Retiring Faculty and Staff
Over his 37 years at Milton, Don has worn many hats: maestro, teacher, department chair, dorm staff member, class dean, tour leader, interim Middle School co-head, baseball coach, hockey timekeeper, president of Massachusetts Music Educators, Ph.D., Talbot Baker recipient. Each speaks to his deep care and commitment.
When Don came to Milton Academy in 1980, the School had one orchestra, with eight students. Through his dedication and advocacy, Milton now has more than 130 students participating in four different orchestras. At Don’s lead, these groups have served students who went on to successful music careers and those who played for their own enjoyment. All were well nurtured under Don’s baton; he has a fine ability to both instill an appreciation of traditional orchestral music and guide his students in exploring new music.
On the walls of the Orchestra room hang flags of the 18 countries that Don and his students have toured. A chaperone observed, “Don’s complete enjoyment of the cultural and musical experience is only matched by his enjoyment of his students’ reactions. His desire for them to have the best possible experience is one of his strongest gifts.”
Put all of this together and you have a good sense of Don’s dedication to the young people in his care, giving them opportunities to perform and grow. As impressive as his list of accomplishments is, we all know him best as a kind friend and colleague. A former Milton teacher noted, “Don’s unflappable nature taught me a lot about keeping perspective in the tensest situations. He always had a quip ready to keep us from taking ourselves too seriously. I am so grateful to have overlapped with him in my nine years at Milton, and I am thankful for his wisdom, his generosity and his friendship.”
Let us also recognize Kathy Dregalla, Don’s wife of 42 years. In addition to her 36 years of teaching music in the Newton Public Schools, she has been a loyal and vital member of Milton Academy’s Orchestra, playing and teaching bassoon since 1985. She has also taught Milton’s Grade 6 General Music classes for the last three years. Her visual attention with flowers and posters have brightened Orchestra performances.
We will miss Don and Kathy’s generosity, warmth, talents and positivity as they return to Cleveland—Don’s childhood home. We thank both of them for their long and fruitful service to Milton Academy, and we wish them happiness as they begin the next chapter of their lives.
Forty-nine years of service to Milton does call out for celebration. When Bryan arrived at Milton in the fall of 1968, he came with “an embarrassment of riches,” enough talent and energy to power several full-time careers. His mind, observed one friend, “whirls everywhere, an idea a minute.” In Bryan’s open way of looking at life, everything is possible. He has never found a problem he didn’t want to solve, and he is always working on at least one. Some friends suspect Bryan never sleeps; lifelong friend Clay Hutchison ’76 claims that Bryan sleeps with his eyes open: an apt metaphor, perhaps, for Bryan’s approach.
Gordon Chase thinks Bryan’s signature collection of hats is the perfect metaphor for the roles Bryan has served. A brief sampling of the things Bryan has done during his years at Milton includes: Advising the yearbook staff forever. Winning a nationwide photo contest sponsored by J&B and serving as photographic editor for a book on Israel. Joining Kay Herzog and John Torney as the trio of creators of Milton’s pictorial history: Visions and Revisions. Creating an “installation”: a room-sized timeline for Milton’s Bicentennial, called “Milton Creates, Milton Connects.” Though wrestling was new to Bryan, he became “an integral part of the program,” according to Dick Griffin. Griff remembers a particular photo of Bryan leaping, fist in the air, after we eked out a victory against Governor Dummer (back when it was called Governor Dummer). Always total commitment.
Bryan created the photography program; inaugurated the Wood Studio course; helped formulate the concept of semester courses; developed the living floral display seniors build at graduation; and performed in a number of faculty plays, including Measure for Measure and Fiddler on the Roof.
Bryan crossbreeds lilies for fun, and his Christmas tree decorations, which require more than a little bit of tree climbing (tree-climbing and wall-climbing have played roles in Bryan’s various personae), are legendary.
Back in the early ’80s, when Milton hosted the Ralph Bradley Arts Festival, Bryan organized a famous Arts Parade, which included horses, fire trucks, and a live elephant named Ruth.
A skilled and visionary architect who has designed homes from Idaho to Florida, New Hampshire to Nantucket, Bryan has helped with every master plan project Milton undertook in the past 50 years. Bryan, for instance, suggested moving the arts department to its present location. As Milton re-sited the baseball field, and it became clear that the third-base line would run right through the Cheney garage at Voses House, Bryan picked up a chain saw and reduced the garage by half so the third-base line could proceed unimpeded, and Milton didn’t have to destroy a perfectly good garage.
Ensconced in his basement classroom (his son Colin likened it to a mad scientist’s lair), Bryan can claim to have spent more time underground than any other Milton employee. Even so, as one student wrote, “The photo classroom was a place where we all wanted to be because of Mr. Cheney. He gave us a space to laugh, to explore, and to share our evolving vision of the world.”
Bryan has resisted being categorized as a photography or arts teacher. As his wife Marilyn observed, “Forget cameras and architecture. His greatest gift has been giving kids freedom, the ability to see the possibilities in front of them.” In addition to exemplifying
“Dare to Be True” in his own life, Bryan has always dared his students to see true. A single, powerful theme threads through the many notes of appreciation that Bryan has received: “Thank you for helping me see the world—and, as a consequence, myself—in full.” A 1970 note credited Bryan with “speeding me forward down the path of becoming a more ‘together’ photographer” and others continued through the five-page letter from a recent grad that concluded, “I do not want to stop talking with someone who has shaped me into who I am today.”
Marilyn has been Bryan’s partner through all those years and adventures. After a year of coaching and teaching physical education at the Milton Academy Girls’ School, Marilyn decided that Milton was not
for her and accepted a position at La Jolla Country Day. A first date between Marilyn and Bryan happened the night after graduation in Bryan’s apartment in Robbins. Remembers Marilyn,
“The meal was very mediocre. But then he showed slides of his trip to Spain. By the third slide of ice dripping off the orange trees, I thought, ‘Yup, that’s it.’” So Marilyn turned down La Jolla and started teaching at Newton South High School (and then the Park School). By December she and Bryan were married.
Life as a faculty spouse presented its own challenges. Faculty Wife Teas were still a part of School culture in the ’70s. At her first tea, Marilyn, engrossed in conversation, sat down in the nearest available chair. Soon after, the wife of a longtime Latin teacher plopped in Marilyn’s lap: Didn’t Mrs. Cheney know that this was her chair?
In 1978, when son Colin was born, Marilyn turned her full attention to growing a family, with Ian and Claire arriving in ’80 and ’83, respectively. Eventually she resumed coaching, increasingly drawn to the younger, novice athletes. “My downfall as a coach was that I didn’t care if we won; I cared about how kids learn and how they grow.” One drizzly afternoon, Colin came home to find the whole thirds field hockey squad having a tea party in the kitchen and making brownies.
In 1986, Marilyn began directing Christian education at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church and tending to students as dorm mother in Voses House. She continued those roles for 25 years, and expanded her work at St. Mike’s to include head of healing ministry.
Next year, for the first time since 1979, someone other than Marilyn will arrange the flowers for Chapel and the two big podium arrangements for Graduation. Reflects Marilyn, “I will miss all the lovely flowers and having quiet time in our Chapel on those Sundays. I am so grateful for this satisfying work.” Marilyn has brought that same sense of serenity and happiness to so many students and adults over the years. As one former parent proclaimed, “That lady walks on water!”
Bryan and Marilyn will move to the home in Maine they have been working on since Bryan began his time at Milton. They better have lots of beds and brownies given how many former students hope to visit. It is a moment of Bryan’s cherished “pure recognition” for us to see all that he and Marilyn have done these many years—their partnership; their modeling of rich, full, joyful lives; their uncanny instincts as teachers, as mentors, as caregivers—and know that we have been blessed. Marilyn and Bryan leave us with an indelible and inspired legacy, and we are so much the better for it.
Rod Skinner ’72
Director of College Counseling
Inspired by the social change sweeping college campuses in the late ’60s, Paul Menneg first taught at the Verde Valley School in Arizona before coming to Milton. From his first moment in the ceramics area of Warren Hall, Paul personalized his spaces and made himself available to his students. He has stayed close to them and to the School’s graduates. And those students-turned-alumni have experienced the laughter, sense of inner calm, and love of the absurd that animates Paul’s everyday life. They know him as a kind man.
Paul helped Milton progress from its groundbreaking Arts Program diploma requirement to a full complement of semester electives. He established a challenging standard as the department’s primary teacher of ceramics and sculpture. Over time, his students won first prizes in New England competitions and demonstrated that they could create
works of art that could be called professional. Informed by Paul’s love of surrealism, these pieces were a surprise and delight to all, as a life-sized torso acquired a bird’s nest and tree branches for a head, as sculptors transformed found objects into “windows of vulnerability,” and as others created metamorphoses of one form into another. Paul’s students embraced “creative process” in numerous ways, as they constructed cardboard boats to achieve a “Victory at Sea” in Milton’s swimming pool.
In the 1980s, the visual arts department initiated the process that led to the construction of the Kellner Center and ultimately to the department’s current home. Paul embraced this long effort and believed as much as anyone in the commitment to creativity that this project would mean. In the politics that sometimes came into play, Paul remained dedicated to the “cause of art,” understanding that something precious was always at stake: enabling students to find their expressive voices, as an essential part of growing up. His students did grow— many still creating in the ways this dedicated teacher showed them how to do.
Paul shared his 37 years at Milton with his spouse and fellow art instructor Maggie Stark, and with their two children, Emilie and Edie. We will remember Paul on campus for his warm sense of humor and his clear-eyed honesty—affirming what Nobel Laureate Bob Dylan once said: “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.”
Former Visual Arts Department Chair
Practicing artist, gallery director, parent and innovative teacher, Maggie Stark has had to be a proficient juggler during her 37 years at Milton. Like all the best jugglers, she managed that skill so self-effacingly that after a while the eggs seemed to be circling of their own accord.
Years before the creation of innovation labs and “maker spaces,” Maggie was already connecting art and science through design. Her 3-D Studio Art course was groundbreaking for Milton and for secondary education. Maggie provided an important role model, especially for girls in a traditionally male realm. Often using books as triggers, Maggie connected the designer’s world of space and form to the world of ideas. Eighth graders would channel what they’d read into tile designs for the Middle School common room. Ninth graders would transmute fairy tales into a suite of murals for the town library. Older students in the 3-D Studio Art course would progress from building a functional chair out of cardboard to designing a conceptual clock based on Alan Lightman’s novel Einstein’s Dreams.
Maggie’s professional work as an artist and designer animated her teaching. Her classroom doubled as her studio space and was filled with silver mirror balls, glowing glass tubes, and light boxes. As with her recent “Timelock” series, her many “high- tech” exhibits, contemporary in all respects, have captured human struggles in meta-physical terms. Her reach as an artist and educator extended to fellowships that took her to Germany and to South Korea.
Maggie’s commitment to Milton extended beyond the classroom. Her 11 years as director of the Nesto Gallery produced a stream of memorable shows. Her leadership in designing and installing the playground at the Milton Academy Children’s Center was permanently commemorated when grateful colleagues inscribed her name in the concrete apron there.
Looking back, Maggie thanks Milton for the freedom it gave her as a teacher. The School should be at least equally grateful for the energy, inventiveness and dedication she brought to the challenges freedom presents. She feels that since she came to Milton, students’ attitudes toward art have evolved in positive ways—that, particularly, there is a stronger sense of the thrill of making things. If this is so, much of the credit belongs to her.
Gordon Chase, Former Visual Arts Department Chair
Ian Torney ’82, Visual Arts Department Chair
David Smith, Former English Department Chair
Performing Arts Department and Upper School Speech Coach
Member of the Faculty, 2004–2017
My friendship with Susan began 13 years ago, in the fall of our first year at Milton. I received an email from Susan, asking if I could help with the speech team. Susan noted her assertion that academic excellence should be matched with knowledge of the practical. In keeping with Susan’s philosophy on educating the whole student, I unexpectedly found myself in the dance studio standing in front of the mirrored wall with all of the young men on the speech team. I was educating them on the art of tying a tie. If I recall correctly, this required multiple sessions for some of our most accomplished students.
Deemed a capable instructor on how to tie a Windsor knot, I soon received another invitation from Susan—a promotion, really, from sartorial consultant to economic and historical consultant. Over the years, I have spent many an afternoon posing current events questions to Susan’s students, and critiquing their responses. I have come to enjoy these afternoons with the speech team—a window into the world of speech, but also a window into the world of Susan as a teacher. What I have observed is that Susan is not only passionate about her craft, but she also cares deeply for her students and knows each one as an individual person.
When students enter Susan’s classroom, they are there to give 110 percent—in part because they want to do well at speech competitions, but more significantly because their relationship with Susan motivates them to give their all to the craft of speech. When Susan’s students speak about the speech team, it is always in the context of what an amazing teacher Susan is and how she has helped them to better understand and to reach their potential as students and as people.
Susan is not only a passionate teacher, but also an avid student of history and economics. A couple of years ago, Susan asked if she could sit in on my classes, and do the reading but not write the papers. She promised not to participate in the discussion, as she felt that would distract from the students’ learning.
True to her word, once I started class, Susan focused on taking notes and tried her best
not to join the class discussion. Though, the highlights of the semester for both me and my class of eight students were the moments when Susan could not contain herself and would dive into the discussion. Despite her best intentions, Susan became a valuable member of our class.
Susan, your practical, holistic, empathetic and humored approach to both teaching and learning are characteristics that have not only endeared you to your students, but that will also serve you well as you move into the next chapter of your life. We wish you all the best in the next part of your journey, but we will miss you here at Milton.
History Department and Wolcott House Head