Saturday, December 26, 2009

Mid-Term Report Card - Winter 2009-2010

To the Great Class of 1969:

Within hours of dismissal for winter recess, a fire broke out in the laundry room below the south "bubble" in the Dining Hall which filled the entire building with smoke and required the assistance of local fire departments to subdue. For those of you who attended the Reunion, the affected area is where a number of us had breakfast on Sunday. For those who weren't there, the photo to the left from The Library of Congress may refresh your memory. In my mind, the alcove is one of the most pleasing architectural features of the room.

Although the extent of the damage was not immediately known, the Academy has indicated that it expects to be back in service when the students return on January 4th. You can see photos of the fire by going to Flickr.

I seem to have underestimated the extent to which Deerfield had been spared the H1N1 flu when I last wrote. Although the Academy is reporting on its website that Deerfield has had just a handful of students per week experiencing flu-like illness, the numbers seem to be adding up with The Scroll reporting on December 15th that 122 students had been infected with “swine ’09” 25 days before Thanksgiving vacation.

Another development since I last wrote is the controversy surrounding an article in the November 11th issue of The Scroll entitled “Why We’d Rather Be Here Than Choate” which, I infer from the reaction it generated, touched a raw nerve among some, including no less than Mr. Merriam '43 who took the time to write a Letter to the Editor. I haven't seen the offending text, however, at least two mea culpas have appeared online.

Todd Stone had a showing of his post 9-11 art in New York earlier this month on the coldest night of the year but Peter Bernstein, Tom O'Gara and I all attended and were very impressed with his work. You can see some of what he had on display by going to Downtown Rising and Boomtown.

Nearly a year has passed since the world as we know it nearly ended. This would be a good time to acknowledge that worse did not come to worst and help my successor Tom Ehrgood with a gift to Annual Support before year-end.

Best wishes to all for 2010.


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Fall Term Report Card - 2009

To the Great Class of 1969:

News of the Academy

The Academy opened its doors this fall with more girls than boys for the first time since co-education was reintroduced twenty years ago. Over the summer, a construction crew reconfigured the dorms in order to accommodate 650 students due to a higher than anticipated yield. The expectation is that the Academy will work down the size of the school through the admissions process over the next couple of years.

Despite the somewhat overcrowded conditions in the dorms, the Academy experienced only a handful of swine flu cases during the fall term. This might not have been so remarkable except that Andover, Exeter, St. Paul's, Choate and Hotchkiss each had between 85 and 100 cases according to The Scroll.

A healthy and record student body was not sufficient to deter Deerfield's principal rivals on the lower level. After two winning seasons, each of which culminated in lopsided wins over Choate, Deerfield football finished the year with a 3-5 record by losing to Choate at Deerfield in heavy rain. That there was only a three game swing in the won lost record was fortunate since this year's team gave up 14 more points and scored 11 fewer points per game than last year's team. You don't need to be a math major to know that a 25 point swing per game is a tough hurdle to overcome.

Those who attended the Reunion this year had their first chance to tour the Koch Center which went into service in 2007. The construction of such a complicated building led to disputes between the Academy and both the construction company and the architectural firm, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. The construction company settled with the Academy last year, and in August the Academy received an undisclosed amount from the architects in an out-of-court settlement following a four year lawsuit.

Hoping for a better result this time, the Academy will begin construction of a new Health & Fitness Center where the old squash courts are located and a substantial expansion of the adjoining school store, now known as "The Greer" in March. The new facilities were funded by the parents of the past two graduating classes, which Steve Sheresky P'08 and I headed successively, and friends of the Academy.

News of the Class

This June I returned to Deerfield to attend graduation for the first time since 1969. Although most of the Great Class of 1969 decided that one march down Albany Road was sufficient, I suspect that even the most hardened among us would feel moved wondering where all the time had gone since standing in that same spot years ago. Whether or not you agree, I wanted to share this link to the Graduation Procession which another '09 parent was kind enough to post on YouTube. A few highlights: Head of School Margarita Curtis (0:10), Mr. Morsman (0:15), our own Frank Henry (1:07) and my legatee Nick (2:58-3:01). You also will notice a number of very (apologies BVL, but I had McGlynn and never sat at table 49) attractive alumnae who weren't eligible for the procession 40 years ago. I think that's what Howie Carr must have had in mind when he said, after revisiting Deerfield, that at least half the class was more attractive than he remembered.

Robert Clough e-mailed me after reading my report on the Reunion while in a cyber cafe in Stockholm to say that he was off to Russia in search of salmon. As you may know, Robert is an avid outdoorsman, like many in Maine, and is also a member of the Atlantic Salmon Federation. I instructed Robert to catch every last salmon in Russia, and he wound up with nine. When I asked him about the cost per fish, he told me, "You don't want to 'amortize' your salmon fishing as there is so much more to it than numbers of fish". He indicated that it was "ridiculously expensive" but less than the cost of a shrink. As for the quality of the salmon, he said that it was "the same species as in Canada and Maine, but the setting was much wilder. The only comparison would be the George River in Ungava Bay, Quebec".

If you look closely at the photo you will see that Robert is wearing his Deerfield Reunion cap with the Doors from John Williams.

Also sporting Deerfield apparel is Tee Johnson who is now within 12 lbs. of his graduation weight after weight loss surgery. Tee and his wife are departing Argentina after five years and heading for Knoxville, Tennessee where Tee will run a new office. On the side, he and the executive producer of the documentary Evita just signed a deal to do eight half hour films for PBS in 2010.

AC Starkey will retire at yearend after 40 years with PNC and predecessor companies. AC is on various charities and non-profit boards in New Jersey and maintains a house in St. Barts where he seems to spend half his time.

Sandy Weissent wrote that he had sustained an injury while helping the "National Pastime" baseball team win the World Series title recently in Arizona for the sixth time in twenty years in advancing age brackets. As a result of the injury, Sandy had to skip the Roy Hobbs Tournament in Florida where he regularly plays for the "Windy City Fire".

Earlier this month, a number of us convened in New York for our first dinner together in two years. The group included Tom Ehrgood, my successor as chief fundraiser who was able to join us for the first time in several years, and Will Colwell, who made it for the first time. Faces you will recognize from the 2007 dinner included Peter Bernstein, John Lacey, John Kjorlien P '13, Rusty Young and Todd Stone. Tom O'Gara missed the photo op again but joined us at the restaurant where the conversation went on unabated for three hours.

Photo Trivia

According to BusinessWeek, our mystery classmate has over 24 years of management experience in the pharmaceutical industry across multiple disciplines including R&D, Regulatory Affairs, Operations, and Business Development. He is currently President and CEO of Cytochroma, a specialty pharmaceutical company. From September 1987 to June 2005, he held various positions, including President, at Bone Care International Inc., a public company which was acquired by Genzyme. He completed a four-year National Institutes of Health Postdoctoral Fellowship in Vitamin D Biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and received his Ph.D. degree in Nutritional Biochemistry from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, after earning an undergraduate degree in Chemistry from the University of Virginia. Do you know who he is?

In closing, I wanted to highlight that I have redone the links on the right side of the blog to include the Deerfield Channel on YouTube as well as photos from our 40th Reunion. Hope you like it.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.


Thursday, June 18, 2009

June 2009 - 40th Reunion

To the Great Class of 1969:

We just concluded our eighth Reunion and the weather, while not perfect, was far better than had been forecast. For those of you who were unable - or not ready - to join the 30 of us who braved the changeable New England weather, you missed an opportunity to experience a meeting of the minds and now must wait, like us, another five years.

Our Class has always been made up of contrarians, and this year was no exception. In the worst attended reunion in memory, our Class turned out more than it ever had. While not everyone came back dewy-eyed about their Deerfield years, I had the feeling that those who came more out of a sense of curiosity left feeling glad they had come. There were moments this weekend when Tom O’Gara’s words resonated in my mind. Following a dinner several years ago with some of us in New York he wrote, “I am still amazed how people could seemingly pick up conversations that started decades ago”. There were signs of what Tom was referring to in our Class meeting such as when Jamie Rawles and Mark Ewing recalled John Shanholt's near disastrous experimentation with explosives or when members of the undefeated soccer team couldn’t agree on whether the team had one tie or two. There were also conversations over dinner that shed new light on the Deerfield Experience such as when Ben Walbridge humored us recounting how Mr. Sullivan and Mr. Dils caught him the night before graduation a bit worse for wear and wished they had the power to expel him.

This weekend confirmed what I believed five years ago when I stepped into the vacuum and assumed responsibility as chief friendraiser, e.g. (1) we have more that unites us than whatever may once have divided us; (2) there is something therapeutic about returning to this beautiful spot and seeing those with whom we shared our formative years; and (3) Deerfield remains for many, as Neil Jacobs said to me several years ago, the “greatest community living experience” of their lives.

Since our last reunion, I have had a chance to relive Deerfield through the lens on our son who graduated three weeks ago. As John Shanholt wrote when his daughter graduated in 2005, “Deerfield, while appearing to be the same school in the same place, is in so many ways a substantially different and better institution than the one I left in 1969”. With my son’s graduation, I can attest that it has adapted without losing its distinctive identity. In our Class meeting (which was scheduled for an hour but ran for two), I asked Frank Henry why the kids seemed so happy, and his simple answer was “co-education”.

While a variety of views were expressed in our Class meeting about our years at Deerfield, I square the circle as follows: (1) the turmoil in the larger society contributed to a sense of rebelliousness no matter where you were at the time; (2) the regimented lifestyle at Deerfield was probably not that much different from peer schools which had no better grip on how to deal with our generation; (3) the absence of girls was not unique to our Class and, in fact, was not resolved at Deerfield for another twenty years; and (4) the typical adolescent growing pains we experienced had more to do with us and less to do with Deerfield.

I learned some largely useless trivia this weekend such as (1) the benefits of volunteering for Mrs. Boyden’s Tea Committee from John Shanholt; (2) the circumstances under which the Quid eventually stepped down from David Suitor; and (3) the existence of the “17 Points” which, while they had slipped my mind, were still fresh in the memory of Frank Henry and others. I also visited for the first time the cemetery where many former faculty members are laid to rest and noticed, oddly, that my son was born on the 19th anniversary of the Headmaster’s death.

On a drizzly Sunday morning, five of us trekked over to the Brick Church for the Memorial Service. Judging from the sparse attendance, I think our Class was better represented than any other except, possibly, the Class of ’64 which included the Minister. All the names of members of the ’04 and ’09 Classes who had passed away since the last reunion were solemnly read by two members of the Class of ’04. Our Class lost four members and, with the exception of the Class of ’64, every Class before us had lost more. That’s the math that allows the life insurance companies to stay in business as well as a reason for returning.

With the unanimous support by voice vote of the attendees at the Class meeting on Saturday and by the power that is vested in me as Reunion Chair, I have appointed Tom Ehrgood, who attended his first Deerfield Reunion this year, as Program Chair for 2014. Mark your calendars for the weekend of June 13-15, 2014 and contribute to the collective memory of the Great Class of 1969. I will be looking for you under the Great Tent.

For pictures of the weekend, go to Reunion 2009.

Best wishes.


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Spring Term Report Card - 2009

To the Great Class of 1969:

News of the Academy

It is no surprise that during the latter part of Spring Term attention turned to the swine flu and the possibility of a random case. This diversion was in some sense a welcome relief from the Winter Term when there seemed no end in sight to the financial misery. Following cancellation of Parents' Weekend, the last few weeks of Spring Term were spent wondering whether students might be dismissed early or Commencement canceled for 183 seniors on account of a case of swine flu. Happily, the world as we know it did not end, and a case of swine flu did not surface at Deerfield.

On the college front, it was another good year despite worries about the lethal mix of record applications and depleted endowments. The 60/40 mix of top universities and top liberal arts colleges was about the same as in prior years, although there were some clear winners and losers. Schools which were winners and will have more Deerfield matriculants than in any of the eleven years I have been tracking this are: Yale (10), Tufts (7), Colgate (7), Bucknell (7) and Hamilton (6). Formerly popular schools which will have fewer matriculants than ever include Brown (4) and Cornell (1). The most popular Ivy (and college overall) was Yale, and the least popular was Columbia which attracted no members of the Class of ’09, and has never been a strong draw on Albany Road. You can interpret the results yourself by visiting The Scroll.

The boys’ lacrosse team finished 15-1, ending the season with a triple overtime win over Lawrenceville at Yale. The only loss was to Salisbury by a single goal late in the season. Overall, the team is ranked 1st in New England and 6th nationally, which is higher than I can ever recall. Girls’ tennis had another standout year, finishing 10-1, with the loss to Hotchkiss the only one since the 2007 season. The prospects for next year appear good since only two girls are graduating, and the JV was undefeated.

The big news for next year is that girls will outnumber boys for the first time and that there is a serious overcrowding issue which is forcing the Academy to do some improvising. Read all about it - and subscribe to a news feed from - The Scroll.

Class News

Steve Esthimer wrote that his band When Cousins Marry has another CD in the oven which is scheduled for release next summer. He indicated that one song, as intemperately named as his group, will have a reference to the Great Class of 1969. Steve looks forward to seeing everyone at the 45th.

Stuart Ray, our resident entrepreneur, sent me a press release this week announcing his appointment as Executive Director of Guiding Light Mission in Grand Rapids, MI. Established in 1929, Guiding Light Mission serves those in need of food and homeless men who also need shelter and help in developing the social skills and spiritual strength to overcome their difficulties and addictions and rejoin the community.

Stuart’s community efforts and ability to inspire others have been recognized by various groups, including Ernst & Young which named him “Socially Conscientious Entrepreneur of the Year”, Partners in Public Education which named him “Employer of the Year”, and the Hugh Michael Behan Foundation which recognized him for contributions to racial diversity and commitment to education excellence.

Rusty Young won't be able to make the Reunion on account of a prior commitment at the Count Basie where he is CEO of the Foundation. He did remind me that the Fab Faux will be back again on June 27th for a benefit concert, and tickets are are still available.

Photo Trivia

Who is this guy with the aviator shades barking out instructions over the megaphone at last week's Commencement? Is this the same person who once advised, "Don't shoot until you see the whites of their snowballs" in a pitched battle during Winter Term? His classroom in the "New Classroom Building" where he has taught a resolute minority of students what was once required for freshmen and sophomores is strewn with amusing malapropisms and double entendres collected over the past 43 years. He may be retiring, but you can still see him at our Reunion.

Speaking of the Reunion, I look forward to seeing you June 12-14. We're expecting an excellent turn out which already has surpassed the 35th. It's not too late to register.

Best wishes to all.


Sunday, May 24, 2009

Commencement 2009

The 210th Deerfield Commencement took place on Sunday, May 24th under a mix of sun and clouds. Mr. Brush, concluding his 43rd and final year as a member of the Deerfield faculty, was Grand Marshall, with Frank Henry pulling up the rear of the procession down Albany Road. The event took place under the large reunion tent in the presence of over 1,000 family members and friends. Two large video screens on either side of the dais provided additional viewing, and a professional camera crew caught everything for posterity (and sale). Not surprisingly, the service is more secular and the class far more diverse than 40 years ago. While the basic contour of the Commencement program is the same, it has changed with the times, and the staging of the event has become a much bigger production than when we received our diplomas in the Memorial Building.

For a school that has no shortage of traditions, there are new ones which have sprung up since we were there which would make you feel ancient. Three of the more important ones seem to be the “Senior Cry” (c. 1994) the night before in the Memorial Building, the donning of Class ties by the boys (c. 1981) and the lighting of cigars in front of the doors of John Williams immediately following Commencement (date unknown). The Senior Cry, which broke up shortly after 2:00 AM, is an opportunity for the graduating class to speak in a public forum about their Deerfield years and brings all of them full circle to when they first stood up as incoming students and announced who they were. All but one nonconformist wore the tie selected by this year’s class which is a traditional dark green silk tie with the doors and the class year in white. As for the cigar smoking tradition, it seems an important differentiator to the boys in a world where the girls are playing an increasingly important role. For the third year in a row, an Ivy-bound girl won the Deerfield Cup, despite the fact that girls were substantially outnumbered in the graduating class. That will no longer be the case next year for the first time since the school went co-ed in the fall of 1988.

Another apparent tradition which you can’t miss is that almost all the students, after receiving their diplomas and giving the Head of School a hug, slipped her a penny, presumably for good luck. The penny won’t go far, but 97% of this year’s class made a pledge to Annual Support. Their parents, who I was charged with corralling this year, have done an admirable job in a bleak economy and raised a bit over $1 million to renovate “The Greer” which, since the mid-80’s, has occupied expanded space which we once knew as simply as the school store.

There were two extraordinary speeches by members of the Class of ’09 and an address by a member of the Class of ’97 who works as a producer at NBC. The only fly in the ointment of an otherwise perfectly orchestrated event was when a woman shouted out for someone to call 911 when it appeared that her husband was having either a heart attack or a stroke. The program resumed when, after a ten minute delay, he was pronounced OK and escorted out. All’s well that ends well.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Winter Term 2008-2009

To the Great Class of 1969:

School let out yesterday for two weeks. Mirroring the harsh New England weather, the S&P 500 declined 24% during the Winter Term, bringing the cumulative drop since the School year began to a staggering 45%. Who would have guessed things could have gotten so bad or would like to speculate where we might be by graduation in May or our Reunion in June?

News of the Academy

Despite the pervasive doom and gloom outside, life goes on within the Deerfield bubble. By all appearances the Class of '09 is off to a good start with college admissions based on the early decision results. According to The Scroll, 85% of the senior class applied early somewhere. Some of the other hot topics covered this term in The Scroll involved a change in the day student driving policy which now allows boarding students to ride with day students, a change in the method of selecting proctors designed to make the process more equitable and the perennial issue of whether the students are getting enough sleep.

News of the Class

The newspaper industry may be on life support, but don't tell Marty Kaiser, Senior Vice president and Editor of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. In February, Marty had the distinction of being named "Editor of the Year" by E&P, a trade publication. To learn why Marty was selected, you can read all about it here.

If you are in New York on March 19th and have $16 to spare, you can catch Peter Bernstein talk about the book he co-authored a couple of years ago which was subtitled "How the Forbes 400 Make & Spend Their Fortunes". Knowing Peter for as long as I have, I have the feeling that there could be a sequel in the offing which might aptly be titled "How the Forbes 400 Lost Their Fortunes". Here are the meeting details.

Rusty Young had a successful year, raising $4.9 million - about what Deerfield Annual Support raised - for the Count Basie Theatre where he has been CEO of the Foundation since 2006. Much of the money went for the renovation of this landmark building and was made possible by the benefit concert The Boss did there last May. You can see a three minute documentary of the renovation by clicking here.

Christopher Beach, President and Artistic Director of the La Jolla Music Society, was quoted last month in an article about the difficulty of raising money for the arts in the current environment. He also appeared in an interview on a local television station in January which you can watch here.

After a respite, Jonathan Carter, two time gubernatorial candidate of Maine's Green Party, is back in the news as Executive Director of the Forest Ecology Network, a cause he has been involved with for years. Here's a link to the Fall Newsletter which includes a photo of King on the second page. Last month he was in the local news again, this time making the case for putting more than 10 million Maine acres into a "national carbon sequestration forest" which would absorb carbon in the atmosphere.

John Kjorlien, Class Agent, and John Lacey, Head of Reunion Attendance, joined me this week at the Williams Club in New York for a phonathon which seemed like a throwback to an earlier era. We managed to reach a few classmates but, more often than not, had to leave messages on answering machines. Some Classmates who have indicated they plan to attend the Reunion include Robert Clough, Ben Walbridge, Eric Tompkins, Casey Reed, Christian Liipfert, Zech Chafee, David Suitor and, for the first time, Tom Ehrgood, our Program Chair.

I have resisted shilling for Annual Support on the blog for several years, however, "Desperate times call for desperate measures" to quote a Proverb. We are trying to raise a sufficient amount of money this year to meet our Annual Support goal and to establish a memorial fund for deceased classmates, three of whom have passed away since the last Reunion. It would be a shame if we were unable to reach those twin goals in a Reunion year on account of a weak economy. Please join me in helping reaching our objective by making a generous contribution and signing up for the Reunion online now. I encourage you to sign up before March 15 to take advantage of the early bird registration special. We heard some grousing at the phonathon about the cost, so sign up now before the price increase or forever hold your peace.

I will be sending out another invitation in the near future to those who haven't yet responded to join my Google Group which I set up as an electronic meeting place for the class. To date there are a dozen members, and we need your participation to make a success of this.

End Notes

Denham C. Lunt, Jr. '43, Jim's father and former president of Lunt Silversmiths, passed away February 11th. Lunt Silversmiths was founded in 1902, a year which coincided with the beginning of the Boyden era.

I saw Steve Sheresky and Mimi Morsman at a packed memorial service in New York last month for David Olson '70 who died of heart failure after a long illness. David was the father of two Deerfield graduates (thanks to co-education) and was also a former trustee of the school. He and his wife Tara co-chaired the Senior Parents Committee in 2005 which raised nearly $2 million to establish the Albany Road Chair. The service included numerous reminders of Deerfield and concluded with the Evensong.

Best wishes to all.


Sunday, February 01, 2009

Gus Palmer

Augustus Lindsay Palmer Jr., 57, chief financial officer for CRP Inc., a Washington health and communications consulting firm, died Dec. 19 at Holy Cross Hospital of complications from a stroke.

Mr. Palmer was born in Newport News and in 1969 was among the first black graduates of the Deerfield Academy private school in Massachusetts. He later graduated from Johns Hopkins University.

He was a financial consultant before becoming CRP's chief financial officer 15 years ago.

Mr. Palmer lived in Silver Spring and was board chairman of the Rock Creek Parish of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Washington.

His father, Augustus L. Palmer, died Jan. 20.

Survivors include his wife of 21 years, Denise Robinson-Palmer, and two daughters, Lindsay Palmer and Jasmine Palmer, all of Silver Spring; two brothers, Rodney L. Palmer of Washington and Robert L. Palmer of Silver Spring; and two sisters, Mercedes Renee Palmer of Columbia and Ann Palmer Moss of Washington Township, N.J.

The Washington Post, February 1, 2009