Saturday, March 07, 2015

Winter Term Report Card - 2015

To the Great Class of 1969:

As the unofficial historian of the Class, I write you once again to announce the end of a term. This pattern, though predictable, works best when there is news about the Academy or, more importantly, members of the Class. As luck would have it, there is not much on either score to pass along this time. Happily, for those whose eyes turn increasingly to the "In Memoriam" pages of the Alumni Magazine, we all survived the term as best I can tell!

News of the Academy

When I began the blog more than ten years ago, it was a relatively simple matter to go to the Academy website and find out what was going on. Those days are long gone given changes to the design of the site, and the online version of The Scroll is too truncated to provide a complete picture. What I can tell you from having spent some time spot checking results this term is that the traditional athletics program at Deerfield has continued to decline as a focal point of the school. This decline was borne out in an article this term in The Scroll which quoted Frank Henry as saying that colleges have asked Deerfield to prepare students for college level athletics.That's only part of the story of course since all our peer schools presumably are under the same pressure, and it doesn't explain why Choate has beaten Deerfield an unprecedented six years in a row in Varsity football. As further evidence, Varsity Hockey compiled a record of 4-19-3 this term and Varsity Basketball went 3-16.

In other news, the geographical separation of the upper and lower classes has undergone a shift so that the underclassmen will be east of Main Street now and the upperclassmen will once again populate Barton at the end of Albany Road. Whether or not this is a good decision probably hinges on your perspective as either a parent or a student. Many recent graduates probably would argue that it infringes on their hard earned independence and well deserved freedom from supervision. Parents might disagree.

Much has been reported of the record snowfall in Boston this winter. The Academy had its first snow day in memory this term which, conveniently, extended Long Winter Weekend following the Patriots' Super Bowl win.

News of the Class

Marty Kaiser stepped down at the end of February as Editor of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, a position he had held for nearly twenty years. During Marty's tenure, the Journal Sentinel won three Pulitzer prizes and had to contend with the technological changes that have plagued print journalism. Marty hasn't announced what he plans to do other than to say he's not retiring. I thought my job (with all the perks that come with being Blogger-in-Chief for the Class) might be a natural segue, but Marty is holding out for something better to my disappointment. You can read about Marty here.

I think I may have underestimated how much of the teenager Steve Esthimer still had left in him in my last post. Steve tells me he is enjoying his last semester at Saint Mary's School by making the most of a lifetime's collection of ties by wearing a different one every day. Were I to do that, I think I might last a month with my current inventory. I suspect some others in the Class might last even less time.

Bob Ashton is now President of Mountain Resorts Solutions in Kattsbill Bay, New York after prior stints in that capacity at Ragged Mountain Resort in New Hampshire and Wintergreen Resort in Virginia.

Christopher Beach has proven his mettle as a fundraiser, having raised $50 million from just eleven donors to build a new concert hall for the La Jolla Music Society which he has now headed for ten years.

Rich Berkowitz, founder and CEO of Berkowitz Pollack Brant Advisors and Accountants, moonlights as Chairman of the Dolphins Cycling Challenge in Miami where he participated last month in the annual charity race to benefit cancer research and raised over $4 million.

Imagine Deerfield is more than 90% of the way towards its goal, having raised $186 million to date. The campaign ends June 30. Gifts and pledges prior to then will also count towards our 50th Reunion which officially commenced July 1, 2014.

Best wishes to all.


Friday, November 21, 2014

Fall Term Report Card - 2014

To the Great Class of 1969:

News of the Academy

School let out today for the Thanksgiving recess.

The Memorial Building, which was built in 1952 to honor Deerfield boys who made the ultimate sacrifice in WWII, was re-christened this fall following a generous gift as the "Hess Center". The building has been greatly expanded, and the space where we regularly gathered has been transformed. Nonetheless, the prospect of renaming an iconic communal space had left some uncomfortable and, to the credit of the donor, the building's original name has been restored so that what began the term as the Memorial Building ended the term more or less as it began but with the Hess Center for the Arts now housed there.

Following a story in The Boston Herald describing Deerfield as "a posh private school grappling with a new-age pot problem", the dogs (literally) got called in and, after sniffing around, one student was expelled and six placed on varying degrees of probation. This is described in greater detail in The Scroll if you're interested in a more thorough account.

After a promising start, Varsity football proceeded to lose six games in a row, including the last two by the identical score of 45-0. As has been the case the past few years, the Choate game was streamed live. Unfortunately, the Class of 2015 will be the third class in a row to graduate without once having had the satisfaction of beating Choate in football. It is difficult to see this rivalry being restored anytime soon unless the schools come to a common understanding on admissions policies.

News of the Class

As you all know, the news of the past few months has been dominated by the passing of two classmates as well as Mr. Merriam. In response to several inquiries, I had a chance to compare notes with the Alumni Office and confirm that we have 16 classmates who are known to have passed away. You can see that list at our class website. There is even a longer list of classmates that appear to have fallen off the grid which I have sent to the school for any assistance which they may be able to provide.

A gang of four local classmates joined me at our usual hangout in early November for our annual dinner. Tom O'Gara informed us that "75 was the new 55" which was easy enough for him to say since he looked like he was at least twenty years younger. Rusty Young took an enforced sabbatical from the Marathon this year at the event organizers' request after having cycled the past seven years as a pacer for the elite wheelchair racers. Rusty remains busy promoting concerts, and this week hosted Dave Mason's Traffic Jam in Florida where he spends a lot of his time these days. John Kjorlien will graduate with his youngest in 2015, giving new meaning to the term PG. I am happy to report that Steve Bisbee is healthy again after a mishap on his bike in August which resulted in a punctured lung and an emergency trip to St. Luke's Roosevelt Hospital.

In other news, Steve Esthimer still has some of the teenager left in him. After 36 years at St. Mary's School, a four year secondary school in Raleigh, Steve wrote that he will be graduating with the class of 2015 and taking a gap year before deciding what to do next. What Steve failed to tell me is that he has held every faculty leadership position and won, at least once, every teaching award given by the school.

Best wishes to all for a Happy Thanksgiving.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Randy Ridings March 16, 1951 - May 14, 2014

Randy entered Deerfield as a sophomore from Binghamton, NY and played varsity soccer as a Senior. 

Please see an obituary notice from the Yale website for the Class of '74 which his wife Mercedes posted:

I have attached my husband’s obituary; memorials should be made out to the Randolph Ridings Memorial Fund. He fought a long hard battle with colon cancer for over 5 years. After being married over 30+ years and two wonderful sons we are needless to say quite devastated. Thank you for your condolences!

To all my beloved friends and family it has been a great ride and I so appreciate all the love I’ve been given please know that it has been returned. Words cannot express how much your love has meant to me. To my beloved children, Spencer and Derek and my cherished wife, Mercy, who have meant so much to me. You are the light of my life! You will always be the heart of everything I am. I love you all so much!

Please join us on Saturday, May 31st 2014 for an 11:00 a.m. service followed by a gathering at St. Martin’s by-the Lake Episcopal Church, 2801 Westwood Road, Minnetonka Beach, Minnesota 55391.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Randolph Ridings Memorial Fund at US Bank, 3305 Plymouth Boulevard, Plymouth, MN 55447.