The Packer Magazine - Spring 2023

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Spring 2023

Editorial Staff

Anne Conway, Director of Communications

Ana Tiwathia, Assistant Director of Communications

Ronnette Hope ’07, Director of Alumni

Class Notes Editor

Jacque Jones


Liana Frasca, Communications Specialist

Additional Photography by:

Sary Awad P’26, P’29

Raoul Brown

Julie Brown Harwood

Contributors as noted


CZ Design Printing

JS McCarthy Printers

The Packer Magazine is published once a year by The Packer Collegiate Institute, 170 Joralemon Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201. Nothing herein may be reprinted wholly or in part without the written permission of Packer’s Development Office. The Packer Collegiate Institute © 2023

More content at

Jennifer Weyburn Head of School

Development Office

Shriya Bhargava-Sears Director of Special Events

Anna Cohen Development Assistant

Ronnette Hope ’07 Director of Alumni

Susan Moore Director of Annual Giving

Aaron Heflich Shapiro Manager of Development Services

Communications Office

Anne Conway Director of Communications

Ana Tiwathia Assistant Director of Communications

LIana Frasca

Tori Gibbs Communications Specialists

Visit us online at

Make A Gift: Board of Trustees: Alumni Association:


Spring 2023

3 Head’s Message


In Harmony: Middle School Students Join Encore Select

Curriculum Close-up: Studying Nature in New York

With Purpose and Heart Maps: First Grade Self-Portraits

The Interconnected Community: Photographing Packer

Athletic Highlights

Performing Arts Spotlight


Welcome Back, May Day!

A Return to Form: Celebrating the Class of 2022

Celebrating Fall at Pumpkin Patch and Packerween Honoring Retiring Faculty and Staff


Transformation Station: Packer’s Campus Master Plan Takes Shape

News from the Board of Trustees

32 Alumni News

Staying in Touch with Packer

Back on Campus for Reunion

111th Founder’s Day Speaker

Alumni Spotlight

40 Class Notes

58 In Memoriam

Remembering Former Head of School Bruce L. Dennis

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Above: Sun poured through the Atrium as Middle School students enjoyed a hot chocolate party while the Upper School was off for the day. On the cover: Tire swing camera lens! We found just the right angle to capture some Lower School students playing on the Imagination Station—and even spotted some gear from the annual PA Skate Party.

Head’s Message

Eleventh graders stop for a post-hike lunch on a hillside dairy farm 2300 meters above sea level outside of Santa Maria de Dota, Costa Rica. Packer’s International Symposium program is designed to ensure that every student has the opportunity to travel abroad at no additional cost. In Costa Rica, students learn about and work with community-based development efforts in rural areas.

This year, as the pandemic recedes, we are committed to the core work of our school. How do we teach now, and how do we prepare all Packer students to become, in the words of our vision statement, “engaged members of an interconnected and dynamic world?“

Throughout last school year, dozens of people representing every constituency at Packer engaged in the project of developing a new strategic vision, Learning Together. I was pleased to introduce this adaptable, responsive new framework this past fall.

Why did we undertake the exercise of developing a strategic framework? To affirm what we stand for as an educational community. To establish the parameters for providing an excellent education for our students. To embed our commitment to diversity and equity directly in our vision and strategic priorities. And to hold ourselves accountable for our intentions and our actions.

The name Learning Together was chosen intentionally to highlight the communal aspect of a Packer education. Collaboration is an essential and distinctive feature of our approach. I often remind colleagues that when we talk about a “community of learners,” we mean both students and adults. The priorities laid out in Learning Together reflect a belief that transformative education and growth result not from didacticism, but from a process of continuously learning from one another, reflecting and refining along the way.

In the fall, I had the pleasure of co-hosting an interactive evening to introduce Learning Together to families. I asked attendees to share some examples of where they see Packer’s mission, vision, and values—scholarship, creativity, equity, integrity, joy, and respect—alive in our school:

I see respect embodied in the way teachers interact with, encourage and support students. They serve as wonderful examples for their students.

Middle Schoolers are mutually supportive. The equity and joy aspects of the values are alive and well.

In the Garden: joy and inclusivity!

We also surveyed Middle and Upper School students about their experiences at Packer, and began to see a pattern. The sense of a supportive community emerged as a central aspect of what students value:

I feel a really strong sense of community and I think that most of my teachers are really passionate about their subjects. (Grade 12)

Packer has a community that supports each other but is also not afraid to hold itself and individuals within it accountable, and I love that. (Grade 11)

The relationship between teachers and students is very positive and transparent. (Grade 11)

Packer does a good job of being inclusive for different students with different identities. (Grade 8)

The teachers are excellent and very supportive and actually care about me learning. (Grade 8)

Everyone is very welcoming to anyone new and is very kind to them, inviting them into things. (Grade 6)

When we asked faculty and staff about the most positive aspects of working at Packer, similar themes emerged:

A strong sense of community and shared mission.

I love the community at Packer and appreciate the anti-racism work that we’ve done and continue to do. Great collaboration between students and adults.

The people and culture—a workplace I look forward to participating in and fosters a sense of belonging.

The community vibe. So many interesting people to talk to and to collaborate with. Bounce ideas around with. I have heard from many who have left that Packer is special.

To be sure, we also asked everyone about where Packer could improve, and many offered deeply thoughtful and valuable feedback on opportunities for growth. Our work continues to ensure that a sense of belonging is broadly shared by all students, faculty, staff, families, and alumni. But as we emerge from a period of historic disconnection, I take heart in hearing so many attest that they feel part of a community at Packer. Even while we strive for continuous improvement, it is important to recognize and reflect upon what we do well.

This and future issues of The Packer Magazine will share stories about how our community lives out our mission, vision, and values. “Learning Together” identifies three priority areas for the coming years: Learn, Connect, and Advance. In the magazine, we’ll use these focus areas to look at a range of student engagement in and outside our classrooms, mark the ways and places where our community comes together, and talk about the steps we are taking to build organizational resilience and support educational excellence over the long term. Enjoy these portraits of learning together at Packer.

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PHOTO: LOUIS MINSKY Read about our new strategic framework at


In Harmony: Middle School Students Join Encore Select

Last fall, Packer’s arts department eagerly launched Middle School Encore Select, a re-envisioned ensemble music program designed to meaningfully advance and enhance music education at Packer after all of the restrictions brought on by the pandemic.

Encore Select provides Middle Schoolers an opportunity to hone and continuously improve their craft with more focused musical training. Students selected for the Encore ensemble met for rehearsals regularly and had a chance to showcase their work in concert at the Middle School Spring Music Festival on March 4, 2023.

As the program develops and expands, teachers plan to pursue options to partner with other independent school music programs, perform for peers as well as outside of Packer, and take advantage of the rich musical offerings afforded by New York City, with field trips to events like Lincoln Center Jazz, the Carnegie Hall Festival, Metropolitan Opera Guild, Broadway Choral Workshops, and Music In The Parks.

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Curriculum Close-up: Studying Nature in New York

Sitting in orderly rows, skimming through dry, outdated texts, grudgingly writing uninspired essays: these things won’t be found in Packer’s “Natural Selections: Literature, History, and Politics of the Environment” class, taught by History Teacher Dr. Ryan Carey and English Teacher Dr. Peter Melman. Using everything from Instagram posts and current events to transcendentalist teachings and religious texts, this interdisciplinary Upper School course examines how nature writing has influenced the way Americans understand and interact with the natural world. The class is available to twenty-four Packer high school juniors and seniors each semester, who can take it for either English or History credit, and I enrolled last fall not entirely knowing what to expect. The description in the course catalog promised that “by exploring the recent history, literature, and culture of the twentieth-century ‘environmental movement,’

we will begin to understand how contemporary environmental problems and solutions come from our shared (and often divisive) environmental past.”

In class, we found ourselves examining themes of race, religion, solitude and selfishness, beauty, values, history, politics, and our own perceptions and opinions about the world around us. In one memorable outing, our class headed to the nearby Gowanus Canal, one of the most contaminated bodies of water in the country, to consider nature in our local community. Prior to our trip, we’d read different passages of commentary on urban nature—including J. Drew Lanham’s “Birding While Black” and Jenny Price’s “Thirteen Ways of Seeing Nature in LA”—and were tasked with relating what we’d read to what we saw that day. We also spent weeks investigating, documenting, and observing local species of birds found in our own neighborhoods, such as white-breasted nuthatches, rock pigeons, and cardinals.


We used different mediums to present the results of our studies, such as creative writing, web design, music composition, sculpting, coding, and so much more. For my project, I built a music box that played a piece I’d composed inspired by the birdsong I’d heard on our outings. Other students created colorful journals using homemade paper to document their observations throughout the course.

One classmate, Ryan ’23 said, “As a senior, I wanted to take a class that helped expand my thinking and learn more about how nature plays a part in the world of both politics and the environment overall.” Sandy ’23 most enjoyed the environment in the classroom: “Listening to what both my teachers and my classmates had to say, I found myself thinking more intensely in this class than I ever had before.”

Dr. Melman and Dr. Carey structure the class as a stimulating conversation that engages everyone in the room. “I think the ideas that are exchanged are sort of college [level],” notes Dr. Carey, adding that since the course can be taken as either an English or a History class “it draws from multiple disciplinary perspectives and habits of mind.” Students describe

the way Dr. Melman and Dr. Carey work together, ultimately providing them with a platform to deepen their understanding and form their own opinions: “They really let students find the answer for themselves by providing guiding questions. They also pushed us to the what and the how by transcending our thinking and bringing it to the next level.” Ryan said. “It’s clear that Dr. Melman and Dr. Carey wanted us to have tangible takeaways from this class,” Sandy added. And we did. We are now better able to see the nature that’s all around us all the time, even in the middle of New York City. We are also aware of how our perceptions are influenced and informed by many factors like religious teachings, marketing techniques, and American history.

Dr. Melman and Dr. Carey agreed that this class tends to be “a perspective shifter....We provide different perspectives and students can agree with what they want but generally come out of the class with a different sensibility than when they entered. That can be very thrilling as a teacher.”

Photos by Kennedy ’23. Interviews have been edited for length and clarity.

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With Purpose and Heart Maps: First Grade Self-Portraits

In social studies, First Graders are learning about self and community. By sharing their stories, experiences, and identities with one another, they nurture belonging in the classroom, connecting through their similarities while appreciating and celebrating each other’s differences.

Students discuss the concept of visible or “outside” identity as what you can see by looking at someone, and think about how this differs from invisible or “inside” identity. Teachers may use books such as Sarah Finelli’s My Map Book, Katie Kissinger’s All the Colors We Are: The Story of How We Get Our Skin or Our Skin by Megan Madison and Jessica Ralli to guide and supplement project-based learning about various aspects of individual and community identity.

To explore their inside identities, students create Heart Maps based on teacher prompts like “What are the things that you love the most? If we could see inside your heart, what would we find there?” Each child draws and writes about their favorite people, places, and activities in different sections of their Heart Maps—each section representing its own special place inside their heart—before completing the finishing touches with watercolor.


Creating 3D self-portraits helps students explore their visible or “outside” identities. They begin by examining the physical details that make us all different and special on the outside. Children study their faces in the mirror, draw their features, mix different colors of paint to create their own unique skin color, and choose yarn that represents their hair. It’s affirming and empowering for young children to slow down and appreciate all the details of their

Artwork by students from the class of 2034: Flynn, Priya, Saana, Tommaso, William, Maggie, Leila, Sage, Quinn, Jane, Liv, Henry, Winston, Mason, Ava, Chloe, Orla

face and the uniqueness of their individual skin tone, as well as the distinct, beautiful features of their classmates. First graders learn that we all have similarities but are wonderfully different— both on the inside and on the outside.

First Grade Teacher Courtney Sockbeson contributed to this article.

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The Interconnected Community: Photographing Packer

Upper School students in Elizabeth Eagle’s “Advanced Topics in Photography” class are focusing on photography as service and exploring how taking portraits can be a mode of creating community and deepening connection. For a recent assignment, each student asked permission to take the portrait of a Packer teacher or administrator who had particularly inspired them or made an impact on their life. Then, expanding their lens, students asked the same of a staff member they didn’t know as well, or who might not be as visible in students’ day-to-day lives at school. After spending some time listening to their subject’s stories and taking their portraits, students printed and added text directly to the finished photos. Some added quotes from the interviews, while others wrote directly to their subjects about how each of these adults in their community made a difference in their lives. The results were wonderfully creative and joyful artworks celebrating the people of Packer.

Photography Teacher Elizabeth Eagle contributed to this article. This page (top to bottom): Ramon Perez, Elevator Watchman Fiara Sealy, Upper School Administrative Assistant Craig Kennedy, Superintendent of Buildings and Grounds Opposite page (clockwise from top left): Eric Kelley, History Teacher Chloe Houston, Mathematics Department Head Tawanna Carmichael, Food Service Staff Patrick Sandiford, Maintenance Staff PHOTO: ZOE ’23 PHOTO: ZOE ’23 PHOTO: JACQUELINE ’24 The portraits here are only a sample; visit to view the full gallery of projects.
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Packer’s fall and winter athletic seasons were marked with many goals, baskets, rallies, packed bleachers, milestone accomplishments, and rewarding victories. Congratulations to all of our dedicated athletes. Go Pelicans!

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A tale as old as time. Middle Schoolers sing their hearts out during a performance of Beauty and the Beast last fall.

PHOTO: ADA EAGLE ’24 Students perched atop one of the stunning set pieces during the Upper School production of Alice in Wonderland PHOTO: BRIAN MCMANIMON


Welcome Back, May Day!

Last year saw the return of the May Day Arts Festival. On May 10, 2022 in the Garden, Lower and Middle School students sang and danced in the spring sunshine as delighted parents and faculty looked on. After a two-year hiatus, students once again twirled around the Maypole in a tightly choreographed piece created by Nathalie Pridgen ’22, presented impressive dance routines (including freestyle breakdancing!), and belted out favorite songs. The celebration was peppered with moving tributes to departing faculty and staff members, and culminated in a confetti explosion.

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A Return to Form: Celebrating the Class of 2022

A Return to Form: Celebrating the Class of 2022

At the end of a school year that felt like it was edging back to normalcy, faculty, staff, and families gathered together on a balmy June evening in the Packer Garden to celebrate the Class of 2022.

Last year’s ceremony marked the triumphant return to the pre-pandemic Graduation format, with students together onstage and groupings of family members looking on from the audience.

Speakers highlighted the Class of 2022’s remarkable empathy and kindness toward one another, as well as their resilience and steadfast commitment to social justice and activism. The commencement program also included a Living Land Acknowledgement, presented by four members of the senior class, to recognize and respect Indigenous peoples as traditional stewards of the land upon which Packer was built.

Several members of the Class of 2022 offered exquisite musical performances: John Boch played the piano as Sarah Thau sang “In My Life” by the Beatles; Jake Schlein, Alexander Economakis, Hannah Youngwood, Dana Hillebrecht, Frankie Komar, Lucy Anderson, Lily Orlando, Sadie Sadler, Sarah Thau, Gigi Bylinsky, Olivia Rosas, Monty Gunnell, Sofia Leaf, Olivia Bobadilla, and Callie Worth belted out “The Circle Game” by Joni Mitchell with Hannah Youngwood on guitar.

In another return to tradition, the Class of 2022 was able to invite an outside speaker. Schuyler Bailar, a diversity and inclusion educator, activist, life coach, speaker and the first transgender athlete to compete in any sport on an NCAA Division 1 men’s team, sparked humor and joy with his moving tale of self-discovery and hard-learned wisdom.

To ensure that other family members and loved ones across the world could “attend” the event, the ceremony was also livestreamed. Nearly 500 people tuned in. Find

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complete coverage and photos at
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Celebrating Fall at Pumpkin Patch and Packerween

Packer’s beloved annual community fall festival Pumpkin Patch came roaring back to life after a two-year hiatus thanks to the incredible efforts and collaboration of the Parent Association, the many faculty and staff who worked the event, and a bevy of generous student and parent volunteers. Hundreds of kids and their families gathered on a perfect fall day in October to play, eat, make art, read, and celebrate the season together.

As always, the campus underwent a considerable transformation ahead of the event, with classrooms morphing into haunted house labyrinths and the Garden packed with games, crafts, Packer merch, and delicious treats and prizes. Meanwhile, Livingston Street became a temporary amusement park, with rides, a climbing wall, and a bounce house bootcamp. Costumed ghosts and goblins seeking a quieter time headed inside to the story tent by the Commons to hear faculty and staff read spooky tales in a cozy nook.

After all of the challenges of the pandemic, it was a pleasure to see so many members of the Packer community connecting and making memories together in person. The event was a welcome return of a wonderful Packer tradition, and the perfect excuse to kick-off “Packerween” a day early.

The celebration spilled over into Monday, October 31, when Lower and Middle School Students marched around the Garden for a festive parade that culminated with a dance party. Whether you were judging the Upper School pumpkin decorating contest or simply strolling costume-packed hallways, it was easy to see why we attest that “joy” is one of Packer’s core values.

Find complete coverage and photos at

Honoring Retiring Faculty and Staff

Each spring, we recognize retiring faculty and staff members whose legacies at Packer will long endure. Last May, we recognized three beloved Packer stalwarts: History Teacher Erland Zygmuntowicz, Director of Preschool and Lower School Admissions Denise Schwed, and English Teacher Lisa Schwartzburg. Each dedicated many years of their careers to Packer and will be remembered fondly for years to come.

Denise Schwed started at Packer 47 years ago as a Lower School teacher before bringing her formidable expertise and years in the classroom to the Admissions Office. Denise quickly established a reputation as someone who got to know every applicant and their family, taking the time to understand their unique learning styles and aspirations. “We’re always looking for children who will be successful here, who will be happy here, and who can do the program. Of course, we are a different school than we were when I started in 1975, but at the core we’re still very much the same. We are still a community school that’s built around inclusion and kindness.”

As a Head of the History Department for over two decades, Erland Zygmuntowicz (“Mr. Zyg”) modeled deep thinking and a commitment to social justice, both with his colleagues and his students. He helped shape the program, shepherding innovative courses and hiring and guiding the majority of the current history faculty. His imprint is deeply embedded in the character and quality of the department. “I became a teacher because I love to learn. When you’re a teacher you’re a perpetual learner. It was a way to combine my enjoyment of young people with a commitment to social justice. The light of justice has always illuminated my path as a teacher.”

In her 12 years of teaching Middle School English and history at Packer, Lisa Schwartzburg brought her particular love of teaching writing to her students. English Department Head Elissa Krebs recalled, “Lisa believed in instilling pride in hard work, making it a regular practice to invite the school community to her classroom to both applaud and critique students’ presentations. She brought the rich history of ancient Egypt and the wonder of Greek myths alive for her students through creativity and research.” Though she has left her full time role at Packer, Lisa continues working with students one-on-one.

We thank Denise, Erland, and Lisa for their many years of service to Packer and wish them all the best in their next chapters.

Read our full tributes at


Packer’s annual celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, co-organized by the Office of Equity and Inclusion and the Parent Association, culminated in a Peace March to the steps of Borough Hall, where a Lower School student carries a sign commemorating King’s words. With a theme of “(Re)Committing to Justice in the Spirit of MLK,” the day brought students, families, faculty, and staff together to sing, read, think deeply, and flow in a group yoga class in the Commons.


Artistic rendering of the new Garden House and Garden. Aerial view from Livingston Street.

Transformation Station: Packer’s Campus Master Plan Takes Shape

In keeping with Packer’s commitment to evolving its historic campus to support our vision for educational excellence, the school is developing and implementing a long-term Campus Master Plan. The plan aims to create a home base for students of all ages while enhancing sustainability and accessibility across campus. The planning process is guided by the following question: Over the next several years, how will Packer re-configure our facilities and interior spaces to further support learning and working together?

The first major project of the Plan is the postponed renovation and expansion of our Garden House and Garden, which will break ground following graduation in June. The new Garden House will open as a purpose-built home for the Lower School in Fall 2025. At 25,000 square feet, more than double its current size, it will house classrooms with flexible in-room spaces for First through Fourth Grades, along with hallway breakout spaces and offices for Lower School administrative personnel. An all-weather connector will adjoin the Garden House to the main building, facilitating movement through campus for classes like arts, library, and physical education, and fostering

the intentional cross-divisional interactions that help relationships and belonging flourish at Packer.

The redesign of the Garden itself—the next step in its evolution over many years of Packer’s history—will include spaces and structures to support various modes of play, from running and ball playing to imaginative games and quiet engagement. New play structures and seating, improved accessibility, and thoughtful landscaping will create a more open plan and better flow throughout areas of the Garden. The new Garden design will also emphasize sustainability, including through its water management system.

As part of the Garden redesign, we will be saying goodbye this spring to Packer’s beloved Imagination Station playground, built by the hands of Packer parents and loved by generations of students over decades of happy recesses and outdoor play.

The shift of the Lower School to the Garden House will create much-needed additional space in Founder’s Hall for an improved Upper School experience in the years to come. In the near term, renovations and

Artistic rendering of Garden House interior.

enhancements to the first floor of Founder’s Hall opening in September 2023 will create an Upper School community life hub that will include areas dedicated to independent or group study, relaxation, and connection. The Upper School renovations are based on observing the way Packer’s oldest students use campus spaces and speaking directly with them about their lived experience. The improvements will support Packer’s strategic goal of creating opportunities for students to learn and engage with each other across the school, inside and outside of

the classroom, in ways that support excellent education and enhance student wellness and balance.

Support from our generous donors, along with ongoing work by the Board and administration to ensure the health of our internal capital reserves, makes the Garden House and Garden renovation projects possible. As the master planning process proceeds, we will continue to share updates with the broader Packer community in the Packer Magazine and on our website.

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Artistic rendering of the front of the new Garden House. From the Archives: The Garden has evolved to meet the needs of students throughout Packer’s history, ever since it was first acquired by the then Brooklyn Female Academy in 1850. The 1977 Garden redesign was even recognized with a National Landscape Award presented by First Lady Rosalynn Carter in a White House ceremony. Lower School students frolic in the Imagination Station.

News from the Board of Trustees

Packer’s Board of Trustees periodically elects new members while the service of other members comes to an end. Our trustees serve three-year terms, and many serve for more than one term. In June 2022, the Board welcomed two Packer parents and an alumnus to serve as trustees. We are grateful to all of our trustees, who volunteer their expertise, time, and resources so generously to our community.

Safiya Mitchell ’10 attended Packer from Kindergarten through Twelfth Grade. Since graduating in 2010, she has served as a Class Correspondent. She received her BA from Cornell University and is currently a user experience researcher lead at Comcast Business on the product design and innovation team. She is a member of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee and the Building and Grounds Committee.

Anjan Sahni has been a Packer parent since 2015 and has children in the Classes of 2028 and 2032. He is a former federal prosecutor and a partner at the law firm of WilmerHale, where he heads the firm’s New York office. He attended Emory College and Yale Law School. Anjan serves on the Board’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee as well as the Risk Management Committee.

Hank Mannix has been a Packer parent since 2014 and has children in the Classes of 2029, 2031, and 2033. Hank is an investment partner at Kelso & Company, a private equity firm.

Prior to Kelso, he worked in investment banking at Credit Suisse. Hank also serves as Chair of the Board of Trustees at Explore Charter Schools, four K-8 charter schools in central Brooklyn. He is a graduate of the College of the Holy Cross. Hank serves on Packer’s Finance Committee.

Ronnette Hope ’07 and Steve Fineman P’20, P’29, whose terms concluded at the end of the 2021-22 school year, were thanked for their service, and Ronnette joined the school administration as Director of Alumni. Six trustees were re-elected to new three-year terms:

Jamillah Hoy-Rosas ’94, P’22, P’27, Hillary Ripley P’18, Demetrios Yatrakis ’01, P’34, Anne Marie Lubrano ’87, P’24, Neal McKnight P’15, P’18, P’22, and Evan Roth P’27 Andrea Kelly P’10, P’13 will finish her Board term this June and rejoin the Packer administration as Director of Development.

In addition to Board Chair OhSang Kwon P’17, P’22, officers for 2022-23 are: Jamillah Hoy-Rosas ’94, P’22, P’27, Vice Chair; Megan Sheetz, P’23, P’24, P’26, Vice Chair; Reed Lowenstein P’24, P’26, Treasurer; Neal McKnight P’15, P’18, P’22, Secretary; Evan Roth P’27 and Marnie Brooke Worth ’88, P’20, P’22, At Large.

Read about all the members of Packer’s Board of Trustees at

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Alumni News

Laura DeMarco ’63 IVAc, Joan Buehler Eisenstein ’51 Award for Service recipient, and classmate, Vicki Sufian ’63 IVAc, enjoy Saturday’s Reunion luncheon in the Garden.

Dear Fellow Alumni,

As many of you know, I was delighted to have been brought on as Packer’s new Director of Alumni this past fall. I did not imagine such a development when I walked through the doors on Joralemon over 20 years ago!

As I stepped into this role and reflected on my own experiences, I realized Packer was the place that changed the trajectory of my life; the lessons learned here enriched and empowered me. In turn, I have used those skills to both champion and challenge the school over the years, first as a student representative at the NAIS Student Diversity Leadership Conference and, until last spring, serving as the Recent Graduate Trustee on Packer’s Board of Trustees. Now, it is an honor to join the Packer administration as I work to support and advance our alumni community.

I look forward to connecting with alumni across decades of Packer’s history. If you’d like to reach me, receive correspondence and alumni news, or reconnect with Packer, there are many ways to stay connected to your alma mater:

• Join us for Packer Reunion: Friday, May 19 + Saturday, May 20. All are welcome as we celebrate the classes ending in 3 and 8.

• Stay in touch by updating your contact information at

• Follow us on Instagram @packer_alumni and @packercollegiate or on Facebook.

• Check out Packer’s newsfeed at to read about the latest happenings on campus today.

• Watch your inbox for periodic Alumni Newsletters and your mailbox for The Packer Magazine.

• Email me at if you have ideas about new ways for alumni to connect to each other or the school. Want to speak to a class, connect with Packer teachers or host a regional meetup? Reach out.

Alumni are Packer’s mission living in action as our experiences and contributions in society echo beyond the “old grey ivied walls.” I am excited to connect, collaborate, and celebrate the Packer alumni community as we move forward together.

With purpose and heart,

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Back on Campus

In May 2022, Packer welcomed alumni back to campus for the first in-person reunion in three years. For alumni longing for a nostalgic stroll through Packer’s halls or a catchup with old friends in the Garden, Reunion 2022 was a delightful—if hot and humid—weekend.

Kicking off with a cocktail reception, the weekend included campus tours from veteran Director of Facilities Jimmy Dolan P’14, P’19, speeches from Alumni Award winners Marc Youngblood ’85 and Laura DeMarco ’63 IVAc, and former art teacher Eric Baylin P’09 who read a magnificent poem called “Slicing a Loaf of Bread.” The day culminated with a catered luncheon for alumni from the classes of 1942 through 1997.

Though the main event was in person, it was supplemented by several Zoom sessions highlighting alumni and retiring faculty, including conversations with former History Teacher Erland Zygmuntowicz P’12, P’19, and a book club discussion hosted by then Alumni Board member Ronnette Hope ’07 to discuss Olga Dies Dreaming by Xochitl Gonzalez.

A virtual Alumni Panel called “Creating a More Equitable World” was hosted by Tene Howard ’97, P’27, P’32, Executive Director at Sadie Nash Leadership Project, along with trustee Francisco Tezén ’93, President and CEO of A Better Chance, and Eliza Licht ’93, a producer and documentarian focusing on social impact. The event was moderated by Adeyemi S. Mchunguzi ’09, Founder and CEO of ASMT Solutions.

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Clean Grids: Nick Davis ’04 Speaks at 111th Founder’s Day

On November 9th, Packer celebrated its 111th Founder’s Day. Each year, we acknowledge our founder Harriet Packer and the school she rebuilt. Not only did Mrs. Packer’s generosity provide a new literal foundation for the school, but she ensured a strong educational legacy for generations of students.

Each year on Founder’s Day we welcome an alumni speaker. After working for a decade in green energy, clean tech, and corporate sustainability, this year’s speaker Nick Davis ’04 founded GridMarket in 2015, where he currently serves as CEO (and employs a few other Packer alumni). The GridMarket platform, in Nick’s words, “is tasked with making every property in the world clean and resilient through deep data and Artificial Intelligence.”

During his visit, Nick chatted with students in an Upper School Atmospheric Science class, answering

questions about how his business uses Artificial Intelligence and the evolution of the sustainable energy sector. He discussed trends in green energy adaptations with a Civics course, and answered questions on the necessity of both grassroots movements and government mandates. Nick described how his Packer experience prepared him to “stand toe to toe” with powerful people in the real world by giving him the confidence to “challenge authority, say what I believe, be analytical and respectful, and learn how to interact with both students and adults.”

In one of Packer’s oldest traditions, Nick delivered a lively Chapel address full of insights and advice for the soon-to-be graduates of Packer’s Upper School. He was introduced by Director of Alumni and former trustee Ronnette Hope ’07, who recalled the bond Packer created between the two as college students far from home. Their remarks are excerpted here.


“Packer was always adept at providing the space to step outside of the herd so you can evaluate if it’s the direction you want to or should run. [Packer] gave me the space to learn, to fail, to cause mischief. In these halls I learned to feel guilt for being mean and unconstructive. I learned to feel proud when kind or helpful. I learned to respectfully debate and challenge teachers and fellow students when we disagreed. When I wasn’t respectful, as sometimes happens when you’re young and wild, I was given the space to take stock and do better.

…There’s a flow state you should all be searching for. When your work, creative, or athletic powers flow so perfectly, in such a focused and magical fashion that you know at that very moment in time that there are few in the world, maybe in history, who are performing like you are performing. Packer is an incredible place to discover those superpowers. I was encouraged to dabble, stick with the dabble to see if I could get to flow. If you’re here, you’re blessed with that opportunity.”

“Nick is not here solely because of his success, Nick is here because of the embodiment of ‘Packer’ within. I went off to college, a pioneer, the only Packer student in my class to attend Northwestern. And I struggled, out of my element, unsettled, and Chicago is truly the second city. So, I reached out to my Alumni Director, Dona Laughlin P’04, and she remembered that there were two other Packer alums on campus that I should reach out to…I had coffee with them in our college student center, just because of our alma mater. Packer is a place but it’s also a community, a network, a foundation, a vibe. When I needed it, I was able to find a bit of it wherever I was, and always carry it with me… [Later] Nick and I would talk at reunions in the Blackburne, reconnecting over our shared connection to Packer, to Evanston, and in one of our conversations, he mentioned his ideas for his energy platform…”

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Ronnette Hope ’07, Director of Alumni Nick Davis ’04, CEO of GridMarket Nick Davis ’04 and Ronnette Hope ’07 contributed to this article. Their direct remarks have been condensed and edited for clarity.

Alumni Spotlight

This year, Packer was able to send a group of over 20 current faculty, staff, and administrators to the NAIS People of Color Conference (PoCC) in Texas. PoCC is the flagship of the National Association of Independent Schools’ commitment to equity and justice in teaching, learning, and sustainability for independent schools. At the conference, Alumni Director Ronnette Hope ’07 met up with several fellow Packer alumni who have gone on to careers in independent schools, including Aléwa Cooper ’94, Head of the Foote School in Connecticut, who was honored along with the ever-growing number of “Heads of Color” at independent schools.

Packer Holiday Mall

Three years ago, the long-running Packer Holiday Mall went digital to adapt to pandemic restrictions. The Mall, which is assembled by the Packer Parent Association and managed by Operations Chair Ainka Turner ’92, is a great place for people to find creative gifts, outings, and experiences while supporting small businesses within the Packer community.

This year, the Mall featured several alumni small businesses including from Erika Togashi ’99,

On a rainy day in December, recent graduate Theo Eagle ’18 visited Kindergarten classes to impart some of his expertise in sustainable food and farming. He led students in song and a hands-on workshop where they learned about what is needed to help plants grow (hint: seeds, soil, and squiggly worms).

To keep up with alumni news, please follow @packer_alumni on Instagram; to update your contact information, visit

Founder and Creative Director of SEPTEMBER Surf & Swimwear, a sustainable, modern swimwear company; Katie Muehlenkamp ’95, Owner of The Bar Method: Brooklyn; and Stacey Toussaint ’92, Founder of Inside Out Tours (NYC), a Black woman-owned tour company with a social mission to elevate marginalized voices.

If you have a small business you’d like included in the Packer Holiday Mall 2023, email the Parent Association at

Left: Akeem Layne ’05, Associate Director of Admission and Financial Aid at Crystal Springs Uplands School (CA), Georgia Warner-Haakmat ’16, HS Admissions Associate at the Grace Church School (NY), Kalia Warner-Haakmat ’13, MS Counselor at Brooklyn Friends School (NY), Ronnette Hope ’07, Director of Alumni at Packer, Aléwa Cooper ’94, Head of School at the Foote School (CT), and Steven Mercado ’08, Assistant Head of Lower School at Ravenscroft (NC). Right: Theo Eagle ’18
Friday, May 19 + Saturday, May 20, 2023 Who’s Attending | Accommodations | Volunteer

Remembering Bruce L. Dennis

On Saturday, October 15, 2022, current and former members of the Packer community gathered in the Chapel to remember and celebrate the contributions of former Head of School Bruce L. Dennis, who passed away last August.

Bruce served with unwavering dedication as Head of School at Packer from 2004 until his retirement in 2019. Following remarks from Head of School

Jen Weyburn, former Board Chair Ronan Harty P’15, P’17, P’20 spoke about Bruce’s “love affair with Packer,” his “courage, care, and calm in a crisis,” and his lasting institutional legacy. “Bruce came to Packer when it was a very good school, and he made it a great school,” said Ronan, including by investing in faculty recognition, compensation, and retention, as well as doubling the endowment and increasing funding for student financial aid.

Bruce was also a legendary mentor. Four of his former Packer administrative colleagues who went on to become heads of school themselves offered moving and heartfelt tributes about Bruce’s impact on their lives, including trustee Andrea Kelly P’10, P’13, Paul Burke, Jose M. De Jesus, and Noah Reinhardt P’26, P’28, P’29, P’32. English Department Head Elissa Krebs

P’17, P’20, P’23 closed the program by sharing excerpts from Bruce’s letters to faculty and staff over the years.

To view a video recording of the event email To read Dr. Weyburn and Board Chair OhSang Kwon’s full tribute to Bruce visit


“Bruce was the bravest person I knew. But beyond his courage, and his support, what I admired most about Bruce is that this big, powerful, imposing, sometimes terrifying, unyielding man was also one of the most tender, gentle, loving people I know.”

— Noah Reinhardt, Head of School at Blue School

“Bruce was indeed larger than life, and yet, in small moments, unseen moments, he showed vulnerability, he gave grace when it was needed most…I learned so much from that Bruce too.”

— Andrea Kelly, Trustee, Head of School at Friends Academy

Bruce led every day with purpose and heart. What I strive to honor and continue for Packer is Bruce’s heartfelt commitment to our traditions of excellence, community, and joy.”

— Dr. Jennifer Weyburn, Head of School

“When I think about the legacy of Bruce Dennis, and when I think about all that is wrong and challenging in today’s world…if Bruce is right that the starting of a school is a sense of affection and care and love among the adults, then the children have greater hope.”

— Paul Burke, Head of School at Nightingale-Bamford

“Bruce took greater pride in the accomplishments of his people than he did in his own. The universe is only able to produce one Bruce Dennis. It is one of the great honors of my lifetime that I got to know and love that remarkable creation.”

— José M. De Jesús, Head of School at Dalton

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Peeking down from a perch atop the roof playground at the Early Learning Center.
SPRING 2023 | 43 170 Joralemon Street Brooklyn, NY 11201 (718) 250-0200 See You Soon! Reunion 2023 will take place at Packer on Friday, May 19, and Saturday, May 20. For more information, visit
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