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Blair appreciates who you are,

what you stand for & all that you can achieve.

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The Blair experience is transformative.

Find out how it can change your life.

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Blair academics inspire a lifelong love of learning.

Our robust curriculum invites you to explore your passions.

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At Blair, students explore artistic interests & discover new passions.

Vibrant fine & performing arts opportunities abound.

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Athletics are part of the fabric of our community.

Bucs compete on 30 varsity & 21 JV and thirds teams.

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Our Strategic Plan highlights our “All In” philosophy.

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They care about & know our students exceptionally well.

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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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Students Cater to Interest in Fine Dining at Pop-Up Restaurant

Wander to the serene wooded corner of campus above Blair Lake on a Sunday afternoon, and an unexpected scene greets your eyes: Four tables stand in a clearing, graced with starched white linens, floral centerpieces and gleaming flatware. Around them, eight formally dressed students and/or faculty members—appropriately distanced—are enjoying a delectable, chef-prepared dinner, while a small wait staff, also formally dressed, attends to their guests’ every need.

Welcome to Lords by the Lake, a student-run, pop-up restaurant that has been catering to Blair community members’ hunger for fine dining since mid-March. The concept is the brainchild of Teddy Zinn ’21 and Jack Weber ’21, entrepreneurial seniors who saw a desire among students and teachers for a formal, elevated dining experience this spring and cooked up a way to offer it.

An Inspired Idea
“The idea for a restaurant came to us over winter break,” Jack said, recounting a discussion with Teddy over dinner at a Charleston, South Carolina, eatery. With pandemic protocols firmly in place at Blair, formal dinners were not possible this year and trips to area restaurants had become taboo. “Teddy—perhaps inspired by the duck confit—sparked the idea of starting a restaurant on campus to satisfy the demand for a good dinner, and suddenly, we were bouncing ideas off each other. I offered the name ‘Lords by the Lake,’ and next thing we knew, we had everything!”

Upon returning to campus, Jack and Teddy presented their idea to Teddy’s four-year advisor, Dean of Admission Teddy Wenner ’96, and Dean of Students Carm Mazza. Mr. Wenner and Mr. Mazza offered advice on getting started and steered them to staff members who could help, including Director of Facilities Dave Schmitt and Assistant Director of Dining Services Scott Jordan. Within weeks, chefs George Sigety ’21 and Alex Chung ’22 were onboard, and on March 21, the first guests were enjoying Lords by the Lakes’ inaugural dinner.

Team Effort
Since then, Teddy, who has no previous food service experience, and Jack, who at one time worked as a waiter, have divided the managerial responsibilities for the restaurant’s popular weekly dinners. Jack handles social networking and reservations, posting the dinner menu on Instagram each Thursday and reserving places for the first four people to respond and their guests. He also takes care of accounting and waits tables, while Teddy serves as general manager, ensuring that everything runs smoothly.

Teddy and Jack are quick to acknowledge the vital role that George, Alex and recent chef recruit Jene Vachirapong ’23 play in the restaurant’s success. “We honestly couldn’t do it without them,” Teddy said. “They bring so much to the team, and it’s so important that everyone is on top of everything!”

George, Alex and Jene are responsible for all things food, creating the menus, ordering supplies through Mr. Jordan and Blair’s food service purveyors, and preparing each recipe from scratch. Head chef George comes by his role in the kitchen naturally, having learned how to cook from his father, Trustee Robert G. Sigety ’75, and grandmother, Katharine Sigety, who, he proudly points out, “ran one of the first cooking shows in America.”

“I’ve been cooking my entire life, including at our family’s holiday dinners, where we often enjoy traditional Hungarian dishes,” he said, noting that for one Lords by the Lake dinner he prepared his family’s recipe for chicken paprikash. His favorite Lords by the Lake meal so far, however, has been lobster risotto. “Everything went so smoothly that day, and the quality of the ingredients was great. It’s a treat to use something that you don’t often deal with.”

Alex, an aficionado of culinary videos, articles and books, is a self-trained cook who signed on with Lords by the Lake because he knew it would give him all that he was looking for in the kitchen: practice, experience and fun.

“My favorite meal to prepare so far has been the ragu,” he said, describing how he and Jene flew solo for that service with George away on college tours. “It was a dish I had long wanted to make in the States and in bulk, since some of the ingredients are rather difficult to get back home in Korea. It took me around five hours to complete the ragu, but it was certainly a memorable experience.” 
For her part, Jene was delighted to pitch in that evening, her first time cooking with Lords by the Lake. “Cooking has always been a passion of mine, so, of course, I said yes when George, my volleyball team manager, asked me if I wanted to try it out,” she said. “I was really proud of the desserts I made, and I received so many compliments from our guests!”
 
Lessons Learned & Future Plans

Of course, not every service has gone according to plan. Teddy recalled a mishap involving a dropped container of hollandaise sauce that happened while plating Atlantic eggs benedict during Easter brunch. “Even amongst this tragedy, we found a way to salvage the dish, though,” he said. “This is the type of attitude we constantly activate, to prevail through any hardship.”

“Lords by the Lake has taught me a lot about myself and a lot about the importance of communication and persistence,” Jack said. “I have learned that it is incredibly difficult to run a restaurant, and it is so much more than just cooking and serving food.”

George also emphasized the value of good communication among team members, as well as the importance of being prepared for anything, staying organized while cooking and keeping things clean to make sure the meal runs smoothly. Alex added that trusting one another is a key factor in the restaurant’s success. “It isn’t an easy task for high school students with no prior culinary education to serve a three-course meal for eight people,” he said. “I’ve learned that you can’t pull off such a feat without trusting that your friends and colleagues are doing their jobs properly.”

With Teddy, Jack and George set to graduate in a few weeks, the founding team expressed gratitude to the faculty and staff members, including Mr. Schmitt, Mr. Jordan, Mr. Mazza and Mr. Wenner, who have been a “huge help” throughout the process of establishing and running Lords by the Lake. They hope that Alex and Jene will take the business to new heights next year and beyond—and the two younger chefs are all in with that plan. 

Mr. Mazza and Mr. Wenner are impressed not only with everything that the Lords by the Lake team has accomplished since mid-March, but also with the way the founders are training their apprentices to take the reins. “This venture has been incredibly popular, and I love the fact that it is completely student-created and –led,” Mr. Wenner said, noting that the crew devotes about six hours of work to each dinner, in addition to all their other Blair commitments. “I also love that Lords by the Lake has real potential to continue even after Teddy, George and Jack graduate. Franchising should be next on their list!”

(Photos by Annalise Fried ’22.)
 

Girls' Golf 2021 MAPL Champs

The 2021 spring athletic season will hold a special place in School history: Not only did Buccaneer teams compete during a pandemic year, but they also earned MAPL championships along the way.

“I am very proud of our spring student-athletes,” said Paul Clavel ’88, director of athletics. “They faced unprecedented challenges this season due to the pandemic and never backed down. These Bucs overcame incredible adversity and have added to the legacy of Blair athletics.”

Girls’ Varsity Crew Earns MAPL Crown

On May 1, the girls' varsity crew team captured a Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) championship on Mercer Lake, making a statement by winning four of five races.

To start the day, the girl's novice four achieved a definitive win over the Hun School. Next up, the girls' third varsity four had their best race of the year, beating Peddie and Hill and giving a fast Lawrenceville crew a true test down the course. The girls' second varsity four were put to the test by the Peddie School over the first 1000m of their race; however, as the conditions worsened, Blair's second varsity locked in and executed the best part of their race, their sprint. They pulled ahead for a nearly four-second win over Peddie.

The girls' first varsity four led immediately off the start and opened the gap for the remainder of their race, rowing a very high standard. The first varsity had a seven-second gap over Peddie by the finish buoy, claiming the title of girls' All-MAPL Crew.

The day ended with the girls' novice eight taking to the water, with five athletes completing their second race. They cruised down the course with a commanding win over their field.

“I am extremely proud of our team's MAPL championship win,” said John Redos ‘09, director of crew programs and head girls’ rowing coach. “This event means a lot as the result is dependent on the entire varsity program as opposed to the top boat. The work these athletes have put in over the past year, and the way they treat one another, led to a definitive day on the water at Mercer.”

Girls’ Varsity Golf Earns Sixth MAPL Championship

On May 5, the girls' varsity golf team secured its sixth MAPL championship in program history. The Bucs won the event with a total score of 165, 15 strokes lower than the second-place Hill School.

Lucy Barton ’23 and Chloe Barton ’23 both had the lowest score of 40, along with Hill's Lulu Nakagawa. This led to a sudden-death playoff, which Lucy won with a birdie on the third hole. She was crowned MAPL individual champion. Chloe, Molly Wu ’23 and Jassiel Sanchez ’24 were each awarded All-MAPL honors, as well.

This MAPL championship marks the varsity girls’ golf team’s fourth MAPL crown in five years. “This championship win was very impressive,” said Mr. Clavel, head girls’ golf coach. “Not only did the girls win in tough weather conditions, but they also recorded the lowest overall score for the team this year.”

College Counseling

Blair’s annual College Fair, held each spring in Hardwick Hall’s field house, has traditionally been a wonderful opportunity for juniors and sophomores to learn about a wide variety of colleges and universities and meet admission representatives. This year, mindful of health-and-safety protocols, Blair’s college counseling office took this large-group event in the opposite direction and created eight virtual Micro College Fairs, each a unique, themed experience designed to introduce students to higher education options in a very personalized—and, therefore, a very Blair—fashion.

Dean of College Counseling Niki Applebaum ’01 explained that the Micro College Fairs centered on specific topics, ranging from “Studying Business” and “Studying the Liberal Arts” to “Studying at an Urban University” and “Studying at a Private Research University.” Each fair featured six colleges or universities—including a well-known “anchor” school—with five schools represented by admission officers and one represented by a Blair alumnus or alumna who shared his or her student experience.

“We highlighted schools focused on one central tenant at each Micro College Fair, drawing students in with at least one familiar college or university,” Ms. Applebaum said. “At the same time, we carefully cultivated each event to offer variety along other lines, exposing students to different institutions, ranges of admit rates and varied educational models. The result was eight thoughtfully designed replications of the very best outcomes a student might achieve by traversing a gym full of schools.”

The Micro College Fairs proved popular with college admission officers and alumni, including Anya Parauda ’15, a 2019 graduate of Colby College who attended the event focused on studying liberal arts. She spoke to students about the similarities and differences between Blair and Colby, drawing on her own deep knowledge of the Blair community to connect with students. “I offered my perspective on why I chose Colby, which included my interest in studying abroad, the school's location, and financial aid,” she said. “I enjoyed the conversational aspect of the Micro Fair and hearing what students are considering in the college process. I'm not an admissions fellow for Colby, but I'm happy to share my own experience in hopes of helping Blair students make a more informed, and ideally less stressful, decision.”

Blair’s 10th- and 11th-graders, many of whom attended several of the half-hour long events, also enjoyed the Micro College Fairs. Hope Dragonetti ’22’s favorite session of the four she attended was “Studying at an Urban University” because it gave her insight into the opportunities available at different city schools. “I got a good ‘first impression’ of some schools I’d like to learn more about,” she said, noting that the University of Miami admission officer’s description of business internships in the heart of Miami piqued her interest. “These Micro College Fairs were extremely organized and well-planned. It was great to hear short snippets from each school and jump between calls to ask questions!”

“I’m proud of the college counseling team for all the work they put into developing the Micro College Fairs,” Ms. Applebaum said, expressing thanks to Associate Deans of College Counseling Joe Mantegna and Kevin Parsons, college counselor Caroline Wilson and administrative assistant Rachel Byrne. “In a year when many of our peer schools outsourced their college fairs to third-party vendors, we were able to create something completely unique and especially meaningful to Blair students.”
 

You're a Goof Man, Charlie Brown
You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown

The lights will go up at the Robert J. Evans Open Air Theatre at 7:30 p.m. on May 13, 14 and 15, when the Blair Academy Players present You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. Based on the long-running “Peanuts” cartoon by Charles M. Schultz, this musical tells the story of that lovable everyman, Charlie Brown. Limited seating is available at each performance for members of the campus community.

Directed by veteran theatre and English teacher Craig Evans, the Players’ production of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown features all the familiar elements of the beloved comic strip. Snoopy, Lucy, Linus, Sally and Schroeder join Charlie Brown in his quest to fly a kite, pitch a winning baseball game and talk to his crush, the famous little red-haired girl. Audience members can look forward to renditions of the popular title song, "Happiness," as well as "Suppertime" and "The Kite Song" sung by the Players’ all-female cast and accompanied by a pit band of Broadway professionals.

“The voices of the six cast members are a real highlight of the production,” Mr. Evans said. He noted that the choice of a musical with a small cast was purposeful this year, given Blair’s health-and-safety protocols and the extra distancing required for a musical production. “Having so few cast members has made it easier to maintain proper distancing backstage and in our onstage blocking. As it turned out, exactly the same number of people auditioned as there were parts in the show!”

Sadie Donnelly ’22, who plays Charlie Brown, has enjoyed getting to know all of her fellow cast mates as rehearsals have progressed. “The show is so fun and playful, and the songs are so catchy,” she added. “It really makes you feel like an elementary student again—I am so excited for everyone to see it!” 

Members of the on-campus community can reserve seating at one of the three performances of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown by emailing Mr. Evans at evansc@blair.edu.


The cast of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown:

Samantha Antonelli ’22 (Snoopy)
Lucy Clayton ’21 (Sally Brown)
Sadie Donnelly ’22 (Charlie Brown)
Vivien Sheriden ’22 (Linus Van Pelt)
Linda Thomas-Galloway ’21 (Schroeder)
Hanna Wilke ’23 (Lucy Van Pelt)

Based on the comic strip "Peanuts" by Charles M. Schultz, the book, music and lyrics for YOU'RE A GOOD MAN, CHARLIE BROWN are by Clark Gesner. Additional dialogue is by Michael Mayer, and additional music and lyrics are by Andrew Lippa.

YOU'RE A GOOD MAN, CHARLIE BROWN is presented by arrangement with Concord Theatricals on behalf of Tams-Witmark LLC. www.concordtheatricals.com

 

1973 Drama Club

Blair Academy returned to its coeducational roots in September 1970, when the first girls in more than five decades officially joined the student body. Starting with that inaugural group of 26 day girls, the new coeds became a part of every aspect of campus life, including extracurricular clubs and activities.

It is interesting to note that in the years just prior to the reinstatement of coeducation, the high-school age daughters of some faculty members participated in a few Blair activities, thus setting the stage for the female students who would soon follow. For instance Mollie (Howard) Conklin ’71, daughter of Headmaster James and Selena Howard, and Connie (Barrett) Hilliard, daughter of Blair’s business manager Myron K. Barrett Jr. ’40 and resident nurse Eleanor Barrett, attended a first-period class at Blair before walking to Blairstown High School to finish their day. The faculty daughters enjoyed formal dinners with their parents and Blair students in the dining hall, and, in 1967, Mrs. Hilliard graced the Blair stage when the Drama Club needed a girl to play the role of Lora in its production of Impromptu

The 1971 ACTA, published at the conclusion of the first official year of coeducation, includes mention of all the activities in which students participated during the 1970-1971 school year. Girls were a part of the Drama Club, the Tweeds a cappella group, the girls’ chorus, the Activities Committee and the cheerleading squad. They held leadership roles as day-student prefects and as a sophomore class officer. In addition, an October article in The Blair Breeze notes that girls would participate in golf, swimming and tennis, with plans in place for two girls to teach dance.

Blair welcomed more than two dozen boarding girls at the start of the 1971-1972 school year, and with the female population now effectively doubled, girls took part in even more activities. They worked on the ACTA and The Blair Breeze; served in student government and on the Activities, Library and Chapel committees; and participated in the Drama Club and in the newly coed choir.

That list grew longer the following year. The 1973 ACTA includes girls as part of the ACTA staff, the Chapel, Library and Activities committees, Tweeds, choir, Child Guidance, Blue and White Key Society, Afro-Latin Caucus and Camera Club. Twenty-three girls graduated with the class of 1973—following the graduations of five and nine girls in 1971 and 1972, respectively—and it’s safe to say all of the girls in the early years of coeducation blazed a trail for girls’ participation in any and every extracurricular club or activity at Blair ever since.

(Special thanks to library assistant Holly Newcomb for her research for this article. The images of the Drama Club, Library Committee and Child Guidance are from the 1973 ACTA.
 

2021 Blairstock

The Blair community enjoyed a Sunday afternoon of musical performances at Blairstock, an outdoor, student-run music festival. More than 20 acts took the stage—i.e., the Annie Hall patio—on May 2, while an enthusiastic audience of students and teachers came together on Marcial Field to enjoy good music, camaraderie, and plenty of snacks and refreshments.

Hagen Shook ’21 and Vivien Sheridan ’22 coordinated Blairstock 2021. The duo was excited to bring back this fun, springtime event after a few years’ hiatus, especially since campus health-and-safety protocols had precluded several opportunities for live musical performances this year. “I felt that now, more than ever, musicians and performers needed an outlet,” Vivien said. “When Hagen had the idea to bring back a music festival at Blair, I couldn’t help but take the opportunity to revamp Blairstock.”

Among the day’s many performers, Zac Baker ’23 and Michael Diaco ’23 presented a rendition of John Mayer’s “Slow Dancing in a Burning Room;” Megan Donaghy ’22, Mia Stillerman ’22, Katie Schultz ’22 and Zoe LaMent ’22 performed Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide;” and Ava Roche ’21 and Emma Kriege ’21 sang “Put Your Records On” by Corinne Bailey Ray. While attendees enjoyed the tunes, they dug into burgers and hotdogs, as well as nachos, tacos and more from the MexiBoys food truck.

The Healthy Relationships Committee (HRC), led by Associate Dean of Students Andee Ryerson, math teacher Danyelle Doldoorian and English teacher Eric Flora ’15, supported Hagen and Vivien as they planned and ran Blairstock. During the event, HRC volunteers offered students and teachers an opportunity to write compliment cards to members of the community and held a T-shirt fundraiser, the proceeds of which will be given to Blair’s housekeeping staff members to thank them for helping to keep everyone safe and healthy during the school year.

Hagen shared his goal in reinvigorating Blairstock: “I wanted to create a platform for those who have a passion for music but don’t regularly express their talents,” he said. Now that the event is back on the School calendar, Vivien hopes it remains an integral part of campus life and a “cool tradition” every spring, just as the Kon-Tiki cardboard boat race and Peddie Day bonfire are in the fall. “I also hope it encourages more students to get involved with the arts,” she said. 
 

Sophomore Speech Contest

English 2 students and teachers enjoyed an evening of outstanding speeches at the April 26 Sophomore Public Speaking Contest. During the event, held in Armstrong-Hipkins Center for the Arts’ DuBois Theatre, a dozen speakers reflected upon a special place, sharing what that place reveals about them. A panel of faculty judges selected the contest winners, and English department chair James Moore announced their names at School Meeting on April 30: Adriana Gogioiu ’23, first place; Truman Crystal ’23, second place; and Margaret (Maggie) Hayes ’23, third place. 

View the winning speeches by clicking “play” below:


Sophomores prepared for the contest by writing, revising and practicing their speeches in their English classes. “Each class held its own contest, and the students and teacher chose a winner, who advanced to the grade-level competition,” Mr. Moore explained. 

During the Sophomore Public Speaking Contest, students were permitted to use notes, although some spoke without them. The judges considered content and delivery, weighing the effectiveness of the presentation along with adherence to the topic, organization of speaking points and the speaker’s awareness of the audience.

The annual Sophomore Public Speaking Contest is part of Blair’s school-wide focus on developing students’ ability to speak and communicate effectively. “Public speaking in a range of forms is an important part of the entire English curriculum, and this event is really the culmination of those efforts for our lower school students,” Mr. Moore said. “Showcasing the best speeches gives our students a sense of what is possible and provides strong examples of good speechmaking that everyone needs to see.”  
 

Trifles

The Blair Academy Players presented Trifles on May 5, 6 and 7 at 7:30 p.m. in Armstrong-Hipkins Center for the Arts’ Wean Theatre. Written by Susan Glaspell, this delightful 40-minute play explores themes of isolation, the justness of law and order, and early feminism. Director Sonia Hanson chose the play for its subtleness in exploring gender relationships and the justice system, and the play is frequently anthologized in American literature textbooks.

Written during the first-wave feminist movement, the play contrasts the expected role of women in public and in private, as well as how they perform in front of other women versus how they perform in front of men. Ms. Hanson explained that Trifles is a simple story of an investigation into the murder of a husband, and the lead suspect is his wife. The characters slowly reveal the complex power relationships between men and women, as the men actively look for evidence and the women patiently wait for their return. The production also explores societal attitudes toward women by considering them to be inherently innocent and incapable of strong or violent acts.

“The idea of female naivety is directly contrasted by the two female leads who are able to find enough evidence of abuse that they are forced to challenge their own views of what is considered a crime,” Ms. Hanson said. “This play asks us to consider how this investigation is handled by the law enforcement characters, and many lines in the script indicate practices that are still in use today.”

Ms. Hanson noted that this production had challenged cast members to think about deep social issues, and they rose to the occasion. Not only have students brought intellect to their characters, but also a feeling of brightness to allow for some really laughable moments. She hopes the audience comes with their minds open to consider the ideas of this play, and that it gets people thinking long after they’ve left the theatre.

Despite pandemic constraints, participating in the production has allowed students to bond in new ways. The cast had overcome members being quarantined, social distancing and acting with masks on. This “eye acting” and body language, according to Ms. Hanson, has come a long way in a short amount of time.

“The two female characters are women older than the actors who are playing those roles, so they needed to give their lines the weight of experiences they haven’t had yet. Three of our cast members are playing men, which they don’t identify as, so they’ve worked on finding a slightly fuller chest voice and observed how to hold their bodies,” she said.

Nicola Kirkwood ’22, who played Mrs. Hale, highlighted the challenges that came with preparing this production. The rehearsal process started slowly as students adjusted to performing again, and the cast was challenged with heavy subject material and a wordy script.

“There were also some very awkward moments in the show, for both the actors and the audience,” Nicola said. “This show took place in a time when society treated women much differently, so some uncomfortable remarks or suggestions are made, but the cast does a great job of addressing women's history and showing how much we've changed since then.”

Despite these challenges, the cast has worked hard to create an unforgettable experience for the audience. Nicola hopes attendees walk away with the knowledge to not underestimate a person based on a societal stereotype.

The cast of Trifles:

George Henderson, County Attorney - Ava Satasi ’23

Henry Peters, Sheriff - Emily Wang ’23

Lewis Hale, a neighborhood farmer - Kayleah Strunk ’23

Mrs. Peters - Alex Schamberger ’22

Mrs. Hale - Nicola Kirkwood ’22

Student Director -  Arjun Chopra ’21

Spring Concert

Blair Academy’s fine and performing artists took to the outdoors on May 4 for “A Night With the Stars.” Starting at 5:45 p.m., the evening offered students, faculty, staff and families the opportunity to celebrate Blair’s arts programs by participating in exhibitions and a concert at a variety of outdoor campus venues, all while adhering to health-and-safety protocols designed to keep community members safe.

Fine Arts

During the first portion of the evening, attendees enjoyed a stroll among beautiful pieces of art on display throughout campus. The exhibition featured an outdoor gallery walk from Insley porch to the Chiang-Elghanayan Center for Innovation and Collaboration, with artwork hung along the path. Additional work was displayed in and around the Chiang-Elghanayan Center. Guests viewed paintings, mixed mediums, drawings, sculpture, photography/digital art and fine crafts

Fine arts department chair Kate Sykes invited attendees to enjoy the outdoor art experience as they mixed and mingled with student artists who were on hand to discuss their work. She hoped students would experience pride in having others experience the fruit of their hard work and efforts.

To view more photos from the exhibit visit our Photoshelter.

Music

Following the walkabout art show, Blair’s performing arts program took the stage for a 6:45 p.m. concert outside of Armstrong-Hipkins Center for the Arts. Vocal and instrumental musicians performed on the plaza in front of the building, and the audience was invited to sit on the adjacent lawn. View the full concert below:

The Symphony Orchestra, Jazz Ensemble, Singers and Chamber Choir presented a varied repertoire of popular and classical music, highlighting the skills they have been working on this year in their performances. Music selections by the Jazz Ensemble included Nina Simone's rendition of "Feeling Good" and "Seven Steps to Heaven" by Miles Davis. The Blair Academy Symphony Orchestra performed "Dawn" from Winter Songs and "Pervicacity" by Jack Stamp, the piece's world premiere.

The Singers began their portion of the evening with "Siyahamba," a Zulu folk song. Following the Singers, a small a capella group presented their rendition of “Blackbird” by The Beatles. The Orchestra and Singers also each performed versions of Queen’s classic “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

A Night to Remember

“The event was be similar to an outdoor concert, such as those held at Tanglewood or Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, where audience members sat in chairs or on picnic blankets and enjoyed art as the sun set,” said performing arts department chair and director of instrumental music Jennifer Pagotto.

Mrs. Pagotto hoped that attendees felt joy in seeing and hearing live music and art created by their peers. They found a little sense of normalcy, she noted, at coming together to celebrate the arts during the spring at Blair.

“I always think people who see the work that is created by our student artists must have a sense of wonder and want to know more about the artists,” Mrs. Sykes said, reflecting that  seeing people perform or seeing the way they express themselves visually can be a way to get to know them better. “I hope that by attending A Night with the Stars community members were reminded how deeply the happiness of hearing live music and seeing art can fill their cups and speak to their souls.”

Orchestra member Laila Davson ’22 was excited to perform for a live audience again during A Night with the Stars. Students have not had an in-person concert since November 2019, so this event marked the first time many students will perform together on Blair’s campus.

“I was really looking forward to the moments leading up to the first song, like being backstage, the quick warmups, the good luck when it's your turn to perform,” Laila said. “I love the sense of excitement that everyone goes through together. We don’t necessarily get that connection when recording virtually.”

This event also gave seniors the chance to have a Spring Concert and Art Exhibition, and it gave first-year students the experience of a classic spring at Blair. Mrs. Sykes was excited for many of these students to show another side of themselves that others may not see often.

“I always love the joy and sparkle that come through the community as students are congratulated on their work,” Mrs. Sykes said. “There is excitement and good energy as everyone shares in a collective experience of enjoying something together. We’ve been missing that a bit, and it was great to see people come together outside to celebrate one another again.”

A view of Annie Hall in springtime

In the early 1990s, the Blair Board of Trustees achieved a milestone in the history of women at Blair by welcoming its first alumnae members, Anne Cramer ’75 (1992) and Melinda (Mitchell) Shumway ’73 (1993). In the ensuing years, both women have dedicated their time, offered their service and brought their voices to the table as Board members. 

Ms. Cramer is entering her 30th year of active Board service. During her tenure, she has been a member of the Covenant, Executive and Governance Committees, as well as Chair of the Governance Committee. In addition, she is an officer of the School, holding the position of Board Secretary. Ms. Cramer was the first woman to receive the Alumnus of the Year award (1998) and, later, she received the School’s highest honor, the Citation of Merit (2015). She also played an integral role on the Head of School Search Committee that selected Blair’s 16th Head of School, Chris Fortunato.

Mrs. Shumway was a member of the Alumni Association Board of Governors from 1979 until 1985 and was subsequently elected to the Board of Trustees, serving two terms from 1993 to 1999 and from 2000 to 2006. She served as co-chair of the Blair Fund in 2006. During her time on the Board, Mrs. Shumway was involved with many Committees, including Buildings and Grounds, Long Range Planning, Strategic Planning, and Education and School Life. She has also volunteered her time engaging her classmates for their 35th, 40th and 45th reunions.

Below Ms. Cramer and Mrs. Shumway share thoughts about their service and memorable moments.

Anne Cramer '75

Anne Cramer ’75: “I was asked by [former Assistant Headmaster for Finance and Development] Dennis Peachey ’62 to be a member of the Alumni Association Board of Governors, then I was invited to be on the Board. The notion of being a Trustee was exciting for me. Traveling back to campus for meetings several times a year, meeting students and being able to see family who lived close by made it extra rewarding.

When I joined, the Board was very focused on fundraising, both for the annual fund and the School’s endowment. With Jack Bogle ’47 as Chair and such an extraordinary leader, it was hard to figure out what role I had as a younger Board member. With my legal background and understanding of governance, my role evolved to help the Board improve governance process, from the nomination procedures to the evaluation of the Head of School. I also encouraged the selection of Board candidates who would diversify the Board, especially by opening the opportunity for Board service to more women and younger alumni. I am proud of my role as part of the Head of School Search Committee for Blair’s 16th Head of School, Chris Fortunato, and also of my advisory role as a School officer.

A moment I remember most fondly from my first years on the Board took place while Jim Howard, who was the Headmaster when I went to Blair, served on the Board. I have the highest respect for Mr. Howard, and I would describe him as a larger-than-life person. He was dignified and formal. During a Board meeting, architects presented the plan for a major campus redesign. The biggest change was removing the road from the center of campus and creating a road on the outer edge. Mr. Howard’s reaction to this new design was out of the norm for him, as he exclaimed an emphatic ‘Wow!’ We were all stunned, but his reaction truly showed the Board’s excitement for the future of the campus and School.

Seeing the campus change and grow over the years has truly been amazing. To this day, I am very honored to be a member of the Board of Trustees, and I look forward to seeing the School continue to excel in the years to come.”

Melinda Shumway

Melinda (Mitchell) Shumway ’73: “The opportunity to become a Trustee arose during my time as an Alumni Association Board of Governors member. At that time, I made the case for more women on the Board, as well as bringing on Trustees who could contribute to the growth of the School and provide a younger perspective. Being asked was a true honor.

When I joined, the Board consisted of an older generation making decisions for a younger generation. I felt I could be a voice for the women and girls of Blair. I was able to give a unique perspective as an alumna and a parent. In addition, several of my friends’ children were applying to boarding schools, and I was able to give my viewpoint from that perspective.

As part of the Buildings and Grounds Committee, I contributed different insights to the new changes on campus. When the design for Annie Hall was presented, I offered a perspective to make sure the exterior aesthetic not only matched the existing architecture of the campus but that it also appealed to the eye. I was a strong proponent of the new gym, now located in Hardwick Hall; it took some time to get the Board behind that project. It's not easy to raise money for a gym, and although the faculty was definitely in favor of it, the Board took some convincing. I knew we were one of the last schools in our tier that hadn't addressed athletic facilities. Additionally, I met with the Girl Scouts to get the conversation going again about the sale of the property adjacent to campus. This conversation opened the door for Blair to purchase what later became the Siegel Property. 

My fondest memories have been watching Blair’s growth over the years, and this includes the Siegel Property coming to fruition. However, anytime I think about my time on the Board, I remember the late Chairman Emeritus Jack Bogle ’47 and the many heartfelt, moving stories he shared. I always get sentimental thinking back about those meetings.”

A Celebration of Blair Women

Four alumnae who have achieved career success in their respective fields joined the Society of Skeptics on April 27 as part of the celebration of the 50th anniversary of Blair’s reinstatement of coeducation. The women participated in a panel discussion to talk about their Blair stories and their lives today, and the conversation was moderated by students in Blair’s Women in Business Club and history department chair and Skeptics director Jason Beck. Watch the presentation below:

The panelists included Connie Fletcher-Hindle ’74, retired, accounts payable, Hindle Power, Inc., and community volunteer; Shanen Aranmór ’90, Chief Wellness Welder/Founder of Weld Like A Girl; Sharon Sutherland ’93, MD, FAAP, attending physician at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Primary Care Center @ Cobbs Creek; and Virginia Case ’03, CEO of STRATAC Marketing. 

Director of Alumni Relations Shaunna Murphy was thrilled to welcome each of the panelists to Skeptics as part of the School’s celebration of women at Blair. “It is so meaningful for today’s students to hear the stories of those who came before them,” she said. “I hope they were intrigued by the words of wisdom and advice that these very successful alumnae shared. These women walked this campus and experienced all that Blair offered them, and now they are leaders in their fields. Their stories are inspirational!”

Read more about the Skeptics panelists below: 

Connie Fletcher-Hindle ’74

“Blair taught me so much, but especially two essential truths: First, stand up for and believe in yourself, trust your gut; and second, take responsibility for your decisions—own them.”

Since graduating from Lafayette College in 1978, Mrs. Fletcher-Hindle has enjoyed a varied career. She started out using her education degree at several nonprofits, including the American Heart Association and Planned Parenthood. She then returned to school to earn a nursing degree and practiced nursing in various hospitals for the next 15 years while starting a family.

When her three children started school, Mrs. Fletcher-Hindle became a school nurse in order to have more job flexibility. In 2000, she took a hiatus from working outside the home when her daughter was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. She homeschooled and nursed her daughter for the next three years. 

Upon reentering the workforce, Mrs. Fletcher-Hindle changed careers and became an account manager at HindlePower, Inc., a company she owns with her husband, William Hindle ’74, that manufactures stationary float battery chargers and DC power systems for the utility industry. Concluding her career there in 2016, Mrs. Fletcher-Hindle is now happily retired and volunteering with the Lehigh Valley Habitat for Humanity and the Medical Reserve Corps.

Shanen Aranmór '90 

“Oddly enough, I sometimes hated required sports at Blair. I even avoided the requirement by building the set for Godspell one trimester! (I was way too short for basketball anyway. Haha.) It took me 11 years to get back in a pool after being an overweight teenager in a bathing suit in front of the whole school. That said, Blair taught me the importance of discipline and daily exercise. Less than six years after graduation, I ran my first half marathon. Now, I've run at least one marathon on every continent. Strange to think of then and now.”

In 2017, Ms. Aranmór founded Weld Like A Girl, an empowerment project based in Yuma, Arizona, that uses welding and creativity to boost self-esteem and whole-person wellness in girls and women. She is an inspirational life coach, welder, certified welding inspector (CWI) and certified welding educator (CWE). Ms. Aranmór serves as tech chair for the National SkillsUSA Welding Sculpture competition, as well as AZSkills Individual Welding in Arizona. A national and international speaker who is sometimes referred to as “the Wellness Welder,” she guides people of all ages and backgrounds to realize their “inner badass” through all aspects of welding, including fabrication, sculpture, community projects and more. 

Ms. Aranmór earned a Bachelor of Science in biology at Lafayette College, a Master of Science in exercise physiology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and a Master of Science in community counseling at Minnesota State University, Mankato. Earlier in her career, she served as a college professor of health and wellness; she then added psychology to her repertoire when she became a mental health counselor. She discovered metalworking while seeking a stress management avenue for her students and eventually earned a degree in welding technology. That led to teaching welding courses at Arizona Western College and subsequently serving as the Western Regional Trainer for Miller Electric, one of the top manufacturers of welding equipment in the U.S. 

A self-described “reluctant metal artist, retired racing greyhound mom and recovering perfectionist,” Ms. Aranmór is also a seven-continent marathoner, former personal trainer and bodybuilding champion.

Sharon Sutherland ’93, MD, FAAP

“Having just migrated to the U.S. two years before coming to Blair, this experience helped me grow up quickly and become more independent at a young age, which changed the course of my life. Blair’s small class size and the support of the teachers in the community environment helped further my academic career, which put me on the right steps to excel in college.”

A board-certified pediatrician and adolescent medicine specialist, Dr. Sutherland cares for newborns through 21-year-olds as a primary care physician in the Division of General Pediatrics at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), Cobbs Creek. She is also a Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Associated Faculty of the School of Medicine, at The University of Pennsylvania. Her responsibilities here include supervision of pediatric residents and medical students in their community continuity clinic and during pediatric primary care rotations. 

Dr. Sutherland has worked in underserved communities for more than 15 years, and she has been recognized in the U.S. and abroad for her efforts in hospitals and as part of community enhancement programs. She recently served on the CHOP Cares Community Advisory Board, where she helped award grants to employees who had developed innovative projects that promote normal childhood development. Dr. Sutherland is the Cobbs Creek clinical lead for NaturePHL, a collaborative program that promotes outdoor play in local parks, trails and green spaces, and she serves as the Cobbs Creek medical consultant for Reach Out and Read, a national program that encourages reading by giving developmentally appropriate books to patients as young as six months old. Since 1997, she has served as a Wight Foundation alumni mentor for students interested in careers in medicine.

Dr. Sutherland received her medical degree from the University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey and completed her internship and residency in pediatrics at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children in Philadelphia. She earned a bachelor’s degree with distinction in anthropology from The University of Pennsylvania, and she a Newark Wight Foundation graduate of Blair Academy.

Virginia Case ’03

“Through my various experiences and challenges at Blair, I was taught that perseverance, even in the face of self-doubt, would allow me to prevail over the things that seemed impossible. Quieting the voice that says, ‘It's too hard—you’ll never succeed,’ has been instrumental in taking leaps beyond my comfort zone.”

Ms. Case is the founder and CEO of STRATAC Marketing, a user experience design company that focuses on improving business outcomes and generating sales lift for small to medium businesses. She established the company in 2017 following a decade in the marketing industry, and she has since developed and deployed the innovative SOMETM model to address Sales, Operations, Marketing and Employee Engagement in her team’s work with clients.

With diverse study in marketing, business, psychology and technical writing, Ms. Case uses a holistic approach to help business leaders and individuals see their opportunities and challenges through a new lens. Her approach is creative, motivational, strategic and action-oriented.
 
Ms. Case received her Bachelor of Fine Arts from Carnegie Mellon University and her master’s degree in business management and marketing from George Mason University. A certified expert with the Nielsen Norman Group, Ms. Case is committed to continuing education.

International Weekend

Blair's cultural diversity was on full display over the weekend as students and faculty came together to celebrate their nationalities and ethnicities at the School's annual International Weekend on April 17 and 18. Like many events this year, International Weekend looked a bit different due to health-and-safety protocols, but the traditional spirit of sharing and eagerness to learn about others’ backgrounds were part of every activity. 

Most of the International Weekend events took place outdoors, where students and teachers especially enjoyed listening to music from cultures around the world and sampling many different foods. Culinary offerings included tacos, an Iftar buffet, authentic Chinese cuisine and a variety of items from Chef J's Latin Dragon food truck. 

While the international fashion show and traditional food bazaar with parent participation were not part of this year’s festivities, several new activities brought community members together, including a World Cup-style soccer tournament and Chinese morning exercises with language teacher Lian Wang.

“Since we were not focused on traditional indoor events this year, we were able to create some new outdoor offerings,” said language department chair and International Weekend coordinator Joyce Lang. “The soccer tournament could very well become a keeper."

As always, Mrs. Lang hoped that students enjoyed an experience of a culture other than their own. “International Weekend is always a fun way to highlight the importance of respect for everyone in the Blair community and their culture,” she said.

Jay Faison

Climate change philanthropist Jay Faison is the founder of the ClearPath Foundation, an entrepreneurial, strategic nonprofit focused on the acceleration of clean energy solutions. Mr. Faison joined the Blair community virtually on April 20 to talk about climate change politics and policy during his Society of Skeptics presentation, “A Way Forward.” Watch his presentation now:

During a highly successful entrepreneurial career, Mr. Faison founded, operated and sold three businesses, including SnapAV, a high-growth company that is the largest supplier in the custom audio-video industry. In 2013, he won Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year award for the Southeast region. That same year, he founded ClearPath to pursue his passion for philanthropy and make a difference in the fight against global warming by advocating innovative, market-based solutions rather than reliance on government regulation.

According to its website, ClearPath’s mission is to develop and advance policies that accelerate breakthrough innovations that reduce emissions in the energy and industrial sectors. The foundation’s work includes educating the public and developing cutting-edge policy solution on clean energy and industrial innovation. In addition, the foundation “collaborates with public and private sector stakeholders on innovations in nuclear energy, carbon capture, hydropower, natural gas, geothermal, energy storage, and heavy industry to enable private-sector deployment of critical technologies.”

Mr. Faison is ClearPath’s managing partner, as well as chairman of the American Flood Coalition, and a member of the Nuclear Energy Advisory Council and the American Energy Innovation Council. In 2015, Politico.com included Mr. Faison, “a conservative for clean energy,” in the Politico 50, a list of “the thinkers, doers and visionaries transforming American politics in 2015.” Mr. Faison holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and an MBA from the University of Virginia Darden School of Business.

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, 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 and his successor, history department chair Jason Beck, 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.
 

EvanThomas

Throughout history, art has played a vital role in driving and fostering social change. From paintings to music, artists have created works with important messages, and many are committed to making art that changes the way we perceive the world. At Blair Academy, students are encouraged to explore their artistic interests to better understand themselves and the community around them.

When “Art for Social Change” was proposed as a new, semester-long course starting in spring 2021, fine arts teacher Evan Thomas saw the potential impact it could have on students. The class was designed to be a successor to “Meaning & Media,” a fine arts course in which students develop a language for constructive critique and media literacy.

“I wanted to keep the elements of ‘Meaning & Media’ that I loved—including reflection, social and emotional learning (SEL) and visual literacy—while offering a new experience that was unlike any other course I had come across,” Mr. Thomas said. “I wanted to create a space that embraces student voice and choice, and empowers students to be agents of change.”

A Look Inside the Course

“Art for Social Change” explores the power of different art forms—such as drama, dance, visual arts, media, music, poetry or film—as educative, imaginative and innovative art forms that are catalysts of change. During the early overview of the syllabus, Mr. Thomas noted, students responded strongly to the opportunity to explore the topics of identity, charity, empathy and protest art. Students were also excited about the prospect of a culminating social change project or collaborative art installation.

The class is structured to give full autonomy to students and their imaginations. For each project, they are given a prompt or question to answer and are directed to select the medium best suited to their artistic inspiration. The class also collectively looks to different artists for inspiration in drawing, painting, photography, sculpture, literature, music and media.

The group of seven meets weekly in the Chiang-Elghanayan Center for Innovation and Collaboration, with a mix of both in-person and virtual attendance. At the core of the course is a strong emphasis on student-led discussion and independent learning, as students support and seek guidance from each other while they learn to foster dialogue and action in the community.

Miki Wang ’21 and Megan Donaghy ’22 both chose to enroll in “Art for Social Change” due to their mutual interest in visual arts and topics relating to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). They knew this course would give them the opportunity to learn more about art and its power as a catalyst for social change.

“When I saw this class being offered I knew it bridged my two interests,” Miki explained. “It has also allowed me another avenue to explore my identity and issues surrounding DEI through the lens of art.”

In the Classroom

To date, the class has focused attention inward on self-exploration, mainly through self-reflection and identity. During the first exercise of the semester, students studied the roles of artists throughout history, how that history is told and who tells the story.

Students also watched a TED Talk called “The Danger of Single Story” by author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and then created artwork in response to a single story that was told about them or a story they knew about someone else. This first exercise produced drawings, an acrylic painting, original photographs, collages and ceramic sculpture.

The class is currently exploring cultural identity and the factors that influence one’s worldview. This includes discovering more about who they are, their values and what issues matter to them. Students will then begin working on projects to act on these issues.

“It's been an impactful experience to hear about the way my classmates, even my teacher, see and define themselves,” Miki noted of the exercise. “This has definitely made me gain perspective on their lives and the impact identity has on us overall.”

Besides actually creating art, Meghan likes the course for its enlightening group discussions. With an intimate class size, students have gotten comfortable discussing a number of different, sometimes controversial topics. Miki agreed, noting that this is her smallest class of the semester.

“Even though some students are virtual, our class is very open and reflective during discussions, presentations and projects,” she said. “It really feels like our own small community.”

The Lasting Impact

Mr. Thomas is looking to the future of the course and developing the curriculum further using student input and suggestions. He noted that it is gratifying as an educator to have the opportunity to develop a diverse and inclusive curriculum. From the lens of an artist, however, it’s gratifying to see the variety of approaches students are using to solve problems, explore meaning and dig deeper as they learn more.

“The course is a perfect mix of education, meaningful discussions and art creation, which is hard to find,” Meghan said. “The way in which we are able to learn and communicate in this class is unique, and I would highly recommend it to my peers.”

Ultimately, Mr. Thomas hopes that students will feel empowered to create the change they wish to see in the world, both within the “Blair bubble” and beyond.

“I’m so proud of this group's willingness to talk about their ideas and observations,” he said. “I’ve often needed to modify my plans for each class as discussions will run longer than I originally expected, and it’s been a gift to work with such a talented and thoughtful group of learners.”

 

 

The Headmasters' Societies Games Returned!

Like many treasured Blair traditions, the 18th-annual Headmasters’ Societies Games looked a little different this year as the community endeavored to stay safe and well amid the coronavirus pandemic. Led by co-commissioners and Associate Deans of Students Andee Ryerson and Rod Gerdsen, the 2021 Games were designed to create another successful weekend of competition, camaraderie and community-building.

From April 8 to 12, Blair students of all class years were “sorted” into four teams named after former Headmasters Breed, Howard, Kelley and Sharpe. Over the years, the Games have continually changed and evolved, and this year's contest is no exception. Mrs. Ryerson noted that despite the pandemic, students were able to enjoy many of their favorite events, with a few new ones included, as well.

The 2021 Headmasters’ Societies Games began Thursday night with the opening ceremony, faculty relay and capture the flag. Over the next several days, the teams competed in volleyball, a guided obstacle course, a spelling bee, ultimate frisbee, football, a scavenger hunt, frisbee golf, chess, water balloon dodgeball, cup stacking, tug of war and more. Mrs. Ryerson and Mr. Gerdsen took advantage of the warm spring weather and held many competitions outside.

Mrs. Ryerson noted that although students are not able to be together in quite the same way they are used to, the Games offered a number of opportunities for meaningful social interactions that will bring a sense of comfortable normality to campus.

"The Games always help students get to know peers they may not otherwise meet in their daily routines,” she said. “It truly gets better every year because we are continually looking for ways to make it a fun and spirited experience for everyone involved.” 

Congratulations to Team Kelley for taking home the Hardwick Trophy!