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Society of Skeptics Welcomes Save A Warrior Founder Capt. Jake Clark

Retired Army Capt. Ronald “Jake” Clark will join the Society of Skeptics on November 27 to explore reintegrating U.S. combat veterans into society and the importance of his organization, Save A Warrior. His presentation will take place in the Chiang Center for Innovation and Collaboration at 7 p.m.

Having dedicated his whole life in service to others, Capt. Clark has saved hundreds of military personnel, veterans and first responders with his innovative, transformational program which teaches them how to survive the devastating effects of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Capt. Clark is a veteran of the Cold War and served in the California Army National Guard following 9/11. During a lengthy break in military service, he served with the U.S. Secret Service, the Los Angeles Police Department and as a special agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). After the events of 9/11, he reenlisted in the National Guard, completed officer candidate school and served multiple tours in the former Yugoslavia.

While attending Pepperdine University as an MBA candidate, he interrupted his studies to create Save A Warrior. Capt. Clark’s novel program addresses the areas of reintegration and PTSD-related suicide prevention. He is a sought-after public speaker for his experience with the challenges of veteran transition and reintegration, as well as his work with first responders exposed to workplace trauma. His passion for serving those who serve has inspired several films and major news articles. In 2015, he received the WebMD Health Hero Award for his work in veteran advocacy. In 2017, Save A Warrior was declared a winner at the second annual VA BrainTrust: Pathways to Innovation for its innovative approach to ending veteran suicide.

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.

Shop Blair’s School Store for the Holidays!

Blair's School Store has stocked its shelves for the upcoming holiday season! Visit the store on campus or online (www.shop.blair.edu) to choose from a plethora of amazing gift items to help your family and friends show their school spirit.

Among the unique, custom gifts Blair offers are socks, dog collars, pillows, blankets, mugs, class banners, coasters, picture frames, diploma frames, ornaments, Vineyard Vines totes, ties and clothing for all ages.

Remember to shop early and allow time for delivery, as Saturday, December 15, is the last day to place an online order for delivery in time for the holidays! 

For more information, please contact Reanne Mauriello, School Store manager, at (908) 362-6121, ext. 5635, or maurir@blair.edu

Fall Banquet
Fall Banquet

Blair’s fall athletes and coaches capped off another great season at the athletic awards banquet on November 12. Throughout the evening, the Bucs celebrated team and individual accomplishments, as well as the School’s tie with Peddie for the coveted Kelley-Potter Cup. Highlights of the season include the varsity girls’ soccer team’s first-ever Mid-Atlantic Prep League championship and the varsity field hockey team’s fourth-consecutive New Jersey prep “A” second-place trophy.

Director of Athletics Paul Clavel ’88 commended all the athletes for an outstanding season of teamwork and sportsmanship, and team captains shared reflections on their seasons. The evening concluded with recognition of outstanding individual athletes by each team coach. The following awards were presented:

Pierce Cross Country Trophy: William Arnold ’19

Pierce Cross Country Trophy: Margaret Dericks ’22

Pierce Cross Country Trophy: Corrine Wilm ’21

Blair Field Hockey Prize: Abigail Kreider ’19

Marcial Tennis Award: Rachel Ninomiya ’19

Blair Volleyball Award: Maruta Sipols ’19

Blair Soccer Award: Kerem Ayhan ’19

Blair Soccer Award: Thomas Robinson ’19

Blair Soccer Award: Rebecca Groseibl ’20

Blair Soccer Award: Emma Nolan ’20

Brooks Football Prize: Owen Trephan ’19

Frere Football Award: Nolan Hogue ’19

Senior Fund Drive Raises Funds for Class of 2019 Scholarship

The class of 2019 enjoyed an evening of pizza and philanthropy at the annual Senior Fund Drive, held on November 8 in The Black Canteen. The event marked a festive start to seniors’ fundraising effort toward their class gift, which they will present to the School on the evening before graduation. This year, seniors have chosen to support the Class of 2019 Scholarship, and fundraising for the new, endowed scholarship has become a shared endeavor for the soon-to-be-graduates and their parents.

Senior advancement ambassadors Jacob Leddy ’19, Essie Pasternak ’19, Summer Will ’19 and Neha Mullick ’19 organized the Senior Fund Drive together with Assistant Director of Annual Giving Anna Matthews. On Thursday evening, over 100 seniors enjoyed spending time with their classmates—and dinner from local restaurant Cesco’s—while they learned about the impact of philanthropy at Blair from speakers including Essie, Summer, Neha and Associate Dean of Admission Leucretia Shaw. By the end of the evening, 98 gifts or pledges were in hand, totaling more than $1,100 and representing the participation of a whopping 73.7 percent of the class.

The Class of 2019 Scholarship will be the first-ever endowed scholarship at Blair established by members of the current graduating class and their parents. “The scholarship will help provide much-needed financial aid to deserving students for many years to come,” said Assistant Director of Advancement for Parent Relations Susan Long. “Seniors and their parents are excited about this unique opportunity to create a legacy for the class of 2019.” 

In fact, two parents have offered generous challenge gifts to spur fundraising: If $100,000 is raised by June 30, one parent will give an additional $50,000 to the fund. A second parent will donate an additional $100,000 if every member of the senior class participates in the drive by June 30.

Jim Krugman ’65 and his wife, Connie, will also support the class of 2019 fundraising effort as they have pledged to match student giving 3:1. This marks the 18th-consecutive year that the Krugmans have made this generous gift and, in doing so, underlined the importance of giving back to Blair for students who will soon be alumni.

Advanced Statistics

Among Blair’s many math offerings for 2018-2019 is a new course designed to give students a high-level introduction to the major concepts involved in data collection and analysis. Advanced statistics covers topics such as sampling, describing patterns, random probability and statistical inference, and its instructor, math department chair Caren Standfast ’95, is eager to develop student’s skills around these important topics. 

“No matter what major they choose in college or what career they eventually pursue, students will likely come back to what they’re learning in advanced statistics because that’s the kind of math that’s most used in everyday life,” she said. “In this age of Big Data and the Internet of Things, it’s vital to be able to understand the meaning behind numbers that are presented to us. Thus, one of my main goals for the class is to ensure that students have the ability to look at the world through a quantitative lens.”

Students Drive Discussion

To help the five students in her class—each of whom has already taken or is currently enrolled in a calculus course—develop that quantitative lens, Mrs. Standfast is following the Advanced Placement (AP) curriculum, and students may sit for the exam, if they wish, next spring. Meanwhile, she keeps things interesting by letting class members’ curiosity drive daily discussion, which is often centered on data that high school seniors, juniors and sophomores find especially relevant. For example, the class recently analyzed PSAT scores and looked into “excellence of college” rankings and tried to create their own model of college ranking.

Liam Junkermann ’19, who finds working with and analyzing real-world data the most interesting part of the class, “jumped right in” to PSAT data analysis. “I tried to find trends in math versus reading scores or math versus total scores then analyzed whether gender or grade had anything to do with the trends I noticed,” he said. Liam is concurrently working on a computer science independent project in which he is attempting to build a machine learning model to determine if a given photo contains a car. “The mathematical and statistical part of my computer science project has helped me understand what we’re learning in statistics from a different perspective,” he observed. “I’m enjoying this class, and I look forward to learning more throughout the year.”

The project involving research into U.S. News & World Report’s college rankings and the creation of a more effective algorithm intrigued Dylan Benson ’19. “At first, this task appeared incredibly daunting, but with a bit of time and research, I have found it riveting,” he said. Having enrolled in advanced statistics because he is interested in pursuing an actuarial science major in college, he hopes that learning more about this branch of mathematics—many components of which are key to his potential major—will confirm that this is, in fact, the professional field he would like to enter. 

For her part, Mrs. Standfast reinforces to students that while their opinions on topics such as college rankings and test scores certainly matter, those opinions should not be a part of their statistical analysis. “One of the most important things students learn in this class is that statistical models should be transparent and free of bias,” she said. “Our focus is on analytical data and the sources behind that data.”

Return to Blair

Teaching advanced statistics is one of many duties Mrs. Standfast has taken on since joining Blair’s faculty as math department chair last summer. She also manages the department, teaches algebra 2, coaches field hockey and girls’ lacrosse, and serves as housemaster of Mason Hall. In addition, she and her husband, Geoff, are parents of five children: Annie, a junior at the U.S. Naval Academy, 10-year-old triplets Jack, Brady and Geoff, and 8-year-old Tommy.

While all of this keeps Mrs. Standfast exceptionally busy, she is happy that her life and career paths have brought her back to Blair. Having attended the School for a postgraduate year in 1994-1995, she credits Blair with instilling in her the independence and autonomy that prepared her to excel at the U.S. Naval Academy. After graduating from USNA in 2000 with a bachelor’s degree in oceanography, she served as an adjutant in the Marine Corps before earning her MAEd at the University of Phoenix in 2008 and beginning her career as a math teacher.

“I discovered my love of teaching while serving in the Marine Corps,” Mrs. Standfast said. “Before taking on any role or situation in the military, education always comes first. When my service obligation was up, I decided to give teaching a try.”

Over the past 10 years, Mrs. Standfast has taught math and physics at St. Paul’s School in Covington, Louisiana, and then math and computer science at Culver Academies in Culver, Indiana, yet her own independent school experience at Blair served as a constant touchstone. She consulted some of her Blair teachers before deciding on a teaching career and, more recently, spoke to faculty members about programming in the Chiang Center for Innovation and Collaboration, since she was managing a similar collaboration center at Culver Academies. When she learned that Blair was seeking a new math department chair, she knew that this was her opportunity to return to her boarding school roots.

“Coming back to Blair has been fun, funny, comfortable and challenging all at the same time,” she reflected, noting that Blair has provided exactly the close-knit community atmosphere she and her husband want for their family. “It’s fun to return to all the places I frequented as an 18-year-old and funny to realize that old friends like [Associate Director of Admission] Teddy Wenner ’96 and [Director of Stewardship] Courtnay Stanford ’95 are now colleagues and that we’re all grown up. And having many of my former teachers as mentors has made for a comfortable return to Blair—it’s great to know they are still here to help me navigate the challenges ahead.” 

2018 Blair on Stage
2018 Blair on Stage

The Blair community will come together on November 16 to listen to all-new repertoire to be performed by the Jazz Ensemble, Singers, Chamber Choir, Chamber Orchestra and Symphony Orchestra. The 7 p.m. Fall Concert will feature traditional and contemporary pieces ranging from film scores to jazz, including songs from the recent film The Greatest Showman, a “bluesy” version of Richard Rodgers’ “My Funny Valentine,” Duke Ellington’s “It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing),” Thad Jones’ “A Child is Born” and numbers from Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story (in honor of the composer/conductor’s 100th birthday).

“Our returning students are building on the skills they honed during their last international tour, which was a huge undertaking that challenged them to learn music thoroughly,” said Performing Arts Department Chair and Director of Instrumental Music Jennifer Pagotto. “They are bringing that experience to this year’s repertoire. We also have a number of new students in our ensembles, and they bring new energy and musical talent. The combination gives our groups good chemistry, and I am excited for our community to hear really fun, engaging classics, as well as contemporary gems.” 

This year, the concert will feature a number of soloists from within Blair’s ensembles, in addition to some guest performers, such as guitar player and Blair language teacher Chris Sheppard and banjo player Patrick Tipton (father of Siena ’18 and Oliver ’21). 

Noting that a number of seniors graduated from the ensembles in 2018, Mrs. Pagotto commends members of the class of 2019 for stepping up and taking over leadership roles so seamlessly. “They learned a lot from last year’s really talented class and have done an impressive job of making their musical mark,” she said. “Our newer students are all quite capable musicians who want to learn from the upperclassmen, and they take cues really well from older musicians.” 

Calling all of the pieces to be performed at this year’s concert “fantastic,” Alexander Gieson ’19 is excited to see how the different ensembles grow over the course of the 2018-2019 school year. “As a four-year percussionist at Blair, I’ve played with so many different talented musicians and explored a wide variety of pieces,” he said. “One thing I love about percussion is how many different instruments I get to play. I also find Mrs. Pagotto’s enthusiastic attitude incredibly inspiring. Whether it be early on a Monday morning or during performance rehearsals at the end of a long day, she always puts on a smile.”

Being part of the Orchestra—which he calls Blair’s “largest class”—has significantly improved Alex’s work ethic and enhanced his overall Blair experience, allowing him to get to know many people during the group’s four weekly rehearsals. “Orchestra is a nice break from the class day because it is a completely different kind of thinking,” he explained. “Playing an instrument is far different than solving equations or writing essays, and I like to have that variety in my schedule.”

Four-year violinist Junhan Park ’19 also looks forward to showcasing the groups’ hard work with his close friends and fellow musicians on November 16. Reflecting on his time at Blair, Junhan says he appreciates how much being part of the Orchestra has allowed him to grow and become more skilled, whether through regular campus rehearsals or once-in-a-lifetime trips such as last year’s performance tour of England. “All four years of playing with Mrs. Pagotto have helped me become a better violinist  and person,” he said. “She and Mr. Manni [Blair’s director of vocal music] are always willing to support me, on and off the stage.”

Ashley Thompson '08 Roundtable

Blair’s Alumni Roundtables offer students the opportunity to learn about different careers by connecting with alumni who are working in a variety of fields. Instituted by Head of School Chris Fortunato during the 2017-2018 school year, the series continues this fall in the Chiang Center for Innovation and Collaboration. We welcomed two alumni in early November, and both Roundtables included lively discussion and Q & A. Learn more about the  alumni who returned to campus below.

November 9 at 6:30 p.m.

Andrew Hutcheson ’08

Voyager

Executive Producer

A 2012 graduate of Emerson College with a bachelor’s degree in film production, Mr. Hutcheson is the founder and executive producer at the Brooklyn-based film production company Voyager. He has produced a wide variety of films, from broadcast commercials and branded content for the likes of Facebook, Google and the NBA, to documentaries and feature films available on HBO, Hulu and iTunes. Most recently, he was the post producer on the Oscar-nominated short documentary, “Traffic Stop.” His mission at Voyager is to develop the conditions for creativity to thrive and to support the artists in whom he believes.

 

November 12 at 6:30 p.m.

Ashley Thompson ’08

MUSH

Co-Founder, CEO

Ms. Thompson is the co-creator and CEO of MUSH, a health food company that manufactures the first cold-processed, ready-to-eat overnight oats product to hit retail shelves. Available in flavors ranging from pumpkin spice to dark cacao, each ready-to-eat oatmeal pod contains only “real food”—that is, ingredients that are free of preservatives and artificial flavors and colors. Ms. Thompson graduated from Columbia University in three years with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and economics. She started her career as a trading analyst at Goldman Sachs, where she met her business partner, Kat Thomas. The duo founded MUSH in 2015, and the company’s products are available online and in stores nationwide.

 

Brandon Slay Skeptics

Brandon Slay, who won a gold medal in freestyle wrestling at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, talked to Blair students about achieving their dreams at the November 13 Society of Skeptics in the Chiang Center for Innovation and Collaboration. Having come to Blair in the past to share his message with the wrestling team, Mr. Slay is executive director and head coach of the Pennsylvania Regional Training Center, which focuses on enriching lives locally and globally through the sport of wrestling.  

“I am so impressed with Blair and the future leaders it produces,” said Mr. Slay, who lives in Media, Pennyslvania, with his wife, Tina, and four kids. “Each time I arrive on campus, I always say: ‘What an idyllic place to earn an education.’ Speaking to our nation’s youth is something I hold dear, and I look forward to talking to Blair students about the skills necessary to accomplish their dreams and become the best leaders possible. ”

A native of Amarillo, Texas, Mr. Slay is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business (1998), where he wrestled for the Quakers. He reached the NCAA finals twice and became a two-time All-American in 1997-1998 before graduating and moving to Colorado Springs, where he spent two years at the Olympic Training Center. In 2000, he became a national champion and achieved his dream of winning an Olympic gold medal. 

After winning the gold, Mr. Slay earned a graduate degree in theology from Dallas Theological Seminary and spent several years working in the Texas commercial real estate industry. But, with his love of wrestling continuing to pull him back toward the sport, he accepted a position with USA Wrestling that took him to the 2012 and 2016 Olympics in London and Rio. Although he loved his work as national development coach and head coach at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs (2009 to 2016), after his third child was born in 2016, he decided traveling 100-plus days a year no longer fit well with his lifestyle. So when the board of the Pennsylvania Regional Training Center asked him to consider becoming its first executive director and head coach in 2016, he jumped at the opportunity.

Calling the decision a “fantastic” one for him and his family, Mr. Slay is now able to control his own schedule, coach Olympic-level wrestlers, mentor college athletes at Penn and Drexel University, and motivate hundreds of the best high school wrestlers in the Northeast. He looks forward to sharing the lessons he’s learned both on and off the mat when he returns to Blair in November.

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.

Girls' Varsity Soccer Clinches 2018 MAPL Championship!

What a difference a year makes! Last season, the Blair girls' varsity soccer team was plagued by injury and defeat. In 2018, however, the Bucs overcame adversity and ended the fall season with a 2-0 victory against the Falcons on Peddie Day, which secured them the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) title. 

Although Blair’s offense dominated in shot attempts, the first half of the game remained scoreless. Becca Groseibl ‘20 scored the team’s first goal in the second half with a shot outside the 18-yard line. Not long after, Olivia Miles ‘21 scored the second goal, assisted by Becca.

"It was a process of collective progress, as opposed to the individual one," said David Mamukelashvili, Blair's head girls' soccer coach. "I’m beyond joyful and happy for them. They absolutely deserve it, and I hope that they comprehend what it means to be a family and how far one can go when that is the case."

The team had a great year to say the least, concluding the season not only as MAPL champions but also as second in the state for prep schools. Ending 2018 with a 10-5 record, the Bucs thanked everyone who followed and supported them this season at Monday School Meeting following the Kelley-Potter Cup tie.

Hidden Color

The paintings of Catherine Drabkin are on display in The Romano Gallery from November 5 to December 8, giving students and members of the community a chance to observe and study works that have been inspired by the rhythms of nature and music. The painter and animator’s work includes everyday elements from a found object garden or a chaotic kitchen. Ms. Drabkin translates these forms into paintings that use color to apply musical structure to her lived experience, and her pieces create visual dances of form to build a conversation between exterior reality and the imagination.

Ms. Drabkin holds a BFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art and an MFA from Queens College (CUNY). Represented by Kraushaar Galleries since 1994, her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally and is included in many public and private collections. A founding faculty member of the Delaware College of Art and Design, she has also taught at the University of Nebraska/Omaha, Southern Connecticut State University, Seton Hill University, Point Park University and Dartmouth College. 

An artist’s reception will be held at The Romano Gallery on November 15, beginning at 7 p.m., and members of the public are welcome to attend.

After Buc-Falcon Tie, Blair & Peddie Share Cup!

Go Bucs...and Falcons! As the sun set over Blairstown on November 3, athletes and spectators celebrated a tie between the Blair Bucs and Peddie Falcons in the 2018 contest for the Kelley-Potter Cup, which the two schools will share for the next year until they face one another again in 2019 in Hightstown.

This year, six Blair teams prevailed in their match-ups against Peddie and one team tied, making the 2018 competition a nail-biter right up to the conclusion of the varsity soccer game, which was followed by the traditional Cup ceremony on the 50-yard line of the football field. The final score for the day was 6-6-1, one of the few ties in the 115-year history of the Blair-Peddie rivalry.

In accepting the shared cup alongside Peddie’s Head of School Peter Quinn, Chris Fortunato thanked the Falcons for traveling to Blairstown and commended all of the athletes for strong performances throughout the day.

The Peddie Day scoreboard is posted below; look for team-by-team recaps on Blair’s athletics page. To view more photos from the day, visit Blair's Photoshelter account.

Sports Scores Summary

Varsity football: L (14-21)

JV football (played on 10/29): W (20-18)

Boys’ cross country: L (0-1)

Girls’ cross country: W (1-0)

Boys’ varsity soccer: L (1-3)

Boys’ JV soccer: T (0-0)

Boys’ thirds soccer: L (0-1)

Girls’ varsity soccer: W (2-0)

Girls’ JV soccer: W (1-0)

Varsity field hockey: W (6-0)

JV field hockey: W (3-1)

Girls’ varsity tennis: L (3-4)

Girls’ JV tennis (played on 10/29): L (2-3)

Alumni Gathering

For the third-consecutive year, Blair celebrated its rivalry with the Peddie Falcons by hosting events on November 1 in seven cities across the United States, including Boston, Chicago, Easton, Pennsylvania, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, New York and Washington, D.C.

“Peddie Day is one of Blair’s most meaningful traditions, and the experience spans generations,” said Director of Alumni Relations Shaunna Murphy. “Everyone has a Peddie Day story—whether about pranks in the week leading up to the athletic contests or a goal or touchdown that made all the difference on the big day. Hosting these pre-Peddie Day events is a great opportunity for our alumni and parents to connect with one another and to the School.”

This year, many of the events were especially alumni-driven; in fact, the New York City and Philadelphia gatherings were planned by a handful of regional chapter committee members who organized logistics and reached out to classmates in person and online.

While alumni in every city enjoyed drinks and appetizers, those in Boston, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., competed against one another at bowling alleys, a different twist on the festivities this year.

“I think everyone who bowled or simply enjoyed happy hour were struck by just how much school spirit we have, even years after graduation,” Mrs. Murphy continued. “The jokes and laughter were infectious and it put everyone in the right mindset before the Bucs take on the Falcons in Blairstown and, hopefully, take back the Kelley-Potter Cup!”

War in Afghanistan Is Focus of November 6 Skeptics
Jason Howk

Retired Army Maj. Jason C. Howk returned to the Society of Skeptics on November 6 to discuss “Afghanistan: America’s Longest War.” During his Army service (1991-2015), Mr. Howk spent several years in Afghanistan and worked extensively with the State Department, intelligence agencies, academia and international diplomats on Afghan issues. Now an author, teacher and speaker, he shared insight into the history of relations among the U.S., Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the cause and progress of the war. In addition, Mr. Howk examined the war’s future and the key issues that will affect its outcome. His presentation took place in the Chiang Center for Innovation and Collaboration.

Mr. Howk began his military service as an enlisted paratrooper; upon earning his commission in 2000, he served the balance of his career as an engineer officer and foreign area officer. During two tours in Afghanistan, as aide-de-camp to Maj. Gen. Karl Eikenberry (2002-2003), aide-de-camp to Gen. Stanley McChrystal and military assistant to Sir Graeme Lamb (2009-2010), he was involved in building the Afghan national army, guiding the Afghan Security Sector Reform program and developing the Afghan Peace, Reintegration and Reconciliation program. As a South Asia foreign area officer from 2011 to 2013, he led high-level government and civilian teams focused on the Afghan and Pakistan regions.

Mr. Howk holds a master’s degree in Middle East and South Asia security studies from the Naval Postgraduate School and studied Dari (Afghan Farsi) and Arabic at the Defense Language Institute. A Malone Fellow in Arab and Islamic Studies and former term member at the Council on Foreign Relations, he has authored numerous scholarly and professional articles, and his books include Lions in the Path of Stability and Security: Oman’s Response to Pressing Issues in the Middle East and The Qur’an: A Chronological Modern English Interpretation. He serves as a mentor and advisor to young people who are interested in careers in defense, diplomacy and intelligence.

During his two previous Skeptics presentations, Mr. Howk shared his extensive knowledge of Islam and of the Qur’an. He enjoyed returning to Blair to delve more deeply into the war in Afghanistan, as he has been involved in it as a service member or as an advisor to military and diplomatic leaders since 2002. “I hoped to give students a better understanding of the war, including why we are there and how we will finish it based on the current strategy,” Mr. Howk said. “This war has affected the Blair family and will likely individually impact every student in some way over the next decade.”

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.