Stories and updates from around campus

Author Tracy Kidder to Visit Williston

Photo by Gabriel Amadeus Cooney
Photo by Gabriel Amadeus Cooney

A nationally acclaimed author, known for his gripping non-fiction, will speak at the Williston Northampton School as part of both a long-running lecture series—and a new winter challenge by the head of school.

Tracy Kidder P’92, ’97, a Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner, will visit Williston on February 13 at 8:30 a.m. for a special all-school assembly in the Phillips Stevens Chapel.

Mr. Kidder is the fifth speaker in the annual Sara Wattles Perry ’77 Memorial Book Talk series, which has previously featured lectures by William Kamkwamba, co-author of The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, Greg Mortenson, John Bul Dau, and Luma Mufleh.

Mr. Kidder, a graduate of Harvard University, is the author of My Detachment, Mountains Beyond Mountains, Home Town, Old Friends, Among Schoolchildren, House, and The Soul of a New Machine.

One of his most recent works, Strength in What Remains, about a man who escapes civil war in Burundi and finds refuge in New York City, was selected by Williston’s Head of School, Robert W. Hill III, as the first in the new Head of School’s Winter Reading Challenge series.

In his message to students about the challenge, Mr. Hill noted that Strength in What Remains, was a compelling story that perfectly exemplified the Williston theme of “doing good well.”

He urged students to curl up with the book over the winter break, and use it to keep as a doorway to becoming lifelong learners. He also noted that the challenge fit perfectly into the spirit of the Sara Wattles Perry ’77 series, where the aim is to engage community members in reading, active listening, and engaging conversation with an author.

“Tracy Kidder is a renowned author and we are so fortunate to have him here on February 13,” noted Mr. Hill.  “His book, Strength in What Remains, is a profoundly compelling story.”

A Former Banker’s Cautionary Tale

Mark Franczyk ’00 gave a Cum Laude address on finding the courage to follow his heart
Photo by Matthew Cavanaugh
Photo by Matthew Cavanaugh

“Who loves cooking or even a good meal?” Mark Franczyk ’00 asked Williston Northampton School students and faculty on January 16. He nodded at the sea of raised hands in the Phillips Stevens Chapel.

“And who loves banking?” he asked. There was laughter from the crowd; a few hands appeared.

Mr. Franczyk smiled. “So why did it take me 10 years to determine that I should be working as a chef and not as an investment banker?” he said.

Mr. Franczyk was at the Cum Laude Induction Ceremony to provide what he described as a cautionary tale, particularly for those who are obsessed with being high achievers.

In a humorous and often self-deprecating keynote, Mr. Franczyk explored the twists and turns of his career, from majoring in economics—an area of study he didn’t love, but that seemed lucrative—to frantically pursuing a high-powered job to the point of collapse, and then finally changing courses altogether.

Read the full speech here.

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A Common Humanity, A Collective Responsibility

Journalist and activist Haider Hamza asks students to embrace the spirit of MLK Day

Photo by Matthew CavanaughWhen it comes to understanding injustice, and the role society must play in stopping it, there’s no greater context than that of war.

On January 19, as part of a celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, keynote speaker Haider Hamza challenged Williston Northampton School students and faculty to examine the causes of violence, and use that understanding to help stop it.

Speaking in the Phillips Stevens Chapel, with photos of conflicts flashing on the large projection screen behind him, Mr. Hamza asked his audience to embrace the spirit of the day—a common humanity.

“Once we identify with every human anywhere…then it’s unrealistic that we can be able to wage wars any more,” he said. “We need to understand how violence happens and how it doesn’t take us anywhere.”

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Iraqi Journalist and Activist to Deliver MLK Day Keynote

Haider HamzaAn Iraqi war journalist, who uses his experiences in conflict zones to spread messages of non-violent communication, will deliver the keynote at Williston Northampton School’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day special assembly on January 19.

Haider Hamza, an Iraqi native who lived under Saddam Hussein, has covered the Iran/Iraq war, the Gulf War, and the U.S. invasion of Iraq. He spent two years embedded with U.S. military journalists and has also covered the conflict from the side of rebel fighters.

Mr. Hamza has lost family members and friends during the conflict; he has been arrested, injured, and kidnapped, and finally made the decision to leave Iraq.

After graduating from Baghdad University, Mr. Hamza was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship in the United States to study global security and conflict resolution. He now focuses on raising awareness of the long-term affects of war, and how to create political discourse through non-violent communication, advocacy, and debate.

Mr. Hamza’s keynote at Williston will focus on his experience in war-torn Iraq as a citizen, journalist, and activist. He will also speak about the universality of humanity and how to create messages of peace and reconciliation.

Mark Franczyk ’00 to Speak at Cum Laude Ceremony

Photo - Franczyk, MarkAn alumnus who decided to pursue his passion in dramatic fashion will be the guest speaker at the school’s Cum Laude induction ceremony on Friday, January 16, at 8:30 a.m. in the Phillips Stevens Chapel.

Mark Franczyk ’00 spent a decade working as a banker with the financial powerhouse J.P. Morgan. After taking a job as an internal consultant, Mr. Franczyk quickly rose to assistant vice president in the company’s Treasury & Securities Services and then as an analyst in the Investment Banking Division.

While Mr. Franczyk was involved in what he described as “a multitude of M&A and capital-raising transactions, including the largest U.S. equity deal in history,” he also had decided that the banking industry was not a good fit. According to his biography, he “began to more aggressively pursue his interests in the culinary world—interests that had always been simmering during his time as a banker.”

By 2014, Mr. Franczyk had enrolled in culinary school, started a food blog (, and began interning in some of the top kitchens in the country. He now works as a pastry cook for the Alta Marea Group, Chef Michael White’s Michelin Star winning group of restaurants, which include Marea, Ai Fiori, Osteria Morini and Costata.

The following are the names of the 14 inductees—all seniors who have excelled academically:

Lena Gandevia
Margaret Glick
Emily Grussing
Cameron Hill
Umi Keezing
Dong Ho Kim
Katelin Murray
Emily Peirent
Loren Po
Mackenzie Possee
Matthew Steinberg
Cade Zawacki
Yiting Zhang

The Cum Laude Society, founded in 1906 and modeled after Phi Beta Kappa, honors scholastic achievement in secondary schools. The society has 382 chapters, with the majority in independent schools. In 1921, Williston Academy became a member of the society, followed by Northampton School for Girls in 1951. In 1971, a new charter was created for the Williston Northampton School.

Stories and updates from around campus