Reunion Weekend 2017: A Time to Reconnect and Look Ahead

Around 225 alumnae/i returned to Concord Academy for reunion weekend, June 9 through 11. Sunny skies and balmy temperatures made it feel like the unofficial start of summer, as old friends and faculty members reconnected over music, food, and fun. From the Friday evening reception and welcome dinner with the Ross Adams and Jonathan Fagan ’11 duo to the Sunday morning jazz brunch with John Funkhouser ’84, the reunion offered many ways to catch up with classmates — yoga, ballet, kayaking on the Sudbury River, a cycling tour of Concord, a CA archival display, animal adventures for the children, and a “life transitions” program for the class of 1967. Off campus, the class of 2012 gathered for fifth-reunion celebrations in Cambridge and Boston. No matter where and how they came together, alumnae/i shared many laughs and smiles as they measured the passage of time — both in one another and in the evolution of CA.

Student-led campus tours, a self-guided video tour of CA Labs, and a roundtable discussion over lunch with Head of School Rick Hardy highlighted recent developments on campus. In “Imagine CA Houses” walkthroughs, Director of Operations Don Kingman invited discussion of ideas for renovating CA’s houses to improve residential life for students, increase space for faculty apartments, and create new common areas for the entire school. Carrying posterboards of historical photos and artist sketches, he walked small groups from house to house, sharing the rationale behind the Centennial Campaign for Concord Academy’s next major focus, CA Houses, and the possibilities renovations could open up for the campus community.

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Reunion Weekend 2017: A Time to Reconnect and Look Ahead 5

In the Elizabeth B. Hall Chapel, Lyn Burr Brignoli ’62 spoke upon receiving the Joan Shaw Herman Distinguished Service Award, by tradition the single award bestowed at CA each year — and that, for service to others. Brignoli was recognized for her sustained personal efforts on behalf of education both in her Connecticut community, as a volunteer teacher for children with Down syndrome and other special needs, and in a poverty-stricken region of Ghana, where she has sustained work on a girls’ education initiative since the early 2000s. Her presentation in pictures was memorable for the direct, personal connections she had made, her respect for the culture and customs of her hosts, and her unassuming, tireless spirit. Offering a different model for providing aid to developing countries, Brignoli reminded her audience how, when following a local community’s lead, very little money can change so many lives.

Over in the Performing Arts Center, Jared Green ’88 joined film instructor Justin Bull to introduce a screening of Much Ado About Nothing, a wild retelling of Shakespeare’s witty comedy, set in a boarding school and shifting among three different decades — and between genders for many of its main characters. It is CA’s third feature-length film production, and its first-ever movie musical. Green, who cowrote the screenplay, recalled how Bull first approached him last spring with an idea for essentially “putting Shakespeare in a centrifuge and setting it to music,” he said. “It sounded like absolute folly,” he remembered thinking. “I’m in!” Recorded in the fall, the soundtrack features original songs by the Magnetic Fields (Claudia Gonson’ 86 and Sam Davol ’88) performed by students. Filming took place this spring. Bull will spend the summer in final editing before submitting the movie to festivals. This screening was a chance for one final critical round of feedback from alumnae/i.

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In CA Labs, an overflow crowd took part in Science Department Head Amy Kumpel’s crash course in design thinking. Ready for some hands-on fun, seven small groups took on the well-known “marshmallow challenge”: build the tallest freestanding structure from 20 sticks of spaghetti, one yard each of tape and string, and one marshmallow, which must go on top. With a time limit and no other instructions, each group had to devise its own methodologies on the fly. After some cheers as a couple of swaying structures remained upright — and groans as a few toppled and fell — the eager learners documented their process in pictures and unpacked the kinds of thinking involved. They watched the related TED Talk by designer Tom Wujec, who reflects on much the same process of collaboration that CA students in Kumpel’s class engage in and concludes that “design truly is a contact sport.”

At the Moriarty Athletic Campus, a sizeable crowd gathered in the fieldhouse for “A Conversation with CA Difference Makers: The Transformative Power of Public Service in Politics.” Dave Cavell ’02, senior advisor and assistant attorney general at the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office, recalled lessons from his time as a White House speechwriter in the Obama administration. He pointed out the opportunities for advancing policies at the state and local levels, and the dire need for people to do the difficult, often uncomfortable work of championing candidates and causes. Asked for ways to pop the “blue bubble” in Massachusetts, Cavell said with a smile, “Working in politics is a good way of meeting people who disagree with you.” His fellow panelist Meg Ansara ’97, a founding partner of 270 Strategies and former battleground states director for Hillary for America, traced her circuitous path from an early interest in farming, through a job on a forest fire hot shot crew, to a career in political organizing, campaign management, and advocacy. She spoke about the need to balance the energy and passion of protest with a positive and long-term vision. Ansara encouraged attendees to get involved — those calls to senators really do matter — but said she is focusing on how she interacts with others outside of her life in politics. “I’m trying to approach every conversation with curiosity and love,” she said.

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Reunion Weekend 2017: A Time to Reconnect and Look Ahead 6

Other highlights of the weekend followed a familiar rhythm. At Moriarty, alumnae/i talked, snacked, and played informal lawn games. Back on the Main Campus, a moving memorial service in the Chapel honored members of the Concord Academy community who had passed away in the past year. Dinners for the classes of 1957 (60th reunion) through 2007 (10th reunion) got everyone reminiscing.

On Sunday morning, after one last chance to unwind together in movement classes, a jazz brunch with the John Funkhouser ’84 jazz trio ended the weekend in full swing, with everyone looking ahead. The next time we’ll see this group of classes together will be at the centennial reunion in 2022.

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