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Senior Organizes Blood Drive to Help Save Lives


On February 20, the Blair community will come together to support a life-saving cause at a blood drive organized by Caroline Haywood '18. More than 60 members of the community have signed up to donate, which could benefit up to 180 people in need of blood transfusions.

A family lineage of doctors and others who work in the field of medicine has inspired Caroline to pursue a career as a surgeon, but as a current Blair student, she recognized her power to start impacting and saving lives in the present. She organized a successful blood drive on campus last winter, and, seeing how eager her peers and teachers were to aid her cause, she decided to organize the drive again this year.

"I hope we have more donors and do even more good in the local community this year," she said. The donation collection will be conducted by Miller-Keystone Blood Center, which serves 22 hospitals in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Caroline came to Blair in 2016, a year during which the American Red Cross reported an all-time low number of blood donations. Seeing a need, she rallied the Blair community to help fill the void between declining donations and the increasing need for blood in hospitals across the country.

"One donation saves three lives, and in the U.S., someone gets a transfusion every two seconds," she explained, adding that many people aren't aware of the critical need for blood donations or how many people can be impacted by regular blood donation. "I'm hoping to spread awareness." Having addressed her peers at a recent School Meeting to educate them on the importance of blood donation, she noted, "There are not many opportunities in your life to save others' lives, but this is one way we can help."

Caroline also offered some perspective to those who may be uneasy with the donation process: "It can be nerve-wracking to donate, but consider the people receiving these donations—they may be even more afraid. Just remember, your donation is going to impact someone's life in a huge way."

Blair Swimming Breaks Records at Easterns


It was a memorable weekend for Blair swimming, as the team traveled to Franklin & Marshall College for the Eastern Interscholastic Swimming & Diving Championship on February 16 and 17. During the meet, a number of Bucs set School records and each of the 12 Blair swimmers who participated posted at least one personal best time.

On the first day of competition, Summer Will '19, Anna Insana '21 and Alec Lawless '18 all competed well in their preliminary races, earning berths in the finals of their individual events. Summer placed sixth in the 200 individual medley final with a time of 2:09.63. Anna placed 18th in the 200 free final, setting a new School record (1:58.62), while Alec's personal best time of 1:44.85 in the 200 free final earned him 16th place overall.

The girls' 200 medley relay team, comprising Camille Williams '20, Summer, Anna and Tiara Myrie '18, set a new School record, clocking in at 1:54.69 and placing 11th overall in the final of that event. The same four girls set another School record in the 200 free relay final at 1:45.40. The boys' 200 free relay team, comprising Alec, Justin Choi '18, Jacob Leddy '19 and Andrew Brooks '19, also set a new School record in their event final at 1:31.43.

The great performances continued on the second day of Easterns. Anna broke the School record in the 500 free preliminaries and broke her own record in the event's final, placing 10th overall with a time of 5:14.26. Summer placed fourth overall in the 100 breaststroke final with a time of 1:06.05. Alec achieved another personal best with his time of 47.62 in the 100 free final, earning 12th place overall. Alec, Justin, Jacob and Andrew swam again in the boys' 400 relay, placing 14th overall in the final with a new School record time of 3:19.17.

Buccaneer personal bests at Easterns were also achieved by Jake and Justin in the 500 free; by Camille in the 100 free and 100 back; and by Nate Castimore '20 and Aidan Stockhausen '20 in the 100 free and the 100 fly. Sammi Hui '18 swam a season best time in the 500 free.

"The spectacular performances this past weekend, both individual and relays, were the culmination of a great deal of hard work, commitment and determination," said Robert Brandwood, Blair's head swimming coach. "The 12 swimmers who represented the School at Easterns were the epitome of all that Blair athletics stands for. They, and the entire team over the course of the season, displayed grit, spirit and sportsmanship."


Headmasters' Societies Games Celebrates 15 Years as Beloved Campus Tradition

As Head of School Chris Fortunato officially kicked off Blair's 15th-annual Headmasters' Societies Games (HMS) on Sunday night, the community cheered the start of another fun-filled week of competition, camaraderie and community-building. With the festivities starting a day earlier than usual, school spirit was infectious as seniors stormed the dorms, new students learned of their team assignments, and team members met for planning and strategy sessions.

The Games—which divide students and faculty into four teams named after former Blair headmasters Breed, Howard, Kelley and Sharpe and pit them against each other in a series of always fun and sometimes silly contests over the course of seven days—have become a beloved highlight during what can be a dreary week in February. The winter sports season has ended for most athletes; students are about to gear up for their signature assessments, but aren't quite yet in full-fledged "study mode;" and spring break is still weeks away.

When former Blair faculty member Dave "Vac" Vachris first proposed the Games in 2004—in part to fill this lull in an otherwise jam-packed academic and athletic calendar—he hoped students would embrace the opportunity to compete against fellow classmates and teachers while celebrating School history and getting to know people they might not have otherwise met during their normal Blair routines.

A Deeply Rooted Tradition

While he enjoyed seeing the Games get off to a good start in 2005 and 2006 before he left Blair, even Vac couldn't have envisioned how deeply embedded the weeklong contest has become in Blair community life. Today, they are a tradition that rivals Peddie Week in terms of student enthusiasm and anticipation and alumni cite competing in the Games as among their favorite Blair memories.

Of course, over the years, the Games have changed and evolved and this year's competition is no exception. On the itinerary will be long-held staples such as tug-of-war and the spelling bee, as well as some new additions, including a maker space competition in the Chiang Center for Innovation and Collaboration and perhaps the most competitive game of Hungry, Hungry Hippos that anyone has ever seen.

Taking the Games to the Next Level

Vac lauds the faculty members who took what he started and made it into an enduring Blair tradition. "The teachers who have taken these Games to the next level are my idols," he said. "Yes, it was a good idea, but over the course of more than a decade, faculty and students have run with it and turned it into a great experience and tradition. Adding new contests, using social media, staying involved, and dedicating time and energy to this week have been essential to its continued success. The Games are better than I ever could have imagined!"

The Best of Blair

Led for the third-consecutive year by Commissioners Andee and Mike Ryerson, the Games embody all that is the best of Blair. "Headmasters' Week has an incredibly positive spirit that is quintessentially Blair," said Mrs. Ryerson, who is associate dean of students and manages the Games' many logistics with her science-teacher husband. "I most look forward to the talent show, the week's culminating event, because there is always a surprise performance. I love watching the winning team being announced and rushing the stage, especially when it is a victory years in the making, as was the case with Team Kelley last year [which hadn't won since 2008]."

Perhaps Associate Head of School Ryan Pagotto '97 sums it up best: "Headmasters' Societies Week is the best community-building event we do at Blair, right up there with celebrating our rivalry with Peddie," he said. "It is a time where our students and faculty really come together, but with a focus on one another instead of on another school."

Having the talent show as the capstone of a week of competition is fitting and very "Blair-esque," he added. "Invariably, students whose talents we have not borne witness to come out of the woodwork and the community always embraces them. Every year, there are surprise talents and the whole crowd, regardless of the teams they are on, celebrates them as they make their debut."

Who Will Emerge the Victor?

As the competition gets underway, members of Breed, Howard, Kelley and Sharpe hope it is their team rushing the stage on Friday night. Team Kelley won for the first time in almost a decade in 2017, and team members are rooting for a repeat performance. Seniors on Team Sharpe, which last took the trophy in 2015, note that they have only emerged victorious once during their Blair careers and hope to clinch a second victory before they graduate. Team Breed, which won in 2016, has an advantage, team members say, because of its strong senior leadership and the fact that they are "ready for anything." And, given that Teams Kelley, Breed and Sharpe have all won in the past three years, Team Howard, which last won in 2012, is confident they "will not go out 0-4." Only time will tell...and the winner will have bragging rights for a year!


Math Students Create Problem-Solving Videos

Blair math students are enrolled in a full range of courses, from algebra 1 to post-Advanced Placement (AP) combinatorics, but they all had one thing in common this winter: the signature assessment. For this assignment, math students at every level created problem-solving video recordings that will become part of Blair's new math reference archive.

Math department chair R. Latta Browse and his colleagues had several objectives in mind when they assigned the video project, in addition to creating an online library of extra-help clips. Ensuring that students had a deep understanding of the concepts they learned during the first half of the year was a priority, but they also wanted students to develop the ability to coherently and logically explain how to solve a complex problem. "Many students can do math, but not many can talk about it in a way that can be understood," Mr. Browse said. "Creating a step-by-step explanation of how to solve a particular problem helped students focus on the mathematical concept and sharpened their public speaking skills at the same time."

Working singly or in pairs, students had four days to complete the assessment. They chose a problem from their homework, developed their explanation and did a test-run with their teacher over the first two days. Filming took place on day three, with each student or pair choosing a recording device, whether it was simply a cellphone or something more complex. Day four was devoted to screening the videos and peer review.

Geometry honors student Matt Neuffer '21, who worked with Ethan Rackleff '21, enjoyed the project because he was able to incorporate his love of video and editing into math. Choosing to explain a problem they dubbed "the guy on the building," Matt and Ethan recorded the audio on their phones then imported it into Adobe After Effects, where Matt edited and animated the voice recordings. "In doing this project, I learned that hard work pays off. I spent a very long time editing and working on it, and I got a 6.0," Matt said. "I think it's pretty cool that future students might look to our video for help."

Elise Sigety '20 and Jessica Wilm '21 partnered on another geometry honors video that explains a word problem used to determine a triangle's sides and angles. "We learned how to properly present and explain a math problem and solve it without confusing the audience," Elise said. The girls shot the video on Elise's phone, and Elise used her film skills to "keep the audience engaged." "We opened with an introductory shot of a real-life word problem to make the audience think about how math can be used in real-life situations," she said.

Pleased with the videos produced in the signature assessment's first year, Mr. Browse is looking into ways to best archive them so that they can be easily referenced by current and future students, especially as Blair's math problem-solving library continues to grow in the coming years.

Elise is excited about having created a video to pass down to future Blair math students. "I think it's really smart to have a Blair archive of student-produced videos available so that students don't have to go online and maybe find an unreliable source," she said. "This project was enjoyable and handy, and I hope it continues into the future."


Players Stage Romantic Comedy 'Crazy for You'


Twenty years after Armstrong-Hipkins Center for the Arts was dedicated on Blair's campus, the Blair Academy Players will restage the first-ever musical performed in DuBois Theatre: the hit Broadway romantic comedy Crazy for You. The show, which is based on a book by Ken Ludwig, with music & lyrics by George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin, will open on Thursday, February 15 at 7:30 p.m., with additional performances on February 16 and 17, also at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students.

The show opens as banker Bobby Child (portrayed by Ernesto Lippert '18) seeks to evade his overbearing mother (Jillian Rogers '19) and his nagging fiancée, Irene (Audrey Sacks '20), by going to rural Deadrock, Nevada, to foreclose on a rundown theatre. While there, the city slicker instantly falls for Polly Baker (Alex Kirby '20), daughter of theatre owner Everett (Alex Roberts '18). Of course, the attraction is not mutual, so through tricks and mistaken identity, Bobby sets out to win Polly and save the theatre. Bobby, a wannabe dancer, enlists the help of friends Tess (Siena Tipton '18) and Patsy (Savannah Doelfel '18) to impersonate Bela Zangler (Matthew Bottone '19), a Broadway impresario, and organize a show at the rundown theatre to raise enough funds to avoid foreclosure. Polly is also pursued by saloon owner Lank Hawkins (Kendrick Ng-Yow '19), who hopes to see the show fail, so he can woo Polly instead. The rich Gershwin score includes "I Got Rhythm," "Naughty Baby," "They Can't Take That Away from Me," "Embraceable You," "But Not for Me," "Nice Work if You Can Get It," and "Someone to Watch Over Me."

Director Craig Evans, veteran performing arts and English teacher, is excited to bring Crazy for You back to Blair's stage and has invited Blair alums who participated in the original 1997 production back to campus this winter to watch the show. "We would love to have as many original cast members join us as possible!"

As a sophomore in one of the show's leading roles, Alex Kirby '20 has looked to build on the acting, singing and dancing skills she developed last year. After joining the cast of In the Heights last winter, she enrolled in Blair's theatre 1 class with performing arts and English teacher Micki Kaplan McMillan. The introductory course teaches students techniques for developing and interpreting characters through the use of body, voice and imagination. Alex appreciated the core focus on acting.

"It helped me develop my acting skills both when I am speaking and when I'm singing in character," said Alex, adding that taking a course with peers in all grades was also beneficial, as one of the seniors in the class became her mentor. She plans to take theatre 2 her senior year, with hopes of becoming that mentor for a freshman or sophomore.

This winter, Alex has remained steadfastly committed to studying and understanding her character, Polly, who is a stark contrast to the "street character" she portrayed in last year's musical. "Polly is very independent and headstrong; she doesn't need a man," Alex described. Yet, one of her ballads, "Someone to Watch Over Me," tells another story of Polly longing to be in a relationship. Alex worked closely with Mr. Evans to unveil the fact that Polly masks her insecurities by playing hard to get, and she has since looked for ways to incorporate this added level of depth to her role across other scenes.

Matthew Bottone '19, who serves as the show's student director in addition to portraying the part of Bela Zangler, appreciates "all the crazy, inappropriate and relevant comedy" in the show, along with the "amazingly choreographed dance numbers."

In fact, Mr. Evans chose this musical for its tap dancing numbers, which the show's choreographer, Associate Dean of Students Andee Ryerson, loves to teach to students. Mrs. Ryerson, who choreographs the moves for the musical every winter, fell in love with tap dancing in high school and college, and tries to incorporate the style in at least one song in every show. Unlike most productions on the Blair stage, though, Crazy for You will have no shortage of tap dances, she said.

"Tap is a totally different way of dancing, and I love giving students the opportunity to try something so unique," she said, adding that no matter the students' experience level, every Player can enjoy dancing in the musical, and excel at it, too.

"With dance, it honestly doesn't matter if you're doing the moves perfectly, which is especially true of tap," said Mrs. Ryerson. "No one is watching your feet; they're watching your face. If you are smiling and look confident, no one knows the difference between the right steps and slightly off steps!"

Adding tap dancing into the equation is just another exciting challenge for Matthew to tackle. Because he is both an actor and director, he has found working on his sixth production with the Players to be especially exciting and a great learning experience. "It is really awesome to be able to suggest things that help shape the show and then be able to take part in the final product," said Matthew, who is student-directing for a second time this winter. "It is hard to critique a scene that you are also in. But, the challenge is fun, and I'm just happy to participate as much as possible in every aspect of the production!"

"Come out and see all your friends tap," Alex added. "There's a lot of energy and so much dancing in this show—the entire ensemble really gets to shine!"

Girls' & Boys' Varsity Basketball Win MAPL Championships

It was a banner weekend for Blair basketball as both the girls' and boys' teams were crowned 2018 Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) champions. This marked the girls' eighth-consecutive MAPL title and the boys' third title in the past four years and tenth in School history.

The girls' team won both of their tournament games by wide margins, defeating The Hun School on Saturday, 64-35, and Peddie School in the championship match up on Sunday, 77-39. In that game, Onome Akinbode-James '18, Sydney Brown '18 and Olivia Miles '21 led the Bucs in scoring with 16, 15 and 14 points, respectively. Blair achieved a perfect 7-0 record against MAPL teams this season, and the team is currently 17-2 overall. They will play in the New Jersey prep "A" tournament semi-finals on February 19 at 4:30 p.m.

"It's been an incredible privilege to work with such an amazing group of athletes this winter," said varsity girls' head coach Quinten Clarke '87. "Their commitment to each other and the team has allowed us to overcome adversity and challenge in reaching the first of our many goals this season."

In Sunday's boys' championship game, the Bucs defeated the Hill School in thrilling fashion, winning 68-66. Blair trailed most of the game and was down by nine points at the half. However, as the final seconds ticked away, the Bucs closed the deficit to a score of 65-66. With six seconds to go, Gabe Ravetz '18 knocked down a three-pointer from the right side of the arc, putting Blair ahead 68-66 to earn the MAPL title. Gabe finished with 15 points, Tucker Richardson '18 contributed 10 points and Jordan Dingle '19 led all scorers with 25 points.

"I am so happy for this group of guys as they committed to a process all season and played for each other," said varsity boys' head coach Joe Mantegna. "Their level of joyfulness, grit and selflessness made this team a deserving champion!"

Boys' basketball ended the regular season with a 22-3 overall record, and the team has earned a first-round bye in the New Jersey prep "A" state tournament. The Bucs will play in the state semifinal game on February 19 at 7 p.m.

Annual Faculty Art Show Opens in Romano Gallery


Blair's annual Faculty Art Show is one of The Romano Gallery's most-anticipated events, and this year's exhibition, featuring the artwork of Blair's fine art teachers, runs from February 12 to March 10. An artists' reception on March 1 at 7 p.m. will give students, faculty and community members the opportunity to learn more about the inspiration and creative process behind the teachers' works, which represent several mediums.

Fine arts department chair Kate Sykes is exhibiting a selection of new ceramic pieces that she crafted using some of the tools in the Chiang Center for Innovation and Collaboration's maker space. "As I've walked my students through a few of the exciting possibilities afforded by our maker space, I've begun to explore my own vision for what can be accomplished here, and I've incorporated that budding vision into these pieces," she said.

Mrs. Sykes' colleagues contributed a variety of two-dimensional works to the show. Director of Video Studies Wendy Schiller is exhibiting photos from her travels, including action shots from last year's trip to Cuba; painting and drawing teacher Evan Thomas has shared a series of black-and-white photographs and a group of watercolor paintings; and photography teacher Tyson Trish has included select images from a photo essay documenting the historic deployment of the New Jersey National Guard to Iraq in 2008.

Former Blair art teacher Rita Baragona, who now serves as The Romano Gallery's curator and assistant director, also has works on display during the Faculty Art Show. She is exhibiting several acrylic paintings of gardens, oceans and floral still lifes, as well as a grid of six drawings taken from vacation sketchbooks she compiled during trips to Italy and the Sierra Nevadas.

"Sketching is a wonderful way to record your vacation as it creates a visual diary and a personal connection to the sights that surround you. I thought it would be fun for students to see small, unfinished sketches done in the moment," Mrs. Baragona said, noting that when students have the chance to view their teachers' work, they get to see the creative, artistic side of people they mostly know in the classroom, on the athletic fields or in the dorm.

"The Faculty Art Show is an important opportunity for teachers to share what we are thinking about artistically with our students and colleagues," Mrs. Sykes reflected. "Students can see that we wrestle with the same issues they do, but in a more refined, artful and intentional manner. By demonstrating our fluency with our discipline and our own verve for making, we will, hopefully, inspire others to try to make something, too."

Civil War History Buff to Focus on Abraham Lincoln at Society of Skeptics
Glenn LeBoeuf

Historian Glenn LeBoeuf shared his passion for the past with the Blair community on February 12 at a special Monday-night Society of Skeptics during which he presented "10 Moral Moments in the Life of Abraham Lincoln." His presentation, which will focus on Lincoln's sense of compassion, dedication to saving the Union and ability to harness the talents of people who didn't get along, took place in the Chiang Center for Innovation and Collaboration.

"Historian Bruce Catton called the Civil War 'our nation's Iliad and Odyssey," said Mr. LeBoeuf, for whom history is an avocation explored when he is not working as a Senior Vice President of Wealth Management and Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor at Garden State Securities, Inc., in Red Bank, New Jersey. "It was the great event in our nation's history. Lincoln was essential to the successful reuniting of the nation and the ending of slavery."

Lecturing, reenacting & dramatizing history

Glenn LeBoeuf

The New Jersey native, who has almost 30 years of experience in the field of wealth management, has spoken at Blair a number of times on various topics, including the Confederacy failure at the Battle of Gettysburg and Abraham Lincoln's evolving views of slavery. For more than 30 years, he has lectured on the Civil War at different venues, including the Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania. A former social studies teacher in New Providence, New Jersey, Mr. LeBoeuf helped stage a 22,000-person Civil War reenactment (the biggest ever held) near Gettysburg in the 1998 and participated in the production of a couple of films on the Civil War, such as Gettysburg (1993) and Glory (1990).

In addition to being an experienced Civil War reenactor and a member of the Abraham Lincoln Association, Mr. LeBoeuf is a graduate of Monmouth University who has remained a lifelong student of history. He credits his interest in the subject to the wonderful teachers he had who were great storytellers and most recently deepened his exploration of the Civil War when he published his first book, 25 'What Ifs' in the Life of Abraham Lincoln in 2017.

"Lincoln's character soared above all others during the war, and the American people stood by him during the war's darkest times," Mr. LeBoeuf said. "They trusted him because he understood them. He remained focused on the ending of the rebellion....and freeing the slaves."

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.


Dan Kraines '06 Visits Blair for Poetry Residency

Dan Kraines '06, a self-described "Blair person through and through," returned to his alma mater January 24 to 26 to serve as Blair's poet-in-residence for 2017-2018. His visit was the second of three writer's residencies—and the only session focused on poetry—that the English department is coordinating this year as part of its initiative to nurture and sustain Blair's literary community.

Mr. Kraines is a working poet whose verse has been published in The Adroit Journal, The Carolina Quarterly, Phantom Limb and Salmagundi, among other literary journals. He holds a BA in English language and literature from Skidmore College, an MFA in poetry from Boston University and an MA in modernism and social criticism from New York University. As he completes his PhD in poetry at the University of Rochester, Mr. Kraines is teaching at the Fashion Institute of Technology and City Tech in New York City, and his expertise in the classroom was evident as he worked with Blair students in seven English classes over his two-day visit.

He opened a Thursday-morning session with Advanced Placement literature students with a free-writing exercise focused on relationships—"something that writers think about all the time," he explained. Discussion about making sense of relationships in life and in writing followed, then Mr. Kraines read three of his poems and fielded questions and observations from students, as well as English teachers Kaye Evans and Carolyn Conforti-Browse '79.

"A big part of being a writer is trying things," he told the class, noting that one of the poems—Contraption in Winter—is very new and still a work in progress. "You try out language and structure, but you don't know how a reader will respond. It's rare for me to have an audience, and this is a great opportunity to find out what you think."

In addition to conducting English classes, Mr. Kraines also shared his poem Ascension with the entire Blair community at Chapel, and spoke about life as a working poet with students and many of his former teachers over lunch in the Romano Dining Hall.

English department chair James Moore was pleased that Mr. Kraines' residency gave Blair students another glimpse into the writing life and hoped that the experience encouraged those who are interested in poetry to delve more deeply into the genre.

Winter Long Weekend Trips Focused on Science & Service


Winter long weekend presents a perfect opportunity for students and teachers catch their breath after the busy month of January. While many members of the Blair community opted to relax at home with family and friends, about two dozen students and their faculty chaperones spent the weekend traveling, learning and serving others on School-sponsored trips to warmer destinations: the Cayman Islands and Memphis, Tennessee.

Ocean Exploration in the Caymans

Marine science teacher W. Rod Gerdsen led his 11th-annual trip to the Cayman Islands over winter long weekend, a science and community-service focused adventure that many Blair students have enjoyed over the years. From February 2 to 6, 16 freshmen through seniors learned about the islands' ecosystem through stops at Stingray City and a green turtle farm, a hike through the uniquely "hellish" landscape surrounding the town of Hell and daily marine-life snorkeling along pristine beaches.

The trip also included an afternoon of service at a local YMCA, where Blair students delivered recreation and school supplies and spent time working with local youngsters. "My goal for this trip is always to give students a deeper appreciation for the ocean and all the life it contains," Mr. Gerdsen said. "It's also a great opportunity to broaden their horizons by introducing them to Cayman culture and the warm and wonderful island community."

Volunteering at St. Jude Children's Hospital

Computer science teacher Michael Garrant, his wife, Vanessa, and eight students traveled to Memphis over the weekend, where they served critically ill children and their families at St. Jude Children's Hospital and Ronald McDonald House. Over the four-day trip, the Blair contingent played games and worked on arts and crafts projects with children who are undergoing treatment, and they served meals to patients and their family members as well.

This marked Blair's fourth year of service at St. Jude—the now-annual excursion was the 2015 brainchild of McKenziee Belton '16, a longtime advocate and supporter of the hospital's critical-care mission. "Our students have many gifts to share with those who are less fortunate," Mr. Garrant said. "I hope their experience helps them realize that they can truly make a difference in the lives of children and families who are experiencing difficult health circumstances."

Mantegna Court Dedicated on January 26

Blair Academy honored veteran boys' varsity basketball head coach Joe Mantegna and his wife, Shelly, on Friday, January 26, at the dedication of Mantegna Court. The event began at 6:45 p.m. in Hardwick Hall's performance gym and was followed by an exciting basketball matchup as the varsity boys took on Phelps School at 7:30 p.m. The entire Blair community was invited to attend this spirited athletic evening.

"Coach Mantegna has played a pivotal role in the lives of the many students and athletes he has worked with throughout his time at Blair," said Director of Athletics Paul Clavel '88. "He is not only passionate about the game of basketball but also about instilling good work ethic and character in all his players. We are proud to take this opportunity to recognize him."

To watch a video of the dedication ceremony, click "play" below.

The naming of Mantegna Court is part of the School's ongoing fundraising efforts on behalf of Blair's boys' basketball program. Commitments from generous donors totaling more than $140,000 toward a $150,000 goal will fund the Blair Boys' Basketball Endowment and locker room upgrades, in addition to the naming of the court for a coach who is deeply respected by the entire Blair family.

Coach Mantegna joined Blair's faculty in 1999 and has since built the boys' basketball program into a national prep school powerhouse. During his years as varsity head coach, Blair has won nine Mid-Atlantic Prep School (MAPL) titles and has competed 12 times in the New Jersey prep "A" state finals, earning state titles in 2009, 2011 and 2014. More than 40 Blair players have gone on to compete at Division I schools, and three former Bucs, Royal Ivey '00, Luol Deng '03 and Charlie Villanueva '03, advanced to careers in the NBA.

Beyond Blair, Coach Mantegna is highly regarded on the national and international basketball scene, having annually run and lectured at camps in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia. In 2014 and 2016, he served as defensive coordinator for the U.S.-Select U-18 team in the U-18 World Championships at the Albert Schweitzer Games in Germany. This year, he is head coach of that same U.S.-Select squad. Additionally, Coach Mantegna serves as coaching consultant for the Luol Deng Foundation, and he teams with his former player to run the basketball instruction at both the Deng Top 50 Camp in London and the Luol Deng Invitational Camp for student athletes of South Sudanese descent, which is held in different venues around North America. He also hosts the annual College Coaches Roundtable each June on Blair's campus.

A 1991 graduate of Ithaca College, Coach Mantegna serves as Blair's associate dean of college counseling and director of testing. He and Shelly are the proud parents of Jake '19, Lula '20 and Xavier.

To view more photos of the event click here.


Society of Skeptics Welcomes Former Army Officer & Author Jason Howk

The Society of Skeptics looks forward to the return of retired Army Maj. Jason C. Howk on January 30, when the accomplished author will share what he learned by interpreting the Qur'an for his latest book, The Qur'an: A Chronological Modern English Interpretation, as well as discuss his approach to writing. The presentation will begin at 7 p.m. in the Chiang Center for Innovation and Collaboration's Collaboration Forum.

Over the course of his 23 years of Army service, Mr. Howk spent several years in Afghanistan and worked extensively with the State Department, intelligence agencies, academia and international diplomats on Afghan issues. Mr. Howk first visited campus in 2016 to share his expertise on Islam, Islamism and ISIS at Skeptics, and returns this winter to discuss his extensive knowledge of the Qur'an.

"I wrote this book because I want to help people understand Islam," Mr. Howk wrote in his author's statement. "This is not an attempt to spread a religion or to denigrate it. I offer it as a gift to anyone seeking to bridge the gap in their understanding of Islam. In the end, education and understanding—and acceptance of other cultures—will unite the world against hatred."

Mr. Howk looks forward to engaging in a question-and-answer session with students and faculty at the forum, and he will also have signed copies of his award-winning book available for members of the community to purchase. (To read a recent review of Mr. Howk's book by The Strategy Bridge, a national security and foreign policy journal, click here.)

Mr. Howk holds a master's degree in South Asian and Middle Eastern security from the Naval Postgraduate School. A Malone Fellow in Arab and Islamic Studies and former term member at the Council on Foreign Relations, he studied Dari (Afghan Farsi) and Arabic at the Defense Language Institute. In addition to his most recent book, he is the author of several scholarly and professional articles and books, including Lions in the Path of Stability and Security: Oman's Response to Pressing Issues in the Middle East. Mr. Howk is especially interested in mentoring young people who are interested in careers in defense, diplomacy and intelligence.

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.



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