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Human Rights Seminar

Blair’s newest religion and philosophy elective is a semester-long seminar focused on human rights. Piloted last year in a popular co-curricular Thursday evening seminar, the course is now part of the academic day, and this fall, it brought 13 freshmen through seniors together to explore the history and theory of human rights, as well as current issues in the field.

English teacher John Redos ’09 leads the human rights seminar after having team-taught last year’s evening sessions with classics teacher Chris Sheppard and Blair’s scholar-in-residence, Harvard professor Timothy Patrick McCarthy, PhD. He began the fall semester with an exploration of basic questions, such as, “What are human rights?” and “Are rights universal or culturally determined?” before introducing students to the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). This landmark document is central to the course, as the class referred to its articles with each topic they studied to see which of them were being violated. 

Students read a variety of news articles, engaged in class discussion, viewed thought-provoking videos and completed weekly writing assignments as they tackled human rights issues surrounding anti-government demonstrations in Hong Kong, climate change, abortion, and education. When they delved into the death penalty and human migration, Mr. Redos brought in guest speakers Gabriela Markolovic and Dr. McCarthy, respectively, who shared real-world perspective gleaned from their work in those fields. 

A visit to The Romano Gallery to view photographer Thomas Franklin’s exhibit, “Images of Immigration,” brought immigration even more sharply into focus, and this was the issue that struck a chord with Paul Kazilionis ’22. “Now I see why there is so much conflict about the wall on the Mexican-American border,” he said. “There are two ways to look at this problem. I see it as a necessary evil that prevents illegal immigration and the transport of narcotics into the United States, but the wall also prevents people who are in dire need of refuge from getting in. This course was so important because it helped me understand fundamental human rights and why they need to be protected.”

Deeming the human rights seminar her favorite course at Blair so far, Annalise Fried ’22 appreciated the opportunity to discuss real-world issues—including abortion, the “most difficult topic”—in a manner that was comfortable for everyone in the class. Addie Scialla ’22 was drawn to the course by its emphasis on current events and global issues, and she, too, loved talking with Mr. Redos and her classmates about each topic, even when her views differed from those of her peers.

For their signature assessment, students were required to infuse real-world perspective of their own into their study of human rights: They each chose an issue, researched an organization engaged in that issue and conducted an interview with a member of the organization. “Students were excited when the people they contacted responded to their questions,” Mr. Redos said, adding that presentations on their interviews were also required. “This project helped students develop skills they will use beyond Blair and, for the most part, left them wanting to learn more, and both are among my goals for the course.”

Another of Mr. Redos’ goals is to see that students can talk about both sides of an issue with respect, no matter what their personal opinion might be. He was impressed with class members’ ability to do just that as the semester progressed—everyone from freshmen through seniors engaged in thoughtful dialogue and realized that each topic they covered was far more complicated than they initially thought.

Carson Honor ’20 believes that the human rights seminar is likely the most important class any student can take at Blair. He was most intrigued by the class’s discussion of the death penalty, since it pertained primarily to the U.S. Constitution and American society, but he appreciated the opportunity to discuss “a variety of issues plaguing our world today.” “Mr. Redos encouraged those who spoke the least to contribute more and those who spoke the most to listen more,” he said. “Overall, I would recommend this class to any student who is interested in human rights or who yearns to learn more about the world we will inherit.”

WinterBall2020

As the first snow of the new year fell on January 18, Blair's Romano Dining Hall was transformed into a 1970s disco for the annual Winter Ball. This year’s throwback theme gave students the opportunity to boogie the night away.

As the festive evening began, underclassmen gathered in the Chiang-Elghanayan Center for Innovation and Collaboration for refreshments, while seniors enjoyed mocktails at Sharpe House with Head of School Chris Fortunato and his wife, Erin. Students then entered the dining hall, which had been transformed into a scene from Saturday Night Fever that a committee of dedicated parents created just for the Winter Ball. According to Andee Ryerson, associate dean of students, the hard work of the parent volunteers is what makes this event one of Blair’s annual highlights.

“The Winter Ball is one of the best events of the semester due to the dedication of the parent volunteers,” Mrs. Ryerson said. “ I know students will carry the memory with them long after their time at Blair is over.”

The Winter Ball is a beloved Blair tradition that never fails to bring warmth to the cold of January. 

Brian Conway and John Walsh

On January 10, internationally recognized musicians Brian Conway and John Walsh visited Blair Academy, offering a once-in-a-lifetime music performance to the Blair community. They shared their unique sound at Chapel, including a variety of Irish and Scottish songs.

The audience was delighted with the Irish jigs and Scottish reels that Mr. Conway and Mr. Walsh played on the fiddle and  guitar, respectively. Song selections included “The Monahan Jig” and “The Fiddler’s Contest,” both of which are well-known within the Irish music community. In addition, both musicians shared their musical journey with students, including how they began playing and why this genre is important to them.

“I always love to play jigs, so think of the jig as an essential Irish tune,” Mr. Conway explained to the audience. “What we are playing are Irish dance tunes which have evolved over time to become listening tunes. My father played the fiddle growing up, and I can speak for both John and me that this music has been a part of us for our entire lives.”

In addition to the performances, the duo led workshops with Blair’s instrumental and vocal music classes. Students had the opportunity to ask questions and discover more about Irish music and its history. During the instrumental music class, students learned how to play a traditional Irish jig on each instrument.

Mr. Conway is an American-born Irish fiddler and assistant district attorney based in White Plains, New York.. Born in 1961 to parents from County Tyrone in Northern Ireland, he first studied with Limerick-born fiddle player Martin Mulvihill. Mr. Conway also studied with Sligo-born fiddle master Martin Wynne. A little over a year after starting the fiddle, Mr. Conway won the under-12 All-Ireland fiddle championship and went on to win several additional All-Ireland medals, including the senior All-Ireland fiddle championship in 1986. Mr. Conway often plays with Mr. Walsh in the tri-state area and is well known within the Irish music community. He has released over 10 Irish music albums.

Mr. Walsh was born in the Bronx, NewYork, which is often known as Ireland’s 33rd county. At the age of 10, his family moved to Kilkenny, Éire, in Ireland, where he took up guitar and vocal performance. After spending many years in Ireland, he moved back to the Bronx and is currently performing and recording, mostly in his studio, Noreside Music, with the bands Jameson’s Revenge, Noreside and Luther’s Boots.

To watch their performance, please click “play” below.

Blair wrestling

Due to a forecast winter storm in the Northeast, the Blair vs. Wyoming Seminary wrestling dual has been moved to Friday, January 17, at 7 p.m. in Blair Academy's performance gym in Hardwick Hall. Tickets will be sold at the door of the performance gym beginning at 5:30 p.m. on Friday night.  

Blair’s College Counselors Hold Junior Parents’ Day

The college counseling office kicked off the college process for the class of 2021 at Junior Parents’ Day on January 18. Beginning at 8:30 a.m. with registration and continental breakfast in Armstrong-Hipkins Center for the Arts, the program provided opportunities for parents to learn about applying to college from a Blair perspective. To watch the program in full, click "play" below.

Head of School Chris Fortunato opened the program with welcoming remarks. He was joined onstage by Blair’s veteran Dean of College Counseling Lew Stival, who has successfully overseen the college process for hundreds of students during his Blair tenure. Blair was also pleased to welcome Don Bishop, Associate Vice President for Undergraduate Enrollment at the University of Notre Dame, as this year’s guest speaker. Mr. Bishop is the senior university administrator responsible for undergraduate admissions, financial aid, student accounts, and pre-college and early outreach programs. 

During the morning, attendees heard from a panel of current Blair seniors and had the opportunity to ask them questions about their experiences with college applications. Mr. Stival and Associate Deans of College Counseling Joe Mantegna and Shana Russell concluded the event by welcoming parents of their counselees to breakout groups, where they took a more in-depth look at the Blair college process.

“We believe Junior Parents’ Day is our parents’ opportunity to get to know their child’s counselor and to learn more about our office philosophy,” Mr. Stival said. “Through this program, we hope to arm them with enough information to get started with their child’s college process.”  

Blair Welcomes Speakers to Alumni Roundtables

Blair’s Alumni Roundtable series continues this week when Trustee Keith Rauschenbach ’76, executive vice president at TIAA, and Michael McDonald ’97, director of corporate development at Molex LLC, visit campus on January 16 and January 17, respectively. Mr. Rauschenbach will meet with students and teachers at 7 p.m. in the Chiang-Elghanayan Center for Innovation and Collaboration, while Mr. McDonald's presentation will start at 5:30 p.m. in Locke Hall Conference Room. Both presenters will discuss their careers and engage in Q&A with attendees.

Instituted by Head of School Chris Fortunato during the 2017-2018 school year, the Alumni Roundtable series offers students the opportunity to learn about different careers by connecting with alumni who are working in a variety of fields. Learn more about Mr. Rauschenbach and Mr. McDonald below.


Keith Rauschenbach ’76 

TIAA

Executive vice president, Nuveen

Since 1981, Mr. Rauschenbach has worked for TIAA, a Fortune 100 financial services firm that is the leader in serving the financial needs of people in academic, government, medical, cultural and other nonprofit fields. Through the years, his responsibilities have included management of the firm's New York regional office and Eastern Division Consulting Services. In 2003, Mr. Rauschenbach became senior vice president in charge of leading the company's relationship management and product distribution initiatives with third parties, including broker-dealers, financial advisors, consulting firms and institutional intermediaries. Since 2006, he has been responsible for affiliated business development at TIAA and, until his January 2, 2020, retirement, was the firm’s Executive Vice President, Affiliated Institutional Retirement and Retail Advisory Services for Nuveen (TIAA's asset management business). 

Mr. Rauschenbach holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Westminster College, as well as the CEBS designation from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans. A fellow of the Life Management Institute, he is also a member of the International Society of Employee Benefit Specialists. Mr. Rauschenbach served as a member of the Governing Council of the International Society of Certified Employee Benefit Specialists, is a past president of the Governing Council of the International Society of Certified Employee Benefit Specialists, and is a former treasurer and president of its New York Metropolitan Chapter. 

A Blair Trustee since 2008, Mr. Rauschenbach chairs the Governance Committee and serves on the Executive and Investment Committees. In addition, he served on the Alumni Board of Governors from 1993 to 2001, completing his tenure as president. In 2016, Mr. Rauschenbach was honored for his longstanding dedication to Blair Academy with the Alumnus of the Year award.
 

Michael McDonald ’97 

Molex LLC

Director of corporate development

Mr. McDonald graduated from New York University in 2001 with degrees in accounting and finance. Early in his career, he worked in various roles throughout Wall Street, predominantly in mergers and acquisitions, but also in restructuring and strategy. Mr. McDonald earned his MBA at Chicago’s Booth School of Business in 2013 and joined Molex that same year.

Molex is a global manufacturer of electronics with 45,000 employees worldwide. It is owned by Koch Industries, the world’s largest private company. As director of corporate development, Mr. McDonald is responsible for the majority of Molex’s merger and acquisition activity, accounting for over $1 billion in transactions over the past six years. He also oversees one of Molex’s 12 business units and has been responsible for restructuring that business. Mr. McDonald is a CFA charter holder, as well as an inactive CPA licensed in New York State.

Belonging Seminar
Belonging Seminar

Every Friday night, 13 Blair students and three Blair faculty members gather in the Chiang-Elghanayan Center for Innovation and Collaboration over pizza and snacks to examine what it feels like to belong, both in the Blair community and beyond, and what students can do to promote that feeling among others.

With the goal of fostering important conversations about inclusion, diversity, equity and social justice, the seminar explores different definitions of these concepts, as well as the joy and pressures associated with being one’s authentic self in today’s “call-out” culture, where so many share their unsolicited opinions in person and online.

Led by Blair’s scholar-in-residence Timothy Patrick McCarthy, PhD, Associate Dean of Students Andee Ryerson and language teacher Sharon Merrifield, the seminar can be taken for credit if participants opt to collaborate with a faculty member to plan a Martin Luther King Jr. seminar during the third week in January. The design and execution of these sessions on diversity and inclusion serve as the seminar’s capstone, a particularly meaningful exercise in light of the fact that the entire student body must take part in at least two MLK seminars.

"'Belonging at Blair' seeks to give students a space to explore the vital issues of diversity and inclusion as they relate to our collective efforts to build community out of the many identities and experiences represented at Blair,” said Dr. McCarthy, who is a lecturer on history and literature, public policy and education at Harvard Kennedy School, a core faculty member at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, and visiting professor of public service and social justice at the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service.

“In a world that is increasingly fractured and polarized, where attempts to find common ground are too often undermined by political divisions and personal misunderstandings, we hope this seminar will serve as an antidote,” he added. “Together, Andee, Sharon and I are committed to finding a productive way to work with students to create a school culture where everyone feels like they truly belong."

It’s All About Perspective

The very different perspectives of the seminar’s leaders has been one of its biggest draws. While Dr. McCarthy brings years of experience as a seasoned college and graduate school professor, communications expert and social justice advocate who can talk more broadly about the human experience in settings outside of boarding school, Mrs. Ryerson knows firsthand how important it is for Blair students to have these conversations in the School’s always close-knit and supportive community—which has never before so explicitly addressed such issues.

“I hope kids take away a greater understanding of their own experience and the experience of those around them, with a new appreciation for the courage it takes to have uncomfortable conversations,” said Mrs. Ryerson. Exiting comfort zones has been one of the seminar’s biggest takeaways, with participants discussing a wide range of topics, including the messages delivered by all-school speaker and Athlete Ally founder Hudson Taylor ’05, and podcasts and academic articles examining identity, politically correct culture, social pressures and censorship.

Of course, given the ubiquity of technology and the increasingly rapid pace of life and change in society, all of this is made even more meaningful by the fact that today’s adolescents face a unique blend of social/emotional pressures and moral challenges, something that Blair is addressing by making student health and well-being a top priority in its 2018-2025 Strategic Plan, All In. With that in mind, Mrs. Merrifield brings a unique lens to the seminar as the only Blair teacher who is working toward certification in mindfulness meditation, a practice that aims to increase self-awareness of one’s thoughts and emotions in a way not meant to control or change them, but to give pause and promote understanding before making judgements or reacting.

“In the age of social media and smartphones, our students are increasingly pulled in many different directions and, while these devices and platforms are meant to connect us, there is also research showing that they cause an equal amount of isolation and anxiety,” said Ms. Merrifield, who will finish a yearlong Mindful Schools certification course for teachers, counselors and social workers this summer. “As a result, it can be hard to be in the moment and be present, both of which are important for the types of discussions we have in this seminar.”

The Art of Mindful Meditation

Throughout the fall semester, the three teachers have incorporated mindful meditation techniques into all of their work with students, even helping participants practice breathing exercises to focus and "get in the right headspace" before discussions.

Given the research that shows mindful meditation not only helps students be more focused, but also helps with impulse control and self-awareness, Ms. Merrifield has incorporated its practice into all of her classes and has led Sunday Evening Reflections on the topic. “Our seminar focuses on belonging, and you can’t truly explore that concept without being fully present and aware of what you are bringing to the table,” she added. “You have to be present to build relationships. And, with time and practice, you become more familiar with the landscape of your own mind and acceptance of yourself and others, which is incredibly helpful in examining topics such as diversity, inclusion, equity and social justice.”

Curiosity & Open Mindedness

The evening seminar brings together students of all levels of interest in inclusion and diversity. Ellie Walker '23 had heard from several classmates who had taken Blair's human rights seminar last year that Dr. McCarthy offered fascinating perspectives and facilitated "amazing" conversations, so she went to the first session curious and with an open mind. What has impressed her most in the weeks since is how passionate she and her fellow classmates are about the topics they discuss, and how comfortable and supported she feels with her teachers and peers. "We have really strong, productive and profound conversations, which I love to engage in," she said. "Everyone takes the seminar seriously; they come ready to discuss deep subjects and willing to engage in meaningful dialogue. It's hard to choose a favorite part because the seminar is so amazing, and I look forward to every Friday night because of it."

And the experience of working with Dr. McCarthy, as well as Mrs. Ryerson and Mrs. Merrifield, has lived up to every expectation she had going into the experience. "All three teachers are incredible and working with them has been really eye-opening," Ellie explained. "In helping us explore the answers to complex questions, they offer captivating perspective...and Mrs. Ryerson brings food!"

For Avery Lehman ’21, the pizza served at the group’s first meeting was a big draw, as was the thought-provoking announcement that Mrs. Ryerson and Mrs. Merrifield made at School Meeting about the seminar. “They asked everyone to close their eyes and imagine the perfect Blair student, and then to ask ourselves why we thought of the person we did,” Avery said. “This was a really intriguing exercise, and I wanted to know more.”

Over the course of the fall and winter months, Avery has enjoyed hearing her classmates’ interesting perspectives during “complex and exciting” conversations driven in part by “provocative and interesting questions” posed by Dr. McCarthy, Mrs. Merrifield and Mrs. Ryerson. Avery credits the seminar’s teachers with keeping discussions on track as people go off on tangents and reminding everyone to be respectful of one another.

And, while the discussion thus far has been limited to the seminar’s 13 participants, the Blair community at large will enjoy the fruits of seminar participants’  labor come January 20, when the MLK seminars begin. “The fact that every Blair student engages in this program makes it incredibly impactful,” concluded Mrs. Ryerson. “Having been so impressed by how these students can dissect ideas and talk about how they are interrelated in our Friday night discussions, we can’t wait to see what they do come January.”

Emily Reid Skeptics

Blair Academy was pleased to welcome Emily Reid to the Society of Skeptics on January 14. Ms. Reid is the vice president for open learning at AI4ALL, a national nonprofit working to increase diversity in artificial intelligence. She discussed artificial intelligence and its social impact on our world beginning at 7 p.m. in the Chiang-Elghanayan Center for Innovation and Collaboration.

Ms. Reid is a cyber security specialist, computer scientist, educator, entrepreneur and owner of E. E. Reid Consulting, LLC, where she advises and creates curriculum for schools and businesses to help build inclusive computing education programs. As vice president for open learning at AI4ALL, she is working to empower over one million high schoolers globally to create change in their communities and develop foundational technical and ethical AI skills.

Before joining AI4ALL, she was the founding director of education at Girls Who Code (GWC), where she was responsible for ensuring that GWC programs were unrivaled in delivering quality computer science education. During her time at GWC, Ms. Reid’s team taught more than 30,000 girls to code and trained over 2,000 computer science educators. 

Before GWC, Emily was a senior cyber security engineer at the MITRE Corporation. She has published research in computational linguistics and cybersecurity. Ms. Reid holds a master’s degree in computer science from Columbia University and a bachelor of science in mathematics from Tufts University. 

To view her full presentation, please click below:

The History of Skeptics

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

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

 

Second-Annual Finance Summit to Take Place at NYC’s Harvard Club

On January 23 at Blair’s second-annual Finance Summit, professionals from all corners of the finance industry will gather at New York City’s Harvard Club to talk shop and share experiences during a panel discussion moderated by Board Chairman Douglas Kimmelman P’12 ’13 ’15 ’22. The hour-long conversation and question-and-answer session will be followed by a cocktail reception at which participants can mix, mingle and share new perspectives. To register, click here.

The program will kick off with a welcome from Mr. Kimmelman, founder of Energy Capital Partners, followed by a discussion and Q & A with six panelists: William Bao Bean ’91 P’23, general partner at SOSventures and managing director of Chinaaccelerator and MOX; Marcus Alvarado ’99, president and chief investment officer at iStar; Ashley Thompson ’08, founder and CEO of MUSH Overnight Oats; Deborah Winshel P’21, managing director and global head of social impact at BlackRock; Samir Desai P’23, managing director and head of New York investment banking at Needham & Company; and Carina Davidson ’86, president of the global strategic communications firm Abernathy MacGregor.

“Building relationships and expanding horizons are at the heart of everything Blair Academy does, and this is most certainly true of this particular event, which will once again serve as an excellent venue for forging new connections, sharing ideas and learning from one another,” said Mr. Kimmelman, whose firm, Energy Capital Partners, is one of the largest owners of power plant and pipeline assets in the United States.

Attendees must register online in advance of the event; registration closes on January 10. For more information, please contact Nicole Tipton ’93, advancement associate, at (908) 362-6121, ext. 5700 or tipton@blair.edu.  

 

Read more about our Finance Summit moderator and panelists below.

Moderator: Doug Kimmelman P’12 ’13 ’15 ’22, Board Chairman, Blair Academy

Doug Kimmelman established Energy Capital Partners in April 2005 and serves as its senior partner. Prior to founding Energy Capital Partners, Mr. Kimmelman spent 22 years with Goldman Sachs, starting in 1983 in the firm’s Pipeline and Utilities Department within the Investment Banking Division. He was named a general partner of the firm in 1996 and remained exclusively focused on the energy and utility sectors in the Investment Banking Division until 2002, when he transferred to the firm’s J. Aron commodity group to help form a new business for the firm in becoming an intermediary in electricity trading markets. Mr. Kimmelman was instrumental in developing the Constellation Power Source concept as the initial entry point for Goldman Sachs as a principal into electricity markets. Mr. Kimmelman also played a leadership role at Goldman Sachs in building a principal investing business in power generation and related energy assets.

Mr. Kimmelman received a BA in economics from Stanford University and an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

Panelists:

William Bao Bean ’91 

General partner, SOSV & managing director, Chinaccelerator and Mox

William Bao Bean is a general partner at SOSV-The Accelerator VC-the fifth most active angel and seed stage investor in the world in 2018 with $650 million in assets under management. At SOSV, he is the managing director of Chinaccelerator, the first startup accelerator to launch in Asia and the only accelerator in Asia to have a unicorn go through its program, Bitmex, the number-one crypto exchange in the world by trading volume. Mr. Bean is also the founder and managing director of MOX, the mobile only accelerator, which provides startups with free user acquisition of the 80 million smartphone users on the platform. Mr. Bean joined SOSV from SingTel Innov8 Ventures, where he was a founding managing director supporting China investments. Prior to that, he was a general partner at Softbank China & India Holdings, a venture capital firm backed by Softbank and Cisco, leading investments in China and Southeast Asia. Mr.Bean started his career in equity research, most recently with Deutsche Bank, where he was the top-ranked analyst in Asia Internet and China tech, media and telecom, and worked on IPOs for Alibaba, Kingsoft and eLong (Expedia China).
 

Marcos Alvarado '99  

iStar, president & chief investment officer

Marcos Alvarado currently serves as iStar’s president and chief investment officer, responsible for overseeing originations and driving growth across the company’s diversified $5-billion investment portfolio. Throughout his career, Mr. Alvarado has closed more than $25 billion of investments across all parts of the capital structure. He was previously head of acquisitions and business operations for Cadre, a technology-enabled real estate investment platform, and a managing director at Starwood Capital. Prior to Starwood Capital, Mr. Alvarado served as vice president in Lehman Brothers’ Global Real Estate Group. He started his career in Morgan Stanley’s CMBS group. Mr. Alvarado holds a BA from Dartmouth College.
 

Ashley Thompson ’08

MUSH, Founder & CEO

Ashley Thompson is the founder and CEO of MUSH, a health-food brand based in Southern California. MUSH, founded in 2015, creates products that provide high-quality sustenance, taste delicious and make you feel good. Its first product line consists of ready-to-eat overnight oats made with simple, clean ingredients and zero added sugar. Ms. Thompson graduated from Columbia University in three years with a bachelor’s in mathematics and economics. She started her career as a trading analyst at Goldman Sachs, where she met her former business partner, Kat Thomas. In 2017, Ms. Thompson and Ms. Thomas were featured on ABC’s “Shark Tank,” where they accepted an offer of $300,000 for a 10-percent stake in the company from Mark Cuban. 
 

Deborah Winshel P'21

BlackRock, managing director & global head of social impact

Deborah Winshel is a Managing Director and the Global Head of Social Impact at BlackRock, leading the firm’s initiatives to create financial security and opportunity for individuals and families in need. Ms. Winshel joined BlackRock in 2015 as Global Head of Impact Investing and Philanthropy and launched the firm’s environmental and social investment strategy for retail and institutional clients.

Prior to joining BlackRock, Ms. Winshel was President and Chief Operating Officer of The Robin Hood Foundation, New York's largest poverty-fighting organization and a pioneer in applying a rigorous, quantitative framework to the measurement of social outcomes.

Ms. Winshel was previously the Executive Vice President, Chief Financial Officer and Chief Administrative Officer of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Prior to working in the non-profit sector, she was a Managing Director in Investment Banking at JPMorgan.

She was selected in 2013 by Crain's New York Business as one of the "50 Most Powerful Women in New York" and honored in 2014 with the Harvard Business School Women's Association of Greater New York's  "Women Who Inspire Us" award. In 2018, she was the recipient of the Harvard Business School Club of New York’s John C. Whitehead Social Enterprise Award.

Ms. Winshel was a founding board member of Immigrant Justice Corps, and is on the board of directors and head of the Governance Committee of The Shed, a new cultural arts center in Hudson Yards. Ms. Winshel holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and is a graduate of the University of Puget Sound. She lives in New York City with her husband and three sons. 

Samir Desai P’23 

Needham & Company, Managing Director and Partner, Head of New York Investment Banking & Head of Software and Services Corporate Finance

Samir Desai joined Needham & Company in 2002 and is the Head of New York Investment Banking, as well as the Head of the Software and Services corporate finance team. Mr. Desai’s experience includes a wide variety of equity, debt and private placement financings and advisory assignments for a large number of technology clients over the last 25 years. At Needham & Company, he has been the lead advisor on a number of IPOs, follow-on and private placement offerings, and buy-side and sell-side M & A transactions related to a large number of enterprise, application, network and infrastructure software, and tech-enabled and IT services companies. Prior to joining Needham, Mr. Desai was a Vice President in the Technology Investment Banking Group at Credit Suisse First Boston/Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette (CSFB/DLJ), where he focused on clients in the Enterprise Computing, Software and Internet Consulting Services sectors. Prior to CSFB/DLJ, he worked at Cowen & Company, where he was an Associate in Cowen’s Technology Investment Banking Group. He also worked at Salomon Brothers Inc., where he was a financial analyst in Salomon’s Mergers and Acquisitions Group. Mr. Desai earned an MBA with honors from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and a BA in government and economics, cum laude, from Dartmouth College.

Carina Davidson ’86

Abernathy MacGregor, president

Carina Davidson is the firm’s president, based in its New York office.​

Ms. Davidson provides strategic communications and investor relations counsel for companies in the financial services, consumer goods, healthcare, energy, real estate, business services and technology sectors, among others. She has significant expertise helping clients manage their corporate reputations, crafting and delivering corporate messages to Wall Street and assisting companies in preparing for shareholder activism defense scenarios. She also has counseled several employee-owned companies transitioning to public entities.​

Ms. Davidson manages many of the firm’s IPO mandates, bringing to bear Abernathy MacGregor’s full suite of capabilities, assisting pre-public and newly public companies with media relations, IPO messaging/positioning, investor relations, infrastructure build-out and executive recruitment, listing day coordination, and post-offering IR, PR, issues management and transaction support.​

She also oversees communications for some of the leading private equity firms and their portfolio companies, including profile-raising initiatives, fund close announcements, investment positioning, issues management, M & A transaction announcements and IPO activities.

Prior to joining AMG, Ms. Davidson specialized in issues management and public affairs at Edelman. She is a citizen of the Netherlands.

Mel Leipzig art

The Romano Gallery welcomes award-winning artist Mel Leipzig for an eponymous exhibit from January 6 to February 1. Mr. Leipzig’s paintings depict Americans of all walks of life, ranging from ordinary citizens to well-known artists, yet all of his works have one thing in common: They are painted directly from life—not from photographs—as a means of preserving the intensity of feeling Mr. Leipzig seeks to create in his art.

A Trenton, New Jersey, resident, Mr. Leipzig taught painting and art history at Mercer County Community College until his retirement from teaching in 2013. He was the college’s first recipient of its Distinguished Teacher Award, Gold Medal in 1980, and his numerous other awards include a Fulbright Grant to Paris (1958-59), a Louis Comfort Tiffany Award (1959-60) and four grants for painting from the New Jersey Council on the Arts (1982, 1986, 1992 and 2002). In 2000 and 2002, he received awards for his paintings from the National Academy in New York City, and he was elected to the National Academy in 2006.

Mr. Leipzig has enjoyed more than 40 solo shows throughout his career at museums, universities and galleries in seven states. His work is among the permanent collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, the National Academy Museum and the Cooper-Hewitt Museum, among many others. He studied at the Cooper Union from 1953 to 1956, earned a BFA from the Yale University School of Art & Architecture in 1958 and earned an MFA from the Pratt Institute in 1972.

An artist’s reception will be held at The Romano Gallery on January 23, and all are welcome to hear Mr. Leipzig discuss his work, beginning at 7 p.m.

2019 Faculty Open House

Blair Academy is welcoming prospective faculty members to campus in January through two distinctive programs. The Winternship will bring two aspiring teachers to Blair for a month-long, immersive experience of boarding-school life, while the Prospective Faculty Open House, set for January 18, will offer new and experienced educators from the surrounding community and beyond a full day of activities highlighting the School’s educational philosophy, inclusive community, state-of-the-art facilities and beautiful campus.

Winterns Participate in Community Life

This marks the third year for Blair’s Winternship, a competitive program that provides college-age students on winter break the opportunity to explore potential careers as Blair Academy faculty members. Recent Trinity College graduate Lehlabile Davhana and Williams College senior Molly Egger were selected as the 2020 Winterns from among 50 applicants, and they will begin participating in life throughout the Blair community when they arrive on campus in early January.

Among her daily activities, Lehlabile will shadow math and theatre teachers in their classrooms, and attend Blair Academy Singers’ rehearsals and the after-school dance activity. Molly will be busy working with history teachers and the crew teams. Both Winterns will accompany faculty members on dorm duty in the evening, and, while they learn firsthand what it is like to live and work at Blair, they will also be able to share their experiences as collegians with Blair students who will soon be in their shoes.

“Knowing our students well is one of our guiding principles at Blair, and our teachers accomplish that through their deep involvement in every area of school life,” said Dean of Teaching and Learning Caren Standfast ’95, who is overseeing the Winterns. “As Lehlabile and Molly take part in athletics, academics and residential life next month, they will really get to know our students and truly experience life as Blair faculty members. I’m excited to offer them such a unique opportunity.” 

Teachers Invited to Open House

On Saturday, January 18, the Prospective Faculty Open House will give college students, educators and career-changers another avenue to explore teaching careers at Blair and similar independent schools. The event begins with registration at 9 a.m. and features student and faculty panel discussions, campus tours, class visits and lunch in the Chiang-Elghanayan Center for Innovation and Collaboration. The day on campus will help participants gain an understanding of boarding-school life and introduce them to the many rewards of teaching at Blair.

Preregistration is required for the Prospective Faculty Open House. Please preregister here by January 4.

Doug Bandow Skeptics

The Blair community was excited to welcome back foreign policy and civil liberties expert Doug Bandow to the Society of Skeptics on January 7. Mr. Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, a Washington, D.C., public policy research organization, who writes for leading publications including Fortune magazine, National Interest, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Times, and comments regularly on major news networks.

In 2017, Mr. Bandow’s talk focused on the major policy and political challenges facing then-President elect Donald Trump. His talk on January 7 will explore the 2020 election and what to expect as we move into the new year. Since his talk in 2017, Mr. Bandow has become a ForeignPolicy.com and Huffpost contributor, where he reflects frequently on policy in the United States. He 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.

A former special assistant to President Ronald Reagan, Mr. Bandow has challenged the Blair community with discussions of terrorism, drug legalization, ancient Chinese culture and the 2012 presidential election in past years. He holds a JD from Stanford University.

To watch his presentation, please click here:

The History of Skeptics

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

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

‘Doc G’ Remembered at Coaches vs. Cancer Game

Before the varsity boys’ basketball team took to the court for Blair’s annual Coaches vs. Cancer game on December 7, the community paused to remember Gerard A. Giuricich Jr., the School’s long-serving athletic facility manager who passed away on November 30. “Doc G”—a “true Buccaneer” as noted on the buttons worn by every attendee at the game— was beloved and respected by a generation of Bucs. Throughout his 23-plus years at Blair, he cared deeply for student-athletes, ensuring that every team and player was equipped for success, and loyally supporting the Bucs from the sidelines in all seasons.

Dr. Giuricich received national recognition for his expertise in the many facets of equipment and facilities management when he was named the 2016 Athletic Equipment Managers Association “High School Equipment Manager of the Year,” an award that also recognized his dedication to his family and his community. Indeed, his devotion to the Blair community echoed far beyond the School’s athletic venues in the kind words, twinkling smile and sound advice he shared with everyone he encountered on campus. In 2015, a grateful Blair family honored his lasting impact by dedicating the Doc Gerard Giuricich equipment room in his name, citing him as “a role model for those who support the endeavors of others” on the plaque that graces Hardwick Hall.

A graduate of Logan College of Chiropractic, Dr. Giuricich was committed to the good care of his chiropractic patients throughout his career. He especially enjoyed spreading holiday cheer in the Blair community and beyond by dressing as Santa Claus. Dr. Giuricich’s family meant the world to him, and he leaves his beloved wife of 41 years, Marie, their children, Jenny-Ree Hedges ’98, Jody M. Giuricich ’99, Jessica A. Reger ’02, Jay A. Giuricich ’04 and Gina M. O'Rourke ’07, and eight grandchildren.

For information about a December 14 service of remembrance planned by Dr. Giuricich’s family, click here.

2019 Vespers

The Blair community paused amid end-of-semester activities and preparations for winter break to reflect upon the upcoming holiday during traditional Christmas Vespers on December 10. Services were held at 4 and 7 p.m. at the Blairstown Presbyterian Church on Main Street in Blairstown, where candlelight, organ music (played by Mr. Alphons Gunther), and seasonal decorations welcomed attendees and created a festive yet contemplative setting. To watch the service in full, please click "play" below. 

The Rev. Lisa Durkee, Blair’s chaplain and chair of the religion and philosophy department, presided over Vespers, while Head of School Chris Fortunato, Trustee the Rev. David Harvey, Emma Abbott ’20, Christina Enodian ’20, Timothy Launders ’20, Jonathan Lee ’20, Ashton Martini ’20 and Aidan Smarth ’20 participated in the services by reading verses from the New Testament. The Blair Academy Singers and Chamber Orchestra performed Christmas carols during musical interludes, and many attendees lifted their voices to join in the familiar songs.

Between Vespers services, the community celebrated the holidays at family-style dinner in the Romano Dining Hall, which was beautifully decorated for the occasion. Over a special menu of holiday foods and sparkling cider, teachers and students enjoyed lively conversation about their plans for winter break.

Dance Marathon Raises Over $8,000!

Blair students are always encouraged to pursue volunteer opportunities they are passionate about. The School’s second-annual dance marathon, held on December 7, was an example of just that. Organized by Gabi Bernstein ’21 and Hallie Guyton ’20, the marathon raised over $8,000 to benefit Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals through the Miracle Network Dance Marathon program. Held in the Chiang-Elghanayan Center for Innovation and Collaboration, the event brought together the Blair community for a night of dancing, fun and service.

The marathon tradition began in 2018 under the leadership of Hallie and Bryson Garriques ’19, whose younger sister was treated at Children’s Specialized Hospital, a Children’s Miracle Network Hospital, for cerebral palsy. The goal of the marathon is not to sit down, but rather stand up, move and give back. The night included a range of activities, including writing cards to children, singing karaoke, building gingerbread houses and playing games. The dance marathons, held nationally, help students gain valuable leadership experience through the event planning process. To date, such marathons have raised over $250 million.

“I was involved with planning a dance marathon before I came to Blair, and I knew I wanted to continue the tradition here,” Hallie said. “This is a national program that includes universities, so it’s an honor to be a part of that history.”

“My favorite part of planning the marathon was meeting different Blair students as we decided what the night would look like,” Gabi said. “I was really looking forward to seeing how our hard work paid off, and I’m very proud of what we accomplished!”

The event was organized under the guidance of history teacher Joanne Brandwood and English teacher Kaye Evans, who also coordinate Blair’s Day of Service and bi-annual Relay for Life program. Although they were hands-off during the planning process, they noted how amazing it was to see the students so passionate about a cause.

“We didn’t have too much to do with the planning; Hallie and Gabi were responsible for that,” Mrs. Evans noted. “This event is such a great way for students to have fun giving back, while also learning about the importance of the cause they are supporting. It was a remarkable night, and we can’t wait to host it again next year!”