Williston Northampton School Bulletin, Fall 2021

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WHAT A

RUN!

The meteoric rise of Olympic medalist (and epidemiologist) Gabby Thomas ’15 WILLISTON LAUNCHES THE CAMPAIGN FOR OUR COMMUNITY! FALL 2021


AROUND THE QUAD

5 | CAMPUS NEWS World events hit home, a coveted trophy, the 1973 arrival of the “mechanized mind”—and more!

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Our WilliList enumerates school year highlights, such as the temperature of the furnace used by Grum Project glass artist-in-residence Ryan Gothrup

11 | FROM THE DESK OF SARAH KLUMPP History comes to life in the classroom—and by extention, on the desk—of this beloved teacher

16 | THE BIG QUESTION The classes that inspire, challenge, and transform current students


CONTENTS | VOLUME 107, NUMBER 2

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Victoria Gates ’10 takes on cannabis’s PR image

ALUMNI NEWS

19 | PICTURE PERFECT

PHOTOGRAPHS BY CHATTMAN PHOTOGRAPHY AND DOUG LEVY

Commercial photographer Ben Rosenzweig ’00 gets the shot

20 | WILDCAT ROUNDUP A wild pair, a Wildcat day, and world crafts preserved

22 | INNOVATIVE INTERNSHIPS Four alumni work for a better world

24 | NOW HEAR THIS From journalist to podcast editor: Catherine Saint Louis ’92 reminds us it’s all about the story

26 | 20 Q’S FOR GABBY THOMAS ’15 The two-time Olympic medalist shares her race-day routine, warmup tunes, and even favorite lane

28 | EMBRACING THE WORLD Sylvia Skerry ’14 shapes lives in Jordan’s refugee camps

30| WILDCATS CONNECT Bryant McBride ’84, Gboyega “GB” Osuntogun ’18, and the Williston network in action

32 | DRIVEN TO ENGINEER Microchips for self-driving cars? Matthew Kahane ’08 takes the wheel!

34 | ARTIST+TEACHER Twins Donna Sussek ’80 and Denise Sussek Carletta ’80 have found success in widely varying careers

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Bryant McBride ’84 connects with Gboyega “GB” Osuntogun ’18

38 | A ‘RICH LIFE’ Louis Stern ’53 and wife Rhona share their gratitude

40 | THE GREEN RUSH Four alumni with insights into the budding cannabis industry

46 | THE LONG ROAD IN RECOVERY

ALUMNI EVENTS

72 | FALL EVENTS Yard Goats, Pints+Pancakes, and an introduction to our new deans—in-person and virtual events recommenced! IN EVERY ISSUE

Ultradistance runner Justin Blais ’97 finds his stride

2 | HEAD’S LETTER

48 | FIRST CLASS

3 | 5 THINGS

Reflecting on 50 years of coeducation

12 | THE WILLILIST

55 | CONNECTING FLIGHT Two pilots, two Wildcats, and a two-day journey in the cockpit of a Boeing 737

14 | SNAPSHOTS 55 | CLASS NOTES 75 | IN MEMORY


Head of School ROBERT W. HILL III P’15, ’19

Head’s Letter

Chief Advancement Officer ERIC YATES P’17, ’21 Director of Alumni Engagement JILL STERN P’14, ’19 Director of Communications ANN HALLOCK P’20, ’22 Design Director ARUNA GOLDSTEIN Assistant Director of Communications DENNIS CROMMETT Communications Writer and Coordinator KATE LAWLESS Please send letters to the editor, class notes, obituaries, and changes of address to: The Williston Northampton School Advancement Office 19 Payson Avenue Easthampton, MA 01027 email: info@williston.com online: williston.com/alumni/ connect

Head of School Robert W. Hill III (far right) and members of the Board of Trustees on the porch of Williston’s newest dormitory

Cover Photo DAVID RAMOS FROM GETTY IMAGES

Nondiscrimination Statement: Williston admits qualified students of any race, color, national or ethnic origin, ancestry, gender, religion, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, or mental or physical disability, and extends to them all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school. The school does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national or ethnic origin, ancestry, gender, religion, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, or mental or physical disability, or any other status protected by applicable law in the administration of its admissions, scholarships, and loans, and its educational, athletic, and other policies and programs.

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his fall on campus has been extraordinarily—and delightfully—ordinary. While we are still wearing masks indoors, our fully vaccinated community has been able to return to many longstanding traditions and experiences, including in-person assemblies and arts performances, home and away games, Convocation and Family Weekend, evening activities and an all-star Willympics (see page 7, if this tradition wasn’t around during your time). Across the campus, you can feel the spirit and gratitude as we all revel in moments we once may have taken for granted, but certainly never will again. We’ve also had other reasons for joy this trimester. In October, our whole community celebrated the completion of the new Residential Quad with the christening of Wold House (formerly 194 Main Street) and the formal dedication of Emily McFadon Vincent House, which opened in the fall of 2020. Read more about the celebration, and the generous donors who made this possible, on page 8. We’re also excited to be marking the 50th anniversary of coeducation at Williston Northampton this year. This milestone now seems almost inconceivable to us in 2021, when girls hold an equal if not greater number of leadership positions at the school, but the stories of men and women you’ll find in this issue reveal how truly momentous this time was. Speaking of momentous, I hope you will take a few minutes to read the booklet included with this issue—or visit WillistonBuilds.com—to find out more about Williston Builds: The Campaign for Our Community, which is launching in December. As you’ll see, our $70 million goal is ambitous, but deeply rooted in the progress the school has been making in recent years­—all focused toward the campaign pillars of Community, Access and Belonging, Academic Excellence, and Momentum. These important priorities will not only position the school for the future, but also make sure that Williston students head out into the world to lead lives of purpose, passion, and integrity.

FOLLOW ROBERT HILL ON TWITTER AT @HILL3WILLISTON


5 Things We’re Talking About!

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RES QUAD COMPLETED Remember the tennis courts and parking lot behind the chapel? Today, that area is a Residential Quad, home to more than half of Williston’s boarders. We celebrated its completion in October (page 8).

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MEM EAST FOR THE WIN! Competition has been fierce and fun during this fall’s Willympics (see page 7 to learn more about this tradition), but in the end, Mem East was victorious, thanks to their spectacular lip sync performance featuring dance moves and flips.

STYLING ICONS Fashion stylist Taylor Angino ’09 continues to rock the style world, including recent work on Vogue covers featuring Rihanna, Jill Biden, and Adele. See more at taylorangino.com.

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5. IN-PERSON ASSEMBLIES ARE BACK We missed you, Phillips Stevens Chapel! After 18 months of Zoom assemblies, it’s amazing to once again gather in the pews for assemblies and concerts.

CELEBRATING THE CLASS OF 2020 This class rallied through a virtual senior spring, but we’re excited to (at last!) welcome them back for an in-person celebration with friends and faculty on June 4, 2022.


SOCIAL STUDIES

When a Wildcat earns Olympic hardware, you gotta shout it from the rooftops! Gabby Thomas ’15 scored bronze and silver medals in Tokyo (see page 26).

Bermuda’s Royal Gazette profiled dancer Soleil Richardson ’24 this June. Soleil led the Mem East dancers to Willympics-lip-sync glory (see page 7).

Mooncake Club members Shirley Shi ’23 and Cici Yu ’23 (who snapped this photo) celebrated MidAutumn Festival by eating mooncakes with friends.

FACEBOOK.COM/WILLISTONNORTHAMPTON  FLICKR.COM/WILLISTONNORTHAMPTON

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This photo of new baby Anderson Glory Syfu got lots of love on social from the many fans of Christa Talbot Syfu ’98 and Andrew Syfu.

TWITTER.COM/WILLISTONNS

Ring the bell! Girls varsity soccer players pause for a selfie after a hard-fought 2-0 win over Deerfield on the turf at Galbraith.

INSTAGRAM.COM/WILLISTONNS

YOUTUBE.COM/WILLISTONNORTHAMPTON


PHOTOGRAPH BY MELANIE ZACEK

AROUND THE QUAD

3, 2, 1…SENIOR SEASON!

The class of 2022 is no stranger to weathering a few stormy seas (thanks, pandemic), so fittingly, they chose cardboard boat racing for their orientation activity. Small teams fashioned boats of tape and cardboard, chose captains and crew, and paddled, swam, raced, and laughed their way across Babcock Pool.


around the quad

RECOGNIZING FACULTY EXCELLENCE

Exodus from Afghanistan As the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan unfolded this summer, many Americans were upset and outraged by the plight of Afghan citizens, especially women, who remained in the country as the Taliban took over. For Natania Hume, Chair of the Visual and Performing Arts Department, there was an added connection: Hume has tutored an Afghan student from afar for more than five years. Below is a note Hume shared with the Williston community about the experience­— and the fate of other students at the School of Leadership, Afghanistan (SOLA).

I started tutoring a girl at SOLA in English when she was in eighth grade. She is now a junior/senior, roughly the same age as my daughter. The hardest part about teaching her is getting her to slow down. She is so excited about learning English, and about life in general, that she forges ahead at a million miles an hour without a care for accuracy, but with an abundance of heart. She is a joy to teach. We were about to start

Williston awarded two chairs and two instructorships at the start of the school year. Congratulations to the recipients!

A student at the School of Leadership, Afghanistan

reading A Wrinkle in Time when the Taliban invaded Kabul. The founder of SOLA is Shabana Basij-Rasikh, a graduate of Middlebury College. She gave a talk at Williston some years ago. Shabana burned the girls’ records to protect their identities from the Taliban. I didn’t hear anything about their fate beyond that for several weeks, but thankfully have recently received word that she was able to get 250 students, faculty,

staff, and family members safely out of Afghanistan; first to Qatar and then to Rwanda where they will spend a ‘semester abroad.’ I am so saddened by what has befallen these girls and their school (and their country) and by the fact that they must now flee their homeland to go to school. The situation in Afghanistan is tragic in so many ways but this personal connection has brought it home for me in a way few overseas conflicts have.”

NIGHT FLYING When faculty members continue learning, they bring their enthusiasm directly into the classroom. So it was with science teacher Jane Lucia, who received professional development support to take three classes this summer through the Massachusetts Audubon Society. Lucia took a special interest in learning about nighthawks, a species of nocturnal birds whose migration corridor leads them through the Connecticut River Valley during autumn. “Nighthawks eat a wide variety of insects, but only in flight,” Lucia said. “They have specialized feeding bristles, a very wide beak for capturing their prey in flight, and their darting behavior makes them easy to recognize in the hours just before sunset.” Lucia is excited to share this newfound expertise—and perhaps spot a few nighthawks— with her Outdoor Ecology class this year. “I love place-based instruction because it helps students see their environment differently,” she adds.

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English Department Chair and advisor to The Willistonian Matthew Liebowitz earned the Henry M. Zachs ’52 and Judith Zachs Faculty Chair. Liebowitz is also a former journalist, an avid runner, and a frequent contributing writer to The Bulletin. Science teacher Kenneth Choo was awarded the David H. ’35 and Edward Goodman ’37 Science Chair. A biologist by training, Choo has taught electives in animal behavior, as well as stellar and planetary astronomy; this year he has taken on the role of advisor to the Asian Student Alliance. The Northampton School for Girls Instructorship went to history and global studies teacher Allison Malinowski. In her role as Director of Academic Technology, she supports teachers and students in the use of technology in the classroom. She helped create Williston’s first online summer seminars program. The Sandra Bashore ’55 and Joseph C. Mesics Instructorship was given to English teacher Gianna Muscari. Her lessons reflect “a deep appreciation for collaboration, critical thinking, and joy,” according to Dean of Faculty Corinne Fogg ’99.


THE SPIRIT OF WILLYMPICS A 36-minute wall-sit, a flawlessly executed lip sync performance—what will it take to win Williston’s new tradition?

PHOTOGRAPH BY CHATTMAN PHOTOGRAPHY

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f you graduated more than five years ago, you may not have heard about Williston’s much-beloved dorm vs. dorm vs. day student competition, Willympics. Started in 2016 by Assistant Dean of Students Erin Davey after she received many student requests for some kind of Olympics-style games, the contest includes multiple events held over a period of weeks in the fall—all for the chance to win bragging rights and to hold onto a glorious trophy (at left) until the following year. The Willympiad includes the wall-sit (teams work those quads to try and beat the 35-minute record), rock-paper-scissors (a classic), the banner competition (where teams vie for the best hand-painted queen-size bedsheet emblazoned with their logo), and the lip sync competition. This last one is no joke; teams have put on elaborate spectacles with detailed and precise choreography, plus creative lighting, along with their synchronized emoting. Benning Johnson ’22, a member of the WildestCats Club, which helps organize Willympics, has been participating since he was a first year, living in John Hazen White House, which, he noted sadly, has never captured the trophy. He lives in Ford Hall now, which clinched the first two wins, in 2016 and 2017. Residents of 194 Main Street (now Wold House, see page 8) won in 2018. John Wright House prevailed in 2019. In 2020, the pandemic interrupted the games, and this year, Mem East took the honors, with their acrobatic lip sync performance bringing them over the top. However, there is more to Willympics than winning. “The energy is unmatched, and it is so much fun to be in the middle of it all,” Johnson said. What’s the secret to success? “A winning team shows up wholeheartedly,” says Sarah Markey ’22, a member of the day student team and a WildestCat. “They are unashamed to be goofy and embrace Williston pride with enthusiastic spirit. It’s not about athletic ability, or lip syncing talent, it’s about the excitement, exuberance, and collaboration a team brings to the competition.” Davey agrees that collaboration is the name of the game. “Willympics has a wonderful ability to bring our community together in such a spirited and special way. My hope is that Willympics becomes a true Williston tradition, one current students look forward to and alums remember fondly for years and years.”—Kate Lawless

FALL 2021 BULLETIN 7


A Campus Transformed Two residence halls honor the generosity of those who came before—and encircle the now-complete second heart of campus, the Residential Quad—BY JONATHAN ADOLPH

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PHOTOGRAPHS BY CHATTMAN PHOTOGRAPHY

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t was a celebration delayed, but it would not be a celebration denied. On October 8, the Williston Northampton School community, joined by members of the Board of Trustees, gathered to dedicate Emily McFadon Vincent House and Wold House, thus completing the $20 million Residential Quadrangle project. “We’ve been waiting a year for this moment, a truly momentous one in Williston Northampton School’s long history since 1841,” said Robert W. Hill III, Head of School. “The Residential Quad, where we are standing today, has transformed our campus, bringing us literally and symbolically closer together.” The Quad—a verdant 80,000-square-foot landscaped commons surrounded by three state-of-theart, sustainably designed dormitories—has been a centerpiece of the school’s strategic plan since its approval by the trustees in 2017. The area’s first dormitory, built in 2008, was initially known only by its address, 194 Main Street. That changed moments after Hill’s introduction, when former school Trustee Peter Wold ’67 and his wife, Marla, released a banner revealing the building’s new name: Wold House. The dedication recognized the Wold family’s deep connection to and generous support for Williston. Also taking part were their son, Joe Wold ’06, and Joe’s wife, Chelsey Cutting Wold ’07, who met at Williston and were married at the chapel. In his remarks, Peter Wold recalled arriving on campus in the fall of 1964, having driven for three days with his parents from their home in Casper, Wyoming, where he lives today. “They dropped me off in front of the chapel and said, ‘This school will provide you with many opportunities. Work hard. Take advantage of them,’” he said. “Over the years my appreciation for experience and the education I received here at Williston has grown.” Added his son Joe, accompanied by Chelsey and their two young children, “Williston truly holds a


Peter Wold ’67, P’06; Marla Wold P’06; Chelsey Cutting Wold ’07; and Joseph Wold ’06 in front of Wold House’s dedication plaque

“May this new dormitory be filled with inquisitive minds, laughter, and camaraderie for many years to come.”—Joe Wold ’06

Board of Trustees Chair John Hazen White ’76 and Head of School Robert W. Hill III

special place in our hearts. From the first time I stepped foot on the Williston campus, the faculty and staff made me feel right at home.” Just across the grassy commons from Wold House sits the Emily McFadon Vincent House, or EMV, as it has become known, which welcomed its first 40 female students in the fall of 2020. (Between the two is John Hazen White House, the boys’ dormitory, named for the current Board Chair, which opened in 2018.) The pandemic had prevented an

in-person celebration of the opening of EMV, so Hill reminded the assembled students and guests about its namesake, the first alumna to have a building named in her honor. A 1949 graduate of Northampton School for Girls, McFadon Vincent traveled alone by train from her home in Tacoma, Washington, to come to Massachusetts for her senior year of high school. Her appreciation of travel only grew, and as an adult, she ended up visiting Australia, Scotland, Africa, and

the Middle East, “a wanderlust that inspired her to launch a business in the travel industry,” Hill said. In the years since, McFadon Vincent, who now lives in Scottsdale, Arizona, has provided the school with funds for professional development, instructorships, and scholarships. Her generosity, like that of the Wolds, offered a lesson, he noted. “Schools are built by those who come before you, and you should never forget that debt of gratitude we owe them.” FALL 2021 BULLETIN 9


KIND OF AN AWKWARD PHOTO OF SARAH? IS THERE A BETTER ONE?

Worth Repeating

—New Dean of Faculty Corinne Fogg ’99 in her speech during Williston’s 181st Convocation

“While there’s plenty we can’t control, there is one thing we absolutely can: Our experience this year at Williston. The community we build. The traditions we embrace. The excitement we bring. We, each and every one of us, have the power to make this year as great as we want it to be.” —Class President Sarah Markey ’22 during her Convocation address

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“I have had many situations where some of my baseball players have also been involved in the spring musical or who sing in one of Williston’s a cappella groups. Those studentathletes and artists are celebrated here. The ability for them to stretch themselves in various ways is one of the big reasons why I have remained here my whole career.” —English teacher and baseball coach Matt Sawyer, as quoted in New England Baseball Journal this fall

“Schools are built by those who come before you, and you should never forget that debt of gratitude we owe them.” —Head of School Robert W. Hill III during the dedications of Wold House and Emily McFadon Vincent House

“Burnout is not a badge of honor.” —Assembly speaker and counselor Tianna Soto on why it’s important for students to take care of their mental health

“I feel like we are not on quite as tight a leash but we are making sure everyone is safe.” —Meryl Sesselberg ’22 on this year’s COVID requirements, as quoted in a Willistonian article by Ella Mattocks ’22

“I think winning teams always have a good balance of team spirit, focus, brains, and brawn!” —William Gaca ’22 on what it takes achieve Willympic success (see more about the games on page 7)

“My fondest memories are of Williston. I mean, really. I come up for a Reunion and the air smells better. I walk on that campus, and it’s like I’m home.” —Michael Wills ’72 during an interview about his reflections on the 50th anniversary of coeducation (see page 54)

PHOTOGRAPHS BY CHATTMAN PHOTOGRAPHY

“Twenty-five years ago, I was given my first tour of campus. I could even tell you what I was wearing: headto-toe yellow with chartreuse sandals. I know this because on the drive out here I’d had a debate with my father about whether open-toed sandals were allowed, and because my advisor would later affectionately nickname me ‘Bananas.’”


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FROM THE DESK OF SARAH KLUMPP

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Whether in her classroom or on her many travels, longtime history teacher Klumpp’s passion comes alive—BY KATE LAWLESS

1. A FEMINIST READ

3. HAMILTON COLLEGE

One of Klumpp’s passions is gender studies. She wrote her graduate thesis on women who served in the Civil War as doctors, nurses, and soldiers.

Klumpp went to Hamilton, where she majored in U.S. history— a subject she has yet to teach.

2. WAR GAMES

Homemade board games help Klumpp’s students understand the dynamics of World War I trench warfare. “One toothpick represents 10,000 lives. It shows them neither side had decisive victories. Soldiers just died by the thousands.”

4. TO REMEMBER

Klumpp believes students would benefit from visiting Holocaust memorial museums; she has been to Dachau and Auschwitz concentration camps. Maybe in 2023? 5. CUE CARDS

As students begin to flesh out their Williston Scholars history projects,

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these cards spur conversation and creative thinking. 6. GRATITUDE

On a tough day, Klumpp might pull out her big box of thank you cards she has received from students over a 21-year career at Williston. 7. MONARCH MADNESS

Among Klumpp’s possessions are a straight-edge showing important dates in British royal history and a postcard of a painting of Queen Elizabeth I.

8. FIELD OF DREAMS

A JV field hockey coach, she enjoys the sport, and says with a smile, “We may not win every game, but we win in attitude!” 9. MEMENTOS

Klumpp loves to travel. She “geeks out” when she visits the places she’s studied, like when she rounded a corner in a museum in Vienna and saw the painting “Napolean Crossing the Alps” or stood in front of a notorious window that was part of the Defenestration of Prague.


The WilliList A by-the-numbers look at recent school highlights —BY DENNIS CROMMETT

3,500

Square footage of the Center for Academic Success in Clapp Library. Here, faculty provide students at every level with the resources and support they need to succeed.

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Wildcats in one year named as 2020-21 Academic All-Americans by USA Water Polo: Ella Mattocks ’22, Maisie Mattocks ’24, Campbell Collins ’23, and Kaitlyn Williams ’23. A first for Williston!

11,825

Bricks in the Memorial Hall patio, a gift of the Williston Academy class of 1970, providing a new outdoor space for students to study and socialize

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Gallons of water used onstage for the fall play, Metamorphoses. The play’s action is staged entirely around a 12’-by-12’, six-inch-deep pool, which, over the course of the play, serves as the River Styx, oceans, and more.

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Students taking AP classes in Trimester 1. In the newest one, AP Computer Science Principles, students learn app programming, and explore creativity, data security, and the impact of computing on society.


around the quad

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Students who sang “O Williston” and “Sammy” at the dedication of Emily McFadon Vincent House and Wold House on October 8

182.34 Miles pedaled over two days in August by Peter Hoar ’73 and his wife, Inez, as part of the Pan-Mass Challenge (see page 61)

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2,000˚

Temperature of the portable glassblowing furnace that Grum Project artist Ryan Gothrup set up on the Main Quad this fall. Students watched a spectacular glassblowing demonstration, then got to work with the malleable glass themselves!

2.4M

Dollars raised for the Williston Northampton Fund in 2020-21. Thank you for your support, and for helping the school #MeetTheMoment.

Combined years that Ann Pickrell (field hockey and golf) and Greg Tuleja (cross country) have been coaching at Williston. Together, they have 588 combined wins. Thank you for your wise and winning leadership, Ann and Greg!

RECORD BREAKERS

1,229

Recording-setting number of viewers of the Saturday, September 25, livestream Williston vs. Deerfield football game

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Football players currently playing at or committed to Ivy League schools, including Brown, Columbia, Harvard, and Princeton

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Place the ever-speedy varsity boys crosscountry team took in the Westminster Invitational in October, with a close 67–66 win over the second-place team, Salisbury

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Home runs hit this season by Erik Ostberg ’14, including two grand slams, as part of the Bowling Green Hot Rods and the Montgomery Biscuits (Tampa Bay farm teams) FALL 2021 BULLETIN 13


SNAPSHOTS A look at some of the moments that defined life at Williston this spring and early fall

After her first official procession as Dean of Faculty, Corinne Fogg ’99 not only led her peers to the stage, she then delivered the keynote address (see it on Willison’s YouTube channel)

Convocation brought us all back together (at long last, in person!) and offered a chance to formally start the 2021-22 school year. Dinner and dancing ensued.

Ninth graders solved challenges (mostly!) and had a whole lot of fun during orientation at a woodsy ropes course

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The fall play, Metamorphoses, brought to life Ovid’s Greek myths and featured a large pool of water on stage

PHOTOGRAPHS BY CHATTMAN PHOTOGRAPHY, NIKKI BASSETTE, AND MELANIE ZACEK

Photography teacher Edward Hing ’77 connects with students—and deploys his dry wit— during Welcome Days

Wildcats take a moment of silent reflection before their first homecoming game under the lights

The Math Club wants you! And so does every other organization on campus. Students turned out in record numbers for clubs and activities this year.

Browse more images of campus life at flickr.com/willistonnorthampton FALL 2021 BULLETIN 15


THE BIG QUESTION

Q.

Tell us about one class you’ve taken at Williston that has made you think about things in a new way. Why did you like this class so much?

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The best class I have taken at Williston was Social Psychology. It made me incredibly self-aware, and because it was a college-level class, it taught me to stay organized, take notes on my own, stay on top of my out-of-class work, and collaborate. This class gave me new insight into the behaviors of people in social settings and taught me that there is a reason or logic behind almost every action committed by a human. Nothing is “for no reason,” an idea that has fed into my curiosity and desire to look beyond what meets the eye.—Grace Bean ’22

My favorite class ever was Mr. Gunn’s AP Government and Politics. This class taught me to speak up and think critically. Mr. Gunn encourages not just answering questions correctly, but also incorrectly, since those are the ones that really get students thinking. This taught me that no opinion is incorrect, just differing from your own. I cannot speak more highly about AP Gov. It is my favorite class of all time!—Tabitha Randlett ’22


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I’ve always thought of myself as a critical thinker who thrives in subjects like math because of the rules and set principles that must be followed to receive correct answers. Luckily for me, as a ninth grader I was required to take an art class as part of the humanities credit. That year I took Darkroom Photography, and now I have over a dozen of my own printed-out darkroom and digital photographs hanging up in my room. Seeing the world through a lens is peaceful, and manipulating the photo you take is exciting. Mixing chemicals in the darkroom makes me relax, slows my heart rate, and lets me slow down for a few minutes.—Cristina Negron ’22

My favorite class was AP Latin, with Ms. Cody as my teacher. I found that the course introduced a level of multidisciplinary learning across all my other classes. The study of ancient Roman history within Latin provided me with context for my history classes. The study of grammatical constructions helped me understand the roots of English. The vocabulary of Latin gave me familiarity with word roots to use in my science classes. AP Latin taught me that language truly is the basis of modern civilization across all disciplines. —Annika von Schoeler-Ames ’22

I will always remember Mr. Syfu’s eighth grade Civics class. I had never really been into social studies, but Mr. Syfu made the topic of our U.S. government extremely interesting. He always kept us engaged in class by having us debate or make presentations. In the middle of the school year, we had to participate in a mock trial with Upper School students being part of the jury. The days of class leading up to the trial made me work hard to understand the legal system and to make a case for my defense team. We ended up winning the trial. Taking this civics class has resulted in my growing passion for politics and debate. —Carter Cleary ’25

One class at Williston that has made me think about things in a new way was AP World History with Mr. Johnson. It was my first AP class, and I learned how to take more responsibility for my work, and advocate for myself if I didn’t understand a concept or if I needed help writing an essay. The writing skills, time management techniques, and new study methods that I learned in that class have given me further success in other classes I have taken, especially other AP classes. And chocolate chip cookies after every test was a plus!—Sydni Landman ’22

I am currently enrolled in Chemistry, and I really love this class. There is always something new to learn in each class, and it really fascinates me as a student to see all the chemical mixtures and reactions. I believe the best way of learning is to work on hands-on activities, and chemistry is one of those classes that incorporates that learning skill very well. —Channing Doran ’24

One class that has had a huge impact on me is Hinduism, Buddhism, and Taoism. This class not only taught me about different religions, but opened my mind to an entirely new way of thinking. One of the central ideas taught in this course was that everything in the world is interconnected, and I find myself trying to view more aspects of my life through that lens of openness and unity.—Ava Smith ’23

In AP Bio, I’ve found myself looking at things in a different light than usual. When eating food or swimming during practice, I think of all the organic molecules that I would need or how my muscles and blood are contracting and flowing. My overall view of life is now seen through a different lens on a much smaller and more introspective scale.—Henry Wiemeyer ’22

Taking Journalism at Williston has really expanded my view of education and the world. Mr. Liebowitz teaches the class in a masterful way, where you learn how to write a good journalism article while also getting to explore topics you are interested in.—Rosie Crooker ’22

FALL 2021 BULLETIN 17


Computers at Williston Today’s technology program has come a long way from the school’s first “mechanized mind” in 1973

How It Started

Williston anticipated the arrival of its first computer in 1973 like a young couple awaiting their first child. Room One on the second floor of the Schoolhouse was redecorated and given new carpet. Reference books were purchased. The Willistonian even carried an announcement: “Courses Begin in Anticipation of Computer,” proclaimed the February 7, 1973, front page. When the “mechanized mind” finally arrived—one of some 50,000 PDP-8 models made by the Maynard, Massachusetts-based Digital Equipment Corporation—it represented a notable upgrade from what students had been using previously: a single terminal wired to a computer at the University of Massachusetts. Here was a machine with 12K of memory (no chuckling, please), a DECtape drive and controller, two terminals, and a list price of $18,500 (cheap for a computer then, but the equivalent of $115,000 today). Interacting with the suitcase-size “minicomputer” required learning the BASIC programming language, and demanded that students “be thoroughly logical in thought processes and precise in syntax,” computer instructor John Cody noted in the 1973 Bulletin. Despite the steep learning curve, students wrote programs to play football, calculate a person’s proper ski length, and keep track of medical records. Middle School students reportedly programmed the machine to play craps—and won $500. “The pleasure and self-satisfaction of a student who makes up his own problem, and then solves it, is hard to measure,” Cody observed.

How It’s Going

Today, in 2021, every Williston student and teacher receives a Microsoft Surface Pro computer, loaded with a suite of software tools that allow them to seamlessly create, collaborate, and communicate, whether in the classroom, in the dormitories, or at home. Logical thought processes and precise syntax are still welcomed by these tablet-sized devices, but you can also use a stylus to sketch an idea right on the touch screen, record and share a video of a friend’s interpretive dance, or review your class assignments in a virtual notebook and get real-time feedback from your teacher. “It’s changed the way they learn,” observes Middle School Director Jen Fulcher in a recent video made to mark Williston’s selection as a Microsoft Showcase School. “It’s changed the way they get feedback, changed the way they can work together. You can type, you can draw, and the writing is real.” Student’s work is stored in the cloud, safe from hungry dogs and computer-frying spilled drinks. All of this, of course, allowed Williston to more easily adapt to the remote-learning requirements of the COVID-19 pandemic. Classes could continue virtually, with assignments shared and reviewed in real time, from wherever students were working—whether on the second floor of the Schoolhouse or halfway around the world. 18 WILLISTON NORTHAMPTON SCHOOL


PHOTOGRAPH BY BEN ROSENZWEIG

ALUMNI NEWS

To create this image, Ben Rosenzweig ’00 collaborated with DeVonn Francis, a queer, first-generation JamaicanAmerican artist and video host and chef for Bon Appetit. “I was let into his world, and he trusted me to create his vision,” Rosenzweig said of working with Francis to promote his Brooklyn-based food-and-event firm YARDY. A photo from the series won an award from American Photography. Rosenzweig, who has worked in both editorial and commercial settings, may not have clicked the shutter if it weren’t for his time at Williston under the tutelage of Edward Hing ’77, who “is literally the reason I do what I do,” Rosenzweig said. He started taking photography classes his sophomore year and was hooked on day one. “That first time you have a blank print in the darkroom and then see your image emerge…it’s magic.”

FALL 2021 BULLETIN 19


WILDCAT ROUNDUP Williston alums are always up to something interesting. Here, we check in with a few.—BY KATE LAWLESS

HAPPY BEN CARLSON DAY! In San Francisco, July 22 honors Ben Carlson ’81. He explains why.

A WILD PAIR Ashley Gearing ’09 and her fiddle-playing collaborator deal out the fun

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wo Nashville musicians with talent in spades took their show on the road this season, hitting select venues in California and Massachusetts. The Wildcards, a duo of Ashley Gearing ’09 on vocals and guitar and Andrea Young on fiddle, play original songs that offer a “country-rock vibe, with some sweet ’90s pop moments,” Gearing says. The two met while touring worldwide with the band Farewell Angelina. They clicked right away, and fans started to notice that they were having their own separate party on stage. “One day someone said, ‘We know who the wildcards are in the band,’ and it stuck,” Gearing says. The two embrace their duality—and their singularity. While very different, they “can read each other’s minds in most situations,” she notes.

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The musician’s life is not new to Gearing, who signed her first record deal with Disney at 12 and her second while a student at Williston. “I was in the middle of my freshman year when my record company told me I was going to need to be on a 60-station radio tour across the country and needed to be in Nashville part time as well,” she recalls. While a more extensive tour is in the works, it will have to wait for life post-COVID. However, now that playing live is a part of her life for good, Gearing is pretty happy about it. “Music has taken me to places I never thought I would be,” she says. “Ultimately, the first downbeat on the first song of the night is when I’m able to see the crowd having a blast and forgetting their troubles. That’s when I think to myself, ‘Is this really my life?’”

I moved to San Francisco after college, twirled around and threw my hat in the air. But the AIDS pandemic was steadily worsening. I set aside my career plans and worked for Mobilization Against AIDS, an organization that advocated for better public funding, policy, and awareness, and for the NAMES Project, which managed the AIDS Memorial Quilt, a tool for awareness, support, and healing. It was a time of intense activism. I’ve never felt a greater sense of mission. I met and worked with heroic people. In 1995, a new “cocktail” of combination antiretroviral drugs turned AIDS from a terminal illness to a manageable chronic disease for people with access to the therapy, and the death rate started to drop. The following year I decided to leave HIV/AIDS work and get back to pursuing a design career. The late, big-hearted Jerry Windley, chief aide to San Francisco Supervisor Angela Alioto, organized a very touching thing for me. July 22, 2021, was the 25th anniversary of Ben Carlson Day in San Francisco!


alumni news

THE SCENT OF ALEPPO

SUBMITTED PHOTOGRAPHS

While supporting artisans, Kinda Hibrawi ’96 aims to preserve ancient Syrian craft When Kinda Hibrawi ’96 catches the scent of laurel bay leaf soap, she’s transported to her hometown, Aleppo, Syria. “The fresh, clean scent reminds me of my grandmother,” she says. To support the continuation of that ancient soap-making tradition, Hibrawi co-founded Mint + Laurel, which imports artisan-crafted, vegan, organic soaps made with traditional Syrian ingredients and essential oils— Damask Jasmine and Rose, Kassab Bay Leaf, Aleppo Tulip, and Amber Musk with Oud. One bar takes a year to cure. The company also imports sumptuouslooking organic cotton textiles woven by hand by Abdullah Al Madani, the last weaver still working in Syria. A 10-minute documentary, “The Last Weaver of Hama,” tells his story; it’s posted at the Mint + Laurel website, mintandlaurel.com.

Founded in 2019 by Hibrawi and fellow Syrian American Rama Chakaki, Mint + Laurel works with artisans in countries in conflict, aiming to bring high-quality products to a U.S. market, while offering a steady source of income to the makers. The company recently earned a fellowship from Nest, a nonprofit supporting the responsible growth and creative engagement of artisans in support of greater gender equity and economic inclusion. The program will provide mentorship, educational webinars, and an extensive network in the retail industry for Mint + Laurel. No stranger to making a difference, Hibrawi, who is also a working artist and painter, co-founded and led educational and creative-therapy programs for displaced Syrian refugees on the Syrian-Turkish

border. Between 2013 and 2015, the programs, under the Karam Foundation, served more than 4,000 Syrian refugee children and youth in workshops led by more than 130 international mentors. The United Nations named her a 2012 Global Thinker and Influencer. In 2014, she earned the Williston Northampton Medal, the school’s highest award for service to humanity. While empowering artisans is an important part of her work, a second, broader mission, she says, is shifting how people think about areas undergoing political conflict. Instead of the “incomplete” picture we get of war-torn places from media, she hopes to show that there is a rich history of craftsmanship and culture in these areas that is worth preserving. FALL 2021 BULLETIN 21


alumni news

INNOVATIVE INTERNSHIPS Four recent grads are using their skills to change the world— while undergoing an alchemy all their own—BY KATE LAWLESS

The Business of Wine Toward a Green Future

Having graduated this spring from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, with a major in political science, Jesse Cassuto ’17 has his eyes set on a career in renewable-energy entrepreneurship, helping the carbon-intensive commercial and residential real estate industry transition to more sustainable options. “One of the keys to stopping climate change is to streamline the sector, and make it carbon neutral or negative,” he says. He continues to make progress on his path, after two recent internships in the political sphere, and one, during his junior year, as a financial analyst at a Barcelona real estate investment firm. Following a stint as a legislative intern for Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer as a sophomore, this January he became a national press intern with Schumer’s office. Both political internships gave him valuable experience, everything from attending hearings and analyzing bills to summarizing press coverage and assembling news stories for Schumer to share with his staff. “My favorite aspect of being a legislative intern was the opportunity to attend hearings on important issues facing this country, as well as to sit in on meetings with the industry leaders committed to making that change,” he says. “The field of politics and policy making is interesting, because it sits at the intersection of so many different industries—nowhere is that more evident than on Capitol Hill.” In October, he moved closer to his goal, beginning a job as investment relations manager at a health-tech startup called Legrande Health. “I hope the experiences and skills I’m gaining now,” he says, “will help me to make a difference in our environment in the future.” 22 WILLISTON NORTHAMPTON SCHOOL

While interning as a chemist at wine producer E. & J. Gallo, Molly Zawacki ’17 has enjoyed going out into the vineyard to pick grapes. Studying them, she says, helps her learn what affects the taste and smell of different wines. “I love the variety of things that I do for my internship,” she says. “There is a great balance of hands-on work and more logical data analysis.” And what exactly does chemistry have to do with making wine? The process of winemaking is focused on chemical engineering, Zawacki explains. “This includes processes such as distillation, fermentation, and genetic analysis,” she notes, practices and techniques she learned while a chemical engineering major at the University of Pennsylvania, from which she graduated in spring 2021. Zawacki’s primary project while at Gallo’s main campus in Modesto, California, has been analyzing the genetics of different grape varieties. Her six-month internship ends in December. While her love of chemistry remains, she’s discovered new interests while at Gallo—and now plans to pursue an M.B.A. “I have learned a lot about the corporate world and what drives innovation,” she says. “There are lots of different projects going on at Gallo, and it has been very interesting to see the motivation for these projects. For example, the California fires have been a large problem for winemakers, and I’ve learned how corporate businesses grow and adapt to overcome a challenge such as that. I have also learned that while I love the rudimentary science work, I want to transition into the business side of things to help find a solution to those challenges myself.”


alumni news

Homeless Helper

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Northeastern University junior Maddie Elsea ’19 serves as a case worker for men who face challenges with addiction and housing. She has spent the first six months of this year working full time at the Pine Street Inn in Boston as part of Northeastern’s cooperative education program. Being homeless and recovering from substance abuse would make life hard at any time. However, the pandemic, Elsea notes, has exacerbated those struggles. Her clients are particularly vulnerable to changes in government programs, which can affect their access to medical care, employment, and housing. And COVID-19 has caused upheaval on a huge scale. “The pandemic has impacted them intensely, and still does,” she says. Shelters, residential programs, and halfway houses had to cut significantly the number of people they can serve, she adds. “Our program capacity is typically 50 beds, but since the pandemic it has been 20,” she explains. “So you can imagine the amount of people that are left on the streets, with the emergency housing in Boston being so limited.” During her years at Williston, Elsea participated actively in the theater department, starring in the 2019 musical Crazy for You, and volunteered with the Community Service Club. Now a double major in social work and theater, her goal is to use both disciplines to help people through drama therapy, a branch of mental health work similar to art therapy or music therapy. This internship has convinced her that she’s on the right career path. “Each of the men that I work with are deserving of compassion, respect, and support, and my job at its core is really just to show them that,” she says.

Organizing for Better Public Health Parker “Bina” Sweet ’17 always wanted to be a doctor when he grew up, but a service learning trip to the Dominican Republic after his first year in college changed his mind. His host, herself a doctor and professor of medicine, convinced him that in order to effect change, health care leaders need to practice not on the patient, but on the systems in which they operate. “When we solve public health problems,” he says, “we are elevating the very ground on which people stand. It’s all about access.” Sweet, who was named one of “29 Who Shine” by the Massachusetts Department of Education this spring, is taking that advice to heart. While working toward a five-year bachelor’s-plus-master’s degree in health policy and management at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, he helped create the Academic Public Health Volunteer Corps, which coordinates teams of doctoral, masters-in-publichealth, and undergraduate students throughout the commonwealth to conduct COVID-19 contact tracing and other public health work. He also worked on the contact-tracing efforts of nonprofit global health organization Partners in Health during the height of the pandemic, centralizing the efforts of town boards of health. Taking all he’s learned in the field of contact tracing and applying it to leadership training, he is teaching an interdisciplinary skills-based seminar to public health students this fall. Being busy and juggling many responsibilities are habits he cultivated at Williston. As a fully engaged student—he captained the cross-country and wrestling teams while taking a slate of challenging classes here—he internalized the school’s emphasis on a growth mindset, an approach he still embraces. Williston, he says, “gave me the inner strength to be confident in exploration.” FALL 2021 BULLETIN 23


NOW HEAR THIS

Veteran New York Times journalist Catherine Saint Louis ’92 brings her storytelling skills to podcasts, while teaching her trade to others from underrepresented groups

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—BY CATHERINE NEWMAN

fter graduating from Williston, Catherine Saint Louis ’92 majored in English at Princeton, got her master’s in English at Oxford, and worked at The New York Times as an editor and reporter for 18 years, before becoming a podcast story editor. She is now the executive editor at Neon Hum Media, where she edits narrative limited-run podcasts. Her work has included Spectacle, The Sellout, Fake Priest, The Thing About Pam, and Infamous. She also created and taught Neon Hum’s Editors’ Bootcamp to get more people from underrepresented groups into story editing. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and 13-year-old son. We had a chance to catch up.

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Tell us a little bit about your time at Williston. Everyone says that you get more courageous as you age—that as a teenager you somehow haven’t found your voice and are a wilting flower. That was not the case for me. I don’t think I’ve ever felt more confident than I was when I was at Williston. I was able to speak up in class and able to speak my mind and be really unafraid.

What kind of student were you? I think I’ve always been a little bit obsessive. I’m a “need-to-know-howthis-works” kind of person. In high school, that made me radically uncool. Other people were interested in dating and being popular. I really didn’t care. I was more interested in figuring things out. I was the nerd with her hand raised in math class. I’ve always been like, “I don’t understand the way this works. Can you help me understand?”

Favorite teacher? Doc Gow. He was a famed teacher in the science department. He was just pure enthusiasm. He couldn’t stop talking about the things he loved.

PHOTOGRAPH BY JAMI SAUNDERS PHOTOGRAPHY

The most interesting topic you researched for The New York Times? I loved being a health reporter. I was never ever bored. I covered everything from pediatrics to OB-GYN to oral health. I covered medical marijuana. Aesthetic medicine. I wrote a piece about women who give birth to babies who are dependent on opioids. I wrote a piece about family estrangement— it sat at the top of the most-emailed list for about three weeks. We have estrangement in my family, so it was really meaningful to me.

What was the skill that was most translatable to podcasting from your time as a reporter? When I was at the Times, more than one editor said to me that I write the

way I talk. And they were saying it kind of like a bad thing. Like, I was a little too plainspoken. But, of course, in audio that’s exactly what you want. You don’t want anybody to sound like anybody else. You want to have that feeling of gathering around the fire and someone’s telling a story.

Tell us about the Editors’ Bootcamp. There is such an explosion of narrative podcasts and heavily reported podcasts, and we need more editors. The idea of the bootcamp was: What if I actually offered eight weeks of free training to folks from underrepresented backgrounds—people of color, people who are trans, people who are Native American, who are Latina? What if I actually taught them what I know to give them a leg up so they can get work in the industry? The first year alone we got 250 applications for eight spots. Plenty of our graduates are now working as story editors! We’re definitely going to do a second year.

Your favorite story you’ve worked on? I worked on a podcast this year— Spectacle—that’s making a lot of best of 2021 lists, and that’s just been such a blessing to see. It’s about reality TV. We like to think of reality TV as trash TV, but our team was like, no. Reality TV tells you so much about American culture. What we think about marriage. What we think about dating, race, employment. All these topics that are deep in the heart of American culture.

What do you think people who listen to podcasts don’t understand about the making of them? I think that most people don’t know how hard it is to make a podcast. There’s this misconception that podcasting is as easy as getting two mics and having your friends come to your garage to have a conversation. And

CATHERINE SAINT LOUIS’ 5 PODCASTS NOT TO MISS

1

Relative Unknown The host, Jackee Taylor, is the daughter of a particularly violent Hell’s Angel. She spends 10 episodes trying to sort through her childhood trauma. She’s got a newsy story to tell about just how messed up the witness protection program is, but the podcast is riveting because it’s raw and heartbreaking.

2

Floodlines This eight-part podcast has haunting sound design, memorable characters, and great writing. Floodlines seeks to correct the story of Hurricane Katrina. Hell no, it wasn’t a natural disaster. It was a government failure and the media got the story wrong. Don’t miss this one.

3

The Sellout This nine-part podcast is about a politician dogged by allegations of corruption, harassment, and pathological pettiness. It’s about the residents who fought gentrification even as their neighborhoods

that misconception impacts how much people get paid. It would be great if people were comfortable paying $10—or even $5—for a podcast they like, so that the people who work hard making the podcast can actually make a living. Podcasts—if you love them, why not pay for them?

What are you reading right now? I’m rereading The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. I’m also reading the

were auctioned off to the highest bidder. And it’s about a community that feels the pain of betrayal from one of their own. Full disclosure: I helped make this one!

4

On Our Watch Police officers who use excessive force, sexually harass civilians, or tamper with evidence face internal investigations. This podcast shows how police accountability actually “works”—with actual audio recordings of those investigations. Unforgettable reporting.

5

I’m Not a Monster How this story unfolds is a big part of its appeal. Journalist Josh Baker is trying to figure out the truth from start to end of this 10-episode podcast. It’s about an American family’s journey from Indiana to the Islamic State group’s caliphate. It’s chilling and upsetting, but I couldn’t stop listening.

memoir How We Fight for Our Lives by Saeed Jones. I definitely listen to a lot more podcasts than I read books.

What do you miss about western Massachusetts? I love the way the leaves change colors and I love going for a hike at Mount Tom and I like how liberal people are. I like going shopping at Sweeties and getting a sh*t-ton of Swedish fish. FALL 2021 BULLETIN 25


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QUESTIONS FOR GABBY THOMAS This July in Tokyo the world discovered what Williston track fans have long known: Gabby Thomas ’15 is very, very fast. The New Balancesponsored professional sprinter won Olympic bronze in the 200-meter race and anchored the U.S. women to a silver medal in the 4x100 relay. Along the way, Thomas’ intelligence garnered almost as much attention as her speed. As she blazed through her heats, TV commenters never tired of mentioning her degree in neurobiology and global health from Harvard and the fact that she’s a full-time graduate student in epidemiology at the University of Texas—while competing at the highest level of her sport. A rare double-double, and one Thomas’ Wildcat teachers and coaches remember well from back when she was earning accolades in the classroom and setting records on Galbraith track. Now studying and training in Austin, Texas, where she shares her home with an adorable pug named Rico, Thomas spoke to us about her Olympic experience.

26 WILLISTON NORTHAMPTON SCHOOL

Do you have a pre-race ritual you always perform? Wake up, drink coffee, meditate, and relax. When I get to the track for competition, it’s the same thing.

What’s your favorite warm-up music right now? Headphones or earbuds? When I listen to warm-up music, it’s usually upbeat like Kanye or Jay-Z. Earbuds.

Do you have a traditional night-before-abig-race go-to meal? Nope! I eat whatever makes me happy and won’t feel too heavy the next day.

Did the Olympics feel completely different from other meets, Diamond League, U.S. Trials? Or is it all the same come race time? The Olympic Trials was the most intense round of races that I’ve ever run—even more competitive than the Olympic rounds. The Olympics was the most fun experience—I made it to Tokyo and the training was done, so all that was left was to compete and leave it all on the track.


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Do you have a favorite lane? Not particularly. I like to be on the inside of certain runners (for example, somebody with an explosive start, so I can chase). All tracks are shaped a little differently, so any lane from 4 to 7.

Any thoughts just before the gun went off in the 200 or the relay?

Less than three-tenths of a second: Is Flo Jo’s 33-year-old record within reach? Maybe—I’ll keep working toward it!

Before the 200, I focus on pushing out of the blocks and anticipating the gun. I try to focus on one thing. Before the relay, I was just focusing on what the three other legs were doing, and how quickly Jenna (third leg) was running.

How on earth are you balancing grad school and running?

What’s the trick to running the curve in the 200-meter sprint?

I enjoy running track and I love studying public health, so I’m having fun and making time for it.

Practice! Accelerate into the turn and accelerate off of the turn.

First thing you did when you got home? Ate a ton of junk food!

How do you catch your breath for the customary post-race interview, which seems a terrible imposition? Were you ever tempted to tell Lewis Johnson to wait a minute?

PHOTOGRAPH BY DAVID RAMOS FROM GETTY IMAGES

Taking deep breaths! It’s usually fine after a 100 or 200. It’s the 400 where it’s challenging. I have asked Lewis Johnson to wait a minute or asked to talk to him later, and he’s very understanding.

The TV commentators talked a lot about the high heat and humidity in Tokyo. Was it a factor for you, having grown up and competed collegiately in Massachusetts? The high heat and humidity was a challenge for everyone, particularly the U.S. team, which did not have a training camp prior to the Games. Fortunately, I had been training in the heat of Austin, so I was more prepared.

How did you celebrate after winning your medals? I celebrated with my Team USA teammates in Tokyo, then I came back to the U.S. and my friends surprised me with a celebratory party here in Austin with all of my friends and family.

Was there an athlete you were hoping to meet? Did you? Simone Biles! Yes, I did.

Biggest surprise for you at the Olympics—on the track, in the village, about Tokyo? How friendly and personable all of the athletes were!

Goals for the coming year? Medal at the World Championships in Eugene, Oregon.

Marion Jones, Merlene Ottey, Allyson Felix, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Evelyn Ashford—legends of the sport—and you’re faster than them all. Was there a point in your training leading up to the U.S. Trials when you felt, yeah, I’ve got this? I felt confident going into Trials, and I knew I had put in a lot of work. It wasn’t until after I had made the 4x100 relay pool, in the first week of Trials, that I felt like I was going to make the team in the 200 the following weekend. It was good momentum.

Favorite track memory from Williston? 4x100 relay school record in 2014. They are still some of my best friends.

Advice to students at Williston today? Explore new things and follow your passions. Williston’s a great place to learn about yourself.

The 4x100 team you anchored to silver looked really strong. Any chance of keeping it together? I hope so!

—BY KEVIN MARKEY

FALL 2021 BULLETIN 27


EMBRACING THE WORLD

Skerry, right, discusses her work helping to provide local young people in Jordan with meaningful skills and opportunities

Working for UNICEF in Jordan, Sylvia Skerry ’14 is giving young Syrian refugees a shot at a better life—BY KATE LAWLESS

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t’s 6 p.m. in Amman, Jordan, and Sylvia Skerry ’14 is a few minutes late for a Zoom call. It’s her day off from her job at United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and she’s just returned from lunch with a friend. Finishing up lunch at 6 p.m.? She explains: “Lunch in Jordan is…you arrive at 1, you eat at 3, you have afterlunch tea, then dessert, then fruit….” Her friend’s mom had prepared traditional maqlubeh—literally, in Arabic, “upside-down”—a dish of rice, vegetables, and chicken cooked in a large pot and then inverted onto a platter and served with yogurt and a cucum-

ber and tomato salad. The labor-intensive dish takes hours to make, and that’s why Skerry says, with a knowing smile, “You just try to get invited over.” Skerry seems at home overseas in this, her third year in Jordan, where she works overseeing three centers that provide skill-building programs and a safe space for youth in the Za’atari and Azraq Syrian refugee camps. Raised in Rhode Island, she boarded at Williston for four years, then attended the College of Charleston, where she took a semester abroad in Morocco and three years of Arabic. However, her blossoming interest in the Middle East began while a student

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at Williston. She took World Religions with Tom Johnson, and loved it. Her family was secular, she said, and she was fascinated to find that religious studies was about more than just faith. “It’s about culture, history,” she said. In college, she kept being drawn back to religious studies, taking a class in Arab and Islamic World Studies and signing up for Arabic language classes. She struggled initially. “Williston prepared me for college,” she said, “but nothing prepared me for Arabic.” Some tutoring helped her get up to speed. After attending Yarmouk University in Irbid, Jordan, to study Arabic (she now speaks the Jordanian

dialect fluently), she began working for UNICEF in early 2019. In her role as youth programme associate, Skerry travels each day from Amman, Jordan’s cosmopolitan capital, to the camps. The teams in the youth centers there implement programs that allow 16- to 24-yearolds to develop soft and technical skills and then take concrete steps toward their goals. Counselors also refer young people to services and help them apply for scholarships for higher education. One program encourages young people to find innovative solutions to everyday problems in the camps,


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such as the lack of transportation for women and girls, Skerry says. Bicycles are not seen as culturally appropriate for females there, and so a team of girls is designing a “touk touk,” a bike with a roof covering, so that women can travel without relying on male family members for transportation, and also be protected from devastating heat and sandstorms. “It’s a skill-building opportunity for them,” Skerry says, “but also, if they are able to be successful, it’s an employment opportunity.” “The range of ideas they come up with is kind of amazing,” she adds. The camps, run by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the Jordanian government, were designed as temporary shelters for Syrians fleeing the civil war that began in 2011. However, many refugees have lived there for close to a decade now. Za’atari camp, the largest haven for displaced Syrians and the second-largest refugee camp in the world, is home to nearly 80,000 people. Azraq camp, built in 2014 at a site in the middle of the desert, has an orderly appearance with rows of identical white insulated houses, and is home to roughly 35,000 Syrians. “There’s literally nothing for miles and miles and miles,” Skerry says. “Occasionally there’s a Bedouin with his camels.” Many of the young people Skerry works with have traumatic memories of war, and there are psycho-socialsupport components to the trainings UNICEF offers. “Especially since COVID, we are having more discussions about mental health,” she says. However, her focus is on giving young people the feeling of being productive, socially active, and engaged. “Yes, there is a lot of trauma,” she says, “but we want them to imagine a future where they can be successful and have a life outside of the camp.”

From top: Girls play at a local Makani center, a UNICEF-supported safe space that provides children with educational, recreational, and psycho-social support activities and programs. A girl fills water tanks at a refugee camp, one of the vital services provided by UNICEF. A boy puts together his robot for an upcoming robotics competition at the UNICEF-supported youth center. FALL 2021 BULLETIN 29


To connect with other Williston alumni, join the community at willistonconnects.com


WILDCATS CONNECT

THESE TWO ALUMNI MAY HAVE GRADUATED 34 YEARS APART, BUT A SHARED LOVE OF BUSINESS (AND WILLISTON!) BROUGHT THEM TOGETHER

PHOTOGRAPHS BY JEREMY KRAMER AND DOUG LEVY

—BY KATE LAWLESS

When Wildcats activate their Williston network, they’re pretty near unstoppable. Take former National Hockey League executive, entrepreneur, and Williston Trustee Bryant McBride ’84 and college student Gboyega “GB” Osuntogun ’18. In spring 2020, at the outset of the pandemic, the two met on a Zoom call for Black Williston alumni. Osuntogun, then a junior at the University of Cincinnati, was interested in gaining more finance experience to fuel his career goals in renewable energy. The previous summer, he had interned in Lagos, Nigeria, with an oil exploration and production company. “It didn’t take long for me to see the drawbacks of nonrenewable energy sources firsthand and come to the conclusion that switching to more sustainable energy choices was the only longterm option for success in the power industry,” he says. On the Williston call, he was excited to hear McBride talk about his Boston-based company, Burst, whose video platform allows media and Fortune 500 companies (such as NBC, CBS, and ABC affiliates and JP Morgan Chase) to access user- and employeegenerated content quickly and easily. Wondering if there might be an opportunity to learn from McBride, Osuntogun connected with him via LinkedIn and asked about internship possibilities at Burst. Osuntogun interviewed, got the gig, and worked as a business development analyst during the summer of 2021. The experience was great, and Osuntogun is hopeful the experience will help him “work with international suppliers and financiers to build the largest renewable energy production company in western Africa.” As Osuntogun’s internship was set to end this fall, McBride offered him the opportunity to stay on part-time until January, an offer the young alumnus accepted. For McBride, the encounter has been equally rewarding. “I consider meeting GB a huge stroke of luck for me.” But it wasn’t the first time he tapped into Williston’s alumni network for business or for friendship. “I literally have not gone a single month without talking to someone from Williston since I graduated in 1984,” he says. “I’m grateful that Williston alums, as trusted friends and business associates, are deeply embedded in my life.” McBride sees the collaboration with Osuntogun as part of a pattern of Wildcats helping Wildcats. “The coolest part of being part of the Williston community is that I continue to learn and grow by meeting supersmart, resourceful, driven young people like GB,” he said. “It’s truly a replenishing gift.” FALL 2021 BULLETIN 31


DRIVEN TO ENGINEER

atthew Kahane ’08 has a career that’s speeding ahead, although, in his work, nobody’s behind the wheel. Last February, the Westhampton, Massachusetts, native took a position as a senior embedded systems engineer for Cruise, a San Francisco-based company whose autonomous electric vehicles are shaking up both the self-driving and ride-sharing businesses, while trying to save lives and help the environment in the process. Kahane has been with Cruise less than a year, but the five years he spent at his previous firm, SpaceX (after earning undergraduate and graduate degrees in electrical engineering from Stanford), inform the work he does now. Not just because the company was at the forefront of technological innovation, but also because he had to commute 45 minutes to get there. “I couldn’t help thinking that the time spent in my

32 WILLISTON NORTHAMPTON SCHOOL

After five years at SpaceX, Matthew Kahane ’08 is helping design Cruise’s fleet of self-driving electric cars, hoping to transform our wasteful transportation habits—BY MATTHEW LIEBOWITZ

car was the most useless,” Kahane, 31, said. “Driving is such a waste. It’s tiring, it’s dangerous, you don’t learn anything, you’re just putting yourself in danger.” Stated more bluntly, by someone working to make roads safer by eliminating human error: “There’s no way humans should be involved in the operating of machinery that moves that fast. It shouldn’t happen.” And while jargon often obfuscates the purpose behind what an engineer does, Kahane puts the technical aspects of his job into simple terms, something anyone stuck in a daily commute can grasp. Kahane works to “deliver information from the vehicle’s sensors to its decision-making computer as quickly and reliably as possible.” Cruise cars, built on the foundation of the allelectric Chevy Bolt, are equipped with a host of sensors which can see 360 degrees, hundreds of feet ahead, even around parked cars. Kahane’s specialty is working on field programmable gate array microchips, which can help accelerate software and be reprogrammed if requirements change. Autonomous vehicles, Kahane explained, process input from “a huge network of data flowing around the car, trying to get to the brain,” including sensors, microphones, and cameras. Without the custom reprogrammable microchips he works on, that data could get stuck in a “performance bottleneck.” His job is to ensure that it doesn’t. Cruise, founded in 2013, has a valuation of more than $30 billion, and has partnerships with Walmart, GM, Microsoft, and Softbank, among others. Kahane works from the company’s Seattle

office, near the home he and his fiancée just bought. Though his job deals in microchip minutiae, his own beliefs align with Cruise’s big-picture goals. Engineers, Kahane said, “look for large-scale problems that interest them. It really helps to get through boring days if the larger mission of the company is exciting. SpaceX was an exciting mission. Cruise is an exciting mission.” For someone on such a sharp edge of global innovation, it’s surprising to hear he struggled in math as a Williston student. “Math and engineering never came naturally,” Kahane said. “Math was always the thing I struggled with the most. Dr. [Alan] Lipp and Stan Samuelson, I distinctly remember struggling in their classes, talking to them about whether I could become an engineer, do I have what it takes. Both of them emphatically encouraged me to stick with it.” Lipp and Samuelson retired in 2013 and 2014, respectively. And, as it turned out, Kahane’s academic struggles taught him a broader lesson. “The difficulties I had really never went away,” he explained. The most important thing he learned at Williston, he said, was to “embrace and be attracted to the things that are the hardest. I easily could have landed with some teachers who told me to focus elsewhere, [but] that was not the experience I had.” Kahane also credits Matt KaneLong’s physics class and Sue Michalski’s French classes as formative experiences upon which he still looks back fondly, for both their excitement and difficulty. It seems these early signposts—the passion and the purpose, you could say—have helped steer his fast-moving career.


PHOTOGRAPH BY DANIEL BERMAN

alumni news

FALL 2021 BULLETIN 33


THE ARTIST + THE TEACHER 34 WILLISTON NORTHAMPTON SCHOOL

Teacher and social worker Donna Sussek at home in the woods of western Massachusetts


PHOTOGRAPHS BY JOANNA CHATTMAN AND IAN TUTTLE

Denise Sussek Carletta at work in her studio

TWINS DONNA SUSSEK ’80 AND DENISE SUSSEK CARLETTA ’80 HAVE FOUND SUCCESS IN WIDELY VARYING CAREERS. BUT BOTH WERE SHAPED BY SHARED EXPERIENCES AT WILLISTON. —BY WENDY LOGAN ’80

I’

m sitting on a towel at the edge of the dunes at Fisherman’s Beach, on Nantucket, hooded eyes fixed on the crashing surf and the two diminutive figures walking out of the water. They’re shaking off the salty sea and laughing together at something that probably only twins would understand. If I squint, Donna Sussek ’80 and Denise Sussek Carletta ’80 look precisely the same as they did when I met them as a sophomore at the Williston Northampton School in 1977. Much has evolved for these beloved sisters over the years, but both say that Williston played a significant, if not pivotal, role in their career paths and outlooks on life. Carletta is a working artist and interior designer living in Mill Valley, California; Sussek, a cer-

tified social worker who spent over a decade working for, then running, a unique, nature-based preschool and kindergarten in Deerfield, Massachusetts. They meet at least twice annually, along with Carletta’s son, Cole, and Sussek’s daughters, Grace and Sylvia. In summer, they gather with their families on their lifelong seasonal haunt of Nantucket. It’s late June, and I’ve come at their invitation for a mini-reunion to catch up and to reminisce about our alma mater. Carletta, whose artwork has been shown in galleries in Canada, Boston, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, and elsewhere throughout the country, holds an undergraduate degree in art history and a master of fine arts degree, both from American University. As a postgraduate, she interned for William H. Calfee, revered for his FALL 2021 BULLETIN 35


alumni news

work with the Works Progress Administration in the late 1930s. Never in her wildest dreams, she said, did she expect to pursue an advanced degree. She places the lion’s share of the credit for her successful academic and artistic career directly at the feet of her venerated Williston art teacher. “There is no question, Barry Moser is why I’m doing this.” she said. “All of his classes were amazing, always unpredictable, always off-the-cuff. I

er letter and application were written entirely in calligraphy. She got in, and two years later, she transferred to AU. After that, she said, she got serious. Carletta’s path would take her through stints as an art teacher and a boutique owner, and to her current position with Kress Jack, a Mill Valley, California-based interior designer whose sought-after style is built on the premise that one’s home is a canvas. “A perfect match for me,” said the artist.

know that, whether he remembers me or not, he had that kind of impact on my life.” It’s unsurprising that twin sisters would find that some of their most inspiring life moments are shared. In the 1970s era, Williston’s “Winter Session” offered students a three-week opportunity to explore a variety of career paths and skills in greater depth. One of those was a trip to Greece to study Greek art history. Led by his-

supporter of mine and of this exploration from an academic and arts perspective. I took his English class and sang in his Madrigals group, and I always felt he was there for me. And then there was Reverend [Roger “Gus”] Barnett, our school chaplain. I took his religion classes and found them riveting.” Such was the impression Barnett’s teaching and compassion had on Sussek that she chose to major in so-

“THE PEDAGOGY OF THE SCHOOL WAS NATURE,” SAYS SUSSEK. “IT WAS RIGHT UP MY ALLEY.”

was mesmerized.” Moser—an artist, printmaker, and renowned book illustrator—did more than capture her attention, though. Carletta, who says she’d known she was an artist since childhood when she’d see faces in the texture of sidewalks, found in Moser a true mentor, while he, in turn, saw in her the spark of a budding artist. “He was on my team,” she said. “By junior year, I knew I wanted to go to college to study art, but I didn’t have good grades. So, I went to Barry and asked him, ‘What do I do?’ And he said, ‘We’re going to put together a portfolio.’ And we did. And it worked.” The two worked together to assemble a portfolio that included Carletta’s drawings, etchings, and calligraphy, with the intention of getting her admitted to American University affiliate Green Mountain College. Her cov-

In addition to working on large-scale interiors, helping to design homes from the ground up as well as for renovations and rebuilds, Carletta is often commissioned to create original artwork as part of the final décor. With just a three-year break to care for her son as a baby, she has continuously created and sold her original mixed media artwork, often in black and white, but returning to color as the inspiration takes her. But the threads connecting her to her earliest work remain. “In that first calligraphy class with Moser, I created a huge piece, about three by five feet, all handwritten in Latin in pen and ink. I saved it, and over the years and to this day, I still use pieces torn from it in my collages, which are made up of strictly my own original art. I have very few pieces left of it now. It’s precious to me. That’s Barry, and I would love for him to

36 WILLISTON NORTHAMPTON SCHOOL

tory teacher Henry Teller, the trip would have a profound impact on both girls for the camaraderie they say they found with classmates Sam Levin ’80, Marni Gangel ’80, and Kyle Bergman ’81. For Carletta, a fascination for the artwork she viewed there would permeate her work and studies at American University, where she majored in sculpture. “My work then was hugely influenced by that trip to Greece,” she said. “In many ways, it still is.” They also agree that the environment surrounding the Easthampton campus cemented in their hearts a love of the land. For Sussek, this passion for nature stirred a deeper search for purpose and perspective. “Nature at Williston was huge for me,” she said. “I loved the environment. Being surrounded by those woods felt so comfortable. I was at home there. “Mr. [Dick] Gregory was a huge

ciology and anthropology and minor in religious studies at Ohio Wesleyan University. Following graduation, she went on to obtain a master’s degree at the Columbia School of Social Work. After a brief stint in New York City, she returned to the area that had called to her from the moment she’d set foot on the school’s campus in 1976. In Northampton, she worked for many years as a certified social worker with at-risk adolescents. She invested in property in the area and had two daughters. While pregnant with her first child, she learned about the Pine Brook Children’s Center, in nearby South Deerfield. The brainchild of naturalist and educator Steve Henry Austin, the nature-based preschool and kindergarten was designed for children ages 3 to 7. “The pedagogy of the school was nature,” she said. Grace, at age 31/2, was the first of the family to attend, fol-


PHOTOGRAPHS BY JOANNA CHATTMAN AND IAN TUTTLE

alumni news

Carletta (in her studio, above) creates mixed media collages using all original art for its components. At Williston, she created a large work of calligraphy in a class with Barry Moser. “I still use pieces torn from it,” she says.

lowed a few years later by Sylvia, and, ultimately, by their mother, who took a teaching position there in 2007. In 2012, Sussek would take over the running of the school, along with partner Eileen Skribiski-Banac. “It was right up my alley, combining my skills as a clinician, a social-emotional educator, a creative, a businessperson, and a lover of nature.” The year-round program was loosely based on the 1945 Reggio Emilia approach to preschool and primary education, as influenced by both Rudolf Steiner and Maria Montessori in the early 1900s. Its philosophy focuses on experiential learning in relationshipdriven environments. “We read books and learned about numbers and letters through art projects, music, card and dice games, but everything we did was filtered through the lens of nature. There were lots of specimens and scientific relics to look at and study and think and talk about freely. The students had gear for every kind of weather because we were outside every single day, walking

the paths on the six-acre property, observing things in the fields and streams that were growing or frozen, talking about them, reading about them, experiencing them.” Here, a baby squirrel fallen from a tree or a new sea horse in the fish tank might spur a larger conversation about ecosystems and life cycle. A half-filled bucket of water with a string attached could become a lesson about centrifugal force. Depressions in the sandy soil of the Pioneer Valley turned into summer opportunities for mud dobbing, the students using a hose to create mud pits in which to romp and explore. By first grade, this non-standard program turned out kids who were as ready as their peers for reading, writing, math, and more. Years later, two of its graduates, Sussek’s now 18- and 20-year-old daughters, are attending New York University and Sarah Lawrence respectively. When the landowners decided to sell the property in 2018, Sussek determined it was time to shut Pine Brook down. Today, she is thoughtful about the experience and its connection to her time at Williston. “I find a huge connection between religion, nature, and social work. In the long run, they all serve a similar purpose of connecting and helping people to reach their higher selves,” she said. “The Pine Brook program felt very spiritual. Young children have such a pure connection to nature. Sitting down, talking about it with them, listening to them…that’s church, big time.” FALL 2021 BULLETIN 37


HOW TO REALLY

By the time Louis Stern ’53 met his future wife, Rhona, in the mid-1980s, he had already compiled an impressive list of academic and professional accomplishments. An esteemed professor of marketing at Northwestern University’s world-renowned Kellogg School of Management and the author of numerous books and articles, he had a B.A. in economics from Harvard, an M.B.A. from the Wharton Graduate Division at the University of Pennsylvania, and a Ph.D. from Northwestern. But still possessing the distinctive Boston ac-

version.” Finally, Louis asked if he could call Rhona by the nickname Ronald; she said yes, and the two have now been married for 34 years. “We’ve had an absolutely glorious life together,” says Louis, who as a business thought-leader was frequently invited to give talks around the world. Rhona, an artist specializing in abstract minimalist paintings, would accompany him “from Hong Kong, to Singapore, to Paris, to London, you name it.” Louis retired from teaching in 2001, but he remains the Kellogg School’s John

Marketing legend Louis Stern says Williston gave him a chance in life. He and his wife, Rhona, are now saying thank you in a personal way.—BY JONATHAN ADOLPH

cent of his Brookline, Massachusetts, childhood—a regional patois marked by a complicated relationship with the letter R—there was one test he says he simply could not pass. “I couldn’t pronounce her name,” he recalls. “I tried desperately. I would always come up with something like Roner or some bastardized

D. Gray Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Marketing. Rhona continues to paint, and the couple now divide their time between Evanston, Illinois, and Tucson, Arizona. “It has been a very rich life,” Louis says. “I often think to myself, little Louie from Brookline, Massachusetts. I had no idea what would hap-

38 WILLISTON NORTHAMPTON SCHOOL

pen to me in my career, but it was beyond my wildest expectations.” What set him on that path, he says, was Williston, where he was sent by his parents, then in the midst of a difficult divorce. The school’s close-knit community, supportive teachers, and opportunities to explore new activities proved to be just what the Brookline eighth grader needed. “It gave me an environment in which I would succeed,” he explains. “I got a chance to be an editor on the yearbook, an editor on the newspaper, chairman of the honor committee, all of these things that I probably never would have come close to getting if I had been at Brookline High School.” His masters, as the teachers were then called, had a particularly formative impact, he says. “The teachers just take an interest in you,” he recalls. “You became an important person to them. I felt like Headmaster Phil Stevens knew me and cared about me. The attention that I got was exceedingly important.” In his own career as an educator, Louis had a similar impact. Among his numerous awards are many that reflect the appreciation of his students and peers: Outstanding Professor of the Year (voted by his Kellogg students), Alumni Choice

Faculty Award, American Marketing Association/Irwin Distinguished Marketing Educator Award (one of his field’s highest honors), one of the 12 best teachers in U.S. business schools named by BusinessWeek, and the inaugural recipient of Kellogg’s Special Lifetime Achievement Award for Teaching Excellence in 1999. That same year, Louis’ family, friends, former students, and clients raised funds to name a classroom at the school in his honor. In recognition of the importance of Williston in Louis’s life, the couple have made a generous monetary gift to the school, accompanied by a more personal contribution: Rhona Stern’s abstract painting, titled Isle Azure, which now hangs in Williston’s newest dormitory, the Emily McFadon Vincent House. For Rhona, knowing that her artwork is on display at Williston “really means something to me,” she says. “I’ve heard all the stories over many years about Louis and his experiences there. I feel very honored.” After his retirement, Louis’ connection to Williston grew even stronger. In addition to his financial support over the years, he served on the Board of Trustees from 2005 through 2010, where he shared his marketing insights into how the

PHOTOGRAPH BY MATT HAAS

SUCCEED IN BUSINESS


alumni news

school might better sell itself. “I spent quite a bit of time as a Trustee trying to get Williston to reach out in even more effective ways,” he recalls. “And I think that’s happened. They have made a lot of progress along those lines.” He also gave the school’s 2004 Commencement address, and in 2008 received the school’s Samuel and Emily Williston Award. Today, at age 86, he still plays tennis—singles tennis, he notes —as well as golf, more for the social benefits than for any bragging rights. (He played football and baseball at Williston.) The couple have seven grandchildren, and he and Rhona also remain active in the Tucson community, supporting local nonprofits through Social Venture Partners, an investment group. And Louis remains a thoughtful observer of educational trends and shifting human habits. Noting the rise of remote learning in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, he can’t resist offering what he calls a short lecture. “Remote learning is probably one of the things that is going to take hold because of all this,” he begins. “The fact that one can reach all sorts of people through a particular medium is magnificent. Maybe this whole episode will make a major impact on education.” Not that he would want to be facing the challenges himself, he acknowledges. “I bailed out of teaching just as the internet was coming in,” he notes with a laugh. “I knew that I would have to retool completely. So I said to myself, I’m going to go out like Ted Williams. I think I’m batting pretty well, and I didn’t have the energy to transfer to that world.” Spoken like a true Red Sox fan. But after 34 years together, even Rhona knew just what he was saying. FALL 2021 BULLETIN 39


THE GREEN RUSH Marijuana’s transformation from counterculture vice to venture-capital darling may seem to have happened overnight. But for many in the burgeoning cannabis industry, the plant’s rehabilitation has been a long time coming, and it still has a way to go. True, cannabis is now fully legal for adult recreational use in 18 states and available for medical use in 36, creating a U.S. market projected to be worth $43 billion by 2025. But in other states, users continue to be arrested and imprisoned, a reality often disproportionately affecting people of color. And cannabis remains a controlled substance under federal law, creating a host of legal and financial complexities for emerging businesses. In this industry full of contradictions, controversies, and opportunities, a number of Williston alums are playing pivotal roles. We spoke to four: a reform leader, a former government relations liaison, a public relations professional, and a cannabis grower. While their career paths vary, they share a connection to Williston, and to a school culture that they say encouraged them to pursue their passions and gave them the courage to advocate for their beliefs, even if their choice was unconventional.

BY JONATHAN ADOLPH

40 WILLISTON NORTHAMPTON SCHOOL


PHOTOGRAPH BY JOANNA CHATTMAN

FRANCIS MAGUIRE ’07

Francis Maguire ’07 inspects his first cannabis crop this past summer at his Stafford Green farm in Cheshire, Massachusetts. See page 45.

FALL 2021 BULLETIN 41


S

THE PIONEERING REFORMER

al Pace ’95 has always appreciated out-of-the-box thinking. It’s clear from his innovative work as a politician in Colorado, his side pursuits as an entrepreneur selling Grateful Dead-branded frisbees, and his recent venture as majority owner of a professional ultimate frisbee team. It’s why, he says, he was initially drawn to Williston. “I’ve never been the type of person that followed the crowd,” says Pace, who as his class treasurer found a way to hold prom on a boat on the Connecticut River. “I’ve always been a little out of the box, and Williston was

a place where that was encouraged and fostered.” That ability to see novel solutions infuses Pace’s groundbreaking work in the area of cannabis reform. Because if there is any box that our society needs to think outside of, he contends, it is the cannabis policies born of the war on drugs. “I’ve always held the belief that the war on drugs was a failure and that lives were being ruined at the hands of our government,” says Pace, now board chairman of the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), the country’s leading advocacy, consulting, and lobbying group for cannabis reform. “Over a half-million people every year are arrested for marijuana possession in this country. There are 40,000 people today behind bars for marijuana crimes. Is this really the best use

SAL PACE ’95

“There are 40,000 people today behind bars for marijuana crimes. Is this really making us safer?”

of our tax dollars? Is this really making us safer?” Pace has devoted his career to finding better approaches. A member of the Colorado state legislature from 2009 until 2013, he helped write the country’s first regulations for the legal sale of medical marijuana. As a county commissioner in Pueblo, Colorado, from 2013 to 2019, he spearheaded the creation of the Institute of Cannabis Research at Colorado State University-Pueblo, established a college scholarship program funded with cannabis tax revenue, and worked to develop the Pueblo area into “the Napa Valley of cannabis.” Today, he continues to shape the booming industry as a thought leader and reform architect. In addition to his work with the MPP, he serves on the U.S. Cannabis Council board, HeadCount’s Cannabis Voter Project advisory board, and the Institute of Cannabis Research governing board. Pace credits his time at Williston—in particular, his sophomore English class with Harris Thompson—with fostering his creative independence. “It’s not the typical suit-and-tie boarding school where everyone is taught to think the same way,” he explains. It was at Williston, Pace says, that he discovered and helped promote the nascent sport of ultimate, playing in the school’s first tournament. He has been supporter of the game ever since, recently becoming majority owner of a Colorado expansion franchise that will play in the American Ultimate Disc League in 2022. With the MPP, he continues to build on the group’s impressive record of successful cannabis legalization initiatives and legislation at the state level, as well as working to shape policy at the national level. Noting that Senators Cory Booker, Ron Wyden, and Majority Leader Charles Schumer have introduced a Senate bill that would end the federal prohibition of cannabis, he is now focused on making sure national legalization is done right. “I am concerned that, depending on how legalization happens, the marijuana industry will be controlled by just a few big corporations in 10 or 20 years,” he says. The industry also needs to address social equity issues, given the disproportionate


VICTORIA GATES ’10 impact that the war on drugs has had on communities of color. “There’s a real disconnect, when we still have folks in prison for marijuana, and other privileged folks are benefiting from legalization,” he says. “The biggest policy debate right now is how to diversify the benefits of legalization.” Despite the challenges, Pace remains optimistic about the cannabis industry. “It’s an exciting space to be in because of the innovation,” he notes. “The out-of-the-box thinking is so substantial.” And, to Pace, that’s always been the best kind.

I PHOTOGRAPHS BY RYAN DEARTH AND JOANNA CHATTMAN

THE PR PROFESSIONAL f you doubt that cannabis may have an image problem, we have a Cheech and Chong record we’d like you to hear. Thanks to years of stoner jokes, as well as official government policy and propaganda such as Reefer Madness and “Just Say No,” the substance has a reputation that clings to even the most upscale artisanal-cannabis boutique. And yet the formidable challenges of transforming yesterday’s pot into today’s legal cannabis have not deterred Victoria Gates ’10, who serves as Director of Operations at NisonCo PR, one of the country’s first and leading cannabis public relations firms. “The industry is still in its adolescent phase,” observes Gates, who grew up in Sunderland, Massachusetts, and started at Williston her sophomore year. “We’re still growing and still finding our stride.” That rapid expansion has kept things interesting for NisonCo, whose 21 remote employees are distributed throughout the country (Gates herself recently moved back to Massachusetts after four years in Colorado), and whose clients include large retailers, cannabis-product manufacturers, CBD suppliers, and businesses in the emerging psychedelic space. “We have a really intimate knowledge of cannabis that other firms don’t necessarily have,” she says. Like Sal Pace, Gates notes that inclusion and social equity have emerged as key issues for the industry, “so at NisonCo, we do a lot of work with policies and then a lot of work with clients that

FALL 2021 BULLETIN 43


SHAUN CHAPMAN ’98

“Why is it that we don’t think twice about selling White Claw and tequila and beer at every corner shop, but we’re still incarcerating disproportionately so many Black and brown people for cannabis?”

are working to address those things.” Among their recent efforts: partnering with a group that helps formerly incarcerated individuals get jobs in the industry, and offering pro bono public-relations and search-engine-optimization services to smaller brands with a social mission. Gates’ interest in changing how society views cannabis dates back to her time at Ithaca College, where as a double major in psychology and marketing she joined her campus chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, looking “to channel my rebellion and my anti-authority sentiment,” she explains. The club helped pass the first Good Samaritan law in New York State, beginning with a campus policy that granted students amnesty for drug use if they needed to call 911. Members also worked to equalize the school penalties for underage students caught with alcohol or cannabis. And they formed a peer-led, harm-reduction educational series called Just Say Know. Gates became president of the cam-

44 WILLISTON NORTHAMPTON SCHOOL

pus chapter, succeeding Evan Nison, who after college launched NisonCo PR and hired Gates a few years later. Gates credits her time at Williston with impressing upon her the importance of education, in both academic subjects and life skills. “I wasn’t like a lot of kids who go off to college and get their first taste of freedom,” she says. “I luckily got that at Williston in a safe and supportive environment. It taught me how to do what you need to do, hunker down and get the work done, and then know that you can have that play time later.” In particular, she gravitated to the hands-on work of tech theater, and discovered her love for photography in classes with Ed Hing ’77. Today, she sees education as key to the future success of the cannabis industry as well. “The public education component is so important,” she maintains. “Everything in moderation. One of our mottoes is ‘It’s not so much about the substance as your relationship with the substance.’”

THE GOVERNMENT RELATIONS LIAISON

S

haun Chapman ’98 arrived at Williston for his junior year, transferring from a Catholic school in the Berkshires, and took to his new environment, he says in all seriousness, “like a weed.” His comment might have been accompanied by a knowing chuckle from someone with a less serious connection to the cannabis industry. Until this fall, Chapman was Director of Government Relations for Weedmaps, the largest technology platform serving the cannabis market, a job that put him in the position of negotiating the multibillion-dollar industry’s future with state and federal legislators and regulators. Weed jokes, it’s clear, are not his thing. And neither, for that matter, is weed. “I’m really not much of an active consumer myself,” says Chap-


PHOTOGRAPH BY JAMI SAUNDERS

man, who went on to become Class President at Williston, active in theater, and a standout swimmer and water polo player. “Though having worked in the industry, I am much more likely now to reach for a low-dose edible than an Advil.” What is his thing, however, is working to correct government policies and laws that no longer reflect society’s changing values. Prior to joining Weedmaps, he advocated for sustainable energy as the government relations head for Tesla’s Solar City division, and he continues advocating for change in his new job with Doma, a technology start-up working to simplify real estate transactions. At Weedmaps, founded in 2008 by two University of California, Irvine, grads, his focus was trying to reform the confusing patchwork of state and federal laws that outlaw cannabis in some states and celebrate it in others. “Why is it that we don’t think twice about selling White Claw and tequila and beer at every corner shop, but we’re still incarcerating people—and disproportionately, so many Black and Brown people— for cannabis?” asks Chapman, who now lives in Brooklyn. “That just doesn’t sit with me.” The confidence that one person could effect change in the world, he adds, was shaped at Williston, through courses such as We the People with Peter Gunn. “Williston gave a really strong foundational teaching to me,” he says. “It’s not about upending tradition and values. It’s about making sure that the world reflects the values that you hold, and when they don’t, and they become misaligned, don’t be afraid to challenge them.” And in the cannabis space, the misalignments are many. For starters, cannabis’s classification as a controlled substance now prevents the kind of comprehensive federal research that could clarify its medical benefits. “Our best minds should be working on this,” argues Chapman, noting the plant’s long history of use for pain relief. “Could we have avoided the opiate crisis altogether? Why are we taking it off the table? We haven’t even tried to look there.” Then there’s the issue of unequal access given the country’s contradictory laws. “I’m not saying that cannabis is for everyone, but if it is for someone, they should have the option to choose it, whether it’s for a headache or on a Friday night, after a hard

week of work,” says Chapman. “I see it as offering an explosion of choice that can ultimately reduce harms society-wide.” But, perhaps most important, Chapman contends that government cannabis policies should be a vehicle to create economic opportunities, particularly for communities harmed by the war on drugs. Like Sal Pace, he is concerned about the impact that large corporations could have as they move into the space, limiting these restorative efforts. “The very serious harms done to many communities need to be repaired,” he says. “Cannabis can’t fix all of it, but it’s certainly a great tool to move that forward.”

F

THE CANNABIS GROWER

rancis Maguire ’07 (pictured on page 41) was in his senior year at Long Island University, working toward his B.F.A. in printmaking, when the seizures started. They’d strike early in the morning, or when he was stressed, or when he hadn’t slept, and they’d leave him in a mental fog. “It’s like hitting the control-alt-delete button, or holding the power button on your laptop,” he explains. “A lot of memory gets erased.” A three-year varsity athlete in football, hockey, and lacrosse at Williston, Maguire believes his condition was brought on by the repeated concussions he experienced playing sports, and it would take his doctors the next six years to get his epilepsy under control through medication. In the meantime, Maguire turned to a substance that proved life-changing: cannabis. “It was so compelling, like the difference between day and night,” he says. “I discovered the power that THC [the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis] has on your seizure threshold.” After earning his degree in art, an interest he discovered at Williston, and then earning an associate’s degree in graphic design from Briarcliffe College, Maguire was working as a freelance designer in New York City and still suffering several seizures a month. After succumbing to one in Penn Station, he wondered if the incessant noise and stress of the city

were contributing to his problems. “I had broken up with my girlfriend at that point, and I was like, why am I still here?” Needing something new, he made a bold decision to change his life. In 2017, he moved to the Berkshires to become a cannabis grower. “I remember bus trips out here to play different schools, specifically Berkshire Academy,” recalls Maguire, now an Adams, Massachusetts, resident and president of Stafford Green, an outdoor organic cannabis farm in nearby Cheshire that cultivated its first crop of just under 3,000 plants this summer. “I was just always fascinated with the terrain and how quiet it seemed.” Starting any new business is challenging, growing cannabis outdoors in New England particularly so. Maguire, who has no previous experience in agriculture, has had to make sizeable investments (roughly a half-million dollars so far), navigate complicated state regulations, and win over agitated neighbors at local meetings. What has allowed him to get this far, he says, is the “endless well of support and encouragement” of his family. His father, a former engineer for the Steamship Authority on Cape Cod, is his capital investor. His mother is his secretary. A cousin is head of marketing and a company director. “It’s a very tight circle,” Maguire says. Another factor that has eased the process was Stafford Green’s status as a minority-owned business. Maguire’s mother is Cape Verdean, allowing Maguire to qualify for financial benefits—such as the waiving of fees for business software—through the state’s Supplier Diversity Office. “We’ve been very grateful for that classification, and a lot of that is due to my parents helping out with the paperwork.” Like the support of his family, Maguire says his time at Williston gave him the confidence to take on something unfamiliar. Arriving on campus and joining an athletic team, “it really bolstered my mental fortitude when it came to dealing with new situations and new people,” he says. And he continues to be inspired by his own personal experience with cannabis. “It has helped me in so many ways,” he says. “Obviously, everybody’s here to make money. That’s how capitalism works. But this is something that just called to me.”

FALL 2021 BULLETIN 45


In It for the Long Run

Ultramarathon runner and professional chef Justin Blais ’97 pushes the limits of human endurance.—BY KEVIN MARKEY

S

itting in the den of his home in downtown Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where he’s the corporate executive chef for a highend hospitality group, Justin Blais ’97 is quick to say that running isn’t really his thing. “I love biking, I love hiking, I love swimming,” he says. “Running is not something I’m super fond of.” And yet run he does. For shockingly long distances over some of the gnarliest backcountry terrain in North America. An accomplished ultramarathoner, Blais has completed more than two dozen races of 50, 100, even 200 miles. He has run up and down mountains, wound his way through Louisiana bayous at night with only wild hogs and alligators for company, and crisscrossed the legendary canyonlands of the American Southwest —for 30 straight hours. In 2019 alone, the last full year before the pandemic monkey-wrenched the world of extreme sports, along with everything else, Blais completed more than 50 races. A full 20 of these were ultras—events that exceed the official marathon distance of 26.2 miles, long the gold standard of distance running. “I actually ran my first ultra before ever doing a marathon,” he says with a shrug. “The Big A 50K on Mt. Agamenticus up in Maine.” Officially, 31 miles. Unofficially? “The thing about trail running, you’re not on a road. You’re going up and down hills, through woods. It’s not city blocks,” he says. Factoring in all the twists and turns, 50 kilometers measures out to significantly more. 46 WILLISTON NORTHAMPTON SCHOOL

On Agamenticus, the distance featured some 6,000 feet of elevation gain, along with rocks, roots, fallen logs, and other hazards. The worst part might have been all the water from a soaking rain. “It was the first time I ran with wet feet for eight hours,” Blais recalls. That was in May of 2019. The marathon came in October on Cape Cod. In between, he reeled off a different event every weekend, including a triathlon he threw in “just so I could say I had done one.” All this while helping raise a young son and working in a profession notorious for stress and the physical and emotional issues that come with it, including high rates of substance abuse. A recovering alcoholic himself, Blais took up running after getting sober six years ago. Along with the miles, he has embraced an open-book policy about his battle. “I’ve become brutally honest,” he says. “There’s nothing to hide for me anymore. There are a lot of people out there who are struggling and you don’t know it. We can all make our lives look like whatever we want on Facebook. Being vocal about my addiction is a way to hopefully let people know they’re not the only ones.” He competes as a brand ambassador for a couple different recovery programs, including Addict to Athlete and Recovery Strong. If someone sees his jersey and is encouraged to approach him after a race, he is always ready to hear their story. His own began with a car accident. After graduating from Williston, where he played baseball and soccer (“not track and field—I despised running”), he entered Seattle University on a soccer scholarship.

The mental toughness is the same as what it takes to be in recovery. I was miserable drinking for decades, so what’s 30 hours on the trail?”


PHOTOGRAPH BY COPPER HOUND PICTURES

alumni news

He had barely arrived in the city when a car slammed into the one he was driving. Blais required extensive surgery, including spinal fusion. At age 19, his soccer career was over. The scholarship went away. To make matters worse, the driver who hit him was not fully insured. Faced with enormous medical bills, Blais spent the next eight years cranking out 80-hour weeks in the restaurant industry. He was very good at the work and steadily climbed the ladder, eventually becoming executive chef at Overlake country club in Medina, Washington, the exclusive enclave whose members included Bill Gates and other tech tycoons. Along the way he picked up a drinking problem. “The norm was to hit the bars every night after finishing work at 12 a.m.,” he says. “I didn’t see the snowball building.” While he continued to do well in his career, moving back to the East Coast and taking a series of prestigious positions, his personal life slowly unraveled. By 2015, his marriage had broken up and his health was in serious jeopardy. Determined to turn things around, he stopped drinking and started a new job at a place whose partners insisted he find some work-life balance. They knew his history. “As an executive chef, that’s something you get told constantly,” he says. “Worklife balance. But if you cut back from 75 hours to 70 one week, you feel guilty. These guys meant it. The problem was, if I stayed home, I knew I was just going to be thinking about work. I needed to get outside my head.” So he decided to climb a mountain. He chose Mount Pierce, a 4,310-foot peak in New Hampshire’s rugged White Mountains, and found the experience to be so exhilarating that he immediately began planning his next outing. Soon he was bagging peaks every few days, often setting off at 2 a.m. with a headlamp so that he’d get back in time for work.

In White Mountain climbing circles, there’s a thing called the Four Thousand Footer Club. Membership consists of a select group of individuals who have scaled all 48 of the range’s 4,000-foot-plus peaks. People spend decades chasing the goal. Blais accomplished it within a single calendar year. “As addicts, this is what we do,” he says. “We do everything to excess.” Having conquered the mountains as a solo hiker, the logical next step seemed to be to start running up and down them. Like all experienced ultrarunners, Blais brings extra pairs of shoes to a race. He knows his feet will swell by several sizes from the relentless pounding and that Advil and other anti-inflammatories are ill advised: kidneys begin shutting down long before runners reach the finish line. Other hazards of the sport are gruesome but relatively benign, such as lost toenails. Few ultrarunners have any left at all. “You know you’re going to take a beating,” Blais says. “Every fiber of your body will be telling you to stop. You start looking for excuses. ‘I don’t need this. I have a family.’ The mental toughness required to keep going is exactly the same as what it takes to be in recovery. I was miserable drinking for decades, so what’s 30 hours on the trail? I can do anything for 30 hours.” With sanctioned races up and running once again, he looks forward to new challenges. His schedule includes a “fast” 100-miler in Texas and a 200-mile trail run in Virginia’s Shenandoah Mountains that features a mind-boggling 65,000 feet of elevation gain—2.5 times the height of Everest. After that, he intends to complete the Iditarod Trail Invitational, a 350-milelong monster named for the legendary Alaskan wilderness dog race. In this version, humans pull their own sleds. But before then, he and his son and fiancée are going to kick back on vacation in the Canary Islands. While there, Blais hopes to get the fastest known time of Grand Canaria’s classic 50-mile route. —Justin notes that he’d be happy to speak with other alumni about his journey. You can reach him at justinjblais@gmail.com or (603) 393-1818

FALL 2021 BULLETIN 47


FIRST CLASS Fifty years ago this fall, 143 girls joined 337 boys on the Williston Northampton campus—and the school was forever changed. In celebration of a half-century of coeducation, we reflect on that historic moment.

THE YEAR WAS 1971.

Richard M. Nixon was president. The Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement were prompting societal shifts. Change was in the air. Against this backdrop, two boarding schools in western Massachusetts decided to link arms. After 47 years as an allfemale institution, Northampton School for Girls (NSFG) merged with Williston Academy, which had been coed from 1841 to 1864, then all-male for the

ensuing 107 years. That fall, the merged Williston Northampton School admitted 143 girls, 63 of whom came from NSFG. Five decades later, Williston Northampton is a thriving coed boarding and day school. But the 50th anniversary of the merger offers a moment to reflect on both the triumphs and the pitfalls of two schools and two worlds colliding. As seamless as coeducation now appears, the first years were tumultuous, chaotic, and exciting—painful


“They were brave and courageous decisions— motivated by necessity and the dominos of the culture falling— but they were monumental decisions nonetheless. There’s no way it could have been completely smooth. Those were tectonic plates shifting.” —Robert W. Hill III

for some, and liberating for others. “They were brave and courageous decisions—motivated by necessity and the dominos of the culture falling—but they were monumental decisions nonetheless,” said Head of School Robert W. Hill III. “There’s no way it could have been completely smooth. Those were tectonic plates shifting.”

BROTHER AND SISTER SCHOOLS In truth, the merger was taking shape well before 1971, with negotiations quietly happening between the Boards of Trustees at both schools. When NSFG founders Dorothy Bement and Sarah Whitaker retired in 1962, questions about the school’s future emerged. Williston Academy was feeling economic pressure, and coeducation presented an elegant way to resolve both situations. Williston Academy and NSFG had nurtured a special relationship over the years, coordinating programing since the 1930s, including dances, theater, and singing groups. “There was a strong feeling, even if it was never official, that we were brother and sister schools,” said Rick Teller ’70, Williston Northampton’s longtime archivist. Still, the announcement of the merger was met with varying degrees of enthusiasm. There were faculty murmurings that the NSFG girls wouldn’t keep up with the boys FALL 2021 BULLETIN 49


alumni news

NINA GOODRICH ’74 I didn’t go to NSFG, but was one of the girls who started during the first year of the merger. It really was a vibrant place. There were so many choices, so many things to do! There was a bit of discrimination at the time­— for example, a sense of “did girls belong in math and science?” And it was helpful to know that A) there was doubt, and B) when girls did well, that was a learning experience for all. I went to women’s colleges, Mount Holyoke College and Wellesley, and I think there was something of a “Yes, we can” movement that I was proud of for the rest of my career. It was the seed that made me feel nothing was insurmountable.

63

Number of girls from NSFG who came to the merged school 50 WILLISTON NORTHAMPTON SCHOOL

A Senior Year Switch “We had a very tight community at NSFG. We knew our friends’ likes, dislikes, and how we worked and played together. There are very few times in life where that experience has been duplicated. Moving to Williston changed that intimate feeling, but we now had boys, a much larger population, and only a year to find our place. But the merger of Williston and NSFG also provided an opportunity to broaden our horizons and prepare us for the next big step into college or an adventure out into the world. For me [Trili] I honestly say that my dearest friend was discovered at NSFG, and my long time partner, Gil, was found at Williston Northampton; so both places worked perfectly for me!” —Trili Goodrich Timm ’ 72 and Adelaide Murphy Tyrol ’72, reflecting on the photo above of the junior class from NSFG who finished their senior year as members of the Williston Northampton class of 1972

in academics. And in several editorials in NSFG’s Pegasus newspaper, students wondered if their school would be swallowed up by the “Big Bad Willies.” Their concerns were penned in a letter to the editor in October 1970: “What kind of meals are we going to get? Will we be deprived of our privacy? Will we be uneasy

with boys in the class? Will we have bells? What about our traditions?” TO DO NSFG PROUD Many of both institutions’ greatest fears dissipated in the first few months. The boys still studied; the girls had privacy and eased into life with testosterone-filled classrooms. But there was still jostling as

students figured out their roles in the new school. Sheila Fisher ’72 was certain she would be the editor of the school newspaper her senior year. Then the schools merged, and suddenly her school newspaper was The Willistonian, and a boy was slated for the position. In the end, she was named coeditor along with her male counterpart, but


she recollects that one of the early struggles of the merger was fighting for female parity. “In certain areas, there was the assumption that NSFG was being absorbed into Williston, and there had been leadership positions already allotted to the boys at Williston,” Fisher said. Girls also vied for equality in athletics. Williston Northampton was still working out the kinks by the time Mary Conant ’75 arrived as a ninth grader. Conant recalls that the girls still didn’t have Williston Northampton blue and gold athletic uniforms, but had to wear NSFG green and white uniforms. They rarely had professional umpires to call their softball games,

and the girls’ locker room was small and ill equipped. A GOOD TIME TO BE YOUNG Alumni recount the early years of the merger as an electric time. Daily chapel was out, and with it a strict dress code. Day students flooded the school. The arts program blossomed, and the theater program flourished. New ideas were discussed and debated. There were boys in the classroom! There were girls in the classroom! Across the nation, the times were changing. Along with that came a push for coeducation. Yale went coed. Harvard, Princeton, and Trinity, too. Title IX was passed and

the Equal Rights Amendment was being debated. “I did feel like, the very first day in September, there was something very exciting going on, and I loved it from the second I stepped foot on campus,” said Judy Fisher ’73. Tony Spagnola ’72 also felt a new burst of creative energy on campus, and he attributes this to the girls. The arts became a viable part of the curriculum, not just an afterthought. “Guys were doing ceramics—that alone would’ve never happened,” Spagnola said. “It was a major, major change to the direction of where the school was going.” COMBINING LEGACIES Dorothy Bement and Sarah Whita-

“A Little Awkward”

The fall 1971 Bulletin represented the merger using photos of two students. Here, they share their behind-the-scenes memories of that experience.

ANDREW WOODEN ’73 Many of my favorite teachers were from “Hamp” (NSFG), and several of my closest friends were, too. The world seemed to be falling apart during those years. Vietnam, racism, genocide, recession, and predictions of impeachments and pardons. I arrived in Easthampton having campaigned for Nixon/ Agnew, and at Williston I learned to write editorials for The Willistonian calling for their removal. At WNS I was encouraged to be a better thinker. Teachers showed me the beauty of the artist’s world. Classmates, mostly young women, made me want to be a better person. As I contemplate my 50th Reunion I am grateful for attending a coed school—even if neither I, nor my school, had it all figured out.

“The school set up a photo shoot with Dave Griswold and me. We really didn’t know each other so it was a little awkward. Maybe that was the point, since none of us knew each other! I remember it as an exciting time; everything was so new to us. It was a new campus, which was an adjustment, but also lots of fun to be on a coed campus!”—Caroline (Officer) Wharton Ewing ’73 I took a lot of grief for that shot from my classmates because I was sporting the Glen Campbell hairstyle and those plaid pants! Caroline and I had never met before this shoot, so it was awkward, but sort of fitting for the feeling of the merger. Bringing together two very different schools was quite the challenge to pull off. Thanks to great teachers and traditions, we managed to prosper and build lifelong bonds.—David Griswold ’73

480 Total number of students attending Williston Northampton in fall 1971

FALL 2021 BULLETIN 51


JUDITH MILLER CONLIN ’72 I hadn’t expected to be at WNS. My goal, to graduate from Northampton School for Girls in three years, was stymied by a bad case of mono. Instead, I planned to keep my head down, ignore the boys, and power on to fast-track through college and medical school. Which worked out fine, until I sat down in Doc Gow’s biology class next to Michael Conlin ’72, a wiry Irish kid from Worcester. I tried to ignore him. Instead, two years later I married him, and it was the best thing I ever did. Some habits from Williston were so steeped in XY chromosomal tradition that change was difficult. For example, it took 25 years to be recognized as manager of the track team and to receive the varsity letter that I had earned! I missed the NSFG traditions: the Sacred Garden, Phoenix Night, the Angelus bell, class songs, the alma mater, cocoa and graham crackers for recess— even “Tweenies.” Yet I have grown to treasure the combined school, especially as we watched our children, Flannery ’95 and Jared ’98, make their way through WNS as “six-year seniors” from middle school through to graduation. 52 WILLISTON NORTHAMPTON SCHOOL

ker forged their school at a time when education options for women were minimal. They opened their doors in 1924 to a single student, and soon were purchasing additional buildings to house, teach, and feed the girls. The pride in the school was enormous, and women found NSFG a haven for their dreams and aspirations. It wasn’t just nostalgia that made the merger difficult; NSFG was home. “It was as if as soon as you go off

to college, your parents decide to sell your family home and expect that this [new] place you’ve never lived in is going to be your home,” Sheila Fisher said. “Well, it’s not.” Fisher isn’t alone. NSFG alumnae who graduated before the merger don’t necessarily see Williston Northampton as their campus, yet they now have no other physical campus to return to. They also fear that the legacy of their school will be lost.

The White Blazer Carries On My recollection of the moment in the photo at right was happiness—I was elated to win the White Blazer Award! It certainly felt like a recognition by the “new” school that maintaining the traditions of Northampton School for Girls was important. I was also amazed at the 1972 graduation when I received the Harvard Book Prize. The inscription in that book reads “The Prize Book of the Associated Harvard Alumni shall be awarded to the outstanding boy in the next graduating class who combines excellence in scholarship with achievement in other fields.” I still marvel that the new Williston Northampton School had the audacity to give the prize to a girl in that first graduation! I loved NSFG! But after the merger, I wouldn’t have wanted to go back to a single-gender school. I was privileged to be part of each school for two years. Being part of the merger during my junior and senior years at WNS was both challenging and energizing. It prepared me for many things in life. It helped as I went to newly coed Yale and later when my insurance company in Connecticut merged into a larger company in Massachusetts. Life flies by. It’s hard to believe that 50 years ago we were just starting at the “new” Williston Northampton School.—Ann Futter Lomeli ’73

A handful of NSFG traditions were carried over in the merger, including the Sarah B. Whitaker Award, the “White Blazer,” which recognizes “the young woman who has distinguished herself with the greatest contributions to the academic, athletic, and community life of the school while exhibiting exemplary leadership and integrity.” The Angelus, a large bell that was the centerpiece of NSFG ceremonies, was recovered and


143 Number of girls enrolled in the fall of 1971

337

The First Valedictorian I remember being tremendously proud to represent the young women from Northampton School for Girls as the valedictorian of the first coed graduating class. Many of us had felt a keen sense of loss at leaving the NSFG campus, so this moment was a gesture toward showing that we belonged and could succeed at our new school. I was also proud because I was the first person in my family to attend prep school or college, and I was off to become a member of the entering class at Smith in the fall of 1972. For many of us coming over from NSFG in 1971, the transition wasn’t easy, and we didn’t always feel entirely welcome. For one thing, young men outnumbered young women; many played leadership roles on the Easthampton campus that would just, as a matter of course, have been held by young women at NSFG. What’s more, as NSFG was assimilated into Williston Academy, some of our beloved teachers from NSFG were not offered employment at the Easthampton campus—another hard loss. Despite these drawbacks during that first year of coeducation, there were many assets as well. Williston was a more substantially endowed school than NSFG, one with greater resources and facilities. Its library was bigger, its art studios better equipped. It actually had a real theater and a distinguished theater program; it had a swimming pool. Many Williston faculty members were very encouraging to the NSFG students, as they taught us, mentored us, and challenged us. I was able to do things at WNS I could not have done at NSFG because of the broader array of resources and offerings. —Sheila Fisher ’72

has been installed in a plaza on the Residential Quad. Yet 50 years after the merger, some alumnae still wish for more recognition and celebration of NSFG traditions and history. Teller offers a practical reality to paying homage to NSFG. “We are not a campus of monuments,” he said. “Our two pieces of public sculpture are a lion of very dubious origins, and a statue of Sir John Falstaff, a

fictional character and a notorious corrupter of youth.” “There are schools where you can’t go around a corner without bumping into some dead guy in bronze. That’s never been us.” THE SCHOOL TODAY Today, the idea of a non-coed Williston Northampton is hard to picture. The male to female ratio is nearly

equal, girls assume many campus leadership positions, and girls athletic teams have long been on a tear. “As a female leader on campus, I feel empowered and supported. I think we all do,” says Senior Class President Sarah Markey ’22. That’s also true in the school’s newest dormitory, which opened in the fall of 2020. Named for a 1949 alumna from Northampton School for Girls, Emily McFadon

Number of boys enrolled in the fall of 1971

Vincent House is home to 40 female students, who live under the watchful eye of dorm head and girls ice hockey coach Christa Talbot Syfu ’98 and three other female faculty members. A sign in the common room fittingly reads “Empowered women empower women.” Five decades later, Williston Northampton is a unified institution. Even though coeducation is FALL 2021 BULLETIN 53


alumni news

MICHAEL WILLS ’72 I came to Williston in 1969 and got to know about 400 other guys. We all knew who we were, and then the next year it was more of the same. When we became seniors in the first year of the merger, there was a whole new bunch of people to meet. Suddenly, there were girls in the classes —girls from Northampton School for Girls—whom we were familiar with, but who we didn’t know well, and other girls, too. It was definitely nice to have a different dynamic and new people there. Maybe we cleaned ourselves up a little better, too! It was a major deal, and a big positive. I guess you could say Williston really assembled a good bunch of people to go to school with.

54 WILLISTON NORTHAMPTON SCHOOL

now taken for granted, Hill says the anniversary of the merger nudges students to appreciate the people who came before them. “The women from NSFG were pioneers in education, as were their heads of school and founders,” Hill said. “There is a courage and pioneering spirit to the very essence of NSFG, which I think is a timeless

message for both boys and girls at Williston Northampton.” The anniversary of the merger is allowing both Williston Academy and NSFG graduates to take stock of the past, and reflect on the present. “It makes me proud of the way that the young women who went through that first year made it through,” Fisher said. “And it

makes me proud of the school, to be honest, that it’s come out the other side in such a healthy way.” This article, originally written by Megan Tady in celebration of the 40th anniversary of coeducation at Williston Northampton, has been edited and updated.

Nominate an Alumna! Help us identify exceptional women for “50 for the Next 50” As we commemorate the 50th anniversary of coeducation at Williston Northampton, we reflect on many ways in which alumnae of Northampton School for Girls and Williston Northampton School have supported and strengthened today’s school. We are proud of their achievements, and grateful for their loyalty. Our upcoming “50 for the Next 50” initiative will recognize 50 women who will continue to build on the success and momentum of the first five decades of women to graduate from Williston Northampton School. Please help us to recognize noteworthy women by submitting your nominations to the selection committee co-chaired by Assistant Head of School Ann Pickrell and Dean of Faculty Corie Fogg ’99. Find out more, and submit your nominations at williston.com/50-for-the-next-50.


CLASS NOTES

—BY KATE LAWLESS

Last summer, American Airlines pilots Stephen O’Connor ’85 and Tom Waidlich ’05 met at the gate at Newark International Airport, just as they were about to board a two-day flight together. As they were waiting, small talk ensued. O’Connor asked Waidlich where he came in from. Western Massachusetts, Waidlich replied. O’Connor wondered which part. “I asked him if he was familiar with the area,” Waidlich related, “and he told me he went to school at a place called Williston. I said, ‘No kidding, me too!’” The two reminisced about their Williston days and shared details of their lives on opposite sides of the commonwealth. O’Connor spends lots of time on his

boat in his home city of Marshfield, south of Boston, and has 22-year-old twins, Sara and Stephen. Waidlich lives in the village of Millers Falls in Montague, about 30 miles north of Williston, with his wife, Megan Griffin Waidlich ’05, and their 2-year-old daughter, Adelaide, in a house they built on his family’s farm. As they departed Newark and flew the Boeing 737 to Tulsa, and then Atlanta, the stories continued. “We had a very fun trip,” said Waidlich. It turns out both played hockey and had taken classes with some of the same teachers, despite graduating 20 years apart. “It was great reminiscing about everything we used to do at Williston.”


FALL 2021 EVENTS

After many months of socially distant and virtual gatherings, we stuck our toes in the water of meeting IRL (in real life) this summer and fall. See the resulting smiles, below! August 31 | Yard Goats game at Dunkin’ Donuts Park in Hartford

From left: Archer Bryant ’68 (right) and Jeanne Bryant; Jane Covell Keeney ’70 and Norm Keeney; Tiffany Cutting Madru ’02 with Talon and Tatum; Connie Fleet Powell ’95 and John Daley; Jane Zennario, Steven Bischoff ’76, and Wesley Bischoff September 10–26 | Pints + Pancakes

From left: Dana Richdale ’76, Ivana Kurian ’94, Joani Montgomery Mihalakos ’61, and Jeanne Hyland ’71

September 24–25 | Head’s Visiting Council Annual Summit

From left: Meaghan Sullivan ’01, Jo-Ann Wright Davis ’76, PJ Kuyper ’85 (facing away), and Michael Hirsch ’73; right photo, from left: Shaun Chapman ’98, Olivia Moses Clough ’09

72 WILLISTON NORTHAMPTON SCHOOL

October 20 | Virtual Meet the Deans

Dean of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging Nikki Chambers and Dean of Faculty Corinne Fogg ’99


September 21 | Wildcat Weekend 2021

Luncheon at the Go Fish Restaurant in Mystic, Conn. From left: Phil Fisher ’59, Charlie Fairbrother ’63, Bill Harmon ’57, Alan Case ’59, John Curtiss ’59, Charlie DeRose ’59, Sue Curtiss, John Harper ’59, Fred Allardyce ’59, Chet Andrews ’49. Not pictured: Marilyn Case and Susan Fisher

November 4 | Finding Your Superpower

Virtual presentation by Sarah Williams Carlan ’92

November 30 | Rewiring Our Mentality of Opportunity

Virtual presentation by Dana Gangel Corey ’78

October 11 | ’70 and ’71 Reunion and Dorm Dedications

NSFG class of ’71, from left: Martha Farrell Goodridge, Jondelle Jenkins, and Sally Parsons Conant. Williston Academy class of ’71: Brad Davis and John Sullivan. WA class of ’70: front row, from left: Luca Bencini-Tibo, Rick Teller, Greg Creedon, Warner Babcock, John Conant; second row: Frank Zarkowsky, Skip Goodridge, Joe Rigali, Bill Czelusniak, Chris Osgood, Peter Urquhart, Tom Andrew, Gerry Costello, and Alan Miller October 11 | Williston Academy Class of 1970

Swimming and Diving Athletic Hall of Fame inductees Warner Babcock ’70, John Conant ’70, and Brad Davis ’71 Joe Rigali ’70 Williston Academy 1970 Reunion Committee members cut the ribbon at the dedication to Memorial Hall Terrace. From left: Warner Babcock, Randy York, Rick Teller, Chris Osgood, George Smithy, and Luca Bencini-Tibo At left: Joe Wold ’06, Tucker, Chelsey Cutting Wold ’07, and Wells FALL 2021 BULLETIN 73


THE CAMPAIGN FOR OUR COMMUNITY BEGINS WITH YOU. THE WILLISTON NORTHAMPTON FUND is the top priority and cornerstone of Williston Builds: The Campaign for Our Community.

WILLISTON BUILDS Your gift to the Williston Northampton Fund IS a gift to Williston Builds: The Campaign for Our Community.

Collectively, gifts to the Williston Northampton Fund ensure students have access to a variety of opportunities that create a full and enriching experience.

Piece by piece, together we build a strong foundation for our students and faculty through support of academics; financial aid; arts; athletics; and diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB).

Make your gift to the Williston Northampton Fund today and be a part of building a stronger community together. WILLISTON.COM/CAMPAIGN


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SAVE THE DATE June 10–12, 2022

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REUNION 2022 LIVE AND IN PERSON

Join classmates, friends, and current and former faculty under the big tent for a fun and unforgettable weekend!


TOGETHER WE CAN BUILD WILLISTON’S FUTURE After a decade of momentum, Williston Northampton is launching a bold $70 million campaign. Focused on our community and grounded in our values, Williston Builds doubles down in support of our remarkable people. Join us.

To learn more, visit williston.com/campaign


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