Packer alumni may know this year’s Joan Buehler Eisenstein ’51 Award recipient as Harriette Peper, or Miss Peper, simply, as Hap.
Hap Peper Thayer ’64 grew up in Brooklyn in a Packer family. Her mother, Harriette Shaw Peper ’40, was an alumna, and her brother, Franklyn Shawn Peper, attended the Preschool and Lower School. Hap graduated from Packer as a “lifer” and went on to graduate from the University of Wisconsin in Madison. Unable to stay away from her alma mater, in 1968 she returned to serve as a member of the faculty for over a decade — first as a Sixth Grade assistant teacher, then a Middle School social studies teacher, and eventually, as a head teacher.
A devoted teacher in the classroom, Hap also dedicated herself to the Packer Alumni community as a member of the Alumni Board, a Class Agent, and as a Class Correspondent.
Packer’s honorary service award was established in 2006 by the Joan and Howard Eisenstein family in recognition of an individual who demonstrates outstanding generosity, leadership, and service to the school. Susan Eisenstein Batterton, Joan and Howard’s daughter, presented the award to Hap at Reunion, along with Alumni Board President Emeritus, Ellin Rosenzweig ’52.
The Packer Magazine asked Hap to reflect on her days at Packer and her continued relationship with the school.
Which teacher(s) influenced you and how?
Mrs. Balsam and Mr. Siok in the Arts Department. (I was an art editor for the PCI, [Packer Current Items, the student arts and literature magazine). Also, Ms. Meg Berger for History; [what I learned from her] carried over to what I taught in the Middle School.
How was the transition from being a student to being a teacher?
Getting acclimated was hard because many of the teachers I had had as a student, and addressed as “Miss,” “Mrs.,” or “Mr.” wanted me to address them by their first name!
What is your favorite space at Packer?
The Chapel and the beautiful green Garden with benches and trees. It was 1950 when I entered Packer’s nursery school. Our classroom was in the small building [currently known as the Garden House] in the corner of the Garden.
What motivates you to stay in touch with the Packer community and give back to your alma mater?
I came back to teach in the fall of 1968 [former Head of School] Jack Skillman’s first year, and taught for 10 years, so I remained close to the school. I got involved with the Alumni Board and I kept writing my Class Notes column. I still correspond with Packer friends all over the country.
Looking back, what was your favorite thing about Packer?
The ethics, ideals, and self-worth that I was fortunate enough to learn from my experience at Packer have stayed with me for my entire life. And of course, the lifelong friends I made.