Some 70 former trustees, alumni, past parents, and former Heads of School joined us for a special reunion and celebration last weekend as we honored key members of the community and dedicated the new Burt Green, the Duffy STEAM Lab, and the Michelle Noble '03 Memorial Garden.
During a tour of campus, visitors had a chance to see all the changes brought about by our 60th Anniversary Shaping the Future campaign, including the new outdoor athletic complex, new parking lots and roadways, and the latest transformation – the stunningly renovated dining room overlooking the outdoor patio and new playing fields and tennis courts. The changes, all envisioned in the master plan developed by trustees and other community members working with Centerbrook Architects more than a decade ago, have transformed not just the look and feel of campus but student experiences as well.
"Today is a celebration of people who have made a difference in the life of the school and a chance to show off what many of you started," said Head of School John Fixx as he welcomed former trustees, former Heads of School, and other visitors in what was, for some, their first time back on campus in more than a decade. "This is a way to say thank you and bring the generations together."
Below, Mr. Fixx, standing with former trustee Tammey Rooney, speaks to guests gathered near the Burt Green, the pedestrian grass oval that replaced the old circular driveway and parking lots between the Farmhouse and academic buildings. The green is named after the Burt family – Jeff '61, a former trustee; his late wife, Allee, a devoted Parent Council member and tireless volunteer; and their children, Taylor '00, and Hilary '03.
Mr. Fixx updated guests on new developments at school, from our growing student body and new initiatives involving diversity and international students to curricular enhancements. Regarding the physical changes on campus, he quoted one of the visitors, a former Head of School, who had just remarked that the "physical campus is starting to equal the quality of the academic experiences within the classroom."
Tammey Rooney, one of the event organizers, also welcomed old friends back, saying it was a particular delight to be able to share the campus changes with some of the colleagues she had worked alongside years ago as they developed the master plan. Coming together acknowledges "the hard work and commitment of over four-dozen trustees who have served TCS over the last two decades, laying much of the groundwork for the transformation that we see today," she said, adding that, for her, the new developments are not just skin deep. "It is not just the physical changes in the campus that have impressed me, but it is also the sense that every improvement, whether big or small, embodies the spirit that guided our master plan. The overall transformation of the campus is, in my opinion, our very best intentions realized."
Before dedicating the green and embarking on a walking tour of campus, all those gathered paid tribute to Allee Burt, who passed away last spring. Recognizing her enormous contributions to our community as a volunteer, as a parent, and as a supporter whose creation of the Founders' Promise Fund for Scholarship, along with other members of her family, has enabled more than 100 unique individuals to attend The Country School, she was presented posthumously with the Salkin Volunteer Service Award.
Mr. Fixx presents Allee's service award to Jeff Burt.
With Archimedes to guide us, Liz Lightfoot '77 P '05, '07, '08, '12 led guests on a tour of campus. Among the destinations visited were the renovated dining room; the new Duffy STEAM Lab; and the Michelle Noble '03 Memorial Garden.
Above, setting off on the tour: below, a bird's eye-view (thanks, Phil Johnson!)
Below, the new floor-to-ceiling windows in the dining room allow the indoors and outdoors to come together seamlessly, while also accentuating the architectural curve of the outside wall, a curve that echoes the lines of Burt Green. Thank you to the late Hugh Jones, one of the school's founders and the original architect for the school's buildings, for your graceful design, which – 62 years later – is still serving as a guiding principle for our campus layout.
Below, the Duffy family, including trustee Mary Didiuk, her husband, Andrew, and their children, Sam and Connor, look on as Mr. Fixx unveils the plaque for the Duffy STEAM Lab. One of the areas on campus where Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math purposely come together, the Duffy STEAM Lab is also the epicenter for our vibrant and growing robotics program.
Below, planted in memory of Michelle Noble '03, the garden welcomes visitors to campus who arrive via our new entrance near Elmore Library. Like Michelle, the garden is bright, beautiful, and inviting, and we are grateful to Michelle's parents, Laurie and Mark, for making our campus its home, allowing all of us to benefit from Michelle's warm, welcoming presence for decades to come. In this photo, after hearing a testimonial from Wendy Meyer, Michelle's 3rd Grade teacher, Cindy Richar speaks about Michelle's legendary warmth and optimism.
The tour concluded with the official dedication of the Burt Green and a festive toast to the Burt family – many thanks to Matt Murphy '98 and his company, Murphy Distributors, for the delicious, sparkling Spanish Cava. As he raised a glass, Mr. Fixx shared a few recent comments – and one older phrase – about this new central space on campus and how it serves as an anchor, both literally and figuratively.
The first comment, Mr. Fixx said, came from Jonathan Waters '66, who created Haiku, the sculpture that was installed on campus in recognition of our school's 55th anniversary. "As he looked around the Green a few weeks ago, Jonathan said to me, 'I love this new space. It feels sacred," Mr. Fixx said.
The next comment came from a former trustee who was disappointed that she couldn't attend the gathering. In an email to express her regrets, she spoke about her respect for the Burt family and her sadness at Allee's passing. She said she had always admired Allee, and that, to her, Allee always seemed like a "grounding force."
Which led Mr. Fixx to the third phrase. In a nod to former Head of School Steve Danenberg and his favorite line about The Country School, Mr. Fixx said, "How appropriate is it that we have our Grounding Force in this Sacred Space in what Steve Danenberg always called 'the Best Little School in the Universe'?" With that, everyone raised their glasses.
For more photos, click here.