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Centennial Chapel Speakers

Mr. Ben Trachtman, class of 2004, was our Centennial Speaker Series Chapel speaker on Friday, March 11. Ben spoke about the impact that Montgomery School had on his choices in life, including his love of science.

Ben is finishing his second year of medical school, an interest that he developed as a lower and middle school student at Montgomery. Ben said that the map of his life started at Montgomery, and that each student in the audience had begun that journey themselves. After the talk, Ben had the opportunity to tour the campus and to speak with former teachers.

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On February 17, former Middle School Heads Harvey Zendt and Chris Gorycki returned to Montgomery's campus to speak at the Centennial Chapel. Dr. Jon Hall, Assistant Head of School and Middle School Head himself, introduced these speakers. Mr. Zendt spoke first and talked about "firsts". He was here at Montgomery in its first year in Chester Springs. He asked the audience to think about their own firsts, and how it made them feel, whether it was a first day on an athletic team, or their first day at Montgomery. Mr. Zendt recollected about his first varsity wrestling match many years ago. In Montgomery's first year in Chester Springs, there were 14 students in middle school, and classes were held in a trailer with two classrooms. During that year students watched as the Schoolhouse was constructed, and there was great excitement about being able to get into this new building. He also recollected about trips to the beach with his middle school students. Students surfed while there and had a wonderful bonding experience. He also spoke about other trips, the creek flooding and the athletic program.

Mr. Gorycki asked the audience to join him in saying "thank you Montgomery" at particular moments during his talk. He recollected about the family style lunch program, and a special meal of french toast that he made for his family with pieces of bread left over from soup bowls that were served during his years here. Mr. Gorycki also remembered a student enjoying catching showflakes in her mouth on the way to class one day. The Make a Difference Projects were one of his favorite projects, and he spoke about the importance of us all making a difference. One of his fondest memories is about the bus trip home from Canada with the 8th grade. He asked all those faculty and staff with whom he worked at Montgomery to stand; he then thanked them for the many things they added to his life, and noted what a very special place Montgomery School is.

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Special thanks to our Centennial Speaker Series presenter, Mr. Joshua Stewart '92, for an inspiring Chapel presentation on January 29th. Mr. Stewart spoke about his experiences as a Montgomery student, having joined the school in its second year at the Chester Springs campus. He also discussed the students' opportunities to develop qualities like integrity, leadership, and devotion (to self and others) at Montgomery School. The theme of his chapel related to a commencement address Mr. Stewart delivered in 2001 at Montgomery, when he was just graduating from the United States Naval Academy, and about to begin his service in the Navy. Josh served for 12 years in the US Navy, primarily on submarines. He also earned an MBA from Penn State, and a Master of Science in Human Resource Development and Leadership from the Naval Postgraduate School in CA. He now works for Merck Sharpe and Dohme, where he is a Senior Account Manager in the greater Philadelphia area.

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Former Heads of School Return for Centennial Chapel

On December 8, former Heads of School Derek Stedman and Kevin Conklin returned to campus to speak at the next Centennial Chapel program. Current Head Sally Keidel first introduced Derek Stedman who served as Head of School at Montgomery from 1972-1979, when the school was officially called Montgomery Country Day School, and was located in Wynnewood. Derek spoke about the impression that a kindergarten student had made on him, when he encouraged him to have students involved in chapel programs. Some of Derek's contributions while he was Head included establishing a parents association, starting a retirement program for faculty, and raising significant funding to improve the Lower School facilities in Wynnewood.

Sally then introduced Kevin Conklin, Head of Montgomery from 2000-2014. Kevin was a familiar face for many in the audience, and he was welcomed warmly by faculty, students, and parents. Kevin talked about a top ten list of things he missed about Montgomery School, including Montgomery in winter and students sledding during recess, Mrs. Rex's whirlygigs each spring, Perry Gresh, Veritas, Pietas, Caritas, the Greek and Roman games, Wilma's banana pudding, the Barn, Commencement, and other Montgomery treasures. Kevin's legacy at Montgomery included adding new facilities to the campus (the Sedor Science Center, the Dining Room, the Gresh Academic Center, and 3 new playing fields), building the infrastructure needed to support emerging technologies, and supporting professional development for faculty to learn new ways to use technology in the curriculum. He also added Singapore Math to the Lower School curriculum, and strengthed the science program by putting in place 3 dedicated science teachers to implement our S.T.E.A.M. program.

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Faculty Panel: The Early Days in Chester Springs

Current and even some retired faculty members who taught at Montgomery in the early days in Chester Springs gathered on November 3 to share stories with the school community at the school's third Chapel in the Centennial Series. Retired faculty members Carole Rex and Debbie Vaughn joined current faculty members Randy Bireley, Heather Schelhorn, Michele Oakes, Julie Dattilo, Denise Kelly, Patty Baumeister, and emcee Susan Marotta in talking about the early days teaching in the trailers the first year in Chester Springs, while the Schoolhouse was built. The audience looked at a slideshow that included many of the buildingsfrom these early days: the Barn, Montgomery Station, the Farmhouse and Cottage, as well as all the buildings under construction. Faculty talked about recess in the Barn and how cold it was, measuring student heights on the first day of school, swimming lessons at the YMCA, nature walks on campus, the trailers, the old dining room, Greek & Romans Games dressed all in white, and the beauty of the campus.

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Audrey Porter '88

On October 28th, Audrey Porter '88, Montgomery alumna and parent of daughter Ashlyn '20, addressed the Lower School audience for our second event of our Centennial Chapel Speaker Series. Audrey spoke about the impact that Montgomery School had made on her, and her classmates. She was a member of the last class from the Wynnewood campus, before the school relocated to its current location in Chester Springs. She shared some photos from her days at Montgomery, as well as some stories. Daughter Ashlyn handilyintroduced her mom to the audience of Lower School students, faculty and parents.

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J. Bennett Hill, Jr., Montgomery Faculty Member 1953-1988

On Friday, September 18, 2015, long time teacher J. Bennett Hill, Jr. was introduced by Head of School, Sally Keidel as the kick-off speaker for the Centennial Chapel Series. Sally talked about the long history and traditions of Montgomery School, and Mr. Hill's role as a teacher. He taught at Montgomery School from 1953 until the school moved to its current location in Chester Springs in 1988. Miss Almy hired him to teach nature study and science. The following year, under new Head of School Michael Martin's request, he began living on Montgomery's campus, to help with the 5 day a week boarding program. That year Mr. Hill continued to teach science, but when the Latin teacher didn't arrive, he also taught several Latin students. In the afternoon, Mr. Hill worked with the 3rd and 4th grade students on the afternoon play, and also managed the Dramatics Club, where they did productions of Shakespeare, Moliere, and Gilbert and Sullivan.

Mr. Hill started the soccer program at Montgomery, and slowly grew it to include a team for 9 and 10 year olds, which he coached for many years. He also coached Jr. Baseball for 3rd and 4th graders in the spring. Bennett had the pleasure of serving with five different Montgomery Heads of School in his tenure: Miss Almy and Miss Ratledge, Mr. Michael Martin, Mr. Derek Stedman, Mr. Tom Woodward, and Mr. Geoff Campbell.

Prior to his teaching career, he attended The Miquon School, The Haverford School, and Swarthmore College, where he majored in Fine Arts (which at that time was Art History). He has always been well loved by his students, and continues to stay connected to Montgomery today. He is a frequent visitor to our campus, and our library is named in his honor.

Mr. Hill spoke about the significance of "The 100" - the hymn sung at the beginning of every chapel at Montgomery School. Following the chapel, Mr. Hill greeted visitors, and rang the new school bell located near the farmhouse.

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