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Community Celebrates 100 Years of Extraordinary Education
By: Communications Manager Sarah Meyer
A glistening four-foot ice sculpture, exquisite floral arrangements, compelling archive displays, trays of sparkling champagne — Every detail adorning the The Ritz-Carlton reception area and ballroom on March 11 exuded splendor and school spirit. However, it was the nearly 350 men and women gathered that evening that made Rossman School’s Centennial Gala truly enchanting.
As guests enjoyed drinks and hors d’oeuvres, they mingled among friends, old and new, including alumni and past and present parents, trustees, faculty and staff. The varied group presented the perfect picture of the principal reason Rossman has the privilege of commemorating its first century milestone — an extraordinary community.
Following the cocktail reception, Board President David Kantrovitz (’87) remarked on the challenge of defining what it is that makes Rossman so special, but noted, for him, there is a word that comes close.
“When I think about Rossman, one word always seems to come to mind — family,” he said. “As a student, I first became a part of the Rossman family. The same care and warmth I felt as a child continued into my adult years. Now as a current parent and parent of an alum, I still feel that embrace and warm sense of community.”
The inspiring evening continued with a program highlighting Rossman’s alumni. More than 4,000 students have received their educational foundation at Rossman, and every five years Distinguished Alumni Awards are presented to men and women who exemplify the values taught by the school. Since 1993, 35 alumni have been honored for their leadership, citizenship, creativity, humanity and love of learning. Five of these award recipients were recognized and introduced at the Gala: Jim and Barbara Benecke on behalf of their late son, Andrew Benecke (’00), Lanny Jones (’55), Arthur Lueking (’53), Jay Marshall (’58), and Derek Rapp (’74).
Lanny Jones took the stage next as the first of two alumni speakers to share reflections on their early school days, their journeys after Rossman and the world that awaits future Rossman graduates. An award-winning author, longtime professor of advanced nonfiction writing and former head editor of Money and People magazines, Lanny was presented with the Time Inc. Lifetime Achievement Award in 2015.
“In my first year at Rossman, I had the single most important educational experience of my life,” Lanny recalled. “I learned to read. And I was taught by teachers who gave me the confidence to be curious and to keep on reading … For me, with unreliable hearing even as a little boy, reading was a particularly valuable tool in learning to grasp the world with confidence.”
Lanny recounted fascinating highlights of his long writing career — including interviews with three presidents, Princess Diana and Elizabeth Taylor — and commented on society’s need for heroes. “Lapsed editors like myself often return to heroes in their books,” he said. “Which may be why I chose to write two books about Lewis and Clark. Heroes tell us about the past but also give us a bridge to the future. Writers need heroes, but heroes also need writers to tell their stories.”
The story of the evening’s second alumni speaker, Brian Bauer (’95), was in the spotlight last July when communications between mission control and NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft suddenly stopped just nine days before the spacecraft’s encounter with Pluto. A systems engineer at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab (APL), Brian is in charge of the autonomy software on board New Horizons that kicks in during onboard faults. When the APL team lost contact with the spacecraft, it was Brian’s software that restored communications and ensured the spacecraft stayed on course. Moreover, Brian’s work with the operations team was vital in restoring the spacecraft to nominal operations in time to preserve critical Pluto observations.
In addition to recounting this experience, Brian recalled how his Rossman teachers coached students in ways to better themselves and prepared them for success later in life. “These teachable moments built upon themselves year after year until I left Rossman with self-confidence, critical thinking skills and a drive toward further learning and self-improvement that has served me well,” he said.
The idea that became the New Horizons mission was conceived in 1989, at the start of Brian’s time at Rossman. “After listening to a small part of my story today, think about the opportunities that await the current generation of Rossman students,” he encouraged Gala guests. “With the right mix of inspiration and STEM education, these kids will be able to work wonders in areas such as biomedicine, software, manufacturing, energy, and space exploration. Their seats at the table are already starting to form, they just need the drive and education to be ready when they get there.”
Before the event’s gifted and hardworking committee chairs, Lucie Dempsey, Melissa Kantrovitz and Kendra Karimi (co-chair Courtney Goodman was unable to attend), concluded the program by leading guests in a chorus of “Happy Birthday” to Rossman, David Kantrovitz shared the bittersweet news of the upcoming retirement of Head of School Pat Shipley following the 2017-2018 school year and the creation of a special endowment in her honor. It was both 100 years of extraordinary education and Mrs. Shipley’s 14 years of dedication to Rossman School that guests continued to celebrate late into the night with dancing, dessert and fellowship.