Classes Break Records for Attendance, Giving on Alumni Weekend

Alumni returned to campus June 7‒9 for a weekend filled with opportunities to catch up with classmates and faculty, witness the progress of the Thomas S. Perakos Arts and Community Center, reminisce, share heartfelt memories, and dance the night away under the tent on Wersebe field (here’s looking at you, Class of 2014)!
Hailed by one TV weatherman as “one of the top 10 weekends of the year,” the glorious weather provided the perfect conditions for outdoor gatherings that stretched from the Bourne Cup Golf Tournament at the Washington Club, to the cocktail reception and dinner in Bourne Courtyard on Friday evening, to the annual parade of alumni across campus on Saturday morning, rowing at Lake Waramaug, and dinner under the tent on Saturday evening.

This was also a year when alumni set and broke records for attendance and giving, starting with the Class of 2014, which not only broke the 5th reunion attendance record (previously held by the Class of 2003 with 17 attendees), but broke every reunion attendance record, with 32 alumni in attendance. “You guys were awesome when you were here, and you remain awesome,” Head of School Peter Becker told them.

The enthusiasm of the Class of 2014 was rivaled by that of the Class of 1984, which broke the 35th reunion attendance record with 16 people on campus. They upstaged the Class of 1982, which previously held the record with 15 attendees, and demonstrated their class pride by displaying a 1984 banner outside Gunn Dorm.

Friday night’s all-alumni gathering in Bourne Courtyard was made festive by offerings from local food trucks and a live musical performance by Misa Giroux & the Gentle Giants, featuring Jesse Perkins of the Performing Arts faculty on guitar and School Archivist Misa Giroux on guitar and lead vocals.

Alumni from the Class of 1969, celebrating their 50th reunion year, were treated to an early tour of the Arts and Community Center led by Kiersten Marich P’23, Director of Leadership Giving, and Thomas Perakos ’69, who was looking forward to attending the 73rd annual Tony Awards at Radio City Musical Hall in New York on Sunday. “Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of The Temptations,” which is the newest Broadway musical to benefit from Perakos’s passion for the arts, was nominated for 12 Tonys, including best musical, and won the award for best choreography. It was a bit of déjà vu for Perakos, who had ties to three Broadway shows that scooped up a total of 13 Tonys last year, just one day after he was on campus for the groundbreaking of the new building.

Following the tour, which gave Perakos and his classmates a peek inside the 415-seat Tisch Family Auditorium, The Richard C. Colton, Jr. ’60 Visual Arts Wing, as well as the classrooms, rehearsal rooms, community and event spaces taking shape inside the new center, the Class of 1969 gathered for dinner at Hopkins Inn on Lake Waramaug, while Wykeham Rise alumnae dined riverside at The White Horse in Marbledale.

On Saturday morning, alumni were offered campus tours led by current students, a primer on planned giving presented by Paul McManus ’87 P’21 ’23, and an update on the Arts and Community Center. Peter Marshall ’69 and a good number of his classmates were among those who spent time reminiscing in the Paula and George Krimsky ’60 Archives and Special Collections, where they viewed yearbooks, photographs and letters. Then it was time for the parade and the Alumni Association’s 2019 Open Meeting at the Meeting House on the Green.

Laura Eanes Martin ’90 P’20 ’23, President of the Alumni Association, welcomed alumni at the meeting by reflecting on the fact that the purpose of processing across campus from Bourne Courtyard to the Meeting House is to remind alumni of the day they traced the same path for Commencement. “Take a moment to remember that day and those who walked with you,” she said. “You all share that bond as Gunnery alumni.”

As a faculty child, alumna, parent, former faculty member and the wife of a current faculty member, English Department Chair Richard Martin P’20 ’23, Eanes has a unique vantage point from which to view the school and its progress. “And from that vantage point, I can tell you that our school continues to be a community that stretches kids to be their best selves, that allows them to make mistakes and helps them learn from them, that encourages students to try new things, that holds them accountable for their actions, and that challenges them to think and to participate. The Gunnery of today embodies all of the best parts of The Gunnery of the last 169 years – they may be dusted off and shined up a bit, made more current, but they are truly unique to The Gunnery. I have no doubt that Mr. Gunn is watching us from somewhere just beaming that there is such a thing as ‘Fire Pit Fridays’ where kids hang around a fire pit, someone might bring a guitar, and they enjoy each other and the outdoors.”

While “the DNA” of The Gunnery has not changed, it remains important for the school to have engaged alumni. “Part of what makes schools like ours so special are the connections and stories that we all share. Continuing to evolve a school, while valuing and benefiting from its history is essential, and your part in both the history and the future of The Gunnery is equally important,” Martin said.

In his address, Becker encouraged alumni to share their experiences and talk about the school with friends, colleagues and acquaintances in their communities, noting that many people come to campus because they’ve had a conversation with a Gunnery alumna or alumnus. The school opened in the fall with a record enrollment of 306 students, and is on track to exceed that number in September. That growth is attributed to the energy around the school, and the one-on-one time spent with prospective families, he said.

Becker provided an update of recent campus events, touting The Gunnery’s ability to claim The Gunnery-Canterbury Cup this year, a new tradition implemented by Director of Athletics Mike Marich P’23 and his Canterbury counterpart, Jim Stone. He spoke about the Arts and Community Center as a place where students will learn how to make art, take risks, and become creators and makers as opposed to consumers. The project will help to draw people from the community to our campus, and help our school to become better known in a region that is already rich in the arts. The school also is looking forward to the arrival this summer of Ron Castonguay, who has been appointed as Director of the Arts. An incredible teacher and musician in his own right, Castonguay’s passion is character development, which he achieves by helping his students to perform at the highest levels, Becker said.

Sean Brown P’22, Director of Alumni & Development, announced the current classes on track to be winners of this year’s Gunnery Fund Awards, noting the results are still subject to change if certain classes rally in terms of participation or giving prior to the close of the fiscal year, June 30. As of June 8, the following classes were in the lead:
  • Kenneth J Browne 1911 Award (for the largest class gift) – to the Class of 1956 for their gift of $56,300
  • Margaret P Addicks H’02 Award (for the highest class participation with a minimum alumni body of 20) – to the Class of 1960 with 30% participation
  • Susan G. Graham H’12 Award (presented to young alumni, up to 10 years out, with highest participation) – to the Class of 2014 with 12% participation
  • W. Russ Elgin Award (presented to young alumni, up to 10 years out, out with largest class gift) – to the Class of 2009 for their gift of $1,055
In addition, the Class of 1954 broke the 65th reunion giving record, and the Class of 1959 broke the 60th reunion giving record this year.

As for the “unofficial awards,” the oldest alumnus in attendance this year was Don Courtney ’49 of Buffalo, New York, who was accompanied by his sons, David and Robert. The alumnus who traveled the furthest was Arnd Wehner ’84, coming from Munich, Germany. He was followed closely by John Gillman ’74, who traveled from London, England.

Immediately following the meeting, an alumni pinning ceremony was held on the steps of the Meeting House and class photos were taken. That same afternoon, faculty and alumni returned to the Meeting House for a memorial service to honor Hugh Caldara for his 37 years of service to the school as a faculty member, coach, advisor, Athletic Director and friend. Nick Benson of the English Department faculty, Craig Badger, Associate Dean of Students and Head Coach for Boys Varsity Hockey, and Ed Small, the Anne S. and Ogden D. Miller Senior Master, shared their remembrances along with several alumni.

“Hugh Caldara believed in his kids perhaps more than any educator on the planet. He always gave his students and his players a chance. On many occasions there were second or third chances, too,” said Harry Kelleher ’86, recalling that one of those students was his teammate, Eugene Ray ’88, who went on to become captain of the Varsity Football Team and won the Gunther Award despite his stature.

“Gene was four foot nothing and weighed 100 pounds when he walked into the old Field House for the first time. He may have looked like a mouse; however, I am here to tell you he was a man,” Kelleher said, recalling: “Most coaches would have sent Gene over to soccer or cross country. Cal was the football coach that gave Gene a chance to become a great football player. By showing that he believed in you and by giving you the opportunity to succeed over time, Cal taught his kids how to believe in themselves. When you believe in yourself, you can do anything. At The Gunnery, our students learn how to move mountains. For 37 years, Hugh Caldara showed an endless parade of young people how to overcome adversity and achieve success.”

Later that evening, Austin B. Smith ’07 became the newest alumnus to be inducted in the Athletic Hall of Fame. The Alumnus of the Year Award was presented to Peter Bergen ’84, who was credited with helping his class to achieve the record for the highest attendance at a 35-year reunion. “This is very overwhelming and totally unexpected,” Bergen said, recognizing Meg O’Brien ’84 P’20 for her instrumental role “in everything we did this year.”

“The Gunnery is my family. I have the best classmates on the planet,” Bergen said. “I do it for the class and I do it for the school.”

To see more pictures from the weekend, please visit our SmugMug page.

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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.