This year, the History and Social Science Department hosted Dr. Ilyon Woo P’25 for the Henry R. Heyburn ’39 Lecture in History. The department tried a new model for the lecture; Dr. Woo spoke to American history students in an assembly November 9 and then visited individual classes to dive further into the content of her work as part of an in-house field trip. During the assembly, she shared her journey as a historical researcher and storyteller, from her early struggles to her New York Times best-selling book, Master Slave Husband Wife. On November 28, the Times named Master Slave Husband Wife one of its 10 Best Books of 2023.
As a high school student, Dr. Woo found formulating a historical argument overwhelming. She was paralyzed by the complexities of history and distilling an entire era into a single worksheet. Her early setbacks proved to be her secret strength. While attending Columbia University, she discovered a narrative by Ellen and William Craft. In December 1848, Ellen posed as a white male, William posed as her slave, and the two fled Macon, Georgia, to begin their journey to freedom. The story left Dr. Woo wondering about the couple’s life before their daring escape, and she knew she had to explore further.
Milton film students traveled to New York City for the All-American High School Film Festival, where two students, Yevgeniya Regent ’24 and Luke Witkowski ’24, had films accepted and shown. Yevgeniya’s documentary, “Prayer of the Birds” made it to the Best of Fest showing and was nominated for Best International Film and Best Documentary.
Yevgeniya has earned accolades at several festivals for “Prayer of the Birds,” winning Best Picture and the Audience Choice Award at the Williston Northampton Film Festival and Best Film About a Social Issue in the Student World Impact Film Festival. The documentary chronicles the experience of a young Ukrainian refugee—Yevgeniya’s sister—as she adjusts to life in a new country. Luke’s film, “Bloodshed,” won Best Editing at the Williston Northampton Film Festival.
Milton’s Robotics Team dominated at its first tournament of the 2023–2024 season, with one of its four robots placing first overall and first in skills out of more than 30 competitors. The 17 Milton students who competed at Saturday’s Massachusetts STEM Week VEX Robotics Competition “showed amazing sportsmanship,” celebrating the success of their peers and excitedly planning for their next tournament in November, said Chris Hales, chair of the Computer Science Department and Robotics Team coach. Two Milton’s robots finished sixth and seventh on the skills list.
Milton robot 1898A finished as tournament champion and skills champion, double-qualifying for the Southern New England Regional Championship and placing 58th on the world skills ranking.
Milton’s K–12 community welcomed Larry Spotted Crow Mann, an Indigenous speaker, writer, artist, and advocate, for its all-school programming Tuesday in recognition of Indigenous People’s Day.
Mr. Mann, a member of the Nipmuc Tribe of Massachusetts, shared music, language, games, and storytelling with students, as well as some of the history of the people who have lived in the region since well before European settlers arrived. He told students the preservation of traditions and cultures—in the face of systematic oppression—is a testament to the endurance and resilience of Indigenous peoples, who have passed down stories and practices through generations.
“Everything starts with a story,” said Mr. Mann. “We have a language that did not disappear because our grandparents, and their grandparents, and so on, made sure that we still have our words.”
The Board of Trustees on Friday officially installed Dr. Alixe Callen ’88 as Milton Academy’s 13th head of school.
In a ceremony attended by the entire K–12 community, Board members, faculty and students from all three academic divisions celebrated Dr. Callen’s installation. In her remarks, Dr. Callen emphasized her belief in Milton and schools in general as powerful drivers of good in the world. Thirty-five years after her own graduation from Milton, she said, “I feel like I’ve come home.”
“I have known since I was a kindergartener, just like you here in the front row, that I would be a teacher and that I would spend my life in schools,” Dr. Callen said. “My belief in the power of community started here at Milton, and it’s been a theme in my life and my work ever since. I have long believed that the most important work of schools is to teach students to be active, contributing, inclusive members of their communities.”
Outside of the Art and Media Center, Michael Alfano has installed five of his surrealist sculptures in his exhibition titled Mind Made Visible. Mr. Alfano states: “I am sculptor and clay, both shaping and being shaped.” These sculptures will be on display through June of 2024.
In the Nesto Gallery—on the lower level of the Art and Media Center—painter Eric Koeppel presents his show, Landscape Painting in the American Tradition. Mr. Koeppel states: “In the act of painting, I have sought to discover that highest knowledge of Beauty, poetic and philosophical, that has been the common thread between all of the great masters of Art.” This exhibit runs in the Gallery through November 2.
Milton has begun offering more “plant-powered” meals in Forbes Dining Hall, thanks to the advocacy of the student Sustainability Board and in partnership with Aramark, the school’s Dining Services vendor.
Melanie Forney ’24, Gus Vogel ’25, and Juni Brewster ’25 worked for the past year to expand the dining hall’s plant-based offerings, said Linnea Engstrom, a Science Department faculty member and Milton’s sustainability coordinator. Historically, the dining hall has offered a plant-powered meal during Earth Week.
“Eating less meat has a large impact on the environment,” Engstrom said. “The livestock sector is one of the leading causes of deforestation and there are a large number of resources needed to raise meat, both through land use in growing crops for the livestock to eat and drinking water for them. There is also livestock waste, which can pollute water sources.”
Sharing messages celebrating strength in supportive communities, this year’s Convocation speakers challenged Milton students to “Dare to be true” to one another and the world at large.
Convocation marks the beginning of the academic year for the Upper School. Students heard remarks from Head of School Dr. Alixe Callen ’88, Director of Restorative Justice Suzanne DeBuhr, co-Head Monitors Katherine Risden ’24 and Chris Amodeo ’24, and Principal Dr. Monica Benton Palmer.
Dr. Callen recalled starting at Milton as a sophomore: Coming from a small school in her New York hometown where she had been a standout student, she struggled initially. The other girls in Goodwin House already had strong bonds with one another and classes were much more challenging. Once she opened up and shared her vulnerability, the support she received from fellow students and her teachers helped immeasurably, she said.
“What saved me in those beginning months were the people, faculty, staff, and friends who watched out for me,” Dr. Callen said. “When I opened myself up to help and support from the community, when I admitted things were hard, when I allowed myself to cry, things got better. And that’s the power of community. My belief in the power of community started here at Milton, and it’s been a theme in my life and my work ever since.”
Class IV Follies: Monsters Among Us
Milton Academy Performing Arts invites actors, singers, dancers, musicians, and those interested in tech theatre from Class IV to join the Class IV Follies. The Follies is an annual tradition where Class IV performers and crew come together to create a unique showcase of their talents for the entire Milton community. No experience is necessary and all interested students will be featured. This year’s Follies, Monsters Among Us, will incorporate monster-themed scenes and songs handpicked for each performer. Behind the scenes, tech crew members will be designing, building, and painting the sets and props to create an equally monstrous world.
For the second year in a row, Milton Magazine, Milton Academy’s alumni publication, received a Gold award in the Circle of Excellence from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE).
The award recognizes Milton Magazine’s spring and fall 2022 issues. The Circle of Excellence celebrates “exceptional achievement in advancement services, alumni relations, communications, fundraising, and marketing,” according to CASE. “These are the creative, inspiring projects that impact institutions and their communities—and transform lives around the globe.”
CASE judges noted: “Milton Magazine is a well-designed and well-written magazine. With its elegant design and smart writing, this magazine has all the hallmarks of a commercial publication. The variety of art and illustration, including the use of charts, boxes, numbers, and pull quotes, adds an extra level of interest and depth to the content. The feature stories written by the editor and associate editor were particularly enjoyable, providing insightful and engaging content that is sure to captivate readers.”
Milton Magazine was also a finalist for the 2023 Robert Sibley Magazine of the Year Award.
A lifelong love for writing and storytelling, stoked by English classes at Milton, propelled Neha Wadekar ’07 into a career in freelance journalism, she told students at the recent 44th Annual Laurence S. Persky Memorial Awards.
“I joined Milton in seventh grade, and I remember coming back for my revisit day and Ms. Simon was teaching Pride and Prejudice,” Ms. Wadekar recalled at the ceremony, which honors the best in student-published writing and artwork. “I was blown away by the level of back and forth discussion that the students were having about the meaning of the novel and the specific intentions of certain passages and the construction of particular sentences.”
This year’s Graduation speaker is John Avlon, Milton Academy Class of 1991. John is an award-winning journalist and author of six books, including Lincoln & the Fight for Peace and Washington’s Farewell. He is a CNN senior political analyst and anchor, known for his “Reality Check” segments across the network. Previously, he was the editor-in-chief of The Daily Beast and chief speechwriter for the mayor of New York City during the attacks of September 11, 2001. He lives in New York with his wife, Margaret Hoover, and their two children, Jack and Toula Lou.
On Sunday, May 21, Milton Academy students participated in the Humanities Workshop’s Student Conference on Public Health hosted at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate. The goal of the Humanities Workshop is to show students how key themes prominent in humanities studies—in particular, the importance of empathy and compassion—can be instrumental in working to solve the world’s complex problems.
Urged by a COVID pandemic that has raised immediate concern about the safety and well-being of our school communities and forced us to consider the intersection of health and justice, the Humanities Workshop chose PUBLIC HEALTH/GLOBAL HEALTH as this year’s theme.
The spring musical, Head Over Heels, reimagines a 16th-century royal love tale—told mostly in iambic pentameter—and features the music of the 1980s rock band The Go-Gos. Its mash-up of music, visuals, and script work, however, to tell a story as old as time.
“It’s a great mix of elements,” said director and Performing Arts Department faculty member Peter Parisi. “It feels like they’re in this Shakespearean world and the characters are in a modified Elizabethan wardrobe, using the music of The Go-Gos, but it makes sense. They’re talking about issues that are both timeless and contemporary.”
The musical adapts the plot of The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia by Philip Sidney, which was written in the late 1500s. It tells the story of the royal family in a kingdom, Arcadia, whose future depends on the family avoiding four predictions by an oracle. Set to some of The Go-Gos’ most recognizable hits as well as their lesser-known songs, the show is magical, dramatic, and fun.
“The theme is love,” Mr. Parisi said. “It’s about loving who you want to love, status, power, responsibility, duty to family, duty to your country, duty to yourself. In the end, the message is that love is love is love is love, and no matter who you are, you deserve love.”
Leah Li ’26 was selected as one of the top ten winners of the New York Times Student STEM Writing Contest this year, and her essay exploring what glass frogs can tell us about human blood clotting was published by the Times last month.
“I’ve always been interested in how nature gives us such a good handbook for dealing with problems, like how the design of bullet trains was inspired by birds because they’re so aerodynamic,” Leah said. “Nature tells us a lot about what we can do. In terms of the glass frogs, their ability to put all their red blood cells into their liver could give us some guidance on how we can prevent blood clots in humans.”
Leah, a boarding student from Texas who lives in Hallowell House, was one of more than 3,000 entrants in the contest. Competitors had to write about a stimulating discovery or topic that they found interesting and cite at least one source from the New York Times, Science News, or its sister site, Science News Explores.
In selecting her topic, Leah read through science articles she found fascinating and learned about glass frogs in Panama. The frog species, as Leah wrote, is “one of the few transparent terrestrial creatures.” As a result, the operation of its circulatory system was visible to scientists who studied the frogs during different activities. They found that while the frogs slept, almost 90 percent of their red blood cells traveled to the frogs’ livers, effectively allowing them to safely be translucent and better protected from predators.
The spring’s 1212 play, Things You Can Do by playwright Kristen Palmer, opened last Thursday in the Studio Theater at the Kellner Performing Arts Center.
Things You Can Do tells the story of an over-achieving graduate student on a visit to her hometown, where her mother and sister are grappling with anxiety and isolation.
“It’s a play I’ve always loved, and I’m so excited that we’re doing it,” said Performing Arts Department faculty member Eleza Kort, who is directing. “It explores the question of what we can do—on a broad level, while facing global problems like climate change, and on a personal level to help the people in our lives.”
Eliot Hack ’24 arrived at the base of Mount Katahdin last summer ready to complete a technical climb in memory of beloved Milton Academy teacher Kendall Chun. Mother Nature had other plans.
Rain forced Eliot to ditch his plans for a technical ascent—using rock climbing gear and heading up a steep path to the summit—and he instead hiked the mountain on foot, completing his first effort to raise money for access to public lands and celebrating the massive influence Mr. Chun had on Milton’s adventure-seeking students.
“Mr. Chun did so much for our community and for me, personally. I really wanted to honor him,” Eliot said. “He was focused on getting people out there and breaking down any kinds of barriers to the outdoors.”
Mr. Chun, who died April 26, 2022 after a recurrence of cancer, ran the school’s Outdoor Program in addition to his work as a computer science teacher and role as a Robbins House faculty advisor. His love for outdoor adventures was infectious as he introduced students to hiking, rock and ice climbing, cross-country skiing, kayaking, and more—regardless of their prior experience or skill level.
Just a few weeks after graduating from Milton Academy, Merritt Levitan ’13 was on a bicycle trip across the United States when a driver, who was distracted by texting, hit and killed her.
Merritt, a passionate and active young woman who loved the outdoors and spending time with family and friends, left a legacy of adventure, humor, and love that continues today at Milton and well beyond.
Several of Merritt’s Milton friends—Emeline Atwood ’14, Abigail Lebovitz ’14, Kaitlin Gately ’14, and Erika Lamere ’15—joined with her family to form TextLess Live More, a nonprofit whose mission is to end distracted driving and, over time, has evolved and expanded to promote digital wellness. The national awareness campaign, which has a chapter at Milton Academy, educates people about the effects of digital distraction, including the safety risks of distracted driving along with the overall impact of digital habits on physical and mental health.
“Merritt set an example for all of us to live life to the fullest and to be present for others and ourselves in everything we do,” said Head of School Todd Bland. “A decade after she was taken—far too soon—from her beloved family and friends, we can still find inspiration in her joy, excitement for life, and her deep care for others.”
As the parents of two Upper School students, trustee Shadi and Omid Farokhzad P ’23 ’25 know the importance of having a space that inspires a modern approach to teaching and learning. That is why they made a multimillion-dollar commitment to create a new home for math at Milton. The new Farokhzad Math Center will move the Math Department from the cramped attic of Ware Hall to a modern, light-filled, renovated building currently occupied by Cox Library—which is moving to Wigglesworth Hall this year.
Welcoming experts in public health, two Milton Academy faculty members recently convened a forum to examine challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic and the importance of supporting mental health—particularly among young people in our communities.
The Feb. 6 panel discussion, hosted by Boston College High School, was the latest event in the Humanities Workshop series. A collaborative initiative connecting public, private, and charter schools, each biennial program explores a single social justice issue through the lens of the humanities—the academic disciplines including arts, literature, languages, history, society, and culture. Created in 2018 by Milton faculty members Lisa Baker and Alisa Braithwaite, the initiative currently involves hundreds of students and faculty across eight area high schools.
The goal of the Humanities Workshop is to show students how key themes prominent in humanities studies—in particular, the importance of empathy and compassion—can be instrumental in working to solve the world’s complex problems.
“Racial stress is observable and resolvable because we can see it,” Dr. Howard Stevenson told Milton students recently. “And if we can see it, we can do something about it, but only if we face it in our own racial stories. Courage is in how much we ask about what we don’t know.”
Stevenson, the first of Milton’s 2023 Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice (DEIJ) speakers, gave Upper and Middle School students racial literacy strategies to handle the inevitable discomfort of situations involving racial stress and threat present in our everyday lives. When people are prepared with tools—including reading and recasting scenarios, locating where stress manifests in our bodies, communicating with ourselves and others, and deploying calming breathing techniques—they are better prepared to make just decisions.
When people encounter conflicts related to race, they’re not just facing the facts of the moment: They’re bringing in a lifetime of internal and external factors that may influence their reactions, so awareness is necessary for a good resolution, Stevenson said.
“In my view, the job of the formative educator is to make justice irresistible.”
So writes Régine Michelle Jean-Charles ’96 in her 2021 book, Martin Luther King & The Trumpet of Conscience Today. In the same passage, she describes helping a group of students process an act of police brutality they witnessed in Paris at the tail end of a course she taught there.
Jean-Charles, a Black feminist literary scholar, cultural critic, and university professor, had led students in a summer course called Paris Noir: The Literature and Culture of Black Paris, which covered Black culture in France from the 1930s to the Black Lives Matter movement. During their final week in Paris, students were unwinding at a nightclub when they saw French police officers violently detain a Black man. Following the incident, Jean-Charles asked the students to reflect on what they’d seen. It was a moment not only to care for their well-being but also consider the role they play in making a more just world.