Retiring Faculty and Staff

Larry Pollans  History and Social Sciences and Visual Arts Departments  Member of the Faculty 1985–2019

Larry Pollans
History and Social Sciences and Visual Arts Departments
Member of the Faculty 1985–2019

In our first conversation about this encomium, Larry mused that he hoped his classes felt like “interesting problem-solving labs.” As I began to think about how to fit all of the fun and deep-running variegations of Larry Pollans into the prescribed word limits for the speech, I realized that he had presented me with quite a tough problem to solve and that I would prove a poor student. So I apologize in advance for going a smidge over.

Larry came to us 35 years ago, thanks to friendship and serendipity. He had just left the faculty of Bridgewater State. His oldest daughter, Lily, Class of ’97, had just been admitted to Milton’s kindergarten. So when Larry and his wife, Barbara, traveled to Joe Wheelwright’s gallery opening in New York City and heard that Anne Neely, a longtime art teacher at Milton, was interviewing candidates for a teaching position in the visual arts department, Larry applied the next day.

The rest, as they say, is history. Well, actually, history, arts, art history, and much more. Initially hired to teach studio art, Larry found himself part of the history department after impressive turns guest-teaching history about Renaissance art. Soon he was teaching those courses himself and developing a first-ever art history course. With his usual modesty, Larry remembers those heady times as “five to six years of being nervous and trying to catch up,” he says. “I was pedagogically unprepared to do all the things I was expected to do. It was an interesting way for me to come of age as a teacher.” And he “loved it!”—the history and the students. Says Barbara, “Larry always felt challenged. He found the intelligence and the awareness of the kids thrilling.” What Larry first thought would be “a gig to support my sculpture habit” became the thing itself: “I kept pinching myself. ‘Am I really doing this?’”

It did not take long for Milton to do some pinching of its own: Did we really land such a multi-talented guy? In short time, Larry added history of the Middle East to his teaching portfolio. He also became a long-serving faculty advisor for the Milton Measure. In the 90s, Larry began archiving and restoring Milton’s art collection. It is hard to fully capture his seminal influence in shaping and preserving the visual culture of Milton. That magnificent eagle in Wigglesworth Hall? Larry. The beautifully restored plaster models of the Elgin marbles? Larry. He partnered with his longtime squash buddy, Mr. Millet, to give several important paintings much-needed face-lifts. He has taught numerous art history master classes to alums. Along the way, Larry also became our in-house curator, bringing in significant large-scale works by local artists to grace open spaces around campus and, most recently, revitalizing the Nesto Gallery.

The crown jewel of Larry’s work, a beloved Milton institution wholly and distinctively his, was his art history course. Jess Bond was a student in that course, and she found it “so cool” that Larry was largely self-taught. Larry’s deep research took him wherever his instincts as historian and artist led him. The result was, as Lucas Wittman ’03 put it, “the first class that was just here to show us the pure pleasure of looking and learning for its own sake.” “It was such fun to sit in that darkened room in Straus watching slides go up,” recalls Jess. “We learned to see how a painting was shaped, how the paint worked, alongside the historical perspective. Larry showed us the specifics and the wide arc.”

Central to the memorable power of the course was the March trip to New York to prowl the galleries of Chelsea and take in the splendors of MOMA, the Met, and the Whitney. A typical day could range from a classic Greek sculpture to a sculpture of dried horsehide; the aim was to see how all these seemingly disparate works could somehow connect. An exercise in cross-Pollans-ation, as it were.

This spring marked the 33rd iteration of the trip. In earlier years, budgets were tight and risk management did not occupy the forefront of everyone’s thinking. The class took the Fung Wah bus. Larry was the sole chaperone, sometimes for 35 students. The students had to find their own lodging. Eventually, the present era dawned, lawyers began to feel cardiac tremors, and, in Larry’s own words, “They whipped me into modern shape.”

Larry stays in close touch with former students. What emerges from them is enormous gratitude. One wrote, “The course changed my life forever; it launched my passion in art.” Another observed, “I remember how he encouraged us to look at the same piece of art from radically different angles. That process of accommodating different ways of seeing has translated to many aspects of my life.” At a core level, Larry’s students feel, as one put it, “seen and understood, like Mr. Pollans got me.” Yvonne Fu ’14, a Measure editor, appreciated Larry’s cultural sensitivity and awareness, particularly his fondness for that ancient Chinese call to civil disobedience and irreverence: “The sky is high and the emperor’s away.” When Lily and Margot Pollans run into Milton alums, they often hear, “You’re Mr. Pollans’s daughter? I LOVED him.”

Now about that sculpture habit. Somehow, even with all he had going at Milton, Larry sustained a second life as a practicing artist. He co-founded the Boston Sculpture Gallery. The gallery expected each member to mount a show every two years, and for a long time, Larry sustained that. But it was not an easy life to balance; there were sacrifices. Finally, he had to scale back. Happily, Larry’s recent part-time role at Milton allowed him more time for his art, and his show at the gallery this fall was “my best work,” he says. “It took me 30 years but I finally got it.” Larry also teamed with Joe Wheelwright to create a foundry on the Wheelwrights’ land in Vermont. That project entailed cutting an enormous kiln in half, trucking it to Vermont, and then reassembling it. Hard, time-consuming work. Susan Wheelwright remembers that Larry always found time to step out and call Barb.

The idea of Larry moving on from Milton leaves us with a heavy spirit. But as he heads off to a wonderful life of more time with Barbara, more time in New York City to visit kids and grandkids, more time in the studio, more time with his dog, Pip, we know that, astute teacher that he is, he has prepared us. Susan Wheelwright admires the way Larry “lets us feel like contributing experts—quiet and deep and humble,” he leads us out of ourselves to ourselves. Barbara, too, speaks of this knowing approach: “With Larry, you learn how to see things and place them historically, so you then have this basis for reacting to new ideas on your own. You know where to put them in your own thinking.” Says Ann Foster, “Larry’s never heavy-handed. We always laugh together, but I also always leave thinking about something bigger, deeper. Larry knows what’s important and he isn’t distracted by day-to-day kerfuffles.” Kerfuffle: a delightful Larry kind of word, just the right place to end.

At the end of that first conversation, Larry remarked, “I wanted to be a useful and productive person and have fun doing it.” Mission more than accomplished.

Thank you, Larry.

Rod Skinner ’72
Dean of College Counseling

Other things to know about Larry:

• He and Bob Sinicrope grew up in the same town—Meriden, Connecticut—and both served in the Peace Corps.

• Larry is one cool cat. He has been described variously as having “a loping Giacometti gait,” “physical elegance,” “a youthful mind,” “a blue-black laugh.” Fifteen years ago, a student wrote that Larry “walked with a swing beat,” a now legendary observation in the Pollans household.

• Larry loves wordplay, especially puns involving names. His daughter Margot ’00 says a favorite is “True, man. Harry S. Truman.” Leave it to Larry to take the dad joke to a higher level, replete with historical reference.

• Many people praise Larry’s loyalty. When the Wheelwrights moved to Dorchester, Larry came right over, pulling Lily on a sled, to make sure they were all right. After Joe died, Barb and Larry had dinner with Susan every Wednesday. Many cite all that Larry did for Bill Moore, first as support and caretaker and finally as executor. Larry never wavered in those responsibilities.

• Larry is a very good cook, always trying new things. At a new restaurant, he’ll order the most exotic item on the menu, sometimes to his regret. Larry never regrets oysters. On Thursdays you can often find him at the Ashmont Grill taking full advantage of Buck-a-Shuck Night.

• He is, as the history department can tell you, a coffee fiend. Larry helped create the Coffee Club. It has clear standards: Everyone joins; a full pot must be ready before school and before recess. And not just any coffee: Flat Black or else.

• Larry reads the New York Times religiously. Fellow history teacher Josh Emmott shifted his reading of the NYT to early morning to prepare for the daily visit of a fully informed Larry itching to dig into the latest news. Josh calls Larry “the intellectual center of departmental conversations,” and says, “He’s the last of a generation pushing us to see things in the larger context. I admire him for eloquently expressing views you could disagree with but need to contemplate—serious ideas. You have to take them with a certain amount of gravitas.”

Laurel Starks  History and Social Sciences Department  Member of the Faculty 1986–2019

Laurel Starks
History and Social Sciences Department
Member of the Faculty 1986–2019

Laurel’s warm presence has been felt in every corner of our community since she arrived on campus in 1986. As her department chair noted in her first year of teaching, Laurel was “the perfect example of a young teacher who should be encouraged to become more involved with the life of our School.” She did, and turned out to be a perfect fit for us. It did not take long for Laurel to find her way around our grades 7–12 history and social sciences department. For many years, she taught ancient and medieval history, economics to senior boys—not an easy task, by the way—and led our work in Class IV. When we formed our Middle School, Laurel helped guide our K–8 program through its transition and then was instrumental in the creation of Ancient Civilizations and Modern World History IV.

Laurel has always been at the forefront of new initiatives—she developed interdisciplinary projects with our eighth-grade English teachers and created a World Cultures course that made social studies more meaningful for our Middle School students. In 2004, Laurel was recognized for her work in curriculum development by Primary Source, a national organization that works to advance global and cultural learning in schools, when her lesson plan was published in its sourcebook, Making Freedom: African Americans in U.S. History.

Perhaps her most profound impact on our department has been as a mentor. For more than 15 years, Laurel has supported a new generation of teachers as they honed their craft. Good mentors, ones that can inspire, guide, and promote growth, are rare, and Laurel is one of the best. She has never forgotten what it means to be a new teacher at Milton, and she has worked tirelessly to help others find their bearings and create a life here.

In 1993, Laurel and her young family moved into Forbes House, where she served as dorm head until 2003 and earned high praise year after year. One charge remembers, “Mrs. Starks goes completely out of her way to satisfy even the smallest needs of students. Very like a mom. Always there for us.” As a former dean of students observed, Laurel “seems to have found the magical balance of being strict enough that the student feels the boundaries around them, flexible enough to know that they are not just parts of a machine, and dedicated enough to have students realize that when the chips are down, somebody will take good care of them.” Laurel never really left the boarding community, even when she moved out, because she continued to do dorm duty and advise boarding and day students.

Laurel has helped so many of us find our Milton family. Before my son was born, she helped me find my way to Academy Day Care, something I hadn’t even thought of yet. She arranged playdates for our children so that I could meet more Milton families, and even when she was swamped with her own work, she always knew when to check on me after a long day. As Andrea Geyling-Moore says, “Laurel has always juggled gracefully and with good humor the challenge of wearing many hats. I have seen firsthand through our many years as colleagues and friends how she was the consummate dorm head, advisor, teacher, committee member, mentor, and at the same time, a wife and mother of two amazing children. While my own child-rearing phase followed 10 years after hers, at just the right moments, she shared sage advice that was spot-on in its practicality and compassion, and for that I am forever grateful.”

Laurel’s colleagues have come to depend on her, and she will be missed deeply. It is difficult for us to say good-bye to one of our best friends. Even so, we wish Laurel and Keith all the best as they enjoy their years of retirement together, traveling the globe and visiting with friends and family.

Vivian WuWong
History and Social Sciences Department

Pam Rodman
Upper School Registrar
Member of the Staff 1996–2019

The framed poster in her office that boldly states, “Keep calm and carry on” heralds Pam Rodman’s mantra. As registrar since 2003, Pam has guided this ship that is the Milton Academy Upper School in seas both stormy and calm, standing boldly at the helm through three academic dean transitions, four principals, and five deans’ office assistants.

Whether she was maintaining accurate records for grades and comments, responding to students’ and parents’ questions about courses and schedules, or ensuring that Upper School teachers were meeting appointed deadlines, Pam’s meticulousness and her ability to hold myriad details in her head at once are legendary. Her files, folders, lists, and calendars, always color-coded, allowed her to quickly access any information needed, and she helped countless students who wanted course changes and alumni in need of transcripts. Indeed, it seemed that everyone who entered her office needed something from Pam, and sometimes they asked for the impossible. Her response, in fun, might have been, “And I want a pony.” One day she got one, albeit of the plastic variety, from a department chair who appreciated her humor.

Pam began her Milton Academy career in Cox Library; at the time, her children Lindsey ’01 and Colby ’03 were already well-entrenched in School life. Pam enjoyed her close work with students in the library, and she leaped at the opportunity to become the registrar. Unconstrained by convention, Pam soon proved herself in that role as a creative thinker who was open to change. She led the office into the 21st century; when she began as registrar, the School still produced transcripts one by one, on an IBM Selectric typewriter. That practice, and others, quickly changed, and now she (gasp!) uses technology to do just about everything her job requires.

Although it is time to say good-bye to Pam, we know her connection to Milton will endure. We are tremendously grateful for her many years of service and for the integrity with which she performed each and every task in the registrar’s office. We hope she and Will might return for a future reunion with Lindsey or Colby, but for now, Pam’s heart lies in Dallas with her new grandson. Despite the miracles of Facetime, pictures on a screen cannot take the place of sharing in person those moments of wonder as a child takes his first steps or says his first words. We wish Pam and Will all the best as they resettle in a new state to enjoy the pleasures of family, gardening, and watching a New England blizzard from afar. We will miss you, Pam.

Jackie Bonenfant
Upper School Academic Dean

Cathleen Everett   Milton Magazine Editor and Former Chief Communication Officer   Member of the Staff 1990–2019

Cathleen Everett
Milton Magazine Editor and Former Chief Communication Officer
Member of the Staff 1990–2019

For decades, many knew Cathy Everett as “the voice of Milton Academy,” the one who, in this elevated, disembodied state, pronounced and proclaimed. Neither then nor now would Cathy tolerate such puffery. She wrote and spoke crisply, cleanly, and simply on the hardest days and on the easiest. Ever resolute, she never wavered in the execution of this responsibility, the most elemental sort of service. No, far more than an institutional voice, Cathy embodied the strength of Milton Academy, her firmness born of conviction and commitment. A trusted advisor to five Milton heads of school (I’m pretty sure that Cathy has a lot of stories that she could tell) and an unofficial advisor to many of us, Cathy provided direct, unvarnished counsel to all who sought her wisdom. Consider your audience, she might advise. Excise the adverbs, she always insisted. Never, ever use an exclamation point like that again, she almost gasped. She was right on all counts.

For years the leader of Milton’s communication office, Cathy shaped the way in which the world now understands Milton Academy. That task sounds simple. It’s not. Milton’s multiple constituencies often presented competing, even contradictory, needs. As good Miltonians, those constituents never missed an opportunity to inform Cathy of our errors, their generosity knowing few bounds. Still, respectful of all perspectives—of our youngest kindergartners and of our most anxious boarding parents—Cathy had an abiding concern for those who entrusted their children to our boarding program, what she considered to be a defining element of our institution. Cathy made messages clear for all, no matter their outlook. Varied needs, perceived and real, were just one source of challenge. Rapid technological growth also demanded constant innovation and evolution. Unflappable, Cathy provided deft management of that ever-changing communications landscape.

For all that changed during Cathy’s tenure, one fixture remained, a thoughtful, evocative treasure: Milton Magazine. Convinced that strong alumni connections fed the School’s soul, Cathy engaged graduates with probing questions, encouraging them to share their work, their lives, their goals. And then the hours of editing began. Every word, every phrase, every photo mattered. From compelling cover to compelling cover, from insightful feature to insightful feature, the magazine captured and magnified Milton, the School that Cathy so deeply loves.

Perhaps that’s what Cathy has done best: she has distilled this lively, sometimes raucous place to its essence. Cathy conveyed the joyful humanity of children in a single image; she liberated our defining principles from the bonds of tepid prose. At every moment, Cathy seemed to call us back from loose thought and loose language. Be strong, she seemed to say. Be true. Be Milton.

And Cathy, as you look forward to the time you will now have to spend with Jim, your three sons, all Milton graduates, and your eight grandchildren, we say this: Stay strong, stay true, and forevermore, stay Milton.

David Ball ’88
Upper School Principal

Charlene “Char” Grant   Athletics and Physical Education Department, Coach  Member of the Faculty, 1979–2018

Charlene “Char” Grant
Athletics and Physical Education Department, Coach
Member of the Faculty, 1979–2018

They say “time flies when you’re having fun,” and it seems like only yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting Charlene Grant, one of the physical education teachers at the Girls’ School. I was impressed with Char’s philosophy toward athletics and physical education. Our initial meeting was back in 1980, and it is hard to believe I stand here today celebrating Char’s 39 years of teaching and coaching at Milton Academy.

Char has been a valuable member of the Milton faculty since 1979. She has seen significant changes during her tenure. She has been a physical education teacher, a head coach, and an athletic director for the Middle and Upper School from 1984–1991. Char has been instrumental in the development of new programs such as the girls’ varsity ice hockey and coed swimming teams, as well as the expansion of the third and fourth teams for most girls’ sports, providing greater access for young women to participate in competitive athletics.

Char came to coach varsity soccer, varsity basketball, varsity softball and to teach physical education. Not only was she a varsity head coach for three seasons, Char simultaneously served as the head coach of the JV soccer and JV basketball teams for five years. Since 1979, no other coach has overseen three varsity programs. In her inaugural season, Char coached the varsity soccer team to their first winning season. What a way to start a career! Serving as a three-season varsity head coach for five years is amazing, and it demonstrated her commitment to Milton Academy students.

Among many facts and statistics about Char’s coaching career, there is one that stands out. Seven of Char’s seasons as the head coach of the girls’ JV soccer team were undefeated: 84 consecutive wins. Coaching one team to an undefeated season is rare, and coaching seven seasons without a loss is incredible.

Char has always been a staunch advocate for growing the girls’ athletic programs. She has remained true to her philosophy and firmly believes every student should learn how to play a lifetime sport as well as learn how to appreciate different types of physical activity.

Hearing comments from her students such as “That was so much fun,” “I never thought I could do that,” and “Can my friend and I come back and play during our free period?” is not unusual.

For those students who did not see themselves as athletes, Char provided a safe environment where they could still find success. Her calm demeanor and words of encouragement provided a comfort zone for all to try new and challenging activities. Observing her students taking risks and mastering new skills provided Char with joy and satisfaction.

Char is a professional who has a positive influence and has been a role model to students throughout her career. Milton has benefited from her unwavering commitment to and advocacy for the physical education program, especially for girls’ sports. I will miss our conversations and the chuckles that came with them. We wish the best of luck to Char and Carol as they begin their new adventures.

by Larry Fitzpatrick
Athletics and Physical Education Faculty Member
Head Athletics Trainer

A MINDFUL LIFE

“Forever, is composed of Nows,” wrote Emily Dickinson more than a century and a half ago—a message that resonates today more than ever. Modern life—with its overwhelming demands and distractions—makes it increasingly difficult to pause and reflect upon our lives. In this issue, Milton alumni share their stories about the power of living in the Now—of staying present to more fully assess our lives and relationships. We also feature a story about making student mental health a priority, and hear from our faculty about the importance of taking the time to listen and stay connected to ourselves.