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.


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.


Sunday, March 09, 2014

Winter Term Report Card - 2014

To the Great Class of 1969:

It was a winter to forget (or one to live in infamy). The Academy let out for Spring Break none too soon on Friday with an Alberta clipper expected on Monday.

News of the Academy

The Academy's website has been thoroughly overhauled this year which has made summarizing events more challenging. Articles in The Scroll featured stories on the use of prescription drugs to gain a competitive edge academically and the widespread use of SAT tutors to create an unlevel playing field, both topical this term with college applications top of mind for the Class of 2014.

Squash has become the dominant winter sport on campus ever since the new squash facility was built. Once again, the Girls Varsity team was undefeated in on-on-one match ups with peer schools. The Girls finished second in the national championships for the second time in the last three years. The Boys did similarly well, finishing undefeated in head to head competitions. This year's team finished fifth in the national championships and second in the New England's.

Imagine Deerfield, the title of the current capital campaign, continues to move forward with $174 million committed, up $7 million during the winter term. The official goal of the campaign is $200 million, although more is better. The renovation of the Memorial Building, the most important bricks and mortar element of the current campaign, is scheduled to be completed in August, too late for us to fully appreciate it at the Reunion.

News of the Class

Hank Louis, one of only two members of the Class still paying tuition at Deerfield, was noted in an article in The New York Times in connection with a house which eight of his students built largely out of recycled materials for a Native American living on the Navajo reservation in Utah. The project was a joint venture between Hank's nonprofit firm DesignBuildBLUFF and the University of Colorado.

Hank Wetzel was back in Houston last fall for the annual Livestock Show and Rodeo Wine Auction. Although Hank was unable to repeat his success from a year ago when his 2008 CYRUS Cabernet broke all records, the 2009 vintage has its advocates, judging from the local press. I'm hoping Hank may have saved a few bottles for our table on Saturday night under the tent if it hasn't already sold out.

Rick Swig, the managing partner of Not Another Winery, sold the Harvest Inn in the Napa Valley in January. Rick still owns the Napa Winery Inn which he bought two years ago.

Rusty Young has been active on the Florida circuit again this winter where he promoted concerts for Fab Faux and Early Elton, two tribute bands, in February. The Fab Faux concert was timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Beatles' first US release.

John Mills has hung out his law shingle in New York. He recently co-authored a brief filed with the Supreme Court in re Alice Corporation v. CLS Bank addressing the issue of whether an algorithm is patent-eligible. The case is expected to be heard this spring.


If the online records are to be believed, my wife and I are the only ones to have signed up for the 45th Reunion which runs this year from June 6-8. By way of comparison, there were 30th of us in 2009, and we are hoping to match that this year. Lacey is our unofficial head of participation again. For the budget minded among you, the early bird savings of $50 per head expires on March 18. There's no downside to signing up now because you can get a full refund if plans change as long as you cancel by May 13. In addition to the official program, I expect that we will have a break-out session on Saturday afternoon as we did in 2009 and that Frank and Neil will talk with us about teaching at Deerfield today.

I look forward to seeing you in June.

Best wishes to all.