Welcome to the Headmaster's Blog where you'll find updates, thoughts, and events regarding Saint David's School, the education of boys, and other items of interest. This is by no means meant to be a complete account of all that happens at Saint David's. Please refer to the school's website for more complete details -- it's more a Headmaster's musings.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Setting Sail on the H.M.S. Pinafore

At the end of the school year I always look forward to one of the most enjoyable Saint David's traditions, the Fifth Grade Musical. This year, the boys performed Gilbert and Sullivan's delightful operetta H.M.S. Pinafore. Produced by teachers Jamie MacNeille and Emma McFarland, directed by Phyllis Clark and conducted by Jeff Moore, the show entertained in spades!

The boys sang and delivered their lines with humor, confidence, and talent. Congratulations to all in the cast and crew; this show was a huge team effort--and it was a smash hit!
Music and drama are integral to our embrace of balance and the aesthetic at Saint David's.  We anticipate even greater programmatic opportunities for our boys to explore the performing arts, both onstage and in the tech/lighting/production areas when our new performing arts center opens in the fall.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Summer Learning

It's officially summer vacation, but learning continues at Saint David's, with our summer programs in full swing.

Last week, 12 boys from the classes of 2018, 2019, and 2020 participated in Saint David's Summer Art Camp, taught by Ms. Jenna Boccella with assistance from Ms. Nancy Iannicelli.

The boys learned and practiced fundamental watercolor skills as well as concepts of plein air landscape sketching and painting at St. Thomas More each day before heading outdoors to the Cooper Hewitt Garden or Central Park Sailboat Pond to enjoy a leisurely lunch, socializing and watercolor sketching on site.

On the final day of the week-long camp, they added finishing touches to their works and chose two favorite pieces to share with their families.

They identified a challenge they faced, a key skill or concept they learned, and a work or detail that they were proud of from the week's endeavors.

This week, through our partnership with the DNA Learning Center of Cold Spring Harbor, rising sixth and seventh graders are participating in The World of Enzymes. The camp builds on basic concepts of biochemistry and molecular biology and enables students to use advanced techniques to manipulate DNA.

The boys are building molecular models, using enzymes to cut and splice DNA, analyzing DNA fragments and making a personal DNA fingerprint. On Friday, they will explain their week's activities to visiting parents and family members.

And, next week, our partnership with the Gilder Lehrman Institute will enable boys to discover the Secrets of the Civil War, as they study a topic about the war through research and exploration of primary sources in the Gilder Lehrman Collection.

These are unique enrichment opportunities for our boys to stretch intellectually, analytically, and aesthetically, as they take advantage of Saint David's partnerships and the school's location in the city.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

In Salamanca, Spain

Rising eighth graders participating in our Spain Summer Study trip arrived in Salamanca early Sunday.

This is the eighth year of Saint David's Spain Summer Study program, which is sponsored by the Spanish provincial government and University of Salamanca.

The trip provides a highly educational and rich cultural experience for our boys. Each morning they participate in Spanish language immersion classes tailored to each boy's individual level of fluency, and spend their afternoons and evenings enjoying a variety of cultural experiences in which they converse with native speakers.

These two weeks of cultural study and Spanish language instruction give our boys the opportunity to attain new levels of proficiency in the language and are certain to be an enriching milestone in their lives.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Break Through

It's official: The wall separating our compression-era reduced lobby and the new one is down, as we begin this summer's work connecting the school's three townhouses to our new space in Graham House.  All systems are go and the entire school is now a construction zone.

The Class of 2018

Thirty-eight boys became our newest cohort of alumni this past Friday after Board Chair Dan Connolly '77 and I handed them their diplomas at the 2018 Commencement ceremony.

They are a good-natured, intellectually curious group, a special class that has demonstrated the embodiment of all that we can be (omnium nobis) in each of our our school's pillars: academics, athletics, arts, and spirituality. The boys now leave Saint David's as young men, who will go on to be all that they will be (nunc in futurum).

As is custom, each graduating class leaves a legacy gift to the school. This year's is the new Eighth Grade Commons in Graham House, which will be named "Il Duomo" and dedicated in loving memory to Rovena Kilkeary.

Congratulations, Class of 2018! Be sure to visit your alma mater this fall--you'll love "Il Duomo" and the other amazing new spaces you'll enjoy during alumni events.

Monday, June 4, 2018


Last week's Spring Gathering began with a Chapel talk given by Stephanie Berardesca, former longtime assistant to Headmasters Hume and Maiocco, and current Assistant to the Board of Trustees.

Stephanie's Chapel honored personal heroes of Saint David's; people who, by embracing their profession and calling, have had great impact on others. One was former teacher Bill Ryan, a humble and erudite man who inspired so many of his students, including a graduate who, years later, dedicated his doctoral thesis to Mr. Ryan because, "he had never had another teacher who had influenced him more than his fourth grade teacher."

Of our former longtime Chaplain Monsignor Thomas Leonard h' 06, to whom we dedicated the Chapel, Stephanie said: "In Monsignor Leonard’s attitude and commitment, his patience and love for those of us in his flock, I would say that there are probably more than a few whose lives have been personally and deeply impacted by the attention of this one man, and that this impact was felt not only when they were young men, but into their adult years as well."

Chapel was followed by a Graham House tour for all of the alumni and alumni parents present. So many of our alumni community were amazed by the new spaces and marveled at how their alma mater was evolving.

The evening concluded with the Dedication of the Chapel--the heart of Saint David's--which is the only space in our school untouched by the construction project. Msgr. Leonard expressed how joyous it has been for him to serve Saint David's, noted how integral the boys teachers are in their lives, and called upon the alumni present to fulfill the school's mission by effecting positive change in the world.

I loved seeing our alumni community together again, and all of the reunion classes, particularly members of our very first graduating class, the Class of 1958, who traveled back to Saint David's to mark their sixtieth anniversary.

It was an exciting, energizing evening for all of us; a reaffirmation of Saint David's values, and a celebration of the past and future of this great school.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Inspired by the Masters

Warhol, Banksy, Close, Kandinksy, Basquiat and Lichtenstein were a few of the masters of modern art who inspired our eighth graders' Arco projects this year.

For the final major project in their humanities class, the boys are challenged to create an original piece of work in the spirit of a famous artist.

Under the guidance of their teacher and Art Historian, Nancy Iannicelli, boys research the artist, and write a brief biography as well as a reflection on their process in creating the work which includes challenges that they faced from conception to realization.

Last week, the boys presented their artwork and the rationale behind it, without divulging the identity of the artist they were inspired by, to teachers and art professionals who served as judges. Later that

The boys' works were exceptional and thematically wide ranging. Some referenced the school they will soon be graduated from; others spoke to social or geopolitical issues; while still others focused on personal philosophy and aesthetics.

This is the first class to have engaged in our partnership with the Guggenheim as seventh graders in  "Learning to See through Art"-- an intensive observational drawing unit conducted in the Thannhauser Gallery of the museum. The unit builds the boys' confidence as artists, as they master drawing skills and techniques while closely studying the works of modern masters. This positive effect was most certainly on display last week in this seminal experience that interweaves art, art history, rhetoric and analysis. 

Writer Peter Hirsch '82 Speaks at Father-Son Dinner

Lawrence Hirsch told stories: Kangaroo intestines were successfully used to set a shoulder injury he sustained after being stabbed by a soldier with a bayonet, who had failed in his previous attempts to shoot him.

The yarns he could spin with alacrity! Presented as truth, often embellished or fictional, they unspooled in ways that were entertaining and always contained a message. He loved to tell stories.

Lawrence's son, Peter Hirsch '82, captivated all of us with his own storytelling gifts and wise words about the father-son relationship, at our annual Seventh Grade Father/Son Dinner on Wednesday night.

Peter is the Emmy and Peabody Award-Winning Head Writer of the Curious George and Arthur series. He is also a Saint David's alum who traces his first significant piece of writing to an eighth grade short story assignment at Saint David's. Although he never set out to be a television writer, after being offered a chance to write scripts for Arthur, Peter found that the themes he could write about, such as jealousy and greed, were universal, the same ones that he might tackle in a novel. At that point, he said he stopped "treating the job as a gig, and made it a passion."

It was having a father who so clearly delighted in crafting and sharing stories that inspired him to cultivate his own writing. Peter encouraged the boys present to cherish the stories that their own fathers tell: "They are priceless." To the dads present, his advice was to "choose your stories wisely," for the "stories dads tell live on through their sons."

During the question and answer segment of the evening, Peter touched upon writer's block ("It's not about writing, it's about fear.") and his favorite book (Anna Karenina), among other topics. It was a pleasure to listen to Peter. He gave us with wit and wisdom, much to digest about the influence of a father and the importance of finding one's passion.

Our gratitude to Peter, to current parent and Peter's good friend Bob Lorenzo, and to Assistant Director of Development John Dearie '95, for bringing the evening to fruition. Thanks also to Cater to You, our dining services, for a delicious meal.

This Seventh Grade Father and Son Dinner is an annual special event in which fathers and sons explore what it means to be a good man, the relationship between parent and son, and other mission-inspired themes.

Friday, May 25, 2018

A Day of Knights

I recently had the honor of dubbing each of our third graders a Knight of Saint David's. This Saint David's tradition marks the boys' acceptance of their call to be leaders -- to be all that they can be-- as they prepare to transition to the Upper School. This year's transition will be exceptional: in September our boys will enter a school re-imagined and redesigned through our expansion.

The Knights prepare for this ceremony through interdisciplinary study of medieval times: its traditions, customs, symbols. I loved the boys' Coats of Arms: they were creative, symbolic and meaningful, and reflected the insignia and symbols of the middle ages.

As is custom, the ceremony was followed by an all-out Medieval Feast which featured us all joining in song, a concert by our Fifth Grade Recorder Troupe, and entertainment courtesy of our
eighth graders.

All in all, it was a most magnificent ceremony and feast! The day is made possible each year through the work of so many, including the boys' teachers, our music department, and our dining services.  Their efforts produce a memorable tradition that reflects the ideals espoused in our mission and also is a great deal of fun.

Congratulations to all of our new Saint David's Knights. Well done!

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Fourth Graders Support The Seeing Eye

Pennies for Puppies is our fourth graders' signature service project in which the boys support The Seeing Eye, a non profit organization that breeds and raises puppies to become Seeing Eye dogs, trains guide dogs, and instructs blind people on the proper use and care of the dogs.

Not only does this project entail their planning, marketing and executing a bake sale fundraiser; our boys also learn in depth about the organization, the roles of guide dogs, and meet with people who are visually impaired to learn about their experience.

Last week they visited The Seeing Eye's facility in Morristown, New Jersey, for a tour and discussion and to present The Seeing Eye with a check for the more than $2,300 their bake sale raised.

Spirituality manifested through action for the good is a cornerstone of a Saint David's education. Through Pennies for Puppies, the boys also have an opportunity to appreciate and learn from difference.

Learning From Each Other - A Prep for Prep Panel Discussion

On Friday, Dan Tobon '97, who participated in Prep for Prep, and Javier Piggee '97, who entered Saint David's in the first grade, visited the school to share their experiences with our current sixth graders, who will welcome two new classmates from Prep for Prep in September. They were joined by John C. Dearie '95, Assistant Director of Development, who spoke from the perspective of a student who welcomed Prep for Prep classmates when he was in seventh grade.  Saint David's has enjoyed a longstanding partnership with Prep for Prep, which prepares New York City's most promising students of color to excel academically and socially at leading independent schools.

Dan and Javier reminisced about the strong bonds they formed at Saint David's and the impact of their teachers, and noted our school's welcoming, warm community. The panel discussed the potential challenges faced by these students, such as long commutes, and offered advice to our sixth graders on how to welcome their new classmates and make them feel at home at the school.

It was great to see Dan and Javier, and so good of them and John to share their experiences.  Our sixth graders came away from the discussion with a greater sensitivity to the challenges the incoming students may face during their transition to a new school environment - as well as an appreciation for how much they can learn from each other.