Blair from the sky
The Crusaders play
2019 Day of Service
Kathryn & Lakeside Halls
Spring on campus
Spring Track
Spring on campus
Math class
Girls Golf
Campus aerial
Girls dorm
Spring Concert
Mr. Compton English class
Go Back for Murder play
Boys Lacrosse
Boys dorm
Student in class
Boys Golf
Filming class
Boys Tennis
Spring Concert
Girls Lacrosse
Chiang Center Forum
2019 Commencement

Pomp, circumstance, happy graduates and proud parents were the order of the day at Blair’s 171st commencement on May 23. The tradition-filled ceremony was held on Sharpe House lawn, where families and friends celebrated bright futures ahead for Blair’s 131 graduates.

The ceremony began as faculty and Trustees processed to their seats amid enthusiastic applause, followed by the beaming members of the class of 2019. The Rev. Lisa Durkee, Blair’s chaplain, addressed the assembly with an invocation, and Head of School Chris Fortunato and Senior Class Council members Cheuk Kiu Justin Leung ’19 and Jillian Rogers ’19 each shared warm words of welcome.

Several outstanding members of Blair’s faculty received recognition for their dedication to Blair’s students and their teaching profession. Assistant Head of School and Dean of Faculty Lorry Perry, Dean of Students Carmelo Mazza and Mr. Fortunato each stepped to the podium to present faculty awards. Next, Mr. Fortunato, Associate Head of School Ryan Pagotto ’97 and Dean of Academics Nathan Molteni acknowledged the achievements of five seniors as they awarded the Headmaster’s Prize, the Blair Academy Trophy and the George P. Jenkins ’32 Prize (please see full list of award winners below).

Anthony Moore ’19 and Linda Tong ’19 shared the honors as this year’s recipients of the George P. Jenkins ’32 Prize and the 2019 class speakers. Anthony spoke gratefully about the warmth and kindness of the Blair community. He shared special memories of moments with friends, noting that while academic and extracurricular challenges will be tougher in college, “the most difficult part, by far, will be finding new people who can compare to the ones we are leaving today.”

“Our time at Blair has been a privilege for many, many reasons, but the 131 brilliant, talented and unbelievably kind people I am lucky to call my classmates are what have made this place truly special,” he said. “We have all been truly lucky to be part of this wonderful, amazing class.”

In her remarks, Linda shared a “love letter” to Blair Academy. “As much as I love this place now,” she said. “That wasn’t always true.” She described how she was terrified in her early days at Blair, but that the wise words of an upperclassman convinced her that she should make the most of her time on campus. The more she became involved, said yes to every opportunity and allowed herself to be vulnerable, the more she fell in love with Blair.

Concluding with words of advice for her classmates, Linda said, “I dare you to fall in love again, wherever you are next year. You are the most talented group of human beings I know, and you don’t know just how talented you are until you try. Take risks and say yes.”

Finally, the moment the class of 2019 was eagerly anticipating arrived: the awarding of diplomas. Each senior crossed the stage as his or her name was read, and they exchanged hugs and handshakes with Mr. Fortunato. Families and friends cheered for the graduates, while happy tears were shed, as well.

Mr. Fortunato addressed the graduates one final time before they headed out into world as Blair alumni, describing the members of the class of 2019 as his heroes. “I see you in this way not because you are perfect or because of your number of 6.0s, goals, prizes or achievements, but because you have been brave enough to continue this journey with us, celebrating your triumphs and, more importantly, facing your fears,” he said. “You were flawed, but true heroes always are.”

He advised the classmates to remain optimistic, to be builders of society, and to extend the kindness and love they have known at Blair to all they encounter. “Stay true to that, my friends, and to yourselves,” Mr. Fortunato concluded, “and, I assure you, you will always be heroes.”

The traditional pennant presentation brought the ceremony to a close. Robert Jenkins ’69, a member of this year’s 50th reunion class, handed the class of 2019 pennant to Faith Marie Sanchez ’19, symbolizing a hearty welcome to the graduates as they join Blair’s alumni body. Faith led the recessional as the Blair Academy Commencement Ensemble played “Ode to Joy,” and the class of 2019 jubilantly celebrated this milestone event with their families and friends.

Faculty awards presented at graduation:

Apgar Award for Teaching Excellence: English teacher Becca Litvin ’10
Riether Residential Life Award: Associate Dean of Students Caroline Wilson
John C. and Eve S. Bogle Teaching Prize: math teacher R. Latta Browse
Headmaster’s Faculty Prize: language teacher Lian Wang
Tedlow Teaching Prize: history teacher Quinten Clarke ’87

Student awards presented at graduation:

Headmaster’s Prize: Aiden Abrahamsen ’19 & Cornelia Sigety ’19

Blair Academy Trophy: Madison Jones ’19

George P. Jenkins ’32 Prize: Anthony Moore ’19 & Linda Tong ’19


Last night’s traditional Baccalaureate service gave seniors the opportunity to reflect on their Blair experience and hear words of wisdom from a beloved faculty member they selected to speak on the night before their graduation.

The program has long been a Blair tradition and began with a bagpiper-led procession through the Arch to Armstrong-Hipkins Center for the Arts, where faculty members lined the sidewalk and applauded the graduating class. Once inside, the service was spiritual in nature and included readings by Daisy Kahn ’19, Jacob Leddy ’19 and John Zoetjes ’19, as well as musical meditations performed by the Blair Academy Chamber Orchestra, the Blair Academy Singers and the student-run A Cappella group.

Head of School Chris Fortunato introduced the evening’s keynote speaker, Associate Dean of Admission Leucretia Shaw, a fellow boarding school graduate who attended The Lawrenceville School. Mrs. Shaw shared with students the importance of being grateful for life’s lessons and from whom or what we learn those lessons.

“I challenge you to express your gratitude openly and honestly and to live thankfully, for you are alive and you are here on this earth to serve a purpose,” she said. “Each and every one of us is here for a reason. Relish that and always be grateful to be here, even on the bad days, because according to one of my closest friends, ‘God don’t make no mistakes.’”

Mrs. Shaw has been a Blair faculty member since 2010, and has held numerous roles across campus, most recently as a member of the admission office, freshman class monitor, Blair LEADS teacher, advisor and a member of the Faculty Executive Committee. In past years, she has also taught Spanish, a subject in which she majored at Georgetown University before getting her master’s degree in educational leadership from Columbia University’s Teacher’s College.

Having experienced boarding school herself as a youngster from the Bronx who later became a boarding school teacher and is now a Blair parent of Nia ’17 and Ian ’20, Ms. Shaw is well-suited to talk about the anticipation and excitement—and, yes, gratitude—that students feel on the eve of commencement. She talked about her own teachers—actual teachers, as well as the other people in her life and experiences from which she has learned valuable lessons—and delved into her own gratitude for family, friends, colleagues and, of course, the students of the class of 2019.

“The wonderful thing about life is that we are all students, we are all learners, and you have been my most surprising teachers,” she said. “I have been a student of yours, inspired by you, motivated by you, and I am grateful for the lessons you have imparted.”

To watch the Baccalaureate service in full, please click here.


Blair seniors and their families came together in Armstrong-Hipkins Center for the Arts to celebrate class members’ many accomplishments at one final prize assembly before commencement. Mr. Fortunato welcomed the audience, noting the class of 2019’s many exceptional achievements and his anticipation of students’ great successes beyond Blair as undergraduates and young professionals.

“Look around this theatre at your friends, at your faculty, at your family that has enriched your lives over your years at Blair,” said Mr. Fortunato. “Soak it in for the last time, the experience of sitting in this place, in these chairs as Blair students. Remember both the good times and the challenging ones, for all we have experienced together has formed you into the person you are today. And we wouldn’t want it any other way.”

“Let us be thankful for the people, the place, the ideas and opportunities that have come into our lives through Blair,” he concluded. “I am grateful you have shared yourself and allowed us the pleasure of being a part of your growing up here. I am especially grateful for having the chance to grow alongside of you, and for how you and your faculty continue to make me a better Head of School and a better person.” 

Following Dean of Academics Nathan Molteni’s recognition of seniors who had received awards earlier in the week, Associate Head of School Ryan Pagotto ’97 thanked prefects, athletic team captains and the Senior Class Council for their contributions to the community and love of Blair. 

“My charge this evening is recognize those of you who have held more formalized leadership roles at school this year, but, in many respects, you have all led, in one way or another,” he said. “As seniors, you are the Blair culture carriers; underclassmen take their cues from you all across this campus. When we gathered this year as a community, you contributed greatly to the tone that was set. Your voices have been essential to the Blair experience, and we are thankful for that.” 

English teacher Kaye Evans then officially inducted the seniors who were elected to join Blair’s chapter of the cum laude society and Blair administrators took the stage to present a range of Blair’s top prizes to deserving students (see the full list of inductees and awardees below).

The class later presented Mr. Fortunato with their class gift: a check for $4,561.14, made possible by a 3:1 match from Trustee Emeritus Jim Krugman ’65 and his wife, Connie. This marks the 18th-consecutive year that the Krugmans have made this generous match of the senior class gift and, in doing so, underlined the importance of giving back to Blair for students who will soon be alumni. This year’s senior class gift is designated for the endowed Class of 2019 Scholarship. Seniors and their parents raised $264,549 to fund the scholarship, which will provide the gift of a Blair education to deserving students for years to come.

As the assembly came to a close, the audience reflected on their time at Blair during a video perspective screened by students who created a film as part of an after-school activity this spring. 

Congratulations to all students who received prizes at the Class of 2019 Assembly (and to watch the assembly in full, click here):

The Franklin Prize: Alexandra Foster Glickman

The Elaine & James Kelley Prize: Henry Thomas Somerville

The Selena & James Howard Prize: Jacob Harrison Leddy

The Selena & James Howard Prize: Serena Rachel Ninomiya

The Lee Rose Memorial Trophy: Jasmine Mustafa

The Lee Rose Memorial Trophy: Jessica Marie Van Valkenburg

The Harold F. Walker Memorial Prize: Cheuk Kiu Justin Leung

The Harold F. Walker Memorial Prize: Joseph Peter Mantegna

Robert Dalling Prize: Owen Addison Trephan

William Zester Memorial Award: Esther Anna Marie Pasternak

Herbert J. Siegel Prize: Kerem Ekta Ayhan

Herbert J. Siegel Prize: Serena Rachel Ninomiya

Herbert J. Siegel Prize: Summer Savannah Will

Herbert J. Siegel Prize: Keenan Toliver Worthington


Cum Laude Inductions 

Elected to cum laude both junior & senior year

Jacob Leddy

Tianzhuo Li

Anthony Moore

Emily Neuffer

Serena Ninomiya

Hai Phan

Samuel Salander

Kate Setteducate

Justin Shi

Linda Tong

Jessica Van Valkenburg

Cleary Waldo


Elected to cum laude senior year

Zoe Affron

Nancy Beaujeu-Dufour

Erica Choi

Bryson Garriques

Tanner Humphrey

Daisy Kahn

Ava Katz

Genevieve Koffman

Joseph Mantegna

Alexa Setteducate

Lena Srun

Summer Will


Prom-goers enjoyed hors d'oeuvres, dinner and dancing all night long at Perona Farms in Andover, New Jersey, on Tuesday, May 21. The prom, which takes place two days before graduation, gives students the opportunity for a classic night of fun off campus.

Prior to departing campus, prom-goers gathered at Sharpe House, wearing their best formal attire. They exchanged corsages and boutonnieres, posed for photos and enjoyed the beautiful weather.

To view more photos, click here to visit Blair's Photoshelter.

2019 Senior Prize Assembly

In the lead up to commencement, members of the class of 2019 were recognized for their academic and athletic achievements at the Senior Prize Assembly on May 20. Dean of Academics Nathan Molteni welcomed seniors and their families to Armstrong-Hipkins Center for the Arts’ DuBois Theatre and opened the ceremony with congratulatory remarks and words of advice for the soon-to-be graduates.

“This is only the start of the next story, the next part of your life. We know you are ready, and we’re proud of the people you have become,” Mr. Molteni said. “Share in each other’s joy, sadness, nostalgia, uncertainty and even pride, the last and essential part of tonight’s assembly. If there’s one lesson we’ve all learned each year, students and faculty alike, it’s this: Experiencing this journey of learning and growth together is what makes our experiences worthwhile.”

Academic department chairs and administrators took their turn at the podium to recognize students for their outstanding work across the curriculum (please see below for full list of awardees)

Finally, Assistant Head of School and Dean of Faculty Lorry Perry presented the James M. Howard Jr. Fellowship Prize to Director of Vocal Music Ryan Manni. The award honors a faculty member early in his or her career who has especially impacted the Blair community over the course of the school year. Each year, the Senior Class Council helps choose its recipient. 

“Mr. Manni is known for his deep and genuine care for everyone he encounters,” Ms. Perry said in presenting the award. “With great energy and verve, he pushes his students to be better. He dedicates his entire self to helping his students reach their goals…[Mr. Manni] knows how to have fun and how to teach at an elite level, thanks to his high standards and creativity.”

Head of School Chris Fortunato concluded the Senior Prize Assembly by thanking the faculty members who have been seniors’ teachers, coaches, cheerleaders and confidants over the years, and expressing his pride in the class of 2019. “It’s extraordinary what you’ve done to distinguish yourselves as scholars, performers, athletes and friends,” he said. “I don’t know if you realize just how much that inspires all of us, and how it truly serves as a wonderful model for those who aspire to be on this stage in the years to come.”

2019 prize winners:

THE HARDING MEMORIAL PRIZE, awarded to that student who has contributed most to musical organizations: Cornelia Ring Sigety & Summer Savannah Will 

THE ROBERT F. HARRIS MEMORIAL TROPHY, awarded to a member of the senior class for special interest and outstanding achievement in the study of English literature: Linda Kaihua Tong & Summer Savannah Will

THE ROBERT F. HARRIS DRAMATICS AWARD, presented to that member of the student body who has shown the highest standard of excellence in dramatics: Matthew Michael Bottone 

THE PAUL R. WHITE HISTORY PRIZE, awarded to that student who is considered to be the most proficient history student in the senior class: Linda Kaihua Tong & Cleary Ruth Waldo

THE CHARLES H. BREED LATIN PRIZE, awarded to an outstanding student in advanced Latin: Summer Savannah Will

THE DALE ROSENSON DRAMATICS PRIZE, given in memory of Dale Rosenson '72 and presented to a senior who has demonstrated dedication, reliability, imagination and technical proficiency in lighting, sound, special effects and set management for theatrical productions at Blair: Jingyi Chen

THE DUMONT ENGLISH PRIZE, awarded to the member of the senior class who ranked highest in English and presented in memory of the late Senator Wayne Dumont and his father, Wayne Dumont Sr. by Mrs. Helen Dumont: Zoe Elizabeth Affron & Andrew Paul Brooks

THE JOSEPH F. EBERLE MEMORIAL PRIZE, awarded to that student who exhibits outstanding achievement in music: Yu Cao & Joy Cheng

THE WINSON D. EWING PRIZE, awarded to that student who is considered to be the most outstanding mathematics student in the senior class: Samuel A. Salander

THE DURLAND PRIZE FOR EXCELLENCE IN COMPUTER SCIENCE, awarded to that student who has demonstrated extraordinary ability and interest in computer programming or computer applications while at Blair: Justin Shi 

THE AP SCIENCE PRIZE, presented to that student who exhibits an overwhelming passion and commitment toward science and who has written a superior academic record in multiple AP science courses: Sixiang Dong & Summer Savannah Will

THE DONALD E. LAWSHE PRIZE, presented in memory of former Blair physics teacher Donald E. Lawshe and presented to that student who has consistently demonstrated a passion for science, and a dedication to interests beyond the classroom: Jessica Lee Schable

THE KAMPMANN VIDEO PRIZE, named for Blair video program creators Judith Kahan Kampmann and Steven Kampmann and awarded to that student each year whose exceptional talent, enthusiasm, dedication and accomplishment in visual expression and storytelling not only meets the highest standards of excellence, but uniquely sets him/her apart from all others: Maxum Joseph O’Halloran 

AN ART PRIZE, awarded to the student who, in her study of art, is widening her life by sharpening his perceptions: Cecelia Mae Fralick

PURCHASE ART PRIZE, awarded to the student for the purchase of their artwork to be displayed at the School: Clare Yao Yanting Lieberman Grant

THE PETER L. AMERMAN RELIGION PRIZE, awarded to that student of religion who has been most challenged by the material encountered and who has demonstrated an effort to re-evaluate the philosophy of life accordingly: Hai Thanh Phan

THE MARGUERITE DEYSSON HABERMANN MEMORIAL FRENCH PRIZE, awarded to a senior who has done exceptionally well in French: Andrew Paul Brooks & Cleary Ruth Waldo

Other prizes given for outstanding performance were:

Chinese: Ava Elisabeth Katz

Spanish: Alexandra Foster Glickman

Outstanding Achievement in the Study of a Foreign Language: Linda Kaihua Tong 

Two-Dimensional Art: Cheuk Kiu Justin Leung

Three-Dimensional Art: Nancy Monahan Beaujeu-Dufour

Photography: Jessica Marie Van Valkenburg

U.S. History: Hai Thanh Phan

Newton Prize for Calculus: Hai Thanh Phan

John Wyeth Yearbook Prize: Olivia Claire Altman, Xiaofei Gu, Samantha Porsche Tsang

Senior Athletic Award, given to students who have earned seven or more varsity letters (five varsity letters for new juniors or three varsity letters for postgraduates):

William Arnold

Kerem Ayhan

Karenna Benanti

Victoria Benanti

Avery Clavel

Tiheem Crocker

Ian Willis Crosland

Madison Jones

Abigail Kreider

Emily Mooney

Rachel Ninomiya

Junhan Park

Esther Pasternak

Alexa Setteducate

Kate Setteducate

Henry Somerville

Caeley Tierney

Cleary Waldo


Yearbook Dedication

At School Meeting on May 20, yearbook editors Olivia Altman ’19, Fiona Gu ’19 and Samantha Tsang ’19 were excited to give the first 2019 yearbook to math teacher Danyelle Doldoorian, to whom the 2019 ACTA was dedicated.

“Your constant positivity is a motivation to everyone you meet on this campus, and we are so lucky to have you here at Blair,” said Fiona, adding that “Ms. D” is “so deserving” of this honor.

Ms. Doldoorian is an alumna of Trinity College and holds a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and educational studies. A Blair faculty member since 2014, she teaches AP calculus AB, pre-calculus and number theory courses, coaches girls’ basketball and field hockey, and helps run Blair’s Healthy Relationships Committee (HRC). She resides and serves dorm duty in Annie Hall.

2018 Commencement

Blair Academy will livestream several events this week as we celebrate the class of 2019. Please click the links below to access the livestream broadcasts:

Senior Prize Assembly, Monday, May 20, 5 p.m.

Class of 2019 Assembly, Wednesday, May 22, 5 p.m.

Baccalaureate, Wednesday, May 22, 8 p.m.

Commencement, Thursday, May 23, 11 a.m.

Next week, family and friends are invited to view the Underclass Prize Assembly livestream by clicking the link below: 

Underclass Prize Assembly, Tuesday, May 28, 5 p.m.

Ryan Green '19

The class of 2019 celebrated an important Blair rite of passage on May 13 as the highly anticipated Senior Public Speaking Contest took place in Armstrong-Hipkins Center for the Arts. Eleven seniors, one from each section of 12th grade English, stepped up to the podium in DuBois Theatre and eloquently delivered an original five- to seven-minute address. A panel of faculty judges chose the winning speakers, and their names were announced at School Meeting on May 20: Madison Jones ’19 received first prize, Kendrick Ng-Yow ’19 received second prize, and third prize was awarded to Linda Tong ’19.

The individual topics of this year’s speeches varied widely, but each student was given the same assignment: They were to craft a speech that in some way embodied their sense of identity and articulately express that identity in a public setting. Students accomplished this by sharing an interest or goal, revisiting meaningful experiences, speculating on life and more. Each senior delivered his or her speech during English class, and students shared feedback with their teachers on who should advance to the competition.

“The Senior Public Speaking Contest provides a broad valedictory opportunity for seniors and gives them a chance to leave a lasting impression on the School community,” said English department chair Jim Moore, coordinator of this year’s event. He noted that Blair’s curriculum-wide emphasis on public speaking begins freshman year with the Blair Leadership Stories Project and culminates with the Senior Public Speaking Contest. “For most of our seniors, this competition represents their final opportunity before graduation to showcase the public speaking skills they’ve developed over their time at Blair.” 

To watch the winning speeches, please click below:

Day of Service

Nearly 500 Blair students, teachers and staff members assembled throughout the area on the morning of May 17 to serve with area nonprofits on the School's fifth-annual Day of Service. Working in teams, Blair community members took on 24 individual projects that addressed needs including translating documents, animal welfare, environmental conservation and much more, all in an effort to make a difference.

Noting that this year’s program was slightly different in that volunteers were involved in new kinds of project work, including bringing an outside nonprofit group to campus, Day of Service organizers Joanne Brandwood and Kaye Evans were pleased to see so many in the school community excited about giving back to the community. 

“It’s important for our community to give back, and stepping away from academics, the arts and athletics to focus on the needs of those around you exposes our students to volunteering,” said Mrs. Brandwood, who teaches history and coordinates Blair’s Service Corps activities with English teacher Mrs. Evans. “Often this day is what sparks a lifelong career of service in a lot of Blair students.”

A Personal Story of Change

The day kicked off with an all-school assembly at which Fran Held, founder and executive director of the Mitzvah Circle Foundation, motivated students with her story of starting a nonprofit. Ms. Held started the Mitzvah Circle Foundation to provide hope and restore dignity to individuals and families during times of crisis, poverty, homelessness and serious illness. “It only takes a small act of service to kickstart a chain reaction of change,” Ms. Held said.

Ms. Held discussed the needs of those whom her organization helps, noting the most frequent requests include simple necessities. She then surveyed the room, asking students how many took these basic necessities for granted, such as pillows or soap. “It’s often these most basic things that allow parents to go to work and students to go to school.  Without baby diapers or clothing parents can't go to work and children can't attend daycare. By providing these basic necessities to families, lives are transformed.”

Ms. Held concluded with a message of inspiration for students about their actions after this day. “Each of you has the power to make a difference in the world, find your inspiration to serve and keep hold of it.”

Expanding Across the Region

Following the assembly, students, faculty, staff and parents dispersed for their project work, some of whom traveled as far as Scranton, Pa, and included initiatives sponsored by Blairstown Township.

This year’s activities involved a new service project, which brought residents of SCARC to campus for a day of activities. Based in Sussex County, N.J., SCARC is a non-profit organization committed to working within our communities to meet the challenges of supporting and working with individuals with developmental disabilities and their families. Led by associate dean of students Andee Ryerson and director of academic support Allison Leddy, guests were welcomed to Hardwick Hall and played games on the turf field, swam in the pool and hiked around Blair’s campus. The day concluded with a dance party, led by director of vocal music Ryan Manni.

“The SCARC project was an unbelievable success, and I am so proud of everyone who was a part of building this project for the first time.” Ms. Brandwood remarked at the next School Meeting. “I believe this is the start of a long running Day of Service tradition that will impact lives for years to come.”

Celebrating Change

When all the buses and vans returned to campus, the community came together again to relax and enjoy one another's company at a barbecue dinner. Both Mrs. Brandwood and Head of School Chris Fortunato shared words of gratitude later that evening, with Mr. Fortunato reflecting that serving others and doing good work is about the choices and dedication to change we make throughout our lives.

 “After six years, the Day of Service has become one of the best Blair traditions our students can experience, one that demonstrates the greatest of what it means to be a part of this amazing community,” Mrs. Brandwood said.


2019 Leadership Dinner

The School celebrated and thanked its most loyal and generous donors on April 26 at the annual Leadership Dinner. This year’s event, held in the Chiang Center for Innovation and Collaboration and the Romano Dining Hall, featured a special tribute to the late John C. Bogle ’47, Chairman Emeritus of the Blair Board of Trustees, who passed away in January at the age of 89. Trustees, faculty members and more than 100 invited guests honored Mr. Bogle’s unparalleled legacy of leadership and service to his alma mater, while also applauding numerous honorees who have supported Blair through their generous philanthropy.

The evening began with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres in the Chang Center’s Collaboration Forum, where guests enjoyed a video retrospective of Mr. Bogle’s singular, transformative impact on Blair Academy. The Blair Academy Singers performed the Blair “Alma Mater,” one of Mr. Bogle’s favorite songs, and Head of School Chris Fortunato spoke about Mr. Bogle’s deep care for his beloved School on the hill. 

Attendees then proceeded to the Romano Dining Hall, where scholarship recipients Faith Sanchez ’19 and Summer Will ’19 shared their Blair experiences and thanked the donors whose generous gifts made it possible for them to attend. Later in the evening, Mr. Fortunato and Chairman of the Blair Board of Trustees Doug Kimmelman expressed gratitude to this year’s Leadership Dinner honorees and presented those in attendance with framed prints of the Blair Arch. 

The 2019 Leadership Dinner honorees include Mr. Emmanuel Bello ’04, Dr. Jixin Dai and Dr. Yi Liu P’21, Mr. Jianqiang Cui and Mrs. Xiaodan Zhang P’22, Mr. and Mrs. Peter S. Humphrey ’62, Mr. and Mrs. Paul Jacobs ’63, Mr. Hong Jun Li and Ms. Fan Yang P’19, Mr. and Mrs. John P. Mooney Jr. P’19, Mr. and Mrs. Peter T. Reardon P’19, Mr. and Mrs. Peter Santoro P’22, Mr. David P. Quinlivan and Ms. Van N. Ton-Quinlivan, and Mr. Zhihui Tan and Ms. Liling Ke P’21.  

“I am delighted to recognize these benefactors for the deep care they have shown for our School and the Blair community,” Mr. Fortunato said. “Their generous philanthropy supports our dedicated faculty, scholarship aid, campus projects and a host of programs that amplify the Blair experience for each of our students. Throughout his 47 years of service to Blair, Jack Bogle encouraged every member of the Blair family to care for the School he held so dear. These honorees are leading the way for the future of Blair Academy.”

2019 Varsity Softball State Champs
2019 Varsity Softball State Champs

Blair’s varsity softball team capped a memorable 2019 season by winning the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) and NJISAA prep “A” state championships for the second year in a row. The team’s MAPL record was 9-1, and the Lady Bucs claimed the state championship on May 16 by defeating Lawrenceville 3-2 in front of a home crowd in Blairstown.

Blair opened the championship game with great offense, scoring three runs to set the winning tone. Lawrenceville made a final push in the sixth inning, scoring two runs to get back into the game. However, the Lady Bucs held their own to win Blair’s sixth state title since 2009.

Ashton Martini ’20 contributed an outstanding championship-game performance. As the starting catcher, she defended the plate successfully, allowing no balls to get past her the entire game.

“Winning back to back MAPL titles is a huge accomplishment and a testament to the tenacity and drive of this team,” said varsity softball coach Carolyn Conforti-Browse ’79. “Jesse Schable ’19 struck out 13, while Gwen Safin ’20, Gretchen Mayer ’19 and Rachel Ninomiya ’19 had the three crucial RBIs as the Bucs edged the Larries in a tense battle. Sydney Wolfe ’20 scored the winning run. Jesse finishes her career breaking the record for strikeouts and with over 100 hits. Middle infielders Katie Miller ’21 and Jenna Van Valkenburg ’21 locked down our defense, playing flawlessly.”

In addition to its six state championships, Blair softball has earned seven MAPL championships since 2004. Congratulations, Blair softball!

Arch in spring

With one week to go before graduation, seniors took the opportunity to express thanks to all who helped them during their Blair careers at the annual Gratitude Chapel. Patrick Reardon ’19, Julian Ramirez ’19, Gretchen Mayer ’19 and Henry Somerville ’19 each addressed the School community in Armstrong-Hipkins Center for the Arts’ DuBois Theatre, sharing thoughts about the people for whom they are most grateful.

“I really wanted to give this Chapel because, even though it may seem cliché, I owe everything to Blair,” Patrick said, citing Dean of Students Carm Mazza, Head of School Chris Fortunato, and his advisor, Associate Head of School and Dean of Faculty Lorry Perry, as among many faculty members he wanted to recognize. “My friends also helped shape who I am so much more than I could've imagined. I wanted to give them a sincere thank you, as they deserve it.”

Julian took the opportunity to especially thank his advisor, English teacher Kaye Evans, his wrestling teammates who are like family to him, and varsity wrestling coach Brian Antonelli ’93, among many others. He described how he chose to stay at Blair even when it was difficult. “I can’t say I’ve ever made a better decision in my life,” he said.

Henry expressed gratitude to those who made his postgraduate year possible and helped him along the way, including varsity football coach Jim Saylor and math department chair Caren Standfast ’95, his housemaster in Mason Hall. Describing how she “cares for all of us in Mason as if we were one of her own,” he concluded, “And for all the days where we stressed you out but you continued to support us unconditionally, I thank you Mrs. Standfast; you've made us all better young men.”

A desire to get out of her comfort zone and be part of a great Blair tradition propelled Gretchen to speak at the Gratitude Chapel. She thanked her dear friend Jillian Rodgers ’19, whom she has known since fourth grade, and offered shoutouts to several other students who positively impacted her Blair experience. Gretchen concluded her speech by opening the floor to the rest of the senior class. “The most important people in our lives know how much they mean to us, but there are many who have no idea,” she said. “Please stand and give your thanks, especially to those who may not know how much you appreciate them.”

An outpouring of gratitude followed, punctuated by applause, laughter and even a few tears, as the class of 2019 completed their final Chapel and took one more step toward graduation on May 23.


Blair's MAPL-champion softball team takes on Lawrenceville in the New Jersey prep "A" state finals on Thursday, May 16. The game, which takes place at Blair, will be livestreamed here beginning at 4:30 p.m.

Capstone English

While Advanced Placement (AP) English language is the spring semester English course taken by most Blair seniors, this year 14 students explored their creative side by enrolling in the new “English 4-Capstone” course. Over the past several months, these students have developed original writing projects focused on a strong personal interest, and they presented their projects to their classmates and several faculty members in the final days of the semester.

English department chair Jim Moore taught “English 4-Capstone” this spring, and he explained that the course gave students a formal opportunity to dig into a topic they had always wished to explore or a question they wanted to answer. Some students came into the semester with a clear concept of what their final project would look like, while others brought vague ideas that they have developed into 15-page written works. 

Mr. Moore mentored each student throughout the semester, helping them focus their ideas, pointing them to resources and providing in-depth feedback to rough drafts. “Some students were initially daunted by the 15-page writing requirement, but as they got into their projects, several went well beyond that page count,” he said. “Their level of engagement was impressive, and it was interesting to see their work evolve over the course of the semester.”

Matt Bottone ’19, an aspiring actor and playwright, developed a 100-page script for a new play, The Crusaders, which premieres at Blair’s Robert J. Evans Open Air Theatre on May 16, 17 and 18. Having begun work on his project during the fall semester as a member of Mr. Moore’s narrative writing class, Matt enrolled in “English 4-Capstone” because, as he put it, “it was the only feasible way for me to have enough time to write the spring show in time for production.”

“I learned so much about the craft of playwriting, directing and just theatre in general through this process,” said Matt, a seasoned Blair thespian. “The best part of this course was how supportive Mr. Moore was of our projects. He did so much to help us and always steered us in the right direction as we conducted research. I learned that I really enjoy playwriting, and I hope to create more plays down the line.”

Several students ended up creating a research paper as their final work, including Laney Vasseghi ’20, who developed her broad interest in psychology into a paper about the psychological disorder Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy. “I wanted to improve my writing skills in a setting where I had the ability to choose topics that interest me,” Laney said. “Having the freedom to pick and choose what I wanted to do was one of the best parts of the course.”

Using the resources in Timken Library to full advantage, she researched whether the child abuse aspect of the disorder is more prevalent in men or women and analyzed her findings. “I learned a lot, mostly about the disorder and how it can affect children and destroy families,” Laney said, adding, “I also learned how to write a 15-page paper in a clear, cohesive way.”

Genevieve Koffman ’19 took the plunge into long-form fiction during the semester, producing the first several chapters and a full outline of her as-yet-untitled novel. “My story follows the actions of a strong female protagonist surviving in a dystopian world,” she said. “It’s different from most fantasy stories because it incorporates an array of modern-day issues, specifically ones I value.”

Reflecting on the novel-writing process, Genevieve has realized that parts of her crave excitement and adventures, much like the ones her heroine experiences. Meanwhile, Mr. Moore has been impressed with the way she has taken her deep interest in math, science and computer science and channeled it into the creative process. 

“I’ve especially enjoyed working with Mr. Moore, who is a supportive, understanding and helpful teacher,” Genevieve said. “He has never judged my ridiculous ideas, and he is always trying to help me grow as a thinker and a writer. His excitement and passion for English made our class enjoyable.”

Prospective Families Welcome at Admission Spring Preview

Blair’s admission office will hold its annual Admission Spring Preview on Saturday, May 18, and the School community looks forward to welcoming families of seventh- and eighth-grade students who are considering boarding school for high school. The program begins at 9 a.m. and includes student and faculty panel discussions, a campus tour and an explanation of the admission process. A buffet luncheon will be provided, and all attendees are welcome to enjoy afternoon athletic contests on Blair’s fields.

Associate Head of School and Dean of Admission Peter G. Curran enthusiastically encouraged prospective families to attend Admission Spring Preview. “There is no better way to experience Blair’s warm and welcoming community than to spend a day on our campus,” he said. “Admission Spring Preview offers many opportunities to speak with Blair teachers, students and parents and to find out firsthand about the leading-edge academic and co-curricular programs taking place at Blair. I look forward to meeting many prospective families on May 18!”

Pre-registration is required for Admission Spring Preview. Please pre-register here.