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2017 Admission Open House

Families who are considering boarding school for their students’ high school years won’t want to miss Blair Academy’s Fall Admission Open House on Monday, October 14. This annual event gives prospective students and parents a 360-degree view of the School’s welcoming and inclusive community, as well as its outstanding academic and extracurricular programs, all while enjoying a day on Blair’s historic campus.

Blair’s Fall Open House begins at 8 a.m. with registration and continental breakfast in the Chiang Center for Innovation and Collaboration, where admission counselors and many faculty members will be on hand to welcome attendees. Head of School Chris Fortunato opens the day’s program, which then continues with panel discussions, School Meeting, campus tours, an overview of the admission process and more. A highlight of the event is sure to be the academic, athletic and activities fair, where prospective families have the opportunity to speak one-on-one with athletic coaches, activity advisors, Blair students and faculty from every department.

“I am looking forward to meeting many prospective students and families from near and far at our Fall Open House,” said Associate Head of School & Dean of Admission Peter G. Curran. “It is the perfect opportunity to get a firsthand look at life in our wonderful community and for students to really begin to picture themselves at Blair.”

Pre-registration for the Fall Admission Open House is required. View a full schedule of the day’s events and complete your online pre-registration here. We look forward to welcoming you on October 14!

Robert Teitel

Blair Academy is pleased to welcome Robert Teitel P’23 to the Society of Skeptics on September 24. Mr. Teitel is a writer, film producer and co-founder of State Street Pictures, a multimedia production company based in California. He will discuss his Chicago roots and journey to becoming a filmmaker beginning at 7 p.m. in the Chiang-Elghanayan Center for Innovation and Collaboration.

A 1990 graduate of Columbia College Chicago, Mr. Teitel holds dual degrees in film and marketing. During his college career, he formed his production company, Menagerie Films, with director George Tillman and, together, they produced more than 10 films. In 1997, the partners signed a first-look production deal with Fox 2000 for their new production company, State Street Pictures, which enabled them to develop projects for Mr. Teitel to produce and for Mr. Tillman to produce and direct. 

State Street’s credits include the hit drama “Men of Honor,” starring Cuba Gooding Jr. and Robert De Niro, with an ensemble cast that includes Charlize Theron. Other film credits include “Barbershop: The Next Cut,” “The Hate U Give” and “Soul Food.”

State Street Pictures has a deep commercial development slate, including over 50 feature film projects and 15 television projects. 

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.

Livestream

On September 18, Blair will livestream varsity field hockey vs. Princeton Day School at 4 p.m.

The field hockey livestream can be viewed here.

Meet the Class of 2023!

Blair opened its 172nd year by welcoming 469 students to campus, among them 92 members of the class of 2023. With 48 girls and 44 boys, the freshman class includes residents of nine states (New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, California, North Carolina, Tennessee, Florida and Maryland) and 11 countries (Thailand, Viet Nam, China, Russia, Bermuda, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Liberia, Saudi Arabia and Mexico).

The Blair community also welcomed 29 new sophomores, 14 new juniors and eight postgraduates this fall. Associate Head of School and Dean of Admission Peter G. Curran noted that each newly admitted student should be proud of his or her acceptance at Blair because the 2018-2019 admission cycle was the School’s most competitive ever. Blair received more than 1,200 applications for admission and its acceptance rate fell to 18 percent, the lowest in School history.

“Our freshman class includes students with diverse interests and talents and unlimited potential,” Mr. Curran said. “I am excited to see how they and all of our new students take advantage of the incredible opportunities here and really make Blair their home away from home.”  

Livestream
Bucs fans can watch two Blair teams in action on September 14. The School will begin livestreams of the varsity volleyball team vs. Princeton Day School, followed by varsity field hockey against Somerville at 2 p.m.
 
Click here to watch the volleyball game. The field hockey game can be accessed here
Author & Producer Vivek Tiwary Opens 2019-2020 Society of Skeptics

The Society of Skeptics begins its 2019-2020 lecture series on September 17, when award-winning author and live-entertainment producer Vivek Tiwary joins the Blair community in the Chiang-Elghanayan Center for Innovation and Collaboration. Mr. Tiwary will discuss his #1 New York Times bestselling graphic novel The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story. He is currently adapting the work for television as the project’s writer and executive producer, and he has secured unprecedented access to Beatles’ songs for this endeavor. Mr. Tiwary’s presentation begins at 7 p.m.

The Fifth Beatle tells the little-known life story of Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein, the man who discovered the legendary musical group, guided it to superstardom and died of a drug overdose at age 32. Originally published in 2013, with an expanded version created three years later, The Fifth Beatle is billed by publisher Penguin Random House as “an uplifting inspirational human story about the struggle to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds.” The work garnered critical acclaim and multiple awards, including the Will Eisner Comic Industry Award and two Harvey Awards. Named a Lambda Literary finalist for Best LGBT Graphic Novel, it has also been added to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame library and archives.

Mr. Tiwary is the founder of Tiwary Entertainment Group, and his creative career encompasses his work as writer as well as a media financier and investor, and a producer of Tony Award-winning Broadway shows and unique live-entertainment experiences. His Broadway hits include the revival of A Raisin in the Sun and Green Day’s American Idiot, while his current Broadway project, Jagged Little Pill, based on Alanis Morissette’s classic album, begins previews on November 3 at the Broadhurst Theatre.  

A magna cum laude graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s College of Arts and Sciences and the Wharton School of Business, Mr. Tiwary also earned a filmmaking certificate from The New York Film Academy and studied acting with Susan Batson/Black Nexxus Acting Studio. His early career experience includes work in the music industry for major record labels.

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.

172nd Convocation Focuses on Connection, Courage & Being ‘All In’

The Blair community came together on a beautiful September evening to celebrate the School’s 172nd Convocation with a bagpiper-led procession through the Arch and across campus that included students carrying the flags of the 22 countries from which they hail. As is tradition, students entered Armstrong-Hipkins Center for the Arts as faculty members lined the sidewalk and applauded them. (To watch the Convocation ceremony in full, please click "play" below).

School officially opened when Blair’s chaplain, The Rev. Lisa Durkee, welcomed the audience, said a prayer, and remarked how much Convocation emphasizes both the Blair community’s diversity and unity. Two student speakers then took the stage: Alex Kirby ’20, talked about the concept of “home” and how its meaning has changed over the course of her Blair career as she evolved from a homesick freshman to a senior who feels connected and loved, while Corey Downey ’20 advised underclassmen to be present, appreciate their time at Blair, build relationships, and seek new experiences and interests before they graduate.

The talent of Blair musicians then took center stage as the Chamber Choir performed “Siyahamba” and students and faculty joined together to sing “The Blair Love Song.” For the seventh year, Head of School Chris Fortunato marked the official opening of school by addressing students and faculty with his thoughts on Blair’s culture and community.

Set to the backdrop of a slideshow of inspirational quotes shared by more than 100 students and faculty, Mr. Fortunato called the new school year a “new chapter” and a “blank page” that gives us an opportunity to approach each day with courage, vulnerability, an open mind and a willingness to learn. “As we stare at tomorrow’s blank page of each of our Blair stories, let’s commit to writing good ones,” he said. “True to who we are, true to who we aspire to be, stories that will not only make us proud but honor our families and friends and the thousands of Blair Buccaneers who sat in our seats across this campus since 1848.”

The story each of us will write, he added, has a lot to do with how you would answer this question: “How will you show up?” Noting that it applies to situations of great triumph and challenge, Mr. Fortunato offered students a piece of advice: “Be all in,” he said. “There is a community on this hilltop to be forged anew, as it has every year for 172 years. And, together, we can achieve more than we thought possible in each of us, when we show up tomorrow and every day, when we choose or dare to be all in.” 

Citing Teddy Roosevelt, Mr. Fortunato likened Blair to an “arena” where students can “dare greatly” and step outside of their comfort zones. “It is the courage to continue that counts,” he said. “You are surrounded by inspiration on this campus...all around this room are reservoirs of love to fuel your courageous willingness to get into the arena. To wear vulnerability as a badge of honor and not a weakness and to help others.”

There are a lot of people in the world, he concluded, who are not brave enough to “get in the arena with us.” Encouraging students and teachers to take risks and to not shy away from disagreement, Mr. Fortunato connected his remarks on courage and vulnerability to his own experience when he became Blair’s 16th Head of School in 2013, having held several positions in academia but never before having worked in a boarding school. 

“Whether you are a freshman or a new headmaster, we are all trying to figure out this amazing community and our role in it,” he said. “We live in a time where facts, news, science, humanity and kindness are under attack. We must embrace and not flee from disagreement. Kindness is not the absence of disagreement; kindness is the willingness to ask ‘why.’ Just because we stand for different things doesn’t mean we stand apart.”

Concluding his address, he gifted each member of the community a Blair hooded sweatshirt emblazoned with the words “All In” and “All Together,” as well as Blair’s name and seal. “I am so excited to start this year together,” he said. “It is going to be an amazing year.”

Orientation Brings Students & Faculty Together

With registration and move-in accomplished, Blair students and faculty came together on the afternoon of Sunday, September 8, for Orientation. This event, filled with activities for new and returning students in every grade, is an annual tradition at Blair that builds connections among all members of the community just before the start of the academic year.

Associate Deans of Students Caroline Wilson and Andee Ryerson planned Orientation, keeping in mind different goals for each grade level. “For freshmen, it’s all about getting to know students in their grade, meeting as many faculty members as possible and learning how to get around campus,” said Ms. Wilson. “We want to give them a strong start to their Blair careers.” Ninth-graders participated in activities like scavenger hunts and getting-to-know-you games, as well as a special “big brothers, big sisters” dessert get-together with the senior class, where they were paired with a 12th-grade mentor who will help them navigate their first year at Blair.

Sophomores traveled off campus to Princeton Blairstown Center or Camp Johnsonburg, where they had the chance to bond with new and old classmates through team-building activities and high- and low-ropes courses. “We welcomed 29 new sophomores this fall, and it was important for the entire grade level to spend time with one another and really come together as a class,” Ms. Wilson said.

The goal for juniors during Orientation was to raise awareness among 11th-graders of how their Blair world intersects with the larger world beyond campus. Students took part in workshops on identity, community service, and the environment and sustainability, all of which were geared toward giving them a sense of purpose and helping them see that when they work together, they can make a big difference.

“Seniors were very busy helping new students during move-in and working with freshmen during Orientation,” Ms. Wilson said, acknowledging that the older students play an important role in helping new students feel at home at Blair. The 12th-graders also met with their college counselors and enjoyed special time as a class when they tackled ropes courses and ziplining at Treeventures in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains.  

Of course, Orientation also included all-school events, such as a picnic dinner and evening get-together on the lawn outside Kathryn and Lakeside halls. The event concluded as athletic practices got underway on Monday afternoon, with many new connections made and friendships renewed just in time for the official opening of Blair’s 172nd year at Convocation. 

Julie Foudy Sports Leadership Academy Inspires Blair Participants

Sports and leadership were the name of the game for Blair faculty members and students who participated in the 2019 Julie Foudy & espnW Sports Leadership Academy (JFSLA) in July. Founded in 2006 by USA Women’s Soccer legend Julie Foudy and a dedicated team that includes Todd Smith ’90, the five-day camp brought girls ages 12 to 18 together at Peddie School in Hightstown for an intensive—and fun—experience of athletic training and leadership development.

Longtime Blair Connection

Blair’s Dean of Campus Life and Director of Leadership Programs Carolyn Conforti-Browse ’79 returned to JFSLA for her 12th summer as the organization’s co-director of academic curriculum. In this role, she and her counterpart, Jaime Pagliarulo, research leadership work across numerous platforms and develop the leadership program for JFSLA’s residential camps and its portable curriculum. 

Throughout her long affiliation with JFSLA, Mrs. Conforti-Browse has especially enjoyed sharing with the Blair community the organization’s empowering message and the unique, transformative experience it offers student-athletes as they learn leadership skills through sports. “The work I do for JFSLA is my inspiration for Blair LEADS,” she said, speaking about the School’s leadership education initiative, which she oversees. 

Nearly two dozen Blair alumnae, students and teachers have participated in JFSLA camps over the years, including Shamila Kohestani ’08, former captain of the Afghanistan women’s national football team who has advocated around the globe on women’s issues and the life-changing opportunities playing sports can provide, and this year’s student-athletes, Skyler Bogdan ’22 and Melissa Groseibl ’22. Mrs. Conforti-Browse is delighted that her connection to the organization has afforded each Blair participant, whether camper or staff member, the opportunity to meet incredible leaders. 

She has also brought inspirational speakers to campus through JFSLA, including Amy Liss, who addressed the School community on Blair’s Day of Service in 2015, Ms. Pagliarulo, a presenter to LEADS classes last year, and Julie Foudy, who will visit Blair later this fall. “Julie is simply an extraordinary human being!” Mrs. Conforti-Browse said of the former U.S. women’s national team captain, who counts two World Cup championships and three Olympic medals among her many career accomplishments.

A Worthwhile Experience

Blair English teacher and varsity girls’ soccer coach David Mamukelashvili served on the JFSLA staff for the first time this summer, an opportunity he seized after learning about it from Mrs. Conforti-Browse. During camp, he worked alongside Melissa Price, PhD, head soccer coach at Wellesley College, running practices, activities and games on the soccer field and helping teach sessions on leadership, autonomy, freedom, responsibility and other concepts in the classroom. 

Dr. Price quickly became a role model for Mr. Mamukelashvili, thanks to her ability to express complex ideas in just a few words and make them “crystal clear” to 15 girls from five different nations. “Her calm and collected approach to developing and instructing the girls was one of the many lessons I took away from the camp,” he said. 

Another key takeaway was Ms. Foudy’s philosophy that “leadership is not positional, it is personal,” a concept that Mr. Mamukelashvili enjoyed seeing campers take to heart. “The girls continually tried to better themselves and use what they learned in every facet of camp,” he said. “Their questions pushed their learning process even further. The girls bonded, had fun and truly became comfortable in each other’s presence, breaking down all sorts of language or cultural barriers. That’s what made my time at camp especially worthwhile.”

Ms. Foudy will visit Blair on October 17, when she will speak at Chapel and spend time with students, teachers and coaches. Her day on campus promises to be inspirational for the entire Blair community.

Teachers Examine Curriculum at Third-Annual Faculty Institute

For the third year in a row, Blair faculty members had the opportunity to participate in an on-campus professional development program during the annual Faculty Summer Institute. The Institute, which took place during two weeklong sessions in June and August, brought together the English, fine arts, language and mathematics departments to tackle projects, including a review of curriculum and courses. “We asked our department chairs what they would like to see changed in their core curriculum and what the priorities of the Summer Institute should be. This year, these departments jumped at the chance to look at what is being taught, consider the vision for particular courses and ensure they are achieving what they set out to do in the beginning of the year,” said Dean of Teaching & Learning Caren Standfast ’95.

During the first session in June, participants attended a diversity-and-inclusion workshop presented by Kathleen Devlin ’20. Kathleen guided attendees through various exercises she learned at the Student Diversity Leadership Conference earlier in the year, a program she was able to attend after participating in Blair’s yearlong Human Rights Seminar. Attendees also heard from Peter Horn, a teacher and consultant from the National SEED Foundation, who spoke about equity audits and bringing equality into the classroom.

The fine arts department tweaked the 2D arts curriculum to better address the increased interest in the program since the 2017 opening of the Chiang-Elghanayan Center for Innovation and Collaboration (a project tackled by fine arts department chair Kate Sykes and fine arts teachers Evan Thomas and Tyson Trish). 

The English department reviewed and considered restructuring the required English I curriculum that serves as a foundation for other, more advanced English classes (a project led by English department chair Jim Moore and English teachers Sarah O’Neil, Carolyn Conforti-Browse ’79, Bob Brandwood and Kaye Evans). 

In August, the language and mathematics departments attended the Institute’s second session. Language teachers Cristina Castillo, Jaime Mundo, Sharon Merrifield, Kate Lavalle,Timothy Devaney and department chair Joyce Lang made changes to their department’s general curriculum to better support the learning process and establish a framework for evaluating performance versus proficiency, as well as the role of proper spoken accents in the classroom. Meanwhile, math department chair John Padden and math teachers Tracy Klein, Danyelle Doldoorian, Keenan Friend, Sarah Newbury and Dean of Academics Nathan Molteni reviewed and considered restructuring the required courses that serve as a foundation for the program, as well as the process for department-wide curricular alignment. The August session concluded with presentations by Institute participants in the Chiang-Elghanayan Center for Innovation and Collaboration on August 23.

Blair In Kenya 2019

In June, Blair history teacher Quint Clarke ’88, founder of the independent nonprofit “Blair in Kenya,” and Associate Dean of Students Caroline Wilson led a summer trip to Africa that included a wide variety of activities aimed at supporting Blair in Kenya schools in Iten and Kisumu. 

Accompanied by seven current Blair students, three members of the class of 2019, an alumna from the class of 2017 and 10 U.S. medical professionals, the chaperones organized and oversaw classroom work with children, community service projects, cultural immersion experiences, a wildlife tour and a village-wide medical clinic. The medical team was led by Jane Ferry P’11, MD, FACEP, MMM, an emergency medicine physician in Sellersville, Pennsylvania, who has served as chief medical officer at Grand View Health-Sellersville since 1990. 

The group’s itinerary included working in classrooms and painting the Blair Educational Center and the Blair-Serem School, as well as helping with logistics as doctors and nurses attended to the medical needs of villagers, many of whom had never met a doctor before. The travelers also had the opportunity to learn about Blair in Kenya’s sponsorship of more than 210 local students, the nonprofit’s microfinance project and enjoy the simplicity of village life and Africa’s magnificent landscape as they lived with families, played soccer and basketball with Kenyan students, and went on a safari at Masai Mara National Reserve.

“Our goal is to help our Blair and Kenyan communities learn more about each other, and we do this through active interaction,” said Mr. Clarke, who has visited Kenya 24 times since founding the nonprofit in 2005 and has worked tirelessly to ensure that the neediest and most deserving students get an education that otherwise wouldn’t be possible. “I hope that, at the end of our two-week visit, both groups better understood the other and that, despite coming from such different places, everyone learned we are more similar than different.”

Adding that the trip included “lots of smiles and laughs and many fascinating conversations” that keep him coming back to the African nation, Mr. Clarke appreciated the open minds and mental toughness demonstrated by the Blair students in the face of travel challenges. “The students never complained and kept a positive attitude that allowed them to take as much from the trip as they gave,” he said. 

The Blair Educational Center and Blair-Serem School are primary schools, meaning students attend them from nursery school through sixth grade, so Mr. Clarke and his fellow travelers had the opportunity to interact with kids of all ages. Looking forward, Mr. Clarke plans to finish the schools’ infrastructure in the next two years, and projects will include building dorms to create a boarding population at the Iten school. “The end goal is that the schools and communities no longer need us—that the schools become self-sufficient and can stand on their own without our involvement.” 


 

Thomas Franklin art

Thomas E. Franklin, an award-winning photographer, multimedia journalist, documentary filmmaker and educator, is perhaps best known for his iconic flag-raising photo taken at Ground Zero on September 11, 2001. He will open The Romano Gallery’s 2019-2020 season on August 30 with an exhibit featuring multiplatform work focused on issues of immigration and human migration. The exhibit runs through September 28, and Mr. Franklin will join the Blair community for an artist’s reception on September 19, beginning at 7 p.m.

A 30-year veteran of the news business and current assistant professor of multiplatform journalism at Montclair State University, Mr. Franklin is a practitioner of multimedia and visual storytelling. He explores themes involving global issues with local and regional impact through his scholarly and professional work. His Romano Gallery exhibit examines immigration, refugees and new changes in government policy toward undocumented residents and asylum seekers.

“While publishing across multiple platforms, including photography and video, combined with strategic social media engagement as a means of making meaningful use of technology and reaching a broader audience, my work aims to shed light on important issues that go underreported,” Mr. Franklin said. “It also examines how these issues affect people on a local level, both here in New Jersey and in other local communities.”

A Pulitzer Prize finalist, Mr. Franklin has produced highly acclaimed multimedia projects on the recent heroin epidemic in North Jersey, 9/11, the Syrian refugee crisis in Greece and toxic dumping by the Ford Motor Company on a Native American community in Ringwood, New Jersey. He joined the faculty at Montclair State in 2015.

2019 veteran faculty

Head of School Chris Fortunato honored four faculty members for their many years of service to Blair and its students at the Opening of School Dinner on August 27. Faculty and staff gathered for a cocktail reception and dinner in the Romano Dining Hall to celebrate the opening of the 2019-2020 school year.

English and theatre teachers Craig and Kaye Evans were recognized for their shared 25-year milestone as dedicated members of the School’s faculty. Science department chair Kelly Hadden and science teacher Mike Ryerson were recognized for reaching their 10-year anniversaries.

“Each of these four honorees inspires our students to be their best every single day,” Mr. Fortunato remarked. “It is an honor to work alongside them to inspire the next generation of leaders in our communities.”

 

New Students & Families Welcomed at Summer Receptions

Newly admitted students and their families received a warm welcome to the Blair community during summer receptions in Hardwick and Bernardsville, New Jersey. At both get-togethers, new students and parents enjoyed meeting current students, parents, faculty and alumni, and friendships blossomed even before the start of the school year.

“I’m grateful to the Glickman and Ullman families for hosting our summer welcome receptions,” said Peter G. Curran, Blair’s associate head of school and dean of admission. “Each was the perfect, casual setting for new families to get to know some Blair veterans and one another, and this will help our new students feel right at home when they arrive on campus in September.”