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Beginning Wednesday, August 5, families may purchase textbooks online for the 2020-2021 school year. Students' course lists will be sent to parents prior to the start of the sale, and books can be ordered through Follett Virtual Bookstores. Students and parents may view course enrollments for the 2020-2021 school year in the OnCampus/OnRecord portal. 

Textbooks are no longer physically sold on Blair's campus, and online orders should be placed as soon as possible to guarantee delivery in time for the first day of classes on Monday, August 31. To place your order, click the link above or visit the School Store website, where there is also a link to Follett's offerings. 

In addition to new books, Follett also offers select titles at a discount for those interested in renting books or purchasing used books. From August 5 to August 18 (14 days), Blair students can receive free ground shipping (select “ground shipping” at checkout to apply the discount). Once an order is placed, Follett will send the shipment from its warehouse the same or next business day via FedEx. Expedited shipping options are available, but it is best to order early when the used-book selection is most robust. 

Students may have their textbooks shipped to their homes or, for those who would rather travel to Blairstown without textbooks, directly to the School. Such shipments should be addressed to the student who ordered them at Blair Academy, 2 Park St., Blairstown, NJ 07825. 

Parents are encouraged to sign up for the Virtual Bookstore email list at www.blair.bkstr.com; by doing so, you will receive direct notifications from Follett about upcoming promotions, buyback events, book availability and other reminders. 

For assistance in ordering books online, please refer to these instructions, call Follett's customer service department at (800) 381-5151 or email csvirtual@efollett.com. Follett accepts returns on books up to 30 days after an order has been placed or 30 days after the start of classes, whichever is later. 

If you have questions regarding textbook purchases, please contact School Store manager Reanne Mauriello at (908) 362-6121, ext. 5635, or maurir@blair.edu.
 

2019-2020 Registration

Registration for the 2020-2021 academic year is just a few weeks away, and we are looking forward to welcoming students and their parents to campus! 

Students will register in small groups from August 22 to 28, and each day is divided into two arrival/registration timeframes, from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. and from 1 to 4 p.m. Blair will confirm individual registration and arrival dates by August 17. The overall schedule is listed below for quick reference: 

  • Saturday 8/22- Returning international students (10th & 11th)
  • Sunday 8/23- Returning international students (12th) and new international students
  • Monday 8/24- Senior Class Council, Prefects, Be Well, Blue & White Key Society members
  • Tuesday 8/25- New non-international boarding students (9th)
  • Wednesday 8/26- Returning non-international students(12th) and new non-international boarding students (10,11,12)
  • Thursday 8/27- Returning 10th grade boarding students
  • Friday 8/28- Returning 11th grade boarding students

Further information about registration, packing, campus health and safety protocols, and more is available here. We are happy to answer any questions that may arise as you prepare for your arrival at Blair—please contact the student life office at (908) 362-5600 or email reopening@blair.edu. We look forward to seeing you in August!
 

Final Registration

Dear Blair students and parents,

If this global pandemic has taught us anything, it is that being “all in” and “all together” have never been more important, and we are making every effort to ensure our community’s safe return to Blair Academy for the fall semester. We simply cannot wait to welcome you to campus in August and embrace all that is best about Blair together on our hilltop. No doubt, after these many months apart, we will all return to Blair with a deeper appreciation for the transformative experiences and meaningful relationships that come from learning and living together on our beautiful and historic campus. 

Of course, protecting the health and well-being of all members of our community is our highest priority, so campus life must look different this fall. But the Blair community has a long history of overcoming challenges and making sacrifices for the greater good, and we are confident that the strategies we are adopting will allow us to continue to offer students an exceptional educational experience and vibrant community life. More than ever before, our daily actions and choices will impact the health and well-being of classmates, faculty and staff, as well as our ability to remain together for the fall semester. Given that our safe return to in-person teaching and learning will require some online components and not every Blair student is able to return to Blairstown immediately, we are excited to introduce new technologies that will connect us in new ways. Whether we are physically together or not, Blair is committed to being flexible and accessible in supporting students and families as we adjust to this “new normal” of Blair life. 

For those who will return to campus, we ask for your partnership in abiding by a host of collective community expectations designed to keep everyone on our hilltop healthy and well. The COVID-19 expectations outlined on the School’s reopening plan webpage are also included in our Student Handbook as an addendum. Please note that our plans take into account the guidance and direction provided by the state of New Jersey, our local health department, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and consulting physicians with expertise in infectious diseases. These expectations are to be followed until otherwise indicated and supersede any specific policies in our existing Student Handbook. Given the fluid nature of the pandemic, we will make adjustments quickly as needed and will keep all families updated as we proceed through the school year.  

While much has been done from a planning, logistics and public-health standpoint, the responsibility lies with all of us to fully commit to the following practices:

  • Physical distancing of six feet

  • Wearing masks whenever inside buildings or in public outdoor spaces, including the core of campus (except while eating in the dining room, when inside one’s dorm room, during athletic activities and when away from the core of campus)

  • Washing hands carefully and frequently 

  • Completing daily self-health screenings and temperature checks to actively monitor for symptoms of illness

We ask families to complete a form indicating when they plan to arrive on campus and their intentions for the fall semester by this Friday, July 24, to help guide us in our planning. We also ask that all community members sign the Buccaneer Pledge acknowledging receipt of our reopening plan expectations and signifying an understanding that they apply to each of us. We know from working with adolescents that 100-percent perfect compliance is not possible, and we have no desire to address lapses through our formal disciplinary system. However, we will take repeated failure to meet core community health expectations seriously, up to and including required time away from school. We are optimistic that our students’ care for one another and wish to do right by their teachers and classmates will carry us forward toward a healthy and safe 2020-2021 school year.

Thank you again for your support and partnership during this unprecedented time, and please be in touch with any questions or concerns. I invite you to participate in tonight's Parent Town Hall meeting (Wednesday, July 22, at 8 p.m. EST) to further discuss our reopening plans. While certainly no one anticipated Blair’s 173rd year opening with these protocols in place, the deep care and connection that make the Blair community so special have never been stronger, and we all look forward to joyfully reuniting on campus next month.

Warm regards,

Chris Fortunato & the Blair Academy Reopening Task Force

textbooks

Reading is an essential component of a Blair education, and faculty members encourage reading throughout the year. The summer is no exception, which is why all Blair students are expected to read a minimum of five fiction or nonfiction books over the summer, and they are urged to read even more.

The five books students read  may include titles of their choosing in addition to those required by their teachers. Depending upon their courses, they may also have associated assignments and/or assessments to complete.

Titles for 2020 summer reading assignments are listed below. New and returning students enrolled in certain language courses for the 2020-2021 academic year must also complete summer work. Details about the summer work for language courses is linked in the list below.

All School Read for 2020-2021: Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

Requirements for Selected Courses (listed by department) for 2020-2021

 

English

English 1: The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald)

English 2: Fahrenheit 451 (Bradbury)

English 3: Into the Wild (Krakauer)

English 3 AP or 4 AP Literature: Let the Great World Spin (McCann)

English 4 AP Language: Between the World and Me (Coates)

 

History

Global Issues; Modern European; US History: In lieu of summer reading, these courses are allowed to assign a book over either the winter or spring break.

AP European History: Darkness at Noon (Koestler); please review instructions here for this reading.

 

Science

Chemistry Honors: Stuff Matters: Exploring the Marvelous Materials that Shape our Man-made World (Miodownik). Dr. Sayers and Dr. Markolovic ask that you review this document as part of the assignment. 

AP Chemistry: Summer reading is Sam Kean's The Disappearing Spoon, Back Bay Books, 2011. Dr. Sayers asks that you complete this assignment here.

AP BiologyRiddled With Life (Zuk) complete RWL Supplemental Questions

 

Language

Summer work in language courses differs by grade level and language studied. Please review the below requirements closely and click on the appropriate link.

 Spanish 2/2H: Click here for the assignment from Mrs. Castillo, Mr. Merino and Mrs. Lang.

Spanish 3/3H: Click here for the assignment from Mr. Mundo and Mr. Merino.

Spanish 4/4H:  Click here for the assignment from Mr. Devaney.

AP Spanish Language:  Click here for the assignment from Mr. Devaney.

Honors Spanish Literature & Conversation: Click here for the assignment from Mrs. Lang.

All classics students: Click here for the assignments from Mr. Towne.

French 2: Click here for the assignment from Mme. Lavalle.

French 3/3H: Click here for the assignment from Mme. Merrifield.

French 4/4H:  Click here for the assignment from Mme. Lavalle. Here are more fun ways to stay connected to French.

AP French Language: Click here for the assignment from Mme Lavalle. Here are more fun ways to stay connected to French.          

All Chinese students: Click here for the assignment from Mr. Facciani and Mrs. Wang.

 

Music & Performing Arts

 AP Music Theory: The Complete Book of Scales, Chords, Arpeggios and Cadences…  (Palmer, Manus, Lethco)

 

laptop and books
laptop and books

While the world of academia continues to deal with the challenges presented by COVID-19, Blair Academy is providing a platform for students to continue their learning and broaden their horizons this summer. Starting July 13, the School is offering a series of mini-seminars on topics ranging from the navigation of LGBTQ+ labels to the exploration of conspiracy theories to the design of rollercoasters. The seminars give students the unique opportunity to learn from their teachers during their summer vacation free of charge.

“Amidst the uncertainty we're all facing this summer, one thing you can be sure of is that Blair teachers have been devising ways to connect and share interests with students, no matter where they might be,” wrote Jim Moore, chair of the English department and mini-seminar coordinator, in an announcement about the program. 

Some seminars, including “Just Keep Swimming! (or: The Psychology of Flourishing)” taught by Associate Dean of Admission Caroline Wilson, focus on life lessons that students will use long after their time at Blair. This class will show students the power of positive thinking and, as Ms. Wilson wrote in its description, “teach [students] how to gain more fulfillment out of life, how to cope with (inevitable) stressful moments and how to flourish.” 

Other classes will focus on physical health, including science teacher Schnayder Termidor’s “Exercise Science 101.” Mr. Termidor described his class stating, “Phone and laptop-based exercise programs are easily accessible to the masses, yet these programs are not necessarily created with everyone's goals in mind. In this seminar, we will dive into the science of exercise, the reasoning behind specific exercise programs, and doing some exercises on our own.” 

There are a variety of other seminars that students may choose, and there is bound to be something to fit everyone’s niche. The 15 mini-seminars take place over three one-week sessions, with each being taught virtually. They will be heavy on student activities and participation, but require little or no homework. Each participating teacher has chosen a subject that is not traditionally taught during the year and about which he or she is passionate. Students may choose any one seminar per week, for a total of three classes throughout the month of July. With over 90 students already signed up, there will be plenty of opportunities for students to stay connected with faculty and each other this summer.  The July mini-seminars offer students the opportunity to learn more about the following topics: 

  • Three Controversial Psychology Studies

  • Just Keep Swimming! (or: The Psychology of Flourishing)

  • Physics at the Intersection of Fear and Fun: Design Your Own Roller Coaster

  • The Power of the Phone Camera

  • Activist Art

  • Exercise Science 101

  • Lies, Damned Lies, and Science

  • Media and Me 

  • Opera: Not Just for Old People in Formal Attire

  • Robocode Challenge

  • Expert Learning 101

  • Microeconomics and Decision-Making

  • Navigating LGBTQ+ Labels

Student Donates Proceeds of Clothing Line to Local Hospital

Many people have been getting creative and using their talents to keep themselves occupied during the recent quarantine due to coronavirus. Others have been using their time to help fight the coronavirus by doing charitable acts. Blair Academy’s Patrick Plum '21 did both while stuck at his home in South Carolina. He raised money for the Southampton Hospital Foundation during quarantine selling socially distant sweatshirts that he designed himself.

While Patrick was sick and stuck at home, he thought of the current situation that he, and the rest of the country was in and decided he could help, “I had caught a bug at my home down in South Carolina and couldn’t move for three days, I just locked into designing a logo in my room and my final product pretty neat” Patrick said. The design, two socially distant figures on the front accompanied by the text ‘quarantine responsibly’ on the back, was a hit and quickly netted Patrick almost $3,000 in proceeds. Patrick saw the opportunity to do something good for his community and donated the money to help those who are sick and the healthcare workers that work in the hospital. 

Local newspaper, The Southhampton Press, caught wind of the great work that Patrick had done and wrote a story commending his efforts. Writer Alec Giufurta explained how Patrick clearly made a difference in his community, “On May 14, Patrick, with $2,750 in hand, donated the sum to the [Southhampton Hospital] foundation’s Healthcare Heroes’ Fund, the foundation’s president, Steven M. Bernstein, noted. “Stony Brook Southampton Hospital is deeply grateful to Patrick Plum for conducting a thoughtful and enterprising fundraiser on our behalf.”

When Patrick returns to campus, he hopes to continue designing clothes and start a club, “All of last year I wanted to start a clothing design club for kids who want to get into that area of fashion or whatever it may be. Hopefully, this coming year I’ll finally start the club!” Patrick has had a passion for fashion ever since he was young, “Since I was 7, I’ve wanted to do something involved with fashion or something creative,” Patrick stated. He also noted that we could be seeing more of his work in the near future. “Currently, I’m working with a few big brands to help design some clothes and various pieces so hopefully we’ll see some of those out soon!”

Patrick’s social distance sweatshirt can be purchased on his website blindinemotion.

Steps for action

Dear Blair Community,

Now, more than ever, Blair must and will move forward with critical action steps in furtherance of the diversity, equity and inclusion priorities laid out in our 2018-2025 Strategic Plan. We are all committed to more fully ensure that we are an inclusive, safe and welcoming community for every student and every adult.

Over the last several weeks, I have listened to and read stories of pain and struggle among Black students and alumni/ae in the Blair community. During my recent parent Town Hall, I shared that our students and extended Blair family must and will hear from us that Black Lives Matter. They must and will hear from us that teaching about race and social justice will be a meaningful part of our lives and curriculum at Blair. They must and will hear from us that Blair is committed to doing and being better. That is why we embarked on our Strategic Plan. That’s why we will listen and act with determination, humility and grace. When we say “Ever, Always,” that is our oath to honor the best of who we are and to make Blair the School our students and families need it to be now. We are committed to engaging in a dialogue with all stakeholders in our community about race, starting in the small-group forums we are hosting this summer. As we move forward into the next school year, we will remain committed to listening, learning and ensuring Blair is an institution in which every student feels included, supported and cared for.

Our actions are and will be grounded in our mission—to know our students and to prepare them to thrive in a diverse and complex world that we believe they will make better. As a School, we’ve endeavored to be thoughtful and deliberate so that our actions are meaningful and based on good advice, real data and our community’s lived experiences and truths. Yet, we are also compelled by the fierce urgency of now to accelerate work that will immediately impact the Blair experience and that is responsive to the needs of our community. We must demonstrate our commitment to practicing our mission every day and more fully realizing a culture that allows students to be and express their authentic selves, that is anti-racist, that fosters meaningful understanding and deep relationships and that, in reality, as opposed to just words, feels truly “all in” and “all together.”

I include here important steps we are and will be taking immediately in furtherance of key priority initiatives from our Strategic Plan, understanding that our work and future steps will continue to evolve as we evaluate what is most effective and listen to our community’s experiences, stories and ideas, not just in the coming weeks and months, but throughout the School’s future.

1.   FACULTY TRAINING

Sustained and effective faculty training is crucial to Blair’s nurturing a campus climate that fosters inclusion and equity. Building on recent professional development efforts, Blair has retained an expert diversity practitioner to inform and partner with our academic office and Inclusivity Committee to implement targeted training plans based on best practices for faculty. This effort will start this summer and continue throughout the school year. Moreover, we will substantially expand faculty participation in known, meaningful professional development programs, particularly the National Association of Independent Schools’ People of Color Conference and the National Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity (SEED) Project in the 2020-2021 school year.  

2.   CURRICULUM

As per our Strategic Plan, our Curriculum Committee, working with the academic office and our department heads, will conduct a comprehensive audit of our academic course offerings and provide recommendations that will be published for our entire community in late spring of 2021 as to how Blair’s curriculum across disciplines can better reflect the diversity of identity, thought, experience and background critical to providing a world-class education to all of our students. This will allow Blair to develop a thoughtful and comprehensive plan that builds upon what we are doing well and embraces opportunities for growth and improvement in our programs.

Over the course of the coming school year, Blair will be revising its current curricular offerings, including developing a new course that all students must take on the historical and modern realities of racism, intolerance, empathy and understanding. This class will launch in the fall of 2021 and build on other course offerings, seminars, discussion groups and speakers that we have developed over recent years and will continue to offer in the coming school year.

3.   FACULTY, STAFF & BOARD DIVERSITY

We will continue to expand our online and in-person faculty recruitment efforts and tools, including participation in diversity hiring fairs, targeted outreach to colleges/universities, including HBCUs, continuing our winter internship program for aspiring teachers, outreach to alumni/ae for hiring referrals and on-campus recruitment opportunities. While we have made progress, we will build on those efforts in the coming weeks and months and expand our capacity to do this work. Toward that end, this winter, we appointed veteran faculty member Leucretia Shaw to the School’s senior leadership team in the role of Dean of Strategic Initiatives, effective July 1, 2020. Leucretia has already partnered with me, Dean of Faculty Lorry Perry and others to recruit, retain and support exceptional faculty of color to join our community and to provide mentorship to all of our teachers. She will be seeking the input and help of our extended Blair community to do so.  

To make important strides on this front, we will accelerate our plans to create a teaching fellowship program that will enable Blair to tap into a diverse range of aspiring graduate students/early career teachers, with plans to bring on our first teaching fellow(s) at the start of the 2021-2022 school year. We are in the process of raising more endowed funds to support this initiative, which we know works to enhance faculty diversity in other schools.        

Blair’s Board of Trustees has reaffirmed its commitment to more fully reflect the diversity of race/ethnicity, background and experience of our students, alumni/ae and families. A standing Inclusivity Committee is now being established at the Board level, and its Chair will serve on our Board’s Executive Committee and provide Trustee oversight of Blair’s campus climate and diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.

4.   ENGAGEMENT & TRANSPARENCY 

We have much to learn and must continue to listen to all members of our community to inform our work on identifying, addressing and educating around issues of bias in order to better create a more inclusive community. This past school year, we conducted the NAIS Assessment of Inclusivity and Multiculturalism, a survey instrument sent to students, faculty, staff, Trustees, parents and alumni/ae. We were in the process of analyzing those results when we had to transition to distance learning in March, and we will share that data with the full community as we return to campus this fall. 

I am further asking our Inclusivity Committee to engage the broader Blair community through outreach, open meetings and regular updates in order to make recommendations to the School on staffing, programming and student support needs. We also will be sharing plans for regularly auditing our discipline process and responding to issues of bias and intolerance on our campus in ways that are consistent, appropriately transparent and honor the dignity, privacy and humanity of all involved.  

In addition to investing in these areas, we remain committed to assembling a diverse group of talented students from across the United States and around the world on our campus. That’s why increasing endowed financial aid funds is among our Strategic Plan’s priorities and our admission office will continue to partner closely with organizations and foundations that promote access and opportunities to schools like Blair.   

Blair stands first and foremost for its students. Because of that, whenever our students (past or present) are hurting and need to be heard, it is our responsibility to listen, acknowledge and honor what they’ve told us, to investigate concerns thoroughly to better understand what happened and to do better. Then we must go ahead and do that work thoughtfully and decisively and provide a safe space for our students, parents and alumni to learn from each other, evolve and support one another. That is my promise to you. That is Blair’s promise to you as we map our path forward. We should expect to be held accountable for fulfilling that promise. I thank those of you who have reached out to share your thoughts and experiences and offered to partner with us as we assume that responsibility and do the work. 

Book

Blair’s English department and all-school read committee have selected Trevor Noah’s 2016 memoir Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood for the 2020-2021 all-school read. During the summer months, students and teachers will delve into the book, a #1 New York Times bestseller, in which Mr. Noah recounts his journey from a harrowing childhood in apartheid South Africa to a career as a political commentator and host of television’s “The Daily Show.” 

“We anticipate that reading and discussing Born a Crime together will be a fascinating, valuable experience for the Blair community, one that will offer us both insight and hope in these disconcerting times,” said English department chair Jim Moore. “Students and faculty members who are already fans of Mr. Noah’s television work will recognize in Born a Crime his ability to clarify complex social issues through his unique combination of unvarnished observations and a wry sense of humor.”

Mr. Moore noted that despite Mr. Noah’s celebrated accomplishments as a political commentator, television host and comedian, Born a Crime is his first published work. Thus, the selection of the book for the 2020-2021 all-school read is in keeping with Blair’s focus on debut authors as a way to reduce the distance between students and writers, one of the main goals of the all-school read program since its 2017 inception.

A brief synopsis of the book by publisher Penguin Random House describes how Mr. Noah’s life story began with a criminal act: his birth. “Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents’ indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa’s tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries-long struggle.”

Born a Crime has been widely praised, and it was named one of the best books of the year by Michiko Kakutani of The New York TimesUSA Today, the San Francisco Chronicle, NPR, Esquire, Newsday and Booklist. Learn more about the book and its author here.

WeAreListening

Blair Academy stands in solidarity with people of color during this moment of cultural reckoning, and we acknowledge that incidents on our campus have occurred that do not reflect this solidarity. We are committed to listening, learning and making the changes that we recognize need to happen at Blair. As part of that work, tonight, Blair's Inclusivity Committee is hosting the first in a series of small-group discussions in which we will talk to students, parents and alumni about current events, share ideas, and identify ways to ensure we can better understand and improve the Blair experience for all students, no matter the color of their skin. We are committed to doing more and being better. Dealing with the many things that have led us to this moment, both on our campus and off, is essential. These discussions will inform curricular changes, teacher training, hiring practices and other work to promote empathy across our community. Please know that our purpose is to listen and learn from every member of the Blair family who wishes to share his or her thoughts. 

 

Blair Celebrates Annual Day of Giving for Fifth-Consecutive Year

On June 10, 2020, Blair students, parents, grandparents, alumni, Trustees, faculty, staff and friends celebrated Blair’s commitment to being “all in” and “all together” on the School’s fifth-annual Day of Giving. 

One of the many things that makes Blair special is that so many people connected to the School realize just how special and extraordinary the Blair experience is, explained Director of Annual Giving Colleen McNulty P’18 ’20, who organized the Day of Giving.

“We all have so many different reasons for supporting Blair,” she said. “Some of us loved our experiences as students or are grateful for the opportunities our own children or grandchildren have had. Others have spent their careers teaching and working at Blair because they believe our graduates will go on to change the world. And even those loosely connected, who came to a Society of Skeptics lecture or a musical performance, felt the community’s warmth and unity and want to do something to support that. We are deeply grateful to everyone who made a contribution.”

Over the course of the day, the advancement office staff and Blair volunteers made connections via the telephone and social media asking for support of the Blair Fund and the newly established Blair Academy COVID-19 Relief Fund. As the global pandemic continues to impact people’s health and livelihoods around the globe, Blair is committed to providing increased financial aid to families who need it and supporting other critical needs, including support of Blair’s dedicated faculty and increased healthcare and technology resources.

Blair Buccaneer

At the end of the 2019-2020 school year, Blair Academy will say goodbye to three longtime coaches, history teacher Martin Miller, PhD, math and theatre teacher Wayne Rasmussen and Dean of College Counseling Lewis Stival. With a combined 90 years of coaching experience, these faculty members leave a footprint of what it means to be a Blair coach and a legacy for the community to admire as they move on to the next chapters of their lives. 

“Words can’t express my gratitude to these three coaches,” said Paul Clavel ’88, director of athletics. “They have made a profound impact on the lives of so many student-athletes, as well as represented the Blair athletic program with great sportsmanship and excellence. These men have been excellent role models for me and other coaches in our program. I thank them for their many years of service to Blair athletics.”  

Dr. Miller, who is retiring after 40 years at Blair, has been the varsity boys’ cross country coach for the past 40 consecutive seasons. During his tenure, he won seven Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) championships and five state titles. He was also an assistant running coach for the track-and-field team for 34 years, coaching multiple distance-runner state champions.

Mr. Stival coached the varsity boys’ tennis team for 27 years and the girls’ varsity team for four. In 2010 and 2011, the team won back-to-back MAPL championships and 29 straight matches, including a state championship in 2011. He has been a great mentor to many tennis players who have had successful college careers. Mr. Stival will continue his career as director of college counseling at Ransom Everglades School in Miami.

Blair’s senior master, Mr. Rasmussen, is retiring in June, having coached multiple sports throughout his 43-year teaching career, including 15 years of football, three years of JV baseball and two years of 3rds boys’ basketball. In addition to being the leader of the theatre tech crew, Mr. Rasmussen has also been a huge support for the Blair football program as the videographer for the varsity team.

The entire Blair community wishes these three coaches well in their future endeavors. 

Message from Blair’s Head of School to Community in Light of Recent Events

Dear members of the Blair community,

Words alone fail to do justice to the depths of injustice, anger, sadness, and despair felt and experienced across the country at this time. I add my voice and my words to the many (though not yet nearly enough or loudly enough) who have publicly denounced racism, hatred, inhumanity and senseless violence. I offer the love and sympathy of the entire Blair community to all who grieve over the horrifying and tragic killing of George Floyd and the unconscionable number of similarly lost lives in the Black community over many years. These events compound the terrible loss of lives and livelihoods during the global pandemic and can, for many, make this time feel like too much to bear.  

Blair stands with and for the diversity, equality, safety, justice and dignity of not just our own community but all communities. Celebrating the diversity that strengthens and distinguishes our school community is important, but it is not enough. Blair's mission is to prepare our students not simply to excel in college but to become impactful and humane citizens of the world who promote genuine understanding and connection and who will bring their intellects, talents, passions and compassion to bear on the greatest public challenges we face, including the scourge of racism.  

While I'm proud of the work our community has done to support and model inclusion and understanding and to teach our students about the history and present day realities of overt and systemic racism, there is much more work required of us if Blair is to more fully fulfill the promise of its mission. Though school is not currently in session, this is a time when Blair needs to support and hear from our community.  

To that end, we will convene an ongoing series of discussion forums on the topic of race in America, with the first focusing on processing currently unfolding events. These discussions will build on and benefit from the work already being undertaken by our Inclusivity Committee, being studied in our courses such as "Race in America," being considered in our Belonging and Martin Luther King Jr.  seminar programs, and the many ways we are exploring one another's perspectives and stories, formally and informally, on and beyond our campus.  

We need brave and thoughtful spaces to share our authentic viewpoints and our collective desire to build a better, safer and more hopeful world. Later this week, I invite you to join me for our first online forum. More details on the date, time and format of our meeting will follow in another communication in the coming days.  

Hopes and prayers are desperately needed and warranted, but themselves are not a strategy for making the world a better place. Educational institutions are powerful drivers of unlocking students’ power and potential to make a difference in ways that honor their values and character. I look forward to coming together, learning together, understanding together and acting together, even if (and especially when) we see the world differently from one another, so we can make it more of the place we aspire to create. Beyond this forum, I encourage you to reach out to me, our faculty and staff and all members of the Blair community whose love and resolve will help us through this painful time.  

Take good care,
Chris Fortunato
Fine Arts Teacher Robert Hanson’s Film Featured in Brooklyn Film Festival

Robert Hanson, Blair’s instructor of digital media and film, was honored recently when his film “Kingdom of Archers” was selected for inclusion in the 2020 Brooklyn Film Festival (BFF), New York City’s longest running international-competitive film festival. This year’s BFF, presented virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic, features more than 140 films chosen from 2,590 submissions from 92 countries. All festival films, including Mr. Hanson’s documentary, are viewable for free from May 29 through June 7 on the BFF website, and viewers have the opportunity to vote for their favorites.

“Kingdom of Archers,” a world premiere in the feature documentary category, explores the rich cultural tradition of archery in Bhutan, focusing on how the sport is changing amid the rapid Westernization, industrialization and globalization the country is experiencing. Mr. Hanson, the film’s producer and director, as well as a former competitive archer, traces his inspiration for creating it to his work with a nonprofit organization in 2008, prior to the Beijing Olympics.

“The nonprofit sponsored Bhutan’s Olympic archery team, which, at that point, consisted of just one archer and a coach,” he explained. “I became interested in Bhutan, where archery is the national sport, and learned that the traditional game of archery there is vastly different than what I knew archery to be. I wanted to explore that tradition in a documentary film format.”

The seed was planted, but it wasn’t until five years later that Mr. Hanson began actively working on the project. A meeting at Stanford University with the Prince of Bhutan in early 2014 “got the ball rolling” in earnest, and he then took two trips to the South Asia kingdom, spending just over a month in total in Bhutan with cinematographer Zebediah Smith. 

“With close to 100 hours of footage from the two trips, the major challenge was figuring out how to present the story and boiling everything down into a cohesive film,” Mr. Hanson said of the intensive work that followed. “All told, I’ve spent seven years on the project. Even though I was not actively working on it much of that time, it was constantly on my mind.”

The 77-minute “Kingdom of Archers” is Mr. Hanson’s first feature-length film, and this is the first time he has made a major festival run for a film he has produced. He is thrilled that his work is premiering at the BFF. “Even though I won’t have the chance to see the film on the big screen or interact in-person with my audiences due to the festival’s virtual format, the online platform will allow many more people to see the film who otherwise wouldn’t have had the chance,” he said. He is especially glad that members of the Blair community will have the opportunity to screen his film, and, he added, “I would certainly appreciate their votes in the competition!”

To register for the festival and view this year’s films, click here.

UnderclassPrizeAssembly

The Blair community came together virtually on May 26 to celebrate students’ accomplishments at the annual Underclass Prize Assembly, during which faculty presented a number of subject and department prizes. The event is an annual highlight as the school year comes to a close. To view the Underclass Prize Assembly, click play below:

Dean of Academics Nathan Molteni opened the presentation, acknowledging the unusual circumstances that the School has been facing this semester. He also reminded students how proud faculty and staff are for their hard work during this difficult time.

“Today we get to celebrate the best of what our students have accomplished this year,” Mr. Molteni remarked. “You each deserve a slice of the credit for how rich the intellectual life of the School has been this year. We thank you for your willingness to invest yourselves in different opportunities and ideas. Each of you makes the experience of learning here better.”

Mr. Molteni also noted that, in recognition of their hard work and dedication in the classroom, each of the departmental prize winners will have a donation made in his or her name to a charity chosen by the department head that aligns with the department’s broader mission.

After his remarks, the chairs of eight of Blair’s academic departments recognized awardees for exceptional work. English teacher Kaye Evans then inducted juniors into Blair’s cum laude chapter. Following that presentation, Associate Dean of Students Andee Ryerson and Dean of Students Carm Mazza joined Head of School Chris Fortunato and Associate Head of School Ryan Pagotto’97 in recognizing underclassmen with a number of special School prizes. The assembly ended with a message from Mr. Fortunato.

“Our 173rd year ahead offers an unmistakable opportunity for greatness, but we have to be ready for it, and we must rise up to it,” he remarked. “That means sticking together, having each other's backs, putting cause above self, embracing our vulnerabilities, and doing what Blair has always done best, to live and learn and come together as a community.”

The time for Blair’s greatest generation, he added, is here and now. “You may be burdened, but you are also blessed with the responsibility to be Blair’s greatest generation,” he concluded. “Never has there been a time in the history of this School when we will be relying more on every single individual in this community to achieve greatness.”

Congratulations to these awardees:

The Durland Prize for Excellence in Computer Science: Akshar Aiyer ’21

Freshman English Prize: Fengyi Fiona Han ’23 & Xiaoyu Emily Wang ’23

Sophomore English Prize: Vivien  Sheridan ’22 & Mia Stillerman ’22

The Henry B. Cowan Prize: Grace Hogue '21 & Linda "Lily" Starrs '21

2D Art Prize: Margaret Dericks ’22

The Kampmann Video Prize: Wingate Hopkins ’21 & Thao Nguyen ’21

Photography Prize: Xiaopei Chen ’21

Global Issues Prize: Elizabeth Kim ’23 & Ellie Walker ’23

Western Civilization Prize: Keith Delaney ’22Duc Dinh ’22 & Caroline Johnson ’22

U.S. History Prize: Nicholas Harpe ’21 & Jonathan Wong ’21

The Marguerite Deysson Habermann Memorial French Prize: Johannes Boellhoff ’21

Pythagoras Prize for Geometry: Elizabeth Kim ’23

Gauss Prize for Algebra: Aidan Ward ’22

Newton Prize for Calculus: Hao Hank Cui ’22

The Euler Prize for Analysis: Linda "Lily" Starrs '21

Underclass Theater Prize: Nicola Kirkwood ’21 & Michael Richardson ’21

Vocal Music Prize: Ethan Rackleff ’21

Instrumental Music Prize: Jenna Park ’21

Freshman Biology Science Prize: Elizabeth Kim ’23

Sophomore Chemistry Science Prize: Hao Hank Cui ’22

Junior Physics Science Prize: Dylan Zhu ’21

The Joan and Fernando Marcial Prize: Amos Debah ’23

The Stephen Curry Prize: Lual Manyang ’22

The David Avery-Jones Freshman Prize: Mallory Allen ’23 & Carnegie Johnson ’23

The John Kinch Leach Merit Award: Sophia Davis ’22 & Gabriel Ramirez ’22

The Phillips-James Rosen Trophy: Grace Hogue ’21 & Morgan Jones ’21

Cum Laude Inductees - Class of 2021

Alexandra Bakulina ’21

Arjun Krishna Chopra ’21

Lucy Pearl Clayton ’21

Ashley HanRui Dai ’21

Daniel Siyuan Dai ’21

Grace Anderson Hogue ’21

Hayoung Jung ’21

George Lund Sigety ’21

Linda Marie Starrs ’21

Jonathan Jinghei Wong ’21

Jenna Madison Van Valkenburg ’21

Dylan Tianyu Zhu ’21

Class of 2020 banner

Blair Academy’s 172nd commencement ceremony was a tradition- and joy-filled celebration of the class of 2020, as well as the first graduation in School history to take place online. Families and friends from around the world came together virtually on May 21—appropriately a beautiful, sunny day in Blairstown—to listen to words of wisdom, honor the achievements of students and faculty members, and celebrate a truly outstanding senior class. (To watch the ceremony in full, click "play" below.)

The Rev. Lisa Durkee, Blair’s chaplain and chair of the religion and philosophy department, opened the ceremony with a benediction, before Head of School Chris Fortunato and Senior Class Council members Aidan Riano ’20 and Robert Donnelly ’20 welcomed seniors and their families to the event. Mr. Fortunato, speaking from Sharpe House lawn, expressed his wish that everyone could have been with him that day at the traditional site of graduation. 

“I welcome us all back together in this moment to celebrate the achievements, character and spirit of the Class of 2020,” he said. “You have arrived at this long-awaited and momentous day at a time when the world is in pain and the path ahead is filled with both endless possibilities and significant uncertainties. I honor the strange place in which we and you as graduates find ourselves, but I refuse to begin today with sadness and, instead, choose to look up in hope. Seniors, the joy you have brought us will forever eclipse the sadness I feel in missing you today and over these past two months. Your talents and courage will carry us forward to a bright future for all.”

Mr. Fortunato recognized Blair’s two longest-serving faculty members, math and theatre teacher Wayne Rasmussen and history teacher Martin Miller, PhD., both of whom were participating in their final commencement ceremony. He thanked them for their combined 80-plus years of service to Blair as they prepare to retire in June. The ceremony continued with presentations of awards to several faculty members in recognition of their dedication to Blair students and their profession. 

Likewise, several seniors were honored for their accomplishments throughout their course of study at Blair, and three recipients accepted their appointments to U.S. service academies (see below for full list of awards given at graduation). Dean of Academics Nathan Molteni presented the day’s final award, the George P. Jenkins ’32 Prize, to class speaker Seo Yeong (Shauna) Kwag ’20, who addressed her classmates in an uplifting and personal speech.

Shauna touched upon her deep fascination with mathematical patterns, as well as her appreciation of the patterns and routines of everyday life at Blair. These routines, including the expectation of a fun-filled, culminating “senior spring,” were ripped away by the coronavirus pandemic. Despite what was lost, however, something has also been gained: a newfound perspective of the beauty that goes unnoticed in routine.

“As we all move into each of our uncertain futures, I want to challenge you all to try to discern the patterns that dictate your daily lives,” she said as she concluded her remarks. “And once you find that pattern, I hope you can all stop to notice the beauty of it, of its masterful and sophisticated design, of how you’re forming it, and how it’s forming you. All patterns—let them be in nature or more in our human lives—are beautiful and worthy of appreciation. Especially since, unlike an infinitely repeating decimal, our lives are not infinite; they, and each moment that makes them up, are finite.” 

Congratulating her classmates on their graduation, Shauna added, “We are all so lucky to have something we can miss so much, to have been shaped by the pattern of our daily lives at Blair, which will always be with us no matter where we are. So to you all: thank you, stay well, and take comfort that we will meet again.”

The moment the members of the class of 2020 had been waiting for finally arrived: the conferring of diplomas. Faculty advisors read the names of each of their senior advisees, acknowledgment of the special relationships that had been forged during students’ Blair years, while images of each graduate scrolled across the screen.

Mr. Fortunato then addressed the newly minted alumni, reminding them that the many memories they had created over the course of their years at Blair—imbued with joy and, at times, pain—would keep them connected far more powerfully than anything that might separate them, including a global pandemic.

“It is appropriate that the class of 2020 should so sharply bring into focus what it truly means to be a Blair student—and a Blair graduate—and what it means to live the Blair way,” he said. “Since I first addressed you as freshmen at Convocation in 2016, you have been the class that, no matter what the world has thrown your way, continues to look up, chooses to build relationships, bridges and paths forward even when the shadows of cynicism threaten to darken our hopes, and remains kind to others, even in moments of hardship.” 

He urged them to raise their eyes to the Blair star about which he had spoken at that long-ago Convocation whenever they need a reminder of their connection to their alma mater. “Always remember, it is there for you and that Blair is always there for you.”

Senior Class Council member Lula Mantegna ’20 had the honor of closing the ceremony, but the festivities for the class of 2020 continued during the afternoon as classmates who lived within driving distance converged on the hilltop for a drive-through celebration. Graduates and their families had been invited to drive the campus loop road, which was lined the entire way with cheering faculty and staff members—all at appropriate social distance, of course. Honking horns and shouts of gladness filled the air as Blair family members shared their joy on this momentous occasion.

Congratulations to the class of 2020!

Faculty awards presented at graduation:

Apgar Award for Teaching Excellence: computer science teacher Michael Garrant
Riether Residential Life Award: English teacher David Mamukelashvili
John C. and Eve S. Bogle Teaching Prize: English teacher Sarah O’Neil
Headmaster’s Faculty Prize: Dean of Academics Nathan Molteni
Tedlow Teaching Prize: history teacher Andrew Sykes 

Student awards presented at graduation:

Selena & James Howard Prize: Dylan Robert Benson ’20 & Camille Aleksandra Williams ’20
Harold F. Walker Memorial Prize: Corey Stephen Downey ’20 & Robert Frederico Rucki ’20
Lee Rose Memorial Trophy: Kathleen S. Devlin ’20 
Headmaster’s Prize: Aidan Gilmore Riano ‘20 
Blair Academy Trophy: Alexandra Leigh Kirby ’20 
George P. Jenkins ’32 Prize: Seo Yeong (Shauna) Kwag ’20 

Appointments to U.S. service academies:  

U.S. Naval Academy: Sarah Elizabeth Richardson ’20 & Peter McBride Montgomery ’20 
U.S. Military Academy at West Point: Damon Myles Washington ’20