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Society of Skeptics

On April 23, David Kaczynski—brother of Theodore Kaczynski, the so-called “Unabomber,” who was arrested in 1996—will talk about his infamous brother, the justice system and capital punishment at the Society of Skeptics' annual James Youngelson '53 Lecture on Ethics and Responsibility. He will deliver his remarks in the Chiang Center for Innovation and Collaboration beginning at 7 p.m. 

Mr. Kaczynski is executive director of Karma Triyana Dharmachakra Buddhist Monastery in Woodstock, New York. After the Unabomber’s manifesto was published in the Washington Post in 1995, David and his wife, Linda, approached the FBI with their suspicions that Theodore might be involved in the series of bombings that caused three deaths and numerous injuries. In fact, it was Linda who first suspected David’s brother as the Unabomber and who pressed David to search for the truth following a careful comparison of language and ideas in the manifesto with letters that David had received from his brother over many years.

In ethical and emotional partnership, David and Linda confronted their moral responsibility to stop the violence and ultimately shared their suspicions with the FBI, leading to Theodore’s arrest on April 3, 1996.

Despite his diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia, Theodore was charged capitally and only avoided the death penalty after his family convinced the U.S. Justice Department that Theodore’s delusions had precipitated his violent behavior. Subsequently, David formed a close friendship with Gary Wright, who was nearly killed by one of his brother’s bombs.

After leading a successful statewide campaign to end New York’s capital punishment system, David has focused on the work of New Yorkers Against the Death Penalty (NYADP), promoting community initiatives that address the root causes of violence. Prior to joining NYADP, David was assistant director of the Equinox shelter for runaway and homeless youth in Albany, where he counseled and advocated for troubled, neglected and abused youth. He has also authored numerous essays, stories and a book of poems.

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.


Blair’s boys’ varsity lacrosse team takes on Pennington at 4 p.m. Watch the action here. Meanwhile, girls’ varsity lacrosse plays Bridgewater-Raritan High School at 4:30 p.m. Watch the game here.

Over 100 Colleges & Universities to Attend Annual College Fair

Blair’s 13th-annual College Fair is poised to offer an amazing learning opportunity for students and parents eager to find out more about colleges and universities throughout the U.S. and abroad. Representatives from more than 110 institutions will attend the fair, which will be held in Hardwick Hall on April 17 and 18 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Area students, parents and guidance counselors are welcome to attend.

The College Fair gives students who are just beginning their college search the opportunity to gain information about different schools’ programs and application procedures directly from college admission representatives. Blair’s Dean of College Counseling Lew Stival recommends that students familiarize themselves with representatives of schools to which they may apply, as these admission officers are often the people who will eventually read applications and will be involved in admission decisions.

“After a long admission season, college representatives are excited to get back into the field to meet prospective students firsthand,” Mr. Stival said. “These representatives typically have a renewed energy in the springtime, and there is no better time to make an introduction.”

Blair's college counselors will be on hand each evening to answer families’ questions about the college admission process.

The following colleges and universities will attend the Blair Academy College Fair:

Wednesday, April 17:

  • Allegheny College
  • Arcadia University
  • Bard College
  • Bates College
  • Binghamton University-SUNY
  • Bloomfield College
  • Boston University
  • Bryant University
  • Centenary University
  • Colgate University
  • Colorado College
  • DePaul University
  • Drexel University
  • Elmira College
  • Elon University
  • Emory University
  • Felician University
  • Gettysburg College
  • Hampden-Sydney College
  • Ithaca College
  • John Cabot University
  • Kenyon College
  • Lehigh University
  • Marist College
  • Muhlenberg College
  • Providence College
  • Queen's University Kingston
  • Quinnipiac University
  • Ramapo College of New Jersey
  • Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
  • Rider University
  • Roger Williams University
  • Rollins College
  • Rutgers University-New Brunswick
  • Sacred Heart University
  • Saint Joseph's University
  • Santa Clara University
  • Seton Hall University
  • St. Lawrence University
  • Stonehill College
  • Susquehanna University
  • Syracuse University
  • The Catholic University of America
  • The University of Alabama
  • The University of Scranton
  • Trinity College
  • United States Naval Academy
  • University of Miami
  • University of New Haven
  • University of Richmond
  • University of Roehampton
  • University of San Francisco
  • University of St Andrews
  • Wake Forest University
  • Washington University in St. Louis
  • Wilkes University

Thursday, April 18:

  • American University
  • Bryn Mawr College
  • Bucknell University
  • Carnegie Mellon University
  • Case Western Reserve University
  • The College of Wooster
  • Connecticut College
  • Davidson College
  • Dickinson College
  • Drew University
  • Elizabethtown College
  • Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Florida
  • Emerson College
  • Fairleigh Dickinson University, Florham Campus
  • Franklin & Marshall College
  • Furman University
  • George Mason University
  • Grinnell College
  • Hamilton College
  • High Point University
  • Hobart and William Smith Colleges
  • Hult International Business School, San Francisco
  • Johnson & Wales University, Providence
  • Lafayette College
  • Lasell College
  • Lawrence Technological University
  • McGill University
  • Merrimack College
  • Ohio Wesleyan University
  • Pennsylvania State University-Main Campus
  • Randolph-Macon College
  • Rhodes College, Memphis
  • Rice University
  • Rochester Institute of Technology
  • Sacred Heart University
  • Salve Regina University
  • Savannah College of Art and Design, Atlanta
  • Scripps College
  • Sewanee: The University of the South
  • Skidmore College
  • St. John's College
  • Stevens Institute of Technology
  • Texas Christian University (TCU)
  • The University of Arizona
  • The University of British Columbia
  • Union College, Schenectady
  • University of California-Los Angeles
  • University of Colorado at Boulder
  • University of Delaware
  • University of Toronto
  • University of Vermont
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Vassar College
Chris Fussell '92 Skeptics

As a President at McChrystal Group and former Navy SEAL, Chris Fussell ’92 knows a thing or two about leadership and teamwork. The bestselling author and organizational-change expert shared his wisdom with Blair students and faculty at the Society of Skeptics on April 16 at 7 p.m. in the Chiang Center for Innovation and Collaboration.

Given that his audience was predominantly students who have grown up with digital communication, Mr. Fussell  discussed core areas of risk in the information age, challenges that undermine technological infrastructure, and how to navigate change in business—and in life—in productive and fulfilling ways. He hoped to impress upon students the importance of what Blair is teaching them about strong character, values and effective leadership.

“The question of how we lead and communicate on behalf of great organizations in the 21st century is the biggest one facing our generation,” said Mr. Fussell, who spent 15 years as a Navy SEAL and as part of the Naval Special Warfare Development Group before serving as an aide-de-camp to then-Lieutenant General Stanley McChrystal at the time he oversaw the Joint Special Operations Command in Iraq. In 2012, Mr. Fussell left the service to join McChrystal Group, founded by his former commanding officer, where he has served as Chief Growth Officer focused on transforming organizations into cohesive and adaptable “teams of teams” and applying lessons learned in the military to constructs of civilian organizational change.

“I hope Blair students understand and appreciate the School’s focus on character-based leadership, and the fact that it hasn’t changed since my time as a student,” he continued. “These universal concepts were essential to my success in the military and now in the business world. Such core fundamentals are critical in today’s world, especially in the decentralized, information-age battlefield on which these kids are growing up.”

After graduating from Blair, Mr. Fussell attended the University of Richmond and served as a Naval officer from 1997 to 2012. Upon leaving the Naval Special Warfare Development Group to join McChrystal Group, Mr. Fussell also became a Senior Fellow for National Security at New America, a think-tank focused on next-generation challenges for the United States. During his time in the military, he earned his master’s degree in irregular warfare from the Naval Postgraduate School. Today, he heads McChrystal Group’s Leadership Institute, serves as a member of the Council of Foreign Relations and sits on the Navy SEAL Foundation’s Board of Directors. He is the author of Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World and One Mission: How Leaders Build a Team of Teams.

Having returned to campus a few times since he graduated, most recently as a Society of Skeptics speaker in 2015, Mr. Fussell says the experience of interacting with today’s students has been particularly meaningful. “It is exciting to see these young people enjoying many of the same experiences I did at Blair, all of which prepared me to do well in college, in the military and now in the civilian world,” he concluded. “As much as things change at Blair, the emphasis on servant leadership has not.” 

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.

Elliot Anderson Skeptics

The Alumni Roundtable series concluded for the 2018-2019 school year on April 11 when Elliott Anderson ’08 joined students and teachers in the Chiang Center for Innovation and Collaboration. A senior manager at WeWork and partner and chief financial officer of the Zia Hatch Chile Company, Mr. Anderson described his career journey and engaged in discussion about recognizing business opportunity and idea generation. The Roundtable began at 7 p.m.

“In classic entrepreneurial fashion, one job just isn’t enough,” Mr. Anderson said of the roles he currently holds at two very different startups. WeWork is a company that creates “beautiful, community driven” shared office space worldwide, and Mr. Anderson oversees commercial management efforts for a global portfolio of more than 50 WeWork properties.

Zia, on the other hand, is a food brand that has brought New Mexico’s well-loved Hatch chile peppers to the East Coast. “We have partnered with companies such as Whole Foods, Saveur magazine, Food & Wine, Lewis Barbecue and many more to spread the unparalleled flavor and authenticity of this unique crop to discerning customers,” Mr. Anderson said. He is responsible for all financial efforts and sourcing of the product from local farms in Hatch, New Mexico. 

A 2012 graduate of Syracuse University, Mr. Anderson holds a bachelor’s degree in economics with a minor in entrepreneurship. He has a range of business experience, having worked as a cost engineer, chief financial officer and field project manager prior to his current positions at WeWork, Zia and as project manager for Benson Industries in New York City. 

“I focused on idea generation and recognizing opportunity at the Roundtable,” Mr. Anderson noted. “I wanted to break down the preconceived notion that you have to create Facebook to be a ‘good’ entrepreneur.” Pointing to Zia and WeWork as “atypical startups,” he concluded, “There are great ideas and opportunities all around us.”

Head of School Chris Fortunato established the Alumni Roundtable series during the 2017-2018 school year. The program connects today’s students with prominent alumni across industries, giving soon-to-be graduates the opportunity to learn about different fields from experienced professionals. Law, medicine, finance and event management are some of the career fields featured at Roundtables thus far; the series will continue in the fall.

Grandparents Visited Campus for Grandparents' Day

The Blair community welcome some very esteemed guests on April 17: grandparents! The School’s annual Grandparents' Day delivered a full program of events to give grandparents a firsthand look at their grandchildren's lives at Blair.

The event kicked off with coffee and registration in the Chiang Center for Innovation and Collaboration. Associate Head of School Ryan Pagotto welcomed guests to Blair and shareed some highlights of the Blair experience. Next, grandparents headed to Armstrong-Hipkins Center for the Arts to enjoy a concert featuring the Singers and Orchestra.

For the rest of the day, grandparents joined their grandchildren for a class and lunch in the Romano Dining Hall. They also attended an afternoon faculty panel discussion and has the option to take a guided tour of campus or cheer on the Bucs during various athletic events. Many students were thrilled at the opportunity to show their grandparents around.

"Grandparents' Day is a favorite event of ours, because it’s a special opportunity for grandparents to experience the hospitality of the Blair community and meet some of their grandchildren's teachers and friends," said Susan Long, assistant director of advancement for parent relations. "It’s always a pleasure to see so many familiar, happy faces on campus on this day."

Caren Standfast and Shauna Kwag ’20
Caren Standfast and Shauna Kwag ’20

In mid-May, Shauna Kwag ’20 will become Blair’s first-ever representative at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (Intel ISEF), the world’s largest international pre-college science competition. She, her research partner, Peddie School sophomore David Park, and their faculty sponsor, Blair math department chair Caren Standfast ’95, will travel to Phoenix, Arizona, where they will join 1,800 high school students from more than 75 countries, regions and territories at the weeklong event. Symposia, panel discussions with renowned experts, and the opportunity for Shauna and David to showcase their independent mathematics research and compete for $4 million in prizes will all be part of the once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Shauna and David were chosen for this honor in March, when they competed in the Nokia Bell Labs New Jersey Regional Science Fair (NJRSF) at Rutgers University. Their math research project—“On the largest empty rectangle among points in a square”—earned multiple awards, including the mathematics category award, a Mu Alpha Theta Award and the NJRSF’s top recognition, an ISEF Trip Award. Shauna and David’s project was among only six of 120 projects entered in the 2019 NJRSF to receive an ISEF Trip Award, and their participation in the NJRSF involved a complex and exacting application process, as well.

Independent Research

“I’ve always really liked math,” Shauna said as she reflected on the genesis of her and David’s research project. When she was younger, she was drawn to the subject because there were clear-cut answers to problems. “As I got older, I realized that simply is not the case, but I began to like the conceptual part of math even more.”

She and David became friends while attending middle school together at Fay School in Massachusetts, and the duo had long wanted to tackle a joint research project. Last summer, they settled on their topic, connected with their mentor, Hofstra University professor Dan Ismailescu, and set to work. “The question we addressed is very famous, and we researched how others attempted to solve it,” Shauna said. “Then we took our efforts in a different direction.”

Their work continued throughout the summer and incorporated aspects of geometry, number theory and combinatorics—some of which Shauna and David had to teach themselves—as well as a great deal of programming. Finally, they produced a poster explaining their process and results. “Our research has interesting applications for manufacturing,” Shauna observed, explaining that the ability to calculate the maximum area of a rectangle created by points could help a company make optimal use of its raw materials. “The ways we can apply this knowledge are very cool!”

Competition & Camaraderie

Competition at the NJRSF involved multiple individual and group presentations to doctoral-level scientists, who reviewed and judged Shauna’s and David’s work. Even though Shauna thought she might be nervous doing this, she found that once she got into it, the presentations were actually fun and rewarding.

Beyond the competition at the Intel ISEF in May, she also looking forward to the experience of being among so many like-minded peers and the exposure she will gain to everyone’s research and projects.

Mrs. Standfast is also looking forward to attending the Intel ISEF, which has been described as “the Olympics of math and science.” “This is an exceptionally high-level international program, and it will be exciting to see Blair listed among the participating schools for the first time ever,” she said. She is proud of Shauna and David’s collaboration—which she calls “a real Blair-Peddie win!”—and the fact that their project was executed without faculty involvement from either school. Finally, as math department chair, Mrs. Standfast is delighted that Shauna’s success highlights the exciting possibilities for women in math. “We couldn’t have picked a better person to represent

Blair Celebrated a Record-Setting Day of Giving!

The Blair community celebrated its fourth-annual Day of Giving on April 4 in fine style, with School spirit on display campus-wide and a record-setting 814 donors demonstrating their “belief in Blair” by making gifts to the Blair Fund. In total, the School received $211,812, with gifts coming from students, faculty, staff members, alumni, parents, grandparents and friends. The number of gifts well exceeded the advancement office’s goal of 698 gifts, one for each member of the campus community.

“The Day of Giving really brought our community together as we remembered and celebrated the connections and relationships that make the Blair experience so meaningful,” said Director of Annual Giving Colleen Smarth P’18 ’20. “It was wonderful to see so many people honor special teachers and other members of the community with their gifts, and to know that parents and grandparents continue to appreciate Blair long after their children and grandchildren graduate.”

Mrs. Smarth and Assistant Director of Annual Giving Anna Matthews oversaw on-campus Day of Giving events, including a “Blair Wear” day, donuts served by the magnolia tree throughout the morning, a special Chapel featuring Samantha Tilney ’08 and student advancement ambassadors, and a picnic dinner in the Romano Dining Hall.

“We are so grateful to everyone who helped make the Day of Giving a success,” Ms. Matthews said, giving special credit to the student advancement ambassadors, whose enthusiasm ignited participation throughout the day. “The community’s strong belief in Blair was evident, and every Blair Fund gift will support today’s students and teachers.”

Boys Lacrosse Livestream

Watch the boys’ varsity lacrosse team take on MAPL rival Peddie School at 4:30 p.m. on April 10. Access the livestream here.

Foundations of Integrated Science Research (ISR)

Ten highly motivated sophomores and juniors have immersed themselves in the world of scientific research this spring as part of Blair’s new “Foundations of Integrated Science Research (ISR)” elective. Throughout the semester-long course, students are reading scientific literature with a critical eye and developing an understanding of how scientific experimentation is implemented, while concurrently investigating a topic or question of their own choosing. By the end of the year, each member of the class will have developed an independent research proposal and submitted it to the ISR Committee, and some may pursue independent research during their junior and senior years in the ISR I and II courses.

Blair’s science teachers developed the ISR program, including the foundations course, during the School’s 2018 summer Faculty Institute. With extensive renovations and upgrades underway in Bogle Hall—and a three-story addition to the science facility now approaching completion—faculty members mapped out plans to create new electives, reshape existing electives, and integrate additional technology into labs and classes at every level of the science curriculum. The Bogle Hall addition includes laboratory space dedicated to long-term research, and this is the future home of Blair’s ISR program.

At present, science department chair Kelly Hadden and her “Foundations of ISR” students meet several times per week in a soon-to-be-renovated Bogle Hall classroom, where they delve into scientific literature and hone in on their research topics. “Students are learning how to find reputable, peer-reviewed articles and looking closely at research design and methodology, data and conclusions,” Mrs. Hadden said. “They are also realizing the importance of questioning what they are reading and thinking about how they can use what they’ve found in research of their own.”

Students’ potential topics for independent research run the gamut of the sciences, and, in many cases, their initial ideas for experimentation were on a grand and all-inclusive scale. Mrs. Hadden has worked one-on-one with them to help narrow their focus to questions or areas that are feasible to study at the high school level, as well as figure out the instrumentation, technical lab skills and materials they might need to conduct their research.

Kate Gerdsen ’20, who plans to determine the effect that varying concentrations of caffeine have on water fleas (Daphnia magna) and whether increased heart rate due to caffeine can be passed on to subsequent generations, appreciated her conversations with Mrs. Hadden and her classmates as she developed her topic. “We presented our ideas in class so that we could share critical feedback with one another to help further our research,” she said. “This was an enlightening experience, as all of my classmates are so knowledgeable. It has been really interesting to listen to and learn about everyone’s proposal.”

As the semester progresses, students will write their research proposals, a process Mrs. Hadden compared to writing a grant proposal for real-world scientific research. “Students will follow a set of guidelines, and they will be required to include the specific questions they will address, their methods of experimentation, the materials and instrumentation required, and more,” she said. Students will also create a poster delineating their proposal for Blair’s mid-May Science Poster Expo and present it before the teachers and administrators on the ISR Committee, as well as submit their written proposal. “Even if students don’t continue in the ISR program, this will have been a great experience for them,” Mrs. Hadden noted. “They should become much more comfortable and confident in their ability to explain scientific data.”

Halfway through the semester, Eric Zhang ’21 described “Foundations of ISR” as unlike any other class he has taken at Blair. “It’s very interesting and almost completely self-guided: We come up with our own research topic, independent and dependent variables, and ways to test those variables,” he observed. “I’m taking this class to strengthen my research skills and explore what I’m interested in—right now, that’s researching ways we can slow down the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.”

Mrs. Hadden is excited about the work all her innovative, inquisitive ISR students are undertaking this semester. “They’re each completely immersed in their unique topics, yet the atmosphere in class is so collaborative as they support one another and seek guidance from one another,” she said. “These students are way beyond their years and definitely the scientists of the future.”

Young Alumni Skeptics

The Blair community was excited to welcome a few familiar faces back to campus for the annual Young Alumni Skeptics on April 9. This year's panelists—Chris Gatsch ’05, Winnie (Adrien) Lizardo Orbe ’06, Sam Tilney ’08 and Jack Januszewski ’13—discussed their career success, reflected on their time at the School and offered advice to current students about life after Blair.

The much-anticipated Skeptics event began at 7 p.m. in the Chiang Center for Innovation and Collaboration’s Collaboration Forum. History teacher and longtime Society of Skeptics director Martin Miller, PhD, moderated the forum, which featured presentations by these Blair graduates, followed by a question-and-answer session.

"The variation in this years’ panelists' careers and lives will surely encourage students to ask interesting questions and engage in great dialogue," said Director of Alumni Relations Shaunna Murphy, who helped coordinate the event with Dr. Miller. "These alumni, who not too long ago sat in the audience at Skeptics here at Blair, exemplify that there's a career path out there for everyone."

Continue reading to learn more about the 2019 Young Alumni Skeptics panelists:

I’m was excited to meet some of Blair’s current students. My sister, Whitney Januszewski ‘18, graduated a few years ago, so I’ve seen firsthand a lot of the recent developments made on campus. I’m always impressed with the quality of the folks Blair draws into its community, and it was great to return.
-Jack Januszewski ’13

Jack graduated from Boston College in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in modern European history and romance languages. After college, he returned home to work with various construction and labor organizations while serving as the assistant manager of operations for Classic Aviators, Ltd. Later, Jack went on to work with an early stage startup called Lemma, Inc., a cloud-native, content-creation learning and assessment platform for mathematics education based in Philadelphia. Currently, Jack serves as the president and chief operating officer of Lemma, Inc., and resides in Philadelphia. While at Blair, Jack and his classmates started the beginnings of what would later become The Game, an annual Blair tradition.

I have always had a strong connection to Blair that became even stronger after my graduation. The alumni network has been essential in connecting me to opportunities and advising me at major academic and professional crossroads. I look to mentors with whom current students still have the pleasure of sharing these halls. My fellow alumni of this great institution have been a positive influence in the path I have chosen for my career.
-Winnie (Adrien) Lizardo Orbe ’06

Winnie graduated from Blair Academy in 2006. She attended the College of Wooster for one year and graduated from Ithaca College in 2010, where she graduated with a bachelor's degree in exercise and sport sciences with a medical concentration. Winnie went on to start her career at the The Taft School in Watertown, Connecticut, where she taught biology and chemistry and coached soccer, basketball and softball for three years. She graduated from New York University in 2016 with a doctorate in physical therapy and joined Northwell Health, where she works at the Nicholas Institute of Sports Medicine and Athletic Trauma as a physical therapist. Later this year, Winnie will launch her own company, Solis Performance and Physiotherapy, which will focus on treating and training athletes outside of the clinic.

I'm so proud that Blair offers the Society of Skeptics program each year; it’s an incredible opportunity for the School community to hear from leaders in their fields on a variety of topics and world events. I feel honored to have the chance to share my experiences with students. I hope it will prove helpful for them in figuring out what they'd like to do in the future!
-Sam Tilney '08

Sam matriculated at Boston College, graduating in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in English literature and Chinese. She remains on the board of advisors for WZBC 90.3 FM, Boston College's student-run radio station. Sam has spent the past seven years working with early stage tech startups in Boston and is currently the director of operations for BuySellAds, a fully remote ad-tech company. Prior to joining BuySellAds, Sam ran operations for Freebird, a travel-tech company, and people operations for LevelUp, acquired by Grubhub, a mobile payments company. In her spare time, Sam founded a tea company, BANGtea, importing high-end tea from Taiwan with the help of fellow Blair alum Phil Chen '05. While at Blair, Sam was captain of both the swim and rowing teams, and served as a prefect in West Hall and a member of the Senior Class Council. She also deeply enjoyed eating all of the ice cream in the dining hall.

It’s an honor to come back and share my journey with the students here at Blair. I hope my story will help them figure out what they’d like to do with their time after high school.
-Chris Gastch '05

Chris serves as a financial advisor for Merrill Lynch Private Wealth Management based in New York City. He began his career in 2009 in the collateralized loan department of Merrill Lynch, structuring security based loans for Merrill Lynch’s high-net-worth clients. Between 2014 and 2016, Chris served as a vice president and account manager in the equity capital markets department for a boutique investment firm in New York City. He went on to serve as vice president of sales for a liquid alternative fund company based in Philadelphia, where he was responsible for sales on the West Coast. Chris graduated from the College of Wooster with a bachelor’s degree in history. While there, he played four years of varsity soccer and lacrosse, serving as a captain of the lacrosse team his senior year. Chris was also a competitive ski racer who still enjoys hitting the slopes. He resides in Yardley, Pennsylvania, with his wife, Ali, their daughter, Lucia, and two dogs, Diesel and Bailey.


Girls’ varsity lacrosse takes on MAPL rival Peddie at home on April 3, while boys' varsity lacrosse travels to Hill. Both games will be livestreamed beginning at 4:30 p.m. Watch the girls' game here and the boys' game here.

Spring Break Trip to London

Thirteen Blair students and four faculty members explored London and Paris together during spring break on a trip that took them to both sides of the English Channel.

The group, chaperoned by Head of School Chris Fortunato, director of health services Tara Parker, language teacher Kate Lavelle and her husband, Blair operations analyst Tom Pomeroy, spent the first four days enjoying all that London has to offer—including St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Tower of London, Trafalgar Square, the British Museum, the London Eye and the Churchill War Rooms. The evenings were dedicated to enjoying British cuisine and the London arts scene, and included productions of Les Miserables and School of Rock in London’s West End.

“The experience of traveling abroad with teachers and friends is an extraordinary one, and it was incredibly gratifying to witness how much a trip like this broadens horizons and deepens our understanding of our place in the world,” said Mr. Fortunato, who was accompanied by his own children, Matty and Katie. “In everything we do at Blair, we encourage our students to become global citizens who are confident about who they are and how they interact with the world around them. Trips like this are critical to introducing the idea of global citizenship outside of Blair and building on all of the skills students are learning in the classroom.”

Among the trip highlights was a dinner presentation and discussion on Brexit, which, with a European Union (EU) withdrawal deadline looming at the end of March, was unfolding in real time while the Blair group toured the United Kingdom’s capital city. “We capped a great day spent exploring London with an in-depth discussion about the political, social and economic ramifications of Brexit as negotiations between Britain and the EU continued,” Mr. Fortunato said. “To be living through this moment in British history was pretty special for all of us.” That moment was made even more poignant by the fact that Mr. Fortunato was in London in summer 2016 with a different group of Blair students when the news initially broke that more than half of British citizens had voted in favor of England leaving the EU.

After five days in London, the group boarded the Eurostar train bound for Paris, where they took a walking tour along the Seine and visited Notre Dame, the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower. The day-trip included excellent Parisian cuisine before students and teachers returned to London to explore more tourist attractions, including the city’s famous parks and museums. Other excursions included trips to Stonehenge and Windsor, the latter of which included a tour of the University of Oxford. The trip concluded with a formal afternoon tea and a farewell gathering at which travelers shared their most meaningful and impactful moments.