175th Anniversary Special Edition SPRING 2021 | 1
Editor Karin Storm Wood
Jennifer Weyburn Head of School
Managing Editors Tori Gibbs Angela Johnson Meadows
Karin Storm Wood Director of Communications
Class Notes Editor Jacque Jones Contributing Writers Austin Henderson Lily Jensen ’19 Photography Austin Henderson Juliana Thomas Contributors as noted Layout CZ Design The Packer Magazine is published twice 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 © 2021 Packer is a member of the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE). More content at www.packer.edu/magazine
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Austin Henderson Angela Johnson Meadows Communications Specialists Sara Shulman Director of Development David Minder Director of Alumni Susan Moore Director of Annual Giving
Board of Trustees Leadership 2020-21 OhSang Kwon P’17, P’22 Chair 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 Richard Story P’17, P’19 Secretary Steven Fineman P’20, P’29 At Large
Shriya Bhargava-Sears Director of Special Events Aaron Heflich Shapiro Manager of Development Services Communications (718) 250-0264 Alumni (718) 250-0229 Registrar (718) 250-0263 General (718) 250-0200 www.packer.edu
Alumni Association Leadership 2020-21 Jeremy Schiffres ’07 President Rebecca Chovnick Beck ’02 Vice President Francisco Tezén ’93 Secretary Cynthia Gardstein ’66 IVAc Ellin Rosenzweig ’52 Directors Emeritae
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4 On Campus
Packer engages in anti-racism work. A Lower School
Computer Science teacher is recognized. Packer welcomes new administrators, staff, and trustees. Students maintain community in the arts and athletics virtually. In remembrance of former Head of School Peter Esty.
12 PACKER’S 175TH ANNIVERSARY A look back through the Packer archives as the school marks its “demisemiseptcentennial.” Also: In honor of this milestone, Sara Gerson ’21 and Ellin Rosenzweig ’52 compare their Packer experiences, separated by nearly seventy years.
Above: Under our Covid-19 social distancing protocols, space is at a premium. This means learning occurs in some unusual places, as with this dance class in the Middle School’s South Hall.
20 PACKER AND THE PANDEMIC Providing excellent in-person learning while keeping everyone safe is a complex operation. Our faculty, staff, and students have rallied in countless ways. Also: Families reflect on the silver linings of remote school, and faculty share their Covid hobbies.
30 Alumni News Francisco Tezén ’93, 109th Founder’s Day Speaker…
Alumni in the News… New members of the Alumni Board… Alumni stay connected virtually.
38 Class Notes 56 In Memoriam
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Physical education teacher Dorothy Cherry leads a socially distant Middle School dance class.
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Our students inspire us every day with their resilience and their joy of learning.
As I write this, the world has passed the one-year mark
in the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. During this time, our community has shown its commitment and resilience. From Pre-Kindergarten through Twelfth Grade, our students have made remarkable gains. As always, our exceptional faculty have nurtured vital skills, such as inquiry, creativity, collaboration. The joy of learning here is as strong as it was today as when I first visited the school over two years ago. No masks can conceal the student engagement that takes place every day at Packer. In caring learning communities like ours, a special kind of spirit emerges in times of difficulty. Again and again this year, we have come to the aid of one another, even as some of us have experienced terrible loss, endured illness, and faced new challenges personally and professionally. In our main feature on page 20, you’ll see how this spirit has allowed us, against considerable odds, to provide in-person learning under the safest possible conditions. The ingenuity and expertise of our faculty, staff, and administrators inspire us, as do our students’ resilience and joyful efforts whether in person or (miraculously) across computer screens. As unprecedented as this time has been, we also see it in the context of Packer’s long history. This school year marks our 175th anniversary, which we are celebrating in a special feature on page 12. From the antebellum days of the Brooklyn Female Academy to the eve of the momentous 2020 presidential election, we listen again to voices from across the years, particularly the voices of students, alumni, and faculty who called for greater rights and opportunities for women and people of color.
As we cherish Packer’s long-standing spirit, we also recognize that we are engaged in a decisive moment of reckoning. As our student council president says on page 35, we face two pandemics: the coronavirus and systemic racism. In June 2020, the Board of Trustees launched a year-long anti-racist action plan to ensure that we meet our mission for every student at Packer. We have engaged in the collective goal of becoming a more inclusive school, through student engagement, policy improvements, and forums for brave conversations among students, families, faculty, staff, and trustees. You’ll find more information about this work on page 5. The challenges of the past 12 months have offered us growth opportunities that will serve our current and future students. As a community, we must now ask: What have we learned from this year of challenge about who we essentially are? What makes us special as a learning community? And what do we want for our community in the future? With this forward-looking orientation, we recently launched a strategic planning process to develop a clear vision for the future of Packer. Even though there are uncertainties ahead, we are committed to making Packer the best version of itself we can, together. I hope you will let me know how the stories in this issue strike you. Connect with me any time at firstname.lastname@example.org. All best wishes for the spring and summer. Be well.
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In place of the Upper School’s traditional Symposium program, Packer held its first Winterupt!, a week of special programming that gave students the opportunity to reconnect after the winter break. Each day began remotely as students logged into Zoom to participate in the important ongoing work of building an anti-racist school. The afternoons were filled with fun activities, primarily on campus, which included a TikTok challenge, face mask tie-dyeing, and knitting with Ms. Nunes, the head of the division [pictured].
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Packer Commits to Building an Anti-Racist Culture In May 2020, the killing of George Floyd, a black man who was handcuffed and pinned to the ground for more than eight minutes by a white Minneapolis police officer, sparked outrage across the country and at Packer. This horrific event—and the fear that justice would never be served—spurred students, alumni, faculty, and staff to speak out about the inequitable treatment that people of color have faced in society and within our own school. The Instagram account @BlackatPCI, which amplified student and alumni testimonies to the broader Packer community, inspired Head of School Dr. Jennifer Weyburn and the Board of Trustees to develop an Anti-Racism Action Plan. “We now recognize that we must actively create and maintain an explicitly anti-racist culture at our school, one that is backed by transparent anti-racist policies and consistent anti-racist practices,” said Dr. Weyburn and Board Chair OhSang Kwon P’17, P’22 in a June 2020 message introducing the plan. The plan’s 12-month road map includes objectives such as active accountability for anti-racist behavior; a clear system for reporting race-based harassment; mandated annual training for all faculty, staff, and trustees; anti-racist evaluation processes for curriculum and teaching practices; and expanded resources to support these initiatives. [For the full plan, visit www.packer.edu/anti-racism.] The action plan includes the creation of the Packer Anti-Racism Council (PARC), a 34-member group composed of students, parents, faculty, staff, alumni, and trustees, co-chaired by trustees Jamillah Hoy-Rosas ’94, P’22, P’27 and Eric Ryan P’28, P’30. “When the Board of Trustees began working with Dr. Weyburn’s team to address the Packer community’s concerns associated with racism and bias, we had a goal of ensuring that our diverse and multifaceted community
was part of the journey,” said Jamillah and Eric. “We felt it was imperative that everyone have a voice and the potential for a larger role in helping our community come together in pursuit of true equality and understanding.” The purpose of PARC is to hold the school accountable for the implementation, monitoring, and sustainability of the Anti-Racism Action Plan. Progress has been significant so far. In the fall, all students, faculty, and staff devoted time to learning about the history of racism and anti-Blackness in the United States. Seventh through Twelfth Grade students read Stamped: Racism, Anti-Racism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi. Families and alumni were invited to participate in Stamped reading groups. Board members, administrators, faculty, staff, and families participated in anti-racism training. Hiring managers gained awareness of their biases in a workshop led by Packer alumnus Adeyemi Mchunguzi ’09 [above]. And members of the Upper School Student-Faculty Justice Committee (formerly the Student-Faculty Judiciary Committee) began to adopt restorative justice procedures.
More examples of Packer’s progress in the past ten months are available in IMPACT: Insights into Anti-Racism Work at Packer, a new biannual community-wide digital newsletter introduced in December 2020 and available at www.packer.edu/impact.
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Sanjana Assudani Appointed William C. Stutt Chair of Math, Science, and Technology “Sanjana is an exceptionally dedicated and inspirational educator,” said Bill McCarthy, Head of Preschool and Lower School. Sanjana Assudani, Packer’s Lower School Computer Science Teacher and Academic Technology Integrator, is the recipient of the 2020-23 William C. Stutt Endowed Chair of Math, Science, and Technology. The Stutt Chair, created in 2005 in honor of former Packer Board Chair Bill Stutt, is awarded on a triennial basis to an outstanding faculty member who has taught math, science, or technology at Packer for five or more years. “Sanjana is an exemplary educator who has the deep respect of her divisional colleagues,” said Head of School Dr. Jennifer Weyburn, at a Zoom meeting last fall attended by all staff and faculty—as well as Sanjana’s husband, and, from India, her brother and sister-in-law. “She juggles a demanding ‘specials’ class load while also helping teachers to understand, adapt, and incorporate technology into their teaching practice.” Since her arrival at Packer in 2013, Sanjana has worked closely with her Lower School colleagues to reimagine the division’s computing and design curriculum. She teaches young learners about computer hardware and software and how to be digital citizens. In addition, she introduces students to subjects such as coding, augmented reality, robotics, and 3D printing. 6 | THE PACKER MAGAZINE
Sanjana had a leadership role in the creation of the Lower School Innovation Lab [shown above in 2018] and has allowed for even further development of the division’s technology program. When the Covid-19 pandemic forced the school to quickly pivot to remote learning, Sanjana took it upon herself to become an expert in Zoom and Seesaw, the primary software Packer would be using for remote learning, so that she could help her colleagues learn the tools and shift their teaching online. “She worked tirelessly developing training sessions, thinking through logistics and providing individual support,” said Greg Benedis-Grab, Director of Academic IT and Computer Science Department Head. “She has also been an exemplary model of a growth mindset during these uncertain times.” While Sanjana is typically humble about her professional accomplishments, as the first Lower School educator to receive the honor, she considers her Stutt Chair appointment noteworthy. “Being a woman and a person of color [receiving the appointment] made me proud, also.” For young girls at Packer, Sanjana is a role model. “Girls have come up to me and they’ve told me they are happy that I’m their computer teacher because they aspire to have a career in computers,” she said. “That is something that has really touched me.” Colleagues are impressed by Sanjana’s hard work and commitment to the Lower School and its students. “In addition to her great work in the classroom, Sanjana is a caring and thoughtful colleague who is always willing to offer her support and take on new initiatives and projects that will help advance the work we do in the division,” said Bill McCarthy, Head of Preschool and Lower School. “She is the quintessential professional.”
Fresh Faces at Packer In fall 2020, the community welcomed new administrators and an expanded student support team. GLOBAL LEARNING AND COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT Packer is excited to welcome Dr. Robin Hancock as Director of Global Learning and Community Engagement. Before joining Packer, Robin was director of The Family Child Care Education Program at Bank Street College of Education. “In order to be global citizens, we must understand what it means to live and act in community and to form authentic relationships with one another early in life,” Robin said. “That, to me, is the primary overlap between global education and community engagement.” Robin holds a BA in English literature from Oberlin College, an MA in cultural anthropology from Brandeis University, and an EdD in curriculum and teaching from Columbia University. She also has extensive research experience. “I chose Packer because it’s rare to find an institution committed to its work around global education from PreKindergarteners through graduating seniors. Thinking with members of this community about the ways we engage with others both locally and globally is powerful and personal work.” UPPER SCHOOL ADMINISTRATION Kate Gilfillan is the Dean of
the Class of 2024 and a health educator. Prior to joining Packer, she spent nine years working for Loyola School (NY) as a guidance counselor and guidance department chair. She holds a BA in sociology from Loyola University and an MA in counseling from Boston University. Stacey Pierre-Louis is the
Dean of Student Life and a health educator. For the last five years, she worked for Christina Seix Academy (NJ) in several capacities, including associate dean of residential and campus life, girls house dean, and dean of residential and campus life. Stacey holds a BS from St. John’s University, College of Professional Studies, and an MA in private school leadership from The Klingenstein Center at Teachers College, Columbia University.
Judi Williams is the Dean
of the Class of 2022 and an Upper School history teacher. She was previously with the College Board, where she consulted with principals, superintendents, directors, and district administrators on closing achievement gaps and boosting student performance. Prior to that, Judi led the diversity work of Shady Side Academy (PA) and taught history at Choate Rosemary Hall (CT) and the Darrow School (NY). Judi holds a BA in political science and economics from Syracuse University and an MA in teaching from New York University. NEW COUNSELING POSITIONS Jocelyn Bibi is serving in a new role as Middle School Counselor. She spent the last three years as a youth development specialist in counseling at the South Bronx Community Charter High School, where she helped to implement individual and group counseling and incorporate social-emotional learning into the school’s culture. Jocelyn holds a BA from Muhlenberg College and an MSW and post masters certificate in clinical work with adolescents from New York University’s Silver School of Social Work. Kareem Varlack is serving in
a new role as Upper School Counselor. While working as an enterprise network operations technician for Verizon Communications, Kareem spent 10 years leading group and individual counseling sessions related to depression and chemical addiction. Kareem has a BA in psychology from the State University of New York at Buffalo and an MA in forensic psychology from John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
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Welcoming New Board Members and a New Chair Each June, Packer’s Board of Trustees elects new members while the service of others comes to an end. A term lasts three years, and many trustees serve for more than one term. In June 2020, the Board welcomed three Packer parents and an alumnus to serve as trustees. Alexa Eccles P’28, P’30
joined the Packer community as a parent in 2015. She became a trustee in 2020 when she was elected President of the Packer Parent Association. She has served as PA Vice President and PA Director-at-Large, chaired Pumpkin Patch and co-chaired the Spring Benefit. Before moving to New York in 2009, Alexa worked in Toronto and London as director of prime services for Scotiabank. She is an active volunteer at a number of organizations in the Brooklyn community. Alexa earned a BA in economics from Acadia University in Nova Scotia, Canada.
After attending Packer from Kindergarten through Twelfth Grade, Jeremy Schiffres ’07 earned degrees from Yale College and New York University School of Law. He is President of Packer’s Alumni Association and a member of the Board of Directors of the New York Classical Theatre. A senior associate at WilmerHale LLP, Jeremy was previously a clerk for the Hon. Robert W. Sweet, United States District Judge for the Southern District of New York. On July 1, 2020, OhSang Kwon P’17, P’22 began a
Meera Marti P’28, P’29, P’31
is an attorney with experience spanning the nonprofit, government, and private sectors. She has also served in many roles on the Packer Parent Association and is actively involved in a number of community organizations in Brooklyn. Meera is a graduate of Bates College and Columbia Law School. AJ Pires P’28, P’30,
a member of the Packer community since 2015, has been an active volunteer and a Packer Fund co-chair. He is a founding member and president of Alloy Development, a real estate development company committed to making Brooklyn beautiful, sustainable, and equitable. AJ serves on the boards of the Center for Architecture, the Urban Design Forum, and Community Bank Delaware. He received a BA from Amherst College and an MArch from the University of Pennsylvania.
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three-year term as Board Chair. OhSang has been a Packer parent since 2004 and a member of the Board since 2015. He is a graduate of Phillips Exeter Academy, Harvard College, and Columbia Law School. OhSang was a founding partner of Avista Capital Partners, a private equity firm, which he left in 2014 to invest on his own. Prior to Avista, OhSang worked at DLJ Securities Corp and DLJ Merchant Banking Partners. Before working in banking and private equity, OhSang clerked for the Hon. William C. Conner, United States District Judge for the Southern District of New York. At the June meeting—a time when the Packer community was grappling with the global pandemic and the national reckoning on racial injustice—Deborah Juantorena P’17, P’19 was recognized for her steady leadership upon the conclusion of her term as Chair of the Board. Geoff Brewer ’82, P’26, Anthony Guarna P’18, P’20, and Lisa Lambert P’25, whose terms also concluded at the end of the 2019-20 school year, were thanked for their service. Four trustees were re-elected to new three-year terms: Dawn Fischer P’21, P’22, Reed Lowenstein P’24, P’26, Megan Sheetz P’23, P’24, P’26, and Karen Snow P’25. In addition to OhSang Kwon, officers for 2020-21 are: Jamillah Hoy-Rosas ’94, P’22, P’27, Co-Vice Chair; Megan Sheetz P’23, P’24, P’26, Co-Vice Chair; Reed Lowenstein P’24, P’26, Treasurer; Richard Story P’17, P’19, Secretary; and Steve Fineman P’20, P’27, At Large.
Thank You and Farewell, Noah Reinhardt Noah Reinhardt, Head of Middle School and Assistant Head of School, has been appointed to lead Blue School, a PreK-8 independent school in Manhattan. Well known for its founders, members of Blue Man Group, the school emphasizes creative thinking along with academic mastery and “self and social intelligence.” He reflected on his trajectory at Packer, which began only three years after he finished college. “Packer’s shaped everything about me as an adult—from how I see myself as a teacher and an educator, to the person I married, to my kids, who now go to the school.” Noah’s wife, Shanny Spraus, was a Middle School computer teacher at Packer in the early 2000s; they have children in Grades 1, 4, 5, and 7. Noah also talked about the professional relationships and friendships he built as he moved from teaching math, to directing Middle and Upper School Admissions, to leading a division. “To be guided and coached by so many gifted educators and leaders early in my career was transformative,” he said. “It’s hard to overestimate the value and importance that they had to me. Through watching them, I learned what is most important to me: building relationships, centering students and families, and supporting good teaching.” He reflected on more than two decades on Joralemon Street. “Packer has always been a wonderful school. When I started, it
was a smaller, more idiosyncratic place. Today, our curriculum, structures, policies, and ways of being, as well as physical space, have all been updated, expanded, and formalized. The school is much more structured, more established, and reflects a different level of consistent excellence.” “Each and every teacher in the Middle School”—most of whom Noah personally hired in his 13 years leading the division—“is an excellent educator who does amazing work with kids each and every day.” “Noah’s deep knowledge of Packer across many years has been a gift,” said Dr. Jennifer Weyburn, Head of School. “Recently, his role in developing plans for the Garden House renovation, putting student learning at the center, has been a gift—to me in my transition to Packer and to all of us.” As a division head, Noah developed a distinctive and cohesive Middle School student experience. Communitybuilding activities and student-leadership opportunities— including the annual Equity Simulation, the Community & Action program, Field Day, WinterSession, the Eighth Grade Octathlon, Chapel, and other beloved traditions—have flourished, building on the Middle School’s deep commitment to centering student experience, perspective, and voice. “When a former colleague had an idea for a division-wide equity simulation, Noah understood that there was real value that came from having the entire Middle School participate in those activities,” said Semeka Smith-Williams, Director of Diversity and Equity. He felt that “our focus needed to be something that was pushing the envelope of who we were and where we wanted to go.” Dr. Weyburn concurred. “Noah truly understands Middle School students as young scholars and compassionate community members. He knows what experiences will appeal to their sense of wonder and their sense of play, and what they need to thrive and realize their potential. He likes to laugh with them. He understands what struggles they have, and what they’re curious about.” “He also takes great care in supporting faculty, so that they can offer their best gifts and continue to grow. And he is truly compassionate to Middle School parents, while speaking truth to us about our kids (and ourselves) in these transitional years.” One of Noah’s early mentors, former English teacher Barbara Moore, noted that he has a distinct ability “to communicate to students how much he cares about them, making a point of getting to know them as individuals. He’s out in the Garden every day where he can both observe and chat with students.” He also extended his personal engagement to families. Former Chair of the Board of Trustees Deborah Juantorena P’19, P’17 praised “his ability to support families in crisis. No matter the situation, he marshals all the schools’ resources to help students and families in need, without any judgment.” As Noah put it, his tenure at Packer has been “the defining aspect of [his] adult life.” It’s also been a formative era for hundreds of students and families, and for Packer.
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Life imitates art imitates life: In “Scenes from a Quarantine,” a Middle School student plays a cat who wonders why her owner never leaves the house anymore.
Maintaining Community in Arts and Athletics The global pandemic has forced Packer’s performing arts and athletic programs to consider questions that have never been posed to them: How do you maintain social distancing on the basketball court or on the stage? You pivot. “It’s certainly been a challenge,” said Arts Department Head Ali Boag, “but the unique hybrid-learning structure of this year’s classes means there’s been less prepping for live performances. Freedom from constant rehearsals has allowed us to catch up with the pedagogy and to look more deeply at issues of music history and theory, theater history, and so on.” Director of Athletics Darrin Fallick has managed to turn his department’s challenges into positives, too. Upper School student athletes still attend after-school practices in all sports except swimming. While they are unable to compete against other schools, they are taking the opportunity to focus on fundamental skill development. Students are, of course, encouraged to practice at home, but Darrin said he’s more concerned with the social element. He wants to give students a place to connect with one another and disengage from Zoom and technology in general. “It’s important to give active structure to our students. We want everyone to be able to participate, so there are no cuts or tryouts this year. If a student signs up, they are assigned to a level, team, and time slot, no matter their experience in the sport.” Remote learning has also allowed for exploration of new forms of creative collaboration. The Arts Department, for example, has taken the opportunity to showcase individual students, producing solo dances and monologues and sharing them online in video format. The theater program has maintained its productions, even as the performances have to
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Upper School athletes spend time together while focusing on skills that allow for social distancing.
be shared over Zoom. Ali cited the success of the Middle School fall play—“Scenes from a Quaratine” written by playwright Lindsay Price specifically for online audiences—saying that such a performance would not have reached nearly as many people in a regular school year. All of this is not to minimize the significant challenges that the arts and athletics have faced at Packer this year. “Visual artists are least affected by this year’s circumstances, but lack of community is hard on all the arts,” said Ali. “Still, Zoom does allow students to receive more personal attention, and their work is as good as it’s ever been. Photographers, especially, have benefited this year because of the issues we’re facing in society. Protests, the pandemic, and the presidential election have allowed student photographers to practice documenting a wide range of historic events.” Darrin acknowledged that one group has had it particularly hard in athletics. “It’s been especially difficult for our seniors. But they have, for the most part, managed to stay positive throughout all of this. They’re still practicing after school and working to improve, and several will be going on to play sports in college. That’s really all we can ask of our students right now—to make the most of a difficult situation.”
Remembering Peter Esty, Packer’s Seventh Head of School Peter Esty, who led Packer from 1982 to 1989, died peacefully on November 15, 2020, in Danvers, MA, at age 83. He is fondly remembered for his genuine warmth, his compassion, and his enthusiasm for the people around him. Building relationships with students, teachers, families, and other schools was essential to his work. Daniel Feigin ’88, assistant head of school and director of upper school at Trevor Day School, gratefully recalled Peter’s mentorship throughout his own career as an educator. “[Peter was a person of] perpetual optimism and boundless energy. He wanted the best for everyone around him.” Former art teacher Ken Rush called him “exactly the right person at the right time.” He recalled “a wild and exhilarating afternoon” at the Atlantic Antic festival, when Peter enrolled Packer parents, students, faculty, and staff to cruise along Atlantic Avenue on a Packer family’s enormous flatbed truck. For one of the first Pumpkin Patch celebrations, Peter arranged for a huge shipment of pumpkins and enlisted dozens of Packer people to pass pumpkins back into the Garden, fire-brigade style. “Peter’s gift of transforming these moments into memorable community events is just what Packer needed in the 1980s,” said Rush. “He transformed the school as much by sheer force of optimism and good-natured spirit as through new programming. He made us aware that Packer could have a terrific future and a very unique independent school identity.” Several beloved Packer teachers were hired by Peter and recalled him fondly in recent days. “He possessed that wonderful ability of making [you] feel that you and your ideas were important and worthy of care and thought,” said Lower School teacher Cindy Copland, whom Peter hired in 1987. “I can’t think of anyone who embodied the Packer spirit more than Peter,” said physical education teacher and coach George Boutis, who started at Packer the same year as Peter. “Peter made an immediate impact with his kindness, compassion, and generosity. He spoke and acted from the heart.” “Peter always dealt with issues with compassion and common sense,” said physical education teacher Rich Domanico, whom
Peter Esty’s portrait in the 1987 yearbook
Peter hired in 1984 and is now Packer’s longest serving faculty member. He had a great smile that would light up a room and a firm handshake that would let you know that you did a good job. He was just a wonderful human being.” Peter came to Packer in 1982 from Deerfield Academy, where he had served for 11 years as an English teacher, then as Dean of Faculty. He served as Packer’s Head of School until 1989, when he and his wife, Athalia (“Happy”), were drawn to the Bay Area, where he was head of school at University High School. Subsequently he became involved in various leadership capacities at School Year Abroad, which has provided global learning experiences to many Packer students over the years. Peter also shared his talents with a number of other independent schools, including stepping in as interim head at several institutions. He is survived by Happy, their daughter Leila Esty Poutiatine ’87, their sons Jay and Tuck, and their families.
Celebrating the Class of 2020 “ This is no ordinary class, this has been no ordinary year, and so this is no ordinary celebration,” said Head of School Dr. Jennifer Weyburn on June 11, 2020, at the first virtual graduation in Packer’s history. The digital format made it possible to include several videos featuring art, music, and tributes by the Seniors, as well as funny and touching send-offs by other community members, creating an unexpectedly intimate and personalized event. Read more and watch the entire virtual event at www.packer.edu/2020graduation.
Samir Walji ’20 and Liv Furman ’20 delivered a joint Senior speech at the virtual event, which was live streamed.
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175 Years The 2020-21 school year marks Packer’s “demisemiseptcentennial,” an anniversary that falls at a historic and challenging moment. Our last normal day of school was on March 12, 2020, over a year ago. Since then, the Covid-19 pandemic, our national reckoning on race, and a debate over the direction of our country have suffused our lives with uncertainty. A look back at Packer’s archives is reassuring: our history reminds us that this community has previously faced tumultuous times and successfully fought for greater justice. It also reveals that our current students’ dedication to activism echoes our past.
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The following texts are excerpted from previous issues of this magazine (formerly The Packer Alumna), and writing and speeches by students, faculty, alumni, and others.
1845: Founding James Polk had just been elected President, the Civil War was 16 years away, and the nation was in flux.
“A Century of Beginnings”
The Brooklyn Female Academy, as the early Packer was called, began in a century of beginnings—the beginning of national expansion on a large scale, the beginning (or very near the beginning) of the industrialization of America and of the reign of the machine, the early stages of the ever-swelling wave of immigration from Europe, the beginning of great wealth and monopolies and organized labor, the beginning of the struggle for the emancipation of American women, the beginning of nationalism and of pride in our country, and the beginning of the great public school system…. The brief war with Mexico did little to ruffle the peace of the country, and although there was intense emotion and discussion between the North and the South over the question of slavery and states’ rights, when the school was founded, the storm clouds of the Civil War lay low on the horizon, invisible to the general view. — Marjorie Nickerson, A Long Way Forward: The First 100 Years of The Packer Collegiate Institute (1945)
The Brooklyn Female Academy was built on Packer’s current site. At that time, Brooklyn Heights was dotted with large estates and spacious gardens, but had no running water.
“Rural Quiet and Salubrious Air”
The Brooklyn of 1845, although possessing only 40,000 inhabitants, was even then one of the largest cities in the United States…. The girls who came to the Brooklyn Female Academy for the first time in May 1846 (for the school opened in May, because the building was finished then) took their way along shaded roads, past gardens in open fields to the sound of birds’ songs instead of to the roar of a great modern city…. To this beautiful residential district, the Wall Street ferry to Montague Street, which began to operate in 1853, brought many New York businessmen to enjoy [Brooklyn’s] rural quiet and “salubrious” air…. [It nevertheless] possessed many discomforts common to all American cities in the 40s and 50s…. The cobblestone pavements were rough and noisy, the unpaved streets ankle deep, or even knee-deep, in mud after a rain…. There was no water system until 1858…. The infant city was unable to cope with fires of any importance for lack of a water system.” — A Long Way Forward (1945)
Packer’s founders did not see a contradiction between their commitment to women’s education and their expectation that women remain in the domestic sphere.
A Victorian “Progressive Education”
In the prospectus issued August 1, 1845, the trustees stated the purposes of the new school. The statement was progressive, almost modern in its realization that education should be modified by society and the environment of the pupils. At the same time it was thoroughly Victorian in implicitly confining the sphere of woman’s influence to the home. Its practice, as well as its theory, shows the Brooklyn Female Academy to have been in line with the progressive educational doctrine of the day. The Brooklyn girls were trained to be ladies, but they were also trained to be intelligent women. — A Long Way Forward (1945)
In honor of its centennial in 1945, Packer commissioned Marjorie Nickerson, a faculty member from 1910 to 1941, to write the definitive history of the school. A Long Way
A New Year’s Day fire, and the lack of a municipal water system, caused The Brooklyn Female Academy [opposite] to burn to the ground in 1853. With funds donated by Harriet L. Packer, the widow of one of Academy’s original trustees, the school was rebuilt and renamed the following year. The entrance of Founder’s Hall [above] looks much the same today.
Forward: The First 100 Years of The Packer Collegiate Institute is available at www.packer.edu/first100years.
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150 Years Ago
100 Years Ago
The debate over the purpose of women’s education continued.
Packer graduates’ attitudes toward the suffrage movement were influenced by the intersecting forces of gender and socio-economic status.
“Ability in Household Manners”
Too many girls unfortunately consider their education completed when a diploma is received... [T]hey devote their whole time to accomplishments and the pursuit of pleasure. But, as our parents are so fond of telling us, when our school life is finished, our real life is just begun; and then, the foundation of our education being laid, comes the time to fit ourselves for what is considered a woman’s true sphere. A thorough knowledge of housekeeping includes the general care of a house, as regards ventilation, skill in cookery, control of servants, and, if economy be necessary, ability to make two ends meet…. Ill-temper generally—I will not say always—follows on the part of the man, who somehow forgets that before marriage, when ability in household matters was mildly suggested as one of the requisites of a good wife, he indignantly scouted the idea of “marrying a cook.” “Just like a man!” I fancy I hear some young girl exclaim. Yes, exactly, my friend; for man is, at best, but an inconsistent animal. But still he must be pleased, if there is to be any peace or comfort for the “weaker” (?) [sic] sex. — “B.M.C.” in “Housekeeping,” in The Packer Quarterly, 1873
Suffrage and “Real Womanliness”
Whether in the past you worked for suffrage or against it…, it is your new privilege, and as such cannot be abused. For what abuse of a gift is there greater than its neglect? The sword left in its scabbard rusts and stains the hands that thereafter touch it. What of the flame-bright sword now bound at your side? Will you leave it in this shameful scabbard of those who will corrupt it to evil ends, or will you keep it shining by your own tireless battle for the right? For it is you, most womanly of women, in your pleasant homes, atmosphere with faith and purity and honor, who will best wield this sword. It is you who will and must fight for the weak and the sinful and lead, or it may be, drive them toward hope and happiness. Many of you consider that the sum of woman plus suffrage equals unwomanliness. It now rests with you to prove this true, for men have always declared that women never stand by each other in crises. So it is for you to put aside your objections and your distaste and join the rest of us who have always felt it our duty to uphold suffrage.
Lucy Burns, Class of 1899, was a prominent figure in the American movement for women’s suffrage, using her fearlessness and persistence to sway minds. She grew up in a large Irish family in Brooklyn, and began her education at Packer. A gifted student, she went on to Columbia, Vassar, Yale, and Oxford, where she met British suffragist Emmeline Pankhurst. Inspired by Pankhurst’s enthusiasm and militant methods, Burns left school and fought for women’s rights in Britain from 1910 to 1912. While being arrested for demonstrating, she encountered fellow American Alice Paul. Burns and Paul became lifelong friends and colleagues in the fight for women’s suffrage. Upon returning to the US, they joined the National American Women’s Suffrage Association (NAWSA), organizing its more radical protests, including a 5,000-woman march in Washington, DC, on the eve of Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration. In 1916, the duo established the National Women’s Party, a political party committed to direct action to achieve women’s suffrage. Burns organized daily picketing of the White House, angering President Wilson. Upon her third arrest in 1917, she was convicted and given the maximum sentence. While she was imprisoned in the Occuquan Workhouse [left], guards brutally beat and injured Burns and dozens of other suffragists. Burns responded by leading a hunger strike. Wanting to diffuse her power, authorities transferred her to a different prison and force fed her painfully through a tube. The brutality of the “Night of Terror” at Occuquan began to turn public opinion in the suffragists’ favor. After the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920, Burns returned to Brooklyn and spent her remaining days out of the public eye until her death in 1966.
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The Chapel in 1854
Then indeed you will prove to men that you are unwomanly. For they will see that you are neither petty nor narrow-minded, but that you have the greatness of spirit which can forget personal prejudice and spend itself nobly for others. And so doing you will provide, through this unwomanliness, what real womanliness is. — The Packer Alumna, 1917
In 1921, when Packer’s students and faculty were exclusively white, efforts to understand the experiences of Black Americans, like the Founder’s Day speech below, were probably rare.
“Negro Achievement” and Anti-Black Violence
White people of culture have been accused to think pityingly of the cultured Negro, believing that he finds little congenial companionship within his own race. This may have been true 25 years ago but certainly is not true today. There is today in the United States a large group of colored people of education, of some means, who have a rich and varied social life. Every year universities, North, South, East and West, graduate hundred of Negro boys and girls who enter business or the professions and enter them to succeed.... Brooklynites do not need to go South to see Negro achievement. They will find in Harlem the largest body of prosperous Negroes in the country. A South African was taken over Harlem one evening a few weeks ago by a colored man. His amazement at the progress of the Negros was prodigious. Inadvertently hurting his hand, he was taken to a colored physician, whose skill and large practice among both races filled the South African with astonishment so that he exclaimed, ‘What will [South African Prime Minister] General Smuts say when I tell him this!’ He was equally amazed at the beautiful architecture of St. Philip’s P.E. Church, at the prosperous Colored Men’s Club, at the audience in the Lafayette Theater.... [This] is a glimpse of the position which the Negro has won in the United States. What is his reaction to the daily race prejudice and discrimination, to the brutality of lynching, to the cruelty and slavery of peonage? How does he feel toward the white race who dominate America? [continued]
Mary White Ovington, Class of 1890, was a white activist, journalist, and co-founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). With parents involved in the anti-slavery and women’s rights movements, she grew up steeped in activism. In her early years of adulthood, she attended Packer and received an education unavailable to many young women of the era. She became acutely conscious of her interest in the fight for civil rights after hearing Frederick Douglass give a speech in a Brooklyn church. After graduating from Radcliffe College and returning to Brooklyn, she began to study racial inequality as it manifested in the housing and employment conditions of the city. Through this work, she became acquainted with figures well-known in various movements for social justice, such as Ida B. Wells, Max Eastman, and W.E.B. Du Bois. After the 1908 anti-Black riots in Springfield, IL, Ovington wrote to socialist William English Walling, who had publicly called for civil rights for Black Americans. Joined by social worker Dr. Henry Moskowitz, they organized a national conference on the political and social positions of the African-American community. This became a permanent body echoing DuBois’s Niagara Movement, known as the NAACP. For nearly four decades, Ovington served as a board member, executive secretary, and chairman of the NAACP. She was a vocal advocate for class, gender, and racial equality until her death in 1951.
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This is an attitude which you should know, for it is one that the country has already to reckon with. There would have been no riot at Tulsa [in May 1921] had not young colored men armed themselves in a march to the jail to guard a Negro who they feared would be lynched. — Mary White Ovington, Class of 1890, in a 1921 Founder’s Day keynote speech (Read more on previous page)
75 Years Ago The dehumanization and destruction of World War II reaffirmed the enduring need for a liberal arts education. But in 1945, even as the school’s Junior College program enjoyed steady enrollment, Packer stopped short of advocating that women enter male-dominated areas of the workforce.
A “Cultural School” in “a War Weary World”
Although Packer has met the diversified demands of its students in the past, it is and always has been primarily a cultural school. The future of the cultural school is being widely discussed. The trend of the 20th century toward vocational training has been greatly increased by [World War II], which requires highly specialized skills. The papers are full of the achievements of young men who can design, build, or fly airplanes; who can design, build, or man ships, guns, and tanks.... No medals are bestowed on cultivated persons as such.... A war weary world may turn with relief to the resources of minds educated in the liberal arts. It may realize that the rich understanding, the sympathetic imagination, and a wide range of information and intellectual power which are the result of such an education in fertile soil will be needed, not only to restore our national life and the pursuit of peace, to solve the problems of our own democratic society and to help to reorganize the world, but to make for a full, rich, and satisfied life for the individual. Schools like Packer are needed as never before. — A Long Way Forward (1945)
50 Years Ago As women across the socio-economic spectrum began to enter the workforce in greater numbers, Packer graduates increasingly felt that they should not have to choose between pursuing a higher education and a career and having a family.
The pattern of a woman’s life, simply because she is a woman, differs radically from a man’s. Most women marry, and during the early years of marriage and family, are deeply absorbed in the varied, demanding, and immensely satisfying responsibilities of a wife and mother…. This means, as a rule,
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A biology class in 1970
at least a partial hiatus in any professional career.... Precious little attention has been given to designed educational opportunities to meet the needs of the married woman. Rather, we have assumed that if she marries early, she is not interested in continuing her education. The possibility that the choice could be a question of timing rather than goals has not received serious attention…. Educational institutions… must provide for, encourage, and assist the able, part-time student —the married woman—by creating more flexible schedules. Actually, studying, in appropriate doses, mixes wonderfully well with homemaking…. I well remember overhearing the voice of a guest who commented to my son: “It must be easy to do your homework when your mother and father are doing theirs.” — Mary Ingraham Bunting, Class of 1929, in “A Huge Waste: Educated Womanpower,” in The New York Times Magazine (1961). A trained microbiologist and an advocate for women in the workforce, Bunting was the president of Radcliffe College and the first woman appointed to the Atomic Energy Commission.
The school’s 125th anniversary occurred at a time of major social change. At Packer, coeducation and the dismantling of the Junior College were just a few years away. In 1970, youth activism (and some generational tensions) swept the nation.
“Today’s Young People”
There are many young people today who are limited in their perspectives, who are selfish and undisciplined, who are sloppy in appearance and irresponsible in behavior. All these critical characterizations are true in part. There is a small minority among current students who are more insistently hostile, abrasive, and discouraging than an earlier generations. But there are among today’s young people an unusually large proportion genuinely affected by the charitable instincts that civilized persons have long been taught to admire as a man’s highest ideals…. This generation of youth is far more humanitarian in its perspectives and commitments than preceding generations we have known…
I am filled with genuine optimism for the future of our society. It is, I believe, more likely to be a humane society because of [young people’s] priorities than if it were determined by the values of the self-concerned, individualistic rationalists who have dominated the development of our world, our cities, in our time and before. — James Hester, President of New York University, in a speech at the school’s 125th anniversary celebration in the Chapel (1970)
25 Years Ago In a year when remote learning and “Zoom events” have become commonplace, it’s remarkable that in 1995 email (sent via modems and telephone lines) represented a new frontier for Packer.
“A Complete Electronic Mail System”
All the computers at Packer now have the ability to communicate with each other.... In addition, Packer hosts a complete electronic mail system through which every student and faculty member can send and retrieve messages and files. This system has revolutionized communication at Packer. Students can communicate with their teachers and each other over this system. And the network does not end at Packer’s walls. Eight outside telephone lines are dedicated for e-mail, giving the Packer community the capability to communicate with each other from home via a modem (a device that allows a computer to communicate over a conventional telephone line). Packer also maintains one telephone line exclusively for access to the Internet and the World Wide Web. — The Packer Magazine (1995)
In the mid-1990s, Packer embarked on a study of the role of gender in teaching and learning. The findings addressed the need to foster and recognize the skills of all students.
“Finding Your Own Voice”
Were you one of those students who always had your hand raised and sat squarely within the teacher’s line of vision, or were you the shy student who had calculated exactly how far the teacher’s peripheral vision extended, who looked furiously busy at all times and never raised your eyes when the teacher looked in your direction? Sometimes this may be the student who didn’t do his or her homework the night before and wants to escape detection, but far more frequently, this is a very good student, but one who finds it difficult to take the risk of speaking up. I used to believe that it was important to respect this sort of shyness and the wish to be invisible. After all, I can still hear myself saying, I can see the student does all of her
work (the quiet student who excels is most of the time a girl) and moreover does it really well. Why should I put her on the spot?... We are doing a tremendous disservice to students when we allow them to stay silent in class discussions. Expressing your own opinions in public, standing up for your opinions and finding your own voice, are skills and abilities we should not be restricting to one half of the human race or only to those students who already feel confident. Having a voice is not a luxury; it is a necessity. — Barbara Seddon, English Teacher, in “Gender Equity and Beyond” in The Packer Magazine (1997)
Today Packer students in 2021 are engaged citizens, speaking out and teaching one another about civil rights, voting rights, and racial justice. In the days leading up to the recent presidential election, students in George Snook’s Advanced Topics in US Government spoke at a virtual Upper School community meeting, sharing their responses to a posthumous 2020 essay by civil rights activist Representative John Lewis.
“The Change We Want to See” Dear Congressman Lewis… In this country, my rights are not the same as my white peers’. Freedom from fear does not exist for people like me. I was just eight years old when I had my Emmett Till. In 2012, when Trayvon Martin was murdered in cold blood, my world was shattered. I was suddenly awakened to the terrifying realities of life as a Black man in this country. That no matter the fight of my ancestors, I will still be valued, thought of, and disrespected, solely on the basis of my skin color. — Shanthan Benjamin-Webb, ’21
Congressman Lewis, you said, “Ordinary people with extraordinary vision can redeem the soul of America by getting in what I call good trouble, necessary trouble...” Now more than ever, there is something so powerful in knowing that John Lewis believes ordinary people are able to rebuild the heart of America. If only we were all able to understand that we have more power in our voices than we believe.... We can’t rely on other people to make the change we want to see. Voting is our way of producing a democratic society. If we don’t vote, we’re simply allowing [ourselves] to take steps back when so many fought for us to take steps forward. — Olivia Rosas ’22
See more images from the archives at www.packer.edu/175th.
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Shared Experiences, Nearly 70 Years Apart: Two Pelicans Reflect on Their Time at Packer friends. I remember feeling so independent that I could walk around the building alone, and I was genuinely excited to go to every activity. Tell me about your most memorable teacher. Ellin: There is no question, it was Ms. Elizabeth Wright.
In honor of Packer’s 175th Anniversary, The Packer Magazine brought the Development Offices’ most junior and most senior volunteers together for a conversation. Over Zoom, senior Sara Gerson ’21, who came to Packer as a Kindergartener in 2008, and Ellin Rosenzweig ’52, who enrolled as a Third Grader in 1939, shared memories of their time on Joralemon Street. Their dialogue illuminated how much has changed, and how much has stayed the same, over the years. Sara: What is your first memory of Packer? Ellin: My first memory was when I was brought in to be
interviewed. I was interviewed in the Third Grade classroom by a Second Grade teacher by the name of Ms. Mungeon.
She was the head of the elementary school. She chaired the Music Department. She was the head teacher for the Eighth Grade. She played the organ. She led the choir in Chapel every day, she led the Glee Club, and she also conducted and directed the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta every year. One time, one of my French teachers didn’t show up to class. Someone told Ms. Wright, and she came in and taught us French! She was absolutely amazing. Sara: Wow. That is really impressive. I would have loved to have met that teacher. Mine’s a little simpler. I had an English teacher [in Middle School] named Mr. Todd Johnson. English was a subject that was really hard for me, and I hated attending the classes. He noticed that I wasn’t doing my best and that I could be thinking deeper and doing better. He raised my confidence level. English is my favorite subject now. I’m very, very thankful for him because he’s definitely inspired my educational journey. What was your favorite Packer tradition? Ellin: The Christmas Pageant. It was held in the Chapel every
Sara: I swear I remember my interview as well. I tell my
parents the story of how I think it went and what happened, and they always tell me I’m lying. So apparently my first actual memory is running around Pumpkin Patch [the annual Halloween festival in the Garden], with my new Kindergarten
year. Each year, they chose different people to play the roles of Mary, Joseph, Gabriel, the baby angels, and the shepherds. And there was always singing. I was on the Alumni Board when they told us that there would be no Christmas Pageant anymore. The two people there who groaned the most were me and another Jewish person. We were so sad that it wouldn’t be taking place anymore. Sara: I just love Dance Concert [a showcase of studentchoreographed dance performances]. Because it’s student-led, it creates an environment where students can build their confidence. Performing for everyone is so rewarding, that feeling of knowing that everyone is seeing the work you’ve put in. What was the Garden like during your time at Packer? Ellin: It was one big square of grass, which you couldn’t walk
The Garden in the late 1940s. Ellin’s classmates are seated on the left: Joan Shamyer Shalhoub ’52, Virginia Dagher Stewart ’52, and Phyllis Thornhill Riffel-Schwedo ’52.
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on for most of the year. You were punished if you did. And it was surrounded by a brick sidewalk. There were some benches that you could sit on. In the springtime, it was gorgeous. Azalea bushes were blooming. And the ivy on the walls, the old gray ivy walls, and they had wisteria vines growing up the wall. It was really beautiful [left].
Sara: Now it’s a little bit different. There’s the Imagination Station, which is the infamous playground made of wood that’s been there for years. And there’s the big open space in the center [now landscaped with pavers, to encourage students to play]. It’s still really pretty. In the fall, sitting outside the Atrium and looking out into the Garden with all the trees and the leaves falling is genuinely one of my favorite things ever. What role did the Chapel play in your Packer student experience? Ellin: Everyone—Third Grade through Junior College—met there every day. And Fridays, we said the national anthem. Someone from the Senior Class always said something. It started out with a hymn, Bible reading, the Lord’s Prayer, and then there’d be announcements. Occasionally someone would come in and play one or two pieces on the piano. At one point, one of the presidents of the school thought we needed more space [to accommodate classes], so he wanted to change the Chapel. I was on the [Alumni Board] then. I had a long talk with him, and that was the end of that! He ended up repairing the Chapel instead. Sara: My Chapel experience is actually pretty similar, except it’s not every morning. It’s once a week. A Senior speaks every time and there are musical performances and presentations from students who are eager to share their learning. What were your neighborhood hangouts during your high school years? Ellin: We weren’t allowed out, so we didn’t have any.
We weren’t allowed out of school during the daytime at all. You know where the Pratt Building is? That was a playground [below]. After school we could play kickball, and there was a jungle gym, and slides and swings. The head of the Gym Department would try to teach us to play tennis there.
Sara: So you didn’t even hang out after school around Brooklyn Heights? Ellin: No. Weekends we’d get together, go to the movies or
have a sleepover, but there were no neighborhood gatherings after school. Sara: That’s interesting that there were no neighborhood
hangouts. I go to the pier [in Brooklyn Bridge Park] a lot with my friends. I love taking walks down the Promenade, and just looking at the skyline. I dance every day after school. And just like you, I love hanging out with my friends on the weekend, seeing movies, getting dinner, sleepovers. Ellin: Some things don’t change. What is one major news
event that occurred during your time at Packer, and how did students respond? Sara: One that stands out to me was the  Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, because it hit so close to home. It was kids our age. Packer students really spoke up and rallied together and went to protests. Ellin: I was at Packer when the Second World War started.
My father enlisted and he was almost going to have to take me out of Packer. But Dr. Schaefer, who was the head then, gave me a scholarship so I was able to stay. I remember in the Fifth Grade we knitted squares to be made into afghans for the troops. And we had air raid drills. You have fire drills; we had air drills. Sometimes we had to get under our desks. It was kind of a scary time. Sara: What are some of the biggest changes you’ve noticed? Ellin: They’re all good changes. Packer’s co-ed. We’re integrated. The Garden has become more usable. There are many more course offerings. The Packer Early Learning Center, the Middle School building—they’re all wonderful. Our class was very, very lucky because we were a class that was more accepting of change and accepted the fact that Packer went co-ed, that it integrated. Our class just accepted everyone and everything that happened. What would you want the Class of 1952—and other Packer alumni— to know about Packer today?
Alumnae Hall opened onto a walled playground on the corner of Joralemon and Clinton streets until 1957. The first floor windows of Alumnae Hall can still be seen today inside the Blackburne Library and the Upper School Office.
Sara: Packer students are driven to create change, and are eager to speak their mind. And do what’s right, always. The teachers are very motivated to help you succeed, and there are so many resources to make sure that you do. And we’re very spirited. We love doing quirky things. I have loved the people I’ve met at Packer. Seriously, I know they’ll be my friends for life. P
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Packer and the Pandemic
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“It’s been 175 years since Packer first opened its doors, but we’ve never had a school year like this one.” The opening greeting in Head of School Jennifer Weyburn’s 2020 holiday video captured a complicated truth in simple words. In fact, the story of the current school year began in March 2020, when the World Health Organization officially designated the Covid-19 outbreak a pandemic. The following day, amid growing anxiety in our community and our city, Dr. Weyburn announced that Packer would close early for spring break. At that time, few of us understood that a return to campus after spring break was highly unlikely. Governor Cuomo imposed a lockdown just a few days later, but it was too late: within ten days of our closure, New York City was the epicenter of a global health catastrophe. For those who stayed in the area, there were empty streets and an eerie stillness punctuated by sirens. For those who left, there were unfamiliar routines in places that weren’t quite home. For some, there was sudden and unthinkable loss. “Remote Packer” began, somewhat fittingly, on April Fool’s Day, when the treasured experience of learning and being together was transferred to pixels on screens—in some cases, screens hundreds of miles from Brooklyn. Like most of the world, we struggled but persisted through the many challenges of the spring. Incidents of anti-Asian
bigotry increased in the city. Things fell apart further with the killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd. Our community rose up in grief and anger, fueled by the determination to achieve racial justice in our country as well as at Packer. The year’s culminating events took place virtually. Although largely confined to Zoom, the spirit and camaraderie of the Class of 2020 were powerful reminders of our community’s resilience and sense of connection. Amid continued uncertainty as the summer began, we turned to the next challenge: our fall reopening. Our teachers studied best practices in remote and hybrid learning. Our operations team consulted with medical professionals and epidemiologists to develop comprehensive health and safety plans. Our divisional leaders rebuilt their programs and schedules. The key question about reopening was one of logistics. With six feet of social distancing, how would everyone fit on campus? Things were about to get complicated. A CAMPUS TRANSFORMED
It is October 5, 2020—207 days after our campus closed. Following three weeks of remote learning to establish the routines of the new school year, our students arrive at Packer to attend classes in person. Changes, large and small, are everywhere. Morning arrivals are carefully staggered to avoid congestion. Students enter the main campus via the gates on Livingston Street,
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greeted by administrators, staff, and parent volunteers. They give their names to verify that they have completed the daily online questionnaire that screens for Covid symptoms and exposure. Then they are directed through the Garden along marked paths to tented outdoor sinks where they wash their hands. The procedure is the same in rain and snow. Once a week, a small, plastic Covid-test vial is everyone’s required campus-admission ticket. To reduce students’ exposure, each division has its own entrance and its own zone inside the building. One look at a classroom—with its generously spaced desks and ubiquitous floor markers—and you see it. Almost everything that defines this unprecedented year comes down to one variable: space. A NEW EDUCATIONAL MODEL (OR TWO)
Socially Distant In-Person Learning. This is the primary reason why teaching and learning at Packer have transformed in 2020-21. When meeting social distancing guidelines, most of our 65 classrooms can be used only at half occupancy. As a result, in-person learning at Packer is only possible if most classes are split into smaller groups. Every conceivable space has been put to use as a classroom, including the Shen Gallery, the North and South hallways of the Middle School, the Admissions Office, and the Blackburne and Hart Libraries. (The Admissions team is working entirely remotely this year, and the librarians bring rolling book carts to classrooms.) 22 | THE PACKER MAGAZINE
In the Preschool and Lower School, head teachers and associate teachers teach solo, leading half-sized classes. (At midday, they switch classrooms.) This fundamental shift allows our younger students to attend school in person every day. It also means that these grades need twice the usual space. The entire Garden House is now, once again, part of the Lower School. Rooms that recently housed Upper School students studying calculus currently host students learning their multiplication tables. Where possible, the Fifth and Sixth Grades have been assigned to the largest spaces on campus, including the Choral Room, the Dance Studio, and the Middle School Theater. This keeps their classes intact so their teachers can lead each class as one, providing a more cohesive—and slightly more normal—early Middle School experience. In Seventh through Twelfth Grade, half of the students attend class in person while the other half joins them live from home, via Zoom. This “hybrid” model requires each of those grades to be split in half, with the two halves coming to campus in alternating weeks. Just like the city itself, the atmosphere at Packer is unmistakably more subdued. For one thing, fewer people are here. On any given day, due to the hybrid model, only half of the older students attend class in person. Some families have opted into full-time remote learning. For health and space reasons, some Packer professionals teach and work from home (as of spring, most are back on campus). No parents,
prospective students, or other visitors are allowed to enter the school. The student center [left] is often strikingly quiet because students cannot congregate in close quarters. Instead of being served in the Commons, lunch options must be individually packaged and delivered to the zones where students are allowed to eat, including the front hall and the second floor gym. (Packer’s chefs have created new delivery-friendly offerings.) To reduce exposure risks, students are not allowed to leave the building during the day. After classes, the building empties out more quickly than usual. Although athletes and performers practice as health protocols allow, games and live performances are not possible [see story on page 10]. There are few in-person meetings. Traditional weekly gatherings, while still called “Assembly” and “Chapel,” exist only in the ether. Students and teachers log in from classrooms and hallways, while others join from bedrooms and living rooms. ALL HANDS ON DECK
Pulling off in-person learning requires a huge effort. Dozens of new resources and procedures to mitigate health risks have been established. On the campus hygiene front, maintaining the outdoor sinks at each entrance, which supply hot water even in sub-zero weather, is “pretty much full-time work” for Craig Kennedy and Jorge Montoya, according to Maxine Coleman, Director of Campus Operations. In our ambitious universal testing program to protect against viral spread at school, every child and adult must take a Covid-19 test each week they are on campus. Head Nurse Liz Ann Doherty supervises the program, which requires an assistant and several additional support staff to assemble, digitally log, sort, and distribute hundreds of test kits several times a week, then collect them back the following day. On average, they process 800 tests a week. In conjunction with physical health, emotional health is a significant focus of our expanded student support efforts this year. Our deans, teachers, counselors, psychologists, and advisors have deepened their collaboration to provide additional support to in-person and remote students. Wellness programs for students and adults alike offer various self-care activities, such as yoga, meditation, and pleasurereading suggestions from the librarians. There is also a significant need for additional staffing to supervise in-person classes when teachers have to work remotely for health reasons or after possible exposure to the virus. Staffing needs don’t just change daily, but hourly. Substitute Coordinator Tory Lacy manages these supervisors and covers classes nearly full time himself. Molly Talbot serves the same vital role in the lower grades while also teaching a fully remote section of First Grade. Matt Hernandez, known to many as an after-school counselor, and Felix Fernandez, who provides auxiliary support in the Middle School, have
Documenting History in the Making Sadie Sadler ’22 believes that studying history is the best way to learn how to influence the world for the better. In 2019-20, before the pandemic, she and fellow history enthusiasts Nick Yohn ’21 and Amelia Killackey ’21 created the History Club, with George Snook as faculty advisor. They studied current and historical events. “We learned about the history behind many holidays, explored international relations, examined the decline in college students majoring in history, and watched the movie ‘Lincoln,’” said Sadie. Then Covid-19 hit. The students quickly mobilized to document the pandemic’s impact, creating the Packer Covid-19 Oral Histories Project. When New York City’s lockdown moved school on to Zoom in spring 2020, club members interviewed 32 people from across the Packer community about their Covid-19 experience. In the fall, they conducted follow-up interviews. The most conspicuous pattern the students found among their peers was the feeling of missing Packer. Many students noted that they had never thought about how much Packer meant to them. They realized they had taken it for granted. “I’ll have my good days and my bad days,” Heelah Kareem ’22 said in her interview. “Sometimes I’ll feel really positive and try to make the best of quarantine... I’ll also have days where I am confused about what’s going on in the world and wish I could be with my friends.” While many students reported struggling with motivation during remote schooling, some appreciated the chance to slow down, take a break, and reflect on what they value most. Among the teachers interviewed, many struggled with getting to know their students at the beginning of the school year. Remote schooling, they said, made it difficult to interact with students and form a friendly classroom environment. “It’s hard to get to know people through a screen,” said Alice Lurain. “I don’t think we’re really ourselves over Zoom. At the beginning of the year, I tried very hard in my class to try to create a sense of community, but I don’t think it was until we went back to in-person learning that I realized how big an impact our virtual start had on our year. I had to get to know my students all over again, outside of a screen.” Sadie felt that the project’s representation of various perspectives is important, both for the present and the future. “At a time when everyone feels isolated and distant, these interviews show us that we are not alone in our hardships. Because the group of people we interviewed is so diverse, I think anyone who watches these testimonies will be able to relate to them and gain valuable life lessons.”
Explore the Packer Covid-19 Oral Histories Project at www.packer.edu/covidproject.
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I began fostering rescue dogs and raising chickens. So far, we’ve fostered and found families for 16 rescue dogs (and adopted nine ourselves!)!
In spring and summer 2020, when Covid-19 restrictions limited our activities and confined many of us indoors, our faculty and staff de-stressed by pursuing hobbies and learning new skills.
— Sharon Melady, Preschool Science Teacher
Many more photos at www.packer.edu/downtime.
“ For the Upper School Symposium in January 2020, visual arts teacher Mike Miller and I worked with kids to make surfboards. During the pandemic, I set up a surfboard-making workshop in my sister-in-law’s garage. I made three boards, plus a couple surfcraft odds and ends. It was incredibly fun and I learned a ton.” — Ryan Carey, Upper School History Teacher
“ I learned to knit as a kid, and the lockdown provided “ I’ve started making watercolors and now have over 100 pieces! For as long as I can remember, fantastical creatures have been calling to me from creases in fabric, water stains on ceilings, paint chips on walls, and wood grain patterns on floors. My work is inspired by the world of stories as told to me through splatters, stains, and shapes I see on the sidewalks of my neighborhood of Fort Greene.” — Adèle Saint Pierre, Upper School French Teacher
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me with the time to dive back into it with intensity. I think knitting is a perfect hobby. It’s just tricky enough to distract your brain from the world, and you can knit practical items like hats, or adorable, useless items, like a pillow in the shape of a #2 pencil.” — Sadie King-Hoffmann, Middle and Upper School Librarian
enjoyed playing a much more hands-on role, assisting students in the classroom. Nick Griffith, often stationed at the front hall security desk in the afternoons, now begins his day rotating through the Lower School as a specialist teacher, sharing his experiences as a racecar driver—a subject that delights his young students. Other professionals and administrators across the school have pitched in as well. In one way or another, everyone on campus has gone above and beyond the call of duty. And as they’ll tell you, if it allows our students to be together on campus, it’s worth it. REMOTE LEARNING, ONE YEAR IN
Even as in-person learning has been very successful, remote learning remains an inevitable part of this school year. Positive cases in the community have necessitated temporary closures, and after major vacations, classes have resumed remotely to allow families, faculty, and staff to quarantine. Assessing student learning in real time is one of a teacher’s many superpowers. In person, they gauge students’ understanding in a myriad of ways: observing their tone and gestures, scanning their work, checking in individually as they pack up their bags. Few of these techniques transfer easily to Zoom. Instead, teachers check for understanding by asking for a thumbs up or a one-to-five-finger rating. With remote teaching, there is no “one size fits all” approach. Depending on the needs of their students and their lessons, many teachers adjust their approach daily. What’s more,
leading in-person and remote students simultaneously in a hybrid classroom [demonstrated above by Celeste Tramontin, Upper School English Teacher] “is like trying to read a book and listen to music at the same time,” says Amy Szczepanski, Upper School Science Teacher. “We care so much about the kids. It’s hard emotionally, knowing that we physically cannot do what the best thing is.” That said, remote learning offers a great deal of instructional flexibility. There are countless options: digital discussion platforms, self-directed assignments, live or pre-recorded videos. “There’s a lot of creative stuff happening, a lot of innovation,” says Greg Benedis-Grab, who, as the head of Academic Technology, oversees how Packer teachers incorporate digital tools into student learning. Even as the pandemic has raised issues of what a healthy technology diet should be, particularly for children, technology is what makes continued instruction possible. It even solves problems that hybrid teaching creates, such as the fact that classroom smart boards are not readily visible to students participating from home. Thanks to a successful pilot iPad program, our math, science, and world language teachers can easily provide visual information that simultaneously displays in the classroom and on Zoom. For students across the school, the experience of remote learning has been a crash course in self-direction. “It takes three or four times the energy to mentally transport yourself into the classroom and then learn,” says Millie Howard ’21. SPRING 2021 | 25
“There’s nobody [at home] to keep you accountable. It’s really up to you.” As Sam Levine ’21 points out: “You budget your time differently. With asynchronous [assignments], you have to be more proactive.” For these seniors, remote learning bears some resemblance to the life that awaits them after Packer. Many students admit that “remote school” has redeeming qualities. For some, home offers a more peaceful learning environment. Self-directed assignments add variety to the school day and ease its intensity. Fewer extracurriculars mean more free time. A later start to the day—with no commute— means more sleep. Families also appreciate some of these side benefits. [See “Home/School” on page 28.] CHILDREN LEADING THE WAY
The pandemic has also been a crash course in managing adversity. If it offers any lessons, the greatest one may be a deep sense of gratitude for things often taken for granted. Despite the limitations and trade-offs of this year, it has thrown into stark relief just how important it is to feel connection and community. Being together has been a source of palpable relief and much-needed normalcy. “There’s a phrase: ‘children will play in a war zone,’” says Carla Kelly, a learning specialist in the Upper School. “Now that [the pandemic has lasted] a year, I understand that statement so much deeper. Resilience is something that has to be fostered. These kids really showed resilience, particularly at the beginning.” 26 | THE PACKER MAGAZINE
Amy Szczepanksi agrees. “We’ve shifted plans so much that I can say to my students, ‘Next week, I’m teaching Spanish, not Chemistry—in the middle of Joralemon Street. Everyone needs to wear pink and bring a salamander to class.’ They’re so go-with-the-flow now. They might not be happy about it, but they’re like, ‘All right, that’s fine.’” Many feel that there has been value in students’ seeing adults whom they respect “figuring it out as they go,” says Carla. “It brought the teachers and the students closer together. They were understanding each other as people.” In some respects, the students lead the way for the adults, modeling positivity and bringing joy to tough times. “My Sixth Grade students wow me with their can-do spirits, indefatigability, and general love of life,” says health teacher Jeremy Hawkins. “I wouldn’t even know a pandemic is going on with the enthusiasm they bring to each class—whether we’re in remote, hybrid, or whatever comes next.” This sentiment is shared by many adults. In the early days of remote learning, “my Second Graders reminded me daily that we would get through this and remain a tightly knit community,” says Hardeep Juttla, Second Grade Head Teacher. “Their applause and words of encouragement when technology was misbehaving—or when my own children crashed [our class]—reminded me to remain flexible.” Students recognize the effort that their teachers are making. Skill with academic technology is de rigueur like never before. Math teacher Tom James “is a tech genius. We love him,” says
one senior. They are also deeply grateful to the faculty for showing simple kindness and understanding about the stresses the students are facing, whether by offering an extension on a project or taking a moment to check in with them. Even some aspects of the year that caused upset in the fall have yielded unexpected benefits. “Splitting the grade in half has given us an opportunity to get to know our classmates better,” says Jordana Sampson ’21. “New friendships are being made.” That said, Upper School students were excited by the possibility of their grades reuniting on campus in April. Despite the challenges that students have weathered this year, many have responded with resolve. The political and social unrest of 2020 and early 2021, in addition to the tragedy and anxiety of the pandemic, has galvanized many, who see these unsettled times as a critical opportunity for change. Though conversations about identity and belonging have been a part of Packer for many years, new and expanded student-led initiatives have given many a sense of purpose and hopefulness. The dialogue on race “is more centered within the community now, which I think is appreciated,” says Amadi Williams ’21. To be sure, the students (like the adults) wish this year were different. They are wistful about the things that have been lost. They worry about the year lacking a sense of closure and celebration, especially the seniors. But they also display a sense of perspective that is wise beyond their years. “Packer students care about their teachers. They care about their peers, and they care about learning,” says Bella Pitman ’21. “That’s
really been shown through this [year]. It shows how special Packer is, how well we’ve dealt with everything.” Communities facing hardship often discover untapped strengths, and Packer students are no different. As the conclusion of this historic school year comes into view, there now seems to be enough energy in reserve for the community to begin to exhale and reflect on its successes. On campus, the mood is lighter. There are more moments when Packer feels like itself again. On one sunny day in March, Preschool students burst onto the roof garden of the Early Learning Center into the sunshine. On the main campus, Upper Schoolers are arrayed across the patio, relaxing and talking. One has headphones on, eyes closed, taking in the warmth. A dozen more teenagers form a giant circle in the Garden. They’re kicking a ball around, laughing and challenging one another. Eventually, they suspend their fun and head back into the building for afternoon classes. Their voices are soon replaced by high-pitched cries and squeals, as Third Graders in bright colors streak across the wide open space. Everyone wears a mask (or two), but the smiling eyes and the laughter speak for themselves. And it’s comforting to know that you can still hear it: the sounds of kids just being kids. P See more images of how the coronavirus pandemic has transformed Packer at www.packer.edu/magazine. SPRING 2021 | 27
Packer has made every effort to maximize in-person learning since the fall. As this pandemic has shown, remote learning has had to remain part of every family’s experience at various times during the 2020-21 school year. For children, the biggest challenges of remote learning, according to Jeff Kauffman P’29, P’33, are the lack of steady, face-to-face peer interactions and the ever-present risk of technology failures. Tati Nguyen ’84, P’25 lamented the loss of teachers’ “usual, over-theshoulder access to their students’ work. Students are more ‘on their own’ to figure things out.” For parents, knowing all the experiences their kids have not been able to have this past year—and wondering about the impact—hits hard. Balancing the competing demands of their own responsibilities and those of their children has also been difficult, especially for working families and single-parent households. But the vast majority see blessings too. “Covid-19 has been devastating, and I’ve lost a loved one,” said Mary Park P’30. “But having my daughter with me has been a silver lining to this terrible pandemic.” Angela Faloye P’25 appreciated that remote learning has given her more insight into her son’s learning, and that the reduced commute has given the family more time for sleep, study, and bonding. “We’ll miss the opportunities to peek into Noah’s day and see him dancing on Zoom or thinking hard on a math problem,” said Tricia Lentini Himot P’32. “He is new to Packer, and I think we’ll miss being the fly on the wall as he makes new friendships and discovers new subjects he likes.” As Jeff put it: “Is remote learning busy, stressful, and loud at times? Sure. But the time we’ve spent together this year has been wonderful, and I will miss it greatly.”
In our house, the solitude was a positive thing, accompanied by quiet and coziness. When remote learning
ends, Clio is going to miss independent
All Phillip’s teachers have been wonderful, and teaching remotely is not easy. I have a better understanding of why he leaves Packer each day with a smile on his face! — Joel Lasher P’30 28 | THE PACKER MAGAZINE
reading with the help of her furry brothers! — Pam Brown P’30
PHOTO CREDITS (CLOCKWISE FROM TOP): SHANNON PORTELL, ALI SCHIPPERS, ANGELA FALOYE, MONICA FIGUEIREDO
Remote learning has shown us how kind and patient our teachers are. We feel lucky to have them in our child’s life during this time when uncertainty and new norms can feel overwhelming.
PHOTO CREDITS (CLOCKWISE FROM TOP): AMY WESTCOTT, DAWN BRADFORD-WATT, AUDREY WEINBERGER, AMY WESTCOTT
— Tricia Lentini Himot P’32
We appreciate the remote program, as it provides daily structure, consistency, and continuity of a quality education. We get to witness the “classroom” first hand and see that our daughter is having fun learning, is engaged with her teachers and peers, and has built friendships in class. — Ellen Yang P’33
Thank you, families, for submitting such wonderful photos of your children learning at home. See more submissions at www.packer.edu/home-school. SPRING 2021 | 29
Sarah Yankauer ’20, co-creator of the
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project “Different Ships, Same Storm” [see right], captured a self-portrait expressing how the Covid-19 pandemic has changed her: “When I look at my reflection, I don’t see the same person that looked back at me nine months ago.”
Old structures on which I leaned are falling away. Old frames in which I saw myself are laid aside. In solitude, neither protected nor concealed by glass, the woman I will be shines cleanly through. — “Reframe Me” by Kristin Camitta Zimet ’65 IVAc
Alumni Join Students to Document Covid Creatively
I think about the sanctuary that I have created for myself, as I listen to the sirens of ambulances and sounds of birds in the air. It leads me to wonder on the blessing that life is and the reality that 100 square feet in a city like Brooklyn can feel like a vast and changing plane. An oasis from the barren desert of isolation, a happy place. — Untitled by Mikayla Marquis ’96, P’32
In the fall, alumni from the classes of 1956 to 2020 participated in “Different Ships, Same Storm,” a project created by Upper School students to encourage people around the world to capture their pandemic experiences in photography and prose. At a Zoom event in December, alumni and students presented their art works to dozens of Packer guests. View a selection of our alumni submissions here—and browse more at www.packer.edu/differentships.
The girls did remote school, played Legos, dolls… argued, cried, screamed … then we had lunch. Tomorrow we will do it all over again. — “ Parenting in the Pandemic or the Mundanity of Repetition” by Ainka Shackleford Turner ’92, P’31, P’34
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Packer’s 109th Founder’s Day Speaker: Francisco Tezén ’93 Francisco Tezén ’93 has dedicated his professional life to serving his community. As an Upper School student, he and several classmates founded Brothers and Sisters (known as BĀS), Packer’s affinity group for Black students. After earning a bachelor’s degree in history and Latin American studies from Wesleyan University, he built a career in higher education and in the nonprofit sector. He is currently president and CEO of A Better Chance, a national nonprofit that helps young people of color access transformational educational experiences and prepare for leadership positions. Since 2017, Francisco has been a member of Packer’s Alumni Board, where he serves on the Fundraising Committee. On October 27, 2020, Francisco gave the keynote address at Packer’s 109th Founder’s Day Chapel, which was held virtually. Read excerpts of his Founder’s Day remarks below. Packer was the place where I began to independently identify the values I wanted to live by. It is where I developed a stronger sense of my identity and a deeper understanding of who I was in the world. For the first time, I was a member of a community that predominantly did not look like me and did not share many of the experiences I had up to that point. In so many ways, Packer was a moment of awakening for
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me. The seeds were planted well before I walked through the doors on Joralemon Street. However, it is clear to me that my time at Packer was when the values of social justice and equity began to take root in a different way, because Packer presented the space to cultivate and put these values into action, with a sense of purpose and mission that has guided me throughout my career in public service. I grew up in a Black and Latinx family that instilled in me the importance of education. For a family of limited means, my parents frequently talked about the power of education to be a great equalizer—a means of realizing their perception of the American Dream. Because of them, I’ve had a passion for learning. Through Oliver Scholars, I learned about and earned a scholarship to Packer, an experience that my family would otherwise have never been able to afford. Beyond the incredible education that I received at Packer, my life was changed because suddenly the world was much bigger to me. I established friendships with people who traveled to parts of the world that until then were only as real as the earmarked pages of my encyclopedia. I discovered parts of my city that I never knew before and fell in love with art and museums. Stephan Koplowitz and Kathleen Hill introduced me to the language of modern dance.
I took my first class in African history and participated in co-curricular activities outside the classroom that helped advance my studies of the African diaspora. In history classes, Kathy Emery helped me hone my ability for close reading before I even had a name for reading with purpose and with an analytical eye. And Linda Gold helped me to go on Odyssey with Homer, to “never be silent with my pain,” in the words of Zora Neale Hurston, and instead write stories, poems, and plays that spoke the truth as I knew it. However, within the quiet but affable kid that I was in high school, there were strands of dissatisfaction that were being spun in my heart and mind until they clung to one another and balled up into what can only be described as rage. My parents, until this point, had long drilled into my head the need to keep my head down, work hard, stand out, but try not to be noticed too much. Over time I learned that my parents’ words were not so much an exercise in humility as a lesson on survival. My mother shared her passion for reading with me and among her favorite authors was James Baldwin. It was a revelation to read his idea that to be Black in this country and to be conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time. I first read these words during my time at Packer. I was beginning to engage ideas and perspectives that were too big to be contained in the small confines of the building. My classmates and I took our debates outside of Packer’s four walls, in the Garden in between pick-up basketball games, to the diners on Montague Street, on train rides home, talking excitedly about our emerging views of the world as we thought it should be. Even then I was aware that my experience at Packer was not like everyone else’s: at times, the bigotry of low expectations in the classroom; at other times, the presumption that the invisible hand in my scholastic achievements and most notably during the year of college acceptances was surely affirmative action. However, the rage I speak to and that I think Baldwin was attesting to went beyond those personal flashpoints. I spoke to my cousins, kids I grew up with in the neighborhood. There was a profound difference in what they were experiencing in the classroom and my experience at Packer. Walking the streets of Brooklyn Heights struck a stark comparison to the beginning and ending of my day in the Chelsea-Elliott Houses in Manhattan. It was an experience that I shared with several of my classmates who found their way to Packer often through college prep programs or through the sheer will of their parents. There came a point in my Sophomore year when the school started to lose students like me who had a similar path to Packer. The reasons ranged from academic to disciplinary, and many of us came to the realization that a key driver was a lack of support. One of the most important lessons that I learned at Packer and that informs my work today is that opening the door to opportunity is not the end but only the start. Perhaps the harder part is how we support and help people thrive once the door to new possibilities has been opened. My classmates and
“ Opening the door to opportunity is not the end but only the start. Perhaps the harder part is how we support and help people thrive once the door to new possibilities has been opened.” —F rancisco Tezén ’93, Founder’s Day Speaker
I founded Brothers and Sisters (BĀS) out of need to create a sense of support, a safe space to wrestle with the issues that were unique to students of color, and to build community with the explicit purpose of galvanizing opportunities to realize change. Packer gave me the opportunity to test Baldwin’s premise that nothing can be changed until it is faced, and that has been a theme throughout my career. Right out of college, I went back to my home community, right back to the Chelsea-Elliott Houses, and worked for the local settlement house, an organization that provides services for low-income families. In February 2020 of this year I had the opportunity to bring my story full circle as I took on the role of president and CEO of A Better Chance, an organization that helps young people of color access transformational educational opportunities at independent and public schools. Undoubtedly, my personal experience at Packer is among the pivotal reasons why I am so passionate about A Better Chance. I get the opportunity to work with Packer, which is a member school of the organization. I am deeply honored to build on the legacy of A Better Chance, which for nearly 60 years has been making transformations like the one I experienced possible—a bigger world filled with possibility, adventure, and the chance for the young people we serve to become the very best versions of themselves. And that is the opportunity you have before you—to take the time at Packer to discover and pursue the things you are passionate about, and to find the opportunities to apply your voice and your talents to make a meaningful change. I hope your time at Packer is among the first chapters in your journey committed to service in whatever form you choose. You may find it becomes a lifelong pursuit of service and justice, the words of Dr. Martin Luther King reverberating in your ears, “Everybody can be great... because anybody can serve…. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love.” Francisco’s entire speech is available at www.packer.edu/2020foundersday.
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Natasha Nordahl ’86, Lincoln Restler ’02, and Danai Pointer ’03 are among the alumni who remain engaged in political activism after their days on Joralemon Street.
Alumni Spotlight Natasha Nordahl ’86 was elected to serve as village justice for the Village of Bronxville, NY. A Democrat, she beat Republican incumbent George Mayer. Dan Feigin ’88, Peter Feigin ’88, and Malcolm Lee ’88 were featured in The New York Times for their decades-long pick-up basketball game known as the “Saturday Morning Run.” Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, 2020 marked the first time since 1992 that the weekly game had to take a timeout.
Vogue recently featured former ballet dancer, turned architect, turned jeweller Rachel Weld Newton ’89. Her Caged | Uncaged collection, crafted of gold, diamonds, and black jade, was created using a combination of handwork and 3-D printing. “Her methods,” wrote Vogue, “are a physical manifestation of lessons learned from George Balanchine.” Tyler Maroney ’91 published The Modern Detective: How
Corporate Intelligence Is Reshaping the World (Riverhead Books). Tyler, cofounder of the private investigations firm Quest Research & Investigations, examines how public and corporate institutions are moving away from police, lawyers, and government regulators and turning to private investigators to catch corrupt politicians, international embezzlers, and dishonest CEOs. Tené Howard ’97 was appointed executive director of
Sadie Nash Leadership Project, a non-profit dedicated to promoting leadership and activism among young women. Tené previously served as Packer’s inaugural Director of Global Programs and Community Engagement.
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Lincoln Restler ’02 is running for representative for New York City’s 33rd District in 2021. The lifelong Brooklyn resident, a co-founder of the New Kings Democrats, has been involved in politics since he volunteered with the 2008 presidential campaign of then-Senator Barack Obama. Lincoln told Kings County Politics, “When it comes to addressing issues, big and small, from climate change to getting a stop sign installed, I know how to get things done. And I’m gonna put forward big ideas, and a relentless work ethic to make a difference and restore people’s faith and confidence in government.” Danai Pointer ’03 was recently appointed as the
communications outreach director for the Democratic National Committee (DNC). She previously served on the communications team for the DNC War Room and other consulting positions. Chafin Seymour ’08 moved to California to be assistant professor of dance and choreography at San Jose State University. He was recently featured in the San Francisco Classical Voice. Chafin talks about his journey to the world of dance, his current work, and how he has had to adjust during the pandemic (fewer students in in-person studio classes, and online classes that take into account limited space for movement). “I kind of feel like I escaped at the last minute,” he said, “but missed out on what it feels like to experience New York in the pandemic.”
Today’s Leaders, Tomorrow’s Alumni: The Class of 2021 At the beginning of their final semester, Director of Alumni David Minder met with Student Council President Abe Rothstein ’21, Student Council Vice President Georgia Groome ’21, and Packer Anti-Racism Council (PARC) Student Representative and Brothers and Sisters (BĀS) co-leader Amadi Williams ’21 to talk about their experiences at Packer, how the community has handled unprecedented events, and what’s coming next. David: What is a single memory that stands out from your time at Packer? Georgia: I think of our Peer Support leaders’ camping trip. There was a compliment circle where we told stories about each person and showered them with positive things. There was so much kindness and trust in that space. Abe: Our community truly came together
after the Parkland school shooting. I found myself in a position to lead a rally where everyone supported one another with hope and love. That moment is something I won’t forget. Amadi: I’m thinking of how my exhibit of portraits of Black Packer fathers has gotten attention [visit www.packer.edu/ shen-williams]. It is so inspiring to see people talk about important issues and rally around different ideas and to see these conversations happening at Packer that may not be happening in other schools. What is your take on the present moment, as we have settled in with hybrid learning and begun to tackle
Abe: When the student leaders of Brothers and Sisters spoke
about their experiences as Black students, we also heard from Alumni Board members of the affinity group. It was a valuable and important dialogue. We should look for ways to increase our chances to talk to one another, share experiences, and help each other out personally and professionally. Amadi: I am so appreciative of their willingness to give back and participate. Many of the Alumni Board and Packer Anti-Racism Council members are also Packer parents. You get to talk about their experiences at Packer, while working together to figure out how we can improve things at the school.
What are your thoughts about leaving Packer? Georgia: With Covid, it’s been over a year since our class was together at the same time. It doesn’t feel real. Thinking ahead to college, I am not worried about straying too far or losing anything, because I have this awesome community to fall back on. Abe: It feels like you’re reading a book and it ends on a
cliffhanger. I’m like, “Now what?” In the end though, Packer has shaped us. I have been able to find who I am as a person and figure out the kind of things I want to do. Amadi: I have been working to leave my mark as I reach the home stretch of my time at Packer and I hope that whatever work I can do will continue to benefit the community.
issues related to racism in the community? Georgia: There’s been a lot more transparency between the
administration and Student Council. We have helped bridge the gap between all the different facets of the community. We want to be there for one another, to understand where everyone is coming from. Abe: I talk about how we have two pandemics: the actual
pandemic and racial injustice in the Packer community. We have had forums where students have led discussions about how we can make a difference. While we may not yet be at the age where we can make all the decisions, we can certainly make our voices heard. What have you taken away from your interactions with the Alumni Board and other alumni? Georgia: I’m grateful to be able to meet with them and
help make introductions to affinity and student groups. The Alumni Board has opened themselves up to students to offer guidance when asked, and that’s the coolest part.
What are your thoughts on being a Packer alumnus? Georgia: It’s a pivotal moment. There is burgeoning change at Packer, and I want to see where that goes. There are a lot of conversations about holding one another accountable, and a way I can remain involved is by staying connected and participating in that accountability. Abe: We [recent alumni] need to strengthen our lines of
communication as current students start the college process to figure out what advice Packer alumni have for students. Amadi: I have a sense that I’m joining a community, and that there’s a network with opportunities that are invaluable. It’s definitely exciting, but it’s also weird, because alumni are the people I used to just see in photos. It seems unreal to become one!
Read David’s complete interview with members of the Class of 2020 at www.packer.edu/2020grads.
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For Service to Packer While Reunion did not officially take place last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we want to congratulate those who were selected to receive an award. We look forward to seeing you at our virtual 2021 Reunion on Saturday, April 17: www.packer.edu/reunion. Alumnus Marc Youngblood ’85 has spent his career as a creative producer, writer, director, and editor with expertise in on-air, livestreaming, pay-per-view, and social-media programming. After receiving his BS in video production from Ithaca College, he pursued a career in providing high-quality programming for Showtime and other companies. Marc has worked on “Inside NASCAR,” “Showtime Championship Boxing,” The Honeymooners and Yours, Mine and Ours, and the New York City Marathon. Marc was president of his class in 1984-85, has served as Reunion Chair, and was on the Alumni Board for 10 years, including terms as Vice President and President. Marc was slated to receive the Alumni Award of Honor in recognition of his exemplary career and dedication to Packer. Former Director of Alumni Dona Metcalf Laughlin P’04
began her life with Packer over 30 years ago when her son Colin Laughlin ’04 joined the Pre-K Threes. She later served as the President of the Parent Association for three
years and as a Packer Trustee from 1997 until 2005. In 2006, she began her 12-year tenure as Director of Alumni, working diligently to engage our alumni with each other and the broader community, and creating alumni programs that continue today. One of her many achievements was establishing the Joan Buehler Eisenstein ’51 Award for Service, which honors those who demonstrate “outstanding volunteer leadership and service to the school.” It is only fitting that Dona received this award for all the contributions she has made at Packer. Former Physical Education Teacher Dorothy Guerreri was a part of the Packer community for more than 40 years, as a physical education and health teacher, a gymnastics coach, Ninth Grade prefect, a health curriculum coordinator, and chair of the Health Advisory Committee. She spent four decades in dedication to the lives and health of our students, and ultimately our alumni community. Dorothy was awarded the Alumni Award of Honor, which is given to those who exemplify the values inherent in a Packer education.
Meet the Newest Alumni Board Members Each year we elect members of the Alumni Board who demonstrate a clear dedication to Packer and its students. After a nomination process, we selected the following members, who were approved at our annual business meeting in April 2020. After graduating from Packer, Hilary Fox ’85 received her BA in American Studies from Dickinson College. Currently working on communications projects with the Board, she appreciates the opportunity to “learn and grow alongside Packer as it reckons with its history and works to become an anti-racist institution.”
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Vanessa Rosado ’97 earned her BA in government from Harvard and her MBA from Yale School of Management. She is currently the head of brand strategy at VentureFuel. She enjoys the opportunity to network with the Packer alumni community and to find volunteers to provide professional development programs for Packer students and recent graduates.
Fostering Alumni Connections, Virtually Connecting through the Ages A virtual format for this year’s Fall Back-to-Packer event allowed current and former faculty to catch up with collegeaged alumni during Thanksgiving break. We enjoyed seeing all the smiling faces filling our screens, giving us another reason to be thankful for the Packer community near and far.
A Journey Through Time with Former Packer Art Teacher Ken Rush In celebration of founder Harriet L. Packer, members of the Packer Alumni community gathered for a virtual presentation by former Art Teacher Ken Rush about the design and history of the school’s buildings.
Timely Debut of the Alumni Book Club
Career Coaching and Alumni Networking
Packer’s Alumni Board launched the Alumni Book Club with a reading of Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, Jason Reynolds’s and Ibram X. Kendi’s illuminating and accessible history of racism in the United States. Stamped was also the required 2020 summer reading in Seventh Grade through Twelfth Grade.
Packer alumni attended a virtual Conversation on Careers with fellow alumni from five peer Brooklyn independent schools. ASMT Solutions founder and chief executive officer Adeyemi Mchunguzi ’09 co-hosted a panel on how to put your best foot forward to get noticed by employers and shared more about his experiences in career coaching and talent acquisition, and as a strategist for diversity and equity.
Jason Rosas ’94, P’22, P’27
is a speech-language pathologist and director of school relationships and services at EBS Healthcare. He and his wife, Jamillah Hoy-Rosas ’94, have two children at Packer. Currently, Jason is focusing on communications for the Alumni Board. He also serves as Technology Director of the PA Board. He is a member of Packer Dads of Color, a POC support and advocacy group engaged in Packer’s hiring and retention, curriculum, and admissions outreach.
After earning her BA in history and literature from Harvard University, Anne Wenk Cashion ’11
began working as a management consultant, currently at Bain & Company. As the most recent graduate on the Alumni Board, she is dedicating herself to representing Packer’s younger graduates and working to connect them to the broader Packer community.
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To coincide with the November 2020 election, many social studies and history teachers at Packer incorporated the topic of voting rights into the curriculum. These Fourth Graders—members of the Class of 2029—learned about two prominent civil rights activists, Packer alumnae Mary White Ovington, Class of 1890, and Lucy Burns, Class of 1899. Our students were so inspired by these women’s dedication that they launched a petition to formally memorialize them on campus. (At press time, they were preparing to meet with Dr. Weyburn to make their case.) Read more about Ovington and Burns in our special 175th Anniversary story on page 12.
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170 Joralemon Street Brooklyn, NY 11201 (718) 250-0200 www.packer.edu
See You (Very!) Soon: Reunion 2021 We will still be celebrating your time at Packer—remotely—on Saturday, April 17! The Alumni Office will assist your class to host a virtual meetup and all alumni are invited to tune in to our special Reunion Chapel. To see if your class is celebrating and to find more information, visit www.packer.edu/reunion.
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