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Creativity Abounds at This Year’s Fall Student Art Exhibition

The annual Fall Student Art Exhibition provides Blair’s student artists an opportunity to showcase their work in The Romano Gallery for their peers and community members to enjoy. The gallery walls were filled with paintings, photographs, sketches and architectural drawings, cyanotype prints and more, while the center of the gallery featured pedestaled sculptures and ceramic works of art. The exhibition acts as an extension of the arts at Blair, where students learn to appreciate various forms of art. 

Click “play” to watch a video below, featuring some of Blair’s finest illustrators, sculptors, portraitists and artisans, and hear what art means to them.

Dance Marathon Fundraiser

“Anything can make a difference, no matter how big or small.”

It’s a lesson Allie Roecker ’23 has learned helping to organize the annual Dance Marathon at Blair Academy this Saturday, and it is something she will take with her long after leaving the hilltop.

“It’s important to donate to the Children’s Miracle Network—even if it’s just a dollar—because proceeds go directly to the children’s hospital, which has saved thousands of lives and helped provide treatments for children,” Allie said.

The dance marathon, and fundraisers like it, help children like Taryn, sister of Bryson ’19 and Kiara Garriques ’23, who was diagnosed at birth with periventricular leukomalacia, a form of cerebral palsy. After multiple surgeries, Taryn worked with therapists at the Children’s Specialized Hospital to address her difficulties with day-to-day activities like sitting, walking and standing. With their help and Taryn’s strength and tenacity, she has been able to gain more of her independence as a determined teenager.

“Taryn would like to thank everyone who has been raising funds so far with an extra special shout-out to her sister, Kiara!” the siblings’ mom, Kathy Garriques, said. “We are so very proud of both Bryson and Kiara for their commitment to support an organization so very close to our hearts.”
 
Kiara, another organizer of the dance marathon, credits her sister’s ten years of involvement with Children’s Specialized—one of the 170 hospitals in the Children’s Miracle Network—as the reason the event holds so much importance to her.

“My favorite thing about the Dance Marathon is how it brings the Blair community together to help those outside our Blair bubble,” she explained. “It means a lot to be able to help kids in the same way she was helped.”

Blair has hosted the night of fun and service since 2018, and last year students raised more than $5,000. Pre-event donations this year already exceed $4,000, and the club is hopeful bracelet and T-shirt sales at lunch this week will only help the total grow. Collectively, the philanthropic movement has raised $300 million since 1991, through the efforts of more than 400 campuses across the United States and Canada, just like Blair.

With all their efforts culminating in a single night of fun and activities, Allie admits that a lot of planning goes into a successful event. The club hits the ground running at the beginning of the school year, holding meetings to brainstorm fundraising ideas and the activities available to students scattered throughout the CECIC during the marathon. An early bake sale in October jump-started the fundraising goal with $500 from delicious treats and sweets alone. From there, each member created a fundraising link to send to family and friends. On Saturday, the club is prepared to spend hours in the CECIC setting up for the big night.

“It is definitely a lot of work, but overall it’s worth it, because the outcome is so rewarding,” Allie said. “My favorite part is at the end of the night when we reveal how much money we have raised. I love knowing that the community has worked together to donate thousands of dollars to help provide treatments for children, and hopefully change someone’s life for the better.”

As the end of the first semester draws near, the club hopes students turn to the event to support a worthy cause and dance off the stress that often comes with exams this time of year. Besides busting moves on the floor, students will also enjoy snapping festive pictures with Santa and his elves thanks to a few spirited 12th-grade volunteers in costume. A gingerbread decorating contest will bring out the competitive bakers and a rousing Just Dance battle or two will surely take place.

“On the day of the event we also have a card-writing station where everyone is encouraged to write holiday cards to the patients,” Allie added. “It shows that the goal is not only about raising money, but also to boost morale for the children and show them that we care.”

To track the fundraising progress, visit the Blair Dance Marathon website. Click play below to watch a video sharing Taryn’s story that was shown at School meeting.


 

A student poses for a photo with her parents during Family Weekend 2022.
In addition to panels and performances, exhibitions and games, Blair offers a variety of events each weekend to keep students active, engaged and broadening their horizons. In this visual essay, students share highlights from their trip to New York City last weekend, which included taking in the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree and catching the musical Hadestown on Broadway. 
 
 
 
     
 

For more photos of happenings across campus and beyond, please check out Blair Academy on Photoshelter, where we regularly post images.

Dr. Keisha-Khan Perry Society of Skeptics

Originally born in Kingston, Jamaica, Dr. Keisha-Khan Y. Perry, a Presidential Penn Compact Associate Professor of Africana Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, immigrated to the United States with her family when she was 10 years old. Starting a new life in Newark, New Jersey, Dr. Perry recalls that the experience of moving to the United States at that time “profoundly shaped [her] perspective on being black in the diaspora, urban life and politics, and the history of social movements in the United States.” Her experiences, included in a pre-event interview, also influenced her career and current studies on activism and activist anthropology in Brazil. 

On Tuesday, December 6, Blair closed the semester’s Society of Skeptics series with Dr. Perry’s talk on her life experiences, her current work, and a recent eye-opening experience that impacted her studies and taught her a life lesson: the importance of embracing life’s spontaneity.
 
Initially intending to discuss her ongoing research, Dr. Perry recently changed the subject of her talk after a recent encounter reminded her of an important life lesson. While clearing out some of her belongings during a move, Dr. Perry found an envelope with the name on it of the daughter of the host family she once stayed with during a study abroad trip to Spain. 
 
In the tenth grade, while a student at Northfield Mount Hermon school in Gill, Massachusetts, Dr. Perry had been one of few African-American students to receive a full scholarship to study abroad in Burgos, Spain.
 
“After finding the envelope, I decided to handwrite a letter (something I don’t do often) to the family and it turns out that the family still lives in the apartment,” said Dr. Perry. “This year actually marks 30 years since living with them,” said Dr. Perry. “Fast-forward to today—we’ve been connecting on WhatsApp and I’ve begun to realize how vastly different our lives have been since 1992 and how much academic and humanitarian insight comes from this realization.
 
“In our recent conversations, what struck me was how much (my former host sister) had actually thought about me over the past 30 years and how much that host-family experience had been so impactful for the both of us, but in different ways.” 

With the Blair students, Dr. Perry hopes to reveal how her life has seemingly come full circle, and how her latest revelation has reminded her of one of life’s most important lessons. “Imagine if you let go of what you think your life is supposed to be like,” said Dr. Perry. “What benefitted me was embracing new things.”

After graduating from high school, Dr. Perry earned her Bachelor of Science in Spanish and a Bachelor of Arts in women’s studies from Georgetown University and a Masters and Ph.D. in Social Anthropology from The University of Texas at Austin. She has taught at Brown University and the University of Pennsylvania.. 
 
Today, Dr. Perry spends much of her time teaching, learning and publishing her findings. Her latest publication, Black Women Against the Land Grab: The Fight for Racial Justice in Brazil, is an ethnographic study of black women’s activism in Brazil. Currently, she is working on Anthropology for Liberation: Research, Writing and Teaching for Social Justice while working on two research projects and is planning a trip to Spain to reunite with her once-host family next summer. 

Click "play" below to watch Dr. Perry's Skeptics presentation.

 


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, which is funded in part by the Class of 1968 Society of Skeptics Endowment Fund, is 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 and his successor, history department chair Jason Beck, Skeptics has featured a wide variety of speakers who are thought-provoking, engaging, accomplished in their respective fields and often controversial. For a listing of upcoming Skeptics programs, please visit Blair’s website.

Promoting a Lifetime of Learning

On a typical afternoon in early October, Blair students in sweatshirts and shorts stream off the playing fields, grab their backpacks and buckle down to study after athletic practices and dinners. Shifting gears, many settle into a quiet spot with their books and computers and focus on plowing through one task: getting their homework done for tomorrow.  

Blair’s Dean of Academics Nathan Molteni recognizes that hammering out the speech assigned for English or cramming for a chemistry quiz is important, but learning at Blair, he says, is about much more than crossing homework quickly off the to-do list. “Our mission is to make sure that when students leave Blair, they walk away with the best tools for a lifetime of learning,” Mr. Molteni said of the School’s approach to executive-functioning and organizational skills. “It’s not just about learning how to get your homework done. It’s about learning how to navigate academics at Blair and arming students with the tools they’ll need for the next chapter of their educational journey–and throughout life.”

First in the Nation
With that goal in mind, Blair became the first school in the country to roll out a pioneering new academic program for students this fall. From St. Andrew’s Episcopal School’s Center for Transformative Teaching and Learning, the Neuroteach Global program is a self-paced, online course that helps young learners develop better strategies for studying—both at Blair and beyond. After piloting the program with a focus group of Blair students last spring, Mr. Molteni saw promising results. “Each year, new students arrive on campus with different levels of confidence and skill sets, and our job is to help them find out where they are and how they learn best,” he explains. “This program uses neuroscience, research-backed tips and tricks and gamified modules to support students in figuring out how they learn best.” 

In 2022-2023, every ninth grader at Blair will complete the program as part of their first year, delving into an introduction, plus five modules with topics including remembering what you read, how to study, taking the test, getting the most out of class and retaining what you learn for the long term. 

Backed by Research
In one early lesson, for example, students try spacing out their study sessions. “Instead of studying the night before, students will try spreading it out three times in the week leading up to a test,” Mr. Molteni says. Neuroscience backs up this learning strategy; more than a century of research demonstrates that spacing out study sessions over a longer period of time improves retention by moving information from our short-term memory to our long-term memory. “While there is value in preparing for a test the night before, students retain more by spreading that studying out. This program affirms some of the strategies that kids take, while trying to get them to evolve and grow in new strategies.” 

Exposing Blair students to methods that incorporate research-based principles of learning is intended to improve their retention of material, make them more effective studiers and reduce anxiety about the learning process—a feeling that some students adjusting to a boarding school environment for the first time do experience. The most important benefit of the Neuroteach Global program, Mr. Molteni believes, is that it helps Blair students learn how to learn.

“Being an effective learner carries far past high school,” he stresses. “Understanding how your brain works will help you be more intentional about the choices you make in college, in your career and throughout life.” And that’s a skill students won’t quickly forget.
 

James Basker

On Tuesday, November 29, lifelong scholar, specialist in eighteenth century history and professor of literary history Dr. James Basker made his first appearance on the hilltop for the season’s penultimate Society of Skeptics event.
 
It wasn't long into Dr. Basker’s presentation before students and faculty start believing that they’ve all traveled back in time to the early 1800s when early abolitionists began to resist slavery. That is because of Dr. Basker’s preferred method of teaching–interactive learning–resulting in simulations of real-life events through literature.
 
“I’m looking forward to asking students to read a poem so that these words come out of their mouths. One of the most powerful poems I’ll ask them to read is a poem written in 1798 by British poet Robert Southey. It’s a monologue in ballad form based on a true story of a sailor who sailed during the slave trade, who comes back to his home port in Britain and has a nervous breakdown because he’s had a horrific experience on the ship,” said Dr. Basker before the event. 
 
“The sailor recites this experience of a slave woman where the captain made him whip her to the point of death. Her body was tossed overboard and he writes about how he was so haunted by that experience that he began to have nightmares and developed post-traumatic stress disorder due to it.”
 
Entitled “How the world changes its mind,” Dr. Basker’s presentation explored his philosophy that the only things that truly change peoples’ beliefs are compelling arguments or compelling experiences, whether those stem from literature, film, teachings or real life. “Literature is about vicarious experiences and it allows us to enter into the lives of other people, people unlike ourselves,” said Dr. Basker. 
 
“Literature is fundamentally an act about trying to enter imaginatively into the experiences of people unlike ourselves,” Dr. Basker explained. “I’m hoping the event will be more like a conversation, and I’m looking forward to sharing a few examples, for instance, examining works of anti-slavery writers, and how it wasn’t due to kings or dictators that people changed their minds.”
 
“People changed their minds through cultural influences, through empathetic props and through other humane activities.”
 
Though Dr. Basker was born and raised in a small, rural Jacksonville, Oregon, it was not long before he packed his bags for the bustling city of Boston, where he started his undergraduate degree at Harvard University. Passionate about his studies, the magna cum laude graduate pursued his academic career across the pond, at both Cambridge University and Oxford University, where he earned both his Masters of Arts and doctorate, respectively. 
 
Today, Dr. Basker spends his time fulfilling his roles as president of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History and professor of Literary History at Barnard College and Columbia University in New York. His latest published works include: Amazing Grace: An Anthology of Poems about Slavery 1660–1810, Early American Abolitionists and American Antislavery Writing: Colonial Beginnings to Emancipation.

Click "play" below to watch Dr. Basker's Skeptics presentation.

 


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, which is funded in part by the Class of 1968 Society of Skeptics Endowment Fund, is 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 and his successor, history department chair Jason Beck, Skeptics has featured a wide variety of speakers who are thought-provoking, engaging, accomplished in their respective fields and often controversial. For a listing of upcoming Skeptics programs, please visit Blair’s website.
 

Hardwick Teaching Fellowship: A Family Legacy Continues to Support Blair Teachers

All of us remember the teachers from high school who impacted our lives, providing guidance during critical times and inspiring us to reach further to achieve our goals than we thought possible, and the majority of Americans agree. An impressive 98% of respondents surveyed in one study believe that a good teacher can change the course of a student's life. Teachers, in short, play a pivotal role in our children’s lives, which is why Gerard and Margery Thomas established the Hardwick Fellowship in 2007. 

Lifelong believers in education, Gerry and Marge Thomas were raised in families that understood the value of scholarship. Gerry was the only child of two school teachers from upstate New York and, after earning scholarships to Phillips Andover Academy and Harvard, he later served as the president of the school board in Kalamazoo, Michigan. There, the Thomases shepherded the implementation of Reading Recovery, a literacy program for children needing specialized help learning to read, throughout the Kalamazoo public school system. 

In 2007, the Thomases established the Hardwick Fellowship at Blair, an award given annually at the Opening of School dinner to one faculty member new to teaching. Today, the Thomases’ daughter Monie Hardwick and her husband, Chan, continue to carry forward the family’s commitment, adding to and supporting new teachers through the fellowship. Mrs. Hardwick, who developed Blair’s teacher training program during her tenure at the School, feels strongly about the contributions that new teachers make to the community. “Young people with a passion for education and a genuine interest in students are so important to boarding schools,” she notes. “Schools need talented young teachers, who bring an energy and enthusiasm vital to boarding school life.” 

As recipients of teaching fellowships themselves, the Hardwicks understand how valuable awards can be as a tool to attract and retain new educators. “It was a turning point at the beginning of our careers,” Mrs. Hardwick recalls. “Chan and I both started our teaching careers at the Taft School—Chan with the Carpenter fellowship and I with the Maillard fellowship. We each made $5,000 our first year, but we appreciated those awards and loved the opportunity to teach at a great school.”

The recipient of this year’s Hardwick Fellowship, English and history teacher Amira Shokr, could not agree more. Inspired by her college professors who embraced different learning styles, she remembers that the teachers who stood out to her fostered a welcoming classroom culture and made every student feel heard. “It’s an honor to be a part of this fellowship,” Ms. Shokr noted. “It  gives me the opportunity to work at a school that believes in that kind of inclusive community and that embraces teachers at the beginning of their pedagogical journey. I really appreciate that.”

Today, the Hardwicks hope that their dedication to supporting educators through philanthropy will inspire others to do the same. “The fellowship is a way to honor and recognize excellent potential teaching talent,” says Chan, whose nearly quarter century of leadership as Blair’s Head of School was marked by the growth and creation of a faculty culture that did much to attract and retain exceptional boarding school educators. “We hope others will continue to support teaching fellowships.” Monie adds, “It’s an amazing opportunity to help people pursue teaching and education.”
 

10/28/22 - Family Weekend Concert

“I sing because I’m happy. I sing because I’m free.” They are the opening lines of Rollo Dilworth’s arrangement, “I Sing Because I’m Happy,” and it was the closing piece for the Blair Academy Singers’ portion of the Fall Concert on Friday, November 18, at 6:45 p.m. in the Armstrong-Hipkins Center for the Arts’ DuBois Theatre. The Singers took the stage along with the rest of Blair’s vocalists and instrumentalists to share with the community their efforts from this semester.

“You can’t help but smile and be in a good mood when you hear it,” Blair’s Director of Vocal Music Ryan Manni said of the gospel arrangement that tops his list of the season’s favorites. “It’s a symbol of why we do what we do.”

Mr. Manni directs four vocal ensembles in the concert: Singers, Sopralti, Blairitones and Chamber Choir. After seven years at the School, he has developed a modern repertoire for the students to connect to and feel “part of the narrative of choral music now and in the future.” Some songs the choir preformed Friday are “Peace” by Martin Åsander, “Ah! Si Mon Moine Voulait Danser,” arranged by Donald Patriquin and Stephen Paulus’ arrangement “The Road Home.”

While anyone who loves to sing can join the Singers, Chamber Choir requires students to audition. The ensemble’s repertoire includes more technically challenging pieces that require focus beyond individual technique. It is one of the things four-year choir member and Singers student conductor Justin Baggett ’23 enjoys most.

“I’m most excited to perform ‘Lamentations of Jeremiah’ because this piece is absolutely beautiful when performed to its full potential,” Justin said. “It requires a lot of hard work and vocal technicalities that were quickly learned by new members of the choir and improved on by returning singers.”

Hard work is a common theme for the Fall Concert, and alto saxophonist Adriana Gogioiu ’23 hopes that is evident during the performances she will be playing in: Jazz Ensemble, Symphony Orchestra and Chamber Orchestra. “Every song we’ll be performing tells a story,” Adriana said, “and we are going to try and deliver that to the audience.”

Blair’s musical department chair and Director of Instrumental Music Jennifer Pagotto said she picked the storytelling pieces for the concert this fall with both students and audience in mind.

“I try to feature a range of composers and styles, and to choose music that our students will really latch on to, both as performers and audience members,” Mrs. Pagotto noted. The pieces in the repertoire were also chosen to honor the places the performers will be traveling this year–England and France–and to bring a piece of American musical history along with them.

“Students have responded well to my heightened expectations of them this year in terms of their technique, level of musicianship and engagement in rehearsal,” Mrs. Pagotto said. “They are playing at a higher level than is often the case by this point in the year.”

Click "play" below to watch the concert.


 

11/12/22 - Robotics Meet

At White Castle, Flippy operates a grill and fryer station simultaneously. At Stop & Shop, Marty alerts to a spill on aisle four. And at Blair Academy, Charles places a cone atop a yellow junction, three-and-a-half feet in the air. 

There is no doubt that groundbreaking robotic technology is pushing the boundaries in our everyday lives, and the Blair Robotics Team is hoping to do just that. After two competitions this year, the team currently ranks third out of 33 Northern New Jersey League teams in the First Tech Challenge (FTC). This weekend, they hosted a friendly meet in the CECIC forum with three top competitors from across the state to present their robot, learn what other schools are working on and build relationships with their counterparts.

“Outside of the physical competition, our robotics team consists of much more,” said Arthur Huang ’24. “Within all FTC Robotics teams is the ideology of gracious professionalism, the belief that through all events, courtesy and composure are paramount. All members of our robotics team practice gracious professionalism, from working with one another to working with other teams.”

The team really puts in the work. With 16 members, every student is assigned a specific role within the team, split into three categories: software, hardware and outreach. “All three fields work in unison–hardware builds the robot, software programs the code and outreach documents the progress and communicates with other teams,” Arthur explained.

Computer science teacher and robotics advisor Michael Garrant loves the teamwork and sportsmanship displayed at events like this past weekend. He enjoys the friendships students build across schools and the camaraderie that encapsulates the day.

“By the end of the day, teams were driving one another’s robots,” Mr. Garrant noted, laughing. “You don’t see that very often. The students really embody the idea of gracious professionalism.”

The Blair robotics team formed eight years ago, and last season was their most successful yet. After advancing to a spot in the state championship, the team finished fourth in New Jersey. This year, they are hoping for continued success. 

What is the measurement of success? Each year, teams are prompted to build a robot to meet a required challenge as efficiently as possible. The problem is two-phased: an autonomous portion where the robot must complete a task and a physical portion when two drivers navigate through a field of obstacles. This year’s challenge, “Powerplay,” requires robots to place cones on tall towers, known as junctions, without a driver.

“After weeks of prototyping and engineering, we created a robot that can strafe in all directions, instead of just forward and backward. Our robot also has a slide arm with a rubber claw that allows it to comfortably grab cones and raise them,” Arthur described. “Additionally, it utilizes a camera to identify and scan different codes placed on the field.”

Next week the team heads to Ridgewood, NJ, for an official league meet with their robot, Charles, affectionately named after math teacher Stella Chen’s son. On January 23, the robotics team will host a FTC competition at Blair in the fieldhouse, where the year’s planning and efforts will ultimately be put to the test.

For more photos from the event, check out Blair's Photoshelter page.
 

 Cass Gardiner ’07

After graduating from Blair, Cass Gardiner ’07 traveled to the Big Apple to study documentary media and indigenous studies at New York University’s Gallatin School and to Ontario, Canada, to take classes at the Toronto Metropolitan University, where she completed her MFA in documentary media. She has since worked in numerous documentary film institutions, namely the National Film Board of Canada, Hot Docs International Documentary Film Festival, and the Tribeca Film Institute, and she most recently produced the documentary Jewel’s Hunt, which was broadcast on PBS in 2020. 

On Tuesday, November 15, Ms. Gardiner returned to her alma mater to talk to students about what it means to work as an Anishinaabe Algonquin professional, have a career in film and fine art, and follow the “importance of pursuing and finding joy,” she said in a pre-event interview.

Over the past twelve years, Ms. Gardiner has traveled across the world with her work in film and the arts. Throughout her journeys, she has become a film director and producer, a published writer and found her passion in Indigenous food, agriculture and food sovereignty.

She is Anishinaabe Algonquin from Kebaowek First Nation in Quebec, Canada, and promoting accurate, contemporary stories of Indigenous peoples has been the heart of her career. 

“I know from attending Blair that it was an incredible experience, which readied me for the rigorous academic and professional world,” started Ms. Gardiner. “I hope that my inclusion of Indigenous art and culture will be illuminating for Blair’s current and future student body and faculty. I really want to point out the fact that Indigenous people are contemporary people, who live and thrive today and are important, active members of society. For the multicultural students, hopefully, my talk will be a chance to see one way to navigate careers in writing/media industries, while telling their stories proudly,” said Ms. Gardiner.

Click "play" below to watch Ms. Gardiner's Skeptics presentation.

 


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, which is funded in part by the Class of 1968 Society of Skeptics Endowment Fund, is 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 and his successor, history department chair Jason Beck, Skeptics has featured a wide variety of speakers who are thought-provoking, engaging, accomplished in their respective fields and often controversial. For a listing of upcoming Skeptics programs, please visit Blair’s website.
 
 

Blair Athletes Make College Commitment 

It is the time of year when Blair’s Buccaneers prepare for the next chapter of their educational journeys. Yesterday, Blair celebrated National Signing Day, the occasion when many of Blair’s student-athletes commit to attending an NCAA, DI or DII institution. For many, the occasion marks the realization of their dreams and the culmination of years of hard work, both on and off the field. On November 9, family and friends, coaches and trainers gathered to celebrate the Blair athletes taking their talents to the next level. Go Bucs!

Congratulations to the following seniors:

Girls’ Crew:
Katherine Holmes - Colgate University

Girls’ Basketball: 
Jaylin Hartman - George Washington University

Wrestling: 
Marc-Anthony McGowan - Princeton University
Nolan Neves - Columbia University

Boys’ Basketball: 
Luke Paragon - Brown University
Ian Imegwu - Cornell University
Carnegie Johnson - Navy
Jayden Lemond - The College of William & Mary 
 

Chan and Monie Hardwick

When recalling former Head of School Chan Hardwick and his legacy at Blair Academy, one must include his wife Monie, who directed the School’s advancement office and strategic planning, because the two, together, created and implemented a vision for what the School has become today. With their impressive leadership, the institution leaned into a student-centered focus, started witnessing more success and, today, Blair Academy is widely recognized as being one of the most prestigious boarding schools in the country.

Blair Academy was excited to hit the road and host a special Society of Skeptics at the Marriott Marquis in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, November 9, to hear from the Hardwicks.
 
“I am grateful to continue to be a part of the Society of Skeptics and am excited about this upcoming one in particular, because I’ve recently become a Trustee,” said Mr. Hardwick during a pre-event interview. “I’m looking forward to talking about both the present and future state of the School with current Head of School Peter Curran. We’ll talk about what Blair was like when I entered in 1989—the aspirations and progress both internally and externally for the School—and move on to discussions about aspirations now.” 
 
The evening began with Director of Society of Skeptics Jason Beck introducing the night’s agenda and speakers, including current Head of School Peter G. Curran, former Head of School Chan Hardwick and former Director of Strategic Planning Monie Hardwick as moderator.
 
“We’re looking forward to speaking to past alumni and parents of former and/or current Blair students, and hopefully, we’ll get a lot of questions,” chimed in Monie, who has never failed at including others’ voices.

Since the Hardwicks’ final year at Blair in 2012, Blair Academy has continued to become increasingly attractive to families around the world. While celebrating its demisemiseptcentennial this year, the School also saw its lowest acceptance rate— 15 percent—since the School’s inception. Furthermore, in the past couple of years, the School has seen its strongest collegiate matriculation rates. 

“At this upcoming Skeptics, I want to celebrate how Blair continues to be a student-centered school, which is extremely important for boarding schools. Boarding schools need to be student-centered because we’re responsible for so many aspects of students’ lives, such as when they sleep, eat, etc. Much of their whole adolescent growth period is spent with us,” said Mr. Hardwick. “We’re just grateful to find that those changes we implemented back in 1989 continue today.”
 
“As with every venerable boarding school, there were challenges in Blair’s history, but we arrived when the School was emerging forward due to the leadership of the faculty, Trustees, parents and alumni,” said Mr. Hardwick. “Together, they made Blair a school that would continue to thrive, and for Monie and me, we just tried to continue that progress. We just tried to be great everyday. ‘Today, we will be a better school than yesterday’ and that worked well for us.” 
 
In addition to speaking at various school events, the Hardwicks, who currently reside in South Carolina, visit the hilltop as frequently as they can. With Mr. Hardwick’s recent appointment to the Board of Trustees, the two have found themselves to be “extremely lucky” to be in the “company of phenomenal leaders who care so much about the School and continue to think of ways to make Blair the great school it is.”

Click "play" below to watch the Hardwicks' Skeptics presentation.

 


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, which is funded in part by the Class of 1968 Society of Skeptics Endowment Fund, is 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 and his successor, history department chair Jason Beck, Skeptics has featured a wide variety of speakers who are thought-provoking, engaging, accomplished in their respective fields and often controversial. For a listing of upcoming Skeptics programs, please visit Blair’s website.

2021 Fall Run

Tie up those laces and stretch out those hamstrings. The Fall Run is back Wednesday, November 9 at 3:30 p.m. All are welcome to participate in this campus-wide race, including students, teachers, staff members–and their children. 

“The Fall Run is one of those long-standing traditions we have at Blair,” Associate Head of School Ryan Pagotto ’97 remarked fondly. “It’s a positive tradition that brings the community together to see all our beautiful campus has to offer,” he said, estimating the run has taken place for roughly 40 years now.

Traditions run deep through Blair Academy, and the annual 5K is no exception. The event kicks off with a ceremonial first lap led by the faculty children, who are ushered to the finish line through a human tunnel of cheering spectators. Then, more than 100 runners of varying speeds take off on the 3.1-mile Blair cross country course Haruki Ono ’23 describes as the hardest in the Maple League.

“Going over the hills together brings unity to the community,” Haruki, a cross country captain and two-time run participant, said. “It allows everyone to make new connections with people they didn’t know before.” 

The cross country year may have ended with Peddie Day this weekend, but the team still considers the race to be a part of their season.

“Personally, I enjoy running the first half with my non-runner friends then rushing to the end of the race to meet Mr. Thatcher and congratulate everyone coming into the final stretch,” co-captain Isaac Greene ’24 said.

Expect to see a lot more than just Blair’s record-breaking runners tackling the course tomorrow. As part of the School’s commitment to encourage all community members to get moving and be conscious of our health and wellness, the Fall Run hopes to attract walkers, joggers and all those looking to venture out for fun-filled community exercise. There is no need to sign up ahead of time, just show up ready for a challenge!

Jason Howk Skeptics

With over 30 years of experience in foreign policy, national security expert in defense, diplomacy and intelligence, Jason Howk has written numerous books on Afghanistan, interfaith issues, Islam, and other foreign policy and national security topics. On Tuesday, November 8, the Society of Skeptics welcomed the return of Mr. Howk, a veteran speaker on the hilltop and a perennial favorite with Skeptics audiences.

For his fifth Skeptics talk, Mr. Howk elaborated on his latest article for The National Interest, titled “Why the World’s Religions Are Dying a Slow Death,” where he argues that those who most often “speak for” their religion are not the ones who necessarily should. Mr. Howk discussed his findings that “‘so many extremists [who speak] loudly about their religion’ are often causing the decline in popularity of their own religion,” he said in a pre-event interview. 

Though the subject of this talk differed from his last visit, Mr. Howk’s affinity and admiration for Blair students and their eagerness returns. 

“Blair students are hungry to learn about diverse ideas and to challenge their own views on various topics. I am humbled to get to help them think about ideas they may not have encountered yet,” said Mr. Howk. 

“It’s a great honor to spend time with such inquisitive young people, who are not afraid to ask challenging and smart questions. I learn a lot from my discussions with Blair students.”

When he is not speaking to students and various audiences, Mr. Howk writes as a columnist for ClearanceJobs News and is an Islamic and Afghan studies professor at the U.S. Air Force Special Operations School. Additionally, he works as a contributing writer for over two dozen journals and regularly appears on news outlets to discuss Afghanistan. 

Mr. Howk holds a master’s degree in Middle Eastern and South Asian studies and served as a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He is a Malone Fellow in Arab and Islamic Studies and studied Afghan Farsi (Dari) and Arabic. 

Click "play" below to watch Jason's Skeptics presentation.

 


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, which is funded in part by the Class of 1968 Society of Skeptics Endowment Fund, is 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 and his successor, history department chair Jason Beck, Skeptics has featured a wide variety of speakers who are thought-provoking, engaging, accomplished in their respective fields and often controversial. For a listing of upcoming Skeptics programs, please visit Blair’s website.

Blair Bucs Leave It All on the Field at Peddie Day

As the sun sets and the scores fade with the blood, sweat and tears of another triumphant effort, the Blair Buccaneers walk away from Hightstown with their heads held high. After a grueling day of competition, the Bucs lost the Kelley-Potter Cup in a 4-3-6 defeat to The Peddie School.

“I couldn’t be prouder of all of our student athletes, who showed such commitment, passion and sportsmanship in all of today’s competitions,” said Head of School Peter G. Curran. “The contest for the Kelley-Potter Cup is such a spirited Blair tradition, preceded by so many quintessential boarding school moments. We are grateful to Peddie for hosting us, and, although we didn’t win the Cup this year, we loved having the opportunity to play and are already looking to secure our bragging rights again next year.”

It was an exhilarating week of festivities that concluded in today’s big games. Students and faculty participated in a variety of themed dress-down days, seniors played good-natured pranks around campus and everyone came together for Friday night’s pep rally and bonfire brimming with school spirit and determination to defeat Peddie. 

This morning, students, faculty, alumni and family donned their Blair best and made the journey to Hightstown, prepared for a rousing battle against the Peddie Falcons, but fell short of victory this year. What began in 1903 and is now New Jersey’s oldest prep school football rivalry has evolved into a weeklong celebration of school spirit culminating in a full day of athletic competitions.

Last year the Bucs won the Kelley-Potter Cup for the ninth time since its creation in 1988, and returned it to the hilltop for the first time since 2013.

The Kelley-Potter Cup is named in honor of James R. Kelley, retired headmaster of Blair Academy and the late F. Edward Potter Jr., former headmaster of The Peddie School. The Cup represents the highest ideals of fair play, competition and sportsmanship.

The Peddie Day scoreboard is posted below. More photos from the day will be posted on Blair’s Photoshelter page over the next few days.