Chapel Talk: A tribute to "T" by Kate Higgins

Former faculty member Kate Higgins returned to Peddie on Friday to pay tribute to retiring long-time faculty member Samuel "Sandy" Tattersall, known by all simply as "T."  Below are excerpts from her chapel talk. Feel free to add your own memories of T in the comments -- we'll be sure to pass them along to him.

Good morning, Peddie. It’s great to be back here in a place that feels like home to me. The strange thing is that in all my years here, I never gave a chapel talk. Truth be told, I was probably always a little afraid, but I never really felt that I had a worthy topic. I loved coming to Chapel and hearing Mr. Clements talk about biking and Mrs. Clements talk about Mr. Clements. I appreciated Mr. Gartner warning us about risks, and seniors reminding us all to take advantage of everything Peddie has to offer. But mostly I loved when Peddie paid tribute to its own at Chapel – when faculty members and students talked about those who served Peddie well. Whether at Founders Day or simply a faculty member or a student talking about a member of the community, I always felt it was important to share Peddie history and honor Peddie’s finest.

I can’t think of too many who have served Peddie better or longer than Sandy Tattersall, and when he told me he had decided to leave Peddie, I knew I finally had my chapel talk. T has been at Peddie for over thirty years. Math teacher, Community Life teacher, director of residential life, dorm supe of Kerr longer than should be humanly possible, director of the prefect program, dean of students, and yes, even director of security (I bet very few of you knew that).

Wow, that’s service. In addition to all the titles he held and roles he served, I think he will be most remembered by students, faculty and alumni for the relationships he formed with them and the influence he had over them. Today, I want to share a little bit about the influence he had on me, and I encourage you as I am speaking, to think about the ways T has had an impact on you.


I came to Peddie in my mid 20s. I was a new teacher, running a dorm, coaching a sport I hadn’t thought about since my freshman year in high school, and I had several wild advisees. … Without T’s practical advice, my first year would have been much more difficult. But much more importantly, it was the role modeling, the hundreds of hours of late night talks, and my good fortune of working very closely with T that taught me how to be the best boarding school person I could be – and I believe, thanks it part to Sandy, that being a good boarding school person is much harder and much more rewarding than simply being a good teacher.

T is a good listener, a careful observer, and a person who does not hold pre-conceived ideas about others. These qualities made him an exceedingly fair Dean of Students and a trusted confidante and resource for colleagues. Both students and faculty always felt as if T heard their issues and gave them careful consideration before making any kind of decision or giving any kind of advice.  As a young teacher, I tended to come on like gangbusters – full of my own ideas and opinions and ready to do what I thought was right- even with my limited experience. Witnessing how thoroughly students and faculty respected T and his style made me take a step back over the years and modify my own more aggressive approach.

In all his dealings with people, T is consistent, fair and firm. Whether handing out a really awkward illegal visitation, recommending dismissal of a student, or telling a dorm supe that he had better start doing a better job of getting his dorm clean, T always dealt with people fairly and respectfully. I cannot tell you how many students over the years expressed concerns over the fact that in breaking rules they had disappointed T- a fate worse than punishment for many.  Although it sounds like a backhanded compliment, I never heard a student (or an adult, for that matter) say a bad thing about T- even when they disagreed with him or had just been busted by him. In my opinion, those reactions could only have come as a result of interacting with someone who everyone knew was just and thoughtful and fair.

Over the years I sat in hundreds of hours of meetings with T. It might only be a slight exaggeration to say that in nearly every one of those meetings he somehow questioned the way in which the topic at hand would affect Peddie students.  He continually wanted to make Peddie a better place for them - for you. You came first - Cookouts before headmaster holidays, an extended dorm softball schedule, pub burgers on weekends, --he always wanted to make students’ lives better, and he always wanted to make sure that any policy change, new rule or new schedule would benefit you. He also wanted you, and Peddie, to have traditions.

As some of you know, Sandy has been associated with a summer camp in Maine for almost 50 years. It is a camp steeped in tradition, ritual and song. As far as I can tell, a former camper who hasn’t set foot there in 50 years can return, and find that much of what goes on each day is exactly the same. Because of T’s love of the camp and its traditions, he came to understand how important tradition was to an institution…. And then he set about to make some at Peddie. How else can you explain a grown man engaging in cardiac arrest inducing falcon screeches each fall? Can any of us really image the Blair Day Community Meeting without him??? How many of you tell your friends that one of the most sacred spring traditions at your school is Twinkie and Pepsi Day? How many of you thought immediately of T when Hostess announced a few months back that it was going bankrupt ? He certainly gave Peddie some memorable and unique traditions that will live on after he retires.

It’s clear that T has had an influence on all of us in Peddie Community. I asked you at the beginning of this talk to think about the ways T has had an impact on you. Whether it was making an awkward topic in community life easier, supporting your Blair Day ideas, helping you to accomplish something at community meeting, or even disciplining you in some fashion, take the time in the remaining weeks to thank him for the ways he has made your Peddie experience better or more fun.

I know that on Founders Day, T paid tribute to Mr. Potter for giving us Peddie as we know it. For T, Mr. Potter was Peddie. Perhaps learning from Mr. Potter’s example, T became Peddie for me and countless others, and I want to thank him for leaving such a profound impression on the individuals and on the institution. Thanks T!


Comments

  1. Without Mr. Tattersall and his excellent advice, wisdom, patience, sense of humor and most of all dedication to the well being of his advisees, there is one particular student who would never have graduated and gone on to a very successful academic career at a well thought of university.

    Our family will forever owe him our gratitude.

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  2. T was one of the best teachers, mentors any school could ever have. He was a teacher, a coach, in charge of the peer mentor program, and a guy you could talk to, and a guy I went back to visit.
    Thanks T, and good luck with where you go next. Brian Royce 88

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  3. The longevity of his influence has affected me in such a way that, as a former advisee, I am now pursuing my doctorate concerning residential life at boarding schools.

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  4. I spent a good deal of time in T's office, sometimes because of some terrible thing I did, but mostly because being around T was so much fun. In hindsight I realize how much patience he showed me and how much work it must have been to have one student taking up so much of his time. I never would have known, though. I consider him a great friend and a role model. I hope he enjoys retirement as much as I enjoyed attending his school. (Ben Zion, Class of 2002.)

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