Retiring Faculty and Staff
Tom Sando, Science Department, 1988–2020
Tom came to Milton in 1988 and for 32 years has been a pillar of the Milton Academy Science Department and the School at large. Tom is one of the smartest people I have ever met. His deep knowledge of the natural world and his innate understanding of science and scientific processes is second to none. This coupled with his brusque and determined personality have cowed many Class IV students as they walked into class on the first day. What they learn, over the weeks is that he is one of the most compassionate, caring, and engaged teachers they will ever have the opportunity to learn from. Their initial fear and trepidation transition into devotion and respect. Tom will do everything in his power to make sure that his students succeed.
One might think that Tom only has the tools he hides in ancient paper boxes, yellowed like scrolls dug from an archaeology site or bunker and piled high in teetering towers around his classroom. However, his true pedagogy lies in his love of his students and his mastery as a teacher. Tom has been the heart and soul of our department for as long as I have been at Milton. His Honors Physics class was a flagship class in inquiry teaching before we used that term to describe our curriculum, and his Class IV physics, nuclear physics, and environmental science classes are all models of practice.
There is no doubt that Tom is an exemplary teacher, however it is his character and kindness that stand out when you are his colleague. Tom is one of the most loyal, morally developed, and compassionate adults you will meet. This loyalty manifests itself in his care for his colleagues, and the fact that he will always be at your side in times of need.
To add to this loyalty, Tom is a man of principle. He is willing to speak his mind, and to say the hard things. He does this with care and true compassion.
Tom in many ways is a brother to me, and one we love. Milton Academy is a better school because Tom has taught here. The hole which will need to be filled is not insignificant upon his departure. Tom, thank you for your teaching, your loyalty, your morality, your humor, and your kindness. Now, pack up your bowling balls, your countless old paper boxes, and ride off into the sunset. We will miss you!
By Michael Edgar
Paula Larson, Health Center Staff, 1978–2020
When we think of Paula Larson and her legacy at Milton, it is truly difficult to put into words what impact she has had on the Health Center, students, faculty, and staff throughout her career. The words dedication, service, compassion, commitment and leadership come to mind when we think of Paula Larson.
Paula began her career at Milton in September of 1978, leaving her position as a bedside nurse at Carney Hospital to begin her lifelong career in public health. She has seen the exponential growth of the Health Center and school nursing staff from her days attending to sick students in the basement of Ware Hall to the Health Center’s current home in Faulkner. Throughout her career she has seen former students become faculty members or parents of incoming students, and she remembers them all. When greeting a new parent who was a former Milton student, she would often say, “I remember when,” and recall a time they were in the Health Center and the treatment they received for an illness or injury.
Through the years, we have watched Paula care for students as they navigate their way through a new health crisis such as diabetes, cancer, or sickle cell anemia. She accompanies students to medical visits and works tirelessly with stressed students and their parents, instructing, counseling, and helping them in the management of their new illness. If there is a medical issue that arises for a student, you can rest assured that Paula has treated another student with a similar issue, and she will even recall the student’s name and the treatment they received. The idea of a 40-hour work week is lost on her; she simply stays until the work is done, and makes herself available for her staff 24/7.
For the Health Center staff, Paula is seen as a leader, a mentor, and a friend. The personal connections she has made with the Health Center staff will never be forgotten. She has stood by us all, through marriages, births, graduations, and deaths, and we are ever so grateful for her unwavering support. We thank you, Paula, for your years of service, experience, expertise and leadership, and for your commitment to your staff, students, faculty, and parents at Milton. Your daily presence in the Health Center will be missed beyond words, and we wish you all the best in this next chapter.
By Dawn Cruickshank
Louise Mundinger, Music Department, 1986–2020
Sung to the tune of “One” from A Chorus Line
Every little note she played
We’re so glad that she stayed.
We smiled for 34 years as she helped us sing
Walk by her room and you’d always hear voices ring
Ten!——- trips to Persan France, Middle Schoolers oo la la
Les baguette et chocolate Je ne c’est—— quoi!——-
Ooh! Sigh! Scarves that draw attention
Do! I! really have to mention
Chorus Line performance
And the band began to freeze
Brought the crowd to their knees
Eight Octet voices as smooth as a new Rolls-Royce
The way she helped many freshmen find their voice
For the Middle School la la
We could not have done
such shows without her
Oo! Sigh! Check out her beret
We! could! sing with her all day!
Go to www.milton.edu/news/mundinger to listen.
LYRICS AND PERFORMANCE BY KELLI EDWARDS, ELEZA KORT,
YOSHI MAKISHIMA, AND ALAN RODI
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.”
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.
History and Social Sciences Department
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.
Upper School Academic Dean