This fall’s 1212 play is Kenneth Lonergan’s Lobby Hero, a dialogue-rich play set entirely in the lobby of a Manhattan apartment building. Directed by Performing Arts Department faculty member Darlene Anastas, the show features four main characters whose lives intertwine during the investigation of a crime.
“Lonergan is a Tony-award winning playwright who is known for his dialogue and how he integrates ideas and action into his dialogue,” Anastas said. “It’s a very naturally flowing play. It’s fitting to set it in the lobby of a residential building in Manhattan, where people from all walks of life are passing by. It deals with interpersonal interactions, some social issues with policing, and the personal issues of the ‘lobby hero’ whose life is on display for the whole show.”
It is the first 1212 play for Anastas, who has taught at Milton since 1981—she has always worked on the larger, main-stage productions. “It was exciting to me to work in depth with just a few students and to explore the issues the play has, which are very relevant today.”
On the main stage at King Theatre for the first time, the fan favorite sketch-comedy show Wicked Sketchy will feature funny sketches and musical numbers written and performed by students.
First performed in 2014, Wicked Sketchy began as a 1212 play—a Milton tradition named for the former room in Warren Hall where pared-down, intimate performances were staged—giving students an opportunity to flex their comedy muscles. Last fall, the show moved to an outdoor tent to accommodate audience restrictions during the pandemic; for the first time, the show had a stepped-up production, said director and Performing Arts Department faculty member Peter Parisi.
“We were able to see the impact that lighting and sound design had on the show, and it just raised the stakes,” Parisi said. “It’s certainly evolved.”
This year, the show has about a dozen sketches, including some musical numbers. Students brought their ideas for sketches to the group, and together they fleshed out the ideas. Writing comedy is hard work, particularly for a show with a broad audience of students and adults.
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The inaugural TEDxMiltonAcademy event filled King Theatre with ideas about belonging, health, climate, identity, and psychology, as six speakers from the Milton community shared carefully crafted and passionate talks on subjects of their choosing.
Milton junior Benjamin Siegel ’24 had the idea to bring TEDx to Milton after attending a TEDx conference years ago. Siegel, along with Bea Becker ’25, Grace Grady ’23, and Alexa Burton ’24, organized the event, licensing it through TEDx and soliciting applications from potential student, alumni, and faculty speakers. Together, they narrowed the speakers to six.
“Tonight is about community,” said Siegel as he introduced the event. “We were inspired to put on this event to shine a light on all the talent, creativity, and knowledge in the Milton community. Milton is full of people with diverse backgrounds and inspirational stories, some of which we bring to the stage for you tonight.”
Hope and unity emerged as the central themes of Monday’s Convocation, marking the official start of classes for the 2022–2023 school year.
Co-head monitors Victor Chen ’23 and Robin Storey ’23 both encouraged their peers to make meaningful friendships and be themselves. Following the disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic, such sincere connections are more precious than ever, both said.
Chen described feeling alone during his Class IV year, and said he started to build a sense of belonging after he came out of his shell and sparked a silly debate (orange juice vs. apple juice) in his U.S. History class that “put the Constitutional Convention to shame.” He encouraged students to embrace the things that make them unique and to pursue their passions.
“One thing I’ve learned in my time here is that whatever I put into this community, Milton will give back,” he said. “If you give this community your most genuine self, you’ll find the love and support that Milton provides.”
Milton is an ever-changing place, which allows students to grow, said Storey, who encouraged students to take advantage of the time and space they get to share.
“Stick with what brings you hope, what pushes you to keep pushing, and will hold you when you fall,” she said. “The stress of life is inevitable, but the people you’re around make it worthwhile. I want us to find comfort in letting our guard down. We all have things to learn and mistakes to make. Let’s be the people we need, for ourselves and for others.”
If it was mechanical or electrical, Kendall Chun tinkered with it: He restored vintage radios, brought failing home appliances back from the brink, built his own electric guitar. If something he made or fixed could bring happiness to others, even better.
Chun, the electrical engineer-turned-Milton computer programming teacher, always had multiple projects going at once. His joy of creating something by hand was infectious, leading him and a handful of students to the off-campus Milton Makerspace, a warehouse where they could work on builds that extended beyond classroom projects. Notable creations include last year’s augmented-reality sandbox, and an arcade cabinet with a functioning program that would allow users to play thousands of classic arcade games.
“It started with Mr. Chun,” said Austin Kinnealey ’23. “He loved arcade games and he was so enthusiastic about this idea, so it caught on. It’s something that everyone can enjoy.”
Alexandra (Alixe) H. Callen ’88 has been selected by the Board of Trustees to be Milton Academy’s 13th head of school, effective July 1, 2023.
Callen, a Milton graduate with extensive teaching and leadership experience in both public and independent schools, currently serves as the head of St. George’s School in Middletown, Rhode Island, a position she has held since 2017.
For the first time, three seniors on Milton’s varsity football team were named Scholar-Athletes by the Eastern Massachusetts Chapter of the National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame. Sam Jaffe ’22, Luke Thorbahn ’22, and Jackson Smith ’22 were recognized for excellence on and off the field.
“The award honors athletes who are not only great football players, but great students, and great kids,” said head coach Kevin MacDonald. “It’s also about the contributions they make to the school and the community at large.”
On April 30, the Board of Trustees honored its outgoing president, Lisa Donohue ’83, with the Milton Medal, recognizing her years of leadership and dedication during a significant period of growth for Milton Academy.
“Lisa’s incredible service to Milton clearly makes her deserving of this important honor,” said Board member Claire Hughes Johnson ’90, who will succeed Donohue as president on July 1. “Lisa served Milton during a critical period, and every time the school needed more from her, she increased her level of time, energy, and dedication to Milton’s success. Although Lisa credits Milton for its positive role during a formative time in her life, what is most impressive is her ability to separate the Milton of the past from what the school and the students most need today. Constantly guided by what’s best for the students, Lisa set an example for all of us.”
The Milton Medal recognizes extraordinary service to the school. Donohue’s integral guidance in the implementation of the school’s strategic plan—including its historic capital campaign Dare: The Campaign For Milton—has positioned Milton well for the future, said Head of School Todd Bland. In addition to her oversight of Milton’s strategic plan, Donohue provided sound advice and leadership during the school’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its transition to and from a remote-learning model.
The magic of musicals returns to King Theatre this month with a production of Chicago, Milton’s first live musical since the fall of 2018.
Director and Performing Arts Department faculty member Eleza Kort said the show—a satire of sensationalized crime in 1920s Chicago—was chosen for its spectacle and potential for escapism.
“We wanted to do something big, something fun, something with amazing music and cool and interesting dancing, and something with an intriguing plot,” she said. “I wanted a show with a little darkness, but that’s not too dark. We wanted to invite people back to the theater with something that will razzle-dazzle them.”
This year’s Graduation speaker is Heather C. McGhee ’97. She is an author and public policy advocate who designs and promotes solutions to inequality in America. For nearly two decades, she helped build the policy organization Demos, serving four years as its president.
McGhee’s New York Times bestselling book, The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together, was long-listed for the National Book Award and the Carnegie Medal for Excellence.
The speech and debate teams celebrated recent accolades at the Massachusetts Speech and Debate League’s (MSDL) State Championship, including a senior being named a speech state champion and a recognition for the overall speech team.
Talia Sherman ’22 captured the state championship in Dramatic Performance while the team received a third-place sweepstakes award, which measures the team’s overall success in comparison with other schools. Jack Burton ’22 was recognized for his creation and leadership of the MSDL Student Board, and was invited to give a speech, in which he acknowledged the league’s coaches for their work throughout the past two years of online competition.
In debate, four students competed in the category of Novice Public Forum and were highly successful, advancing into the elimination rounds as quarter- and semi-finalists.
“What does it mean to be human?” philosopher Cornel West asked Milton students. “How do we hold onto integrity in the face of oppression? How do we hold onto honesty in the face of deception? How do we hold onto decency in the face of insult and assault, and how do we hold on to the enabling virtue of them all—courage—in the face of catastrophic bombardment?”
West, a renowned scholar, writer, and activist, joined students taking Philosophy and Literature virtually last week. He discussed how literature can help people understand seemingly insurmountable challenges, or what Samuel Beckett called “the mess” of modern human existence.
Young people are facing catastrophic political, social, and environmental issues, West said. They may find some clarity in the work of artists and thinkers who “wrestle with catastrophe.” A self-described “Chekhovian Christian,” West said he finds healing in work that confronts disaster head-on.
Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) have long endured discrimination influenced by nearly two centuries of history and exclusionary laws, said University of Maryland professor Janelle Wong, who explained that law and policy play critical roles in reversing discrimination.
“The story of Asian Americans has been shaped by these two dominant stereotypes: the ‘model minority’ myth and the ‘forever foreigner’ stereotype,” said Wong, who was this year’s Hong Kong Distinguished Lecturer. “Both of those stereotypes are the products of both history and laws. And the experiences of Asian Americans are deeply connected with other minority groups in the United States. When disparities are shaped by policy, their solutions must also come from policy.”
Fears by white leaders in the mid-19th century that Chinese immigrants would bring anti-democratic and anti-Christian values to the country ultimately resulted in the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, which banned immigration of Chinese laborers and later expanded to ban people from all over Asia. Since that time, anti-Asian sentiment and violence has been “embedded” in America, Wong said, noting that it mirrored the timeline but existed on a smaller scale than anti-Black racism and violence.
The Milton girls’ squash team won the Independent School League—for the first time in more than a decade—with a 6–1 win over Noble and Greenough last month. They went on to finish 12th at the U.S. Squash National tournament in Philadelphia in early March.
Senior co-captains Rhea Anand and Olivia Greenaway said the team’s powerful dynamic and motivation contributed to their success following two losses (to Andover and Deerfield) to kick off the season.
“Winning the ISL this season was a huge accomplishment for the team because it had been 12 years since we last won the title,” Anand said. “The whole team really dug deep during the final match against Nobles… Aside from the results themselves, the drive and camaraderie displayed by the team—both during ISL matches and at nationals—was inspiring, and I know that they will continue to do amazing things in the years to come.”
The night sky belongs to all of us, said author and University of New Hampshire professor Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, but not all of us have the same access to exploring topics involving astrophysics, astronomy, and cosmology.
Prescod-Weinstein encouraged Milton students, particularly those from historically excluded identities, to pursue theoretical sciences because “when we look up at the night sky, what we are seeing is only a small fraction of what’s actually there,” and because scientists with diverse perspectives and experiences will help expand the questions posed about the universe.
Claire Hughes Johnson, Milton Academy Class of 1990, will succeed Lisa Donohue ’83 as president of the Milton Academy Board of Trustees beginning July 1, 2022. Since joining the Board in 2010, Hughes Johnson’s devotion to serving the school has been evident through her guidance in the areas of finance; campus master planning; faculty and staff support; diversity, equity, and inclusion; technology; and development. Hughes Johnson joined the Board’s Executive Committee in 2020.
“I attribute much of my success in life to Milton Academy, and I am honored to serve as its next Board president,” Hughes Johnson said. “I have been so fortunate to grow up at a place like Milton, venture out to establish a career and a family, and then return with new perspectives and renewed loyalty. We live in complex times and it’s more important than ever that our students can thrive and lead into the future.”
As a “lifer,” having attended from Kindergarten through Grade 12, Hughes Johnson’s deep connection to Milton informs her decision-making and thoughtful counsel. She is committed to fulfilling the Board’s mission of maintaining Milton’s academic excellence while positioning the school and its students to meet the demands of a rapidly changing world.
The Winter Dance Concert returns live to King Theatre on March 3 for a four-show run that includes about 70 students and a wide variety of dances.
The show, which will run for a Saturday matinee for the first time, features dance styles from all over the world, including hip hop, African, Indian, Irish step, Chinese fan dancing, and modern dance, said director and Performing Arts Department Chair Kelli Edwards. The last live Winter Dance Concert at Milton happened just before the school went remote in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic—in 2021, a smaller production was filmed and shared with the community.
“The cast has worked very hard this year and the student choreographers are so eager to share their work,” said senior dancer and choreographer Audrey Volpe ’22. “We’ve waited two years to get back on stage for a live dance concert and we’re so excited for everyone to come to the show.”
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watch a live stream of the performance
Milton artists and writers received dozens of honors in the Massachusetts Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, the nation’s longest-running competition to identify creative talent among students. Twenty-seven student writers received 52 awards total, including 13 Gold Key awards; 29 student artists received a total of 57 awards, 12 of which received Gold Key honors.
Senior Samuel Dunn’s personal essay and memoir piece “On Confession” received the competition’s best in category award; jurors selected it as a piece that exceeded the expectations of a Gold Key award.
Scholastic works in conjunction with the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University and The Boston Globe to judge regional winners. Gold Key winners are welcome to participate in the regional awards celebration, which will be held on March 14 at Tufts. Gold Key work is currently being reviewed at the national level in New York City by panels of creative professionals for National Medal honors.
Dr. Monica Benton Palmer has been named Milton’s next Upper School principal, effective July 1. The following is a message from Head of School Todd Bland announcing Dr. Palmer’s appointment to the Milton community:
I am happy to announce Dr. Monica Benton Palmer as Milton Academy’s next Upper School principal, effective July 1, 2022. After rigorous evaluation of candidates in a national search under highly competitive circumstances, Milton acted swiftly to bring Dr. Palmer to Milton, and we are delighted she chose to join our community.
Monica has 19 years of independent school experience, and her passion for working with upper school students results from a desire to connect with and guide students in their formative years.
Rotary phones, crunchy gravel, and a tiger’s roar—well, an overturned hand drum containing a precise number of metal nuts—are among the many objects carefully arranged on the King Theatre stage as student Foley artists and actors prepare for Thursday’s opening of the winter play, Murder, Mayhem, and Mystery: An Evening of Radio Dramas.
The show tells four classic radio dramas and takes the performers back to the early 20th century, when radio plays were can’t-miss entertainment. As students perform the stories, they use dozens of handmade sound effects. A vuvuzela, extended and retracted, becomes an elephant; a train chugs into station with a combination of metals and whistles; big band music scratches out from a vintage 78 record.
Directed by Performing Arts Department faculty member Darlene Anastas, the show includes “Sorry, Wrong Number,” written by Lucille Fletcher and made famous by actress Agnes Moorehead; a Dick Tracy suspense mystery, “Big Top Murders”; and two Agatha Christie stories, “Personal Call,” and “Butter in a Lordly Dish.” Like classic radio plays from the 1940s, the show has a “sponsor,” Tootsie Roll, and live ads are interspersed throughout.
Star Bryan ’23 plays Ms. Stevenson, the main character in “Sorry, Wrong Number,” as well as Inspector Narracott in “Personal Call,” and Julia Keene in “Butter in a Lordly Dish.” Learning the different roles within separate stories provided an interesting challenge.
“Ms. Stevenson is angry or frustrated through basically the whole story, and Julia Keene starts out flirtatious, but then takes a turn,” Bryan said. “I’m not used to playing anger or flirtation, so getting into both roles took time.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has uncovered injustices that are more complex and connected than some may understand, Jubi Oladipo ’24 reflected after working with a Boston nonprofit that makes and delivers medically tailored meals to people with chronic and critical illnesses.
“Often, people with chronic illnesses and disabled people are left out of the narrative,” Oladipo said, noting that the pandemic added additional barriers for people in need to safely obtain healthy food. “Food insecurity is a really intersectional issue; so many different factors can impact a person’s ability to go grocery shopping and prepare meals that help them satisfy their medical needs.”
Oladipo and the other students in Andrea Geyling-Moore’s Activism for Justice in a Digital World course recently visited and worked in the kitchen of Community Servings, located in Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood. Max Seelig ’22 said the visit opened his eyes to how food insecurity can have its origins in more than just poverty.
“Generally, the first image that comes to mind when we think of someone who’s food insecure is someone who is experiencing homelessness or poverty,” he said. “But access is not just financial. Physical health and location also determine access to food and meals.”
As a young man, Dr. Philip McAdoo had a moment where he thought his ambitions weren’t enough. While waiting to be interviewed to receive a scholarship from the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation, he met young people planning to be doctors, lawyers, and civic leaders competing for the same scholarship. McAdoo wanted to be a theater actor.
During a break in the interviews, McAdoo visited Atlanta’s King Center, where he encountered a quote from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “Everybody can be great, because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”
“I carried that with me for the rest of my life,” said McAdoo, Milton’s 2022 MLK Day speaker. “I thought I needed to be something more than I was. Dr. King created space for everyday people to do the extraordinary.”
McAdoo delivered a webinar titled “Reflections on Service and Love” to Upper and Middle School students on Tuesday afternoon, and to the broader Milton community in the evening. Zain Sheikh ’24 moderated Q&A sessions with him following his talks. Desman Ward ’23, Nate Dixon ’22, and Zahra Tshai ’22 introduced McAdoo for the sessions.
“For me to immigrate to the United States was to take stock of what I had to give up to get what I want out of what Mary Oliver calls ‘this one wild and precious life,’” English teacher Kristine Palmero told students this week. “It’s about choosing where my physical body will be even if there are rooms in my heart that live in a house in a country so distant that their night is my day.
“But over time, the U.S., which I thought would be no more than an interlude, turned into my home,” Palmero added. “For me, trying to immigrate here is about loving the U.S. and my life here with my whole being, even when I wasn’t sure how long I would get to stay.”
Palmero was born in the Philippines and raised in Saudi Arabia, where her father worked for an energy company—she saw how Americans working for the company received privileges other foreigners did not. Inspired by the film Dead Poets Society, she asked her parents to send her to boarding school in the United States; her father responded by gathering as much information on American prep schools as he could to help her achieve her dream.
When Katie Chow ’12 was growing up, her parents would come home from Boston’s Chinatown with white boxes wrapped in red string and containing favorite treats for her and her siblings: pastries such as dan tat (egg tarts) or bolo bao (pineapple buns).
“For us, love is a surprise box of buns, even though your fridge is packed; dad giving you the last helping of fish when you know it’s his favorite, too; and spending Sundays helping mom fold wontons that will live in the freezer for months,” Chow writes on the Instagram page for the Asian Inclusion Project, a joint venture with Ashley Bae ’12.
For Bae, a Los Angeles native and daughter of Korean immigrants, food connects across generations. As a child, Bae peppered her paternal grandmother with questions as the older woman experimented with fermentation for kimchi and cooked a spicy seafood stew from her youth in Guryongpohang, a port city at the southeastern tip of South Korea.
“When I cook comfort foods that remind me of my childhood, I’m really cooking food from my grandma’s childhood, because I grew up watching her,” Bae says. “There’s something beautiful about how a routine activity like cooking can mean so much for a culture.”
Bae and Chow formed the Asian Inclusion Project (on Instagram at @asianinclusionproject) out of their mutual desire to amplify Asian American voices and invite others into the Asian American experience. Food is a natural medium: In many cultures, sharing food is an expression of love, celebration, and community. The project shares submissions from chefs and amateurs alike—people with diverse stories and Asian American identities in common.
Formed this year, the Astronomy Club offers students an opportunity to delve into the far reaches of the universe by observing and chronicling the night sky as well as exploring astrophysics.
The two senior co-heads, John Matters ’22 and Teddy Sunshine ’22, started the club because of their shared interest in astrophysics, which studies the chemistry and physics of celestial phenomena such as black holes, dark matter, and the life cycles of stars. They recognized the value in having Milton’s Ayer Observatory available on campus and wanted to encourage more students to use it.
“We decided to start the club because we were both interested in the subject matter and we both have backgrounds in astrophysics,” said Sunshine, who has taken up astrophotography in the last two years. “I go out at night and take photos of both wide-angle and deep space objects and I’m able to display them to everyone. We’re trying to teach people the skills to do that. I got really into it through the pandemic and it’s become a real passion of mine and I want to teach other people how to do it as well.”
In her junior year, Chen-Chih (Shiloh) Liu ’22 stayed remote due to the COVID-19 pandemic, learning from her home in Taiwan. Still, she was a full participant in her Honors Biology course, completing lab assignments in her kitchen.
And now, one of her experiments has made her a published scientist. Liu’s article, “How ethanol concentration affects catalase catalysis of hydrogen peroxide,” was recently published in the Journal of Emerging Investigators (JEI), an online scientific publication for students in college, high school, and middle school.
“I knew at the beginning of the process that it would be very time consuming and rigorous,” Liu said. “I committed to it. I didn’t want to stop or do anything in between. So, I was glad it got accepted and I’m grateful for the opportunity to do this and go through the peer-review process that you don’t usually get at a high-school level.”
On Norfolk Street, just a block from Blue Hill Avenue in the heart of Mattapan, sits the headquarters of the Urban Farming Institute (UFI), an almost decade-old enterprise operating five farms in neighborhoods just south of Boston. Its mission: to develop and promote urban agriculture, engage residents of Mattapan, Dorchester, and Roxbury in growing food, and build a healthier community.
The person overseeing this ambitious undertaking is Patricia Spence ’76, UFI’s founding president and CEO. Spence recalls how UFI’s founders first approached her in 2014 about heading up the fledgling nonprofit. She had held numerous senior-level positions throughout her career, both in the corporate sector—in marketing and sales for Xerox and Digital Equipment Corporation—and in the nonprofit sector, at WGBH and the Boston Public Schools.
Spence smiles as she describes the founders’ pitch to her about the position. Having recently orchestrated the passage of legislation that allowed for commercial zoning for urban agriculture, “they were looking for someone who could kind of juggle it all,” she says. “I’m the person you bring in when you’re trying to do something different. That’s kind of where I sit in the world, so here I am.”
I recently shared with the Milton community my plan to step down as head of school at the end of the 2022–23 academic year. Although this is far from a farewell message—there are almost two years and much work to be done—I have already begun to reflect on the many gifts Milton Academy has given to my family and me.
By far, the greatest of these gifts are the connections with thousands of students, colleagues, alumni, families, and friends who have enriched our lives. I hold their stories close—be they funny, moving, tragic, epic, or small—as touchpoints that color personalities and biographies, as conversations that have expanded my understanding of the world.
In the fall issue of Milton Magazine, we focus on food and the many ways it fosters and strengthens these connections. The stories shared over meals are more personal, more familiar, because of the intimate nature of dining together. Even if you start as relative strangers, good conversation and sharing a wonderful meal create lasting impressions and memories. Food is something to celebrate on its own, of course, but sharing a meal together is about so much more; it’s about stories, connection, and the love that goes into preparing—or receiving—the meal.
Change doesn’t happen overnight, but it’s still worth fighting for, said Christoph Strobel, an author and University of Massachusetts-Lowell professor and this year’s Heyburn Lecture visitor. Strobel recalled being a college student in the ’90s and protesting...
“Poetry asks us to speak differently and it asks us to listen differently,” said Jenny Xie, an award-winning poet and educator who visited Milton as a Bingham visiting writer. “Partly because when you’re listening to a poem, you’re paying attention to the semantic content—what the words mean and what they point to—but at the same time, you’re tuned into the sonic qualities, to the poem’s music.”
To reach a creative place from which to write, Xie said she often needs to immerse herself in others’ voices, by reading or listening to music. Doing so helps her to leave the linear and task-oriented demands of daily life. Much of the language of daily life is transactional, and poetry is a counter force that asks for heightened listening, she said.
Xie read several poems and explained their context; she shared one, “Unit of Measure,” that she wrote in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, “when time took on a different texture.” Xie also said the Today series by Japanese artist On Kawara inspired her. Kawara created thousands of paintings of dates, each taking on the date convention of the places he worked. Xie described seeing Kawara’s work in a Guggenheim retrospective shortly after the artist died.
Documentary filmmaker CJ Hunt ’03 issued a direct challenge to Milton students this week: Live the school’s motto, “Dare to be true,” in real time while tackling the real and complicated issues of American history and injustice. “What are the truths that we need to...
“Art is so damn powerful,” Syrian American artist and architect Mohamad Hafez told students Tuesday during a Gold Fund presentation on campus. “Don’t do art just for the sake of beauty. That’s valid, but art is more than that. Art has the ability to cross borders, to cross hearts, to demolish walls between us.”
Hafez, who was born in Damascus and raised in Saudi Arabia, came to the United States to study architecture, later becoming a successful corporate architect. Art was initially a hobby for him and a way to process his homesickness and nostalgia when he was unable to return home following the September 11, 2001 attacks in the U.S. Then, as he witnessed the Syrian civil war wreak havoc on his homeland and his own family—many of whom fled as refugees to other parts of the world—creating art took on a deeper and more urgent purpose.
Using found objects, careful architectural details, memories, and images of the Middle East, Hafez creates surreal, sculptural pieces with political and social messages—depicting the senseless violence of war, the baggage (physical and emotional) that refugees carry from home, and the widespread cultural losses occurring in Damascus, an ancient but advanced city critical to the history of several civilizations and world religions.
A swashbuckling tale of pirates, sword fights, and buried gold will take the stage in the chapel tent this week, as the Performing Arts Department presents Treasure Island.
Directed by performing arts faculty member Shane Fuller, Treasure Island is based on the novel by Robert Louis Stevenson and adapted for the stage by Mary Zimmerman. It tells the story of Jim, the son of a tavern owner, who finds a mysterious treasure map among the possessions of a sailor who died at the tavern. Jim sets sail with some trusted local friends to locate the island and the treasure—and they’re accompanied by a covertly mutinous crew of pirates, including the ship’s cook, Long John Silver.
Live performance returns to Milton’s stages Thursday with the Class IV Follies, an original show called Extra-Ordinary. The show, which explores the theme of superpowers, will be held in the Chapel Tent for three nights.
Extra-Ordinary has the structure of the Class IV Follies—a series of scenes around a central theme—telling stories of some characters that the audience will recognize, like Roald Dahl’s Matilda, and some that are new, said Performing Arts Department faculty member Scott Caron, who is directing the show.
“We’re navigating through a lot of characters that we know from literature, movies, and TV shows,” Caron said. “We follow their journey over the course of one hour, as they discover and unpack their superpowers.”
Milton Academy Head of School Todd B. Bland announced Tuesday that the next academic year, 2022–2023, will be his last at the School. In a letter to Board of Trustees President Lisa Donohue, Bland wrote, “Serving Milton Academy has been one of the greatest honors of my life.”
“Few things have brought me greater joy than my time spent with students and every opportunity I’ve been given to have a positive impact on the life of a child,” Bland wrote. “This is what draws us to education: the gift and joy of growing young minds.”
Bland, who is in his 13th year as head of school, has led Milton through more than a decade of progress, maintaining the School’s strong financial health, overseeing rigorous curriculum renewal, investing in Milton’s people and spaces, and committing to diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice. In a letter to the Milton community, Donohue recognized milestones of Bland’s tenure and praised his “positive, warm, and caring spirit.”
Institutions “can and should outgrow” binary structures that uphold outdated and oppressive ideas about gender, Milton graduate Ky Putnam ’18 told students this week.
“To treat people differently is to create division,” Putnam said during programming for Class I and II students. Everyone benefits when inclusion is expanded, even if they’re not directly affected, they said.
Putnam, who attended Milton from kindergarten through graduation, first came out as nonbinary during their Class IV year in the Upper School. As they developed their understanding of their gender identity, Putnam took note of the programs and spaces at Milton that were separated by gender—housing, bathrooms, sports, and a since-discontinued 7th-grade English program that separated boys and girls. “I couldn’t shake the feeling of not belonging,” they said.
Congratulations to English faculty member Brian Simoneau, whose new poetry collection, No Small Comfort, was published at the end of June. And in July, it was number three on the Small Press Distribution Bestseller List. Simoneau has shared some of the poems at virtual poetry readings for several Massachusetts public libraries. This fall he will be headlining a few readings for literary organizations. Below is one of the poems from his collection.
The Speech and Debate Team participated in their first national level tournament of the year at Yale University the weekend of September 18th. Congrats to all the students!
In Speech: Congress: Nika Farokhzad ’23, quarterfinalist; Duo Interpretation: Alexa Burton ’24 and Jack Burton ’22, 5th place; Extemporaneous Speaking: Neha Modak ’22 and Tyler Tjan ’22, octa finalists and Eliot Smith ’22, quarterfinalist; Humorous Interpretation: Jack Burton ’22, semifinalist and Talia Sherman ’22, 2nd place finalist; Oral Interpretation of Literature: Talia Sherman ’22, 1st place finalist.
In Debate: Varsity Lincoln-Douglas Debate: Andrew Tsang ’22 advanced to Doubles, Varsity Public Forum Debate: Jon Yildirim ’23 and Shiloh Liu ’22 advanced to Quarters (TOC Gold Bid), Yaman Habip ’23 and Lorenzo de Simon ’23 advanced to Triples; Junior Varsity Public Forum Debate, Emily Huneycutt ’24 and Sonya Martin ’24 advanced to Double.
On September 23, Milton’s Visual Arts Department hosted an opening reception for the first Nesto Gallery show of the 2021–2022 academic year. This exhibit features two longtime New England artists and educators—Charles Goss from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University and Jocelyne Prince of the Rhode Island School of Design—who have created artwork in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Officially kicking off the school year and the first day of classes, Convocation featured speeches from co-head monitors Emma Tung ’22 and Jack Burton ’22 urging students to take risks and care for one another.
Tung noted the excitement of celebrating Convocation in person after the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the past 18 months. She shared a story about facing her fear of heights and jumping into a lake from a 30-foot cliff, relating it to each grade in the Upper School: facing uncertainty like Class IV students, growing in confidence like Class III students, embracing new challenges like Class II students, and treasuring each moment like Class I students.
With impressive accuracy, a group of Class I students were able to closely predict Japan’s total medal count in this summer’s Olympic Games.
Using what they learned about statistics and probability from Math Department faculty member Terri HerrNeckar, prior to the start of the games Christopher Scanlon ’22, Elliot Strauss ’22, and Ted Sunshine ’22 studied the “home-field advantage” for Olympic host nations to project how many medals Japan would win. Home-field advantage commonly refers to an athlete’s ability to outperform or win more often at their home facilities.
“We seized the opportunity to apply mathematics to a world event,” said Scanlon. “Given that Olympic city selection is announced no later than 11 years in advance, a host nation would have two Olympics to prepare for their eventual host games. We examined the last three Olympic host nations’ (China, Britain, and Brazil) performances in the two games leading up to events in their home countries. Referencing official Olympic data, we measured the average increase in selected athletic categories across each event. Together, this data allowed us to determine the approximate increase in a nation’s total medal count for their host Olympics.”
As a freshman, Teddy Ellis ‘22 enjoyed guest speakers who came to campus to speak to students on a variety of topics. Some of these speakers were alumni—Ellis wanted more opportunities for students to connect with them, but recognized it wasn’t always possible for alumni to get to campus. During the fall of 2019, under the guidance of faculty sponsors Jim Kernohan and Matt Fishbein, Ellis launched Stang Stories (https://www.stangstories.com/) a podcast featuring interviews with alumni who share their stories with the broader Milton community.
Stang Stories was then expanded to an official student club, so other students could participate in the production of the podcast. So far they have interviewed nine alumni: Jim Meeks ’97, Kenzie Bok ’07, Tad Hills ’81, Rev. Dr. Chloe Breyer ’87, Fred Melo ’84, Sid Raju ’12, Amy Kaufman ’04, Edward Cunningham ’94, and Farah Pandith ’86.
The Class of 2021 gathered under a tent on the Quad to celebrate their peers at the Prize Assembly. Awards recognized overall student achievement as well as achievement in the performing arts, visual arts, English, science, math, classics, computer science, modern languages, history, public speaking, student publications and athletics.
Students in the GAINS (Girls Advancing in STEM) Club recently welcomed Omayra Ortega ’96 for a virtual visit, during which Ortega discussed her work in statistics and mathematical epidemiology and what led to her career as a college math professor.
Ortega’s route to applied mathematics and epidemiological research was “non-linear,” she told students. Now an assistant professor at Sonoma State College, where she teaches statistics, Ortega majored in math and music at Pomona College as an undergraduate. Abad experience in a general chemistry class made her rethink ideas about a pre-med track.
“I wasn’t focused on science, specifically,” she said. “I was a pure mathematician, I was interested in theory. Math was this complex, intricate game, and I wanted to play… Math is the most interesting subject in the whole world. It’s just puzzles all day.”
From sharing first-person testimony and creative work to advocating before legislators, students from Boston-area private and public schools spent Friday exploring how the humanities can influence action on issues of climate change and climate justice.
“We do not all suffer the same climate injustices,” read a Milton student from Melissa Figueroa’s Performing Literature class, which created a “found poem” curated from the words of Boston climate leaders and other community members. “We sacrifice aspirations to implement actions we know aren’t right, to the detriment of the state’s poorest and most vulnerable residents. We have let low income communities, communities of color, bear disproportionate burdens while excluding them from the decision-making process.”
The Humanities Workshop’s Youth Summit was a virtual event during which students from participating schools shared some of their work from the past year. The Humanities Workshop, co-founded and co-directed by Milton English teachers Alisa Braithwaite and Lisa Baker, is a consortium of educators and students from seven local schools who tackle major social issues through the lens of the humanities. The consortium schools are Academy of the Pacific Rim, Boston College High School, Boston Collegiate Charter School, Boston International Newcomers Academy, Boston Latin School, Milton Academy, and Phillips Academy Andover.
Students in Mark Connolly’s Spanish 4 class are finishing the academic year working with Project Olas, an organization co-founded by a group at Georgetown University that includes alumna Chloe Morris ‘19. Project Olas works to provide relationship-centered language education by connecting students with Guatemalan mothers known as “Olas moms” to practice their Spanish. The Olas moms live in the community surrounding the Guatemala City Garbage Dump in Zone 3 of Guatemala City.
Connolly said his students were “super excited” to do this work together over the last few weeks of school. Their first Zoom session with their Olas mom, Leslie Hernández, “started slow but ended up with a ping-ponging conversation about everything from pets to travel plans to the cultural calendars and practices. Leslie reminded us that ‘cada cabeza es un mundo’ (every head/mind is a world).”
Some of Milton’s best student writers and artists gathered virtually on Monday evening for the Laurence S. Persky Memorial Awards. The annual awards are given for the best work appearing in Milton Academy student publications and honor excellence in creative writing, journalism, art, photography, and production.
Guest speaker and alumna Tina Nguyen ’07 spoke to students about writing and told stories about her “weird career path.” She is a national reporter for POLITICO, covering the Make America Great Again (MAGA) movement, disinformation, and internet culture. Prior to that, she was a staff reporter for Vanity Fair Hive for more than four years, covering American politics and the rise of Donald Trump.
Nugyen said she tries to make her “writing as compelling as possible.”
“Writing is the foundation—it’s an art but it’s also a discipline,” she said. “The goal is to make sure your audience gets what you are saying. They may not like what you have to say, but at least they understand it.”
From determining the presence of genetically modified organisms in snack foods to a field study on coastal processes in Jacksonville, Florida, this year’s advanced science final projects explored a wide range of research topics and experiments.
Students in advanced biology, chemistry, physics, and environmental sciences courses displayed their work on a new website, which includes videos, images, lab reports, and graphics. The website was in lieu of an in-person Science Symposium, the traditional event where advanced science students present their final projects.
“The symposium couldn’t happen this year for a number of reasons, so this was our plan B, and it turned out really nicely,” said biology teacher Michael Edgar. Restrictions on indoor gatherings due to COVID-19 and a number of advanced science students learning remotely made an alternate option necessary. Since some students did not have access to labs for the traditional design-your-own (DYO) experiment, teachers opened up a research project option.
Ten students were selected for a Bisbee Prize by their teachers for outstanding research on their U.S. history papers. For the annual spring tradition, faculty, students, and guests gathered on Zoom to recognize the students’ impressive work on topics ranging from 19th-century Chinese immigrants to communism in Hollywood. The award winners rotated through break-out rooms to discuss their papers and answer questions on their research.
Matt O’Rourke ’21, who wrote about the prohibition movement, said it was the personal stories, such as how people resisted prohibition and tried to find ways around the laws, that “made the research really interesting.”
The Bisbee Prize was established to honor Ethan Wyatt Bisbee, a former history faculty member and department chair who retired in 1993 after 40 years of teaching. The Prize was endowed in 2005 through a gift by John Warren, formerly of the history department, and his wife, Laura Warren ’78, former head of Robbins House. Bisbee passed away earlier this year.
In preparation for the Gospel Choir’s annual spring concert, music director Briana Washington and choir director Lori Dow guided student musicians through a new exercise: Composition.
Working over Zoom, the student choir developed a song called “The Light,” which delivers an inspirational and urgent message calling for hope in difficult times.
“Since we’re all dealing with this new setting of the pandemic, I thought, let’s do something original, something that shows our character,” said Washington. “Let’s write a song and see where it goes, no pressure. Once we got into the writing process with everyone in the virtual classroom, we thought of the message we wanted to send, which was uplifting and positive in the face of everything going on in the world.”