By Vicky Gu (VI)
The high temperatures of the final days of September thankfully began to subside by Saturday, October 5 on this event-packed day. By 8:30 a.m., the Basking Ridge campus was swarming with parents of Middle and Upper school students for Pingry’s annual Back to School Day, where they sat for ten-minute versions of their children’s classes. There, parents could learn about the content of their children’s courses while also getting to know the teacher. Parents who were new to Pingry also had the opportunity to tour the campus.
Following their simulated school day, parents joined others in the Pingry community for a bountiful fall lunch. The spread included barbecue, Italian food, and cider, but the dessert was particularly exquisite. To gear up for the upcoming autumn season, guests dined on apple cobbler, pumpkin spice mousse, and apple cider doughnuts. Another tent offered spirited goodies, such as car stickers, t-shirts, and blue-beaded necklaces in preparation for the upcoming sports games. Visitors were able to participate in other activities as well, such as checking out the Pingry Credit Union booth or having a chance to meet acclaimed world traveller Denis Belliveau.
Throughout the afternoon, Pingry’s sports teams competed against a slew of other New Jersey high school teams, with each game starting approximately half an hour after the last began. At 2 p.m., girls’ varsity soccer kicked off the sequence, defeating Livingston 5-1. The co-ed varsity water polo team, played next, winning their match against Saint Peter’s Prep 9-6. Varsity football was also victorious against Montclair Kimberley Academy. Girls’ varsity field hockey was unfortunately defeated by Bridgewater Raritan, losing 0-2. The second water polo game, this time with Pingry’s co-ed junior varsity team, also won 9-6. The last two matches by the boys’ soccer team ended in stunning victories; at about 4 pm, the boys’ junior varsity soccer team prevented Princeton Day from scoring a single goal, winning 9-0. Boys’ varsity soccer did the same, beating Princeton Day with a score of 6-0.
“[The girls’ varsity soccer players] are a formidable team,” says Alison Lee (VI). “Their finesse and teamwork is absolutely astonishing, so it is no wonder that they won the game.”
As the sun fell, Pingry students began to gear up for the Homecoming dance. The theme, “Storm Area 51”, had decisively won when proposed in a vote to the student body. It was based on a popular Internet meme: supposedly, if enough people raided the US Air Force facility, the government would not be able to stop all participants from freeing whatever secrets, particularly aliens, kept there. Student raiders were appropriately dressed in glamorous, alien-themed attire.
“I really liked the Area 51 theme because of how uniquely relevant it is to 2019,” says Anjali Kapoor (VI). She states that students would be able to look back at this particular dance and “remember how this was the year that millions of people signed up to storm Area 51 in search of aliens.” Alison Lee agrees: “yes, outer space has been done before, but I think what was unique about this year was that we took a current event as our theme… Honestly, I feel like it might even be the best theme that we’ve had so far because of its uniqueness to our time.”
By Martine Bigos (IV)
During morning meeting on September 23rd, Pingry’s Taiko Drumming Club performed “Dokokara,” a composition written by the principal of the LA Taiko Institute in the 2010s.
Three years ago, Pingry’s former headmaster suggested that Mr. Leone should host a workshop about taiko drumming. Twelve students and faculty attended. A few months later, Pingry’s newly established taiko group put on their first performance at the Taste of Pingry event, and Pingry Taiko Drumming became an official club. Since then, Taiko has performed at several school-wide events, including: A Taste of Pingry, the Lunar New Year Assembly, Night of Noise, and more.
Mr. Leone was interviewed after the morning meeting performance on September 23rd, and below are excerpts of that conversation.
How did you discover and how long have you been involved with Taiko?
“I have been playing for about ten years. I got introduced to Taiko through a global music class. I was a music minor so one of the requirements was to take some music electives. Because we had to do a field study, the professor told us about a Japanese Taiko drumming group in Philadelphia. I was blown away. About a week later, I saw them again and someone at TCNJ told me that they were thinking of starting a Taiko group. I never thought I’d hear from them again, but I did! At the first practice, I was terrible! Three sessions turned into five, which turned into eight, and we had our first performance. I wrote a piece for the group because the Asian American Association had a cultural show in the spring where we debuted. From there TCNJ Taiko was born and is still going today. They’re on their twelfth year there!”
How do you select a piece for the club to perform?
“I try and find things that are open source or pieces that are copyleft. Copyleft means that it’s open to use, but whatever you produce has to be released copyleft. This is a little tricky for us because there’s a lot of disclosure and consent. I also try and find pieces that are fun to play and watch! ‘Dokokara’ is a challenging piece, but some of our members need a good challenge. The piece should be accessible for any Taiko members that are relatively new.”
What is the process for preparing a Taiko performance?
“Learning the piece and getting everyone comfortable is important. I believe very strongly in making sure that everyone is confident with what they’re doing before they go on stage. I try to fit in as much practice time as possible and encourage students to practice on their own. Members have asked to rehearse outside of regular practice, which is easy since we can set up a drum in a practice room. We have to make sure that practices are low pressure. Some of the performances can feel high pressure, but only if you let it. Performing in front of the whole school is one of the bigger audiences I’ve performed for. The Pingry community is supportive and energetic, so I feel zero pressure.”
By Camille Collins (III)
For Pingry, convocation welcomes a new student body and ushers in a new year of thought, achievement, and education, along with the celebration of the Honor Code that is held in such high esteem.
Convocation opened with the signing of the Honor Code, written by Pingry students in 1926. The signing of the Honor Code reminds the community about the promises they made to be honorable and contribute “to the larger community of the world,” as the Honor Code says. When all members of the Pingry community sign the Honor Code, the school becomes a more tightly-knit community that is bound by a single contract.
During Convocation, a number of speeches were given to formally begin the 2019-2020 school year. Mr. Miller Bugliari ‘52, Head Coach of the Boys’ Varsity Soccer Team and Special Assistant to the Headmaster, is distinguished for 60 years as a faculty member. He began his time at Pingry as a biology teacher in 1959. Student Body President, Brian Li (VI); Board of Trustees Chair, Mr. Jeffrey Edwards ‘78, P ‘12, P ‘14, P ‘18; and Head of School, Mr. Matt Levinson were among the speakers at Convocation. Emily Sanchez (VI), Honor Board Chair, spoke of the Honor Code’s use as an identifier for every student and faculty member in Pingry. “Everybody is able to grow into themselves and not be afraid to take the necessary risks,” she says. Similar messages of acceptance and growing from failure were shared by speakers throughout the ceremony.
Hopefully, as the year gets underway, Convocation will remind students, faculty, and staff to always fulfill the Honor Code and simply slow down. In the words of Mr. Levinson, “Take a moment to hit the brakes on whatever you are doing… [and] think about your classmates and your role in the community.”
By Zoe Wang (IV)
This year’s annual PSPA Friday Night Lights took place on September 27, as hundreds of students, families, and faculty from the Lower, Middle, and Upper Schools came together to support the Big Blue’s football team.
The evening began with the community gathered around the tent to enjoy pizza, pasta, and mozzarella sticks while keeping warm with hot chocolate and apple cider. Along with the food and drinks, teddy bears of a variety of colors were handed out to everyone.
Although the team lost 34-0 to Long Island Lutheran, the energy from the stands was unbeatable. “Despite the loss, I really enjoyed FNL, and the enthusiasm of the crowd was great,” Katherine Xie (IV) said. Form VI students were especially energized, cheering on their fellow seniors with large cardboard cutouts of the players. They also started chants for the crowd to follow.
Big Blue may have lost this game, but the spirit from the community was never diminished.
By Emma Drzala (IV)
On the 21st of August, I started a journey that would leave a lasting impact for the rest of my life. As I crossed the threshold to enter the plane, I felt panic and reluctance coursing through my body. I found my seat and felt my eyes getting heavier. The next thing I remember was looking out the window and seeing desert stretch for miles; after a summer of anticipation and an 11 hour flight, I finally landed in Amman, Jordan.
The first days felt relaxed; my mother was there to comfort me and I knew that the rest of my family and friends were only a phone call away. After the third day, I finally walked into King’s Academy with a clear head and an excitement that had never been matched in my life.
The first week felt like I had already been there for a year, and I was convinced that I needed to catch the next flight home. I always managed to find myself alone in my room, wishing I could be in a comfortable environment with a school I knew, friends I knew, and a life I knew.
As the days went on, however, I found myself growing into a routine and my life seemed more manageable. Though, I still longed for my own bed and my dogs running up to me as I got home.
After the second week ended, I felt something new brewing inside me. It was the same excitement I felt when I first saw the campus and I finally started to feel as though I belonged. More kids took an interest in me and teachers were commending my bravery for leaving home and moving somewhere new—the school didn’t seem as daunting anymore.
I was reminded of why I came to the Middle East and I began to revert back to my outgoing, happy self. I had moments where I closed my eyes, and when I opened them, I was hit with the reality that I was in Jordan. My life was a dream that most people think about, but never get the opportunity to do. Even on weekend trips to the mall, I looked outside and savored every view that ran along as the bus was zooming. My friends were pointing out camels and sand dunes, and I was finally beginning to process not being in New Jersey.
Even after a month of being here, I still think about my home and what would be happening if I were in the comforts of Pingry. Though, whenever I find myself drawing closer to that thought, I am always reminded of the golden opportunity I have been given and am reassured that I made the best decision by coming here. The transition was difficult, but already the trips to the Dead Sea, Petra, and Wadi Rum have made all my sacrifices in coming here worth it.
By Lauren Taylor (VI)
On Friday, September 20, the Upper School gathered in Hauser Auditorium to celebrate students who displayed exceptional academic effort and achievement in the 2018-2019 school year.
The ceremony began by recognizing the Form VI students who were honored by the National Merit Scholarship Program for their scores on last year’s PSAT/NMSQT exam. This year, twenty-two Pingry students were named National Merit Commended Students, while an additional three students were honored by the National Hispanic Recognition Program. Seniors Stuart Clark, Anjali Kapoor, Ashna Kumar, Brian Li, Ashley Lu, Collin Wen, and Robert Yu were recognized as National Merit Semifinalists and given the chance to advance and potentially become finalists in the spring.
Following these recognitions, Upper School Director Ms. Chatterji presented the Citizenship Prize, which is given to one student in each grade who best embodies the spirit of the Honor Code. Next, the Faculty Prize was awarded to students who showed commendable effort and commitment during the past academic year. Finally, Ms. Chatterji presented the Scholarship Prize to the student(s) in each grade with the highest academic GPA. Notably, seven current freshmen tied for first and received the Scholarship Prize for their Form II GPAs.
Next, seniors who excelled in math and science were given various awards from the respective departments. These awards included the Rensselaer Mathematics and Science Award, as well as the Form V Whitlock Prize for Math.
Following tradition, Mr. Levinson presented the college book awards. Each award is presented to the member of the senior class who best embodies the qualities and values of the particular college named. Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Mount Holyoke, Penn, Princeton, Smith, Wellesley, Williams, and Yale were the colleges represented this year for a total of eleven awards.
On behalf of The Justin Society, Ms. Taylor of the English Department announced the winners of the annual writing competition. Writers submitted their entries last spring, which were then reviewed by the English Department. During the assembly, writers and poets from every grade received awards and honorable mentions for their works of creative writing, poetry, historical fiction, and more.
The assembly is a celebration of student achievement, effort, and dedication. It serves as a reminder of the effort that each Pingry student and faculty member puts into school every day. The Pingry community congratulates all of the students honored at the ceremony, and looks forward to another year of inspiring achievements and hard work.
Eva Schiller (V), Vicky Gu (VI), Meghan Durkin (V)
Though the Pingry community has known his name for almost a year now, Mr. Matt Levinson has just begun his first academic year as our new Head of School. Following a five-month search and a unanimous vote from the Board of Trustees, Pingry officially welcomed its sixteenth Head of School on July 1, 2019, succeeding Mr. Nathaniel Conard’s 14-year tenure as Headmaster.
The role of the Head of School has long been ambiguous to many Pingry students. Mr. Levinson explains his job as keeping “everybody focused on the student experience… from myself, to all administration, staff, and teachers,” and that “every day is different. There are a lot of interesting challenges that cross my desk, problems to solve.” He remarked, “But also, being out in the community, being out in classes, being out at games, is really important.”
When asked what drew him to Pingry, Mr. Levinson immediately responded, “the Honor Code was a first appeal… The trust that’s inherent in having an Honor Code is really meaningful to me.” Pingry’s inclusive atmosphere was also attractive. “Commitment to diversity and inclusion is really important to me, personally and professionally,” he says, adding, “I’ve been really struck and impressed by Pingry’s diversity and how it strengthens and enriches the community.”
Beginning his career teaching both middle and high school students, Mr. Levinson has stepped into many roles within school communities, whether that be coaching sports or serving as a dean of students. He believes that his experience allows him to “understand everything that goes into running a big organization like Pingry.”
Despite his extensive experience with education, he confessed that in high school, he was not always “as engaged as [he] should’ve or could have been, but something just kind of kicked in senior year and a couple teachers really inspired [him].” During his time at Pingry so far, he has noticed “how much [the teachers] are inspiring to you all.”
When asked about his vision for Pingry, Mr. Levinson left his response open-ended. Rather than only him deciding where Pingry should go in the upcoming years, he thinks that everyone should have input and “that the vision question is something we all need to invest in and work on together.” However, he does have a “strategic plan focusing on global education, student wellbeing, interdisciplinary learning… and also to promote teacher growth and development.”
His first step is to address student wellbeing with the hopes of helping the community “improve and be attentive.” So far, he has met with peer leaders and teachers, and plans to do some staff training in November.
Speaking on the Pingry community, Mr. Levinson noted that “everyone’s been incredibly welcoming, which has been wonderful.” He has visited classes on both campuses and gone to games in order “to get the chance to see the student experience.” What amazed him since his arrival was the “long history of people who invest their lives here. I think everyone here is trying to always get better, no one’s standing still, which I love about the community”.
Mr. Levinson also revealed that the process for getting “Shorts Days” begins with students. A student emailed him one evening asking to allow shorts the next day, and by the end of the night, Mr. Levinson had confirmed one. “I know,” he says, “on a hot day, when there’s no air conditioning, it’s nice to be able to wear shorts.”
Speaking of air conditioning, will Pingry ever get it? “That’s a big question I’m hearing; lots of people want to talk about that, but I don’t have an answer to that yet. It could happen. I don’t know when, but I know it’s something that people, especially in the 90-degree weather, are very interested in.” Perhaps someday.
Mr. Levison concluded, “I would just like to say I’ve been so impressed with the students in this school. The engagement in the classes that I’ve seen, from kindergarten all the way through 12th grade, makes it clear that the kids here really like learning and want to learn, and the teachers are really invested in making that happen.”
Ashleigh Provoost (IV)
Over the summer, Pingry installed a gender neutral restroom in the athletics wing. This was a big step forward for Pingry and its continued advocacy for a more inclusive school community; this engagement has provided a bathroom that allows privacy for all who choose to use it. It ensures a safe space for people who may not feel comfortable using cisgender bathrooms and upholds Pingry’s values of acceptance and inclusion.
“The GSA was heavily involved in the planning process,” said Sarah Gagliardi (IV), one of the student leaders of GSA. “They talked to the Head of School and collaborated with [faculty and staff].” The GSA, or Gender Sexuality Alliance, is a club at Pingry that promotes acceptance of all people regardless of their identifiers. The goal of GSA is to create a welcoming community at Pingry in which members and allies of the LGBTQ+ community can feel safe. Members of GSA brainstormed ideas to make the community more inclusive, and having the new bathroom available for the entire community is a true testament to the commitment of past and present GSA members and leaders.
The new bathroom aligns both Pingry and GSA values. “By expanding the amount of inclusive bathrooms, it creates a safer and more welcoming environment for students and faculty, where they feel that they’re accepted,” noted Gagliardi (IV).
Prior to this school year, there were no bathrooms on campus specifically labelled as gender neutral. With the help of faculty and staff, GSA worked to make this bathroom a reality. Now, it is available to students who feel more comfortable using a bathroom facility that ensures privacy and security, as well as the entire community. Implementing the bathroom is an important step towards Pingry’s continued commitment to diversity and acceptance of all.
Gender neutral bathrooms are extremely important to the community at large, and Pingry’s accommodation of people of all identifiers allows for a safer environment that embraces all people.
By Alex Kaplan ’21
On January 8, Pingry welcomed back TanTan Wang ‘16, who visited to perform with his collegiate a cappella group, the Spizzwinks. Wang is currently a member of Yale University’s Class of 2020. During his time at Pingry, he was an avid member of the school’s drama and music programs. Wang was a longtime member and president of the Buttondowns, participated in multiple Pingry productions, and received two Pingry Arts Awards in 2016 – the Outstanding A Capella Group Award and the Pingry Drama “Bottom” Award. The Spizzwinks returned to Pingry as a part of their hometown tour, which takes the group through the homes of each of its members. The East Coast leg of the hometown tour featured performances in Summit and Millburn; eventually the group opted to add Pingry as a stop to their tour. The performance included a capella renditions of popular songs, as well as spoken word skits performed by the members of the Spizzwinks.
The concert had an overwhelmingly positive response from the community. Dr. Andrew Moore shared his thoughts, saying, “The Spizzwinks were wonderful.” He commented on the technique and song choice of the group, adding that, “They draw on a long tradition of a cappella music mixing traditional and current popular songs in their repertoire,” and that, “The group has continued a high level of performance skill in both choral blend and solo singing.” Dr. Moore fondly recounted his time teaching Wang, saying that, “TanTan was a real cheerleader for the music program at Pingry. He was an outstanding Glee Club president, and was supportive of everyone in the performing arts in our community.”
Wang is one of many great examples of Pingry alumni involved in the arts. Dr. Moore expressed his appreciation for alumni like Wang, remarking, “I am so proud of all of our Pingry alumni who have gone on to sing in many of the great collegiate choral groups throughout the country.”
By Meghan Durkin ’21
On Saturday, January 26, students arrived at The Westin Governor Morris in Morristown, NJ for Pingry’s annual winter dance, Snowball. Snowball is a “Sadie Hawkins”-style dance, in which girls traditionally ask boys to attend the dance with them. Students, dressed in formal attire, filled the hotel for a night of dancing, music, and friendship.
Last year, The Westin served as the location for Snowball for the first time. The venue turned out to be a terrific space, with a large dance floor, spacious lobby, and plenty of dining tables for students. Because it was so well-received by the community, Student Government decided to hold the dance at The Westin again. Upon arrival, students entered a main lobby where they could check their coats and bags. Up a flight of stairs, there was a buffet along with soft drinks and a dance floor.
The food choices were a highlight of the event, including macaroni and cheese, dumplings, and burgers. Student Body President Andrew Cowen (VI) agreed that “the food was great.” Along with the food, students could take pictures in the photo booth with props, while the event as a whole was photographed by Peter Chollick Photography. Helen Baeck-Hubloux (V) said, “I found the photo booth to be a very good experience for bonding.”
This year, music included both popular songs, like Cardi B’s “Bodak Yellow,” and old favorites, like “Come on Eileen” by Dexy’s Midnight Runners and Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline”. Many students crowded the dance floor throughout the night, including Baeck-Hubloux, who added, “[I] had a wonderful time dancing with friends.”
Students agreed that Snowball served as a great opportunity to connect with classmates. Maile Winterbottom (IV) said that it is a “good time for the school to get together as a community and everyone to just bond over something super cool and fun and to get dressed up.”
Sydney Stovall (IV) said, “Snowball is a great time to get with friends and meet new people. You are all dressed up, so it’s a really fun atmosphere. Of course, it’s a good time to release some stress.” Snowball, once again, provided a time for the student body to come together with dancing, music, and food.