All In The Campaign for Blair Academy 2018-2025
Principal Architect & Proud Blair Parent Tom Balsley P’25 Builds Excitement at Skeptics
Paula Hong '16

When thinking about architecture, the mind often conjures images of towering buildings, soaring skyscrapers or, perhaps, iconic structures such as the Eiffel Tower or the Washington Monument. Seldom do individuals turn their thoughts to landscape architecture such as Central Park, overlooking just how influential the profession is. On Tuesday, February 20, students will get to hear Blair parent and principal landscape architect Tom Balsley P’25 share his experiences building some of the world’s most renowned parks and recreational urban areas, shedding light on the wide-reaching impact of landscape architecture.

Located less than a two hours from Blair’s hilltop, SWA/Balsley, the organization Mr. Balsley leads in New York City, is best known for their vision and expertise surrounding landscape and urban design in public parks, waterfronts and plazas throughout the United States and abroad. He and his team have accrued over 35 years’ worth of experience reshaping social and cultural spaces all across the globe. 

In a pre-event interview, Mr. Balsley shared that he and his accomplished team at SWA/Balsley have completed “over 100 such spaces in New York City alone, including the highly acclaimed Hunter’s Point South Park, dual-winner of the National ASLA’s Honor Award in 2014 and 2019 and selected for exhibition at MoMA this year.” Other notable projects include Nelson Mandela Park in Rotterdam, Paveletskaya Park in Moscow, Samsung’s Leeum Museum of Art in Seoul, World Trade Center in Osaka, and 'Whale Plaza' in Sao Paolo, as well as many throughout the United States. Others in New York City include Riverside Park South, Gantry Plaza State Park, Chelsea Waterside Park and Rockefeller Plaza. His contribution to the quality of New York City life can be found in over 60 of his small urban parks and plazas that touch lives daily in virtually every precinct of Manhattan, including Balsley Park on 57th Street, named in recognition of his contribution to enhancing the livability of the city. 

A graduate of both Syracuse University and the State University of New York’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Mr. Balsley holds bachelor’s degrees in science and landscape architecture and credits “the genius and acumen of Peter Walker and the tenacity of Paul Friedberg,” for inspiring his work to create rich and vibrant public spaces.

Due to the impending snow, Mr. Balsley's visit to Blair has been rescheduled for Tuesday, February 20. All are welcome to hear Mr. Balsley speak in the forum of the Chiang-Elghanayan Center at 7 p.m.

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.

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