Sunday, November 13, 2005

November 2005 Letter

To the Great Class of 1969:

Around a year ago, several months after our 35th reunion for those of you who still are counting, I undertook in earnest responsibility for communicating with the Great Class of 1969, as I like to refer to this group which has grown only more remarkable as I have renewed acquaintances. In the past year there has been great progress by a number of measures:

1. We increased the number of classmates for whom we have valid e-mail addresses from approximately 60 to over 100, thereby facilitating more timely communication;

2. We created a unique meeting place at Albany Road Redux and, in so doing, became the first class to have its own blog; and

3. We increased the number of contributors in our Class by 30% and, on an absolute scale, ranked fifth among the classes of the 60’s for the past gift year.

We have begun the new academic year with the wind at our backs and the exciting announcement that Margarita O’Byrne Curtis, the current Dean of Studies at Andover, will become the 55th Head of School upon the retirement of Eric Widmer in July. (Whether she is the first female Head of School at Deerfield remains unsettled unless someone can confirm the gender of Orpha Julina Hall who held the position in the 1870's.) As many of you know from my prior postings, the Board of Trustees ran a very transparent selection process, the product of which is a choice whose impeccable academic and managerial credentials withstood a rigorous vetting. (It is probably worth noting that while Choate has been our traditional sports rival since 1922, Andover is the only boarding school today with as low an acceptance rate as Deerfield’s.) Although I have not met the new Head of School, I think we can all rest assured that the Academy will be in safe hands with Dr. Curtis who is respectful of Deerfield’s traditions and will work diligently to uphold the Academy’s culture and values.

Class Trivia

In response to my question asking how many Heads of School Deerfield has had, the numbers were all over the lot, and many expressed disbelief upon learning the actual number. Casey Reed proved to be the best School historian (or at least the most attentive reader of the Headmaster’s September letter). There were more classmates who recognized Brogan Thomsen as the Mystery Classmate, including Patrick Murphy who remembered the name, the species, the gender and the final resting place of Brogan’s monkey and who also pointed out that the coffee cup strapped to his forehead had the initials “BT” on the bottom, a clue I had failed to notice. Other classmates who submitted correct answers included former junior year dorm mates Hank Wetzel, Steve Esthimer and Joe Moriarty from Dean Hall as well as Ben Walbridge and Michael Buerger.

In view of the School’s recent announcement and the fact that Deerfield has always been known for turning out educators, I decided it would be appropriate for this month’s trivia question to be the following: How many classmates can you name who are teachers or school administrators?

Class Blog

You may be interested to know that Albany Road has become the “best in class” blog to beat. I was visiting the School recently and ran into a member of the class of ’84 who told me he was beta testing with several of his fellow class agents a blog which duplicated our template, once again validating that “imitation is the greatest form of flattery”. Since the blog was launched on September 4, I have added eight postings covering a range of subjects, including the selection of a new Head of School, a classmate’s obituary, two recent alumni gatherings in New York and other news. I also have added photos of Christopher Beach, Steve Bisbee, Tom Ehrgood, John Kjorlien, Hank Minor, David Suitor and Tim Truby. Please e-mail your photo to me at so that I can add it to the Online Yearbook which now includes 37 classmates. From my perspective, the interesting thing is that one photo has been viewed twice as often as the next most popular one. For that reason, I have selected the following classmate for this month’s photo trivia contest:

Please tell me if you can identify this illustrious classmate for whom public speaking seems to run in the family.

Choate Day

In a nutshell: Wait till next year. The football season ended on a down note with a 14-0 loss, the second time the Varsity got shut out this season, finishing 3-5. The four other Varsity games were all won by Choate. Better times may lie ahead for the football team at least, as the undefeated Junior Varsity recorded its fifth shutout of the season by defeating Choate 28-0.

Other News

The Academy held an alumni swim meet and memorial service for Mr. Boyle the last weekend in October. At the time of his retirement, Mr. Boyle was the longest serving master (other than the Boydens, of course), although his 45 year tenure now has been eclipsed by Mr. Morsman (who looks like he could challenge the Boydens’ record). You can see the School's revamped website and read about the weekend by going to Welcome to Deerfield Academy News.

Eight members of the Class recently got together for dinner in New York, including visitors Robert Clough and Tom Ehrgood. You can read about the group and see a photo by going to Albany Road Redux: New York Chapter Reconvenes. In other Class sightings, I also met Nat Brayton recently for dinner while visiting Cambridge. Nat runs his own eponymous money management business in Boston and looks none the worse for wear, despite another trying year for stocks. I also visited with Tee Johnson who set up shop in October at the annual Audio Engineering Society convention in New York where he displayed some of the high tech, professional microphones produced by his company T.H.E. Audio. Finally, John Mills broke his 36 year silence recently and gave me an overview of his wide ranging interests which include being a gentleman farmer as well as a senior patent attorney for the Navy and a noted author. In March 2003, the United States Navy awarded John two Edison Awards for drafting and prosecuting patents having the greatest commercial benefit to the nation. He is also the editor of the definitive, comprehensive three volume set of Patent Law Fundamentals (retail price $1,258) that was published in March 2003 and is in over 700 law libraries.

I recently agreed to join the Steering Committee for Annual Support and to be the liaison between the Class Captains for the Classes of the ‘60’s and the Academy. I can only conclude that I was selected as a result of the favorable response of a record-setting number of classmates to Annual Support over the past year. I thank all of you who have demonstrated a willingness to support the School financially in the past and hope that you will join me in supporting the School at a time when the budget is being pinched by dramatically higher energy bills and a reduced draw from the endowment. I have a goal of exceeding last year’s participation and hope that you will respond positively should you get a call from one or more classmates who have agreed to help with the fundraising.

Happy Thanksgiving and best wishes to all.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

New York Chapter Reconvenes

When members of the class met for dinner in July, everyone seemed to "pick up conversations that started decades ago" as Tom O'Gara wrote afterwards. We agreed on the spot that we would not wait another 36 years for our next gathering. Last night the core group reconvened at The Union Club in NYC to resume those same conversations with Tom Ehrgood and Robert Clough and to bid farewell to Christopher Beach. Christopher will become a non-resident member of the New York Chapter next month when he relocates to sunny California where he has pledged to organize a similar alumni gathering.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Deerfield's New Head of School

Please read the announcement by Andover of Deerfield's choice as the new Head of School:

Dean of Studies Dr. Margarita Curtis will take over the head of school’s position at Deerfield Academy next fall to become the 200-year-old school’s first female head.

Upon learning of the decision, Dr. Curtis told the Deerfield community, “I am delighted and honored to join such a thriving, dynamic and caring community of learners. I look forward to the opportunity to lead a school with such a distinguished heritage and promising future.”

Dr. Curtis will be the 55th head of school at Deerfield, a selective 600-student boarding school located in Deerfield, Massachusetts. She succeeds Eric Widmer, who has led Deerfield since 1994.

Mr. Widmer is stepping down in June to become the founding head of school at King’s Academy in Madaba, Jordan. King Abdullah II, a member of Deerfield’s class of 1980, has decided to bring educational opportunities, modeled after his experience at Deerfield, to students in his country.

Mr. Widmer said, “To Deerfield she will bring the highest qualities of leadership, character and intellect. She is a rare scholar and educator with skills to inspire, to lead, and to manage a diverse educational community like Deerfield.”

Dr. Curtis first came to Andover in 1986 to teach Spanish, and was appointed head of the Division of World Languages in 1997. She then became the Dean of Studies in 2004.

In an email to the student body announcing the decision, Andover Head of School Barbara Landis Chase praised Dr. Curtis, saying, “Dean Curtis’s work at PA has always been animated by a profound belief in the importance of working for the benefit of students, present and future.”

Deerfield’s Board of Trustees formally announced the decision on Saturday, Nov. 5, after a long search by administrators and New York executive search and assessment firm Russell Reynolds Associates.

“For all of these head of school jobs, you have ‘headhunters,’ or companies that help schools find heads,” Dr. Curtis said.

Although the selection process began almost 18 months ago, Dr. Curtis only became involved in the later stages of the process. At first, there were over 80 applicants for the job. This candidate pool was whittled down until there were only six semifinalists in June. When she was contacted in June, she initially refused to consider leaving Andover.

Dr. Curtis said, “I had been contacted in the summer, but I was not interested because I really like my job here.”

On October 20th, she had dinner with the eight-person search committee, consisting of parents, alumni, and two faculty members, which was charged with reviewing all applications along with Russell Reynolds Associates. The committee asked Dr. Curtis again to put her name forward for the job, and she accepted. At this stage in the search process, there were only two other candidates.

“The whole thing was very last-minute,” said Dr. Curtis.

A few days later, Dr. Curtis was interviewed on the Deerfield campus. She said, “That’s a very rigorous process because when you go to campus, you meet with every administrator, some students, and the entire faculty. Lastly, you address the entire community about your vision [for the school] and what about the school appeals to you.”

Mrs. Chase expressed mixed emotions regarding Dr. Curtis’ new position at Deerfield. “On the one hand, I will truly miss working with Dean Curtis on a day-to-day basis…On the other hand, I know all too well that there are few people with character and talent such as Dean Curtis’, who have an interest in leading schools these days, and I am thrilled that she has chosen to do so - especially at a sister school,” she said.

The process of finding Dr. Curtis’ successor will begin sometime this or next week. Mrs. Chase will ask the faculty members to nominate a new Dean of Studies, as well as others to fill the positions of Dean of CAMD and Dean of Students and Residential Life. The decision on whether to have Interim Dean of CAMD Linda Griffith keep the position and on another two-year term for Dean of Students Marlys Edwards will be made by Mrs. Chase and other administrators after nominations are discussed by the faculty.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Deerfield Selects Margarita O'Byrne Curtis

Please see below an e-mail from Jeff Louis '81, Chair of the Search Committee and President of the Board of Trustees:

"With great pleasure, I write to announce that the Deerfield Academy Board of Trustees has named Dr. Margarita O’Byrne Curtis as Deerfield’s 55th Head of School.

Dr. Curtis, the Dean of Academic Studies at Andover, brings the highest qualities of leadership, character, and intellect required to lead Deerfield Academy. She is a rare scholar/educator with energy, commitment, passion, academic administrative experience, executive judgment and the interpersonal skills necessary to inspire, lead, and manage a diverse educational community like Deerfield. We are lucky to have her.

Dr. Curtis’s educational philosophy begins and ends with the welfare of students. She leads with ideas, common sense, and eloquent language. She respects school traditions and will work diligently to uphold the culture and values that Deerfield holds most dear, especially our dedication to remaining a caring community devoted to the building of character along with commitment to educational excellence.

I have had moments of enormous pride in Deerfield throughout this experience for the care and consideration you have given to our finalists. I hope all of you will offer Dr. Curtis and her husband Manning a warm Deerfield welcome when they return to campus. We are trying to schedule a time, perhaps between Thanksgiving and the Christmas break."