Coming Home

Alumni returned to campus in June for Reunion 2013.

Alumni returned to campus in June for Reunion 2013.

More than a thousand Northfield Mount Hermon alumni and their families returned to campus in early June to celebrate reunion with three days of special events, including discussion panels, seminars, dedication ceremonies, and class receptions and dinners.

A highlight of the weekend was the groundbreaking of the Mec Peller House, the first of several faculty houses to be built on the northern edge of campus in a field known as Hogger Hollow. The Mec Peller House will honor the beloved NMH math teacher Mary Ellen Peller, who passed away in 1997. “She always welcomed students into our home so they could relax and feel loved,” her husband, NMH math department chair Dick Peller, said to the crowd gathered to hear remarks before the groundbreaking. “She could talk sports as well as give girlfriend advice, and she was good at both,” added Doug Wilk ’83, the architect who is designing the house. “Mec was my mother away from home, and she helped mold me into the man I am today.” Wilk called the house “the most important work of architecture of my career.”

Among the seminars taught by NMH faculty and alumni was “Women and Islam,” led by NMH religious studies and philosophy teacher Sarah Warren, in which alumni discussed the context and meaning of certain passages of the Quran. “There’s a difference between understanding the literal text and what we bring to it,” Nancy Elkington ’73 said during the discussion. “Except for fundamentalists, nobody is sticking to the original biblical text.”

Other seminars featured Dr. Augustus White ’53, the orthopedic surgeon, professor at Harvard’s medical school, and author of Seeing Patients: Unconscious Bias in Health Care; Sam Calagione ’88, the resterateur and owner of Dogfish Head Brewery, who hosted a beer-tasting; and Carol Waaser ’63, who discussed the 18 bicycle trips she’s made to Italy, France, Russia, and Spain. “Adventure, camaraderie, good health—it’s all there!” she said. “You’re going slowly enough that you can see the landscape and take pictures, or stop in villages and chat with the locals.” Waaser encouraged her audience to take part in a cycle tour if possible, but warned, with a laugh, “Hills never look as steep in the photographs as they are in real life.”

Reunion Weekend events included the dedications of two rooms in Alumni Hall in honor of Mira B. Wilson and Evelyn Hall; a Hymn Sing hosted by Sheila Heffernon; an Alumni of Color Reception; the SHOW Circus, presented by Henry Wheaton ’88; and an LGBT Reception. 

In the midst of it all, Northfield School for Girls alumnae gathered for lunch under a tent near Ford Cottage. Remembrances of Pants Days and the salmon loaf of Hibbard Hall brought attendees to tears with laughter. As a train whistle echoed in the green hills, Head of School Peter Fayroian spoke to the crowd. “The spirit of the campus across the river is alive and cherished,” he said. “We’ve been changing for the past 130 years. I love that we keep track of the changes and remember that we’re part of something bigger than ourselves.”