During a March 2015 School Meeting, language department chair Joyce Lang invited students to participate in a new community service opportunity: tutoring Spanish-speaking children in nearby Newton, New Jersey. Fast forward three years, and La Conexión—the aptly named club that connects Blair students with elementary-aged children of recent Latino immigrants—is thriving, and Mrs. Lang couldn’t be more pleased with the many ways students have taken ownership of the activity.

The club’s focus is helping youngsters—many of whom are just learning English and whose parents are non-native English speakers—to understand and complete their homework. Each Wednesday afternoon, about a half-dozen or more Blair students travel by van or bus with Mrs. Lang to the Diocese of Paterson’s Migrant Ministry office in Newton, where they work one-on-one or in small groups with the children who come for help. And, once the homework is done, there is always time for conversation, learning games and fun.

“The idea is to create enthusiasm around homework and let the children know there are people outside their immediate family circle who care about them,” Mrs. Lang said. “But the actual direction we take each week with activities and games depends on our students, and that’s a beautiful thing.”

Noting that Blair volunteers need not speak Spanish in order to participate and that each one “brings something different to the table,” Mrs. Lang described some of the ways students have shared their enthusiasm, ideas and talents with their young friends. Tys Sweeney ’17, a regular participant during his Blair years, purchased textbooks and storybooks that ignited kids’ imaginations. Daisy Kahn ’19 has brought games like bingo and Bananagrams into the mix as a fun way to promote the learning of numbers, vocabulary and spelling. Last year, several Blair students created handwritten and illustrated storybooks especially for the children they’d gotten to know over the weeks of tutoring, and many volunteers bring a big brother/big sister approach that makes for smiles all around.

Students have also taken on leadership roles and helped La Conexión grow as a Blair activity. Emily Choi ’17, one of the first Newton tutoring volunteers and a passionate advocate for Latino immigrants, took the initiative to make the activity an official Blair club, christened it La Conexión, and expanded its membership during her junior and senior years. Her sister, Irene ’18, and Kenza Fernandez ’18 picked up the leadership baton this year, and both have become ambassadors for the program among Blair’s student body. They make announcements at School Meeting, attract fellow students to the program and assemble a group of volunteers each week. Meanwhile, Daisy and Elizabeth Negvesky ’20 are waiting in the wings to take over as next year’s La Conexión leaders, with ideas to potentially incorporate English lessons for the elementary schoolers’ parents into the weekly sessions and share the program’s successful model with other Mid-Atlantic Prep League schools.

Irene was initially drawn to the club as a sophomore by her sister’s excitement, but her own enthusiasm grew by leaps and bounds as she saw the children’s smiling faces every week. “The best part about being a leader of La Conexión has been seeing kids I’ve known for three years grow up physically and emotionally, and knowing I’ve been a part of their lives. I truly care for and adore each and every one, and it is just so much fun tutoring and coloring with them!” she said. As she prepares to graduate next month, she encouraged Blair students to join the club: “La Conexión will teach you so many life lessons and bring you joy and love. I can promise you, it will be an amazing experience that you will never forget.”

“It has been wonderful to see our students' positivity and optimism around the tutoring program,” Mrs. Lang observed. “When we talk in the bus on the way to Newton, it seems that their thinking has no limits. They really love the kids, and they’ve put a great deal of energy into La Conexión to make it a stable, successful activity.”


Business Leader George Kolber to Give Final Skeptics Lecture of Year

The Society of Skeptics welcomes its final speaker of the year, business leader, humanitarian and philanthropist George Kolber, on April 24. During his talk, titled "A Family's Survival," Mr. Kolber will share with the audience how his family escaped the Holocaust by migrating to Shanghai, and how he later came to live and work in the United States. Drawing on personal experience, Mr. Kolber will also share some business best practices that have paved the way for success in his career, as well as his humanitarian and philanthropic efforts outside the workplace. The event will begin at 7 p.m. in the Chiang Center for Collaboration and Innovation's Collaboration Forum.

Mr. Kolber serves as a managing member of GVK Limited Partners, which provides corporate investment and financing solutions. He leads Kolber Properties, which owns and manages resort residential and other commercial properties, and is the founder and CEO of Kopa Group LLC, a company committed to the design, sales and installation of commercial and industrial energy-efficient lighting.

He frequently visits college campuses, including Columbia Graduate School of Business, the University of the District of Columbia and Monmouth University, among others, to share his retail, marketing and finance expertise. He also travels to speak on Holocaust and genocide awareness, at times focusing specifically on Jews who escaped the Nazi regime by fleeing to Shanghai.

Earlier in his career, Mr. Kolber was CEO and vice chairman of Retail Ventures Inc., which operated Value City Department Stores, Filene's Basement and DSW Shoe Warehouse. During his tenure as vice chairman and COO of American Eagle Outfitters, the company grew from a market capitalization of $225 million to more than $2.25 billion. Most recently, Mr. Kolber was the chairman and CEO of Body Shop of America, a national retail chain with a catalog and e-commerce operation. Throughout his prolific career, he has specialized, and succeeded, in steering troubled companies toward future financial success.

Mr. Kolber is a commissioner of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority and the chairman of the Kolber Family Foundation. He has also served on the boards of a number of retail companies and the nonprofits Jumpstart and Riverview Medical Center Foundation.

In 2011, Mr. Kolber received Monmouth University's prestigious Maurice Pollak Award for Distinguished Community Service for his extraordinary philanthropic contributions to a number of local organizations, including scholarship support for university students. He was also recognized with the Jewish Heritage Award for his commitment to promoting Holocaust and genocide awareness and is a recipient of the Crown American Leadership in Real Estate Award. Mr. Kolber served in the United States Army Reserves from 1969 to 1975.

The Society of Skeptics was established as a forum for students and faculty to discuss and debate important global issues; it has grown to become one of the premier high school lecture series in the United States. Each week, speakers from the political, social, scientific, economic and literary arenas share their unique perspectives with students, who are encouraged to engage with presenters, asking questions and debating points of view.

The program was an outgrowth of the Blair International Society, begun in 1937. Forty years later, former history department chair Elliott Trommald, PhD, Hon.'65, established the modern Skeptics program as a regular forum for student discussion and debate; history teacher Martin Miller, PhD, took over in the mid-1980s and molded the program into a weekly lecture series, one that has since continued without interruption. Under the tutelage of Dr. Miller, Skeptics has featured a wide variety of speakers who are engaging, accomplished in their respective fields and often controversial. For a listing of upcoming Skeptics programs, please click here.

More Than 110 Colleges & Universities to Attend Annual College Fair

Blair Academy’s 12th-annual College Fair promises to be a goldmine of information for students and parents eager to learn about the offerings available at colleges and universities throughout the U.S. and abroad. Representatives from more than 110 institutions are slated to attend the event, which will be held in Hardwick Hall on April 18 and 19 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Area students, parents and guidance counselors are welcome.

The College Fair gives sophomores and juniors who are just beginning their college search the opportunity to gain firsthand information about different schools’ programs and application procedures from admission representatives. Blair’s Dean of College Counseling Lew Stival recommends that students introduce themselves to representatives of schools to which they may apply, as these admission officers are often the people who will eventually read applications and be involved in admission decisions.

Blair's college counselors will be on hand each evening to answer parents’ questions about the college admission process. In addition, Mr. Stival will speak to interested parents on his book entitled Understanding Athletic Recruiting, and Assistant Dean of College Counseling Britt Freitag will speak to parents about the financial aid process. For more information about the College Fair, please contact Rachel Byrne, college counseling administrative assistant, at (908) 362-6121, ext. 5620, or email byrner@blair.edu.

The following colleges and universities will attend the Blair Academy College Fair:

April 18, 2018

Bard College Marist College
Barnard College Muhlenberg College
Bennington College Oberlin College
Boston University Providence College
Bryant University Rice University
College of the Holy Cross Rider University
College of Mount Saint Vincent Saint Joseph's University
College of Staten Island, CUNY St. John's University - Staten Island
College of Wooster St. Lawrence University
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Florida Sarah Lawrence University
Fairleigh Dickinson University, Metropolitan Campus Skidmore College
Franklin & Marshall College Southern Methodist University
Furman University SUNY Binghamton
SUNY Oneonta Gettysburg College
Hampshire College Syracuse University
High Point University The College of Wooster
Hobart and William Smith Colleges The University of Alabama
Hood College The University of Scranton
James Madison University Trinity College
Johns Hopkins University United States Naval Academy
Kenyon College University of Pittsburg-Pittsburg Campus
Lafayette College University of South Carolina — Columbia
Washington University in St. Louis

April 19, 2018

Albright College Rollins College
Allegheny College Rutgers University - New Brunswick
Bates College Sacred Heart University
Bryn Mawr College St. John's College - Annapolis
Bucknell University Saint Michael's College
Cairn University Savannah College of Art and Design
Carnegie Mellon University Seton Hall University
Case Western Reserve University Stevens Institute of Technology
Colgate University Stonehill College
College of Charleston SUNY - All Campuses
Colorado College SUNY Albany
Davidson College Susquehanna University
Dickinson College The George Washington Univers
Drew University The University of Arizona
Drexel University The University of Chicago
Elizabethtown College Tulane University
Emory University University of British Columbia Okanagan
Endicott College University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)
Grinnell College University of Colorado at Boulder
Hamilton College University of Connecticut
Hult International Business School University of Maryland College Park
Ithaca College University of Massachusetts-Lowell
Keiser Unicersity - Flagship Campus, FL University of Minnesota Twin Cities
Lawrence Technological University University of New Haven
Merrimack College University of San Francisco
New York University University of St. Andrews
Pennsylvania State University - Main Campus University of Tennessee - Knoxville
Purdue University University of Toronto
Queens University of Kingston University of Wisconsin - Madison
Ramapo College Vanderbilt University
Randolph-Macon College Vassar College
Rhodes College Washington and Jefferson
Rochester Institute of Technology  
Tech Safari & edACCESS Conference Bring Latest Technology Developments to Blair 

With the addition of new technology-centric courses in recent years and the opening of the Chiang Center for Innovation and Collaboration last fall, Blair has brought technology to the forefront of learning. The Chiang Center’s dedicated technology classrooms and spaces are outfitted with tools—such as 3D printers, a laser cutter, computer labs for audio and video editing, and 2D and 3D digital design software—to drive innovation. With so many resources available, students have more opportunities than ever to explore topics in subjects like computer science, digital music and songwriting, artificial intelligence, graphic design, robotics, and film and animation, and to collaborate across disciplines, combining art, science, math and more to create products and solve problems.

“The Chiang Center represents a recognition of the importance of innovative thinking in education,” said Director of Technology Sam Adams, who also chairs Blair’s computer science department. “It represents an awareness of the critical role which design and technology play in today's world. Most importantly, it represents Blair's commitment to providing an education that is dynamic and current as our students prepare to face the challenges ahead.” 

As the School continues to expand technology offerings and encourage students to embrace a “maker mentality,” Blair faculty will pursue several professional development opportunities this spring and summer to deepen their knowledge.

A ‘Tech Safari’ in Design & Fabrication

Throughout the spring, computer science and robotics teacher Mike Garrant will explore ways in which he can aid students in their creative pursuits in the maker space, from learning tricks and tips to relay to students with little or no computer-aided design (CAD) experience, to exploring new equipment that will help bring those ideas to reality.

Embarking on a “tech safari,” Mr. Garrant plans to explore advanced CAD training, visit and attend workshops at nearby maker spaces, explore partnerships with local companies, research equipment for next-level 3D projects, develop ideas for future student projects and more.

The 2017-2018 school year has been crucial in establishing a knowledgebase of the tools and resources available in the Chiang Center, Mr. Garrant said. While there may always be an element of teaching the tools and technology, many students are ready to take the next step.

“The discussions are problem- or idea-driven now,” he said. “We’re no longer just talking about the tools; more and more, students have the skills and familiarity when they arrive in the maker space. They are comfortable and ready to try something.”

By expanding his own skillset this spring, Mr. Garrant hopes to aid all student-maker endeavors, no matter the project. Ultimately, he, and his fellow arts and technology faculty members hope students will continue to bring their own ideas and projects to the Chiang Center.

“We hope to inspire students to think about how they fix or improve things in their everyday lives. If we can motivate students to bring their own interests and ideas, that will serve them well in learning a design and fabrication process that they can apply to their next project.”

edACCESS Conference Comes to Campus

For four days in summer 2018, Blair’s technology office will host counterparts from more than 20 peer schools at this year’s edACCESS Conference, an open forum during which participants drive the content and discussions around technology in education.

Mr. Adams, who is a member of the edACCESS steering committee, is excited to invite colleagues to campus to address topical issues and ideas in education and technology, as well as to showcase the many features of the Chiang Center. During the conference, attendees will participate in focus groups on timely topics and issues.

Blair faculty members will also host seminars for conference attendees: Head of School Chris Fortunato will run a focus group on the challenges of creating new technology spaces and how Blair advanced the vision for the Chiang Center. Mr. Garrant will hold workshops on robotics and Blair’s maker space. And, to round out the experience, Reuben Loewy, a scholar committed to teaching Internet studies worldwide, will deliver a keynote address on digital citizenship and how to encourage teachers and students to engage in a positive way online.

EdACCESS is a nonprofit organization committed to providing support and networking opportunities for smaller schools. For more information on edACCESS and its annual conference, visit www.edaccess.org.


Norman Rockwell Museum Curator Visits Blair

A copy of this article also appears in The Blair Oracle, a student-run online publication that features work from members of the community, including news, essays, artwork, fiction and commentary.

The juniors in English 3 had the pleasure of being introduced, some for the first time, to the work of the amazingly talented and influential artist Norman Rockwell. My class was assigned to write a creative story, a backstory or prequel to a Rockwell painting of our choice. Considering he created over 4,000 paintings during his life, it was a little hard to pick just one masterpiece.

On Thursday, March 29, the curator of the Norman Rockwell Museum, Tom Daly, visited the Chiang Center for Innovation and Collaboration to shed more light on the start of Rockwell’s career, his inspirations and his family. I was impressed by how present Rockwell’s work was and still is in American culture. He was revolutionary in his time, and completely unafraid of possible backlash. His work continues to inspire.

Norman Rockwell was an outcast in his childhood. He was in the shadow of his older brother constantly, and he was alone for the majority of his childhood. However, within the loneliness, he found constant comfort in his passion of painting. 

By his late 20s, Rockwell was already being published weekly in a magazine called The Saturday Evening Post, where his art was featured on the cover, week after week. Even at such a young age, his art was skillful and his passion could be felt when viewing his creations. 

For over 30 years, Rockwell illustrated for that magazine, and its editors let him paint whatever he wanted. Rockwell used that freedom to send the messages he wanted to spread. During the Second World War, for instance, Rockwell felt the need to enlighten readers about what was happening all around the world. 

He showed the importance of inclusivity and equality in one of his most popular series, the “Four Freedoms.” All masterfully displayed these values, which Rockwell believed should be enjoyed by every person and family. 

His “Freedom of Worship” is absolutely breathtaking. This painting depicts the profiles of people of varying ages, races and religions, all standing side by side, praying to their own higher power. Their faces are all looking away from the viewer, but one feels as if they’re also peacefully coexisting.

Maybe the most well-known of the series is “Freedom of Want,” which is still seen often today. It was featured in the TV show Modern Family, used by the singer and songwriter Lady Gaga and an edited version is being used to promote the upcoming Deadpool 2. This painting captures the essence of Rockwell’s painting style. He often constructed his portraits like candid photos. In this painting, the family is captured mid-Thanksgiving dinner, their smiling faces all naturally posed as they sit along their long dining table. 

“Freedom of Speech” depicts a man dressed drastically differently from all of the business-type people in the courtroom. He is obviously a working man, judging by his rough hands and his literal blue collar, which stands out among the surrounding white-collared men. Still, he is unafraid to voice his opinions in court. Little details like the collar color and the inclusion of a woman in the background of the courtroom, a place where women were not yet allowed to attend, showed Rockwell’s opinions without forcing them on the viewer. 

His “Freedom of Fear” is heartwarming to say the least. The very serious themes of the previous paintings take a slightly lighter turn in this one, as it simply depicts a mom and dad tucking their two children into bed. However, there is a deeper meaning. There is a warm feeling of family radiating from this painting, which shows how talented Rockwell was in channeling feelings into his art. The parents appear to be happy, but, if you take a closer look, one can see the headline of the newspaper in the father’s hand:  “Bombings… Horror.” The presence of fear is seen within the parents, but they are granting their children the freedom from fear. The guardian angel portrait above the bed cements that protective message. 

Rockwell’s paintings continue to inspire tolerance and inclusion, and they still take my breath away every time I see one. The realism is incredible, and they tear at my conscience every time I imagine what inspired each painting. The beautiful, awe-inspiring and absolutely invaluable paintings of Norman Rockwell are definitely worth all the appreciation we can give them.  


Carlos García Hernández to Discuss 'The Peace Boat' at Skeptics

International educator and cultural program facilitator Carlos García Hernández will take the Blair community on a journey around the world at the April 17 Society of Skeptics as he discusses his 105-day voyage aboard the Peace Boat. The trip brought him and fellow travelers to 15 countries, where they explored human rights, environmental, sustainability and other issues of local and global concern. Mr. García will screen portions of his original documentary, Land Voices, a Voyage Onboard Peace Boat, during his presentation, which begins at 7 p.m. in the Chiang Center for Innovation and Collaboration's Collaboration Forum.

Founded in 1983 in Japan, Peace Boat is an international nonprofit, non-governmental organization that works to promote peace, human rights, equal and sustainable development, and respect for nature. Its activities include global education and responsible tourism programs, cooperation projects and informational campaigns, and through these, Mr. García explained, the organization aims to raise awareness and create action to achieve social and political changes in the world.

"The activities take place during educational peace voyages onboard a large passenger ship," he continued. "This ship creates a neutral environment and mobile space that facilitates cooperation and open dialogue among people on the open sea and in ports." Mr. García served as a volunteer instructor for the GET language program aboard Peace Boat's 86th voyage in 2016.

At Skeptics, Mr. García will discuss peace-building concepts in addition to describing his compelling journey and sharing video testimonies from local leaders in Southern Hemisphere countries who are fighting for human rights and environmental protection in their regions. "Through my presentation, I hope audience members can rethink what peace means and how we can build peace in our daily lives," he said. "I want to inspire others to create the change we want in our communities."

A graduate of Spain's Jaume I University, Mr. García holds a master's degree in communications and has wide-ranging experience in education and cultural programs. He is currently an instructor for World Leadership School in India, Costa Rica, Belize and Cuba, and he recently served as a facilitator for The Mosaic Project in Oakland, California.

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 James Youngelson '53 Lecture on Ethics and Responsibility was established in 2009 to honor alumnus James Youngelson ’53, an attorney and former president of the Morris County (N.J.) Bar Association. Created by Mr. Youngelson’s sister and late brother-in-law, Joan and Jonah Sherman, the lecture series honors Mr. Youngelson for his service to others and desire to inspire in young people the ideals of justice, responsibility and service by featuring speakers whose lives embody those ideals.

The program was an outgrowth of the Blair International Society, begun in 1937. Forty years later, former history department chair Elliott Trommald, PhD, Hon.'65, established the modern Skeptics program as a regular forum for student discussion and debate; history teacher Martin Miller, PhD, took over in the mid-1980s and molded the program into a weekly lecture series, one that has since continued without interruption. Under the tutelage of Dr. Miller, Skeptics has featured a wide variety of speakers who are engaging, accomplished in their respective fields and often controversial. For a listing of upcoming Skeptics programs, please click here.

Grandparents Enjoy a Special Day on Campus

The Blair community welcomed some very special visitors to campus in mid-April: grandparents! The School held its annual Grandparents' Day on April 18, and a full program of events gave grandparents an up-close-and-personal view of their grandchildren's lives at Blair.

The event began with registration and coffee in the Chiang Center for Innovation and Collaboration. Head of School Chris Fortunato welcomed grandparents to campus and discussed some highlights of the Blair experience. Next, grandparents headed to Armstrong-Hipkins Center for the Arts to enjoy a concert by the Orchestra and Singers, featuring some of the repertoire presented by the musicians during their spring-break tour of England.

For the remainder of the day, grandparents accompanied their grandchildren to a class and to lunch in the Romano Dining Hall. They also attended an afternoon faculty panel discussion, took guided campus tours and cheered on the Bucs during home athletic events.

"Grandparents' Day is a wonderful opportunity for grandparents to experience the warmth of the Blair community and meet some of their grandchildren's friends and teachers," said Susan Long, assistant director of advancement for parent relations. "It was great to see so many smiling faces on campus during the event."


Joshua George roundtable

Blair students got a firsthand look at brand management and merchandising at an Alumni Roundtable with Joshua George ’89, vice president and men’s brand manager at Steve Madden, a leading company in the fashion industry.

During his April 5 presentation, Mr. George engaged in a Q & A with nearly 30 attendees in the Chiang Center for Innovation and Collaboration, touching on his long history with Steve Madden, a company he first joined as a men’s product line builder in 2007. He went on to detail the additional experience he gained in footwear merchandising when he got his start in the industry at Ralph Lauren in 1996, first as a part-time salesperson, then as manager of New York City stores and eventually moving up to men’s buyer, senior buyer, product manager and, ultimately, senior director of footwear merchandising, a position he left in 2012 to focus solely on his work at Steve Madden.

Mr. George explained his daily responsibilities, which include seasonal trend shopping, market research, managing and coordinating product sampling from development prototype to sales sample to final confirmation, and communication and negotiation with sellers and retailers.

As head of men’s design, he also oversees design and development, a role in which he identifies new product opportunities and gives direction to the designers and factories that actually build product lines. Mr. George also described his collaborations with designers, which include coaching them to react quickly to market changes, keeping product flow on schedule, and communicating with Steve Madden Retail to identify best sellers and commercialize products for wholesale distribution.

Life Principles & A Day in the Life

Among the advice he offered students: building relationships, negotiation and analytical thinking are all key to success in the fields of merchandising and product development. Noting that he wears many hats in his position at Steve Madden, Mr. George shared a few “life principles” that led him to a career he loves. “Always be on the hustle and always be grinding,” he said. “What Blair is teaching you is invaluable: an independence and self-sufficiency that, whether you realize it or not, will put you years ahead of your college classmates and set you up to be a successful manager and employee later in life. The nuts and bolts of life are happening right here, and you will fully understand how much Blair taught you as you enter the workforce.”

Crediting veteran Blair history teacher (and Roundtable attendee) Martin Miller, PhD, with being one of the mentors who shaped his education and professional career, Mr. George noted that a typical day in his role as head of design and development might include presentations to clients such as Macys about next year’s spring line, working with his design team on prototypes for dress and casual shoes, and meeting vendors from India to review design challenges. Seasonally, he also mixes in a fair amount of international travel, during which he photographs hundreds of shoes for inspiration and attends shoe shows to showcase his team’s work and to stay ahead of the competition.

“Design is not a linear process, going from someone’s brain to a manufacturer,” Mr. George explained. “You are always innovating, and there is a lot of give and take. In the shoe and fashion industries, if you bat .300, you are a pretty good hitter. You don’t have to be perfect. Sometimes, you are under a lot of time constraints. You just do your best in the time allotted. You can’t be a perfectionist.”

In fact, he advised students to “let yourselves start running downhill,” and avoid getting stuck at the opening, middle or conclusion of any project. “If you hit an impasse, move on. Find a place where the work flows. But don’t dwell on perfectionism because nothing in life is perfect.”

Combining Confidence & Insecurity

The best approach, he added, is one that company founder Steve Madden asks all of his employees to adopt: Be simultaneously “100 percent confident and 100 percent insecure.”

“In this industry, you are only as good as the last thing you did,” Mr. George said. “If you are never 100 percent satisfied, you’ll be successful. And, remember, you don’t have to see it right now, and your educational and career paths might not be linear. But when opportunities arise, take advantage of them. Put in the work, and it will lead somewhere.”

Student questions focused on his transition from a part-time salesman to buyer and then manager, and Mr. George explained how he developed his management style by observing others and emulating those he admired. He also spoke about Steve Madden’s initial public offering and his changing industry in the Amazon.com age, where storefronts are shrinking and private-label partnerships are flourishing.

“Our company has mastered organized chaos, and we have learned to fail fast—meaning we try a lot of things and, if they don’t work, we let them go quickly. If things are working, we pounce. Fast reaction is essential. Back in the day, JCPenney would order 50,000 of one shoe in one color and then own them, even if they didn’t sell. That doesn’t happen anymore, and we are trying to become more nimble and efficient as we navigate this new world.” Strong brand identification is essential, he added, because online stores such as Amazon only take on small inventories, and manufacturers are now the ones who have to invest in real estate and shelf space, whereas that used to be the job of retailers.

From Blair to High Fashion

During his remarks, Mr. George also recounted his path to Steve Madden. In the 1990s, he attended The George Washington University in Washington, D.C., where he majored in East Asian studies. Following college, he stayed in the Beltway and worked as a political lobbyist, interning at Cassidy and Associates, a well-known government relations firm, and the American Wind Energy Association, a national trade association representing the interests of that industry.

He left the political sphere in 1996 to spend time with a relative in Italy, later moving back to the United States and accepting a part-time retail position at Ralph Lauren in Tannersville, Pennsylvania. He continued to follow a “non-linear” career arc, quickly discovering he excelled on the selling floor and accepting a similar position in New York City. Before Mr. George decided to “go to the back of the house,” his former boss from the American Wind Energy Association called and asked him if he was interested in taking over her position as director of membership services. Although he recalls being “really torn” about the decision, Mr. George opted to continue on his new career trajectory and worked at Ralph Lauren Footwear for almost a decade.

In 2005, he and his partner, Daina, briefly moved to San Diego, where he explored a different aspect of sales as general manager of the helmet and apparel company ICON Motorsports. When the business relocated to Portland, Oregon, in 2007, the couple decided to move back East with their young son, and Mr. George joined the staff at Steve Madden’s New York City office.

About Alumni Roundtables

Blair's Alumni Roundtable speakers' series connects today's students with prominent alumni across industries, giving soon-to-be graduates the opportunity to learn about different fields from experienced professionals.

Instituted in 2018 by Head of School Chris Fortunato, the Alumni Roundtable series welcomes Blair graduates of all generations to campus to speak about their careers and engage in question-and-answer sessions with students. Find out more about past and upcoming speakers, and please let us know if you would like to participate in a future event by contacting Director of Stewardship E. Courtnay Stanford at (908) 362-6121, ext. 5646, or stanfc@blair.edu.



Blair Thanks Donors for Participation on Third-Annual Day of Giving

As Blair celebrated its third-annual Day of Giving on April 5, the School reached a number of milestones: more than 700 donors made gifts during a 24-hour period in one day for the Blair Fund. Blair thanks Todd Ruppert '74, who donated $100 for every new gift made by an alumnus or alumna who graduated from Blair in the 1970s. Over the course of the day, Blair students joined alumni, parents and friends in celebrating 170 years of excellence with gifts of their own; and, across the globe, members of the Blair community shared their love for and support of the School on social media.

"Our Day of Giving is a dedicated opportunity for our community to recognize the teachers, coaches and mentors who have impacted so many lives by making a gift in their honor," said Blair's Director of Annual Giving Colleen Smarth. "That we far surpassed our goal of 680 gifts in 24 hours is evidence of how deeply our constituents feel about our School's mission and recognition of the fact that it is carried out by every member of our community."

Throughout the day on April 5, Blair advancement staffers ensured the mood on campus was a celebratory one, encouraging community members to wear their best Blair apparel, surprising students with a midday snack and treating the entire community to an all-school picnic dinner. Some of the advancement office's student ambassadors (Savannah Doelfel '18, Ethan Huang '20, Summer Will '19, Sarika Pyreddy '19, Emma Mohlmann '18, Matthew Bottone '19, Jake Leddy '19 and Linda Tong '19) also led Chapel for the first time, during which they shared alumni stories, recognized some of the School's most dedicated volunteers and encouraged their peers to give back to the institution that has given them so much.

The extended Blair family also came together on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, sharing enthusiastic reports from locations all over the world: "I support Blair. #DayofGiving2018."

The student ambassadors who graced the stage in Armstrong-Hipkins' DuBois Theatre captured the spirit and purpose of the day best: "Generosity is important and affects people around us in ways we don't realize. In its 170-year history, Blair has been home to students of all walks of life. All share one thing: the pivotal difference Blair made in their lives." For many, the Blair experience was, and continues to be, possible thanks to the gifts of others. 

Blair Photographers Win Statewide Honors

Three Blair students garnered awards—including the grand prize—in the highly competitive New Jersey Photographic Society of America (PSA) annual student contest. Jessica Van Valkenburg '19 earned second prize in the photographer's choice mono category for her photo titled "Trapped," and Nami Hoffman '18 placed second in the people/animals category for "Dancer." In addition, Kenza Fernandez '18's "Bus Stop" won a judge's choice award in the mono category, while her photo titled "Brotherhood" took top honors in the photojournalism category and was named the grand prize winner, the first such honor for a Blair student in this statewide contest.

The photos taken by Jessica, Nami and Kenza were among entries submitted by hundreds of high school students representing 15 of New Jersey's 21 counties. Their winning works will now advance to PSA's national competition, the results of which will be announced later this year.

Photography teacher Tyson Trish noted that Blair has had several state and national PSA award winners over the past two years; he continually encourages students to share their work beyond the Blair community. "Art is for an audience," he said, "and contests are a great place to measure the impact of your vision."

The prizewinning photos are below:

"Brotherhood" by Kenza Fernandez '18 
"Bus Stop" by Kenza Fernandez '18 
"Trapped" by Jessica Van Valkenburg '19 
"Dancer" by Nami Hoffman '18 


Alumni Return to Blair & Offer Career Insight at Skeptics

The Blair community looks forward to welcoming a few familiar faces back to campus for its annual Young Alumni Skeptics panel on Tuesday, April 10. This year's panelists—Joanna Weber '03, Hudson Collins '07, Filip Gzella '08 and Yale Kim '09—return to their alma mater to discuss their career success, reflect on their time on the hilltop and offer advice to current students about life beyond Blair.

History teacher and longtime Society of Skeptics director Martin Miller, PhD, will moderate the forum, which will feature presentations by the Blair graduates, followed by a question-and-answer session with the audience. The much-anticipated Skeptics event will begin at 7 p.m. in the Chiang Center for Innovation and Collaboration's Collaboration Forum.

"The diversity of the panelists' careers and experiences will surely entice students to engage in open dialogue and ask great questions of the alums," said Director of Alumni Relations Shaunna Murphy, who helped coordinate the event with Dr. Miller. "These alumni, who once sat in the audience at Skeptics, exemplify that there's a career path out there for everyone, even if entering the workforce in the not-so-far-off future seems daunting."

Mrs. Murphy is also eager for the alumni to see all that has changed at Blair since their respective graduations. "The Chiang Center is brand new, which adds a layer of excitement to this year's event," she said. "We can't wait for the alums to see Blair's progress and the beautiful new spaces and technology available in the CIC."

The Blair community looks forward to welcoming the following alumni to Skeptics on April 10:

The education I received at Blair, and the friendships I forged there, gave me the confidence to take risks and pursue my passions both at university and in my career.
-Joanna Weber '03

Each day, Joanna blends her appreciation of art with a passion for travel as a private art collector and flight attendant. She pursued both interests at Villanova University, spending her undergraduate years studying art history and classical languages, which included a semester abroad in Rome immersed in Italian and Latin speech. Since 2008, Joanna has worked as a flight attendant for United Airlines, and, more recently, she has served as an Italian interpreter on international flights to Rome, Milan and Venice. Joanna pursued a master's degree in art business from Sotheby's Institute of Art, which led to her work with museums, auction houses and art galleries to amass and catalog artwork for a private collector. At Blair, Joanna was an accomplished scholar and vibrant member of the community, as well as an outstanding athlete for the cross county, swimming and crew teams. She further distinguished herself in the classroom and across campus, earning two named prizes during her time at the School.

Blair is one of the most influential experiences in my life. The lessons from the classroom, wrestling and even the dorms, inform my adult life in so many ways. Whether I am working with colleagues to solve a problem for a client or I am in a new part of the world on vacation, every interaction is influenced by my time, and the people, at Blair.
-Hudson Collins '07

Hudson is an associate with MVision Private Equity Advisors, one of the world's leading independent placement agents. Since joining in 2015, Hudson has advised several private equity firms on a range of fundraising mandates. Prior to joining MVision, Hudson worked as an investment banking analyst for Deloitte Corporate Finance (which acquired his previous company, McColl Partners), advising on mergers and acquisitions, divestitures and strategic developments across several industries. During his time at Blair, Hudson was a member of Senior Class Council and Blair's national championship wrestling team. He matriculated at Brown University, where he wrestled for the Bears and earned a bachelor's degree in history in 2011. He co-chairs Brown's Young Leadership Council, which raises money for Brown, and enjoys playing squash.

My time at Blair really opened the door to out-of-the-box thinking and having a critical-thinking approach. Blair's diverse opportunities to learn something new, to go on a trip, to try a new extracurricular activity, gives each and every student the chance to forge their own path, follow their passions and make the most of their experience.
-Filip Gzella '08

Filip spent his undergraduate years studying environmental policy, institutions and behaviors at Rutgers University, earning a bachelor of science degree in 2012. When plans to work with the Environmental Protection Agency didn't come to fruition because of budget cuts to the organization, Filip "pivoted" his focus and applied to a position with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Several odd jobs and a yearlong application process later, Filip was named a project specialist with FEMA, aiding recovery work in towns across the United States—from South Carolina to Texas and Florida—following natural disasters. Filip works with local and state governments, departments, schools and private non-profits to help them file for disaster-recovery support from the federal government. Oftentimes, his work results in a 75 percent cost share from the federal government to the applicants for the cost of damages and/or construction back to pre-disaster conditions. While at Blair, Filip served as a day student prefect, played piano onstage in DuBois Theatre, and was a dedicated athlete as a member of the swim, tennis and soccer teams.

Blair taught me early on that building relationships is important. Whether it was on the field, at formal dinner or in the classrooms, Blair provided me opportunities to engage with everyone in the community. This has helped me maintain and nurture relationships in both my personal and professional worlds now.
-Yale Kim '09

Combining his love of sports with his professional life, Yale, a standout varsity soccer captain, squash player and golfer during his time at Blair, studied sports management at New York University, graduating in 2014 with a bachelor's degree. Soon after completing his undergraduate work, Yale began working for the New York City division of City Football Group (NYCFC), a company that aims to use soccer for social good by increasing participation in the sport, engaging soccer fans around the globe, cultivating and training young players through professional athletes, and supporting local communities through charity work. As an executive for NYCFC, Yale works with the group's regional and global partners on the long-term planning and execution of marketing campaigns. By establishing relationships with various stakeholders at partner companies, Yale helps optimize their marketing strategies to maximize revenue, while also driving forward branding and messaging. While at NYU, Yale also studied Mandarin Chinese, spent a semester abroad in Beijing and played club squash.

Easter Fun on Campus

The Blair community celebrated Easter with some lighthearted activities on Sunday, April 1. During brunch in the Romano Dining Hall, students exercised their artistic abilities at an egg-painting station. In addition, math teacher Benjamin Delwiche hosted a special brunch in Insley Hall where attendees made Easter-themed pancakes. Lastly, at noon, a school-wide Easter egg hunt was held on the lawn in front of Hardwick Hall. Students and faculty children joined in the search for candy-filled eggs, and those who found the most eggs or specific eggs won prizes. It was a fun weekend for students who were on campus for the holiday.

Senior Nami Hoffman will cover a number of campus events this year in his role as intern to Blair's communications department.


Architectural Digest Names Blair Among Most Beautiful Private High Schools in U.S.

Blair Academy was recently chosen as the most beautiful private high school in the state of New Jersey by Architectural Digest magazine. In an online article titled “The Most Beautiful Private High School in Every State in America,” the publication shares its “highly selective” list of 50 learning institutions, noting that some are “rich in history” and many offer “state-of-the-art performance centers and stunning sports fields.”  

Blair is lauded for its Richardson Romanesque style and the fact that, as the School grew and more buildings were added, “each new structure retains elements of the original buildings within its design.” Blair Academy is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.