If you’re a golf fan like me, you spent your Super Bowl weekend watching the Waste Management Phoenix Open—and yes, the game as well. Perhaps, the biggest storyline of the tournament was an unlikely, yet familiar, name at the top of the leaderboard going into Sunday: Jordan Spieth. Spieth, a three-time Major champion, who was once ranked the world’s No. 1 golfer for 26 consecutive weeks, hasn’t won a tournament since 2017, a three-and-a-half year dry spell that has seen him fall out of the top 50 in world rankings. At the Phoenix Open, for the first time in far too long, Spieth looked like the player of old: he had a career-high ten birdies in Saturday’s round and went into the final round tied for first at 18 under par. As a fan of Spieth’s, and of golf, it was exciting: a potential resurgence of a top talent who seemed to have lost his game. A win, however, was not in the cards for Spieth, who played a lackluster final round and finished fourth. I was disappointed, to say the least.
But, Jordan Spieth’s almost-win reminded me of what I love so much about sports: the comeback. There is nothing like watching a once-great talent re-emerge from defeat to reclaim their past glories. Think Tiger Woods’ 2019 Masters victory, his first Major title since the 2008 U.S. Open. Or, think of Shaun White claiming his third Olympic gold medal at PyeongChang in 2018, following a fourth place finish four years earlier. For a more recent “comeback,” and if you’re more of a soccer fan, think of John Stones’ resurgence in Manchester City’s first team this season.
Like Spieth, many more athletes continue to push for a concrete comeback of their own. Take Serena Williams, who is facing a career downturn following the birth of her first child. Williams has lost her last four Grand Slam finals, a stat that has slowed her chase of the all-time Grand Slam singles’ titles record. While failing to hold this record will likely weigh little on her already stacked legacy as a player, her accomplishments, at least to fans, feel incomplete.
Maybe this is unfair, but the truth is, the story of a comeback never fails to be a great one, especially for the fans. Sports, in its mirroring of life, presents the ultimate lesson of “you can only be on top for so long.” For professional athletes, success is hard to earn, yet so easy to lose. Being at the pinnacle of one’s sport and the height of one’s career, almost always ends unforgivingly and without return. Thus, when fans are invited to witness the return of a talent and player they grew to adore, the feeling is nothing less than elation, and the story worthy enough to be front-page news.
Unfortunately, no—we can’t all be Tiger or Serena, but I’d like to think we all have fans rooting for our comebacks too (albeit many less). As the greats would tell us: in times of success, when our putts are sinking and shots dropping, we have to grab at every opportunity; we have to take our moments and squeeze everything out of them. And inevitably, when our good luck relinquishes and we’re off our game, we have to know: our fans are behind us; our people are pulling for us. Just ask Spieth, Williams, White, or Woods: everyone loves a comeback, even one for you.
Following a recommendation from a friend to my mom, and then to me, I ordered a copy of Susan Cain’s “Quiet”—and well, the rest of the title spoils its thesis, so I’ll wait on that. The book follows society’s distaste for introversion, a trait Cain notes is seen as “a second-class personality trait, somewhere between a disappointment and a pathology” (Cain 4). Well, if introversion is a “pathology,” then extroversion is its cure. Society loves to love extroverts; we admire charismatic speakers and outgoing performers more than we care for quiet bookworms. Pingry too loves to praise its extroverts: if you’re not a voice in discussion, were you there at all? I love Cain’s book for its unparalleled argument against these values; the aforementioned title, a glimpse into the book that follows, ends like this: “The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.”
This call for extroversion begins in a fundamental place: schools. Cain begins her book with an acknowledgement of this: “at school you might have been prodded to come ‘out of shell’—that noxious expression which fails to appreciate that some animals naturally carry shelter everywhere they go, and that some humans are just the same” (6). Cain recognizes the natural incompatibility many introverted students have with school. You have to talk.
I’ve experienced many of the “come out of your shell” comments as a Pingry student. My interim reports never fail to mention that I’m “not the biggest talker” or “a dominant presence” in class; a particular favorite comment of mine is “she could benefit from getting involved even more in conversations.” Now, I do wish I was more comfortable with my status as a “quiet student,” yet it’s difficult not to see the introverted, soft-spoken part of my personality as an unshakeable weakness.
Often, what you say is greater than what you write, do, or present. Without a voice in demand of attention, your other contributions fall short. Unfortunately, not all strengths are made equal. More than ever, there’s a demand for “soft-skills.” Everyone, from friends to teachers to bosses, wants people who excel in communication and teamwork, or are confident and humorous. Our culture, and our school, admire “people skills” above everything: unfortunately, for many introverts, these skills don’t always come naturally.
Thus, here’s my take.
For students: it’s good to play to your strengths. Yes, there are benefits to stepping out of your comfort zone, but there’s validity in doing that on your own terms. If you like being quiet, be quiet. If you like to talk, then talk. Extroversion is not a trait of success, just as introversion isn’t a recipe for failure. Maybe find a little bit of both.
To Pingry teachers: forcing uncomfortable students to speak is not a reliable tool to change your “quiet” students into “talkative” ones. More often than not, it perpetuates a sense of inadequacy for a trait people are incapable of changing. Why can we only celebrate the people that lead the conversation? What about the thoughtful, attentive listeners? Or the students who bring creativity? Organization? How did we conclude loud is a far better quality than quiet? Why have Pingry teachers fostered learning environments that suit their extroverted students far more than any others?
While I often wish I could be, I am not the loudest in the room. I hate volunteering to answer questions, I don’t like raising my hand, and I don’t want to present in class. There is a constant fight circulating in my mind when I try to do so, and it’s often I fight I lose to my introversion. Though, as Susan Cain suggests in her book, introverts have something unique to offer our loud, hectic world: some quiet.
I fill my time with endless technological stimulation; when the weekly notification pops up, informing me of an alarmingly high screen time, I’m embarrassed. I balance my phone on my laptop to watch two shows at once, fall asleep clutching my laptop more often than I’d like to admit, and wonder how numerous hours have passed, it’s dark, and I’m still on a “quick Netflix break.”
It’s normal though, right? Everyone is constantly on their phones; there is simply no downtime from technology. Phones offer a nice distraction, an endless Band-Aid that coats our worries with instant gratification and content. That’s our normal, and I find it fascinating.
So, when the recent buzz around The Social Dilemma surfaced, I grabbed my phone, opened Netflix, and sat down for a watch. The documentary explores the negative impacts of social media, from its ramifications on mental health to its addictive properties. Not only does The Social Dilemma stress the cruel motives behind social platforms, but it also uses the creators of these platforms to deliver the message. These creators range from former executives at Twitter and Facebook to the former president of Pinterest and numerous other early team members from the world’s most popular social media platforms. It’s scary that even those who helped build these “tools,” fear the damage they’ve inflicted.
Unfortunately, there is no group more at risk from these technologies than teens; the platforms we’ve inherited present one of our greatest challenges as a generation, especially in terms of mental health. As The Social Dilemma mentions, the rise in suicide rates for teens has skyrocketed since the birth of social media. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide rates increased 56% over the last decade, an distressingly rapid increase.
Though there is nothing new to the claims that social media is “harmful,” The Social Dilemma got me thinking: if we know how harmful it is, why can’t we stop using it? Here’s my thought: we can’t stop using social media because even those who tell us to “put the phone down” can’t help but force us to use it more and more.
Take Pingry’s social media presence for example. While we are constantly told to get off our phones, or focus in class, the school itself uses social media platforms to endorse itself or inform its community. With the addition of Pingry Plus this year, a platform directly aimed at students, the irony cannot be lost. The same people that urge students to waste less time on our phones, give us more reasons to use them.
Thus, more than anything else, The Social Dilemma opened my eyes to the greater hypocrisy of social networking. The platforms are created by those who denounce using it, are criticized by schools who profit from it, and complained about by older generations who swarm to the platforms. And through it all, we are the generation that ultimately suffers for it.
It’s terrifying to think we never free our minds from our screens; we inhibit the wandering of our thoughts and contemplation of wants by filling our space with social media. We watch videos while we eat breakfast, listen to podcasts while we walk, and play music while we exercise. Though, I’d like to think it’s not exactly our fault. These platforms, created by an older generation to monopolize on the weakness of a younger one, are meant to be addicting. Even Netflix, the greatest time-suck of them all, knows we aren’t the ones at fault.
This year’s freshman retreat, held on Thursday, September 3, kicked off an unprecedented school year. Instead of visiting Bryn Mawr Mountain Retreat as originally planned, this year’s retreat was held at Pingry to respect coronavirus guidelines. Although masks and shields brought an unusual element to the retreat, the goal of the day remained the same: provide freshmen an opportunity to interact with their classmates, as well as their peer leaders, before the official start of the school year.
Leading up to the retreat, this year’s 36 peer leaders met to prepare during a retreat of their own. They participated in bonding activities, found out who their co-leader was, and created various icebreaker activities for the freshman. Typically, the freshman retreat is planned by Bryn Mawr; however, this year, the activities were left to the peer leaders. As a group, they brainstormed ideas such as “icebreaker UNO” and Jeopardy.
With all that preparation, Thursday kicked off with a quick coronavirus safety briefing by Mr. Graham Touhey and an introduction to the peer leaders. Then, each peer group, consisting of about eight freshmen and two seniors, went off to get to know each other. Each group did their own activities, from charades and kickball to Jenga and “Shark Tank.”
The day did bring many new challenges, as this was the largest number of students on campus since March. Peer leader Zara Jacob (VI) described these difficulties: “There were quite a few bumps and some moments where the last thing I wanted to do was talk with my mask on, but I still got to meet my freshmen in-person. I got to know them on a level you just can’t through a screen.”
Like many others, Jacob was able to make the most of the day, even though it was different than anticipated. Her favorite activity was the peer leader hunt: each peer group and one of their leaders used clues to find the other leaders hidden throughout the building and campus. “When I was with my peer group, we were all just walking together, listening to music, and talking,” Jacob recalled.
Throughout the day, the peer groups also competed in a TikTok challenge. These videos had to reflect how they hoped to be defined as a group; at the end of the retreat, all the TikToks were viewed in Hauser and voted on. Ultimately, this challenge allowed the groups to explore their creativity and work together.
While this year’s retreat still allowed freshmen an opportunity to get to know each other, the traditional overnight retreat was missed by all. Ms. Lorian Morales, one of the peer leadership advisors that helped plan the retreat, acknowledged those disappointments: “Having that time away together, whether it’s on the bus, walking the trails, sharing meals, or hanging out in the cabins, allows students the opportunity to interact at their own pace in a relaxed environment.”
However, the retreat’s unusual elements brought many positives as well, as the Pingry community finally came back together. “Watching the day unfold put me at ease. Students were back on campus, making new friends, reconnecting with old friends, and just enjoying each other’s company,” Ms. Morales said.
As the growth rate of the coronavirus begins to flatline, Americans grow tired of a virus that has ravaged this nation for far longer – the racially charged murder of innocent black Americans, including Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd, by a systematically flawed criminal justice system.
Since George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on May 25, thousands have taken to the streets across the country in frustration. These protests have called for murder charges against the policemen who killed Floyd, as well as concrete legislative reform to end these homicides. The former request was fulfilled on June 3, when the Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced a second-degree murder charge (upgraded from third-degree) for Derek Chauvin, who asphyxiated Floyd by kneeling on his neck for over 8 minutes, as well as aiding and abetting charges for the three former policemen who allowed Chauvin to do so. In terms of broader reforms, protesters are calling for divestment from police forces, an end to the Qualified Immunity (which make it extremely difficult for officers to be found guilty), and a ban on choke and knee holds.
Within the Pingry community, many students and alumni have joined in on the activism. Most have been helping spread awareness on allyship and petitions via social media, while others took part in peaceful protests in their communities.
The protests across the country are evidence of a desire and pressing need for change. While most of these protests have remained peaceful, some have turned violent, with police provoking protesters and protesters taking part in arson and vandalism. In the case of the former, it is disturbingly unclear how police are being disciplined for their brutality, especially against peaceful demonstrators. In the case of the latter, there has been confusion over who has been inciting the violence, and debate surrounding the acceptable limits to what protesters should do. Some cite the destruction of private property alone as reason enough to condemn the rioting, while others see the rioting as a tantamount reaction to decades of oppression and police violence.
In the wake of the Floyd shooting, Student Body President Nolan Baynes wanted to see allyship and action from the school’s administration, so on May 28 he emailed Pingry’s top administrators, including Headmaster Matt Levinson, asking Pingry to speak up.
After some back and forth, including further student emails which pressed the school to take more direct action, administrators set up a community-wide Zoom meeting on June 3 to initiate more dialogue about the issue.
During the meeting, which was attended by over 300 students and faculty, participants had an opportunity to voice their opinions and frustrations in hopes of improving Pingry’s future responses and actions against racial injustice. Students were able to offer suggestions to the faculty and the administration, while teachers reflected on “action steps” they could take to better facilitate discussion around race in their classroom and beyond.
On Friday, June 5, the Pingry Allyship Collective (a newly formed coalition of all the affinity groups, student unions, SDLC, and CASE) sent a letter to administrators requesting more transparency between students and faculty involved in diversity and inclusion (inset at bottom left).
Words from a Pingry Protester
Giles Burnett (IV), who took part in peaceful Black Lives Matter demonstrations in Somerset, NJ, on May 31, provided a statement on why he chose to protest:
I’ll tell you what my mom told me. ‘Watch your tone around strangers, don’t wear your hoodie in public, never question or talk back to an officer, turn down your music in the car, don’t bike/drive through that neighborhood, you better be home before dark, take your hands out your pocket, walk with a purpose and don’t linger, you don’t get any second chances in this world.’ Or, I can tell you what America told me. ‘Cross the street or clutch your purse when you see me, follow me in the store, slow your car down when you see me, slow down your cop car when you see me, ask me if I’m lost or in the wrong store, ask me where I got that $20 from, ask me if I play football or basketball, ask me if you can say the n-word.’ That is my everyday life, I march so my black brothers and sisters don’t have to answer those questions. I march so innocent black men and women aren’t killed in the streets. I march to fight the systemic racism that plagues our country. This past week has been one of the most painful and exhausting weeks of my life. I’ve cried, reflected, laughed and everything in between. I’ve been able to channel these emotions into action and change. However, there is no change with only 14% of the nation speaking up. We need allies and we need unity. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Stay safe.
The Record’s Statement
We wholly condemn the police brutality present in this country, as well as the silence that has allowed it to viciously persist. As a publication, we stand for improvements in Pingry’s discourse surrounding race relations. We encourage writers of all identities to tackle these difficult subjects, and we are open to civil discussions around the presence of racial injustices in our School, our nation, and our world.
I am sure you have seen on the news and through social media that the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd have resulted in mass outrage throughout the country. This is not the first time this will happen, and I doubt it will be the last. Many members of our Pingry community have felt the need to advocate upon social media discussing possible protests, sending out petitions, and even speaking their own emotions. As a school, during times of crisis, this definitively being one of them, we have been able to address issues that are affecting students head-on. To be direct, in the fall, when commenting upon the suicide of nearby students, the administration was very prompt to address the matter, and all hands were focused upon it. It is odd that even with the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, I was the only person upon campus to speak out formally. There seems to be some lack of adult input in these situations, and it’s isolating to the students whom it affects daily. From my perspective, the daily micro-aggressions and events at this school go silenced and unnoticed, especially from the administration As a middle school student, I would feel as though I was alone fighting a fight that would never be resolved, and here we are in 2020 dealing with the same issue. Except now, I’m a senior with a legitimate position in our school. As a Student Body President, an active advocate in our community, and most importantly, a Black boy, I’m asking you to speak out on it. Show solidarity with the people who have been affected by systemic racism for over 400 years who attend your school. If you don’t, I, along with other students in your building, will continue to fight the fight that has yet to be resolved in this country. As adults, you have a platform just like I do, and I hope you find a way to advocate for people who look like me and not just turn a blind eye and become shocked when the next murder occurs. Black tears fall upon deaf white ears.
Nolan Baynes II
May 28 Letter from Nolan Baynes II (V) to Pingry Administrators
We are proud to be Pingrians; we wish to discuss diversity-related issues in Pingry because we want this community to become a better, more inclusive place. We started diversity work in Pingry because we either were displeased with the lack of representation in our school or believed that the existing representation is both superficial and trivialized by the students and the staff. However, the goal of PAC is not to point fingers or merely complain about the past wrongs we have observed. Instead, we wish to progress in collaboration with the administration and contribute to the commendable endeavors of our school. In order to do this, however, certain methods of communication and action must be reformed; one of our main concerns is the lack of collaboration and/or transparency between faculty leaders who make diversity-related decisions and the students who feel the result of these decisions (or lack thereof). As a result, we hope that the administration takes our ideas and perspectives seriously.
Excerpt of June 5 Letter from Pingry Allyship Collective to Pingry Administrators
It’s been over two months since the United States confirmed its first coronavirus case in late January. Since then the landscape has changed drastically, as the virus has forced all non-essential businesses to shut down, kept most states under lockdown, and left most of the world at a standstill. This week, with cases in numerous states across America predicted to hit their peak, the healthcare system, its workers, and all others without the ability to stay home prepare for the hardest battle in the ongoing war against COVID-19.
During a news conference on April 4, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo called the apex “the battle of the mountain top,” and affirmed that New York and other highly-affected states, including New Jersey, “are not yet ready for the highpoint.” Our lack of preparation for such a high number of cases remains the greatest challenge of this apex. How can a healthcare system brace for a pandemic it never expected? How do hospitals continue to treat patients as their resources dwindle? As of April 11, the United States became the country with the greatest number of confirmed deaths, with over 1,000 being from New Jersey and about 7,000 being from New York. If the pressure on our healthcare system becomes too immense, those numbers will rise even faster.
Even when cases begin to decline, avoiding another outbreak is critical to curbing even greater disasters and preventing future quarantines. Many countries who seemed to have handed coronavirus an early and swift defeat faced a resurgence of cases in late March. For example, in Singapore, where cases had dropped by late February into March, a second wave of cases has forced the country to close all non-essential businesses and schools. The emergence of new cases in Singapore serves as an important warning to the United States: allowing people to return to school, work, or “normal” life too early may cause another outbreak of the virus. If the country doesn’t proceed with caution, there could be a second peak on its way.
Here’s the brighter side: a peak must be followed by a decline. At this point, a decline in cases can’t come soon enough. The Coronavirus is not only a medical problem, but also an economic disaster unlike any other. What had been a booming economy in the United States is now facing a major downturn. With many businesses forced to shut down, specifically those in the hospitality industry, companies have little choice but to lay off or furlough large parts of their workforce. In about three weeks, over 16 million Americans lost their jobs and the number continues to rise. For employees and employers across the country, the sooner the virus is controlled, the faster they can get back to work.
Ultimately, the onset of a peak in cases poses both problems and promise. The United States is far from being out of the woods, as evidenced by continued problems in countries, like Singapore, who are facing a second wave. Thus, the balance between caution and normalcy is becoming increasingly important to reduce deaths and keep the healthcare system afloat. Though, with the worst (hopefully) almost behind us, the U.S. and its people can slowly start to see the light at the end of the tunnel. If not released from possibly many more months under stay-at-home orders, then at least hope and reassurance that the worst is on its way out.
Meghan Durkin ‘21 is the Co-Editor in Chief for the Pingry Record. She has been writing since freshman year and began editing her sophomore year. She enjoys writing school news pieces, as she gets to explore and further understand Pingry traditions. In her free time, she loves to ski, sing, and hang out with friends.
By Meghan Durkin (VI) If you’re a golf fan like me, you spent your Super Bowl weekend watching the Waste Management Phoenix Open—and yes, the game as well. Perhaps, the biggest storyline of the tournament was an unlikely, yet familiar, name at the top of the...
By Meghan Durkin (VI) Following a recommendation from a friend to my mom, and then to me, I ordered a copy of Susan Cain’s “Quiet”—and well, the rest of the title spoils its thesis, so I’ll wait on that. The book follows society’s distaste for introversion, a trait...
By Meghan Durkin (VI) I fill my time with endless technological stimulation; when the weekly notification pops up, informing me of an alarmingly high screen time, I’m embarrassed. I balance my phone on my laptop to watch two shows at once, fall asleep clutching my...
By Meghan Durkin (VI) This year's freshman retreat, held on Thursday, September 3, kicked off an unprecedented school year. Instead of visiting Bryn Mawr Mountain Retreat as originally planned, this year's retreat was held at Pingry to respect coronavirus guidelines....
By Noah Bergam (V) & Meghan Durkin (V) As the growth rate of the coronavirus begins to flatline, Americans grow tired of a virus that has ravaged this nation for far longer – the racially charged murder of innocent black Americans, including Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna...
By Meghan Durkin (V) This week, with cases in numerous states across America predicted to hit their peak, the healthcare system, its workers, and all others without the ability to stay home prepare for the hardest battle in the ongoing war against COVID-19.
Meghan Durkin '21Meghan Durkin ‘21 is the Co-Editor in Chief for the Pingry Record. She has been writing since freshman year and began editing her sophomore year. She enjoys writing school news pieces, as she gets to explore and further understand Pingry traditions....
By Vicky Gu (VI), Meghan Durkin (V), and Eva Schiller (V) On Friday, January 31, Form V and VI students attended Pingry’s annual Career Day, in which they were able to interact with a wide variety of Pingry alumni and gain insight into future career...
By Meghan Durkin (V) It’s February 1979. The phone rings. The clock reads 3 a.m. as my grandfather holds it up to his ear. It’s 11:30 a.m. in Iran, where the Shah, Mohammad Raza Pahlavi, had fled in response to insurgency a month earlier. At the time, my grandfather...
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On Thursday, March 12, amid concerns over the novel Coronavirus, known as COVID-19, Head of School Matt Levinson announced that Pingry would adopt a remote learning model until at least April 10. On Friday, March 27, heeding Governor Murphy’s updated advisory, this remote learning regime was extended to April 17.
School-sponsored activities, including athletics, were suspended as well, in hopes of keeping the Pingry community safe. This news followed the cancellation of multiple spring break trips, including the French exchange program and the athletic trips to Florida.
Prior to Spring Break, as New Jersey reported its first case of COVID-19, Pingry prepared for likely disruptions as a result of the virus. Mr. Levinson assembled a task force, led by Associate Director of Operations, Safety, and Strategic Initiatives David Fahey, to monitor the situation as it evolved. This model “allows us to act with deliberate speed and care in our decision-making, while also being nimble and adaptive to changing circumstances,” said Mr. Levinson. So far, the biggest challenge for the task force “has been the speed at which [COVID-19] has unfolded.” While COVID-19 spread from China to South Korea to Italy, the virus seemed to be a distant threat. Though, by late March, the United States had over 27,000 confirmed cases.
As Pingry does its part to slow the spread of COVID-19, a new reality of “social distancing” has affected faculty and students. Governor Phil Murphy ordered a statewide lockdown, which encourages people to stay home and shuts down all non-essential business, leaving vacations cancelled, standardized tests postponed, and store shelves empty. Pingry’s remote learning model looks to continue fostering educational growth, while keeping Pingry and the greater community healthy. Teachers, by using virtual classes and online assignments, hope to make remote learning engaging and effective. Mr. Tim Grant, a chemistry teacher, explained the “need to try to create a classroom feel where everyone can feel heard and be involved,” as he believes “a class does involve the transfer of information, but much more importantly it must have the feeling of community.” For many teachers, including Mr. Grant, effectively using remote learning will be a “journey that to me looks like I’ve been air-dropped into the Amazon and I can’t imagine what comes next. The journey will be both scary and exciting with many new discoveries.”
Dean Ananya Chatterji echoed this sentiment in an email to Upper School students, expressing the faculty’s shared hopes for the extended closure. She explained that transitioning to online learning “is NOT going to be perfect. Everyone knows this, and no one — not a single one of us — expects that this will go smoothly. We are hoping to treat it like an adventure: something we can try our best at, knowing there will be pitfalls and successes. Most of all, adventures should be fun. So our hope, as a faculty, is to have fun with it.”
Students will also have to adapt to new circumstances, not only academically, but also extracurricularly. With delayed athletic seasons that face possible cancellations, students look to make the best of the unexpected situation. Mr. Grant, who coaches girls’ varsity track, explained his realization “that [he] must give enough information so that each athlete can learn how to coach themselves.” Both students and coaches must find “some gems against the rubble,” as they stay in-shape and prepare for a potential season at home. Along with sports, clubs face new challenges, as they hope to keep members connected online.
Furthermore, this new territory of remote learning changes many students experience socially. Sanjana Biswas (V) said, “I’ll miss my friends the most and just the experience of being in school. As much as we complain about it, we all have fun talking to our friends during lunch and flexes and going to class.” Though, she added, “It’s pretty easy to stay in touch through FaceTime and text.”
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to unfold, the Pingry community looks to be cautious, as the possibility of extended closure looms. Students and faculty alike promise to remain open and positive throughout these uncertain times. Gia Kalro (V) believes that while “we’ll have a lot of trial and error, eventually it will all work out.”
As of March 22, global Coronavirus cases have surpassed 300,000. In just a few weeks, everyday life in the United States and abroad has been replaced by social distancing and self-quarantining, while each day the number of cases grows. Though, during this time of uncertainty, both the Pingry and global community has stressed the importance of staying calm and maintaining hope. Mr. Levinson encourages students “to have fun, try new things, be creative, and take the time to get outside for some fresh air,” while finding “ways to build community remotely, whether it’s around a shared interest like a club, or around a passion project.” He asks the community to “be patient as we all discover new ways of learning and being in community together.”
By Vicky Gu (VI), Meghan Durkin (V), and Eva Schiller (V)
On Friday, January 31, Form V and VI students attended Pingry’s annual Career Day, in which they were able to interact with a wide variety of Pingry alumni and gain insight into future career options.
The event began with a keynote presentation by Dr. Jennifer Weiss ‘89, who spoke to students about her unique position as one of the few women who specializes in orthopedic surgery. After the keynote, students dispersed and were able to attend three career panels––two chosen before the event, and one that the student could decide that morning. Each panel was led by two or three Pingry alumni involved in a specific career––among the careers featured were law, media and communications, and medicine. Students had the opportunity to ask the alumni questions about their education, career paths, and projects, as well as general life questions.
At the end of the school day, after speaking about her profession, talking to students, and participating in numerous panels, Dr. Weiss was interviewed by the Pingry Record Staff. The following are excerpts from our conversation.
How did Pingry prepare you for the world of orthopedic surgery and sports medicine?
I found Pingry to be more rigorous than college and medical school. My teachers [Mr. Lavalette, Mr. Grant] took an interest in where I thought my limits were, and pushed me past my limits. It is a place where I went from being a shy rule-follower to being proud.
How did you become interested in orthopedic surgery/sports medicine?
My dad was an orthopedic surgeon. Then, I had a funny route: as I got older, my dad was really excited about me being an orthopedic surgeon, so I got really unexcited about being an orthopedic surgeon. But, when I did my orthopedic rotation, I fell in love with it.
What attracted you to a male-dominated specialty?
I was very comfortable with a group of my friends who were boys from a very early age. I believe that I grew up in a bantering environment, so when I came into the world of orthopedics, not as my father’s daughter, but as a medical student, I was comfortable with the way people spoke to each other. I fell in love with it socially.
What do you think was the most challenging part in your entire career path?
It was my second year of being a resident. The newness had worn off. It’s like when you’re going on a long run, the middle miles are the most tiring. The second year, I thought, is this ever going to be over? The fatigue set in mentally and physically.
What is the biggest challenge you face on a day-to-day basis?
I struggle with maintaining perspective of how privileged I am to have a healthy family, to have a job that I love, and that I can send my kids to a good school. I still get lost in the weeds because I want everything to be better and more perfect.
How have you balanced your family life with your professional life? What was it like when you first had children?
I like the phrase work-life integration. I brought my kids with me today, and I will try to bring one of my three kids to each meeting with me. My son mountain bikes with me. Lila will do her homework, and I’ll be in the room on my computer next to her.
What would you like to tell the greater Pingry community?
I want the people in this community to know how the Pingry family and the alumni network is extensive. People are open with their time and hearts through this connection. It’s gonna be there for you.
It’s February 1979. The phone rings. The clock reads 3 a.m. as my grandfather holds it up to his ear. It’s 11:30 a.m. in Iran, where the Shah, Mohammad Raza Pahlavi, had fled in response to insurgency a month earlier. At the time, my grandfather was working for American Bell International, an AT&T subsidiary tasked with facilitating the improvement of telephone and communication systems in Iran. However, with the overthrow of Pahlavi and the rise of Ayatollah Khomeini, AT&T’s project ceased. Over the next few weeks, my grandfather, who handled insurance for the company, worked to repossess valuables left by AT&T employees, who were forced to leave their apartments in Iran following the fall of the Shah. After finding where workers had left clothing, jewelry, pets, and more, my grandfather transferred that information to employees still in Iran, in hopes of reclaiming their belongings.
Prior to the winter of 1979, during the height of AT&T’s project in Iran, U.S. relations with the country were bolstered. The pro-Western policies of Pahlavi fit American economic interests, specifically in regards to the oil industry. However, to many Iranians, the Shah’s policies felt repressive and tyrannical. The “White Revolution,” a number of reforms established by Pahlavi in the early 1960s, implemented land redistribution, and the expansion of women’s rights. These policies were quickly met with popular dissent, as the poor found little relief. By the end of the Shah’s reign, the U.S. appeared to support a leader unpopular with his own people. Once Pahlavi fled, his favorable relations with the U.S. seemed to continue, much to the resentment of Iranians. U.S. President Jimmy Carter went so far as to allow Pahlavi into the U.S. to receive cancer treatment.
In November of 1979, in retaliation for Carter’s action, Iranian students took 66 Americans hostage at the U.S Embassy in the Iranian capital of Tehran. The crisis, which lasted 344 days but ultimately ended in the safe return of the hostages, began a long history of strained relations between the U.S. and Iran.
These historic tensions were in the spotlight this January, when President Trump ordered an airstrike that killed Iranian general Qasem Soleimani. After the strike, Trump threatened to carry out further attacks. On Twitter, he referred back to the 1979 crisis, noting that the 52 Iranian sites that had been identified as targets represented “the 52 American hostages taken by Iran many years ago.” Many Iranians, who considered Soleimani a hero, were quick to declare revenge and violence against the U.S. However, President Trump and his administration have continued to justify the act as a preemptive attack against a supposed plan of Soleimani to strike a U.S. embassy.
Over 40 years after the overthrow of the Shah and the consequent American hostage crisis, U.S.-Iran relations seem rockier than ever. Under President Obama in 2013, the countries attempted reconciliation through the Iran Nuclear Deal, which outlined that Iran would restrict their nuclear activities. In 2018, however, President Trump abandoned the plan, and the two countries have faced growing tension and subsequent violence over the past few years. Now, after Soleimani’s death, there seems to be no end in sight.
Thus, the question remains: is compromise between the U.S. and Iran possible? Is an amicable relationship on the horizon, or will we continue towards aggression and animosity? To me, the two countries have grown too divisive to ever find a real compromise, and the U.S. does not have a compelling reason to concede to the Iranian government. When President George W. Bush coined Iran one-third of the “axis of evil,” it was clear the United States viewed the country’s regime as radical and dangerous; the government has been accused of supporting terrorism and seeking to bolster weapons of mass destruction. Thus, our government doesn’t owe the Iranian government diplomacy, but it does have a responsibility to support the Iranian people. As a result of economic sanctions placed on Iran in 2018, its people have faced an economic recession, rising prices, and stagnant economic growth. As innocent people suffer, the U.S. government seeks to break a regime, without thinking of the consequences for the average citizen. So, while I believe I will never see a time like my grandfather’s, where the United States and Iran came together for economic gain, I do believe it’s possible for our government to protect itself against Iranian threats while still treating the Iranian people humanely.