Saturday, July 26, 2014

Robert L. Merriam '43

Mr. Merriam c. 1965
CONWAY - Robert L. Merriam, 90, of Conway died Wednesday, July 23, 2014, at home.

Born in Greenfield, June 4, 1924, he was the son of Louis Thayer and Alice (Abercrombie) Merriam. Bob raised his family and spent his career in Franklin County, where he influenced the education and lives of thousands of young people since 1948.

He graduated from Deerfield Academy in 1943 and immediately entered the U.S. Navy's V-12 program. He interrupted studies at Dartmouth College to serve on the USS Boston, and his ship was anchored nearby at the surrender in August 1945. He was honorably discharged at the rank of Lieutenant, j.g.

He returned to graduate from Dartmouth in 1948, where he was the only four-year, three letter athlete in the college's history, excelling in soccer, hockey and lacrosse. He returned to Deerfield Academy, dedicated to the services of Frank L. Boyden and the school as an educator, coach and administrator for 22 years.

Through the years, he was a dormitory master, member of the English Department, Registrar, Dean of Students, fund-raiser, and coached hockey, soccer and lacrosse. In 1970, he became Headmaster of Stoneleigh Burnham School and led the school through a period of transition, leaving it with an increased enrollment, an improved financial position and a strong foundation in the arts. The latter part of his career was at Greenfield Community College serving as Assistant to the President and Director of Development, retiring in 1988.

He started a Rare, Used, and Old Book business in 1969 and engaged in business with customers worldwide. He is a published author and one of his poems can be found inscribed on a plaque at the north entrance to Old Deerfield, Mass. He is also a locally known primitive painter and his paintings of Franklin County town commons can be found hanging in many area homes.

He leaves his devoted wife of 57 years, Mary Nims McDonald, who was a stalwart supporter and partner throughout his boarding school career and a tireless caretaker in his later years. He leaves four children, Robert of Vermont, Melinda O'Brien of Branford, Conn., Susan Bobe and her husband Viorel of Leyden and Abigail Merriam and her husband Mark Kidder of Montague: eight grandchildren, Mindy Merriam-Alexander, Eshalla Merriam, Casey, Betsey and Charlie O'Brien and Christine, Alyssa and Jennifer Bobe; and one great-granddaughter, Avielle Alexander.

An internment service will be held on Tuesday, July 29, 2014, at 11 a.m. at Laurel Hill Cemetery, Eaglebrook Hill, Deerfield, Mass. A Memorial Service and reception will be held at a later date in August. 

Published in The Recorder on July 26, 2014. Photo courtesy of Deerfield Academy.

Monday, June 09, 2014

45th Reunion - June 2014

To the Great Class of 1969:

A reduced contingent ventured to Deerfield for our final reunion as merely a "Great" class. John Lacey, as unofficial Participation Chair, collected excuses from many classmates, the most common of which was that they would be sure to attend the 50th. At that time we will reconvene as a "Grand" class which may seem to some as too early to be considering shuffle board, hip replacement and lower taxes in Florida. I somehow expect those who feel that way to hold off for the 60th.

The weather improved over the course of the weekend in contrast to five years ago. There were too many conflicting panels to attend so I will report to you some salient facts from the State of the School presentation. Of particular interest was the following:
  • Total applications: 1951 (an easy number for most of us to remember)
  • Acceptances: 15%
  • Yield: 61.5%
  • International Students: 15%
  • Financial Aid Students: 32%
  • Most popular colleges: Cornell (11), Yale (10) and Brown (9)
  • Total colleges: 82
Deerfield's predicament, which it is currently working through, is that it is a middle-sized school with a small school feel and a large school curriculum. On the athletic field, the school's performance may be summarized as follows: Deerfield loses more often than not when relatively more people are watching and wins more often than not when relatively few are watching. I take away from this that, although Deerfield may be emphasizing the right sports to get its students into the most selective colleges, losing in the sports which matter when people are watching is a subtlety I had overlooked and a problem when it comes to school spirit.

Nine of us plus four spouses went off the grid on Saturday morning instead of attending the second scheduled panel and took a guided tour of the north end of Main Street. At the end of the tour, Christian Liipfert took me aside and said, "You're going to have a hard time topping this for the 50th". That's probably right, but the credit is all due to Ed Grosvenor who received the President's Award from Historic Deerfield in 2012 and who generously arranged this for us. As you know from previous posts, Ed is owner and editor-in-chief of American Heritage Magazine.

Following our tour and lunch under the Great Tent, we hustled off to the steps of the Library, not to pay any overdue fines, but to be photographed. The venue was different this year because the Memorial Building has been cordoned off for construction. One trustee I spoke with over the weekend who had toured the building a few weeks earlier told me (not surprisingly) that the renovation will be fantastic. I can believe it, based on corroborating accounts, but I still would have liked to have seen it firsthand. School meetings this year have been held in the West Gymnasium next to McAlister while the Memorial Building is under construction. The building is on schedule to re-open for the Fall term.

Following lunch and the all important photo shoot, I attended two panel discussions in the Koch Center. The second of these panels was hosted by the Great Class of 1969 and featured Neil Jacobs and Frank Henry who spoke about teaching at Deerfield 45 years later. Neil, who had been on sabbatical from his law practice, is returning to Boston, and Frank is preparing for his 33rd year teaching after rejoining the Deerfield faculty in 1982.

Rawles, Ewing and Clough
As you know by now, our three classmates pictured on the left succeeded in hacking into the Deerfield Athletic Department's computer system over the weekend and sent out a notice that their wresting singlets (which they appear to have obtained from the athletic store room using disguised identities) had been retired. We are grateful that they remain as we knew them and look forward to whatever new schemes they may have planned for the 50th.

Best wishes to all.

DWS 

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Spring Term Report Card - 2014

To the Great Class of 1969:

Neil Jacobs '69
The Academy celebrated the accomplishments of the Class of 2014 at Commencement last Sunday and sent the sleep deprived undergraduates home five days later for a needed rest. You will be interested to know that one of our own (pictured to the left) was chosen by this year's graduating class to be the Baccalaureate Speaker. The Scroll wrote of him, "During his time at Deerfield - where he has twice filled in for Philosophy and Religion teachers on sabbatical - Deerfield alumnus Neil Jacobs '69, senior counsel at Wilmer Hale in Boston, has made an indelible mark on students in his ethics and philosophy classes. He has been widely praised for his ethical presence and warm heart on campus". Those returning to campus for the 45th Reunion next weekend will be able to hear Neil and Frank Henry talk about teaching at Deerfield today.

News of the Academy

Looking back at prior posts, I can appreciate that most of you are tired of hearing each spring what an exemplary season Boys Lacrosse just had, yet the same is true this year. Deerfield Boys Lacrosse once again dominated the Lower Level this spring, losing only to Taft, 8-7. The team ranked sixth nationally and second only to Darien in New England. I had mistakenly thought we had gotten all the best that Fairfield county had to offer but there appears to be some additional work to be done.

On the sports front, Deerfield has had to be selective in which areas it wants to excel athletically. The result of this would seem to be that it has chosen sports which tend to play to Deerfield's advantage with the most selective colleges. As a result of the decision not to double the size of the Academy when co-education was re-introduced, Deerfield has had to pick its spots which may be why, for the second year in a row, this year's graduating class never experienced a win over Choate in Varsity football. This might not seem so extraordinary but for the fact that the last time this happened at either school prior to 2013 was in the 1940's.

Several years ago I mentioned that the Academy now feels compelled to instruct students about what constitutes acceptable conduct. This is evidenced by a 100+ page rule book (when none such existed when we were there) and a system that assigns "Accountability Points" (or "AP's") for skipping classes or required meals, etc. A student who accumulates more than a certain number of AP's during a term goes on restriction and, beyond a certain point, is suspended. In response to a student proposal earlier this year, the school decided to do an empirical experiment and find out whether not actually awarding AP's made students any more or less accountable. Behaviors were tracked daily without sanctions and, after just two weeks, the experiment was terminated because - lo and behold - students were accumulating AP's at a faster rate than ever!

Missing from my usual Spring Term Report Card this year is news about where the graduating class is heading. Unfortunately, The Scroll no longer posts those results online, and so I will have to see if I can find a hard copy next weekend. I hope to provide that information in my summary of the 45th Reunion.

News of the Class

While I expect there will be some last minute walk-ons, my best guess is that we will be lucky to have twenty returning classmates next weekend, down from 30 five years ago. Despite a commendable recruiting effort by John Lacey, a number of classmates appear to have decided that they would prefer to hold out for the 50th, an actuarial bet that will prove safe for 92.7% of males our age according to the government tables. Rob Almy will miss this year's reunion because he literally has a prior "engagement" which is to be wed on Nantucket on Saturday. I understand that when he learned that his wedding plans would conflict with the Reunion, his plea for a change of venue to the Brick Church was denied by family members.

In other news not involving attendees, King Carter continues his spirited opposition to wind farms in Maine. King, a founder of the Maine Green Party and two time candidate for Governor, has come to the paradoxical realization that, in his words, "just because something is renewable doesn't make it de facto clean and green". Christopher Beach, who will be traveling in Botswana and South Africa, recently posted next season's artistic schedule for the La Jolla Music Society which he has headed since 2005 and received favorable reviews for the diversity of the program.

Best wishes to all.

DWS