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.