All posts by rhill

When Mrs. Stevens Speaks…

The gathering of Williston alumni known as Wildcat Weekend took place last weekend in Mystic, CT. Once again, Kathryn and I had the pleasure of attending and sitting with Sarah Stevens. For us, meeting with alumni from the Philips Stevens years always leaves us feeling that much more connected to the school’s past—there never seems to be a shortage of stories and anecdotes.

At 96 years of age, Mrs. Stevens still commanded the attention of her “boys.” She recalled how some of those present needed to be reminded to wear neckties to the teas that took place for visiting sports teams once the competition of the day had ended. What a civilized thing to do, I thought, after a tough matchup on the gridiron against a rival school.

From another dinner companion, I learned that students always applauded their teacher for the final class of the year. I think we should bring that tradition back.

Friendships that began at Williston are now life-long relationships. These abounded at Wildcat Weekend among the 50 alumni and spouses in attendance (representing the classes 1955-67). It was wonderful to once again be a part of this marvelous turnout.

Fun, Games, and Giving

One of the many Willy Gras events

I could not help but notice (as I took my familiar walk across the quad to my office on this final Saturday of classes) the transformation that has taken place in that space over the past 18 hours.

The fun and play of our annual Willy Gras afternoon—a true community event where young faculty children enjoy the games alongside our students—has given way to the seriousness of purpose as parent and student volunteers prepare Reed for our third Red Cross Blood Drive of the year.

With exemplary student leadership from two young men in the Class of 2012,

Red Cross trucks unload in front of Reed
we have our largest registration of the year, promising to make this drive the most successful in terms of donations.

It seems only fitting to me that for a school where involvement, leadership, and service are so central to our lives, that many seniors will be giving of themselves, one last time, before they take the next big step of their lives on June 2 at the school’s 171st Commencement.

Ed. note: There were 82 donations at the blood drive, which means that the contributions will help as many as 246 people.  Special thanks to seniors Adrian Mendoza and Alex Nunnelly, and director of student activities Mr. Spearing.

Swanee’s Magic

I happened to drop by Swanee’s US History class on the day he had promised to take them outside for a “field trip,” around the corner to the cemetery where Samuel and Emily Williston’s memorial is located, among other monuments.

But first, he was putting the finishing touches on a discussion in class about the Chicago 1968 convention and infamous riots that occurred during that event.  I admit that I wondered how he was going to connect the trip to the cemetery to that lesson; but that he would pull it off was never in doubt.

As he so famously does, Swanee forces his students to see things differently than they might otherwise, by challenging their ideas, by asking, “Why?” or “How do you know?”

Swanee teaching about Sam and Emily

Sure enough—after a brief lesson about Sam and Emily’s history and the challenges of having a family, as signified by the row of tiny headstones—Swanee spoke about different epochs of Williston’s past.

He told his captive audience of the day in 1970 when the senior class walked from Easthampton into Northampton to join a demonstration in support of the students at Kent State, and how then headmaster Stephens found himself at the front of this group of young men whose youthful resolve and conviction were on display—two attributes still prized by Williston’s students to this day.

Another wonderful learning moment thanks to this particular master teacher.


Fiddler Plays to Packed Houses

Nearly 10 percent of Williston Northampton’s students were involved in the astonishing run of “Fiddler on the Roof,” which played to packed houses.

I have never missed a school play in my nearly 30 years in secondary education, and Williston’s Fiddler ranks at the top—not just for the overall effect of the show, but for some of stories from behind the scenes.

People are shocked to learn (I sure was) that two of the leads tread their first steps on stage in this show—a testimony to the coaching they have received from director Emily Ditkovski. Ditkovski focused on the process of discovery that new actors experience in doing things they never thought possible.

The tremendous accomplishments of the stage manager, light technicians, technical theater crew, costume creators—all amazing.  Adults and students come together in theater in what is quintessentially an incubator for content creation and collaboration.

Hat’s off to Williston’s theater.