Page 1

BULLETIN W I N T E R • 1 9 9 8

Volume 68

Number 2

In this Issue SPOTLIGHT

2 A WORLD AWAY By Bonnie Blackburn ’84

8 Page 2

A SISTER SCHOOL IN THAILAND By Lance R. Odden

11 ALUMNI IN THE NEWS

DEPARTMENTS Page 8

13—AROUND THE POND Designing Students, Surgery 101, Guest Speakers, Family Photos…

21—SPORT New Climbing Wall, Big Red Scoreboard

23—ENDNOTE by John Skovran ’98

Page 21

On the cover: Brooke Carleton ’99 has a go at the new climbing wall in the Cruikshank Athletic Center. The challenge of ascent whimsically reminds some of the inscription above the elevator in Charles Phelps Taft Hall: Per aspera ad astra…. “To the stars but with difficulty.” [Translation by Classics master Don Oscarson ’47.] See related item on page 21. Photo by Julia Pinover ’98

The Taft Bulletin is published quarterly, in February, May, August, and November, by The Taft School, 110 Woodbury Road, Watertown, CT 06795-2100 and is distributed free of charge to alumni, parents, grandparents, and friends of the school. E-Mail Us! Now you can send your latest news, address change, birth announcement, or letter to the editor to us via e-mail. Our address is TaftRhino@Taft.pvt.k12.ct.us. Of course we’ll continue to accept your communiqués by such “low tech” methods as the 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! Visit Taft on the Web to find the latest news, sports schedules, or to locate a classmate’s e-mail address. www.Taft.pvt.k12.ct.us


S

P

O

T

L

I

G

H

T

A World Away By Bonnie Blackburn ’84

S

ome alumni take Taft’s motto “non ut sibi ministretur sed ut ministret” more seriously than others, not just while they are at Taft, but even after they graduate. Instead of following traditional career paths, in the law, banking, or other money-earning pursuits, they go out to minister unto others. They leave the comforts of America to work in unimaginable poverty in Third World nations, through the Peace Corps, graduate programs, or the ministry. In part, this urge to serve others is cultivated while at Taft, through the volunteering program. An even more powerful pull is the Robert Keyes Poole ’50 Fellowships, which help Taft students experience life in other cultures.

b Laurie Odden’s home in Zambia Taft Bulletin

3


S

P

O

T

L

I

G

H

T

Melissa Wilcox ’89 and friends in Ngara, Tanzania.

Headmaster Lance Odden sees the Poole fellowships and Taft’s volunteering program as vital parts of the school’s mission. They have been catalysts for the paths many students—women in particular—have taken after leaving Taft. “I believe they internalize to varying degrees the centrality of the school’s mission. They were all people who tried to make the place better,” Odden said of alumni who’ve dedicated their post-Taft

We asked several recent Taft alumni—Robert Boardman ’87, Laurie Odden ’89, Melissa Wilcox ’89, Kate Solomon ’90, and Cassie O’Connor ’91—to describe the challenges and rewards of working overseas. Having gone to Kenya during her Poole fellowship, Melissa Wilcox realized she had to go back to Africa. “I felt a strong calling to return to Africa,” she wrote from her village in Ngara,

“I felt a strong calling to return to Africa. For me, it wasn’t a matter of forgoing ‘traditional’ employment, but rather seizing the opportunity to both give of myself and receive in an unquantifiable way.” — Melissa Wilcox ’89 lives to working in the Third World. “I think what’s most interesting is that it is women who are doing these things. Probably 80 percent [of Poole fellowship recipients] are girls. It says something very powerful. The helping instinct is more developed. “It’s easier to define yourself as a woman in the way you help people,” Odden added. “Men seem to want to have a bottom line as a way of assessing success.” 4

Winter 1998

Tanzania, where she serves as a youth coordinator for the Anglican Church in the diocese of Kagera in Tanzania. “For me, it wasn’t a matter of forgoing ‘traditional’ employment, but rather seizing the opportunity to both give of myself and receive in an unquantifiable way.” Giving of herself meant Wilcox had to deal with frightening poverty, disease, an out-of-control AIDS epidemic, and the political tensions of central Africa, in-

Laurie Odden ’89 with one of her all-time favorite child lingerers on her doorstep.

cluding the influx of a half-million Rwandan refugees fleeing the civil war in their home country. “I had never seen anything like that in my life, except on a TV screen. The sight of their tired, swollen, blistered feet still lives in my mind,” she wrote in a newsletter to her friends and family. “Many believe [Rwanda] is a time bomb waiting to blow up again.” Political strife was also on Laurie Odden’s mind. She recently completed a two-year stint in the Peace Corps, serving in Zambia. Laurie’s official job in the Peace Corps was to recruit the native population to help build a well so they would no longer have to make hours-long trips for water to the Luapula River, which separates Zambia and Zaire, a country which suffered a civil war toward the end of her time there. “[The Zairian conflict] made the U.S. ambassador nervous, but Zambians pride themselves as a peaceful nation,” she said. Laurie Odden’s time as a Peace Corps volunteer was somewhat disappointing, she said, because her job didn’t focus on the real needs of the population she worked with. But she worked around the job description.


S

Kate, bottom right, shows natives how to diversify their crops through beekeeping.

“I spent a lot of time at the [district] schools, teaching basic health education, nutrition,” she said. She also worked at a local health clinic, helping set up peer health education programs. “In a lot of ways, it was purely selfhelp,” she said. “These were people just trying to meet their basic needs. [And] the Peace Corps wanted them to come out and give 10 hours a week to participate in the project [building a well] but you’re not going to get paid, and you might not ever see any benefit from it. It was very frustrating.” Despite her frustration, Laurie said getting to know the people there during her two years in the village was extremely important. “ The most rewarding thing was the fact that the village and that place became my world. It wasn’t like I was a visitor on vacation. The people around me were my friends and my family. You become a lot more focused on them than how you’re succeeding project-wise,” she said. Robert Boardman also served in the Peace Corps, but he spent his time as a forestry consultant in Yumbel, in south-central Chile. His work involved helping local farmers reduce soil erosion through reforestation and better water management.

Being immersed in a totally different culture was the best part of his time there. “Buying food in the market, strolling through the plaza, participating in the annual town parades,… [these were] by far the best part of the work,” he said. “I wanted to work with the poor, with people less fortunate than myself. I wanted to be culturally displaced to bring fresh ideas and perspectives back home.” That was something Kate Solomon appreciated as well. “It’s an amazing feeling to understand a new culture and people [through] a real-life experience,” she wrote from her village in Paraguay. It has also been exciting to be “able to understand all the intricate relationships between rural and city life and political instability in a Third World country.” Those complex relationships—particularly those between men and women—showed these alumni how they could—and could not—work to better the lives of the native populations. Boardman felt his project didn’t address the greatest needs he saw facing the Chileans he worked with. Teenage pregnancy, sexism, and irresponsible male behavior were greater issues there. Machismo was also an issue Cassie O’Connor faced as she worked docu-

P

O

T

L

I

G

H

T

Kate Solomon ’90 with her neighbors in Paraguay.

menting tree growth—and loss—in the rainforests of Borneo. “It’s very frustrating to be a woman in Indonesia,” she commented. “It’s a very male world. All the Indonesian staff were male, most of the researchers were, too. It could be a testosterone fest at times.” O’Connor’s work was in direct conflict with the main product of Borneo: timber. She was in Kalimantan, on the In-

“ The most rewarding thing was the fact that the village and that place became my world.” — Laurie Odden ’89 donesian portion of the island of Borneo, studying the fruiting process of fig trees in a forest management project inside a national park. However, illegal loggers cut down trees throughout her time there, frustrating her and the other researchers. “Everyone benefits from logging there,” she pointed out. “They did everything they could to stop this project. It was so depressing. We’d often wake up to the sound of chain saws.” Taft Bulletin

5


S

P

O

T

L

I

G

H

T

Laurie with other teachers in front of the school where she did health education.

O’Connor, whose father is president of a non-profit organization which works to improve health world-wide, spent much of her youth overseas. Despite the conflicts she faced, O’Connor would go overseas again. “I can’t stay still,” she said with a laugh. “Living in the rainforest was wonderful, so pristine and beautiful. But nothing was better than knowing the [Indonesian] staff. We lived with them every

were the ones who gave them the money. There was an unbridgeable gap, which was kind of a bummer.” Laurie Odden, too, said she encountered stereotypes about Americans, that “they associate white people with money. I spent a lot of frustrating moments trying to convince them,… I don’t have money for you.” Solomon agreed. Living in the extremely poverty-stricken community of Asuncion, Paraguay, Solomon found that

Working to help people in other parts of the world—despite the challenges, the loneliness, and the frustration—is a life-changing experience. “It shook my foundations and gave me… a fresh perspective.” — Robert Boardman ’87 day for a year. They taught us so much.” But, as O’Connor and the rest said, despite the closeness each felt with members of the native populations, there was also a gulf between the cultures. “I don’t think they knew how to relate to us, and especially to me,” O’Connor said. “There was an impenetrable block because we were Western. Even though in our minds we wanted to be friends, there was no escaping that we 6

Winter 1998

“Americans are perceived as very wealthy, white-skinned, blue-eyed people.” She also saw first-hand the discrimination in gender roles Laurie, Cassie, and the rest found. Through her work with the Peace Corps, Solomon has been teaching beekeeping to local farmers as a way to help them diversify their crops and their income. “Only through my own example and promoting beekeeping among women

was I able to show that women can earn an income,” she noted. Laurie found similar resistance to the idea that women have value, even though she said in her village, the women worked throughout the day, while the men didn’t. “I was able to talk with my friends about gender issues, but… I didn’t feel it was my place to go in and… impose our values. I would praise the men who worked, or the women who were so strong. Through my own behavior, too. They weren’t used to having a woman take charge.” Being an American in a strange land also meant all these Tafties had to get used to a lot of loneliness, at least at first. “Some days, the boredom and loneliness are acute,” Wilcox said. “Other days,… I have visitors in my house from 7:30 AM to 11:30 at night.’’ All agree that it takes a special kind of person to survive in such a different world. Solomon said someone examining whether to go into service should have “a strong tolerance for different values and customs,” and shouldn’t “have trouble being alone.” Where you go also may present physical challenges, pointed out O’Connor, who spent a fair amount of her day picking leeches off herself and her fellow researchers. “You have to know yourself really well before you do this,” she said. “You have to be willing to forgo all sense of vanity and other material comforts, and be willing to live in solitude and with little contact from the outside world. You have to get comfortable with the idea of leeches in unsavory places. That pretty much closes the door for a lot of people.” Working to help people in other parts of the world—despite the challenges, the loneliness, and the frustration—is a life-changing experience. Said Boardman, “It shook my foundations and gave me… a fresh perspective.”


S

P

O

T

L

I

G

H

T

The following members of the Class of 1998 received Poole grants last summer to help defray the costs of their travel projects. As was Bob Poole ’50, they were bridges “for communication between people of different backgrounds and cultures.” The fellowships are intended to open eyes, broaden perspectives, and expose individuals to new ideas and experiences in the hope that all members of the community will be the ultimate beneficiaries.

Matt Allessio

Justin Mak

Institute on International Law and Diplomacy, Washington, DC

Terra Cotta Museum in Xian, China

Ross Gammill

Work project, Satapuala, Western Samoa

Andover Foundation for Archeological Research, Belize

Brad Holden School building in Cayembe, Ecuador

Elizabeth Johnson Visions community service project in Santo Domingo, Domincan Republic

Mike Sesko John Skovran Children’s shelter in Araraquara, Brazil John spoke of his experiences in Morning Meeting in November. His remarks appear on page 43.

Addie Strumolo Construction and youth literacy project in Dominica, Caribbean

From left, seniors Allessio, Skovran, Johnson, Sesko, Holden, Strumolo, Gammill

Taft Bulletin

7


S

P

O

T

L

I

G

H

T

A Sister School in Thailand By Lance R. Odden

A

mong Gordon Wu’s many gifts to Taft was an introduction he provided me to Krits Palarit, one of his Bangkok partners, whom I met in the fall of 1992. For several days Krits Palarit was our guide in Thailand, and among the experiences arranged for me was a day with the Thai Ministry of Education. That night, he asked what I thought of the department’s programs for secondary schools. I admitted my dismay at their bureaucratic procedures and nineteenth century outlook. Krits surprised me by asking what he could possibly do to prepare Thai youth for the higher education needed to compete in the 21st century. Instinctively, I suggested that he start a private school to prepare Thai students for American and European universities. The rest of that evening found us brainstorming how such a notion might be pursued. 8

Winter 1998


S

P

O

T

L

I

G

H

T

Lance R. Odden Hall in Chiang Mai.

Two years later, Krits Palarit called and asked if I would consider joining him as the founding headmaster of the school of his dreams. I responded at once that I couldn’t, but that I had just the couple for him. A few weeks later, Emily and Gordon Jones flew to Bangkok to be interviewed and then begin the process of doing the formal planning to bring a form, and then reality to Krits Palarit’s vision. Five years after our initial meeting, that dream is now a reality—the Ake Panya School in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Patsy and Lance at the dedication.

Emily and Gordon Jones with founder Krits Palarit.

Taft Bulletin

9


S

P

O

T

L

I

G

H

T

A Buddhist blessing of the hall. The school’s name, Ake Panya, means first wisdom—one of the four kernel truths of Buddhism.

Through Krits Palarit’s remarkable leadership and generosity, complemented so ably by the commitment of Gordon and Emily Jones of Taft’s faculty (1987-96), Ake Panya is open, f lourishing with a fine faculty—including Amy Wynne ’84—and blessed with a strong initial contingent of students. Of the professional experiences I have had in the course of a lifetime of teaching and headmastering, few equal the sense of pride and joy I felt seeing this wonderful school in operation.That Krits Palarit and the Joneses should elect to dedicate one of their founding buildings in my name was perhaps the 10

Winter 1998

greatest professional honor that I have been paid, and for this I will be forever grateful. In spite of the difficult economic times in Southeast Asia, Taft’s sister school is thriving and well, and I know that the Joneses will welcome visits from all Tafties who find themselves in that far off land.

Art teacher Amy Wynne ’84 carries on a family legacy in Thailand.


ALUMNI IN THE NEWS

Alumni IN THE NEWS

Wuerkers’ Work in Windy City

Top 20 Journalist

Jennifer Glenn Wuerker ’83 and her husband, Aaron, had an exhibit of their work by the Streeterville Gallery in Chicago, Illinois. The exhibit ran from September 13 through October 15 and featured landscapes by Jennifer and still-lifes and landscapes by Aaron. Much of Jennifer’s work for the show was painted in Wyoming, where they live when Taft (where Jennifer is a member of the faculty) is not in session. Together they hope to carry on the tradition of painting from direct observation. “Although the manual act of painting tends to be a counter-cultural activity in our speedy world,” Jennifer writes, “I find the beauty of light and the expanse of landscape to be timeless and universal.”

The December issue of Presstime magazine named Bonnie Blackburn ’84 as one of twenty outstanding journalists in the country under age 40. She is an editorial writer and columnist at The Journal Gazette in Fort Wayne, IN, and a guest columnist for USA Today. She describes her work as having a “pragmatic, progressive viewpoint.” Her USA Today columns have focused on issues affecting young women. The concept of the always-objective reporter “is a load of hooey,” she told Presstime. “We’re not stenographers.” Outside the office, however, “you have to bribe me to come up with an opinion on anything.” Bonnie was selected for Michigan State’s Environmental Journalism Fellowship, was named a fellow in the Kiplinger Mid-Career Program in Public Affairs Reporting at Ohio State, and received two awards from the South Carolina Press Association. She received her master’s degree in journalism from Ohio State in 1994. (See her article earlier this issue.)

Taft Bulletin

11


ALUMNI IN THE NEWS

King of the Road

Tennis Star Barbara Potter ’79 as she won the Women’s Indoor Tennis Championship in 1982 against Pam Shriver. UPI/Corbis-Bettman

In a spectacular display of driving determination, 1997 Trans-Am Rookie of the Year Mike Borkowski ’91 went toe-to-toe in a 30-lap shootout with four-time winner Tom Kendall for his first Trans-Am win, topping Kendall by 10.45 seconds at Pikes Peak International Raceway in Colorado. The Cornell University graduate began racing quarter midgets at the age of seven and has back-to-back championship titles in Pro Formula 2000 and Pro Sports 2000. He has six top-ten finishes at the PPG Firestone Indy Lights in six starts. Having drawn the No.1 ball in a random drawing, Mike led every lap of the 73lap, 94-mile race. “This race was tough,” he said. “It was the hardest race of my life.” His performance earned him both the DynoMax Turn On the Power Award and the Raybestos Rising Star of the Race Award.

Barbie Potter Enters Hall of Fame In September, the United States Tennis Association of New England inducted Barbara Potter ’79 into the New England Tennis Hall of Fame at the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island. The highlights of her 11-year career on the women’s professional tennis tour include ranking seventh in the world in singles and fourth in doubles, making it to the Wimbledon quarterfinals in 1982, 1983 and 1985. The New York Times wrote in 1985 that “she is generally recognized as having one of the best [serves] in women’s tennis.” Barbie joined the pro tour at 17 and retired in 1989 with a hip injury. She learned to play as a child with her father, the late Mark Potter ’48. She is the only girl ever to play in the number one spot on the Boys’ Varsity Tennis Team at Taft. After graduating from Yale with a degree in history in 1994, she began a broadcast career “that took her to as many places as playing tennis did.” She is currently a reporter for the Providence Journal-Bulletin. Source: Waterbury Republican-American

12

Winter 1998

Keep Your Eyes on the Olympics A. J. Mleczko ’93 is one of 20 members of the U.S. Olympic women’s hockey team competing in Nagano, Japan, this month. Final cuts were made hours after A.J. scored the last goal in Team USA’s 3-0 victory over NAGANO 1 9 9 8 Canada for the gold medal in the Three Nations Cup in Lake Placid, NY, last December. Coached by Taft hockey legend Patsy Odden and then by Harvard coach Katey Stone ’84, A. J. has put her senior year on hold to compete in Japan. She is the all-time leading goal scorer (91) and scoring leader (143 points) for the Harvard Crimson. The 1998 Winter Games are the first featuring women’s ice hockey as a medal sport. The US was seeded number two after Canada.


AROUND THE POND

pond Cum Laude Inductees For the first time since the founding of The Taft School Chapter of the Cum Laude Society in 1922, the school made two changes in the way it computes student averages. Previously, election to the society has been based solely on a student’s academic record in the upper-middle year. This year, the school counted both the upper-middle and middle year records. The Cum Laude Committee may also elect one-year students with extraordinary records. In addition, averages were weighted this year, with 0.05 point added for each accelerated or Advanced Placement course. Although the school is allowed to elect a maximum of one-fifth of a graduating class, only fifteen students were inducted in November. Taft generally includes 10 percent of the class in the fall and the remainder at graduation, rarely inducting more than 16 or 17 percent of a given class, according to Dean of Academic Affairs Bill Morris ’69. Cum Laude is the highest academic honor given at Taft. The new method of

Class of 1998 Cum Laude inductees, from left, Addie Strumolo, Matt Allessio, Anthony Guerrera, Michelle O’Brien, Steve Sandvoss, Dan Chak, James Young, Mariya Chhatriwala, Adrian Cheng, Joe Petrucelli, Jon Wood, Liz Macaulay, and Tim Carter. Johannes Haushofer and Byung Wook Huh are not pictured. Photo by Carroll Leatherman ’98

determining who should receive it is an improvement, according to Morris, “because it recognizes excellence in all academic areas over time.” The weighted, two-year

system will also be used to determine valedictorian and salutatorian at graduation. Source: David Morris ’99, The Taft Papyrus. Taft Bulletin

13


AROUND THE POND

New Visiting Artists Program

Sabbatical Symphony Instrumental Music Director Alexander Nagy had a productive year on sabbatical leave. He worked on several new compositions, including one that former faculty member Chris Shepard hopes to perform with his new choir in Australia and another dedicated to and performed by Alex’s daughter, Ildiko ’93, for her university graduation recital in Hungary. The biggest news, however, is that one of his compositions—a work for chorus and orchestra called Stabat Mater —is soon to be performed by the Hungarian Radio and Television Symphony Orchestra. The work is based on text by the 12th century Franciscan monk, Geoffroi Breteuil, describing the scene at Christ’s crucifixion. “It is the oldest existing written document in Hungarian,” Alex explains. “A Hungarian monk who studied in France in the 13th century read this text by Breteuil and proceeded to translate it into Hungarian. The Hungarian version was found at the end of the 19th century. It is an important linguistic document, because it shows how the Hungarian language was used in the middle ages.” Alex will play parts of the Hungarian broadcast at a school meeting this winter. Photo by Peter Finger

14

Winter 1998

Internationally-renowned ceramic artist Elizabeth MacDonald visited Taft in November. She gave a morning meeting presentation about her work, worked with pottery classes in the morning, and conducted an open studio workshop in the afternoon. Her visit was sponsored by the Rockwell Endowment for Visiting Artists at Taft. The endowment, established in September 1997, was originally proposed by Gail Wynne, art teacher at Taft for nearly thirty years, who said she “jumped at the chance to strengthen the arts at Taft” through this gift from brothers Sherburne B. Rockwell, Jr.’41 and H.P. Davis Rockwell ’44. Ms. MacDonald’s pottery has been influenced by a variety of sources, especially her location. She said she would have been happy as a functional potter, but living in both New York and Massachusetts did not provide her with much time for firing her work. Her work has been influenced by her travels to many foreign countries, especially Bali. The experience of traveling, she says, takes a certain time to settle in and affect her work. Now that Ms. MacDonald has become well known, she does more public work for commissions in which she solves problems rather than experimenting freely. She said she “[misses] the more interior work,” but loves the work in which she is presently engaged. “I had always wanted to create a life,” she said, “not a career.” Source: Michelle O’Brien ’98, Taft Press Club. Photo by Peter Finger


AROUND THE POND

Irish Explorations

When Dr. Jerry Sugar, center, offered to have Taft students observe some of his surgeries last year, faculty members Laura Erickson and Dr. John Crosby, left, made the most of the opportunity. Several groups made the trip last spring and more visits are planned this year. Also pictured here are Sarah Akhtar ’98 and Jamie Flaherty ’98 who participated last spring.

Student Surgery Thanks to Dr. Jerry Sugar (P’97, ’01) AP Biology students and Anatomy and Physiology students taught by John Crosby and Laura Erickson have taken turns observing surgery at Waterbury Hospital. The goal of the project is for students to see—and hopefully gain an appreciation for—contemporary science and medicine. “Most scientists and science educators agree that the gap between these two disciplines is widening,” said John. “The elements of science and scientific investigation have grown beyond the scope of what can reasonably be offered to high school students. Not only have the tools of science changed, but so has the discipline. Science is no longer descriptive but rather is investigative in nature; we no longer seek only to observe our environments, but to alter them.” In this program, Taft students learn “that science is a process, an art requiring as much imagination and passion as creating music or writing a novel, a tool for discovery, and that science has direct impact on everyone’s lives. They get to see the application of what, in the classroom, are only ideas. They see how what they study is relevant, now.” On various trips to Waterbury Hospital last spring, students saw thyroidectomies, voice box removal, removal of tumors, setting of broken bones, abdominal surgery, ear tubes, orthopedic surgery. “We also hope to expand the program,” John said, “to include office visits in order to be present during diagnosis, treatment, and followup.”

Photography teacher Brian Moriarty has made three trips to Ireland since 1995, one on a Yale grant and the latest on a summer study grant from Taft. He says his project there started in part as an identity crisis when he finished graduate school. Not knowing exactly what he wanted to do with his photography, he looked for themes in the work he had been doing. He had photographed industrial sites (he grew up in western Pennsylvania), then mental institutions and prisons (his mother worked in one), and then more personal Americana—people in domestic settings and eventually self-portraits. He began to realize he was not comfortable doing documentaries; he saw his work as an exploration of self through location, reflections on his childhood. His first trip to Ireland was for other reasons, an exploration for his father who had taught him about Irish history. But the work began to mesh with his exploration of self. He has also been writing about these experiences, but hasn’t yet decided if the culmination of these efforts will go into a book. “I have other projects,” he says, “but this is the hum, the heartbeat in the background of my life.” Last year, Brian was named one of the top 25 photographers under age 25. Photo by Peter Finger

Photo by Julie Reiff Taft Bulletin

15


AROUND THE POND

Finding the Keys to Success Why do students of color have a higher rate of attrition in college, and what can schools like Taft do to prepare them better for the college experience? Faculty member Mennette DuBose San-Lee ’87 is working with other Connecticut boarding schools to find out. Together Taft, Choate, Loomis, and Kent are talking to 1997 graduates and current seniors to find out what we can do to make the transition more successful. “I know that we have made great strides in accommodating students of color,” she said. “It is also true, as traditional institutions, that we have many more lessons to learn in this regard.” The project is being sponsored by the National Association of College Admissions Counseling (NACAC) through their Multicultural Institute for Advanced Thinking and Practice. The last major study in this area was done nearly fifteen years ago. Mennette’s is one of three projects being funded this year, and her recommendations will be presented at the NACAC national conference in September.

Designing students Taft students have done well in recent years in the National Engineering and Design Competition (NEDC) sponsored by the Junior Engineering and Technical Society (JETS). This year the group will have the added support of engineers from the Siemon Company in Watertown. (Yes, it is within the rules.) Each year, students are given real-life engineering problems to tackle. Last year they designed exercise equipment that would be safe for pregnant women or people with physical handicaps. This year the task is to design a safer shopping cart, one that could prevent the thousands of accidents that happen every year to children in them. Physics teacher Jim Mooney, who serves as the students’ advisor, said, “This year we have two groups pursuing separate designs, and hopefully each group will develop a prototype. Apart from the challenge of the problem itself, it has been a real challenge for the kids to learn to work together toward one goal.” Photo by Julie Reiff

Siemon engineers Denny Lo and Mark Viklund with faculty advisor Jim Mooney and team members John Skovran ’98, Willy Cheung ’99, Anthony Guerrera ’98, and Clayton Chen ’98.

Photo by Eric Poggenpohl

Vietnam in Modern Memory Dennis Mannion, an English teacher at Sheehan High School in Wallingford, CT, spoke in early December to interested members of the community and “Literature of War” students about his experiences as a foot soldier during the Vietnam war. Mr. Mannion carried an Instamatic camera with him in 1967, and he turned his snap shots into slides some ten years later when he was asked to speak about his tour of duty. According to English teacher Rick Lansdale, Mr. Mannion first spoke at Taft last year and was enthusiastically received by faculty and students alike. Photo by Julia Pinover ’98

16

Winter 1998


AROUND THE POND

Author, Author! He may have been born in Germany, but no faculty member knows more about Native Americans than Volker Krasemann. In fact, he wrote the book: Powwow – Die magischen Trommeln des Lebens (Pow Wows: The Magical Drums of Life). His interest began five years ago after spending the summer in Montana. When he returned to Germany, he was surprised that very little had been written on the topic in German. Back in Montana for graduate school, he spent months researching, in his “spare time,” and found a professor of Native American studies to help write the book. Sadly, she died soon after, having written only ten pages. Volker then consulted a Blackfoot friend and spent the next two months writing like mad. “I never told my professors in the science department until I finished because they would have said, ‘You can’t do both.’” His next project? He’s already started a book about German women deported to Russian concentration camps in Siberia after World War II. He hopes to arrange more interviews on his next trip back to Germany. Photo by Peter Finger

Taft in Top 400 You’ve heard of Fortune 500 companies, but have you heard of the Philanthropy 400? Each year The Chronicle of Philanthropy ranks nonprofit groups according to the amount of support they receive from private sources, individuals, foundations, and corporations. To be included in the selective list, groups had to have raised at least $17.2 million in 1996. Taft ranked 386th with $18,306,000 raised. The only other prep school in the group was Phillips Academy (Andover) at 398th. Harvard ranked 11th, Yale 26th, and Princeton 53rd. The Salvation Army was number 1. Taft Bulletin

17


AROUND THE POND

Fathers’ Day Smiles Nearly 600 family members came to campus for Fathers’ Day last fall, including 328 dads. Bad weather cancelled many games, but didn’t dampen spirits.

Jim Graham with daughters Sarah ’98 and Julia ’01.

Eduardo Mestre ’66 with daughter Laura ’98 and wife Gillian.

Ben Steele ’98 with his sister, Rachel, and his parents, Tom and Jane Steele.

Rachel Brodie ’98 with her parents, Maureen Brodie-Shenkman and William Shenkman.

Emily Payne ’98 with her parents, John and Dorothy Payne.

Sonje, Jeff, and Margaret Wilkerson ’00.

18

Winter 1998


AROUND THE POND

Love is in the Air The hugs were abundant and the mood jovial as Taft students welcomed over 300 visitors on Grandparents’ Day in October.

Head monitor Devin Weisleder with his grandfather, Arthur Weisleder. Above: Dick and Harriet Strumolo P’70, ’75 with their four Taft grandchildren: Will ’01 and Addie Strumolo ’98 and Emily ’00 and Tony Piacenza ’01.

Left: Florence and Nat Mortara with grandson Mike ’00.

Lower left: Christina Coons with grandparents Jean and Bob Coons ’41 and Arlene Welch on Grandparents’ Day.

Below: Barbara and Irving Levy P’65 with Taft grandchildren Craig Levy ’01 and Aaron Dickson ’98.

Taft Bulletin

19


AROUND THE POND

…and beyond Hong Kong Dinner At a dinner hosted by Pat Chow (P’93, ’95, ’00) and Katherine Cheng (P’98, ’99, ’01), alumni and parents in Hong Kong gathered together on November 4 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel to welcome Headmaster Lance Odden, his wife, Patsy, and Admissions Director Ferdie Wandelt ’66. “In spite of the financial difficulties coursing through Asia, the Hong Kong alumni and parent constituency greeted and hosted us with their usual elegant hospitality and pride in their affiliation with Taft,” Lance said. Every year, Ferdie visits as part of the admissions process. Lance makes the trip every other year as a way of sustaining our close relations with “this wonderfully loyal group who have been so important to the recent history of our school.”

20

Winter 1998


S

P

O

R

T

sport Climbing the Walls A new artificial climbing structure (or ACS) has been installed in the fieldhouse of the Cruikshank Athletic Center. Chemistry teacher Paul Nanian has been working with students and faculty members alike, helping experienced climbers improve their techniques and showing the ropes to neophytes. The climbing wall is twenty feet wide and thirty-three feet high and has five levels of difficulty. It is made by Entre-Prises, builder of World Cup and Olympic climbing structures. Paul explains that “most walls have wood frames, but ours is made of steel. They don’t make them any better.” Already highly popular with students, the climbing wall gives many a new perspective on athletics at Taft. Source: Lanny Shreve ’99, Taft Press Club. Photo by Julia Pinover ’98 c Avid climber Mike Reilly ’99 hails the fiberglass-resin wall as being “as close as you can get to real rock without actually going outside.” Taft Bulletin

21


S

P

O

R

T

Fall Big Red Scoreboard Boys’ Cross Country

Football

Head Coach: .................................................... Steve Palmer

Head Coach: .................................................. Steve McCabe

Captain: .................................................... John Skovran ’98

Captains: .................... Lou Costanzo ’98, William Pettit ’98

Record: ........................................................................... 8-3

Record: ........................................................................... 1-7

John Small Cross Country Award: .................. John Skovran

Black Football Award: ............. Lou Costanzo, William Pettit

Captain-elect: ...................................... Mark Deschenes ’99

Cross Football Award: .................................. Chris Fields ’98 Captain-elect: ............................................ Todd Peebler ’99

Girls’ Cross Country Head Coach: .................................................... Karla Palmer

Boys’ Soccer

Captain: .............................................. Michelle O’Brien ’98

Head Coach: ............................................ Willy MacMullen

Record: ........................................................................... 8-1

Captain: ................................................. Bruce Hodsdon ’98

Girls’ Cross Country Award: ..................... Michelle O’Brien

Record: ....................................................................... 9-3-5

Captain-elect: ......................................... Danielle Perrin ’99

Carroll Soccer Award: ..................................Bruce Hodsdon Captain-elect: ............................................ Brad D’Arco ’99

Boys’ Crew Head Coach: ............................................................ Al Reiff

Girls’ Soccer

Captain: ........................................................ Doug Lake ’98

Head Coach: ............................................ Andrew Bogardus

Record: ......................................................................... 12-3

Captain: ................................................ Addie Strumolo ’98

Crew Award: .................... Steve Sandvoss ’98, Jon Wood ’98

Record: ....................................................................... 3-5-6

Captain-elect: ................................................. Ed Miller ’99

1976 Girls’ Soccer Award: ........................... Addie Strumolo Captain-elect: ......................................... Julie Feldmeier ’99

Field Hockey Head Coach: ..................................................... Fran Bisselle Captains: .............................. Blair Otto ’98, Sarah Otto ’98 Record: ..................................................................... 12-2-1 Field Hockey Award: ......................... Blair Otto, Sarah Otto Captains-elect: .......... Emily Townsend ’99, Jill Giardina ’99 22

Winter 1998

Cheer on the Big Red on the web! www.Taft.pvt.k12.ct.us/ home/studentactivities/ sportsschedule


E

N

D

N

O

T

E

—By John Skovran ’98

O

n July 1, I left on a 9-hour plane ride for Araraquara, Brazil, with the intent of working with underprivileged inner-city youths. The first real challenge I had to face began on the plane ride but extended throughout the duration of the trip. The people of Brazil speak Portuguese. I had taken only two years of Span-

rounded by a six-foot metal fence with two rottweiler dogs on the other side. These beasts were quite interesting animals. Although I got along fine with them, and they were well trained and thus very obedient, if they didn’t know you they would let you know in a hurry. The house itself, while very nice and cozy, was a fortress, every door having a lock, and the house itself divided into

“The great part about my job was not the work that I was doing, but the kids I worked with.” ish up to that point, and could not be called fluent by any stretch of the imagination. The combination of speaking very little Spanish and the fact the Portuguese is not all that similar to Spanish was a difficult aspect of my trip. Fortunately, as the summer progressed, my Spanish merged somewhat with Portuguese, and conveniently enough, by the time I left I had just begun to communicate with people on a semi-intelligent level. The family I lived with consisted of a father, who was a civil engineer, a mother who was a housewife, and three sons and a daughter who were all in college. They lived in the heart of Araraquara, a city of 200,000 people in southern Brazil. Their house was much different than the American houses I was used to living in. Because the family was well off, they had taken precautions to secure their possessions. The entire place was sur-

sections. When I woke up at 6:30 in the morning to start my work, I had to unlock and pass through two doors just to get to the kitchen to eat, and then through two more locked doors to get outside and through the gate to the sidewalk. Once outside I would take a public bus to a government-sponsored center where a group of underprivileged children between the ages of 8 and 18 would go in the morning to learn practical skills before they left for their public school in the afternoon.

These children were different than I had imagined. They were very nice and accepted me without reservation. Each morning when they arrived, I would help to serve their food. After they ate, we would get on with the day’s activities. Every day was different. The center was a relatively small and open pavilion in which the boys and girls were taught sports, cooking, sewing, typing, silk-screening, and gardening among others. On my second day the boys expressed a desire to learn the rules of American football and baseball. This was rather difficult, but with the help of a dictionary and a chalk board they learned. Then we realized that all they had was a soccer ball and a basketball, so they opted to play soccer instead. The great part about my job was not the work that I was doing, but the kids I worked with. Two of the boys there were my age, and I got to know them pretty well. Many of the other boys and girls also made an effort to get to know me, and before long, I knew almost everybody at the center, which was a little over fifty kids. I learned that these kids were very much like me, only we had been born into different lifestyles, and had obviously enough had different opportunities.

“…after seeing and working side by side with people who were suffering as these men and children were, I can honestly say how I now appreciate where I am, and the opportunities that I have a lot more than before.” Taft Bulletin

23


E

N

D

N

O

T

E

“While [Brazil] has its fair share of political and economical problems, it has been making leaps and bounds in the way of progress in the last five to ten years.” They were intrigued by everything about me from my electronic pocket translator and camera to my shoes, and to the fact that I knew another language fluently and lived in the US. The US has an amazing influence over these kids from movies and sports, to music and styles. Sadly, many of these kids had problems ranging from marijuana addiction, to not knowing where they would eat and sleep. They were nonetheless extremely nice and always willing to help me, or teach me, or laugh at my ridiculously-broken Portuguese. Unfortunately, not every day was a barrel of laughs. A few times I would show up to discover that some disaster, small or large, had occurred. On one particular morning I arrived to discover that Emerson, a 13-year-old boy with whom I had been raking leaves and playing basketball not twenty hours before, had died. Apparently he had been plugging something into an outlet at school and had been electrocuted. What really puzzled me was the fact that everyone I talked to treated it as a normal event. Even the teachers expressed how it was sad, but I got the feeling that even to them it was not really a big deal. Beyond this nothing was ever said or done. Some 24

Winter 1998

of his own friends even cracked jokes. They did not do it to be mean, but it just wasn’t a very big deal to them at all. Some days I would also work with men from a halfway home, performing manual labor around the center. I saw everything from men who had not had a decent meal or shower in weeks, to a man whose feet were literally decaying away. Not to be clichéd, but after seeing and working side by side with people who were suffering as these men and children were, I can honestly say how I now appreciate where I am, and the opportunities that I have a lot more than before. I make Brazil out to be some kind of barbaric, poverty-stricken land. However, this is only part of the country. The people that I worked with were not the norm; rather, they were people who were struggling for their day-to-day existence.

Many Brazilians are not incredibly far off from those in countries such as the US or Canada. Brazil is a developing country fast on its way to globalism. On weekends I would travel to nearby cities so that I could really get a feel for this country. It is a country with large cities and rolling farm land. While it has its fair share of political and economical problems, it has been making leaps and bounds in the way of progress in the last five to ten years. It has transformed its once-astronomical inflation rate to a stable one in which the prices stay the same from day to day. It is a country rich in history where monarchy was abandoned and slavery abolished, all without bloodshed. Compare that with the United States, and you will see what an accomplishment that is. It is a land blessed with no hurricanes, no volcanoes, no tornadoes, nor twisters. A terrain that has never experienced an earthquake. It has everything from ski slopes to the Amazon to beautiful beaches. My Poole fellowship allowed me to work with a new class of people and to gain a tremendous and somewhat humbling experience. It also allowed me to travel to another country and to see a new culture. Vive Brazil, Ordem y Progresso.

“My Poole fellowship allowed me to work with a new class of people and to gain a tremendous and somewhat humbling experience. It also allowed me to travel to another country and to see a new culture.”

Winter 1998 Taft Bulletin  
Winter 1998 Taft Bulletin