A Williston Northampton blog dedicated to all things alumni related.

Williston West Coast Whirlwind

Ten days, nine cities, four amazing events: Head of School Robert Hill, Director of Alumni engagement, Jill Stern, and Dave Werner from the advancement office took an epic road trip from November 4 to 14 visiting with West Coast alumni and friends from Napa to San Diego.

After a long flight (and a minor luggage fiasco) we hit the ground running, driving north to Petaluma for dinner at The Drawing Board, owned by Rosie Wiggins ’09. Bob Hill swears the burger he ate was the best he’s ever had!  Sunday morning saw us heading to St. Helena in Napa Valley where  James DeLuca ’95, general manager at the Harvest Inn was hosting a brunch for alumni. Despite the wildfires that had ravaged nearby towns, Napa was verdant. James was a gracious and welcoming host, and the “family style” brunch on the outdoor porch was the perfect chance for everyone to share Williston stories and memories. A special shout-out to Robb Suchecki ’91— visiting SF from his home base in Panama — who joined the group for the day-long adventure. Class of ’95 had a mini-reunion, with Matthew Burke, James DeLuca, and Adam Zedonis. Rose Titcomb ’93, Sam Levin ’80, and Ann Tobey ’79 also made the drive north to enjoy the day. The Harvest Inn is a beautiful resort featuring charming cottages tucked into a redwood forest. We are already working on a Wildcat Wine Weekend for next year, but if you just can’t wait that long, we don’t blame you. Let James know you’re coming: Williston “family” gets special treatment!

From left: Robb Suchecki ’91, Matthew Burke ’95, James DeLuca ’95, Adam Zedonis ’95               Picture 2 from left: Adam Zedonis and James DeLuca

 

After brunch, the group took a quick trip down the road to Hall Wines for a tasting. After admiring the iconic Hall Wines bunny, we toured the winery and got down to the serious business of educating our palates. Finally, with new friendships formed and old connections renewed, the group returned to the Inn to wrap up the day over snacks in the lounge.

 

We were sad to leave beautiful the beautiful Napa Valley, but it was off to Scottsdale to have dinner with an alumna from the Northampton School for Girls Class of 1949 and thank her for her ongoing support of our Faculty Enrichment funds. The next morning, we were back in Northern California with a stop to see Alexis Speliotis ’11 who is working in group sales for Levi’s Stadium. We got a tour of the stadium (including the fantasty football lounge and boxes) and would love to hear from any of you who think a Williston sports or music outing would be a good idea!

Despite the traffic from San Francisco’s largest tech conference, we made it into the city in plenty of time to get ready for our wine tasting event (are you detecting a theme to our Northern California travesl?) hosted by Jen Kash ’89 and David Connolly ’83 at Jen’s home.  We were happy to see Arwin Gbolie ’02, who recently relocated to SF, as well as Joe Cavallaro ’03 and his wife, Jamie. Ivana Kurian ’94, Nicole Clausing ’88 and Meserve Platt ’83 were among other alumni braving the traffic.

From left, picture 2: Pipi Diamond (guest), Ivana Kurian, Nicole Clausing, Bob Hill. From bottom left: Arwin Gbolie, Joe and Jamie Cavallaro. Picture 2: Hosts David Connolly, Jen Kash, and Bob Hill

We hated to leave San Francisco, but with two more excellent events for our LA alumni on the calendar, it was time to head south. Along the way, we visited with a Northampton School for Girls alumna of the class of 1965 whose generous investment in the arts at Williston through the Grum Project has allowed us to bring artists of every kind to the campus for residencies and workshops. We are so grateful to all of our alumni who enrich the lives of our students and the campus community in so many ways. It’s exciting to be able to share stories of their impact on the current generation of Williston students.

Friday night, Williston alumni were in for a rare treat with a special performance from The Reverend Shawn Amos ’86 and his band. (The hotel manager said that the band is usually only available to them on major holidays like New Year’s Eve. This special guest appearance was a treat for them as well!) Mr. C’s lobby lounge was practically a private venue for alumni including Serra Aladag ’00, Bill Mahoney ’86, Fleming Brooks ’89, Joe Orlando ’87, Keith Solomon ’87, Asuko Naito ’93, Charlie McNeil ’03, Mickey Meyer ’03, Valli Thorton ’82, Alex Paolo ’12, who, along with other guests, sipped, snacked, and listened to some of the best blues and soul on either coast! The Reverend’s got a new album out and will be touring most of next year. Watch his web site for dates, and if you’re lucky enough to have him swing through your town, don’t miss the show!

From top left: The Reverend Shawn Amos . Picture 2:  Alex Paolo, Valli Thornton, Asuka Naito, Bob Hill. Lower left: Joe Orlando, Keith and Ilene Solomon, Bill Mahoney. Picture 2: Shawn Amos, Melissa Stone (guest) and Asuka Naito

We closed out our California trip with a fantastic brunch at The Shore Hotel, hosted by Bruce Reichenbacher ’74. Sunday was overcast –and perhaps a bit chilly by SoCal standards — but LA locals assured us that they appreciated the New England-like weather. Alumni from the classes of 1947 – 2017 listened as Bob Hill shared all the news from campus, including where to find the livestream of the new dorm construction! Among those in attendance: Bunny Feuer ’47, Elena Allen ’59, Brian Studwell ’59, Michael Hirsch ’73, Steve Holcomb ’65 (visiting from his home in Vero Beach, FL), Ceanna Ellner ’04, Chic Eglee ’70, John Vollbrecht ’65, Leanna Albanese ’17 (fresh from being cast in an upcoming production at USC), Pinky King ’17, and Joe Orlandon ’87 and Fleming Brooks ’89, who had so much fun with us on Friday, they joined us for brunch too!

From lower left: Bruce Reichenbacher ’74, Bob Hill, and Michael Hirsch ’73. Picture 2: Ninkey Dalton (guest), Chic Eglee, Bob Hill

 

Williston in Bermuda, September 2017

Not even Hurricane Jose could prevent Assistant Head of School Ann Pickrell from keeping her annual appointment at Bermuda’s Independent School Fair. And, for the first time in a while,  alumni, parents, and friends gathered to celebrate a deep connection that goes back decades. Joined by Patrick Burke, Director of Advancement and Jill Stern, Director of Alumni Engagement, alumni from the classes of 1958 (NSFG alumna Elaine Stowe Harris, whose four children followed in her footsteps to attend WNS) to 2007 and current and past parents enjoyed clearing skies and a panoramic view from the 1609 Restuarant in Hamilton.

Some of the great Williston Northampton connections that were made and renewed included these snippets of conversation:

“What are you doing here? You were my third grade teacher! You mean we both went to Williston?”

“What are you doing here? We’ve been doing business together for 5 years! How did I not know you went to Williston?”

Assistant Head of School Ann Pickrell shared news about admission trends, current student life, and some exciting new projects happening on campus (including the groundbreaking for a new dorm) and Director of Advancement, Patrick Burke, thanked everyone for their support as the school had their strongest fundraising year ever in 2017, with the Williston Northampton Fund nearly reaching $2M ($1.95M) thanks to investment from alumni and parents.

And with a good turnout of alumni from the reunion classes of the 3s and 8s, we are looking forward to some island representation at reunion this coming May 11 -13.

Sadly, we were so busy enjoying the sunset, we neglected to get a group picture — but in attendace (athough not pictured) were:

Darren Booth P’19, Peter Carpenter ’72, John Faiella ’68, Mike Freisenbruch ’69, Ron Harris ’97, Elaine Harris ’58, P’97, 93, 91,  Gordon Henry ’66, Susan Jackson ’80, Glenn Jones ’95,  Simone Maranzana ’93, Georgina and Tim Marshall ’79, P’10, 12,  Gary and Patrice Moreno P’21,  Rhonda Simmons ’87, Bailey Simmons (future Wildcat), Laverne Stowe P’95, Steve Thomson P’11, Angela and Craig Tucker, P’07, 09, Gretchen Tucker ’07, Allison Tucker ’07, and Vanessa Phillips-Williams ’90

From politics to PR, from investigative journalism to the arts, from law to insurance to medicine, and from  restauranteurs (serving up the best pizza you’ll eat outside of Italy. Not joking: go straight to Portofino when you are in town) to entrepreneurs, Wildcat pride is alive and well in Bermuda!

Reunion 2017

Grey skies and a little bit of rain (okay, a legitimate nor’easter on Saturday night) did not deter Williston Northampton alumni in the classes of 1952 – 2012 from having fun under the big tent. From the special Friday night dinners honoring the Williston Academy and Northampton School for Girls reunion classes from 1952 – 1967, to an all-classes dinner and dance party Saturday night, the weekend offered something for everyone to enjoy.

At a luncheon celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the Elm Tree Society, alumni gathered under the tent on the head of school’s lawn to listen to guest speaker Jai Chanda ’88, Managing Director of State Street Global Advisors and Head of the firm’s Charitable Asset Management & Fiduciary Advisory Services Divisions. Speaking about ways to plan for long-term financial security while leaving a philathropic legacy,  Jai inspired listeners to think about new ways of giving back to those causes and institutions that they most value.

The induction of the 2017 Class of the Williston Northampton Athletic Hall of Fame. The class of ’62 turned out in force to celebrate their classmate David Felsen ’62. Legendary cross-country coach Alan Shaler was honored, along with Colleen Hession Thom ’02, Abigail Ouimet Katuska ’99,  Stephen White ’77, and the undefeated 1981 varsity football team, who proudly received their award with Coach Rick Francis.

Friday Night saw the Williston Academy and NSFG classes from 1952 – 1967 celebrate their 50th (and beyond) Reunions with special dinners. Later that night, returning alumni from all classes gathered at Tandem Bagel for a “welcome back” reception.

 

Saturday morning, bright and early, a few hearty souls showed up to inaugurate the new cross-country course. Paced by Jay Grant, students, faculty and alumni started their day off with a run through the woods and fields. From there it was off to a full day of activities, including seminars, student presentations, singing, biking, and sitting for caricatures. Later that afternoon, alumni had a chance to unleash their inner artists (and bartenders) at the popular “Sip & Paint” and Mixology events.

By Saturday night, the rain that had held off all day moved in (with a vengeance.) But a little nor’easter was no match for the energy under the big tent as we celebrated alumni award winners (read more here) and shouted out to some special alumni and classes whose efforts and enthusiasm for reunion made this weekend such a pleasure for all of us who work to plan it:

Traveled farthest: Richard Brown ’72 who traveled to campus all the way from Tanzania. We presented Richard with a novel by our recent alumni award winner Jennifer duBois, to read on his long trip back to Africa.

Most exotic home base: A close contender for farthest travel, but most definitely an alumnus with exotic home base – Jonathan Leidich ‘92 who lives (and works) on the Patagonia Ice fields in Chile. Since his business is adventure travel, we suspect he travels light, but we gifted him with a Williston luggage tag  to use if he ever does check his bags!

Class with most registered attendees: The groundbreaking class of 1972 – the first co-ed class to graduate from the newly merged Williston Northampton School who registered 20 attendees for their 45th reunion (although we suspect even more than that showed up for Saturday’s dinner!) Building that much enthusiasm can make a class thirsty; Williston pub glasses were presented all around to take care of that problem!

First person to register: Dale Neuberger ‘67 who registered on February 10th! While he couldn’t stay for dinner on Saturday, Dale made sure he made it to several reunion events before catching a plane to Bangkok.

Williston Northampton Fund record breakers:  Finally, we recognized the great class of 1952 who set new giving and participation records for a 65th Reunion class with 67% participation and nearly $44,000. We presented them with Williston keychains, since they are “key” to the ongoing success of their alma mater.

Catch up on all the fun from Reunion weekend by viewing our Flickr galleries. You can view albums with class photos, the Athletic Hall of Fame awards, the Tandem Bagel gathering, candids, NSFG, and general reunion revelry!

Classes of 1943 – 2013…Get ready!

Planning starts this fall for an even bigger, better celebration on the weekend of May 11 – 13, 2018. If you are interested in being part of your class reunion committee, please email Jill Stern, Director of Alumni Engagement at jstern@williston.com or call 413-527-3965.

(We know the class of 1968 is already planning for an epic 50th!)

A Reunion in Heilbronn

Whether it’s just reminiscing or bringing your classmates up to date on what you’ve been up to, we love hearing your stories! As our thoughts (and work!) are all things Reunion these days, we are delighted to share a post that arrived in our offices from Bill Anthony ’66. Enjoy this charming recounting of a very special reunion that took place in Heilbronn Germany with the former exchange students from Williston Academy and Theodor-Heuss-Gymnaasium.

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To read his original story in its entirety, click here.  Below is an abridged version:

On September 16, 2016, a group of eleven former exchange students from Williston Academy and Theodor-Heuss-Gymnasium met to share memories and reflections on the exchange experience and the profound impact it had on everyone’s lives, personally and professionally. The next evening, Saturday, September 17, 2016, they gathered; ten men and one woman, four Americans and seven Germans, in a villa tucked in the midst of vineyards overlooking
Heilbronn, Germany, stood up and proudly sang, “Arise Sons of Williston!” It was a capstone moment near the end of a magical reunion of “Ehemalige” (former) exchange students—now more advanced in years—participants in a school-to-school exchange program that started in 1956 and ceased some twenty years later. In total, the program exchange included 32 participants: 17 from the Theodor-Heuss-Gymnasium and 15 from Williston Academy and the Williston-Northampton School—29 men and 3 women. Nearly 40% of the former “exchangers” still living, were present for the reunion, making that evening even more special. They are: William Anthony, Charlie Benoit, Arch Bryant, and Ron Gwiazda – all from Williston; and from Theodor-Heuss-Gymnasium: Manfred Balz, Ulrike Brandenberger, Peter Fischer, Peter Hertner, Konrad Roth, Ulrich Schneider, and Lutz Wegner.

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During the months preceding the reunion, these former exchange students began swapping stories and old photos, the highlights of which were lively email (and letter) exchanges with the first two German and American exchangers, Franz Schmitt von Muehlenfels ’57 and Corby Finney ‘57.   Although neither Franz nor Corby could attend the reunion, they were very much “present” with their remarkable recollections of Phil Stevens and Karl Weiss and their vivid memories of school life not long after the war. Franz shared a photo someone had taken of him running the high hurdles on a wooden track that winter—next to the headmaster’s Homestead! In one letter, Franz recalls Coach Laurent bellowing “Franz, watch your language!” on his megaphone after Franz shouted an obscenity when he overstepped the foul line for his broad jump. You might say that language learning for an exchange student at a boys’ school takes on a new meaning and gaining a more varied vocabulary than found in schoolbooks… In yet another letter, Franz vividly recalled the “I like IKE!” buttons from that very different election 60 years ago.

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In a way, these stories “seeded” the stories that were later told with great gusto all that weekend in Heilbronn last September, beginning with the opening welcome dinner on Thursday, September 16, so generously hosted by Ulrich Schneider’60 and his partner, Petra Rothfuss. As the exchangers around the table introduced themselves and their partners, any concerns they might have harbored about spending an awkward weekend with complete strangers, quickly were dispelled as they recognized kindred spirits in their shared memories.

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The exchange was founded by, Williston’s Headmaster, Phillips Stevens, and the Director of the Theodor-Heuss-Gymnasium, Karl Weiss, following a visit by Weiss to Easthampton in the winter of 1956. When Weiss received a warm welcome—and, according to Phil Stevens, the only standing ovation that Willistonians had ever given a guest speaker, the idea took root. (Franz Schmitt ’57, who was eyewitness to that speech, recalled that Weiss’ talk about God and Nature was a lively counterpart to the sober Congregationalist backdrop, something he says the boys particularly appreciated.) Stevens had spent two summers in Germany in 1937 and ’38, while a teacher at the South Kent School, earning his Master’s in German at Middlebury. Later, as Williston’s headmaster, he and Weiss, both dedicated educators, almost certainly shared a common interest in re-establishing post-war US and German relations by means of a simple, school-to-school, family-to-family, 1:1 exchange. The origin of this exchange is all the more remarkable, given the fact that Phil Stevens’ younger brother, David, a US infantryman, was killed in Germany near the end of the war and Karl Weiss had been a prisoner of war. Thus, the founding of this exchange, quite literally on the rubble of war, barely a decade after war’s end, was truly an act of practical idealism carried out by two consummate educators who shared deep mutual respect for each other’s culture, and who sought to ensure that the next generation of students knew a more peaceful world.

This exchange functioned with quiet regularity from its start in 1956 until its final year, 1975, around the time when Williston Academy, now the Williston-Northampton School, closed its German language program. In its final years, after Williston-Northampton became co-ed, the once all-male exchange included several young women from both schools.

 

Spring Break Adventures in Florida

Doug and Betsy Elder

Why should students be the only ones to enjoy spring break? Williston Head of School Bob Hill and staff from the alumni office headed south for an epic road trip as we visited with alumni in Florida.

Sunny skies greeted us in West Palm Beach as Board Chair John Hazen White, Jr. ’76 hosted a reception at the Palm Beach Yacht Club. Alumni ranging from the class of ’16 to the class of ’54, joined parents and friends to socialize on the dock before heading inside to listen as

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Bob Hill shared news from campus. And there was plenty to talk about: from the girls varsity swim team’s 2nd consecutive championship win, to the We The People constitutional debate team’s third trip to the nationals, to the inspiring response to our Founders Day challenge, the momentum and enthusiasm at Williston Northampton is undeniable.

The next morning we were in the car and off to Miami Beach, where Trustee Mijanou Spurdle ’86 and Craig Spurdle ’86 hosted a wine tasting at La Gorce Country Club.IMG_0135 Sommelier Fabio Trapputi led us through a tasting of Italian wines. Even the notorious Miami Beach traffic didn’t deter determined alumni. Special shout-out to Andrew Salguero ’96 for braving a 2-hour-plus trip. We are certain the wines and the company were worth it! With a smaller group, everyone had time for one-on-one conversations with Bob Hill, with conversations covering the range of colleges accepting our class of ’17 graduates (Boston College, Carleton, Dartmouth, Kenyon, Georgetown, Middlebury, NYU, Pomona, Rice, University of Pennsylvania, Vassar, Wellesley and Wesleyan to name a few!) to opportunities for alumni to come back to connect with students.

IMG_0141After some strong Cuban coffees, we left Miami Beach to make the scenic drive through “alligator alley” up to Sarasota for a Saturday brunch at the Sarasota Yacht Club, hosted by Betsy and Doug Elder ’54, GP ’05, ’08, and Kathy Krohn ’75. We were especially delighted to welcome several former faculty, including George Dunnington, Ray Brown and Cathleen Robinson, and Jay and Betsy Grant. NSFGIMG_0153IMG_0143  alumnae Sandi Mesics ’55 and Anne Cluett ’55 were thrilled with a spontaneous and unexpected reunion! Sarasota alumni gave a warm “welcome to the neighborhood” to Mary Nicotra ’85 who was enjoying the weather after relocating from Chicago. Guests lingered long after brunch was over to enjoy touring the club with Doug and Betsy.

What would spring break be without spring training? It was back into the car and back across the state to Vero Beach, to cheer for the Boys Varsity Baseball team as they faced off against the Ontario Blue Jays. Sun alternated with clouds and light showers as Williston alumni, families, faculty, staff, and friends got a sneak preview of Wildcat skills on the diamond. All that cheering can make a person hungry, so after the game it was off to Mulligan’s on the Beach for a late lunch and final good-byes.

Williston in Vero 1

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It was great to spend time and have conversation with our alumni based in Florida (and our alumni who travel to Florida!) Thank you for all you do to support and sustain your alma mater. We’re looking forward to seeing you again next year!

P.S. If you wondered how things were going back at campus while we were soaking up the sun…well, let’s just say the golf courses in Florida were a lot greener!

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