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Veterans Day

The Blair community expressed gratitude to alumni, faculty and staff members who served or are currently serving in the U.S. military with several happenings surrounding Veteran’s Day. Organized by the sophomores in Associate Head of School Ryan Pagotto ’97’s Blair LEADS class and the advancement office, the activities highlighted the many sacrifices military men and women make as they serve our country and gave everyone at Blair a chance to say thank you.

Veteran’s Day remembrances began the week before the holiday with the annual card-writing campaign held in the Romano Dining Hall. During lunchtime, students, teachers and staff members flocked to the table manned by Director of Annual Giving Colleen Smarth, Assistant Director of Annual Giving Anna Matthews and Advancement Student Ambassadors to write personal notes of thanks to nearly 400 Blair veterans and active-duty service members. The cards featured a photo from the Blair archives, chosen by Mrs. Smarth, Ms. Matthews and Blair’s coordinator of health education Erin Fortunato, who helped establish the card-writing tradition several years ago. The image depicts the 1914-1915 Blair Battalion, a group of students who were training to fight in World War I.

On November 11, the Veteran’s Day commemoration culminated during a School Meeting assembly. Sophomore LEADS students coordinated the event, which included remarks by MAJ Joshua Jabin, a 2001 U.S. Naval Academy graduate who has served 19 years in the U.S. Marine Corps. MAJ Jabin is currently chief operating officer of the Travis Manion Foundation, a national nonprofit that supports veterans and families of the fallen.

During the assembly, LEADS students honored Blair community members who are former or current members of the U.S. military by reading their biographies and thanking them for their service to the country. Those recognized included Associate Dean of Admission Teddy Wenner ’96 and his wife, LTC Teresa Wenner (both Army), Dean of Teaching & Learning Caren Standfast ’95 (Marine Corps), Assistant Director of Athletics Brian Antonelli ’93 (Marine Corps), technology teacher Michael Garrant (Army), and math teachers David Naysmith (Army) and Rob Anthony (Army Reserve). 

A flag-raising ceremony outside Armstrong-Hipkins Center for the Arts, accompanied by Sadie Donnelly ’22 and Samantha Antonelli ’22 singing the National Anthem, concluded the assembly. Afterward, students joined MAJ Jabin and Blair’s veterans for lunch in the Romano Dining Hall.

Kyle Kolaja PhD Skeptics

On November 12, the Society of Skeptics welcomed Kyle Kolaja, PhD, senior director and head of investigative toxicology and cellular therapy at Celgene Corporation. His presentation on the realities of cell therapies took place at 7 p.m. in the Chiang-Elghanayan Center for Innovation and Collaboration.

Over the course of his career, Dr. Kolaja (father of Luke ’20) has worked at a number of cutting-edge companies, including Cellular Dynamics International, where he served as vice president of business development and cell therapy, and Roche, where he was leader and global head of predictive toxicology screens and investigative toxicology. During his time at Roche, he oversaw laboratories in the United States and Europe that conducted all safety screening assays, provided toxicology support to projects, and applied stem cell derived tissues to safety. Prior to joining Roche, Dr. Kolaja served as vice president of chemogenomics and toxicology at Iconix Pharmaceuticals and project toxicologist and site head of investigative toxicology at Searle/Pharmacia.

Dr. Kolaja is active in a number of medical organizations. He has served as president of the Society of Toxicology’s (SOT) specialty sections for drug discovery toxicology and stem cells and toxicology, on the board of directors of the American Board of Toxicology and on the board of the Academy of Toxicological Sciences. He has also edited a number of trade publications, including the SOT’s Journal Toxicological Sciences. A member of the HESI Cardiotoxicity Steering Committee, Dr. Kolaja is a fellow of the Academy of Toxicological Sciences and a diplomate of the American Board of Toxicology. Since completing his undergraduate work at Michigan State University in 1992 and his doctoral work in toxicology at Indiana University in 1996, Dr. Kolaja has published or reviewed nearly 70 articles. He completed his post-doctoral research at the University of Kansas and now works in Summit, New Jersey.

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.

fall 2019 athletic awardees
fall 2019 athletic awardees

On November 6, the varsity fall athletic teams concluded their season with the annual awards banquet held in the Romano Dining Hall. The teams gathered to celebrate what has truly been a successful year on and off the playing fields.

Director of Athletics Paul Clavel ’88 praised the athletes not only for their hard work and determination, but also for the way they represented Blair Academy with the utmost sportsmanship, honor and integrity. 

Captains from each team spoke about their seasons, and then the coaches honored team members with individual awards. Blair congratulates the students who received the following awards: 

Pierce Cross Country Trophy: Thomas Engel ’20
Pierce Cross Country Trophy: Corrine Wilm ’21
Blair Field Hockey Prize: Kate Antonelli ’20
Marcial Tennis Award: Sydney Landau ’20
Blair Volleyball Award: Chloe Rayer ’20
Blair Soccer Award: Grace Hogue ’21
Blair Soccer Award: Matt Ho ’20
Blair Soccer Award: Ashlyn Alles ’20
Brooks Football Prize: Preston Krivulka ’20
Frere Football Prize: Sanoussi Kane ’20

Understanding the Cosmos: Blair Students Study Astronomy

Did you ever stop to contemplate how Earth became a planet? Or how a cosmic event that occurred eons ago impacts what is happening in the present day? These are just some of the questions 14 juniors and seniors are considering this year in astronomy, a science elective that gives students an understanding of the cosmos beyond that of a standard earth science or physics course.

‘The Universe is Knowable’

Science teacher Michael Ryerson developed Blair’s astronomy course eight years ago, based upon his own background in the field. During his undergraduate days at the State University of New York at Geneseo, he majored in physics and astronomy and performed research on the computer simulation of star clusters. He has since earned a master’s degree in science education from the University of Montana, and, over the years, expanded the course from a half-year to a full-year elective.

“My number one goal in astronomy is to give students a sense of perspective about the universe,” Mr. Ryerson said. “The scale of time and space we are talking about is almost more than we can comprehend, but I want students to realize that in a science that is, literally and figuratively, so far away, we can use the same tools that we use in other sciences to understand natural phenomena. The universe is knowable.”

The course begins with an overview of topics like gravity, light and waves, and particle physics and an examination of the work of early astronomers. Then, students look to the skies to study the moon, our solar system, the Milky Way galaxy and beyond. Along the way, they learn about everything from planets, the life cycle of stars and rocketry to black holes, the Big Bang theory and relativity, the latter being topics that Mr. Ryerson says his students have been most excited to investigate over the years.

The stars and the mysteries of the universe have always fascinated Elise Sigety ’20, and she is enjoying delving into astronomy in Mr. Ryerson’s class. “Our discussions are often mind boggling as we learn about the vastness of the solar system and each unique and wonderful planet,” she said. “I am looking forward to the rest of the year!”

In & Out of the Classroom

Of course, this year astronomy meets in the newly expanded and upgraded Bogle Science Center, which opened in September after a yearlong, $9-million renovation. For the first time, Mr. Ryerson has a classroom dedicated to astronomy, allowing him to house the School’s large telescope where students can access it every class period, as well as display a variety of diagrams and charts. The classroom’s capacity for 100-percent darkness makes for especially realistic simulations of moon phases, the sun’s ability to illuminate the solar system as a single point of light and other concepts that are harder to visualize when light is coming from all directions.

“Taking this class in the new Bogle Science Center helps us to learn more productively because it provides the materials and spaces that challenge us to not just learn the what, but also the how and why,” observed Chloe Rayer ’20, who is taking astronomy to feed her interest in the sky, the solar system and the Earth. “The crazy thing I’ve already realized is how small we actually are compared to the enormous solar systems and universes, and how much goes unnoticed on the daily.”

Observation of what is occurring in the skies is key to the study of astronomy, and Mr. Ryerson encourages students to take notice of the moon and stars as they go about their lives. In addition, he and students head outside to Blair’s athletic fields once each month for nighttime telescopic viewing of the heavens. In the spring, students will take to the same fields to launch rockets they have built from kits and, for their final signature assessment, launch rockets they have designed and built from scratch.

Reflecting on the importance of studying astronomy, Mr. Ryerson noted that when students tackle any area of science, they begin to develop a scientist’s mindset and skills such as critical thinking and data assessment that are “hugely important to being able to function in society.” “Beyond that, astronomy gives students an appreciation of the forces that shaped planet Earth,” he said. “It spurs them to really think about something most people take for granted.”

Go Bucs…& Falcons! Blair & Peddie Share the Cup

For the second year in a row, the Bucs and Falcons tied and will share the Kelley-Potter Cup until the two teams meet again in Blairstown in November 2020. As the sun set over the football field in Hightstown, Head of School Chris Fortunato and Peddie’s Headmaster Peter Quinn shook hands on the football field’s 50-yard line and congratulated all athletes on a job well done. The final score of the day’s competitions was 5-3-5 and, since Peddie had the home advantage, the Falcons will keep the Cup for six months before turning it over to Blair.

Athletic Director Paul Clavel ’88 commended all Blair athletes for their extraordinary heart, grit and sportsmanship, and said he hopes everyone is proud of their performances over the course of a very successful fall 2019 season.

"Of course, we go into every Peddie Day excited to bring the Cup home, but I couldn’t be prouder of the effort our teams put forth,” he said. It was a beautiful fall day in Hightstown, and Blair fans came out in force to cheer for the Bucs, enjoying one another’s company at games and matches across campus and in the hospitality tent for alumni and parents.

The Peddie Day scoreboard is posted below; look for team-by-team recaps on Blair’s athletics page with more details about individual victories. More photos from the day will be posted on Blair’s Photoshelter page next week.

Wins & Losses:

Varsity football: L (7-41)

JV football (played on 10/29): L (13-14)

Boys’ cross country: L (0-8)

Girls’ cross country: W (5-3)

Boys’ varsity soccer: W (3-1)

Boys’ JV soccer: W (2-0)

Boys’ thirds soccer: T (3-3)

Girls’ varsity soccer: T (1-1)

Girls’ JV soccer: T (0-0)

Varsity field hockey: W (8-1)

JV field hockey: W (3-0)

Girls’ varsity tennis: L (1-3)

Girls’ JV tennis: L (2-3)

Alex Sloane
Alex Sloane

Alexander J. Sloane ’70 has given back to Blair Academy enthusiastically and generously over the years. A Trustee for more than a decade and class representative since 2007, he counts the School among his top philanthropic priorities. His many gifts to Blair include the Sloane Tennis House and three named tennis courts; the Hardwick Hall clock tower named for beloved history teacher Paul White; and three endowed scholarships that provide the opportunity of a Blair education to deserving students each year.

This summer, Mr. Sloane provided for the School’s future with a contribution that will resonate across generations of students: He pledged a third of his estate to Blair, a planned gift valued at approximately $10 million. This transformative gift represents the single largest donation in Blair Academy’s history, and it is intended solely for the support of scholarship aid. Mr. Sloane’s extraordinary generosity will fully fund the Blair experience for many students who would not otherwise have the opportunity to attend Blair, opening the door to a lifetime of learning and achievement for deserving young people.

This generous bequest and all of Mr. Sloane’s Blair philanthropy are inspired by his desire to share his success with the institutions that believed in him during his own student days and to ensure that the opportunity of a boarding-school education is readily available to boys and girls from all backgrounds who will truly benefit from the experience.

“We are deeply grateful for Alex’s dedicated service as a Trustee and his exceptional philanthropy over many years,” said Head of School Chris Fortunato. “As a benefactor of scholarship aid, he is leading the way to a bright future for Blair’s diverse and inclusive community and a life of unlimited possibility for the students who benefit from his generous support.”

Memorable Blair Years

Mr. Sloane’s own Blair experience took place in the late 1960s, a time characterized by a campus-wide formality that he says is hard to imagine today. His grandfather, Ward Chamberlin, class of 1899 and a World War I recipient of the Distinguished Service Cross, had thrived at the School, and this had influenced his mother’s choice of Blair for Mr. Sloane’s high school years.

“I arrived as a freshman, not yet 12,” he reminisced. “Coat and tie were mandatory at meals and classes, and we were required to attend School assembly and Chapel every morning.” His first two years proved challenging, but “Blair was patient,” and he became a serious student as a junior and senior. Among the kind and engaged teachers he encountered at Blair, history teacher Paul White was especially impactful. “He noticed that I had turned things around and took me under his wing,” Mr. Sloane said. “I loved history and was eager to learn in his classes.”

From Blair, Mr. Sloane earned a bachelor’s degree in history at the University of Virginia and, in 1980, an MBA at New York University. A successful career in the investment industry enabled him to give back to each of his alma maters, especially by providing funds for scholarships. “It’s a pretty simple concept,” he explained. “I wanted to give those who may not be able to afford it the same opportunity I had been given.”

Ensuring the Blair Experience Is Open & Available

Fast forward to today, and Mr. Sloane is delighted to return to Blair each fall for the annual Scholarship Dessert Social, where he speaks to many of the School’s named scholarship recipients and spends time with the “bright, eager and enthusiastic” students he sponsors. “The Blair experience can be just the ticket that allows kids to make the most of themselves,” he said. “I want to make sure that experience is open and available to students who will benefit most from it.”

As his 50th reunion approaches in 2020 and the School embarks on its ambitious All In Strategic Plan, which will guide its course and direction for the next five to seven years, Mr. Sloane shared some final thoughts about giving to Blair. “The greatest misconception out there is that Blair is an elite school only for the privileged,” he said. “I see Blair as a serious institution that benefits society as a whole. By its very existence, the School gives many deserving young men and women a chance to succeed that would be otherwise denied to them.” As for planned gifts, he concluded, “There is no better—or more painless—way to give back than to allocate a part of your estate to the institutions that helped you along the way.”

peddie day 2018

Thanks to a website developed by Nick Ladd ’12, Blair Bucs worldwide can keep on top of Peddie Day athletic scores in real time! Click here throughout the day on Saturday, November 2, for all the latest scores. Go Bucs!

GO BUCS! Alumni & Parents Nationwide Celebrate Peddie Week

School spirit has been on full display at Blair this week, as students gear up for Peddie Day on Saturday, November 2. Not to be outdone, Blair parents and alumni gathered in eight cities across the nation on October 29 to show their Buccaneer pride, relive Peddie Day memories and celebrate the 30th anniversary of the coveted Kelley-Potter Cup.

This marked the third year for Blair’s Peddie Day Celebration Gatherings, and the event included more cities and participants than ever before. Receptions were held in Chicago; Easton, Pennsylvania; New York City; Philadelphia; San Francisco; Washington, D.C.; Boston; and Denver. The latter five gatherings included bowling, which gave attendees the opportunity to engage in friendly competition, in addition to networking, mingling, and enjoying a variety of appetizers and refreshments.

Reflecting that the Peddie Day tradition is beloved by the entire Blair community—no matter what year you graduated or class your child is in—Director of Alumni Relations Shaunna Murphy noted that many special memories surround the annual rivalry. “It’s more than just the competitions on the athletic fields,” she said. “Alumni and parents remember the school and team spirit, the camaraderie and, win or lose, the excitement Peddie Day brings. The Peddie Celebration Gatherings give Blair family members a chance to share that excitement and create new Peddie Day memories, even though they’re far from campus.” 

Four Young Alumni Share Experiences at Skeptics

Blair’s annual Young Alumni Skeptics has become one of the most-anticipated presentations of the year, as recent graduates return to campus to share their experiences as collegians and young professionals. On November 5, filmmaker Vanessa Black ’06, cancer researcher Marissa Mattar ’08, Navy LT Craig Stocker ’08 and U.S. House of Representatives legislative assistant Patrick Maillet ’10 joined the Blair community in the Chiang-Elghanayan Center for Innovation and Collaboration for the 2019 Young Alumni Skeptics. The event, moderated by history teacher and longtime Skeptics coordinator Martin Miller, PhD, began at 7 p.m.

The Blair community looks forward to welcoming these Young Alumni Skeptics panelists:

Vanessa Black ’06

“I doubt I would be a filmmaker if it weren’t for Blair,” said Vanessa, executive producer and director at BLKFLM, the production company she founded in 2014. After taking her first video class with former director of video studies Judith Kampmann at Blair, film became the medium through which she—a shy student—expressed herself. “Judith taught me all the basics of filmmaking, and we established an after-school program where we created weekly videos for Friday School Meeting. I became obsessed with film as a way to express ideas and break down barriers, and that all started at Blair.”

Vanessa matriculated at the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts, where internships with industry heavy-hitters, including The Kennedy / Marshall company and MGM Studios, gave her a taste of “real world” filmmaking—and she loved it. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in production in 2010 and worked in smaller roles on large Hollywood projects before moving to New York City in 2012 to focus on the commercial world.

A stint in director sales at RadicalMedia was the impetus for Vanessa to break out on her own and build a directing reel. “My first directing project was about the youth behind the headlines of the 2014 Ukrainian Revolution,” she said of the work that also marked her first foray into a political hotbed. “I was interested in how young people were using the Internet to create real revolutions, from their screens to the streets.” #UkraineRising launched her into branded impact filmmaking, where she has since crafted powerful projects on climate change, supply chains, women’s issues and much more, and created campaigns for a host of brands, including Google, Vogue, Gap, Cadillac and Under Armour.

In her current role, Vanessa specializes in impact advertising for large brands, foundations and nonprofits. On any given day, she could be meeting with production companies, writing scripts, presenting treatments alongside budgets, editing film or shooting on location with her film crew. “It is a really fun job,” she said. “I am always on my toes and growing on a daily basis.”

Vanessa acknowledged that her passion for world issues stems from her days in Dr. Miller’s history class and her leadership of Blair’s Multicultural Student Union. “I love that I went to school with kids from around the globe,” she reflected. “We all had unique relationships to current affairs. Blair’s multinational student body really shaped the way I see the world.”

Marissa Mattar ’08

Marissa’s lifelong interest in science stems from her innate drive to “figure out why things are the way they are.” Today, she is doing just that on the front lines of cancer research at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, where she is a research coordinator in the Antitumor Assessment Core Facility.

In this role, Marissa has helped lead the effort to develop an academic Patient Derived Xenograft (PDX) program that is now the largest such program in the world. As part of this research, scientists implant human tumor samples in immunocompromised mice. The resulting tumor models retain the histologic and genetic features of the human donor tumors. The models are then used to test the efficacy of novel treatments or treatment combinations, especially targeted therapies. Marissa was hired as a research assistant in 2014 to work on the then-fledgling PDX program, and, as she put it, “The program has grown with me.”

Currently, she works with a team of four research assistants and several lab technicians in Sloan Kettering’s PDX program, which, in the past five years, has generated more than 1,600 tumor models from over 159 unique subtypes and created a preclinical database that has become an institution-wide resource. Her responsibilities include assisting with experimental design to test treatments, managing data acquisition and analysis, serving as a liaison between the clinic and the lab to ensure both parties understand goals and processes, and helping to write publications and grants.

Driven by the knowledge that she and her team are helping people in a direct way and that their work “contributes to a greater good,” Marissa thrives on the constant challenge and learning that are part of her job. Her undergraduate days at The George Washington University were not unlike her professional life: She completed a challenging biology major and psychology minor and took on several volunteer roles that focused on helping others, including as a healthcare intern at the Arlington Free Clinic and as a family advocate with Health Leads.

Marissa credits her four years at Blair, where she served as a prefect and member of the Blue and White Key Society, with helping her develop her work ethic, time management skills and a network of friends with whom she regularly keeps in touch. “Blair impacted my life tremendously. The person I am today is largely attributed to my time at Blair. The Blair community is truly something special. It’s been easy to connect with other Blair alumni since I graduated,” she said, adding that fellow Bucs remain among her closest friends.

LT Craig Stocker ’08, USN

A 2012 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy (USNA) with a bachelor’s degree in oceanography, Craig’s career as a Navy surface warfare officer has taken him around the globe over the past seven years. He began with back-to-back tours aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Stockdale (DDG 106), serving as first division officer and then as the ship’s navigator. Craig spent nearly 25 months at sea conducting operations or training during his four years with the Stockdale and visited ports worldwide.

Beginning a shore tour in 2016, Craig trained to become a warfare tactics instructor specializing in anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare and then spent 20 months teaching at Surface Warfare Officers School in Newport, Rhode Island. Since February 2019, he has been studying for his master’s degree in defense and strategic studies at the U.S. Naval War College in Newport. Upon graduating in March 2020, he will return to sea as operations officer on the USS John Finn (DDG 113), homeported in San Diego.

A member of the Buccaneer cross country, swimming and crew teams during his postgraduate year, Craig credits his Blair experience with preparing him to succeed at the Naval Academy in ways he never would have imagined. “Everything from living away from home to taking challenging academic classes gave me an advantage,” he said. “Athletically, Blair’s outstanding coaching staff, facilities, environment, spirit and competitiveness allowed me to push myself physically and mentally to levels that made follow-on progression at USNA smooth and almost easy.”

At USNA, Craig was a four-year javelin thrower for Navy track and field, and he took on a variety of midshipman leadership roles. The summer between his junior and senior years was especially busy as he helped train the incoming class of 2015, interned at the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency and completed a five-week training and assessment with the Navy’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Training and Evaluation Unit 1 in San Diego.

Craig’s brother, Matt, is a 2011 Blair grad, and his father, Craig Sr., is a longtime member of the School’s grounds crew. Every time he returns to campus, his appreciation for Blair’s “real family atmosphere” is renewed.  “No matter how much the faculty and staff change, I’m always greeted by a familiar, smiling face,” he said. “I’m forever grateful to be a part of the Blair family because Blair is part of my family, too.”

Patrick Maillet ’10

A legislative assistant to U.S. Representative Betty McCollum (D-MN-04), Pat is working in an arena about which he has always been passionate: government and politics. Before he came to Blair—following in the footsteps of his mother, Patrice Maillet ’77, sister, Kaitlin Maillet Matyasovsky ’04, and brother, Matthew Maillet ’06—he candidly admits that he didn’t quite know what to do with that passion. Enter his faculty mentors, including Dr. Miller, Associate Dean of College Counseling Joe Mantegna, former history teacher Jim Connor and his four-year advisor, English teacher Bob Brandwood, each of whom helped him hone in on what he wanted to do and where he wanted to go in life.

“Blair had an extremely profound impact on my life,” said Pat, who served on class council all four years at the School and as a senior prefect. “Aside from providing me with some amazing, lifelong friends, Blair taught me how to be comfortable in my own skin and to lean into what interests me.”

Pat matriculated at the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, where he had the opportunity to participate in a program that taught him not only the “what and why” of government, but also the “how” of crafting public policy. He wrote a column and served on the editorial board of The Michigan Daily, the university’s student newspaper, and developed a healthy obsession for Michigan football and basketball before heading to Washington, D.C., with his bachelor’s degree in public policy.

Unable to find a position on Capitol Hill as a newly minted college graduate, Pat accepted a job at a D.C.-based online educational company. “After working there for just under a year and applying for what felt like 500-plus jobs, I landed an entry-level position at a government relations firm,” he said. “I formed working relationships on the Hill in my 18 months with the firm when something finally opened up in Rep. McCollum’s office.”

Since beginning work in Congresswoman McCollum’s office in May 2016, Pat has advanced through several positions to become a legislative assistant. In this role, he covers a portfolio of issues for the Representative, including healthcare, transportation and housing. In addition, Pat attends evening law school at The Catholic University of America’s Columbus Law School, where he will earn his JD in May 2021.  

To watch their full presentation, click below:

Peddie Week 2019 is Here!

Peddie Week 2019 is here! Activities are planned throughout the week in the lead-up to Peddie Day, Saturday, November 2, when the Bucs will take on the arch-rival Falcons in Hightstown during a day of athletic contests. School spirit is at an all-time high, with themed dress-up days and a host of other community events in the works to remind every member of the Blair family why it’s great to be a Buc.

Students kicked off the week on Sunday by decorating banners to hang around campus. Starting tomorrow, the community will get even more festive with these themed dress-up days:

Tuesday - TieDye Tuesday 

Wednesday - Playa Wednesday (beach day)

Thursday - Thwap Sursday (trade with a friend)

Friday - Blair Wear Day

Throughout the week, students and teachers will celebrate the 116-year Blair-Peddie rivalry with many traditions that have carried through the years, such as the senior class decorating the campus. On Thursday night, members of the class of 2020 will host a special dinner at which students share memories and swap stories. Following the dinner, a traditional rally will be held at Sharpe House, home of Head of School Chris Fortunato, which will culminate in Mr. Fortunato’s motivational speech to all athletes and spectators. Friday will be the most action-packed day of the week, with School Meeting featuring spirited announcements, including English and performing arts teacher Craig Evans' annual rousing "Beat Peddie!" speech, and the pep rally and bonfire later in the evening.

This upcoming week is filled with many exciting activities and events that Blair family members near and far won’t want to miss! Check Blair’s website and social media channels daily, as we will continue to share photos and videos.

Joni Maya Oye-Benintende Art Opening

From October 28 to November 16, ceramicist Joni Maya Oye-Benintende is sharing her sculpture and pottery forms in a Romano Gallery exhibit titled “Recognition.” The artist uses fired and unfired clay, raku and sawdust firing processes, and found objects to create the works on display. These sculpture and pottery forms invite the viewer to regard the works as prompts to uncover memories, recognize images, and create their own stories and meditations.

“Contemplation is a central theme in my work—the process of creating, the objects placed within the forms or a combination,” said Ms. Oye-Benintende, who chairs the Art + Design department at Pennsylvania’s East Stroudsburg University (ESU). “Much of the imagery in the work comes from my Japanese ancestral background, and the five formative years I spent living and working there, but I find that people from many walks of life respond to them.”

Describing her pottery forms as “process meditations,” Ms. Oye-Benintende said that the coil method used in making them is circular, with the thinning and stretching of the clay walls created by a rhythm of motions that is at once calming and searching.

Meanwhile, the openings in the “Niche” wall series are like windows that display objects or images for contemplation. “These are inspired by the niches or reliquaries that one sees near Japanese temples and shrines, as well as the Japanese concept of the tokonoma, an alcove, usually near a home’s entrance, where a wall hanging or flower arrangement is displayed,” Ms. Oye-Benintende said.

A graduate of Washington University in St. Louis (BFA) and Tama Art University in Tokyo, Japan (MFA), Ms. Oye-Benintende teaches ceramics and drawing and serves as director of the Madelon Powers Art Gallery at ESU. She has exhibited her clay work in regional juried art shows and gallery exhibitions. An active member of the Pocono-area arts community for many years, she has co-directed the Pocono State Craft Festival and holiday art and craft shows, and she showcases local and regional artists at ESU.

Ms. Oye-Benintende joined the Blair community for an artist’s reception on November 7, beginning at 7 p.m. in The Romano Gallery.

Chef & Author Becky Selengut ’88 Visited Society of Skeptics

A chef’s toque is only one of the many hats Becky Selengut ’88 wears. The author, humorist and cooking teacher returned to her alma mater on October 29 to speak about her latest book, How to Taste: The Curious Cook’s Handbook to Seasoning and Balance, at the Society of Skeptics. Her presentation began at 7 p.m. in the Chiang-Elghanayan Center for Innovation and Collaboration.

Since graduating from the Seattle Culinary Academy with top honors in 1999, Ms. Selengut has enjoyed a diversified career in the culinary world. She worked for several years in acclaimed Seattle-area restaurants before stepping away from restaurant kitchens to pursue a range of culinary opportunities, including cheffing on an Inside Passage yacht tour and teaching immigrants to cook and helping them find work in the food industry. She established Cornucopia Cuisine in 2004, a private chef and culinary education business, and has since become a regular instructor at several Seattle-area cooking schools.

Ms. Selengut has written extensively about food as the founder of the educational website Seasonal Cornucopia, as a freelancer and recipe developer for Seattle and national publications, and as the author of the award-winning books, Good Fish and Shroom: Mind-Bendingly Good Recipes for Cultivated and Wild Mushrooms. She is also the co-author of The Washington Local and Seasonal Cookbook and the humor and travel memoir Not One Shrine: Two Food Writers Devour Tokyo.

How to Taste, Ms. Selengut’s most recent work, is a humor-laced yet science-packed dive into the underpinnings of culinary theory aimed at helping home cooks become better cooks by using all their senses. She will lead Skeptics attendees in a quick experiment to help them figure out their “taster type” and delve into the anatomy of taste and smell during her presentation.

"What a joy to come back to Blair and share with students and faculty a little slice of culinary science,” Ms. Selengut said. “I was encouraged to get curious and have fun with new knowledge when I attended Blair, and it's an honor to bring some of that back. It feels like I'm coming home.”

To watch her Skeptics presentation, please click below:

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.

Bogle Science Center dedication

A perfect autumn day provided the backdrop for the dedication of the Bogle Science Center, which took place on the plaza in front of the newly expanded and renovated academic building on October 19. Trustees, alumni, parents, current and former faculty, students and friends of the School attended the event to celebrate the completion of the yearlong, $9-million project and to honor all who helped bring it to fruition.

Head of School Chris Fortunato and Chairman of the Blair Board of Trustees Doug Kimmelman P’12 ’13 ’15 ’22 each thanked the donors whose generous contributions made the transformation of the Bogle Science Center possible. Bogle Hall was originally dedicated in 1989 as Blair’s science, mathematics and computer science facility; now, it boasts an 8,000-square foot, three-story addition, and every detail of design, furnishing and technology is focused on the optimal teaching and learning of the laboratory sciences.

Science department chair Kelly Hadden expressed gratitude to Mr. Fortunato, Blair’s Chief Operating Officer James Frick, Director of Facilities Dave Schmitt, purchasing agent Marie Giuricich, maintenance staffers and the science faculty, whose efforts and hard work brought the Bogle Science Center to completion at the start of the school year. “In this state-of-the art facility, we now have the opportunity to expand our science curriculum, offer students a dynamic environment in which to grow and investigate, and offer courses that are centered on research and hands-on experimentation,” she said. “This building is truly a dream come true.”

Among those recognized at the dedication was the late Chairman Emeritus of the Blair Board of Trustees John C. Bogle ’47. His generous support and leadership as Board Chairman from 1986 to 2001 were instrumental to Bogle Hall’s much-needed construction in 1989, just as his enthusiasm and continued generosity were vital to its expansion and renovation 30 years later.

Former Headmaster and faculty member Chan and Monie Hardwick were in attendance, and, in his remarks, Mr. Hardwick noted that Bogle Hall was the first of a succession of new buildings on campus that have shaped the lives of thousands of students over the last three decades. “Today we rededicate a building that was Jack Bogle’s first leadership step in transforming the Blair campus and began his quest to inspire many others to join him,” he said. “And, in this moment of rededication, we also pause to think again on this extraordinary man, our great friend and leader, our Jack. For his time with us and for his love for Blair, we are grateful.”

Several members of the Bogle family attended the dedication and received a warm welcome from the Blair community. Bogle Hall was named in 1989 by Mr. Bogle and his brothers, William Yates Bogle III ’45 and the late David Caldwell Bogle ’47, in memory of their parents, Josephine Hipkins Bogle and William Yates Bogle Jr. Among the students who cut the ribbon to signal the official opening of the Bogle Science Center was one of this year’s Bogle Brothers Scholars, students who are beneficiaries of the scholarship Mr. Bogle established in 1968 in honor of his brothers. 

The facility’s completion marks the accomplishment of the third academics-focused building project at Blair in the past three years, as well as an important milestone in the implementation of the School’s 2018-2025 Strategic Plan, All In. Guests enjoyed touring the Bogle Science Center at the conclusion of the dedication. Throughout the facility, they glimpsed the exciting opportunities on the horizon for Blair students as they pursue coursework, passions and projects in the laboratory sciences. 

Sports Legend Shares Leadership Philosophy at Chapel

On October 17, three-time Olympic Gold medalist and espnW writer, soccer commentator, features reporter and host Julie Foudy came to Blair to speak at Chapel and have lunch with the girls’ soccer and softball teams. The former captain of the United States women’s soccer team and World Cup champion spoke about her philosophy on sports and leadership and how Blair students can make a difference in the lives of others, topics close to her heart as the co-founder of the Julie Foudy and espnW Sports Leadership Academy (JFSLA) and author of the 2017 book Choose to Matter: Being Courageously and Fabulously You. (To watch Ms. Foudy’s all-school talk, click “play” below).

In fact, it was at the JFSLA camp that Blair Dean of Campus Life and Director of Leadership Programs Carolyn Conforti-Browse ’79 first met the soccer legend 13 years ago, introduced by former Blair faculty member Todd Smith ’90, who was one of the five founders of the New Jersey- and California-based program on athletic training and leadership development. Designed for girls aged 12 to 18 who play soccer, lacrosse, basketball and water polo, the five-day camp is intensive—and fun—and offers an empowering and transformative experience to student-athletes as they learn leadership skills through sports. 

An Outward Perspective

“You can’t help but be inspired by Julie because she such an accomplished athlete and a celebrity in her own right but also someone who in every aspect of her life is committed to making life better for others,” said Ms. Conforti-Browse, who has worked with the JFSLA for a dozen summers as the organization’s co-director of academic curriculum. In this role, she works with counterpart Jaime Pagliarulo to research leadership work across platforms and develop the program’s residential camps and portable curriculum. 

What Ms. Conforti-Browse has found most inspirational is Ms. Foudy’s focus on the present and the future and the selfless approach she takes to defining leadership. “Julie is not concerned with what happened yesterday but asks what are you doing today to make tomorrow better—not for yourself, but for others,” Ms. Conforti-Browse explained. 

Outside Your Comfort Zone

With Mr. Smith and fellow JFLA coach and Blair soccer star and Athletic Hall of Famer Winnie Lizardo Orbe ’06 in the audience, Ms. Foudy shared with the Blair community her philosophy, which centers on leadership being “personal instead of positional.” To illustrate the discomfort many people experience when pushed outside their comfort zones to a place “where the magic happens,” she challenged students to a sing-off that brought Ms. Conforti-Browse, Winnie and two students on stage in Armstrong-Hipkins Center for the Arts. Noting that this exercise embodied Eleanor Roosevelt’s advice to “do one thing that scares you everyday,” Ms. Foudy also pointed to the wisdom of sports and exercise psychologist Dr. Colleen Hacker, who once cautioned her to “never to wish the butterflies away.” 

“Butterflies are a great thing,” she said. “It means you care. It means you are invested. It’s visceral; it matters! Don’t you want things in life to matter? Now, the trick is, just teach the butterflies to fly in formation.”

Ending her Chapel with three pieces of advice on how to best achieve that, Ms. Foudy encouraged students to 1- own their awesome; 2- be the idiot who says yes; and 3- understand that success is usually messy—not a neat, clean straight line. “Surround yourself with people who will let you dream and get outside of your comfort zone,” she concluded. “The hard part is raising your hand and choosing leadership and establishing what your leadership style is.”

A ‘Very Blair’ Program

That outward perspective and leadership philosophy is critical to finding your authentic self, an approach that has informed all of Ms. Conforti-Browse’s work in designing and overseeing Blair LEADS, the School’s signature leadership education curriculum.

Over the years, nearly two dozen Blair alumnae, students and teachers have participated in JFSLA camps, 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

Ms. Foudy is just one of the inspirational speakers brought to campus through Ms. Conforti-Browse’s affiliation with JFSLA. In 2015, Amy Liss addressed the School community on Blair’s Day of Service and Ms. Pagliarulo presented to Blair LEADS classes last year. 

A Transformative Experience

Ms. Foudy’s belief that every young woman has the power to be an impactful leader resonated with Blair students of every class year. 

For Ms. Conforti-Browse, who will author an essay on sports and leadership in the next issue of Blair’s magazine, working with Ms. Foudy has also been a highlight of her professional and personal life. In addition to developing a sophomore leadership curriculum based on Ms. Foudy’s leadership philosophy, thanks to her involvement in JFSLA, Ms. Conforti-Browse traveled to India in 2016 with 10 students from U.S. colleges on a State Department trip focused on leadership development and cross-cultural awareness. Over the years, she has maintained the connections she made there and continues to support a group of 12-year-old Indian female athletes. 

Ever grateful that her former colleague, Mr. Smith, introduced her to the inspirational work of the JFSLA, Ms. 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 like Ms. Foudy, who fittingly ended her Chapel by answering a question about how leadership is all about giving back to others.

“So much of leadership is service,” she said. “It is serving your teammates, celebrating others, lifting others up. You don’t have to be a celebrity to do that. We all can. Leadership is service and we are all better because of it.”