A chair may just seem like a nice place to rest for a moment, but on Friday, September 14, it meant a great deal more to an esteemed member of The Williston Northampton School community.
The Richard C. Gregory Faculty chair was established and funded by Arthur “Chuck” Tauck ’72, Jack G. Tatelman ’73, as well as other generous donors. The chair was presented to Mr. Gregory at a reception at Head of School Bob Hill’s home just prior to the 172nd Convocation, where it would be awarded for the first time. The inscription on the back of the chair reads, “Presented to Richard C. Gregory in recognition of the first awarding of The Richard C. Gregory Faculty Chair, September 14, 2012.”
At the reception, Mr. Tauck, a former president of the board of trustees, said, “As time goes on you take a different viewpoint of those who shape your life.”
While president of the board of trustees, he remembers alumni “consistently asking for Mr. Gregory and reflecting” on his influence on their time at Williston. From these frequent reminiscences came the idea for the Richard C. Gregory Faculty chair, he said.
A faculty member from 1961 to 2004, Richard Gregory was a cornerstone in Williston Northampton’s performing arts department. Throughout his tenure Mr. Gregory taught art history, fine arts, music, English, was the set designer for theatrical productions, and served as chair of the fine arts department and director of music. At one point or another he also advised all three of the singing ensembles at Williston, the male a cappella group the Caterwaulers, the female a cappella group the Widdigers, and the Teller Chorus.
“We had a long run together,” said long-time colleague and former faculty member Ellis Baker.
After 1966, once Tom Kelley had moved on to Smith College, recalled Mr. Baker, “Dick became chair of the Fine and Performing Arts Department, I became the theatre director again, and we were off and running.”
“With time, more faculty and adjunct artists came to work with us,” he said. “The arts boomed. And our collaboration was inspiring.”
Calling Mr. Gregory, “the Renaissance man of the arts at Williston,” Mr. Baker recollected that Mr. Gregory had donned every hat the theatre department had to offer, literally.
“He loved designing period hats,” said Mr. Baker, “and we always argued because they were so good that we couldn’t see the faces for the shadows.”
Also in attendance was Fine and Performing Arts Department Head Ben Demerath. He commented that since his first day at Williston Mr. Gregory has been a mentor of his. “He is a consummate champion of the arts along with being an excellent source of wisdom support for all of the musicians who come through the Reed Center,” he said.
“I will always be thankful for being lucky enough to know him as the true artist he continues to be, and it’s a privilege to be charged with continuing his mission of building a strong arts program here at Williston,” he added.
When asked how he felt while sitting in the chair for a portrait Mr. Gregory responded, “My feet don’t dangle,” to general laughter.
“That should be a portrait on the wall of the Dodge Room,” said Elizabeth D’Amour, president of the board of trustees, of Mr. Gregory’s photo.
The chair’s first recipient is Academic Dean and English teacher Greg Tuleja. He will hold the instructorship until June 2017.
In his speech, Head of School Bob Hill quoted a letter Mr. Tuleja had sent to the hiring department at Williston:
“Dear Sir, I am a graduate student in the Music Department of the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University…I should very much like to be placed in a full-time teaching position at a preparatory school somewhere in New England.”
A visibly overcome Mr. Tuleja stepped forward to accept the honor. He then stepped off the stage and hugged his long-time colleague Mr. Gregory. Mr. Tuleja received two standing ovations.
The Richard C. Gregory Faculty Chair will be awarded every five years and carries with it a monetary stipend to be used by the recipient for professional development.
A second chair, the Hagedorn Family Faculty chair, was awarded to a member of the English department who has worked at Williston since 1987, Harris E. Thompson. Mr. Thompson accepted the award in absentia; he is currently in Greece finishing his novel.