Alumni Spotlights: Celebrating Athenian Black Excellence

In recent weeks and months, our school community and our nation have been deep in conversation about the importance of Black lives. In America, and at Athenian, conversations have focused primarily on social injustice, and on Black pain. One consequence of such conversations is that the joy of Black lives can be easily forgotten. It was the wish of the current BSU, led by Esther A. ’21, Hudson S. ’21, and Chad M. ’22, that we not allow February to pass without acknowledgment of the amazing, purpose-driven lives pursued by members of our own Black Athenian community.

For the past three weeks, we profiled more than a dozen members of our community, from current faculty and staff, to current students, to alumni. In this spotlight, we celebrate the lives, loves and contributions of several Black alumni. Please take the time to read these profiles, to enjoy this series, and to appreciate the members of our community who are doing amazing things in the world!

Jamahn Lee ’94

Alum Jamahn Lee attended Athenian throughout middle school and high school, went on to earn a B.A. in Spanish from Tulane and, later, a M.A. in Latin American Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. Passions for youth services and multiculturalism led him to the nonprofit world. He has worked with the Spanish Speaking Citizen’s Foundation on afterschool programs; with the Fred Finch Youth Center on in-home and therapeutic programs; with Policy Link,  a national research and action institute advancing racial and economic equity, on programs for Black boys; and with the  Oakland Unified School District as its community school program manager. Jamahn is now nearing his fourth year as a Program Coordinator with  SFJAZZ, where he shares his passion for jazz music with middle schoolers in Oakland and San Francisco. In response to challenges presented by the COVID pandemic, he has adapted and developed virtual jazz education programming that is now accessible to students throughout the country.

Britney Davis ’04

Britney has played integral roles in some of the music industry’s biggest recent successes, and has emerged as a strong voice for industry change. She has led marketing and artist development for Lil Baby since he signed to Motown Records. Now at Capitol Records as the VP of Marketing, Artist Relations and Special Projects, she has worked with artists like Migos, City Girls, Queen Naija, and on the “Queen & Slim” soundtrack. She was recently named as one of Billboard’s Hip Hop Power Players, 40 under 40, and as a Variety Magazine Woman of Impact. Britney graduated Summa Cum Laude from Howard University’s John H. Johnson School of Communications.

Pen Harshaw ’05

Pendarvis Harshaw ‘05 is the host of KQED’s, Rightnowish, a radio show and podcast that highlights artists and activists on the frontlines. The show focuses on Black artists from across the East Bay. In 2020, he received a $50,000 grant from the Oakland-based Akonadi Foundation, which partially funds the show’s production. He is also the author of OG Told Me, a coming of age memoir about a kid from Oakland who listened to his elders. “Pen,” as he is known among friends, seeks to increase community understanding and awareness of Oakland’s Black cultural diaspora.

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Kelia Human ’15

With a goal of improving healthcare and its accessibility, especially for underserved and minority communities, Kelia currently attends Columbia University, where she is pursuing her Ph.D. “Healthcare is moving towards more personalized service and providing access outside of the hospital and clinic. I think this provides an excellent opportunity to explore ways to break down the barriers that have made healthcare difficult to access for underserved populations. Additionally, by focusing on patient-centered devices there is an opportunity to give control and better understanding about one’s own health, further empowering people to engage with their healthcare providers.” Kelia’s study of biomedical engineering has been applied to two projects this year: the first was a fast diagnostic test for COVID. The second is a bioactive patch to accelerate wound healing. She is a staunch believer in mentorship, which she says “can really help people see new possibilities; I was on the fence about pursuing grad school and being able to talk it out with older students was helpful.”

Eli Feierabend-Peters ’16

Eli “Feier” is a Black mixed-race, gender-questioning musician and Stanford alumnus who believes in the power of art to foster radical healing, change, and love in ourselves and our communities. They were a 2020 recipient of Stanford’s VPA Senior Grant. Their project–the production of their debut album–found them quarantined in California, turning closets into makeshift studios as they worked on music steeped in the traditions of hip-hop, R&B, gospel, and indie-pop and informed by their academic studies of sociology, poetry, fiction, climatology, and history. They guest-taught hip hop and social justice to Advanced Choir students this year and will return again to Athenian this month for a broader conversation on social justice.

Nia Warren ’16

Nia Renee Warren is an African-American filmmaker, photographer, and actress who recently graduated from the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts. While studying at USC, she became an active force in the black community, serving as the Co-Director of the Black Student Assembly and member of the African American Cinema Society. After graduation, she completed a film titled “Son of Oakland: A Tribute to Victor McElhaney” where she served as the Co-Director and Producer. The film is a dedication to her friend and fellow Oakland native, who she lost due to gun violence near-campus in 2019. It has since been featured in, as well as won awards, in multiple festivals. She looks forward to the film officially premiering at the Pan African Film Festival this month. While enjoying the journey this film has allowed her to take, Nia has been focusing on furthering her acting career and has recently signed with Central Artists Agency for commercial/print work.

More Excellence to Come

Black History is not limited to the month of February, and our Black Excellence series will be ongoing. Look out for periodic profiles posted in various places online throughout the end of this year. We know there are more Black members of our Athenian community who could and should be highlighted! Please nominate or self-nominate by reaching out to us at alumni@athenian.org!

Trailblazing for Social Good: Mary Costantino ’90 on Career and Athenian

Ask Athenian alumna Mary Costantino ’90 about the medical procedure she pioneered in her region, and she’ll tell you it’s “pretty easy”—just fifteen seconds to route a tube from her patient’s wrist to their groin. An Interventional Radiologist with a specialization in women’s health, Mary was the first physician in Oregon to treat uterine fibroids using this less invasive method involving the wrist as a surgical entry point.  

During the six years she spent at Athenian, however, Mary did not consider herself to be a trailblazer. When we asked her how she became a medical innovator, she said, “I didn’t plan my whole trajectory back then and I still don’t have a plan.” Working in Interventional Radiology was not even something she immediately settled on while in medical school at UCLA. She arrived in her current field after seeing an ability to contribute in an area where health care equity was at stake.

The two most common women’s health conditions that Interventional Radiologists treat are postpartum hemorrhage and uterine fibroids. “Interventional Radiology was a field that had real purpose,” Mary reflected. “Forty percent of women over forty have fibroids and the primary way that fibroids are treated is by hysterectomy. The procedure I perform offers a one-week recovery time versus a six-week recovery time, was less expensive at the time when I was in school, and seemed like it could have a big impact on low-income women. It’s a very powerful thing to be able to do something that makes those stressors go away.”

In the fifteen years since Mary began her practice, she has witnessed gradual shifts—a dawning awareness that applies to the treatment of many conditions. “We are now finally recognizing health care disparities, which have been long evident to those of us in healthcare. Uterine fibroids are more common in African-American women, and minimally invasive treatments are almost never offered to women with fibroids. It’s really wrong, and I suspect I’ll spend the next 10 years fighting for equality in informed consent, as I have the last 10 years. Now, however, COVID has unveiled this disparity and there is hope for change.”

Mary credits her regard for social good to strong foundations from home that were built upon during her time at Athenian. “The conversations were centered around the environment and the pillars and being a citizen of the world. It shaped me without me knowing I was actually being shaped.” Unforgettable grand-scale experiences like her Round Square exchange and AWE were pivotal, but so were humbler aspects of student life. “Kitchen duty—what a great lesson. It taught us that we’re all here to take care of each other. Those kinds of jobs and lessons just don’t exist for teenagers anymore.”

People were also a special part of Mary’s Athenian experience. As a whole, she described faculty and staff as “kind, goodhearted educators with an interest in kids. Judy Atai, the art teacher…I just remember sitting and throwing pottery and making jewelry. Sheryl Petersen…all of these maternal figures looking out for you. Ed Ellis…he was always walking around campus, completely invested in us.”

Mary now lives in Oregon with children of her own who are the same age as she was during her Athenian days. When asked what she would say to high schoolers now, her advice was to stay open. “It puts unfair pressure on younger people to find out what their passion is, because you never know what opportunity will come that might pique your interest. It may come when you’re sixteen, or when you’re twelve, or when you’re thirty-five. There’s no way to predict now what might make you happy when you’re fifty.”

Her second and final piece of advice goes back to the Service Pillar, which she still holds dear. “Always be volunteering. That’s a rule I have for myself. If I’m healthy and able bodied, I’m always volunteering. Humans were meant to be productive.”

Leaving the Nest: Seven Faculty Members and Staffers Retiring in 2020

As three iconic faculty members and four trailblazing staffers leave the nest this year, their combined 172 years of service deserve a moment in the spotlight. They have taught and nurtured our students, helped build our community and culture, and their legacies will carry on.

Tina Nott, retiring Math teacher, was a founding member of the Middle School faculty, a co-founder of Middle School Focus Days, and the second woman to teach Math at Athenian. Joining Eleanor Dase, Munzer Afifi and Lester Henderson in a combined Middle School/Upper School Math department, she joined Athenian in 1982 and helped realize a vision to have more women teach STEM. 

Retiring French teacher Elisabeth Bertschi, who joined Athenian in 1986, brought with her “whole child” approaches to learning. Her rubrics for refreshing her curriculum were decades ahead of their time. Though she came to Athenian straight out of graduate school, she had a natural ability to connect with students. 

Retiring staffer Debbie Schafgans joined Athenian in 1987, initially in the Development (now Advancement) department. She was also a pioneer: the first staffer to use a personal computer for core elements of her role and one of the first to manage the digital integration of her department. 

As with Debbie Schafgans, retiring staffer Debra Ataman’s role evolved. She joined Athenian in 1997, working in Reception before becoming the Assistant to the Director of Special Programs in 2001. In the years following, Debra became heavily involved in community outreach and ultimately went on to be a key member of our Summer Programs, contributing to its significant growth over the years.

When asked about why Athenian staff and faculty are so well-equipped to play a variety of roles, former Head of School Eleanor Dase pointed to the many opportunities for faculty and staff to show leadership, such as chaperoning trips, organizing fundraisers, providing leadership in Round Square, Interim/March Term, and much more. If self-determination and grassroots organizing are part of Athenian’s DNA, it’s clear why retiring employees Lydia Guzman, Elise Jan and Barbara Carlino were so effective.

Lydia Guzman began her career at Athenian in 2000, serving for 20 years as the Attendance Officer. She also co-advised the Latino Club, raised more than $17,000 for the Monument Crisis Center over the years after co-founding the Tuesday Nacho Sale, organized the annual Athenian Pink Day to benefit breast cancer and served a run as Dean of Staff. Along with Debbie, she was an early regular attendee of the National Association of Independent Schools’ People of Color Conference (POCC) and an early champion of equity and inclusion at Athenian.

Barbara Carlino, who joined in 2007 as Upper School Counselor, founded longstanding programs as well. She co-created ASAP (the Athenian Sexual Assault Prevention Program), started the school’s peer counseling program, and shaped curriculum and culture by carrying out Athenian’s health education program for many years.

Mandarin teacher Elise Jan, who came to Athenian in 2009, is yet another lauded language teacher. She developed an innovative method of instruction that helped students achieve a level of fluency that wasn’t obtainable through classic approaches. Along the lines of holistic participation, she also chaperoned several trips abroad. 

Beyond what these outgoing women contributed as trailblazers from a curriculum and culture perspective, they contributed greatly to our enjoyment of the school. They gave hugs. They played pranks (we’re looking at you, Tina). They performed in countless Staff and Faculty Talent Shows. They were treasured friends. We will miss them all. 

Four Athenian Alumni Donate 10,000 Masks to Our Local Community

Pictured from left to right: Jim Lin ’07, father Ting-Fung Lin, Shannon Lin ’09

In an act of tremendous global philanthropy, four Athenian alumni joined forces to donate and coordinate the delivery of 10,000 surgical masks to our local community. The alumni, former boarding students from Taiwan, gave Athenian discretion around their distribution. Jim Lin ‘07 and Shannon Lin ‘09 were the original organizers. When friends Jamie Chang ‘08 and Wesley Yang ‘12 heard about the brothers’ idea, they quickly joined the effort.

“I checked in with Jim and Shannon when the pandemic hit,” said Michelle Park, Athenian’s International Student Coordinator, ESL teacher and longtime faculty member with the School. “I wanted to say hello and see if their family was well. They asked if we at Athenian needed anything in regards to supplies, as the U.S. was just entering the COVID-19 crisis. They wanted to make a donation and wanted Athenian to decide who should receive the masks.”

Pictured: Michelle Park and Eric Niles with Maeshah Shaw and Jelani Moses of SEIU-United Healthcare Workers

After a long and complicated shipping process, Athenian received its first delivery last week and has now received the remainder of the masks. Donations have already been made to the SEIU United Healthcare Worker’s Union, John Muir Hospital in Walnut Creek, the Springhill Medical Group, and The Gubbio Project, a non-profit serving the homeless community in San Francisco.

On Video: Jelani Moses of Kaiser Permanente

SEIU United Healthcare Workers West members Jelani Moses of Kaiser Permanente and Maeshah Shaw of San Ramon Regional Medical Center visited campus today to receive their donation of 4,200 surgical masks. In the video below, Jelani expresses his thanks.

Apart from sending a huge thanks to Jim, Shannon, Jamie and Wesley for their extraordinary kindness, we also appreciate those who worked to coordinate efforts on the Athenian side: Michelle Park and Vivian Liao.

Athenian Alumni Teach in Virtual Classrooms as Part of Distance Learning

Athenian faculty found silver linings as they adjusted to distance learning, tapping our global network of alumni to lend live classroom expertise. Andrew Gerst ‘09, Lizzie Miskovetz ‘10, and Julian Binder ‘11 joined David Otten’s Applied Science and Engineering course last Wednesday as guest lecturers. Karen Hinh ‘19 and Baxter Eldridge ‘13 joined on Thursday and Friday, respectively, all by Zoom videoconference.

“It was so great to see how our fledgling engineers from a decade ago are making huge design waves at Tesla, Microsoft, and Virgin Galactic,” David said, speaking of his Wednesday guests. “They had wonderful advice for our current batch of students…most importantly, to stop caring so much about your GPA, and instead focus on doing what you love and making the world a better place.”

David wasn’t the only teacher to integrate community expertise into student curriculum last week: former board chair and alumni parent, Dave Welsh, joined Head of School, Eric Niles Constitutional Law class to present the stock market through the lens of current events. Scaling up to accommodate wider community participation is part of a longer-term plan:

“I look at this opportunity to have alumni visiting as an unexpected gift of COVID-19 and distance learning,” said Head of Upper School, Amy Wintermeyer. “We were supposed to have a career day on March 11th and it was disappointing for both students and alumni to miss out. I’m thrilled that we’ve been able to find ways to still connect alumni with many of our students and I’m hoping we can continue to do this in the weeks following spring break!”

If you are an alumnus or another member of our community with expertise you think might be great for our classroom, send us an email and let us know! 

Beat Boxing with Eric Strand ’16

by Kim Palacios, Associate Director of Advancement, Alumni Giving & Engagement

Athenian was delighted to welcome alumnus Eric Strand ‘16 as a visiting instructor teaching beat-boxing skills to the hOWLers. Strand sings with On The Rocks, the nationally-known all-male a cappella group at the University of Oregon and traces some of his love for performing back to his Athenian roots. This September marked the fourth time that Eric visited campus to lend his expertise to student programs. He has also organized performances of On the Rocks on the Athenian campus. 

Eric’s visit is the latest in a series of alumni/hOWLers partnerships organized by Choir Director Emily Shinkle, whose track record of building two-way relationships between Athenian alumni and current students, and bringing alumni back to perform has been stellar. “I’m always happy to see former hOWLers continue on with singing in college and I love it when they want to come back to share what they’ve learned and inspire our current singers,” she remarked. 

Beyond bringing Eric back to serve students, Emily and the hOWLers have traveled to the Oakland elementary school where Melissa Barry Hansen ’85 is a 5th-grade teacher, teaching them how to sing in rounds, and two-part harmonies. An Alumni Cabaret held in January 2018 brought young alumni back for a vocally-focused variety show. Emily is currently in discussions with a cross-functional team to co-organize a new performance event that would feature a mix of students and alumni. Stay tuned for possible news!

Athletes with Character: Remembering Scott Leister ’05

Athenian student-athletes are known for their character, both on the field and off. We value leadership, dedication, service, playfulness, and compassion. Scott Leister ’05 was an outstanding student-athlete who embodied the pillars that are the foundation of an Athenian student. Scott’s life was tragically cut short at age 21 when he was killed by a drunk driver. August 2018 marks the tenth anniversary of Scott’s passing.

Scott before a high school dance

Scott embodied the pillars that are the foundation of an Athenian student. Scott played varsity soccer all four years at Athenian and was a valued member of the team, for his athletic ability, game strategy, and team spirit. He was also an active participant in international experiences, committed to community service, and a frequent outdoor adventurer. Scott went on to become a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Rochester, was a Wilderness Emergency Medical Technician, and was intending to pursue a medical degree to further his international humanitarian efforts. In 2013, California Highway Patrol published a service video about Scott.

Scott’s memory is kept alive at Athenian. For the last ten years, we have recognized a student-athlete with the Scott Leister Spirit of Athenian Award. The Scott Leister Award is inscribed with the following text: “We will teach our sons about Scott. We will cultivate in them the qualities he showed the world: Responsibility, Humility, Service, Play, Love. They will become men who live Scott’s message. They will teach their children about Scott and the values and qualities he embodied. Over and over again Scott will live in new lives. Like thousands of raindrops falling from the sky, his compassion and his play will keep dancing in this world and beyond.”

The winners of the Scott Leister Award to date are Ben Wang ’09, Jeff Sohn ’10, Jared Madden ’11, Ian Truebridge ’12, Tyler Huntington ’13, Anthony Aguilar ’14, Brendan Suh ’15, Andrew Kocins 16, Bradley Altomare ’17, and Victoria Akinsanya ’18.

To provide Athenian students with the opportunities Scott had as a young person, Scott’s family started The Scott Leister ’05 Endowment for International Community Service. Scott’s mom Carol Leister has become a Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Victim Advocate and she and her family have spoken to thousands of people including law enforcement officers and DUI offenders. And every year, Scott’s family sometimes accompanied by Athenians march with Walk Like MADD.

Athenian teaches students about the hazards of drinking and the fatal consequences of drinking while driving in its health classes. MADD publishes the following statistics on its website:

  • Drunk driving is still the #1 cause of death on our roadways.
  • There are 300,000 drunk driving incidents a day
  • There are 10,497 deaths a year. That’s 29 deaths every day and one death every 50 minutes. Each and every one of them is 100% preventable.

Life in Flight: What’s Possible After Athenian

Updated November 28, 2017

The core values of Athenian’s mission provide the foundation for 21st-century success: critical and analytical thinking, collaboration, teamwork, and creativity.  For proof of this, look no further than Keenan Wyrobek ’99.  During his Athenian experience, he built rockets, competed on the swim team, and embraced failure in projects and experiments as a learning opportunity. The skills Keenan built at Athenian served him well at Johns Hopkins and Stanford, and in developing the reading app Bam Boomerang and the Personal Robotics Program at Willow Garage.

In founding Zipline, Keenan combined his robotics expertise and a strong desire to help others. Recently featured on National Geographic’s Chasing Genius series and CNN, Zipline gets medical supplies to communities that are difficult to access. Keenan’s drone-operated delivery system sends urgent medical supplies to patients who can’t be reached otherwise. Health workers can order critical items like blood by text message from Zipline; within minutes, a drone takes off and medical products are delivered quickly and safely by parachute. Zipline, one of Keenan’s service-oriented tech startups, has raised nearly $50 million in funding for its innovative, humanitarian, life-saving projects and has delivered thousands of units of blood saving countless lives. Keenan tells us, “My Athenian education prepared me for what I do at Zipline. In my work at Zipline, I draw on the hands on the problem-solving experience, technical knowledge, and leadership skills I gained at Athenian every day.”

Keenan delivered a TEDMed2017 talk at the beginning of November sharing about his work providing blood and medical supplies to hard to reach populations and Zipline was a winner of the 2017 INDEX: Designs to Improve Life Award, which came with a €500,000 grant. One of the jury members, Ravi Naidoo, said Zipline “is a great systemic interplay of designers, governments and society bringing the best first-world technology to the poorest.” With a successful operation in place in Rwanda, Zipline will be establishing four distribution centers in Tanzania in 2018 and plans to continue expanding to countries across the world. Plans are in the works to begin delivering blood to remote areas of Maryland, Nevada, and Washington as well, serving as a pilot project for a global rollout redefining the delivery of emergency supplies.

Watch ZIPLINE – 2017 BODY WINNER from INDEX: Design to Improve Life® on Vimeo.

Alumni Wisdom: Life After Athenian

Today is Alumni Day at Athenian. Many of our young alums are still home on college winter break and are able to share with our students about their life after Athenian. Here is a collection of quotes from today’s Symposia on how Athenian prepares students for college.

“In terms of writing, Athenian does a great job…take your humanities classes seriously, take your history classes seriously, because the writing skills that you learn here will put you way ahead when you start college.”

“Athenian prepared me really well, or over-prepared me. I’ve been gliding through college.”

“Athenian prepares you to advocate for yourself and be comfortable with teachers, so it’s so much easier to get to know your teachers.”

“I felt well-prepared, especially in paper writing….You all are way more prepared than you think you are with writing exercises.”

“Athenian prepared me really well socially for college. I learned here how to be outgoing, and I think that’s really important when you’re trying to meet friends at college. If you’re outgoing, people will latch onto you really quickly. Academically, I talked to my roommate this year, and he said in high school, he was never really challenged. So he didn’t understand the idea of studying a really long time for a test, but that was just natural for me because here you’re challenged more than other places and that really helps.”

“The science department gives you a really solid base, a really solid foundation. The one thing that I wish I had practiced more when I was in high school was learning from a textbook.”

“Athenian also really taught me that is what is most important is what you actually learn and the person you are becoming. I think that we are prepared really well for a lot of the general education. We learn how to learn. We also learn how to work. If you can apply that same work ethic that you learn here, inevitably, as you get deeper into what you’re doing, there’s nothing that can prepare you for college, because hopefully, it’ll be a time when you’re pushing yourself, really trying to grow. So there’s no way to truly be prepared other than learning how to get through hard things. And Athenian is a hard thing, so that’s good.”

“I was actually a little worried coming out of Athenian that I didn’t do enough….and then I got into college classes, and I thought, ‘Wow, I’m amazed at how much Athenian has taught me.’ All the writing rubrics were identical. I was writing 5-7 papers a week and I thought they were a breeze. I was in some of my classes and some of the students didn’t know how to make graphs in Excel, and I thanked Bruce and Will silently for teaching me how to do that….If you’ve taken advantage of what Athenian has to offer, I’ve found that I’m really ahead in college and having an easy time because I was prepared so well.”

“You’re really prepared. I remember something I heard when I was sitting on that side of the conversation. And that is, college is 30% academics and 70% social. I’d like to echo that, because, at the end of the day, I have class for 12 hours a week. Compared to high school, it’s nothing. Honestly, you have to put in a lot of work [to the social scene].”

“I came to Athenian junior year. I learned how to be nice in general, so that even if everyone has their own groups, you can still be friends….this goes a long way. Many engineering students at my school have jobs in the best industries in the United States. The ones that I talk to, if I ask them for a job, I might get one, so that is a helpful thing. It helps me to be social and be patient and that’s something that I got from here.”

“I was someone who didn’t do the best at Athenian, but at the same time, I weirdly found myself really well prepared when I went to college….It can be a little rigorous. It’s easy to complain….I really miss Athenian in the sense that I feel like I didn’t appreciate it enough when I was here….Definitely appreciate what you have here. You have teachers who will grab you outside of class and smack you into reality. You’re not going to get that in college. You’re not going to have teachers who actually care for you. [Athenian teachers] care for you, they really do. All the things you have done for me, it really means a lot. That C that you would give me, it really helped me grow into the person that I am today. And you’re not going to get that in college as much if you go to a big school. Teachers won’t necessarily do that for you. They’ll give you the grade but they won’t tell you why unless you go to them….Go to your teachers, go to your professors later in life.”

“Socially, you’re going to have to put yourselves out there more than you did here. Sign up for things and put your phones away.”

Athenians Connected Around the World

By Chris Beeson, Director of Admission and Financial Aid

Many boarding schools travel each year internationally to connect with current parents and alumni as well as encourage prospective students to apply. I have done so for Athenian for many years, building our relationship with these important members of the Athenian community who cannot get to campus as easily as those who live nearby.

Athenian’s travel has been built around annual fairs organized in Asian cities by TABS (The Association of Boarding Schools) for U.S. and Canadian schools. This year’s travels took me to eight cities (Bangkok, Beijing, Hong Kong, Saigon, Seoul, Shanghia, Taipei, and Tokyo) in seven countries in just 19 days! Though the fast pace of the trip is challenging, the warm connections made with Athenian families and alumni are heartwarming. In each meeting, I can build a stronger relationship for Athenian with these community members abroad.

14725707_10206928662911209_6895392832755584848_nI am truly touched by how much our alumni and parents value an Athenian education and experience. It is amazing how strong the bond to Athenian can be for alumni, some who graduated many years ago and some more recently. Alumni and current parents often join me to represent Athenian at the boarding school fairs as a testament to their commitment to the School. I am so grateful to the many volunteers who are by my side that not only know the School but can help bridge any language barriers that may arise.

In meetings with alumni and parents, I can share current information about what’s happening on campus as well as answer questions from parents and alumni.  I share with each boarding parent an update about their child. Both parents and alumni often value the chance to ask questions about Athenian now and our plans for the future.  With current parents, I can often fill in where information is missing and reply to any queries they have.  

Facebook has proven to be an amazing tool in locating and communicating.  After 23 years as the Director of Admission, there are many alumni I know but who may not have kept Athenian updated with their most current contact information.  I have been able to find some alumni on Facebook and then build out through their list of friends to locate others.  These connections are often met with enthusiasm and lead to wonderful gatherings on these trips.  

Here are some highlights of the fall 2016 trip:

  • Alumni, a current parent, and alumni parents gathered in Tokyo for dinner. Noburo Nishio helped represent Athenian at the fair in Tokyo.
  • Current parents met with me in Beijing, Shanghai, and Taiwan.
  • Alumni in Hong Kong gathered with me for dinner.
  • Parents and alumni in Ho Chi Minh City joined me for a meeting and lovely gathering.
  • In Bangkok, 12 alumni and alumni parents enjoyed a great meal.  I met with another recent alum over lunch. Krittaya Pichitnapakul once again helped represent Athenian at the boarding school fair.

Thank you to everyone who joined me for dinner, helped out at a fair, or just came to say hello. I look forward to next year’s trip already! Here’s to the international community that is Athenian!