50th Reunion Comments

Following are comments from attendees of our 50th reunion in June, 2022:

From Bruce Berk:

Originally, this missive was to five or six classmates who could not attend the reunion. Gene Ward, however, coerced me to send a revised version.  Enjoy this small recap.

Credit to NMH. During my independent school teaching days, we feared the “100 days of May.” This has been NMH on steroids. They had graduation last week, had 2020 back for graduation on Saturday, and are having two reunion weekends to honor all three 50th reunion classes along with all of the other five year reunions. More like “150 days of May” with the head, Brian Hargrove everywhere. We met him three years ago during the planning process – an impressive and inspiring man. Paraphrasing an Indian proverb, he challenged each of us to  “plant trees so that others can sit in it’s shade.” Rightfully, he is not shy about exhorting us to support the school.

It was a fun weekend that went way too fast. Three years of planning for forty eight hours. Frankly, some of us approach these reunions with a bit of trepidation – how to navigate conversations with people one has not seen in decades.  What is surprising, however, is these  conversations flowed easily and naturally. Our lives have followed similar arcs, only the details differ. One former Hogger remarked that he feared it would just be high school cliques hanging with each other, but instead folks traded tales of their lives

Some highlights.  

  • Heroic effort by so many of your former classmates. Although I fear I will miss some, during the last years Claire, Tess, Enid, Gene, Alex, Neil and Laurie along have been relentless in organizing and promoting our gathering. It was flat out inspiring to witness Neil walking all over campus, and up and down that hill to West (now Alumni hall) knowing he had a full knee replacement six weeks ago. Deep gratitude to Marty Seely who decorated and stocked our home base at Crossley Hall.
  • The memorial service Saturday morning was the most powerful moment for many of us. We met at the tree we planted 27 years ago, soon after Ron Landry’s passing. Back then, it was a sapling and now, a beautiful, lush tree. Neil and Laurie organized a wonderful remembrance marked by poems, the Northfield benediction, and Jimmy/Collin’s rendition of Warren Zevon’s Keep Me in Your Heart – composed when he knew he was dying and Turn, Turn, Turn by the Byrds. All of us joined in for the chorus. Folks offered remembrances of those who had passed since the 45th. Powerful, poignant stuff, and a reminder for all of us to grab each day.  My understanding is the memorial service at Roundtop was equally compelling.
  • Inspiration and hard work by a cadre of Northfield alums resulted in a series of memorable events on the Northfield campus.  Highlights included a Friday coffeehouse, Saturdays tours of the campus, Roundtop, and a beautiful church service on Sunday morning.
  • Collins, AJ and Steve Chaisson performed a Saturday night sing along dedicated to the songs of 1966 to 1970:  The Band, the Beates, the Youngbloods, James Taylor, Marvin Gaye among others were all reprised. The evening closed out with Steve singing an original piece about old geezers – perfect conclusion. Although few of us would have qualified for a solo at Sacred Concert, no truer words were sung than “What would you do if I sang out of tune?  Would you walk out on me?”    
  • Bob Glover and Linda Kellogg recreated a 1960s dorm room – on one side a Northfield room and on the other side Mt Hermon. Classic. And, they hosted a Friday afternoon at their Northfield home.  AND, they deserve kudos for the holiday video card sent last year.  
  • The band Saturday night was – hard to describe – four musicians and eight singers – somewhere between David Bowie, Queen, Wings and the Beatles. If this sounds confusing, it should be. Eye makeup, Goth, chains, and totally awesome.  What a show.

Hope to see folks at the 55th and/or the 60th. There is something powerful that binds us from those years in the 1960s.  

Sunday Service Reflections by Rev. Doug Smith

Good Morning all….  I’m sure I speak for all when I say that it is such a pleasure to be back here at this place that has meant so much to all of us. I’ve noticed two things that have changed around campus…  the buildings are farther apart than they used to be… and the hills are steeper…  I am particularly honored to represent, at the Memorial Service, the Mt. Hermon class of 1970 which is undoubtedly the most talented, distinguished and accomplished class to ever graduate from this beautiful school. I am glad to see that you all agree….   Regardless of what year we graduated, or how many years we lived here and studied and played here, Northfield and Mt. Hermon have played a very important role and occupy a very significant place in our lives.  Now we gather again, now for my class anyway, over five decades later to remember; to give thanks for this place, to remember our much beloved faculty and staff, to recall times of great fun and at times great struggle, to get reacquainted with each other as so very much has happened since we graduated, and to recall our classmates who have not lived to see this day.

Fifty plus years ago we were filled with energy, with hopes and dreams, with a future stretching out before us that seemed endless.  We were so lucky, some might say privileged, to attend Northfield and Mt. Hermon and, for what we now realize was a short but very significant period of time in our lives, and to call this place home.

We were so smart (or so we thought) graduating from a beautiful school like this, admitted to the finest colleges and universities in the land, and totally clueless about what lay ahead.  We knew what school we would be attending, but that was it; we graduated into our great unknowing, as before us lay our college experiences also now so long ago, decisions to be made about our careers, marriage or no, who marry, there were plenty of choices,  and literally millions of decisions made on a daily basis that have molded our lives.  We have triumphed and we have failed, we have experienced comfort and stability and we have suffered, we have been healthy and ill…. And these past few days we have compared scars and medical formularies.. HIPPA has no home here at Mt. Hermon… this long list of injuries and maladies were never thought of 50 years ago…. Most all of us have lost our parents by now, some siblings, spouses, too many friends, extended family members, and some have experienced the unspeakable and unbearable agony of losing a child or grandchild.   We have experienced the human condition in all of its wonder and glory and in all of its pain and sorrow and through it all we have persevered, and here we are today in this beautiful place for our reunion, re-gathering, a re-membering; to remember.

Northfield and Mt. Hermon are beautiful places.  The hills and the trees of autumn are spectacular.  Stand on the hill here and look over the valley to the mountain beyond in the fall and it is spectacular… same holds for Northfield.  Do the same in the winter and it is less so…but what makes this place so special is the men and women who worked and especially our faculty members and our coaches, our mentors.  We did not realize it then, but they loved us.  Many made a career here in this isolated place.  You have to love the school, its mission and above all its students to do that. They loved us.  They treated us their own kids.  They encouraged us, pushed us on, when necessary they chided us, doing their best to mold us into men and women whom they would be proud to call graduates of these schools. 

(My apologies to the women of Northfield… this is my frame of reference…) They were beautiful people, Dr. Howard Jones, Arthur Kendl, (story about the blueberry pie….) Mr and Mrs Carroll Bailey, Mr. Axel B. Forslund,  Vitold S. Piscuskas… one of the very finest people I will ever know… a gentleman in the very best sense of that term. Mr. Thomas Powers, Mr. Westin,  Deane Lanphear, Dale Connely, TD Donovan, Mr. Clough, Larry Lightener, Mr. McVeigh, Red Crause… and on and on……. and members of the staff who looked after us in so many ways… they were the architects of our better angels modeling for us lives of grace and dignity ….. they are what make this place so beautiful.

And we had each other… for better or for worse….. as friends in a most formative time in our lives.  Many of us gather here today, many still living are not here, and too many have died, including my roommate, Ed Sauer.  When we look at the list of our departed classmates we do so with a sense of loss, sometimes a deep loss depending on how well we knew them…. Like Gary Kwok who did quite a long time ago now…. As with their deaths part of our youth has died with them… we remember their smiles, their quirky personalities, the fun we had with them, the arguments we had…  and their deaths are a reminder of our own mortality, but their lives come back to life in us when we remember this weekend. 

Our youth has fled, in fact that happened quite a long time ago, so wisdom must suffice.  I’d like to think that the first gleanings of wisdom were experienced by us when we were here as students, but from what I experienced and what I saw….. I don’t think so… wisdom is garnered by living through the grind of everyday life and through its up and downs, our successes and our failures, particularly through its failures and its down times, and by reflecting on them,  Plato said that an unexamined life is not worth living, and so as we reflect on our lives, and we realize that this school occupies a very prominent place in them and today we are truly thankful for having Northfield and Mt. Hermon as a vital ingredient in who we have become.

We hope that this weekend, this reunion, the re-gathering, re-membering of our respective classes has been one of great joy.  Northfield and Mt. Hermon are places where spirits linger, where memories abide, where part of us remains, where our adult lives began that will forever remain a place we can call home.

Sunday service comments from Rev. Gretchen Law, read by Linda Keniston:

So naturalists observe—
A flea has smaller fleas on him that prey.
And these have smaller still to bite ‘em.
And so proceed as infinitum.
Jonathan Swift

The Big Bang triggered the release of matter in all directions. One
envisions massive chaos. And yet the universe appears to be
highly and beautifully organized. Billions of systems orbit each
other in perfect order. Matter is stable and almost always
predictably in a predefined path. Dark matter and the Higgs
Boson glue the universe together. The universe and nature are
magnificently structured.

During my four years in Wilson Hall, against the glow of the pale pink
and green concrete walls, I thought a lot about how humans are
organized and if they can be categorized as good and evil. The strength
and agony of the civil rights movement weighed on me and inspired
me. I lost the first love of my life 6 weeks after he arrived in Vietnam at
age 19. I read Herzog and pondered the atrocities of the holocaust. I
examined the strengths and inequities of my Northfield world. A lot
more was happening very fast; personally, nationally and globally.

Our country is in trouble. It is always simmering and erupting with
suffering and inequality is manifest. But the situation is particularly
dire. The political divides are insane, fueled by racism, anger, greed
and complacency. The social safety network for many is spotty to nonexistent.

The middle class us standing with its hands up, shrugging its
collective shoulders. What did we do? Factions on all levels of the
social strata are rebelling chaotically and aggressively – like asteroids
being thrust out of the planetary order, landing without regard,
robbing us of the right to vote, to enact sane social policies, to control
our bodies, to tend responsibly to an environment in crisis — to
breathe if we are black or brown or Asian. Gunned down in schools,
hospitals, churches. Some are more vulnerable than others. None of
us are safe.

Northfield felt oppressive, at least to me, much of the time. But it also
felt safe. Why? A very close friend of mine from Wilson Hall and I still
speak weekly. Sometimes we describe someone we met as, “a
Northfield girl.” And magically, instantly, we both know what the
other means.

There were many divides among us during those Northfield years. But
we stuck together like particles with the help of gravity tend to do. We
had a mutual “oppressor” in the form of rigorous rules and rituals
which often didn’t make much sense, but we had each other too. Most
importantly we lived in an environment that may have constricted us
socially but not educationally. Our minds were not captive. The faculty
were often inspired. Their goal was to teach and not to brainwash or to
mislead. We had church filled with gifted and educated speakers and
magnificent music. We played sports against the hills of New England
which wrapped us in the blessings of nature. Nature was our ally
through all of it. Our lives were spirited and blessed. We learned
tenderness and compassion and moral courage and were called into
service in the world.

I still don’t believe that some people are evil — rather lost — without
internal structure to hold them together or sane external guidance and
support — or biology may have rearranged their brain cells beyond
their control.

We lived in a highly structured world that was a wealth of riches. We
had it all; predictability, aesthetics, art, nature, a liberal education and
religion without the weight of dogma from under which it was
impossible to escape. We didn’t have to choose sides and thus were
free to choose love.

And if we are only particles in an infinite multiverse, so be it. We had
and have each other. A blessed camaraderie – our special Northfield
gravitational force – that is everlasting. Thanks for that.


MORNING PRAYER Enid Oberholtzer ‘70
Holy One, be with us as living legacies of Northfield
School for Girls, Mount Hermon School for Boys, and
Northfield Mount Hermon School. Guide our heads,
hearts, and hands to work as instruments of change in
this world. Help and strengthen us to commit ourselves
to being people who will stand for truth, fairness and
justice. We pray that you stir us to never ‘pass by on the
other side’, that we will never ‘look the other way’, that
we will not grow weary in compassion or well doing.
As we travel home with full hearts and renewed
friendships, let us cherish our time together and the
memories we made. Watch over us and keep us safe in
our journeys.

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