Tuesday, March 07, 2006

March 2006 Letter

To the Great Class of 1969:

You all will recall from senior English or elsewhere T.S. Eliot’s words from “The Wasteland” that “April is the cruelest month”, but I would submit that he didn’t spend enough time in the Northeast during February. Without ever setting foot in the Northeast, the makers of the Julian and the Gregorian calendars wisely chose to make February the shortest month. Since I last wrote, we experienced the heaviest single day snowfall in Central Park since they started keeping records in 1869, although many have been quick to dismiss the significance of this since it was so localized. Surprisingly, the Academy largely escaped the Blizzard of ’06. Nonetheless, I am told that all the campus constituencies have tired of the frigid temperatures of late and are looking forward to Spring Vacation which begins this Friday, March 10.

News from the Academy

The Scroll arrived today, and the lead story had to do with the Koch Center which is now one year behind schedule and $2,000,000 over budget. There is a lot of heated rhetoric about where blame lies and, I suspect, there will be more to learn before this is all over. The bottom line for the graduating class is that they will not be able to enjoy this stunning building which will, when finished, become an instant destination point on campus. Another item of interest was the story on the eighth annual J. Clement Schuler Concert which took place in January. It might interest you to know that the bequest by Clem Schuler, who served as music director from 1935 to 1976, now totals over $2,000,000 and produced over $80,000 in income for the Academy last year.

The long-awaited article on the School and the far reaching effect it is having in the Middle East appeared this past week in The New York Times. If it escaped your notice, you will find a reprint at King's Academy. We are still awaiting the article in The New Yorker.

On February 19th, Dr. Curtis visited campus where she participated as one of two judges for the “Declamation Finals”. Each junior English class was allowed to vote for the strongest presentation, and all of the finalists were invited to deliver their declamation to the entire community in what is one of the major academic events of the year. Over a hundred members of the community joined Dr. Curtis in the Large Auditorium to hear the students share their thoughts. After Dr. Curtis and her partner deliberated, three students walked away with First Place honors and the bragging rights that go with it.

On February 24th, the Varsity basketball team traveled to Wallingford for the last game of the season and returned the victor, 48-38. The Varsity hockey team had less to say for itself, losing the last five games of the season and finishing 8-16-1. On a happier note, Jamie Hagerman ’99, whose father was once the Deerfield Athletic Director and hockey coach, was a member of the women’s Olympic hockey team which took home the Bronze medal at Torino. The Academy has produced a number of Olympians over the years, including Amnon Krausz ’70 who you may remember entered as a junior in 1967, was a star swimmer for the School and later competed as a member of the Israeli team.

Class News

Since I last wrote, a number of you have logged on to the Academy’s new Alumni website and registered. As of today, we are up to 13 classmates and, as a result, have added Peter Hoover to the e-mail distribution list.

Tom Merrigan, a former state judge for 12 years, announced his candidacy last week for the Democratic nomination for Governor's Council in Massachusetts whose primary task is to approve or reject the governor's nominations for judgeships. For the complete story, see Merrigan for Governor's Council.

Rob Almy continues to moonlight as a lacrosse referee and wrote recently, “I just had (by far) the best two week refereeing ever, two overtime games, two one goal games and a two goal game; all among nationally ranked (college club) teams”.

I had the good fortune to catch up separately with both Tee Johnson and Rusty Young while they were each passing through New York this week. Tee seemed in fine spirits, offering his always well-considered views on a range of topics, including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

For those of you who haven’t kept track of Rusty – and I suspect that’s too many – he has arrived at an enviable stage in life where his children are independent and he has been free to develop a portfolio of activities based on his own interests. After a career as a management consultant, Rusty stepped away from that several years ago and found an opportunity to apply his know-how helping the local YMCA develop a strategic plan which, in turn, led to an invitation to implement the plan, proving the adage that no good deed goes unpunished. When he wasn’t busy with the YMCA, Rusty found time to get involved with The Count Basie Theatre because of a longstanding interest in the performing arts. His work there as Vice Chairman led the Board to ask him to serve as the first CEO of The Count Basie Foundation and, as a result, Rusty is now officially a member of my “Captains of Industry” list within the Class which consists of Classmates who lead or have led organizations. For the press release, go to Young Named Chief Honcho.

Annual Support

Overall, Alumni participation is up 2.3% but the fundraising is about $100,000 behind where we were at this time last year. As for our Class, we picked up a couple of gifts since I last wrote, but there remains a lot of wood to chop between now and June 30th. If you haven’t already contributed and are on the solicitation list, you will be getting a mailing from the Academy shortly which highlights what the School means to a group of current students in their own words. Please take a minute to register at the Alumni website and make an online gift while you’re there.

Class Trivia

In response to last month’s trivia contest, John Lacey receives the good sportsmanship award for fearlessly guessing and, on his second try, correctly surmising that AC Starkey is, in fact, the first acknowledged BowieNetter in the Class. AC may be the only private banker in the country who attended six David Bowie concerts during the last Reality Concert Tour, which included traveling to New Orleans and Chicago for front row seats. Fortunately, AC’s wife Ann also enjoys the music. For reasons I am still trying to fathom, AC felt it necessary to go so far as to write a letter on the topic to the editor of The Boston Globe which they chose to publish. AC may still be a banker by day, but he has found his rock side later in life. Since AC is so clearly a Jersey boy at heart, I have suggested that he need venture no further than Red Bank this year where he can let his hair down at Rusty Young’s annual Fab Faux benefit concert in June.

Surprisingly, no one was able to identify Andy Cohn standing next to Chairman Mao in Shanghai in last month’s photo trivia contest. Lacey recalled having sat across from Andy at the bridge table in the smoking room in the basement of Field a minimum of twice a day every day senior year but confessed he was unable to recognize him today. (For the historians in the Class or the curious at heart, there is a photo on page 205 of the Pocumtuck which captures the moment for posterity.)

As always, I welcome your news, although you now have the opportunity to post it directly on the Alumni website if you choose.

Best wishes to all.


Young Named Chief Honcho

Count Basie Theatre Forms Foundation, Names CEO

The Count Basie Theatre’s Board of Directors recently voted to create the Count Basie Theatre Foundation, whose purpose is to raise the funds necessary to renovate and restore the theatre and to provide operating support to the theatre . The Foundation is pleased to announce that Rusty Young has accepted the offer of the Board of Directors to become the Foundation’s CEO.

“We are really excited about these changes at the Basie.” says Richard Struse, Chairman of the Foundation. “Over the past fours years the theatre has turned around operationally, now serving over 150,000 New Jerseyians annually. We have re-established the theatre as a destination, one that serves not only our patrons, but also one that provides customers to the many restaurants and businesses in Red Bank. Now we need to focus on the challenge of ensuring that the Theatre remains vital.”

Starting in September of last year, a CEO Selection Committee consisting of Board of Directors' members commenced a thorough, nationwide search process resulting in Mr.Young’s selection.

“As CEO of the Foundation, Rusty will be responsible for all fundraising for the Count Basie Theatre. First and foremost, this means raising funds for on-going operations through membership, special events and grants. In addition to the crucial task of operational fundraising, Rusty will develop and implement our capital campaign strategy, which is essential if we are to meet our long-term goal of completely renovating the theatre.” says Struse. “Rusty’s background is ideally suited to lead us in this effort. A lifelong resident of the Two River area, until recently he served as interim executive of the Community YMCA, and has been very active on volunteer boards, including serving as vice chairman of the Count Basie Theatre A well known figure in the community, he will also be a wonderful advocate for the Basie locally and in Trenton. “

Brian Leddin, Chairman of the Count Basie Theatre, Inc., agrees. “I am pleased and excited that Rusty has joined the Count Basie Theatre Foundation. He will provide terrific leadership as we work together to meet the immediate and long-term needs of the Theatre.”

“I am a believer in New Jersey, Monmouth County, the arts, and the Count Basie Theatre,” says Young. “We have a truly unique venue at the Basie, rich in history and tradition. The Theatre has been host to some of the state’s most memorable entertainment events over the past 80 years. We have an opportunity –an obligation, really-- to continue that legacy. I am really flattered, honored and excited to have been put in the middle of it all.”

Young will join the Foundation on March 13, 2006.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

King's Academy

From The New York Times:

March 1, 2006

Jordan Plans to Start Its Own New England-Style Prep School

DEERFIELD, Mass. — Deerfield Academy, with its brick buildings, blazing maples, jacket and tie requirements and powerful graduates, is the quintessential New England boarding school. Soon, it will see its reflection in an unlikely place, outside Madaba, Jordan.

Deerfield officials are helping to establish King's Academy, the Middle East's first coeducational boarding school, at the request of King Abdullah II of Jordan, who graduated from Deerfield in 1980.

"The idea is to transfer the American-style boarding school to Jordan," said Safwan Masri, a professor at Columbia Business School and chairman of the new academy's board. "We want to bring the best of American education and create a school like no other in the region, one focused on preparing leaders, both men and women, in the public and private sectors."

Construction started in 2004, and the academy is scheduled to open in the fall of 2007. Faculty members will be hired in the coming months.

The academy will have space for 600 students in grades 9 to 12, almost all from the Middle East. The school's annual budget dedicates 15 percent to scholarships, based both on academics and financial need.

The academy and Deerfield will be independent of each other, but there are plans to start an exchange program. Deerfield teachers and administrators are advising in the start-up, and in June, Deerfield's headmaster, Eric Widmer, is to leave his post to become headmaster of King's.

Like Deerfield, King's will have small classes, competitive athletics and family-style meals. English will be the primary language of instruction, and the curriculum will be governed by the requirements of the American advanced placement system.

Dr. Masri said research showed an interest among wealthier Middle Easterners for a school like King's; only Turkey has a similar institution. Many parents in the region, he said, send their children to the United States or Europe for high school.

Academy officials plan to send recruiters across the region to identify promising students, including those in Palestinian refugee camps and small villages.

Although the academy will have an American flavor, Dr. Widmer acknowledged that it would "need to represent the culture and tradition of the Middle East."

To that end, all freshmen will be required to take a year of religion, at least one semester of which will be centered on Islam. The customary junior-year course in American history will be replaced with Middle Eastern history. Koranic studies will be offered to juniors and seniors, and Arabic, while not required, will be offered to all students.

The school will also have an interreligious King Abdullah Spiritual Center, which, Dr. Widmer said, will actively recruit Israelis.

The campus is on 150 acres, and like Deerfield will contain swaths of greenspace, boys' and girls' dorms with single bedrooms, and a large common dining area. The maples at Deerfield will give way to palm trees, brick to stucco, and chapel to a mosque. The buildings will be in the Levantine style, with red tile roofs and wooden balconies. The boys' and girls' dorms will be a good distance from one another.

The academy began a $100 million capital campaign in 2004, and more than $50 million in cash and pledges has been raised, Dr. Masri said. Construction and start-up costs are estimated at $65 million, he said, and the board is hoping to raise more money for an endowment, scholarships, faculty chairs and other expenses.

Officials admit that the notion of a coeducational boarding school is likely to make many residents of the region uncomfortable. Officials also expect many parents to be concerned about security, especially in light of the suicide bombings that killed more than 80 people in Amman in November. While the security plan is not yet fully devised, the academy will be enclosed by a large wall, and security officers will constantly be on campus.

Merrigan For Governor's Council

From The Republican:

Ex-judge starts state council run
Tuesday, February 28, 2006

GREENFIELD - Hatless on a cold and windy day, lawyer and former Judge Thomas T. Merrigan completed a four-stop swing through Western Massachusetts yesterday afternoon, formally announcing his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for Governor's Council.

Merrigan said he has been eyeing a council seat for a long time, and has been drumming up support for a run since April.

He said he is uniquely qualified for the council, whose primary task is to approve or reject the governor's nominations for judgeships.

"I understand the challenges of the job and will rely upon my nearly twelve years of judicial experience to approve judicial nominees who will best serve the public safety and the public interest," he said.

Currently, there are no other declared candidates for the council seat held by Peter Vickery of Amherst, who is not seeking re-election. Former Springfield Mayor Theodore E. Dimauro has taken out nomination papers, but could not be reached about his intentions yesterday.

Merrigan began the day announcing on the steps of Springfield City Hall at 9:15 a.m., then drove to the Hampshire County Courthouse in Northampton to announce there, before heading to Berkshire County for a 2 p.m. declaration in Pittsfield. He reached the Franklin County Courthouse steps here at 4:30.

Introducing Merrigan was state Rep. Christopher J. Donelan, D-Orange, a former police officer who, in that role, had testified in cases before Merrigan when he was a judge in Orange District Court.

Now, Donelan said, Merrigan is "one of my constituents," and will be able to play a role in seeing that judges are appointed who have the community in mind.

"Our court has to be reflective of the community it serves," he said.

Merrigan said that as a member of the council he would push for quicker action by the governor to fill court vacancies, and fill them with qualified people from within the community they would serve.

"It is critical that nominees be appointed from the same communities they will pledge to serve and protect," he said.

Merrigan was particularly critical of Gov. W. Mitt Romney for not filling a judge vacancy in Hampden County Juvenile Court, and called for appointing "a qualified attorney from Hampden County."

Merrigan, 55, is a graduate of Deerfield Academy, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and the University of Kentucky Law School. He was a judge for 12 years, resigning in 2002 to return to practicing law, and is a partner in the Rawson, Merrigan & Litner law firm of Greenfield and Boston.

He and his wife, Margaret, have four children and live in Greenfield.

His brother, John F. Merrigan, is Franklin County Register of Probate and Family Court and a former state representative, and his sister, Maureen T. Winseck, is Greenfield town clerk.