Monday, September 24, 2007

September 2007

To the Great Class of 1969:

As you may recall from days gone by, Deerfield officially recognizes the beginning of each school year at Convocation which does not occur until the end of the first week of classes. You might want to take the time to read - or listen to - this year’s Convocation Address by Tom Heise, who joined the faculty in 1988 and occupies the Merriam Chair in American Studies. As I listened to his concluding remarks I was reminded - as if I needed reminding having lived and worked the last 30 years in New York - the extent to which technology and globalization have made engaging the world beyond Deerfield so much more complex for each succeeding generation of graduates.

As a further reminder of the reach of globalization, King’s Academy in Madaba, Jordan welcomed its first class of 66 boys and 40 girls, equally divided between the 9th and 10th grades, before Deerfield could open its doors. Twenty-three are full boarders, 52 are weekday boarders and 31 are day students. In reading Founding Headmaster Eric Widmer’s comments, I couldn’t help wondering whether he hadn’t cribbed his notes from a prior Deerfield Convocation when he spoke of “this incomparably beautiful campus”. If you’d like to learn more, see the article below from The Sunday Times written by Peter Weinberg ’75 who is a trustee of Deerfield as well as a founding trustee of King’s Academy.

On a less global level, Varsity Football inaugurated the season on Saturday with a decisive win over Northfield Mount Hermon, 34-7. This was a more propitious opening to the season which began last year with an 8-6 loss.

Class News

Peter Bernstein, author and former member of the editorial board of The Scroll, released his new book "All the Money in the World" about the lives and lifestyles of the Forbes’s 400 earlier this month. It’s available at Amazon in hardback or as either an audio download or as a CD. Peter’s other books include "The New York Times Practical Guide to Practically Everything: The Essential Companion for Everyday Life" and "Quotations from Speaker Newt: The Little Red, White and Blue Book of the Republican Revolution", both of which he co-authored with his wife. He is also the editor of the annual "Ernst & Young Tax Guide".

You may have noticed that George School, a coed Quaker boarding school with 540 students in Bucks County, PA where John Davison teaches history, made the news recently when it received a $128.5 million gift from the daughter of Warren Buffett’s mentor at Columbia Business School who had the good fortune to have owned some shares of Berkshire Hathaway. Before the gift, George School’s endowment was $77 million. Parenthetically, the gift is the largest one to a boarding school since Walter Annenberg’s $100 million gift to The Peddie School in 1993.

Steve Esthimer, a teacher at Saint Mary’s School in Raleigh, NC since 1979 where he chairs the Humanities and Social Sciences Department, has kept up with his music and performs locally with several groups. After trying for a couple years, Steve’s band, When Cousins Marry, will be releasing a CD of original songs this fall. While at Deerfield, Steve belonged to The Agrarian Revolt which was also known as The Inedible String Band.

Jim Kay visited campus this month en route to Maine on a weeklong bike trip. Jim sampled the fare in the Dining Hall, visited with Frank Henry and agreed to pose for a classic photo op in front of the doors of JW which you will find for posterity in the Online Yearbook.

Earlier this year, Lyn Lee, a nationally known waters/wetlands regulatory expert and founder of the U.S. EPA's National Wetlands Science Training Cooperative, joined consulting firm WSP Environmental Strategies to head up a dedicated Ecosystem Science & Restoration group to help clients manage ecological issues related to site cleanup and development, natural resource damage, and ecosystem restoration.

Dr. David Leffers, one of the top sports orthopedic surgeons in the country, was selected last year to direct the Division of Sports Medicine at the University of South Florida Health's new Department of Orthopedic Surgery. David is also a team physician for the University of South Florida Bulls and has worked extensively with professional athletes and professional teams in the Tampa Bay area, including the Tampa Bay Lightning (hockey) and the Tampa Bay Mutiny (soccer). You may remember that David, after a distinguished career at Vanderbilt, was drafted in 1973 by the Oakland Raiders as a guard.

Christian Liipfert was seconded into a different part of BP earlier this year to act as Programme [sic] Director for a global information and records project after having practiced law, both in a law firm and in-house, for the past 28 years. Christian spoke at a conference in London last May on the topic of “Negotiating the Labyrinth of Information Management and Associated Challenges”. His mandate is to look at how BP creates, organizes, files, uses, reuses and eventually discards both paper and electronic records and documents.

If you’re wondering about how much you need to save to get your own “back 40” in the Lone Star State, you might want to talk with Ritchie McCulloch. Ritchie runs McCulloch Ranch and Land Company, a land brokerage company specializing in the marketing of country neighborhood subdivisions and the brokerage of ranch properties which he founded in 1990, after eight years in the ranch and land real estate brokerage business. Since its founding, McCulloch Ranch and Land Company has sold over 1,400 two to ten acre single family residential home sites valued at over $42 million in 17 different subdivisions and over 34,000 acres of ranch property with a total sales price of over $54 million.

After stints running Ocean Spray and Ocean Cuisine International, Kevin Murphy set off in a different direction and today works with a few start-up companies in which he is an investor and a director. He also spends some of his time as a principal and Senior Partner in an executive recruiting firm.

Brogan Thomsen constructed a 222 foot maze out of refrigerator boxes complete with an Orca whale and a live birch tree in the middle of the route at a week-long event this summer in Seabeck, WA designed especially for Deaf-Blind people and sponsored by the Seattle Lighthouse, a private, not-for-profit agency providing employment, support, and training opportunities for people who are blind, Deaf-Blind, and blind with other disabilities.

Earlier this year Sandy Weissent (Harvard AB; University of Chicago MBA) wrote that he had just finished a successful, two-year-long, corporate turnaround of a Midwest-based lumber and building material supply business. Sandy has done over two dozen turnarounds for private and public companies from most business sectors all over the country since 1985.

The ability of lost classmates to escape the long reaches of Google continues without success. This past month Erskine f/k/a "Kim" White, a high school teacher in Nashville and an author, surfaced after many years. In case you’re wondering, it appears that our class produced more teachers than any other profession, although lawyers run a close second.

Rusty Young, CEO of the Count Basie Theatre Foundation, secured a $100,000 grant earlier this year from Lowe's and the National Trust for Historic Preservation to defray the cost of installing a new roof on the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank, NJ. The 1926 theatre is operated as a nonprofit corporation and is named in honor of William "Count" Basie who was born in Red Bank in 1904.

Class Trivia

It may seem delinquent to be reporting now on something that occurred in 1979, but the following story only came to my attention this month. Fresh out of business school, the classmate in question bought a struggling local bakery for what today looks like the cost of a year at Deerfield but which then must have seemed like a fortune. As things turned out, our Mystery Classmate earned the devotion of his employees, increased profits for each of the next twenty five years and turned the bakery into a destination spot that you can find on various online guides. Can you identify this nascent entrepreneur?

After adding only two classmates to our Online Yearbook in all of last year, I succeeded in adding four classmates and updating two photos this month. Can you name the classmate pictured on the left who entered as a sophomore, starred on the undefeated 1969 swim team and went to Bucknell?

Best wishes to all.


Thursday, September 20, 2007

King's Academy Opens

From The Sunday Times September 16, 2007

The preppy pathway to peace for Arab children: King Abdullah II of Jordan is trying to recreate a top US boarding school in the Middle East

Students perform at the opening ceremony for the academy

Peter Weinberg

It’s dawn at the Allenby Bridge, the river crossing that connects Jericho and the West Bank to Jordan. The temporary community of Bedouins, truck drivers and UN peacekeepers warily watches the heavily armed Israeli border guards. The guards tell us to stand back; they won’t be opening the border any time soon. Everyone avoids eye contact. The tension is palpable.

As an investment banker from New York, I’m a long way outside my comfort zone. I’m here to attend the opening of a new school in Jordan – an initiative that may plant some small shoot of hope in this troubled region.

King’s academy is in Madaba, which lies in a fertile valley at the base of Mount Nebo, the biblical perch from which Moses looked out over the promised land. The school is the inspiration of King Abdullah II, who wanted to create a top-quality boarding school for talented teenage boys and girls from across the Middle East. Last week, the first 106 teenagers arrived to join the first classes.

You don’t need to be wealthy to attend King’s academy. In fact, the school has raised over $60m (£30m) to pay for buildings and land, and for scholarships for those who can’t afford tuition.

Last weekend, one student showed up in a limousine with more suitcases and boxes than could possibly fit in a dormitory. Contrastingly, another arrived by bus and walked through the front gate alone with just a small satchel of belongings. The students share potential and opportunity, not privilege.

Freshly cut grass and young olive trees decorate the walled campus. The library is rapidly filling with books; art supplies and lab equipment are unpacked and ready for use. The buzz of student conversations, both in Arabic and English, bring the campus to life. In some ways, this campus resembles any number of others around the world. But it’s different here.

The students are the cream of the intellectual crop from Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Oman, Kuwait, Palestine, Syria, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. There are even a few from America and Taiwan. Ultimately all Middle Eastern countries will be represented, including Israel. But even more striking, particularly in this region of “haves and have nots”, is the economic diversity of the students.

The model for King’s academy is Deerfield academy in Massachusetts, one of the top boarding schools in the US. King Abdullah attended Deerfield in the 1980s and often identifies his days there as among the best of his life. As a former Deerfield student myself, I can echo the quality of the experience and its long-lasting impact.

The two schools do not look alike: Deerfield is the archetypical leafy, New England campus familiar to millions from movies such as Dead Poets Society; King’s is in the Levant style of stucco, wood and tile.

But the schools share a common DNA, marked by intelligence, tradition, and an environment that encourages students to engage and provoke. To shape and embody this culture, King Abdullah has recruited the legendary Deerfield headmaster, Eric Widmer, and his charismatic wife Meera Viswanathan.

At the opening ceremony last weekend, five students stepped forward to deliver a nervous premiere of the school song. As the sun set behind the campus buildings, King Abdullah welcomed the students and faculty and reiterated his dream.

Nobody can predict where these courageous students will attend university. One can say that they will have the option to attend the finest establishments in the world: Oxford or Cambridge, Yale or Harvard. I am hopeful that they will choose that route and ultimately return to the region when their academic training is completed. What could be more important in the Middle East than educating open-minded future leaders?

Last week I was strolling through the campus and I heard the sound of Deep Purple’s 1973 hit Smoke on the Water coming from one of the boy’s dormitories. In the US or Europe, such a sound would be unremarkable. But at this school, in this place, at this time, this very normality is extraordinary.

Peter Weinberg is a founding trustee of King’s Academy

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Back to School 2007

To the Great Class of 1969:

We just arrived home after reinserting our son in the Deerfield bubble for another year, and I can report that the campus was buzzing with activity and the excited babble of returning students. Summer was in its final throes with the temperature in the low 90’s, and Albany Road was clogged with moving vans, SUVs and workers’ trucks.

My eye is getting more accustomed to the sight of the Koch Center which, with some landscaping, seems more a part of the campus now that it is no longer a construction site. Directly across from the Koch Center, construction continues where the entrance to the Greer has been tastefully redesigned to provide handicap access to the Gymnasium. This project was prompted by the construction of ten new international squash courts which are cantilevered over the back of the locker room with spectacular views of the playing fields on the lower level. The courts are scheduled for completion by the start of the squash season in November.

Time moves on, but you can still find some familiar faces amidst the change as the Academy opens its doors for its 209th year. Mr. Morsman presides over the dining room in Mr. Sullivan’s former role where he begins his 48th year on the faculty, and Mr. Brush begins his 42nd year teaching Latin. After Mr. Morsman and David Howell '65, our own Frank Henry is the longest serving Alumnus on the faculty.

Best wishes to all.