Each year, the planning for Reunion Weekend starts as soon as one ends. Sometimes a little sooner than that, for some reunion classes are eager to begin bringing their friends together. But one thing remains the same: every reunion volunteer, class agent, Alumni Office staff member, and many other community members pour hours of planning and outreach into each Reunion. The steps toward this Reunion and the program that formed became clear around mid-January when Jennifer Shackett Berry ’83, P’07, ’10, ’15, H’19 announced her retirement.
As our current Director of College Counseling, Jen has been instrumental in the lives of many of our current students and young alumni. As a former IB Theory of Knowledge teacher, English Department Head, Admission Associate, House Head, Advisor, Coach, and other roles during her tenure, the impact of her legacy on campus is immeasurable. Thirty-two years of service, three New Hampton School graduates of her own, and thousands of relationships built later, Jen announced that she was ready to retire and spend more time with her family.
A second retirement announcement soon followed in late winter, this time from long-time Director of Alumni & Parent Relations Cindy Buck P’01, ’05. Cindy concludes twenty-five years of service this year, beginning in an office of two people. She has overseen the creation of many programs and traditions, organized numerous events, and forged lasting relationships for our alumni and parents.
And so, a theme emerged for this Reunion program; Honoring New Hampton School legends. Though many of the activities remained the same, the meal planning, the speech writing, and the outreach to alumni took on a new tone. A chance to present these two legends an evening of celebration as a send-off, surrounded by their beloved community members, was the goal. In return, a record-setting number of attendees joined us both for their own celebration with classmates and to share their words of gratitude, memories, and congratulations for Jen and Cindy.
All told, over 350 alumni, faculty and friends came to celebrate New Hampton School during Reunion 2019. We were honored to recognize several individuals during Saturday evening’s program for their service to the school, their achievements, and their continuing leadership. Two of these notable awards went to our program honorees of the evening, Jen and Cindy.
In thanks for her exceptional service, Cindy Buck P’01, ’05 was awarded the Smith-Moore Service Award. Cindy will continue on in a part-time role for the school as the Bicentennial Coordinator. Head of School Joe Williams P’22 noted, “Through the years, Reunion has provided an avenue to celebrate New Hampton School legends such as Bud and Jinga Moore, Harrison Golden, Mark Tilton, Lou Gnerre, Andrew Menke and others. Navigating these celebratory events behind the scenes was always Cindy Buck. Tonight, it only seems fitting that you, Cindy, join this rank of esteemed New Hampton School dignitaries.” Guest speakers Eric Buck ’01, Jeff Glidden ’68, and Sarah DeBenedictis shared their own words of respect and celebration for Cindy.
In gratitude and recognition of her work at New Hampton School, Jennifer Shackett Berry ’83, P’07, ’10, ’15, H’19 was awarded the Hazeltine-Merrill Lifetime Award; this award is granted for demonstrated leadership in a person’s community and profession, and the award is named in honor of two significant women in New Hampton School’s history. This includes Martha Hazeltine, alumna of the Class of 1827, and the first female principal at New Hampton Academy in 1829; and also Pauline Swain Merrill, alumna of the Class of 1921, who was one of the first female lawyers in the state of New Hampshire and served as a trustee of New Hampton School and the Gordon Nash Library.
In additional celebration of Jen, we heard from Roddy Ames, Jr. ’02 and from Jen’s daughter Kelsey Berry ’07. Kelsey spoke humorously about her and her siblings experience growing up, and that for all of her accolades, her mom’s greatest achievements came from her opening their home and sharing time and meals with her students. “Our lives have been made richer because we shared you as a Mom with so many, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Thank you for showing me, and others, what it is to have an open home and heart to your students.”
As a final celebration of these two women, we are grateful to share their parting words with the community, both of which are now available on NHS Today.
A traditional part of school Reunions across the country includes the opportunity to give back. Our 50th Reunion Class led the way with an announcement of a class gift that has already raised over $50,000. Their gift of a named endowment fund will support an alumni speaker series, bringing individuals to campus who would offer experiential learning and life-lived experiences to our School. Guest speakers will incorporate specific techniques, examples, and approaches to how to survive and thrive (body-mind-spirit) and chart lives of purpose in a complex, contemporary, and competitive world.
Additionally, the School partnered with members of the Berry Family and donors to create the Jennifer Shackett Berry ’83 Endowment Fund. This secret fundraising effort was shared with Jen on Saturday night for the first time. To date, the fund has raised $52,972, and counting. All funds will be used towards faculty professional development, a passion close to Jen’s heart.
The Class of 1969 began their weekend with a celebratory dinner in Alumni Hall at Smith House. As is traditional for the 50th Reunion group, this time together provides an intimate venue to reconnect and share memories about their place in the school’s long history. The reunion volunteers from this crew worked hard and successfully drew over 30 celebrants plus many guests.
Other large group representation included the 1989-1991 classes, a great showing from the 5th Reunion group with 20 members of the Class of 2014, many former and current faculty and staff, the Buck Family, and the Berry Family. The School also hosted two former Heads of School including Lou Gnerre and Andrew and Jennifer Menke P’12, ’16.
We will remember this Reunion for many years to come. Thank you to all of our volunteers, attendees, and the greater New Hampton School community; without you, this weekend wouldn’t be possible. Please save the date for Reunion Weekend 2020, hosted at New Hampton School from May 29-31, 2020.