Building on the Best of Blair: CIC Comes to Life

The opening of Blair's 170th year brought all the excitement that every new school year brings, but this September, students and teachers had even more to celebrate: The Chiang Center for Innovation and Collaboration opened its doors just after classes got underway.

Home of Blair's technology and fine arts departments, the open-architecture, technology-rich academic center is unlike any other campus facility. In the days following its opening, the building was already abuzz with activity: Students had their first classes in intriguing courses, such as artificial intelligence and film and animation; afterschool activities, such as yearbook and robotics, geared up for the semester ahead; and clubs and Class Councils convened in the CIC's café and flexible, comfortable meeting spaces well into the evenings.

As the Blair Bulletin headed to press in mid-September, we asked several students and teachers to share their initial experiences in the School's newest academic building, a venue designed to inspire creativity and facilitate hands-on, collaborative learning. Their impressions give the entire Blair community a view into the activities taking place within the CIC' s glass-walled spaces—and a glimpse at how these activities will continue to build on the best of Blair's academic and community traditions.


"The CIC is awesome. I love how the glass walls let you see outside the classrooms and how they let people peek in as they walk by—it will be great for prospective students, as they will be able to easily see what we'redoing in class!

The art studio is aesthetically beautiful and bright, and the acoustics in that large space are great—even though people are talking, it is quiet and easy to focus on our work. I am excited to study there this year.

In my media class, we use the Macs in the first-floor media production suite, a completely different experience than working on the Macs in Weber Hall's much-smallerclassroom. The CIC studio is spacious, open and comfortable. And I'm not staring at a blank wall—I can actually see outside!"

IRENE CHOI '18, CIC student manager and AP portfolio 2D, AP computer science, and meaning and media student


"Digital fabrication equipment is new to us at Blair, so organizing and setting up our materials and tools has occupied much of my first week in the CIC. I have also dedicated many hours to training students and faculty in the concepts of design and use of equipment so that they can work independently.

The sheer variety of materials that will be consumed by our maker space equipment is staggering: plastic for our 3D printer; vinyl sheets for the vinyl cutter; laserable materials, such as wood, acrylic and coated metal; transfer materials like paper and fabric; and dye sublimation ink for our T-shirt printer, just to name a few. We also have an electronics workbench that supports arduino, lighting and robotics projects.

In addition to teaching robotics, programming, software design and our Freshman Seminar's design-and-fabrication module this week, I also have an evening of CIC duty under my belt and am doing my best to generate excitement about 'making' inside and outside of class—and, of course, over the weekend, when students have the chance to explore the CIC's resources during their free time.

Looking ahead, I am most excited for the 'maker' mentality to take hold across campus. I will know that has happened when students begin to come to me with projects they want to independently execute and ask how they can get started. Being in a building with so many faculty from other disciplines will also no doubt teach us all a great deal, and I plan to take advantage of every opportunity to collaborate so we can integrate technology across our curriculum."

—MICHAEL GARRANT, computer science teacher


"This is a really cool building. It's the perfect place to study because there's plenty of room, we can talk and eat, and there are places to meet with a group or just work on your own. The first night I had CIC manager duty, almost 100 kids signed in to study, and they used every area of the facility, from the art studio on the third floor to the maker space in the basement.

I love making things and learning how to do new things; so far, I've used the computer labs to work on Photoshop projects. There are so many more tools, including the woodworking equipment and the sound system, which I can't wait to learn how to use. When I'm on duty later in the year, I'd like to start some new projects and invite people to work with me."

RYAN GREEN '19, CIC student manager and functional design student


"My ceramics and sculpture students got their hands a little messy during their first week in the CIC, but I front-loaded some technology instruction, too, to help them begin thinking about how they might use the 3D printer, laser cutter and vinyl cutter to enhance their pottery and sculpture projects. We used the software packages I researched during the Faculty SummerInstitute and learned more about the capabilities of our new technology as we worked.

All the other fine arts classes started right in on projects, too. As they do each year, my graphic arts students began creating items such as signage and posters requested by community 'clients.' Painting and drawing teacher Evan Thomas began teaching his students how to 'see' and draw in the third-floor studio; photography teacher Tyson Trish had digital photography students taking next steps to enhance images using Photoshop Lightroom; architecture teacher Eli King's students were drawing by hand and looking into Google Sketchup; and video students began the year with a cellphone video project created by director of video studies Wendy Schiller.

In the weeks and months ahead, I'm looking forward to the many new things we'll be able to do as we blend technology and craft. That's a very exciting space in which to be. Craft artists always experiment with technique, but having the technological resources we now have in the CIC could help students and faculty create some very innovative works. At the very least, when our kids see an innovative technique or project, they'll actually be able to try it for themselves."

—KATE SYKES, fine arts department chair


"In addition to debugging some of the CIC's new equipment and software, I had the pleasure of kicking off my AP computer science and artificial intelligence courses in a dedicated and well-equipped technology classroom, as well as engaging with kids during evening duty as they acclimate to the new facility and explore how they might use it for curricular and co-curricular projects.

The building's glass-walled classrooms offer students who aren't taking one of our technology electives a clear view of why they should consider signing up. Technology has a new level of visibility at Blair, and I think students will learn firsthand the value in having others see what they are doing.

The CIC is already bringing design-focused classes together with build-focused classes, all in the same facility. It is incredibly exciting to witness this cross-pollination among disciplines in which fine arts, architecture, video, robotics and software students can create their own designs and then fabricate them in the CIC's maker space. I am excited for all of the things we have talked about and planned for over the last two years to finally become reality."

—SAM ADAMS, director of technology & computer science department chair


"Even before the school year started, CIC student managers came to me with a great plan for open houses. They wanted to get as many community members as possible into the CIC right away, to help everyone feel comfortable there and learn their way around.

The Collaboration Forum is the perfect size for student gatherings—The Can can become too crowded, and, sometimes, the performance gym is too big. I have lots of ideas for weekend events in the Forum this year, including dances, food-focused get-togethers, maybe even laser tag! I'm also excited that the Class Councils, especially the hard-working Senior Class Council, now have a dedicated place to meet. The main conference room in the CIC is their new home base, complete with storage space for their materials."

—ANDEE RYERSON, associate dean of students


"Although I don't have any classes in the CIC, I volunteered to be a student manager because I'm excited about the prospect of the new building. As soon as it opened, we took a tour with [Head of School] Mr. Fortunato, who explained that our job is to learn how to use all the equipment in the maker space and throughout the building so we can help others. Safety is our first priority.

I'm the kind of person who brings ideas to the table. I love to collaborate, brainstorm and share my point of view while listening to what others have to say. I'm most excited to work with others to figure out how to use the CIC to its maximum potential. The building is so amazing to me. I can't wait to meet with Model UN here—it's a facility that's better than some I've seen at the best colleges in the country. And I plan to attend every Skeptics lecture this year. I'm excited to learn throughout the CIC!"

SUMMER WILL '19, CIC student manager


"Everything in the technology classroom is high tech! The projector is like those I've seen in college classrooms, and it is amazing that we have that technology in high school. I'm used to taking technology classes in the basement of Timken Library. In the CIC, the classroom is wide open and has a very different feeling—much freer and lighter. We can really observe what our classmates are doing, no matter where we are in the room.

I want to study artificial intelligence in college, and I'm excited to learn programming, robotics, prototyping and design this year using all of the CIC's resources. As a student manager, I'm looking forward to steering people to the tools they need to do their work and teaching them how to use those tools effectively and correctly."

JASON PAN '18, CIC student manager and artificial intelligence student


"The openness of the robotics classroom is especially profound because people will actually be able to see the progress robotics students are making. I took robotics last year and want to stay involved this year with a project of my own. As a CIC student manager on Friday nights, I hope to make that happen.

I am working on my certifications for the media production lab equipment, including the MIDI keyboards and a super-fancy microphone. I am looking forward to figuring out how to use those tools for digital music and songwriting and exploring what they can offer.

The CIC is my space. I love the whole idea of combining art, technology and science in a big, open space, and I want to use all of it to the best of my ability. I am looking forward to working there at night, since I can bring food and will have all the tools I need to get things done. The CIC is the perfect place to learn something new."

LIAM JUNKERMANN '19, CIC student manager and computer science and digital music and songwriting student


"It's incredible to see a classroom as well-outfitted as the CIC's media lab. Students are doing postproduction work right next to our studio space and green screen; the setup is easily one of the best you could ask for at the high-school level.

In addition to introducing my film, animation and media classes to new software and demonstrating new equipment, much of my time in the CIC will be spent encouraging ninthgraders to think like makers and innovators as they learn to use design-and-fabrication tools as part of the Freshman Seminar.

A lot of this work focuses on whetting their appetites about what they can do with design and rapid prototyping. Our goal is to train students early in their Blair careers so that they know how to use the CIC's software and equipment, making it easier for teachers to get right to work as freshmen advance across grade levels.

I am always part technology teacher and part fine-arts teacher, so the fact that these two departments are anchored in the CIC gives me a lot more fluidity in moving between those two disciplines and integrating art and engineering.

During evening duty on Monday nights, I help students with project work, as well as collaborate with Blair TV as students prepare videos on current events, the Animation Club as it creates shorts and the Drone Club as we test our new drone. I am really looking forward to working with our laser cutter and hope to host a Blair Maker Faire as a weekend activity. But, more than anything, it is exciting to know how much students will teach each other—and me!—over the course of our first year in the CIC; so many in our student body were leaning toward these tools already and are ecstatic to test them as they embrace the maker and innovator mindset."

—WENDY SCHILLER, director of video studies

Meet Director of Counseling Lisa Acker

Lisa Acker joined the Blair community this fall as director of counseling, coming to Blairstown from Hong Kong International School, where she served as a counselor for seven years. A nationally certified school psychologist, she holds an EdS in school psychology and LPCC counseling from the University of Dayton (1999), as well as a graduate certificate from the London School of Public Relations (1991) and a bachelor's degree from Purdue University (1988).

Mrs. Acker began her professional life working in media relations in the television broadcast industry, a career that took her to New York City, Atlanta, and London and Devon, England. In the late '90s, she made the career change to school psychologist and has never looked back.

The Acker family, including Mrs. Acker's husband, Rob, and their sons Ian and Calvin (who are both in college) and Wils '19, has settled into life at Blair; they reside in Wayside Cottage. Below, Mrs. Acker answers a few questions about her work and life:

Q. What did you do during your career in media relations?

A. I worked for broadcast networks CBS and CNN, and my job was to build and maintain strong business relationships with affiliated television stations across the country. Essentially, I was a problem solver. I was involved network programming, marketing, research, post-production, promotion and more, and whenever an issue arose, I was the first point of contact for affiliate stations.

Q. Why did you decide to make the career change to school psychologist?

A. When my husband and I relocated to Cincinnati for his job, I worked in media buying, but I also took the time to discern where I was in my career and where I wanted to go. Working through the exercises in What Color Is Your Parachute helped me see my strengths and what I like to do: solving problems, helping people and working with kids. I began my graduate program in clinical psychology, but switched to school psychology so my work life would be in synch with our children's school calendar.

Q. What do you enjoy most about your job as a school psychologist?

A. I like the mysteries—I like to help students figure out underlying issues and then create a plan to help them be successful. I do a lot of listening throughout the day, and I love that part of my job. I enjoy collaborating with colleagues and working with parents, too—I can certainly relate to parents of teenagers. It's especially gratifying to see students make positive changes and to help them develop into their strongest versions of their unique selves.

Q. What do you like to do when you're not working?

A. I enjoy painting, reading and learning new things. And, having lived in Asia, Europe and the Caribbean, I absolutely love to travel and experience other countries. It was my desire to give our sons the experience of international living that brought us to Hong Kong—a country we'd never been to until the day we moved there for my job!

Q. What are your top tips for stress management?

A. It's all about awareness, balance and connection. When you're worried about something in the past or future, take time to do something calming to bring your awareness back to the present moment. It's also important to figure out some activities that help you keep your balance, bring you joy and connect you to a place or time that's meaningful. Once you know what those activities are, schedule them regularly on your calendar!
Musicians Showcase British-American Repertoire in Lead Up to England Tour

As Blair students prepared for Thanksgiving break, the community gathered in Armstrong-Hipkins Center for the Arts on the evening of November 17 for performances by the Jazz Ensemble, Singers, Chamber Choir, Chamber Orchestra and Symphony Orchestra. This year's Fall Concert, which has been a long-standing pre-Thanksgiving tradition at Blair, included an eclectic repertoire of music by American and British composers that performers have been practicing all semester long in preparation for the ensembles' upcoming spring 2018 tour of England.

To watch a video of the performances, click "play" below.

"Although we do not perform the Fall Concert specifically for the Thanksgiving holiday, it is worth noting that at a time of year when we are reminded of the many blessings we have and of the people we are grateful for, it is perhaps fitting that these ensembles shared music with the community," said performing arts department chair and director of instrumental music Jennifer Pagotto. "I hope this concert provided a moment of repose, an opportunity for all of us to take a collective breath after a very busy fall semester and to sit quietly for an evening of art. Moreover, I am reminded of how grateful I am for the many students who are so dedicated to their music study and who greatly contribute to the collective ensemble experience."

Attendees enjoyed a wide variety of music ranging from strictly classical British pieces such as Purcell's Rondo, Vaughan Williams' English Folk Song Suite and Thomas Tallis' If Ye Love Me to more contemporary American pieces including Lauridsen's Dirait-on, Paul Mealor's Wherever You Are, the film score to Aladdin, and Jazz Ensemble's renditions of It Had Better Be Tonight and The Pink Panther, both of which are written by Henry Mancini and featured in the film The Pink Panther. "There was something for everyone to latch on to and to, hopefully, enjoy," Mrs. Pagotto said, adding that, while she is always proud of Blair musicians, this year's groups are particularly special.

"The senior musicians always have a huge influence on the ensembles, and this year's senior class features a number of spectacular musicians," she explained. "There is also a lot of new talent in our younger classes this year, and I am especially proud of the way they have woven themselves so quickly into the fabric of the ensembles and are contributing strongly to the overall quality of the groups."

"I really looked forward to producing music with a diverse group of students from around the globe," said Paul Sereeyothin '18, lead alto player in the Jazz Ensemble and Symphony Orchestra's saxophone section. "It is amazing how people with different backgrounds can unite through music. There is a deeper implication to this oneness that makes me feel great after every performance. Of course, there is the aspect of pleasing the audience; however, I am more focused on playing together. I believe that if we play together, then everything else will fall into place."

With those pieces in place, Paul hoped his classmates and teachers who attended the Fall Concert got "lost" in the music. "I hope our audience members found something that is meaningful in their lives and really express and harness it through music," said Paul, who noted that he has grown both spiritually and mentally by playing saxophone in Blair's musical ensembles. "By doing this, there is more purpose in performing, and it feels awesome."

Alto section leader of the Singers Clara McGrath '18 looked forward to bringing the energy she and her fellow musicians have been building in rehearsals to the main stage in Armstrong-Hipkins. "We prepared a wide variety of music for everyone, and we were so excited to share it," she said. "We sang in English, French, and even Gibberish, so I hope it was be a show to remember."

Alvin Fan '18, who is the first violin in the Orchestra, was excited to share what he has learned this fall with his friends. "We all worked really hard all semester for the few pieces we play––so hearing my friends cheer and applaud afterwards always feels extremely gratifying," he said. "In the Orchestra, we learned to listen and complement each other as we play. Performing music at Blair has helped me get to know a lot of different people from different grades and different backgrounds I might not otherwise have met."

In a larger commentary on Blair's performing arts program, Clara went into the last Fall Concert of her Blair career with a high level of confidence about performing individually and as a group. "Thanks to the two choral directors I've learned from, Blair's music program has helped me grow significantly as a musician, and as a member of the choir in general," she said.

Paul agreed, noting that Blair's performing arts program has given him a sense of freedom during his high school years that he appreciates beyond words and that provides him with a sense of balance. "Playing the saxophone is more than just simply blowing air into the horn," he concluded. "It is an outlet for my deepest emotions where I can reconnect with myself as well as a way to clear and redirect my mind off of Blair's hectic schedule."

Blair Honors Veterans through Campus Activities

As Veteran's Day approached, the Blair community took several opportunities to express their thanks to those who served in our nation's military. One event, organized by Mrs. Erin Fortunato, wife of Head of School Chris Fortunato, and Blair's underclass councils, gave community members the opportunity to write thank-you cards to veteran and active-duty alumni, faculty and staff. Advancement office student ambassadors and members of the advancement staff manned a table in the dining hall, where everyone could write a personal note to express thanks to servicemen and women.

This tradition began with the Fortunato family, but, in recent years, it has become a school-wide tradition. "Writing thank-you cards helps students acknowledge and realize that they have something in common with these veterans—they share Blair," said Mrs. Fortunato. "This shared connection makes the debt of gratitude we, as a nation, owe to all our veterans a bit more personal and impactful for our students." While this small act of kindness may not be able to compensate for the totality of veterans' sacrifices, it does mean a lot in terms of gratitude, and the tradition will continue throughout the years to come.

A second Veteran's Day event took place on November 10, when Associate Head of School Ryan Pagotto '97's LEADS class hosted Blair's Friday School Meeting in order to give accolades to all veterans at Blair Academy, as well as local veterans from the Blairstown American Legion Post 258 Givens-Belet who were in attendance. Blair's a cappella singers performed "America the Beautiful" to open the assembly. Following this, LEADS class members Victoria Crow '20, Marilyn Fang '20, Kate Gerdsen '20, Tim Launders '20, Will Lerouge '20, Elizabeth Negvesky '20, Emma Nolan '20, Jake O'Connor '20, Joop Olthof '20, Tom Santiago '20 and Jordan Ullman '20 honored the veterans by reading each former service member's name and speaking about his or her service to our country. Finally, School Meeting concluded with a flag-raising ceremony outside Armstrong-Hipkins Center for the Arts, during which Robbie Donnelly '20 sang the National Anthem. The local veterans also enjoyed a tour of the Chiang Center for Innovation and Collaboration while they were on campus.

Senior Naratorn Sereeyothin will cover a number of campus events this year in his role as intern to Blair's communications department

Community Comes Together for Annual Fall Run

Although fall sports may have ended with Peddie Day, runners from all over campus gathered on November 8 for the School's annual 5k Fall Run. The weather was especially chilly that day, surely a sign of winter's arrival, but there was still a turnout of more than 100 runners. Students, teachers, staff members and faculty children came clad in warm-but-flexible running gear, prepared for action.

The event started with the traditional first lap taken by the children, and all the bystanders gathered at the finish line to form a human tunnel for them. Then, everyone had the opportunity to experience Blair's very own three-point-one-mile cross country course. The signal went off, and the race was on.

The first-place finisher was Paul Sereeyothin '18, varsity runner and returning Fall Run participant. When asked about the event, he remarked, "It was nice to enjoy nature and one last run before winter comes. It was also awesome seeing the community come together to accomplish such a difficult task. I am really going to miss this experience next year."

Senior Seth Kim will cover a number of campus events this year in his role as intern to Blair's communications department.

Writer-in-Residence Weike Wang Shares Insights at Chapel

As part of Blair's 2017 all-school summer reading experience, students and English teachers read Chemistry, the acclaimed debut novel by author Weike Wang. Dr. Wang joined the Blair community at Chapel on November 9, one of many activities she took part in during a two-day visit to campus as the School's first writer-in-residence this year.

As Chapel began, senior Brandy Zhang '18 read a passage from Chemistry and introduced Dr. Wang, who holds an undergraduate degree in chemistry and a doctorate in public health from Harvard University, and an MFA from Boston University. Brandy and Dan Sysler '18 then conducted a question-and-answer session with Dr. Wang that covered everything from the design of the book cover (she had little to do with it) to how she found the motivation to write Chemistry at the same time she was writing her dissertation (it was a creative outlet) to whether her life has changed since the book was published (it hasn't—she still gets up, exercises and writes six hours a day).

When Brandy asked Dr. Wang if there was something she wished she had known as a high-schooler, Dr. Wang had some sage advice: Be generous with the time you give yourself to figure out what you want to do in life, and be generous with others in that regard, as well. She also noted the importance of taking the time to establish bonds and relationships with teachers, describing how some of her teachers have become friends and mentors in the writing world.

Throughout the rest of her visit to campus, Dr. Wang worked with freshmen and seniors in seven different English classes and conducted an evening writers' workshop, during which she offered a select group of students advice and feedback on their works-in-progress. English department chair James Moore arranged Dr. Wang's visit as part of his department's ongoing initiative to nurture and sustain a school-wide literary community at Blair.

Boys' Soccer Wins MAPL Championship in Dramatic Fashion

Blair's boys' varsity soccer team ended its season on November 4 with a dramatic, come-from-behind win over Peddie School that earned the team the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) championship. "It was a proud moment for the team and for me," said varsity head coach Matt Farrell. "We worked hard on our game all season, and our exciting style of play, our belief in one another and the support we received from the Blair community pushed us to achieve this win."

The Bucs headed into the Peddie-Day contest having played four games in eight days. "That's tough on any team, and it showed in the first half of the game," Coach Farrell said. The Falcons were up 2-0 at half-time, and, with just 27 minutes remaining in the game, the score stood 4-1 in favor of Peddie.

That's when the Bucs kicked it into high gear and battled back to defeat Peddie by a final score of 5-4. Enzo Okpoye '18 led Blair's scoring effort with three goals for the day, while Michael Stockley '18 scored off a penalty kick and Thomas Robinson '19 notched the tying goal. After the game, the Bucs learned that Hill School had defeated Lawrenceville School, giving Blair the 2017 MAPL championship.

"Our players' efforts on Peddie Day were a true display of what we stand for as a team and a School: strength in the face of adversity; resilience; dedication to our purpose; and belief in one another and our ability to defy the odds," Coach Farrell said. "It was an incredible end to a successful season."

Outstanding Fall Athletes Recognized at End-of-Season Banquet

On Wednesday, November 8, the athletes and coaches of the School's cross country, field hockey, football, soccer, tennis and volleyball teams gathered in the Romano Dining Hall to celebrate their many accomplishments during the fall and cap off another great season of athletics at Blair.

During the event, Director of Athletics Paul Clavel '88 noted that though Blair didn't bring home the Kelley-Potter Cup on Peddie Day last weekend, he was proud that the Buccaneers gave it their all, adding that every player ended the fall season with a valiant effort and stellar sportsmanship.

At the banquet, Mr. Clavel and the fall coaches commended all athletes for another outstanding season. The following students were also recognized with individual athletic awards:

Pierce Cross Country Trophy: Alec Valle '18
Pierce Cross Country Trophy: Jewel Saxton '18
Blair Field Hockey Prize: Emma Mohlmann '18
Marcial Tennis Award: Sophie Parker '18
Blair Volleyball Award: Sasha Bakulina '21
Blair Soccer Award: Enzo Okpoye '18
Blair Soccer Award: Katie Peacock '18
Blair Soccer Award: Maggie Williard '19
Brooks Football Prize: Thomas Jenkins '18
Brooks Football Prize: Kraig Correll '18
Frere Football Award: Willy Kaiser '18

Blair Latin Teacher & Former Pro Athlete Talks Sports, Classics & Life After Hockey

Blair Latin teacher Kelsie Fralick has found that her history as a professional ice hockey player in the National Women's Hockey League (NWHL), who skated for the championship-winning Boston Pride during the 2015-2016 season, has given her some street cred with the students she coaches on the JV field hockey and girls' lacrosse teams. "The girls respect me a lot more knowing that I was just in college and just finished pro so they know that I know my stuff," she said in an interview with Pucks and Recreation. "The boys think it's cool that their Latin teacher isn't really such a nerd."

In a November 1 article published on that website, Ms. Fralick shares her thoughts on the teaching of classics at boarding schools (prior to coming to Blair, she taught at St. Paul's in Concord, New Hampshire, and she attended Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, Connecticut, during her student days). She also considers the value of studying languages that are no longer spoken, discusses the parallels between Latin and hockey, and explains how her time as a college-turned-pro athlete has informed her coaching strategy, something she has found particularly influential at the JV level.

"I think my athletic career was a necessity for my teaching career," said Ms. Fralick, who taught Latin and coached JV field hockey and JV ice hockey at St. Paul's for two years and earned her master's degree in education from the University of Pennsylvania before joining Blair's faculty in 2017. "Without sports, I wouldn't be where I am today. Hands down. Playing hockey really prepared me to be the best student I could be and the best person I could be. I had to manage my time efficiently, I had to be organized, and I had to give 100 percent in everything I did if I wanted to go anywhere or accomplish anything. I developed some good habits throughout my athletic career that have helped me become an efficient teacher, a good coach, and a person with whom my students can relate and feel comfortable."

Learn more about Ms. Fralick's career as a hockey player, first at Connecticut College (where she studied classical languages and anthropology) and then as an athlete in the NWHL, by reading the Pucks and Recreation article "Kelsie Fralick Seizing New Days with Old World Tongues."

Horror, Books to Film and the Meaning of Life: New AP English Electives

In keeping with the English department's goal of sustaining a literary culture at Blair, seniors are once again launching their study of Advanced Placement (AP) English language with a first-semester focus on a specific literary genre. Joining the roster of tried-and-tested AP English language courses on topics such as memoir and modern drama are three new electives for fall 2017—"Horror," "Books to Film" and "The Meaning of Life"—and each class was designed and is being taught by a veteran teacher who is passionate about his subject.


The course description for "Horror" reads like the introduction of a spooky story: "Many a Halloween and campfire night have been spent pondering the possibilities that the things that go bump in the night are more than legend. Poe, Lovecraft, Bierce, Jackson, Matheson and King—writers who have kept us up many a night wondering if we remembered to lock the back door. Sign up for this elective...if you dare."

And 12 students did, indeed, dare to enroll in English and drama teacher Craig Evans' fright-inducing elective. Throughout the semester, they are reading and analyzing short stories and one novel—Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House—to determine how their authors create emotional response in readers and what, exactly, makes these stories scary.

Rose Mascarenhas '18 loves horror movies, and she's enjoying the class' lively—or is that deadly?—discussions. "We compare horror movies we've seen to our reading assignments and figure out which elements throughout the tale are scary and which are not," she said. One of her favorite texts so far has been "Caterpillars" by E.F. Benson, a story whose "creepy, crawling descriptions of caterpillars" made Rose jump in her seat as she read it. "I've learned that scary writing does not depend on the blood and gore of a particular situation, but more on the element of surprise," she added. "When a story has an ending that causes me to be amazed and confused, that's the part that's horrifying."

Mr. Evans has been a voracious reader of horror stories for as long as he can remember and a horror-movie fan since seeing Psycho as a youngster. In class, he delves into the literary and cinematic techniques writers and directors use to induce fear, such as the "jump scare," but noted that current events are often part of class discussion, too. "We talk about what we're afraid of, and, of course, mass shootings and terrorism are frightening beyond any fiction that's ever been written," he said. "Our discussions include everything from religion, morality and ethics to zombie movies and science fiction-induced fear of robots and artificial intelligence. They're really far-reaching, and that's the best part about teaching this course."

Students will complete a unique signature assessment before the end of the semester: They will present one of Richard Matheson's Twilight Zone stories to the class. "Richard Matheson wrote every scary episode of Twilight Zone you can think of," Mr. Evans said. "Through this assessment, students will realize how important storytelling is to society, especially storytelling that invokes an emotional response such as fear. I hope they'll continue reading horror and watching horror movies long after this class is finished," he added.

Books to Film

The notion that "the book is always better than the movie" inspired English department chair James Moore to create his new AP English language elective "Books to Film." In this course, which Mr. Moore designed during Blair's Faculty Summer Institute in August, students are reading novels and their corresponding screenplays, then analyzing how story elements were changed and exploring the reasons for the adaptations.

"Often, screenplays are written the way they are due to marketing considerations or movie industry regulations," said Mr. Moore, who explained that students have read the Motion Picture Production Code, a set of industry moral guidelines applied to most United States films released by major studios from 1930 to 1968. "Nonetheless, we're digging deep into the process of writing for the screen, and students are scrutinizing every detail."

After taking a look at the all-school summer reading book Chemistry, Weike Wang's debut novel that was just optioned by Amazon Studios, the next book/film combination the class considered was Truman Capote's Breakfast at Tiffany's. Mr. Moore noted that there is a great deal of documentation on the making of that book into a 1961 movie, but that he and his students will be "flying without a net" as they now turn to Patricia Highsmith's thriller, The Talented Mr. Ripley. "Students will have to work hard to figure out how a 300-page book was collapsed into a two-hour production," he said, noting that this assignment will lead students into the work of their signature assessment.

For this project, students will write an original screenplay based on Über Alles: A Novel of Love, Loyalty, and Political Intrigue in World War II by Blair alumnus Robert Neff '49. The class will be challenged to remain true to the tale told in the 420-page historical thriller/love story while keeping their movie to two hours' running time. Students will have to make critical decisions on which story elements to include and which ones they can omit, and the entire class will contribute to this collaborative effort.

Even though Danny Sysler '18 describes himself as "someone who prefers to read non-fiction books," he is enjoying the stories Mr. Moore has chosen for the AP class. "I've felt very confident speaking in class and sharing ideas with my peers," he said. "I'm looking forward to working together as the year goes on."

Mr. Moore's goals for the class—besides acing the AP exam in May—include helping his students become more careful readers who are able to analyze literature on a deeper level and giving them an appreciation for what goes into the movies they watch, as well as a sense of how movies reflect the time in which they were made. "I hope students will be inspired to do something creative, too," he said.

The Meaning of Life

Thirteen seniors are tackling the eternal question of what life is all about in the midst of an indifferent universe in "The Meaning of Life," a course that English teacher Bob Brandwood originally designed and taught 20 years ago. "It's based on a core set of books that I thought revealed essential truths about the human condition," the veteran teacher remarked. "These texts suggest answers to questions about identity and truth, as well as our relationship to self, others, the spiritual and the philosophical. They help students think about the way they approach their lives."

Among the traditional literary works the class will examine are Robert Bolt's A Man for All Seasons, Ernest Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms and the World War I poetry of Wilfred Owen, each of which helps students consider issues around love, personhood, how human beings react in extremis and how beliefs influence what kind of person one becomes. Amidst all this seriousness, Mr. Brandwood also brings in jokes, movies and lighter poetry, too, as he readily acknowledges that comedy and facetiousness also have their place in any attempt to discern the meaning of life.

Katie Peacock '18 is one of the students who has taken on this thought-provoking course, and she is enjoying the experience. "A Farewell to Arms and short stories by Andre Dubus have left me with more questions than answers, but that is, perhaps, the best part of the class," she said. "My classmates have interesting answers to challenging questions, and they are willing to listen to me as I ramble and my ideas begin to take shape. I've learned a lot about perspective and also that we can learn a lot from each other."

For their signature assessment, class members will choose a philosophical or religious figure whose ideas they find intriguing and present that person and his or her ideas to the class. In the meantime, they will continue writing essays and responses to a range of questions and engaging in class discussions during which Mr. Brandwood will encourage them to push back and challenge one another as they express their views.

"By the end of the course, I want students to see that there's a glint of hope, no matter how desperate the times may seem," Mr. Brandwood said. "No matter what you ultimately think the meaning of life is, you have to believe there's always something out there to discover. There will always be more questions than answers, and you've got to be comfortable with that. And I've already told my students—as I did 20 years ago—that they can't really know the meaning of life until they graduate."

Yearlong Head of School Seminar Brings Human Rights into Focus

Blair students are taking an in-depth look at the challenging issues surrounding human rights during a yearlong seminar led by Head of School Chris Fortunato. The outside-of-class series is an opportunity for students of every grade and every level of human-rights interest—from the curious to the passionate—to learn about the myriad topics related to human rights and to engage in meaningful conversation with outside experts, Blair teachers and one another. Nearly 20 students became involved in the seminar in the first months of school, and Mr. Fortunato is looking forward to continued learning alongside them and others who will join in as the year progresses.

"My goals for this seminar include giving students the information and background required to understand human rights issues and helping them develop the skills necessary to become better advocates for causes that are important to them," he said. "Through the year, I expect that participants will discover ideas, opportunities and challenges they've never considered before, and I hope this will lead them to ask questions and think deeply about what matters to them most."

Sessions in the CIC

The seminar got underway with two midday sessions in the Chiang Center for Innovation and Collaboration (CIC) in September and October aimed at beginning the campus conversation on global human rights and providing a foundation for thinking about and acting on issues. Harvard University Kennedy School professor and human rights activist Timothy Patrick McCarthy, PhD, who will work with seminar participants throughout the year, came to campus for the opening meeting and joined the group virtually on October 19. At that time, he described his work as a faculty member at the Kennedy School's Carr Center for Human Rights Policy and shared a brief overview of ideas about human rights through history.

"We tend to think of human rights in a modern sense, but we can detect ideas of people desiring to live outside of oppression and subordination that go back millennia," Dr. McCarthy said. He explained that the rights of human beings to live outside of oppressive systems are foundational, meaning they are inherent when we are born; inalienable, meaning they should not be taken away; interrelated to and indivisible from one another; and, finally, universal, in that all people should have them. "All of this is aspirational," he explained to students. "When we talk about human rights, we are always talking about an ideal."

Dr. McCarthy then described his own work with Free the Slaves, a global nonprofit dedicated to eradicating modern slavery, and answered students' many questions about the issue and the methodology behind Free the Slaves' work. He also offered down-to-earth suggestions on how students might become involved in causes that interest them, including becoming educated about the problems that need to be addressed and undertaking consciousness-raising activities, such as posting to social media or holding a fundraiser.

"Find your thing and go after it," he encouraged students as the meeting drew to a close. "None of us can eradicate slavery alone, but more of us can do more."

A Day at Harvard

Mr. Fortunato, Dean of Students Carm Mazza, Associate Dean of Admission Leucretia Shaw and 18 seminar participants had the opportunity to meet with Dr. McCarthy when they traveled to Harvard University on October 25 for a full day of human-rights learning experiences and activities. Arriving at the Carr Center mid-morning, students began by participating—along with Harvard graduate students—in a workshop titled "Contentious Communications: How to Talk About Hot Issues Without Getting Heated."

For Linda Tong '19, who is participating in the human rights seminar to explore her interest in the relationship between democracy and free speech, this workshop was a highpoint of the day. "I found the session informative and engaging, and it definitely gave me more confidence navigating controversial and uncomfortable issues," she said. "I hope to reorient the way I engage and keep the new skills I learned in mind for future round-table discussions."

The group then moved on to a luncheon discussion with Dr. McCarthy and two of his Carr Center colleagues, Zhijun Hu, an activist and leader in China's LGBT community, and retired General Counsel of the Department of the Navy Alberto Mora, who was among the first to insist that the interrogation techniques employed in the post-9/11 era be called "torture" and has since worked to eradicate this practice. As this session was ending, Blair students enjoyed a surprise visit and impromptu conversation about public service with Kennedy School visiting fellow and former chair of the Democratic National Committee Donna Brazile. The day also included a highlights-of-Harvard-Yard tour with Mr. Fortunato, a seminar on "Islam and Democracy" and a final panel discussion on violent and nonviolent resistance movements.

Both Cleary Waldo '19 and Madina Shabazz '20 were especially intrigued by the group's luncheon conversation with the renowned human-rights advocates. "We were free to ask questions, and it was fascinating to hear from people who have contributed personally to human rights advocacy and who are important across the world," Cleary said.

Madina found the discussion of LGBTQ issues in China eye-opening and described how, at one point, the Q&A with the human-rights experts became a conversation among students. "We asked questions of one another and offered thoughts and ideas," she said. "It was amazing to hear each person's individualized point of view or opinion." She noted that she loves hearing and learning about a variety of human-rights topics, such as events that involve racial and religious issues. Overall, the day at Harvard confirmed what she already knew: "Human rights issues are broad, complex and controversial, but they are so significant in the world and in people's everyday lives."

Cleary, too, enjoyed the Harvard experience and is looking forward to future seminar meetings where she can delve deeper into her interest in how human rights are tied into economics and how the prospect of financial success often leads to the violation of these rights by business owners or others in power over workers. "I've already learned so much, including the staggering number of people who are still enslaved worldwide and the different forms of enslavement," she said. "It has been a very rewarding experience thus far, and it's exciting to know I am becoming more informed about the problems in the world around me."

The Falcons Keep Cup, Despite Strong Effort from Blair on Peddie Day

Sadly and despite valiant efforts from Blair athletes on 12 fall sports teams, the Buccaneers were unable to wrench the Kelley-Potter Cup from the Peddie Falcons.

As the sun set on Hightstown, Blair fell short of victory by a score of 5-8-0.

During the traditional cup ceremony on the football field's 50-yard line, Head of School Chris Fortunato graciously congratulated Peddie Headmaster Peter Quinn, thanked Peddie for hosting the festivities and commended all of the athletes for their dedication and commitment.

Go Bucs! Alumni Share Best Peddie Day Memories

School spirit and Blair pride are important on Peddie Day, and both will be on full display tomorrow when the Bucs travel to Hightstown for the annual athletic competitions versus rival Peddie School. When asked about their most memorable Peddie Day during their time at Blair, two young alums shared spirited stories. Enjoy the memories and Go Bucs!

Colin Daddino '07

For our senior year Peddie Day (2006), Headmaster Chan Hardwick did not approve our plan to shoot off "buccaneer" cannons upon Blair touchdowns, so my friends and I settled for "plan B" which, of course, was to build a buccaneer ship. Our largest hurdles were our lack of tools and supplies and no idea of how to build a buccaneer ship. Undeterred, we devised a plan to use inverted sawhorses as the ship's skeleton, build the hull out of "reclaimed" wood (found at a dump), and raise my bedsheet, upon which someone would draw a buccaneer, as the sail.

I don't remember exactly where we got the tools, but I think the local hardware store and the maintenance crew made some donations. The end result was a ship worthy of a true Buccaneer—if that Buccaneer had no need for a ship that would float or instill fear in the enemy. The final product was the proverbial nail in the coffin for any dreams we might have entertained of careers in the boat-building industry, our main offense being that we somehow managed to put the bow on upside down. Nevertheless, we had a blast building it, and it definitely added to the Peddie Day spirit, even though Blair didn't win the Kelley-Potter Cup that year.

Haven Donovan '13

There is something to be said about a time-honored tradition like Peddie Day. It's a day to display spectacular athletic ability, teamwork, school pride and sportsmanship. Throughout my years at Blair, there were so many Peddie Day memories, but perhaps the one that stands out the most is Peddie Day 2012.

Peddie Day was a little different that year: Hurricane Sandy hit New Jersey in late October, forcing the School to reschedule the event. But, in typical Blair fashion, we utilized that time to help raise money for the Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund and to continue practicing for a couple of extra days before beating Peddie.

The day finally arrived, and as the competitions drew to a close, the entire School anxiously awaited the final seconds of the football game. There was an indescribable feeling in the air. A feeling that was a mixture of pride, joy, relief and excitement—and, in that moment everything seemed to stand still. When the clock ran out, everyone stormed the field, and Mr. Hardwick held up the glistening Kelley-Potter Cup. We knew we made Blair proud.

Winning Peddie Day my senior year was special not only because of our athletic victory, but also because we came together as a School to support our state in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Even in times of struggle and adversity, we rise above, and that is why Peddie Day 2012 will forever be my favorite Peddie memory.

Up-to-the-Minute Scores Available at Peddieday.live

As the Bucs take on the Falcons on November 4 in football, tennis, field hockey, soccer and cross country, spectators from near and far can keep tabs on which school is ahead in the contest for the Kelley-Potter Cup by visiting www.peddieday.live.

The site, created by Blair alumnus Nick Ladd '12, will be updated throughout the day by student spectators charged with reporting wins and losses as they happen from the sidelines in Hightstown. The URL is different this year than in the past, so longtime Buccaneer fans will have to update the bookmarks on their computers and phones.

"Over the years, Blair and Peddie fans alike have come to rely on this site for the news on how each team is faring, and if you see spectators looking at their phones during a game or match, the chances are they are checking to see how the other athletes are doing," said Athletic Director Paul Clavel '88. "Seeing the results updated in real-time makes the lead-up to the Cup ceremony much more exciting, especially if Blair is ahead!"

As the November 4 contests come to a close, the site will show who won, lost and tied over the course of the day, preserving those results for a year until the rival schools meet again in Blairstown in 2018.

University Professor Lectured on American Intelligence Community at Society of Skeptics

At the Society of Skeptics on November 7, Drew University professor emeritus Doug Simon discussed the American intelligence community and whether its size and intrusiveness is at odds with basic American values. His presentation took place in the Chiang Center for Innovation and Collaboration and began with a brief historical survey of American intelligence and its varying importance and morality during different eras.

"When World War II began, the United States got serious about building a large intelligence community and huge spurts of growth were further stimulated by the advent of the Cold War and 9/11," said Dr. Simon, who retired from Drew in 2004 after teaching political science and international relations there for 33 years. "The current size of today's intelligence community raises serious questions. It is an enormous network of organizations employing hundreds of thousands of people with highly intrusive technical capability and all built on secrecy."

After receiving his undergraduate degree from Willamette University in 1963, Dr. Simon served as an officer in U.S. Air Force intelligence, including a tour in Vietnam, for which he was awarded the Bronze Star. Following military service, he earned a PhD at the University of Oregon and began teaching at Drew in 1971, ultimately co-directing the university's Semester on the United Nations program for 15 years, serving as convener of Drew's Masters in International Affairs program and serving as political science department chair. Dr. Simon is the only two-time recipient of Drew's Thomas Kean Distinguished Teaching Award and also received the Sears Outstanding Educator Award and the Distinguished Teaching Award from the American Political Science Association.

Over the course of his career, he has also written extensively, co-authoring The Challenge of Politics, a textbook now in its fifth edition, and New Thinking and Developments in International Politics. Dr. Simon contributed to the edited volume, Protection Against Genocide: Mission Impossible?, as well as publications such as the Harvard Journal of World Affairs, East Asian Survey, Comparative Political Studies, Perspectives on the Holocaust, International Studies Notes, Teaching Political Science and Society.

In his retirement, Mr. Simon continues to lecture extensively on U.S. foreign policy, national security and the American intelligence community. He is also getting ready to undertake the preparation for the sixth edition The Challenge of Politics, published by Congressional Quarterly Press and SAGE Press.

During his Society of Skeptics talk, Dr. Simon hoped to impress upon Blair students the immense size of the American intelligence community, which is not limited to just the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency—in fact, they are just two of 16 organizations. "While I suspect just about everyone, myself included, recognizes the need for intelligence on adversaries that may pose a threat to the country, I want people to at least wrestle with the question of balancing national security and the rights of American citizens," Dr. Simon explained. "Is such an enormous organization built on secrecy compatible with democracy?"

The Society of Skeptics was established as a forum for students and faculty to discuss and debate important global issues; it has grown to become one of the premier high school lecture series in the United States. Each week, speakers from the political, social, scientific, economic and literary arenas share their unique perspectives with students, who are encouraged to engage with presenters, asking questions and debating points of view.

The program was an outgrowth of the Blair International Society, begun in 1937. Forty years later, former history department chair Elliott Trommald, PhD, Hon.'65, established the modern Skeptics program as a regular forum for student discussion and debate; history teacher Martin Miller, PhD, took over in the mid-1980s and molded the program into a weekly lecture series, one that has since continued without interruption. Under the tutelage of Dr. Miller, Skeptics has featured a wide variety of speakers who are engaging, accomplished in their respective fields and often controversial. For a listing of upcoming Skeptics programs, please click here.

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