Anne sends the reunion report which she wrote for the Scarsdale Inquirer. (Note: slightly revised by Anne, Nov. 1st):
1962 CLASS REUNION OF SCARSDALE HIGH SCHOOL – OCTOBER 5 AND 6, 2012
By Anne Crosman, class member
With gasps, hugs, and hearty handshakes, more than 100 members of the class of ’62 gathered to celebrate our 50th reunion October 5 and 6 in Scarsdale.
We represented about one-third of the graduating class. Many had attended previous reunions; the last one was the 40th. Some had forgotten names, so we had to check each other’s name tag bearing a high-school photo. “Oh, you’re….” we said, laughing good-naturedly.
Our brains appeared as sharp, and our speech as articulate as ever. Our jobs, travels, and adventures were as interesting and varied as before. “How lucky we are,” said Sue Lipin Markatos, a NY real estate agent, “given the state of the world and all its chaos, to come here and see our old friends again. This is our history, this is who we are, in spite of, or because of our education here, and the pressure to get good grades.”
We met first on Friday afternoon to hear classmate Jeff Hoffman describe his career as a Space Shuttle astronaut. Speaking in the high school’s Little Theater, Hoffman, now a professor at MIT, flashed big-screen photos of himself covered with wires, before donning a bulky astronaut suit. “I don’t usually show pictures of me without clothes,” he joked. “But I wanted you to see all the monitors hooked up to my body.” He was naked only from the waist up.
More photos documented Hoffman’s space walk to repair the Hubbel telescope. Then, to fully enjoy the experience, he removed his gigantic, gloved hand from the mother ship, and floated in the great void, with only a single steel wire connecting him. “An amazing experience,” he said quietly.
That night we dressed for cocktails and dinner at the Metropolis Country Club in Hartsdale. We got re-acquainted with old friends and made new ones. It was simple: no need to give backgrounds. We had grown up together. The conversation noise level was deafening.
We talked with gusto and a sense of humor unparalled in my memory. Were we all “better with age” or was I just more appreciative? I believe we have mellowed, and are more open to listening and sharing than we were as self-absorbed teenagers.
I learned that Joan Strassburger Goldfield, a retired NY public school teacher, and Gayle McKnight Hanset, a coach and mentor in Idaho, had donated a kidney to their ill husbands. Roger Burnell is now in his fourth career — as a commercial estate developer near San Francisco, and has been a vegetarian for 37 years. John Nimmons, vice president of our student council, practices sustainability law in nearby Mill Valley, CA.
On Saturday, a student guide gave us a tour of the high school. We were surprised to learn that it has no Wi-Fi, and that everyone must take class notes by hand. The students have also planted an organic garden on the Post Road front lawn.
We attended a roundtable discussion led by David Wyler, a retired physician in Rhode Island, and Randy Kehler, a Massachusetts activist who works on documentary films and leads seminars on non-violence. Kehler became well-known for defying the draft during the Vietnam War, went to jail for it, then refused to pay federal taxes, which resulted in the federal government’s seizing his and his wife’s home.
He and Wyler asked, “What were some of the values, beliefs, and perspectives on the world that we came out of SHS with, 50 years ago? How have they changed, if indeed they have, and which circumstances and experiences brought about the change?”
Philanthropist Andy Potash, a retired NY insurance broker, answered, “Scarsdale High School gave us an extraordinary education. We learned a lot.” Agreed Kehler, “I thought Scarsdale was a wonderful place to grow up and go to school.”
Betsy Romberg Bernstein, a retired teacher and psychologist in Vermont, said, “Growing up in Scarsdale, I knew life would be happy, and things would be possible. I learned there’s a lot of work to do in the world, and we were expected to do something about it. We all have done really interesting things.”
Some people noted the occasional teacher who was not “all there,” and the lack of black and Asian classmates. But generally we concluded that our lives were very good indeed because of the stellar education we had received. So stellar, in fact, that Suzan Kress Goldhaber, a retired NY reading/writing specialist, hit a nerve when she asked, “How many of us were – well, embarrassed to admit that we were from Scarsdale, because of its reputation?”
We all laughed.
“At that time,” recalled Bill Speaker, a retired oil and gas engineer in Colorado, “Scarsdale High School was one of the top four high schools academically in the country.” The town’s median income was high. The Scarsdale Diet Doctor Herman Tarnhower, later put the town on the map when he was murdered by his mistress Jean Harris.
Many of us acknowledged that we had tiptoed around telling people that we were from Scarsdale. “I used to say I was from Westchester County,” said one. The group laughed appreciatively. “I said I was from a very, very small community north of New York City,” said another. The laughter grew louder. A third classmate brought down the house when he admitted, “I used to say I was from White Plains!”
Len Marks, a California physician, reacted differently. “I was proud of being a Scarsdalian. I’m a pediatrician, and I know that kids need a base. Scarsdale gave me a base on which to grow. Our classmates were a wonderfully heterogeneous group. Once the tunnel opened up and we were out in the real world, there were many roads we could follow.”
Ellen Reid Dodge, who lives in Connecticut, said, “Growing up in Westchester was a privilege. I went to SHS because my father taught here, but we lived outside Scarsdale, in Ardsley and Mamaroneck, so I didn’t have a real sense of community. I found it in the anti-war movement and a hippie community, but I always worked as an urban planner in a straight job.”
Jean Pascoe, a Massachusetts artist, stated, “You hit the nail on the head!” when Anne Crosman, an Arizona journalist, said, “SHS was a bubble. Only after I finished an all-women’s college and went to a co-ed graduate school in Washington, DC, did I see the real world. Somehow I was able to handle it. My high-school education had done that.”
John Severinghaus, a psychiatrist in Vermont, confirmed, “Our education taught us to think openly and critically about how to deal with the bigger world beyond the bubble. Today, critical thinking and genuine intellectual pursuit are dismissed as elitist.”
Dick Lynton, a Colorado lawyer, added, “When I got out of Yale Law School, I thought in terms of ‘How much pro bono work can I do in my job?’ We were just ahead of the Baby Boomers, and since then, consumerism has become worse. I always tried to stay true to my own values.”
Neil Ross, a financial services consultant in Colorado, summed it up. “Our foundation gave us an opportunity, in both a global and a microscopic way. If we can think of one thing to do in the future, we can leave a legacy to the world.”
We discussed other issues – the Vietnam War, the anti-war movement, and the Scarsdale Golf Club’s decision to forbid a man with Jewish heritage to be a debutante’s escort at the club’s annual Holly Ball. At that time, the club did not allow Jews to become members. Pete Salinger, a retired senior health care and housing expert in Maryland, said, “I was Jewish, and there were times I was called names. Once I was beaten up because of my religion.”
Marilyn Welsh, a Massachusetts educator, recalled, “I was at St. James the Less Episcopal Church when Father Kempsell stated that anyone involved in the golf club incident should be excommunicated. In our senior year, I heard a speaker who had been on the Freedom March in Alabama. Actors Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee were invited to talk to us. Ossie said, ‘Have you noticed there are no black people as bank tellers or workers here in Scarsdale?’ That was an eye-opener.”
After the roundtable, some of us went to lunch at a village restaurant. Others played a round of golf at Quaker Ridge Country Club. A few took a yoga class, led by Crosman. We spread mats on the high school’s North Field, and did our poses under a giant tree. Lean and flexible, Fred Lowenfels was the only man in the group. He practices yoga regularly in NY, where he is a corporate lawyer. Lowenfels was editor-in-chief of the school newspaper The Maroon in our senior year.
The reunion was more than serious talk. On Friday night, several of us, including Bernstein and Eileen Kohl Kaufman, members of our high-school’s illustrious drama club, acted out a rollicking radio mystery play, “The Fatal Cup of Tea,” written by classmate Dan Smith, a computer software engineer in Massachusetts. On Saturday night, at the Scarsdale Golf Club, we jumped onto the dance floor and did the Jitterbug, Twist, Stroll, and all the slow dances to a DJ’s music of the 1950s and ‘60s. Remember how some guys crushed us girls to their chests? Quaker Ridge science teacher Nat Sloan, a guest, was the best dancer there! Someone mentioned that he had been an Arthur Murray Dance instructor.
I introduced myself to Prescott Winslow, our senior class president, to whom I hadn’t spoken two words in high school. We agreed to meet later in Arizona, where we both now live. Believe it or not, he lives in the town of Winslow, where he does community work and has run for the State House of Representatives.
We dressed up – many of the men wore handsome suits and ties, and the women elegant outfits. Some showed off sparkling jewelry. One included an intricate necklace and bracelet, made and worn by classmate Sharon Alexander Zoffness, a NY artist. We ate delicious roast beef, salmon, pasta, salads, and chocolate desserts, and drank good wine and spirits.
We told stories. Hoffman said he had climbed the Matterhorn in Switzerland four times, the first time with his father, and later with his son. Michael Eliasberg, a California lawyer, reported that he spent one month every year in France. “I love French food!” he exclaimed. Nancy Griggs Berry, a teacher in North Carolina, spoke enthusiastically of an upcoming Methodist Church class that she’s teaching on American immigrants.
Reunion co-chairs Barbara Wile Schwarz, a retired NY teacher, and Bob Cohn, a NY magazine publishing executive, praised their organizing committee, then introduced Winslow, who said, “I was touched by the comments of classmate Dan Horowitz,” a NY magazine advertising salesman. “Dan wished he could travel 50 years back in time to reassure his anxious teenaged self that things would turn out better than he could imagine.
“His comments prompt me to say that, although I’m not one to dwell on regrets, I have a recurring ‘fantasy do-over’ of traveling back in time to relive my high-school years, embodying the essence of these two sayings.
“One is my own variation of a statement attributed to Plato, among others. ‘Be kind, for everyone you meet may be engaged in a hard struggle.’
“And the other is from the Dalai Llama. ‘Be kind whenever possible. And kindness is always possible.’”
We applauded his wisdom, then returned to talking and dancing. At last we said lingering goodbyes, promising to stay in touch and to meet again – at our 55th reunion.
Anne Crosman is a journalist and author who lived in her family home in Scarsdale before moving to Sedona, AZ in 2006. In high school, she was a reporter for The Maroon newspaper.