Vuttichai Wanglee ’63

Making a home at Williston, far from his own. Photo courtesy of Chattman Photography.
Making a home at Williston, far from his own. Photo courtesy of Chattman Photography.

Originally from Thailand and studying in Hong Kong, Vuttichai Wanglee ’63 came to Williston Academy when his father asked that he learn English. The steep language and cultural barriers gradually faded away. By the time he graduated, Mr. Wanglee says he felt like a full member of the student body.

How was your life at Williston different from your life in Hong Kong, where you had been studying?

I was able to speak Chinese fluently while I studied in Hong Kong. I was very happy then. Life was also the same in Thailand, but the school in Thailand was very strict academically, especially every subject you have to memorize instead of using your own expression. Study in Hong Kong was more open. I was not used to expressing my ideas while I was at Williston because I was conditioned to accept everything when the teachers gave it to me. That was why I encountered some difficulty in expressing myself in class. In Hong Kong, it was more open but the teacher seldom asked the students to express their own ideas.

Which teacher had the most impact on you?

Mr. Hepworth, the U.S. history teacher, who inspired me to attend his class. He made every subject in U.S. history very interesting. I loved to study U.S. history. It is very interesting and especially during the expansion to the West, the Civil War, the Indian War. U.S. history was quite easy to understand and follow, unlike European history; it was full of unfamiliar words, especially Latin words.

What kind of student were you (shy, confident, a troublemaker, a class clown)?

I was shy, especially among American females. Maybe my English speaking ability was not up to par with the rest of the American students.

What’s a favorite memory of your time at Williston?

I have several: wearing a tie and jacket during the school day; taking turns waiting on the tables; wearing hats during the winter; attending Chapel on Sunday. The teachers and the school staff were very friendly and made me feel at home. During my last year at the school, I was really enjoying the life there. I was a part of the student body.

There weren’t as many international students at Williston in 1963 as there are today. What was it like to be an international student at Williston?

The first night, the police in Easthampton thought I was lost when I carried my luggage back to the school. I was very lonely at the beginning and I could not get along very well with the Americans due to the language barrier. I learned English very quickly and it was to my advantage when I met Thai students in the big cities and compared abilities to comprehend English. Schools in Thailand or Hong Kong did not stress sports. When I was at Williston, I was surprised that I was required to join the sport activities. However, this requirement built up my determination that if I want to send my children to the school in U.S., they must be able to join any sports. I have done so with my two sons and they joined Williston Northampton School.

Bob Couch ’50

Bob Couch '50 at work in the photography lab. Photo courtesy of
Bob Couch ’50 at work in the photography lab.

Williston Academy’s first dark­room was in the basement of the Homestead, where Bob Couch first began teaching students the art of photogra­phy. As a student at Williston, he focused more on singing than slinging a camera, but he learned how to develop photo­graphs in his father’s newspa­per’s darkroom in Dalton, MA. He’s seen the school weather many transitions—from two campuses to a unified cam­pus, for example—and many incarnations of darkrooms. He taught math and photography at Williston for 40 years, and lived on campus for 30 of those years with his wife, Janet, and five children.

How did you feel when you first came to Williston Academy as a boarder?

I was really lost. I was not particu­larly happy. One thing that’s stayed true to Williston is that everyone was friendly. I sat down in math class and a junior introduced him­self. That helped a lot. Even though I was still homesick—I was the youngest of four brothers—by the time the end of year came around I couldn’t wait to get back for the next year.

What did you sing in the Glee Club?

We sang a lot at Williston, just in general. We had chapel every day at 9:00 a.m. We’d always sing a hymn. On Sunday, they’d have an outside speaker come in, and we’d sing three or four hymns. Everybody sang. Townspeople used to stand across the street to hear the singing from the chapel.

As a photographer, what’s one of your favorite images you took at Williston? 

I was fortunate to get a grant from the school to go to Newfoundland and photograph in 1992. I spent a month up there. I’ve never been in that situation before where I could devote all my time to just photo­graphing. That was really a wonder­ful experience. I’ve also taken the sports team photos since 1959 for the wall in the gym, and I have been taking them ever since. I don’t think many schools have a display as good as that one.

What was your philosophy to teaching photography?

I taught math for 22 years. It’s about a 180-degree turn from teaching something so objective as math to subjective as photography. One of the things I would tell them on the first day was that I wanted them to fail. You’re going to mess up. You’re going to put film in the camera wrong or get a double exposure. But you learn from that stuff. The basic idea was to get them to try new things. The first assignment I gave was to take a picture of something common and make it look different.

What’s one of your favorite memories of Williston?

We used to play hockey on the pond—we had two rinks. We’d check the weather report. If it was going to be really cold at night, we’d get the hoses out from the gym and we’d flood the rink. Of course if we were going to have practice and it snowed, the kids had to shovel the snow off. It was a little different than having a Zamboni. The third hockey team used to play the facul­ty. The headmaster and his wife, Mr. and Mrs. Stevens, played and their son David was on the third hockey team. David got the puck and he was coming up the ice toward his parents. And somebody said, ‘How often does this happen?’

Charles Ross ’71

Williston gave the future businessman a chance to chart his own path. Photo courtesy of Michael Esposito
Williston gave the future businessman a chance to chart his own path. Photo courtesy of Michael Esposito

The transition from his home coun­try of Liberia was a difficult one for Charles Ross, who had to adjust to a new environment and new faces. At Williston, though, the shy student became a confident tennis team manager and mathematician. Mr. Ross, who says he’s now in his “sec­ond career,” is the finance director of the NFL Players Association.

What did you try at Williston that pushed you out of your comfort zone?

For sports, I tried just about every­thing, baseball, hockey—I gave ev­erything a try. I wanted to see what I might become passionate about. I wanted to try drama, but didn’t have enough nerve. My public speaking confidence was quite low. In the end, I played soccer and basketball, and I enjoyed managing the varsity tennis team. Tennis has remained an interest for me, and I plan on attending all four Grand Slams at some point.

Did you discover the passion you were looking for? What was it?

Math has always been my favorite subject, and I knew whatever I would do would include numbers. Beyond that, it was a very difficult decision. As a practical matter, there were many options but I

ended up taking the business route. I majored in accounting, became a CPA, and eventually went on to law school. I knew whatever I wanted to do, I needed to be passionate about. It was really an endeavor on my part to find that.

Can you describe the dorm culture?

Dorm life was new to me, but over­all it was fun. It was a great group of guys. Ed Pytka ’71 was my room­mate and we have remained friends. I am looking forward to seeing him at next year’s alumni Reunion. I recall the dorm master was a former military man who lived down the hall with his family. He was a good authoritative figure, but gave us enough latitude to be boys and have fun without being self-destructive. There were many pranks involving water bags and tampering with your bed sheets, mostly harmless pranks.

What was going on in the world around you?

It was a very difficult time actu­ally: the Vietnam War; the military draft, which affected my peer group. Everyone was worried, wondering ‘Am I going to get drafted?’ Also, I remember the Biafran War in Ni­geria, which was closer to home for me. Nigeria also had a mandatory military draft system. It certainly caused me to think about how I would respond if I were drafted. It was also 1968, which was not long after Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assas­sination. There was racial tension. Nothing that I felt person­ally, but it was certainly in the news and in the newspapers. I would spend weekends in New York, and really felt it when I was there.

Can you describe yourself as a teenager?

I started coming out of my shell at Williston. I was a shy kid. I was the middle child of five. My two older siblings were very outgoing with a lot of friends. So Williston gave me an identity. When you are the third one growing up, you feel like you have to play a certain role. But at Williston, I was the first one, so I got to chart my own path.

Michael Lockshin ’55


A shy boy learns there’s no limit to what he can achieve. Photo courtesy of Jamie Saunders
A shy boy learns there’s no limit to what he can achieve. Photo courtesy of Jami Saunders

Dr. Michael Lockshin ’55 attended Williston Academy with his twin brother, Richard Lockshin ’55. Originally from Ohio, the brothers had at first scoffed about enrolling in a prep school, but Dr. Lockshin says his “Midwestern horror quickly faded.” After Williston, he attended Harvard College and Harvard Medical School, and is now a professor of medicine and obstetrics-gynecology at Weill- Cornell Medical Center.

What did you try at Williston that surprised you?

I was shy and never thought I could speak in public, but I joined the debate society and I was surprised how much fun it was to formulate an argument and put it into a logical sequence. It forced me to have a more rigorous thinking pattern. That gave me a lot of confidence. I did try out for

the Glee Club, my brother and I, and we were thrown out within a day by the leader, who said, ‘What’s that monotone section over there?’ ”

What was it like to attend Williston Academy with your twin brother?

We were independent. We didn’t go to the same classes. We didn’t have a lot of competition, except which one of us was going to be the valedictorian. He beat me by a quarter of a point.

What do you remember was happening in the world while you were at Williston?

Marilyn Monroe married Joe DiMaggio at that time. Any teen­age boy in that era was enamored with Marilyn Monroe. And Joe DiMaggio was one of the great heroes of all time. Everyone talked about that. Also, the Anne Frank book came out. The town I had come from in Ohio had a number of refugees from World War II, but I had not put it into my conscious­ness what it all meant. It was a big realization when I read it, I think, in Mr. Rouse’s English class.

What’s one of your favorite memories from Williston?

My family had a jeep—an old WWII-style jeep. When my brother and I got driver’s licenses, we were allowed to drive to school in it. There was a moment when Williston acquired property rights to a ski area on Mt. Tom. But it was still wooded and they had to remove tree stumps. My brother and I volunteered the jeep to help remove tree stumps. I don’t think you want a 16-year-old boy to be doing that kind of thing. There was a moment when I got physics in mind, I was on a very steep slope, and I said, ‘If I don’t get out of here, the jeep is going to roll over with me in it.’ They didn’t have roll bars or anything like that. It was one of those quickly eliminated experi­ments.

What impact did Williston have on your life?

Williston opened up to me the possibility of a very wide world and that I could achieve whatever I wanted to achieve. I didn’t have a huge amount of ambition when I was there. When I started at Wil­liston, the concept of me going to anything other than a state school was not on my radar. I got the idea that I could go for things, and that I would be the limit of what I could do.

Rashid Dilworth Silvera ’67

A football player is inspired to pursue a career of finding the good in life. Photo courtesy of Jami Saunders.
A football player is inspired to pursue a career of finding the good in life. Photo courtesy of Jami Saunders.

Rashid Dilworth Silvera ’67 swept into Williston Academy as a postgrad football player ready to take the field for the Wildcats. A pre-season injury sidelined Mr. Silvera, but he forged friendships and a new path outside the locker room. After Williston, he became a man of “firsts:” among the first class of male students to attend Bennington College and among the first African American models on the cover of GQ magazine. He also attended Harvard Divinity School and Harvard Graduate School of Education. Mr. Silvera teaches psy­chology, race and ethnicity, and public policy at Scarsdale High School.

What teacher had the most impact on you?

His name was ‘Thugsy’ Thorner. This chap was out of a Dickens’ novel. He had the little tweed coat that was crusted with meals from months past. This guy and I liked one another immediately. I was on crutches because I had been hurt in the pre-season. This little ogre, this mean little twisted-nose chap, comes to the door, takes my books and ushers me into class. Do you know what a tender moment that was? And then I wanted to work for him. People may have not seen the cool in him. I thought this cat was completely cool.

What was it like to be one of only three people of color on campus?

I was patently aware that there weren’t many people of color. That was a visual reality. But it didn’t dampen my spirit about what the school could do for me or perhaps what I could contribute to the student body. I did begin to realize that not everyone was ready for a bright brown person everywhere. It was a viola­tion of people’s expectations. I learned to calm myself down. At Williston, as much as I think I grew, I think I realized that not everyone could be as happy about me as I could be about them.

What type of student were you?

I was a connector. I wanted to take one hand and open the other. In the hand that I took, I’d become a part of a chain. I ended up at the Harvard Divinity School. It’s like, ‘Oh, of course he would end up going to divinity school. He’d been rehearsing all of his life.’ I wanted to find good and praise it.

What do you remember was going on in the world while you were at Williston?

Big stuff. Vietnam. Cities were burning. There was the killing of Malcolm X, Dr. King. Everything was turning and churn­ing. The music was telling us, what the Rolling Stones were saying, what Motown was saying, what Marvin Gaye was saying: ‘Listen up. What’s going on?’ Everybody was beginning to take a dif­ferent and new look at life.

What fashion statement were you making in 1967?

I was a preppy. In that way, a brother fit in. If you could see some of these pictures of me wearing an argyle sweater and a herring bone jacket and a nice red tartan tie. I’m so insouciant. The clothes aren’t wearing me.

Gordon Cadwgan ’63

A lively student discovered a love of science. Photo courtesy of Chattman Photography.
A lively student discovered a love of science. Photo courtesy of Chattman Photography.

Gordon Cadwgan ’63 was a feisty teenager who didn’t love his high school in the south of Providence, RI. He agreed with his parents that Williston might be a better fit, and he excelled academically—though his lively nature kept his dorm parents and teachers on their toes. After Williston, he went into the sciences. He worked for five years at Union Carbide and then 16 years at DuPont as a senior scientist. He retired in 1996, and lives in West Palm Beach, FL.

How did things change for you at Williston?

Things were pretty regimented. I needed that because I wasn’t going to be able to do them myself. Very quickly, I became accustomed to do­ing certain things at a certain time and getting them done, as opposed to being on my own in high school. You have a book report due in two weeks? Well heck, you don’t have to do that until two days before it’s due. Whereas at Williston, I really enjoyed that regimentation.

Which teacher had a significant impact on you?

Doc Phillips. He was chemistry. I ended up doing chemistry in college. I liked all the sciences. That was that era of rockets and Sputnik. Both my brother and I were very active in science pro­grams. We built rockets. My dad was a businessperson, and all three of his kids went into science. He always used to make the comment, ‘Where did I go wrong?’ I just en­joyed Doc’s classes and discovering things that I didn’t know.

What did you try at Williston that surprised you?

I started playing soccer right away. That was one thing that I needed the most, a daily hard physical activ­ity to keep me more even keeled. I don’t think I would have ever played sports in high school because I was 110 pounds and wasn’t even five feet. I remember when we had Par­ents Day, I was on the varsity squad, and Saturday morning we woke up and there was two to three inches of snow on the ground and the mountain was covered with snow. We played the game in front of our parents anyway. If you kicked the ball to make a pass, it would take off like a rocket.

What was the food like?

At that point we were still [taking turns] waiting on tables. There was also kitchen crew—some of the guys worked in the kitchen. We always referred to them as the ‘animals’ because they could wear an old pair of jeans and T-shirts while the rest of us were in coat and tie. I remember the food being very good. We ate a lot of eggs in the country, so I missed eggs. At Willis­ton, we’d have what was supposed to be soft-boiled eggs. So you’d get a piece of toast and open up the egg, and it would be hard boiled. So you’d eat that one and get another one. Maybe you’d find one that was soft boiled.

What did you enjoy about going to boarding school?

I didn’t have any baggage. Nobody knew what a terrible kid I was. It’s like going off to college or going off to work for the first time. You have a clean slate.

Joe Lucier ’50

Creating a culture of philanthropy as a family affair. Photo courtesy of Chattman Photography
Creating a culture of philanthropy as a family affair. Photo courtesy of Chattman Photography

Joe Lucier ’50 was a postgrad stu­dent before there was a term for it. Having graduated from high school in Northampton at the age of 16, he decided to attend Williston Acade­my for two more years. He returned in 1977 with his wife, Priscilla, a 1950 Northampton School for Girls (NSFG) graduate, to inject new vitality into the school’s develop­ment efforts. Together, they raised four children at Williston—and also raised the bar for giving.

You were on the varsity football team. What game do you remember most?

Loomis. I was very good at allowing big boys to push me back. But as they pushed me back, I could pull them to one side. I would tell the quarterback which side to send the ball. We’d make yardage anytime we wanted. I’d say to Tommy, ‘Right.’ And a guy would come at me and I’d pull him to the left, and, zoom. I always remember our coach who said, ‘Gee, you don’t seem to be hav­ing any trouble out there today, Joe.’

You said you paid your way through Williston. Where did you work?

I used to work at the A&P in Northampton. I could walk in there and work anytime I wanted. When I was playing football, I didn’t work. The manager would put my time card with his and didn’t want me to lose my status. He would plug me in for so many hours a week and pay me. I was a good worker. I worked for them for 11 years.

Did you attend school dances with NSFG?

I used to go to NSFG on the week­ends and go to a dance. My wife was going to school there as a day

student at the same time, but I never met her. We met at UMass. She was the president of Kappa Kappa Gamma and I was in Phi Sigma Kappa, and we finally met our senior year. We got married a year later. We’re celebrating our 60th wedding anniversary. What’s the secret? I married the right woman.

When you began working at Williston, how did you change the way the school approached development?

I asked people to ask people. We made a rule that no one would be asked to be on the Board of Trustees until we got a financial commitment from them. That changed the giving pattern of the board tremendously. If the board isn’t interested in the success of the school, who the hell is? Then we started working on Reunion classes. We’d get people to make $1,000 gifts, and at that time it was a major gift.

How did it feel to receive a Distinguished Service Award in 2004?

I was pleased because they thought I had done a good job. I used to look at that chart of [other recipients and] I never thought I would be on it. It was a great gift to me. Also, I want you to know, my wife [Priscilla] was in the office and she ran the office. She was a big item in that office. I got the rewards, but she was the person running the show.

William Williams ’45

A local—and reluctant—student finds a way to take advantage of an opportunity he wasn’t sure he wanted. Photo courtesy of Matthre Cavanaugh
A local—and reluctant—student finds a way to take advantage of an opportunity he wasn’t sure he wanted. Photo courtesy of Matthre Cavanaugh

William Williams ’45 grew up in Easthampton and describes himself as a local “day boy.” He lived with his grandparents across the street from campus, and would dart back and forth from his house to classes. Although Mr. Williams struggled during his initial days at Williston, he would eventually grace the top of the honor roll and go on to attend Harvard and Harvard Business School. He became a security analyst for leading financial firms in Boston and New York City. Now 87, Mr. Williams lives in Hingham, MA, where he’s an active film buff with a collection of 650 movies.

Why did you go to Williston?

I nearly flunked out my first semester and I had to take tutoring. It didn’t take long to sink in that this was an opportunity, even at that tender age. I started really working and found out there was such a thing called studying and homework. By the time I got through my junior year, I was pretty high on the honors list.

Which teacher had the most impact on you?

I admired Archibald Hepworth. He taught history. He used to torture me once a week when we had a quiz. I remember this vividly. He would write up on the blackboard the marks that everybody got, but with­out any names—from 95 to sub-zero. Then he’d go around the class and see who could identify the scores. Now I had the best mark, but I al­ways lied and put myself two spaces below the top score. He would grin at me every time. He knew that I knew. It didn’t make me very popular with the other guys in my class.

Were there any incendiary articles in The Willistonian?

In those days, there was very little thought of doing anything that would smack of the kind of dissent and argument that might be taken for granted today. It just didn’t hap­pen back then. Part of that was [Headmaster] Galbraith’s command­ing performance over things. He wouldn’t understand something like that. You would know he wouldn’t understand it, and you’d say, ‘I’m not going to raise this point.’ He kept things very calm.

How different does Easthampton look today?

It looks the same when you’re driving into the main part of town because the old Town Hall is still there. When you drive through the neighborhoods in town, you see some changes, but not a whole lot. So it looks very much like the old Easthampton that I knew. But when you get down into the seams, you’ll see quite a few changes. I’m happy that this kind of change has taken place in the town, because at the time it seemed like a living ghost town. Gradually, people have found other uses for all those old empty mill buildings. Artists moved in there, and crafts people. Easthampton is a semi artsy-crafty place.

What’s your all-time favorite movie?

There are so many movies that are so good. There’s one movie that made a lasting impression on me. It was called ‘Babette’s Feast.’ I was very affected by that movie. That’s why I recommend it.

Sheila Fisher ’72

This English professor and Chaucer expert got her start with first place in an essay contest. Photo courtesy of Paul Schnaittacher.
This English professor and Chaucer expert got her start with first place in an essay contest. Photo courtesy of Paul Schnaittacher.

Sheila Fisher ’72, as an intellectually ambitious 13-year-old, was deter­mined to attend NSFG, even though her family lacked the funds to pay the full tuition. She won first place in an essay contest and was awarded a nearly full ride to NSFG for four years. Decades later, she’s still writ­ing, now as a professor of English at Trinity College. She’s a medievalist who specializes in Chaucer, late 14th-century English literature, and medieval women writers. In 2011, W.W. Norton published her book, The Selected Canterbury Tales: A New Verse Translation.

Most young kids weren’t as driven as you. What motivated you?

If I could do it in a way that would not impede my family’s finances, then I really owed it to myself to get the best secondary school educa­tion I could get. My parents were both brilliant, but they didn’t have circumstances to go to college. My parents looked at this a little askance because they were worried about financing college. It took a little bit of persuasion on my part and the generosity of the schoolto pull it off.

What subjects were you most drawn to?

My two favorite subjects,which would become the subjects I majored in in college, were English and Latin. The English faculty was really extraordinary. My most important teachers there were Barbara Carlin and Lorraine Teller, who did more for my interpretive abilities and writing than anyone else. They were really demanding. I would overwrite and my prose would get purple, and they would have none of it. They made me much more disciplined as a writer.

Was there a book that blew your mind?

Virgil’s Aeneid, which I read my senior year in Latin 4 with Lorraine Teller. I think for somebody in high school to make her way through The Aeneid over the course of the year with a gifted teacher is usually something you do in college. That was an extraordinary experience.

What did you value about a women’s education?

I liked the fact that there was no way that girls were second-class citizens. These were institutions that were geared toward teaching women. I was there right at the time when second-wave feminism was taking hold. I had a consciousness that it was a privilege to be ina place that was dedicated to wom­en’s empowerment. If there was go­ing to be a head of the student body, it was going to be a girl. If there was an editor of the school newspaper, it was going to be a girl. Leadership positions were filled entirely for girls in ways that gave women a whole lot more practice.

What are you working on now?

I just completed a sabbatical and I’m back to full-time teaching. Having finished my translation of The Canterbury Tales, I’m working on a brand new project of medieval women mystics. I’m hoping it might take the shape of a historical novel.