About 60 alumni and their families, friends and faculty gathered in Linen Rink on February 9 for the annual Alumni Hockey Game and the dedication of a jersey in honor of Hugh B. Caldara, who passed away on October 18, 2018. The jersey bears the number 37 for the 37 years that Caldara served as a teacher, coach, dorm parent, advisor and Athletic Director at the school.
“While he was best known as ‘Coach Cal,’ he was first and foremost a teacher,” Head of School Peter Becker said, noting that Cal taught U.S. History, Ethics, Public Speaking and U.S. Foreign Policy at The Gunnery. “His enthusiasm and curiosity was infectious.”
Following his passing, responses poured in from across the country, from alumni and also from Gunnery parents, former faculty and Cal’s colleagues at other schools. Together, the recollections they shared stretched from his first year at The Gunnery to his last. “He didn’t stop being part of this community after he retired,” Becker said, noting that Cal continued to show up for his students, attending their games in college and returning every Alumni Weekend since 2014. “He was one of those people who kept The Gunnery family together even after people left here.”
The school was pleased to be able to honor Cal at the Linen, where he spent so much of his time, Becker said in presenting the jersey to Cal’s wife, Joanne. “He taught us to be the best that we can and find it within ourselves and then share it,” she said. “It is a gift and that’s why he will live in our hearts forever.”
Ed Small, the Anne S. and Ogden D. Miller Senior Master, who taught, coached and lived side by side with Cal for 37 years, said they were brought together as new faculty in 1977. They coached football together and developed a friendship. “We each have our own Cal story that’s dear to us,” Small said, recalling the times he and Cal and faculty member John Ford spent driving from campus to Wesleyan University to take classes and earn their master’s degrees.
Katlyn Paiva ’14 remembered Cal as a teacher, coach and advisor: “He always pushed me to play that much harder. He made me want to learn. He showed us what it meant to care about people and put it into action,” she said, recalling the moment when the Girls Varsity Hockey team won a second consecutive NEPSAC Championship in 2014 with Cal as Assistant Coach. “We skated to Cal as a whole team. We hugged him and in that moment we knew we made him proud.”
In closing, Paiva shared some of Cal’s advice to his players: “Play hard. Put a biscuit in the basket. I am there in spirit.”
The dedication was followed by the Alumni Hockey Game, which included participants who represented the Class of 1984 through the Class of 2016. Two, co-ed teams competed for two, 20-minute periods. David Yates ’92 came from his home in Maine, and it was his first visit to campus since graduation. Keith Dupee ’96 not only participated, he was in attendance as Head Coach of the Lawrenceville School Boys Varsity Hockey Team, which played The Gunnery later that afternoon. The Highlanders won 6-4.
Alumni are invited to attend a memorial service in honor of Hugh B. Caldara on Saturday, June 8, 2019, as part of Alumni Weekend. Details will be posted on the website as they become available. Alumni are also invited to share remembrances of Cal with the school community online here.
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.