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Becoming Braver

Alumni reflect on the Faculty members who helped them find their voices, and more.

From Sara Mandelbaum ’77

“From Fifth through Twelfth Grade, Packer was my sanctuary. In the 1970s there was a clear separation between private family life and the quasi-public self that you dressed and brought to school. So if there was trouble at home — alcoholism, depression, drug use, physical or mental abuse, violence, divorce — no one talked about it at school. Even if my teachers didn’t know exactly what was going on at home, some of them were somehow aware that something wasn’t right. Jane Rinden (above), in particular, must have sensed something — how else to explain why she seemed to care so much about me? When I was in her class and discussing Gatsby, Faulker, or Dostoyevsky, nothing could harm me. It was Fred Johnson’s French class and his plays, Linda Ray’s dance classes and concerts, that made me feel like a worthwhile person. I think about Packer all the time these days, and how most of the things I am passionate about started within those walls — in those classrooms, the Pratt Theater, the Chapel, and the Blackburne Library. I think about all the unspoken private things my classmates were likely experiencing as well, and I hope that Packer gave them a sense of safety and self-worth as it did me. Would it be an exaggeration to say that Packer saved my life? Maybe a little bit, but not much.”

From Corey McBeth ’91

“My chemistry teacher, Mary Andrews (above), could not figure out why I wasn’t doing well in class because she felt I was more than capable. She sought out Dennis Britton (below) — the physical education teacher and varsity basketball coach — to speak to me. She thought that maybe as one of the very few Black male students at Packer, I might be able to open up about my academic struggles to Coach Britton, as one of the only Black male faculty members. I guess she felt maybe there were some things she didn’t understand about me and could not relate to as a White woman from Minnesota. And I thought that was so dope, that she would go to those lengths to ensure my success when she could have just graded me based on the effort I gave at the time. My respect for her increased immensely because of that… and because she loved to play basketball and had a decent jumpshot.”

From Isabel Dulfano ’77

“From the lasting relationships I made with teachers like theater guru Hal Wicke and math wizard Tom Sonnabend, who remains a close friend, to the vast array of classes that cemented my intellectual foundations in liberal arts, Packer was generously instrumental in my growth. As a Hispanic woman and full professor at the University of Utah in Latin American letters, with a PhD from Yale, I have no doubt that those formative adolescent years played a significant role. Always grateful —for the friends, the social polishing, and the productivity that developed in that magic, ivy-covered castle.”

From Kenneth D. Mann ’88

“Throughout my career, the writing skills I learned at Packer have been a great advantage. Linda Dembo was outstanding in that regard. I can see her corrections in my mind as I evaluate my organization, sentence structure, and word choices. Thank you, Ms. Dembo!”

From Hilary A. Fox ’85

“I’ve always felt a certain confidence that I know who I am, but that confidence grew as a result of encouragement from teachers like Ken Rush, who showed me I had skills that went well beyond drawing the cartoon characters I was known for; Kathy Emery, who allowed me to trust my interpretations and opinions; Hal Wicke, who asked me to be stage manager for the Christmas pageant when I had no notion of doing any such thing. One becomes a little braver and more willing to try from such moments.”

Submissions have been edited for clarity and condensed. Many thanks to all of the alumni who shared their reminiscences with The Packer Magazine.

Read more from our feature

A New Generation of Student Voices

Meet the People Behind the Words: Portraits by Lucia ’23 and Madison ’23

Student Research: Ella ’23 on Cosmology

Student Activism: The Land Acknowledgement Committee

Student Voices: Opinions from The Prism

Where Student Voice Begins

Becoming Braver: Alumni Voices