Friday, November 7, 2014

Onion's Blair Chapel Epic...or Onion's Epic Blair Chapel

In the spirit of Blair Week, I read from a text of antiquity, one thought lost to us. Modern scholars, the few who have studied this tale, celebrate it as an epic rivaling those of Homer.

Sing, O Goddess, of the cup, our chalice, seized from us,
snatched far off, to where it’s lusted over, stained, besmirched,
by Blairbarians, depravity made flesh, senseless
to know mountain from sea.
Fortify us, Sweet Siren, that we do not cower
at the utterance of this devil’s name: Buccaneer,
a seaman without sea or vessel, landlocked pirate,
turned hill and cave dweller, communal with snake and bear,
blissful in barbarity, base to the depths dark as night.
And there, beside such inequity, teeters our prize,
ever-glistening, warm to our hearts, a treasure rich,
so loyal and longing, to return here, to us, home
where it, the Potter Cup, serves as a symbol of our
triumph as men and women of promise and justice.

Beckon from within the Peddian, oh Muse, valor,
the strong arm that wields edged bronze and directs the spirit,
takes aim with ball and pierces the hopes of the hill tribe,
that Bucs might know a fitting grief, that they meet with wrath.
let Falcons bring just misfortune to Fortunato (Blair’s headmaster),
Let Peddians caste off scholar’s robes, veil tomorrow
the visage of peace, to take on the eye and clench of
triumph as gladiators, as victors, with the dawn.

And with risen sun, warm upon the soaring Falcon
high above even the hopes of the mountain pirate,
the gods, always ready to reward those with values,
will bathe the bold blue and gold in the bright sheen of glory
as they board vessels and begin the long journey north,
where they shall look upon the fields and know then the place
that their foes, painted savage-style, in navy and grey,
will fall to the dust, tear-stained and hope-relinquished.
Peddian champions shall bestride Hampshire Field
and trample underfoot the Kroner and Underwood grounds.
The Buccaneer hearing Peddian footfalls will flee,
for this march will bring anew his nightmares of the sea’s
surging power, the very fears that drove Bucs to land.
Yet Buc retreat will gain them nothing, for they know,
raptor swift, fast as Mercury,  Peddie’s Brigid Greed
will chase them down—as the Falcon snatches witless prey.
Blairbarian phalanx will unfold before Peddie might.
Ryslik, our giant, Herculean, shall plow Blair fields with Blair bones.
In the days after this battle mountain babes shall weep
and then kneel at hearing of Borelli heroics.


Stone, the hill and the man himself, will tremble when late
in his futile struggle the gods grant him the clarity
to know the Peddian general, DeLaurentis,
has done him in with more wits than brawn, proving to be
an Odysseus before so many shameless men
tempted to quench their hot thirst at our beloved Cup.
And even with this, our labors will be begun anew.
Imbued with Athena’s vast courage, the Lady Treese
will lead that bold club-wielding sisterhood, to smote all
for ball, goal and glory.

Falcon wings, positioned above, will blot out the sun
eclipsing all light, and the dark of Peddien blue,
like a god-sent pestilence, shall sweep across Blairstown
Surviving Bucs will run blind, stumbling over the crooks
and stones. Betrayed by the land, Bucs will be truly lost.
Peddiens will not have cheer in shadow. Aware of
victory, the prize Cup begins to gleam and vibrate.
Its sheen guides Peddiens across ragged, bloodied fields;
as the clamor of blue and gold voices, now so close
to the Potter Cup, calling for their leader, tall Quinn,
rises to the very heavens. Birds in flight, even winds
go still. Peddiens still fresh with the strength of battle,
their blue and gold hearts pounding, will raise hands high above heads,
and across Peddien faces is felt the cup’s warmth,
and our cup will brighten like the mid-day sun, soaring
higher and higher still in Tall Quinn’s triumphant hands.

Good Peddians know: Blairbarian halls shall echo
with Peddian names, blue and gold deeds, and in the cold
night, battle-broken, they desperately, shall tip-toe,
seeking Peddie’s Jude Lindberg, abandoned by cruel gods
to live amongst Blairbarians. And they shall beg him,
“Explain to us, who long to know, why they surpass us?”

And noble Jude, with the divine voices of the heavens,
shall unfold his blue and gold heart with this hero’s truth:

Ala Viva!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Ya gotta love Blair week!

Janine and Matteo, like most Peddie students, have a special place in their hearts for Blair week. 

Janine '15

My favorite time of year on campus is Blair Week. One of Peddie’s greatest assets is the sense of community. This bond is fostered through mixed-level classes, a common lunch period, and after-school activities. 

During Blair Week, the campus becomes even more cohesive. From dressing in pajamas to decking ourselves out in head-to-toe blue and gold, from the raucous Community Meeting to the spirited bonfire, from the boys’ thirds soccer match to the signature varsity football game, the entire student body is instinctively drawn towards each other. 

Seeing the packed bleachers and crowded boundary lines filled with students, staff, and parents dressed in their cold-weather Peddie gear is an image that continues to make me smile. When asked to describe Peddie, this is the first image that comes to mind. Although I am always clutching to the last weeks of summer sunshine and inherent laziness in August, I am eager to come back to campus and surround myself with the welcoming Peddie community…and, of course, win back the Potter-Kelley Cup!

Matteo '15

Since I was in the third grade Peddie has been part of my life. Having two older brothers that graduated class of ’10 and ’12, I got to experience many parts of Peddie at an early age. I still remember my first Blair Day, I was only nine years old, but I never forgot the school spirit that Peddie demonstrates on that day. You practically see school spirit everywhere you go on Blair day: banners hanging down from dorm windows, people wearing the blue and gold school colors, crowds of falcon fans cheering on classmates on the sports fields, Falcons gathering together to chant the Ala Viva. I saw freshman rooting on seniors and seniors rooting on freshman. 

That day I realized that Peddie was more than just a school. Peddie is spirited community where students can feel comfortable to be themselves and experience new things, as they will always have the support of the Peddie community. For myself, on my first Blair Day, as a new freshman trying out soccer for my first time, I had the Falcon community cheering me on. I felt comfortable playing soccer in front of my Peddie community even though I was not the most talented player. Going to Peddie and having that comfort as you are presented with many new opportunities, makes it that much easier to try new things and mature as a Falcon.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Do more than your job - and reap the rewards

Ms. Green's job title is Director of Vocal Music - but that doesn't come close to describing all that she does at Peddie - dorm faculty, JV Field Hockey coach, class advisor, Sophomore Bike trip chaperone...the list goes on. In a recent Chapel talk, Green explains that it's when you start doing the things outside of your job description that the fun really begins.

Like many of the other good things in life, the opportunity to stand here and speak to you is at once a little daunting and tremendously exciting. Ever since my first year here, I knew that it was 
not a question of IF I would give a chapel speech, but WHEN. I hope that some of you are already having that same thought, but most of you won’t have six years to finally do something about it. Hurry up. 

So, good morning, Peddie. While we all wear many hats here, I would bet that most of you know me primarily through my job in the music department. So I hope that you won’t be too terribly disappointed that this speech actually isn’t about music at all. 
But in fact – THAT is what makes Peddie so awesome. It’s full of people who do far more than their job titles might suggest.

Like your teacher, who gives up a week of his summer break to go on the sophomore bike trip with you and help you learn to put up a tent and cook on a tiny stove for 40 hungry people.

Like your prefect, who spends hours night after night talking you through a really rough weeks even though you KNOW she has college apps to finish.

Like your friend’s mom and dad, who are always there to organize the reception after a play or concert.

I think it’s really special to be in a place where there are so many people who answer the call to do something for no other reason than that they think it’s important. And if you agree with me, do you know what you can do?

You can join in.

As a Peddie student, your job description includes going to class and showing up for chapel and community meeting and participating in a sport or theatre or PA every term. It does NOT include giving tours or making Blair Day videos or being one of the people who stick around for a few minutes to clean up after dorm food on Saturday night.

But what happens when you start doing those kinds of things – you know, the ones that aren’t really in your job description?

That’s when it gets fun. That’s when you feel like you really belong. You are part of what makes the Peddie experience special and memorable.

So take a moment and figure out how you already make Peddie special. And then figure out how else you want to make Peddie special. And go do it.

And then before long, it’ll be time to graduate. Your relationship to this place will get really different.

Whenever the departing seniors ask me for some words of wisdom, I always tell them the same thing. So I guess I’ll let you in on the secret a little early. I remind them that Peddie is part of you for life.

Come back and visit us, sure. Send your teacher an email when you have to reread a book in college and end up figuring out something totally new about it. But it goes beyond that, beyond just your own personal connections. Go have dinner with a traveling admissions officer when they come through your town. Come to your 5th reunion and make a new friend who’s here for their 25th. Talk to a really special middle schooler you get to know down the road and tell them that there’s this cool place in Hightstown, New Jersey. And of course, you won’t even have to think twice about giving to the Annual Fund because…that’s just a habit that you’ve had since your student days. You’re a doctor, or a lawyer, or a teacher, but at the same time you’re a Peddie alum.

But that’s not all. You’re also an alum of your college. And a board member of your local theatre company. Or a coach of a girls’ soccer team. Or an activist for marriage equality. Or a deacon at your church. Or a volunteer at an animal shelter. Because you’ve learned that some of the most special parts of life happen when people go above and beyond their job descriptions.

As the famous chef Julia Child once said, “Find something you're passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it.” Whether that’s the time you can make, the money that you can give, or the way that you can use your skills to help a person or an organization that needs it. At the heart of it, that’s what I think “community service” really means – the things you do simply because they’re important. And that’s why I do what I do, and you can do the same.

Even though we all know that NO ONE at Peddie has any free time, when you move things from the “to do” list to the “must do” list, you’d be amazed at what you can fit in. I make time to do things because I think they’re important. To cook dinner with my advisees. To help plan my college reunions. To train other women to volunteer in the community through the Junior League of Greater Princeton. Even though it originally just sounds like giving up time that you don’t think you have, somehow on the other end you feel even more rewarded, refreshed, and inspired.

I won’t be donating a building to any of my alma maters any time soon – nor will I probably ever be able to pay back all the financial aid I received that allowed me to attend them. But that’s OK. Not only do all the gifts, of any size, truly add up, but also, I know that I’m part of a community where people give back. And I’m already in the habit of giving. It’s a line in my budget just like the cell phone bill.

I try to use the skills that I’m particularly good at wherever they can make a difference. For instance, I can do interviews for local seniors who are applying to Harvard and keep connected to my alma mater that way. But I can also help unemployed women in Mercer County work on THEIR interview skills at a program called Dress for Success.

It’s easy to let your job become your entire life. Particularly when you love it as much as I do. But it’s vitally important that you find a way to live beyond it. As Katie read to us earlier, Martin Luther King said that committing yourself to things because they’re important – whatever those things are for you – “will make you a better doctor, a better lawyer, a better teacher.” And I would add that they’ll also make you a better colleague, a better spouse, a better friend.

I challenge you to ask your teacher, or your classmate, or that kid who lives in your dorm that you haven’t really talked a lot to – what do they care about. What do they do simply because it’s important. How do they serve others.

And ask yourself the same questions. Figure out how to use your time and your money and your talents to cast a ripple in the water that expands out and out and out. Make the world safer. Make your neighborhood vibrant. Make an organization stronger. Make a person’s life different.

Because, in the immortal words of the Lorax by Dr. Seuss,

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
nothing is going to get better.
It's not.

Ala viva.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Amazing Grace

Anne Marie Gustavson and her husband, Eric are former Peddie teachers who recently helped to chaperone a trip with students visiting from EFZ Shanghai. The group went to Princeton for the day, where they visited Princeton Hospital, toured the University and had lunch in town.

Take a yellow mini-bus, fill it with twelve Chinese teenagers and their two teachers, and you have a recipe for a perfect day of discovery!

My husband Eric and I were asked to be chaperones for the day with Brian Davidson in charge of seeing that things ran smoothly. With Brian at the wheel and at the helm, they did.

The rain was coming down hard as we boarded the bus early that Saturday morning, and we were a bit apprehensive as to how the day would go. But then, greetings were exchanged with fourteen smiling faces, so we felt somewhat relieved. And a few minutes later, as the bus was on its way, one voice, then two then more were raised, and Amazing Grace floated in the air sung beautifully by our young guests!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

EFZ group says farewell

Just yesterday, the group of 12 students and 2 teachers from Peddie's sister school in Shanghai, EFZ, departed for home after a two-week visit.

Director of Asian Studies Yuan Gao, who coordinated the visit, sent this message to Peddie students:

"As our EFZ guests bid farewell this morning to Peddie partners, dorm hosts and host families upon completion of their fourth visit,  I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone in our extended Peddie community for being such wonderful hosts during the past two weeks.  You may not have been directly involved in hosting an EFZ visitor in your room or your home, yet your smile when you saw one in the hallway, your applause in Chapel and your welcoming and thoughtful remarks in class, all left an enduring impression on our guests.

I quote here two EFZ students Lucy and Vicky who enjoyed much their Master North stay - 'the different residential life styles of the two schools actually reflect the differences between the two countries, which both have advantages and disadvantages. Only by getting to know each other’s country deeper can we make ours a better one.' 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Living U.S. History in Philadelphia

Each year, the Junior class heads an hour southwest to Philadelphia, "the Birthplace of America." We asked a few students to share their thoughts and photographs with us.

Grace '16:
The Philadelphia trip was a great experience to put things learned in class together into practice. We visited the Congress Hall and the Senate. It was interesting to see the difference between the interior designs of the two rooms. The senate was more decorated and elaborate than the congress because it represented the elites.

Abby '16:
I think one of the best parts of the trip was being around our history teachers outside of the classroom and in a space where they were just as excited as we were. You could really tell how much each of them loved history, whether it was Mr. Treese explaining the Senate room or Ms. Somers laughing at how ridiculous the Articles of Confederation were, their reactions made us all the more excited to be in a place with such rich history and reminded us that we have some of the best, most passionate historians as teachers.

Uzo '16
I enjoyed delving deeper into American History by visiting historic buildings such as Independence Hall and seeing the Natoinal Constitution Center...Wedge + Fig was also a great lunch spot!

Annabel '16 (new Junior from New South Wales, Australia)
I liked seeing a new city and the museums helped solidify my knowledge of the things I had learned in class. My grilled cheese was also REALLY good...

Photo by Danny '16

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A tale of two authors (and one thesis)

Melanie graduated from Peddie last year, now attends Babson College, and has an amazing story of learning connections. Here it is, told in the form of correspondence with two of her Peddie English teachers, Mr. Roach and Mr. Bennett.

Hey Mr. Roach and Mr. Bennett,

Hope you guys had an awesome summer! I just started college; today was actually my first day of classes! Anyway, I'm emailing you guys because remember how I told you that The Circle was my summer reading? Well, Dave Eggers is coming to my college to give a talk about it!!!!!! I'm so excited!!!!!!!!!!! I feel like such a nerd saying that haha! I really hope I get the chance to talk to him personally. I wish I could give him my senior thesis!!

Anyway, hope you guys have a great year at Peddie, and I hope you're not too jealous!!!