Monday, February 20, 2017

Founders Day 2017: The 60th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King's visit to Peddie

Founders Day is one of three annual formal school gatherings. Convocation opens the school in September and commencement marks the end of the school year and the beginning of life after Peddie for our seniors. Founders Day is an occasion to recognize the founding of the Peddie School and to honor those who created, sustained, and continue to propel the school and enrich all of our lives. 

Thomas B. Peddie
Founders’ Day is in February because Thomas Peddie was born February 12. And even though he did not start the school, he saved the school from oblivion with his historic gift in 1872. A relatively recent tradition has focused Founders Day on especially consequential people of Peddie other than Peddie himself.  Sometimes these are people - still living - with whom we  might have a personal connection, as with instrumental heads, teachers, and alumni (Bob Tucker and Bob Zenker last year); sometimes they are legends from the past whose dedication and generosity sustained us – yet whose names are not Peddie, Caspersen, or Annenberg.

We still tell the story of Scottish immigrant and self-made Newark businessman Thomas B. Peddie who saved the infant, faltering New Jersey Classical and Scientific Institute with a gift of $25,000, and how the trustees renamed the school in gratitude.
Walter Annenberg '27

We still tell the story of Walter Annenberg Class of ’27, son of Moses Annenberg who fled with his family the anti-Semitic pogroms in East Prussia and immigrated to Chicago in 1885. Walter, saddled with a speech impediment, a deformed ear and the controversial reputation of his indomitable father, came to Peddie, was treated well by his teachers (whose names are listed inside Masters House), and never forget his school. He supported it from his graduation until his death, honoring his family name and his school throughout his life, but most spectacularly in 1993 with a Father’s Day gift of $100 million providing access for innumerable students as a gift to us all.

We still tell the story of Finn Caspersen, 
Finn Caspersen '59
Class of ’59, and son of a Norwegian immigrant. A financier, philanthropist, and investor in education. He was the visionary and determined board chair for Peddie for over 30 years, the man who with four heads of school and scores of trustees, faculty, and families bulldogged a strong school into becoming an extraordinary school, a determined, honest, and unwavering institution.  Those three stories, along with others that we have celebrated - and others yet to be celebrated - remind us that the Peddie we love today is the dream and the gift of those who came before us. That long line of heroes looks with hope and affection on our years, and asks only, “make it better – begin anew”.

This year Founders’ Day coincides with the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. coming to Peddie and speaking in this chapel in February 1957. On one hand, the twenty-eight year old Dr. King – close in age to our own Kurt Bennett and Jenate Brown -- was merely another in a series of visiting ministers speaking to students in a Baptist school, though surely one of the first African-Americans ever to speak at Peddie. On the other hand, Dr. King was an emerging national figure in the Civil Right movement: his anti-segregation message and focus on “non-violent social resistance” had been tested in the months before by Rosa Parks and thousands of Alabama citizens in the heroic Montgomery Bus boycott; and he was featured that on the cover of Time magazine the week of his Peddie visit.

Just thirty-eight days before he came to Peddie, terrorists had bombed four black churches and two bus boycott leaders and ministers’ homes in Montgomery, and a dozen sticks of smoldering dynamite were later removed from the porch of Dr. King’s home. Despite this violent response to the success of the bus boycott, Dr. King kept his appointment at Peddie, and spoke to the assembled school of how the struggle for justice would continue “until the walls of segregation are crumbled by the battering ram of surging justice.” Said King to Peddie: “We must never submit to the temptation to indulge in hate campaigns. That’s the easy thing to do. Oppressed people must avoid becoming saturated with evil, with hate. This non-violence is based on a faith in the future, a faith that believes that the universe is on the side of the forces of justice.”

Let me offer some historical context. In the 1950s, the United States was still a racially segregated country, black and white, in both north and south, and tradition, custom, and even law in some places sustained this segregation. Before Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement that many of us recall visually, the movement for civil rights for all began in many other moments and places.

Marian Anderson
For example, in 1939 Marian Anderson a famed African-American opera star, denied the opportunity to sing in the Daughters of American Revolution concert Hall, did sing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial after the intervention of Eleanor Roosevelt, before 75,000 people and over the radio waves, beginning with “My Country 'Tis of Thee.”  She reached a much larger audience in that setting than she would have in Constitution Hall!

Then in 1854, the US Supreme Court delivered the Brown v. Board of Education decision, overturning the infamous, 58 year-old doctrine of “separate but equal,” and paving the way for de-segregating public institutions like schools, the armed forces, and public transportation.

Racial terrorism continued, as here in the 1955 lynching of Emmitt Till, whose nationally published funeral image was a catalyst for awakening anger.

In 1956 the year-long Montgomery bus boycott, initiated by Rosa Parks’s refusal to sit in the back of the bus and sustained by hundreds of volunteers, won a victory for desegregating public transportation.

Pushback continued, as was clear in the terrorism of a KKK cross-burning on the front yard of an Alabama minister.

1957 also marked Arkansas Governor Orville Faubus’s resistance against the Brown v Board of Education ruling, his use of the Arkansas National Guard to enforce his illegal resistance, and President Eisenhower’s response - to federalize the national guard, return them to their barracks, and send troops from the 101st Airborne Division accompany African-Americans students to their schools. It was the most dramatic dispute between a state and the federal government since the Civil War.

Meanwhile at Peddie, the color line had been broken in 1948 by Horace Brown, Class of 1951, Senior Class secretary and soccer captain. Horace Brown was first a few year earlier, but the school looked like this, clearly all male and white, these seniors in the class of 1957. Into this Peddie came Dr. King.

In this chapel that February day was junior Mort Goldfein, Class of 1959, a hot-shot writer for the Peddie News from Theodore Roosevelt Junior High in West Orange, and now a distinguished New Jersey attorney and activist. Enrolling later as a freshman from Trenton’s Junior High #3, was Arthur E. Brown, Class of 1963, an honored physician, a specialist in infectious diseases at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York. Also in the chapel that day - enrolled only a couple of weeks earlier - was a new student, a sixth grader from down the road in Bordentown, perhaps the only African-American student in school that year, the Honorable David B. Mitchell, Class of 1963. He is a long-time, now retired circuit court judge of Baltimore City, Maryland, and classmate of Dr. Brown.

We welcome them today. Some of the men on whose shoulders we stand, who were once new students at Peddie, boys who, like you and others who will follow, sat in these pews, went to classes, played sports, acted on stage, and built the Peddie of their day. And one day, 60 years ago, they came to this chapel to hear one of the most prominent voices of the twentieth century – and an enduring voice in human history. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

We get to carry each other: Reflections on a sabbatical

Dean of Students Marty Mooney was on sabbatical last spring, and used the time to do some solo hiking on the Appalachian Trail and in Yosemite National Park. While he expected - and appreciated - the time to quietly contemplate nature, the greatest gift of the trail for him was a deepened "real and true" appreciation for people.

This is my 20th year at Peddie. Harry was born here, my daughters graduated from here, and my wife worked here for many years. I have a deep affection for this place. It is my home, and my profession, and my life. I was here on 9/11, through the death of students, through the death of faculty, through hurricanes, through student dismissals, and every other kind of problem or issue you can imagine. I’ve also bagpiped in the last 15 graduations and have wonderful friendships with more colleagues than I can name. I’ve worked for three awesome heads of school, seen multiple Potter-Kelly cups, athletic dominance, artistic excellence, and I also enjoy the highest of academic honors, teaching PG English. In times of tragedy and in times of joy, and most of all, during times of uncertainty, Peddie is my rock. You are always there.

Last spring, when the school graciously allowed me a sabbatical, I took a trip I never thought I would or could do. I walked 300 miles of the Appalachian Trail, and I summited two awesome peaks in Yosemite National Park: Clouds Rest and Half Dome. 

The first day out was wonderful. The sun was shining, it was a fairly flat section, so the miles were easy, and I was filled with energy and great optimism about this adventure. At 6:00 that night I made it to camp, got my water, cooked my dinner, and chatted briefly with a couple of thru-hikers. Then it started raining. And it did not stop raining for five days. This was not the trip I signed up for. Like, where were the scenic vistas I saw in the REI catalogue? Not only was I cold and wet and lonely, I was also off the grid. I could get some phone signals for some portion of the day, but for the most part I was cut off. Then the trail got steep, probably not too steep if you’ve been hiking for 1000 miles, like some of the thru-hikers I met. But for my large sized self, I struggled. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The first trip home

Morikeoluwa and Marilise entered Peddie this year as freshmen and live together in Masters dormitory. This winter break marked their first trip to their respective homes since the start of the school year. Excited to be home again, both girls reflect on both the comforts of home and the benefits of now having a "home away from home" at Peddie.

Hometown: Yorktown, Virginia

Peddie has been an unforgettable experience so far, but there is nothing like the special feeling of being at home. It was a six hour drive to my home of Yorktown, Virginia, and I was  really anxious about arriving. I was most excited about living with and seeing my family again. Living with close friends at Peddie is so much fun, but I yearned for the warmth of family. My older brother also attends a boarding school, so this was his first time home this school year, which made the occasion that more significant. When my family was all together for the first time, we came together and had a short prayer. Afterwards, we all shared our experiences from this year thus far. Other than reconnecting with my family, I would have to say the best aspect of being home was being able to sleep in my own bed! 

Not a lot has changed at home, but it definitely was different. My house physically looked different due to new items around. Around my town, everything was the same for the most part, other than a few new buildings here and there. Yorktown may not be the most exciting place, but it is definitely a very special place to me. In fact, what surprised me the most was the lack of extreme change. I'm so glad to be home, but I already miss my Peddie family. Though my home and town may have physically changed, the feeling I get while being here is the exact same.

Hometown: The Hague, Netherlands

I was excited to go home for a few weeks, eager to see my family, friends and cats. Not being home for a long time was hard, but also exciting to have such a new experience. Coming closer to the day of my departure, I became more and more excited. I was thinking of a list of things to do once I arrived home. So, when I finally arrived at Schiphol, Amsterdam airport, I drove back to the city I live in and hopped on my bike to my best friend’s house. Her sister and her mother were waiting for me to go and surprise her. She didn’t know I was arriving that day, so she was so excited and confused when she saw me.

Seeing all my friends made me nervous, they expected me to tell everything, but I wasn’t sure where to start. There was too much to say. Peddie has given me so many opportunities, too many to tell in just a couple of minutes.

Now that I’m home, I can see how much I’ve changed and the changes that have occurred here in Holland. I haven’t set a single step here since August, so I expected things to be different. People have been moving or are going to move, my house has gotten some decorations, houses around me have been renovated or are renovating, etc. As for my friends, it is funny to see that it doesn’t matter how long I was gone, they are still my friends and acted like nothing has changed. That was the most surprising thing to me.

Being home is fun and exciting, but Peddie will forever be my home away from home.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

One in three women. One in four men.

Last month, several Peddie students and faculty traveled to the New York Jets Atlantic Health Training Center in Florham Park, N.J. to attend the One Love Escalation Workshop. The One Love Foundation works with young people across the country to raise awareness about relationship violence. The group met hosts Mike Maccagnan ’85, general manager of the New York Jets, and his wife, Betty. Here, Elle Grant ’18 shares her experience.

Going into this experience I had few expectations and truthfully no idea what was really going to happen. I figured visiting the New York Jets business and practice facility for this One Love event would be an interesting story to tell my football fan brother (the football part) and give myself a little more awareness (the foundation part). I in no way expected to be presented with the incredible opportunity I received that evening.

I was part of a group of several Peddie students who were invited to view the film “Escalation” created by the One Love Foundation and then partake in discussions with other student athletes. The One Love Foundation was founded in memory of Yeardley Love, a victim of domestic violence who was beaten to death by her boyfriend just three weeks shy of her graduation. The foundation helps students recognize the warning signs of abuse.

The One Love Foundation was founded in memory of Yeardley Love. Photo:
I’ll be honest, viewing the 38-minute film was hard at times, and there are moments that were undoubtedly difficult to watch, perhaps because of their undeniable realness. Ms. Maccagnan informed us before we started watching that 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 4-7 boys are faced with symptoms of an abusive relationship in their lifetimes. The age group of 16-24 is the most at risk for an abusive relationship. We wondered: could anyone we know be affected?

At the incredible workshop after the film, students and a college-aged moderator got to go through the film and asked the harder questions about consent, the impact of alcohol and other relationship gray areas. Lots of different people asked questions and contributed to the discussion, and the participation of boys and girls was equal. There is such a stigma about boys and relationship violence and I felt it was really great to see how seriously they took the workshop, giving insight and asking questions.

The program was excellent with a message that truly has life or death implications. As someone who has witnessed relationship violence in friends and family, I can testify firsthand what this kind of manipulation and violence can do to a person. One Love Foundation also emphasizes healthy relationships and their message left us all feeling positive and hopeful about the change we can impact. Not sad about the lives we’ve lost, but empowered by the ones we know we can help, which is really powerful.

I know that the other five students and I who attended the workshop are incredibly motivated and moved to help raise awareness about why this program is so important. All of us will be touched by violence in some way and helping students to know ways and strategies to deal with it when they do is vital.

I am so grateful for this opportunity, to the One Love Foundation and to Mr. and Mrs. Maccagnan for giving all of us the chance to see their facility and be exposed to a great cause. Six of our students have been changed; I feel that the rest of the student body deserves that chance as well.

For more information on how Mike '85 and Betty Maccagnan became involved with the One Love Foundation, read here.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

"I just ran."

Elizabeth "Scout" Zabinski '16 placed first in the 18-19 year-old age category in the New York City Marathon. Her training began at Peddie over a year ago, she said, and the result was "pure ecstasy." She shared her motivation, her strategy and her emotions with us.

I went into the marathon without any goal time in mind. Instead of attempting to run the race in under four hours, I truly just had my heart set on finishing. This would be my first marathon and my father's last.

I had been running constantly since the spring of 2015 without rest, including cross country and both winter and spring track. However, my official marathon training began in June of 2016. Each week I ran one long run, which began at about 9 or 10 miles. Then, I would run the remaining 5 days and cross train one day. I was not one to take a day off. In August the long runs began to grow. By the end of my summer, my longest run was 12 miles. My mom would often ride her bike along side me to entertain me and keep me company as I ran throughout my beach town.

When I got to NYU, I was on my own with training. I continued to run one long run per week. This took up a lot of my time. I ran two 13 miles runs, then 14, 15, and so on until I finally made it to 20 miles. After my 20 mile run, I began to taper because the race was only two and a half weeks away. The training was, without a doubt, the hardest part. I had no one to push me and make me run faster, so I often ran 10 minute mile splits.

Somehow, the day came and I did something I didn't think possible. I pushed myself the entire race but did not keep track of my time or wear a watch. I just ran. For the last 3 miles I put everything into it and just wanted to finish as fast as possible. It was the best day of my life. The crowd gave me more adrenaline than I could ever put into words. In Brooklyn, people gave me candies and fruit and the volunteers supplied us with sugary gatorade at every mile. I never stopped, not once.

I broke into tears once I finished, from pure ecstasy. It was an unimaginable accomplishment for me and I had exceeded any expectations I could have dreamt of for myself. I really love running, not for the competition, but for the joy that it brings when you complete a feat you never think your body is capable of. 

I truly can not comprehend how I won my age group. I am blessed to have trained with Mr. Bright and Mr. Gartner who taught me grit and determination. Remembering their words and lessons, I reminded myself the entire race not to slow down but to just deal with the pain and exhaustion when it comes. I knew that at that moment I would have the spectators and my endurance to help me finish.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Choose your costume well - always be a Falcon

Mike Cummins ’04 has devoted his professional life to supporting children in underserved communities. Following graduation from Brown University in 2008, Cummins spent five years in the Mississippi Delta with Teach For America and the KIPP Foundation. Most recently, he served as principal at Coney Island Prep High School in Brooklyn. At present, Cummins is a teacher at Brownsville Collegiate, an urban public charter school in New York City managed by Uncommon Schools.

At Peddie, Cummins was a standout on the lacrosse team. He was a rising freshman star on the undefeated 2001 team, which was inducted into the Peddie Sports Hall of Fame in June. Cummins continued his lacrosse career at Brown, where he was recognized for his passion and commitment on the practice field and on game day.

He returned to Peddie to deliver this Chapel talk and to pose three challenges to students.

Implicit….is the understanding that we are not masters of our fate, and the seasons and movements of life are often beyond us. Those close to nature, like that fast disappearing breed – the farmer – have always known that winds and storms, droughts and plagues, visit us – but also depart. It is for the farmers to cope with nature by understanding it as best they can, by cooperating with its seasons and forces. They do not make their crops grow; they understand and cooperate with the natural life that enables them to grow.
Problems with ourselves and with our children that appear unsolvable will not be solved by us alone – if, indeed they are solved. Rather they must be seen as being a part of a rhythm, a movement, and inscrutable order of life. Some problems we can help to solve, but only if we have the love, wisdom, and humility to cooperate with nature and its seasons, if we do not try to play God. Let us lay aside our frenetic worries and anxieties; let us relax and seek to cooperate with forces beyond our understanding.
This reading was originally delivered to a school community in the year 1970 by a man named Charles Martin. Charles Martin replaced Peter Quinn’s father as Headmaster of St. Albans.

Like Peddie, St. Albans is a community near to my heart. During my lacrosse-playing days at Brown University, I had five teammates who hailed from the all-boys school in Washington DC. If we are to judge schools by the quality of their alumni, St. Albans shines as a paragon of integrity, effort and accomplishment. I am sure your future classmates, teammates and colleagues will be left with an equally favorable impression of Peddie based on their time working alongside you.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

TEDx Tuesday: Baher Azmy

In the spring of 2016, Peddie launched its inaugural TEDx Peddie event. TED is a nonprofit organization devoted to ideas worth spreading. In this spirit, TED has created TEDx, a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. Organized by students, and with the help of the Alumni & Development office, TEDx Peddie brought to campus six industry leaders, some of whom are Peddie alumni, to speak on the theme "The future as we know it."

Baher Azmy was the third civilian lawyer to enter the inner sanctum of Guantanamo Bay's Camp Echo to meet with a client. His story of that meeting explains both the principles that led Azmy to Guantanamo, and the profound humanity that inspires those principles.

Speaker biography: Baher Azmy is the Legal Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, where he directs all litigation and advocacy around issues related to the promotion of civil and human rights. At CCR, he has litigated landmark cases related to discriminatory policing practices (stop and frisk), unlawful government surveillance, the rights of Guantanamo detainees, and accountability for victims of torture. Baher is currently on leave from his faculty position at Seton Hall University School of Law, where he taught Constitutional Law.