The 50th Reunion
Wow! What can we say -- our biggest and best reunion yet. Thank you all
for coming, and a special thanks to David Othmer, Kitty Sides Flather,
John Doherty, Art Rogers, Susie Stedman, Ann Stack, and all those who
worked so hard for the last three years to put it together.
Here's a list of classmates who either
registered in advance or came to the Reunion (as of June 17, 2009, there
were 84 Phillips and 30 Abbot). If you
have a correction to the list, please let us know.
posted some videos of our reunion. If you have any to contribute,
please contact Paul Neshamkin.
Here's a sample.
are some pictures of our reunion. It's in a gallery slideshow format
for now. I hope you took better pictures! If you have any to contribute,
please contact Paul Neshamkin.
we held a memorial service for the 38 Abbot/Andover classmates we have
lost. They are:
Roger S. Ahlbrandt, Jr.
Philip G. Bailey
Barbara Onthank Barrett
Michael D. Bell
Marshall B. Brinkley
Cadwallader E. Brooks
Jon L. Bunce
Arthur B. Burnham
Sharon Cooper Jones
Trevor A. Cushman III
Clyde M. E. Dolan
David B. Fournier
William H. Frickhoeffer
Laura Smith Fusco
John Gibson, IV
Barbara Quimby Gildehaus
Brooks C. Hall
Frank S. Hewitt
George H. Hughes, M.D.
Andrew C. Israel
Melinda Fox Johnson
David W. Lodge
Anthony J. Lynch
John S. Mason, Jr.
Ronald L. Meyer
Philip E. Nuttle, Jr.
Thomas C. Poole
David B. Rogers
Charles W. Smith
William P. Snyder IV
Ralph W. Swearingen
Elizabeth Harriman Tannen
Nancy H. Wardwell
Charlotte Paull Yarbrough
the Rev. Sam Abbott gave the following homily:
The Beginning of the End or the End of the Beginning?
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts
be always acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our strength and our redeemer.
Well, it’s been a fast half-century and may I say how honored I
am to offer this homily today at the close of our 50th reunion? It is
an honor entirely undeserved - I have missed all previous reunions and
was a general pain about campus for four years. So to be asked to enter
at this point and speak to you is pure grace, which is a good place to
On second thought maybe I deserve the assignment of preaching to people
I haven’t seen in 50 years, many of whom didn’t care much
for being in chapel when they were here. In any case I am apparently the
only clergyman in the class. . . .
May I also extend an apology to our sisters from Abbot Academy? While
I am, for obvious reasons, very partial to the name, the institution was
terra incognita to me for four years at P.A. I don’t recall ever
setting foot on your campus so effective was Mrs. Crane and20those eunuchs
with flaming swords in protecting you. I hope that you will find that
my thoughts and hopes about our existential situation apply, but you will
be sadly neglected in antecdotes and illustrations.
Our first reading was the familiar passage from Ecclesiastes, “There
is a time for everything.” The question we face this morning is
both simple and momentous. It is this: What time is it? Is it the beginning
of the end? Actuarially speaking the answer must be ‘yes.’
Ahead of us, the living, is increasing weakness, disability, confusion
of thought, loss of faculties and inevitably death. Thirty-eight of our
classmates have already died and this 50th reunion is usually viewed as
a last hurrah. At our 60th there may be far fewer of us and our capacity
to engage with and enjoy the return more limited.
It is a privilege to be here when we remember, as we will shortly, the
38 who are not. Some of them died recently after long and accomplished
lives. Others were cut off quickly; Brooks Hall in the summer before his
senior year. The world - and our lives - would have benefitted from their
continue d growth and contributions. In a few minutes we will hear each
name read as the chapel bell is tolled. Some we hardly knew, others were
close friends. Let us commit them to God and remember their gifts to us,
the living. But we cannot eulogize them properly as a group. This entire
service could barely do justice to one life, much less 38. As Lincoln
said at Gettysburg before thousands of Union graves: “It is for
us, the living, rather to be dedicated to the unfinished work . . . to
the great task remaining before us.”
My contention is that we honor them by living fully whatever span of years
remains to us, not as guilty survivors, but as good stewards of the gift
“The end depends upon the beginning” - finis origine pendet.
The motto, of course, of our school. It was apparently the personal motto
of Judge Samuel Phillips, Jr., our founder, and he bequeathed it to us.
I looked it up in Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations and was sorry I
did. It may have been a commonplace belief among 18th century New England
Calvinists but its source is a first century astrological treatise by
a pagan named Manilius. The full quotation is this: “As soon as
we are born, we begin to die, and the end depends upon the beginning.”
So is this the beginning of the end? Is it “a time to die”?
As a minister of the Gospel I think not and I would point you to the end
of the first reading: “[God] has made everything beautiful in its
time.” How true that is! Each of us has a person, a place, an activity,
a season in which we find great beauty and death depresses us with the
thought of its loss. The first reading then concluded, “God has
also set eternity in the hearts of men (and women); yet they cannot fathom
what God has done from beginning to end.” How true in our experience:
For moments we experience eternity, a timeless, peaceful fulfillment -
on the porch on a summer’s evening watching the fireflies while
a great moon rises, or staring into the Grand Canyon from the South rim
at dawn, or listening, as did Duffy Hughes, to Brahms’ Requiem.
But then we remember that our bladder is full, our eyesight is dimming,
and we have another appointment with the dermatologist.
* * * *
We have a second school motto, also in the Seal engraved by Paul Revere,
“non sibi”. The picture on the seal is of a beehive and the
point is that the bee makes honey “not for itself” but for
others - notably the bee keeper.
This motto has always made me a little uneasy. The honeybee is, after
all, being exploited. The fruit of its labors expropriated for our breakfast
toast. Where are the folks from P.E.T.A. when we need them? But leaving
aside the ethics of beekeeping, we are committed, by the motto, to sharing
some of our honey with others. I say ‘some’ because if you
give all your honey away, as a worker bee, you starve and who does that
So I suggest instead that you listen to Jesus who said, “Love your
neighbor as yourself” and when he was asked, “Who is my neighbor?”
told a wonderful story about a good Samaritan. I call it wonderful because
it continues to have such profound applications in a far different socia
Your neighbor, Jesus is saying, is not just the owner of the next unit
in your gated community, the work colleague in the next cubicle, or the
couple you play bridge with at the club on Tuesdays. Your neighbor is
anyone you meet (come neigh to) on the road of life who is in need. And
you love him - despite old ethnic tensions, class conflicts and caste
prejudices - by meeting that need in a practical way. To do so will take
your time (clearly the Samaritan’s journey was delayed) and your
substance (he paid for the victim’s stay at the inn and gave him
oil and bandages). But Jesus does more than explain to us who is our neighbor.
Jesus says to each of us, “Go and do likewise”. I don’t
think He means “meet every need you encounter or read about”.
The attempt would lead to madness and despair. We are creatures of limited
time, energy and compassion and as Harry Emerson Fosdick once said, “the
art of living is knowing which is your fight.”
& nbsp; So while “non sibi” may stir us up, a wiser motto
for long term living might be “for self and others” (I won’t
attempt the Latin translation; forgive me, Mr. Colby).
By now I wonder if you are listening with a growing irritation, thinking,
“This guy stands here and depresses us with the proximity of death
and then has the gall to try to rev us up for more volunteer work when
soon our greatest achievement will be getting to the bathroom, in time,
without using a walker.”
Not at all. My thesis is that we are entering into the most important
and productive period of our lives with worthwhile work to do - opportunities
denied our 38 deceased classmates - and for their sakes, and our own,
we need to get it right.
First, retirement affords us an opportunity to make sense of our lives,
to see the patterns, the connections, the coincidences that were really
“God-incidences.” But this will involve the clearing of our
souls by forgiveness. W e have first to forgive ourselves for mistakes
and omissions we have made. We have people to forgive who’ve wronged
us. We may never be fully reconciled with them, if they are dead or obdurate
but we can let go of the hard knot of anger, the desire for revenge, the
active wishing ill of them and instead commend them in peace to God who
will one day sort all this out.
Some of us need to forgive Phillips Academy. Let me speak frankly. The
school we attended was strong academically and in team sports but it was
a cold, highly competitive place where friendships with teachers were
few, however much we respected them, and where peer pressure and peer
domination (not always a good thing if you remember Lord of the Flies)
made a harder adolescence for some of us.
In reading the class essays I was struck by how many sounded the note
of “Andover was not the right place for me.” When I read Bill
Butler’s enumeration of his scars, I thought, “Wow, If Bill
Butler has scars, we must all have scars.” Beyond the 38 classmates
who’ve died are the 88 who were silent in response to the request
to contribute some thing, anything to our 50th reunion book. Among the
silent there must be many whose memories are not altogether happy. Believe
me I know. I remember two painful things particularly. The first was being
“prepped” by a quartet of seniors from Day Hall. After I made
their beds I was sent to Benner House with a $20 bill to buy “prophylactics.”
I didn’t know what the word meant but I knew from the snickering
that I was being set up. Benner Bill was very calm and just said “Oh
we don’t sell them here.” So I went back with their $20. They
also, helpfully, advised me to wear red and sit in the middle at Saturday
night movies. Welcome to Andover!
The other was my fire test as a Will Hall resident in the stairwell of
Graves Hall, then the music building. You were supposed to swing out from
the second floor and let yourself down, hand over hand, to show you could
escape from Will Hall (which had no fire escapes) in case of a conflagration.
I was a fat kid - as you may remember - and quite unable to support the
weight of my body with arm strength alone. I remember swing ing out, feeling
a burning in my palms as the rope slipped through, letting go and falling
the last six feet with a thump onto the wrestling mats at the bottom.
There was general laughter from those administering the test and the leader
said with typical male jocularity, “well, you certainly set a new
speed record.” I stumbled back to Will Hall with my palms burning
and their skin pulled off. Fortunately Will Hall did not catch fire in
Forgive my whining. But my point is that Andover was like our parents
- good in some things and deficient in others. We need to forgive our
parents (as those of us who are parents hope to be forgiven) and we need
to forgive this school and be grateful for what it was able to offer us.
What else can we do with this time of life besides understanding better
the way we’ve come and forgiving all whom, unlike the good Samaritan,
did not meet our needs? I think we need, stepping out of the combat of
career and competition, to grow in compassion. As Madame deStael wrote,
“Tout comprendre, c’est tout pardonner.” (To understand
everything is to forgive everything). It’s20not always true in a
world of terrorist car bombings but surely there is a critical need to
listen to both sides, to eschew polarizing rhetoric, to avoid venomous
blogs, to search for information rather than opinion and to maintain respectful
friendships with people with whom we disagree about important matters.
There is a third motto we heard bandied about while at Phillips Academy.
It came back to me while shaving on Thursday morning. According to the
constitution of the school, teachers are to point out to us “the
great end and real business of living.” Well, friends, the great
end and the real business of living at our age is self-care through self-understanding,
forgiveness that we may better care for others with compassion, and practising
the arts of peacemaking as we prepare for that great appointment with
our Creator whom I believe sent Jesus to show us how to live and who plans
to use all the lessons and accomplishments of these short lives of ours
in the ages of eternity which are to come.
If I am right, then we will not be alone in the valley of the shadow of
death but rather with One behind and before to protect us, and a place
of welcome prepared for us.
Friends, this reunion is not the beginning of the end, but you and I (with
God) can make it the end of the beginning!
July 6, 2009
Class of 1959 Phillips Academy