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Boys' Varsity Basketball NJISAA Champs
Boys' Varsity Basketball NJISAA Champs

Blair’s boys' varsity basketball team made program history on February 21 with its 86-64 win over New Jersey rival St. Benedict’s Prep in the NJISAA prep “A” state championship. This marks the first time in School history that the boys' varsity basketball program has earned both the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) and state titles in the same season.

The team’s journey to the 2019 state title began after its heartbreaking, one-point loss to St. Benedict’s in last year's state final. The Bucs redeemed that loss with this year’s victory, capping their season with the team’s fourth state title, its first since 2014. 

The championship game was hard fought, as Blair was down 13 points in the second quarter. However, the Bucs’ offense surged to score 58 points in the second half. Top scorer Jaylen Blakes ’21 came off the bench and scored 27 points. Jabri Abdur Rahim ’20 was a force to be reckoned with throughout the game with 21 points. Seniors Jordan Dingle ’19 and Keenan Worthington ’19 rounded up the scoring with 18 and 11 points, respectively. 

“These guys invested deeply in each other and in their own development as players and men,” said varsity head coach Joe Mantegna. “When the moment was the biggest, and they could have quit, they bonded together and made plays to become the first Blair boys’ basketball team to win both the MAPL and state prep “A” tournaments in the same year."

In addition to its four state titles, Blair boys' basketball now holds a total of 11 MAPL championships. 

2019 TedX Conference

More than 100 students gathered on February 13 at Gill St. Bernard’s for the fourth-annual collaborative TEDx conference. Seven students, including five from Blair Academy, shared talks on a range of topics. TedX is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks and Blair’s involvement in this event has been organized by history department chair Jason Beck since 2015.

Cleary Waldo ’19 shared thoughts on prejudice in the United States in her talk, “How Far We Haven’t Come: Combating Prejudices We Didn’t Know We Had.” Liv Kreider ’21 addressed mental health in "Please Don't Say Relax," while Tanner Humphrey ’19 shared with attendees his personal journey in "From Tragedy to Triumph." Abby Morris ’20 and Madina Shabazz ’20, on the other hand, teamed up to address the issue of vaping and its health implications in "Vaping: A Teen Epidemic.”

Throughout the conference, Mr. Beck was impressed by students' presentations and, looking forward, he hopes participants will continue to share their ideas, while also being open to learning from others.

“The students developed ideas on their own and, together, we worked as a group to develop their presentations prior to the conference,” he said. “The point of the conference itself is to provide students with an opportunity to explore issues they are passionate about in a forum outside the classroom, one that wants to hear what they have to say. I hope to see more students participate in 2020.”

Please check back for a video of the TedX conference soon.

Dr. Jane Ferry

Blair Academy is pleased to welcome back Jane Ferry P’11, MD, FACEP, MMM, to the Society of Skeptics on February 26. Dr. Ferry is an emergency medicine physician in Sellersville, Pennsylvania, and is affiliated with Grand View Health-Sellersville, where she has served as its chief medical officer since 1990. Dr. Ferry will discuss her medical mission work in affiliation with the “Blair in Kenya” program, an independent nonprofit founded by Blair history teacher Quinten Clarke ’87.

Dr. Ferry received her medical degree from Temple University School of Medicine and has been in practice for more than 20 years. Dr. Ferry traveled to Kenya with Mr. Clarke for the first time in 2012 as part of the “Blair in Kenya” program and she has returned numerous times to treat patients, deliver medical supplies, and further develop a healthcare mission focused on nutrition and preventative care. Most people treated by Dr. Ferry in Kenya had never before seen a doctor or received professional medical care. In addition to seeing patients, Dr. Ferry also distributes micro-nutrients, vitamins, de-wormers and other basic, necessary treatments.

“Blair in Kenya” provides vital educational, medical and economic opportunities to hundreds of Kenyans. Over the past 12 years, the program has delivered over 25,000 pounds of clothes, shoes, computers and medical supplies, and has raised more than $300,000 toward educational programs.

Dr. Ferry’s son, Edmund "Ted" Peacock, graduated from Blair Academy in 2011.

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.

Headmasters’ Societies Games - Day 2

From February 18 to 22, Blair students of all class years will come together for the 16th-annual Headmasters’ Societies Games, a fun and sometimes silly competition in which the school is randomly divided into four teams named after former headmasters: Breed, Howard, Kelley and Sharpe. 

The festivities kicked off at Monday School Meeting, where Head of School Chris Fortunato officially opened the 2019 games and wished students and faculty luck in the lead-up to Friday evening’s decisive talent show, an event that inevitably determines the winning team. He thanked members of the Junior Class Council, who have taken a leading role in helping the student life office plan the 2019 Games, designing gear for each team and creating an exciting way to tell new students to which team they had been “sorted.”

“We came up with riddles that new students will have to solve in order to figure out which team they are on,” said Kate Antonelli ’20, a member of Team Breed who is most looking forward to this year’s water polo competition. “Figuring out the riddle gives them a location where they can meet the rest of their team, and it was a really fun way to kick off the start of Headmasters’ Week!” 

The Junior Class Council worked hard on new clothing designs for the four teams, which will be unveiled throughout the week. “Being involved in planning and design has been a really fun and good learning experience,” said Savannah Lee ’20. “Everybody has so many amazing ideas that are going to make Headmasters’ Week spectacular!”

Kate and her fellow members of the Junior Class Council agree. “Planning Headmasters’ has been really fun and it definitely got me in the Headmasters’ Games spirit,” Kate concluded.

This year’s events, of course, will benefit enormously from the opening of the winter sports complex, affectionately known on campus as the “Blair Bubble,” which encloses a portion of the tennis center during the coldest months of the year and features two tennis courts and a temporary turf field. The climate-controlled space will host a range of Headmasters’ competitions that will bring the whole community together. 

And nothing brings Blair students and teachers together better than the Headmasters’ Games, which brighten a dreary time on campus as the winter sports season ends and students prepare to leave campus for spring break. 2019 co-commissioners and associate deans of students Andee Ryerson and Caroline Wilson hope students of every age see the Games as an opportunity to try something new and embrace the chance to step outside of their comfort zones.

“I always hear new students saying ‘I'm not good at volleyball, so I'm not going to play’ or something along those lines, and it takes them a few years to realize that it really doesn't matter,” said Mrs. Ryerson. “Participation is so important. If your team has enough players—sure, bow out—but if they don't, it's silly to worry about your skill because even a poor player is better than no player, and the other teams are dealing with the same thing, so it's all inexperienced players together!”

In fact, when asked what one word comes to mind when they think of the Games, the co-commissioners don’t hesitate: plain and simple “fun.” “Truly, that’s what the Games are all about,” said Ms. Wilson. “Loosening up, taking a break, meeting new people and good old-fashioned fun.”

 

Mind, Body, Spirit Elective

English and freshman seminar teacher Sarah O’Neil is excited about the new course she is teaching this semester in Blair’s religion and philosophy department. In “Mind, Body, Spirit,” she is helping six students explore the practice of mindfulness and discover how staying connected to the present moment can lead not only to inner peace and better physical health, but ultimately, to the ability to do greater good in the world.

“The course is designed around the idea that your relationship with yourself and your ability to recognize what is going on in your mind is the foundation for everything in your life,” Ms. O’Neil said. Thus, she developed a five-unit progression in which students begin with a focus on mindfulness and then explore how their thoughts affect self-esteem, physical well-being, relationships with others and, finally, the perception and pursuit of happiness.

Students are delving into a varied reading list throughout the semester. They began with Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now and Michael Singer’s The Untethered Soul and will continue with other books, selections and articles. TED talks and inspirational and educational videos are among the online resources the class is utilizing. Ms. O’Neil regularly assigns written reflections and journaling, but breathing exercises and meditation are also important elements of the course. 

“I want to further develop students’ ability to read, write and think critically while, at the same time, offer them the space and time to practice what we are reading about,” Ms. O’Neil said. “These are tools that students will use throughout their Blair careers and beyond. As they become more mindful and peaceful, they will also become more productive and better students.”

Abby Schwartz ’21 has found “Mind, Body, Spirit” to be a relaxing, peaceful addition to her academic schedule, and through this course, she has discovered the rewards of introspection. “Mindfulness is so powerful in so many situations,” she observed. “Training our mind, body and spirit to look at situations under a positive light can help us achieve any goal and overcome any obstacle. I would highly recommend this course as it helps you look deep within and explore your most positive and peaceful self.” 

Having developed a mindfulness practice and realized its benefits in her life, Ms. O’Neil felt it was important to share what she had learned—and is still learning—with Blair students in a formal way, beyond her roles in Kathryn Hall dormitory and as varsity field hockey and lacrosse coach. She is grateful for the opportunity to teach “Mind, Body, Spirit” this semester and is looking forward to offering the elective again next year.

“The ultimate goal of the course is to have students take this more-connected and aware sense of self out into the world, share it with others and do good with it,” she reflected. “Taking the time to look inward and develop self-compassion may seem like a selfish undertaking, but it is actually the opposite.”

Boys' Basketball Livestream

The Bucs play KOA Prep in their final game of the regular season on February 15. The game begins at 5:30 p.m., and you can watch the livestream here.

Girls' Varsity Basketball

Blair’s varsity girls' and boys' basketball teams won their respective Mid Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) championships on February 10 at Peddie School. The girls defeated Lawrenceville 76-47, winning their ninth-straight conference title, while the boys overcame Hill 65-56, marking the team’s fourth conference title in five years.

The girls posted an all-around team effort led by Camille Clarin ’19, who broke her own School record by hitting 11 three-point shots (10 was her previous record set earlier this season). Camille’s 33 points helped the Lady Bucs dominate most of the game with no signs of stopping.

“Camille is our captain and leader, and she is committed to our team’s success,” said head girls’ varsity coach Quinten Clarke ’87. “It is not easy to defer to younger players, but she has pushed her ego aside for the good of the team, and it is only fitting that she is the star in our MAPL championship game. It is gratifying and rewarding to work with such a cohesive and dedicated group of athletes. While we are very young, I have been impressed with the mature way we have approached an extremely difficult schedule this year and the way the girls have stuck together through adversity.”

The varsity boys defended their title as MAPL champions with their win over Hill. In this thrilling game, Jordan Dingle ’19 led the team’s offense by dropping 22 points, and he played with grit on the defensive end, too. Jabri Abdur-Rahim ’20 notched the second-highest point total with 11. In this back-and-forth match up, Blair remained persistent in the final moments, making key defensive steals and offensive plays.

"I thought we played at a high level on Saturday versus a strong Hun team, and then on Sunday, we survived a very physical game versus a scrappy Hill team,” said head boys’ varsity coach Joe Mantegna. “Jordan scored more than 20 points in each game, and our seniors finish undefeated in MAPL regular season and tournament play for their final two years."

Both teams enter the NJISAA state tournament as #1 seeds. They will play in the semifinal round on Monday, February 18. 

St. Jude Hospital Trip

Many members of the Blair community headed home for rest and relaxation during the School’s winter long weekend, but about two dozen students took advantage of the break to travel with faculty members to two exciting destinations. The first group headed to the Cayman Islands with science teachers Rod Gerdsen and Marianna Paone, and the second traveled to Memphis, Tennessee, with history teacher Joanne Brandwood and Blair’s registrar Kecia Tillman. While the focus of the trips was different, all of the travelers enjoyed meaningful outside-the-classroom experiences, as well as the camaraderie of fellow students and teachers.

Cayman Islands

Marine science, community service and daily exploration of the pristine beaches of Grand Cayman were on the itinerary for the annual long winter weekend trip to the Cayman Islands. Mr. Gerdsen and Ms. Paone accompanied 15 freshmen through seniors to this “little piece of paradise,” where everyone enjoyed the warmth of the weather and the Caymanian culture.

The trip included many opportunities for students to get up-close-and-personal with marine life, especially while snorkeling at the beach and at Stingray City and visiting a turtle farm. For the third-consecutive year, the Blair group also volunteered at an island primary school, where they assisted with an after-school program for nearly 50 students. 

“The Caymans trip was amazing,” said Kaki Jacobs ’21, who felt that the experience help strengthen her independence and leadership skills. “We had to challenge some of our fears by swimming and even kissing stingrays. The last day of the trip was arguably the best, though, because we spent time helping at the local elementary school. It was an incredible experience to play with these children and learn about the Caymans from a local perspective.”

Corey Downey ’20 cited his top three memories of the trip: spending time with new Blair friends on the beach, eating tasty island food and playing soccer with local kids. “It was great to meet new people from Blair and experience new things together,” he said. “In just a few days, I bonded with friends I’ve known for years and with people I just met. It will be great to continue to see one another on campus!”

This year marks Mr. Gerdsen’s 12th Blair trip to the Caymans, and, as always, he enjoyed introducing students, whether or not they are currently studying marine science, to the islands’ native tropical wildlife and habitats. “I hope students returned to Blair with a healthy respect and love for the marine world of the Caymans and for the culture of this island nation,” he said.

Memphis, Tennessee

Meanwhile, eight service-minded students traveled with Ms. Tillman and Mrs. Brandwood to Memphis, where they volunteered at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Their mission over the long winter weekend was to brighten the spirits of young patients who are battling life-threatening illness, and the entire Blair group shared smiles and good cheer when making “superhero” capes with children at the hospital. Teachers and students also helped prepare and serve meals for patients and their families at the nearby Ronald McDonald House and had a great time making crafts and playing games. 

McKenziee Belton ’16, a long-time St. Jude advocate, organized Blair’s first service trip to the world-renowned research hospital in 2015, and she and her mother, Lori Belton, joined the Blair contingent again this year. Mrs. Brandwood and Ms. Tillman found the experience of interacting with young patients and their parents especially moving, and they were proud of the Blair volunteers’ efforts.

“Our students dove right in to any task at hand, from preparing food for a meal, cleaning up or taking out trash to playing with patients or talking to their families,” Mrs. Brandwood said. Ms. Tillman described how, during one crafting session at the hospital, Blair students started singing Disney and pop tunes, and the patients they were working with chimed right in. “You could see students’ joy in sharing with the kids at St. Jude,” she said. “It was a beautiful moment—we didn’t want to leave!”

Ashton Martini ’20, an aspiring nurse, jumped at the chance to join Blair’s annual St. Jude trip this year, and her experience was unforgettable. “I met the most amazing kids and families and became quite close with a couple of young girls at Ronald McDonald House,” she said. “We had karaoke sessions, played with slime, built two xylophones and had a mini rock band that filled the room with out-of-tune music, and shared a lot of laughs. Those girls, among others with whom I spent time, amazed me with their enthusiasm and joy in the face of something so terrifying. Their smiles lit up the room and made mine grow a million times wider. This was probably one of the greatest trips and experiences of my life; definitely one I'll never forget.” 

While in Memphis, the Blair volunteers also took some time to explore the city’s rich history during visits to the National Civil Rights Museum, Sun Studio, Graceland and the Blues Hall of Fame, and they thoroughly enjoyed the food and music at B.B. King’s Blues Club. “It was a great trip!” Mrs. Brandwood said enthusiastically, and it’s one Blair students will likely continue to experience in for years to come.

‘Artists' Journey’ Showcases Couple’s Lifelong Love of Art

On February 11, an exhibit showcasing the work of photojournalist Tyson Trish and painter Gina Danesi Trish opened in The Romano Gallery. The lifelong artists, who met as undergraduates at George Washington University more than 20 years ago and came to Blair when Mr. Trish joined the fine arts department in 2015, are excited to share with students and faculty a retrospective collection of work from different stages of their lives and careers documenting their journeys as artists and people.

“We have lived in Blairstown for over 15 years, so we are very rooted in the local community, and it is even more meaningful to exhibit here and share our work with our extended Blair family,” said Mr. Trish, whose photos have appeared in a number of New Jersey newspapers. 

After meeting as art students in college, Mr. Trish says that “art has been a part of everything we have done since.” The opportunity to exhibit on campus—which the duo calls a place “we have treasured being a part of for the last four years”—is an added bonus. 

They hope the show, which runs through March 9 with an artists’ reception taking place on February 28 at 7 p.m., will leave visitors with a strong sense of how much art can be part of life and encourage them to take away something positive—a feeling, an awareness or something new learned. 

“We have always created art, whether it be for our jobs or for personal interest,” said Mrs. Trish, who comes from a family of “makers” and worked closely with Blair students for years as Leadership Stories Project coordinator. “There are times when our ideas converge, as we share similar interests and ideologies, but we practice different mediums.”

Mrs. Trish, who has shown her work at galleries in Blairstown and Morristown, New Jersey, as well as at Peter’s Valley School of Craft in Layton, New Jersey, where she spent time as an artist in residence, will be exhibiting some of her older work, as well as a few new pieces that explore gender, politics and equality. Her perspective is especially unique since she joined the communications office of New Jersey’s first female African American Lieutenant Governor last year. Mr. Trish, on the other hand, has enjoyed revisiting work from early in his career in the Blair exhibit.

Betsy Schamberger P’22

“Environmental Cleanups—When Is It Clean Enough?” was the thought-provoking title of February 12’s Society of Skeptics lecture, presented by licensed professional geologist and Blair parent Betsy Schamberger P’22. She joined the Blair community in the Chiang Center for Innovation and Collaboration to discuss the timely topic and engage in Q & A with the audience. 

Mrs. Schamberger earned her undergraduate degree in geology from Princeton University and master’s degrees in hydrogeology and geochemistry from Montana Tech. Her college studies focused on low-temperature geochemistry with an emphasis in mining, but after moving from Montana to Pennsylvania 22 years ago, she started working in the environmental industry. In 2006, she founded her own firm, Moonstone Environmental, LLC, which specializes in environmental due diligence and brownfields redevelopment. 

With over 20 years’ experience in the environmental industry, Mrs. Schamberger has a broad perspective on how environmental regulations function and what makes them effective (or not). The Lehigh Valley Business Journal recognized her as one of the Lehigh Valley’s Women of Influence in 2016.

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.

Blair Buccaneer

 

Blair's wrestling match against Benedictine Prep, scheduled for Friday, February 8, at 5 p.m. has been canceled. The Bucs' next scheduled competition takes place on Saturday, February 16, when Blair hosts the national prep regional qualifier. Wrestling begins at 1 p.m.

Godspell
Flyer for Godspell

The Blair Academy Players will present Godspell on February 14, 15 and 16 at 7:30 p.m. in Armstrong-Hipkins Center for the Arts’ Dubois Theatre. With music by Stephen Schwartz and book by John-Michael Tebelak, this rock musical is composed of various Biblical parables from the gospel according to Matthew. Godspell opened off-Broadway in 1971 and has since been produced by multiple touring companies and in many revivals.

Godspell tells the story of Jesus Christ recruiting a group of followers and teaching them various lessons through song and dance. Toward the end of the second act, the show begins to follow a more linear narrative as Jesus is betrayed by Judas and eventually crucified. With a mix of pop, rock and vaudeville, the production delivers a message of peace, tolerance and love through songs including "Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord," "Learn Your Lessons Well," "All Good Gifts," "Turn Back, O Man" and "By My Side."

Godspell has become such a staple of the musical comedy stage,” said director Craig Evans, Blair’s veteran English and theatre teacher. “This telling of the Bible is based on the love and community that is forged around Jesus and provides an entertaining experience for the whole audience. Our cast has completely enjoyed their first experience with Godspell.”

The catalyst character of Jesus is played by Robbie Donnelly ’20. Performing the dual roles of John the Baptist and Judas is John Zoetjes ’19. Soloists in the show include Victoria Crow ’20, Sadie Donnelly ’22, Audrey Sacks ’20, Ryan Gomez ’20, Alex Kirby ’20, Samantha Antonelli ’22, Hannah Starorypniski ’20 and Matthew Bottone ’19. The student director is Gardner Coates ’20.

Reservations not required.