B U L L E T I N - The Taft School


B U L L E T I N - The Taft School


S U M M E R 2 0 0 6


Summer 2006

Volume 76 Number 4

Bulletin Staff

Interim Director of Development

Bonnie Welch


Julie Reiff

Alumni Notes

Linda Beyus


Good Design, LLC



Nina Maynard

Mail letters to:

Julie Reiff, Editor

Taft Bulletin

The Taft School

Watertown, CT 06795-2100 U.S.A.


Send alumni news to:

Linda Beyus

Alumni Office

The Taft School

Watertown, CT 06795-2100 U.S.A.


Deadlines for Alumni Notes:

Fall–August 30

Winter–November 15

Spring–February 15

Summer–May 30

Send address corrections to:

Sally Membrino

Alumni Records

The Taft School

Watertown, CT 06795-2100 U.S.A.




The Taft Bulletin (ISSN 0148-0855) is

published quarterly, in February,

May, August, and November, by

The Taft School, 110 Woodbury

Road, Watertown, CT 06795-

2100, and is distributed free

of charge to alumni, parents,

grandparents, and friends of the

school. All rights reserved.

This magazine is printed on

recycled paper.



Reunion 2006:

Bourbon Street Comes to Taft:.............. 20

By Ryan Nerz ’92

Senior Moments..................................... 28

Senior Projects allow students the opportunity to create their

own learning experiences one more culminating time at Taft.

By Chris Torino

When the Journey Is Worth the Risks.... 34

Excerpts from the 116th Commencement Exercises

By Headmaster William R. MacMullen ’78 and Academic

Dean Debora Phipps P’05,’06


The Third Goodbye................................ 42

On his third trip to the Middle East in as many years, Marine

Lt. Col. Oliver Spencer ’85 faces the longest deployment of

his career—nine to twelve months away from home.

By Brady Dennis



Letters.................................................... 2

Alumni Spotlight.................................... 3

Around the Pond................................... 8

Sport...................................................... 14

Spring Season Wrap-Up by Steve Palmer

Annual Fund Report............................... 18

From the Archives.................................. 46

The letters and poems of Maynard Mack ’27

on the cover: Walking the gauntlet: Seniors process

through the faculty into Centennial Quadrangle for the

school’s 116th Commencement Exercises. Bob Falcetti

Taft on the Web

Find a friend’s address or look

up back issues of the Bulletin at


For more campus news and events,

including admissions information,

visit www.TaftSchool.org

What happened at this

afternoon’s game?

Visit www.TaftSports.com

j Moonrise over Walnut Hill

Roger Kirkpatrick ’06

Don’t forget you can shop online

at www.TaftStore.com

800-995-8238 or 860-945-7736


. Residents of the

Senior Girls Dorm

(SGD) pose for a

yearbook photo on

the patio in 1981.

Note the Lanz


Leslie Manning Archives

From the Editor

In my 18 years at Taft there have been lots

of changes, to schedules, to traditions,

and especially to the campus. I have been

here long enough now to watch some

things come full circle, as when Assistant

Headmaster Rusty Davis announced this

spring that for the

coming school year the Upper School

Boys Dorm would house girls—again.

It was news to many residents of

“the Rock,” as it is now known, that girls

had ever lived in their dorm. In fact, girls

occupied that collection of 22 single

rooms from the late ’70s until the

opening of Centennial in 1989.

The dorm’s small size makes it

the perfect “swing” building to

match incoming numbers of

boys and girls.

So, will there be more girls on

campus this fall? No, the numbers

are similar to last year: 292

boys and 280 girls, although

there are more girls in the upper

school. As a result, boys will

live in ISP (Mr. Taft’s former

quarters at the end of the dining

hall) and upper school girls

will move into “the Rock,”

which is larger.

Although most dorms

have nicknames, few of the

residential groups do. So,

Davis wonders, will these

girls decide to call themselves

Rockettes? Only time

will tell.

Memories of Mayer

Thank you for the wonderful profile of Tim

Mayer ’62 in the spring issue of the Bulletin.

—Geoff Sloan ’62

The article “The Mysterious Tim Mayer”

was very good. It’s right on the mark. The

only things I’d add would be that Tim was

the funniest man alive and that people who

knew him still remember the intensity and

vital quality of the experience.

—Henry Lanier ’61

In that photo…

I have taken a magnifying glass to the picture

(page 2 of the winter issue). I am pretty

sure that the guy in the back to the left of

Bill Fonville ’56 is Hugo Swan ’57. Swan

also said he remembers meeting Fonville on

that bus to Taft!

—Chris Davenport ’56

Love it? Hate it?

Read it? Tell us!

We’d love to hear what you think about

the stories in this Bulletin. We may edit

your letters for length, clarity, and content,

but please write!

Julie Reiff, editor

Taft Bulletin

110 Woodbury Road

Watertown, CT 06795-2100



Taft Bulletin Summer 2006


m Citation of Merit recipient Sam Pryor ’46, center, with his son Sam ’73 and wife

Lindsey and their children Jack and Toni ’07 on Alumni Weekend. Bob Falcetti

Pryor Awarded Citation of Merit

When the Citation of Merit Committee

met in February to consider candidates

for this year’s award, Samuel F. Pryor

III ’46 was in Pakistan, at the site of

the recent earthquake, as chairman of

the World Rehabilitation Fund, whose

mission is to train doctors and technicians

in the distribution of artificial

limbs and is especially active in wartorn

areas. A former Marine, Pryor has

testified in Congress on behalf of the

disabled around the world.

A lawyer by trade, Pryor spent

40 years with the well-known firm

Davis, Polk, and Wardwell, where

he continues as senior counsel, but

the former head monitor still found

time to champion the causes he cared

most about. His outstanding record

for conservation has been recognized

by the Appalachian Mountain Club

and the Audubon Society. An experienced

mountain climber and native

New Yorker, he serves as commissioner

and co-president of the Palisades

Interstate Park Commission, chair of

the Westchester Land Trust, honorary

co-chair of the Highlands Coalition,

chair of the Open Space Acquisition

Committee of Bedford, New York, and

director of the Land Trust Alliance.

“A man of truth and lord of your

Citation of Merit Nominations

The Citation of Merit, created

in 1960, is awarded annually on

Alumni Day to that alumnus/a whose

lifework, best typifies the motto of

the school, Not to be ministered

unto but to minister. The award

recognizes broader humanitarian

efforts—something above and

beyond the ordinary demands of

life or of one’s chosen occupation.

Ideally, recipients are eminently

successful in their chosen fields and

at the same time go beyond the call

of duty in serving humanity.

The Taft Alumni Citation of

Merit Committee reviews the

careers and accomplishments of

alumni to determine who might be

candidates for the school’s highest

award. To nominate someone for

the Citation of Merit, please e-mail


own actions,” the citation reads, “you

have been steadfast in your vision….

You continue to dedicate yourself to

making the world a better place, without

any expectation of gratitude or

personal benefit, serving others because

that alone is its own reward.”

Read the full citation online at http://



Taft Bulletin Summer 2006


Yang Elected Alumni Trustee

Yi-ming Yang ’87 arrived at Taft in 1986

for his senior year as the school’s first

international exchange student from

mainland China, thanks to Director

of Admissions Ferdie Wandelt’s involvement

with ASSIST (American

Secondary Schools for International

Students and Teachers).

After returning to China in 1987,

Yi-ming enrolled in Peking Union

Medical College in Beijing, serving as

class president during his three years

of premed studies at Peking University,

Yi-ming came back to the United

States in 1993 as an exchange student to

University of California San Francisco

Medical School, where he worked on

the HIV/AIDS ward and the cardiology

consult rotation for three months

at San Francisco General Hospital. He

later transferred to Columbia University

College of Physicians and Surgeons in

New York City, where he obtained his

M.D. degree. He completed his internal

medicine residency and a cardiology

fellowship at Columbia Presbyterian

“Yi-ming Yang ’87 arrived at Taft in 1986 for his senior year as the school’s

first international exchange student from mainland China.”

m Sue and Yi-ming Yang ’87, who was

elected to a four-year term on the school’s

Board of Trustees. Bob Falcetti

and witnessed the tumultuous political

changes in China triggered by the

student movement on that campus

in 1989 and the events surrounding

Tiananmen Square. He was elected

vice president of the student union in

1991 and led his school to a successful

bid for a research project studying

the public-health impact of rural water

sanitation sponsored by the Chinese

Ministry of Health in 1992, the only

such project granted to medical students

in the ministry’s history.

Medical Center. He then underwent

interventional cardiology training at

Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City

and is now an attending interventional

cardiologist in their Department of

Interventional Cardiac and Vascular

Services. He lives with his wife, Sue, in

New York City and volunteers at the

Charles B. Wang Chinatown Health

Clinic. He also serves on the Board of

Directors for ASSIST, where he is instrumental

in helping the organization

to re-enter China after a 17-year hiatus.

Moorhead Chairs Board

m New board chair

Rod Moorhead ’62 has

served for 15 years as

a trustee of the school.

Michael Kodas

First elected to the school’s board in 1991 as an

alumni trustee, Rodman W. Moorhead III ’62

stayed on after the completion of his four-year

term, becoming a corporate trustee and eventually

the treasurer. He now succeeds Will Miller

’74 as board chair.

“Rod is a natural choice as board chair, and

there are few who have served the school so loyally

and well over the years,” says Headmaster Willy

MacMullen ’78. “As a graduate and parent (Rod

’97, Clay ’98), he knows the magic and mission of

this school; and as a trustee of many years (as well as

former chair of the Finance Committee, he brings

incredible wisdom, passion and enthusiasm.”

Moorhead is a senior adviser and a member

of the Operating Committee at Warburg

Pincus. Prior to joining the firm in 1973, he

was with Rosenthal & Company. He is a director

of Chancellor Beacon Academies, Coventry

Health Care, ElderTrust, 4GL School Solutions,

Scientific Learning Corporation, and Transkaryotic

Therapies, Inc. He graduated magna cum laude

from Harvard College with a degree in economics

and earned his M.B.A. from Harvard Business

School. In addition to his work for Taft, he is a

member of the Board of Overseers’ Committee on

University Resources at Harvard College, a director

of the Stroud Water Research Center, and a

trustee of the Brandywine Conservancy and the

Cheshire Hunt Conservancy.

Taft Bulletin Summer 2006


A Legacy of Linens

When Jane Scott Offutt Hodges ’87

was engaged to be married, she looked

enthusiastically for trousseau items to

monogram with her new initials. A

Kentucky native, she was disappointed

not to find any near her new home in

New Orleans, despite the fact the city

is a well-known resource for Old World

things. She broadened her search but

discovered that beautiful linens with

high quality monograms had become

“seemingly extinct.”

Seeing a niche in the marketplace,

she founded Leontine Linens. Linens are

very personal, explains Hodges. “What

could be more personal than what you

wrap your baby in? Our products are

heirloom quality, but they are also meant

to be lived with and enjoyed—and then

thrown in the washing machine.”

Hodges started the company out

of a back bedroom in her home. The

company began to take off after she met

with a decorator in New York who was

intrigued by the concept and the quality

of her products. At that time she realized

there was a national market as well.

“I finally moved my office out of the

house when I felt I could separate work

from the rest of my life.”

But the separation wasn’t complete,

as her husband Philip soon joined the

company. “I am the products person,

and he is the numbers person,” she

says. “Having your own business is a

huge commitment. If you don’t have a

partner who is willing to give as much

as you are to your family, then you are

in trouble.”

Having him on board allowed the

company to expand and eventually purchase

their Kentucky-based manufacturing

studio. But other troubles came last

fall with Hurricane Katrina. They were

running the marketing and operations

out of their new shop in New Orleans,

which opened just prior to the storm.

“We lived in New Orleans because

we loved it,” says Hodges, whose grandmother

was a New Orleanian, “but the

evacuation allowed us to focus on the

manufacturing end of the business in

Kentucky. She says that settling back

into the family homestead has been

their silver lining. “It is a wonderful

place to raise our children,” she adds.

In fact, when they were watching the

TV one evening last fall, the mayor of

New Orleans came on and mentioned

the city would be back in action in five

to eight years. Her daughter Talley sat

there counting out loud and declared,

“Mommy, I will be at Taft by then!”

Hodges has no doubt that New

Orleans’ recovery will be much quicker

than that. Their shop has been up and

running since October, and she says,

will remain open.

The company is now celebrating

its 10th year, and Leontine Linens have

appeared in House Beautiful, House

& Garden, New Orleans Magazine,

Elle Décor, Southern Accents, InStyle,

Washington Post, Martha Stewart

Living, Better Homes & Gardens, and

Traditional Home. For more information,

visit www.leontinelinens.com.

b Jane Scott Offutt Hodges ’87 displays

Leontine’s heirloom linens at her shop in

New Orleans. Doug Keese

Taft Bulletin Summer 2006


Korea Remembered

It’s 1950, and United Nations forces have

crossed the 38th Parallel, marking the beginning

of the invasion of North Korea.

Producer Henry Simonds ’93 looks back

at what many have called the forgotten

war in his first feature film, released on

DVD this year. The Forgotten, written and

directed by Vincente Stasolla, won the

Director’s Choice award for best feature at

the Sedona International Film Festival.

The 90-minute film follows an

idealistic army corporal thrust into the

command of a disintegrating tank platoon

hopelessly lost behind enemy lines.

Death, dissension, and a wounded North

Korean prisoner of war test his will as he

struggles to maintain his faith. His only

escape from the suffering and frustration

of war are the memories of his wife.

To view the movie trailer, purchase

the DVD, or visit the “War Room” online

forum, visit www.theforgottenthemovie.com.

Ten percent of each DVD

sale will go to veterans charities.

Simonds is now producing

a documentary

on football coach Bobby

Bowden and the Florida

State Seminoles, working

with director George Butler

(who also directed the new

IMAX film Roving Mars).

Simonds co-wrote and edited

the short documentaries

Women in the Wings:

Pittsburgh’s World War II

Workers and Holocaust Story: A

Look in the Eyes of Resistance,

which received the CINE

Eagle and CINE Golden

Eagle awards respectively. He

worked as editor, archivist,

and co-producer on the awardwinning

documentary on legendary

Pittsburgh photographer

Teenie Harris. He founded

Headwater Films and Media

in 2001.

m Producer Henry Simonds ’93

recently released his Korean War

film, The Forgotten, on DVD.

m Dan Santanello ’77 and his children Kristin, Steven, and Daniel, who supported his

10th Boston Marathon fundraising run for Massachusetts General’s pediatric oncology

program in April

Running for Their Lives

Dan Santanello ’77 ran his 10th

Boston Marathon to raise money for

Massachusetts General Hospital’s pediatric

oncology and the Kids with Cancer

clinic. His daughter Kristin, who will

be a high-school sophomore, is a leukemia

survivor thanks to this hospital’s

care—she’s doing well and is a star field

hockey player. Regarding the grueling

demands of the marathon, Dan told

the Daily Item [Lynn, Massachusetts],

“I can suck it up for one day. Whatever

I go through for one day, it’s nothing

like what these kids have to go through

on a daily basis.” A Swampscott selectman,

Dan raised more than $300,000

for the clinic so far. The Massachusetts

General team he helped start a decade

ago has grown from 10 runners to

nearly 100 and raised $3 million.

Taft Bulletin Summer 2006

Roosevelt and the Holocaust

Robert Beir ’36 with Brian Josepher

Barricade Books, 2006

There is a great debate among historians

regarding Franklin Delano

Roosevelt’s actions during the

Holocaust: was FDR the hero who

defeated the Germans, or did he turn

a blind eye to the plight of the Jews as

long as he possibly could? In Roosevelt

and the Holocaust, Robert Beir gets

to the truth behind Roosevelt’s role.

Beir has a unique perspective: he is


a Jew who was raised during the extreme

anti-Semitism of the Great

Depression. Having witnessed the

outcome of the “New Deal” firsthand,

Beir became a Roosevelt

scholar. Later, when confronted by

a student about Roosevelt’s role in

the Holocaust, Beir began to research

the subject intensely. He ultimately

concludes that Roosevelt acted neither

out of anti-Semitism nor moral

outrage over the persecution of the

Jews; rather, he acted in a way he felt

would best navigate the United States

through this tumultuous time.

Beir “grapples with familiar accusations

waged posthumously against

FDR,” writes Publishers Weekly, “intertwining

Roosevelt’s career with memories

from his own long life.”

In Print

Forbidden Faith: The Gnostic Legacy from the Gospels to the Da Vinci Code

Richard Smoley ’74

HarperSanFrancisco, 2006

Throughout most of Christian history,

Gnosticism was the “forbidden faith,”

and such condemnation by the official

Church might actually have served to

endow the movement with glamour.

But that explanation goes only so far.

For the Gnostics to have such lasting appeal,

it seems logical that they must offer

solutions to some problems, solutions

overlooked by mainstream religion.

Forbidden Faith provides the enduring

story and continuing legacy of those errant

faithful who have had direct experiences

of the divine that can’t be explained

by the official beliefs of the Church.

Smoley, an expert in esoteric

Christianity, traces the Gnostic legacy

from its ancient roots in the Gospel of

Thomas, discovered in Egypt; early second-century

Gnostic communities of the

Roman Empire; and the Manichaeans of

Central Asia. He tracks how the Gnostic

impulse was publicly repressed but survived

underground in various forms

of Christianity, surfacing again in the

Middle Ages with the Cathars, a mysterious

group of heretics who inspired the

medieval tradition of courtly love but

were then wiped out by the Inquisition.

Library Journal called Forbidden

Faith “a compelling and accessible argument”

and “a thoroughly enjoyable read.”

Publishers Weekly writes, “Smoley is at once

thoughtful and thought-provoking.... He

paves a wide, clear path to understanding

it, accessible even to the weekend seeker.”

Smoley is also the author of

Hidden Wisdom: A Guide to the Western

Inner Traditions (1999) with Jay Kinney.

The Unexpected George Washington: His Private Life

Harlow Giles Unger ’49

Wiley, 2006

A first-ever close-up of the all-too-human

soul behind the stern presidential portraits—his

loves, his passions, his genius.

Leaving the well-known public man to

other biographers, historian Harlow Giles

Unger reveals the little-known private

Washington, who laughed, loved, and

lived life to the full. He adored women,

children, hunting, gambling, fine wines,

and luxury. His social graces left ladies

swooning as he spun them around the

ballroom; his funny tales sent children

convulsing with giggles as he bounced

them on his knee. More than Franklin,

more than Jefferson, Washington was a

genius scientist, inventor, architect, scholar,

and entrepreneur. Drawing on letters,

diaries, and neglected primary sources,

The Unexpected George Washington reveals

a passionate lover, husband, father,

grandfather, and friend. Unger is the author

of the award-winning Lafayette, John

Hancock, Noah Webster, and, most recently,

The French War Against America.

The Order of the Golden Fleece at Chapel Hill, 1904–2004:

America’s First Honor Society for University Leaders

G. Nicholas Herman ’73

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2005

“After 100 years of secrecy, the

Order of the Golden Fleece decided

to reveal some of the mysteries behind

its involvement in shaping the

University [of North Carolina],”

writes the Daily Tar Heel. A new book

by Nick Herman, who spent more

than two years researching the order’s

history to help celebrate its 100th anniversary,

tells many stories of how

members, called Argonauts, worked

behind the scenes for the welfare of

the university.

In spring 1904, 11 Carolina

students who had distinguished

themselves in various branches of

campus life founded the Fleece as a

senior class society that would “subordinate

local interests to the welfare

of the university and join together in

closer harmony the different branches

of (campus) life.”

The Golden Fleece has been

involved in addressing issues such as

hazing, the student Honor Code, the

Speaker Ban Law of the 1960s, and race

relations explains the Daily Tar Heel.

“Things were going on all the

time,” said Herman, a 1977 Carolina

graduate, law professor at N.C. Central

University, and an Argonaut himself.

The Golden Fleece has tried to address

every important issue of the day.”

Taft Bulletin Summer 2006


Orphanage Outreach

m Kara Iacovello ’07,

who volunteered to

spend part of her

Spring Break helping at

Orphanage Outreach

in the Dominican

Republic, and her new

friend Maria

Spanish teacher Roberto D’Erizans

again led a group of volunteers to the

Dominican Republic over Spring Break

to work with a program called Orphanage

Outreach [Taft Bulletin, Summer 2005].

This spring, however, was lower middler

Dan Lima’s first trip there. “These were

some of the happiest and most grateful

kids I had ever come to meet,” says Dan.

Kara Iacovello ’07 agrees. “The children

changed me more than we changed

them. I never expected to feel this much

of a difference, or to have been rewarded

this much.” For more information, visit


Taft Bulletin Summer 2006


m Esther Yoo ’06 and Justin Williams from Kent School were awarded top prizes for

two-dimensional and three-dimensional works respectively. Jon Guiffre

The Jury’s In

Senior Esther Yoo was awarded “Best

Work in a Two-Dimensional Medium”

for her Self-Portrait, Oil, at the Juried

High School Art Exhibition at Taft this

spring. The competition is held biennially

in honor of artist and teacher Mark

Potter ’48. This year, students from 18

schools submitted 91 works. Kit Thayer

’07, Amy Jang ’08, and seniors Claire

Longfield and Jeff Au also had works

chosen for the show.

Three jurors—Barbara Grossman,

Cora Marshall, and Ken Rush ’67—made

the selections for the final exhibition.

Grossman is a painter and teaches at Yale

University, Western Carolina University,

National Academy School of Fine Art, and

Brandeis University. Marshall is an artist

and associate professor of art at Central

Connecticut State University. Rush, who

studied at Taft under Potter, is a painter

as well as a visual arts teacher at Packer

Collegiate Institute. His work is represented

by Katharina Rich Perlow Gallery.

The jurors worked for more than

three hours, looking and deliberating and

arguing about their choices,” explained

the gallery director and art teacher Loueta

Chickadaunce, who organized the event.

“When I checked on them at 11:30, they

refused lunch and kept on working!”

The March-April exhibition was

made possible by a grant from the Andrew

R. Heminway ’47 Endowment Fund.

b The student

step dancing

group Anonymous

puts on a spring

show in Bingham


Zuwena Plata ’09,

Ariana Maloney

’07, Shanika

Audige ’08, and

Bisi Thompson ’09

Peter Frew ’75

Raptor Project

Is a Hoot

Snowman, aka Hedwig, may have

thought he was back at Hogwarts

as he flew over the seats in Bingham

Auditorium during a Morning Meeting.

Students were also impressed with the

falcon who played Mordecai in The

Royal Tenenbaums. These two movie

stars were among the 20 birds of prey

that visited the school in May with

the Raptor Project.

Project founder Jonathan Wood

is a master falconer and wildlife rehabilitator

with 35 years of handling

experience. Along with his wife,

Susan, he has assembled a traveling

collection of feathered predators that

is unrivaled in scope and size anywhere

in the world.

From owls and fledgling falcons

to majestic eagles with six- to eightfoot

wingspans, many of the birds in

the Raptor Project have permanent

handicaps that prevent them from

being reintroduced to the wild. Their

visit—sponsored by the Paduano

Lecture Series in Philosophy and

Ethics—was designed to tie into the

year’s theme of the relationship between

the human community and

the animal world. “The performance

by Jonathan Wood and his raptors

was highly informative and entertaining,”

adds Chaplain Michael

Spencer, “and most of all gave us

an up-close-and-personal encounter

with these majestic birds.”

. Assistant IT Director Jana Draper

holds an Eurasian eagle owl, one of the

many visitors from the Raptor Project.

Simone Foxman ’07

Taft Bulletin Summer 2006


m It felt a little like the sixties again in the lower dining hall as students donned tie dye

and danced to the music of the band John Brown’s Body in April. For more information,

visit www.johnbrownsbody.com. Peter Frew ’75

Summer Reading

The Kite Runner

by Khaled Hosseini

An epic tale of fathers and sons,

of friendship and betrayal, that

takes us from the final days of

Afghanistan’s monarchy to the

atrocities of the present.

College Choices


Boston College proved to be the

top choice for members of the

Class of ’06, with eight seniors.


Other popular schools this year:

• Middlebury College and

Boston University, 6 each

• Colorado College and

Georgetown University, 5 each

• Four each to Bucknell, Cornell,

Davidson, Hamilton, NYU,

Northwestern, and UPenn

Dr. Michael Thompson spoke in

Morning Meeting about the work that

led to his book The Pressured Child,

focusing on the pressures students now

face in the college admissions process.

Thompson is a consultant, author, and

psychologist specializing in children

and families. He and his co-author,

Dan Kindlon, wrote the New York

Times best-selling book, Raising Cain:

Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys,

among others. Thompson has appeared

on The Today Show, The Oprah Winfrey

Show, ABC 20/20, 60 Minutes, The Early

Show, and Good Morning America.

Peter Frew ’75


On Stage



Gordon Atkins

of Somers,

New York, has

been elected

head monitor

for the coming

school year.

Other school

monitors for the Class of ’07 are

McKay Claghorn, Holly Donaldson,

Michael Furman, Johanna Isaac, Oat

Naviroj, Stephanie Schonbrun, Steve

Sclar, Grace Scott, Penelope Smith,

Colleen Sweeney, and Hank Wyman.


Admissions Director Ferdie Wandelt

’66 and science teacher Jim Mooney

have been granted sabbatical leaves

for the coming school year.

m The campus was alive with theater this spring. Among the numerous performances

was Rick Doyle’s production of To Kill a Mockingbird in the Woodward Black Box

Theater, featuring Michael Moreau ’09 (Jem Finch), Kate Sutton ’08 (Scout Finch),

Shanika Audige ’08 (Calpurnia), and Michael Furman ’07 (Atticus Finch). Peter Frew ’75

Peter Frew ’75 has been named

director of admissions, and Suzanne

Campbell will succeed him as

associate director of admissions.

m Helena Fifer’s Advanced Acting class staged a production of Neil Simon’s Rumors

in the Woodward Black Box Theater in May. From left, Brendan Maaghul ’08, Helena

Smith ’06, Chad Thomas ’06, Grace Scott ’07, Stephanie Menke ’08, Ben Grinberg

’07, and Skye Priestley ’06. Jon Guiffre

Bonnie Welch

will serve as

interim director

of development.

Jack Kenerson

’82 was named

senior class dean.

Chris Torino is

the new dean of


Al Reiff ’80

now holds the

Green Chair in


All Faces photos by Bob Falcetti

Taft Bulletin Summer 2006 11


Departing Faculty

j Senior Class Dean Mike

Townsend and Dean of Faculty

Penny Townsend. Penny is the

new head of the Pennington

School in New Jersey.

j Director of Development

John Ormiston

j Multicultural Affairs Director

Felecia Washington Williams ’84

j French teacher Molly MacLean

j History teacher Chad Faber

j Science teachers Greg Emerson

and Peter Hanby

j Teaching fellows Erick Dalton

’00, Lydia Finley, Kaitlin

Harvie, Cheryl Setchell

New Faculty

j Thomas Antonucci, history

j Dana Carbone, science*

j Jeremy Clifford, mathematics

j Casey D’Annolfo, English fellow

j Shannon Lenz, science

j F. Michael McAloon, science

j Aurélie Miller, French fellow

j W.T. Miller, French*

j Laura Monti ’89, science

j Robert O’Connor, science

j Greg Ricks, multicultural affairs

j Edie Traina, history

j Mark Traina, history/admissions*

j Laurel Waterhouse, history fellow

Singing in Spain

m The 40-member Taft Collegium Musicum stages an impromptu concert in the

Alhambra on day four of their 12-day tour of Spain in March. “There were numerous

moments like this,” says director Bruce Fifer. “This particular spot, however, had

absolutely perfect acoustics for the person standing in the middle—me!” The group

later performed to a packed audience of about 750 people in the Basilica de Nuestra

Señora de las Angustias in Granada, receiving a standing ovation. The group also visited

Toledo, Seville, Cordova, Segovia, and Madrid. Peter Frew ’75

*Returning former faculty member. More

information will follow in the fall issue.

A.P. Grading

Just as students are finishing their

exams, faculty head out across the

country to grade exams for the

College Board. Advanced Placement

test graders this year are as follows:

j Sara Beasley, English Language

and Composition

j Brian Denyer, French Language

j David Hostage, Chemistry

(test development committee)

j Jim Lehner, Environmental Science

j Al Reiff ’80, Statistics (table leader)

j Rachael Ryan, U.S. Government

j Pilar Santos, Spanish Language

j T.J. Thompson, Music Theory

m The Taft Jazz Ensemble plays “Freddie Freeloader” by Miles Davis at a small

group concert this spring. Querino Maia ’09-piano, Risa Sakuma ’07-trumpet,

John Riggins ’08-alto, Bob Vulfov ’09-tenor, Seth Tinkle ’09-bass, and Joseph

Secor-Taddia ’07-drums. Peter Frew ’75

12 Taft Bulletin Summer 2006


In Brief

Model Congress

The school’s Model Congress contingent

had an extremely successful trip in

Cambridge, Massachusetts, in March.

“All the kids really learned a lot about

government and politics,” said adviser

Rachael Ryan, “and they had a great

time.” Nate Breg ’08 won the award

for excellence for his position on the

historical National Security Committee

from 1992 that dealt with the crisis in

Somalia and Rwanda. Nate also served

as the Under secretary of State. “Not

an easy task,” adds Ryan. “He began to

prepare for the trip in the fall and was

by far and away the most prepared participant

I have ever seen. He represented

Taft extremely well.”


Dr. Lainey Richardson spoke at

Morning Meeting in honor of the Day

of Silence regarding gay/lesbian issues

and awareness, emphasizing that one’s

sexual orientation is but a small part of

the whole person (which is why she prefers

the term gay to homosexual since the

latter emphasizes sexuality too much).

Offhand hurtful comments directed toward

GLBT youth, she stressed, really

should not be tolerated. “She was very

entertaining, funny, and accessible,”

adds Diversity Committee co-chair Jon

Willson ’82. “Those are needed messages.”

Her visit was organized by Ashley

Barronnette ’07 through the Diversity

Committee and SHOUT.

The Bad Bard

Award-winning director Hank Rogerson

came to campus to share his film

Shakespeare Behind Bars (which was accepted

for the Sundance Film Festival). A

documentary about his experience producing

Shakespeare’s The Tempest at a state

penitentiary, the film is the stories of the

inmates who play the roles and how the

experience changed their lives During his

visit, sponsored by the Oppenheim Visiting

Writers Fund, Rogerson also visited classes

and lunched with interested students.

Day Out

The acting company from the Felsted

School in England performed Willy

Russell’s Our Day Out in April. First

seen on BBC2 in 1977, Our Day Out is

sad, humorous, and true to life as it tells

the story of a group of underprivileged

schoolchildren who are taken on an outing

by their teachers to a zoo, a castle, and

a beach. A joyous celebration of the joys

and agonies of growing up, the play also

marks the sharp contrast to their depressing

present and future, for a day out is as

much as these children can expect.

JETS results

Teams of eight students worked together

to solve difficult problems designed to

test engineering aptitude in the nationwide

JETS/TEAMS competition. Two

varsity and two JV teams went to the

regional competition at the University

of New Haven. They were among 1,338

teams spread over 80 locations across

the country. “Our Varsity A team and

JV A team each earned second place in

their respective divisions on Part I of the

test,” reports adviser Jim Mooney. Part

II of the test was forwarded to the national

competition, in which the Varsity

A team placed fifth and the JV A team

placed seventh.

Science Fair

Upper middler Lily Shen’s Independent

Study Project, “An Experiment Showing

the Necessity of Battery Recycling Using

Brine Shrimp,” won the second honors

at the Connecticut Science Fair, and

the Audubon CT/Arch Chemicals, Inc.,

Environmental Awards. This is the first

time a Taft student ever took part in CT

Science Fair. Her project also garnered her

the David Edward Goldberg Memorial

Award for Independent Work at Taft.

More on Math

Lily Shen ’07 and Khoa Do Ba ’07 qualified

to participate in the USA Math

Olympiad. (Khoa also qualified last

year, the first since Jack Langsdorf ’93.)

Sixteen of 20 Taft students qualified for

the American Invitational Mathematics

Exam (the most ever). Taft finished as the

top private school in Connecticut (2nd

in the state overall) in the New England

Mathematics League. The team finished

seventh in New England (best showing

ever), second only to Andover among

private schools. Shen was one of 11 students

with a perfect season score. Taft also

tied for third nationally in the category of

high schools with fewer than 1,200 students

in the Whitewater Purple Comet

Online Contest, hosted by the University

of Wisconsin. “It’s a neat, 90-minute contest

with some very good problems,” says

team adviser Ted Heavenrich. Roughly

1,000 schools participated.

Helping in Hartford

Seventeen students visited an inner-city

elementary school in Hartford to participate

in Mayor Eddie Perez’s Early College

Awareness Program. The program is run

by the Mayor’s Office in conjunction with

the Foundation for Excellent Schools, an

organization run by Rick Dalton, father

of Erick ’00 and Sarah ’05; Heather

Lambert ’97 coordinates the program.

This marks the second year in which Taft

students participated.

Taft Bulletin Summer 2006 13


Spring Season Wrap-Up by Steve Palmer

m The girls’ first boat posted a 7–4 record

this season.

Girls’ Crew 7–4

The team finished a successful season

by winning the Alumnae Cup in

the final race of the year versus strong

teams from Berkshire, Gunnery, and

E.O. Smith. Their cumulative record

left them ranked 2nd in the Founders

League and within the top ten in New

England. Perhaps their best win of the

season came early against Deerfield,

but at the Founders Regatta three boats

made it into the grand finals—an indication

of this team’s solid depth. At

the core of that depth are seven seniors

making up the most successful group of

rowers in the program’s history, including

six New England Medalists and three

Gold Medalists over the past few years:

14 Taft Bulletin Summer 2006


Alexandra Lauren, co-captain, moves on

to row at Div. I UCLA; Sarah Fierberg,

co-captain, and Founders League Award

winner; Sarah Ewing, Founders League

Award winner and top ERG scorer on

the team; Kaitlin Hardy, Kirsten Scheu,

Shannon Sisk, and Susannah Walden.

Boys’ Crew 6–6

The weather made for an uneven spring

crew season, with several regattas, including

the New Englands, cancelled due to

wind and rain. The boys’ crew earned

2nd place in their final race of the season,

the Smith Cup, defeating Berkshire and

E.O. Smith. Perhaps their best race of the

choppy spring came with a .5 second loss

to a strong Gunnery crew. Taft’s first boat

was powered by four strong seniors: captain

Reed Coston, Red Sammons, Nick

Wirth, and Frank Cheske, with Rigel

Bricken ’07 as the coxswain.

Invitational Tournament. Their finest

day came at home in defeating Kent,

Berkshire, and Suffield with a new Taft

School Record of 383 at the Watertown

Golf Club course: Reid Longley ’06

(73), Will Asmundsen ’08 (76), Brad

Roche ’07 (77), Gus Thompson ’07

(78), Alex Bermingham ’08 (79).

Thompson and Cole Ciaburri ’06 led

the team to its 4th place finish in the

Founders League Tournament, shooting

a 79 and 82 respectively, while

Longley shot the low round for the season,

a 73 at Watertown, and earned the

Galeski Golf Award for his outstanding


Girls’ Lacrosse 8–6

This was a season of close games as the

team finished in 5th place in Western

New England and 4th in the Founders

League. The key wins came over Choate

(11–8) and Deerfield (10–7), while the

team’s best games were tough losses to

Andover (9–11), Greenwich (11–15),

and Hotchkiss (10–14). Liz Nelson ’06

was named an Honorable Mention All-

American and was the leading scorer

with 57 goals, while co-captain elect

Heidi Woodworth ’07 finished with 39

goals and was a NEPSWLA All-Star.

Lexi Comstock ’06 was a Founders

Girls’ Golf 5–5–1

The girls’ golf team’s first official varsity

season included important victories over

established teams such as Miss Porter’s,

Williston, and Loomis. The team also

hosted the Independent School Girls’

Golf Classic, the New England tournament

for golf. Over 100 golfers participated

at the Watertown Golf Club

in two divisions (18 hole and 9 hole),

and Mary Walsh ’06 finished 6th in the

9-hole division. Captain Sammy Glazer

’06 was the pioneering leader of the team

and received the first Girls’ Golf Award.

Walsh and Chrissy Anderson ’06 also

received All-League recognition.

Boys’ Golf 13–4–1

This talented and incredibly deep

golf team defeated strong teams from

Deerfield and Brunswick during the

season and placed 6th at the Kingswood

c Cole Ciaburri ’06 tees off on #3 with

Gus Thompson ’07 up next.

Taft Bulletin Summer 2006 15


b Lee McKenna ’06 scores in Taft’s win

over Convent of the Sacred Heart.

’06 set a new school record for the

100-meter relay (50.95) to place 2nd

at the New England Championships,

leading the team to its 4th place finish.

At that meet, Wiater also broke

the school record for the 100 meters

(12.62) while Bodnar placed 3rd in

three other events (300 hurdles, long

jump, 400-meter relay). Bartlett (long

jump), Wiater, (100m), Chelsea Berry

’08 (triple jump) and Liz Carlos ’06

(javelin) were individual Founders

League champions.

League All-Star and leading offensive

player, while Lee McKenna ’06 played

well all season to center the defense.

Boys’ Lacrosse 6–8

This was a solid team that found

themselves on the wrong end of three

of their four overtime games. An early

7–6 OT win over Brunswick got the

season going strong, but two of the

team’s best games were heartbreakers,

a 5–6 loss to Salisbury, and a double

overtime loss to rival Hotchkiss.

Brendan Gangl ’06, the team’s leading

goal scorer, and Whit Brighton

’06 were named First Team All New

England players. Teddy Barber ’06

was an All Founders League defender,

while Charlie Townsend ’06 and

Brooks Stroud ’06 were strong at attack

and in the midfield respectively.

Co-captains-elect Patrick Milnamow

’07 and Bryan Curran ’07 will lead

a core of talented uppermids next

year, including Eric Baier, McKay

Claghorn, Brendan Letarte, Drew

MacKenzie, and Peter Northrop.

Girls’ Track 6–4

The girls’ track team came within

inches of winning their 4th Founders

League Meet title in the past five

years, placing second with 110 pts.

to Hotchkiss’ 117 pts. The team had

good balance in all the events, but the

real strength was in the sprints, where

Ashley Wiater ’06, Casey Bartlett ’06,

Ari Maloney ’07, and Taylor Bodnar

Boys’ Track 7–4

The team surprised many by pulling

off wins over Choate, Deerfield, and

Westminster on the way to a great

season. They finished with a strong

5th place finish at the New England

Championship Meet, behind individual

champions Phil Thompson ’06 in the

javelin (170'11") and Mike McCabe

’07 in the shot put (55'10.75", a new

school record). McCabe also placed 2nd

in the discus, while the jumping crew

of David Greco ’06 (5th long jump),

Chad Thomas ’06 (6th triple jump),

Afolabi Saliu ’07 (3rd long jump, 3rd

triple jump), Thompson (5th high

jump), and Thomas Baudinet (6th

high jump), scored big points for the

team. Thompson also broke his own

school record for the high jump (6'3")

this season.

Softball 1–10

The team had some solid offense all

season but was without a true starting

pitcher, which proved to be the key factor

in many games. Lauren McGowan

’08 filled in strongly for most of the

spring on the mound, while infielders

Allyson Flores ’06, Spencer Barton

’06, Arielle Palladino ’06, and outfielder

Stephanie Schonbrun ’07 provided

16 Taft Bulletin Summer 2006


much of the power at the plate. The

highlight came against rival Hotchkiss

when the Rhinos stormed back for a

12–4 win after going down 0–4 early. In

that game, senior Ally Carr moved from

the field to the mound and pitched a

great game while piling up three hits,

and Flores and Palladino made some

great plays in the field.

Baseball 8–9

The team had plenty of power at the

plate and could play with anybody

when their pitching was on. Key wins

came over Kent (13–2), T-P (12–5),

and a very strong Loomis squad (10–3)

in the best game of the season. Co-captain

Hunter Serenbetz ’06 finished the

season with a 3–2 record on the mound

and was one of the leading hitters (.345

average). Three-year starting catcher

and co-captain Tommy Piacenza ’06

came off of an injury and finished with

impressive offensive numbers (.440 avg,

3 HR, 19 RBI), and fellow senior Steve

Blomberg (.479 avg, 6HR, 25 RBI)

was the team’s leading hitter. Taft will

sorely miss this crew of seniors, along

with Peter Holland ’06, Ryan Krusko

’06, and Brian Gaulzetti ’06, who have

all played together for several years.

Girls’ Tennis 6–6

Three of the team’s six wins were by

a 4–3 score, in tough matches over

Hopkins, Westminster and, in the best

match of the season, Loomis. Senior

Annie McGillicuddy, a four-year varsity

player, was strong at #1 singles all season,

backed up by Caroline Greenberg

’07 at #2, and Nellie Beach ’07 at #3.

Diana Sands ’06, a three-year player, and

captain-elect Holly Donaldson ’07, were

perhaps the team’s most consistent spot

at #1 doubles, along with the #2 tandem

of Jo Isaac ’07 and Padget Crossman ’06,

also a three-year player.

Boys’ Tennis 15–2,

New England Semifinalists,

Founders League Champions

One of the great tennis teams for Taft, this

squad won eleven matches in a row to post

the best record in over thirty years. The

highlight for this fine season came against

rival Choate, who had a 49-match winning

streak in the league until they came

to Taft. In that 4–3 win, Tim Chambers

’07, Alex Strunz ’07, and Peter James

’07 pulled out the #4, 5, and 6 singles

matches for the win. Taft then defeated

Deerfield 4–2 in the quarterfinals of the

New England Tournament to set up their

2nd battle against Choate in the semifinals.

The match was a mirror image of

their first battle, this time with Taft coming

up just short. Captain Will Minter ’06

and Adam Donaldson ’08 were undefeated

at the #1 doubles spot for the season,

and both, along with Chambers, Strunz,

and James, won their draws at the SNETL

Tournament, where Taft finished first

among eight schools. Donaldson went on

to place 3rd at the New England singles

tournament. Captain-elect Oat Naviroj

’07 will try to fill big shoes left by Will

Minter, who has led the team at #1 singles

over the past three years.

b David Greco ’06 leaps 20’8” in the first

meet versus Choate.

Taft Bulletin Summer 2006 17

A n n u a l F u n d N e w s


a n n u a l

50th Reunion Reaches 96 Percent Participation

On behalf of the Alumni & Development

Office, I am pleased to announce that

the 2005–06 Taft Annual Fund raised

$2,974,422 in gifts and pledges. This is

a new record for the Annual Fund and

we are so very grateful to all alumni/ae,

current parents, former parents, grandparents

and friends of Taft for their generosity

and loyalty.

I am pleased to report that the alumni

raised $1,467,450 from 40 percent of

the total alumni body. Thank you to all

the Class Agents who worked so hard

to raise these funds. Special thanks and

congratulations go to Class Agent Jack

McLeod and the 50th Reunion Class

of 1956 for contributing $320,207,

to both the Annual Fund and Capital

Fund from 96 percent of the class!

It is important to recognize a few

Class Agents for the extra effort that they

have put forth this year—Jim Baker ’49,

Jerry Mitchell ’61, Randy Abood ’68, John

Sagan ’68, Brian Lincoln ’74, John Clifford

’81, Will Porteous ’90, Pete Bowden ’91,

and Ella Foshay-Rothfeld ’01.

Many thanks to Hans and Kate

Morris for their tireless efforts on

behalf of the Parents’ Fund. The

Morrises and their network of volunteers

led a terrific campaign with 93

percent of Taft parents contributing.

Jack McLeod, Jeff Paley and son Austin ’09, and Chip and Susan Spencer rally the Class

of ’56 for the Alumni Weekend parade. Bob Falcetti

I would also like to thank the

Alumni & Development Office. Taft has

built one of the strongest development

offices in the country. I would like to

particularly thank the Annual Fund staff

members Kelsey Pascoe, Amy Gorman,

and Joyce Romano who have made my

job so enjoyable and rewarding.

This year marks my final year as

Annual Fund Chair. I am pleased to

announce that Holcombe Green ’87

will be taking the reins as Annual Fund

Chair beginning July 1. Holcombe has

been on the Taft Board of Trustees for

the past six years and is already very active

in the Taft community. He is bright,

energetic and perfectly suited to engage,

rally, and inspire the Taft network of

volunteers. Good luck Holcombe!

So a final thank-you to all who

have been a part of the successes of the

2003–06 Annual Funds! I think each of

us that benefited from our days at Taft

recognize how imperative it is that we

give of our time and financial resources

in order for future generations of Taft

students and faculty to prosper. Have a

great summer!

—David F. Kirkpatrick ’89

Alumni Annual Fund Chair

18 Taft Bulletin Summer 2006

A n n u a l F u n d N e w s

2006 Class Agent Awards*

Snyder Award

Largest amount contributed by a

reunion class

Class of 1956: $134,199 Annual Fund,

$186,008 capital

Class Agent: Jack McLeod

Chairman of the Board Award

Highest percent participation from a class

50 years out or less

Class of 1956: 96%

Class Agent: Jack McLeod

McCabe Award

Largest amount contributed by a

non-reunion class

Class of 1974: $78,038

Class Agent: Brian Lincoln

Class of 1920 Award

Greatest increase in dollars from a

non-reunion class

Class of 1982: $23,614 increase

Class Agent: Chris Hunter

A First in the History of the Parents’ Fund

We are delighted to announce that the

2005–06 Parents’ Fund met and exceeded

its million dollar goal. In fact, a record-breaking

$1,190,438 was raised by

93 percent of the current parent body!

A parent body that so extensively

supports a school speaks to the conviction

that academics must remain strong,

athletics competitive, and the arts flourishing.

The ringing endorsement of the

Taft parent body has become a hallmark

of this great school and a critical factor

in enabling Taft to compete on every

level with the most highly endowed

schools in the nation.

The success of the Parents’ Fund

this year could not have happened without

the dedicated efforts of the Parents’

Committee volunteers and the hundreds

of parents who generously gave

their support. Thank you all!

Kate, Mac ’06, Lucy ’10, and Hans Morris

at Mac’s graduation in May Highpoint Pictures

—Kate and Hans Morris

Chairs of the 2005–06 and

2006–07 Parents’ Fund

The Romano Award

Greatest increase in participation from a

non-reunion class less than 50 years out

Class of 1968: 40% from 17%

Class Agents: Randy Abood and

John Sagan

Young Alumni Dollars Award

Largest amount contributed from a class

10 years out or less

Class of 1997: $18,098

Class Agent: Charlie Wardell

Young Alumni Participation Award

Highest participation from a class

10 years out or less

Class of 2005: 86%

Class Agent: Cyrus McGoldrick

The Spencer Award

Largest number of gifts from classmates

who have not given in the last five years

Class of 1991: 11

Class Agent: Pete Bowden

*Awards determined by gifts and pledges

raised as of June 30, 2006.

2005–06 Parents’


Kate & Hans Morris, Chairs

Marion & Randy Abood ’68

Jan & Eric Albert ’77

Rosanne & Steve Anderson

Colette & Dick Atkins

Ann & Douglass


Callie & Hank Brauer ’74

Vivian & Richard


Susan & Wick Chambers ’66

Gail & Dan Ciaburri

Peg & John Claghorn

Tani Conrad

Alanna & Tim Cronin

Betty & Carl Crosetto

Susie & Chip Delaporte

Nancy Demmon ’81

Karen & John Downing

Pippa & Bob Gerard

Randi & Andrew Heine

David Hillman

Kitty Herrlinger Hillman ’76

Robin Houston

Donna & Jerry Iacoviello

Leslie & Herb Ide

Karen & Paul Isaac

Pam & Michael Jackson

Linda & Bill Jacobs

Moira & Lance James

Nancy & Andrew Kirby

Meg & Stuart Kirkpatrick

Val & John Kratky

Meg & Charlie Krause

Laura & Dale Kutnick

Michael & Leslie Herrlinger

Lanahan ’73

Lorrie Lands

Karen & T.J. Letarte

Liné & Church Lewis

Diane & Chris Liotta

Lisa & Joe Lovering

Mary & Joe Mastrocola

Bob & Lisa Reid Mayer ’75

K.T. & Alan McFarland

Linda & Clem


Rose & Paul McGowan

Darina & Allan McKelvie

Lynn & Michael McKenna

Michael Minter &

Emmie Hill

Fiona & Martin


Marlene Moore

Kenny & Gordon Nelson

Paula & Carmine Paolino

Tammy & Charlie Pompea

Lindsey & Sam Pryor ’73

Adam & Mandy Quinton

Andrea Reid

Sera & Tom Reycraft

Ann & James Rickards

Rosemarie & John Riggins Sr.

Carol & Bill Sammons

Laura Childs &

Ken Saverin ’72

Lindsay & Edgar Scott

Jean & Stuart Serenbetz

John A. Slowik

Charlotte & Richard Smith

Maria & Glenn Taylor

Anne K. Thompson

Doug & Teri Thompson

Francie & Bob Thompson

Donna & Darryl Tookes

Ellen & George Utley III ’74

Ellen & Chris White

Brooks Hendrie Widdoes ’73

Peter & Alice Wyman

Taft Bulletin Summer 2006 19

Bourbon Street

Comes to

By Ryan Nerz '92 ~ Photography by Bob Falcetti




m Signs, signs, everywhere are signs...

b Who is this masked family having a

little Mardi Gras fun at the Saturday


c The highlight of the weekend was

without doubt the Saturday barbecue

featuring the New Orleans Jazz

Orchestra, thanks to the efforts of

Jonn Hankins ’71. NOJO capped off a

beautiful day with the sounds of Louis

Armstrong and Jelly Roll Morton.


Swarms of Taft alumni have gathered in clumps, and

there are enough red baseball caps to outfit a communist

rally. Each group carries a sign indicating the year

they graduated—’46, ’61, ’66, ’81. I don’t immediately

recognize anyone, but that’s no surprise considering

this is my 14th-year reunion. A Frisbee whizzes by and I can’t

help but smile. The green grasses and CPT dorm are exactly as

I remember them, so a warm sentimentality washes over me.

I know that, beyond these walls, the scenery will sometimes

feel foreign, but here at Main Circle I can indulge myself in a

brief time warp.

I walk up and say hello to Jon Bernon, my beloved former

calculus teacher and soccer referee. Now a school counselor,

he jokes that my recalcitrance as a student was the reason he

quit teaching math. As the procession begins, I explain that

today I am an intrepid reporter, so duty calls.

My first stop along the uphill alumni stampede is with a

group of women from the Class of ’86. Sarah Curi describes the

new buildings and meticulous landscaping as “fabulous in an

overwhelming sort of way.” I ask the woman next to her, Nici

Tietjen-Derosier, if she still keeps in touch with Taft friends.

Turns out she’s still best friends with her best friend from Taft.

It’s the woman standing right next to her, Patience Smith.

“Well that’s a nice conceptual name,” I say. “Are you


“No,” Patience says, laughing.

“Absolutely not,” Nici adds. “She’s a very restless person.”

I ask about their time at Taft, and am surprised to hear

Taft Bulletin Summer 2006 21

m 1966 teammates Ferdie Wandelt

and Ray DuBois catch up with the

coach of their undefeated lacrosse

team, Headmaster Emeritus

Lance Odden.

c English teacher Pam MacMullen

with Brett Chodorow ’96 and his wife

Lisa at the barbecue

1941 1946

them rattle off a list of teacher-centric memories. Mr. Cobb

scared Sarah at first but then became her adviser. Mr. Small

coached cross country, smoked a big stogie, and affected

the lives of countless young men. They could never forget

Mr. Oscarson, Mr. McCabe, and Barclay Johnson ’53, who advised

Nici to “feel the words” while composing poetry. Nici says

that Mrs. Wynne influenced her to become an artist. And all

three women say they were deeply influenced by Ms. Madison.

“I think I became a health care lawyer because of Charlotte

Madison’s biomedical ethics class,” Sarah says. “She had a big

crush on Tom Selleck. We used to go up to her apartment and

watch Magnum P.I.”

“She’ll probably wish you didn’t mention that little

tidbit,” I say.

“Well we hope that brings her out of hiding,” Nici says.

“Because we haven’t seen her in years.”

~ * ~ * ~

The rest of the afternoon feels like a tug of war between

the forces of change and stasis. I approach Headmaster Willy

MacMullen at the luncheon and he looks as fit as he did back

when he was my English teacher and soccer coach. He tells

me that, at a panel discussion earlier that morning, an alumnus

asked a group of seniors what they would change about

Taft. With commencement on the horizon, the seniors were

so puffed-up with pride that they came up empty. “I said,

They were probably just saying that because I am standing

right here,’” he says, chuckling.

22 Taft Bulletin Summer 2006

The day was also a family reunion

for John Vanderpoel ’36 and son Eric

’61 at the luncheon.

c Jonn Hankins ’71, visits the Harley

Roberts Room exhibit of prints by

Shawn Brackat '93 (right) organized

by Nikki Mayhew Greene ’93 (left).

.John MacMullen, son of Pam and

Willy MacMullen ’78, watches as

Sam, son of Steve and Shannon

Engels Turner ’86, has his face painted

during the children's program on

Saturday afternoon.


b The 50th Reunion

Class of 1956

m Michele and

Peter Jennings ’61

with classmate

Neil Peterson


named John Hammerslough ’46. He says he’s very pleased

that his classmate, Samuel Pryor just won the Citation of

Merit award.

John is here for his 60th Reunion and, coincidentally, I

spoke earlier to his son Charlie ’76. I recall having oft heard

the phrase “the Taft family” as a student, but I’m just starting

to realize the literal applications of the term. Nici Tietjen-

Derosier mentioned that her dad and sister were both Tafties,

and Sarah Curi’s sister, Katherine ’92, was in my class and is

now a cyclist on the American national team. I knew Fred

Genung’s daughter Kate ’94, and his son Alec ’91 played on

three sports teams with me. Taft family, indeed.

Considering that John Hammerslough attended Taft

during World War II, his perspective strikes me as disarmm

Peter Frew ’75 welcomes back

Tarik Asmerom ’01.

c 1976 classmates

Sara MacDonell, Jocelyn Gamble

Childs, Kitty Herrlinger Hillman,

mother of Dan ‘06 and Scott ‘09, and

Leslie Weeden


Talking to Fred Genung ’63 about his Taft experience,

the focus shifts toward change. He says life at Taft in the

early ’60s was fun but quite regimented. The daily schedule

started at 7:15 a.m., attendance was taken five times a day,

and three meals were mandatory. There were no radios, no

telephones, no TVs, and most regrettably, no females. But

Genung says he enjoyed his Taft experience, especially his

two years as a left winger on the undefeated varsity hockey

team. “Prep school is like the Marine Corps,” he says in

summation. “You forget the hard parts and you remember

the good parts.”

After the banquet, I walk over to the Taft-Hotchkiss varsity

lacrosse game. Hoping to get a wider range of perspectives,

I approach a gray-haired man in a tweed sports coat

24 Taft Bulletin Summer 2006

Nici Tietjen Derosier ’86 and

Patience Smith ’86 visit with classics

teacher Dick Cobb at the luncheon.

c 50th Reunioners

Marcia and Jerry MacDonald ’56 with

Peter and Barbara Fish ’56



b Headmaster Willy MacMullen ’78

greets Julie Brenton ’81.

c Jo Tragakiss and husband

Kip Cheney ’52 arrive for the

Old Guard Dinner.


ingly modern. John started using computers in the mid-

1960s to analyze stocks. While he is impressed by Taft’s

technologically upgraded campus, he predicts that computers

will also serve to keep prep schools like Taft in check. “If

a school is run poorly these days, some kid’s gonna make a

blog out of it.”

Hammerslough turns toward the game, and I notice

the weather has gone from sunny to gray. Hulking cumulus

clouds lurk overhead. Immediately after Hotchkiss’ goal in

sudden-death overtime, it starts raining. Fans scurry down the

hill, cutting their victory celebration short, and it feels a bit

like divine intervention.

But it’s just a spring shower and passes quickly. The sun

emerges and alumni take the field, dividing themselves up

into red and white jerseys. Ray DuBois ’66 is remarkably spry

despite being the most senior of the bunch, and the cheerleaders

rooting for George Utley ’74 bear a suspicious resemblance

to him. Jon Bernon is still as dramatic a referee as ever, and

he nobly ignores my heckling. Some fans migrate downhill

toward the varsity baseball game, but in no time, everyone is

backtracking up the hill toward the Headmaster’s Supper.

The huge white tent quickly fills with conversation and

clinking glasses, and then, with the melodious bleats of the

New Orleans Jazz Orchestra (NOJO). As a jazz fan, I’m elated.

NOJO?! These are top-flight, world-class jazz musicians,

assembled here under the tent for…Taft Alumni Day? How

did this come about? I soon discover that it’s the work of Jonn

Hankins ’71, NOJO’s chief operating officer.

Taft Bulletin Summer 2006 25

c Bruce Fifer and alumni at

the Collegium Musicum reunion

at Walker Hall

. Jake Odden and reunion

chair Phoebe Sylvester Kaylor ’86

march with their class in the parade.

1981 1986

Hankins explains that, despite the destruction of Hurricane

Katrina, he’s determined to implement the Taft School motto

in maintaining New Orleans as the Jazz capital of the world.

While waiting for the highly anticipated National Jazz Center

and park to be constructed, Hankins is pushing hard to book

gigs for NOJO. “There was the real possibility that many of

the top musicians, like these guys, may not be able to make a

living in the city. So that’s why I felt it was important to take a

more active role, because right now in New Orleans everyone is

committed to bringing the city back.”

Having not spoken to many recent graduates, I approach

former head monitor Tarik Asmerom ’01. She’s surrounded

by a group of classmates who are abuzz with postbarbecue

plans. “I’ve only been back ten minutes and it’s

too many sensations at once,” she says. “People are saying it

still smells the same.” Tarik says she’s teaching 10th-grade

math and science in southwest Philadelphia and attending

the Graduate School of Education at UPenn. I ask if she’s

experiencing anxiety about having to hit the “real world”

after her relatively recent college graduation. She’s not really

stressed, she says, but she does have a new empathy

for what her Taft teachers went through. “After teaching

adolescents,” she says with a chuckle, “there’s really nothing

that can throw me off.”

Ryan Nerz ’92 is a freelance writer who recently published

Eat This Book: A Year of Gorging and Glory on the Competitive

Eating Circuit. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

26 Taft Bulletin Summer 2006

m Richard Blossom ’66 and Texanne

Corrigan get ready for the parade.

b Lucy, daughter of Hilary Klotz

Steinman ’86 with the rhino

c Reunion chair Lou Frank ’71 readies

for the parade.

m 1996 classmates Ru Reath, Albert

Lai, and Randy DePree

. Citation of Merit honoree Sam

Pryor ’46 and his granddaughter Toni

’07 at the Old Guard Dinner

. When alumni lacrosse players

compete against each other on

Saturday afternoon, Steve Janeck ’76

really has to elevate his game.

1991 1996 2001

s e n i o r m o m e n t s

T h e S e n i o r P r o j e c t p r o g r a m , b e g u n i n 2 0 0 5 , a l l o w s s e n i o r s t h e o p p o r t u n i t y t o c r e a t e

t h e i r o w n l e a r n i n g e x p e r i e n c e s a n d m e a n i n g — o n e m o r e c u l m i n a t i n g t i m e a t Ta f t .

Many people say they don’t really have a clear sense of their

ideas, or a clear understanding of what it is they think they

know, until they articulate it—until they express it in written or

spoken words, or in paint, sculpture, or some other medium.

This year, 57 seniors voluntarily completed 38 Senior

Projects. Their January proposals included detailed descriptions,

reasoning, planning, and reflection. Beginning

to work on their projects in April, seniors continuously

shaped their plans—to adapt them, to allow them to evolve.

Even in the final week, many of these seniors were forced

to solve problems creatively and, at times, seek new directions.

These seniors made all of these adjustments—these

responses to obstacles or changing ideas—independently.

Their most significant education began when they

first encountered what they did not expect to encounter.

Whether or not the final outcomes were exactly what these

seniors imagined and initially expressed three months earlier

in their proposals, every project surprised them time and time

again—teaching them innumerable lessons about themselves

right up until graduation. In response to every surprise, these

seniors demonstrated who they had become at Taft. And for the

Taft community during the Senior Project Museum at the end

of May, the 38 project displays—live dramatic and musical performances,

readings, interactive exhibits, and films—demonstrated

so many of the skills and habits of mind they acquired

and honed as a result of a Taft education.

—Chris Torino, Senior Project director

All photographs by Alex Lauren ’06 and Jamie Oppenheim ’06

P h o t o g r a p h y b y s e n i o r s A l e x L a u r e n a n d J a m i e O p p e n h e i m , w h o d o c u m e n t e d t h e i r c l a s s m a t e s ’ w o r k o n

f i l m a s t h e i r p r o j e c t .

R e i d L o n g l e y a n d

W i l l M i n t e r,

P r o d u c i n g a D V D :

B r e a k : A T i m e o f

C h a o s a t Ta f t

28 Taft Bulletin Summer 2006

s e n i o r m o m e n t s

W o o d y R e d p a t h

a n d M i c h a e l S h r u b b

( p i c t u r e d ) , E x p e r i m e n t s

i n W o o d w o r k i n g :

B u i l d i n g a n

A d i r o n d a c k B e n c h

Taft Bulletin Summer 2006 29

s e n i o r m o m e n t s

All photographs by Alex Lauren ’06 and Jamie Oppenheim ’06

M i c h a e l D a v i s a n d J o n

F r a k e r, W r i t i n g a n d

R e c o r d i n g a M u s i c a l C D

B r i a n G a u l z e t t i ,

E x p e r i m e n t i n g w i t h

K e e l D e s i g n

30 Taft Bulletin Summer 2006

s e n i o r m o m e n t s

L i n d s a y A l b e r t ,

W o r k i n g w i t h C e r a m i c s

Taft Bulletin Summer 2006 31

s e n i o r m o m e n t s

All photographs by Alex Lauren ’06 and Jamie Oppenheim ’06

P e t e r I r v i n g a n d R o g e r

K i r k p a t r i c k , Ta f t

O u t d o o r G u i d e b o o k

32 Taft Bulletin Summer 2006

s e n i o r m o m e n t s

P a d g e t C r o s s m a n ,

S e w i n g a B u s i n e s s

L e x i e C o m s t o c k a n d

L a u r a M c L a u g h l i n ,

C o l l e c t i n g S c h o o l

S u p p l i e s f o r M y a n m a r

Taft Bulletin Summer 2006 33

m It’s a long-standing tradition for a parent of a graduating senior to give the Commencement address. Headmaster Willy MacMullen ’78

asked Academic Dean Debora Phipps, mother of Michael ’06 and Matthew ’05, to do the honors.

When the

Journey Is

Worth the Risks

Excerpts from the 116th

Commencement Exercises

Photography by Bob Falcetti

Headmaster William R. MacMullen ’78

In her collection of stories about women traveling, Lisa

St. Aubin de Teran writes of what stories she chose to include:

The ultimate qualification was merely to have set foot [on the

road of life].” To set foot on the Taft path was to undertake a

journey of more than a little danger and considerable risk, but

also of illumination, power, and even love. My first congratulation

is to you for starting; my last is for you finishing.

The first and greatest story of travel is The Odyssey. It is a simple

story with all the great human themes: a man has just fought a

war and must make his way home. He faces one-eyed monsters,

howling storms and singing sirens who try to lure him onto the

rocks; those challenges mean he must find in himself strengths

and virtues greater than he has ever known; and he triumphs

and finds home, a more reflective, wise and complete man.

But of all the themes, two mark the travel genre: facing adversity

and the acquisition of self-knowledge. Whether we read

Steinbeck, Twain, Cervantes, or Voltaire, the story is the same:

the protagonist sets out, he successfully meets the challenges, and

as a result, he comes to a fuller sense of self and world. Going out

he comes back. Getting lost he is found. It is a good tale.

You have all had your odysseys, and the adversity you faced—

the trivial and great—no doubt seemed epic. Odysseus saw the

. David Hostage presents the Chemistry Prize to a surprised Bill Lane.

gods scoop up the seas and hurl them in thundering storms, and

haven’t you as well? I know some of the tempests you weathered,

and can never know the courage with which you met those secret

squalls, and yet you are here. I know the siren calls of temptation,

the rocks on which you might have foundered, and yet you are

here. Your triumphs are many—the private, painful victories no

one saw: when you stayed up until 2 a.m. to labor over an essay,

when you stopped yourself from shaking before you uttered the

first line on opening night, when you went into the game terrified

you would make a mistake, when late at night you reached

out to a friend. And those public triumphs: when you bowed to

the audience or listened to the cheers, or hung your photographs

and paintings, or tapped your sticks on the ice and raised them

to the crowd. None of this was easy.

This school was intended to be an odyssey, not a stroll. It

has demanding teachers—some of them Cyclops, you might

add—and a difficult curriculum, a relentless pace, and plenty

of places to founder. A senior put it best, writing to me,

School is meant to push and prod and make you feel unm

Sitting in the

rain: Families

got a bit soggy

during part of

the ceremony,

but no one

seemed to mind

being outside.

c Class speaker

Chad Thomas

prepares to

address his


. Almost late: Seniors Leah Morris and Kiel Stroupe rush to line up.

Taft Bulletin Summer 2006 35

m Skies threatened to soak the end of the luncheon, but the rain held off.

b Class speaker

Helena Smith


her fellow


comfortable. I think you have to be a little uneasy to get the

most out of a situation. It is this challenge that has revealed

my flaws but also showed me what I am capable of.”

And all these trials lead to that other great theme: selfknowledge.

Odysseus came to know himself: his yearnings, his

flaws, and his virtues. Have you come to know yourself through

this journey? You are not the boy or girl who appeared here

four years or nine months ago. You have explored the higher

latitudes of your intellect and the vast interior of your soul. I

hope that some of what you found was what we value here:

The belief that serving others is noble

The conviction that honor should mark all we do

The habit of empathy and the practice of respect

The ability to persevere in the face of disappointment

The need to question, study, and learn.

Odysseus returned home, fatigued but bold, unsure about

tomorrow, feeling as restless as you must. He could not sit still.

Head monitor and 1908 Medal winner Michael Shrubb places the class stone in the wall of Centennial Dormitory. m

In his poem, Alfred Lord Tennyson depicted him as a restive

king, a blade that needed burnishing. His end, like yours here,

was simply a beginning. Tennyson concludes with that great

line: “To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield.” Tomorrow

is the epic poem you will write. You will be like Odysseus,

completed in all your fractured perfection, flawed beauty and

humble strength. We marvel at your journey. Congratulations.

Academic Dean Debora Phipps P’05,06

I am an English teacher, and I know that the three safe answers

in English class are the Bible, Shakespeare, and symbol.

And maybe, in some ways, I do stand for, or stand in for,

the faculty who have kids graduating today. Both Townsends,

both Piacenzas, and I all arrived at Taft in 1983, together

with a very young Mr. MacMullen, and today, three of those

families watch their youngest child leave the place they came

home to after they were born. But more, I think, I’m here to

represent all of the parents in the audience, who recognize the

bittersweet nature of this day.

I’ve always loved the notion of “bittersweet.” The bittersweet

plant is a fast-growing vine that blooms in May, appropriately

enough, the month of graduations. But it’s the feeling

of bittersweet—the emotion, not the vine—that I love. It’s one

of poignancy, felt deep in the stomach and behind the heart.

The sweet makes sense—who doesn’t like sweet things?—but

it’s the bitter that creates the tension and makes the sweet

more memorable in contrast. My favorite ice cream is dark

chocolate with habaneros—it’s true—and that’s the way this

day of your graduation tastes to me—with just enough of an

edge to it to make the intense sweetness tolerable.

John Keats, in his ode “To Autumn,” addresses his imminent

death in exactly this bittersweet mode. What makes

Keats’ poem so effective is that he takes the rules for a Horatian

ode—carefully regulated and rhymed ten-line stanzas in a reflection

on some subject—and subverts them. He adds one

extra line to each stanza, which tricks the ear that’s used to

The long blue-and-red line .

m The Boys of Almost-Summer: Seniors Alex Kramer, Woody Redpath, Spyros Skouras, Will Rickards, Skye Priestley, and Will Minter

the standard ten. Just when the listener thinks the stanza is

ending, when she’s waiting for the rhyme to tie things up and

resolve the tension, Keats sneaks in this extra line—and with

it, creates a sense of suspension as we wait for the closing that

isn’t there yet. It feels like that moment, in music, before a

chord is resolved, or in soccer, when the ball arcs through the

air and you’re not sure it’s going in the net.

Today is like that one extra line, a chance to linger, unexpectedly

and for an extra minute or two, in something that’s

coming to an end in a resolving rhyme. In fact, that’s how

your whole senior year at Taft has felt to me: it’s not that we

want you to stay forever—you’re ready for the next thing for

sure—but I wish that you, like this day, would hang around a

little longer. But that rhyme’s coming.

You started in Mr. MacMullen’s second year as headmaster,

and took to heart his Morning Meeting advice about the importance

of emulating Shackleton and taking risks. Some of you

know that not all your risks were wise ones, but since all great inventions

and ideas come of risk, your future as innovators seems

promising. Many of those risks showed in your creative output,

and your creativity stretched beyond Taft: you wrote for newspapers

outside of school, sold your first pieces of art, took your

bands to other schools, and, in managing to tour a prospective

applicant to Hotchkiss, at Hotchkiss, without Hotchkiss’ or the

applicant’s discovering the error until the fake tour ended, created

the most memorable prank in recent memory.

Creativity, however, can thrive only in an atmosphere of

trust. You have to know that others will be there in the audience,

that they’ll try to understand and appreciate your work,

and perhaps, to celebrate your contribution. And that’s what

I’ve loved most about you all. You’ve supported one another in

remarkably loyal ways. Some times, that’s been painful, when

you watch a classmate who’s hurting or leaving, but at others,

it’s been deeply moving and restorative. This spring, when you

opened your college letters outside the P.O.s, you showed more

care for what others were feeling than I’ve seen any class exhibit.

I was struck, one day, when a senior girl told me she really

looked forward to the graduation issue of the Papyrus because

. Shayna Bryan steps up to receive the Marion Hole Makepeace Award for her contributions to girls’ athletics;

while at Taft Shayna earned 11 varsity letters in soccer, basketball, and track.

m Co-valedictorian Derek Chan also received the math and physics prizes.

she wanted to know where her classmates were going to college.

She hadn’t wanted to ask, but she still cared about her

peers—not in a competitive way, but in a thoughtful one.

There’s a spirit of collective enterprise among you that

bonds you more deeply than something as simple as shared

interests or a similar approach to life. Your variety makes you

interesting to one another, and your trust and care turn that

interest into affection.

I heard a talk recently in which someone shared his personal

ten commandments, the tenth of which stayed with

me. He suggested that we should do unto others as we would

have others do unto us, plus 20 percent. The 20 percent, he

explained, was to account for errors in estimation—it’s likely

that we’d underestimate the kindness others might expend on

us, and therefore not give back enough kindness into the world.

I don’t think your class subscribes to that sort of statistical error—there’s

a pretty even exchange of kindness and generosity.

Those of you who took psychology know that an ability

to laugh at oneself is considered a sign of maturity, an authenc

Helena Smith

and Marika

Bigler check

out the chalk



left that

morning for

the graduating


Taft Bulletin Summer 2006 39

m English teacher and senior class dean Mike Townsend receives the Abramowitz Award for teaching excellence.

tication of an adult and independent and confident self. And

along the way, you’ve helped your parents and teachers and

relatives and friends not to take the world too seriously, or at

least not all the time.

So here’s the extra line, the one I’m sneaking in to create

suspension in my ode to your class.

William Faulkner wrote about the importance of living life

without fear, something you’ve emulated throughout your years

here. There may have been times in which a little fear might

have been a good thing, I suppose, but these times in which

you live are ones that benefit from those who live boldly, and

you have. He boldly wrote that “the basest of all things is to be

afraid,” and that if one could learn that, then there would be

room for “the old verities and truths of the heart, the universal

truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed—love

and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice.”

If forgetting fear leaves room for those things that matter—risk

and community, the respect and honor that characterize your

atmosphere of shared trust, the compassion that leads you to

say the right things at the right times—or say nothing when

appropriate—and the love for one another that you may not

acknowledge now, but will when you come back some day,

then you’ve lived the fearlessness that Faulkner describes.

And finally, here’s the closure that comes with the final line.

One of my favorite poets, Mary Oliver, describes a sort of

mission statement for her life by imagining what she hopes to

feel when she leaves it:

“I was a bride married to amazement, I was a bridegroom

taking the world into my arms,”

and ends:

“I don’t want to end up simply having visited the world.”

You have never “simply visited” this world of Taft

you’ve made it your own. And I suspect that you’ll do the

same wherever you go next. The world’s a big place, and

you’re ready for it. Please be safe, because your parents worry,

and be happy, because you’ve shown you can be. And

leave it all a little better than you found it, because that’s

what you’ve done while you were here.

. Who’s afraid of a little rain? Spencer Barton, perhaps?


Laura McLaughlin

and classmate

Sophie Quinton

Commencement Awards

Saturday, May 27

116th Commencement

. All dressed up, younger guests find time to play.

William and Lee Abramowitz

Award for Teaching


J. Michael Townsend

Maurice Pollak Award

Taylor Renee Bodnar

Roberts Scholarship

Michael Ramsey Davis

Marion Hole Makepeace


Shayna Antoinette Bryan

David Edward Goldberg ’62

Memorial Award

Elizabeth Blair Walle

Sherman Cawley Award

Laura Ruth McLaughlin

David Kenyon Webster ’40

Prize for Excellence in


Helena Anne Smith

Bourne Medal in History

Diana Patterson Sands

Chemistry Prize

William P. Lane

Physics Prize

Chun Ho Derek Chan

Harry W. Walker ’40

“Non Ut Sibi” Award

Michelle Nina Kulikauskas

Heminway Merriman ’30


Francis Christopher Cheske

Charles Armstrong Townsend

Lawrence Hunter Stone


Thomas Francis Piacenza

Daniel Higgins Fenton

Classics Award

Zaynah Abid

William P. Lane

Berkley F. Matthews ’96


Taylor Renee Bodnar

Hillary Nelrose Simpson

Theater Award

John McInerney Morris

Bill Waldron ’72

Memorial Prize

Susannah Mitchell Walden

Mark Potter ’48 Award in Art

Elizabeth M. Whetzel

Thomas Sabin Chase ’50

Award in Art

Kelly Patricia O’Mealia

John S. Noyes French Prize

Susannah Mitchell Walden

Spanish Prize

Natalie Renee Lescroart

Chinese Prize

Alexandra Alden Comstock

Joshua Eugene Kim

Japanese Prize

Vanessa Yu-ning Kwong

Class of 1981 Award

John C. Ale, Jr.

William Peck Minter

Chad Justin Thomas


Chun Ho Derek Chan

Laura Ruth McLaughlin

Joseph I. Cunningham Award

Reid McClellan Longley

Arielle Marie Palladino

George H. Morgan Award

Andrew Christopher Strumolo

P.T. Young Music Award

Jason Eugene Kim

Eric Stuart Schwartz


Mathematics Prize

Chun Ho Derek Chan

Alvin I. Reiff Biology Prize

Laura Ruth McLaughlin

The Aurelian Award

Laura Ruth McLaughlin

The 1908 Medal

David Michael Shrubb

Taft Bulletin Summer 2006 41

Jill Spencer and son Ollie

Brian Cassella

The Third Goodbye

On his third trip to the Middle East since the

war began, Marine Lt. Col. Oliver Spencer ’85

faces the longest deployment of his career—

nine to twelve months away from home.

By Brady Dennis

42 Taft Bulletin Summer 2006

Brian Cassella

“I volunteered

to go to Iraq,”

Oliver said.

“You cannot

fight the global

war on terrorism

from Tampa.

You have to

go where the

enemy is.”

t’s a flawless, blue-sky Saturday in South Tampa,

and the Little Leaguers are working their way

through the second inning of the season’s last

baseball game. The Yankees are batting against

the White Sox, and 9-year-old Clayton Spencer

steps to the plate.

A shout rises from the third base line: “All right, Clay!

Let’s go, Clayton!”

The voice belongs to a 39-year-old man in khaki shorts

and white Converse Chuck Taylor All-Star sneakers. A New

England Patriots cap covers his tight military haircut.

Clayton takes one swing, then another.

“C’mon, Clay, two strikes now! You got two against you.

Two strikes, buddy!”

The boy waits on the next pitch. A ball.

“Good eye!” his father, an assistant coach, yells from his

third-base post.

And then, a third swing. Another miss. Strike out.

The father watches his son, head hanging in disappointment,

walk back to the dugout.

“That’s painful,” he says.

But not nearly as painful as what goes unsaid on this

perfect, late spring afternoon. Lt. Col. Oliver Spencer ’85, a

Marine intelligence officer, soon will head back to Iraq for the

third time since 2003.

In a few weeks, he will say goodbye to his wife Jill and

the three children he so clearly adores—Clayton, their oldest;

Beatrice, 8; and Ollie, 5.

As his last days at home slip away, he’s preparing to trade these

All-American afternoons for a war zone halfway around the world.

Oliver Spencer, the Marine, feels duty-bound to go. Oliver Spencer,

the father and husband, aches for what he’s leaving behind.

w w w

He has grown used to goodbyes. Long ago, the Connecticut

native chose a life of adventure and danger over the predictability

of the 9-to-5 world.

After his graduation from Taft and a summer spent traveling

Europe and climbing Mt. McKinley in Alaska, Oliver headed to

Tulane University in New Orleans on a track scholarship.

He met Jill Gfroerer, a music major, during his junior

year. Their first date: a costume ball. After graduation, he

dressed up again, this time in the uniform of the United States

Marine Corps. Family tradition helped steer the decision. His

father, Chip Spencer ’56, a former history teacher and development

director at Taft, served in the Navy. An uncle served

in the Air Force, and his grandfathers served in the Army.

The young man soon traveled the world, though often

to its most war-torn corners. He served as an infantry platoon

commander in the Persian Gulf during operations Desert Storm

and Desert Shield and later joined a reconnaissance unit.

He spent time in Chile during 1991 and 1992. The

Marines sent him to Somalia for four months to scope out

Taft Bulletin Summer 2006 43

Brian Cassella

Oliver and the kids get ready for Ollie’s 6th birthday, which they

are celebrating early at their home in South Tampa.

beaches in the dead of night and make sure they were fit for

boat landings. No matter the destination, he would go—the

good Marine, full of adrenaline, young and brash and hankering

for a challenge.

In October 1994, he and Jill married. That same year,

he left active duty, seeking a change of pace. He spent the

next two years working in Boston, first as an Outward Bound

instructor and later as a manager for Airborne Express. The

money was good. But the Marine was restless.

“I just didn’t feel like I was making a difference,” he said.

So Oliver returned to active duty in 1996. This time, he

chose intelligence work over the infantry. He and Jill started

a family, and the years have seen them stationed back in New

Orleans, at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina and, most recently,

at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, where he took a job working

on counterterrorism planning for Southeast Asia. He could

have spent a comfortable few years working from an office.

Instead, Oliver raised his hand.

“I volunteered to go to Iraq,” he said. “You cannot fight

the global war on terrorism from Tampa. You have to go where

the enemy is.”

w w w

His first trip came in early 2003. He spent six months in the

Middle East—five in Afghanistan and the last in Iraq. His

second deployment to Iraq came in January 2005 and lasted

three months.

He doesn’t talk particulars about his duties during those

first two trips, but he’s clearly no stranger to interrogating detainees.

“I collect information from human beings,” he says,

and leaves it at that.

This time around, he’s facing nine to 12 months away

from home—the longest deployment yet and the first since

each of his children have begun to understand the magnitude

of the situation.

During this tour, he will coordinate intelligence operations

in Iraq’s Al Anbar province, the “most difficult province

in the whole country,” Oliver says. The region is part of the

turbulent Sunni Triangle, which has become deadly ground

for U.S. troops. Oliver will work mostly out of Fallujah, about

45 miles west of Baghdad.

“Guys are going to die,” the man who has seen war before

says matter-of-factly. “You get to the point where you just sort

of deal with it.”

Besides, there’s plenty to worry about back in America.

w w w

The families of those fighting the war shoulder much of its

burden. That burden begins to weigh on the Spencer household

the minute Oliver says goodbye.

The first couple weeks are hard,” Jill says.

Although they can talk with Oliver often—several times

a day if they want, thanks to modern technology—a voice on

the phone can’t compare to a father and husband at home.

44 Taft Bulletin Summer 2006

The Third Goodbye

“It’s a huge,

huge burden

on my wife to

be the mother

and father

when I’m gone,”

Oliver says

Jill and Oliver

Spencer ’85 with

their children

Clayton, Beatrice,

and Ollie, at

Oliver’s promotion

last summer

“As hard as it

is on us, it’s

harder for him

to be doing

what he’s doing

over there,”

Jill says.

Clay usually grows quiet and broods. Beatrice “wears her

heart on her sleeve,” her mother says. She cries often, missing

the man who snuggles with her at night and calls her “my

princess.” Ollie usually manages to keep his spirits up.

“He’s still young enough to not let it affect him too

much,” Jill says.

The Spencers have learned to lean on others—their

neighbors, their friends, their church. When Oliver leaves,

the family will stay in New Hampshire with Jill’s parents. But

even with the extra help, Jill must carry a heavy load.

“It’s a huge, huge burden on my wife to be the mother

and father when I’m gone,” Oliver says.

In addition to his absence, she must help their children cope

with another round of new schools and new surroundings. Just

part of the job, Jill says. “As hard as it is on us, it’s harder for him

to be doing what he’s doing over there,” she says.

She knows that over there, with war all around him,

Oliver must fight another battle—the one inside his head.

The Marine in me feels I need to do this; I have to do this for

our nation. It makes perfect sense to go,” Oliver says. “For the father

and the husband [in me], I really question what I’m doing.”

w w w

It would be easy to dwell on all he will miss in the coming year.

For his 40th birthday on July 26, he had planned to

celebrate by running 40 miles, from his parents’ house in

Litchfield to Taft and back.

He will miss Ollie’s birthday in August, Clay’s in

September. He will miss his wedding anniversary in October.

He’ll miss the kids’ costumes on Halloween, the gatherings

at Thanksgiving and the excitement of Christmas morning.

He’ll miss coaching soccer in the fall.

But for now, it’s enough to savor the time he has left—to

take his children for a walk on the beach and watch them play

in the surf, to teach one son to ride a bike, to toss the football

with another, to snuggle with his princess, to give them noogies

and kiss each of them good night, every night.

“It’s so important to take the time to share those moments,”

he says.

On a recent Saturday, as Oliver’s deployment drew

near, he could have spent time packing up the house or

getting ready for Iraq. Instead, he and Jill threw a 6th

birthday party for Ollie, even though his birthday was

two months away.

They ordered a cake, hung balloons, bought presents,

lit candles. Kids played dodgeball in the front yard. A clown

performed. Ollie smiled his way through another sunny

spring afternoon.

When it came time to sing “Happy Birthday,” a 39-yearold

man in the room stood with a video camera, recording the

moment. Sometimes, wars just have to wait.

Brady Dennis is a reporter for the St. Petersburg Times in Florida.

Taft Bulletin Summer 2006 45

F r o m t h e A r c h i v e s

Wooing a


Taft English master Rollo DeWilton

Yale English professor Maynard Mack ’27,

who died in 2001.

[One of Mack’s many letters to DeWilton.]

When four manila envelopes arrived in

the mail in February, I was thrilled to

discover they contained a trove of unpublished

poems and letters written by

Maynard Mack ’27 in his own hand.

Mack, the son of an English professor

at Oberlin College, went on to become

Yale’s Sterling Professor of English

as well as one of the world’s leading

Shakespearean scholars. He expressed

profound observations in his poetry

with an eloquence and ease far beyond

his years, but it is the letters to his

Taft English teacher, Rollo DeWilton

[English and drama 1921–28] that are

most intriguing.

Writing from Paris during his sophomore

year (at Yale), his letters are vivid

and humorous with details of French life

and his tussles with the language: “My

chief objective…is to insinuate myself

into the graces of the unlovely language.

A skittish mistress she is, too, fleeing

from your embrace just when you believe

you have most successfully wooed her.”

Crediting DeWilton for the “perennial

delight” he finds in Shakespeare, Mack

adds, “Though it is a dubious honor for

you, I count you as one of the chief architects

of my way of life.”

The collection was a gift of Robert

Beeler ’35.

—Archivist Alison Picton

46 Taft Bulletin Summer 2006

Discover the Benefits

of Giving Wisely

Did you know…

• that you can donate your house to Taft, take a deduction, and still

live there the rest of your life?

• that giving appreciated securities delivers more tax benefits to you

than giving cash?

• that you can turn surplus life insurance coverage into a gift for Taft

or use a new policy to create an endowment from your income rather

than from your principal?

• that you can partner with the school to deliver years of income to Taft

and increase your estate for your children?

Visit Taft’s new, interactive gift-planning website to learn how gifts

like this could work for you.

We hope you will use the website as a resource as you manage your

assets, develop your estate plan, and consider the role you want to play

in building Taft’s future.

Find out more at:


Taft Bulletin

The Taft School

Watertown, CT 06795-2100



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