Category Archives: Alumni News

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.

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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!


Williston Northampton Alumni Share Holiday Cheer

We were delighted to see hundreds of alumni dressed in their festive best at holiday receptions in New York and Boston on December 7 and 13. We hope you enjoyed catching up with classmates and friends, networking with alumni and hearing from Head of School, Robert W. Hill III, about all that has been happening on campus. For those of you who weren’t able to join us this time, here is some of the news from campus that Bob Hill, and faculty and staff in attendance, shared with our guests:


Trustees, and Williston Northampton Fund co-chairs, Clay ’79 and Claire ’78  Hardon welcomed guests to the New York Yacht Club and  celebrated the success of last year’s fundraising efforts: Thanks to you, the 2015-2016 Williston Northampton Fund raised over $1.7 million–a new milestone– from more than 2,500 donors, providing resources that have an immediate impact on Williston’s highest priorities and most important initiatives! Among the notable accomplishments was the 6 percent increase in alumni participation. We are grateful for your investment each and every year in Williston Northampton students, faculty, and our beautiful campus.


Head of School, Bob Hill spoke about the Williston Northampton community and our commitment in key areas, including: preparing our faculty and students for 21st century teaching and learning with continued innovations in classroom technology; having a responsive curriculum to meet the evolving needs of today’s students, including the Williston Scholars program.

Guests were welcomed by representatives of the Board of Trustees, including Board Chairman John Hazen White ’76, Mary Alcock ’84, Reid Sterrett ’89, Clay Hardon ’78, Claire Hardon ’79,  Dan Decelles ’89, Richard Monopoli ’89, and William Fogg.  Making the six-hour round trip from campus (on a school night!) were faculty members Sarah and Matt Sawyer, Peter Gunn, Jen Fulcher, and Kathryn Hill.  Lee Greener ’03, Chris Dietrich, and Ann Pickrell represented the admission office.




For more photos of the New York City holiday party, visit the Williston Northampton Flickr Gallery!

One week (and one snowstorm) later, and we were back on the road…

On Tuesday, December 13, alumni from the classes of 1945 to 2016 joined us high above Boston at the Downtown Harvard Club in Boston’s Financial District . A special surprise visit by the student a capella group, The Wild Chords, and student pianist Yana Pyryalina ’18 (introduced by new performing arts faculty member and director of choirs, Steve Berlanga), showcased our talented students who welcomed guests with music and song. Their performance was a fitting tribute to how the newly funded “Grum Project” supports the arts on campus. Thanks to a generous NSFG  alumna, our entire community experiences and learns from visiting artists who spend time on campus as “artists in residence.”


e-tata-mel-394a3187Trustee, parent and Williston Northampton Parents Fund co-chair Brad Foster welcomed guests and stressed the importance of participating in the Williston Northampton Fund as a way of honoring your Williston Northampton experience, while ensuring future generations of students are able to have an exceptional living and learning experience. Brad then introduced Head of School, Bob Hill who welcomed former Board of Trustees Chairman, and current Board Secretary, Fred Allardyce ’59 and  recognized  the faculty and staff present, including Greg Tuleja, Peter Gunn, Mark and Monique Conroy, Kathryn Hill, Ann Pickrell, Lee Greener ’03,  Jen Fulcher, and faculty emereti Jay and Betsy Grant. Commenting on the strong connections between faculty and students that persist long after graduation,  Bob stressed Williston Northampton’s commitment to attracting and retaining an exceptional faculty, with significant resources directed toward faculty professional development.


From William D. Williams ’45, to Abbie Foster ’16, to our current students, the Williston Northampton School spirit was joyful and strong. Lingering after the party’s end, guests seemed to agree: celebrating their connections through and across the years was the perfect way to kick off the holiday season! To see more photos, visit the Williston Northampton Flickr Gallery.


Alumna Shares Memories of NSFG Days

Guest blog post by Eleanor Gamarsh, Northampton School for Girls, Class of 1952

I’d like to walk down Memory Lane with my classmates at NSFG. While we were classmates in ’52, I think of us as a family sharing in our home away from home, no matter how any of us came to be there. Like members of any family, each one was closer to some than others. We discussed plans for projects, had our disagreements and worked them out. Some of us sang in the Chorus, fought a good fight on the soccer field (when it was dry), and joined Williston Academy to produce The Mikado. We each had our moments with Miss Whitaker and Miss Bement. Remember the Old English Christmas Dinner at Wiggins Tavern? And how about the Senior Prom; the Mistresses had to approve our gowns (no hint of being strapless). We were giddy about inviting our own male escort (did they have to pass inspection, too?). My remembrances may be a bit askew, but after all, it’s been 64 years. I suspect each of us has a story to tell about any one of these experiences.

The day we received our diplomas was the “rite of passage” moment for each of us to go on our separate ways. Beyond Graduation Day, maybe some relationships lasted. From the letters I have received, I know a few traveled away from New England for their college education, while others stayed close to home. Perhaps you went to a Reunion at our old school before the merger with Williston Academy. I have been to Reunions since them when a few of the girls came. Being the age we are now, going to a reunion is more difficult for all of us. My hope is that all of you have some special joy each day for the rest of your life.

Please see this post for Eleanor Gamarsh’s remembrance of the eight members of the NSFG Class of 1952 who have passed away.

Alumni Award: Jay and Betsy Grant

Photo by Joanna Chattman
Photo by Joanna Chattman

Natalie Aquadro ’17 presented Jay and Betsy Grant the Distinguished Service Award during a ceremony at the Phillips Stevens Chapel on May 14, 2016.

The Distinguished Service Award is the preeminent service award the school can give. Since its inception in 1959, the Distinguished Service Award has been given to the person who has shown through his or her actions an exceptional measure of devotion to The Williston Northampton School. That clearly applies to Jay and Betsy.

On June 8, 2016, Jay and Betsy Grant will officially retire after 38 years and 37 years respectively at Williston Northampton. Since his arrival in 1978, Jay has filled many roles: the school’s first full-time athletic trainer, dorm parent living in Memorial Hall, then with Betsy in Willy Cottage (now known as Conant), Manchester House and Gilbert House before moving off campus. He coached the boys ice hockey team for four years, including the 1985-86 New England Championship team. He has seen the construction of the Athletic Center in 1990, been the faithful keeper of athletic records, taught Middle School PE, and wrapped thousands upon thousands of ankles.

Betsy arrived on campus in 1979 where she coached sailing for two years, advised the yearbook and taught all levels of Spanish in both the Middle and Upper School.

Betsy and Jay got married in the Williston chapel in July 1981 with Reverend Roger Barnett presiding over the ceremony, Al Shaler playing the organ, Armand Davy doing the catering, and Bob Couch ’50, taking the photos. Together, they raised two children, Sam Grant ’08 and Jill Grant ’11, both of whom attended the Middle and Upper Schools and are faithful alumni.

Congratulations to Jay and Betsy, and best of luck in your future endeavors!