Stories and updates from around campus

Williston Welcomes Three to Food Service Team

Jim Grimaldi, food service director
Jim Grimaldi, Food Service Director

You may have noticed some new faces in the Dining Commons recently. Joining Assistant Food Service Director Chris Couchon is a friendly and experienced new leadership team that will be making sure all our meals and functions on campus are terrific.

Food Service Director Jim Grimaldi has been in management and operations for 33 years, including at Springfield College. He’s an avid cyclist, riding more than 1,100 miles last summer! And he loves pan seared scallops. Can you blame him?

Patrick Shannon
Patrick Shannon, Executive Chef

Executive Chef Patrick Shannon has worked in the restaurant industry for more than 30 years and is a graduate of the New England Culinary Institute. He was chef manager at Mount Holyoke College and enjoys golf, photography, and hiking. Cooking short ribs is right up his alley.

Rebecca Chace
Rebecca Chace, Assistant Food Service Director, Catering

Rebecca Chace, assistant food service director/catering, has worked at Elms College and Western New England University. As an executive meeting manager, she planned and executed company meetings for hotels. She enjoys gardening, and is a fan of pizza.

Assistant Food Service Director Chris Couchon
Assistant Food Service Director Chris Couchon

And let’s not forget Chef Chris, who many regard as a rock star (and they’d be right!), who has spent 20 years in the food industry, including a few years spent on the road as a “carny” operating an independent food concession stand, and working for three years under Chef Casey Douglas of Galaxy at the now-closed but wonderful Apollo Grill. He was hired as a cook for Williston in 2004 and has been here ever since, working his way out of his chef whites and into a shirt and tie.

Go team!

Founders Day Challenge: 500 Donations in 24 Hours

founders-2017-video (1)Hold on to your Samuel Williston top hats! This year’s Founders Day is shaping up to be even bigger and better than last year’s: If 500 donors make a gift to the Williston Northampton Fund or Parents’ Fund on February 22, a group of anonymous donors is going to give the school $50,000.

The day, which is a way to honor the founding of Williston Academy by Samuel and Emily Williston, as well as the Northampton School for Girls by Sarah Whitaker and Dorothy Bement, kicked off last year to celebrate the school’s 175th anniversary.

During the challenge, alumni throughout the world will be asked to consider what they “found” during their time at Williston. A love of football? A best friend? The best teacher they ever had? The perfect slice of pizza at Antonio’s? Whatever they choose, alumni can then print out this sign, fill it in, and take a selfie to post on social media, tagging #FoundersDay1841.

Last year, the challenge was a dramatic success. “Over the course of 24 hours, 528 donors contributed a total of $150,000 to Williston Northampton School,” says Director of Advancement, Patrick J. Burke. “We know we can top last year’s participation in this day of giving.”

To find out more about the Founders Day challenge, check out our website at And on February 22, stay tuned to social media and follow our progress!

Athletes LOVE to Read

Williston student athletes discuss literature with an elementary school student.
Ana Weed and Cody Cavanagh discuss literature with an Maple Elementary School student.

Easthampton’s Maple Elementary School was abuzz with the sounds of stories Wednesday night when athletes from high schools and colleges around the Valley gathered to read to school-age children.

Students read the classics, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Olivia, and Ferdinand, as well as more recent titles and nonfiction (Trucks).

For the past six years, Williston student athletes have participated in Easthampton’s Athletes LOVE to Read program at Maple Elementary. The program, organized by the Easthampton Public Schools, reinforces the idea that reading is an important part of living and learning, and that it is available to all. Matthew Sawyer, English teacher and baseball coach, organizes Williston’s participation in the program, and said the students who participated represented the school well. They are:

Fiona Bundy ’18
Chris Espinal’ 17
Cody Cavanagh ’17
Madison Fulcher-Melendy ‘18
Gabriela Jones ’18
Ian Ostberg ’17
Ana Weed ’18

Why Not Speak? Day Is Williston’s Day of Reflection

Why-Not-Speak-posterOn February 22, Williston will host its first Why Not Speak? (or WNS) Day. The community will gather to speak about our differences and similarities through the lens of varying perspectives, lifestyles, races, ethnicities, familial backgrounds, religions, socioeconomic statuses, sexual orientations, cultures, gender identities, etc.

“It is a day to speak truthfully, listen intently, learn modestly, and engage respectfully,” according to Erin Davey, director of inclusion, who organized the event.

This year’s theme is “Changing the Narrative.” Assembly speaker Rev. Eric Taylor Doctor, author of the book Unapologetically ME: Living Truth, will kick off the day. We will then host about 30 workshops, ranging from body image to sexual assault to racism. We’ll also welcome teen book author Lisa Papademetriou, author of Discover Yourself–and Others–in a Good Book (or Fifty), who will speak about the importance of diverse books in schools; a local all-male theater troupe called Phallacies, who will speak to our male identified students about sexual abuse; and Sydney Satchell, who will run a workshop called Celebrate your Journey.

Editor Andy Ward Closes Writers’ Workshop Series

Editor Andy Ward at the final Writers' Workshop Series presentation
Editor Andy Ward at the final Writers’ Workshop Series presentation

Paul Kalanithi, a promising young neurosurgeon, wrote a poignant opinion piece in the New York Times in 2014 about receiving a diagnosis of stage IV lung cancer. The article struck a chord with readers and was one of the most viewed and shared that year. Fielding multiple offers from publishers, Kalathini sought advice from Andy Ward, a book editor friend-of-a-friend. Ward told Kalanithi to get a literary agent, and to send a book proposal. A year later, the proposal arrived. Those 20,000 words, roughly 80 pages, Ward said, were “the best I’ve received in all my time in publishing.”

Kalanithi’s book When Breath Becomes Air quickly topped the New York Times best-seller list for nonfiction when it debuted in 2016, and spent 13 weeks on that list. It has sold a million copies and has been translated into 34 languages, including Mongolian.

Ward was on campus recently for the final installation of Williston’s 2016-17 Writers’ Workshop Series. He spoke about shepherding Kalanithi’s 20,000-word proposal toward a finished manuscript, telling the 60 audience members (students, parents, and members of the public), “I ended up acquiring a book that asked what it is to live a meaningful life.”

Ward has edited many books in his seven years at Random House, where he’s editor-in-chief of nonfiction, and he found that while Kalanithi’s memoir had great literary merit, its editing presented unique challenges. For one, Kalanithi died suddenly and unexpectedly three months after providing Ward with a first draft. Aside from the considerable grief this caused, there was the logistical puzzle of what to take from Kalanithi’s writings and how to put them together in a way that would be true to the author’s voice and intent.

Ward met with Kalanithi’s widow Lucy, and pored over the doctor’s writing, at first paralyzed by the responsibility. After moving past that initial block, however, Ward was able to follow the “map” left by Kalanithi toward a work of nonfiction about which New York Times critic Janet Maslin said, “I guarantee that finishing this book and then forgetting about it is simply not an option.” This praise helped topple the final potential difficulty: marketing the book without the benefit of its author. The reading public flocked to Kalanithi’s simple and moving prose.

“These are questions we all face,” said Ward in explaining why the book has universal appeal. The success is “a testament to Paul, who’s asking us to reckon with these questions.” Defying expectations, the book isn’t a downer. “There’s something anti-depressive about the book, once you get past the idea that it’s about death.”

Ward called When Breath Becomes Air “beautifully written, utterly clear, with a sense of urgency.” Kalanithi, ever the seeker, studied literature and philosophy before turning to medicine, and this seems to have given him the capacity to explore mortality with great insight. Ward seemed to be stirred by emotion at the end of his talk when he read the author’s note to his then-infant daughter. Amplifying that personal loss is the loss to humanity as a whole. “The saddest thing,” Ward said, “is that we won’t get to read more of Paul as a writer.”

Stories and updates from around campus