A Magical Place: A Letter from a Former Headmaster to the Current Head of School
Posted 04/08/2013 02:43PM

Head of School Laurie Bottiger was delighted recently to receive a letter from former Country School Headmaster and teacher Tom West. In his letter, Tom wrote about his old friend and mentor, the late David MacLane, The Country School’s first Headmaster who lured Tom to The Country School as an English teacher in the 1960s. Tom recalled what it was like working and living at The Country School in the early years, calling the experience “one of the happiest times in my life.” 

Dear Dr. Bottiger,

Dave MacLane’s death hit me hard. I first met him in 1954 at The Fenn School in Concord, MA, where I began my blessedly long and wonderful teaching career. Dave was one of my mentors, and after I left Fenn three years later to get my MA of Ed from Tufts, we kept in touch. I accepted a job at Applewild School in Fitchburg, to help begin its first year of existence. In my fifth year there, Dave spent the weekend with me and convinced me to join him as Assistant Head at his new school, TCS. Five years later, Dave departed and I took over as Head.

Those were great years for all of us, backed by a great Board that included Bill and Connie Pike. The gym/stage DeFrancis Building, the two buildings north of it, including the incredible Yale-School-of-Architecture-created K-1 “happening,” grew out of the soil as the school flourished. Meanwhile, Dave and I met in New York and Boston at NAIS gatherings. When I moved to Colorado and he to Oregon, we occasionally talked on the phone or corresponded via snail mail.

He was an admirable human being in all respects. I loved his humor, his essential kindness, his dedication to helping youngsters, his integrity, his mathematical genius, his optimism, thoughtfulness and generosity of spirit.

While at TCS I taught English and history, coached, advised, edited the school magazine of poetry and fiction, and – oh yes: helped run the place. The only reason I left in 1973 was the chance to return to full time teaching at another new school, The Hammonasset School in Madison. Last June in Colorado the small school where I taught for 18 years closed its doors, and I find myself day after day missing the classroom. The 53 years I taught went by so fast I knew I was in the profession I loved.

The decade at TCS was one of the happiest in my lifetime. My daughter Wendy and son Ken, both TCS graduates, and I lived at 339 Opening Hill Road, now an administrative house. I still picture myself walking them across the lawn and driveway to the front door of the school.

My best to you, and congratulations: you have landed in a magical place!

When Tom West left The Country School, the 9th Grade class dedicated Country Capers, the school yearbook, to him. Here is what students said in the dedication:

We dedicate our yearbook to Mr. West, who has been our mainstay. You have advised and understood us and helped us to understand others. You are a warm and wonderful person whom we will never forget. We will miss you. our tribute and love to you, Mr. West.