State of the School from the Head
ear Ethel Walker Family and Friends,
CENTENNIAL The fall of 2011 has been nothing short of extraordinary. On October 1, over 1200 alumnae, parents and friends gathered under the tent for our Centennial Chapel. The program included Sigourney Weaver ’67 with a keynote address, our students’ account of the School through the decades, and a wonderful intergenerational choir. That evening the tent was transformed for our SunDial Celebration Dinner enjoyed by 700 guests. Look for details and photos of Centennial weekend in our commemorative issue of the SunDial magazine and the Centennial section of our website. Centennial was truly a watershed moment for The Ethel Walker School. I have enclosed a Centennial keepsake with several remarkable speeches.
OCTOBER STORM Three short weeks later, Simsbury endured a record-breaking storm with 14 inches of snow and high winds on leafladen trees resulting in 10 days without power. Luckily the campus did not sustain any structural damage; however, Beaver Brook was the only campus facility with a generator, and became a haven to faculty families and students who were unable to get home. The National Guard was deployed for several days, service crews arrived from around the country, and the clean up will take months. I have never been more proud of my team; they worked tirelessly to ensure the safety and operation of the School.
2011-12 INSTITUTIONAL GOALS As we continue to manage to our Strategic Plan, we have committed to the following 2011-12 institutional goals: • • •
We will continue to pursue academic and ethical excellence through innovation and collaboration We will empower our students to explore peace initiatives and global awareness, with a focus on China, by participating in opportunities that foster global understanding We will celebrate our past and ensure our future by enlisting the talents and support of our constituencies to launch a Centennial Campaign.
ACADEMICS Admission to and success at competitive colleges continues to be at the forefront of our mission. Our seniors are busy applying to colleges, the culmination of a proactive college counseling program that begins well before senior year. 66% of the senior class (of 41 students) has submitted an early decision or early action college application. We offer 19 AP and 22 honors courses, as part of an innovative curriculum that focuses on 21st century skills. Electives include Anatomy & Physiology, Astronomy, AP Economics, Caribbean Studies, Equine Science, English 12: “Love, Power, and Revenge,” Mandarin Chinese, Middle East and Beyond, and Social and Political Philosophy, to name just a few. At the core of our academic excellence is the passion and talent of our faculty. Our artistic and athletic strengths continue to promote our school in many positive ways; tournament champions and regional finalist are among our fall accomplishments. In addition to existing exchange programs in Scotland, New Zealand, and Australia, we are exploring additional opportunities in South Africa and China. Continued on next page
CONTINUED COMMITMENT TO SERVICE AND ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP Walker’s is fast becoming a leader among schools with our commitment to environmental stewardship. We hosted a national Environmental Symposium last June entitled Food for Thought, with speakers Frances Beinecke Elston ’67 and Bill McKibben, a climate change activist. We continue our commitment to public purpose as we partner with worthy local organizations, including Grace Academy, an all-girls school in Hartford. Walker’s is exploring an affiliation with Middlebury College's Center for Social Entrepreneurship; our role will focus on the role of girls and women in social entrepreneurship, specifically around peace initiatives.
WALKER’S FISCAL HEALTH With the teamwork of a strong Finance Committee and disciplined fiscal management internally, Walker’s achieved a surplus budget for FY 2011. We are committed to the goal of fiscal prudence ensuring a sustainable model and a promising future for The School. We exceeded our Annual Fund goal of $1.5 million last year, thanks to the terrific loyalty of alumnae, parents, trustees, and friends. Walker’s long-term financial strength has never looked more promising.
ADMISSIONS AND ENROLLMENT Walker’s has 238 students with a 66% boarding population, representing 18 countries and 18 states plus Puerto Rico. We have put into place an Enrollment Management Task Force to revolutionize admissions that will feature a robust social media presence. We have targeted our travel to include more full pay markets, including recent travel to Bermuda and Saudi Arabia, and events at feeder schools throughout the country.
CENTENNIAL CAMPAIGN Our Centennial Campaign, Chaired by Sarah Gates Colley ’75, with co-chairs Margot Campbell Bogert ’60, Debby Williams MacKenzie ’55 and Lisa Pagliaro Selz ’69, is being planned with several transformational components, ensuring Walker’s success for the next century. We are delighted that over $17 million has been raised towards the $50 million goal. You will be hearing more about important components of the campaign to ensure Walker’s continues to attract a competitive and dynamic student body for years to come.
A VISION FOR WALKER’S NEXT CENTURY — IT IS TIME TO BELIEVE Now is the time for Walker’s. People are watching us closely at this extraordinary Centennial moment and it is within this window that we, together, have the power to transform the destiny of the School, once and for all. This will require all of us to believe strongly in Walker’s today. Our mission of educating the minds and hearts of young women is among the most noble of missions, and critical to the world. It continues to be a privilege to be Head of The Ethel Walker School in this auspicious moment; we have a talented and passionate Board of Trustees, a loyal and committed team of faculty and administrators, and a Strategic Plan that continues to stretch us to be our best. I welcome your questions and ideas and thank you for the commitment of your resources and gift of your time. I ask you to continue to stretch, to believe, and I promise…you will see that Walker’s stands tall at this transformational Centennial moment! Sincerely,
Elizabeth C. Speers
EXCERPTS FROM CENTENNIAL CHAPEL KEYNOTE SPEAKER
Sigourney Weaver ’67
Good morning everyone! How wonderful it is to be
back at our beautiful School even on this soggy fall day. Girls, you did a lovely job. It’s amazing to think that Walker’s was founded before women had the vote! Miss Walker was ahead of her time. It’s great to see such a big turn out, including so many husbands and partners. After all those awful dances things really did work out. Go Suns and Dials, but especially Suns! It’s amazing to me to think the school is only 100 years old. It feels like it has been here much much longer, like Stonehenge. But what an incredible feat Walker’s has accomplished over the last decades — maintaining its commitment to single sex women’s education in the face of so much pressure, and not only weathering these last years but transforming and surviving and thriving. I think the tide is finally turning in Walker’s direction as more and more young women are choosing to study and lead within their own communities. In any case, I want to salute Bessie Speers for her dynamic leadership of EWS, to acknowledge all the teachers here for their invaluable contribution to women’s education, and to greet with great affection all of my dear alumnae sisters. I meet women all the time that went to Walker’s and no matter when we were here, it is such a joyous and enduring bond for all of us. We were so damn lucky, weren’t we? But it’s you girls I really want to say hey to. You are carrying inside you something so rare, so powerful. It’s an EWS education. But I was so fortunate…there was a teacher here named Florence Hunt who was the head of the English department. Miss Hunt — in our dear Academic Dean Caroline Walker’s words — was “a splendid teacher, admirable in every respect — who taught us literature, a command of language, excellent abilities in writing.” Miss Hunt first drilled us in grammar, and after that we luxuriated in Thomas Hardy, Paradise Lost, Shakespeare, and “poitry” as Miss Hunt called it. As another alumna wrote, “ you were proud to be in her class”. Miss Hunt saw something in me that no one else thought was there, least of all me. She saw and tended this little glimmer, this ember of the confident, capable
creative woman I might become. Miss Hunt taught me English for three years. We worked hard for her, as hard as I’ve ever worked in my life. I ended up as one of her two AP English students with Jessica Ferguson. Such an honor. She encouraged my particular weird take on things, my sense of story, style, character, my love of all of it. I went on to Stanford and then was accepted at the Yale Drama School. I was so excited and proud and immediately wrote Miss Hunt and asked if we could have tea. I wanted to thank her. I was too late. Miss Hunt had passed away, much too young. So girls…what I suggest to you today is — find your Miss Hunt and be open to her or him finding you. Because this is where it all starts, right here at this School. The greatest gift you will ever have is an EWS education. It is such a powerful thing for a woman to have a great education in this world, for a woman to be able to read and write and communicate with confidence and joy and power. You will be unstoppable. All of my success in Hollywood is really because I know how to analyze a script and make a story work. I know which movies are going to work. All those days and months and years on grammar and structure and Thomas Hardy are still paying off for me. I promise you, no matter where you go in life and whatever you do — your education will allow you to soar, to contribute in a profound and lasting way, and to have fun with your work. But you have to work hard. You have to engage in your education, to make the most of every day here. Be here and drink it up. Education is a magic elixir that will nourish you every day for the rest of your life, and it is this woman’s not so secret weapon. I was never just a pretty face. So I want to thank my dear friend and teacher Florence Hunt for all she gave me and all she gave all the students at this school. I want to thank you, Bessie, and the teachers here now. Nothing is more important than what you are doing. And girls — ladies — sisters, study hard and then go out and take this world by storm. We need your passion and your weirdness and your leadership — every single one of you. Thank you.
SELECTED STUDENT REMARKS ON T E N D E C A D E S O F WA L K E R ’ S H I S T O R Y
Kayla Monroe ’12 “During the first decade of the school’s history, the world witnessed: World War I • the devastating flu epidemic • the sinking of the Titanic • and the women’s suffrage movement
The Ethel Walker School opened its doors in the fall of 1911 with seven teachers and ten students. These girls were among the first in their generation to attend a boarding school whose focus was college preparation. Today we have 42 teachers and 238 students from 18 countries and 18 states!”
Jess Chang ’13 “The roaring 20s saw: Women get the vote • Prohibition • the Charleston • Model Ts • Radio broadcasting • Lucky Lindbergh • and the stockmarket crash
Walker’s had three strong women as Heads of School who guided their students with very strict rules. Girls were rarely allowed to leave campus under their watch. The tradition of strong visionary heads has continued through the decades. Now we encourage our girls to go out in the community — indeed, to be citizens of the world through Junior/Senior projects, service learning, and international exchange programs.”
Lila Reynolds ’15 “The 1930s was dominated by: The Depression • FDR and fireside chats • The New Deal • The Dust Bowl • Big Band Music • Shirley Temple, Gone With the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, and Disney
On April 11, 1933, life changed dramatically when Beaver Brook burned to the ground. Two days later, the School’s Four Corners dormitory also caught fire. One hundred sixty-five girls moved to the Fishers Island Club house to finish the school year. Because of the Depression, there were many workers available to rebuild Beaver Brook so the next school year commenced back in Simsbury Since then, the campus has been continually improved with new buildings. We are always striving to enhance our facilities while preserving the beauty of our campus.”
Chelsea Regan ’13 “The 1940s witnessed: WW II • Pearl Harbor • Rosie the Riveter • the atom bomb • the GI Bill • penicillin • and Jackie Robinson broke the color line in Major League Baseball.
Restrictions on the girls were relaxed during the ’40s. Students were allowed to go into town or to Hartford to see a play, and even to receive boys for Sunday afternoon tea. The girls were also expected to volunteer for the Red Cross. With the onset of World War II came rationing. Students had to make do with less, were given household chores, and were required to work in the garden. Walker’s gradually became more culturally diverse. Weekly meetings in Beaver Brook
commenced, and the advisor system was instituted. The School’s Alumnae Association was also formed. Today, a diverse student body is considered critical to a student’s experience at Walker’s. Morning meetings are a vibrant part of life at the school and each student’s relationship with her advisor is one of the most important aspects of her daily life in our community.”
Nellie Speers ’16 “The 1950s evoke memories of: The Korean War • McCarthyism & the Cold War • Brown v. Board of Education • Rosa Parks • Television • Elvis, Chuck Berry, and rock ’n roll • Sputnik and the Space Race • and The Catcher in the Rye was banned around the country.
Smith dormitory (originally designed for faculty housing) and the chapel were completed. The Caroline Walker Honor Society was formed. The Catcher in the Rye is now required reading in the 9th grade! The Caroline Walker Honor Society remains one of the most prestigious character prizes to this day.”
Sajia Darwish ’14 “The 1960s was: The high tide of the Civil Rights Movement • Beatlemania • Motown • Woodstock • The Vietnam War • The Cuban Missile Crisis • The Assassination of American leaders • and Neil Armstrong walked on the moon.
To honor the 50th anniversary of the School, the Board of Trustees began a capital campaign to fund new science labs and a language lab. A new gymnasium was named for Natalie Galbraith Mitchell and the Muriel Alvord Memorial Library was completed. The new Cluett dormitory was also opened, and the Ferguson Performing Arts Center was dedicated. In 1968, the first African American students were enrolled at Walker’s. Today, our student body reflects the world we live in. Students learn that content of character matters.”
Lauren Nicholson ’14 “The 1970s saw: The Oil Embargo • War protests and Kent State • Watergate • the resignation of President Nixon • Roe v. Wade • Title IX • Disco • Jaws • and Microwave Ovens
Bucking the trend toward co-education, Walker’s remained true to its mission of an all-girls’ education. During the decade, more faculty began to move onto campus. Today, families continue to choose Walker’s because of the advantages of an all girls’ education. Students are encouraged to take on leadership roles here at school and in the world at large.”
Faith Ferber ’13 “The 1980s is remembered for: The U.S. Hockey Team’s “Miracle on Ice” • mullets, shoulder pads, and leg warmers • John Lennon’s murder • Madonna • Michael Jackson • MTV and music videos • Reaganomics • computers • American
hostages in Iran • the Challenger disaster • the tearing down of the Berlin Wall.
Three faculty houses were moved by truck onto campus. The Natalie Galbraith Chair in the Humanities was endowed. The Constance Lavino Bell Library was dedicated. Abra Prentice Wilkin donated the funds for an updated kitchen and dining area. In 1986 and again in 1988 the Ethel Walker softball team won the Founder’s League Championship. Riding and dance have been part of the athletic experience for 100 years. Today, students excel in a wide variety of sports. Walker’s continues to compete in the prestigious Founder’s League.”
Isabel Beeman ’16 “The 1990s brought us: An explosion in technology • the World Wide Web • the Gulf War • Oklahoma City bombing • The first woman secretary of state • Y2K panic • and the Women’s World Cup in soccer
In 1990 The Ethel Walker Middle School opened with thirteen 7th and 8th grade students. The first all-girls’ team built and raced a solar car. Beaver Brook Academic Center and Symington Science Center opened to rave reviews. New science labs, classrooms and art studios replaced dorm rooms. The Anastasia Payne Rooke Chair in Science, Math and Technology was endowed. Reflecting the growth in the day student population, Head of Day Students was added to the student leadership positions, making the group The Big Seven. From its humble beginnings on the third floor of the annex, the Middle School now has a dedicated wing in Ferguson. We proudly offer 19 Advanced Placement courses, supported by our state of the art classrooms and technology.”
Ellie Bell ’12 “The beginning of the 21st century is known for: Sept 11th • the War on Terror • wars in Iraq and Afghanistan • the First African American president • economic depression • iPods • Google • texting! • Facebook • wikipedia • and reality TV shows
The Margaret Huling Bonz Women of Distinction Speaker fund was established. The Simsbury Land Trust and the national Trust for Public Land reached an agreement with the School to buy 424 acres of the School’s land. Now open to town residents, Walker’s Woods is still used for riding, learning, and hiking by students and faculty. A new LEED certified Head’s house was built. A commitment to service learning and environmental stewardship was incorporated into the School’s mission. Today, our curriculum embraces academic excellence, and ethical and global issues. Walker’s graduates are fully prepared to follow in the footsteps of our alumnae to enter the world with courage, confidence, conviction and integrity.