Serving the Environment W I N T E R
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B U L L E T I N Winter 2005 Volume 75 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 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: Linda Beyus 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 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.
This magazine is printed on recycled paper.
䊏 On a snow-filled Hotchkiss Day, Shayna Bryan ’06 strips the ball from her opponent. For more on the fall season, see p. 14. PETER FREW ’75
Fixing the World
FEATURES Non Ut Sibi part IV: Serving the Environment
A Clean Lake Legacy
Former director of ornithology for the Florida Audubon Society, Gian Basili ’83 shifted gears five years ago, taking on a $120 million restoration project to remove pollutants from a central Florida lake. By Bonnie Blackburn Penhollow ’84
All Things Arctic
A canoe racer for more than forty years, Mike Fremont ’40 is now racing to save the river he loves. By Julie Reiff
A Venture Capitalist for Land Conservation
A former director for Trout Unlimited and a founder of the River Network, Tom Macy ’61 now brokers land deals to protect the environment. By Tom Frank ’80
One geologist’s work for a confederation of Native American tribes provides an interesting intersection of his own scientific background with the tribes’ pursuit of self-determination. By John Mooney ’78
From Lobbyist to Land Lawyer
A fourth-generation Coloradan, Casey Padgett ’78 provides the legal muscle for the cleanup of public land. By Tom Frank ’80
From the forests of Belize to the wilds of New Hampshire, Jennifer O’Hara Palmiotto ’82 uses her passion for nature to help protect drinking water supplies. By Bonnie Blackburn Penhollow ’84
Cleaning Up Our Act
A day student from Watertown, Melinda Patterson Thompson ’95 has now worked on three continents to educate people and help change their behaviors toward the environment. By Julie Reiff
Technology in the Tropics
Students interested in the environment can take advantage of off-campus study options at the Maine Coast Semester and the Island School in the Bahamas. By Debbie Phipps
While pursuing her doctorate in geology, one alumna has fallen in love with its landscape and its people. By Bianca Perren ’93
Mike Fremont’s Journal
The son of North Americans, Bob Albert was born and raised in Caracas until the age of 11 and returned to his beloved Venezuela after college, looking for ways to improve health, education, agriculture, and animal welfare in the Turimiquire mountains. By Robert Albert Jr. ’66
A marine biologist and founder of Hawaii’s Sea Life Park and Oceanic Institute, Tap Pryor has put down roots as a farmer in the Cook Islands. By Tap Pryor ’49
DEPARTMENTS From the Editor Letters Alumni Spotlight Around the Pond Sport Course Notes
2 2 3 9 14 44
SC80 A.P. Environmental Science
Endnote: The Simple Life
By Zach Schonbrun ’05
On the Cover Underwater photography is a true passion for Roger Kirkpatrick ’06, an experienced diver who took the cover image while studying at the Island School in the Bahamas last semester (see page 38).
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: Find a friend’s new address or look up back issues of the Bulletin at www.TaftAlumni.com. 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.
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From the Editor I was fortunate to grow up in a small town in southern New Hampshire, at the end of a dirt road, next to a section of town forest, a local apple orchard, and neighbors with horses. We didn’t have a subject called “Environmental Science” then, but our town did have a growing conservation group and a superb naturalist who took local school groups on walks in the woods. I can still remember one walk in third grade with Jeff Smith, who was already becoming a local legend. Amazed by the beauty of the pearl like seeds hidden inside pink lady-slippers he pointed out or the clouds of spore “smoke” that billowed out of what we called puffballs, we were all learning to love nature. And loving it, most conservationists will tell you, is the
first step toward wanting to protect it. So it was with great excitement that I began to plan this issue, devoted to alumni efforts to protect our environment (which begins on page 17). Most of them have their own Jeff Smiths, whether it was faculty members Neil Currie ’41, Len Sargent, and Peter Tuozzolo, or their own relatives. And most talk about how important it is to share their love of nature with the next generation. Today’s students at Taft are lucky to have a variety of offerings in science (see page 44) and a couple of off-campus programs with strong environmental components as well (page 38). With any luck, there will be a similar issue of the Bulletin 20 years from now, highlight-
ing a whole new generation of alumni committed to making a difference by protecting and restoring the natural wonders around them. I hope I get to edit it.
personal files I retain your 1997 Summer Taft Bulletin. In it is Miller’s commencement address for that year. It is the wisest counsel for embarking young people I have ever read. I have copied and sent it to others (including my four children) well over 50 times. It is entitled “Road Signs,” and alerts young people to look for life’s signs that will be found on their roads ahead. I called the unmet Mr. Miller, complimented him for his address, and told him that while its message might be lost on many young graduates, it certainly was not lost on an older alum. I also related a story to him. When making an initial dozen copies of his remarks at my local copy store, before commencing, the clerk asked me, “Sir, do you have copyright
permission to reprint this?” I told Miller, “In a flash I recalled all of your words to the wise, but never heard you say anything about telling a little white lie for the greater good, and so I unhesitatingly said to the clerk: “Absolutely!” Miller roared. And my lie was not only forgiven, it was belatedly and laughingly authorized. If the Bulletin ever desires to fill its pages with some timeless wisdom, you have only your 1997 files to turn to for a reprint. It’s a gem.
—Julie Reiff 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
Dear Taft Bulletin,
I was sorry to read of the passing of the impressive and accomplished J. Irwin Miller ’27. He was a fellow Taftie I never met, and yet feel I know well. In my 2
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—Stan D. Donnelly ’71
Editor’s note Irwin Miller’s 1997 talk is available online at www.TaftAlumni.com, as are all back issues of the Taft Bulletin (minus class notes) beginning with Fall 1995. Click on “Publications” in the menu at left and then the cover of the issue you wish to see.
Alumni S P OT L I G H T
Richard Wright ’78, right, on the set of The Next Best Thing in 2000, with Madonna, Rupert Everett, director John Schlesinger on the left, along with Tom Rosenberg—the CEO of Lakeshore Entertainment. “It wasn’t a box office scorcher,” said Wright, “but it was a lot of fun to shoot.” RON BATSDORF
Producer Richard Wright ’78 has called Hollywood home for longer than he cares to admit. He is currently in last-minute preparation on Underworld 2, the sequel to the hit film released in 2003. “The first Underworld was a real under-the-radar project,” Wright said.
“We shot it in Hungary for $23 million and when it came out, no one knew what to expect. We had nowhere to go but up. This time we are shooting in Vancouver, the budget has more than doubled, and expectations are skyhigh. As the saying goes, ‘Be careful what you wish for.’ Now I know why. I guess these are good problems to have, but it’s nerve-wracking anyway.” Wright is also preparing The Exorcism of Emily Rose to begin shooting this fall, and Blood and Chocolate, slated to shoot in Romania next year. “This will be my third werewolf film in two years,” said Wright. “I must be getting good at it!” Finishing up for a spring 2005 release is Cave, a thriller about a team of spelunkers trapped deep in an underground cave system. Wright’s other film credits include Runaway Bride, The Mothman Prophecies, The Gift, and Arlington Road with actor Spencer Treat Clark ’05. “The thing about the film business is that you never know when you leave the house what’s going to happen that day—which is a good thing, I suppose. It sure keeps you on your toes. But every now and then you do find yourself pining for a nice 9-to-5 job in the suburbs.” Taft Bulletin Winter 2005
Architect Bruce Johnson ’67 isn’t exactly sure why he got involved in the rebuilding of Haiti. “I am convinced that I got involved in spite of myself,” he said. “I am about as far from a missionary as you can get and the only way I could be shaken out of my comfort zone was through a series of divine interventions.” Johnson made a trip over Christmas two years ago to Eben-Ezer Mission [www.ebenezermission.com] in Gonaïves, Haiti, organized by a group from Veritas Christian Academy, where his children Keli and Matthew go to school. “At the time I thought I was going to try to help the mission do something with solar energy, hand out some presents, and be done with it,” he said. Pastor Michel Morisset, a native Haitian, started the mission about 30 years
ago, and it has many different branches around Haiti in various states of disrepair, including churches, hospitals, and clinics. “When we got there,” said Johnson, “they were desperate for some help. We have tried starting a few programs, but most have not been very successful for various reasons, not the least of which was the revolution. One of the organizations that has grown out of all the chaos is Forum, which was started by the pastor and other leaders after he got the rebels to settle down and realize they were killing any hope for their own future.” In a country of eight million—the poorest in the Western Hemisphere—65 percent live on less than $1 a day and 50 percent are illiterate. “The country was starting very slowly to turn around,” he said, “with aid recognition from the International Donors Conference at the World Bank in July. I spent the last trip working on a design for a public market building prototype and a church, as well as some alternate more sustainable technologies for the big projects like sewage treatment. “Their infrastructure is a wreck,” he added. “It was such a culture shock on my first trip to see areas with a complete lack
James Driscoll ’96 won the Virginia Beach Open, his first career title. He finished with a tournament-record 15-under-par total of 273. The win pushed Driscoll from No. 23 to No. 9 on the money and all but locked up a berth on the PGA Tour this year. The top-20 money winners on the Nationwide Tour at the end of the year earn playing privileges in 2005. “There’s so much to play for (on the PGA Tour),’’ Driscoll told the Boston Herald. “It’s not just money. You’re playing against the best competition. There’s so much on the line it’s going to be pretty easy to get motivated. I’ve known for a long time that I wanted to play professional golf.” The two-time State Amateur champion stormed from behind to claim the Virginia Beach Open, his first professional victory. Driscoll was the 2000 US Amateur runner-up [Winter Bulletin 2001]. “I couldn’t have asked for a better year. Better than I ever thought it could have been,” Driscoll told the Boston Globe. “To win at this point in my career is beyond my wildest dreams.” 4
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SUSAN MICHAL/PGA TOUR
Driscoll Earns Spot on PGA Tour
of running water, garbage and wastewater treatment, and electricity. It was not a matter of disrepair; they never had it.” Many of the country’s hopes for recovery, however, were ruined by Hurricane Jeanne. “We were able to organize some emergency donations to help until the international groups got established, but the most recent reports are that CARE and Red Cross are pulling out because of the continued violence of raiding trucks, gang wars, etc. “Thanks to our group, Eben-Ezer has two wells and the only source of drinkable water in the region as well as the only operating clinic. We also bought and shipped them a large generator, so they have the only source of electricity. There is also shelter at the mission for the poor souls who have lost everything, but nowhere near enough food, or money to buy it.” The work is very rewarding, says Johnson, but overwhelming if you attempt more than one step at a time. Johnson has also been a designer for Habitat for Humanity, a contributing writer for Country’s Best Log Homes magazine, and consulting architect to St. Michael’s Church in Ligonier, Pennsylvania.
Ari Abramowitz ’91 Music Guru, 2005
SquashSmarts director Stephen Gregg ’93 with West Philadelphia students on the campus of Drexel University
Stephen Gregg ’93 has been named executive director of SquashSmarts, a major urban youth program that combines the sport of squash with academic tutoring and mentoring for low-income middle school students in West Philadelphia. The goal of SquashSmarts is to enhance academic achievement while fostering life skills and developing fitness. “The program fills a visible gap in the Philadelphia public school system,” says Gregg, “since no after-school teams or activities are offered in West Philadelphia middle schools.” Drexel University provides court and classroom space. The program recently celebrated its fourth anniversary in conjunction with the opening of a new classroom–office-technology center at Drexel. The celebration was covered by the local media with highlights televised on Comcast. Squash may serve as the hook, but at its core, SquashSmarts emphasizes individual attention through one-to-one tutoring and mentoring, Gregg added. “This personal attention, tailored to each
student’s needs over the course of a threeyear-long commitment, is what makes the program unique.” A four-year varsity squash member of the NCAA Division I Trinity Squash Team and an active member of the Philadelphia Squash Association and the Racquet Club of Philadelphia, Gregg served the past four years as director of Junior Development for the United States Squash Racquets Association. He says he welcomes the new challenges involved in leading SquashSmarts. “It’s much more hands-on,” he says. “For example, we organized the first and only community service squash camp offered in the U.S. last summer. Kids played squash in the morning and cleaned up the Wissahickon Valley Park in the afternoon. What could be better? “I love guiding this program, and my staff and I look forward to including more children from the area in the near future. At the end of the day,” adds Gregg “the greatest challenge—and the greatest reward—is the kids.”
Pockit Rockit is a compact, convenient, functional music guide for people who do not have the time to spend surfing the Net or reading encyclopedias to find music that appeals to them. “People get caught up in careers, families and, in short, life,” says author Ari Abramowitz. “They still enjoy music, but finding out about it unfortunately takes an increasingly distant back seat. The recording industry puts out 30,000–40,000 albums a year. That is an absurdly massive amount. Overwhelming, even. Many people don’t even know where to start. This is for them.” Pockit Rockit uses the classic, “If you like x, you’ll like y” concept. “We picked out 200 core artists,” he explained; “the subjectively determined, most ‘important’ musical artists of the past sixty years. For each of these artists, we’ve come up with 10 other artists who would be of interest to listeners who enjoy the core artist. We’ve written concise blurbs about every artist. We’ve also listed each artist’s two or three best albums so readers have a place to begin their discovery process.” There are even appendixes for people who enjoy discovering their music by mood or vibe, in such groupings as “Rainy Sunday Afternoon,” or “Everyday Sunshine.” Pockit Rockit is available through Amazon.com or at New York City’s two Tower Records (Greenwich Village and Lincoln Center). More locations may follow.
Atlantic Passages When Phil Cerny’s CD was released last year, it didn’t seem possible this was by the same alumnus who wrote books and chaired international panels on globalization and political economy. But indeed, Cerny ’63 is a professor as well as an interpreter of traditional folk music from North America and the British Isles. His album, Atlantic Passages, was released last year in the U.S. by Hudson Records and in the U.K. by Circuit Music. A professor of global political economy at Rutgers, he studied at Kenyon and the Institut d’Etudes Politiques, and received his Ph.D. from
the University of Manchester, England. He went on to teach at the universities of York, Leeds, and Manchester in the U.K., where, he says, “the traditional folk music scene is much better; there are lots of weekly clubs in pubs and a whole younger generation of performers and fans—not just aging ex-hippies like me. I already miss that here.” Making an Atlantic passage of his own this year, Cerny said, “Coming back to the U.S., I knew I had to make my 40-year dream of making a record into a reality. My first public performance as a folk singer,” he adds, “was on the stage at Taft just before a Saturday night movie.
Professor and folk singer Phil Cerny ’63 at the York (England) Folk Day in May
The Alumni A Passion for Wine
California’s Santa Lucia highlands of Monterey provide the ideal winemaking location for Cathy and Chris Weidemann ’85, who met while studying viticulture and enology at the University of California, Davis. While there, the two shaped their dream of founding a small winery based mainly on Rhone varietals. 6
Taft Bulletin Winter 2005
Before founding Pelerin Wines, Chris honed his craft as an assistant winemaker for Newton Vineyard and at Morgan Winery. “My first harvest job was in 1988,” says Chris, “at Freemark Abbey Winery, St. Helena, Napa Valley. I had driven solo across the States to start off on this path. I guess it took.” Chris performs almost all of the tasks of the winery operation. In addition to winemaking, he also runs the laboratory, accounting, bookkeeping, marketing, and sales (to some degree), grower relations, and broker relations. With an inaugural vintage in 2002, their current production is around 1,100 cases, which they expect to grow to about 2,500 cases over the next two to three years, and, ultimately, more. They chose the name Pelerin, meaning “pilgrim,” to symbolize their “quest to produce top-level wines” using traditional methods. To find out more, visit www.Pelerinwines.com.
In Your Cups
Wendy Roloson ’81, a partner of Spencer Roloson winery in San Francisco, has created a new mail-order wine club, In Your Cups. Roloson said she and her partner Sam Spencer are striving to create interesting wine tastings with detailed information that will act like an interactive guided tour, comparing and contrasting wines.
I had to make a decision whether to be a folk singer or to be a professor. “I figured the career opportunities were better with a regular paycheck and tenure—as well as a flexible timetable to fit some music in. I have always loved both the study of politics and doing folk music, and there are lots of links historically, too. So I have tried to keep up the music as more than a hobby, but the day job is great.” Cerny has also been a visiting professor or visiting scholar at Harvard University’s Center for European Studies, the Fondation Nationale des Sciences Politiques in Paris, as well as at
Dartmouth College, and the Brookings Institution among others. He is the author of a range of journal articles and book chapters, including “Globalisation and Public Policy Under New Labour” (with Mark Evans) in Policy Studies (January 2004). Cerny is also a past chair of the International Political Economy Section of the International Studies Association and currently a member of the ISA’s Long-Range Planning Committee, and has been a member of the executive committees of the British International Studies Association and the Political Studies Association of the U.K.
A Store for Discovery
“We hope the experience will give subscribers insight into weather, terroir, and wine-growing techniques. Of course, if they choose just to drink the wine with friends and a good meal, we won’t object.” Selections, mailed quarterly, will each contain four wines that might be from different vintages, or the same varietal in the same vintage, but from different vineyard sites. For more information, visit www.punched.net. Spencer and Roloson created Spencer Roloson Winery in 1998. Both Sam and Wendy come from varied backgrounds and say that their winery strives to make wines that “reflect and illuminate the inherent beauty of the fruit that comes from unique vineyards.” They produce several stylistically distinct bottlings of Syrah, Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, and Tempranillo and remain committed to long-term production of Rhone-style varietals in California.
Scott Reiner ’90 has opened a new wine store in New York City called Discovery Wines. Located at Avenue A and Houston, the 4,000-square-foot store is punctuated with high-tech kiosks to help customers learn about each wine simply by scanning the label. Reiner was named Merchant of the Month by the nonprofit Lower East Side Tenement Museum shortly after the store opened this fall. “It’s an underserved neighborhood,” says Reiner, a wine importer and distributor who is taking on his first retail venture. “We carry about 800 wines from around the world, but the focus is on less expensive wines.” Their web site offers a search engine with detailed information about each wine they carry as well as a “Food Match” feature to help find the perfect wine to match the perfect meal. It also includes their top ten list and information on upcoming tasting events at the store. One of Reiner’s investors in this ven-
ture is Bill McCarter ’67, a wine enthusiast he met at a Taft Telethon in the city a few years back. “At the telethon we never discussed wine. We went to dinner and became friends.” It was years later that the idea for the wine store came up. “Our goal,” says Reiner, “is to help you increase your knowledge as you explore the world of wines.” For more information visit www.discoverywines.com Scott Reiner ’90 with his father Alfred W. Reiner at the October opening of Scott’s East Village wine store: Discovery Wines
The Emptiness of Our Hands
A Lent Lived on the Streets Phyllis Cole-Dai and James Murray ’94 AuthorHouse, 2004
During Lent and Holy Week, 1999, Phyllis Cole-Dai and James Murray lived voluntarily on the streets of Columbus, Ohio, the nation’s 15th largest city. They didn’t go out on the streets to satisfy idle curiosity, or to experience a strange new world. They didn’t go out to find answers to questions, solutions to problems. They didn’t go out to save anyone, or to hand out donations of food and blankets. They went out to be as present as
possible to everyone they met—to love their neighbor as themselves. Doing so, they were reminded just how difficult the practice of compassion can be, especially because of personal judgments, assumptions, fears, and desires—all habits of mind that harden one’s regard for and behavior toward other people. The Emptiness of Our Hands: A Lent Lived on the Streets is a meditative narrative accompanied by nearly 30 blackand-white photographs, most of them shot by Murray using crude pinhole cameras that he constructed from trash. “This book will thrust you out the
door of your comfortable life, straight into the unknown,” they said. “Dare to go. Go not that you might be entertained, or even find answers to hard questions, but because there are people—lives—at stake.” Cole-Dai is a writer and composer now living in Brookings, South Dakota, with her husband Jihong and their son Nathan LanTian. Murray now lives with his wife Phoebe in Williamsburg, Massachusetts, and is studying management at Antioch’s New England Graduate School. He is a graduate of Kenyon College, where he majored in religious studies.
On and Off the Wall Recent and upcoming exhibits by alumni artists Ocean Paintings Chris Armstrong ’85
November 4–27, 2004 Beth Urdang Gallery Boston, Massachusetts Summer for Some New works by Marc Leuthold ’80, Langdon Quin ’66, and others
Chris Armstrong, Ascensionday, oil on masonite, 32 x 48 in., 2004
Taft Bulletin Winter 2005
November 4–December 23, 2004 Kraushaar Galleries New York, New York
AROUND THE POND
pond Reaching Out On the school’s ninth annual Community Service Day, students and faculty spanned out over parts of Litchfield and New Haven counties, helping out 65 different nonprofit organizations. Many of the groups have welcomed the school’s volunteers for several years now, but new projects this year included manning the phones at the National Public Radio telethon in Hartford, painting at Waterbury’s newly renovated Palace Theater prior to its grand reopening, and volunteering at the Thomaston Opera House and at the Brass City Ballet. As usual, Loueta Chickadaunce worked with her advanced art students painting murals, this year at Family Services of Greater Waterbury. Spanish-speaking students used their translation skills to help residents at La Casa Bienvenida complete a staterequired survey. This year students worked with the Waterbury chapter of Habitat for Humanity, while Felecia Washington —continued next page
Faculty member Ellen Hinman, right, at Girls’ Incorporated in Waterbury with Kara Iacoviello ’07, Spencer Barton ’06, Ashley Barronette ’07, and Sam Glazer ’06 PETER FREW ’75 Taft Bulletin Winter 2005
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—continued from page 9 Williams ’84 took students to help out at Rainbow Academy, a day-care center also in Waterbury. Once again, the school invited third graders from two local elementary schools to participate in campus workshops, hosting a record 145 visitors this year. Transporting all these volunteers involved the use of four hired buses, as well as the school’s three minibuses, four Suburbans, and two cars—in addition to most faculty and staff members driving their own vehicles. The Volunteer Council spent much of the prior afternoon assembling bag lunches for everyone to take with them.
“Overseeing Community Service Day for my second year in a row was incredibly time-consuming,” said coordinator Holly McNeill, “but just as incredibly rewarding. It’s so fun to hear kids’ responses to the opportunity to go out and make a difference, even when it’s hard for them to fit community service into their incredibly busy lives. So this one day is special for all of us.” Jacob Hammer ’05 leads an on-campus workshop in Korean-style Tang Soo Do with local third graders. SAMUEL P.C. DANGREMOND ’05
Paul Kim ’05 takes visiting students to lunch in the dining hall as part of the oncampus program. SAMUEL P.C. DANGREMOND ’05
Postcard from Watertown We won a resounding victory this fall in the ongoing prank war against Hotchkiss. The senior class joined forces with faculty members to outwit their Bearcat counterparts. After much debate as to what prank to execute, senior Will Karnasiewicz, through some suspicious contacts in the auto industry, was able to obtain a broken-down Ford Bronco for the class to use. On a chilly Tuesday night, the entire senior class met in the Day Student Parking Lot to paint the car (and enjoyed an outdoor pizza feed). Seniors Eric Roper and Calin Gunn equipped the “Taft-Mobile” with a stereo system, and Vernon Lentz, father of Seth ’05, graciously replaced the windows with layers of chicken wire in order to allow sufficient amounts of sound to escape. Finally, at 6 a.m. on Hotchkiss Day, a covert team of senior day students and faculty (namely Hotchkiss grad Colin Farrar) towed the car over to Lakeville. The unsuspecting campus woke to polka music blasting and an immobile car in the middle of their main circle. Their counterprank? Well, they forgot to do one. —Sean O’Mealia ’05
Taft Bulletin Winter 2005
AROUND THE POND
PETER FREW ’75
Batter Up “Baseball is my Zen,” said director Rick Doyle about his selection of Damn Yankees as the fall theater production. “This show was written back in 1955 when baseball was truly the national pastime and the Yankees were, even then, the evil empire!” Amid an outstanding cast, audiences raved about senior Don Molosi’s brilliant characterization as the devilish Mr. Applegate, and Monica Raymunt ’05 nearly stole the show as Lola with her fabulous singing and dancing. Senior Tory Church did a great job as the reporter, and upper mid Elizabeth Walle was outstanding in her Ethel Merman role. Finally, Mac Morris ’06 was convincing in the lead role as Joe Hardy in this “whimsical, slightly loony” look at the national pastime.
Damn Yankees was performed, with a live orchestra, as the annual Fritz C. Hyde Jr. Memorial Production,
which honors Fritz Hyde ’29 and is made possible by the support of his family and friends.
PETER FREW ’75
Visiting Author Reveals Source of Inspiration
Andre Dubus III, the author of this past summer’s schoolwide reading selection, House of Sand and Fog, talked to the assembled school community in September. Speaking about the writing process and where he gets his ideas, Dubus said, “I didn’t set out to write a depressing book, that is simply where
the story needed to go.” He told of a newspaper clipping he’d saved for many years about this woman whose house was foreclosed on, and only years later connected it with the story of an Iranian family he had known in college. The San Francisco Chronicle wrote of the novel, “It is rare these days to encounter a novel that follows the rules of Greek tragedy…Dubus is a taker of risks, and here he ups the ante by making his protagonist, an immigrant trying to establish a foothold in America…A craftsman of character and dialogue, Dubus has dared to push his limits.” Now a major motion picture (starring Ben Kingsley and Jennifer Connelly) and published in 25 countries, Dubus’s novel House of Sand and Fog was a fiction finalist for the National Book Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, the L.L. Winship/PEN New England Award, Booksense Book of
the Year, and was an Oprah Book Club Selection and New York Times bestseller. Dubus is also the author of a collection of short fiction, The Cage Keeper and Other Stories, and the novel Bluesman. His work has been included in The Best American Essays of 1994, The Best Spiritual Writing of 1999, and The Best of Hope Magazine. He has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, the National Magazine Award for fiction, the Pushcart Prize, and was a finalist for the Prix de Rome Fellowship from the Academy of Arts and Letters. A member of PEN American Center and the executive board of PEN New England, Dubus has served as a panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts and has taught writing at Harvard University, Tufts University, the University of Massachusetts at Lowell, and Emerson College. He lives in Massachusetts with his wife Fontaine and their three children. His sister Madeleine is a senior at Taft. Taft Bulletin Winter 2005
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PETER FREW ’75
A group of nearly two dozen Tafties volunteered their time and energy in October to participate in the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides
Against Breast Cancer event at Hartford’s Bushnell Park. Senior Kate Terenzi, who lost her mother to breast cancer last summer,
Taft in Hong Kong Arthur Poon ’93, Thomas Wu’ 90, Catherine Cheng ’95, Daniel Lam ’75, Jacqueline Chow ’95, and Vincent Ip ’96 at the Hong Kong Country Club for a Taft gathering during a visit by Admissions Director Ferdie Wandelt ’66 and Headmaster Willy MacMullen ’78 PHOTO COURTESY OF PAT CHOW
Taft Bulletin Winter 2005
organized the school contingent. “She was a tour de force,” said adviser Jennifer Zaccara, who also participated. “She gave us all our marching orders at the vans in Headmaster’s Circle, collecting registration forms (she even had extras on hand), collecting donations, giving directions from MapQuest, etc. She got everyone fired up once we arrived in Hartford on an extremely cold morning. She is a determined, dedicated, compassionate girl.” Faculty member and Volunteer Program coordinator Baba Frew called the event “a glorious yet emotional fivemile walk. This was a caring group of kids,” she added. “I want everyone to know about their generosity of spirit.” Other students participating were seniors Mia Borders, Cyrus McGoldrick, Bruno Daniel, Carolyn Luppens, Amanda Frew, Michelle Bennett, Ashley Gambone, Kendall Adams, Sara Rubin, Jess Giannetto, and Clare Mooney, upper mids Shannon Ordon and Casey Bartlett, and middler Neal McCloskey, who joined the more than 4,000 walkers that raised $500,000 for breast cancer programs and research. For more information visit www.acsevents.org.
AROUND THE POND
New Corporate Trustees Join Board LESLIE LITTLEJOHN P’03,’05 Leslie Littlejohn received a bachelor of arts in 1976 from the University of Connecticut and began her career in the fashion business as a fashion editor with Glamour magazine. She went on to work at the McCall Pattern Co. and Harper’s Bazaar. In 1999, she and a partner established Littlejohn’s, a children’s clothing store in New Canaan. Littlejohn has served on the board of New Canaan Country School, the YMCA, and was a founding board member and chair of Stepping Stones Museum for Children in Norwalk, Connecticut. Leslie and her husband Angus are also involved with Middlesex School and the University of Pennsylvania. They are the parents of Lindsay ’05 and Angus ’03 as well as the former heads of Taft’s Parents’ Committee. The family lives in New Canaan, Connecticut.
JACK WOLD ’71 A geologist by training, Jack Wold is an owner of the Wold Companies—a family business headquartered in Denver, Colorado, devoted to oil and gas exploration and development services. Jack, his brother, and his father John ’34 formed the company in 1983, which is active in the domestic energy, mining, and livestock industries. Wold had served as president of the Wyoming Geological Association of Petroleum Geologists and the Sierra Madre Foundation—a collaborative effort of the Geology Departments of Cornell, Harvard, and Yale. He has also been a board member of the First Interstate Bank of Wyoming and a founding board member of Project Safe, combating family violence and substance abuse. He is the founder of the Business Advisory Committee and spearheaded the opening of three Lighthouse (charter) schools in Casper, Wyoming, serving also as president of Natrona County School Board. A graduate of Colorado College and Cornell University, he lives in Denver with his wife Hildy. They have three children, Court ’02, Holly, and Ally.
The Chris Norman Ensemble performed a few selections at School Meeting this fall, giving students a taste of their music before a free concert that evening in Walker Hall, which was also open to the public. This popular ensemble brings to life the energetic traditional dance music of Maritime Canada, Scotland, and Ireland with an emphasis on exploring points of contact with the music’s roots in 16th–19th century Europe. With founder Chris Norman playing flute; Andy Thurston, guitar; Jamie Blachy, bass, and Nick Halley, percussion, “the ensemble’s programs combine originality, intelligence, fun, and sheer mastery that have won them respect from audiences, presenters, and colleagues alike in North America, Europe and Asia,” said Arts Department Head Bruce Fifer.
At the heart of the group is Chris Norman, who has contributed to groups as diverse as the The Baltimore Consort, Skyedance, Helicon, Chatham Baroque, Concerto Caledonia, as well as Hollywood soundtracks (including The Titanic) and seven solo recordings. His work as a performer, composer, recording artist, teacher, and director of the Boxwood Festival and Workshop has played a significant role in reviving the flute in traditional Scottish and Canadian music. Other events in Walker Hall last fall included Paul Halley and Friends’ presentation of “Angel on a Stone Wall”; an evening of chamber music performed by the school’s adjunct music faculty Mary Costanza, Lisa Laquidara, Lou Romao, and Ray Pierpont; and a student coffeehouse.
PETER FREW ’75
“Titanic” Flutist Back at Taft
Taft Bulletin Winter 2005
sport Fall Season Wrap Up by Steve Palmer FOOTBALL 1–7 A competitive opening loss to Lawrenceville put the team in a tough position with several key injuries including the loss of starting middle linebacker Quartie Durell ’05. The Rhinos battled
gamely against Deerfield (0–0 at halftime, 19–3 loss) and Trinity Pawling (35–21 loss), before dropping a heartbreaker to Choate, 14–6. The team finally broke through with a dramatic 22–14 overtime win against Loomis. Captain David Halas ’05 caught the
winning touchdown from senior QB Jon McDonald, upper mid Tommy Piacenza converted one PAT and narrowly missed a 42-yard field goal, senior Victor Smith ran for one touchdown and a crucial twopoint conversion, while senior Pat Wilson made the critical interception late in the game to send it into overtime. Stephen Edwards ’05 was named to the All New England Team for Class A.
BOYS’ CROSS COUNTRY 8–3 Solid wins over Hotchkiss and Northfield Mount Hermon made for the best record in five years. The team was led by tricaptain Peter Murphy ’05, who placed fourth at the New England Championship race and ran the second fastest time ever by a Taft runner on the home course (created in 1992). As a group, the varsity also posted the fastest average time on the home course for any Taft team over the past 12 years. In two inches of new snow at Hotchkiss on the final Saturday of the season, they ran strongly to finish sixth out of the 12 Division I New England teams. Seniors Eric Roper, Sean O’Mealia, Will Ireland, and Spencer Molly Malloy ’06 and Abbey Cecchinato ’05 on the attack against a strong Hotchkiss defense 14
Taft Bulletin Winter 2005
Clark have run on the varsity together for three straight years and will be missed.
GIRLS’ CROSS COUNTRY 0–9 This was the largest girls’ team ever at Taft, with over 30 runners, many of them young. The team’s #1 runner, lower mid Brooke Hartley, won the first meet versus Choate and Kingswood before missing most of the season due to injury, and upper-mid captains Kaitlin Hardy and Jane Kinney also missed some time. Senior Michelle Bennett and upper mid Natalie Lescroart were the most consistent performers for a team that could be very strong down the road.
FIELD HOCKEY 13–4 New England Semifinalists The team outscored opponents 56–23 on their way to a 12–3 regular season record and a #4 ranking among New England Prep teams. Big wins over Choate (4–1)
Captain Jon Carlos ’05 on the snowy final day of the season versus Hotchkiss in a tightly contested 3-1 loss
and undefeated Deerfield (1–0) set up a dramatic overtime victory over Deerfield in the first round of the tournament. The Rhinos held undefeated Greenwich Academy scoreless in the first half (0–0) of the semifinals, but Taft could not prevail, falling 3–1 in end. Senior defenders Nikki Glazer and Carter Hibbs were named to the All-New England Tournament team, and seniors Abbey Cecchinato and Jill Fraker were Western New England and Founders League All-Stars. This wellbalanced team gave up only 1.2 goals per game, while every forward had at least one goal and one assist during the season.
GIRLS’ SOCCER 15–3 New England Finalists For the fifth year in a row, Taft was ranked as one of the top four prepschool teams in New England, and for Blair Weymouth '05 helped lead the soccer team to a 3–0 win over Deerfield and on to the New England Championship Finals. Taft Bulletin Winter 2005
the second time in three years they made it to the championship game. In the first round, Taft avenged an earlier loss with a convincing 2–0 win over Hotchkiss. The semifinal contest over a very skilled and undefeated Nobles team (the defending New England Champs) was inspiring, with Taft grinding out the hard-fought victory (1–0). The finals were a replay of the battle under the lights at Taft earlier in the season; in that night game, Loomis took the lead The triple threat: Captain Meaghan Martin '05, Alex Lauren '06, and Tracy Dishongh '05 were an intimidating front for the undefeated volleyball team.
twice, with Taft storming back to win the game, 4–3, with a minute to go. In the New England finals, Taft again tied up Loomis in the waning minutes but dropped the overtime decision, 3–2. Senior captain Mackenzie Snyder has been one of the best goaltenders ever for this successful program, and senior defenders Tania Giannone, Molly Davidson, and Sara Dalton made things very difficult for opponents all year. Postgrad Blair Weymouth played wonderfully all season at center midfield, upper mid Shayna Bryan (16 goals) led the team in scoring, and captain-elect Meg Edwards ’06 led the team in assists.
BOYS’ SOCCER 7–7–3 After a slow start, the team went on a 6–1–2 stretch, outscoring opponents 30–6, but two very close losses to league rivals Choate and Loomis ended their chances of a New England Tournament berth. While this team struggled to score goals at times, they outshot many opponents and came within a lucky bounce of defeating some of the best teams in New England. The heart of this squad was senior Jon Carlos, a superbly skilled and tireless midfielder who was named to the All-League Team for the second year. The team will sorely miss the 15 seniors who were such an important part of their success, including three-year varsity players Camp Walker, Alastair Smith, and Jamie Wheeler, along with the solid postgraduates Mike Dodge and Robbie Bryan.
VOLLEYBALL 18–1 New England Finalists Founders League Champions The #1 ranked team marched through an undefeated regular season (16–0) to earn their second Founders League and New England titles. For the second year in a row, Taft had the New England Tournament title within its grasp, but the team just didn’t have their top game against a Choate team they had defeated twice during the season. Still, this was an extraordinary crew, filled with senior talent, including New England MVP Meaghan Martin ’05 and three-year captain and All New England Player Reisa Bloch ’05. Seniors Tracy Dishongh, Jessica Lee, and Sha-kayla Crockett were also named to the All-New England and All-Founders League teams. With Martin, Bloch and Co., Coach Ginger O’Shea has put together a four-year record of 63–10, with two trips to the semis and two to the championship finals—one of the great teams in the school’s history. For more information and winter team schedules, visit www.taftsports.com 16
Taft Bulletin Winter 2005
N O N U T S I B I PA R T I V:
Serving Environment the
In his memoirs, founder Horace Taft recounts how Harley Roberts was “troubled in regard to the beautiful region between Watertown and Thomaston, feeling the whole section ought to belong to the public.” Taft listened while his friend vented and then asked why he didn’t do it himself. To which Roberts replied, “I will, how much will you give?” Both men gave a thousand dollars each, and Roberts raised $45,000 more, acquiring the land that is today Black Rock State Park. Giving back, working toward the public good, is exactly what the two men had in mind when they chose the school’s motto: Not to be served but to serve. In our fourth installment in a series of winter issues designed to highlight alumni who exemplify the school motto— this issue is devoted to graduates who’ve dedicated their careers to helping the environment, following those on alumni in the military, ministry, and education. At the outset, it was clear that we had a number of likely candidates. Only a year ago we included an article by Joyce Poole ’74, a world-renowned expert on
elephants, who—like her father Bob Poole ’50 before her—has devoted her life to conservation. And before that we highlighted the work of John Gwynne ’67, vice president of the Wildlife Conservation Society and creator of the Bronx Zoo’s pioneering Congo Gorilla Forest Exhibit. Over the years there have been many others—the work of Liz Barrett-Brown ’75 with the Natural Resources Defense Council, Jill Bermingham Isenhart ’82 explaining the “Meaning of Greening,” Kem Appel ’50 and his backyard aviary— to name only a few.
So we thought we’d dig a little deeper this time, scouring the class notes and raiding the database. But what careers do we search for? Not many of our graduates list “environmentalist” as their occupation. We broadened the search criteria and came up with an impressive cross section of scientists, lawyers, farmers, and activists. They work every day for cleaner air, cleaner water, and to protect open places for future generations, giving back in ways that would have made our founder proud. —Julie Reiff
NON UT SIBI PART IV:
A Clean Lake Legacy Former director of ornithology for the Florida Audubon Society, Gian Basili ’83 shifted gears five years ago, taking on a $120 million restoration project to remove pollutants from a central Florida lake.
By Bonnie Blackburn Penhollow ’84
When Gian Basili was three years old, his Montessori teacher noted his “engrossing interest in nature.” That interest has translated into a career cleaning up one of the most polluted lakes in Florida through cutting-edge practices that may well become the model for the rest of the nation. 18
Taft Bulletin Winter 2005
Despite his early proclivities, it wasn’t until college that Basili’s interest in natural systems really took hold. (As a student at Taft, he says, Al Reiff Sr. discouraged him from taking an ornithology class!—in favor of the more rigorous A.P. Biology.)
Gian Basili ’83, with colleague Barbra Sapp, observing birds at the Lake Apopka restoration area in Florida. MAT O’MALLEY/SJRWMD
While working as a summer intern at a Columbia University lab studying antibiotic resistance genes, Basili would watch a pair of kestrels (small falcons)
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that perched on the lab’s windowsills, 30 stories above the Hudson River, to devour their prey. Fascinated, Basili returned to Colorado College in the fall and began studying birds and natural systems ecology. He took part in field studies along the Colorado River that documented the recovery of peregrine falcons in the West from their near extinction due to devastating pesticides like DDT. “We found nesting falcons in places they had not been observed in more than 25 years,” he said. “I was awed by the feeling of working in nature, and I was awed by witnessing the recovery of a species that at one time was so close to extinction. It was during that time that I realized that my career would be directed toward wildlife ecology and conservation biology.” After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in biology, Basili earned a master’s and a doctorate in wildlife ecology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He studied the population decline of the dickcissel, a Neotropical migratory songbird that breeds on the prairies of the Midwestern United States and winters in northern South America. That work led to a position as director of ornithology for the Florida Audubon Society. In 1999, Basili shifted gears, taking a position with the St. Johns River Water Management District in Florida. He is now the senior project manager for the Lake Apopka Restoration Project, a $120 million investment by the state of Florida to remove pollutants from the central Florida lake. The lake’s decline began in 1941 when a dike was built to isolate 20,000 acres of marshes so they could be drained and converted for agricultural use. Increasing agricultural productivity was encouraged to support the war effort, but in 1947, the once clear-water lake—renowned worldwide for its largemouth bass fishery—experienced its first algae bloom,
and it has persisted ever since. The algae thrived on excess nutrients, most of which came from the farming operations. To fix the problem, the state decided to buy up and retire farms to prevent further agricultural runoff that pours nutrient-laden storm water into the lake. They also had to manage the pollution already in the lake, One way is to harvest gizzard shad, he explained, a fish that becomes a “phosphorus factory” when it eats phosphorus-laden items from the lake. Yet another experimental technology that seems to be having a positive effect is to move water through marshes, allowing nature itself to remove much of the nutrient contamination. Complicating the restoration effort is the presence of long ago banned substances known as organochlorines—pesticides that persist in the soil—and, in 1998 and 1999, flooding of former farmlands that led to a die-off of fish-eating birds that had migrated through the area. The lessons learned during that event have led to new concepts in agricultural land restoration, Basili noted. “Preventing pollution and cleaning up known problem areas is a complex problem that often comes with a huge price tag,” he noted. “We need to continue being aggressive on pollution prevention and remediation (clean up), because if not, we will unfairly be passing the problem to future generations.” Much of his time is spent dealing with budgets, schedules, and in meetings with other agencies. Basili admits he misses the scientific aspects of his prior career. Still, “understanding the business side of natural resource management allows you to generate the financial support that can translate into the actual work on the ground,” he said. “Successful large-scale projects require more than
science. They are the result of good public policy that provides resources to study the problem and implement solutions. “It takes time and planning but it’s inspirational to put the principles of conservation biology into action.” Ultimately, the goal is to improve the water quality, habitat value, and recreational value of Lake Apopka, and the lake is already responding to restoration efforts. This year’s water quality has been the best recorded in more than 25 years. One aspect of Lake Apopka that attracted Basili is that the region “is famous in the bird-watching community as a place that harbors tremendous numbers and diversity of birds,” he said. “Even though there are problems with contaminants at this site, these problems won’t be here forever, and the site has great potential to benefit bird populations in the future.” The lessons Basili and his team are learning from the Lake Apopka project have implications worldwide as other areas begin to deal with the lingering effects of agricultural chemical use and other forms of pollution. “The practice of restoration ecology will make major contributions this century to the longterm health of this planet.” “I am encouraged to keep up the work of improving the environment because I want to be a good ancestor. The agency I work for provides the resources and leadership to plan for the long term. We are helping to fix certain environmental problems that our generation inherited, and we are leaving a legacy of conservation lands and restoration areas that will help protect natural systems and the quality of life for generations to come.” Bonnie Blackburn Penhollow ’84 is a freelance writer living in Fort Wayne, Indiana, with husband Steve and daughter Emma. Taft Bulletin Winter 2005
NON UT SIBI PART IV:
All Things Arctic While pursuing her doctorate in geology, one alumna has fallen in love with its landscape and its people.
By Bianca Perren â€™93
Taft Bulletin Winter 2005
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There is a certain quickening of the pulse that I have come to associate with the beginning of Arctic summer fieldwork, searching through the frosted glass windows of a ski-equipped Twin Otter for the first glimpse of the muted palette of blues and browns, of ice and mountains and open stretches of crystalline arctic sky. The feeling is partly of terror but mostly of being at the edge of the known world, of plummeting into the realm of Adolfus Greeley and Robert Peary, tins of creamery butter, canvas Mt. Logan tents, HF radio communication, wolves, muskoxen, and gyrfalcons. I first arrived in the Arctic on day one of my master’s degree. I had just, 24 hours earlier, graduated from Vassar College with a geology degree, parted ways with my NYC-bound classmates, left verdant upstate New York, and found myself at 79 degrees north in a “springlike” 10 degrees below Celsius, 24-hour sunlit Ellesmere Island in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. We were a team of six: two wellseasoned professors (who shortly abandoned us) and four graduate students—most of us new to the delights of a summer in the High Arctic. Our task was fairly simple: to extract from the nearby 90-meter-deep lake—through two meters of ice—a suite of sediment cores that would be used to retrace climatic changes in the region over the last 2,550 years. Once completed, we spent the rest of our field season taking lake measurements, calculating the discharge of the river, maintaining a weather station, and (less formally) exploring, painting, and
hiking around the raw mountainous expanses of Ellesmere Island. During our two months there, we witnessed the transition from spring to high summer: the thawing of tundra ponds scattered across the valley floor, the unfurling of the first fragile tundra flowers along the edge of the lake, muskoxen picking their way along the precipitous scree slopes, the lake ice flooding, candling, and receding from the shore in the warmest days, freak snowstorms in July, and evening visits of curious arctic wolves. Since that first amazing field season, I have been hooked, both on the Arctic in general and on paleoclimatology. I have been back to the Arctic more or less annually, in both academic and not-so academic pursuits: setting up weather stations on an icecap on northeast Ellesmere Island, sampling lakes on the west coast of Greenland, driving boats and catching falcons in northwest Greenland, catching and dissecting Arctic Char in Spitsbergen. My current Ph.D. research continues on in much the same vein as my first research project in the Arctic—I retrace climatic changes over the last 10,000 years by looking at fossilized algae in Greenlandic lake sediments. From the biotic changes in the sediment cores, it is possible to infer how the climate system has evolved since the last Ice Age, and more importantly, how the Arctic has changed in recent centuries in response to global warming and atmospheric pollution, and what that portends for the future.
Despite a rather obvious love of the Arctic at first sight, I was drawn into arctic environmental science by a few factors. From the age of 13 onward, I spent my summers on canoe trips in northern Ontario, where I developed an interest in lakes and environmental issues. I first became interested in all things paleoenvironmental during my senior year at Taft in Peter Tuozzolo’s historical geology course. But it was probably not until college, when I spent a semester at the Center for Northern Studies in northern Vermont—taking classes in Arctic archaeology, winter ecology, and Quaternary studies—that I really solidified my interest in the Arctic environment. Certainly the touchdown on Ellesmere Island in May 1998 set that interest in stone. As my remaining time in my Ph.D. dwindles, and the stacks of papers on my desk reach unsustainable heights, it is hard to think ahead to what I will do when I finish. My interest in the Arctic is in its landscape and people, the history of both and the future of both. And with such a terrifying picture of its future with global warming, there is plenty to do, but I hope also to keep catching the thrilling first glimpses of those blue and brown, icy landscapes before touchdown. Bianca Perren ’93 sent this article from Norway, where she is a Marie Curie Fellow at the University of Bergen. She is pursuing her doctoral degree in geology at the University of Toronto. When not at the university, she can be found in the printmaking studio or planning her next trip North.
Bianca Perren ’93 with a peregrine falcon in Kangerlussuaq, West Greenland Taft Bulletin Winter 2005
NON UT SIBI PART IV:
Mike Fremontâ€™s Journal A canoe racer for more than forty years, Mike Fremont â€™40 is now racing to save the rivers he loves.
By Julie Reiff
Taft Bulletin Winter 2005
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“Mike Fremont’s Journal” is a blog of sorts on the web site of Rivers Unlimited, a conservation group he helped start back in 1972. His ambition started with saving Ohio’s Great Miami River, but over the years his vision has grown. Rivers Unlimited is a statewide group in Ohio created by citizens to protect and restore its rivers, and is the oldest such group in the nation. “We work to restore, maintain, and improve the 61,000 miles of rivers and streams in the state,” Fremont explains. “The condition of our river waters and corridors affects our economy, our health, our environment, our quality of life, the value of our property and the sustainability of our communities. Protected natural rivers are vital to all of us. We will investigate, research, and collaborate on ways to support and care for the river in your community. “I got involved with Rivers Unlimited before it was born because I was, and remain, a marathon canoe racer and had been told that our practice river was threatened by a highway that would move it, cross it, and parallel it. “My partner and I had a 1954 Cadillac hearse fitted with a canoe rack, and our car mechanic—all greasy and smoking a cigar—slid out from under the hearse on his dolly and said, ‘Do you know what they’re doing to your river?’ I said, ‘Whaddya mean, my river?’ He said, ‘Where you guys work out!’ So I asked, ‘What’re they doing?’ He said, ‘If you’d get out of your X#%* canoe long enough to find out, you might want to do something about it!’ So I did.” Fremont was not only the founder but also the president of Rivers Unlimited for 33 years, stepping down this year
so he could “pursue some heavy stuff,” but he still keeps up his journal. That journal may seem like a soapbox at times, addressing all manner of ways we can reduce our impact on the planet and improve our health and quality of life at the same time. In defense of the environment, his essays tackle such diverse topics as diet and nutrition, federal budgets and the economy, public health, agriculture, gravel mining, recreation, and land values. Above all, Fremont advocates a healthy lifestyle. As Americans, he says, “We are fat, sick, and inactive. If we moved to a better diet we would charge up this great national battery with higher productivity and enormous savings.” Fremont has helped start many other community action groups as well, including American Rivers in Washington, D.C. (the nation’s principal riversaving organization), River Network in Portland, Oregon; the Ohio Valley Water Coalition, and Ohio Greenways. With wife Marilyn Wall, he founded Friends of the Great Miami in 1998. His dedication has not gone unnoticed. Among his many honors, Fremont has received the Ohio Conservation Achievement Award, the Hyatt Community Legal Service Award, American Rivers Lifetime Achievement Award, the League of Ohio Sportsmen/Ohio Wildlife Federation’s Water Conservationist of the Year, and the Ohio Environmental Council’s and Rivers Unlimited’s Lifetime Achievement awards. He was also inducted into Ohio Greenways Hall of Fame, and the United States Canoe Association awards the Mike Fremont Conservation Award in his honor.
Fremont wrote a guest column for the Cincinnati Post titled “Make it clean and attractive and they will come! An environmental way to bring jobs and development.” Quality of life has enormous economic value, he argues, noting that tourism and travel are Ohio’s second largest industry, after agriculture. “We know how rivers can help the regional economies they flow through. Our seven years of River Resource Economics have shown the likelihood that most degraded rivers hide their great potential to improve the regional economy. If restored, their benefits include increased property values, tax base, recreation and park land, better public image, and amenities for tourism and new settlement far exceed the costs of restoration.” Promoting recreational use of the Great Miami River, Fremont and a friend paddled the entire length of the river in 2003 in a lightweight racing canoe. “The trip was great fun,” he said, “with an accomplished racer friend in his state of the art racing canoe (weighing perhaps 25 pounds and tipsy). In chilly October we had to do more than 50 miles within daylight hours—or about 10 hours each day. One of us was 65, the other 81, and the only place we had trouble was at a pipeline crossing (an unnatural hazard) where we turned over, swam, and recovered. “We got a lot of pictures,” he said, “and really got to know that river in its transition from an industrial to a recreational one. And moving a canoe fast is what we love to do!” Julie Reiff has been the editor of this magazine since 1988 and continues to live on campus with husband Al ’80 and their son Alex.
Mike Fremont ’40 at the 2004 National Championship races on the Au Sable River in Michigan in August Taft Bulletin Winter 2005
NON UT SIBI PART IV:
A Venture Capitalist for Land Conservation A former director for Trout Unlimited and a founder of the River Network, Tom Macy â€™61 now brokers land deals to protect the environment.
By Tom Frank â€™80
Taft Bulletin Winter 2005
In the early 1970s, Tom Macy was a stockbroker in San Francisco, so it’s not surprising that he learned about the business that would change his life from a front-page story in the Wall Street Journal. What is surprising is the nature of that business—land conservation. The article highlighted efforts of a then-obscure group called the Nature Conservancy to raise money to protect the Seven Sacred Pools on Maui—an unspoiled area ideal for hiking and swimming that was being threatened by development. Macy, who grew up exploring the trails of a national park next to his home in north-central New Jersey, had a swift reaction: “That’s perfect.” “I called the head of the Nature Conservancy in San Francisco and just stormed in there,” Macy recalls. In a short period, Macy and Huey Johnson, the conservancy’s western director, would create the Trust for Public Land, a conservation group modeled after the conservancy and which helped preserve part of the Sawtooth Wilderness in Idaho. In the late 1970s, Macy became the conservancy’s western representative, and in 1985 he created the new group, Conservation Fund, which has helped protect more than 4 million acres. As the fund’s Colorado-based western director, Macy has helped pioneer the growing land conservation movement, a private-sector style of environmentalism that uses business deals to avoid or limit development on land that is considered significant as open space, wildlife habitat, or recreational area. “The thing I like about this work is we’re not activists,” Macy says. “This is a business. Money changes hands. We’re almost like venture capitalists for land conservation.” Macy completed a typical deal last summer when he helped protect a scenic
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4,300-acre sheep ranch perched on the edge of Colorado’s spectacular Glenwood Canyon. The Bair Ranch, started in 1919, had been passed down through generations of the Bair family until it reached two brothers who considered selling the valuable property to developers. As conservationists swung into action, Macy got involved, at first convincing the Bair brothers to hold off on a sale and then cobbling together $5.1 million from the federal government, state and local conservation funds, and individual donors including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The deal, which took three years to complete and made local headlines, effectively buys the development rights from the Bairs; the brothers will continue to own the property but with a permanent restriction, called an easement, that bars them from selling to a developer while allowing them to build limited amenities such as a house for their families. Similar deals have helped protect the Chesapeake Bay and the Everglades, tallgrass prairies in Illinois, farms in Michigan, a 300,000-acre ranch in New Mexico, and 277,000 acres near some of Alaska’s most extraordinary landscapes. Land conservation draws mild criticism from both sides—both from some public officials wary of taxpayer money going to private property owners who are often wealthy themselves, and from hard-core environmentalists who cringe at the limited development that is typically allowed and at the ties between conservation groups and industry. Macy’s Conservation Fund and the Nature Conservancy—now the world’s largest conservation group with $3 billion in assets—have worked on a multimillion dollar deal to preserve the Hearst family’s 83,000-acre cattle ranch in California. The board of the
Arlington, Va.-based fund includes Nelson A. Rockefeller Jr. and the CEO of Bechtel Corp., a San Francisco construction company that is one of largest U.S. contractors in Iraq. Conservationists say they generate millions in private contributions to protect land that government cannot buy itself and avoid divisive arguing that often unfolds when government tries to restrict development through land-use regulations. “It’s not argumentative. It’s solutionoriented. It’s in the marketplace,” Macy says before adding hyperbolically, “You’re still an American, not a communist. It’s a job, you get paid.” It was precisely the business aspect that appealed to Macy, a hockey standout at Taft and Hamilton College who served four years in the Marine Corps, including a year in Vietnam. He won a Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, a Bronze Star for Valor, a Navy Commendation Medal and the Navy Combat Air Medal. “I didn’t want to be an effete, pipe-smoking intellectual who attends seminars and pontificates about conservation,” says Macy, a self-described “environmentalist with a beard from Boulder” who has been a national director for Trout Unlimited and American Rivers and a founder of the River Network, which helps conserve rivers and watersheds. “I wanted to be in the hurly-burly marketplace,” Macy adds. “My main talent, if you ask any of my classmates, was on the hockey rink, not in the classroom. I love negotiating, doing deals, which is what my life has been since I got into land conservation.” A former reporter for the Denver Post, Tom Frank ’80 covers national security for USA Today.
Tom Macy ’61 fly-fishing on the Dean River in British Columbia, just before releasing a steelhead trout. Taft Bulletin Winter 2005
NON UT SIBI PART IV:
Tribal Waters One geologist’s work for a confederation of Native American tribes provides an interesting intersection of his own scientific background with the tribes’ pursuit of self-determination.
By John Mooney ’78
Seth Makepeace ’76 at the Flathead River in Montana
From the majestic peaks and fertile valleys of western Montana, Seth Makepeace ’76 may hold a different view than most on the need to protect and preserve the environment. Seth’s work is on behalf of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes 26
Taft Bulletin Winter 2005
of the Flathead Nation Reservation, a 1.2 million-acre tract of open waterways, forests, and 10,000-foot peaks. The environment has always been a strong influence for many of North America’s indigenous tribes, a source of their spirituality, sustenance and culture.
For the Salish and Kootenai, that meant for thousands of years much of the region spanning from what is now Wyoming into western Canada. Since joined under the Hellgate Treaty of 1855, their approximately 7,000 members adopted a home in Montana that is a fraction the size of their
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ancestral lands, running between Missoula and Glacier National Park. But beyond the cultural and spiritual ties, the land’s natural resources have also become integral to the tribes’ more modern quests for greater sovereignty and economic stability. That is where Seth comes in. As staff hydrologist, he is one of the people in charge of overseeing the tribes’ water resources, from helping make sure the groundwater remains plentiful to protecting the more fragile streams that are vital to the reservation’s fisheries. A geologist by training, Seth says his work in the region surrounding the massive Flathead Lake and the Flathead River provides an interesting intersection of his own scientific background with the tribes’ pursuit of self-control. “Probably the most fundamental issue for the tribes is sovereignty and exercise in sovereign rights,” he said recently. “To make it work for me is to find that balance between being quite a technical person and working within that (tribal) framework, which is often confusing and convoluted to an outsider.” Indeed, his work comes in many forms, including the ongoing tugof-war over water rights. Although the region has not faced the severe water shortages that exist elsewhere in the West, it has not lessened the importance of ongoing negotiations, in which Seth is involved, between the state of Montana and the tribes. “Indian water rights are all about sovereignty and controlling the resources within their treaty-declared areas,” he said. “It’s an issue moving all across the West right now ... an area of fear and uncertainty. And we’re in the heart of it.” Some of his most satisfying work has been in helping undo decades of damage on the reservation and to restore rivers and their beds, while in turn preserving the wildlife that make their homes there.
An ongoing project has been the restoration of the Jocko River to help protect the bull trout, a species listed under the federal Endangered Species Act. “We are doing it right, within the context of the watershed and putting the pieces together,” he said. “It is understanding when to do active restoration, when to purchase the land, how to do it holistically—looking at the stream, the flood plain, the biological features, the plant life. “We’re putting that package together really quite well,” he said. “It’s good to do something right like that, and the tribes have really given us free rein to do that.” Tribal members, who own only about half of the reservation’s land, have also been witness to some of Montana’s fastest development growth. Protecting the land from pollution has been largely left to the federal and state governments, but the tribes have also stepped up their role. Seth helped them become the first Native Americans to gain important regulations over industrial polluters under the Clean Water Act, specifically in regulating waterway dischargers. “Seth’s really left his mark here,” said Bill Foust, manager of the tribes’ water division and Seth’s boss. “He’s been involved with the fisheries, the wildlife program, and also was program director of the environmental division for a time, and that included wetlands and water quality as well,” he said. “You could say he’s been a very good buy for us, and still is.” The son of former assistant athletic director Marion Makepeace, Seth found himself in western Montana somewhat by chance. After Taft, he attended the University of Washington in Seattle, where he received his undergraduate degree in geology. From there, he went to the University of Montana and gained a master’s
in geology. (He is now seeking his Ph.D. as well.) And Seth had only to look north a little from Missoula to find his new home. With his wife Alexandra and their two children, Clayton and Jane, Seth lives in Saint Ignatius, a town of less than 1,000 inside the reservation. His children attend the reservation’s public schools, and he concedes it is a very different culture than what he is used to. “There is a cultural bridge, and not because they speak a language different than mine, but that their world is small, their whole sense of time is unique,” Seth said. “Have you ever heard of Indian time? It is real. They talk about doing things the ‘other year.’ To them, that can be one year or 20.” He chuckled: “That idea just doesn’t fit easily in our Palm Pilots.” As he ponders the future, Seth says there is a difficult balance to strike for the tribes, between looking both back at their heritage and forward toward greater self-control. Decades of failed federal policy haven’t helped, but he says the tribes’ intentions are sound and progress is being made. And as an avid hiker, Seth sees in his work something that feeds both his own needs and that of a greater good. The environment is “my source of spirituality, my church,” he said. “The tribes allow me to work in an area that has deep meaning for me. “And when things are tight and decisions are tough, they have come down on the side I would advocate,” he said, “the side that would protect and restore the natural world.” John Mooney ’78 is a reporter with the Newark Star-Ledger in New Jersey. He lives in Montclair with his wife Cheryl Hopper and two teenaged sons, and has been a journalist for 20 years, now focusing primarily on public education. Taft Bulletin Winter 2005
NON UT SIBI PART IV:
From Lobbyist to Land Lawyer A fourth-generation Coloradan, Casey Padgett ’78 provides the legal muscle for the cleanup of public land.
By Tom Frank ’80
Taft Bulletin Winter 2005
For 13 years after he got his law degree from the University of Colorado, Casey Padgett ’78 tried it all. Environmental activist, lobbyist, private-sector lawyer, business consultant, graduate student. “I spent the better part of my career figuring out what I didn’t want to be,” Padgett says. Then in 1998 he found his calling: government lawyer. The appellation may conjure images of a bureaucratic stickler holed up in a windowless Washington office proposing arcane regulations, but that hardly describes Padgett. For one, he works in Denver. And secondly his clients are not so much agencies and administrators as land. Lots of it. Padgett works for the Interior Department, which manages 507 million acres, or about one-fifth of the land in the United States. His job: provide legal muscle for the cleanup of contaminated Interior Department property. The work takes Padgett all over the country to view contaminated sites, meet with parties—usually corporations—responsible for the cleanup, convince them of their responsibility, and work out an agreement for them to pay for it. “There’s some educational work that has to take place,” Padgett says, noting that corporations often try to shift responsibility to the government, which owns the land. But the federal Superfund law is well-established in assigning responsibility to owners of facilities that dumped toxics into the ground or waterways. “Typically a Superfund case involves allocating slices of the pie among all the parties that may have some legal liability for contamination,” Padgett says. A good example of Padgett’s work is the cleanup of an industrial facility tucked inside the 44,000-acre Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge, an oasis of wetlands, lakes and hills in
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southern Illinois where people enjoy boating, camping, hunting, and fishing. The industrial site started as an Army munitions plant during World War II, which has left unexploded ordnance underground. Postwar tenants added to the contamination, accidentally spilling pesticides onto the ground or deliberately dumping waste into lakes and streams or burying it in trash pits, as was custom until the 1980s. Padgett has spent six-and-a-half years “trying to make sure it’s cleaned up appropriately.” That means getting the responsible parties to sign a legal agreement to clean up the site and evaluating cleanup plans for compliance with federal regulations. When the cleanup is finished, large swaths of land now off-limits to the public will be reopened. “That’s an example of the real-world impact this can have,” Padgett says. The work has special resonance for Padgett, who grew up in the Rocky Mountain foothills outside Colorado Springs in a once-rustic area now overrun by suburbia. A rare fourth-generation Coloradan, Padgett took up his father’s hobbies of hunting and fishing and did extensive hiking and backpacking. “Environmental law was something I was interested in just intuitively because I’m an outdoorsperson,” Padgett says. He jumped into the field after law school, joining the Colorado Public Interest Research Group in 1985 as its lobbyist, rising to legislative director and then executive director before leaving in 1988 to do environmental work at a nowdefunct Denver law firm. In 1989, Padgett and his wife Lisa Steen moved to Washington, D.C., where he became a lobbyist for Environmental Action, advocating for the Clean Air Act amendments that were enacted in 1990. When he “burned out on working too hard with no resources,” Padgett
went to plusher confines, joining the powerhouse consultant Booz Allen Hamilton, where he consulted for the Environmental Protection Agency. Realizing that the path up led to managing employees instead of helping clients, Padgett moved to a smaller consulting firm whose owner promised to let him focus on clients—until she sought to promote him to managing employees. “It was ‘Groundhog Day’ all over again,” Padgett says. The Interior Department was launching its own program to clean its sites. In 1998, Padgett became the department’s first Superfund lawyer. Today, his branch has five lawyers who are overseeing 30 to 35 cases with total cleanup costs of up to $200 million. In 2000, Padgett moved to Denver with his wife, keeping his job and settling in a loft in the city’s trendy Lower Dowtown neighborhood with their two cats. Did the election of George W. Bush in 2001 change his work? “Here’s my official answer to that question,” Padgett says. “There has been no discernible change in policy with respect to the work I do.” But one change Padgett did notice was the Colorado landscape, which had transformed during his 11 years away. Seeing suburban sprawl cover once open spaces from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs along the Front Range imbued Padgett with a new sense of urgency for land protection. “Any environment has a certain carrying capacity,” Padgett says, “and I am concerned that there are a lot of environments in the West where that capacity, if it hasn’t already been exceeded, will be very soon.” A former reporter for the Denver Post, Tom Frank ’80 covers national security for USA Today. Taft Bulletin Winter 2005
NON UT SIBI PART IV:
Safer Water From the forests of Belize to the wilds of New Hampshire, Jennifer O’Hara Palmiotto ’82 uses her passion for nature to help protect drinking water supplies.
By Bonnie Blackburn Penhollow ’84
Taft Bulletin Winter 2005
Jennifer Palmiotto’s love of the environment was bred into her, thanks to her grandfather, Arthur Crocker, a prominent Adirondacks conservationist. “My love for the outdoors grew through spending time with him on walks in the forest, trips to the bogs and evenings spend fishing and howling at coydogs,” she said. That love of the environment has carried over into Palmiotto’s career. For the past three years she’s been a Source Water Protection Specialist with the Northeast Rural Water Association in Walpole, New Hampshire. She works with communities to protect their drinking water supplies by helping set up committees that identify potential threats and develop management strategies to deal with those threats. “Common threats include the presence of septic systems, leaking underground fuel storage tanks, runoff from roads, and development within a wellhead protection area,” she noted. Palmiotto spends a lot of time in the field, exploring the watersheds and using GIS (geographic information systems), to develop maps of the area. Because the agency she works for is a water system trade organization, and not a traditional “environmental” group, she’s able to avoid conflicts with local water system operators. “I often serve as a link between land conservationists and water suppliers; two groups with an entirely different language, and sometimes differing objectives,” she added. “And yet they are both stewards of the land.” After graduating from Taft, Palmiotto earned a dual degree in environmental science and French from the University of Vermont, followed by a master’s of forest science and a doctorate in forestry and environmental science
SERVING THE ENVIRONMENT
from the Yale School of Forestry. She studied sabal mauritiiformis, a palm species (“and after graduating, became Mrs. Palmiotto—literally!” she quipped), and deforestation in Belize. Though the forests of Central America are a long way from the wilds of New England, Palmiotto said the skills she learned in Belize help her today. “Knowing how to do GIS, working with people in rural areas, I honed my skills in Belize,” she said. Though she says she misses working with trees and plants, she doesn’t miss the controversies that continue to rage in the forestry world. Protecting water, she says, is an easy sell. “I am continually inspired by the numerous volunteers who devote their time to protecting drinking water supplies in their communities,” she commented. “I know our efforts are increasing awareness and making a difference.” Changes in federal laws in the mid1990s shifted the focus from water treatment to protection of the watershed overall, Palmiotto said. “By protecting drinking water sources through activities such as public education, land acquisition and zoning ordinances, the threat of contamination can be reduced,” she said. “Developing a source water protection plan (also) helps water system operators and communities get a sense of the interrelationship between a single drinking water source, other water sources in the region, and potential contamination from land use activities in the landscape.” Palmiotto’s work protecting water supplies has been challenged in recent years because of a shift in emphasis after the September 11 attacks. “There is a significant new focus on security of water supplies,” she noted. “In some ways this has redirected significant
funds and staff away from other water system management needs.” Finding new ways to help smaller water systems meet these new challenges is part of what keeps her interested in her job, she said. Her lifelong passion for the environment is another. “It’s really something I enjoy. You’re doing what you love, whether you’re a writer, dancer, artist. I feel lucky that I get to do what I love. And just to know you’re helping people is a really rewarding thing.” Her toddler son Trevor and husband Peter, a conservation biology professor at Antioch New England College, are also motivators. “Having my son, it made me all the more excited to share it all with him,” she added. “It reinvigorated the joy of the outside world. You can get very pessimistic, … [but] with a child you get to see the excitement because everything is new.” Palmiotto knows she’s instilling her love of the environment in her son the way her family instilled it in her. “During our free time, we like to explore the natural places in our backyard,” she said. “Our favorite pastime is to take a hike and identify plant species along the way.” Her grandfather, no doubt, is proud. “Oh yes,” she said. “He’s 95, and he just keeps on going. He spawned a whole generation of environmentalists. He did it in a very subtle way. He knew that if you just get outside and enjoy spending time outside in the mountains, … (environmentalism) just creeps into your life. “He used to say that if you can get people to enjoy nature, it’s not hard to get them to protect it and use it well.” Bonnie Blackburn Penhollow ’84 is a freelance writer living in Fort Wayne, Indiana, with husband Steve and daughter Emma.
Jennifer O’Hara Palmiotto ’82, in the foreground, performing fish counts on the Cold River in southwest New Hampshire. Taft Bulletin Winter 2005
NON UT SIBI PART IV:
Cleaning Up Our Act A day student from Watertown, Melinda Patterson Thompson â€™95 has now worked on three continents to educate people and help change their behaviors toward the environment.
By Julie Reiff
Taft Bulletin Winter 2005
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When Melinda Thompson was young, her family spent time each summer on Star Island—a self-sufficient island ten miles off the coast of New Hampshire. “I spent my days being shown the great natural features on the island,” she recalls. “Being on a small, rustic island, it is easier to realize the direct impact of your actions on the surrounding environment. You are only allowed three showers a week because of limited water supplies, and there are pigs and composting bins to help deal with food scraps and trash. Minimizing resource usage and maximizing resource efficiencies were top priorities, and you were well aware of that—even as a weeklong guest on the island.” Thompson worked there summers during college and learned about the impact of having a large petroleum storage facility on the island, as well as how to run the waste-water treatment plant. “I found it all very interesting and wanted to learn more about different types of contaminants and their long-term impact on the environment.” After studying bioengineering at the University of Pennsylvania, she spent two years and two months with the Peace Corps in a remote West African village without electricity or running water and worked with a local committee to facilitate health education in her community and those in the surrounding district. Thompson admits that her initial interest in the Peace Corps was motivated by self-interest. “I decided to postpone travel until after graduation,” she said, “because of my intensive course stream. And I knew I wanted to go and live somewhere else, not just pass through as a tourist. I thought the Peace Corps would be a great way to do that and maybe do some good at the same time.” Before she left for Ghana, Thompson had never been out of the U.S. and had
hardly even left the East Coast. When she returned to the States, she found a position with the Emergency Response Section of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in Boston where she hoped to use more of her technical, engineering knowledge. “I had to respond to environmental emergencies, such as an oil leak, or a highway accident involving a truck transporting hazardous chemicals. I was also trained to respond to events involving biological, chemical, or even radiological release as a result of terrorist attack. You had to think on your feet, and it was also a physical challenge.” While working for the EPA, she initiated community meetings for each of the sites she was working on to explain and answer any questions about the remediation project in their area. “I am most proud of being able to talk to young people about what I have done,” she said, “and answering their questions. While in Ghana, I held different discussion groups with students and young adults in the village. We discussed many different topics and even corresponded with a junior high class back in the U.S., so we talked about the differences between the two cultures, as well as the importance of proper health practices at home, environmental issues, and AIDS education.” Now living in Melbourne, Victoria, she says she loves living in Australia—in part because it balances the best parts of living in the States with a bit of what she loved about living in Africa. She continues to work as an environmental engineer dealing with contaminated site cleanup, similar to the work she had done in Boston for the EPA, except that in Australia she works as a consultant. “The Victorian EPA only audits sites,” she explains, “and sometimes only reviews audits which have been done by
consultancies. They check to make sure that consultants are doing the work properly. Because of that, consultancies like mine do most of the investigations, field sampling, and reporting.” From holding health discussions in Ghana, to discussing environmental issues with friends in Australia, to talking with high school students in class in the U.S., Thompson has realized that it is very difficult to change human behavior. “People should know better, and should be well educated as to what they could be doing to limit their impact on the planet, but it is obvious that information-based campaigns are ineffective. Unfortunately most people say that the environment is a top priority, but it always seems to take a back seat if people have to change behaviors or sacrifice something or pay a little extra, or make a politically unpopular decision. “I worry that the incremental change that is occurring around the world is not enough to turn back the clock on the myriad of environmental issues that face us all—biodiversity loss, soil degradation, salinity, water scarcity, and climate change among them.” At the same time, she says she is very aware of the economic realities that face individuals, governments, and businesses, but “we need to try to promote steady changes toward more sustainable behaviors within our respective organizations,” Thompson said. “There are many barriers to adopting more sustainable practices. So it is important to understand what those barriers are so that effective strategies can be developed to most efficiently bring about behavioral change.” Julie Reiff has been the editor of this magazine since 1988 and continues to live on campus with husband Al ’80 and their son Alex.
Melinda Patterson Thompson ’95 working onsite at a cleanup in Australia, where she spends about half of her time in the field. To see what she really looks like these days, turn to page 69. Taft Bulletin Winter 2005 33
NON UT SIBI PART IV:
Technology in the Tropics A marine biologist and founder of Hawaii’s Sea Life Park and Oceanic Institute, Tap Pryor has put down roots as a farmer in the Cook Islands.
By Tap Pryor ’49
Taft Bulletin Winter 2005
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Years ago when asked what my career ambition was, I gave a tongue in cheek response: Gentleman farmer. Well, maybe not so cheeky because I was familiar with the realities of farming—up at 5 a.m. to do chores, weeding all day in the hot sun, and mucking out pigpens. Growing plants and animals had appeal, but there must be an easier way. Today, I’m still no gentleman, but I farm fish, prawns, watercress, herbs, and lettuce in ponds. Most days I sleep late, and I never weed or muck anything. I’m an aquaponics farmer, a hybrid between aquaculture and hydroponics. Aquaculture is as old as China, especially fish farming. Multiculture was also practiced almost from the first with ducks sharing the same pond, contributing nutrients to the plant growth that in turn nourished the fish. The Aztecs used hydroponics, floating rafts in lakes that buoyed up vegetables, even fruit trees, allowing their roots to expand luxuriantly below. The lakes were shallow so it didn’t take much of a storm to stir up soil from the bottom or to add muddy runoff from feeder streams, hence adequate fertilizer. Hydroponics went further in the 1930s, when botanists could determine precisely what nutrients a given plant required, then placed the plants in shallow gutters or “gullies” with water recirculating through, but without soil, only the exact chemical additives. This is essentially the method of hydroponics worldwide today with several variations. Another utilizes that same chemically rich water, but reverts to planter pots filled with a non-soil medium (in my case with
coconut fiber) and with the solution dripping in hourly before returning to the main sump. I ran a decade long experiment in Hawaii in the ’70s and early ’80s, farming oysters on the runway of an abandoned airfield. In 1981 my Hawaiian Oyster was awarded the title of “outstanding new food product introduced to Europe.” I called my method systemculture. I now live on Rarotonga, the capital island of the Cook Islands, which is a 12,000-person nation situated between Tahiti and Samoa, but with a total of 13 islands scattered over an area the size of Argentina. Half of the population lives on “Raro,” along with most of the 75,000 annual visitors. Thus, there is an accessible market for produce, but the dirt farmers have a hard time making a living. If they aren’t wiped out by drought or deluge, they are by pests. Frustrated by nasty surprises, many of us turned to hydroponics. Some keep their gullies and pots out in the open, others under translucent, rainproof cover. Most prefer recirculating, hence conserving, their nutrients; others use a drip-to-waste system. Actually there isn’t a lot of guidance for farming temperate crops in the tropics. If you want information on bananas, papaya, or coffee, there’s the Internet, but, otherwise, we are on our own. Gullies are expensive and drip systems temperamental, but my background before coming here was as a marine biologist with long experience with
aquaria, an oceanarium, and the breeding of fish and shellfish. Thus, it was a small step to trials with shallow ponds, using the modern version of Aztec rafts—namely Styrofoam floats for lettuce and herbs and trampoline-like net structures to hold watercress. Then, in the same but now larger facilities, I introduced juvenile prawns. The prawns hide from each other among the hanging roots—allowing a far greater density of crop than in a sterile tank environment— and they in turn contribute nutrients to the plants. It’s a win-win situation. I have been marketing Papa Tap’s salad for the last year. Increasingly the several lettuces and herbs will come from my ponds, not pots or gullies. Soon I will be marketing Papa Tap’s watercress separately, as well as a salad additive. It is all good fun and enough to keep this 74-year-old out of mischief and away from that dreaded R-word, retirement. Through all these experiments, I have learned that aquaponics, aquaculture, and even systemculture offer the hope of an industry here that will appeal to a new generation of Cook Islanders who are ready to leave the taro patches and take on technological challenges. For the last 15 years, Tap Pryor ’49 has lived in the Cook Islands, where he has served in the Office of the Prime Minister as director of special projects, media director, and deputy chief of staff. In addition to his farming and government work, he has served on the board of the Cook Islands Library Museum Society. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Taft Bulletin Winter 2005
NON UT SIBI PART IV:
Fixing the World The son of North Americans, Bob Albert was born and raised in Caracas until the age of 11 and, after college, returned to his beloved Venezuela looking for ways to improve health, education, agriculture, and animal welfare in the Turimiquire mountains.
By Robert Albert Jr. â€™66
Taft Bulletin Winter 2005
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Living on the Los Dos Pasos Juntos organic farm, it is three hours walk from the nearest road and further from the nearest phone. Here I manage rural projects for the Turimiquire Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports human service, environmental, and animal welfare projects. Turimiquire, pronounced Too-ree-mee-kée-ray, means “Seat of the Gods” in the indigenous Carib language. A formative influence for caring about the natural world happened for me at Taft in biology classes with Al Reiff. I then took Advanced Placement biology with him as well as doing an independent study setting up a marine aquarium with fish we caught at home in the Bahamas. Mr. Reiff was patient with our curiosity, good natured with our pranks, and took extra time with us when our learning would be helped by it. Going on to major in biology at Harvard, I pursued the course not as premedical, or to some career, but simply from interest in, love for animals, plants and their interactions in the natural world. Ours was definitely a generation that hoped to “componer el mundo”—fix the world. My feeling was that humanity was embedded in nature and needed to care for it. Political strife in those times along with psychology lessons led some of us to realize that in order to work on fixing
the world we first had to fix ourselves. I decided that leading a more natural life would help, and headed back to the country of my birth, Venezuela, to look for rural tropical land to live and learn on. Joined by a college friend, Steven Bloomstein, we ended up on our remote farm up a small river from which you can drink the water as well as swim in it. The idea was to walk lightly on the Earth, farm organically, eat mostly fruit. We founded a nonprofit organization, Instituto de Ecología Agrícola, to study and promote an agriculture in tune with tropical nature, aiming to maintain and improve soil through natural methods rather than using it up, as was customary. Of course we got quite involved with our campesino neighbors, many of whom did not read or write and hardly knew what the United States was. We started teaching reading and writing, helping with medical problems, and acting as an interface with town. The Taft motto indicating service was appropriate here. Helping others turns out to be one of the most fun things to occupy yourself with and very good for your own self-improvement. The demand got to be more than we few friends and family could handle, so we formed and registered a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization in the U.S., the Turimiquire Foundation, as a way of seeking funding and other
Bob Albert ’66 (with Chiquita) makes his home at Los Dos Pasos Juntos organic farm, where he manages rural projects for the Turimiquire Foundation. LESLEY ALPERT
help. At the same time we registered the sister organization, Fundación ServYr, in Venezuela. Thinking about the environment and doing the math we felt that whatever social improvements were made, a stable human population would be crucial to not overloading the base in nature. We did not need to convince anyone with our theories, though, as neighbors were pounding on our doors asking for help with family planning for their own personal reasons. We have just been trying to keep up with the demand ever since, with much growth and success in our work, but much more yet to be done. We have also done projects in our valley with setting up solar power, gravity-fed water, and introducing new tropical fruit tree crops that offer a way to harvest from the land without slash and burn methods. Beekeeping offers another way for people to harvest from nature without having to damage the forest. Another aspect of treading lightly on the Earth has been to keep a low economic profile. Most of my 30 years on the land in Venezuela I have lived on an annual income of one or two thousand dollars, now all the way up to six thousand. Not much in the U.S.A., but it goes a long way for a campesino farmer who can produce much of his own sustenance straight from nature. For more information, visit www.turimiquire.org. Taft Bulletin Winter 2005
Learning Students interested in the environment can take advantage of off-campus study options at the Maine Coast Semester and the Island School in the Bahamas. By Debbie Phipps
The Maine Coast Semester
CAMERON PICTON â€™05
An eight-day kayak trip around the southern tip of Eleuthera is part of the curriculum at the Island School.
KATE PARKS â€™05
t’s easy, in the midst of February in New England, to imagine a semester at the Island School on Eleuthera in the Bahamas to be an escape, an antidote for slush and Precalculus tests and short weekends and even shorter daylight hours.
wetland in the center courtyard of campus. Students engage in a challenging academic program, learn to scuba dive, and kayak in an 8-day expedition that includes a 48-hour solo experience as a time for solitude and reflection. They participate in a Life History Project to record the living history of the island’s inhabitants and help teach environmental awareness to local students through weekly educational field trips. Students must demonstrate strong teamwork and become active participants in the educational
Dinner Circle at the Island School is the daily ritual at which the student leader for the following day is chosen.
And for students who have studied Thoreau’s decision to live in the woods “deliberately,” or loved their four weeks of cabin life at summer camp, the Maine Coast Semester offers a chance to prolong that childhood magic of flashlights and trail mix. It’s easy to romanticize the possibilities of a semester away from Taft, but the reality is that students work hard in these programs—in some ways, harder than they do at Taft—and return changed in ways that not only improve their understanding 40
Taft Bulletin Winter 2005
of their places in the world, but also lead them to improve Taft when they return.
The Island School, founded by Chris Maxey of the Lawrenceville School in 1998, hosts a semester-long program on the island of Eleuthera and is committed to instilling a conservation ethic in its students; rainwater from roof runoff is stored in cisterns, and an on-site waste management system supports the constructed
process as they consider difficult decisions about sustaining valuable resources. The Maine Coast Semester program, of which Taft was a founding school in 1988, shares a similar mission: 40 eleventh-grade students join 16 faculty members on a campus that includes an arched bridge that students built as part of a math project, a working farm, and a student-built cabin. Students in the spring plant vegetables that students will harvest for their Thanksgiving feast the following semester. Others shear sheep,
Learning spin the wool, dye it, and return to their sending schools with hats and sweaters they’ve knit during their morning meeting or after a family-style meal. The catalog suggests that “self-direction typifies a Maine Coast Semester student,” an observation borne out by Taft students who have attended the school and found their largest challenge not their ascent of Mount Katahdin or the construction of an igloo on a camping trip, but their need to find time to sleep among the many activities they try to cram into each Maine day.
fuels at the school, spread the word of Wendell Berry’s writing, and taught friends to use snowshoes well before this mode of transport became popular. Participants must also take risks, not only in applying to these competitive programs, but in leaving what has become a familiar place for one that requires that they keep a Maine woodstove stoked or maintain a careful log of their water use in Eleuthera. The greater risk, though, is in the questions their teachers will encourage
Brown ’04 returned wearing a seashell on a cord around her neck, a reminder of her time on her solo (during which she claims to have sung the score of Rent over 40 times), and senior Cameron Picton sported a goatee and a distinctly woodsman style of dressing. More, they exhibit a quiet strength, a tangible sense of selfassurance that they can meet any challenge that they encounter. As senior Amanda Frew explained, “After learning to cope with 24 girls living in two rooms for three months, almost nothing fazes me.”
Clare Mooney ’05 gives her father, Laird Mooney ’73, a tour of her cabin at the Maine Coast Semester. The 400-acre campus of Chewonki Neck on the Maine coast is an outdoor lab and source of inspiration for MCS students. CHEWONKI FOUNDATION
What does it take to succeed in these programs? Senior Kate Parks, who attended the Island School, addressed the question in a School Meeting talk upon her return. “Passion is the catalyst for success,” she said. The students who return from a semester abroad have revived Taft’s fledgling recycling program, completed an Independent Study Project examining the possibility of using bio-diesel
them to consider. “I was challenged to question my beliefs, unbind convention, and create independent thought,” said Kate. “I learned to trust and depend on other people and to criticize my own experiences to seek improvement. I was taught never to be satisfied; I recognized that believing in optimism and hope is the best way to find a solution, no matter how daunting and impenetrable the issue may appear.” Students returning from semesters at these programs even look different: Emily
Alumni of the Island School frequently cite the learnings gleaned in the early morning hours of their days. The entire community of students and faculty gather at 6:30 each day for Morning Circle, at which a student cacique leads announcements and stretching for Morning Exercise. (The cacique, a Lucayan word for “village leader,” is selected daily from among the students and assumes Taft Bulletin Winter 2005
responsibility for the physical and spiritual health of the community; the final responsibility of the cacique each day, after leading the Dinner Circle, is to select the leader for the next day.) Circle is followed by Morning Exercise, which often includes a run to High Rock followed by a plunge into the ocean, or—toward the end of term—running a half-marathon. “Morning Exercise proved to us that our bodies are capable of amazing things,” said Amanda, while Kate remembers the teacher who finished the
and significant independent projects, they might chop wood, prepare Sunday brunch, learn birdcalls (all students must be able to recall a series of birdcalls as part of their science exam, which is administered in a full-day “lab” at a local state park) or plan weekend activities: a contra dance, sledding party, or local hike. Cameron recalls returning from a field trip and looking out the van window to see the Northern Lights. Back on campus, they “raced along the boardwalk, heads craned up at the sky. Kids came
Coast Advisory Board during which, in the middle of a financial report, thenMCS Director Scott Andrews, stopped to point out a great blue heron, and we all rushed to the window to watch it circle. These wonderful moments require that students leave, quite literally, their comfort zones; Clare Mooney ’05 speaks with fondness of getting up early to run into the freezing water—“truly, there were ice blocks around us”—and then back to the showers, wearing only bathing suits in the cold Maine winter.
Kate Parks ’05, right, with her coastal management research group, which measured coastal erosion on the campus and surveyed mangrove growth in a nearby tidal creek.
half-marathon ahead of most students, but doubled back to help others struggling through the last few miles.
For participants of the Maine Coast Semester, where their days are less scheduled than at Taft, learning to balance their responsibilities while taking full advantage of the coastal setting challenges even the most organized students. In addition to morning chores on the working farm 42
Taft Bulletin Winter 2005
rushing out of the dining hall. Everyone lay on the grass in one big group, some still eating dinner, staring up at the spectacular streaks of color. Long streaks of bright red and green arched across the sky and came together to form a disco ball of black in the middle. Everyone interrupted whatever they were doing to witness this together, and although it sounds cliché, we will all remember seeing this together for a long time.” Cameron’s story jogged my memory of attending a meeting of the Maine
Both programs include a significant research component that, unlike Taft’s more traditional research paper, requires that students complete primary research and use that information to exact change. Students at MCS have presented their findings about logging in Maine or the endangered status of the Atlantic salmon to legislative leaders; those at the Island School make formal presentations on the reestablishment of
Learning full tidal flow through management of mangrove communities, or the effects of artificial reefs on available living space for marine organisms to an audience of Bahamian government officials, educators, and scientists at the end of every semester. “My research supervisor told us on the first day that if we wanted to succeed, we would have to take ownership over our work,” said Parks, “that this wouldn’t be an abstract term paper. We learned to run field studies, document data, and plan a presentation; we presented a truly
her last Thanksgiving. In addition to participating in the run-and-cliff plunge and listening to students discuss Walcott’s highly challenging poetic epic Omeros, Peter witnessed students demonstrating their understanding of and commitment to the principles of sustainable living. If they took showers longer than three minutes, they ran out of water. All waste was recycled, without comment or grumbling. They understood where their drinking water came from, he said. This level of concern for the environment—the un-
notions of building community and taking risks, and students who pursue these programs demonstrate both. Their input upon returning from the Island School or Maine Coast Semester proves invaluable in shaping a stronger community; they share hands-on experience with their science classes, demonstrate collective leadership in their approach to problem-solving, and help us, as the MCS mission states, “to understand the connections between our human and natural communities...[and] the power of focused, collective effort.”
At MCS, Cameron Picton ’05 and his friend Logan, who built a “grease” car that runs on used cooking oil.
collaborative paper on coastal management of which we could take total ownership. As promised, everyone completed the project with enormous pride and muddy shoes, and the works of half of the class was published within weeks.”
It’s worth considering what Taft might learn from these students’ experiences. Amanda’s father, faculty member Peter Frew ’75, recounts the family’s visit to see
derstanding of the connection between the place and the people who live in it— is something he felt students at Taft could learn better. Maine Coast returnees share this view: if you’ve gotten up at 2 a.m. to put logs that you’ve cut, gathered, and split on the fire, you now understand the cost of an overheated home. Headmaster Willy MacMullen ’78, who visited the Island School in 2003 notes, “Taft is made a better community when these students re-enter.” As a school, we devote a great deal of time and energy to the
MacMullen adds, “Ours is such a small and interconnected world. Programs like these underscore the importance of students expanding their horizons—and bringing their experiences back to campus.” For more information on either program, visit www.chewonki.org or www.islandschool.org. Debbie Phipps came to Taft in 1983 and has been dean of academic affairs since 2003. She first became involved with these programs as middle class dean. Taft Bulletin Winter 2005
CourseNotes With more than 26 course offerings in the science department, students have plenty of choices. In this new column, the Bulletin will take a look at one course each issue, sampling from all departments.
Advanced Placement Environmental Science The challenge of creating and maintaining a sustainable environment may be the single most pressing scientific issue that will confront students throughout their lives. Today, environmental science is not only relevant to students’ personal experience, but it is also vital to the future of the entire biosphere. As humans continue to alter the Earth’s land, water, and atmosphere at local, regional and global levels, the resulting environmental dilemmas can seem overwhelming. Educated properly, students may confront these problems and contribute to their ultimate solution in the future. This course will equip students with a fundamental understanding of our environment from which the solutions to these problems may spring. An initial goal of this course
is to instill an understanding and appreciation of the complexity and precise functioning of the natural ecosystems that form our biosphere. Therefore, this course will begin with a close examination of the basic ecological principles that govern the natural world, followed by the many ways that humans affect that world through the investigation of the topics of human population growth, energy production and consumption, natural resource depletion, agriculture, pollution among others. While exploring these issues, students will integrate knowledge from the fields of physics, chemistry, biology, history, political science, geology and demography. In addition to class discussion, lecture and reading, field investigations of various ecosystems, industrial and agricultural processes and methods of transportation will be accomplished. This course will prepare students for the A.P. Environmental Science examination in May. Faculty: Jim Lehner
Taft Bulletin Winter 2005
Middlebury College “Biobus” students came to campus this fall to explain the problems caused by fossil fuels and offer the innovative solution of a fuel composed primarily of leftover cooking oil, which generates far less hazardous material to be expelled into the environment. PETER FREW ’75
Created in 1997, Advanced Placement Environmental Science is “a dream course to teach,” says JimLehner, who took over the course in 2001. “Almost all new knowledge I gain about culture, history, or science is pertinent to the subject. The real difficulty for me is not what to teach but what not to teach,” he adds. MonicaRaymunt’05 says she likes that the class “looks at the larger picture. So far, our class has explored such
issues as society’s interaction with the environment and possible actions we can take to counteract the damage we have caused. A.P. Environmental Science has really opened my eyes to the fragility of the world we live in, fostering a new awareness in me of the ways I can preserve the beauty of nature.” “The course offers a great range of stuff about the environment,” says LexiWhite’05, “from how it works
to how to keep it working. The statistics on how much we’re ruining everything are always shocking and really make you think.” WillSealy’05 says he is now more aware of “the detrimental actions of mankind over the last couple of centuries” and that he worries “that if mankind continues on the pace it is on now, we will inevitably destroy our own race or even the entire planet.” Taft Bulletin Winter 2005
The Simple Life By Zach Schonbrun ’05
with the sun, casting into the fresh silence, and fishing right through morning, without a bite or a regret or about finally being able to do a back flip off the diving board. It’s about getting chewed up and spit out all day by the surf and then finally riding the biggest wave home.”
Taft Bulletin Winter 2005
Life isn’t all that complicated. It isn’t about stockpiling APs or studying four hours for the PSAT, slaving away toward that big day that will finally make us happy. I think life, maybe, is about playing football, in the snow, at night, with your best buddies, no pads, no feeling in your feet, and no one telling you to come in before you catch pneumonia. It’s about falling on skates again and again, and getting back up again and again to try to do it again and again. It’s about staring up at your treehouse like it’s Buckingham Palace, and having the satisfaction that Dad didn’t help you at all. It’s about having stick wars, and water gun fights, hunting in the woods for bears, and wolves, and buried treasure and then making it home just as your mom pulls a tray of grilled cheese out of the oven for lunch. It’s about waking up early on Sunday morning to watch Bugs Bunny trick Elmer Fudd for the gazillionth time and laughing ’til you cry. It’s about staying up late to tell ghost stories, and feeding your dog bacon under the table, giving your fish more food on its birthday, and leaving cookies out for Santa Claus and then believing your grandfather when he swears to you he didn’t eat them when you wake up Christmas morning. Life isn’t about making headlines, or being on TRL or Sportscenter. Because the really good stuff never is. Like hitting a street sign with a snowball from across the block. Or being the first one on the slopes after the season’s biggest nor’easter, knowing powder you could lose yourself in is just a wipeout away. Life is about taking batting practice till your hands bleed, and then going 4–4 your next game. It’s about pulling into McDonalds after PHOTOS.COM
“It’s about waking up
the championship, after you win or especially after you lose. It’s about waking up with the sun, casting into the fresh silence, and fishing right through morning, without a bite or a regret or about finally being able to do a back flip off the diving board. It’s about getting chewed up and spit out all day by the surf and then finally riding the biggest wave home. Life is about being the underdog and learning how to win, and about being the overdog and learning how to lose. It’s about staring adversity right in the eye and then kicking dirt on its cleats. It’s about sprinting the final stretch and not throwing up, playing the final two minutes and not giving up, and serving for the match and not screwing up. It’s about the day you meet your favorite sports hero in the supermarket and don’t need an autograph to prove it. Or the day you play that perfect round of golf and finally realize why you’ve been playing all along. What I’m trying to say is that life isn’t about the fancy cars we drive, the clothes we buy, or the checks we sign. We struggle so long and so hard to find approval from someone else, to fit a certain mold engrained in our minds as a model of success or fortune. That model is never the groundskeeper at Yosemite Park, or the peanut guy at Wrigley who gets to sit and watch Cubs games every night, or the ice cream man who comes here after study hall in the spring, who seems to be the happiest man in western Connecticut from April to June. And I’m not saying that it has to be. But realize that we don’t live for Rolexes or penthouse apartments, but, sometimes for Madison Square Garden, nose-bleed section, with a foot-long hotdog, nachos, ketchup and a smile rubbed all
“We burden ourselves with an overzealous desire to mature, to pursue bigger and better things, to reach up and grab the next rung in fear of being forever paralyzed on the last one. Sometimes we dream so much that we sleepwalk through life, skipping all the tiny perks that make us boys and girls, make us youthful, make us human.”
over your face, and not giving a damn about the Hibbings account or Mr. Johnson’s paper. Sometimes we are just too eager to get older, and I don’t mean anyone in particular. We burden ourselves with an overzealous desire to mature, to pursue bigger and better things, to reach up and grab the next rung in fear of being forever paralyzed on the last one. Sometimes we dream so much that we sleepwalk through life, skipping all the tiny perks that make us boys and girls, make us youthful, make us human. Sometimes we are just too persistent, too concerned with bettering our image and our GPA, perennially searching for the best paper, the best grade, the ticket to the best college, with belief that these will make us happy, while being happy just skipped by with a new GameBoy. Take advantage of not just what Taft has to offer, but also what life has to offer. I guarantee you, when you are old, and retired, and finally able to relax but unable to move anything, you will look back at the years you wasted doing things you hated and wish anything to have them back. You will realize that happiness, the kind we break our backs for every day, doesn’t always come with success upon success upon success, but rather, sometimes, just by bringing Ninja Turtles into the bathtub and playing till your hands look like corduroy. We live to find happiness, sure, but stop searching in the wrong places. We’re here to be coaching T-ball when Ernest, the one who always trips on his shoelaces, makes the only flawless catch all year. We’re here to throw a Frisbee off a building, tree, car, and statue, and still be in birdie range. Or play your best bud in one-on-one, have it turn into a wrestling match, and then still buy ice cream sodas with him afterward. Or let your son give you an alley-oop. When we’re on our deathbeds, none of us is going to be saying “I just wish I had held my collateralized-debt obligations” or “If only I had more time for composite transactions.” No. We’ll be remembering our first date, our first kiss, the first day of high school. We’ll remember the hole-in-one and the club we hit it with. We’ll remember the time we rode saddleless, cowboy-style, and the horse’s name. And we’ll remember the roller coaster we for-
got our fear of heights on, and the hours it took to build up the courage to ride it. We’ll cry, “I watched Tiger sink a 20-foot double breaker to win at Augusta back when I had a real hip,” or “I saw Gretzky turn a sport of brutes into a ballet, and the goaltender into a revolving door, and that was when the NHL still existed!” We’ll realize that life isn’t about constantly searching for happiness, but knowing when you’ve found it. I don’t know the meaning of life, but I do know that it’s not found in the Wall Street Journal. I can’t explain to you why we’re here, but it’s not because God felt we needed more accountants. People say they try to live their lives to the fullest—and maybe safaris or scuba diving vacations or dangerous mountain climbing trips are the way for them to do it, but it’s not the only way. There are too many Willy Lomans driving down our freeways looking for happiness in all the wrong places. We try to feel the best way through life, but we end up looking like Stevie Wonder refereeing a basketball game. Sometimes, you just have to stop pretending to be grown-up. You have to stop caring about the balance on your Visa, the mileage on your car, the mortgage on your home, the retirement plan you’re trying to carry out, or the big history test that is going to decide just how great your future is. And remember that life is not about the cars you own, but the lazy autumn Sunday afternoons you have to drive them. Life is so big to me, to all of you, so full of opportunities and open doors, especially coming from Taft. Some doors, I know, will lead to bigger and better things and others, others will just turn out to be a closet. Life can come at you hard and complex or it can suddenly begin to make sense, when you’re lying on a bench watching the stars play field hockey overhead. It is then, maybe, you realize: jeez, life really isn’t all that complicated. Grown-ups just make it that way. Zach Schonbrun ’05 is a sports editor for the Taft Papyrus and the son of Roy Schonbrun ’68. He lives in Greenfield, Massachusetts. These remarks are excerpted from a School Meeting talk he gave in November. Taft Bulletin Winter 2005
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Published on Feb 2, 2017