Blair Academy

Blair Stories

We asked members of the Blair community to share their stories with us, and tell us why they are happy that the School was founded in 1848.

Here, we have excerpted from some of the most compelling stories submitted. Thank you for sharing with us, and we hope you enjoy these stories as much as we did!

An Indelible Story by Art White '53

In our freshman year (1948/9), Harry Bruen and I lived two doors from the apartment of our biology teacher, Mr. Donald "Bugsy" Larrimer. Only boys in the lower school were shorter than "Bugsy", an unpopular, smarmy soul with thick glasses and a wry smile that too often portended pain. Meaning: he had an annoying habit of holding the nape your neck with one hand while zapping the pressure point of your left arm, commonly known as the funny bone. We all stood our distance when the otherwise aloof Mr. Larrimer came up to us.

At some point, someone (not I!) protested his bullying manner, by inserting a penny under the appropriate fuse in the panel on our floor, darkening at least one tier of students. This happened on back-to-back-to-back nights when Mr. Larrimer drew duty for the entire building. It was great fun for all of us watching him fume. But, darn if he didn't catch the culprit and make a biology lesson out of it to boot!

How? By secretly coating the glass rim of each fuse with gentian violet, a cell staining compound from his lab. Sure enough the next time he drew night duty, off went the lights, then on came the lights, and around came Bugsy door to door asking to see our hands. Yep, he got the guy (who hadn't even noticed the accusing stain).

Begrudgingly, we had to hand it to snarky little guy. But, we still kept our distance.

Memories from Jennifer Woltjen '75

I was very lucky to be able to attend Blair in 1972. The experience afforded me the opportunity to expand my academic horizons. As a result, I was well-prepared for the academic rigors of higher education. In addition, my experience at Blair expanded my community of friends from very small to world-wide. My world went from circular to flat. My Blair experience was like none other and it changed my life forever.

Life's Lessons: Melissa Collins '09

One morning during the fall of my sophomore year at Blair (I was a new sophomore), I slept through my 7 a.m. alarm. When I finally woke, 10 minutes before my first class started, I jumped out of bed and rushed to put on my polo and khakis, brush my teeth and put on some makeup (I couldn't go out without it, of course!). Just when I thought I would be able to get ready in time, the fire alarm went off in Locke Hall, and we had to evacuate.

While it was just a false alarm (probably set off by someone's hair straightener), we weren't able to return to the dorm until given the "all clear," and I had to get to class. I felt that it was the end of the world that I would have to go to history without having finished doing my hair and makeup (a nightmare for a high school girl!). But, I grabbed my books and ran across the courtyard to Clinton to make it to class before the bell rang.

Mr. Spring must have noticed that I looked like a mess, so he greeted me in the hallway to ask what was wrong. I dramatically replied, "This is the worst day of my life!" and went on to describe the disastrous 10 minutes since I had woken up.

He laughed and said something along the lines of, "Well, if this is the worst day of your life, you've got it pretty good." Then, he walked into class to start the day's lesson.

What Mr. Spring had said stayed with me for the rest of that day, and week, and well, up until now, too. In just a sentence, he had taught me a valuable lesson. He made me realize that while my morning was less than ideal, I was living a very comfortable life, something many people around the world do not have the good fortune of doing. I had the privilege of attending Blair largely thanks to scholarship money. I was happy, healthy and loved. Who was I to complain? Had it really been the worst day of my life? Not by a long stretch.

Mr. Spring's lesson is something that stuck with me during the remainder of my time at Blair, and I still reflect back on it at times today. While I learned many, many things inside the classroom, the lessons I learned outside of class-in the hallways of Locke, on the long bus rides to places like Lawrenceville or Mercersburg and in the ceramics room, to name a few-were some of the most important lessons I took away from my adolescence. And I have Blair to thank for that.

One Grateful Mom: Suzanne Chamberlin P'11, '15

Two children. Eight years. Four thousand three hundred and eighteen trips to Blair (give or take). Homework. Exams. Cross country and track races. Practice. Field hockey games and crew regattas. Practice. Travels through New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and New York to watch said races, games and regattas. Two headmasters. One dog named Charlie. Driving right up to the Arch. The old Can. Meeting amazing friends, teammates, coaches, teachers, advisors. Musicals, Peddie Days, Vespers, Parents’ Weekends. Homework. "I left my book in the dayroom" crises. "The dayroom is locked" crises. Sadies, Proms, Preseasons. The bonfire. No more driving right up to the Arch. The new Can. One trip to Kenya. Two trips to Costa Rica. Advisor letters, grade reports, college counseling meetings, test registration deadlines. Twenty-two college visits. Prize assemblies. Two baccalaureates, two graduations. Two diplomas, two children with an abiding affection for Blair. One grateful mom. Buildings go up, buildings come down. People come, people go. Only the "optics" change. The heart and soul of Blair is unchanged. Countless lasting memories. Ever, Always.

Gratitude: Jin-Sae Yoo '04

Let me start off my saying that life at Blair was not always rosy and gold. It was quite often a struggle of striking a balance between demanding academics, extracurricular activity and social life while dealing with the confusion that comes of adolescence.

Getting the right kind of support from peers, and, more importantly, faculty, is critical during these times and can potentially make or break the Blair experience. I have to mention that some faculty did make my life at Blair quite...miserable. One faculty, who was a JV basketball coach, blatantly told me (in private) that I wasn't good enough even to play during "garbage time" when the team was losing by 30 to 40 points. Another faculty, a monitor, thought me to be a lost cause my first year and seriously considered not inviting me back the following year when, in fact, I just needed some more time to have a sense of belonging in the community. These memories and experiences will pain me, probably for the rest of my life.

Nevertheless, there were far more faculty who were patient with me and tried to see me for who I really am, and, as a result, I graduated with a lot of positive attitude and memories that still are a big part of my life.

Every time I make a gift to Blair Academy, I do it to commemorate those special people who gave me confidence and encouraged me to keep growing, and I hope the School continues to look out for kids like me: seemingly struggling kids, who, with the right kind of advice and monitoring, can grow into someone much more mature that was thought possible.