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Ryan Manni addressed the Spring Concert audience.

Blair’s Director of Vocal Music Ryan Manni sat in the music room of the Armstrong-Hipkins Center for the Arts after wrapping up a day of teaching, his fingers resting on the piano. As he looked around the room, he felt satisfied with the transformation. The risers, long a staple of many music rooms, had been removed to allow students more movement in the room. As he reflected on the day’s classes, Mr. Manni saw evidence that his plan was working. The removal of the risers meant students were moving more. They were experimenting with their musicianship and building new connections with one another. Most importantly, he thought, he saw students singing with an abundance of joy. 

A summa cum laude graduate of Westminster Choir College, Mr. Manni came to Blair in 2016 and brought rich musical experience with him. He had studied with leading choral conductors and was a member of the Grammy-nominated Westminster Williamson Voices and Symphonic Choir. He had performed on some of the world’s great stages, including Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, and participated as a full conductor at the Choral Institute at Oxford. He felt excited at the prospect of directing Blair’s fours singing groups—the Singers, Sopralti, Treble Choir, Blairitones and Chamber Choir—and prepared to step into the role of teacher of Blair’s AP music theory and digital music classes. What Mr. Manni did not expect, he says, was to be given such broad support to develop the School’s musical programs. “This position has been a dream come true to me,” he explains. “I’ve had pedagogical autonomy to create a program and to work in a place that supports the choices I make. They give me a wide berth to choose what we can do.” 

A Vision Takes Root

Changing the physical layout of the music room has been just a small part of Mr. Manni’s expansive vision for the vocal program at Blair; he has no shortage of ideas to spur his students’ growth. Mr. Manni broke the choir into high and low voice ensembles, for example, giving vocalists the option to work in more groups and be challenged. Shortly after he assumed his new role as Director of Vocal Music, he also created the position of student conductor, giving students leadership opportunities. 

“I have a student-centered teaching philosophy,” he explains. “The students are in partnership with me, and it’s really important to give them ownership over their work. As part of that, students elect their own student conductor.” Blair’s vocalists, Mr. Manni notes, have consistently recognized great musicianship in the students they have chosen to lead. This year, the Singers chose Sadie Donnelly ’22 to lead “Over the Rainbow” during the seniors’ final performance, the Spring Concert. 

With the support of the administration, Mr. Manni also established a digital music program at the School, hoping to challenge students, both technically and conceptually, to create, record and produce their own music. One of the course’s first digital music graduates, Wils Acker ’19, Mr. Manni proudly relays, just released his first professionally produced album. Growing each year, digital music has become one of the performing arts department’s more popular courses as students escape to the School’s recording studio and use software such as Logic ProX to produce professional-quality recordings. “We have a professional recording studio,” Mr. Manni notes with a wide smile. “And our students create amazing music in it. How many high schools can say that?”  

Oh, the Places You’ll Go

As for where he sees the music program going, Mr. Manni would like to focus on the Singers in the upcoming academic year. Long the centerpiece of the vocal music program, the Singers hold a special place in Mr. Manni’s heart. “Choir is what I love to do, and COVID really affected us,” he reflects. “We found ways to make music during the pandemic, but I would like to focus on getting us back to where we were.” 

In the past, the Singers have taken an international tour every three years, so that at least once in their Blair career, vocalists get the benefit of performing on an international stage. In 2018, Blair musicians performed in England, traveling to Oxford, Cambridge, Ely and London, creating harmonies in ancient cathedrals and studying under Oxford University professor Dr. James Whitbourn, who is also a Grammy-nominated composer and conductor. In between those international concerts, Blair’s vocalists have traditionally enjoyed performances in metropolitan venues in Philadelphia, Washington, D.C. and Boston. 

Mr. Manni is excited to announce that, during the 2022-2023 year, the Singers, as well as musicians from Blair’s orchestras and bands, will return to form—and Europe. With an itinerary that includes England and France, Mr. Manni notes, “I’m really looking forward to gracing those stages again, making music that is impactful to the audience and meaningful to us.”

Many Hats & Talents

A Renaissance man, Mr. Manni wears many hats at Blair: He is a choir conductor, digital music producer and band accompanist. Whether serving his students as travel agent, music theory guru or directing them in the techniques that make vocal performances stand out, Mr. Manni finds his simple role of teacher is the one that brings him the most satisfaction. “My goal as a teacher is to serve the students,” he says. “I’m here to help them meet their goals.”

And his students appreciate that. While there is no doubt that Mr. Manni’s creative vision is inextricably linked to the growth of Blair’s music programs, soprano Nikki Kirkwood ’22 feels that it is Mr. Manni’s infectious energy, and his ability to make students feel seen and supported, that she will remember most from her four years in Blair’s vocal program. That and how, when he takes to the podium, Mr. Manni uses his whole carriage to communicate. “Some conductors use their hands, but Mr. Manni uses his whole body.  He’ll stand on one leg when the music swells, and when the music gets louder, his foot comes up,” she says. “You can just see that he feels the music and loves what he does. And when he says ‘Amen, friends’? That’s his special way of saying we did that very well.” 

Seated behind his piano, reflecting at the end of a long day on how the vocal program has grown since he joined the faculty in 2016, Mr. Manni appears thoughtful. While the physical transformation of the music room has brought benefits, he says, it is the transformation of students that stands out most to him. “My most beautiful moment of teaching so far took place when we were working on a difficult piece for an upcoming concert. A student-conductor took the chamber choir off into a corner and got the piece ready. It was a full circle moment.” That transformation—of his students coming into their own—is what inspires Mr. Manni and gives him joy. Looking up, he smiles and adds, “Can I get an Amen?” 
 

Collegiate Athletes to Watch

Blair Academy is proud of a number of alumni who have excelled in athletics after their time on the hilltop. Over this past year, several Buccaneers have garnered accolades in college athletics and professional sports for their championship wins, rookie-of-the-week honors and notable performances during the regular season. Here are a few alumni whose talent and tenacity are a pleasure to watch as they accrue impressive athletic accomplishments beyond Blair.


Olivia Miles ’21

Basketball standout Olivia Miles made her NCAA tournament debut rather special by scoring a triple-double in the Notre Dame Fighting Irish’s 89-78 win over UMass in the first round. She totaled 12 points, 11 assists and 11 rebounds to record the 18th triple-double in the history of the women’s tournament. In her first year at Notre Dame, she garnered first-team All-ACC honors, became a top-five finalist for the Nancy Lieberman Award and a WBCA All-American Region I finalist, and she ranked as the No. 2 freshman womens’ basketball player in the country, according to ESPN.


Chris Cannon ’19

Northwestern Wildcat wrestler Chris Cannon earned his second consecutive All-American honors this year, placing seventh at the 2022 NCAA Championships at 133 pounds with a 4-2 record. Additionally, he placed fifth at the 2022 Big Ten Championships and earned a 20-7 regular season record.

 


PJ O’Rourke ’19

Fordham University junior, linksman PJ O’Rourke finished in the top five at the 2022 Men’s Golf Atlantic-10 Championship, finishing three strokes under par in three rounds. This is the highest-ever placement at the conference championship in Fordham history. With an average score of 73.6, PJ tied for the lowest mark in the last 20 years of program history.

 


Jesse Schable ’19

With an arm renowned for accuracy and velocity, Jesse Schable has become the Drexel University Dragons’ ace pitcher. This season, Jesse holds a 2.82 earned run average with 10 total strikeouts. In 2021, she helped the softball team achieve the program’s highest regular season win percentage (.737) and, along with it, clinched the Colonial Athletic Association North Division regular season championship.

 


Tucker Richardson ’18

Senior guard Tucker Richardson not only led the Colgate mens’ basketball team to two straight NCAA tournament appearances, but also recently was named Colgate’s Scholar-Athlete of the Year. A three-time All-Patriot League honoree, Richardson averaged 12.7 points and 5.7 rebounds per game for the Raiders this season. Tucker has also made significant contributions to the sport of basketball off the court; he helped create a software program that analyzes in-game basketball statistics and is now used by more than 50 NCAA Division I schools. 

 


 

Alumni Weekend 2022

Blair alumni returned to campus last weekend, arriving by plane, train and car for Alumni Weekend 2022, an event during which former Buccaneers reconnected on the hilltop during three days of spirited celebration.

This year, approximately 500 alumni and their families came together to attend the events beginning Friday, June 10, and concluding Sunday, June 12. Among them were one group celebrating a special anniversary: the class of 1972’s 50th reunion. On Friday evening, members of the “Old Guard” reflected on the fact that they have raised children, watched their families grow and most have enjoyed long professional careers, and through all of that time, they have stayed connected to the School and classmates.

Blair Board of Governors President Bob Van Stone ’69, whose 50-year reunion occurred three years ago, continues coming back because, “It’s difficult to describe what Blair means. As an institution and as a community, it gets into you and lasts a lifetime. I’m more than happy to come back and help other alumni experience that.” 

While the class of 1972 kicked off the weekend of ceremony and celebration with a barbecue, other alumni took to Blair’s rolling golf course, teeing off in Friday’s golf scramble before sampling a variety of activities that included getting creative in the maker space, attending classes with veteran faculty in engineering and integrated science research before gathering with old friends for an evening under the lights with a live band. Relaxing to the music of Avenue 16 and Nicole (Nicusante) Tipton ’93, attendees capped off the evening with a fantastic fireworks display. 

Saturday’s schedule of events featured some tried-and-true Blair traditions—and a new one. Honoring a tradition that began seven years ago, alumni attended the Athletic Hall of Fame induction ceremony, recognizing John H. Dumont ’59, David Waddell ’76, Major Ray Mendoza ’87, the 1996-1997 Blair girls’ tennis team, Michael Kerrigan ’03 and Temi Fagbenle ’11 for their achievements in athletics. 

Introducing a new tradition, Head of School Peter G. Curran then welcomed the inaugural class of the School’s Arts Guild: John Sebastian ’62, Dick Boak ’68, Adam Shoenfeld ’92, Tasha Williams-Arroyo ’92, Maggie Harding ’07 and Rita Baragona P’92 ’95. To view the ceremony commemorating the legacies of these accomplished visual and performing artists, click “play” below: 

In addition to observances honoring Blair’s distinguished alumni in the fields of athletics and the arts, the reunion presented ample opportunity for former Bucs to simply spend time with friends. Whether batting once more behind home plate, lifting one’s voice in song with the alumni choir or hand-painting pottery to be donated to local nonprofit Project Self-Sufficiency, the weekend offered something for everyone.

“This weekend brought out everyone's Blair spirit,” noted Director of Alumni Relations Shaunna Murphy. “I love hearing the laughter of old friends reconnecting and realizing that, even after 50 years, Blair memories remain fresh. Blair really is so much more than a place. It is a community of friends and a lifelong experience. I loved seeing our alumni embrace that and enjoy every moment.” 

To watch additional highlights from Alumni Weekend’s Head of School Assembly and Awards Presentation, please click “play” below:

Summer 2022 Reading Assignments

Reading broadly and intelligently are essential components of a good education, and Blair 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.

Students must read a minimum of five books over the summer months, including titles of their choosing in addition to those required by their teachers, and depending upon their courses, they may also have associated assignments and/or assessments to complete.

Titles for 2022 summer reading assignments are listed below. New and returning students enrolled in certain language courses for the 2022-2023 academic year must also complete summer work. Details about the summer work for language courses is linked in the list below. 

Requirements for Selected Courses (listed by department) for 2022-2023:


ENGLISH

The English department has curated a list of recommended books for summer reading in the following link: Summer Reading for Blair Students

All students are expected to read at least two books from this list. In the first week back, every student will complete a writing exercise on one of the books they read from this list. Please plan to return to Blair with a hard copy of one of the books you read from the list.

AP English Literature: Students in this class are required to read Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann as one of their options.  


HISTORY

Modern European History:  Please read the article shared here. The last page has a writing assignment to complete and bring with you for the start of school. All work is due on the first class meeting. 

AP US History:  Read this selection from Charles Mann’s 1491: here. Annotate as you read, write down three to five main ideas from the reading, develop a discussion question to guide our talk about the reading on Day 1. 

AP European History: All students are asked to complete the following assignment: 2021 AP Euro Summer Reading

Global Issues and U.S. History: In lieu of summer reading, instructors in these courses may assign a book over either the winter or spring break. 


SCIENCE

AP Biology: Chapters 1-3 reading and notes in Campbell Biology in Focus AP Edition, 3rd Edition. Complete all of the Active Reading Guide questions for each chapter. Chapter 1 Active Reading Guide, Chapter 2 Active Reading Guide, Chapter 3 Active Reading Guide

AP Psychology: Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl

AP Chemistry: The summer reading assignments for AP Chemistry are found here.

Chemistry Honors: Stuff Matters: Exploring the Marvelous Materials That Shape Our Man-Made World  by Mark Miodownik. Dr. Sayers asks that you review this document as part of the assignment.

Marine Biology: Close to Shore by Michael Capuzzo

Astronomy: A Brief History of Time by Steven Hawking - MJR


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, Ms. Cullen and Mrs. Lang.

Spanish 3/3H: Click here for the assignment from Dr. Mundo and Ms. Cullen.

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

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

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

French 2: Click here for fun ways to stay connected to French.

French 3/3H: Click here for fun ways to stay connected to French.

French 4/4H:  Click here to join the 4H 22-23 Google Classroom/ Complete summer HW.
                And, here are more fun ways to stay connected to French.   

AP French Language: Click here to join the AP 22-23 Google Classroom/ Complete summer HW.
                   And, here are more fun ways to stay connected to French.    

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

All Latin Students: Click here for the assignment from Mr. Towne and Mr. Neumaier.


MUSIC & PERFORMING ARTS

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


FINE ARTS

AP Art History: Ways of Seeing by John Berger
 

Class of 2022 Scholarship Breaks Records

When Alice Sun P’22 thinks back to her humble beginnings in China, she never imagined that her daughter would one day work on a cure for Alzheimer’s with labs across the globe during high school. “The opportunity for a young woman to collaborate and contribute to a STEM discipline was unheard of during my childhood,” she recalls. Inspired by the work her daughter, MeiMei Xue ’22, is undertaking as part of Blair’s Integrated Science Research course, Ms. Sun recently donated $50,000 to the Blair’s Class of 2022 scholarship in the hopes of connecting other students, who wouldn’t otherwise have access to a Blair education, to opportunities like these. 

“For Blair to be the accelerant of this change, in so many young people, and a better future, engenders a special place in our family’s heart,” Ms. Sun explains. “We only hope our gift serves as an echo…and ripple…for many years, and generations of Blair alumni, to come!"

Indeed, it will. Thanks to the incredible generosity of parents like Ms. Sun as well as Shibo Jiang and Yaping Gao P’22 ’22, who made a donation to Blair in the amount of $200,000, the Class of 2022 has, so far, raised a record-breaking $374,310 for its scholarship. 

“We are very fortunate to have generous parents and friends of the School who value philanthropy and understand that it makes a huge difference in being able to offer deserving students the opportunity to attend Blair and take advantage of all the School has to offer,” says Assistant Director of Advancement for Parent Relations Susan Long.

Since the inception of the senior-class scholarship in 2019, generous members of the Blair community have donated over $1 million. “That’s life-changing for students who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford a Blair education,” says Chief Advancement Officer Craig Hall. Given the continued momentum in support of the senior-class gift, its positive impact on student scholarships at Blair and the example that is imparted to students about the value of philanthropy, Blair will continue the effort for future classes. Ms. Sun, for one, is glad for that. 

“As a mother, I appreciate everything Blair has offered to Meimei, and I am committing myself to fully continuing to support this community. I believe that is the best way to educate MeiMei that she has more to give the world. Thanks to Blair, while she is working to make herself better; at the same time, she is helping other people around her grow to be better, too.” 
 

Prize Assembly thumbnail

On the evening of May 31, 2022, the ninth, 10th and 11th grades came together to celebrate their schoolmates’ academic accomplishments. Dean of Academics Nathan Molteni opened the assembly saying, “The work of real learning is dirty and messy and it leaves a mark. That mark is what we take away with us after a year of learning. It’s the memories of surprising encounters, challenging ideas, inspiring teachers, your personal willpower to learn, your struggle to do it consistently and your willingness to let others help you along the way.” 

Faculty presented numerous subject and departmental awards to deserving students, including English teacher Kaye Evans who inducted 13 juniors into the Cum Laude Soceity to recognize their outstanding scholastic achievement. 

Click “play” below to watch the assembly. 

Congratulations to all of the students who were awarded recognition for their accomplishments on Tuesday!

The Phillips-James Rosen Trophy: Mallory Allen ’23 & Carnegie Johnson ’23

The John Kinch Leach Merit Award: Emma Clavel ’24 & Leo Munasinghe ’24

The David Avery-Jones Freshman Prize: Carson Bowman ’25 & Genesis Medina ’25

The Joan and Fernando Marcial Prize: Ksenia Burdiuzha ’24 & Tobenna Esomeju ’23

The Stephen Curry Prize: Brynne Grant ’24
 
Cum Laude Society: Kathryn Collins ’23, Fengyi Han ’23, Yunseo Jeong ’23, Elizabeth Kim ’23, Chloe Lau ’23, Bertrand Li ’23, Brian Liu '23Charlize Templeton ’23, Long Hoang Tran ’23, Ellie Walker ’23, Xiaoyu Wang ’23, Linyun Wu ’23 & Qiya Zhang ‘23

The Edyth Jeffrey Shakespeare Essay Prize: Meredith Abbott ’24, Reuben Akinyemiju ’25, Natalie Chamberlain ’24, Avery Cheng ’25, Ruby DeFrank ’24, Leilah Elkholy ’25, Dmitry Grachev ’25, Nicole Liao ’24, Dominick Lusardi ’25, Brigette Starrs ’25, Ellie Walker ’23, Shihan Wu ’24

The Henry Cowan Prize: Chloe Lau ’23 & Xiaoyu Wang ’23

Sophomore English Prize: Peyton Franz ’24 & Cooper Winegar '24 

Freshman English Prize: William Antunes ’25 & Avery Cheng ’25

Two Dimensional Art: Anh Vo ’25

Three Dimensional Art: Maya Ciminello ’23 & Benjamin Kotch ’23

Art Prize - Photography: Mia Leddy ’23

Art Prize - Video: Dirk Peereboom ’25

Art Prize - Graphic Design: Haruki Ono ’23

Freshman History Prize: Zhengze Li ’25

Sophomore History Prize: Simisola Onakomaiya ’24 & Owen Shin ’24

Junior History Prize: Xiaoyu Wang ’23 & Ellie Walker ’23

The Charles H. Breed Latin Prize: Fengyi Han ’23

Pythagoras Prize for Geometry: Jackson Armbruster ’25 & Andrew Hong ’25

Gauss Prize for Algebra: Gio Choi ’25

Euler Prize for Analysis: Shihan Wu ’24

Vocal Music Prize: Justin Baggett ’23

Instrumental Music Prize: Chloe Lau ’23 & William Nasser ’23

Underclass Theatre Prize: Grant Breckenridge ’24 & Julian Perello '24

Religion & Philosophy Prize: Xiaoyu Zhang ’23

Freshman Biology Prize: Daniel Accomando ’25 & Paige Celley ‘25

Sophomore Science Chemistry Prize: Cooper Winegar ’24

Junior Physics Prize: Ethan Anthony ’23


            


 

Bogle Brothers Scholarship Luncheon Connects

Established in 1968, the Bogle Brothers Scholars Program has, for over 50 years, provided the gift of a Blair education to more than 150 students. Blair Board of Trustees Chairman Emeritus Jack Bogle ’47 delighted in meeting his scholars at an annual luncheon and kept in touch with many of them long after graduation. Since Jack’s passing in 2019, his brother Bud Bogle ’45 has continued that tradition.  

On May 25, Bud hosted the Bogle Brothers Scholars luncheon at Sharpe House, welcoming former scholars Singleton Cox ’90, Kristen (Bogart) Salmon ’01, Emmanuel Bello ’04 and Yonny Reichel ’12, along with incoming Board of Trustees Chair Maria Savettiere P’17 and 11 current scholarship recipients. Using the opportunity to create deeper connections between students and alumni, attendees shared their Blair memories, as well as their plans for the future over finger sandwiches and sun tea. 
 
 “This is always a terrific opportunity to network and allow these students and alumni the chance to connect and learn more about one another. We are thrilled to keep this tradition alive and honor Jack Bogle’s life and legacy,” said Chief Advancement Officer Craig Hall. 
 

Blair Online Textbook Buyback

As the 2021-2022 school year enters its final weeks, Blair’s School Store shares information regarding textbooks that students rented or purchased for use in their coursework this year.

Click here for instructions on setting up an online book buyback account, including how to process a quote for your books and print out the free shipping label. Access Blair's online bookstore at https://bnck-12.com/blair to get started on a quote now. 

For more information or if you need extra assistance, contact School Store Manager Reanne Mauriello at maurir@blair.edu or 908-362-6121 ext. 5635.
 

Accomplishments Recognized at Class of 2022 Prize Assembly 

On the eve of graduation, the Class of 2022 gathered with their families and faculty to celebrate their fellow classmates’ many accomplishments at the Senior Prize Assembly. As he welcomed students and their guests to Armstrong-Hipkins Center for the Arts, Head of School Peter G. Curran encouraged seniors to take a moment to appreciate their surroundings and be present in the moment. “Each of you has impacted this community and modeled for younger students your Blair values and the importance of building relationships,” he said. “I urge you to remember the power of connection. Don’t forget that life is short and happiness is found doing things you are passionate about with people you care for.” 

The first awards of the evening were presented for academic excellence, and department chairs from across Blair took pride in recognizing their top students. English teacher Kaye Evans announced those seniors who had earned membership in Blair’s Cum Laude Society, and Director of Athletics Paul Clavel ’88 followed by recognizing the senior Buccaneers who had made outstanding contributions to Blair’s athletic teams.

Assistant Head of School and Dean of Faculty Lorry Perry next presented the James M. Howard Jr. Fellowship Prize, which honors a faculty member early in his or her career who has especially impacted the Blair community over the course of the school year. Abiding by tradition, Ms. Perry noted that the Senior Class Council helped choose the recipient and awarded this year’s James M. Howard Jr. Fellowship Prize to science teacher Julia Booth. 

The program continued with prizes for those who made significant contributions to other areas of student life and, finally, the Class of 2022 gift, which will support the Class of 2022 Scholarship. This year, seniors Caroline Johnson ’22 and Marc Koch ’22 extended a check for $5,393 to Mr. Curran, noting their class’ pride in raising funds to help deserving students attend Blair.

Head of School Curran concluded the Senior Prize Assembly by sharing a few words of heartfelt congratulation with the class of 2022, encouraging them to soak up their final hours as Blair students and to remember the lessons they have learned. “As you head out this summer and are able to decompress and take some time away from all of the schedules and pressures of the school year, I hope that you’ll remember [the lessons from Day of Service about] being kind and going out of your way to help others, especially those in your community and those around you. I wholeheartedly believe that Blair students are making the world a better place and I am so proud of you,”  he said. 

To watch the assembly click "play" below.

Congratulations to all those recognized at the 2022 Senior Prize Assembly:
 
CUM LAUDE INDUCTEES: 
Schuyler Anderson
Bobby Castillo
Keith Delaney
Megan Donaghy
Caroline Driscoll
Faith Elliott
George Gan
Ina Musabegovic
Peyton Schreiber
Aitalia Sharpe
Mason Stefanelli
Mia Stillerman
Peak Viprakasit
Henry Zhang

 
ROBERT DALLING PRIZE: Keith Delaney

WILLIAM ZESTER MEMORIAL AWARD: Megan Donaghy

HERBERT J. SIEGEL '46 PRIZE: Etka Ayhan

LEE ROSE MEMORIAL TROPHY: Laila Davson

FRANKLIN PRIZE: Aidan Ward

ELAINE & JAMES KELLEY PRIZE: Avery Robertson

SELENA & JAMES HOWARD PRIZE: Zoe LaMent & Gabriel Ramirez

HAROLD F. WALKER MEMORIAL PRIZE: Brad Allen & Selena Sanchez
 
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: Aidan Ward

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: Caroline Driscoll & Aidan Ward

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: Aidan Ward

THE EDYTH JEFFREY SHAKESPEARE ESSAY PRIZE, awarded to a Blair Academy student based on an essay related to the work of William Shakespeare: Alexandra Schamberger & Timothy Xi

ART DEPARTMENT PRIZES, recognizing outstanding work in these areas:

OVERALL: Sophia Papadopoulo

TWO-DIMENSIONAL ART: Marty Dericks

THREE-DIMENSIONAL ART: Eleanor Dana & Sam Junkermann

PHOTOGRAPHY: Duc Dinh 

VIDEO: Dong Bin Won

THE PAUL R. WHITE HISTORY PRIZE, awarded to that student/s considered to be the most proficient history student/s in the senior class: Caroline Johnson & George Gan

THE MARGUERITE DEYSSON HABERMANN MEMORIAL FRENCH PRIZE, awarded to a senior who has done exceptionally well in French: George Gan

SPANISH LANGUAGE PRIZE: Bobby Castillo

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN  FOREIGN LANGUAGES: Peyton Schreiber & Bobby Castillo

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

NEWTON PRIZE, awarded to the student displaying excellence in calculus: Aidan Ward

THE HARDING MEMORIAL PRIZE, awarded to that student who has contributed most to musical organizations: Schuyler Anderson

THE JOSEPH F. EBERLE MEMORIAL PRIZE, awarded to that student who exhibits outstanding achievement in music: Laila Davson & Max Gao

THE ROBERT F. HARRIS DRAMATICS AWARD, presented to that member of the student body who has shown the highest standard of excellence in dramatics: Sadie Donnelly & Alexandra Schamberger

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: Mia Stillerman & Justin Jiang

THE SCIENCE ACHIEVEMENT AWARD, 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: Justin Jiang & Max Gao

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

Additional senior prize recipients, announced during the week, include THE JOHN H. WYETH YEARBOOK PRIZE: Duc Dinh, Annalise Fried, Savannah Leach, Olaedo Udensi & Elleen Xue, with special mention to junior editors Ava Satasi '23 and Juliana Zweifel '23

 

Blair Celebrates 174th Commencement

On May 26, morning light slanted softly over Blair’s gabled roofs as a crowd of parents and friends began arriving. Their voices, animated and cheerful, rose like a wave, washing over the old stone pathways and wide green lawns, drifting around doorways and rising to dorm windows. Dressed in formal attire, parents, grandparents and friends made their way in pairs and scattered groups, hoping to catch a glimpse of their student as they walked across campus before the ceremony began. Blair’s 174th commencement day had arrived. 
 
As they have at graduation for over 100 years, families found their places, this year, on the sun-dappled lawn in front of Sharpe House, and during the ceremony that followed, the members of Blair’s class of 2022 celebrated their accomplishments and promising futures before joining the School’s alumni ranks. 

To watch the commencement ceremony in full, click "play" below.


As he stood before the assembled students at the conclusion of the ceremony, Head of School Peter G. Curran left each graduate with one request: “As you leave here today, please know that this place will always be your home and that your Blair connections deepen over time….We will remain curious and can’t wait to hear about all of your adventures, so please stay in touch–and be proud of the lasting legacy you leave behind at Blair.”
 
The entire Blair community extends heartfelt congratulations to the class of 2022! 


Faculty awards presented at graduation: 

Apgar Award for Teaching Excellence: Language teacher Cristina Castillo
John C. & Eve S. Bogle Teaching Prize: Language teacher Tim Devaney
Riether Residential Life Award: English teacher Douglass Compton
Lillian & Samuel Tedlow Teaching Prize: History department chair Jason Beck
Headmaster’s Faculty Prize: Science teacher Shelly Mantegna

Student awards presented at graduation: 

Headmaster’s Prize: Archer Benedict & Sophia Davis 
Blair Academy Trophy: Megan Donaghy & Keith Delaney
George P. Jenkins ’32 Prize: George Gan

Appointments to U.S. service academies:

U.S. Naval Academy: Etka Ayhan, Isabella Dugan & Avery Robertson 
U.S. Naval Academy Preparatory School: Daniel Wask 

To view photos from Commencement click here.
 

Senior Speeches Provide Culminating Moment for Public-Speaking Tradition


When the Washington Post reported in 2014 that Americans fear public speaking more than heights, bugs and needles, it came as no surprise to many. The fear of public speaking is common, and as many as one in four Americans report experiencing anxiety when presenting before an audience. 
 
A Physiological Challenge

Winner of two public-speaking contests on the hilltop, Blair alum Lily Starrs ’21 understands that fear. “The first time I approached the podium in the DuBois Theatre,” she remembers, “my heart was pounding, my hands grew sweaty and the voice that came out sounded too high to be mine.” Though she didn’t recognize it at the time, Lily’s hypothalamus had likely activated, triggering the release of adrenaline that contributes to stage fright. Experts say public speakers’ hesitancy often arises from a lack of experience communicating with a crowd.
 
Blair has long held that introducing public speaking at a young age has value and can ease the nervousness some new speakers experience. During the last century, for instance, Blair students wanting to improve their public-speaking skills joined the Webster Society and delivered a certain number of mandatory speeches per year. AP psychology teacher Shelly Mantegna explains that such repeated exposure—providing opportunities to practice an activity in small increments—is a classic psychological technique used to help overcome fears. “I’ve had students say that they are not comfortable presenting in front of the class,” Mrs. Mantegna recalls, “and, when that happens, I’ve had them start by presenting at their desk. Then, for the next presentation, they stand in front of the class, until, eventually, they progress to the stage.” 
 
Cross-Curricular Conditioning

For Blair’s current seniors, the speech contest is the culmination of four years of practicing the art of effective communication as Blair teachers created opportunities across departments for students to practice what they’ve learned and get better at it. Dean of Academics Nathan Molteni explains, “We try to make both formal speech giving and the application of storytelling a regular part of the learning experience here.” 
 
In the classroom, that might mean participating in the recent two-day Global Issues debate or making a public presentation of one’s research proposal for Integrated Science Research class. On the field, it might mean standing up as a captain and addressing the team. Whether sharing thoughts with classmates while delivering a Chapel talk, making announcements to the student body at weekly School Meetings, or orating before an auditorium of parents and judges in the School’s speech contests, Blair students have ample opportunities to put what they’ve learned into action. 
 
‘A Culminating Moment’

Blair’s annual rite of passage, the senior speech contest, comes as the culmination of those years’ of conditioning. For this year’s competition, students in AP English drafted remarks on a topic of their choosing and presented the finished product to their classmates. The top speakers from each class then advanced, going head-to-head on May 16 at Blair’s annual Senior Public Speaking Contest. Under the lights of the DuBois Theatre, the finalists covered a wide variety of topics including the human heart and tattoos, the life lessons to be gleaned from buying a prom dress and the importance of appreciating your family. Several students modeled both vulnerability and courage, sharing their stories of triumph over challenging medical diagnoses and trauma. 
 

A panel of faculty judges chose the winning speakers and announced their names at School Meeting on May 20: Duc Dinh ’22 received first prize, Megan Donaghy ’22 received second prize, and third prize was awarded to Sofia Ciminello ’22.
 
Dean of Academics Nathan Molteni sums up what he appreciated most about this year’s speeches: “It was a culminating moment for the senior class, one of the last shared academic experiences of the year,” he says. “I enjoyed hearing students’ stories come full circle—as they start with the leadership video in ninth grade and finish with these final speeches. In its best moments, the speeches offer us a unique window into the life of a senior, getting to know them in a new way even as they are preparing to depart from the community. That makes their willingness to share freely of themselves all the more appreciated—leaning in at a time when they are also beginning their transition to the next steps in life.”
 
Lessons Learned

Now at Brown University, Lily has left her racing heartbeat behind and hopes that this year’s senior speech winners come away from the public-speaking competition sharing her experience: “I used to think that speaking in front of the School would go down as one of my most terrifying experiences at Blair, but, looking back, it was actually one of my most fun and rewarding experiences—and one that has set me up best to succeed in college. Congratulations to this year’s winners!”
 

Students pose in front of a mural painted in Blairstown for Blair's Day of Service.

For the last eight years, Blair’s Annual Day of Service has stood simply as a day meant to help others. Though this year is no different, 2022’s Blair Day of Service is all the more important as it marks the first time the School reconnects with its local community in person since the coronavirus interfered with the annual tradition. 

“It’ll be the first time since 2019 that Blair gets to have the Day of Service,” said history teacher and community service coordinator Joanne Brandwood, who once again led the day’s planning. “And I can’t tell you how many people [in the Blair community] have already reached out about their excitement, because each year that Blair does this, we really do make a direct impact in the local community.”

Each year, nearly 500 students, teachers and staff members come together to contribute to Blair’s largest single day of volunteering. There are no classes to hold, no tests to take and no meetings to attend. There is only the gathering of determined, young bodies to take on projects that address the needs of others—all in an effort to make a difference in the world. 

While some of Blair’s student organizations lead specific philanthropic initiatives throughout the year, Day of Service marks the single day when the entire community unites to lend a hand. “Everybody does something on the day. All the faculty and students gather to take part in an all-encompassing effort,” said Mrs. Brandwood. 

Since its inception, the Blair community has served over 17 organizations including the Hardyston Charity Garden, the Manna House and the First Presbyterian Church of Blairstown Food Pantry, with the list only increasing by the year. Activities undertaken by students in the past include translating documents, assisting in animal welfare, spearheading environmental conservation and much more.

After a two-year hiatus, the list of organizations welcoming assistance remains long as there is so much work that can be shared. No matter how much work there is to be done, the overall theme remains the same—for students to go out, have fun and hopefully do some good in the process.

“The message and the goal for the day is threefold. Number one, we want to be of service. That’s the most important thing. Number two, we want to show our students that service work can be fun and inspire them to be lifelong volunteers,” said Mrs. Brandwood. 

“Our final goal for the day is to draw connections between Blair and the community. Working together with our neighbors and our community is extremely positive and inspiring.”

Click here to view all the photos of Blair students in action on the 7th Day of Service.
 

Love/Sick Play poster

The lights will go up at the Robert J. Evans Open Air Theatre at 7:30 p.m. on May 19, 20 and 21, when the Blair Academy Players present John Cariani’s Love/Sick.

Billed as “a darker cousin to Almost, Maine,” Love/Sick is a collection of nine short plays that take place on a single Friday night in a fictitious suburban town. Depicting the highs and lows of love experienced by nine different couples, the play explores the delicate moments that shape the life cycle of love, from a young couple left breathless by love at first sight to a middle-aged man wondering why the thrill has left his marriage. 

“Love/Sick is a sequel of sorts to Almost, Maine,” says veteran performing arts teacher and theatre director Craig Evans, “which Blair students performed a number of years ago. The stories are not quite as sunny, by and large, but Cariani’s care in telling the characters’ stories is remarkable.”

“The plays covers the evolution of love from meeting to marriage to having children to post-divorce,” he explains. Theatregoers can expect to find both rich humor as well as moments of deep poignancy in the production. “The audience may be laughing at one point, and then moved by the resolution of the situation.”

The production’s cast of 18 includes Ari Albino ’23, Schuyler Anderson ’22, Samantha Antonelli ’22, Archer Benedict ’22, Grant Breckenridge ’24, Sofia Ciminello ’22, JC Cong ’23, Sadie Donnelly ’22, Richard Gimbel ’24, Amogh Katare ’24, Bertrand Li ’23, Marc Lui ’23, Julian Perello ’24, Alex Schamberger ’24, Vivien Sheridan ’22, Julia Twomey ’24, Emily Wang ’23 and Hanna Wilke ’23. Amalia Scripsick ’23 serves as the student production director. 

Director Evans explains that, unlike traditional plays in which a handful of roles form the leads, Love/Sick’s structure enables each of the actors to hold equal roles, providing ample opportunity for each of Blair’s performers to shine. 

Cast member Richard Gimbel, who first experienced a performance in the Robert J. Evans Theatre last year, is especially looking forward to his role and taking part in the show’s premiere. “The audience can expect a delightful show that blends comedy and tragedy on the outdoor stage. It’s very compelling!” he says. 

General admission tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students; admission is free to all Blair faculty, staff and students. In the case of inclement weather, the play will be presented in the nearby DuBois Theatre in Armstrong-Hipkins Center for the Arts.
 

Tom Malinowski

Representing the 7th District of New Jersey in the U.S. House of Representatives, Congressman Tom Malinowski joined Blair on Monday, May 8 to speak with students about his career and work in human rights while offering his perspective on the current state of international affairs. 

Filling nearly every seat in the Chiang-Elghanayan Center for Innovation and Collaboration (CECIC) students listened attentively to Rep. Malinowski’s talk, which rounded out the 2021-2022 Skeptics season.

To view his presentation, click here:

“By way of introduction, there’s a part of my background that I wanted to share with you all,” started Rep. Malinowski, who went on to divulge that his great-great grandfather was 19th-century railroad mogul John Insley Blair, who founded Blair Academy in 1848.

Moving on from the uncanny bit of history, Rep. Malinowski proceeded to explain the main reason for his attendance: To share his belief that people, especially citizens of the United States, needed to demand the truth, especially in politics. 

“We’re a very divided country right now, as I’m sure you noticed. We’re not the only country that is divided or polarized on political issues, issues that people are passionate about,” he said.

“There’s never one cause for a problem, but one of the causes [of our nation’s dividedness], I think, has to do with the significant change in technology that has happened in the world in the last 10 or 20 years,” said Rep. Malinowski before pointing to how the digital era affects the trustworthiness of the news. 

In the past, he said, “Anchors were widely trusted in our country and tried to answer the question, ‘What’s important and what’s true?’ and there were still Democrats and Republicans then as there are now, but they would argue over the facts. Having that common understanding of the truth was a unifying force in the country.”

Delineating the history of America’s relationship with the news paved the way for Rep. Malinowski to then focus on his change-yielding actions while sitting in the House Foreign Affairs, Transportation and Infrastructure, and Homeland Security committees. He recently co-signed legislation, including bill H.R.5665, which aims at combating the International Islamophobia Act and also bill H.R.3755, which establishes the option for states to waive certain federal health-insurance requirements and provide residents with health-insurance benefits plans through a state-administered program.

After discussing politics and his political background, Rep. Malinowski opened the floor to answer questions, making sure that he took the time to respond to each student just as he would for each one of his constituents. 


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, which is funded in part by the Class of 1968 Society of Skeptics Endowment Fund, is 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 and his successor, history department chair Jason Beck, Skeptics has featured a wide variety of speakers who are thought-provoking, engaging, accomplished in their respective fields and often controversial. For a listing of upcoming Skeptics programs, please visit Blair’s website.

Blair’s Emily (Xiaoyu) Wang ’23 Addresses the United Nations

According to the United Nations, nearly 140 people die each hour from AIDS-related causes. While the international community has made progress in combating the disease, nearly 37 million people continue to live with AIDS and halting the spread of HIV remains one of the public health challenges of the 21st century. 

On March 18, Blair’s Emily (Xiaoyu) Wang ’23 lent her voice to the critical issue, delivering a 20-minute speech to the 66th United Nations’ Commission on the Status of Women that addressed the causes of elevated HIV/AIDS transmission rates and provided potential solutions aimed at youth. “This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity where I could both represent students from Blair and learn from the other attendees,” Emily says. “I’m so grateful for the experience.”

Emily has long held an interest in using education—and her talent—to make the world a better place. In middle school, she tutored public school students from rural Liangshan, China, volunteering to teach English and creating an art textbook titled Let Me Draw the Vocabulary that is now used by her former pupils. At Blair, Emily stepped up to teach a seminar to classmates during 2021’s Asian American and Pacific Islander heritage month, and this year, she led one of Blair’s Black History Month seminars, educating her peers and the school community about the American civil rights movement. After Mr. Redos’ Human Rights class and Mr. Thomas’ Art for Social Change class sparked her interest in human rights, Emily applied for an internship at a nonprofit focused on HIV education in China. That nonprofit’s website led her to an application to address the United Nations—and that is how the Blair junior found herself speaking to a conference of 200 international dignitaries in March.

Although she blushes when called a representative of global youth, Emily is delighted to have had the opportunity to inform policy on an international level and to be an advocate for using education to combat HIV/AIDS. “My advice at the U.N. conference was that students are a powerful tool in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Peer education promotes dialogue and helps combat the deep-seated stigmas that can lead to a lack of health education worldwide.”  

Currently in the process of applying for a position on the United Nations’ ECOSOC Youth Forum, Emily hopes that her international work to improve the lives of others is just beginning. As she told the U.N. conference in March, “We cannot be satisfied until everybody, in both developing and developed countries, receive the care they need to lead healthy lives.”