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“We don’t just grow food. We grow people.”

“We don’t just grow food. We grow people.”

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.”

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Breaking Bread: A Message from Head of School Todd Bland

Breaking Bread: A Message from Head of School Todd Bland

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.

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Poet Jenny Xie is This Fall’s Bingham Visiting Writer

Poet Jenny Xie is This Fall’s Bingham Visiting Writer

“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.

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Mohamad Hafez is this Fall’s Gold Visiting Artist, Nesto Exhibitor

Mohamad Hafez is this Fall’s Gold Visiting Artist, Nesto Exhibitor

“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.

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Treasure Island Opens Thursday

Treasure Island Opens Thursday

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. 

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Milton’s First Performance of the Year is “Extra-Ordinary”

Milton’s First Performance of the Year is “Extra-Ordinary”

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.”

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Todd B. Bland to Step Down Following 2022–2023 Year

Todd B. Bland to Step Down Following 2022–2023 Year

​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.”

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“Activism Takes Community,” Milton Grad Ky Putnam ’18 Tells Students

“Activism Takes Community,” Milton Grad Ky Putnam ’18 Tells Students

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.

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