Remarks on the Occasion of Reunion'99
Dear Cherry Lawn Alumni and Friends:
The decision to enroll at Cherry Lawn for my four years of high school was
one of the most important decisions I ever made -- and I made it for the
wrong reasons. I close it over the Putney School in Vermont, and the
George School in Pennsylvania, not because of its educational excellence
and its outstanding faculty and student body -- but because I could get
a scholarship and ride horseback, which I couldn't at the others!
Horses were my passion. What did I know at fourteen?
I and my classmates were at Cherry Lawn from 1942-1946. Pearl Harbor had
brought us into World War II, and before we graduated we would see peace
with both Germany and Japan, and we would grieve the death of Franklin
Roosevelt. Though to some extent, our Cherry Lawn life insulated us from
world events, in a very significant way -- each of us was partially
formed by the external environment during the time we were there. The
presence of faculty and students who were recent refugees from Europe,
deepened our sensitivities and enriched our young lives. And our
classmates had brothers already in the war, and Cherry Lawn
graduates while we were there, would enter it.
So, what was Cherry Lawn like at that time?
Most of all -- and I can only assume that this is true for all of us --
it was where we grew into ourselves as people, with a caring,
intellectually excited, physically challenging, experiential and
supportive community. Not only were we not the young people we were
when entered, but we were forever changed and enriched by being a
- It was a boarding school "in the country" from first grade through
high school. I couldn't imagine such small children away from home. But
Cherry Lawn was a community that enfolded all who were in it.
- We explained that its educational philosophy was post -- progressive,
which somehow meant we had learned from the earlier mistakes of John Dewey.
- Our classes were held out of doors, or in gradations of cover,
depending on the weather. So, we learned to concentrate and tried not to
be distracted by the more interesting discussion next to us. I will never
forget having a portion of The Call of the Wild read out
loud to us as the snow fell all around.
- Our teachers and house-parents were our mentors and our friends. Our
learning was formal and informal, and of course it went on for twenty
four hours each day.
- It as an environment that encouraged initiative and creativity.
Several of us, after we had been singing together as we washed and
dried dishes, approached the singing teacher about forming a singing
group. And so we began to sing madrigals in earnest, and were known
as The Dishwashing Pan Handlers.
- It was a place that taught respect for differences and diversity,
where those who had problems found acceptance, and where those who
thought they didn't have problems, were touched deeply enough to find
that they did.
- Dr. Staël, with regal bearing and Swedish Von Holstein heritage,
taught us to love history, and behind her back, we giggled for the
earrings didn't match. Because she expected it, she made us stand tall
and reach for the best.
- Dr. Boris was "philosopher in residence" who, through Sunday night
assemblies, introduced me to classical music, which has ever since been
part of the glue of my life. He challenged our assumptions about what
we thought we knew or believed, such as "what if there has been a noise
all our lives, and suddenly it stopped..." And he described his flight
to San Francisco, state by state with such excitement and enthusiasm, that
serving as an interpreter for those who signed the United Nations Charter,
almost seemed secondary. It was Dr. Boris, who articulated his vision of
the education he gave leadership to at Cherry Lawn, in his book,
The Ideal School, which he wrote in 1937.
- We danced after supper and before study hall, in the Round Room at
Manor House, to Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller.
- We played field hockey, basketball, did English country dancing on
the lawn under the Copper Beeches, we skated on the pond in winter, and
some of us rode horseback! The boys on the basketball team took ballet,
so they could stretch and reach higher to make baskets.
- We put on plays -- Richard the III was the highlight, and we
performed it in New York at the Dalton School. We did musicals,
Rosamunde, especially remembered, and each year, we put on a Christmas
pageant. No one thought it strange that Dale Danenberg was Mary and
Tony Salisbury was Joseph, for after all, Mary and Joseph were Jewish and
in those days it was a seasonal dramatic event more than a relgious
celebration. And no one seemed to question it.
- We learned self governance and responsibility for others, modeling
after our United States form of government. There were "secretaries" of
everything; labor, the Stein House... and we learned parliamentary
procedure. We learned to deal with conflict through discussion,
understanding, compromise, and respect for each other. Maybe it's not
so surprising that I became a Quaker.
- We headed for home every eight weeks, for four days, most of us
to New York City, with an assignment which would expand our cultural,
historical -- you name it -- awareness. I remember -- best, competing
to see who had located the most statues in the City. I don't remember
who won, because I remember Cherry Lawn as less about competing and more
about cooperating and pitching in to help each other.
- Cherry Lawn was where I had my first crushes and fell in love;
where I experienced loneliness, and loss and pain. Especially it was
a place for testing values and for developing those which would stay
with me for the rest of my life.
Kiki Heitkamp Eglinton, CLS'46