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We share with you today news of the passing of one of St. George’s longest-serving faculty members, math teacher Dean Blanchard. Mr. Blanchard died on Thursday, June 8, 2017. He was 87.
Recalled as “quiet and understated,” as well as “thoughtful and kind,” Mr. Blanchard devoted his life to the school from 1962-1994. During his 32-year tenure at St. George’s Mr. Blanchard was Head of the Math Department and held administrative posts as Head of Scheduling, Director of Testing and Director of Studies. He also sat on several committees, including the Curriculum and Admissions committees and was an advisor to dozens of students. His favorite sport was baseball, which he coached for many years, along with several seasons of JV football. For 11 years, he also worked in the St. George’s Summer Program. Following his retirement, Mr. Blanchard was named the C.P. Beauchamp Jefferys Chair and Head of the Mathematics Department emeritus.
On the Hilltop Mr. Blanchard lived for many years in the Class of 1929 House on Faculty Drive with his wife Janet, who died in 2011. The couple had two daughters: Linda Blanchard Brandao, who passed away in 1998, and Sandy Blanchard Joyal, who now lives in Brooklyn, Connecticut. A graveside service for Mr. Blanchard will be held at Wildwood Cemetery in Winchester, Massachusetts, on Sept. 9, 2017, at 11 a.m.
The Rev. John Rogers, who served on the St. George’s faculty from 1976-1999, said Mr. Blanchard “personified patience, discipline, and high standards in the classroom and on the ball field.” Indeed, Mr. Blanchard was known for his quiet reserve, though those closest to him say he had a self-deprecating sense of humor. Many envied his close friendship with fellow math teacher and famed football coach Alan “Porky” Clark. The two were known to meet in King Hall for breakfast, and “hold forth and discuss the pros and cons and ‘ought-to-be’s’ of life in our school community,” according to longtime colleague Steve Leslie, Director of Marine Affairs and Head of the Science Department emeritus, who retired in 2011.
In an article published in St. George’s alumni magazine upon Mr. Blanchard’s retirement in 1994, former Head of the Science department Ted Hersey wrote of his friend’s remarkable 32-year-career, calling him both a “traditionalist and a visionary.” “While he had a strong traditional background and great awareness of the roots of St. George's School, he was never negative about the changes that times required of the place,” wrote Mr. Hersey, who died in January 2016. Mr. Blanchard “embraced the advent of the TI-81 and TI-82 graphing calculators with great enthusiasm,” Mr. Hersey added, and he oversaw the dramatic expansion of the computer science curriculum at St. George’s.
Mr. Blanchard was also lauded as a good listener. “The faculty recognized Dean as an accomplished diplomat who dealt with strife in a calm, professional manner,” wrote Mr. Hersey. “To him, no question was ‘dumb.’ He always treated the individual with the utmost dignity.” The Rev. Rogers said Mr. Blanchard “wanted to know your opinion and then he would share his wisdom. … He seemed, on most subjects, to be driven by the ancient adage: ‘Come, let us reason together.’”
English teacher Jeff Simpson, who joined the faculty in 1982, recalled that Mr. Blanchard, then Director of Studies, put him at ease when he was “a nervous young teacher with zero experience.” He had a “calm and kind manner,” Mr. Simpson said. “I worked with Dean for 12 years and never saw him lose his temper, even when dealing with anger from others. He was firm, conscientious, and principled, always the consummate professional. He treated colleagues and students with respect and courtesy.”
In his free time, Mr. Blanchard was a “passionate and talented cyclist,” according to Assistant Head of School for External Affairs Bob Weston, who worked as an English teacher across the hall from Mr. Blanchard in the early 1990s. The two were both Amherst College grads and sometimes went on early morning rides together — Mr. Blanchard on a deep green bicycle he’d made by hand. On one 50-mile ride Mr. Blanchard talked about a few summers he’d spent riding his bike from St. George's to Martha's Vineyard, where his wife, Janet, had a summer job. “He would get up early on a Friday morning and ride his bike to New Bedford and take the ferry; then he would do the trip in reverse on Monday morning,” Mr. Weston said.
Both Mr. Weston and Mr. Leslie noted Mr. Blanchard’s not-widely-known skills as “a meticulous craftsman” and “a fine woodworker and cabinetmaker.” “Whether with wood or metal, Dean had a talent for making things,” Mr. Weston said. Mr. Leslie reported that in Mr. Blanchard’s retirement years he crafted exquisite pieces of furniture out of the discarded wooden organ pipes left over following the rebuilding of the St. George’s Chapel organ.
Mr. Blanchard’s craftsmanship, in fact, seemed to mirror his philosophy on life, Mr. Leslie noted. “He sought to not overlook the value of the past, nor to take its lessons too lightly,” he said. “His craftsmanship in furniture-making extended to his craftsmanship in forming an academic community dedicated to the highest standards and the personal reward of disciplined effort and academic achievement.”
Current Chair of the Math Department Julie Butler shared a mutual love of math and Maine with Mr. Blanchard, which were catalysts for a 28-year friendship. One of her favorite memories was when she first learned how quickly Mr. Blanchard graded his exams. “On a January afternoon, he called members of the department a mere two hours after the exam ended to ask how our students had done,” she recalled. “He was so interested in his students’ successes that he put off everything else until his exams were graded.
“He was a wonderful teacher and loyal friend,” she added.
Mr. Leslie said Mr. Blanchard “though not a flashy or charismatic persona” was respected and relied upon. That came clear, he said, the morning that Mr. Blanchard arrived in King Hall for breakfast “badly bruised and abraded from a bicycling accident the day before.”
“The community gasped collectively,” Mr. Leslie recalled, “as we all realized right away how this quiet, understated teacher and colleague was so vital to each of us personally — and to the school community collectively.”
Please share your own memories of Mr. Blanchard on our memorial webpage.
One-hundred three members of the class of 2017 received their diplomas today (May 29, 2017) from Head of School Eric F. Peterson. At the chapel service preceding the 119th Prize Day exercises, Mrs. Marjorie Burdick, mother of 2017 graduates Hannah and Kendall Burdick, as well as Sarah ’11, Colby ’13 and Brinley ’19, delivered the commencement address. Mrs. Burdick had 12 pieces of advice for the graduates, and also offered up what she calls the five “L”s for life: Live, laugh, learn, love and for this particular generation: “Look up. Please. I worry you’re all going to walk into traffic.”
At the Prize Day ceremony under the tent on the front lawn, Rozie Moylan of Saunderstown, Rhode Island, received the school’s highest award, the St. George’s Medal, “given to a member of the sixth form who through effort, character, athletics and scholarship has best caught and expressed the ideals and spirit of St. George’s.” Rozie (right with Head of School Eric Peterson), who also received the George D. Donnelly Athletic Award, heads to Boston College this fall.
Senior Prefect Eva Killenberg, of Little Compton, Rhode Island, was awarded the Jefferys Prize, “given in memory of Cham Jeﬀerys to the sixth-former who in the opinion of the faculty has done the most to enhance the moral and intellectual climate of the school.” Eva will attend the University of Pennsylvania.
Twenty-year-old Jonathan Wang of Middletown, Rhode Island, who battled back from a brain tumor diagnosed in middle school, was the recipient of the Phelps Montgomery Frissell Prize, “awarded to the member of the sixth form who, in the opinion of the faculty, has made the best use of his or her talents.” Jonathan will be a student at Bucknell University this fall.
Christine Grace Dejoux of Locust Valley, New York, won the Headmaster’s Award, “presented to a member of the sixth form in recognition of his or her faithful devotion to the School and its mission.” Christine will attend Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut.
- A complete list of prizes and academic honors is here.
- The list of graduates, including those who were awarded diplomas with distinction or high distinction, or who were inducted into the prestigious Cum Laude Society is here.
- Photos are here.
Today the school’s top athletic prizes went to champion runner William Braﬀ of Locust Valley, New York, swimmers Rozie Moylan and Henry Savage of Marblehead, Massachusetts; hockey players Mia Del Rosso of Hingham, Massachusetts, and Hayley Doneghey of North Attleboro, Massachusetts, and football player Isaac McCray of Middletown, Rhode Island.
Eric Durudogan of Portsmouth, Rhode Island and Daisy Mayer of Greenwich, Connecticut, received the school’s Centennial Prize. Inaugurated during the school’s centennial year in 1996, these are “awarded to a boy and girl of the graduating class who have demonstrated extraordinary and inspirational efforts on behalf of the school community.” Eric, who wishes to study medicine, will be a student at the University of Michigan. Daisy will take a gap year before enrolling at Barnard College in September 2018.
Underform awards went to Matthew Toner ’18 of Portsmouth, Rhode Island and Charlotte Maerov ’19 of Bedford, New York.
Matthew won the Harvard-Radcliffe Club of Rhode Island Award, “given to the student in the fifth form whom the Head of School and the faculty deem most worthy in scholarship, effort and character.”
Charlotte received the Allen Prize, “given by a vote of the faculty to a member of the fourth form who during the year has maintained a high standard in all departments in the life of the school.”
It was Eric Peterson’s final Prize Day as his 13-year tenure as Head of School comes to a close. His Prize Day address is available on our YouTube channel here. The Prize Day chapel address by Marjorie Burdick P’11, ’13, ’17, ’17, ’19 is here.
It’s been two years since Geronimo first sailed out of Goat Island on a 15,000 nautical mile journey across the Atlantic, throughout Europe, back to the Caribbean and up the East Coast to Newport. On Saturday, May 13, friends and family gathered on the docks at Fort Adams to welcome the boat and the final crew of the landmark trip back home. Close to 140 members of the St. George's community, from students and professional crew to faculty, staff and alums, participated in one of the legs of the trip — and it was a transformative experience for many. “Once the journey began I felt fearless,” said Julia Ludwig ’18, who took part in the spring trip in 2016, then again in the second transatlantic leg west from the Canary Islands to Grenada. “I was so happy that I made the decision to go. It was an experience of a lifetime and made me feel as though I could — and still can — do anything.”
Julia said the night watches were some of her most cherished experiences. “During this time we would all either have long conversations about our lives back home, gaze at the stars discussing constellations or play games and laugh so hard that it made the time go by in seconds,” she said. “I will never forget those long nights that I spent in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, whether they were calm, cold or rainy. They were some of the most amazing moments of the entire trip.”
Fourth-formers Colin and Oscar MacGillivray have been dingy sailing and racing for about nine years here on Aquidneck Island and are members of the SG sailing team and a summer sailing team, but their trip on the second transatlantic leg on Geronimo was clearly an adventure of a lifetime. Both of their fondest memories involved swimming, which they only got to do twice. The first time was about halfway through the trip, when the boat was in the dead center of the Atlantic and the crew had a day with very little wind, recalled Colin.
“We were all so excited to finally jump in the water we had seen all around us for 10 days,” he said. “I jumped off close to the bow and it felt amazing to be completely submerged in salt water again. … There was close to three miles of water beneath us and it was a little overwhelming to imagine. I jumped in four times.”
Oscar says he’ll never forget the first night they arrived in Grenada. Everyone onboard was extremely excited, he said, and the mood overall was very high. “After dropping the sails and anchoring after 20 days at sea, our first priority was to go swimming,” he said. “I just remember going down to the bunkroom and getting our bathing suits and it had just hit me that we crossed an ocean! We all started freaking out and hugging …”
The next priority was eating.
“After [our swim], we had the best dinner I think we had that entire trip,” said Oscar, recalling a mahi curry made with a prize fish the crew had caught a couple days before. “I remember just staring at Grenada and anticipating going on land. But that night was probably the best moment on the trip for me.”
Overall, Captain Mike Dawson said this two-year journey marked many milestones for the Geronimo program. Most of all, it helped the school reach its longtime goal of giving the opportunity to sail and study aboard the boat to more students. Fourteen student crews were able to participate and well over 100 students sailed on at least one leg of the voyage, according to Captain Dawson. In the 40-year history of the program, Geronimo had sailed across the Atlantic twice (in 1987 and in 2000) — to Spain and Portugal in the summer and then back to this side of the Atlantic that same fall. “However, she never passed into the Mediterranean and only spent about two months in mainland Europe,” he noted.
In planning the recent transatlantic trip, Mike and Head of School Eric Peterson had several goals in mind: “The route was chosen based on weather and the time of year,” Mike said. “On that route, the ports were chosen to maximize the cultural and historical exposure to our students. When in port, our focus became immersing ourselves in the culture of the countries we visited, making genuine connections with locals, learning about the history and exploring the natural world.”
Among the many highlights of the epic journey, Mike said the energy of the crew closing in on Grenada and traveling throughout Greece stand out in his mind. “Four of our student crews were really able to dive deep into the culture there, meet lots of interesting people and experience the history as we traveled around the country,” he said.
But when it comes to “epic,” sailing out of the Strait of Gibraltar “off the wind making 10-plus knots, with Europe to our north and Africa to the south,” also was high on his list. “It was a surreal moment,” he said.
Biology teacher Dr. Sarah Matarese has a unique opportunity to perform research this summer with Dr. Robert Ballard, the famed oceanographer best known for his 1985 discovery of the wreck of the Titanic.
As part of a Science Communication Fellowship run by the Ocean Exploration Trust, Dr. Matarese will be traveling to the Channel Islands off the coast of Southern California from July 23-29, where she’ll board the 64-meter research vessel, Nautilus.
The goal of the Channel Island Expedition is to explore underwater caves that are known to be in the region. “Some of these caves are 400 meters deep and they remain unexplored,” noted Dr. Matarese.
Dr. Ballard, now a professor of oceanography at the University of Rhode Island, founded The Ocean Exploration Trust in 2008 to conduct scientific research in areas of the ocean floor that have yet to be investigated and to “seek out new discoveries in the fields of geology, biology, maritime history, archaeology and chemistry.”
(Note: Dr. Ballard delivered St. George’s 2017 Annual Burnett Lecture on May 5. The video is posted on our Vimeo channel.)
To ready for the trip, Dr. Matarese took part in a four-day workshop at URI’s Bay campus during the March spring break. “I met educators from all over the country who will be traveling on the boat at some point during the exploration season,” she said.
What Dr. Matarese is most looking forward to is “working with Dr. Ballard and his team of scientists and exploring a part of the ocean that has never been explored,” she said. “I’m so excited to have this opportunity.”
Dr. Ballard hopes educators who participate in the program will be inspired to share “the excitement of exploration and research with students and public audiences in their communities and around the world.”
All are invited to follow Dr. Matarese and the team’s research online, live, in July. “Anyone can log in to nautiluslive.org and follow me while I’m on the boat,” Dr. Matarese said.
(Editorial warning: If you are fascinated by underwater creatures such as octopuses and spider crabs, this live feed can be very addicting.)
Ed Roberts ’01, now chief of staff for the City of Columbus City Council in Ohio, was on campus May 10 to support an initiative close to his heart: creating educational opportunities for the city’s youth. Joining Ed on campus were two men hoping to establish a new boarding school for African-American boys in Columbus.
Dr. Robert Murphy, founder of the Masters Preparatory Academy, and his chief advancement officer, James Ragland, met with several St. George’s administrators to discuss all aspects of boarding education, tour the Hilltop and visit classes. “I am behind these guys 100 percent,” Ed said. In his previous job as Central Ohio Director in the Office of U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown, Ed said he worked hard to support the SEED Foundation, a network of schools providing a college prep education to underprivileged students. “Ultimately, our efforts came up short so I’m glad that someone else is moving it forward,” he added. When the Masters Prep founders approached the mayor’s office for support, Ed said he was “ecstatic.”
Still in the fundraising stage, Masters Prep is planning to open sometime between 2018-2021 — and for the city that’s a very positive development.
“Columbus is growing and thriving, but the disparities are real,” said Ed, himself a native of Dayton, Ohio. “The lack of opportunities for African-American men in our community result in strained community relations with the police, high unemployment rates among minorities and low morale. A public boarding school will go a long way in trying to address [these issues].”
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