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ISSUE

# 136

SPRING 2018

Putney Post

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POEM

THE DOG BROUGHT MORNING

The dog brought morning on her short legs, her nose as cold as dew. It is difficult to bring the day into each bed, one after another, with a tongue as gentle as light. Who knew that morning could burrow under blankets? Who knew it was so hungry or soft or eager? Morning is about turning towards something; it is a dog with fur as strong as coffee, her paws stepping out of night’s river. Faith Shearin ’87, from Telling the Bees (2015)

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Faith Shearin is the author of six books of poetry. She is the recipient of awards from The Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, The May Swenson Award, The Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, The Dogfish Head Poetry Prize, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

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start FEATURE

02

Letter from the Editor

16

04

A New Tilt on Reality

Artists, Origins, & Inspirations

20

08

The Best Way to Predict the Future is to Create it

A Spirited Start

12

A.M.

ALUMNI CONNECTIONS

28

Alumni Books

29

Class Notes

51

In Memoriam

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Letter from Head of School + Campus Updates

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ON THE HILL

On the Cover: To the Moon and Back by Ursula X. Young ’91 Picture Above: The world's first 3D-printed headed from VR, cast in bronze and on display at the Royal Academy of Arts, London. Based on a portrait created by U.K. portrait painter Jonathan Yeo. Photo taken at the Pangolin Foundry, U.K.

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DEAR READER,

Many years ago, Emily Jones, James Wallace (then Putney’s music director), and I sat at a sunny Berkeley locavore restaurant and enjoyed brunch with Nick Grudin ’97, who works at Facebook. In that conversation, Nick opined that Putney is a hacker culture*, because learning experiences are not pre-cut and neatly presented to students. Instead, Putney students start from scratch, think through a problem thoroughly, and arrive at a solution—often after a handful of failures—through their own ingenuity. Nick said it’s why Putney alumni are so well-suited for start-up work and for the tech world, and are generally inventive, mold-breaking voices in a business world that encourages conformity but, conversely, seeks people whose ideas connect and expand and inspire.

Photo: Shyra Jainuddin ’19

*Hacker culture What it is: Individuals who enjoy the intellectual challenge of creatively overcoming limitations to achieve novel and clever outcomes (Wikipedia) What it isn’t: People who “hack” your computer and make bad things happen to it


The idea stuck in my head. I started to see its evidence everywhere in the lives of the Putney’s students, alumni, and teachers. This issue’s theme—start—was, as always, born out of your stories. We considered many variations on this theme (origin, beginnings, launch, open), all of which circle back to the idea that Putney people take leaps, take ownership, and make things happen. They start things. If “hacker culture” means approaching a situation with a creative mind and making it work, it seems that Putney can proudly own that moniker.

As you read these stories, you’ll see people who are shaping and creating a world that they themselves imagine, and it’s a world that’s slightly askew from—and arguably more thoughtful and innovative than—the mainstream. A farming family fi ds opportunity in a changing market (p.08); two young alumnae offer stories of different sides of the start-up world, one in the rural farmland of Wisconsin and the other in Silicon Valley’s tech-laden landscape (p.18+20); a Putney farmer recounts the eternal story of how the day begins at Putney (p.12).

Finally, another “start” worth mentioning is that of Michael Bodel, Putney’s director of marketing and communications these last several years (and the impetus behind the Putney Post’s recent changes). Michael is headed off o a new pursuit, working as director of external affairs at Dartmouth’s Hopkins Center for the Arts. We thank you, Michael, for your keen eye, knack for beautiful design, cheerful collaboration, and bold vision. Now, go start something! ALISON FRYE

Alumni Relations Manager and Editor of Th Putney Post

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Artists, Origins, &

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PU TNEY P O S T 


A CONVERSATION WITH COVER ARTIST URSULA X. YOUNG ’91 BY MING DETTMER ’19

& Inspirations Ursula X. Young’s works are magnetic in their composition, harmony, and passionate spirit. When I started looking at her paintings, the first thing that hit me was the clear creative fire that is shared between the greater Bay Area and the City of San Francisco. It is a wholesome and complete—but also an intricate and gentle—spirit. Ursula’s use of symbols was strong for me as well; her cow parsnip and poppies brought me to my childhood in the mountains surrounding the Bay Area. The natural grain of wood, when part of the painting, offers an aspect of natural, gentle beauty that balances the strong lines of her work.

Why are you drawn to art? I used to stay up late drawing at the age of three. My parents are both creative, and they helped me fi d that path. Putney also played a big role in my becoming an artist. It was the fi st time I saw the possibilities of taking art seriously, as something to study and practice daily. I think the access to studio space—all the methods and materials—helped to open me up to what was out there. Tell me about the women in your paintings. The women are amalgamations of characters I meet on my travels, people I know, or they’re from my imagination. Some of my women look a lot like my mother when she was younger. Now I have a daughter, and some of my girls are starting to look like her. When I was a kid I was really into fairy tale illustrations and a lot of those characters are female, especially in the old Victorian illustrations. That was my jumping off oint. Even from a young age I was drawing fairies and girls. My interest developed and became what it is today. My dad took me to all sorts of museums and galleries around Europe when I was young and I’m lucky to have seen some amazing artwork. The work that I was most drawn to was very female-based, like the pre-Raphaelites, Alphonse Mucha, Gustav Klimt, and Egon Schiele.

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What is the significance of the frequent appearance of flowers, cow parsnip, and bubbles? Flowers to me signify beauty, and I always strive to put beauty into the world through my work. California poppies, dragonfl es, dandelions, and cow parsnip are parts of that language. The bubbles embody something about the spirit of San Francisco during my time living there—the idea that at any moment while dancing in a park with flowers in your hair, bubbles might just float by.

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San Francisco is the setting of most of your work. Is there a spirit you wish to capture when you paint it? The entire spirit of San Francisco—what drew me there in the fi st place, and what was defi itely alive when I lived there—is what I like to capture: The free-spirited sunshine- and music-filled creative lifestyle that has embodied San Francisco since the hippy movement of the ’60s. My parents were in Berkeley at that time, and I knew the Bay Area was a place I wanted to be when I graduated from Parsons

in ’96. Even in the ’90s/early 2000s, it still had that same electricity—drawing so many creative people into one place. Sadly some of that is being lost right now, but the beauty of the city will always remain: the fog rolling in over the tops of hills, the crossed wires, and elaborate Victorian houses. Are there any balancing techniques that you use to compose your pieces? I work that out in the sketch phase, but it’s a little subconscious. The composition is created


The beauty of the city will always remain: the fog rolling in over the tops of hills, the crossed wires, and elaborate Victorian houses. and now look at blank walls in urban areas in such a different way. I also love the added interaction with people walking by—it’s something you don’t get while working in the studio. I’m part of an all-female mural collective called Few and Far, and we get together and paint walls a few times a year.

in the sketch process, making sure that there is enough negative space and enough of a flow. I create a pretty rough sketch, and work all the details out on the fi al painting. I think I work differently than most artists. A lot of people I know create very detailed sketches before they start working whereas I do most of the working out on the fi al piece. A lot of the time the land is submerged in the ocean life. Does this reflect your thoughts towards the ecosystem of the

bay? Yes, those paintings were defi itely a look at what happens when our world falls out of balance—rising sea levels due to climate change is one thing I looked at in that particular series [Fire and Water]. I was also looking at the turning tides of San Francisco itself—its housing crisis and the widening class divide. Where is your favorite place to put your art/do your art? I love creating large murals, especially as a part of mural festivals or events. I love city walls as large canvases

Did you ever paint at Putney? At Putney, I was still searching for my voice—you always are. I was working on techniques, experimenting and drawing from real life, which is really important to do, and I hadn’t found my more magical voice yet. I was very drawn to printmaking and learning the process of etching, woodblock, and linocuts was a wonderful experience. Both of the art teachers at the time, Brian Cohen and Eric Aho, were positive influences for me in moving forward and becoming a professional artist. We chose Putney for the art program, but of course there was so much more that Putney gave me and I think Putney really changed the course of my life. I remember illustrating the diplomas was a real joy and I think a lot of students from my years have my art on their Putney diploma! Ming Dettmer ’19, recently elected Putney’s co-head of school, is an accomplished writer and artist in her own right.

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See more of Ursula’s work on her website, www. ursulayoung.com, and her Instagram, @ursulaxyoung

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BY PRUDENCE BAIRD P'11 PHOTOS BY LINDSAY MORRIS

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spirited START REVAMPING A 200-YEAR-OLD FARM TO FIT TODAY'S MARKET

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PU TNEY P OS T 


W

hen Mark Twain said, “Buy land, they’re not making it anymore,” he may as well have been speaking directly to Marilee Foster ’89, even though the Putney School grad wouldn’t be born for another century or so. Had they been contemporaries, Marilee might have pointed out to Twain that mere acreage is not as important as the soil. And from her fi h-generation farmer’s point of view, the Bridgehampton loam of the eponymous Fosters’ Farms Sagaponack, LLC, which she co-owns with her older brother, Dean, is spectacular, earning an “A” rating from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Forbes magazine concurs with this valuation but for a different reason, citing the farm’s Suffolk County, NY, zip code as the second most expensive place to live in the United States. The farm is located in the Hamptons village of Sagaponack on the South Fork of Long Island. In its heyday, the 300-acre farm produced five 50,000-pound truckloads of potatoes daily, doing quite well until the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was enacted in the mid-’90s. With the bottom fallen out of the spud business, and as expensive land and farming don’t go hand-in-hand, Marilee and Dean struggled alongside their father to keep the farm profitable. Long before Marilee and Dean inherited the farm outright, Marilee says, “We all felt like things were closing in around us.” It was at this point “a convergence of factors happened,” says Marilee, allowing them to expand their farm’s product line from strictly edibles to mostly drinkables—as in spirits. Whereas making potato-based spirits may seem like a natural next step for the potato-farming siblings, Marilee, having lived through the years-long build to this pivot, shares that behind every “overnight success” is a lifetime of baby steps, dirt under the fi gernails, and a smidgen of stubbornness.

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stubborn group of us here determined to hang onto our farms. Fortunately, Suffolk County and Southampton have been out ahead in terms of land preservation and have made it possible for family farms to stay intact until the ocean takes them. Even so, in the late 1990s when our cousins sold their land, my father worked out a complicated deal, trading woodlands we owned for my cousins’ farm acreage. Then I read in the local paper about a small farm coming up for sale and pressured my parents into buying it even though this didn’t make sense at the time. This is now where our distillery is located, so that turned out to be a good move.

MARILEE FOSTER ’89

What attracted you to The Putney School—was it the farming? I did end up as a.m. barn head, but that was just because I drew the short straw. No, I came for the arts program. Mary Head ran the ceramics studio then and was so much fun. What really moved me about Putney was the exceptional art being produced by the other students—and the high caliber overall. One of my fi st experiences with Putney academics was when my class read Virginia Woolf. I’d never heard such open and intense discussion. And after Putney? The guidance counselor at Putney is the reason I ended up studying ceramics at Beloit College. I thank heaven for whatever placed me in both of these schools; they were formative influences on the way I live my life. Growing up on a farm, you’re obligated to focus on your farm. Going to Putney, I learned how our larger society functions. Most importantly, I learned how to pay attention, which I only recognize now in retrospect. So how did you go from ceramics back to the home farm? You could say the economic imperatives of the family farm called me back to Sagaponack. And it

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PU TNEY P O S T 

wasn’t too long before I realized that the land we owned was—and is—a unique medium. I can pour my creative energies into this land that we’ve owned since the 1700s and make a different kind of art. And your art is…? When I rejoined the farm, I set up my own side business growing organic vegetables—Marilee’s Farm Stand. I learned about what’s called the “market truth” of food production and how this determines what you can grow—perishability, transportation to market, and labor all come into play. The farm stand grew in popularity and I now supply some very nice establishments around the Hamptons, and also a couple in New York City, as well as local caterers, residents, and tourists. [Editor's note: Foodies familiar with Eli Zabar’s eateries in and around Manhattan may have tasted Marilee’s heirloom tomatoes!] Was there ever a time you considered selling the farm? I’ve seen 20 family farms disappear in my lifetime. There’s a

Between NAFTA and building the distillery, did you try out anything else to stay profitable? We did! We made potato chips called Tiger Spud Chips. I soon realized, however, I didn’t want to be a chip maker, so we scaled this back. Today, Tiger Spud Chips are available July through December, and are very popular locally. When did the distillery idea crop up? There are several wineries around here, so we knew the local government might entertain the idea. And our cousin Matt, who set up and managed several craft breweries in Utah and who always kidded us about setting up a vodka business, moved back here a couple of years ago. When the State of New York passed the Farm Distillery Act in 2016, for the fi st time we thought seriously about spirits. We already had the land, the crops, and the expertise in the family. Matt’s ability to work with topnotch distillers and oversee the plant were key. How could you compete with a market that seems already saturated? The reason my farmstand business has grown is that people see value in buying local. The market itself has changed, creating opportunities for all kinds of “farm-to-table” and locavore products. Part of the Farm Distillery Act calls for all ingredients to be from New


Part of the Farm Distillery Act calls for all ingredients to be from New York State. No problem—ours are grown right here on the farm! York State. No problem—ours are grown right here on the farm!

What can you tell us non-farmers about farming? Farming is the ultimate long-term commitment. If you listen, you can hear your land speak to you. Foster Farms is mine as much as it can be—and I’ve been farming this land for many decades. The land, especially now that developers see how profitable it is to build subdivisions, needs protection. Long Island is a unique environment with amazing dirt that tells us that something bigger than us wants us to survive. I look out on this unbelievable soil where I can grow everything from artichokes to zucchini and anything in between and I know that opportunity here is endless.

K

Now in its second year of production, Sagaponack Farm Distillery opens its new on-site tasting room this summer, where visitors will be able to taste Sagaponack vodkas, including cucumber-infused vodka, rhubarb liqueur, as well as “who knows what?” according to Marilee, ever the artist. To read more about Marilee’s thoughts on being a farmer in the 21st century, read her book, Dirt Under My Nails: An American Farmer and Her Changing Land (2002, Bridgeworks). Visit Sagaponack Farm Distillery on Facebook or www. sagaponackfarmdistillery.com.

Have you encountered any obstacles along the way? At the start, the main obstacle was my father. He did not want us to go down this road. He loved every aspect of working the land and being a farmer. He spent winters restoring beautiful antique tractors with my brother. But at some point, you have to veer away from the path your parents want you to take. What about the bureaucracy? Regarding regulations, the federal government and the state government have been incredibly supportive. As for the local government and its agencies, I kid that they’re driving me to drink! But, I’ve learned a lot and have given 100 percent of myself to getting this set up correctly, no matter how many agency hoops I have to jump through. I’m the original “squeaky wheel.” You really have to pay attention to everything. What have you learned? As farmers, you have to be politically involved on every level of local government. You can’t ever stop learning as laws and regulations change, as do the people in the local government permitting agencies. I’m coming up to speed on how to market a product to a marketplace that is restricted (to consumers 21 and older) and how to create an appealing website. And I’m also involved in the creation of infused vodkas and other spirits. Right now, we have a cucumber-infused vodka and a rhubarb liqueur that are very tasty.

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�LAND�


A.M. BY KATIE ROSS Putney School Gardener and Farm Assistant PHOTOS COURTESY OF CABOT CREAMERY CO-OPERATIVE

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here are certain parts of the process that are always the same. I wake up in the dark, throw on yesterday’s pants and a sweatshirt, make a cup of coffee, and am out of the door in about ten minutes. It is 5:45 am. I walk across the street towards the glowing lights of the barn. I enter the front door: the milk machines are humming away, and two student milkers are bent underneath cows at the beginning of the row. Other students are feeding hay, and usually a couple others have started shoveling a gutter. This fact, above everything else about a.m. barn, never ceases to amaze me: students always get to the barn before I do. With plenty of plausible reasons to start as late as possible—packed schedules, homework, the fact that they’re sleep-deprived teenagers—as a group they never fail. Of course individually they’re not perfect: alarms are slept through, sickness seems to be more frequent, late arrivals aren’t unheard of. But as a whole they outperform my wildest expectations.

The images from A.M. barn are as indelible as its sounds and smells

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PU TNEY P OS T 

I pull on my manure-caked barn boots and the ritual continues. I walk around, checking the progress of various tasks. Grain is being fed to cows and calves, calf pens are being scraped. The long gutter is half-shoveled. Winter gutters are the apex or nadir of winter barn, depending on your perspective. After a long night of use, they almost overfl w with a combination of liquid manure and bedding hay. Attacking a gutter fi st with a shovel results in struggling with a

mass of hay that is more often than not the size of a small child. Starting with a pitchfork, which allows you to pull out reasonable amounts of hay, is more successful, but leaves you with a pool of liquid manure that you must remove shovelful by shovelful, a process that feels especially Sisyphean. Barn progresses, tasks are completed. Calf pens are scraped and sawdusted, the calf gutter shoveled, milk fed to the calves, animals fed in the small barn.


Author Katie Ross brings in the cows

Even feeding a day-old calf, her slimy mouth clumsily grabbing for the bottle of milk, becomes part of the unexceptional ritual. A.M. barn is the best when it’s like this, routine and uneventful. But then there are the unexpected events, the things that stand out. Every so often the crew will arrive to a cow in labor, resulting in a freshly born calf being licked clean by its mother by the time chores are fi ished. Sometimes a teenager cow will get loose, expending pent up energy by running around and knocking things over, requiring a break in the action to herd the rogue cow back to her pen. There are days when everything seems to be happening at once: a cow is giving birth, another cow is sick with milk fever, the drain in the small barn is frozen. There was the morning that Gordon Jones’s advisory showed up with hot cocoa and blueberry muffins. And of course barn breakfasts, when the crew fi ishes barn, piles into a busette and heads off to the Putney Diner or Dunkin’ Donuts, poopy clothes and all, to celebrate the end of the trimester. And then there are brief moments of bliss. Gillian Welch’s “Hard Times” is playing on the radio, the sun has risen, barn is almost fi ished, and everyone is feeding hay. This lasts for just a minute but there is something about the satisfaction of having completed a morning’s work combined with the music and shared company that gives the moment

a sense of contentment that can’t quite be matched. In chatting with the current a.m. barn crew about their least favorite part of barn, being tired all the time and getting up early are the most frequent replies. “Waking up is my least favorite part … everything else is great,” says one student. Once they’ve wrenched themselves out of bed, through the darkness and to the barn, the rewards are surprisingly easy for them to spot. “I like that it gets me going in the morning,” says another, “and being with the cows.” It seems that each student has a different task that’s their favorite: feeding grain, sawdusting, feeding calf bottles. “I really like a.m. barn,” said one student, a sentiment I would not have guessed while watching them sleepily scrape calf pens and shovel manure. “My favorite part,” says another, “is when I fi st show up and have a lot of adrenaline and do the fi st gutter super fast.” The improvement in this and most students’ gutter-shoveling abilities

is truly impressive, it’s just easy to miss when you’re watching the change on a day-by-day basis. This growth is easiest to observe in the time the crew fi ishes: at the beginning of the trimester it’s usually around 7:30 or 7:45 but by the end the crew is easily fi ishing before 7. In the end, like cleaning and childbirth, the glory of a.m. barn is in the aftermath. One current a.m. barn member describes this feeling perfectly as he pokes at a gutter: “I enjoy a.m. barn when I’m done with it, and I’m ready to be done with it.” Refeeding hay is fi ished. The barn head has let the crew go and I do one more scan of the barn, shutting off lights as I go. I change out of my barn boots, grab my jacket, and head out the door. I walk home with a growling stomach: one of the best parts of a.m. barn, for me, is eating breakfast afterwards. And, of course, the prospects of the day ahead are full of promise when you’ve done an hour of meaningful work before breakfast.

Gillian Welch’s “Hard Times” is playing on the radio, the sun has risen, barn is almost finished, and everyone is feeding hay. SPRING 2018

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A NEW

TILT OP ENING A D OORWAY  T O T HE I M AGI NAT I ON

BY BRIAN D. COHEN


REALITY

on

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hile it is difficult to predict which emerging technologies will develop and take root, it is even more difficult to know who will use them and how, and impossible to predict the changes in behavior and social relations that new technology will bring. Tory Voight ’03 tries to make all of that happen. Her job at Google is to help discover new technological innovations, make them workable, bring them to the marketplace, and to envision how our lives may change as a result. Tory is engineering program manager at Google for Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR/VR), computer-generated technology that simulates real-world experience. Though VR is not a new concept, it’s still in technological infancy. Tilt Brush, Google’s fi st venture in creative VR applications, was conceived of by two game designers who developed immersive room-scale VR technology with headsets while working on a 3-D chess application. Google, ever on the alert for new ideas it can acquire or appropriate, continued to develop the technology. The company’s fi st VR project, called Cardboard, was a lowtech foldable cardboard headset that wrapped around a regular smartphone. That project emerged from Google’s storied “20% project” program (which also developed Gmail and AdSense), encouraging Google employees to spend 20% (or as Tory tells it “120%”) of their

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PUTNEY P O S T 

time engineering a passion project. The program creates unoffi al startups within the company, thriving in an open office architectural space that fosters relationship building and collaboration. Since 2015, Tory has led the team developing Tilt Brush, working internally with engineers to build use cases, investigate best practices, create new analytics standards, and reach out into the world to test a new and unfamiliar product with skilled users. Tory seeks out creative industry leaders from different disciplines and diverse mediums—graffiti artists, performance artists, comics artists, painters, illustrators, filmmakers, fashion designers, graphic designers, art restorers,

metalworkers, museum curators, epigraphers, archivists, cartoonists, animators—as likely benefic aries and users of the new technology. While exploring all the possibilities and fun of trying out Tilt Brush, creative artists have in turn influenced the development of new features and new utilities within the product. Tory catalyzes and enables innovation in a feedback loop from developers to users, engineers to artists, and back. Through an artist residency program she developed at Google and through her own close relationships with venues, institutions, television programs, and companies such as Art Basel, Royal Academy, the British Museum, Stanford University, Warner Brothers, and The Simpsons, Tory has helped bring VR into public view and into university art curricula. On a 2016 trip to Google’s San Francisco offices, Tory set me up in a featureless small room with a roomscale virtual reality headset displaying Tilt Brush. I thought painting in three dimensions was amazing fun, a bit like being in a vivid dream of my own invention (though it must have looked a little funny from the outside). The experience was unlike anything I had ever known, entirely immersive, incorporating time, space, color, and gesture. Many artists fi d that the technology allows others to intimately and empathically experience their work. New York visual artist Bradley Theodore (pictured on right) says: “When you’re painting [with Tilt Brush] you’re in a different dimension. A lot of people wonder what that feels like, and what you’re thinking. This gives a person the ability to step inside what you’re creating and how you felt at that particular moment.” Glen Keane, Disney animator of Th Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Pocahontas, says: ”By putting tools in your hand that can create in virtual reality…I can just step into the paper and now I’m drawing in it. All directions are open ...that doorway to the imagination is open a little wider. The edges of that paper are not there. Making art in three-dimensional space is an


Tory with Bill Nye and Chris Prynoski, Director of Titmouse Animation, on the set of Bill Nye Saves the World, Sony Pictures Studios

entirely new way of thinking for any artist.” Google has worked to make the Tilt Brush technology savable, collaborative, and sharable, developing applications that export creations into still photography and video, and starting a social platform for users to upload and work on each other’s creations. At Putney, Tory figu ed out that getting real work done meant confid ntly throwing herself into an effort and getting her hands dirty. I recall an assignment I gave in an advanced drawing class in which Tory was enrolled. The assignment seemed to make her a little anxious and, ever conscientious and motivated, she responded by taking a bunch of books from the library to help her. I told her that book research wouldn’t be much use for a drawing assignment, and she rose to the challenge on its own terms. Tory says Putney prepared her to get things done within a complex, chaotic environment and to work effectively in a community where individuals have distinct roles and group responsibilities. Tory has learned that technology can have considerable impact on society. While enrolled at Wellesley, Tory was a visiting student at MIT Media Lab where she saw that engineering and technology are as creative as the arts, and that educational and industrial applications of new technology have widespread impact on our personal and social lives. Tory later worked as a correspondence staffer at the national headquarters in Chicago for the 2008 Obama For America campaign alongside Google and Facebook employees, where she saw tech empower,

educate, and excite millions of voters and, ultimately, help elect their candidate. While technology does make it easy to watch cat videos at work, it also connects people in new and far-reaching ways. Tory sees Tilt Brush as not just a game, or even a nifty new creative art medium, but a way people can relate on a new and deeply human level. Tory looks for ways the technology she’s helping develop can be widely benefic al in the future. She sees VR as a technological means to help build empathy and alleviate loneliness.

She has already brought Tilt Brush to a Veterans Administration hospital so that confi ed patients could experience in VR a parade they could not attend in person, introduced headsets to the elderly as a means to connect with loved ones, and encouraged schools to adopt VR to foster independent student-centered discovery. Bringing people together to share experience is, for Tory, what technology is all about.

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Tory with Bill Nye and Chris Prynoski, director of Titmouse Animation, on the set of Bill Nye Saves the World, Sony Pictures Studios

entirely new way of thinking for any artist.” Google has worked to make the Tilt Brush technology savable, collaborative, and sharable, developing applications that export creations into still photography and video, and starting a social platform for users to upload and work on each other’s creations. At Putney, Tory figu ed out that getting real work done meant confid ntly throwing herself into an effort and getting her hands dirty. I recall an assignment I gave in an advanced drawing class in which Tory was enrolled. The assignment seemed to make her a little anxious and, ever conscientious and motivated, she responded by taking a bunch of books from the library to help her. I told her that book research wouldn’t be much use for a drawing assignment, and she rose to the challenge on its own terms. Tory says Putney prepared her to get things done within a complex, chaotic environment and to work effectively in a community where individuals have distinct roles and group responsibilities. Tory has learned that technology can have considerable impact on society. While enrolled at Wellesley, Tory was a visiting student at MIT Media Lab where she saw that engineering and technology are as creative as the arts, and that educational and industrial applications of new technology have widespread impact on our personal and social lives. Tory later worked as a correspondence staffer at the national headquarters in Chicago for the 2008 Obama For America campaign alongside Google and Facebook employees, where she saw tech empower,

educate, and excite millions of voters and, ultimately, help elect their candidate. While technology does make it easy to watch cat videos at work, it also connects people in new and far-reaching ways. Tory sees Tilt Brush as not just a game, or even a nifty new creative art medium, but a way people can relate on a new and deeply human level. Tory looks for ways the technology she’s helping develop can be widely benefic al in the future. She sees VR as a technological means to help build empathy and alleviate loneliness.

She has already brought Tilt Brush to a Veterans Administration hospital so that confi ed patients could experience in VR a parade they could not attend in person, introduced headsets to the elderly as a means to connect with loved ones, and encouraged schools to adopt VR to foster independent student-centered discovery. Bringing people together to share experience is, for Tory, what technology is all about.

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WILLOW MACY ’12 ON STARTING AT START-UPS BY ALISON FRYE 20

PU TNEY P OS T 


“You’ve got this.” That’s how the day starts when you’re young and you’re working at a start-up. “You’ve got this.” A pep-talk in the mirror, a cold-call, a team meeting. It’s not glamorous. It’s the trenches. Seven touches in seven days. Don’t even think about giving up on a potential client until you’ve reached out to them seven times. Tell yourself, again, “You’ve got this.” Then you let the dog out. FIGURE IT OUT Willow Macy ’12 works, in her words, as a “Swiss army knife” at Classmunity, an educational fundraising start-up based in southern Wisconsin. Not yet two years out of college, she co-founded the company and, as she helps it grow, voices from Putney echo and guide and cheer. “My entire life is a Putney Project Week,” she says. Every day, every week, her work is about beginning and re-shaping, searching for new clients, reaching out to strangers and asking them to engage in a conversation. When existing clients request something new from Classmunity’s software, should the company pivot? It’s a constant process of evaluation and adaptation, of not necessarily jumping back to the drawing board, instead thinking critically about the situation and, oftentimes, making a change to improve the product. “At Putney, I did a Project Week in which I cross-stitched fractal patterns, but in laying out my pattern, I forgot that a square’s diagonal is not the same length as its sides. I got into it and realized it was oblong and not square. I wanted to throw it in the trash. My teachers said, ‘Don’t. You’ve done a lot of work on it. Modify it. Figure it out.’” Figure it out. Own an idea from conception to completion. Think critically. Learn from mistakes. BEGINNINGS How does a 24-year-old who enjoyed spending her Putney time with cows and building things end up co-founding a software start-up? How does a person start at startups? During her junior year at Beloit College, Willow discovered that the school offered independent studies and projects—semester-long Project Weeks, basically. “This

is a lot better than sitting in a lecture,” thought Willow. She awoke as a student. From there, her time at Beloit was marked with fi ding opportunities to create, and following through on them—starting the fi st student “maker space” on campus, convincing Beloit to invest in 3-D printers and create a robotics lab, helping other students pursue their passions through her T.A. work, and diving into the school’s entrepreneurship center. Going into each project, she reminded herself, “I started this, I opened this door, and I’m going to make it as good as it can be.” From there, she connected with the people dreaming up Classmunity, and turned an internship with them into a full-time job. Together they dug in and built a company. “The best startups stem from a problem. There are two types of innovation— creating something brand new, and taking something that’s already happening and making it better. It comes down to talking to people. We interviewed hundreds of people when we were starting this company, asking people what problems they encounter. The best companies and products start by talking to people. You can’t take a good idea and then sit in a dark basement and worry about someone stealing it.” Willow and her friends have spent hours practicing cold calls with each other, giving feedback, honing their pitches. Now, she’d rather talk on the phone to a potential client than send an email or text. “I’d rather have a conversation with an actual human. Is that weird?” she wonders. The

Above: In 2011, Willow spent a Project Week building the raft that continues to delight Putney’s puddle swimmers. Below: A key part of staying sane in the start-up world is owning a dog, according to Willow Macy ’12

collaborative work suits her, as does start-up culture. “Everyone wants to see everyone else succeed. It’s so different than what I had imagined. I couldn’t do it if it were cutthroat.” “People think start-ups are cool—pool tables and beer at work—but the truth is it’s lot of work, only one in six start-ups succeeds, and there’s a lot of burnout.” THE FUTURE Willow talks to me from the office of a former Beloit professor. I ask her what the room smells like, and she’s immediately nostalgic, recounting the many things she learned there. It smells like potential, a reminder that she is living the future she envisioned. Her hands are deep in many different soils. Classmunity. Beloit’s maker space and entrepreneurship center. A summer camp for adults. Quality time with her dog. She regularly turns down job offers. She’s 24, and she’s figu ed out a lot. “The ideal would be that Classmunity blows up and I’m managing a big team of people and we take over the world of school fundraising.” If that doesn’t happen? “I’d love to work with accelerator programs, mentoring other start-ups and entrepreneurs. But I’m never without an opportunity. Putney has taught me that I can do anything— clean classrooms, build robots, milk cows. I never worry about that, and I feel very, very fortunate.”

SPRING 2018

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ON THE HILL On a wall in the library building is a quote from Teddy Roosevelt:

Whenever you are asked if you can do a job, tell ’em, “Certainly I can!” Then get busy and find out how to do it. Our students scarcely need this admonition.

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ON TH E H ILL

LETTER FROM THE HEAD OF SCHOOL

Adolescence is a time of wonderful opportunity—and a time of intense selfconsciousness. Every adult can remember that dread of a fi st presentation, or of wearing the wrong clothing for an important occasion. The fear of looking inadequate quickly becomes internalized as a feeling of inadequacy. Few teenagers think they are in the cool crowd, and they vastly overestimate the confidence of those around them. One result is that adolescents are often quite wary of trying new things, especially in public. At all costs they would like to avoid looking incompetent or silly in front of others. And at Putney we put them in these situations repeatedly … until they mostly stop worrying about it. The theme of this Post is start. One of the perhaps less obvious characteristics of the Putney way of life is that we constantly make students start things they don’t know how to do. Most high schools not only don’t require this, they make it very difficult; you get cut from the soccer team if you don’t already know how to play, you can’t start the violin, you are mostly just taking the next steps in what you already learned before. A Putney student, however, learns how to start, and how not to be afraid of starting. To begin with, they start a new job every term, with only a modicum of job training. I remember watching a new boy from a very wealthy family being handed a broom in the KDU on his fi st day. He did what teenagers do—he looked around, got the general idea, and set about trying to look like he knew what he was doing. Each work crew is pretty inept in its fi st week, and by the end of the term most are working like welloiled machines. Each student starts Evening Arts anew each term—often not what they hoped to get into, as class numbers are limited. In four years at Putney a student might do Latin dance, stained glass, ceramics, creative writing, blacksmithing, madrigals, painting, photography, and woodworking. They very often start from scratch. Project Weeks are full of endeavors that are started with high hopes and little experience, and the learning is in the fi uring out. The best project self-evaluations explain what the student realized they needed to know in order to accomplish their goals, and how they fi ured out how to learn it. Consequently, our students are enormously kind to those who are not yet very good at something. They’ve been there. Putney students graduate with chutzpah—they may not know how to do something, but they generally fi ure that they can fi ure it out. We cannot save our students from the social anxieties of being teenagers, nor should we try. But we can give them the confidence that looking silly

because you don’t know something is a temporary problem, and let them learn the joy of starting a new enterprise. Just as this was going to print, I learned of the death of former head of school Barbara Barnes ’41. She had been a wonderful support throughout my time at Putney. We regularly met for lunch at a little place on the main street of Springfield, halfway between Putney and Barbara’s house farther north. Whenever I thought I was having a hard week, I would remember what her life was like here, and the courage it took to bring Putney through a very difficult era. There were many small progressive schools that didn’t make it through that time, and I believe that Barbara’s legacy at Putney is that the school is still here. I will miss her greatly. EMILY JONES

Head of School

SPRING 2018

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ON THE HIL L

EMAIL EAVESDROP Excerpts from Community Comments, the email listserv for Putney students and faculty to share (arguably) non-essential information.

Does anyone have body paint? I need some for a super secret project.

Poetry club is probably the most fun you’ll ever have! We have cookies too!

iPhone found in Huseby basement toilet. A little wet but still works.

Artwork by Greta Wolfe ’19

Climate Justice Conference The Putney School’s sustainability committee is hosting a student-run climate justice conference on April 29, 2018. They found that many youth summits concerning climate change were less focused on climate justice and more focused towards helping students organize sustainability initiatives such as new recycling programs. While these are important, they fail to recognize the minorities that are most affected by climate change within the environmental movement. The committee decided to create a conference that embodies climate justice principles in order to create the most effective environmental movement led by frontline communities.

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PU TNEY P OS T 

I’m looking for an empty chest freezer to store a small sheep carcass in until March 4. Using it for senior exhibition in science. Will be triple-wrapped and the freezer will get a full cleaning after.

Someone drew a heart in the snow on my car...and it made me happy. Thank you, whoever you are.

The 2018 Putney girls’ basketball team


ON TH E H ILL

International Student Panel

Putney’s international community organized a panel titled “Culture Shock” to talk about their experiences navigating (many, for the fi st time) American culture. We have students from several different countries including China, India, South Korea, Indonesia, Thailand, Japan, Mexico, and Germany to name a few. The 10-year vision of Putney’s strategic plan states that “Putney will be a diverse community in which cultural, language, and ethnic distinctions will be cultivated and celebrated. The school culture will be one of curiosity, contemplation, engagement and dialogue, sending out graduates who can work collaboratively across race, class, and cultural divides.” Our community is strengthened by the different perspectives shared so openly by each of the panelists, and we look forward to continuing this dialogue and cultivating more awareness of this topic at Putney.

Putney students at the “Culture Shock” panel discussion

STUDENT UPDATE FROM

MOROCCO TRIMESTER ABROAD

DORM OLYMPICS

Five times a day the Mouazin deliver the Azan, or the call to prayer, from the varying minarets across Fes. The sound dances through the air and mixes with the smells of baking breads, couscous, and tajin. Grazing cows on the hillside by our riad are a reminder of Putney. Moroccans are hospitable and family-oriented; when they greet you they give you kisses on both cheeks. There is a different air here; it is more dry and filled with bits of Arabic and French. The beautifully laid mosaics flood the walls, streets, and ceilings around the old Medina. When they are laid in shapes, the number of sides represent different aspects of Islam. People are dedicated to their faith and to each other, they welcome everyone with open arms. It’s been an absolutely spectacular experience so far. —Grace Anikow ’20

Dorm Olympics was originally thought up as a cure for the dip in morale usually experienced during winter here in Vermont, and a fun way to connect the ten dorms and day students. Each dorm picks a representative each week of winter for a contest at assembly, such as limbo, tug of war, or musical chairs. The final event is the showing of videos made by each dorm with an aim of being funny and showing your dorm pride. The dorm with the most points wins a fun prize and has bragging rights for the year!—Bianca Peterman ’18, Student Head of Dorms

SPRING 2018

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ON THE HIL L

farm

Space

Colony

MLK DAY 2018 This year, MLK day was organized and run by the diversity committee. We are a group of students who truly believe in empowering of our student-led community, and promoting the voices of minority students. For MLK day, we opened with a poem from a student on our committee, and then shifted into a faculty race speak-out. A race speak-out is an opportunity for people to stand up in front of their community and share stories about a time in their lives in which they have encountered racism. The faculty member can be from any racial background. After the faculty speak-out, race affinity groups met to discuss racism and how it affects them. These affinity groups were made up of students and teachers, and the conversations delved into how Putney can better support its students of color. Following was a student race speak-out, where students were given the floor to speak and relay any messages they want to the community. This process was then repeated for gender instead of race: fi st a faculty speak-out, then a meeting in affinity groups, and fi ally, a student speak-out. The day culminated in a community-created art piece. Students and teachers wrote what they learned on index cards, which were then pasted on a larger-than-life drawing of a solidarity fist.—Rei Marshall ’18

Art/Activism/ImPAct

Art/Activism/Impact is a laboratory for young people hungry to tackle the challenging issues of the day, open to learning from peers and professional activists, and ready to work collaboratively on artistic projects that provoke, educate, and force us to act. This summer we will be piloting this new program, which will take place alongside Summer Arts. While it is not open to current Putney students, we hope you will help spread the word about it to the many creative, politically engaged teenagers connected to the Putney community. summer.putneyschool.org/artactivism

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PU TNEY P O S T 

Community

SUMMER ARTS

Experience

Studios

3 weeks to create and connect through art

Session I: June 24 – July 13 Session II: July 15 – August 3 FIND OUT MORE ONLINE AT

summer.putneyschool.org OR CALL 802.387.6297


ALUMNI CONNECTIOns

ALU MNI C ONNECTIONS

WITH FOND MEMORIES OF OUR NOW LATE TRUSTEE EMERITUS BILL NEW: By Christopher Lehmann-Haupt ’52 While most of us Putney trustees loved to mud-wrestle happily over our present achievements, Bill New was away off frowning at a distant horizon. Oh, somewhere over the thunderclouds, he would sing, black birds fly. Climb out of the bliss of the present, Bill would exhort. Take a look at what I’m seeing. At fi st, we were diverted by his metaphors— grandfather’s axe, low-hanging fruit, the leaves circling toward the drain. Th n we began to hear their messages: Our present may not work in the future, he would tell us. Huh? we would squeak. Our cohort is smaller than our ambitions, he warned us. We’ll just charge our customers more, we replied. Learn to think entrepreneurially, he urged us. But we’ve just learned to ask for our allowances. Multiply your campuses, he suggested. We were struggling to manage just one. Think about splitting the atom, he advised us. We had just fallen in love with wood chips. Stretch your message to fit more than the one percent, he enjoined. We feared that our vision might be shrinking. Th ugh Bill New hadn’t attended the school, he turned out to be the ultimate Putneyite—someone who saw a useful core principal wherever he looked, whether it was in medicine, engineering, business, the arts, or drinking a bottle of wine. He had figured things out and was trying to point the way. How can we not remember him always? SPRING 2018

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P.S.

Summer in Putney. Aaaah. —from @theputneyschool on instagram

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PU TNEY P OS T 


Putney Reunion Weekend JUNE 8-10, 2018

(50th reunion begins on June 7)

CLASSES OF 1948, 1953–54, 1958, 1968, 1972–74, 1993, 2002–04

Register Now. putneyschool.org/reunion

SUPPORT THE ANNUAL FUND

Fiscal year ends June 30

Alumni, parents, and friends play a crucial role in the cycle that helps provide for everything that happens here, from the sublime to the joyful and ridiculous. Every gift really does make a difference. Thank you!

Give today: putneyschool.org/support


NONPROFIT ORG U.S. POSTAGE PAID VILLANTI MAILED FROM 05401

Elm Lea Farm, 418 Houghton Brook Road, Putney, Vermont 05346

Spring 2018 Putney Post  
Spring 2018 Putney Post  
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