5th-Annual Day of Service Inspires Passion for Volunteering While Building Relationships Across Community

Blair students, faculty and staff fanned out to assist nonprofits and neighbors across New Jersey and Pennsylvania as part of the School’s fifth-annual Day of Service on May 18. With more than 500 volunteers tackling projects ranging from gardening and environmental conservation efforts to visiting with elderly nursing home residents and preparing food at a soup kitchen, Blair students and teachers did their best to give back to the local community, and it was a fulfilling day for all those who participated.

Noting that this year’s program was slightly different in that volunteers were involved in new kinds of project work, including supporting a local hospice, Day of Service organizers Joanne Brandwood and Kaye Evans were gratified to see so many in the school community excited about making service their number-one priority for the day. 

“Service is fun, and stepping away from academics, the arts and athletics to focus on the needs of those around you exposes our students, some of whom may not have volunteer experience, to the many different kinds of opportunities that are available,” said Mrs. Brandwood, who teaches history and coordinates Blair’s Service Corps activities with English teacher Mrs. Evans year-round. “We have found that students who give service a try as part of this day find they want to do more and more of it, both at Blair and after they leave campus.” 

A Personal Story of Lifelong Service

As has become tradition, the day kicked off with an all-school assembly, at which Blair Leadership Stories Coordinator Gina Trish spoke to students about the importance of public service. “For the last several years, I have filmed your leadership stories and heard about the things you have done to serve,” said Mrs. Trish. “Today, I would like to talk to you about my own service and why you should continue to seek it out in your life, too.” 

Admitting that she is an introvert who fell into volunteer opportunities in college, she explained how her quiet nature in many ways held her back and that she came to the realization that she needed to get out of her comfort zone and try new things. “If I didn’t break out of my notion of what I thought I was capable of, I’d never learn anything new,” she explained. “For my causes, I have stepped away from what I am comfortable with.” She went on to talk about a yearly fundraiser she organizes and a town park she helped conceptualize and create.

“Though the changes that will happen from your projects today will be small, they will be impactful,” Mrs. Trish concluded. “When you volunteer, I want you to remember, there is no limit to what you can do. Volunteering is 100-percent inclusive, and we all have strengths to contribute.”

Fanning Out Across the Region

Following the assembly, students, faculty and staff left campus for their project work, which included initiatives sponsored by the Blairstown Enhancement Committee and Blairstown Township. This year’s activities also supported “Blair in Kenya,” the independent nonprofit founded by history teacher Quint Clarke ’87, which has provided vital educational, medical and economic opportunities to hundreds of Kenyans over the last 12 years. To date, the Day of Service yard sale supporting that organization has raised almost than $8,000 for the cause; in fact, it has been so successful that Mrs. Brandwood and Mrs. Evans are considering making the sale an ongoing project throughout the year. 

Building Community Connections

In addition to encouraging students to discover a love for helping others, the Day of Service aims to give back to Blair’s neighbors and organizations that can benefit from the combined efforts of hundreds of enthusiastic volunteers. 

“For the last five years, we have built the School’s relationship with our community, and being part of that has been fun and meaningful,” said Mrs. Evans. “Even more exciting is the fact that we are starting to be known for our annual Day of Service, and organizations are starting to come ask us to support them. Of course, we are proud to say our volunteers have been very well received because of the great work they do. We are unbelievably proud of all of them, and their dedication says a lot about Blair and the people in our community.” 

The day concluded with an all-school picnic, at which students and teachers celebrated their hard work and the impact those efforts had across Blairstown and surrounding areas. “After five years, the Day of Service has become one of the newest Blair traditions, one that demonstrates the best of what it means to be a part of the Blair community,” Mrs. Brandwood said.

2018 ACTA Yearbook Dedicated to David Facciani

At School Meeting on May 17, yearbook editors Irene Choi ’18 and Lauren Fountain ’18 were eager to give the first yearbook to history and Chinese teacher David Facciani, to whom the 2018 ACTA was dedicated.

“From our move-in day freshman year, hearing ‘Hello, hello, hello!’ as we entered Locke Hall for the first time, to the rougher days of junior year, he’s been present to crack a few dad jokes or dole out some sarcastic comments just whenever we needed it,” said Lauren, adding that Mr. Facciani is “certainly beloved by our class.”

Mr. Facciani joined Blair's language department in 2007 as a Chinese teacher. He also teaches Advanced Placement microeconomics, is an international monitor and serves as housemaster of Kathryn Hall, where he lives with his wife, Lian, daughter, Angela, and their dog, Captain.

Mr. Facciani completed his undergraduate work at Yale University in 1997 and earned an MBA from the Thunderbird Business School in 2002. During his tenure at Blair, he has also served as housemaster of Locke and Davies Halls, assistant coach of thirds-level soccer and advisor to the student newspaper, The Blair Breeze.


the class of 2017 exiting graduation

Blair family members and friends near and far can watch end-of-year assemblies and commencement ceremonies as they happen by tuning in to our livestreams. Please see the list below for the date, time and link for each presentation.

Senior Prize Assembly
Monday, May 21, 5 p.m. 
View here.

Class of 2018 Assembly
Wednesday, May 23, 5 p.m.
View here.

Wednesday, May 23, 8 p.m.
View here.

2018 Commencement
Thursday, May 24, 11 a.m.
View here.

Underclass Prize Assembly
Tuesday, May 29, 5 p.m.
View here. 

Five Spring Blair Teams Win MAPL Championships

Capping a superb season of Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) action, five Blair teams earned MAPL championships this spring: girls’ crew, boys’ and girls’ golf, softball and boys’ tennis. 

Girls' crew won its championship on May 5, when the first varsity four boat burned the competition by placing first with a time of 5:42.8. This was eight seconds faster than Peddie School, which finished at 5:50.9. Both the girls' second and third varsity four placed second in the Mercer Lake invitational. 

"Unlike most regattas where each crew races for a medal in a specific event, the MAPL championship is a reflection of a team's overall depth and speed,” said Director of Rowing Programs Will Forteith. “Winning MAPLs shows the level of commitment and hard work that all of our girls possess, and it was a wonderful send-off for Coach Hannah Solis-Cohen, who has helped build a culture of speed and tenacity."

Playing in the MAPL boys’ golf tournament on May 9 at Peddie Golf Club in Hightstown, Blair shot a total score of 234, 10 shots better than runner-up The Lawrenceville School. This marked the Bucs’ third consecutive MAPL championship, and Brian Li ’19 and Harrison Valentine ’18 led the way with low scores.

"Brian has led us all year, so it was no surprise that he and Harrison each shot a good number to get us started," said Andrew Sykes, head boys' golf coach. "Apaar Anand ’18 and Robbie Donnelly ’20 struggled in the second group, in part due to knocking three balls out of bounds on the second hole and taking a 10 there. But they battled throughout, which was great.”

The girls' golf team brought home its fourth straight MAPL title on May 10 at Peddie School, accumulating a team score of 171, 17 strokes better than runner-up Peddie. Katie Douglas ’18Anna Taivalsaari ’19 and Linda Tong ’19 earned All MAPL honors.

"I am very proud of the team," said Director of Athletics and head girls’ golf coach Paul Clavel ’88. "The girls competed well during the tournament and stayed focused. It was great to see three Bucs finish in the top five."

The varsity softball team concluded its MAPL season at home on May 12 with a 9-2 victory over Hill School, a win that brought Blair’s league record to 7-1. The Bucs started the Hill game strong with five runs and continued to keep the Rams at bay. Jesse Schable ’19 struck out 10 batters. Emma Mohlmann ’18 hit a triple, and Megan Baldwin ’18 thwarted a Hill player’s home run with her over-the-fence grab. 

"Winning the MAPL title in softball is an incredible feat," said Carolyn Conforti-Browse ’79, head softball coach. "A team must win all season long, despite injuries and heavy academic work weeks. You cannot have an off day, especially as the MAPL softball teams are usually very evenly balanced. But, the one ingredient this team has is great talent, and great talent needs great team chemistry. We have that for sure. I am very proud of this team."

Boys' tennis brought home the final spring MAPL championship on May 12 as the team claimed the title at Mercersburg. Joop Olthof ’20 struck first by winning his #4 singles flight, followed by Tim Johns ’18 and Boris Vlasov ’20 who won their 1st doubles flight with a come-from-behind victory over Peddie. Ignacio Ybanez ’18 lost to a Lawrenceville competitor but secured second place. The MAPL championship was determined when Fernando Doddoli ’19 won his match to earn third place.

"The Bucs set the goal at the beginning of the season of becoming MAPL or state prep champions," said Ryan Pagotto ’97, head boys' tennis coach. "After suffering a loss to Lawrenceville earlier in the season, our hope was slightly diminished. But hope was restored as our team battled all season, performing extremely well at the MAPL tournament."

The five spring MAPL championships combined with four MAPL championships earlier this year (girls' tennis, boys' soccer, and girls’ and boys' basketball) make 2017-2018 the most successful MAPL year in School history. 

"I am extremely proud of all our student-athletes," said Mr. Clavel. "Winning nine MAPL championships in one year is a first for Blair Academy. Our teams overcame adversity, showed grit time and time again, and displayed hard work every day in practice to make this a record-breaking year." 

Blair Community Warmly Welcomes John C. Bogle ’47 to Campus

Chairman Emeritus of the Blair Board of Trustees John C. Bogle ’47 returned to Blair Academy on May 14 to spend the day at his beloved alma mater. The founder of The Vanguard Group, Inc., addressed the Blair community at School Meeting and enjoyed his annual luncheon with the current Bogle Brothers Scholars, 10 students who are among more than 150 beneficiaries of a scholarship Mr. Bogle established in 1968 in honor of his late twin, David '47, and his older brother, William '45.

Mr. Bogle was enthusiastically applauded when Blair Head of School Mr. Fortunato introduced him as “one of you, a Blair guy whose love for and generosity to Blair are unparalleled.” After detailing for the audience Mr. Bogle’s path from Blair to Princeton, Mr. Fortunato spoke about his incredible professional accomplishments as the founder of Vanguard and his extraordinary commitment to his alma mater over many years as a Trustee and Chairman Emeritus.

“My love for Blair is pretty close to eternal, and I am proud and privileged to have played a role in its renaissance,” Mr. Bogle said as 460 students eagerly listened to his remarks. “Blair changed my life in too many ways to recount this morning, but I want to give you just one of those examples. It was at Blair Academy that I learned to use the English language and how to write. My teachers spent so much time with me, mostly with a red pen. But I got better and better under their tutelage. The result is that my writing ability, among other things, enabled me to go to Princeton and start Vanguard and watch it grow into a colossus.”

Joking that it was never his intention to create a colossus, Mr. Bogle said he quickly realized that when you give investors “the best deal of their lives,” there could be no other outcome. He concluded his remarks by focusing on his busy career not just in business, but also as a writer, noting that he is in the process of “polishing off” his 12th book, The Songs I Sang Will Still Be Sung, a quotation from Johnny Cash.

“I am impressed with your vibrant values and great potential,” he said in closing. “I hope all of the songs I have sung over the years here at Blair will still be sung by all of you wonderful young people with such promise and ability.”

Mr. Fortunato and his wife, Erin, hosted the Bogle Scholars luncheon at Sharpe House. The group was joined by Trustee Singleton Cox ’90, herself a Bogle Scholar during her time at Blair, and each attendee had the opportunity to share what was happening in his or her life with Mr. Bogle. The guest of honor ended his visit to campus by meeting with members of Blair’s investment club, which was a very special opportunity for students who may one day follow in Mr. Bogle’s esteemed footsteps to the world of banking, investment and finance.

 To watch a video of Mr. Bogle’s remarks, click “play” below.

2017-18 Board of Governors group photo
2017-18 Board of Governors group photo

The Alumni Board of Governors (BOG) comprises 16 dedicated Blair graduates who volunteer their time and talent to promote a strong, meaningful relationship between the School and its alumni body. This year, under the leadership of President Robert Van Stone ’69 and Vice President Kaitlin Maillet Matyasovsky ’04, BOG members have undertaken several initiatives that have brought alumni together in new ways and at new events, laying the groundwork for continued engagement—and exciting get-togethers—ahead.

The BOG kicked off its work for 2017-2018 with a mid-October, full-day session at Blair. In meetings with Head of School Chris Fortunato and the administrative team, BOG members, whose graduation dates span seven decades, gained insight into School operations and student life at Blair today. They also had plenty of time to share ideas about alumni involvement with Chief Advancement Officer Craig Hall and Director of Advancement Cara Mohlmann, both of whom are always looking for ways to engage alumni across generations and around the world.

As the year progressed, BOG members worked in tandem with Mrs. Mohlmann and Director of Alumni Relations Shaunna Murphy to bring several of the ideas they discussed to fruition. A Blair Alumni Chapter was established in New York City, and its first event—a December holiday happy hour—was a big success. In May, a group of alumni and their families met science teacher Rod Gerdsen at New York City’s Museum of Natural History for a guided tour of the new “Unseen Oceans” exhibit. Later this summer, Blair family members will enjoy one another’s company at a Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs baseball game, and more activities are in the works for the summer and fall.

“BOG members attended every school-sponsored alumni event this year, including multiple pre-Peddie Day gatherings, the New York City Young Alumni reception, the Yards Brewery event, the Mantegna Court dedication and the wrestling reception, and each was a great opportunity to get to know members of the Blair family,” said Mr. Van Stone. “Going forward, BOG members from each decade will assist class reps from their corresponding era with fundraising and outreach, and this will help us learn even more about how alumni want to be involved with Blair.”

2017-2018 Alumni Association Board of Governors

Robert Van Stone ’69, President
Kaitlin Maillet Matyasovsky ’04, Vice-President
Derek M. Peachey ’93, Trustee Liaison
Bruce D. Holenstein ’78, Secretary
Edwina O. Adrien ’06
Laura A. Covucci-Sacks ’84, P’20
Carl R. Cramer ’72
Anthony Z. Eu ’06
Carrie R. Giddins Pergram ’92
Carly E. Pearson Kaskel ’04
Quinn C. McKay ’11
Alex S. Motiuk ’08
James H.G. Naisby ’57
Daniel H. Smith ’09
Hobart D. Van Deusen ’54
Michelle M.Q. Wu ’15

Loyal Blair Supporters Honored at Leadership Dinner

The School honored its most steadfast and generous supporters on April 27 at the Leadership Dinner, an annual event that recognizes alumni, parents and friends who have made Blair a philanthropic priority. The Friday-evening celebration began with cocktails at Sharpe House and continued with dinner in the Romano Dining Hall, during which Head of School Chris Fortunato, Chairman of the Blair Board of Trustees Doug Kimmelman P’12 ’13 ’15 ’22 and scholarship recipient Onome Akinbode-James ’18 expressed gratitude for all that is made possible at Blair thanks to the contributions of loyal donors.

“Your dedication to Blair is incredibly special and makes a tremendous difference in our students’ and teachers’ lives,” Mr. Fortunato said. “I am deeply grateful for your support, for your keen interest in our programs and campus, and for your kindness and commitment to Blair students and faculty. Your leadership and vision are essential for our School’s future, and your generosity inspires each of us to continue to strive for excellence in all we do.”

During the evening, Mr. Fortunato presented a framed print of the Blair Arch to several special guests, thanking them for their stewardship of Blair and their support of capital projects, scholarship aid and other School initiatives. These honorees included Mr. and Mrs. John E. Alden Jr. ’63, Mr. and Mrs. Kurt A. Baker P’17 ’19, Mrs. Dorothy G. Battelle, Hon. ’60, Mr. and Mrs. Allen Gibson P’20 ’20 ’22, Ms. Dana Gibson P’17 ’17, Mr. Peter Gibson P’17 ’17, Mr. and Mrs. Robert N. Jenkins ’69, Dr. Samuel S. Litvin and Ms. Robin J. Scheman P’10 ’14, Mr. and Mrs. David McGrath P’18, Ms. Jacqueline J. Montfort P’20, Mr. and Mrs. John R. Paul ’65, P’96 ’99 ’99, Mr. George F. Phelps ’65, P’93, Barry ’67 and Eileen Smith P’09, and Mr. and Mrs. Paul Stafford P’17.

Mr. Kimmelman had the privilege of recognizing Mr. Wm. Mitchell Jennings Jr. ’63 and his wife, Ms. Elizabeth Dater, as well as an anonymous donor, as the newest members of the John C. Bogle ’47 Circle of Benefactors. Named in honor of Board of Trustees Chairman Emeritus John C. Bogle ’47, this award acknowledges extraordinary dedication to Blair Academy. Mr. Jennings is an Emeritus Trustee who served as Vice Chairman of Finance (2001-2006), Chair of the Investment Committee (1992-2010), and Vice Chairman and Treasurer of the Board (2006-2013). Mrs. Dater served on Blair’s Investment Committee for five years, and the couple is among the School’s strongest advocates and most generous benefactors.

The evening concluded with special recognition of language teacher Maria Bowditch, who is retiring this spring after 27 years of service to Blair Academy. Mr. Fortunato thanked Madame Bowditch for her outstanding work in the classroom, for the many hours she devoted to her role as director of faculty hiring, and for her dedication to her students and colleagues. 

Among the Leadership Dinner guests were a number of donors who have established named, endowed scholarships at Blair, and they were seated with their scholarship recipients, giving them the opportunity to catch up on all that has happened this year. Attendees also enjoyed a cocktail-hour musical interlude by the String Ensemble and pianists Timothy Launders ’20, Yue Xu ’21 and Brandy Zhang ’18, and an evening of wonderful conversations with Trustees, administrators, faculty and friends.

Akhil Garg ’02

Goldman Sachs Managing Director Akhil Garg ’02 joined students and faculty in the Chiang Center for Innovation and Collaboration on May 10 for the final Alumni Roundtable of the school year. During his afternoon presentation, Mr. Garg discussed his current role in Goldman’s Structured Finance group within the Investment Banking Division and traced his career path in the financial services industry. He also offered timely advice to seniors whose graduation was just two weeks away, and shared insight into the finance industry with attendees, many of whom were members of the School’s investment club.

Mr. Garg entered New York University’s Leonard N. Stern School of Business in 2002. A finance and marketing major, he credits his introduction to the financial services industry to a Blair connection: While attending a Blair alumni event as an NYU freshman, a conversation with Peter Reinhart, husband of former fine arts teacher Jennifer Reinhart, led to a summer job working on the floor of the New York Mercantile Exchange. “After that, I was hooked,” Mr. Garg acknowledged.

Throughout his college career, he continued to explore opportunities in the financial services industry by working summer jobs in the finance and accounting division of MetLife, and in the Mergers and Acquisitions group at Merrill Lynch and, finally, by interning at Goldman Sachs in 2005. He joined Goldman as an analyst upon earning his bachelor’s degree in 2006 and worked in the company’s Mortgage Department within the Securities Division. A member of the New York Society of Securities Analysts and CFA charterholder, Mr. Garg was named Managing Director in 2017.

He explained his job in Structured Finance in layman’s terms: “When consumers need to borrow money for, say, a student loan, they turn to a lending institution. My group is where that institution turns for dollars to make that loan.” Mr. Garg’s day-to-day work generally involves three overarching activities: advising companies on the best way to raise capital; lending and investing Goldman Sachs’ funds; and structuring and selling securities to clients that meet their specific needs.

When asked to describe a “typical day at the office,” Mr. Garg smiled as he replied, “I’ve been doing this for 12 years, and there is no ‘typical’ day. The industry is always changing and evolving. That’s why I love this job. I like to do a lot of different things, and, in my role, I advise companies, evaluate lending and investing opportunities, and work with my team, helping and teaching them along the way. The one constant is communication. We are always talking about what we are doing and seeing and the issues we are facing. There is a lot of email, too,” he advised, as heads nodded understandingly around the room. “Email management is a very important skill to learn early on.” 

Mr. Garg spoke about different job opportunities in the financial sector, including those in legal, credit, operations, technology and sales roles, and he noted that people from many different backgrounds and college majors are in the industry. Asked about the skills students should develop to succeed in such jobs, Mr. Garg noted that he looks for two qualities in particular: Is the person coachable, meaning how quickly will he or she incorporate feedback into his or her work? And, does he or she have the positive attitude and drive needed to keep pace in a high-intensity environment?

Sharing final advice, Mr. Garg encouraged students to try different things, as he did, to figure out what they want to do in their professional lives. “You won’t know what will click until you try it,” he said. “Remember, too, that people are a big aspect of any organization. People make a community, like Blair, and they also make a company. If an opportunity that you think is perfect doesn’t turn out so well because of the people, don’t get discouraged. Try a variety of experiences, as you will learn and get something different from each one.”

Mr. Garg also shared one of the best takeaways of his Blair experience: the ability to manage his time. “Blair taught me that the best,” he laughed. “As a college freshman, I was already used to going to class six days a week, and my friends had never had that experience. My mom asked me early on if college was hard, and I told her sure, but not as hard as Blair!”

About Alumni Roundtables

Blair's Alumni Roundtable speakers' series connects today's students with prominent alumni across industries, giving soon-to-be graduates the opportunity to learn about different fields from experienced professionals.

Instituted in 2018 by Head of School Chris Fortunato, the Alumni Roundtable series welcomes Blair graduates of all generations to campus to speak about their careers and engage in question-and-answer sessions with students. Find out more about past and upcoming speakers, and please let us know if you would like to participate in a future event by contacting Director of Stewardship E. Courtnay Stanford at (908) 362-6121, ext. 5646, or stanfc@blair.edu.

Blair Academy Players Present ‘Funny & Tragic’ Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play

This spring, the Blair Academy Players brought the dark comedy, Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play, to Blair’s stage on May 17, 18 and 19 at 7:30 p.m. The award-winning play by Anne Washburn, with score by Michael Friedman and lyrics by Anne Washburn, took place in the Robert J. Evans Open Air Theatre.

The much-produced show opens in the near future with a group of survivors of a cataclysmic event and the near-collapse of humanity. The power grid is down, and life has become tenuous. In act one, survivors indulge in a nostalgic memory of a specific Simpsons episode, “Cape Feare.” Set seven years in the future, the second act finds the survivors having formed a traveling troupe of Simpsons performers, and the audience learns more about the state of the world in its second dark ages. Act three jumps 75 years into the future, when pop culture has become myth, and The Simpsons is no longer a weekly cartoon, but merely a legend.

“The play is equally funny and tragic, as the role of story and drama is explored through the popular culture of The Simpsons,” said Craig Evans, veteran performing arts teacher and theatre director.

The cast included John Zoetjes ’19, Ryan Gomez ’20, Aavya de Silva ’20, Victoria Crow ’20, Audrey Sacks ’20, Kelsey Jackman ’20, Montana Carson ’20, Hannah Walker ’21, and Sofia Sorensen ’19. The show was student directed by Gardner Coates ’20, and the assistant music director was Matt Dev ’19.

Eager to take on the challenge of playing two roles, Audrey portrayed post-apocalyptic survivor, Quincy, in act two, and Bart Simpson in act three. She also enjoyed preforming in her fifth Players production and in the Robert J. Evans Outdoor Theatre.

“Aside from the family-like bond between the actors, what makes Blair's theatre program really special is Mr. Evans' beautiful outdoor theatre. It is something unique to Blair that the audience gets to enjoy just as much as the actors do,” she said.


Blair's School Store has scheduled two days for students to return rentals and resell their textbooks before leaving campus for summer break.

For seniors, the textbook buyback and rental return event will take place outside the School Store in Hardwick Hall on Wednesday, May 23, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Underclassmen may sell their books and return their rentals on the final day of exams, Thursday, May 31, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., in the same location.

"We hope students will participate in the textbook buyback because it allows our vendor, Follett, to build a larger inventory, which results in lower textbook prices for the upcoming year," said store manager Reanne Mauriello.

Students may also return rented textbooks on these days, Mrs. Mauriello said. If not returned in person, rentals can also be sent back by mail. To print a shipping label for the return, visit www.blair.bkstr.com.

For more information regarding the textbook buyback or rental returns, contact Mrs. Mauriello at (908) 362-6121, ext. 5635, or Follett Customer Service at (888) 382-3383.

Blair will post the list of textbooks for the upcoming school year to its website over the summer. Students and parents can sign up for an email alert that will notify them when the list becomes available. To sign up, visit www.blair.bkstr.com.

Business Development Executive Talks Startups at May Alumni Roundtable

Blair students got an up-close look at the ins and outs of technology startups from fellow Buccaneer Scott Jones ’80, who came to campus on May 3 to engage with the community at an afternoon Alumni Roundtable in the Chiang Center for Innovation and Collaboration. The Austin-based marketing-and-business-development executive is a vice president at Hyliion Inc., a company that is bringing hybrid electric technology to tractor-trailers with an environmentally friendly system that saves fuel.  

Mr. Jones talked about his experience in growing new technology products and service offerings in start-up organizations and large, publicly traded companies. Over the years, he has become highly respected in his industry for solving problems and developing marketing strategies that differentiate offerings from those of competitors while building effective sales and channel models. Prior to joining Hyliion Inc. in early 2017, Mr. Jones founded WaJo Technologies, a firm specializing in perimeter security and remote site monitoring. 

After graduating from Blair, Mr. Jones enrolled at Colby College, where he studied economics, and then earned an MBA in finance and strategic planning at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. Between Colby and Wharton, he worked as a research analyst at Wharton Econometrics and as a consultant at DRI/McGraw Hill. In 1990, he joined Dell Computer Corporation (now Dell Technology), where he held marketing-related roles. Over the years, he has held product marketing and business development roles at global companies such as IBM, Polycom, GE Security, Covi Technologies, Surgient Networks and Tait Communications as a consultant.

Mr. Jones talked about his time at Blair and urged students to take advantage of the School’s many resources, especially its expert faculty. “I came to Blair at a time when I really needed structure, and I absolutely loved it,” he said. “My teachers put demands on me, but they helped me meet those demands, too. No other school I’ve ever attended has meant more to me than Blair.”

He launched his discussion of startups by sharing his definition of the term. “A startup is more than a small business,” he explained. “We’re talking about three people in a room who pick a specific market and aim for world domination.” In his experience, that means developing a truly revolutionary technology, working hard to ensure that it receives massive market acceptance and, finally, realizing exceptional returns on investment.

Mr. Jones walked students through the phases of a successful startup and spoke about each phase in terms of Hyliion. His company has developed a hybrid electric drive for class-8 vehicles that features unique, patented technology; it has achieved product-market fit as it has been accepted by trucking fleets and received government support; and, with an experienced team in place, the company is poised for rapid growth. What remains to be seen is if Hyliion can own the market and expand its value exponentially.

After sharing a video that illustrates Hyliion’s technology in a tractor trailer, Mr. Jones fielded questions from students and faculty on the nuts and bolts of funding and the startup work environment. He cautioned that people often have a romanticized vision of casually “going to work in flip-flops” at a startup—in reality, it’s a high-risk way to make a living that requires a great deal of hard work and may leave you without a salary for a while.

That said, Mr. Jones enjoys the startup ethos because he and his colleagues are free to innovate, constantly ask questions and focus on creating value for the company and consumers. “I really like the work,” he said. “I have a broad skillset in marketing, sales and strategic partnerships, and I can be useful—and have fun—every day.” He commented that during his days as a Blair student, he could always ask Headmaster James Kelley why he made a particular decision, and Mr. Kelley would fully explain his reasoning. “At Blair, I became accustomed to being part of an organization where you could have a dialog,” Mr. Jones said. “I have never been comfortable in big companies where I couldn’t ask questions.”

Taking a moment to share additional words of wisdom, Mr. Jones again encouraged students make the most of their time at Blair. “This building blows me away,” he said of the Chiang Center. “You have so many opportunities here to create and learn, to take a trip and then come back here and write code or do a project. Tap into the expertise of Blair’s faculty, get really good at something you love, work hard and take pride in anything you put your name on. Treat others well and be around people who are exceptional and who care.” 

“I ask myself every day, how do I create value and how do I help others to create value?” For Mr. Jones, this is the “bottom line” of his career.

About Alumni Roundtables

Blair's Alumni Roundtable speakers' series connects today's students with prominent alumni across industries, giving soon-to-be graduates the opportunity to learn about different fields from experienced professionals.

Instituted in 2018 by Head of School Chris Fortunato, the Alumni Roundtable series welcomes Blair graduates of all generations to campus to speak about their careers and engage in question-and-answer sessions with students. Find out more about past and upcoming speakers, and please let us know if you would like to participate in a future event by contacting Director of Stewardship E. Courtnay Stanford at (908) 362-6121, ext. 5646, or stanfc@blair.edu.

Arch in spring

Blair will welcome prospective seventh- and eighth-graders to campus on May 12 for its annual Spring Preview, an admission office event designed to give those considering boarding school a firsthand look at the value of a Blair education. 

“Our goal is to introduce families to our dynamic academic, artistic and athletics programs, as well as our vibrant and warm community,” said Assistant Head of School for Enrollment and Communications Peter G. Curran. “There is no better way to get to know Blair than by visiting in person and meeting our students and teachers, and this program does that and more through panel discussions, tours of campus and an overview of the admission process.” 

Following registration and a continental breakfast in the Chiang Center for Innovation and Collaboration, Head of School Chris Fortunato will welcome visitors and share Blair’s unique value proposition: In our mid-sized school, students are known well, and relationship-based learning allows for superior academic preparation and vibrant community life. Over the course of the morning, students, faculty and parents will talk about their experiences with and impressions of Blair, engaging with attendees in enlightening question-and-answer sessions that will further their understanding of the School. Before lunch, Mr. Curran will wrap up the program by walking participants through the Blair admission process, focusing on timeline, requirements, and deadlines for applications and decisions.

“Admission to Blair has never been more competitive and our offerings continue to mix core curriculum with forward-thinking initiatives that prepare our graduates for success in an increasingly connected and digital world, “ Mr. Curran said. “Our facilities are first-rate, and it is a pleasure to share with prospective families our historic campus and our commitment to both long-held school traditions and innovative offerings that keep us forward thinking as an educational institution.”

To register for the Spring Preview, click here. To contact a member of the admission office to ask questions about the event, click here




Glenn Betchler

Each year, seniors relish the many traditions that will be remembered as the hallmarks of their Blair years—from celebrated school-wide ones like Peddie Day and Headmasters’ Societies Games, to seniors-only privileges like hearing “seniors first” at the end of school meeting and wearing shorts when the magnolia blooms. On Tuesday, May 1, 11 members of the class of 2018 participated in the annual Senior Public Speaking Contest, which serves as a capstone event for participants, marking a culmination of their academic work and personal growth during their time at the School, while also preparing them to say goodbye to their beloved hilltop community.

While every senior taking Advanced Placement English must write and deliver a speech in class, the best speakers from each section are selected by their classmates to participate in the contest. This year’s wide-ranging topics included astrology and horoscopes, learning about financial responsibility, the popular television show The Office, what it was like to grow up in a house neighboring a cemetery, the importance of appreciating your family and more. A panel of faculty members representing various disciplines judged the seniors’ speeches, and the winners were announced at School Meeting on Friday, May 4. Glenn Bechtler ’18, Grace Miller ’18 and Helen Mercedes ’18 placed first, second and third, respectively.

“The assignment offers seniors a good way to reflect on their time and experience at Blair prior to their departure,” said Douglass Compton, who teaches AP Language and AP Literature courses, in addition to sophomore English. “The prompt is open-ended, so students really have the chance to be creative with their message.”

Many seniors use the platform to recall and celebrate their time at Blair, which is often the first of many moments of reflection they will have throughout their final month at the School.

“I simply love hearing what the students have to say on the eve of their graduation, and I would hope that many of the younger students would be eager to hear the messages that their elder peers have to offer as they head into the next stage of their lives,” Mr. Compton added.

Click play below to view the winning speeches.