Hundreds of Alumni Attend Reunion Weekend
A gorgeous spring weekend welcomed back Packer's 134th Reunion.
April 15-16, 2016
Hundreds of alumni returned for Packer's 134th Alumni Reunion over two sparkling spring days.
On Friday, an evening cocktail reception kicked off the weekend's events. Over 150 alumni and guests gathered in the Blackburne Library to reunite and reminisce among former classmates and teachers. The 10th Reunion class of 2006 (photo) was particularly well-represented.
View photos from Friday evening's reception >>
The following morning, dozens of alumni filled the hallways, greeting each other with big smiles after years or even decades apart. They enjoyed a continental breakfast in the Blackburne, followed by tours of the School given by current students.
At a standing-room-only presentation in the Hart Library, ten juniors and seniors performed songs from "Key Change," a musical that they wrote in just seven days in a Packer Symposium class led by English teacher (and former actor and musician) Richard Brownstone.
Alumni also visited Packer's Carol Shen Gallery, where "One Thousand Words" — an exhibit of paintings by Agnes Lee that alumnus Brendin McDermott '07 curated with art teacher Elizabeth Eagle — was on view.
In what is now an annual tradition, the Reunion luncheon was followed by a fun (and rather competitive) basketball game between alumni and members of Packer's 2015-16 boys' varsity basketball team. In this year's competitive match-up, youth prevailed — 53 to 43.
View photos from this year's Saturday events>>
View class photos>>
The Reunion Chapel
Before the luncheon, alumni gathered in the Chapel. Geoffrey Brewer '82, P'26, President of the Alumni Association, called to order the annual business meeting of the Alumni Association. Abigail Hooper '96 announced the following elections to the Alumni Board: for her first term, Alba Regina Mazzuca '73 IVAc; for additional terms, Laura DeMarco '63 IVAc, Marilyn Nichols '68 IVAc, Anne Marie Lubrano '87, P'24, P'25, Katy Robbins Ritz '91, Jeremy Schiffres '07; and as officers Geoff Brewer (President), Sasha Baumrind '00 (Vice President), and Laura DeMarco '63 IVAc (Secretary). Geoff recognized Marissa Alperin '95 P'25, P'27 on her 'retirement' following ten years of dedicated service on the Alumni Board.
Next, retiring faculty members were recognized: Upper School math teacher Louis Campagna and
Bill Siletti, Middle School science teacher and 23-year veteran of Packer. Sandra Swift Gill '62 IVAc and Matt Dillon '03, respectively, introduced heartfelt video tributes to each of them, featuring Dr. Dennis, faculty, and students. Watch the video tributes to Louis Campagna and Bill Siletti.
Class Awards were then presented by Geoff Brewer. The Alumni Plate, awarded to the Reunion class with the highest attendance, went to the 50th Reunion Class of 1966 — as did the Champagne Challenge Cup! Cynthia Gardstein '66 IVAc accepted both. Cynthia and her classmates enjoyed champagne at the Reunion Luncheon.
Dr. Bruce L. Dennis, Head of School, then presented a video on Packer Today, focusing on Symposium in the Upper School, WinterSession in the Middle School, and Packer's partnership with Ndonyo Wasin, a primary school in the Samburu region of Kenya, and its influence on the Lower School curriculum.
Ellin Rosenzweig '52, former member of the Packer Board of Trustees, and Director Emeritus of the Alumni Board presented to Lura Swift Provost '56 IVAc (left) the Joan Buehler Eisenstein '51 Award for Service to Packer, which recognizes an individual who demonstrated outstanding generosity, leadership, and service to the School.
Lura attended Packer from the third through the twelfth grades. She volunteered to be her class agent in 1999 and has served ever since. She also co-chaired her class' Reunion in 2007 and chaired Reunion in 2011.
"For a wonderful 17 years she has led by example and has encouraged her classmates to support Packer in any, and every, way possible," said Ellin. "Of those to whom much is given, much is expected," responded Lura. "I always knew that I wanted to be a contributor to our great world." She recollected treasured memories of Packer — Ms. Wright taking her class to the opera "Carmen," and the poet Carl Sandberg reading "Fog," his "deep, resonant voice" echoing through the Chapel.
Dr. Dennis then presented the Alumni Award of Honor — for "exemplifying the values inherent in a Packer education" — to two members of the 70th Reunion class — Dr. Mary Margaret Miller Mack '46 and Dr. Betty Selverstone Gerstley '46. Both were trailblazers in the field of medicine at a time when women were sometimes met with resistance in an overwhelmingly male profession.
In 1940, Mary Margaret Miller entered Packer's "first academic" class, or 9th grade. Having been inspired and encouraged by Packer's chemistry teacher Miss Giddings, she attended Barnard College where she majored in chemistry. After only three years at Barnard, Ms. Miller was accepted to The Long Island College of Medicine (later the State University of NY College of Medicine) and became the first female intern ever at St. Lukes Hospital in Bethlehem, PA. The following year, she was a fellow at what later became Memorial Sloan-Kettering. After leaving NYC, Dr. Miller became the first female Chief Resident at Anker Hospital in St. Paul, MN, which was followed as Chief Medical Resident at the University of Minnesota Hospital where she met her future husband, Dr. Gerhard Mack. The Macks opened a private pediatric practice in Cheshire, CT in 1958, and practiced together for nearly 30 years.
Because Dr. Mack was unable to attend, Dr. Dennis read her letter of acceptance. Dr. Mack praised Packer's 1940s faculty. The teachers "taught you to think, they taught you to write. They were dedicated to their students—kind, patient, and committed to teaching," she wrote. "I was especially excited by chemistry classes with Miss Giddings. She was a charismatic teacher who inspired me to pursue the study of science."
When Dr. Mack applied to the Long Island College of Medicine in Brooklyn, she was told by her advisor that she was "wasting her time because the men returning from war would be given preference." Nevertheless, she was accepted to one of 10 spots that have been set aside for women, a mere 10% of the entering class.
The second recipient of the Alumni Award of Honor, Betty Jane Selverstone, also entered Packer for the "first academic" class, or 9th Grade. Following in the footsteps of her Packer mentor, English teacher Katherine Clingan, she attended Wellesley College. She graduated as a Durant Scholar with a degree in philosophy. After medical school, she went on to a National Institute of Health fellowship in cardiology at the University of Pennsylvania and was asked to join the teaching faculty. Dr. Gerstley also cared for cardiac patients at the Fox Chase Cancer Center for many years.
Dr. Gerstley, who had many family members in attendance, described how delighted she had been to be accepted into only the third co-educational class at Harvard Medical College. However, in her first year at Harvard, the Dean informed the newly married Mrs. Gerstley — whose husband attended medical school at the University of Pennsylvania — that as a medical student she could not be married. "You have broken all the rules," he declared. So that she could better "attend to her marriage," he arranged for her to be accepted to Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia. Dr. Gerstley recounted similar obstacles in her early career — all surmounted with both tenacity and grace. She closed her remarks by noting that she was currently busy prepared for her third re-certification — nearly 70 years after she first entered medical school.