WRA Ushers in the First in Our Bicentennial Alumni Event Series — Reunion Weekend 2024!

Bicentennials and birthdays were celebrated in style, with a bright spotlight shone on this year’s theme, Innovation.

On Friday evening, Head of School Suzanne Walker Buck P’24 raised a glass on the front fields, counting down with a crowd of hundreds at the Bicentennial Tree Illumination Ceremony. Accompanied by State Representative Casey Weinstein and Hudson Mayor Jeffrey Anzevino, Suzanne led the charge on the cheerful sound-off of “Let’s put the glow in Ohio” and the switch was flipped. The oak tree behind her, festooned with 75,000 lights, looked to be made more out of light than bark and branch, and the crowd leaned in, captivated. What a truly stunning sight it was and a glimmering kick off to an incredible weekend ahead, as well as a ceremonious salute to Hudson and WRA’s respective 225th and 200th milestones. A larger-than-life birthday candle for two.

After a dazzling start, the rest of the weekend followed suit. Our series of events officially began earlier that day with the 20th Annual Scholarship Golf Classic in Memory of Charlie Hammel ’65. Special congratulations to the winners of the competition: Ollie Hadrys '27, Tom Hadrys P '23, '27, Evan Williams and Michael Grossi.

We hosted many of our other usual events, such as the Annual Señor Fun Run on Saturday morning, the Celebrate Reserve Family Picnic, the Saturday evening Gala with a fireworks finale. Organized by our Director of Alumni Relations and Special Events Abbey Swegan Baker ’94 (who celebrated her own Reunion year!), the suite of events is planned to perfection, allowing our returning alumni across the decades to reconnect, reminisce and celebrate their shared history.

But the seasoned Reunion guest will have also noticed new events to the program. On Friday afternoon, our beloved Archivist & Historian Tom Vince held a unique “Spill the Tea” event, in partnership with Angela Gotthardt P ’04, ’09 from Hudson’s Secret Tea Society. Our cozy John D. Ong Library, complete with a fine selection of freshly brewed teas (and tea-infused cocktails), petit fours and finger sandwiches, brought in a happy crowd, eager to take in untold stories from WRA’s long history. 

The next day, we hosted “Tea at Two for Tom” — the second Tom Vince event in the lineup and the official (albeit bittersweet) retirement party for our wisest and dearest friend. At the crest of the event, Suzanne and co-Presidents of the Board of Trustees Marty Franks ’68 and Nat Leonard ’82 presented Tom with his very own Reserve diploma, granting him the esteemed status of honorary alumnus.

Saturday morning began with Prosecco, Pastries & Panel Discussion, and with drinks and treats in hand, we welcomed a refreshing and invigorating morning conversation. The session began with our faculty panelists: Science Chair Hannah Barry; Fine & Performing Arts Department faculty Ed Leonard; Science Department faculty and Susan & John ’63 Steen Chair for Science and Mathematics Dr. Robert Aguliar; Engineering & Applied Sciences Department faculty and Director of Education Technology Caitlin Fritz; Science Department faculty and The Roush/Wayburn Chair in Environmental Studies Dr. Beth Pethel; and Science Department faculty and Dean of Academic Affairs Wanda Boesch. Moderated by Associate Head of School Brenda Petersen, this smart and savvy group spoke in detail about innovation in the curriculum, the learning principles they apply in the classroom, and their perceptions of the WRA students of today.

Following our faculty guests were a fascinating group of alumni panelists, whose expertise in various sectors shows the breadth and depth of the knowledge sector that emanates from WRA. Included on this panel was Matt Dorson ’89, who works as a Principal Engineer at Mystic River Engineering; Susan Jung Grant ’84, a Clinical Associate Professor at Boston University; Sanjay Mavinkurve ’99, the Director of Product Design at Block; Miles VanBlarcum ’14, who works in Growth and Partnerships at Upstream Tech; Chris Wren ’89, who works as the Digital Services Expert at United States Digital Service; and Arland Zatania-Lojo ’18, who works as a Rocket Propulsion Engineer II at Exquadrum Inc. They filled the space with insight and expertise, relating their own experience at Reserve and the field in which they now innovate and expand.

Overheard at the exit was the excited chatter of the guests and the lovely repetition of what we all know to be true — our alumni, our faculty are amazing. To each of our guest panelists, we echo the same sentiment and we thank them for sharing their time and talent with us that morning. For those unable to attend, we invite you to watch a recording here.

What followed next was one of the most time-honored events of Reunion Weekend, the WRA Today Chapel Program. Click here to view a full recording. Seated in the familiar pews, our guests are treated to an overview of school, and this year, Suzanne shared an exciting state of the school, featuring highlights of the school year. Who knew the Hobart House flood would be on the list? She attributes it to the joy of housing 15 teenage boys in Pierce House, who loved their stay (and the abundance of snacks). From college acceptances to national championship titles, the program ran through a thrilling year and road ahead.

The Chapel program also shares the highly anticipated news of our alumni award winners. Congratulations to this year’s recipients. We were thrilled to give each of you a standing ovation for this very deserved recognition.

Alumni Association Award

  • Margaret "Midge" Karam '79 — Fine & Performing Arts Faculty, Parents Chair for Distinguished Teaching

  • Herbert A. Wainer '59 — Chairman, Horizons Incorporated

Morley Science Medal 

  • Hearn J. Cho '84 — Chief Medical Officer, Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation

Waring Prize

  • Maria E. Paparella '16 — Founder, Chair-ity

Following the alumni awards presentation, we were treated to a stellar guest speaker. Bicentennial Speaker and special guest Robert Pappalardo traveled all the way from Pasadena, California, making a stop while on his way from the NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. Robert holds the title of Project Scientist, Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) Fellow and Senior Research Scientist at NASA’s JPL in the Planetary Science Section. Currently, he is working alongside other NASA scientists to launch Earth’s first mission to conduct detailed reconnaissance of Jupitor’s moon, Europa, with a target launch date of October 2024. 

Robert and his podcast with Poet Laureate Ada Limón inspired an anonymous WRA community member to create the Written in the Stars Scholarship Contest, which tasked a new boarding applicant to craft a project that examines the intersection of art and science. In his talk, Robert shared how moved he was to play a role in such an important gift to the scholarship recipient, April Lincoln. He spoke on the interplay of science and art, of exploration and wonder, in his own mission, detailing how the “poet panel” on the spacecraft has one of Ada’s poems inscribed on the steel. Written for the space odyssey, "In Praise of Mystery: A Poem for Europa" is exquisite, and in her thank you remarks to Robert, Suzanne remarked on how the line “We, too, are made of wonders,” felt particularly resonant.

Robert is the third in our Bicentennial Speaker Series, and we are lucky beyond words to hear from such bright luminaries. As we closed the weekend with our special fireworks display, made all the brighter by the light of the tree, we felt the rush of bonds strengthening, of hearts full of joy, and of a renewed sense of connection to our Reserve roots.

We thank everyone in attendance, and those many talented people behind the scenes who made it all possible. What a wonderful start to our Bicentennial Reunion series. We cannot wait for what’s in store.