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Blair appreciates who you are,

what you stand for & all that you can achieve.

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Our Strategic Plan highlights our “All In” philosophy.

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Blair community members participate in The Leadership Stories Project.

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No matter what your interests or where you are from,

you will find your place at Blair.

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Fourth Annual Finance Summit Brings Captains of Industry Together

On Thursday, January 19, Blair brought together a host of international business leaders at the fourth annual Finance Summit to address the challenges and opportunities posed by venture capitalism and entrepreneurship. Started in 2019, the annual Finance Summit has become a valuable opportunity for the Blair community to make connections with industry experts, learning from their wealth of experience and knowledge, as well as exchanging ideas about recent trends. This year, the summit was held in New York City and moderated by Ashley Thompson ’08, co-founder and CEO of MUSH. 

Head of School Peter G. Curran started the event with a welcoming address before he and Ms.Thompson introduced the program’s panelists, distinguished Blair alumni: Sarah Apgar ’98, founder and CEO of FitFighter; William Bao Bean ’91, P’23 ’25, managing director of Orbit and general partner of SOSV; and David Neville P’26, co-founder and CEO of Westman Atelier. 

During the hour-long conversation and question-and-answer session that followed, many of the panelists shared the story of the origins of their businesses and addressed topics such as how they timed and financed their ventures, how they managed to stay true to their core values and what specific lessons they have learned along the way. Ms. Thompson, whose fast-growing brand MUSH won “Breakfast Product of the Year” in 2022, noted that her father’s sound entrepreneurial advice at the beginning of her career has paid dividends. “My father…had a pretty old-school way of thinking about business,” she told the audience. “That you need to make money while doing it. I took that mentality into building MUSH and can proudly say that we’ve been profitable every year.…That’s put me in an incredible position. The fact that we don’t have to depend on outside investment is a place of strength.” 

Co-CEO of two successful businesses, David Neville launched skincare and cosmetics company Westman Atelier after a nearly two-decade career building iconic fashion label Rag & Bone. Mr. Neville spoke extensively about the financial challenges of finding capital partners and seeding one’s own business. On one point, he noted, he felt certain: “You’ve got to be all in as an entrepreneur. The buck stops with you. You’ve got to live and breathe what you’re doing.…That was definitely the case with the Rag and Bone business. It was a risk, but our livelihood was on the line. That was actually very healthy, because it meant we were super-focused and it didn’t feel like work.”  

As the discussion drew to a close, Blair alumni, parents and more than a dozen students took the opportunity to enjoy a reception with the panelists where they mixed, mingled, connected and shared ideas. “This is one of my favorite events to hear different perspectives,” Mr. Curran noted. “I look forward not only to what our panelists will share but also the robust discussion afterward.”

Read more about our Finance Summit moderator and panelists below.


Moderator Ashley Thompson ’08, Co-Founder MUSH

Ashley Thompson co-founded MUSH in 2015 with the conviction that simple, delicious and nutritious food can elevate the world in powerful ways. Her conviction stems from a strong belief that better outcomes in life begin with better food, and that public health is a public good. Ashley envisions a world where healthy food is accessible to everyone, and MUSH’s product line of plant-based, overnight oats is the first step in fulfilling this vision.

Ashley’s passion for health and wellness developed at an early age, sparked by personal and familial struggles with health. She has an insatiable curiosity to understand the connection between what you eat and how you experience life. Having graduated from Columbia University in three years, worked on Wall Street and been named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 for building a high-growth consumer packaged goods brand, Ashley confidently promotes the idea that when you eat well, you feel better, and when you feel better, you do well. MUSH is now the leading brand in its category, powered by an incredible team of passionate individuals who love to help others feel, think and do better. 

Sarah Apgar ’98, Founder & CEO FitFighter

Sarah Apgar is the founder and CEO of FitFighter, a global fitness brand that offers a transformative strength program with her own innovation, the Steelhose. Sarah launched FitFighter in a Long Island, New York, firehouse to prepare firefighters better for the rigors of their job. Her successful pitch on ABC’s “Shark Tank” and seed investment from Daniel Lubetzsky, founder of KIND bars, helped her grow the company into a global platform for gyms, trainers, retail, including DICK’S Sporting Goods, the military and home fitness.

After graduating from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College in 2011, Sarah served as an executive at Warby Parker, opening the company’s first 55 brick-and-mortar retail storefronts in the United States and Canada. Sarah is an Iraq war veteran, was an All-American athlete at Princeton University, and has been featured in a variety of print and online media, including Muscle & Fitness, Rolling Stone, ESPN, and Men’s Health. She lives in Freeport, Maine, with her husband, Ben, a plastic surgeon, her two daughters Emory (6) and Aryln (5), and pup, Louisiana.

William Bao Bean ’91, P’23 ’25, Managing Director Orbit & General Partner at SOSV

William Bao Bean is managing director and co-founder of Orbit Startups, the first and longest running startup program in Asia, as well as a general partner at SOSV, the second most active venture capital investor in the world, with $1.5 billion in assets under management. Orbit provides hands-on support for growth, partnerships, fundraising and user acquisition combined with an initial investment package and millions available in follow-on funding from SOSV. With a focus on digitalization across emerging and frontier markets to drive efficiency in ecommerce, fintech, media, health, education and logistics, Orbit’s consumer ecosystem has helped its startups scale to 153 million monthly active smartphone users. 

William joined Orbit from SingTel Innov8 Ventures, where he was a founding managing director supporting China investments. Prior to that, William led investments in China and Southeast Asia as a partner at Softbank China & India Holdings. William started his career in equity research, most recently with Deutsche Bank, where he was a top-ranked analyst for Asia Internet and China Tech, Media and Telecom.

David Neville P’26, Co-Founder & CEO Westman Atelier

An integral feature of the New York fashion landscape for nearly two decades, designer David Neville and his partner, Marcus Wainwright, built the Rag & Bone brand from conception into a global lifestyle brand. Today, the international fashion label operates in over 50 countries across the globe and operates 25 of its own stores in the United States. As co-CEOs, David and his partner worked to develop the brand’s wholesale business in multiple categories, operating stores and driving the label’s direct-to-customer business. David’s work has been recognized by the Council of Fashion Designers of America/Vogue Fashion Fund for extraordinary design excellence, and he has received numerous honors including the Council of Fashion Designers of America/Swarovski Award for Emerging Menswear Talent. 

In 2018, David stepped aside from his role at Rag & Bone (where he remains a partner and board member) to launch a skincare and cosmetics company with his wife, Gucci Westman, called Westman Atelier. Westman Atelier is now distributed in 25 countries, and Westman Atelier received the Women’s Wear Daily Beauty Inc. Awards for Launch of the Year in 2018.

Wrestling beat Wyoming Seminary to win No. 1 rank in the country

The varsity wrestling team competed against Wyoming Seminary this Friday to win the No. 1 spot in the country. The night started off with two exhibition matches, where Jocelyn O’Keeffe ’24 and Morgan Edwards ’24 wrestled against two members of Wyoming Seminary’s women’s team. 

The main event kicked off at 7 p.m., when Tyler Dekraker ’26 (106), ranked No. 7 in the country, took on a Wyoming Seminary opponent who was ranked No. 8 in the country. After a hard-fought match, Wyoming Seminary was up 3-0. Leo DeLuca ’25 (113) gave Blair back the lead after a win by tech fall. The Wyoming Seminary Blue Knights won the next two matches, both by decision, making the score 9-5.

Wins by Matt Lopes ’24 (132) and Billy Dekraker ’25 (138) left the score at 12-9. Logan Rozynski ’24 (144), a new wrestler at Blair after transferring from Wyoming Seminary, went out on the mat with energy. The scoreless first period left the crowd nervous, but Logan came out and pinned his opponent in the second period, giving the Bucs momentum. 

Will Henckel ’25 carried the momentum into his match, winning by decision with a score of 5-1. The team score was now 20-8. At 157 lbs., Wyoming Seminary took the win by technical fall. Lorenzo Norman ’23 (165) won his match by decision (3-0).

Peter Snyder ’26 (175) wrestled the 15th ranked wrestler in his weight class, leaving everyone on the edge of their seats. Forcing the bout into an overtime period, Peter took the win in sudden victory, another big win for Blair. The Blue Knights pinned their way through the 190 and 215 lbs. matches, leaving the score tied 26-26. Carter Neves ’24 (285) was ready to fight for the win, but Wyoming Seminary decided to forfeit their heavyweight, giving Blair the win in the final match with a score of 32-26.

With this victory, Blair secured their claim to being the No. 1 ranked team in the country. Their next match will be at Bergen Catholic Saturday, January 28, at 2 p.m.
 

01/21/23 Winter Ball

While the melodies of Bing Crosby and Bessie Smith were not ringing through the Romano Dining Hall on Saturday, the “Roaring ’20s” were still alive and well at this year’s annual Winter Ball. To kick off the evening, seniors gathered at the Sharpe House for photos and refreshments with Head of School Peter G. Curran and his wife, Sarah. Across campus, ninth-, 10th- and 11th-grade students joined together in the Chiang-Elghanayan Center for Innovation and Collaboration to snap a few selfies to commemorate the occasion.

Inside the dining hall, a creative committee of parents engineered a time portal to transport students back to the “Roaring ’20s.” Filled with jazz-era decor, the room offered extravagant dining to students and featured a lavish dessert spread. With a full dance floor, students enjoyed one another’s company and celebrated the start of the new semester.

For more photos of the evening, please check out Blair Academy on Photoshelter.
 

Students present J-term courses January 16, 2023

At 8:50 a.m., a modern-day Paul McCartney took to the stage to sing his rendition of The Beatles’ classic “Hey Jude.” 

At 10 a.m., a class of George Ella Lyon-inspired poets shared personal versions of the self-reflective poem “Where I’m From,” while a room of scientists presented research on the world’s largest chemical disasters across campus.

No one skipped a beat at 11 a.m. as philanthropists theorized how to make the world a better place while potential doctors outlined the importance of the first immortal human cell line known as “HeLa” and the way in which they were unknowingly obtained from Henrietta Lacks.

If you aren’t tired yet, know that the day was only half over. After a celebration of food created by students in courses like “Why Vegan?” and “You Are Where You Eat,” the community gathered in the Chiang-Elghanayan Center for Innovation and Collaboration for a gallery walk of poster presentations, photo projects, bat houses and so much more.

Last week’s J-term presentation day was filled with a flurry of excitement from students and faculty eager to share the culmination of their efforts and the community willing to take part in as many presentations as possible. From family table conversations of sustainability with local farmers to ways to disconnect to connect, the number of experiences students had to share from a week’s worth of intensive coursework was endless.

“At the end of the term, we’re hoping students have enjoyed the experience and are proud to share what they’ve learned,” language department chair and J-term coordinator Joyce Lang said. “The beauty of J-term is that by explaining their knowledge to others and applying it through sharing, students deepen their understanding.”

The subject matter in all 37 J-term offerings varied greatly, affording students the opportunity to focus on one of their passions or explore topics entirely different from their normal schedule. Dean of Academics Nathan Molteni has long advocated for this approach to learning:

“While J-term is just a week of what we do, it is also a key reminder to our students of the inherent value of learning as its own pursuit, freed from some of the structural trappings of a normal school experience,” Mr. Molteni said. “I’m a strong believer that the curiosity we hope to spark right now pays dividends for students across all other learning experiences for the year.”

Another advantage of J-term is that, in designing classes, faculty aren’t limited to their typical areas of study, so the opportunities to get to know and work with teachers and students that one might not have otherwise creates new relationships. Students also have the chance to work with classmates outside their grade, introducing an interesting dynamic to classroom discussions, according to prefect Ellie Walker ’23, who took part in the “Trial of the Century: The People vs. O.J. Simpson'' course alongside her prefectee, Kennedy Henry ’25

Outside the classroom, this was a momentous year for the J-term program as relaxing COVID-19 restrictions allowed for more travel. Students embarked on day and overnight trips to places like New York City, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., to enhance their course teachings and connect with Blair alumni and friends. Visits to the Pentagon, New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority training facility, Broadway shows and multiple museums brought learning to life and engaged students in real-world applications. 

“When students get to choose what they want to discover and explore, we find out what truly matters to them,” Mrs. Lang said of the curiosity-filled week. Getting to know students well is at the heart of Blair, and the addition of the J-term program has only driven that mission home further.


2023 J-term Course Offerings
Bats & Their Homes: Why & How to Build an Effective Bat House
Bread—The Great Human Unifier: Its Origins, History & Cultural Impact
Business Plans for Changing the World
Can I Be of Service?
Conscientious Carpentry: Building by Hand to Better Understand Buying Online
Current Events Forum in Washington, D.C.
Development: Mirrors & Mentors
Digital Detox
Diplomacy & Human Nature
Exploring Personal Identity Through Creative Writing
The Frida Kahlo Experience
Game-Changers: Connecting to Our Food
Historical Personalities Who Altered the Course of Mathematics
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Incarceration Nation: A Critical Look at the U.S. Prison System
Inside the Mind of Man’s Best Friend
International Sports in Society
Is a Picture Worth a Thousand Words? Create a Graphic Novel & Find Out
Keep Calm & Guard On
Making Horror
Memory
Modeling Global Changes Through Coding
New York City: The Greatest City on Earth!
Passion + Empathy + Design = A Better World
Philanthropy: Love of Mankind
Race & Sociology of “The Wire”
Radical Art
Risky Business
Say What Needs to Be Said: Crafting Effective Presentation for the Blair Community & Beyond
School of Rock
The Science of Happiness
Street Photography
Trial of the Century: The People vs. O.J. Simpson
When Chemistry Kills: Poison & Environmental Disaster
Why Vegan? Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet
You Are Where You Eat
You’ll Know It When You Sense It

Tyler Moulton

It can be passionately argued that there is no better time than now to start studying artificial intelligence, otherwise known as AI. According to a report by Precedence Research, the global AI market size in the United States will jump from an estimated value of $119.78 billion in 2022 to an impressive $1597.1 billion in 2030. For today’s high schoolers, a career in AI may be especially prudent. That is why Blair Academy was most excited to welcome Veritas AI program manager Tyler Moulton to Society of Skeptics on Tuesday, January 24. 

Tyler graduated with a bachelor’s degree in applied mathematics with a focus on astronomy from Harvard University in 2020 and went onto a corporate career rooted in teaching and mentorship (recent positions have included college admissions coach with Prepory College Counseling and College Career Coaching, writing editor and consultant for graduate students at Global Graduates’ Union (GGU) Consulting, and head of the writing center and publication specialist at Lumiere Education). Today, Tyler is a program manager at Veritas AI, an organization founded and run by Harvard graduate students, that helps high school students learn the fundamentals of AI and build personalized projects.
 
The January 24 Skeptics presentation focused on AI, the diversity of AI projects, and how high school students can leverage the powerful toolkit “in building powerful insights into fields as disparate as literature and art to astronomy and medicine.”
 
“Artificial intelligence is all about leveraging technology to drive innovation through the replication of human intelligence in machines, and it is a method that can lead individuals to double, triple, and hugely multiply the impact they can drive in their day-to-day work,” explained Tyler, who is passionate about speaking to the next generation and looked forward to connecting with Blair students.
 
“Speaking to young professionals—particularly at the high school level—is all about helping students find their passions. While this might sound incredibly generic, it is both true and important. At a place like Blair Academy, students have a wealth of opportunities, and many will go to top universities, then to top companies and institutions, and likely top positions therein. There are potentially millions of trajectories every student here can take. It is, therefore, an incredible privilege to show them how AI is becoming an increasingly omnipotent concept, and how it will likely appear—in some way or another—throughout each of those numerous trajectories,” they said. “AI is everywhere, and I’m excited to share more of this with students who are on the cusp of deciding what the rest of their lives might look like.”
 
While the Skeptics presentation offered a plethora of advice, it also highlighted the biggest lesson Tyler has learned: That it is incredibly important to lean into failure. “Failure is not simply the inability to meet a goal, but it is a valuable learning experience that tells us as much about a phenomenon as success does,” they concluded.


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.

Dr. Nyle Fort MLK Speaker

“‘I know that what I’m asking you is impossible,’ civil rights icon James Baldwin told his nephew in 1963. ‘But in our time—as in every single time—the impossible is the very least that one can demand.’”

The conclusion of Dr. Nyle Fort’s all-school speech brought members of the Blair community to their feet on Friday and induced thought-provoking conversations across campus that lasted through Monday, as the nation celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. No stranger to the hilltop, Blair Academy welcomed minister, activist and scholar Dr. Fort back to speak with students in honor of the day and to share the message that we must complete, not just commemorate, Dr. King’s vision of building a beloved community.

“We have to dream, and we have to do the work to make the dream come true,” Dr. Fort urged. 

Dr. Fort, who received his PhD in religion and interdisciplinary humanities from Princeton University and teaches at Columbia University, engaged Blair’s students during his presentation, offering up more than just a lecture.

“Think of this talk like a buffet,” Dr. Fort said at the beginning of his speech. “I’m going to put some food on the table, and I’m inviting you all to sit at the table with me.” As the analogy continued, Dr. Fort explained that some topics discussed will resemble buffet dining—some options students may love; some students may be unfamiliar with—but he assured the crowd that, by the end, they would all find a way to gather at the table as one.

Dr. Fort set the stage by describing the freedom struggle that made the emergence of Dr. King possible. Throughout his talk, he stressed to students the importance of fulfilling Dr. King’s mission and that, despite all of his struggles, “King never lost hope of the possibility of creating heaven on Earth.” He explained that, as a society, we can’t create change without first changing ourselves. “The goal is not to be right about the wrongs of the world,” Dr. Fort said. “The goal is to right the wrongs.” 

Dr. Fort’s visit to Blair did not end with his conversation in Armstrong-Hipkins Center for the Arts’ DuBois Theatre. After a brief question-and-answer session with the entire school body, Dr. Fort visited several J-term classes to keep the discussion going in smaller groups. He sat in the “Development: Mirrors and Mentors” class, where students spent the week learning how to take action, develop grit and stay motivated toward a goal, and followed with the class examining the art of effective presentation, offering valuable skills on how to engage audiences and gain confidence through practice. Before sitting down to lunch with members of Blair’s student-led Belonging and Equity Committee, Dr. Fort joined in on further discussions in the “Incarceration Nation: A Critical Look at the U.S. Prison System” class.

“Personally, I think Dr. Fort helped paint a clearer picture of Dr. King’s work,” Dean of Equity, Inclusion and Belonging Evan Thomas said. “His conversation was a great introduction to programs Blair is planning for Black History Month in February, and I hope students left inspired, curious and energized to consider ways we can work to fulfill the vision of Dr. King and others.”
 

Doug Bandow Society of Skeptics 01/17/23

The Blair community was excited to welcome back foreign policy and civil liberties expert Doug Bandow to the Society of Skeptics for another Blair appearance on Tuesday, January 17. At Blair, Mr. Bandow has spoken on a wide variety of foreign policy topics including exploring the 2020 election in his lecture three years ago and talking through the diplomatic relationship between America and China just last year. At his upcoming event, Mr. Bandow plans on reviewing his latest work covering the war between Russia and Ukraine. 

“Russia’s attack on Ukraine was both a crime and a mistake. Even as Washington aids Kyiv’s defense, American policymakers must do everything possible to prevent the conflict from escalating and expanding,” Mr. Bandow said. “There would be no greater disaster than the United States and Russia ending up in a war that could go nuclear.”

Having grown up on a U.S. Air Force base in the United Kingdom where his father served, Mr. Bandow has long steeped himself in foreign policy and government affairs. Formerly, Mr. Bandow assisted President Ronald Reagan as a former special assistant. Currently, he sits as senior fellow at the Cato Institute, a Washington, D.C., public policy research organization, and writes for leading publications including Fortune magazine, The National Interest, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Times, and comments regularly on major news networks. 
 
“I was interested in international affairs from a young age. The Vietnam War was going on during that time so I was fairly interested in that and also the 1972 election,” said Mr. Bandow. “I was involved in speech and debate and informed myself with my parents encouraging me to do that.”

Mr. Bandow holds a JD from Stanford University and has written several books, including Foreign Follies: America’s New Global Empire, The Korean Conundrum: America’s Troubled Relations with North and South Korea and Tripwire: Korea and U.S. Foreign Policy in a Changed World. He has challenged the Blair community with discussions of terrorism, drug legalization, ancient Chinese culture and the 2012 presidential election in past years. 

Mr. Bandow continues to visit Blair because of how invaluable he believes the Society of Skeptics program is. 
 
“Society of Skeptics has always been laudable for bringing in a range of speakers, and I appreciate that attempt to share information, and more importantly, immerse students in the world,” said Mr. Bandow. 
 
“You bring in people from the arts, business or politics and attempt to help students look at the world around them and encourage them to do more. This attempt to get students more involved and to encourage them, by showing them what opportunities exist to go out and do those things… It’s a wonderful program.”

If he had to impart one overarching piece of advice to his young audience, he would say: “My key message for high school students is to get involved in public affairs, in government, in culture and in society,” said Mr. Bandow. “People will make decisions and if they are not involved, then somebody else will make those decisions for them. The world that they are going to live in is up to them. My hope is that they recognize that they need to take charge. They can do it.”


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.

Hannah Wilson '26 breaks swimming backstroke pool record.

There is no question that this school year has already had its fair share of athletic accomplishments from the Bucs. The wrestling team won the Journeymen National High School Showcase and its 17th Walsh Jesuit Ironman Tournament this December. First-year swimmer Hannah Wilson ’26 broke the pool record from 2007 in the 100-meter backstroke with a time of 1:01.09. With all of these accolades and more, Blair athletics continues its tradition of student excellence beyond the hilltop, too, as Blair alums make national headlines, dominating in their collegiate sports.

During the fall and winter seasons, certain Blair alums have played extremely well, earning in-season honors, as well as leading their teams to victories and championship contentions. The following are a few of the recent standouts:

Rebecca Groseibl ’20 has become a key player for the Towson University womens’ soccer team. In the 20 games she has played this season, she has served as a great midfielder, distributing the ball to her teammates in scoring situations. She helped lead the Tigers to the CAA semifinal game this year.

Shayne Van Ness ’21 started his redshirt first-year wrestling season strong, going 2-0 in the opening tournament. He is currently ranked 17th in the country at 149 lbs. for the Penn State Nittany Lions and recently defeated a ranked opponent in the team’s match against Lehigh University. 

Jordan Dingle ’19 has been named the Ivy League Mens’ Basketball Player of the Week three straight weeks in a row. He currently ranks third nationally in scoring, averaging 24.1 points per game.

Olivia Miles ’21 became the first Notre Dame basketball player with three career triple-doubles as the No. 5 Fighting Irish overwhelmed Merrimack 108-44, according to The News & Observer. She currently leads the team in assists and other categories, including averaging 16 points per game, and 7.8 rebounds per game. Read more about Olivia here.
 

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, photography teacher Tyson Trish  shares highlights from the hilltop last weekend, which included field trips, a sushi spectacular and a hypnotism show that delighted viewers and participants alike.
 
 
 
 

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

David Sommers Brings ‘New Perspectives’ to Blair’s Romano Gallery


BLAIRSTOWN—The paintings of multidisciplinary fine artist David Sommers are on display in the Romano Gallery from January 9 to February 2 in an exhibit entitled “New Perspectives.” Synthesizing past traditions from a modern, multidimensional viewpoint, Mr. Sommers’ work embraces a Cubist-Realist style in which geometric shapes fracture color, space and shape. 

“Painting begins with my daily search for the subtle beauty the world offers,” Mr. Sommers explains. “When I look at a cityscape, I thrill at viewing everything through a geometric lens. When I look across a river at the green hillsides, I see gentle arcs that connect one set of trees to the next.” He employs a range of techniques, from plein air painting to careful design based upon the Golden Section, to influence his compositions. 

Mr. Sommers holds a bachelor’s degree in fine arts and Spanish from Moravian College, and master’s degrees in religious education and divinity from the Presbyterian School of Christian Education and Moravian Theological Seminary, respectively. A resident of Center Valley, Pennsylvania, he has taught comparative world religions and continues to teach Spanish and art history at Moravian Academy in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and has served as a resident artist at Bethlehem’s Banana Factory for the past decade. Mr. Sommers’ work has been displayed in regional juried art shows and gallery exhibitions and is now on permanent exhibit at Penn State’s Lancaster and Health Hampden Medical Centers. 

An artist’s reception will be held at the Romano Gallery on January 26, beginning at 7 p.m., and members of the public are welcome to attend. 

Christina Jiang Art Auction for Ukraine

Christina Jiang ’24 has a simple message to share. It is not something she learned in her AP Micro- or Macroeconomics classes, nor during her time conducting independent research on her summers off. It is the title of one of Emily Dickinson’s poems and the inspiration for a collage Christina created of the same name.

“Hope” is the thing with feathers.

This past summer, Christina’s collage raised $1,500 as the theme work for her charity art auction, “Draw for Peace,” to aid Ukrainian child refugees. It “expresses the hope of spreading peace even in places engulfed by warfare” and features a hand-drawn version of The Knotted Gun sculpture, a symbol against violence that stands outside the United Nations in New York City. Through UNICEF, Christina worked with Blair students, faculty and professional artists in the United States and China to gather 34 donated pieces to sell in a hybrid online and in-person auction in New York City.

A selection of professional pieces in the auction were created by famed oil-painter Liu Shuchun, who created a Chinese translation piece of the auction’s title “Draw for Peace.” He captioned the piece with, “It carries the hope of supporting peace through works of art and donations of hope.” Other professional artists included calligrapher Xiaohong Zhu, painter Cong Zhang and calligrapher Xinren Wang. Christina herself donated many of her own pieces, including charcoal drawings, sketches and Monet recreations. Fellow Blair students donated artwork as well, with encouragement from Christina and her advisor, fine arts teacher and Director of Equity, Inclusion and Belonging Evan Thomas.

“Christina made the whole thing happen on her own,” Mr. Thomas said proudly, “but the thing that impressed me most was how she supported other artists to contribute to the cause. It was a powerful and beautiful display of community.”

Fine arts department chair Kate Sykes saw the auction as an opportunity to give a higher purpose to some high-quality pottery pieces students had left in her studio over the years. Along with pottery donated by Rosy Sun ’23, Sophia Papadopoulo ’22 and Tate Leonardo ’22, Mrs. Sykes contributed students’ plates, vases and bowls to complete the collection and aid Christina’s philanthropic efforts.

“I’m glad the talents of our art students went to serve a greater good,” said Mrs. Sykes.

Christina started the project back in March, slowly gathering the pieces for the collection she carefully curated. Her passion for art expressed itself in the form of 17 of her own pieces in the auction. Her painting “Apples” was cut and bound back together, a process she says symbolizes “not only the violence that tears us apart, but also the hope that threads us back together.”

By the end of the auction in August, Christina had raised more than $14,000 to support the U.S. fund for UNICEF.
 

Grounds Crew Decorating

Picturesque.
Scenic.
Idyllic.
Members of the Blair community can describe campus in many different ways. As the end of the year hustle and bustle weaves into daily life at the School, it is important to take a breath, look around and realize how fortunate it is to call this place home.

No visitor to Blair Academy can leave the hilltop without remarking on the beauty of the 463-acre campus. A few years ago, Architectural Digest named Blair among the most beautiful private high schools in the United States. With a rolling golf course, 11 dorms, state-of-the-art athletic and educational facilities, faculty housing and everything in between that Blair has to offer, only one question remains: Who takes care of it all?

To find the answer, we sat down with Facilities Director Dave Schmitt. After 30 years working at the School—from the Canteen to the business office to facilities—Dave has seen his fair share of all things Blair. In chatting with him and Grounds Supervisor Dan Andrus, a clearer picture formed of all the hard work and effort that goes into making Blair the well-manicured institution it is today.

Q: Blair is a massive campus. Who takes care of everything?

A: [Mr. Schmitt] In the maintenance department we have an electrician, a plumber and four general maintenance guys who take care of everything from painting to carpentry. The Boiler House Heating Plant has a crew of four and Jonathan maintains the sewer plant.

[Mr. Andrus] The grounds crew consists of Craig Stocker, Kyle Thomas, Dan Celli, Andy Gramberg, Steve Fields and myself. We spread tasks out and work together as a team to try and get everything that needs to be done for the week. You will find Craig on the golf course (even on days he is not working) taking care of most duties associated with keeping the course playable and in great shape. The rest of the guys are responsible for maintaining the athletic fields, trash removal, campus maintenance and anything else that may come about on a normal day. We all take turns working weekends from March to November to take care of golf course duties and to make sure campus is in top shape.

Q: The facilities departments have accrued quite some tenure collectively. What do you attribute that to?

A: [Mr. Schmitt] It’s a good thing. We don’t have a lot of turnover. It’s really a great place to work, there aren’t many places like Blair.

[Mr. Andrus] The team and I had a get together with [Head of School] Peter G. Curran several weeks ago and I think we figured out the total years of working at Blair between everyone on the grounds crew was around 171 years or so. To me that is staggering. I attribute it to everyone on the crew getting along very well and enjoying coming to work at a beautiful facility. We all take pride in what we do and enjoy helping preserve a campus full of history.

Q: Which season is the hardest for the grounds crew?

A: [Mr. Andrus] They all have their challenges, especially when you are fighting Mother Nature. In spring, we see things waking up and starting all over again. During fall, our hard work comes to a peak, and it gives us a good opportunity to repair areas that may need it. Summer can be a struggle—trying to keep everything looking good in the heat and humidity. We put in extra hours during these months in hopes that it pays off later, once everyone returns in the fall. Winter can sometimes be just as busy as the other months. If the weather is conducive, we are out trimming or removing trees. If we are not able to work outside, we are fixing or servicing machinery to get it ready for the next growing season. This is also the time of year where we look at many aspects of the department and see what worked and what didn't to see where we can make improvements. We are always trying to get better.

Q: Describe a typical school day for the grounds crew.

A: [Mr. Andrus] That is a tough one, they never seem typical! We usually try to clean up or check the campus before classes start, and then during the day, we try to accomplish tasks that will not disrupt class. We usually have a list of jobs for the week, and then I just try to figure out where they fit the best with the school schedule and the weather.

Q: What do you enjoy most about your job?

A: [Mr. Andrus] I enjoy that everyday is not the same, which I think helps you keep on your toes. I enjoy looking for potential issues and then trying to come up with a solution that can ultimately make things easier for the crew. I also enjoy the science part of the job, trying to balance nutrients in the soil so that it produces better turf, trees and flowers.

Q: What’s one thing the Blair community can do to show our appreciation for your department?
 
A: [Mr. Andrus] Get out and enjoy the campus and everything it has to offer but don't forget to clean up after yourself when you're done!

Q: Visitors frequently remark on how beautiful Blair is—who deserves the credit?

A: [Mr. Schmitt] It’s everybody, truly. We have pride in our work and the campus reflects that.

As this year comes to a close, we thank Mr. Schmitt, Mr. Andrus and all those who work to make Blair’s community a thriving and beautiful place to live and learn. 
 

Eli King Architecture Class

The architecture program at Blair hasn’t grown…it has exploded.

In previous years, the class has been as large as 12 students and as small as four. This year, the program has 27 first- and second-year students split between two classes.

If you ask teacher Eli King the reason behind the boom, he chalks it up to a mystery equal to that of Stonehenge or the Egyptian pyramids, but, like any good architect, he has some theories.

The Unicorn

Mr. King’s tenure at Blair spans several generations of Bucs and traces its roots to his mother, Lois Dodd, an award-winning painter whose work has been featured in multiple Romano Gallery exhibitions. With these Blair family ties, former Head of School Chan Hardwick reached out to Mr. King when the late jack-of-all-trades arts teacher Philip C. Homes retired. Having taught at the City College of New York and Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, Mr. King accepted the position and began commuting from the city to the hilltop to teach two days a week.

“I think I was viewed as a bit of a unicorn,” Mr. King admits, saying he was constantly running from his car to the classroom and back. “It was a rare sighting if you could catch a glimpse of me on campus then.” 

Now that he has relocated to Blairstown, Mr. King’s friendly face can be spotted regularly between classes, in the dining hall and in the CECIC, where the architecture department resides. He has gotten to know the students better in the process and, in return, they have gotten to know him, a possible source for his newfound popularity.

“Mr. King is one of the kindest and most genuine people I have ever met,” Preece Smith ’24 said. “I think the word has spread about how great he is and how much he enjoys what he does.” 

The Great Escape 

At one distant point in his Blair teaching career, Mr. King was approached by the Head of School with the suggestion of a more digital curriculum when he caught wind of how much drafting architecture students were doing. Mr. King rose to the occasion, crafting a course outline to include more technology for the modern architectural program. When he introduced it to his students, the class went silent.

“They asked to go back to paper!” Mr. King laughed. “These kids live on computers. For them, drawing by hand is the real pleasure and possibly a nice escape from their busy lives.” 

Over time, his teaching evolved to strike a balance. While the class works with design software like SketchUp, they also focus on subjects like architectural history, current events and vocabulary while spending time drafting, free-hand sketching and abstract problem solving. For the students, his method is working.

“Architecture class became a place where I could come and relieve any stress I had,” Simisola Onakomaiya ’24 recalled. “We were always talking about the class last year, so perhaps that sparked interest in others that might not have considered it.”

For Mr. King, pencil and paper techniques serve a bigger purpose than just unwinding and enjoying some creative space. As a young architect, he says breaking into the field involves long hours of drafting at larger firms. It’s not until you have put in your time that you actually get to design and create. For those students who are interested in pursuing architecture in college and beyond, the experience now can only be beneficial in preparing them.

“It’s important to go old school,” Mr. King said. 

Don’t Put the Fire Out

For the past 20 years, the architecture program at Blair has been focused on more than landscape design, spatial reasoning and three-dimensional models. The course, and even more so, the teacher, have stressed the importance of civility and humanity. After teaching at the college level, Mr. King feels a deeper responsibility to high school students at Blair.

“We’re part of the process of shaping solid citizens, well-rounded individuals,” Mr. King explained. “Their energy and their passions inspire me. As a teacher, I never want to ask them to do anything that puts that fire out.”

For Simisola, that passion started young. As a child, she always played with LEGOs and designed her own buildings, from houses to music shops. When she was bound for Blair, she looked forward to taking architecture class.

“I have learned so much being in this class and we cover many areas,” she said. “I went from creating house plans to creating a plan for a museum. I know that next semester I’m going to discover a new range of topics, and I’m very excited.”

A Perfect Combination

Maybe the architecture program has flourished at Blair for one of these reasons, but it’s more than likely that it’s a perfect combination of all of the above that makes Mr. King and his class integral parts of the community. 

Strong student-teacher relationships are at the heart of the Blair experience. Expert faculty members teach our classes to exacting standards, yet, at the same time, they truly know—and care about—our students. Mr. King is a shining example of that ideal.

“Overall, the class is usually a highlight of the academic day,” Preece said, “and I always look forward to greeting Mr. King with a smile and handshake.”

James Moore Squash

It was a Sunday in March 1993, and the lights were on in newly built Tracy Hall, but no one was allowed in. The walls of the three original courts—four more were added in 2008—were blinding white, as yet unmarked by black balls. The floors, quartersawn unvarnished maple, smelled as if it had just been planed, and the shavings swept away. The building was ready for its intended purpose, the HVAC system humming away, but it was empty, because the town of Blairstown had not yet granted us a certificate of occupancy.  

At home in Hillside House, I took a call from Dennis Peachey ’62, the assistant headmaster. 

“Jimmy,” he said. Dennis was the only person in my life who has ever called me “Jimmy.” “Jimmy, get your stuff and meet me at the courts.”

“But, Dennis,” I said. “We’re not allowed…”

“Just get over there.”

Ten minutes later, Dennis and his son Derek ’93, current Trustee and, at the time, my advisee and English student, were waiting for me. “Go ahead,” Dennis said to me, pointing at Derek. “Teach him how to play squash.” 

And, so, in violation of the law, Derek and I stepped onto what is now the Schmeelk Court, and, thus, the Blair Academy squash program was born.

Over those past 30 years, squash has become part of the fabric of Blair Academy, not only as an opportunity for new players to learn the game, and a competitive program that has, at times, featured some of the best players in the country, but also as something to do for a few hours with a few friends on a Sunday afternoon or in that liminal space between dinner and study hall. Squash is a popular component of the Headmasters’ Societies Games in February. There’s a Blair Squash Facebook page for those of us old enough to still use that platform and a Blair Squash Instagram account for everyone else; it is a testament to the squash community we’ve developed among students, alumni, parents and friends that every post garners lots of “likes” and not a few comments. 

I am often asked, who is Blair’s best-ever squash player, which is like the “What’s your favorite book?” question I get once someone learns that I teach English. And, as I do with the book question, I have to hedge a bit, because there’s no clear answer. I can bring up names like Briggs Johnson ’97, ranked #3 in the United States his senior year, and his classmate, Laura Inkeles ’97, who was among the top 20; they both went on to distinguished college squash careers, Briggs at Hobart and Laura at Bowdoin. Darrius Campbell ’13 was named to the all-NESCAC first team his senior year at Bates College, as I believe Emilie (Slack) Rendall ’02 was when she played for Colby College. Recently, Omar Ali ’20 and Youssif Mostafa ’22 provided us with perhaps our strongest one-two punch ever and now play at the top of the lineups at Dickinson and Colby, respectively. A few years ago, Briggs asked me if Darrius would have beaten him when they were each at their best; I said I wouldn’t hazard a guess, but that I would have loved to referee that match.

More important than the quality of play, of course, is the quality of character, and it is a measure of our program’s emphasis on fair play, dignity and leadership that we have produced perhaps more than our share of college captains. In addition to Briggs at Hobart and Emilie at Colby, Andrew McCann ’98 (Navy), Tyler Horton ’99 (MIT), Henry Clutsam ’01 (Hobart), Ali Crevi ’07 (Colby), Andrew Litvin ’14 (Williams), Aya Sobhy ’17 (Dickinson), Griffin Fitzgerald ’17 (Fordham), Clio Bersani ’18 (Bowdoin), Luigi Pasquariello ’18 (Connecticut College), and Adham Sobhy ’18 (Bowdoin) have all led varsity college teams. Among the club team ranks—non-varsity teams that represent their college or university—there are almost as many captains, including Emma Moore ’12 (University of Rochester), Kendall Fitzgerald ’16 (Cal-Berkeley), Rose Mascarenhas ’18 (University of Richmond) and, currently, Kate Setteducate ’19 (Boston College). 

Finally, our program has produced alumni who, after college, have stayed in the game as administrators, instructors and team coaches. Manuela Perez ’12 is a program manager at the Squash and Education Alliance, the umbrella organization that oversees urban squash programs around the world. Eric Katerman ’98, who played college squash at Williams, is the coach of the Cal-Berkeley men’s team when he’s not directing big data projects. Henry Clutsam was a teaching professional at clubs in Montreal and Cincinnati for a decade and a half, as well as one of the U.S. Junior team coaches. Emma Moore directed the squash programs at independent schools in Connecticut and Georgia for five years, during which she actually coached against—and, on occasion, beat—her former team. 

It is easy, in a piece like this, to list too many names and, at the same time, run out of room before you tell the whole story. But how can I conclude without noting that Adam Berk ’95 was the first Blair player recruited to play at a college (U.S. Naval Academy)? Adam did so for two years before transferring to Cornell and, eventually, founding Grubhub. It’s important to mention that Boston College’s women boasted three Blair alums—Kate Setteducate, Alexa Setteducate ’19 and Abby Arturi ’17—in their starting lineup for two years running. Associate Head of School Ryan Pagotto ’97, whom I finally convinced to play his senior year, set the standard for players at the #7 spot on the ladder, winning 14 matches for one of the best teams we’ve ever had. Parents and alumni, like current Trustee Robin Scheman P’10 ’14 and Maura Fitzgerald P’16 ‘17, who coordinated and raised the Blair Squash Endowment, Robert Neff ’49, whose son Will ’08 served as captain, Bob Kiley ’51, and Peter McKinney ’52, and, most recently, David and Constance Kan P’24, have lent essential support to the program, not only in the early days, but even now as we continue to build on our decades of success. And I haven’t even mentioned the coaches who’ve served, from former Assistant Headmaster David Low who, in his retirement, still plays a couple of days a week on the Williams College courts, to Doug Compton, my consigliere, a former professional player who teaches English as superbly as he coaches squash. The list goes on, and I’m sure I’ll remember someone else important as soon as this piece is published.

In the fall of 1990, a few weeks after I joined the faculty, Blair’s 15th Head of School Chan Hardwick sent me to Valley Forge to meet with John C. Bogle ’47, then chairman of the Blair Board and such a keen squash player that he wielded a racquet in the full-page portrait of him that had appeared in a recent issue of Fortune. I didn’t know enough about Jack to be intimidated by his vast office, but when he came out from behind his desk, which may have been constructed of timbers from Royal Navy man o’ war, and boomed “So you’re our new squash coach,” I looked behind me to see if he was talking to someone else. I recovered quickly enough to say a few good things, but when I told him that we need three international courts instead of the narrower North American hardball courts, Jack’s face clouded. 

“What’s wrong with North American courts?” he demanded. 

“Well, nothing,” I said. “Except no one’s going to be playing hardball in five years. The colleges are shifting to the international game and we need to as well.” Jack thought about this for a bit and the conversation moved on to what kind of league we might form and where we might get our players. He dismissed me and I headed back to Blair.

A few days later, Dennis Peachey called me in and said Jack wanted to talk with me. We called from Dennis’ office. 

“You can have your international courts,” Jack said. I thanked him profusely. “But one thing,” he warned. “You better get this right. These things are expensive.”

The last time I saw Jack at the courts was before a match probably five or six years ago. Between the kids warming up on the courts and fans—yes, we have fans—in the bleachers, there were probably 100 people in Tracy Hall. “Well,” he said, looking around. “This turned out to be a pretty good investment, didn’t it?” 
 


About the Author

In addition to directing the Blair squash programs, Blair English department chair James Moore, Hon. ’93, is head coach of girls’ varsity squash and advises the School’s All-School Read Committee. Since joining the faculty in 1990, he has also taught microeconomics and served as dean of college counseling, ninth- and 11th-grade class monitor, dorm head of Insley Hall, director of capital giving, head coach of boys’ varsity squash and assistant coach of varsity baseball. He completed his undergraduate work in English at Cornell University in 1985 and has since studied literature at Georgetown University and Drew University and business at the University of Rochester. Jim is the father of Emma ’12 and Harrison ’17.

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.