Nobles Parents' E-Newsletter

February 2018

Nobles Parents' Newsletter February 2018

Academic Center Open

On January 22, the academic center opened its doors to the Nobles community. The new space includes areas for collaborative work, a quiet study area, a reading room, and, of course, the Putnam Library.

Nobles celebrated the opening with multiple events across campus. In the Foster Gallery, librarians Emily Tragert and Talya Sokoll showcased the Walter Tower Collection, selecting from 1,300 rare and antique books donated by Nobles parents and grandparents Walter and June Tower in 1999.

Preparing for the opening, students and community members helped carry books from the old Putnam Library to the new. Mathematics faculty member Nick Nickerson, Nobles senior master, wrote a reflection on the same process of moving books at the opening of the original Putnam Library in October 1974. Nickerson remembers, “It was all a grand adventure, as many things seemed back then, and a pleasant escape from the routine of classes.”

On the academic center's opening day, history and social science faculty member Mike Kalin encouraged his Literature and Leadership students to write one sentence "vision statements" for the new building. Statements included hopes that the center "continues the culture of learning and collaboration at Nobles and provides a modern space for student inquiry." Students also hope that the building will "bring space and light for new innovation," "give students a place to bond with their grades and the school," and provide "a nest for creative thought."

Dr. Catherine J. Hall, head of school, announced the academic center’s opening in assembly on January 22. She thanked all the people who worked behind the scenes to make the new building possible, including Director of Buildings and Grounds Mike McHugh and his team, Chief Financial and Operating Officer Steve Ginsberg, and Chief Advancement Officer George Maley. She then revealed the video below, created by Nobles videographer Ben Heider.


"It Was Time" by Provost Bill Bussey

I don’t like to speak ill of the dead, but I’m not feeling too bad that the original Putnam Library will no longer be with us following the March break.

Built in 1974, when the student body hovered around 300 students, the Putnam Library had more than served its purpose over the last 45 years. But, honestly, it’s clear that the architect who designed that building had never spent much time monitoring children. The interior design, with its two offices and a classroom deftly placed square in the middle, reduced every sightline, no matter where one stood, to something akin to being stranded on a motionless carousel. Quickly scurrying around the periphery to confront the mayhem on the opposite side proved, for adults, to be little more than a vain illusion. Lofted students, situated 10 feet above the action, often served as sentries atop the plaster plateau, ready to call out, “They’re coming!” as soon as faculty members made their move to stop the commotion.

To be sure, the Putnam Library hosted the reading of many books, the cranking out of an infinite number of essays, and the grading of an equal number of papers. And more importantly, great friendships were formed and cemented there as well. But, down the final stretch, with the school size doubled since the library had opened its doors, students now were stacked like cordwood around every table and open space. Despite people’s best efforts, the biggest distraction was no longer impish behavior, but the noise level. It was time.

I’m telling you straight-up that no photos can do justice to our new academic center or the new Putnam Library that resides within. Curious folks stroll in with great anticipation, but with a rough visual of what’s coming next. Yet, every person that I have watched walk through the front door takes two steps and then stops dead in their tracks. The design demands attention.

The gorgeous layout stretches much farther than folks anticipate. Glass-walled rooms throughout make it possible to watch two or three classes in action at the same time. Small rooms line one side of the building for group meetings. In a seemingly distant corner sits a classroom-sized room where no talking is allowed—and it’s the quietest place on campus. There’s plenty of room for everyone at the large tables, and the chairs are so comfortable that folks are reluctant to give up their spot. There’s a counter that stretches at least twenty feet along the base of a two-story glass wall where students can do their homework facing the outdoors; the only distraction might be the birds outside. The natural beauty of the rocks and trees that surround the academic center, coupled with high ceilings and space that stretches like a Texan plain, seem to have a profound, almost calming effect on those studying inside.

For the time being, the alcoves are now pretty much empty, giving way to a space that seems on some level to serve as a social equalizer. A fair number of students maintain that they are now completing most of their homework now that they have a place where they can truly concentrate. But you will see for yourself soon enough. 

Maybe 45 years from now someone like me will find fault with this wonderful, needed addition to our campus. But, for the time being, I’m thinking that this is the place where moonlight sometimes goes to swim.

"Onesimus" by Dean of Diversity and Inclusion Erica Pernell

In 1706, a Puritan congregation in Boston purchased a gift for their minister Cotton Mather. This gift was human: an African* person whom Mather would enslave. Cotton Mather did not ask this person’s name, rather he gave him the name of an enslaved person in the Bible: Onesimus. While we don’t know Onesimus’ real name, we know that he had a huge impact on medicine and disease in New England.

In 1716, Onesimus told Mather about one aspect of the medicine his society practiced in Africa. Onesimus told Mather that he was inoculated against smallpox when his doctors back home purposely infected him with a small dose of smallpox. The idea intrigued Mather and he held onto Onesimus’ explanation of the process.

Five years later, Onesimus had purchased his freedom and the city of Boston was embroiled in a smallpox outbreak. Mather was set on sharing Onesimus’ idea of inoculation with the public in an effort to save Boston from this devastating outbreak. Mather mounted a public campaign for inoculation, explaining the process Onesimus described to him: causing a small infection in people to guard against a larger one. When doctors and the public found out that Mather’s ideas originated with Onesimus, an enslaved African, they immediately discredited him. They believed that African medicine was not to be trusted.

One doctor, however, took inoculation seriously and began performing the procedure on Bostonians who were willing to take the chance. Meanwhile, Dr. Zabdiel Boylston and Cotton Mather were subjected to public scorn and ridicule and a grenade was thrown into Mather’s home. Despite the derision, a survey of 6,000 Bostonians concluded that those who were inoculated had a mortality rate of 2%, while those who were not inoculated were seven times more likely to perish from smallpox (a 14% mortality rate). Inoculation became the standard procedure to safeguard against contagious disease, until the invention of the vaccine almost 75 years later.

We tell the story of Onesimus for so many reasons. Many people do not know that slavery was alive and well in Boston in the 1700s. This complex history of the city right next door to Nobles gives context for modern day laws, ideologies, and segregation.

Onesimus is not a name that appeared in my science or history textbooks, despite the fact that I learned about immunity in school. The accomplishments and contributions of marginalized groups have a tendency to live in the shadows of our history, as opposed to front and center.

Lastly, this is a story about bias. Quite literally, bias against African people and ideas caused 844 Bostonians to perish needlessly from smallpox. Simply put, we are at our best when people of all identities can share their perspectives, experiences and expertise without their identity being a reason to discount them. We must be even more intentional when hearing from voices that are traditionally silenced or unheard.

At Nobles, we do our best to give students ample opportunities to listen to voices that help them to confront their own bias.  We hope you’ll do the same at home.

*Onesimus’ place of birth is unknown but is believed to be somewhere in central Sudan.

"Summer is an Opportunity" by Director of College Counseling Kate Ramsdell

I’ll admit to being old school when it comes to a question we often get in the college office:

“How should I spend my summer?” Or, more frequently, “What might colleges like to see my child do over the summer?”

“Get a job!” I like to say, “No one can argue with the efficacy of a summer job!”

Yet, when I think about the wide swath of opportunities introduced to many of our students—whether they are able to take advantage of Nobles-sponsored travel and immersion or service programs, or a research internship, or college-level coursework—I am amazed by their initiative and focus. As a sixteen-year-old, I didn’t even consider spending a summer doing research or traveling abroad. Nor did I have the kind of guidance that we offer here.

So, I spent nine summers lifeguarding, coaching swimming and teaching swimming lessons. Nine. I worked 45-hours every week and had Wednesdays off—summer weekends meant all hands on deck at the club. I fear I sound a little like the old woman who leans back in her rocking chair and croaks, “Back in my day…” when I share my story with kids, but I stockpiled life lessons and valuable skills during that decade—skills and lessons that I still believe transcend time and vocation.

Simply put, I learned to show up on time. I learned never to leave early and to bank on the fact that, if it rained, I’d be scrubbing mildew off showers and toilets. I learned how to play a mean hand of Rummy 500, how to budget a four-dollar lunch allowance, and how to beat a pack of twelve year-olds at deep-end Shark.

I learned that I could save gas money for the school year by riding my bike to work every day. I learned to respond to an emergency in a split second, to perform CPR and to splint a broken bone. I learned to help an eighty-year-old with early stage Parkinson’s out of the water and how to negotiate a freezing three-year old back into her swim lesson. I learned patience with entitlement and how to hold the line.

I learned to vacuum a deep end, tighten a lane line, and repair a broken lounge chair with whatever tools we had in the office. I learned that hard-working and fair bosses tend to get the most out of their employees and that it’s always good to own up to your mistakes. I learned that if you work really hard you might get a bonus check and an invitation to come back next year.

I made more money in my last summer as a swim coach than I made in my first year at Nobles (that’s the truth), and in hindsight I know that my nine-year summer “career” is, at least in part, what led me to my life’s work. When my counselees share that they’re headed off to intern for a politician at the State House or to spend part of the summer working with underserved populations in far off places, I recognize that the ways in which they will grow and learn will be central to how they will see themselves now and in the future. Part of what we hope we can help our students do is make good choices about how they use their summer months.

To that end, and with the priceless help of Talya Sokoll and Emily Tragert (two of our talented librarians), the EXCEL and College Counseling departments have launched a database of summer opportunities (click here) that we hope you will find to be a useful resource. It is in a beta phase, and we will continue to add to it and fine-tune our search function as programs come to our attention.

In the meantime, though, we encourage you to take a peek. Bookmark it on your favorite browser and come back often. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to reach out!

Class I Notes

Dear Class I Families,

Campus is back in full swing again, following a now long-forgotten break! Thank you to all of those who attended our Class I coffee last month. It was great catching up and beginning to plan the upcoming spring festivities for our seniors. 

On Wednesday, February 14, Class I will be treated to a surprise Valentine’s Day brunch.  Please look for the Signup Genius link in the weekly notes if you would like to help out with this fun event. We are looking for help decorating, baking and serving. Other dates to note this month are Monday, February 19, President’s Day ( school closed) and Tuesday, February 20, Faculty Retreat Day (no classes). 

Looking ahead, the next PA meeting will be held March 7 at 8 a.m. in the new academic center—the newest space on campus. 

We hope to see you there!  

Happy February,

Juls Dixon, (C) 781-710-3861
AE Rueppel, (C) 617-851-3491
Karen Volo, (C) 978-8705489

From the PA

Welcome February! 

There are many exciting and engaging activities on the calendar this month and we hope to see you often. The theatre program is in full swing with the NTC's Middle School production, Gargantua, next week followed by the 2018 NTC musical, Cry-Baby. Nobles is chock full of impressive theatrical talent, so make sure to check the calendar for show times. Come cheer on the Bulldogs at a basketball or hockey game, or go further afield to Nashoba to watch the ski team. To start things off is the highly anticipated Girls Varsity Basketball game against the Cotting School, away this year on Saturday, February 3.

The PA is busy as well. We invite you to join us for some intellectual stimulation, coffee, and conversation in the Foster Gallery on February 8 from 8 to 9 a.m. Catch up with other parents while viewing the new exhibition, Disruption and Innovation: Transformative Works from the Tower Collection, in honor of the new academic center. This exhibit focuses on the transition from old to new using the evolution of book production methods and changes in scientific and cultural thought.

Shhhhh! Four separate surprise luncheons will be held this month for Classes I-IV. Your assistance is always appreciated for helping to make these beloved traditions for our students such a success, so please reach out to your class parents if you can lend a hand.

The next PA Book Group will be on Thursday, March 1 at 6:30 p.m. in the Castle Dining Room. The book selection is Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life, by William Deresiewicz. With college education as its target topic, this book is sure to provide some very thought-provoking discussion.

The PA Outings Coordinators are offering two terrific programs to fight the winter doldrums. Snow is in the forecast, so let’s go cross-country skiing!! We are planning an outing to the Weston Ski Track. If you think you might interested, email Jackie Temple and she will confirm the date in the next few weeks. Have you always wanted to learn how to row? The Nobles Parent Rowing Team will start training in April with CRI. Please contact Marina Reiser for more information.

We are very excited too be hosting our next PA meeting in the academic center on March 7 at 8 a.m. This not-to-be-missed gathering will feature tours of this new space with remarks by Chief Financial and Operating Officer Steve Ginsberg. **Please note this is a change of date and location. 

Finally, we invite you to get more involved with the PA! February is the month the Parents’ Association begins to plan for next year. Whether you are new to Nobles, or a current or past volunteer, we welcome your time and talent to further your connection with other Nobles parents and our school community. For more information, please see the weekly emails under "Parents’ Association." The deadline is Friday, February 2. Please click here for more information and to indicate what you would like to do. We appreciate and are grateful for your support of the PA!

Have a great month!

Gina Doyle and Izzy Loring

Save the Date for Grandparents' Day

Grandparents Day at NoblesSave the Date!
Grandparents Day
Friday, May 4, 2018

Invitations will be mailed to grandparents in late February.

For further information, contact:
Special Events Coordinator Katherine Minevitz or 781-320-7009

Middle School Notes

Thank you to all who attended the Middle School Coffee. We had a great showing of parents that morning and it was wonderful to gather with you after the holiday break. We are grateful to John Gifford who spent time with us discussing what our middle schoolers are experiencing and he graciously answered our questions.

Nobles has many activities and events scheduled for February. We hope to see you at some of the events listed below.

Key events & dates for middle school in February 2018

Wednesday, February 7 and Thursday, February 8: The Middle School Play, Gargantua, will be performed in Towles Auditorium. Performances begin at 6:30 p.m. The snow date is February 9.

February 15, 16, 21, 23 at 6:30 p.m., February 17 at 2 p.m., and February 22 at 5 p.m.: All school musical Cry-Baby. A link to buy tickets in advance will be posted at by February 5, and many tickets will also be available at the door.

Friday, February 16: Middle School No Homework Weekend. Enjoy the long weekend with your middle school student.

Monday, February 19: President’s Day—School Closed

Tuesday, February 20: Faculty Retreat Day—School Closed

Wednesday, February 21, Thursday, February 22 and Friday, February 23: Spirit Week in the Middle School. More details to follow

Friday, February 23: Middle School Milton Games

Friday, February 23 and Saturday, February 24: Varsity / JV Milton Games

Monday, February 26: Middle School Long Advisory Meetings will be held. Students will gather in their advisor groups to discuss course selections for the next year in addition to breaking into class groupings to discuss the upcoming events in March: Class V Washington, D.C. trip and Class VI Boston trip. No MS afternoon programs will be held, so please pick up your student at the Pratt Middle School building at 4:15 p.m.

Wednesday, February 28 - National Latin Exam for all English via Latin and all Classics students at 8 a.m. in the Castle.

We look forward to seeing you at many of these informative and enjoyable events. Please let us know if we can provide any additional information or answer any parent-related questions.

Thank you,
Class V Reps
Cindi Fitzmaurice,
Elizabeth Clarke,

Class VI Reps
Sally Tyrie,
Chrissy Ducharme, 

Class IV Notes

Dear Class IV Families,

Welcome to February! Thank you for the great enthusiasm and support we received for the Class IV Surprise Olympic Luncheon on February 1. It was a wonderful and spirited lunch for the students. Thank you to all of our volunteers!

Here are some important dates for your calendar:

Wednesday, February 7 and Thursday, February 8 at 6:30 p.m.: The middle-school play, Gargantua, will be performed.  Admission is free and no tickets or reservations are necessary.

Thursday, February 8, 8–9 a.m.: PA coffee in Foster Gallery—An introduction to the Tower Collection will be offered with morning coffee in the Foster Gallery. Please come share a cup of coffee with other parents at drop off and learn a little about Nobles’ collection of rare books.

Tuesday, February 13: Special Interest Planning (Athletics and the Arts) and the College Process for Upper School Parents / Guardians, 6:30 p.m. (Towles Auditorium)

Thursday, February 15Saturday, February 17, and Wednesday, February 21–Friday, February 23: The Musical, Cry-Baby, will be performed in Vinik Theatre. On Thursday, February 22, the show will start at 5 p.m. On all other weeknights, it will start at 6:30 p.m. and on Saturday it will start at 2 p.m. The musical is based on a John Waters movie by the same name. Tickets will be available via a link at starting February 5.

Monday, February 19: NO SCHOOL, President’s Day

Tuesday, February 20: NO CLASSES, Faculty Retreat Day

Monday, February 26: Standardized Testing and the College Process for Upper School Parents / Guardians, 7 p.m. (Lawrence Auditorium)

Looking ahead…
Wednesday, March 7: PA meeting in the new academic center, 8:00 a.m.
Saturday, March 10Sunday, March 25: Spring break
Tuesday, April 17: Class IV spring parent coffee, 8 a.m.

As always, please feel free to be in touch with us if you have any questions or concerns.

Lori Shaer -
Heather Steele -

Class II Deans Letter

Dear Parents of Class II,

After each of our amazing sabbaticals last year and the year before, we are happy to be working together again as the deans of this wonderful and talented class. We have enjoyed working with them in and out of the classroom as they begin to find their voices and define their roles as emerging leaders of the school. We are heartened by the care and respect they show one another and this school.

After the challenging and somewhat disjointed feeling of the first semester, now is the time that students and teachers can fully engage in the work they are doing together, with full academic weeks, routines and predictability. The SLC leaders are always thinking of new ways to bring this class together, but that job is not theirs alone. Each member of the class can continue to model respect, inclusion, civility and kindness, one interaction at a time.

As we told this class earlier this year, a year from now, they will be seniors with one last semester left of their Nobles career. The last applications will be in, they will be thinking about senior projects and senior spring, and they will be wondering where all the time has gone. Invariably, seniors tell us that their single biggest regret is not making the effort to know more people, faculty as well as students in their own class. We tell them that now is the time to reach out across groups to learn more about the incredible people here. Talk to someone new. Sit somewhere different. Deepen a connection with a teacher, coach or advisor. Support risk-taking and take some yourselves. From what we hear from our colleagues and from what we can see ourselves, this has already started to happen for the class of 2019—in all areas of school life.

While we, as deans, don’t spend a great deal of time talking about the college process, we know it is underway and recognize the additional stress it can bring for some students and families. Again, our message to our students is simple: if you can manage your time, do your best day to day, communicate, and stay healthy, all will be well. To you we say, our college counseling colleagues are second to none; trust them and the process and help us keep the focus on the present. The most stressful days of junior spring and senior fall will not be what your children remember. They will remember the way they felt when they were here, surrounded by opportunity, challenge, and support. They will remember the amazing people they came to know and the lasting friends they made.

Thank you for your ongoing support!

Julia Russell and Brian Day

Class III Notes

Dear Class III Families,

It is hard to believe we are already halfway through the school year! Although February is a short month, we still have lots happening.

Our students will have a surprise lunch on February 8 and we could not resist to get inspired by the 2018 Olympics to choose the theme! As always, FLIK has put together an amazing and delicious themed menu and we welcome volunteers to help us with decorating, serving and cleaning up. It is a unique opportunity to be on campus with your child during the academic day! If you can help in any way, please use this link to sign up:

The big social event for Class III students is the Head of School Dinner Dance, hosted by Cathy Hall on Saturday, March 3. This Nobles sophomore tradition brings the class together with a goal of further uniting the group into a tight-knit team as they near the halfway mark of their high school experience and the increased expectations they will face as juniors. It’s a fun social evening and will hopefully be a very memorable one for all of them. This year’s theme is “A Walk in the Woods." This event has mandatory attendance. Your Class III student will be receiving an email invitation to the dance directly from the class deans. We ask that you encourage your child to RSVP as soon as possible after receiving the invite.

Finally, we need many volunteers to plan and prepare for this event as well.  We would love your help. Please look at Friday notes for a “Signup Genius” link to come lend a helping hand. There will be many opportunities, whether the day of, in advance, on site, from home, or simply by lending us some decorations!

A few dates to remember:

Thurs. Feb. 8: Surprise Lunch
Thurs. Feb. 15 – Sat., Feb. 17: The NTC’s 2018 Musical
Mon. Feb. 19: Presidents' Day, school closed
Tues. Feb. 20: Faculty retreat day, no classes
Wed. Feb. 21–Sat., Feb. 24: The NTC’s 2018 Musical

And looking ahead:

Sat. Mar. 3: Head of School Dinner Dance
Fri. Apr. 27: Spring Parent Social
Tue. May 1: Class III Parent Coffee

As always, do not hesitate to contact us with questions or suggestions and remember to check the Nobles website and Friday notes for updates.
Your Class III Reps

Nathalie Ducrest (Paloma’s mom)
Sylvia Kuzman Crawford (Finn’s mom)

Class II Notes

Dear Class II Parents,

This month we are looking forward to hosting the surprise lunch for the kids. The theme is Mardi Gras and we are grateful to all the wonderful parents who have helped us in the planning. The lunch will take place on Tuesday, February 13. This is always a fun event for the students as well as the parents who volunteer to help. If you would like to help set up, serve and/or clean up, please visit this Signup Genius link.

Thank you so much!

Here are some important February dates to remember:

  • Saturday, February 3, 9:00-11:00 a.m.: College Counseling School for Class II Parents and Guardians, Reading Room
  • Thursday, February 8, 8:00-9:00 a.m.: Parent Coffee in the Gallery
  • Saturday, February 10: ACT Test Date
  • Tuesday, February 13: Class II Surprise Lunch (SHHH, it’s a surprise!) in the Castle
  • Thursday, February 15, 6:30-9:00 p.m.: NTC Musical, Cry-Baby
  • Friday, February 16, 6:30-9:00 p.m.: NTC Musical, Cry-Baby
  • Saturday, February 17, 2:00-5:00 p.m.: NTC Musical, Cry-Baby
  • Monday/Tuesday, February 19-20: Presidents Day / Faculty Retreat, no School
  • Wednesday, February 21, 6:30-9:00 p.m.: NTC Musical, Cry-Baby
  • Thursday, February 22, 5:00-7:30 p.m.: NTC Musical, Cry-Baby
  • Friday, February 23, 6:30-9:00 p.m.: NTC Musical, Cry-Baby

As always, please contact us anytime if you have any questions or suggestions.

Your Class II Parent Reps,

Mimi Eldridge (
Joan Weinsten (

Nobles Theatre Collective Shows

Middle School Production: Gargantua

Carl Grose’ Gargantua was written and produced as part of London’s National Theatre’s annual festival of new plays for youth theatre and schools.

“When Mr. and Mrs. Mungus have a baby, it isn’t the bouncing blue-eyed boy they were hoping for. After a two-and-a-half year pregnancy, Mini Mungus gives birth to a monster—one with an accelerated growth rate and an insatiable appetite for anything that moves (including joggers). But when sinister military scientists become intent on cloning an army of giant babies from the giant, he breaks his chains and escapes. The world can only watch in horror as he embarks on learning how to walk and rampant destruction.”

Source: The National Theatre UK

Wednesday, February 7 and Thursday, February 8, 6:30-8:00 p.m.
(Snow date Friday, February 9)
Towles Auditorium
Directed by Todd Morton

Upper School Musical: Cry-Baby!

In this jumping, jiving teen comedy set in 1950s Baltimore, the conservative squares face off against the rebellious delinquents!

A link to buy tickets in advance will be posted at by February 5, and many tickets will also be available at the door.

This show will feature the work of 65 student technicians, instrumentalists, singers, actors and dancers. It's wacky, it's about teenagers, it's funny, and it's a love story!

The musical includes some mature subject matter; if you have any questions or you would like to peruse a script please let me know.

Dan Halperin, Director of Theatre

NTC's Musical Production, "Cry-Baby" 
Thursday, February 15, 6:30-9:00 p.m.
Friday, February 16, 6:30-9:00 p.m.
Saturday, February 17, 2:00-5:00 p.m.
Wednesday, February 21, 6:30-9:00 p.m.
Thursday, February 22, 5:00-7:30 p.m.
Friday, February 23, 6:30-9:00 p.m.
Saturday, February 24, 2:00-5:00 p.m. (snow date)

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