games 1 and 3 comfortably, and came achingly close to the championship with leads in both the fourth and fifth games before dropping each 28–30 and 14–16. Upper middlers Reisa Bloch, Meaghan Martin, and Tracey Dishongh were named to the Boston Globe All-New England Team based on their outstanding play in the tournament and all season. Three-year senior Torie Snyder also made the AllLeague team. Taft will look to add to its three-year record of 44–9 with many starters returning in the fall. Senior teammates Torie Snyder and Octavia Giovannini helped the volleyball team to a 14–0 regular season record, including this win against Choate. Senior defender Katie McCabe powers past Westminster during another home victory.
VARSITY FOOTBALL 0–8 It was another hard-fought season for the team, as they came so close in games against Choate (14–20), Trinity-Pawling (6–12) and Deerfield (14–28). The most exciting game of the season came against Loomis under the temporary lights at Taft. In this first-ever night game, the Rhinos built a 14–7 halftime lead but then had to come back in the fourth quarter, which they did in dramatic fashion, scoring on a short run with 30 seconds left. The twopoint conversion failed, but the final score, 34–32, was indicative of the great battle that had taken place. On offense and defense, Taft was led by All-League back Jim Cabrera (over six yards per carry) and Black Award winner and All-League safety Tyler Whitely. Andy Sparks, Camden Bucsko, and TJ DeFilippo held the line for Taft after the loss of Alex Bisset, and all three were named to the All-Erickson Conference Team.
BOYS’ VARSITY CROSS COUNTRY 6–5 Key victories over rival Hotchkiss and Berkshire (the first in several years) made for a winning season for the runners from Taft. Their best efforts of the season came with their 3rd place finish at the Founders’ League meet and an 8th place finish at the Division 1 New England champion-
ship meet. In those races, upper middler Peter Murphy ran to All-League (5th place) and All-New England (13th) finishes, and middler Robbie Lockhart made the All-League team (11th place). With all seven varsity runners returning, Taft will vie for the league title next fall.
GIRLS’ VARSITY CROSS COUNTRY 1–7 With the loss of several key seniors, the young girls’ team lost out on several close scores before breaking through on Parents’ Weekend at home versus Kent. New senior Tucker Marrison led the way for the team all season, earning All-League (5th) and All-New England status (15th), and captain Ann Kidder also placed on the All-League team.
VARSITY FIELD HOCKEY 11–3–2 New England Semifinalists This strong team powered past other field hockey talents such as Loomis, Choate, and Deerfield before coming up against eventual New England Champion Hotchkiss—a 4–1 loss on a cold day in Lakeville. However, the second time around was different. After a convincing 3–1 victory over Deerfield in the first round, Taft battled the undefeated Bearcats to an exciting 2–1 loss, and the Rhinos had chances to score at the very end. Hotchkiss went on to defeat Greenwich Academy in the finals—the only two teams
to defeat Taft this year. Keys to the team’s success throughout the season were All-League forward Merrill Chester (also captain) and All-League goalie Jillian Fraker (captain elect). Upper middler Abbey Cecchinato (captain elect) was also a force in the middle of the field throughout the season. This perennial powerhouse loses only three seniors and will likely be right in the mix come tournament time next fall.
BOYS’ VARSITY SOCCER 12–2–3 New England Quarterfinalists After an uncertain 1–1–1 start to the season, the team gained cohesiveness and confidence with every game and roared back into the New England tournament as the #3 ranked team. The core of the season included five weeks without giving up a single goal and six weeks without a loss. That stingy defense—the best goalsagainst-average in school history—was anchored by All-New England goalie Justin Martin and All-League sweeper Camp Walker. The peak for this team came in a three-day span with back-to-back wins over Loomis (1–0) and undefeated Choate (2–1). The first round tournament game versus Andover was a wild affair that saw the Rhinos jump out to a 2–0 lead before giving up three second-half goals in a 5–3 loss. All-Western New England players Mark Rossi and Jon Carlos were the team’s most dangerous weapons, and senior Gordon Guthrie was named to the All-League Team.
Upper middler Abbey Cecchinato shooting in Taft’s 3–1 tournament win over Deerfield
Senior Justin Martin making a critical save in Taft’s 1–0 win over Loomis at home Taft Bulletin Winter 2004
A DIVERSE COMMUNITY
Living in a diverse community brings many advantages to the students who experience it, but it is always a work in progress.
By Jon Willson ’82
COPYRIGHT ©2001 G.K. AND VIKKI HART, BRAND X PICTURES
Seniors Janice Chen and Fabian McNally—an Asian girl from Hong Kong and an African-American boy from the Bronx—are as much the face of Taft in the 21st century as are students from Fairfield County, the Upper East Side, or Watertown. Still, Janice and Fabian often don’t feel “typical” here. Rather, they feel that their being at Taft helps shape the school into a unique and diverse environment. “I gave a presentation on different Chinese traditions and practices in English class my sophomore year,” says Janice, “and introduced them to foods
The administration, he adds, including the Admissions Office, thought more in terms of the extraordinary opportunities the school was offering its limited number of domestic students of color or those from abroad, as opposed to what those students were offering the school. But that thinking has changed.
“The second is to prepare our students for leadership in an increasingly connected world, one in which they will need to be able to work with people from a wide variety of backgrounds and perspectives.” He also points out how often he hears from alumni in every field how crucial it is for graduates to be comfortable interacting with all kinds of people. “Everyone says it.”
“Diversity” is a hard-to-define and increasingly expansive term. Clearly it can include race and ethnicity—although, as award-winning author and recent
“The first goal is to provide the richest possible educational experience for our students by immersing them in a place where not everyone looks almost the same or has a similar perspective. The second is to prepare our students for leadership in an increasingly connected world, one in which they will need to be able to work with people from a wide variety of backgrounds and perspectives.” that many of my peers had never seen before.” She believes that “just talking with my American friends, they learn a lot more about my country than from any other sources.” “My most valuable contribution,” says Fabian, “is that I have a different point of view. This is especially true in History, English, and more discussionoriented classrooms where my different life experiences lead to my having ideas which help to keep debates going. ” “There was a time,” says Ferdie Wandelt ’66, the school’s director of admissions for 27 years, when “we thought we were diverse if we had someone whose skin color was a little different from most of the others, or if we went coed.”
“For some time now,” says Wandelt, “we have sought students—through our staff ’s travels and through a variety of scholarship and exchange programs— who will come to Taft and enrich those around them as much as they themselves are enriched.”
“We have two complementary goals at work,” says Headmaster Willy MacMullen ’78. “The first is to provide the richest possible educational experience for our students by immersing them in a place where not everyone looks almost the same or has a similar perspective.
school visitor James McBride advised Taft’s students, “You can just chuck out the notion of race right now, because we’re all a mixture.” Place of origin, economic circumstance, religious belief, political persuasion, and sexual orientation are also commonly categorized under “diversity.” And while each of these subcategories applies to what diversity means at Taft, country of origin and racial/ethnic makeup are the two that most people here commonly associate with the term. They are also the two which, given the headmaster’s goals, most fuel admissions policies with respect to diversity. I was struck by Taft’s commitment to diversity when I interviewed to teach Taft Bulletin Winter 2004
here eight years ago. Having taught at one of the most ethnically mixed public schools in the nation—Brooklyn Technical High School—for nine years, I was pleasantly surprised by how much more reflective of the world’s population Taft had become since I had graduated years before. It made the idea of returning to teach here an even more attractive one. Taft should pride itself, says Wandelt, on having been ahead of the curve vis-à-vis its peer schools in its commitment to actively building a diverse student body. The shift from the old “noblesse oblige” perspective to the new “mutually enriching” one mirrors a broader shift in why many schools at every level embrace diversity. That shift, however, is not without controversy.
Last spring, as the U.S. Supreme Court considered whether or not the University of Michigan could factor an applicant’s race into its admissions decisions, it became clear that colleges and universities valued a diverse student body. The value
a society with racial and ethnic tensions can benefit tremendously from having an integrated leadership.” Richard Brodhead, dean of Yale College and soon-to-be president of Duke University, highlighted the importance of diversity in a residential community when he spoke to the Taft faculty last fall. “Learning to live with students with whom you have nothing in common,” is critical, he said. “You are not required to like the students you live with, but you must learn to get along with them.” [Fall 2003] And while the Supreme Court’s decision has no bearing on Taft, the connection between the court’s reasoning and the school’s goals with regard to diversity is clear.
THE ROAD MAP
In the 1960s and ’70s—despite financial struggles—Taft was a leader in the field when it came to actively pursuing domestic students of color. Taft was one of the flagship schools involved in the watershed A Better Chance program, founded in 1963 “to substantially increase the
Taft’s affiliation with Prep for Prep, a similar group. Former Taft Board of Trustees chair John Vogelstein ’52 was its chairman for several years. “We were one of a few schools that put our collective backs to the wheel and made them go,” says Odden. More recently the school has also worked with the Wight Foundation in New Jersey and the Boys Club of New York. Wandelt has worked to create partnerships with the East Harlem School and De La Salle Academy in New York, to encourage them to send their top students to Taft, and with the Epiphany School in Dorchester, Mass. He’s working on new initiatives to seek out talented students of color in inner-city Hartford.
But as the current numbers reveal, the school’s pursuit of a diverse population has for some time gone beyond more domestically driven, students-of-color programs, to a strong interest in international students. Under Odden, an impassioned Chinese history scholar and teacher,
“These students would not have emerged as leaders, nor would the student body have elected them, had the atmosphere at Taft not been one at least of acceptance, and more likely one of celebration of diversity.”
of diversity, wrote The New York Times, is “the educational benefits inherent in a racially integrated student body.” Schools select students who will “strengthen the culture as much as possible.” Ultimately, the reasoning behind the Court’s decision—that race could be a factor, as long as it wasn’t the factor— also included the idea that “selective universities are partly in the business of training a leadership corps for society, and 20
Taft Bulletin Winter 2004
number of well-educated minority youth capable of assuming positions of responsibility and leadership in American society” primarily by facilitating their preparation for, admission to, and thriving at, boarding schools. In the 1980s, Headmaster Emeritus Lance Odden chaired the organization after the Reagan administration largely cut off its federal funding. Since 1991, 52 boys and girls have benefited from
Taft was among the first American boarding schools, along with St. Paul’s and Andover, pursued by parents from China and Hong Kong who started to think in the 1970s that the U.S., and not Great Britain, might be the better Western country for their children’s education. In 1983, the school welcomed its first scholar from ASSIST (American Secondary Schools for International Students and Teachers), a program that
brings students to the U.S. for their upper-mid year as ambassadors from their countries, who then return to their home schools as ambassadors for the U.S. Originally focused on Germany, ASSIST now has a presence in 11 countries including Australia, Spain, Sweden, and seven Eastern European nations. Wandelt has been on the board of directors of ASSIST for 15 years and now chairs it membership and schools committee. Taft’s Landegger Scholars program has brought 25 students from former Eastern Bloc countries to the school since 1991. We are fortunate, says Wandelt, to work with the Thai government, and are one of seven schools to receive their King Scholars. In addition to the King Scholars, the school recruits on its own in Thailand, as well as throughout Southeast Asia, including Hong Kong, India, Taiwan, and Vietnam. The Vietnamese connection especially intrigues Wandelt. “When you have an American kid, the son of a soldier who served in the Vietnam War,” says Wandelt, “sitting side by side in the classroom or being good friends with the son or daughter of a man who fought for the North Vietnamese…now, that’s exciting.” Currently, the Admissions Office has initiated a program in Shanghai that seeks to duplicate the success the school has had drawing students from elsewhere in Asia—successes which Wandelt emphasizes are “finally, about people partnerships, not institutions.” Not all of these international efforts have been successful. In the mid-1990s, Wandelt traveled to Israel to help launch a program which would bring at least one Israeli student per year to Taft. For a variety of reasons, the program didn’t attract strong candidates, and has been discontinued. But that Taft was in the Middle East ten years ago, trying to bring in students native to that region, was, in Wandelt’s words, “pretty cool”—and further displays the school’s commitment to diversity.
One unintended consequence of Taft so aggressively seeking international students is that most of them are “full pay,” while most of the domestic students of color are not. That can create a perception problem at the school. “I would hate to think that any kid here would see an African-American or Latino or Asian or European student, and make economic assumptions about him or her,” says Wandelt. To help offset that potential mindset, Admissions has made a high priority the “recruiting” of full tuition-paying, domestic students of color, and international students in need of financial aid. (Interestingly, Lance Odden points out that A Better Chance started off as an outfit which targeted middle-class African-Americans, but had to abandon that philosophy in order to secure federal funds under President Lyndon Johnson’s Model Cities program.) Attracting the latter, however, has proven easier than attracting the former. One of the ironies of the history of education in the United States is that many boarding schools such as Taft—most of which were originally havens for white, mostly Protestant, well-to-do students—are today more ethnically and socioeconomically diverse than the vast majority of secondary schools in the country. This is partly a function of most public schools’ drawing their students from the local, economically and racially monochromatic populace (i.e., the largely nonintegrated neighborhoods of most of America), and partly of boarding schools having the resources, connections, facilities, and philosophy needed to produce a more diverse student body. But despite this diversity at boarding schools in general and at Taft in particular, and despite the fact that the AfricanAmerican and Latino middle class has grown dramatically over the past few decades (at least partly as a result of affirmative action), schools such as Taft have had a hard time attracting wealthier American students of color.
Taft’s 575 students identify their backgrounds in the following ways: 55 32 18 13 6
Asian Black Hispanic Biracial Indian
The 75 international students hail from 21 foreign countries: Bahamas Bermuda Botswana Canada Germany Hong Kong Hungary India Japan Kazakhstan Lebanon Mexico People’s Republic of China Saudi Arabia Singapore South Korea Switzerland Taiwan Thailand Ukraine Vietnam
Attracting faculty of color has long been a top priority as well. Dean of Faculty Penny Townsend has attended the People of Color Conference and Lectures the last several years, is often on the phone with recruiting offices at historically black colleges, and seeks to include at least one person of color among the finalists for every opening. “But there’s a small pool of candidates and all the top boarding schools want them,” she adds. Currently, Taft’s faculty of over one hundred includes three of Asian descent, two native Europeans, one African-American, and two teachers who are biracial. “We would like more faculty of color here,” says new Multicultural Affairs Coordinator Felecia Williams ’84. And yet she is quick to add that although she has been at Taft for just a few months, she believes that relations between students of color and the largely white faculty are generally outstanding, that “we’re doing really well” in that regard.
visits by an anti-racism speaker and gospel choir on Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, the annual international foods festival, and the student-run “Taft Unplugged” show in the spring. The Diversity Committee, made up of students and faculty, works to create an environment that embraces and celebrates differences within the school community. By enhancing communication and understanding, the committee nurtures a sense of comfort and community.
But does that mean that all these international students and students of color feel comfortable here? That they see Taft as their school as much as it is anyone’s? That there is little sense of a dominant culture here? An “us” and a “them”? These are important, diversity-related questions. At least a partial answer can be found in the fact that the last four headmonitors have been Jewish (Andrew Eisen), Filipino (Anton Yupancgo),
becoming more and more comfortable with an environment that at first scared me, because I had never been in a school that was not predominantly AfricanAmerican. However, as my tenure has grown and my leadership responsibilities and positions have grown in accordance, I have come closer to feeling that Taft is in fact ‘my’ school.” Upper mid Jo Roegele, a one-year ASSIST student from Germany, says she feels comfortable at Taft, yet was taken aback by what she sees as a problem. “When people who look alike can hang out together, they usually do—like in the lunchroom or at ‘the scene.’ I thought that there would be more togetherness at a boarding school.” Mary Walsh, a mid from New Jersey, believes that the school actually contributes to “group identification” through its Diversity Orientation, a one-day program offered to first-year international students and students of color to help them get acclimated to the school, and to help their parents feel more comfortable about their child’s chances for success at Taft. As Mary
“There are rarely any more situations where a black kid walks in a room and the music suddenly changes to rap; in fact when I walk in, it is already on. This example might be small in the grand scheme of things but it definitely sticks out in my mind.”
The generosity and interest of Taft alumni have also fostered the development of an increasingly diverse environment. In particular, George Camp ’56—along with other members of the family, including the late Ruth M. Camp, Christopher C. Camp ’59, Herbert L. Camp P ’91, and Camelia Graham ’87—has funded the school's Diversity Committee for the last several years, facilitating events such as 22
Taft Bulletin Winter 2004
African-American (Bruce Trammell), and Eritrean (Tarik Asmerom); two of the four were also day students. These students would not have emerged as leaders, nor would the student body have elected them, had the atmosphere at Taft not been one at least of acceptance, and more likely one of celebration of diversity. Other answers to these questions vary from student to student, but overall this comment, again from senior Fabian McNally, is typical: “My sense of Taft being my school has grown over my time here, and it is probably as a result of my
sees it, that special orientation “enables these groups to form because minorities get to meet the kids from their heritage before they meet the other students.” “New students are sometimes reluctant to get out there and meet other kids once they make a few friends that first day,” agrees Laurae Caruth, an upper mid from Brooklyn, who participated in and enjoyed the orientation as a lower mid. But anecdotal evidence strongly suggests that the Diversity Orientation has led to the students it serves feeling more comfortable at Taft precisely because it at
first facilitates social connections among people from similar backgrounds. Faculty members who have been here several years feel that there has been a noticeable increase in the comfort and academic achievement levels of students of color and international students since the Diversity Orientation expanded four years ago to include domestic students of color.
Anthony “T” Rodriguez, a four-year senior from New York, offers another explanation as to why students of color generally feel more comfortable at Taft. “When I enter some of the kids’ rooms on CPT and even HDT, I constantly walk in on students either playing or reciting Hip-Hop/Rap music. Now I know that this might seem meaningless, but it shows me that a lot of the kids in this school have an appreciation for other cultures, specifically music. There is always a point where you think maybe the kids are doing this just to be ‘cool,’ but I tend to think some of the
African-American community in a generation—do permeate the walls of Taft. Finally, T’s comment dovetails with MacMullen’s goals of “providing the richest possible educational experience” for its students while preparing them to “work with people from a wide variety of backgrounds and perspectives.” The school offers an environment in which all students can discuss—in their rooms and on the athletic fields and in the jig, as well as in the classrooms—the experiences, ideas, and forces which mold what they think and who they are. As Lance Odden says, “the school has always socially engineered the interactions of its students to an extent. Taft students can’t self-segregate; when they enter the world, that’s an advantage Taft graduates have.”
So much of history is about how peoples have come together—voluntary or involuntary—and responded to that coming
asserted a decade ago. The big ideas that have largely defined the West in the modern era—liberty, democracy, and capitalism—have not “won”; they are still considered fair game, even directly threatening, in much of the world. Smack in the middle of this giveand-take (one hopes it’s not always a “battle”) over the big ideas is the notion of ethnic/religious/national identification and heritage. Those who build the bridges across the cultural chasms that still exist in our world will have to have been exposed to a variety of peoples, to have had the experience of working with others of diverse backgrounds. Taft graduates will be uniquely positioned to be those bridge builders. The school’s commitment to diversity is firm and historically rooted. It is a fundamental part of Taft’s continuing mission to educate the whole student. And it plays a prominent role in the recently finished “Portrait of the Graduate,” which sees the school graduating students who “have cultivated a moral thoughtfulness through exposure to various ethical perspectives
“Those who build the bridges across the cultural chasms that still exist in our world will have to have been exposed to a variety of peoples, to have had the experience of working with others of diverse backgrounds.”
kids really like this stuff. There are rarely any more situations where a black kid walks in a room and the music suddenly changes to rap; in fact when I walk in, it is already on. This example might be small in the grand scheme of things but it definitely sticks out in my mind.” T’s comment also belies the notion that Taft “exists in a bubble.” Cultural developments—in this case, a common denominator musical genre and broader style (Hip-Hop), which James McBride called the most creative and important artistic influence to emerge from the
together. The responses run the gamut from genocide to a shared, benevolent fascination with cultural differences and commonalities. Despite all the information and communication revolution-induced globalization of the past decade or so, it’s clear that we are still far from that moment in history when cultural contacts invariably lead to progress or mutually beneficial, cultural diffusion. If the post-Cold War era and the events of Sept. 11 have taught us anything, it is that history has not “ended,” contrary to what historian Francis Fukuyama
and ways of thinking,” who “respect and appreciate diverse peoples and cultures,” and who “recognize the opportunities inherent in a diverse community.” Those traits are not easy ones to inculcate. But to walk Taft’s halls, visit its dorm rooms, teach in its classrooms, and coach on its fields today is to see that they are absolutely central to what a Taft education means in the 21st century. Jon Willson ’82 is a member of the History Department, an upper-middle class dean, and co-chair of the Diversity Committee. Taft Bulletin Winter 2004
The Taft Educational Center has brought educators together for over 27 years. By Dave Lombino â€™96
Teaching TEACHERS FROM AROUND THE
nbeknownst to most Taft students, June, July and August—considered a teacher’s best friends and the saving grace for nine months of inhumanly long school days—are not necessarily spent in rest and relaxation. Beneath the hustle and bustle of Main Hall, is the headquarters of the Taft Education Center, a continuing education program for teachers that has earned a national reputation for quality, practicality, cutting edge curricula and a frenzied work ethic. In 1976 the TEC was born out of a vision of Taft physics teacher Ed North,
known among faculty as an eccentric and a progressive “idea man” who imagined a practical and rewarding summer function for Taft’s facilities. Now roughly 900 teachers pass through the TEC over five weeks from late June to early August. They stay in the dorms, eat in Armstrong Dining Hall, do homework in the library, participate in pickup games of basketball and tennis, and have even developed a very familiar trait of convening a social scene on the USBD patio after classes. In 27 years, TEC has hosted teachers from all 50 U.S. states and from more than 50 countries.
Veteran TEC workshop leader Robin Osborn ERIC POGGENPOHL
Previous page: The TEC now offers workshops overseas, including ones on A.P. Spanish in Valencia, Spain, where the new City of Arts and Sciences, a combination of five museums provides a tremendous cultural resource. KEVIN CONROY
“There are plenty of evenings when the teachers are students spending long nights in the library,” said Dianne Langlois. “The program is not limited to the class day, which runs from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Most courses require reading or work in the evening. And some require a substantial amount. Some people are definitely surprised.” Langlois, director of Choate’s Andrew Mellon Library and the most veteran instructor at TEC, has witnessed the curriculum evolve and adapt to stay ahead of the learning curve. When she first began, she remembers that North was obsessed with technology before it was popular to mix gadgets and education. One of her first and longest standing workshops was “Managing Your Library with an Apple IIe.”
Now several workshops aim to improve teachers’ technological literacy, including Web design, Java programming, and utilizing hand-held devices and popular software. “There is an anticipation of what classroom teachers need,” she explained. “Frankly, that is why the Center is such a commercial success. The workshops are on the cutting edge of what the classroom teacher, or the librarian, needs to learn to improve their programs.” Taft English teacher emerita Robin (Blackburn) Osborn still teaches at TEC, witnessing Advanced Placement curricula blossom in importance since she started reading tests for the College Board in 1980. In the grand scheme of education, Osborn does not condone “teaching to the test.” But the A.P. test, she believes, is one of the “few good tests out there” and serves as “a good mechanism to teach the skills we want kids to learn: thinking, reading, writing.” As educators began to address the needs of talented students, and the A.P. surged in importance, TEC leaned that way. Most weeklong (some two-week) courses are designed to prepare teachers for A.P. classes, and most sessions offer A.P. seminars in the sciences, history, English, foreign languages, music, art, and others. Other courses are designed for librarians, college counselors, and those who teach kids with learning disabilities. One class for art teachers, “Creativity and Improvisation,” aims to use the contem-
WorkshopsFor2004 The TEC offers introductory, advanced, and special topic workshops on a number of subjects listed below:
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A.P. Art History A.P. Biology A.P. Calculus A.P. Chemistry A.P. Comparative Government & Politics A.P. Computer Science A.P. Economics
Taft Bulletin Winter 2004
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A.P. English Language & Literature A.P. Environmental Science A.P. European History A.P. French Language & Literature A.P. Human Geography A.P. Latin A.P. Music Theory
plative power of Zen meditation and Hatha Yoga to enhance and activate creative potential. A recent addition to the evolving program is the advent of remote TEC sites. Peggy Brucia—a TEC instructor and a Latin teacher in Port Jefferson, Long Island, who has 29 kids in her 7th grade Latin class and attracts 20 kids annually into her A.P. Latin section from a total enrollment of 400—came up with the idea to teach her TEC A.P. Latin workshop off campus in Rome. Brucia said the TEC was immediately enthusiastic and accommodating of the idea, and for the last four summers about 18 new-age Latinists and two instructors stay on the University of Washington-Rome campus in the Campo de’ Fiori section, just paces from The Forum. She describes an intellectual and social bond that forms between teachers, many young and fresh from grad school. “There is nothing quite like it anywhere—it’s intense, it’s two weeks, we read tons and tons of Latin, and we see the sights,” she said. TEC also has remote workshops for A.P. Spanish Language and Literature in Valencia, Spain, and a one-week workshop for A.P. French Language in Aix-en-Provence, with A.P. French Literature being added this summer.
TeachingTeachers Since 1986, Taft chemistry teacher David Hostage has been a TEC participant, an instructor, and is now TEC director, following North and John Wynne. He
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A.P. Physics A.P. Psychology A.P. Spanish Language A.P. Spanish Literature A.P. Statistics A.P. Studio Art A.P. U.S. Government & Politics
Taft Spanish teacher Kevin Conroy, A.P. Spanish Literature instructor Rafael Moyano, and native Valencian María-José Lloréns on excursion in Valencia
recruits instructors nationwide from public and private high schools, colleges, and universities. Criteria include a strong command of their subject matter, an ability to work well with adults, enough energy to withstand 25 contact hours per week with students, and a capacity to combine confidence and sensitivity to coach proud professionals, including some with sizable egos. “At every level,” said Hostage, “it’s always harder for the teacher.” “It’s not true that every terrific classroom teacher is an excellent teacher of adults,” he explained. “We’re not look-
ing for a Harvard professor. We’re looking for someone who can establish a rapport quickly and get something going in a one- or two-week session.” “It’s harder to teach teachers. Kids have fragile egos, but they are more easily appeased,” observed Osborn. “With teachers, whether they’re experienced with A.P. or not, you’re asking them not to grow as kids, learning things for the first time, but you are asking them to change what they are already doing. They can be more defensive.” Other Taft legends who have taught at the TEC are Barclay Johnson ’53,
• A.P. U.S. History • A.P. World History • American Society & Baseball, 1900–2003 • College Counseling • Creativity & Improvisation • Creativity & Interdisciplinary Education Taft Bulletin Winter 2004
Bill Nicholson, R.M. Davis ’59, and Eric Drake, among many other current and former Taft faculty.
going to college, going to class, doing your homework, and going out with friends,” he said.
TheParticipantExperience Rigor Bob Eck, an English teacher at Pittman High School in New Jersey, was approached by his curriculum coordinator who asked him to bone up on his A.P. teaching skills by taking a summer class. He was reluctant as first, but since 1991 Eck has enrolled in 15 TEC workshops, introduced A.P. English to his high school, and serves as an A.P. reader for the College Board. “In every course I’ve ever taken, I’ve been able to bring something back to my classroom that I can use immediately. It’s not just theory. It’s practical application. I’ve never had a bad workshop or a bad instructor,” he said. Eck exhausted TEC’s A.P. English workshops after about four years, then enrolled in computer courses, Web design, film editing, and film history. With each class, he has found immediate results. After Web design, he updated his class Website. After film editing, he helped his students splice and edit their own works. He also earned graduate credits, which have admittedly helped him move up on the pay scale. But Eck also revels in the atmosphere, like pickup basketball and tennis matches that invariably start up after classes, and the collegiality of hitting downtown Watertown for dinner or drinks. “It’s almost like being 18 again,
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While Eck admittedly revels in using precious summer vacation toward self-improvement (and self-indulgence), some TEC participants underestimate the rigorousness of the program. Hostage reports fielding complaints over the “incredibly grueling” workload. Osborn will surprise her adult students by having them take the recent A.P. tests, completing multiple-choice sections and writing sample essays. They do some sample grading, work in groups, lead discussions, complete homework and share that homework with the entire class. She takes the English A.P. teachers to the British Art Center at Yale for a field trip, searching for alternative lesson plans, like using paintings to complement texts. “I say, ‘Look, I’ve tried this and it works.’”
GoldStandard Do the methods achieve results? A College Board official once called TEC “the gold standard” with regard to continuing education for teachers. Most participants come back for three or four sessions. “Teachers who enroll in TEC are nervous about teaching the A.P.,” said Osborn. “It represents some huge shimmering object in the sky they can’t possibly deal with. But after five days they have the sense that this thing is doable.” Perhaps most important, teachers
Culturales Antiguas de España DNA Science Forensics Geometry with Graphing Calculator High School Librarianship Introductory Physics Java for Beginning & Experienced Programmers
Taft Bulletin Winter 2004
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establish a professional network in their subject matter. Colleagues from all over the country maintain contact by phone or over e-mail, sharing teaching ideas long after the kids return in the fall.
Service In association with the University of Hartford, each class is worth three graduate credits. TEC is also a provider of continuing education units from the Connecticut State Department of Education, a mechanism with which teachers are able to move up on public school payrolls. In connection with the Hartford Foundation, and other philanthropic organizations, TEC hands out scholarships to teachers from poor school districts, to cover the tuition, room, and board, which runs $825 a week for boarders. TEC also gives freebies to teachers from the local Watertown school system. Michael Suppicich is a science teacher at Weaver High School with 1,500 students in inner-city Hartford that consistently earns the lowest test scores in the state. He describes a constant battle with class sizes, a high dropout rate, and parental indifference. He remembers a recent Parents’ Night where only four parents attended. “It’s quite a different experience than Taft,” he said. Suppicich has commuted to TEC for five straight summers, taking a variety of workshops including some technology classes and a preparatory class for teaching A.P. Biology, which he then initiated as a program at Weaver. Suppicich was
Magic Tricks Make Movies with iMovie and Final Cut Express Maximizing Potential New Approaches to Geometry through Sketchpad Photoshop “Show Me How” Techniques Poetry in the French Language Classroom Québec
Founder Ed North, third from left, in a workshop for the Taft Educational Center in 1982
reimbursed for his costs by a Hartford philanthropist who maintains an arrangement with TEC, and he received credits from the University of Hartford that helped him command a higher salary in his position. He enjoyed the professional interaction with people from all over the country. “It was some of the most pragmatic, useful stuff that you could take back to your classroom,” he said. “And the food was great.” “There is a very strong altruistic sense for doing it,” admitted Hostage. “I’m instructed by Taft not to lose money, but I’m not instructed to make
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any. In the independent school world, anyone who needs A.P. training automatically thinks Taft.” For Osborn, who has “never been quite comfortable as just a private school teacher,” TEC has filled an important niche. The “short bursts of energy” are a change of pace from the nine-month school year, teaching teachers is a different challenge, and interacting with educators with vastly different backgrounds is a service to a larger community. “I always go away from a summer feeling really good about these people and about what is going on in education
Statistics with the Graphing Calculator Successful Library Programming & Instruction Technology and Middle School Math Technology Throughout the Math Curriculum The Cold War in Cultural Context TI-Navigator Vertical Terms in Social Studies
PHOTO COURTESY OF THE LESLIE MANNING ARCHIVES
if these are the people doing it,” she said. “I get the feeling that I might be doing some good in the wider world beyond Taft. “We are influencing education in little, incremental ways. We are out there helping public education, and I think it’s important to do that,” Osborn said. “It adds to the prestige of The Taft School.” A former staff writer for The Litchfield County Times, Dave Lombino ’96 is pursuing a master’s degree at Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs.
• Web Design for Teachers • World War I and the Birth of the Modern Age For more information contact Taft Education Center at 800-274-7815 Or visit www.TaftSchool.org/TEC Taft Bulletin Winter 2004
Motto Why They Teach: Third in a series highlighting alumni in service By Julie Reiff When Horace Taft and Harley Roberts chose non ut sibi
and university is represented, but we knew it was impor-
ministretur sed ut ministret for the school motto, they hoped
tant to include more than a list of those at the nation’s elite
the young men who graduated would find ways to get outside
schools. Service means giving at every level, from preschool
of themselves and work hard to make their communities bet-
to graduate work.
ter, much as Horace Taft’s own family had dedicated itself to public service.
Choosing a representative sampling of these educators, however, proved a seriously daunting task. We divided you up
In our continuing look at “those who serve” we have
chronologically and geographically, by subject, by gender,
focused on alumni who’ve chosen to serve their country
and by the age of the students you work with. We looked for
through the military, those who minister to others in more
educators in private schools, public schools, and nonprofit
spiritual ways, and, in this issue, those who serve by dedicat-
organizations. And then we tried to find you.
ing their lives to education.
What follows is a totally unscientific (yet alphabetical) peek
Our first scan through the database identified nearly 700
at what motivated ten alumni to dedicate their careers to
alumni who list education as the focus of their careers; roughly
teaching, what they find most rewarding, and what they have
one in ten alums work in schools or other academic institu-
learned in the process. They are by any standards an impressive
tions. Clearly Horace Taft’s message got through.
sampling, but even more remarkable is the fact that hundreds
And the list is impressive. Nearly every major college
of other alumni have devoted their lives in similar ways.
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Taft Bulletin Winter 2004
David B. Edwards ’70
Carl Vogt Professor of Anthropology Williams College Williamstown, Massachusetts
My first teaching job came a month or so after graduating from university. I traveled overland to Kabul, Afghanistan, and spent the better part of two years teaching English to Afghan students. Teaching was then a means to live overseas for an extended period of time. To some extent, it still is. I love teaching, but also love living abroad. For me, that has meant primarily living in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Teaching at a college like Williams affords me the opportunity to do both of the things I love—teaching and research/writing. Teaching and research feed into each other in lots of ways, since most of my research involves Afghanistan, Islam, and—of late—terrorism and security issues. For me, and—I hope—for my students, the fact that I spend time studying these subjects firsthand makes the subject matter come alive. I especially enjoy teaching smart undergraduates like the ones that Williams tends to attract because they have the intellectual resources to read challenging material and ask good questions, without being too specialized in their interests, as they would be in a graduate school setting. Relatively few of our majors go on to become anthropologists; therefore, we have to work to make anthropology relevant and interesting to them. Fortunately, that’s not usually too hard to do.
One of the obvious rewards of my particular position is that I get to take extended research leaves on a regular basis. I mention this first because I am currently making a film in Kabul, Afghanistan, so that aspect of my job is more on my mind than teaching. Williams values both research and teaching, believing as I do that the two should be complementary. So right now, research is on my mind, but I know that when I get to the last few months of my leave, I will start looking forward to teaching again, start planning syllabi, and start working out ways to work the experiences I’m having now into the courses I plan to teach. When I came to Kabul the first time to teach, I was just out of college and had no idea how to stand in front of a classroom. Suddenly, I had 20 or so Afghan faces staring up at me. They were so eager to learn, and at that time—just a few years before Afghanistan tumbled into its quarter-century-long civil war— none of us had any idea that many of them would be dead or exiled before they even became adults. I still wonder what happened to my students. In the intervening years, I have only chanced to meet one of them again—one of my best students, who was working in the mid-1980s as a doctor in a refugee camp in Pakistan.
I was not an especially serious student at Taft. In some ways, I suppose I took my education for granted until the second half of my college career when I began to focus on what I was doing and to learn how to study. Nevertheless, I remember some of my teachers at Taft with great fondness: even though I had little aptitude for science, Ed North stands out in my mind for the passion he brought into the classroom. I had never met anyone quite like him. I also had a wonderful 7th–8th grade teacher, and some superb scholar/teachers at Princeton who showed me what being a college professor might be like. I learn things from my students everyday. One of the great things about being a teacher is also one of the great things about being a parent: you learn to be flexible and to bend. College students tend to get excited about things, and sometimes they think they have all or most of the answers to life’s questions. One of the arts of teaching, I suppose, is to try to use that sense of certainty, to harness it and discipline it, without breaking it. You want students to have that passion, and even certainty can have its uses, as long as it is coupled with a sense of humor and a willingness to listen and to recognize—in time at least—your limits.
tur sed ut ministret Taft Bulletin Winter 2004
Richard Ferguson ’81 Department of Economics Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences Uppsala, Sweden
At my university, which is where I did my graduate studies, graduate students are expected to contribute to undergraduate teaching. Thus, one might say that my academic teaching was first prompted by “outside demands” for my area of study. My interest in teaching, however, goes back further than my academic work, with a number of summers of my youth being spent teaching horsemanship. This was prompted by my interest in horses together with the satisfaction I get in helping others to understand and/ or develop their skills and competence. The biggest rewards of my teaching (my job is 50 percent teaching, 50 percent research) lie in successfully getting students excited about my subjects and in helping them to develop their understanding of the world we all live in. It sounds rather lofty, but I really do get a kick out of hearing a student who from the beginning was skeptical of anything called “organization theory” ask what other courses are offered in the subject. I suppose my interest in entrepreneurship arose from my appreciation of self-sufficiency. Small businesses are built by individuals who have an idea they want to realize and share with others. Entrepreneurship is the culmination of creative energy into a fast form reflecting people’s
imagination, ingenuity, and stubbornness. How can that not be interesting? My interest in my other area of expertise—organization theory—developed as I discovered the value of the concepts of the field in helping me to understand entrepreneurship. I am interested in people and in people’s behavior, and work in the arena of businesses and organizations: Organization theory is a field of study that has arisen for just such study. I taught my first course in 1995. It was a disaster. Besides the normal public speaking jitters, I was terrifically burdened by the worry that students would ask me questions that I wouldn’t know the answer to. My subconscious reaction was to try to give them all the information, and to avoid too much discussion. Soon I learned to get down off of the professor’s high horse and figure out how to communicate with the students, to develop a teaching style that fits me. I was reminded of many of my favorite teachers, who—though fully competent in their fields—impressed me with their communication skills rather than by knowing it all. I began to see teaching as fostering interest and guiding students in their learning.
Though always one of my favorite teachers, I have come to appreciate the efforts of Robin (Blackburn) Osborn even more as I have stood at the front of the classroom myself. Her enthusiasm for her subject and ability to be encouraging yet firm in her demands have given me a good model to try and follow. Of course I have learned many lessons from individual students, but two of the most significant lessons for me come from the collective experience. One, you can’t please them all, but that’s no reason to stop trying; and two, to communicate effectively, we need to see the individual at the other end. Though Sweden and the U.S. are similar in many respects, teaching in a different culture gives reason to reflect over why we do things the way we do. Who bears the responsibility of what is learned in a course? And then there is the language issue—but it is amazing how people can find a way to communicate if the interest in the idea to be exchanged is there!
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Taft Bulletin Winter 2004
Maggie Knox Gombas ’78 Child Services Manager Council of Three River American Center Head Start Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
My brother had a learning disability, which prompted an interest in how children learn. I also always liked children and found their developing interests and skills interesting. My senior year at Taft I was able to do an internship at the Montessori school, which sealed it for me! I went to the University of Vermont knowing that early childhood education would be my career. All of our 632 children/families are low income. It is rewarding to assist the children in strengthening their developing social, emotional, physical, and cognitive skills in order to prepare them better for kindergarten and lifelong learning. Head Start also believes in working with the families to further the success of children and families. Families are offered assistance in a variety of issues such as child development, discipline, housing, literacy, etc. Each classroom at Head Start has access to in-house mental health/disability services, nutrition services, and family support services in addition to the educational services. Coming to work for Head Start was the most important moment in my career. I had previously worked at a number of high-quality child-care centers with well-established families. Working for Head Start, though, has been especially rewarding because of the continuum of
service offered to children and families, which assists them in making a smooth transition into school and society. The success stories are endless; many of our families would have been at a distinct disadvantage without Head Start services. Getting NAEXC accreditation at all five of our sites was extremely rewarding as well. My goal was to provide the same high quality programming to low-income families that is out there for families who
I have learned to accept and work with people (little and big) where they are, to gently guide them in growth and acquisition of skills and knowledge. Head Start may have started with an emphasis on nutrition and social development, but literacy and building of cognitive skills have long been integral parts of our programming. The push for literacy in Head Start is not a new idea. There is also political pressure to move
“My goal was to provide the same high quality programming to low-income families that is out there for families who can afford to pay for it.” can afford to pay for it. Programs for lowincome children do not have to be substandard just because they are subsidized by federal dollars. Taft gave me a solid foundation of basic communication skills in addition to college prep course work. Most important my writing and public speaking skills are strong. I went on from Taft to get a B.S. and M.S. in early childhood education and a management certificate. This is my foundation.
Head Start to the Department of Education. If it moves out of the Department of Health and Human Services it will most likely lose its identity and effectiveness. Currently, our public schools do no work with families as a unit. Head Start’s strength lies in its service areas. I do not believe public schools will pick up and duplicate these services, and Head Start as we know it will disappear—a huge disservice to millions of children and families.
tur sed ut ministret Taft Bulletin Winter 2004
H. Marshall Hoyler ’67 Professor of National Security Affairs Naval War College Newport, Rhode Island
I toyed with the idea of teaching while a student at Taft, and again at Swarthmore College. Both times, however, I figured that what I really wanted to do was to make things happen in the world. As I grew older, I realized that I would be utterly miserable in a position of power anywhere in the national security business. So teaching appeared attractive, but I figured it was out of the question for three reasons: I wanted to teach at the university level so I’d need a doctorate. I wanted to teach bright students so I’d need a high-octane doctorate, and heading a one-income family put such an option out of reach. Even so, as I left one think tank (The Institute for Defense Analyses) to head for another about seven years ago, I was struck by the number of people who said, independently, “Marshall, you’d make a great teacher!” My dad was a Marine so I have always been interested in related subjects. My primary interest in college was international politics and related history. I also pursued these interests in my graduate studies at Harvard. The biggest reward of teaching is the opportunity to speak my mind. Elsewhere in government, the price of admission to the head table is often to keep quiet when you disagree. So you
often have to pretend to believe what you don’t in fact believe. At the Naval War College, I often don’t let my students know what I think—as a means of empowering them to express their opinions—but I can pick and choose when to remain silent and when to speak out. The next biggest reward is considerable autonomy about how to do my job. The term “think tanks” became less and less appropriate over the years that I worked in them. Instead of being places that welcome creative approaches and unconventional outlooks, they are too often tasked with rationalizing questionable decisions already made on other grounds. So it’s very refreshing to leave that world. Another reward of teaching here is the quality of my students. They are all adults. The younger ones are in their 30s; the older ones are mostly in their 40s. I have members of all five uniformed services in each of my seminars, and occasional students from other federal agencies like the Department of State or CIA. Each fall, four or five of my students are officers from a wide range of foreign navies. My students have all had responsible jobs in the world. This fall, for example, I had a Marine who commanded a light armored infantry battalion in Iraq, and
came to the War College directly from that theater. The most academically talented members of my seminars are very sharp indeed and could more than hold their own at Swarthmore and Harvard. And the students who are not quite as talented academically are nonetheless often quite capable in myriad other ways. Taken together, they make for lively and freewheeling discussions. At Taft, I was greatly influenced by Lance Odden and Phil Zaeder. At Swarthmore, my most memorable professors included Robert Keohane (who now chairs the Government Department at Harvard), David Smith (now retired), and Peggy Lavina (who now teaches history at Berkeley). My all-time favorite professor was the late Richard Neustadt at Harvard. I now realize that the highest praise I can have as a teacher is not “I learned a lot from him,” but rather “He made me think.” I’ve also learned that Naval War College students feel free to think for themselves. In a recent national security exercise, for example, one strong theme from these military officers was that the U.S. needs to place much greater emphasis on other-than-military instruments (e.g., diplomatic, multilateral, and economic ones) of national power.
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Taft Bulletin Winter 2004
Marianne DelPo Kulow ’79
COURTER PHOTO GRAFX
Associate Professor of Law Bentley College Waltham, Massachusetts
I was dissatisfied with the practice of law and seeking a career change without the need for further education (and its attendant debt). My parents both teach and their lifestyle was appealing. Periodically a student will get very passionate about a topic I teach. Sometimes there is a certain enlightenment I get to witness. When this is about a social issue that I consider important, it can be very satisfying.
I was hired to teach business law because of my practical experience as a litigator for a large firm (representing primarily big businesses). The electives I have developed over the years are more reflective of my personal interests—civil rights and other social justice issues, which led me to law school in the first place.
My parents, my first grade teacher, Dick Lovelace, Roger Stacey, and Robin (Blackburn) Osborn all influenced my teaching. The Northeast provides a liberal context for the presentation of civil rights and social justice issues. I taught one year at the University of Miami and found a very different environment.
“Periodically a student will get very passionate about a topic I teach. Sometimes there is a certain enlightenment I get to witness. When this is about a social issue that I consider important, it can be very satisfying.”
tur sed ut ministret Taft Bulletin Winter 2004
John Merrow ’59
LEARNING MATTERS, INC.
President and Host/Executive Producer Learning Matters, Inc., a nonprofit production company New York, New York
The rewards of my job are numerous, of course. It is a rare privilege to present work that millions of people will see. We know that our audience is issue oriented, and so we believe that when we present complex information in a multifaceted way, many viewers will take that information and use it to improve the world they live in, whether it’s a local school or a state/federal policy. After getting my doctorate from Harvard, I took a job an at education think tank in Washington. Within days (maybe weeks), I acknowledged (admitted to myself) that I am ill suited for long periods of thinking. My boss said I should start a “public forum on education.” Rather than renting a hall and hiring a speaker, I went and knocked on the door at National Public Radio, which, in 1974, was in its infancy. I told them that I had a small budget, and they said, “Come on in.” I stayed for eight years. Some important moments in my career have included getting arrested while reporting on the ease with which teenagers could buy alcohol in Connecticut —one story I won’t forget (it did help change the law). Going back to the
five communities in the original Brown versus Board of Education case (Topeka, Kan.; Washington, D.C.; Prince Edward County, Va.; Clarendon County, S.C.; and Wilmington, Del.) was an unforgettable experience because I was privileged to spend a lot of time with the brave men and women who brought those lawsuits, ordinary folks like Gardner Bishop, a barber in D.C., who dared to challenge the status quo, and they did it for their children, not for themselves. Being the first NPR reporter to get into China, one year after Nixon, was very special. Basically I sneaked in with a group of Canadian educators (Canadians were favored because Mao’s life had been saved by a Canadian doctor who traveled with the Red Army). We traveled around the countryside for three weeks, visiting schools and communes; I would record anything that moved, then hide my tapes at night. The Cultural Revolution was just ending, and we met all sorts of educated Chinese who had spent those years working in the fields. I remember a violinist whose fingers had been broken by the Red Guard, part of her “re-education.” We cried as she told us her story.
Probably Bill Sullivan and Rowland McKinley, two of my English teachers at Taft [first prompted my interest in education]. Taft influenced me more than I realized, because the school set high standards but also gave second chances (and Lord knows I needed quite a few of those). My parents, teaching in a Black college, teaching in a federal prison, going to Harvard and discovering that I could hold my own, or nearly so. Lot of influences. Every day I spend in schools increases my admiration for the men and women who make such a difference in the lives of kids. Those who succeed often do so by going around the system, because so much of what schools do is for the convenience of adults or for management purposes. But most teachers manage to change kids’ lives for the better. Imagine if we created schools so that most, perhaps all, kids would succeed. Imagine if all teachers believed that, if their students weren’t learning, then they were not teaching. I regret and resent the current (long-lived) “Gotcha” attitude that pervades education, but I don’t know what to do about it.
non ut sibi ministre 36
Taft Bulletin Winter 2004
Ashley Ransom ’83 Science Teacher/Naturalist St. Hilary School/Oceanic Society San Francisco, California
I really wanted to do anything on the ocean; I have spent so much of my life there. I found that I would naturally just share the information that I had, and it seemed that I was teaching before I ever even became a teacher. I also just really love being around children and the energy that they bring is so refreshing to me. I have always been interested in the ocean. My dad and I were avid snorkelers when I was growing up, and he made me not afraid of exploring out into the deep. My love of the out of doors has grown from that I suppose. I participated in the “Sea Semester” program when I left Middlebury. It was one of the most fantastic things I have ever done on so many levels. Oceanography, marine science, engineering...all these were subjects we studied and I loved them so much...Living on a schooner for two months was fantastic and encouraged me even more.
An extremely diverse area biologically, the Bay area is home to many, many marine mammals due to the productive waters off our coast. It is a unique habitat and a wonderful place to be in every regard.
Briggs (Taft) and Bill Merriss (Greenwich Country Day School). Al Molina, who was supposed to be my assistant on my Bahamas trips one summer, taught me way more than I ever taught him. I studied under him unofficially for the next
“I found that I would naturally just share the information that I had, and it seemed that I was teaching before I ever even became a teacher.” It is rewarding to have that time off from teaching in the summer, which allows me to go to the Bahamas and work with wild dolphins and continue to research them. The teachers who influenced me most were Lance Odden and Peter
few years until his untimely death six years ago. He will stay with me forever. My students have taught me patience, humor, and fearlessness. I am always thrilled to receive comments or letters from students on how I impacted their lives.
tur sed ut ministret Taft Bulletin Winter 2004
Henry B. Reiff ’71 Associate Dean of Academic Affairs, Professor of Special Education McDaniel College Westminster, Maryland
Unquestionably, my father, Al Reiff, Sr., had a great impact on my decision to teach. Growing up at Taft, I realized that for my father and the other faculty, teaching was a calling. My father devoted himself to the institution, and even at a young age, I admired that. When I attended Taft, many of my teachers were mentors and role models. Their commitment to the educational process in its fullest sense inspired me. My life as an educator has come full circle. I never thought I’d stay at a small liberal arts college such as McDaniel because it was too similar to Taft. I had prepared myself to conduct research and write; that would be my primary contribution to my field. I saw myself landing at a large, research-oriented university where I would have a light teaching load and could set my own scholarly agenda. However, over the years, and particularly through my role as an academic dean, I became seduced by the unique qualities of this type of institution, primarily the opportunity to work in an individual, and often intimate, manner with students. I found that this type of personal interaction was and is highly rewarding. I work primarily with students who have academic difficulties. To witness a student succeed who was on the verge of failing out of college is an extraordinary experience. I often tell people that our biggest success stories are not the 4.0 graduates but the 2.0 graduates
who defied the odds of making it. McDaniel’s motto, “We change lives,” is something I get to take part in on a regular basis, one student at a time. I became interested in special education largely by happenstance. I had begun a graduate program in English Literature but discovered that the Special Education Department offered better graduate assistantships. As I had a background in teaching, I decided that staying in education might also make more sense careerwise. Nevertheless, I quickly realized that I had wandered into the right program for me. I seemed to have an affinity for struggling students. Twenty-five years later, I’m still working with them. When I was teaching at a small private school for children with learning disabilities, I found that I became very close to and invested in my students. I really saw them as my family. One time at a parent conference, a father said, “You are like the father that I want to be for my son.” That gave me chills. In my college setting, I often advocate for students who have critical problems that may prevent them from graduating. On several occasions, I have received thank-you notes from students who wanted to let me know that even though things did not work out, they appreciated that I supported them when no one else would. My influences? This is a long list: My father, Al Reiff, Sr., whom I had for biol-
ogy. He was organized, engaged, and fair enough to yell at me the one time I tried to prove to my classmates that I was not the teacher’s pet. Dick Geldard ’53 opened up the world of literature and shared incredible personal stories. Gerry LeTendre’s joie de vivre. I was always a little worried that if I had the wrong answer, Oscie [Don Oscarson ’47] would sic his dog Cassius on me. John Small’s stories of staring down Panzer tanks in W.W.II made Caesar come alive. Bill Curran believed in me when I doubted myself. Even when I didn’t understand what Ed North was talking about, it was interesting. I had thought John Noyes was quiet and taciturn until I saw him explode with passion and humor in class. Rick Davis ’59 for his sheer brilliance with a touch of madness. By the time I was done with Bill Nicholson’s A.P. English class, I was ready for anything college could throw at me. At Princeton, my most memorable professors were Henry Knight Miller (18thcentury literature specialist) and Donald (Robbie) Robertson, arguably the preeminent Chaucerian scholar of the 20th century. I owe most of my professional development to my mentor, major professor, colleague, and friend, Paul J. Gerber. I have learned from students that being a good listener is where relationships begin. Believing in someone, especially when no one else does, makes all the difference. We are all students.
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Taft Bulletin Winter 2004
Cory Scott ’84 High School English Teacher The American International School Dhaka, Bangladesh After a year and a half of college I dropped out of school, joined a volunteer ambulance corps in my hometown, and was graciously taken on as a teacher’s apprentice and coach at New Canaan Country School. I worked with sixth graders there and, much to my surprise, found them to be a pleasure. They retained the innocence of childhood, yet were just on the cusp of adolescence—a volatile but gratifying combination. The next fall I reenrolled in college with the direction I needed to follow through to graduation, although it took me a bit longer than I care to admit. There are two major rewards to my work. One is purely selfish; the other is more altruistic. First, a teaching lifestyle allows my wife and me to maximize the time we spend with our own children. Because we are teachers (and make teachers’ wages), we both need to work. At the same time, though, we enjoy unrivaled vacation time, which naturally coincides with that of our kids. And, since we teach in South Asia, we’re able to travel to meaningful destinations almost every school holiday. Second, the students I teach are, as Larry Stone would say, “a special breed of cat.” There are 40 different nations represented among the student body at The American International School in Dhaka. Most of the kids speak several languages; they’re well traveled. The majority are sons or daughters of diplomats, aid workers, businesspeople, and journalists, and have
grown up all over the world. This gives my students not only a global perspective, but also a varied, sophisticated approach to literature that I respect and admire. The first graduation ceremony I attended while teaching at Cairo American College was a pivotal moment for me. Commencement exercises are held at the Giza Sound and Light Theater, right at the base of the Great Pyramid of Cheops, about a zillion miles away from Graduation Courtyard at Taft. It had been a year of significant adjustments—recently married, a new job, a new city (the largest in Africa, no less)—but watching my students parade past the Sphinx, stately in their full regalia, made me think, “Wow! This has been worth it. I’m ready to keep at this.” I remember Steve Schieffelin as the quintessential boarding school English teacher. I would drop in at his CPT3 apartment during study hall to get extra help with my homework. He’d be sitting at his desk, smoking a pipe, correcting essays. His then-infant daughter vied for his attention, but Mrs. Schieffelin ran interference while her husband patiently helped me develop a clear thesis statement, something we’d probably already covered in class that day while I’d been daydreaming. I admired and marveled at the fact (or was it just rumor?) that John Wynne discarded all of his notes at the end of each year so that he could teach the material the next year with a totally fresh perspective.
Not surprisingly, teaching in the developing world has its advantages and disadvantages. Frequent power outages, nationwide strikes, and security concerns are a part of everyday life. Other specific challenges include contending with monsoon rains, cobras on the soccer field, and teaching an American literature survey class to teenagers who have never lived in (or in some cases visited) the United States. The advantages, however, far outweigh the disadvantages. The opportunities for kids to learn by doing in a country like Bangladesh are nearly limitless. At my last school, The American Embassy School in New Delhi, a colleague and I led 20 students on a four-day trek in the Himalayas as part of an outdoor education unit. There is a myriad of ways to incorporate service learning into the curriculum. Kids in our middle school work closely with a local orphanage organizing activities and outings for the children. AIS/D high school students host kids from a nearby village for “Saturday School” and teach them, among other things, to swim and to read English. Our chapters of Habitat for Humanity, Amnesty International, and Roots and Shoots are teeming with members and are quite active in and around Bangladesh. The elementary school principal has even established a school for street children in his spare time. What have I learned from my students? To be concise.
tur sed ut ministret Taft Bulletin Winter 2004
Sam Sowinski ’75 Special Education, Social Studies Teacher Pulaski Middle School New Britain, Connecticut
I was offered a teaching position at the Connecticut Junior Republic in Litchfield in 1985. I spent the previous four years in sales with little emotional satisfaction or fulfillment. Teaching is a form of sales in my work; you are selling the idea of a fresh start and hope for the future. Having students and parents tell me I’ve made a difference in their lives. When those same students return to let me know how they are doing. Reflecting on the changes we as a staff are able to effect in/on these kids and their lives. I had a natural desire to help others. My background made many of the dysfunctional issues I deal with easy to understand and cope with. Insanity or irrational behavior doesn’t frighten me; it challenges me to try to help that person cope. As a teacher in a diploma granting (high school) program for disadvantaged/disenfranchised youth, I have had
students thank me in their graduation speeches for my influence. That “high” lasts a long time. Dick Cobb, in academics, and John Small, in athletics, made the biggest impact on my life. The understanding teachers in my life helped me immensely. Rusty Davis’s youth and empathy also influenced me; he understood my struggles. I have learned that no one wakes up wanting to be dysfunctional and angry
with life. Circumstances influence a lot of what my students have become. They need to assume control for the choices they can make, and learn that they can have that control. At an inner-city school you need to be aware of boundary issues, respect issues, and cultural differences when you interact with students. You need to show respect first, then expect it back from them.
“I have learned that no one wakes up wanting to be dysfunctional and angry with life. Circumstances influence a lot of what my students have become.”
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Taft Bulletin Winter 2004
How Ideas Change THE MAN WHO INTRODUCED US TO PARADIGMS
By David Warsh, Boston Globe
If Sigmund Freud was the central cultural figure in the first half of the 20th century (for having introduced the concept of the
into everyday life), then perhaps the dominant figure in the second half was a retiring historian of science named Thomas Kuhn [’40].
Haven’t heard of him? That means you probably didn’t go to college before, say, 1970. Don’t know his work? Of course you do. Kuhn (pronounced coon) introduced the word “paradigm” into everyday language. Moreover, there is an interesting symmetry between the two. The sense of personal responsibility that Freud took away from humankind, Kuhn in large measure succeeded in giving back. There is hardly any aspect of life on which enthusiastic readers of The Structure of Scientific Revolutions have not shed some 42
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light (and, to be fair, much confusion too). A week doesn’t pass these days without a political and/or financial analyst announcing the advent of a “new paradigm,” meaning a new pattern or interpretation or model by which evolving events are to be understood. Nor should that be surprising, since Structure is in some degree a direct lineal descendant of The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind, an 1895 study of the French Revolution by Gustave Le Bon still admired in financial circles. And yet a good many people who make their livings in and around markets are unfamiliar with this seminal work—never mind its author, who died in 1996 at 74. Shocked by his book’s cult status among the young, Kuhn retreated from pop culture. No interviews on the Living pages for him! The appearance of a couple of new books concerned with Structure make it a little easier to come to grips with what after all is still a controversial work. (In the 15th edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica published in 1974 Kuhn still didn’t merit an entry, though Freud got five pages, Robert Frost two, and George Fox one.) One of these, Thomas Kuhn: A Philosophical History for Our Times, by Steve Fuller, is a difficult and bitter attack from the Left; the other, The Road Since
Structure, is a collection of Kuhn’s essays including a remarkable autobiographical interview that he gave late in life. Structure first appeared in 1962. What Kuhn said was that an organizing principle was required to get a science started. Aristotle’s Physica, Ptolemy’s Almagest, Newton’s Principia and Opticks, Franklin’s Electricity, Lavoisier’s Chemistry, and Lyell’s Geology: These were paradigms, he said, works that defined a set of problems and methods as belonging to a certain branch of learning. Before their appearance, anyone was entitled to his opinion; afterward, discussion went forward within scientific disciplines only insofar as it was informed by the broad outlines of what is in effect a map. The filling-in of details in these maps Kuhn called “normal science.” Inevitably, he said, difficulties arise. Anomalies crop up, puzzles that can’t be explained by the governing paradigm. (Kuhn had borrowed the word from linguistics, where it meant the rules for showing how to use language: he/she/it does, did, has done, and so on.) At that point science is said to be in crisis. Young scientists search for new rules that might explain matters both old and new. When a new paradigm is found, scientists experience a gestalt switch, like the experience of ambiguous drawings
that can be seen either way—except that one interpretation rapidly wins out. Thus did Newtonian physics replace Aristotelian physics; Einstein’s physics supplant that of Newton. The history of science, he wrote, is “a series of peaceful interludes punctuated by intellectually violent revolutions.” Nor could its rugbylike scramble from one scrum to another be understood as “progress toward” a perfect understanding of the physical world. Better it should be seen as a “journey from” instead. Many philosophers disliked Kuhn’s book because it seemed to them to relativize truth, promote pluralism, and give too big a place to the irrational.
Sociologist Steve Fuller dislikes it for the opposite reason. The paradigms that Kuhn argued were necessary for normal science are in fact a Trojan horse designed to legitimize the conduct of the Cold War, he says. Half-deliberately, he argues. Kuhn constructed a cage from which would-be radicals find it difficult to escape. Kuhn himself understood that the book he had written was in some sense a deeply conservative one. With its emphasis on how one of the most authoritarian of human enterprises could occasionally give rise to bouts of intense creativity, he gave new meaning to what he called “the essential tension” between tradition and the quest for novelty. And it is this,
presumably, that has excited undergraduates’ minds for 30 years—including that of the undergrad Al Gore, who told an interviewer in 1993 that Structure was his favorite book. The most striking thing in Kuhn’s account is the story of how Harvard (where he did the work) denied him tenure in 1956, then declined to welcome him back to Cambridge in 1979 (he went to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology instead). That chilly reaction may have something to do with continuing ambivalence toward this semiunderground classic. ©2000 The Boston Globe, reprinted with permission
Few indeed are the philosophers or historians influential enough to make it into the funny papers, but Kuhn is one…. Kuhn’s use of terms such as
…had profound effects on historians, scientists, philosophers, critics, writers, business gurus, and even the cartoonist in the street.
—Mary Ellen Curtin on Amazon.com Taft Bulletin Winter 2004
LARGER Life Than
His famous office with its red Naugahyde couch and ancient typewriter, and often a golden retriever drinking lazily from a silver trophy bowl turned water dish, in 1985 Oscie with his “Jumpers,” and secretary Eunice Bragg, in 1980. A lot of Tafties went into varsity seasons in great shape because of Jumpers.
A tribute to Donald Oscarson ’47 February 16, 1929 — January 14, 2004 Taft Master 1954–2004
By William R. MacMullen ’78
I am not sure how you possibly do justice to Don Oscarson’s life, and his 50 years of teaching at Taft. Fifty years—a half-century, ten presidents, three wars, four headmasters, several thousand students. The facts are simple, if also astounding: Born in Baltimore in 1929, Don Oscarson came to Taft as an upper middler and graduated in 1947. From there he went to Yale, where he
For the last few years he did not teach but instead served as a tutor for some 10 to 20 students a year. Those are the facts. Even unadorned they tell of a remarkable career: Who these days works at the same place for 50 years? But they do not come close to capturing the life of this man, a man who taught for more years here than anyone in history, a man who served his school with a great heart, uncommon
I think about how I knew Oscie for more years than I knew my parents. How he was adviser to my three children, one of whom he called in Maine to chat two weeks before he died. How he provided me with clarity and purpose without sermonizing. How during my senior year he happened to be on a soufflé kick and we cooked chocolate and cheese soufflés every night trying to decide which was best. How during my college years I returned often for direction. How his mark resulted in my decision to embark on a teaching career. Other memories: the green Jaguar, blueberry picking in Snowville, his devoted Mom, his temper that failed to scare
Joanna Wandelt, Anne Romano, and Susan Everett were on hand to help Oscie celebrate his 70th birthday.
received a B.A. in 1951 and a master’s in 1953. In 1954 he came to Taft to teach remedial English, and soon after he began teaching Latin. He became the chair of the Classics Department, dean of the Middle Class, holder of the Edwin C. Douglas Chair, and for over a decade was the dean of students. 46
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intelligence, and fierce loyalty. So you may not have known him, and indeed even those among us who did never really did; he didn’t let you in that far. We all had glimpses, like eager children peering through the windows of some vast mansion. If you were lucky, he let you hang around his yard.
me, his adjustment to old age and poor health, that damn blue loden overcoat, walking Cassius. So much, yet not enough.
—Phil Miller ’65
He was Mr. Oscarson, Don, Chief, or Oscie. I always called him Oscie. He was so big, I am almost at a loss as to begin. Large in all ways: in his decadesold reputation, his volcanic temper, his booming voice, his immense appetite, his unyielding loyalty. He was so big that we all agreed that the rules did not apply to him. At his essence a very shy and private man, he never walked at graduation. All of us
He parked his car wherever he wanted. If you took his space under the magnolia tree in the Headmaster’s Circle, he would pull up his BMW until it was six inches from your bumper—you weren’t leaving until he was, and God forbid you asked him to move. Until he stopped smoking, he puffed away in Latin class, and stubbed the butt out in the top drawer of an old desk. When we bought new furniture
Don Oscarson ’47 in 1965 with Ed Douglas, whom he succeeded that year as dean of students, and Bob Adams, the newly appointed dean of faculty.
knew that it was too emotional a day for him, and so he was the one teacher who may never have sat on that stage. In his last years, he stopped teaching on Fathers’ Days. “I don’t do parents,” he once muttered, though every advisee proudly, if nervously, brought his or her parents by the office to introduce them.
for the classroom, the drawer was filled to the top with butts; and the corner of the desk, where Oscie sat for so many years as he quizzed his students, was polished smooth. And when his health deteriorated and he had trouble walking, he watched games by driving his car across the grass, usually to sit
with Susan Everett, Anne Romano, and Joanna Wandelt, the women who probably knew him best and loved him most. It was spring in 1954. Dwight Eisenhower was president, Westinghouse had just invented the color TV, and Joe DiMaggio had made headlines marrying Marilyn Monroe. Oscie had learned how to speak
Oscie was not only my adviser and mentor but a true friend, and we will all miss him tremendously.
—Elena Ford ’84
Taft Bulletin Winter 2004
Indonesian and Burmese, and his Yale friends were pushing him to take a corporate job or work for the State Department. With his mother, he visited Headmaster Paul Cruikshank in June, and on July 7 he penned him a letter: “I have finally decided,” he wrote, “after feeling my way in the business world for a while…that it is in teaching in which I will be able to utilize my training and education and be completely happy.”
student, I knew him—and was terrified of him—as the dean of students. He was famously gruff and cantankerous. Once our midnight CPT4 two-on-two soccer tournament awoke a teacher, and we were called into his office first thing the next morning. When we went in, his glasses were propped up on his forehead, the cigarette dangled from his lip, and he squinted through the smoke. He began growling like some large, angry dog, and
Oscie was the touchstone. He was the grounding force during a time when all worlds seem to collide. As we tried to adjust to life away from home, Chief’s office was always open and warm. He laid out consequences to provide us options as we began to test our boundaries, and those of Taft. He forced us to toe the line with dignity, grace, and good decision making. He always remembered that high schoolers needed to eat burgers at the Chef, and that we needed a big, ugly, comfortable couch to hang out on (even if the dog wouldn’t make room). Most importantly, Oscie taught us the importance of taking care of those you love, and love him we did.
Never comfortable with public praise, it was a reluctant Don Oscarson who allowed the Jigger Shop to be named in his honor; this photograph with Elena Ford ’84 hangs at the entrance.
—Libby Seibert ’92
A month later Cruikshank wrote him back, offering him a one-year appointment, teaching remedial English. Oscie moved in and never left. And for 50 years he was so many things to so many people. My memories are vivid, stretching back to 1976. As a 48
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he got louder and louder, and we shrank in the corner under the withering blast of his voice. And then at the end, he stopped. We waited, trembling. He said, “Boys, that sounds like it was pretty fun. But don’t let me see you in here again.” He didn’t.
Oscie loved photographs, and here are the ones we have of him: This scene: Oscie in his office. Students sit on his cheap, ratty, red Naugahyde couch. Oscie is always in his chair, his glasses perched up on his forehead, and he peering at you, steadily asking questions, regular as a clock, about every subject you have. He is brilliant and can
His desk is a blizzard of papers, cards, essays, and tests. He tosses out bills and unwanted correspondence—including (I am sure) my appointment letters— but keeps notes, letters, and Christmas cards. Books slide off to the floor. And the wall, well some of you know the
My lower-mid roommates and I spent most of our free time in Oscie’s apartment. He exposed us to classical music, good food, and always interesting conversation. He helped us begin to develop an intellectual curiosity. His advisee feeds were famous as he did enjoy good food and shared it generously. I remember so many things he did for me. Little things like trudging up to the track during my practice to tell me that I had been accepted into the only college I really wanted to attend. He was probably more excited and more proud than I was.
—Biff Barnard ’63
The Classics Department in 1996: Don Oscarson, Dick Cobb, and Joe Brogna had a combined 126 years of teaching experience at Taft.
quiz you on Latin, your history thesis, your algebra problem, and your analysis of water imagery in Walden. There is no computer—he refused to join the electronic age—and his only concession to modernity is that years ago he traded his manual typewriter to the slightly snazzier red one that is still there.
wall—photos sent by alumni over the years: wedding pictures, baby shots, travel postcards. For many, an event was not finished until you had written Oscie about it. He tutors, dragging students by the scruff of their academic necks through Taft. Extra help is his reason for living.
He was the learning center before we had one, and is the reason we have one now. He does more reading on learning styles than anyone, and his tutoring is deceptively simple. But no one else can explain something quite the way he can. The Latin textbook he wrote is better than anything published, and his classes are focused and disciplined. He is tough. If you are late for an appointment, or Taft Bulletin Winter 2004
have not reviewed for the test, he might toss you out in the hall on your ear. Still, in the end, he always has time for you, as he does when a smart but slightly harried senior named Jon Willson changes his college essay topic for Amherst the night before it is due, and Oscie drops everything and types it up for him. And now Jon teaches here. Two years ago a boy is failing Latin. We tell him he has to pass the exam if he is going to return. Oscie offers to tutor him, and so summer is “Oscie Camp:” four weeks of tutoring at his house. The boy takes the exam in August and gets a 4.5. Oscie refuses to be paid. Up almost until the day he died, he was helping students, and in a way that no other teacher, no matter how gifted, could. Without him, Taft could seem terrifying; with Oscie, it was manageable. This scene: Oscie and a dog. His first is a boxer named Cassius, an ill-tempered and sullen dog who comes to his class, eats erasers, and silently farts all class— students arrive early hoping to sit away from Cassius, and it is not as if a scared lower mid is going to tell Oscie. But his real love are golden retrievers; and his favorites were Caesar and then Duffy, the latter a dog every bit as cranky and moody as he could be, a sulking, monstrous beast that growled at kids and once attacked a colleague’s dog. Oscie pampers his dogs. After dinner at The Charcoal Chef, he brings out a cheeseburger; afternoons he feeds them plates of butter cookies. Some days they finish off a pot roast. Later he gets dogs from a foundation for older retrievers in Massachusetts. Very old dogs. His health was bad then, and he did not want a young dog that would outlive him. With every new dog, we would all take bets on how long it would be before it was fat and died. His great friend and colleague Dick Cobb said, “Oscie’s dogs don’t last long, but they sure die happy.” 50
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This scene: Oscie with his “Jumpers.” For many years, Oscie would take about a dozen students—boys and girls— and for an ex, they train with him. He knows a lot, actually, and his workouts are scientific and legendary: the punching bag in the basement, jumping repeatedly over benches, or sit-ups and push-ups. He lounges back and watches and teases. A lot of Tafties went into varsity seasons in great shape because of Jumpers.
Oscie was an unbelievable man. His heart was bigger than the world, and his love for his students and the school was immeasurable. He was the type of man that shared my happiness, but also felt my pain. One thing that
This scene: Sunday penalty crew. If you got on Disciplinary Report, Oscie ran penalty crew, and you were in for hell. There are alumni out there still fingering the calluses on their palms from the Sundays when he made them move a pile of rocks from one place to another, and then back again, Oscie smiling the whole time. And so the line of deans of students, men of heart and toughness, runs through him, Jerry Romano, Rusty Davis, and Mike Maher. He was one of those characters who dominated campus life. He was a force. Headmaster John Esty wrote him every year to express his great appreciation for all he did in and out of the class. Headmaster Lance Odden called and said, “More than any person in my 40odd years there, he was totally devoted to students. There just will never be another like him.” In my travels with alumni, I hear at every gathering, “How’s Chief doing? You know, I never would have made it through Taft without him….”
Oscie always told me when I was struggling through school or life was, “Don’t worry! Let me do the worrying for you.” And he did. When I reflect back on that, he relieved me from a lot of stress, which allowed me to fully concentrate on necessary things.
—Muchie Dagliere ’94
After Don Oscarson stopped being a dean and no longer had to be the bad guy that that office sometimes requires, it was as if he began a new career: always loyal and empathic, if also deeply private, he became the most amazing source of strength and comfort to students
Full text for the previous letters, along with more recently received tributes, may be found at www.TaftAlumni.com.
who often were in pain, lacking in confidence, or finding their way. One alumnus wrote me, “Once he adopted you, you were his for life.” He was father, uncle, and grandfather, and to boys and girls of all kinds. He was a savior, a rock, and a lot of students clung to him in the turbulence of adolescence. Somehow it seemed he would always be there when years after leaving, you waded upstream in time to see
unconditionally. Look at him to see someone who found deep happiness in simply giving. Teaching at a place like Taft was never better than it was with Oscie; he was a man who absolutely refused to give up on his students, and who found deep, abiding happiness in all they gave back. Students were his life. To the very end, he was proud and shy, a solitary figure, a bear of a man
you go. Oscie died in his house, at his desk, an evening of tutoring a few hours away. He was alone but he was surely not lonely. How could he be? He was surrounded by hundreds of Tafties, there, in the Jig, on the fields, and in his office. We still feel him there, touched by his dearest friends, the Wandelts, who returned his loyalty with love of their own, by his colleagues in his department, and, through the
Oscie’s desk was layered in photographs from former students and advisees, many have their thanks etched in silver frames: graduations, weddings, reunions, here with Spencer Tuttle ’98 and Christina Oneglia ’98.
him. He looked 50 when you first knew him, and he still looked like that when you nervously and proudly introduced your daughter to him. Mr. Wandelt and I hung a black drape over his portrait in the Jig. Look at that picture if you want to look into the eyes of a man who loved and gave
in his cave of an office, as likely to hug you after a Christmas break as he was to growl at you for failing a quiz. He never used the word, but I do: he loved. How else do you describe a bond with students that tied him to them around the globe and through the years? When he sunk his teeth into you, he never let
years, by a parade of students, many of them parents now, telling stories to their children in front of the fire, of a legend, a myth: “At Taft I once knew a man named Oscie, and if it were not for him, I would not be where I am today.” For 50 years this was home, and his life was our motto given flesh. Taft Bulletin Winter 2004
First Bell, Second Bell Teaching In and Out of the Classroom By William R. MacMullen ’78 The simple truth about a Taft education is that Taft matters because we teach students in and out of the classroom. This has always been the case, and this you know. We must consider the context behind that learning: the larger national and indeed global phenomena which shape the intellectual education—that takes place after the first bell—as well as the emotional and moral learning that takes place after the second. Put simply, it’s worth looking outside the walls of Taft now to see how what happens within them is relevant. Our mission when the first bell rings and class begins is to create an enriching and challenging intellectual experience that prepares students not just for college but also for a highly complex world which will require very sophisticated skills and enduring habits of mind. The history of this nation, so precariously poised between power and frailty, will be written by a generation of young men and women who must possess abilities previous generations never foresaw. A school that does not see the need for a highly educated populace with sophisticated reasoning, technological, communication and relationship skills, is failing its students and its nation. Information—and lots of it—is available with stupefying ease. And getting it is hardly the challenge. A lower mid can access the same information as a Nobel laureate. What will matter in the future will be a person’s ability to assess and use information, both independently and in concert with others. Leaders in politics, law, medicine, technology, industry, and education will have to be subtly and powerfully skilled, and more able to work in a diverse workplace, and across disciplines, than ever before. Today what is lacking is more subtle and serious—more having to do with mental habits and personal skills. The workplace of the future will require men and women who can analyze information, solve problems alone and with others, apply knowledge across boundaries, work with diverse viewpoints, and deal with unexpected challenges. It is not enough to know something; students must be able to do something with the knowledge. We have national and global obligations. The only question is whether schools will prepare students for this age, a globally connected one,
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where information is a given but the ability to use it fruitfully and responsibly is not. So what we are doing is not accidental, nor is it merely the idiosyncratic interests of a hundred teachers. Our education today has been shaped by three massive, almost tectonic forces: the past history of the school; the beliefs of the faculty; and the needs of our nation and world. Merge those three together and you have Taft today. This learning will take place when the teacher walks into the classroom and the bell rings. But regardless of what a curriculum looks like or what technology is brought to bear in the learning, nothing good happens without a gifted and committed teacher. You need to have men and
“One evening I heard footsteps in the hall. A knock came on the door. Very much surprised I opened it to find Mr. Taft there. He said he wanted to go to Waterbury to see a movie but didn’t feel like going alone, and would I accompany him?” It is a scene I think of often, and always with great emotion: a bored and chastened middler in his tiny room; a tall, white-haired headmaster, widowed and lonely in his master’s house, off to see the latest movie, and probably a talk about following the rules. This was teaching long after the bell, Horace Taft style. A Taft education will take place every hour of the day. It always has. Teachers here have
“The only question is whether schools will prepare students for this age, a globally connected one, where information is a given but the ability to use it fruitfully and responsibly is not.” women so passionate about teaching and the intellectual dialogue that they need the academic day like air. This kind of learning is nothing without a teacher willing to commit all he or she is to the teaching moment. Finally, a great school is about great teachers. What of the second bell, when the class day ends—and another kind of teaching begins? In what context does the personal—moral, spiritual, and emotional—education take place? One graduate in 1936, during Horace Taft’s final year as headmaster, offers a wonderful story, of a time he had been confined to his room for a vacation stayover—long before rooms had radios, stereos, and computers.
always understood and acted on a fundamental truth: that simply spending time with adolescents is part of the essential mission of the school. Every student at Taft will discover that there will be some teacher—and perhaps many—who will not allow him or her to navigate the shoals of adolescence alone. This work marks the Taft education that occurs after the bell. It is Mike Townsend with a brilliant but painfully shy, physically handicapped boy, Mike’s hand at his elbow as he guides him down the hall to his office. It is Debbie Phipps behind the door of her office: “Do you understand why academic honor matters to us?” It is Michael Spencer folding his hands and looking that student in the eye after he hears, “What kind of God would allow this?”
E It is Felecia Williams in her house, with 30 black, white, and brown students—and a pile of corn bread and chicken wings, and a sink of dirty dishes. This is what teaching here must be. It is the informal, unstructured personal contact of a passionate teacher who refuses to let a student walk through Taft alone. This we have always done, but it is more vital now than ever; for this aspect of our education here is every bit as informed by this historical moment as the academic experience is. Consider the work of psychologist Dan Kindlon. When he set out to write Too Much of a Good Thing three years ago, he first undertook a comprehensive survey, distributed to over 600 students and nearly 1,100 parents, and he conducted some 50 in-depth interviews with school administrators, parents, counselors, and students. What he found will not be shocking: that parents of our generation all too often overprotected, negotiated, and indulged—though with the best of intentions. In addition, and sadly, only 10 percent of parents reported being satisfied with their parenting, primarily because, as one mother wrote, “…too much to do and too little time.”
parents about—and a life they kept hidden, of sex, drugs, and lies. No conclusion tells us more about the work we must do at Taft: now more than ever schools must do some of their best teaching through the informal, caring, and intimate relationship between teacher and student. Headmasters must take lonely students out to movies; advisors must talk to sad boys and girls; dorm heads must have 20 students in their apartment; and on and on. Spending time matters. The issues your sons and daughters face cry out for adults to be engaged in an honest and trusting dialogue, a dialogue that is only possible if the relationship is founded on perpetual contact, obvious compassion, and firm expectations. This we realize here, knowing that it means when that second bell rings, our work only begins. But it was not just reading Kindlon’s work on today’s world that made me think that the tenacity and compassion we brought to our relationships with adolescents was at the heart of a Taft education. It was also the funeral service this summer for a beautiful Taft boy who graduated just a few years ago.
best: unfailing courage, stubborn tenacity, tender empathy, unflinching toughness. Perhaps a young man was thinking all this when he wrote me just two weeks ago, from his dorm room in his second year of college: I cannot deny the fact that I underachieved at Taft, and that much of the time I spent I was angry at everyone around me for this. I realize this too late. I have grown to appreciate how truly difficult and trying it can be to educate a student in a classroom environment; I can’t even imagine how difficult it is to educate adolescents in all aspects of life, as Taft teachers are expected to do…. Now I look back on my Taft graduation with pride and dignity. Knowing what Taft has done to help me grow into a strong-willed and determined person. We cannot forget what this moment demands when the first bell rings: a rigorous education, rooted in habits of mind which will ensure that our students can lead in a complex, diverse, and connected globe. We cannot forget what this moment is surely demanding in the education that begins when the class lets out: that all of us adults engage our adolescents in honest, at times awkward, deeply
“Finally what we do has less to do with programs and course offerings: it has to do with teachers who share the sense that this moment calls for our very best: unfailing courage, stubborn tenacity, tender empathy, unflinching toughness.” Few parents felt that they had fully honest relationships with their sons and daughters; many implied that they were not sure how to speak to their children. More specifically, he noted that, from 1981 to 1997, the amount of time a family spent talking together declined over 90 percent, and that adolescents were three times more likely than parents to say that not enough time together was a problem. You sense a dangerous paradox: sons and daughters seeking deeper relationships with adults while the adults struggle to find the time, energy, and tools to do so. Most telling today was the disparity between what adolescents told their parents and what their parents assumed to be true. Kindlon’s most important conclusion was this: that adolescents often had two lives: school, sports, and friends—which they talked to their
I spoke with his father after his service, held on a lovely grassy hill where his son had spent much of his youth. A few weeks later he called me and said he wanted to talk. We talked of how he and his son had been so close, and how critical adults were for all adolescents. He spoke of how important his Taft teachers were. “Make sure the faculty know that—know that every conversation matters.” We must reach out, touch, know, and understand; and this the faculty believe deeply—that we teach during the class day, and in the halls and fields, in the dining rooms and apartments, when the sun washes the Vogelstein walls and the moon bathes Centennial Quad. Finally what we do has less to do with programs and course offerings: it has to do with teachers who share the sense that this moment calls for our very
empathic and firm dialogue. We know an education defined as broadly as this is exhausting work, but the times tell us we cannot relent. All day the bells ring, first and second, until they echo and seem to ring out as in some village square, sounding an alarm and awakening us to a new day. When the snows are deep, we can even imagine that this brick village is cut off from the world, and all we have to do is live and learn, in some holy solitude. But we know better: we know the world roars through our gates like autumn wind. But we should not fear and instead should welcome the challenge and opportunity that comes when we open ourselves to the task of educating for this moment in history. The above remarks are excerpted from the headmaster’s Fathers’ Day address in November.
Taft Bulletin Winter 2004
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Published on Feb 2, 2017