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Sigety Family
Sigety Family

Since 2017, the Faculty Summer Institute has been an invaluable professional development resource for Blair teachers, bringing a total of more than 50 participants together for weeklong, on-campus programs focused on making Blair’s classrooms the best they can be. The Sigety family, already among the School’s most loyal benefactors, has ensured that this unique opportunity will continue to enrich Blair’s faculty for years to come with a generous gift to endow the program.

Sigety family members’ belief in the importance of education inspired their support of the newly named Sigety Faculty Summer Institute. Trustee Rob Sigety ’75, father of Katie ’16, Will ’18, Elise ’20 and George ’21, and Trustee Neal Sigety ’76, and his wife, Virginia, parents of Ned ’16, Brad ’18 and Nina ’19, credit Rob and Neal’s mother, Katharine (Kit), and late father, Charles, with instilling that value in their five children. “Dad and Mom gave us the gift of education, and we are giving that same gift to our children,” Neal said, noting that his sister and brother-in-law, Liz and Jerry Marcus, are also proud parents of two Blair alumni, Griffin ’14 and Palmer ’19. “Our family is pleased to support the ongoing development of faculty members at Blair because great teachers are at the heart of a great education.”

Rob and Neal are thankful for the outstanding faculty who shaped their Blair experience in the 1970s, including English teachers Henry Cowan and Charlie Underwood and history teacher Paul White. In recent years, the Sigetys have “seen the School in action” in their roles as enthusiastic volunteers, former Chairs of the Parent Fund Group (Neal and Virginia), ex-officio Trustee (Virginia), Chair of the Advancement Committee (Neal) and Chair of the Buildings and Grounds Committee (Rob). “We’ve gotten to know Blair’s current faculty members as excellent teachers and great people,” Neal said. “The Sigety Faculty Summer Institute facilitates their professional development within the Blair curriculum, which is important for them and for the School.”

The Sigetys’ gift dovetails with a key strategic initiative of Blair’s 2018-2025 Strategic Plan, All In, calling for a comprehensive array of faculty training opportunities, a critical need for the School as it seeks to hire and retain teachers who will best serve Blair students. The cost-effective, on-campus Sigety Faculty Summer Institute is particularly advantageous because it gives teachers a distinctive opportunity to focus on skills and curriculum that will both immediately impact their work in the classroom and have long-term significance for the School and its students. 

Over the years, the Sigety family’s remarkable philanthropy has benefited Blair teachers and students in countless ways by generously supporting capital projects, the Blair Fund, scholarship aid and other initiatives. This latest gift to endow the Sigety Faculty Summer Institute embodies the Sigetys’ continuing love for the School. “With so many family members who have come to Blair, our shared experience will undoubtedly be a point of connection throughout our lives,” Neal said. “We are proud of all our School has become—it is certainly a special place to get an education.”

As mother and grandmother of 11 Buccaneers, Kit noted that Blair provided her children and grandchildren with a solid foundation for higher education. “One of life’s greatest accomplishments is to achieve and use your achievements to better the world,” she said. “This gift will help provide that same educational foundation to so many more students.”

(Pictured above, seated, left to right) Katie Sigety ’16, Katharine Sigety, Nina Sigety ’19 and Elise Sigety ’20(standing, left to right) Griffin Marcus ’14Ned Sigety ’16Brad Sigety ’18Rob Sigety ’75Neal Sigety ’76Will Sigety ’18Palmer Marcus ’19 and George Sigety ’21.

School Store

Blair's School Store is ready for the upcoming holiday season! Visit the store on campus or online (www.shop.blair.edu) to choose from a number of amazing gift items to help your family and friends show their school spirit.

Among the unique, custom gifts Blair offers are dog collars, car magnets, pillows, blankets, mugs, class banners, coasters, picture frames, diploma frames, ornaments, ties and clothing for all ages.

Remember to shop early and allow time for delivery, as Saturday, December 14, is the last day to place an online order for delivery in time for the holidays.

For more information, please contact Reanne Mauriello, School Store manager, at (908) 362-6121, ext. 5635, or store@blair.edu.

 

2019 Fall Concert

On November 22, the Blair community gathered in Armstrong-Hipkins Center for the Arts’ DuBois Theatre to enjoy a musical prelude to Thanksgiving break at the annual Fall Concert. The Symphony Orchestra, Jazz Ensemble, Singers and Chamber Choir presented a varied repertoire of popular and classical music, highlighting the skills they have been working on this fall in their performances.

Musicians Doing ‘Impressive Work’

Among the pieces presented by the 50-member Symphony Orchestra are two works the audience quickly recognized, “In the Hall of the Mountain King” by Edvard Grieg from the Peer Gynt Suite and “Game of Thrones” by Ramin Djawadi. However, music department chair and Director of Instrumental Music Jennifer Pagotto was most excited to share Jean Sibelius’ “Finlandia” with the audience.

“’Finlandia’ is a tone poem, a Romantic-era work designed to tell a story, expressing Finland’s discontent with Russia’s oppressive rule,” she said. “It is a stunning piece with scoring that really captures each section of the orchestra, particularly with the foreboding opening played by the brass section, then the intense and rhythmic motives shared among the various sections, followed by a beautiful, lush chorale section played by the strings and woodwinds. Our musicians really did impressive work with the piece, and I was eager for our community to hear their finished product.”

The 18-member Jazz Ensemble took center stage with Herbie Hancock’s “Cantaloupe Island” and Charlie Parker’s “Yardbird Suite,” two numbers with a “cool feel,” according to Mrs. Pagotto. “Cantaloupe Island” is a meaningful choice for this year’s repertoire, given the role Herbie Hancock has played in shaping jazz music and culture for the past 40-plus years and the fact that the Blue Note record label, under which he has primarily recorded, is celebrating its 80th anniversary. “I was happy to share a piece by this living jazz giant during this anniversary year,” Mrs. Pagotto continued. “I think the audience particularly enjoyed the groove and the soloists. Our jazz musicians’ impressive attention to detail and commitment to their art has them playing better than ever!”

Meanwhile, Audrey Sacks ’20 was especially looking forward to playing “Yardbird Suite” for the community. “It’s an exciting song that I’ve always loved, and we have some fabulous soloists featured in the piece!” she said. As a member of all four ensembles who performed at the Fall Concert, she appreciated the many opportunities she has to explore different styles of music with her peers. “We learn to be artistic and trust one another, and we are always proud to perform the music we’ve been working so hard on together.” 

When Blair’s vocalists stepped into the spotlight, under the direction of Blair’s Director of Vocal Music Ryan Manni, they presented a variety of works. The Singers’ numbers featured “Homeward Bound,” arranged by Mack Wilberg, “4 Chord Medley,” arranged by Mark Brymer, and “Mironczarnia” by Jukub Neske, while the Chamber Choir will sing “Sicut Cervus” by Giovanni Liugi da Palestrina, “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” arranged by David Brunner, and “Sure on the Shining Night,” arranged by Jamey Ray.

“I was thrilled to have the chance to perform ‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot’ once again with Chamber Choir, and I couldn't wait wait to see the crowd reactions to the Blair Singers' ‘Mironczarnia,’ said Kendra Payne ’20. As a soprano section leader for the Singers and Chamber Choir, as well as clarinet co-section leader for the Orchestra, she reflected that she seems to have made it her personal mission to be in as many musical groups on campus as possible during her Blair career. “Each ensemble has an exciting repertoire, each piece exhibiting different strengths of the Blair music department,” she added. “I was looking forward to getting the chance to share our music at the Fall Concert!”

Listening in Rehearsals

Instrumental musicians have focused on listening during their fall rehearsals, particularly on harmonies created during any given point in a work. Although it takes considerable extra time to break down phrases, slow down fast sections and stop at important “moments” in a phrase, the practice of deeply listening has given students a greater understanding of the foundation and structure of music and, ultimately, a better grasp of the big and small picture inherent in any musical phrase. 

“Listening has also allowed us to revel in really beautiful chords and to find surprises in our music that we may have missed if we didn’t slow down and really look for them,” Mrs. Pagotto said. “For a piece like ‘Finlandia,’ that deep listening has been a huge factor in students’ ability to perform it with integrity and knowledge of where it begins and where it is going.”

Senior flute-player Emma Abbott ’20 counted “Finlandia” as the Orchestra’s hardest piece this year, but it is the one she has most enjoyed rehearsing with her fellow musicians. “We are a smaller group than in past years, so each individual has to really know the pieces and focus on every musical aspect, which makes us sound even better,” she said. “It is a lot of fun to play with this talented group of musicians because everyone puts energy and passion into each performance.” 

“Being a member of the Orchestra allows students to hone their musical skills in a collaborative and engaging way,” added Abby Morris ’20, a violinist. “Performances like the Fall Concert make the experience even more rewarding, as they allow the ensemble to share its music with the supportive Blair community.”

To watch the full Fall Concert, please click below:

Lois Dodd art

“Painting in Blairstown” opens in The Romano Gallery on November 18, giving visitors the opportunity to view paintings of Blairstown-area landscapes created by New York City-based artist Lois Dodd and 13 of her artist friends. Ms. Dodd, the mother of Blair architecture teacher Eli King, is an award-winning artist whose work has been the subject of more than 50 solo exhibitions since 1954. She will visit The Romano Gallery for an artist’s reception on December 5, beginning at 7 p.m. The exhibit runs through December 21.

Ms. Dodd exhibits regularly at the Alexandre Gallery in New York City and has shown her work throughout the U.S. and internationally, including, most recently, at the Montclair Museum and the Kemper Museum. She is widely known for paintings that transform the ordinary around her into poetic moments filled with color and light.

Having studied at the Cooper Union in the late 1940s, Ms. Dodd was one of five founding members in 1952 of the legendary Tanager Gallery, one of the first artist-run cooperative galleries in New York City. She retired from teaching at Brooklyn College in 1992 and counts among her many honors election to the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the National Academy.

Fellow artists Joe Fiore and David Dewey introduced Ms. Dodd to the beauty of Warren County. She frequently invites friends and students to accompany her when she paints area views. Among those who have painted with her are the following artists, whose work will be on display in The Romano Gallery:

Rita Baragona: A Blair faculty member from 1989 to 2013, Ms. Baragona taught painting and drawing to a generation of Bucs. She has exhibited her work solo and as part of groups at venues throughout U.S. She holds a BFA from Carnegie Mellon University and attended the New York Studio School.

Paul Carrellas: Mr. Carrellas is a faculty member at Lehman College and holds a BFA from the Swain School of Design and an MFA from Queens College. In an artist’s statement, he noted, “My paintings are representational and made directly from observation. However, verisimilitude is never my aim. The real goal is to reconfigure appearance in order to reveal a tension between the underlying abstract structure and the depiction of reality.”

David Dewey: For more than 30 years, Mr. Dewey has regularly exhibited his extraordinary watercolor paintings in New York City, Maine and throughout the U.S. His work is included in many major museums, as well as public and private collections, including at Blair Academy. He holds a BFA from the Philadelphia College of Art and an MFA from Washington State University, and has enjoyed a long and successful teaching career.

Jeffrey Epstein: Mr. Epstein counts Ms. Dodd as his mentor, having studied with her as he earned his MFA at Brooklyn College. His many solo shows include one in 2010 at The Romano Gallery, and he has been part of numerous group shows in Maine, New York and New Jersey. As he painted with Ms. Dodd in Blairstown, Mr. Epstein learned “how to go about painting onsite,” as well as “the value of stopping sooner rather than later.”

Daniel Finaldi: “I am a representational painter, and each image is constructed from observation from onset to finish,” Mr. Finaldi says in his artist’s statement. A teacher of fine art at Freehold Borough High School since 2001, he has numerous solo and group exhibitions to his credit. His work is included in the collections of Messiah College and Rider University. He earned his BFA at SUNY at New Paltz and MFA at Brooklyn College, where he studied with Ms. Dodd.

Joseph Fiore: In 2001, Mr. Fiore won the Andrew Carnegie Prize for painting at New York’s National Academy of Design. His subjects include abstract and representational landscapes, and he exhibited in numerous solo and group shows throughout his career. Mr. Fiore studied and taught at Black Mountain College, and later taught at the Philadelphia College of Art, Maryland College of Art and the National Academy. He died in in 2008.

Leslie Hertzog: Ms. Hertzog holds a BFA in painting from the University of Cincinnati and an MFA in painting and printmaking from the University of Hawaii. “My paintings originate as plein-air and proceed to completion later in the studio,” she says in her artist’s statement. “My paintings seek to establish a convincing light and sense of place that is achieved through color exaggeration and invention.”

Julie Jankowski: Ms. Jankowski is a graduate of Ball State University (BFA) and the Maryland Institute College of Art (MFA). She regularly exhibits her work in the Baltimore/Washington, D.C. area and teaches post-secondary art courses. In her work, she “borrows from ideas of constant surveillance and the prevalence of satellite images in contemporary culture. She incorporates maps of cities and highways, graffiti marks, and images of stadiums that straddle the realms of abstraction and representation to make her paintings.”

Arthur Kvarnstrom: “Growing up in the country, walking in the fields and woods allowed for a thorough immersion in the sights, sounds and smells of nature,” Mr. Kvarnstrom says in his artist’s statement. “The natural world is alive and wondrous. Being present in nature is a deeply spiritual experience that I share through painting.” A BFA graduate of the University of Arizona and MFA graduate of Kent State University, Mr. Kvarnstrom has earned numerous awards for his artwork, which is included in public and private collections.

Lynn Kotula: Ms. Kotula paints from observation, and her works include landscapes, still lifes and drawings. “In all my painting, what compels me is exploring the tension between what I see and what I can invent as an equivalent in two dimensions,” she says in her artist’s statement. “I want to paint paintings in which each gesture—color or line—has multiple meanings.” Ms. Kotula exhibits her work in solo and group shows on the East Coast and beyond.

Barbara Kulicke: An accomplished artist, Ms. Kulicke exhibited in more than 20 solo shows and many group shows, and her work is included in the Newark Museum’s collection. She was honored by the New Jersey State Council on the Arts with a Fellowship Award for artistic excellence. Ms. Kulicke passed away in 2015.

Elizabeth O’Reilly: Ms. O'Reilly received her MFA from Brooklyn College and her B.Ed from the National University of Ireland. She has participated in residencies at the Ballinglen Foundation, Ireland, the Ucross Foundation, Wyoming, and the Ragdale Foundation, Illinois, and has received numerous awards, including a Pollock Krasner Foundation grant.

St. Clair Sullivan: Mr. Sullivan, husband of former Blair art teacher Rita Baragona, received an AB in English from Princeton University and attended the New York Studio School. Many of his paintings depict the natural beauty of the Delaware Water Gap and Appalachian Trial. Mr. Sullivan has exhibited in solo and group shows, and he is the recipient of two New Jersey State Council on the Arts Fellowship Grants.

Senior Fund Drive 2020
Senior Fund Drive 2020

Members of the class of 2020 came together around friendship and fundraising at the annual Senior Fund Drive event on November 14. Classmates gathered in the Black Canteen, where they feasted on pizza and spent quality time with their friends, all while learning about the importance of philanthropy at Blair Academy.

Seniors and their parents have embarked on a shared fundraising endeavor this year, setting their sights on funding the Class of 2020 Scholarship. “Scholarship aid is a critical need at Blair, as it helps bring deserving students to the School who otherwise would not be able to attend,” said Susan Long, assistant director of advancement for parent relations. “The Class of 2020 Scholarship will help future students attain the same gift of a Blair education that our seniors enjoy, and it will help keep seniors connected to their alma mater long after they graduate.”

Advancement Student Ambassadors Kathleen Devlin ’20, Kate Gerdsen ’20, Cameron Grant ’20 and Olivia Scialla ’20; Senior Class Council members Corey Downey ’20, Ari Cobb ’20, Alex Kirby ’20 and Robbie Donnelly ’20; and Associate Director of Admission Leucretia Shaw each spoke about Blair’s strong culture of giving and the importance of giving back to the school that has given students their start. The speakers’ words resonated with seniors, 76 of whom made contributions or pledges to the class gift during the event, totaling $1,268.75 and representing 56 percent of the class. 

Several senior parents have also made gifts to the Class of 2020 Scholarship already, with fundraising sparked by two challenge gifts. Worthing and Katrina Jackman P’20 have offered to match every gift made to the scholarship dollar-for-dollar, up to $5,000, for a total of $100,000. In addition, an anonymous parent will contribute $25,000 if senior giving reaches 100 percent and another $25,000 if senior parent participation reaches 90 percent.

Seniors will present their class gift to the School during the Class of 2020 Assembly on May 20. 

Brothers Co-Name Blair’s Chiang-Elghanayan Center for Innovation & Collaboration
TomandFredElghanayan

K. Thomas Elghanayan ’62 (standing)
and Frederick Elghanayan ’66 are
pictured in front of a Persian rug that
bears a portrait of their father,
Nourollah Elghanayan.

Thanks to the exceptional support of loyal alumni K. Thomas Elghanayan ’62 and Frederick Elghanayan ’66, Blair’s dynamic academic hub is newly co-named the Chiang-Elghanayan Center for Innovation and Collaboration. The brothers’ generous gift funds the remaining co-naming opportunity for the building and reflects the innovative spirit Tom and Fred have embraced throughout their successful entrepreneurial careers in real estate development, as well as their gratitude to the School that gave them their start.

“The generosity of the Elghanayan brothers and the Chiang family will profoundly impact generations of Blair students,” said Head of School Chris Fortunato. “Our entire community looks forward to the exciting opportunities, achievements and connections that will be built in the Chiang-Elghanayan Center now and in the future. We are deeply grateful to both families for their vision, support and love for Blair.”

Tom and Fred have fond memories of their Blair days, including living in East Hall, the dorm in whose footprint the Chiang-Elghanayan Center now stands. Rigorous academics, inspirational teachers, and the camaraderie of friends and teammates were important parts of both their Blair experiences, and Fred, who captained the soccer team as a senior, reflected that the lessons he learned through sports and being part of a team proved very helpful in his business career.

Throughout their nearly 50 years of partnership in the real estate industry, the Elghanayans have been builders and innovators. Today, Tom and Fred are chairman and president, respectively, of TF Cornerstone, the premier real estate acquisition, development and management company they founded in 2010. Through their work, they have established a reputation for quality, integrity and vision, and created communities in New York City and Washington, D.C., that foster new opportunities for all who live and work in them.

As part of a Blair legacy that was nurtured by their beloved parents and includes seven alumni, Tom and Fred are happy to see their family name on the Chiang-Elghanayan Center for Innovation and Collaboration. Their gift to co-name the home of Blair’s technology and fine arts departments embodies their hope that students will be inspired by the academic classes and myriad activities they experience within the building’s glass-walled classrooms and soaring spaces to become the next generations of innovators.

“I truly believe in innovation,” Tom said. “It is vital to our business and to the future of every aspect of modern society. I am pleased to support the facility where students develop their savvy in technology and creative fields, as these skills will always be important to Blair alumni as they live, work and better their communities worldwide.”

“I received so much from my education and experience at Blair,” Fred added. “I hope the Chiang-Elghanayan Center will always be a place that expands the viewpoints, possibilities and life experiences of Blair’s students and teachers.”

Award-Winning Photographer Returned to the Society of Skeptics

Award-winning documentary photographer Alison Wright returned to the Society of Skeptics for her fifth appearance on November 19. Having spent more than two decades traveling the world as a photojournalist, Ms. Wright guided attendees through her journey of photographing for National Geographic and other publications. Her presentation was held in the Chiang-Elghanayan Center for Innovation and Collaboration.

“I keep returning to the Society of Skeptics partly because history teacher Dr. Martin Miller has been so supportive of having me share my story, but also because I really love the enthusiasm of the students,” Ms. Wright said. “They always offer such great questions and are a pleasure to have in the audience.”

Ms. Wright’s presentation focused on her latest photo book, Human Tribe, and its celebration of our visual human tapestry. She has traveled to over 160 countries across the world and returned to Blair after a trip to Nigeria.

“The book is a global look at not just how different we are in appearance, but how we are also the same,” she said. “We all want to love and be loved, have enough money in our pocket to get by, safety and health for ourselves, our friends and our family, and education for our children.”

In her previous Skeptics engagements, Ms. Wright shared her many experiences of traveling abroad to capture the world's most secluded areas on film. Her photography has appeared in numerous publications, including National Geographic magazine, National Geographic Traveler, National Geographic Adventure, Islands, Smithsonian, American Photo, Natural History, Time, Forbes, O: The Oprah Magazine, The New York Times, Yoga Journal, Outside and the San Francisco Chronicle.

She has also published several books of photography, including The Spirit of Tibet: Portrait of a Culture in Exile, A Simple Monk: Writings on His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Faces of Hope: Children of a Changing World. Ms. Wright was named the 2013 National Geographic Traveler of the Year, is a recipient of the Dorothea Lange Award in Documentary Photography and is a two-time winner of the Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Award.

A graduate of Syracuse University with a bachelor's degree in photojournalism, Ms. Wright completed her master's degree in visual anthropology at the University of California at Berkeley. To learn more about Ms. Wright and her work, click here.

The History of Skeptics

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.

 

 

BBBall

The varsity boys' basketball team will have their first scrimmage of the season against Olympus Prep at 6:00 p.m. Click here to watch the livestream.

Veterans Day

The Blair community expressed gratitude to alumni, faculty and staff members who served or are currently serving in the U.S. military with several happenings surrounding Veteran’s Day. Organized by the sophomores in Associate Head of School Ryan Pagotto ’97’s Blair LEADS class and the advancement office, the activities highlighted the many sacrifices military men and women make as they serve our country and gave everyone at Blair a chance to say thank you.

Veteran’s Day remembrances began the week before the holiday with the annual card-writing campaign held in the Romano Dining Hall. During lunchtime, students, teachers and staff members flocked to the table manned by Director of Annual Giving Colleen Smarth, Assistant Director of Annual Giving Anna Matthews and Advancement Student Ambassadors to write personal notes of thanks to nearly 400 Blair veterans and active-duty service members. The cards featured a photo from the Blair archives, chosen by Mrs. Smarth, Ms. Matthews and Blair’s coordinator of health education Erin Fortunato, who helped establish the card-writing tradition several years ago. The image depicts the 1914-1915 Blair Battalion, a group of students who were training to fight in World War I.

On November 11, the Veteran’s Day commemoration culminated during a School Meeting assembly. Sophomore LEADS students coordinated the event, which included remarks by MAJ Joshua Jabin, a 2001 U.S. Naval Academy graduate who has served 19 years in the U.S. Marine Corps. MAJ Jabin is currently chief operating officer of the Travis Manion Foundation, a national nonprofit that supports veterans and families of the fallen.

During the assembly, LEADS students honored Blair community members who are former or current members of the U.S. military by reading their biographies and thanking them for their service to the country. Those recognized included Associate Dean of Admission Teddy Wenner ’96 and his wife, LTC Teresa Wenner (both Army), Dean of Teaching & Learning Caren Standfast ’95 (Marine Corps), Assistant Director of Athletics Brian Antonelli ’93 (Marine Corps), technology teacher Michael Garrant (Army), and math teachers David Naysmith (Army) and Rob Anthony (Army Reserve). 

A flag-raising ceremony outside Armstrong-Hipkins Center for the Arts, accompanied by Sadie Donnelly ’22 and Samantha Antonelli ’22 singing the National Anthem, concluded the assembly. Afterward, students joined MAJ Jabin and Blair’s veterans for lunch in the Romano Dining Hall.

Kyle Kolaja PhD Skeptics

On November 12, the Society of Skeptics welcomed Kyle Kolaja, PhD, senior director and head of investigative toxicology and cellular therapy at Celgene Corporation. His presentation on the realities of cell therapies took place at 7 p.m. in the Chiang-Elghanayan Center for Innovation and Collaboration.

Over the course of his career, Dr. Kolaja (father of Luke ’20) has worked at a number of cutting-edge companies, including Cellular Dynamics International, where he served as vice president of business development and cell therapy, and Roche, where he was leader and global head of predictive toxicology screens and investigative toxicology. During his time at Roche, he oversaw laboratories in the United States and Europe that conducted all safety screening assays, provided toxicology support to projects, and applied stem cell derived tissues to safety. Prior to joining Roche, Dr. Kolaja served as vice president of chemogenomics and toxicology at Iconix Pharmaceuticals and project toxicologist and site head of investigative toxicology at Searle/Pharmacia.

Dr. Kolaja is active in a number of medical organizations. He has served as president of the Society of Toxicology’s (SOT) specialty sections for drug discovery toxicology and stem cells and toxicology, on the board of directors of the American Board of Toxicology and on the board of the Academy of Toxicological Sciences. He has also edited a number of trade publications, including the SOT’s Journal Toxicological Sciences. A member of the HESI Cardiotoxicity Steering Committee, Dr. Kolaja is a fellow of the Academy of Toxicological Sciences and a diplomate of the American Board of Toxicology. Since completing his undergraduate work at Michigan State University in 1992 and his doctoral work in toxicology at Indiana University in 1996, Dr. Kolaja has published or reviewed nearly 70 articles. He completed his post-doctoral research at the University of Kansas and now works in Summit, New Jersey.

To watch his full presentation, please click below:

The History of Skeptics

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.

fall 2019 athletic awardees
fall 2019 athletic awardees

On November 6, the varsity fall athletic teams concluded their season with the annual awards banquet held in the Romano Dining Hall. The teams gathered to celebrate what has truly been a successful year on and off the playing fields.

Director of Athletics Paul Clavel ’88 praised the athletes not only for their hard work and determination, but also for the way they represented Blair Academy with the utmost sportsmanship, honor and integrity. 

Captains from each team spoke about their seasons, and then the coaches honored team members with individual awards. Blair congratulates the students who received the following awards: 

Pierce Cross Country Trophy: Thomas Engel ’20
Pierce Cross Country Trophy: Corrine Wilm ’21
Blair Field Hockey Prize: Kate Antonelli ’20
Marcial Tennis Award: Sydney Landau ’20
Blair Volleyball Award: Chloe Rayer ’20
Blair Soccer Award: Grace Hogue ’21
Blair Soccer Award: Matt Ho ’20
Blair Soccer Award: Ashlyn Alles ’20
Brooks Football Prize: Preston Krivulka ’20
Frere Football Prize: Sanoussi Kane ’20

Understanding the Cosmos: Blair Students Study Astronomy

Did you ever stop to contemplate how Earth became a planet? Or how a cosmic event that occurred eons ago impacts what is happening in the present day? These are just some of the questions 14 juniors and seniors are considering this year in astronomy, a science elective that gives students an understanding of the cosmos beyond that of a standard earth science or physics course.

‘The Universe is Knowable’

Science teacher Michael Ryerson developed Blair’s astronomy course eight years ago, based upon his own background in the field. During his undergraduate days at the State University of New York at Geneseo, he majored in physics and astronomy and performed research on the computer simulation of star clusters. He has since earned a master’s degree in science education from the University of Montana, and, over the years, expanded the course from a half-year to a full-year elective.

“My number one goal in astronomy is to give students a sense of perspective about the universe,” Mr. Ryerson said. “The scale of time and space we are talking about is almost more than we can comprehend, but I want students to realize that in a science that is, literally and figuratively, so far away, we can use the same tools that we use in other sciences to understand natural phenomena. The universe is knowable.”

The course begins with an overview of topics like gravity, light and waves, and particle physics and an examination of the work of early astronomers. Then, students look to the skies to study the moon, our solar system, the Milky Way galaxy and beyond. Along the way, they learn about everything from planets, the life cycle of stars and rocketry to black holes, the Big Bang theory and relativity, the latter being topics that Mr. Ryerson says his students have been most excited to investigate over the years.

The stars and the mysteries of the universe have always fascinated Elise Sigety ’20, and she is enjoying delving into astronomy in Mr. Ryerson’s class. “Our discussions are often mind boggling as we learn about the vastness of the solar system and each unique and wonderful planet,” she said. “I am looking forward to the rest of the year!”

In & Out of the Classroom

Of course, this year astronomy meets in the newly expanded and upgraded Bogle Science Center, which opened in September after a yearlong, $9-million renovation. For the first time, Mr. Ryerson has a classroom dedicated to astronomy, allowing him to house the School’s large telescope where students can access it every class period, as well as display a variety of diagrams and charts. The classroom’s capacity for 100-percent darkness makes for especially realistic simulations of moon phases, the sun’s ability to illuminate the solar system as a single point of light and other concepts that are harder to visualize when light is coming from all directions.

“Taking this class in the new Bogle Science Center helps us to learn more productively because it provides the materials and spaces that challenge us to not just learn the what, but also the how and why,” observed Chloe Rayer ’20, who is taking astronomy to feed her interest in the sky, the solar system and the Earth. “The crazy thing I’ve already realized is how small we actually are compared to the enormous solar systems and universes, and how much goes unnoticed on the daily.”

Observation of what is occurring in the skies is key to the study of astronomy, and Mr. Ryerson encourages students to take notice of the moon and stars as they go about their lives. In addition, he and students head outside to Blair’s athletic fields once each month for nighttime telescopic viewing of the heavens. In the spring, students will take to the same fields to launch rockets they have built from kits and, for their final signature assessment, launch rockets they have designed and built from scratch.

Reflecting on the importance of studying astronomy, Mr. Ryerson noted that when students tackle any area of science, they begin to develop a scientist’s mindset and skills such as critical thinking and data assessment that are “hugely important to being able to function in society.” “Beyond that, astronomy gives students an appreciation of the forces that shaped planet Earth,” he said. “It spurs them to really think about something most people take for granted.”

Go Bucs…& Falcons! Blair & Peddie Share the Cup

For the second year in a row, the Bucs and Falcons tied and will share the Kelley-Potter Cup until the two teams meet again in Blairstown in November 2020. As the sun set over the football field in Hightstown, Head of School Chris Fortunato and Peddie’s Headmaster Peter Quinn shook hands on the football field’s 50-yard line and congratulated all athletes on a job well done. The final score of the day’s competitions was 5-3-5 and, since Peddie had the home advantage, the Falcons will keep the Cup for six months before turning it over to Blair.

Athletic Director Paul Clavel ’88 commended all Blair athletes for their extraordinary heart, grit and sportsmanship, and said he hopes everyone is proud of their performances over the course of a very successful fall 2019 season.

"Of course, we go into every Peddie Day excited to bring the Cup home, but I couldn’t be prouder of the effort our teams put forth,” he said. It was a beautiful fall day in Hightstown, and Blair fans came out in force to cheer for the Bucs, enjoying one another’s company at games and matches across campus and in the hospitality tent for alumni and parents.

The Peddie Day scoreboard is posted below; look for team-by-team recaps on Blair’s athletics page with more details about individual victories. More photos from the day will be posted on Blair’s Photoshelter page next week.

Wins & Losses:

Varsity football: L (7-41)

JV football (played on 10/29): L (13-14)

Boys’ cross country: L (0-8)

Girls’ cross country: W (5-3)

Boys’ varsity soccer: W (3-1)

Boys’ JV soccer: W (2-0)

Boys’ thirds soccer: T (3-3)

Girls’ varsity soccer: T (1-1)

Girls’ JV soccer: T (0-0)

Varsity field hockey: W (8-1)

JV field hockey: W (3-0)

Girls’ varsity tennis: L (1-3)

Girls’ JV tennis: L (2-3)

Alex Sloane
Alex Sloane

Alexander J. Sloane ’70 has given back to Blair Academy enthusiastically and generously over the years. A Trustee for more than a decade and class representative since 2007, he counts the School among his top philanthropic priorities. His many gifts to Blair include the Sloane Tennis House and three named tennis courts; the Hardwick Hall clock tower named for beloved history teacher Paul White; and three endowed scholarships that provide the opportunity of a Blair education to deserving students each year.

This summer, Mr. Sloane provided for the School’s future with a contribution that will resonate across generations of students: He pledged a third of his estate to Blair, a planned gift valued at approximately $10 million. This transformative gift represents the single largest donation in Blair Academy’s history, and it is intended solely for the support of scholarship aid. Mr. Sloane’s extraordinary generosity will fully fund the Blair experience for many students who would not otherwise have the opportunity to attend Blair, opening the door to a lifetime of learning and achievement for deserving young people.

This generous bequest and all of Mr. Sloane’s Blair philanthropy are inspired by his desire to share his success with the institutions that believed in him during his own student days and to ensure that the opportunity of a boarding-school education is readily available to boys and girls from all backgrounds who will truly benefit from the experience.

“We are deeply grateful for Alex’s dedicated service as a Trustee and his exceptional philanthropy over many years,” said Head of School Chris Fortunato. “As a benefactor of scholarship aid, he is leading the way to a bright future for Blair’s diverse and inclusive community and a life of unlimited possibility for the students who benefit from his generous support.”

Memorable Blair Years

Mr. Sloane’s own Blair experience took place in the late 1960s, a time characterized by a campus-wide formality that he says is hard to imagine today. His grandfather, Ward Chamberlin, class of 1899 and a World War I recipient of the Distinguished Service Cross, had thrived at the School, and this had influenced his mother’s choice of Blair for Mr. Sloane’s high school years.

“I arrived as a freshman, not yet 12,” he reminisced. “Coat and tie were mandatory at meals and classes, and we were required to attend School assembly and Chapel every morning.” His first two years proved challenging, but “Blair was patient,” and he became a serious student as a junior and senior. Among the kind and engaged teachers he encountered at Blair, history teacher Paul White was especially impactful. “He noticed that I had turned things around and took me under his wing,” Mr. Sloane said. “I loved history and was eager to learn in his classes.”

From Blair, Mr. Sloane earned a bachelor’s degree in history at the University of Virginia and, in 1980, an MBA at New York University. A successful career in the investment industry enabled him to give back to each of his alma maters, especially by providing funds for scholarships. “It’s a pretty simple concept,” he explained. “I wanted to give those who may not be able to afford it the same opportunity I had been given.”

Ensuring the Blair Experience Is Open & Available

Fast forward to today, and Mr. Sloane is delighted to return to Blair each fall for the annual Scholarship Dessert Social, where he speaks to many of the School’s named scholarship recipients and spends time with the “bright, eager and enthusiastic” students he sponsors. “The Blair experience can be just the ticket that allows kids to make the most of themselves,” he said. “I want to make sure that experience is open and available to students who will benefit most from it.”

As his 50th reunion approaches in 2020 and the School embarks on its ambitious All In Strategic Plan, which will guide its course and direction for the next five to seven years, Mr. Sloane shared some final thoughts about giving to Blair. “The greatest misconception out there is that Blair is an elite school only for the privileged,” he said. “I see Blair as a serious institution that benefits society as a whole. By its very existence, the School gives many deserving young men and women a chance to succeed that would be otherwise denied to them.” As for planned gifts, he concluded, “There is no better—or more painless—way to give back than to allocate a part of your estate to the institutions that helped you along the way.”

peddie day 2018

Thanks to a website developed by Nick Ladd ’12, Blair Bucs worldwide can keep on top of Peddie Day athletic scores in real time! Click here throughout the day on Saturday, November 2, for all the latest scores. Go Bucs!