Imagine holding a 19th century letter about an escaped slave in 1843 or a newspaper describing one of the first NY style baseball games in 1848! Be the first to answer one of your own questions about the history of your school.
That is the role of the Gunn Scholar, a senior chosen through his/her efforts and character to pursue a topic of his choosing in the Gunnery archives as a yearlong course. It’s an endowed program so there are opportunities to research in other archives such as the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, the National Archives in Washington DC, or the Beinecke Library at Yale. Over the past 13 years, our scholars have researched their topics, published their illustrated papers (which are then used by other scholars), and presented their findings to the school in the form of lectures, documentaries, exhibits and plays and to various public groups such as the local library consortium.
Each and every scholar has unearthed something new either in our own archives or in others, sometimes answering questions we have not even asked…. Debunking myths, clarifying events, and contributing to our ongoing story. Come add your piece to our lively mosaic!
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The 2018-2019 Gunn Scholars
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Rain Ji is a four-year senior at The Gunnery, who is being honored as a Gunn Scholar for the 2018-2019 school year. Rain is interested in unveiling the development of the student publications at the Gunnery, as she has a strong interest in the school newspaper The Highlander. Rain has been an editor and writer for The Highlander since her sophomore year. During Rain's junior year, she had the privilege of working with the other newspaper editors to revamp The Highlander and give it a more professional flair. For the first time in several years, The Highlander was distributed in print. This was inspired by the long tradition of printing and distributing the newspaper at The Gunnery.
Rain became increasingly interested in this topic as she discovered that the Newspaper played a vital role in the process of student leadership at the Gunnery-- this came through clearly in Mark Choi c. 2017's Gunn Scholar project. Through Mark's research, we learned the importance of school newspapers and other media forms especially as they became increasingly visible to the public. As an editor and writer for The Highlander, Rain has noted that The Gunnery uses its newspaper and other publications to teach students news literacy and how to effectively publish their ideas. Therefore, she is excited to bring this topic to light in her research for her Gunn Scholar project this year.
Michael Kassis entered The Gunnery as a sophomore, and has been interested in participating in The Gunn Scholar program since he enrolled. He has been interested in looking at history through a wide variety of lenses, and is being honored as one of our Gunn Scholars for the 2018-2019 school year.
Michael will be exploring the Vietnam War and its affect on The Gunnery and the town of Washington, Connecticut. In his search through the archives, Michael is seeking information ranging from protests, the draft, veteran experiences; at home and overseas, and how the Gunnery community took on the roles for and against the war. Michael will be looking specifically at The Gunnery from 1963-1969 and hopes to connect with alums and local citizens as part of his research. Those interested in connecting with Michael can reach him through our Gunn Scholar email: GunnScholar@gunnery.org
Paige's Gunn Scholar project will focus on the function of women throughout The Gunnery's history, from Mr. Gunn’s wife, Abigail, to Mr. Gunn’s controversial decision to teach both young men and women in the 19th century. Paige has been exploring the role that Abigail Gunn played in the early days of The Gunnery. She has also noted the early roles of women at the school, which were not typically that of teacher-- but instead were school nurse and dorm parent. This was different from what was happening in other schools, given the feminization of teaching throughout New England in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Tony Zhang and Joey Lin
Tony and Joey will be working as our first ever Gunn Scholar Research Team. Both scholars will be focusing on the architecture on The Gunnery’s campus, but taking different approaches to this research.
Joey is considering architecture on The Gunnery’s campus in terms of landmarks. She explained, “When we think of China, we have an image of the Great Wall; When we think of America, the Statue of Liberty will be the first thing that is called to mind. For me, Bourne is the landmark of the Gunnery. When I first stepped onto the Gunnery campus, Bourne was the first building that caught my attention. The combination of grey rooftop covered with snow and the stone walls on the first floor really appealed to me, which greatly increased my interest in attending this school.” Joey has been looking at each building on campus in terms of architectural interest and history and how each building shares a story concerning how plans for the building were created, developed, implemented and eventually built on campus.
Tony will be taking a more philosophical approach to his discussion of architecture on campus. He is seeking to put his philosophy of architecture together with philosophies of Gunnery architects to find a bridge between architects’ ideal world and the reality. Tony has begun his research by looking at the early minutes from our Board of Trustees and the communication that they had between the architects and the school’s planning committees.
Together, Joey and Tony will be taking a more “holistic” view of architecture and the buildings and spaces at The Gunnery.
Rooted Research Conference
On Sunday, April 29, The Gunnery will sponsor an inaugural “Rooted Research Conference” featuring illustrated, place-based and primary-source history papers about the local area. A call for papers was issued in January to local schools, museums, and historical entities. There will be four lectures as well as a luncheon round table presented by “Witness Stones” of Guilford, Connecticut, that will show the development of lost histories with the help of regional gravestones.
Students will present on the institution of musical curricula in schools from the 1700s through the present; the development of student government in independent and Catholic high schools and its reflection of the power distribution between adults and students; the expression of conflict and compromise in the establishment of Sarah Pierce’s Female Academy in Litchfield in the 1790s; and the rise of women’s hockey in the 1990s. There will be opportunities for questions.
The conference will be held in The Gunnery’s Tisch Family Library from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, April 28. The public is invited and admission is free. For planning purposes, reservations are required. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Gunn Scholar presents his or her completed research to the school community in May each year in the form of a lecture, exhibit, play or other public display. In addition, a generous 50th reunion gift of $27,000 from the Class of 1957 has assured the publication of Gunn Scholar research.
Questions? Please feel free to contact The Gunnery’s archivist, Misa Giroux.
Founded in 1850 by abolitionist, educator, and outdoorsman Frederick Gunn, The Gunnery is a coeducational college preparatory boarding and day school for students in grades 9 through 12/post-graduate. Dedicated teacher-mentor-coaches challenge students to reach their full potential in a home-like setting where character and citizenship are valued as much as intellect and achievement. Individualized attention and high expectations help young learners develop not only the skills and confidence they will need in college, but also the moral compass and love of learning that will serve them well in life. The school attracts ambitious, academically curious students who will both shine as unique individuals and thrive as contributing members of a deeply connected community. By the time they graduate, Gunnery students have become well rounded, grounded young adults with a sharpened sense of who they are and who they want to become.