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Interview with new Middle School head

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Meet Barbara Ostos

How is Portland treating you?

Really well. We’re definitely still tourists. The other day I was able to navigate from my house to Sauvie Island and back successfully. I’m beginning to understand how the 405 freeway loops around. Every week we try to do something new, which is easy here.

I hear you are a dancer. Tell us more.

I love to dance for that feeling you get when movement takes over. My husband and I met at a salsa club, and we used to go salsa and merengue dancing a lot. We choreographed and practiced a dance for our wedding reception. Dancing is a big part of who we are. Lydia loves to dance. [Lydia is Barbara and Carlos’ toddler.] One of my favorite moments during Discovery Days was square dancing with 6th graders. It was great to see them take the risk, especially given the whole boy-girl dynamic at that age.

Can you reflect on a couple more highlights of your time here at Catlin Gabel?

Two Fridays ago at assembly a group of teachers—Tom Tucker, Deirdre Atkinson, Mark Pritchard, Spencer White, and Brendan Gill—played musical instruments and led 185 kids and 30 adults in a community sing. The high level of participation and incredible vibe was impressive. I’m going to make sure we have many opportunities for group singing.

Another standout moment was at Back-to-School Night. I tried to get around to see bits and pieces of all the teachers’ presentations. I sat in the 6th grade classroom filled with parents listening to the teachers talk about their work with students, and the real trust that we ask of parents. That was inspiring. And hearing about the teachers’ expertise and experience, not just the teaching and pedagogical experience and all that good stuff, but the life experience, too, kind of brought me to tears. I’ve really joined an outstanding faculty.

The spirit of team work and shared responsibility for everything we do—which is something I philosophically believe in—is a highlight that repeats itself over and over multiple times on any given day. Everyone pitches in, and there’s no sense that it’s any one person’s show. We're doing this together for the benefit of the kids.

What is your educational philosophy?

At the core I think the purpose of school goes much further than teaching reading, writing, math, and science. The fact that our students spend the great majority of their waking hours here on this campus with us implies a responsibility not just as educators but also as mentors in guiding young people to become socially responsible adults. The job of every teacher in our community is to engage with students and help them understand that they can pretty much do anything they want, but that they need to understand that there is right and wrong and they have a responsibility to each other. Maybe 96.12 percent of the time it’s not what you do but how you do it.

Our goal is to engage students in fully participating in everything we do. You’ll never have 100 percent participation, but schools should create an atmosphere where students can take risks, even pretty high-altitude risks, and feel safe trying.

This morning we saw a great example of high-altitude risk taking. A 6th grade girl had the lead part in a skit at assembly. I thought, wow, here’s a girl who’s been in this building fewer than 3 weeks and she’s putting herself out like that, not just in front of 6th graders, but 7th and 8th graders, too.

In terms of curriculum the idea of progression and partnerships is vital. Sixth, 7th, and 8th graders are all in such different places. Great schools and great educators meet kids where they are. It’s about the progress, not necessarily about the final outcome, because each one of our 7th graders is starting at a different place and ending at a different place. It’s about knowing our students well enough to recognize where they started and to give them support and kudos as they grow and progress.

We also need to teach kids that we’re not perfect, and everyone isn’t great at everything all of the time. It can be hard to give kids that kind of honest feedback, but that’s life. The bottom line is that we’re preparing these kids for life, not just for the next grade level. Sometimes people choose independent schools for the bubble it creates, and that makes it even more onerous on us to prepare them for life. Competition exists, and you’re not always going to be the best at what you’re doing. The way students can grow and really become better is through the critical feedback we offer them. It doesn’t serve anybody to always hear that they’re doing a great job. We can create an atmosphere where hearing supportive and empathetic criticism is the norm because our students understand everyone wants you to improve. Catlin’s narrative reports are a good piece of that, and I’m just discovering what those look like.

What are the academic tools Middle School students need for success in high school?

The ability to put thoughts together and connect ideas, which leads to critical thinking and comparisons. The ability to analyze, speak, and write clearly about ideas. The ability to put things together, figure things out creatively, and use core scientific inquiry skills, which of course includes math. The ability to be thoughtful in everything you do.

How do we reach students who have a wide range of skill levels at a stage in their lives when their maturity levels are so varied?

You need to meet students where they are. We can’t have the same expectation for every single 7th grader, because some kids will end up feeling like failures. No two people are the same, and if we don't recognize the individual child as the unit of consideration then we’re doing them a disservice. If they’re writing an expository essay about a hero in their life, for instance, and we know where that child started and ended, we can provide effective relevant feedback about their work. If they don’t feel like we are taking the time to really see what they’ve produced and offer them immediate feedback, then they wonder why are they really doing this.

Commenting about where a student started and ended is meaningful to them. At this age you really need to be concrete. You can’t just say, “Great job.” You have to say things like, “I’m impressed by how you used alliteration,” or “I noticed you connected this unit of math to what we did three months ago.” It’s very important to be specific both in accolades and in comments for improvement.

With all the distractions of adolescence, how do you keep Middle School students focused on school work?

You have to get them engaged. If they’re not bought into what is going on then it’s not meaningful. So the real question, and the challenge for each of us, is how to make something meaningful for a kid—especially in Middle School! You can make a student sit down and do 26 million math problems and lose their attention, or you can ask them to work out five math word problems that bring in things they actually care about. Then they’ll be interested and think through the problem. In language classes, you could have them fill out worksheets where they enter the right verb, or you can make their learning relevant by asking them to write about what they’re going to do this weekend. Connecting academics to their interests is something we really need to keep in mind, because Middle School students perceive themselves as the center of their universes. We need to be very clear about what we’re asking them to do, or the academic engagement isn’t meaningful to them. Does that mean that every single assignment in every single class is going to do that for every kid? No, that’s not realistic. But that should be our goal and our constant aspiration as educators.

What do you think of the myth that our math and science programs are not as strong as our writing and humanities?

Our math and science program is really strong. We need to do a better job of talking about what it is and being very clear about what we do in classes. I’ve noticed it’s a little ingrained in the culture of our teachers to be very humble about the work they do with kids. What’s happening in classrooms is amazing—and that includes math and science. There’s always room for improvement, but one of my goals this year is to tease out and share the excellent work we’re doing in math and science.

Do you have thoughts about our 8th graders considering other schools for their high school experience?

It would be my hope that all of our 8th graders move on to our 9th grade. While the school is broken up into four divisions—and appropriately so for children’s developmental stages and from a teaching and management point of view—I really hope that people see Catlin Gabel as a preschool through 12th grade program. I see it that way! It’s pretty amazing to have a place where you can be one school that is connected and interconnected in so many ways while appreciating the differences of age and what that brings.

As an aside, I am really impressed that the Beginning School is its own division. Science tells us there is a significant developmental difference between kindergarteners and 1st graders. That was one of the things I found very attractive about the school and its thinking about what’s best for kids.

Getting back to the 8th to 9th grade transition, it’s important to recognize that Catlin Gabel, just like every other school, may not be the right place for every student. The desire to look around at alternatives is something that’s probably natural to some. But I really caution against making decisions around assumptions. I’ve already had conversations with a number of 8th grade students and their parents where they have inaccurate assumptions about the Upper School.

Families that are considering other options need to keep in mind a few things. Don’t make decisions about what you think our Upper School program is. Look at our Upper School program and make informed decisions. Talk to US teachers, talk to me. Research Catlin Gabel as well as you research the alternatives you’re considering. Also, the decision to leave should not be solely made by the student or by the parent. Decision-making at this age really needs to involve parents and students in a way that all voices are heard. Parents must try to understand why students want to leave and consider if the reasons are good ones, and visa versa.

What is your hope for our graduates?

My dream for all seniors going to college, not just Catlin Gabel students, is that they are fully prepared, they know how to carry themselves, they understand how they learn, and they understand the space they take up not only in their school, city, and state but also in the world. We teach those things extraordinarily well and differently than other places. What is it to be a global citizen? Answering that question well is a really important 21st-century skill.

 

Second graders share insights about how the brain works

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John Mayer’s students had a conversation about how they think the brain works as they launched into a lesson about neurons, dendrites, and axons.

"I know there are different sides of the brain. Maybe it's that all the stuff you do know is one side of the brain and all the stuff you don't know is on the other side. So then the more you grow and learn, it's like a wave goes over your brain from one side to the other."

"That’s right. There are sides of a brain but I think it's different. It's like you do reading from here, riding your bike from there, and like math from over here (pointing to different spots all over her head). So it's like a highway between cities to connect them. Sometimes there might be something on the road…"

"Or the road got washed out."

"Yeah, or the road got washed out and that's the stuff you don't know. Then maybe you learn stuff and the road gets fixed."

John: "Hmmm… I guess we have a lot of thinking to do. Should we start by trying to figure out more about how our brains are put together?"

 

First grade conversation about race overheard

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Children in Mimi's class have been telling stories about themselves as they get to know one another early in the school year. In a recent conversation the 6- and 7-year-olds began talking about race and color. Mimi recorded some of what she overheard.

“My grandma prays in Korean so I don't understand what she's saying.”

“I'm Jewish.”

“I'm English.”

“I'm Farsi. My parents were born there.”

“I'm English, too! Hey, I'm from Oregon and I think my mom and my dad are from Oregon, too, so how did I get English?"

“WAIT a minute! I'm ASIAN!”

Several other voices: So am I!”

“Hmmm, my mom was born in Chicago and I'm Korean?”

“I'm the same color as you (Mimi) are.”

“So am I. I'm Chinese, too."

Meanwhile, kids are bopping around on the rug holding their arms to one another's comparing skin colors and making lively comments about similarities and differences. At one point, I nudged the conversation a bit by asking, "Is skin color important?" which was immediately answered by a chorus of "Yes!" and "No!" Lively discussion followed.

“No, it's not. It's not! Eye color is wayyyyyyyyy more important than skin color. If you have blue eyes then you are blonde and if you are blonde then you can't see!”

 

Five seniors named National Merit Semifinalists

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Congratulations!

Five seniors have been named semifinalists in the 57th annual National Merit Scholarship Program. The students are Ilana Cohen, Zoë Frank, Holly Kim, Dylan Shields, and Jeremy Wood. They are among 16,000 semifinalists nationwide who are eligible to compete for 8,300 National Merit Scholarships worth more than $34 million that will be offered in the spring, according to a release from the National Merit Scholarship Corp.

To qualify as semifinalists, about 1.5 million high school students took a qualifying exam during their junior year.

From those, the highest-scoring entrants from each state, who represent less than 1 percent of all U.S. high school seniors, were chosen. The number chosen per state is proportional to the state's percentage of the national total of graduating seniors, according to the release.

To be considered for a scholarship, semifinalists have several additional steps to complete. Each must be endorsed and recommended by his or her high school principal. Each student and a high school official must submit a detailed scholarship application including the student's essay and information about his or her participation and leadership in school and community activities, the release states.

About 15,000 semifinalists will be notified in February that they have been granted status as finalists. Scholarship winners will be selected from this group.

 

Former development director and past trustee Joan Shipley has died

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Joan Shipley was 73 when she died of cancer on September 2. Joan was a Catlin Gabel trustee from 1972 to 1978 and later served as development director from 1980 to 1983. Her children David '81, Ann '83, and Tom '87 are alumni. Tom '87, a current board member, is married to Megan Sullivan Shipley '87.

» Link to Oregonian story

Former headmaster and noted historian Kim MacColl has died

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E. Kimbark (Kim) MacColl, PhD, died on August 31 from complications following a series of strokes. He was 86.

Kim MacColl was Catlin Gabel's headmaster from 1958 to 1966. He taught at Occidental College and Reed College before leading Catlin Gabel. Dr. MacColl worked with intelligence and integrity on establishing the newly merged school, meeting the challenges of raising public awareness and recognition, creating a school campus, increasing enrollment, and raising funds for financial aid. After his tenure as head he stayed on as Upper School history teacher, then taught Portland history at Portland State University and focused on historical research and writing the definitive texts on Portland history.

 “The key element of the Catlin Gabel experience has been its value system where academic life has real value to it and a respect for learning among faculty. I think this is an element of the school going back to Miss Catlin’s day. I think our kids, regardless of how well they were prepared in every subject, develop respect for learning.” – E. Kimbark MacColl

Kim's family has a long and loyal relationship with Catlin Gabel. His children are Kim MacColl ’68, Craig MacColl ’70, Gwynne MacColl Campbell ’73, and Alexandra MacColl Buckley ’85. His daughters-in-law are Melinda Bishop MacColl ’68 and Ann Hiestand MacColl ’70. His grandchildren who went to school in Portland are E.K. MacColl ’94, Gretchen MacColl Cook ’96, Alec MacColl ’05, and Megan MacColl ’08. Gretchen MacColl Cook '96 is married to Chris Cook '95.

A celebration of life will be at 3 p.m. Saturday, October 22, in the Terwilliger Plaza auditorium, 2545 S.W. Terwilliger Blvd. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to: Catlin Gabel School, 8825 S.W. Barnes Road, Portland, OR 97225; the Oregon Historical Society, 1200 S.W. Park Ave., Portland, OR 97205; or a charity of your choice.

» Link to Oregonian article

» Link to Oregonian obituary

» Link to Oregonian editorial

» Link to Willamette Week article

Sophomore Jonathan Cannard competed at the Youth Laser 4.7 World Championships in San Francisco

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 Jonathan sailed his 14-foot rig alongside the top 113 boys and 52 girls from 48 countries including Japan, Peru, and Australia.

Alumni News, Summer 2011

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Life After Catlin Gabel

From the Summer 2011 Caller

On a lively and enlightening evening in May, the alumni and college counseling programs hosted a panel of alumni and students who discussed their experiences at Catlin Gabel and how their education prepared them for what they are doing today.
 
“Life after Catlin Gabel: Alumni and Student Voices” grew out of discussions among people in all divisions of the school, as we considered the question of how to demonstrate the long-term value of a Catlin Gabel education. This was an opportunity to reflect where a Catlin Gabel education may lead and how the school and student experiences here set up our alumni to achieve the goal of being bold learners for a lifetime.
 
In response to the question about academic challenges faced here, and what is learned from that experience, Riley Gibson ’04 replied, “It’s okay not to have the answer, but you have a foundation to figure it out. Curiosity and unstructured thought gives you an amount of confidence to find the answer.”
 
Our alumni know how to plan, self-evaluate, solve complex problems, and nourish their curiosity—the skills needed to succeed in college and career. Our panelists and moderator beautifully personified Catlin Gabel’s mission.
 
We are inspired by the shared experiences of the panel participants and by the outstanding alumni profiled in this issue of the magazine. Wishing you a summer filled with marvelous memories. We’d love to hear your stories.
 
Lauren Dully Hubbard ’91, alumni and community relations program director
 
Markus Hutchins ’02, alumni board president
 

Life After Catlin Gabel” panel. Back, L to R: Peter Bromka ’00, BA in anthropology from Tufts University, design researcher at IDEO, a global design firm, Riley Gibson ’04, BS in business management from Babson College, co-founder and CEO of Napkin Labs, Josh Langfus ’11; Henry Gordon ’11. Front, L to R: Rivfka Shenoy ’09, attending Washington University; moderator Rukaiyah Adams ’91, BA from Carleton College, JD and MBA from Stanford University, consultant for Plum District and Regence Blue Cross/Blue Shield; Rebecca Kropp ’11; Lauren Dully Hubbard ’91, BA from University of Washington and CGS alumni relations director; and Leslie Nelson ’10, attending Pitzer College.

 
P.S. Save the date for fall’s alumni events: Los Angeles alumni gathering on Thursday, September 15, and Homecoming on Friday, September 30!
 

Alumni Connects e-newsletter

Did you know that the alumni relations office sends out periodic e-newsletters with information regarding Catlin Gabel athletics, on-campus activities, and lectures? This is a quick and easy way for alumni to find out what is going on at Catlin Gabel! If you would like to receive these updates, please contact us at alumni@catlin.edu and include your full name and class year with your email address.  

 

Our Amazing & Creative Alumni: Caprice Neely '85

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Footwear design director

By Nadine Fiedler

From the Summer 2011 Caller

Caprice Neely, a true hands-on girl, loved art and woodshop when she attended Catlin Gabel’s Lower School. The skills she developed in making and building, combined with her aesthetic sense, formed the basis for her long career in footwear design.
 
Product design wasn’t something Caprice set out to do. But what got her far—so far that today she’s a lead designer in Nike’s blue-sky innovation team—was her absolute fearlessness and determination.
 
After working her way through college as an art major, Caprice landed a temp job in the Portland offices of Avia, a sports shoe company. Her curiosity led her to the design department, and she was immediately hooked on footwear design. She hung out with designers and asked if she could help. That led to a job with Adidas painting shoe models—until she confidently stepped up and asked to create models herself. Then she asked if she could create her own designs. Soon she went to see the president of Adidas with her designs and prototypes, and he offered her a designer job on the spot.
 
After three years Caprice moved to Nike, and with the exception of one foray into another venture, she’s been there ever since. She helped envision and create the first Nike sportswear line, and today she works on a creative team with the freedom to design the next big thing.
 

Caprice Neely's Cityknife shoe and sketches for Nike

 

Much of Caprice’s success lies in her knack for designing great-looking shoes that function well. “You have to keep in touch with popular culture and fashion trends, even if you’re working on something as technical as the next track spike for the Olympics. Athletes tell us that if they look good, they’ll perform better,” she says.
 
Caprice would like more students to consider product design: “The ability to build and fix things incorporates different problem-solving skills. If you mix that with art, you have the potential for a career in product design and engineering.”
 

“It’s amazing for me to think back to the foundation I received at Catlin Gabel, especially in art. I was encouraged to do and try anything. It gave me the confidence in myself to know that I would succeed if I worked hard enough.”

 

Our Amazing & Creative Alumni: Caroline Kuerschner MacLaren '89

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Land use and real estate attorney

By Nadine Fiedler

From the Summer 2011 Caller

Can the practice of law be a creative pursuit? We asked Portland attorney Carrie MacLaren ’89 to give it some thought.
 
“People come to me with a variety of issues: from development to conservation, and all points in between,” says Carrie, who works with Black Helterline LLP. “In many cases the due diligence, research and evaluation, is not creative. Once we know the particulars and evaluate how they affect the goal, then the creative thinking can come in. How do we resolve obstacles and find ways to reach the goals?”
 
Let’s say she has a client whose land-use project has come against a hurdle: a use that isn’t allowed or a development that is opposed by the planning staff or neighbors. She can try to change the zoning classification, which would be the analytical approach. But she can also talk with the client about finding ways to modify the proposal to fit within the existing zoning or address the neighbors’ concerns. “It’s about not going by the rote book and stepping back to look at the whole picture. It’s being able to look at the obstacles and ask if there’s a different way to conceptualize the project, if it’s too cumbersome and problematic,” says Carrie.
 
Carrie has also brought some cutting-edge thinking to her practice: she taught a University of Oregon course on the legal aspects of green building, a new field that raises all kinds of questions for lawyers. She’s a veteran in her field of law, having spent many years as staff attorney for the land use protection group 1000 Friends of Oregon.
 
“When all is considered, critical thinking is definitely key in law, but creative thinking is a big part of it, says Carrie. “I always have to think on my feet.”
 

“At Catlin Gabel I took weaving, I was photographer for the yearbook, and I took the art survey class. Having that exposure, and enabling the brain to think in different ways, is useful in any field.”

 

Our Amazing & Creative Alumni: Pat Carew '93

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Video producer and director

By Nadine Fiedler

From the Summer 2011 Caller

Among the many media that vie for our attention, video has become a familiar presence in all our lives. In his work with video, Pat Carew ’93 navigates a particular intersection of entertainment, education, and persuasive storytelling.
 
As video producer and director for CMD, a Portland advertising and marketing agency, Pat creates pieces that run the gamut from commercials, in-store videos, and trainings to online videos for a wide variety of clients. CMD is unusual in having its own small, dedicated video production team, and Pat enjoys the creative freedom of serving for various projects as producer, editor, writer, or director. In his producer role he guides the projects from beginning to end, working mostly with logistics (locations! schedules! budgets!). Directing is more creative, he says, setting the look, feel, and tone of the piece.
 
“In my work there’s a push and pull between the creative and practical aspects, and projects are always expanding and contracting. You dream up maybe 15 ideas, and then you pick one. You shoot way more than you need, with each scene shot from five different angles. And then you contract: you edit down to what you need. Every project is a little different, so the work is always fresh. My favorite project is the one I’m working on,” he says.
 
Pat began doing video while he was attending Tufts University, and his first piece was a music video for a band he was in with Scott Fisher ’93. He continued work on music videos and short films, and then freelanced on independent films and in audio on location and in recording studios. With two small children, his work is now all for CMD, and he loves what he does: “My work is alive to me,” he says.
 

“Soccer was not a big deal for me until I went to Catlin Gabel for high school. I would love to make a feature film someday — a compelling soccer drama. That’s not been done before!”

 

Our Amazing & Creative Alumni: Michael Hiestand '75

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Sports media journalist

By Nadine Fiedler

From the Summer 2011 Caller

Michael Hiestand ’75 is crazy about writing. He could write well about anything, and pretty much has. But he invented his own niche in journalism: he’s been writing for 20 years about sports media and the business side of sports for USA Today. He’s created a strong presence, with a focused voice in print and a trenchant, funny persona on the air.
 
Sports wasn’t his first choice for his career topic. He wrote at Catlin Gabel, including book reviews for the 2nd grade librarian that were published by the Oregonian and “nutty stuff for the school newspaper,” wrote more at Stanford, did a publishing course at Harvard, then wrote book copy for Simon & Schuster in New York while he freelanced more writing.
 
“I’d write any article that popped into my head and send it off to magazines,” says Michael. “I got great practice making the most boring topic interesting reporting on business for Adweek—and that’s always the goal. I suggested writing about the business side of sports—which is everything besides the game—and they loved the idea. People thought that sports was not a part of capitalism, so I found my niche.”
 
Michael spent a memorable year in Sydney, Australia, covering preparations for the Olympics. “I thought up my own stories to do, which were basically anything I could talk my way into. I would look for an exception to the norm, because that’s always more interesting. I loved Australia. I told them it did wonders for the U.S. self-esteem to break from Great Britain. I said I would stay and cover it if they had a revolution.”
 
“Now, with Facebook and other social media, people think everyone should be passionate or opinionated,” says Michael. “But when I write, I don’t have a dog in that fight. If you’re into sheer storytelling you can do it for a long time, adapting as you go.”
 

“I got a D in French my senior year. I told a French teacher, Jean-Claude Lachkar, that I was sort of challenged. At a basketball game, he came out on the court and said, ‘I found out that you’re not stupid!’ I said that was just a rumor.”

 

Our Amazing & Creative Alumni: John Ralston '74

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Architect

By Nadine Fiedler

From the Summer 2011 Caller

Architect John Ralston ’74 designs honest, inviting, livable, and beautiful buildings. They reveal their integrity in the use of natural materials, in details that point out the way the building holds together, and in their reflection of the site and the building’s use and users.
 
What these buildings also reflect is John’s personal warmth and humility—not to mention his charisma, technical expertise, and great senses of both humor and aesthetics. This winning combination has resulted in an impressive array of work that he’s done, in Oregon and elsewhere, for private homes as well as governmental and commercial facilities.
 
John had a penchant for art and architecture from his youth. He came to Catlin Gabel because of its superb art department. He spent a lot of time in the clay room, where he made his first houses out of clay. Those little clay houses from the clay room provided just the right touch in his architecture school interview to get him accepted.
 
Today John is a co-principal in a small firm in Bend, HSR Master Planning and Architecture. “To lead a firm, you need professional skills, and people skills. We’re not just making a building, we’re meeting the needs of the client,” he says. “That’s when architects are valuable. You can always get someone to design something good enough. The core thing is that your buildings will keep enhancing the lives of the people using them.”
 
So take a look at his projects. Look for the details: the waves of stone anchoring the house on the coast and its eyebrow dormer, the stream that runs under the house with a viewing window in the hall floor, the way a large house has the coziness of a small cabin, the way different tones of wood harmonize. They are the grace notes that mark the works of a creative talent in love with what he does.
 

“Catlin Gabel made architecture school easy, because I had already learned to write and study.”

 

Our Amazing & Creative Alumni: Hillary Hurst '72

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Drama therapist and middle school drama teacher

By Nadine Fiedler

From the Summer 2011 Caller

The ancient Greeks recognized that drama could provide catharsis, revitalization for actors and audiences. For Hillary Hurst ’72, drama has proven to be a powerful tool for changing lives. As a drama therapist, she works with psychiatric patients at SageView in Bend, Oregon, helping them recognize how they can better their lives.
 
Hillary loved drama at Catlin Gabel, and thought that was her calling. She studied theater at Bard College, then decamped to New York and immersed herself in the heady days of experimental theater. She acted for many years, until she wanted something that would provide a better living. Drama therapy fascinated her, and she earned her degree at the California Institute of Integral Studies.
 
Her first jobs tested her mettle. Hillary worked in Oakland with at-risk youth and abused girls, learning how theater and therapy can work together to restore self-worth for people who sorely need it. “The girls shared their daily life through scene work on difficult experiences. We talked about what they would do differently now, and how they now can stand up for themselves.” She’s brought those lessons to her therapy work at SageView with society’s most fragile people.

Hillary Hurst '72 with some of her students at the Cascades Academy of Central Oregon. Photos: Carol Sternkopf

 

 
Hillary makes extensive use of metaphor: she asks her clients to think of their life as, say, a river, and imagine their journey—then asks what they’re missing. “People say things like, ‘I dropped my oars years ago in the water, and I allow life to drive me along.’ You let them know that they do have some say in their lives, that they are survivors.”
 
“My basic premise as a therapist and healer is that human beings want to be seen, heard, and loved,” says Hillary. “In people who have been through trauma and abuse, this triad is grossly neglected. The process in therapy involves seeing them, hearing them, and reflecting back love.”
 

“I was so blown away by theater at Catlin Gabel. My being an actor was valued as much as being a scientist. Catlin Gabel was a gift to me.”

 

Our Amazing & Creative Alumni: Ernie Lafky '81

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Game designer, avant-garde theater director

By Nadine Fiedler

From the Summer 2011 Caller

Ernie Lafky ’81 designs casino games. His lifelong passion is experimental and avant-garde theater. And he won Catlin Gabel’s science award in his senior year for his stellar work in physics. It really does all fit together, he says.
 
It’s all about having a cerebral, conceptual turn of mind. Ernie relishes the challenges, social commentary, and verbal play of the fringes of the theater world as much as the intense, mathematical world of physics. In his job he draws on these proclivities and experiences, creating engaging play for the gamer and earning patents for ingenious systems he’s developed.
 
Ernie stumbled into avant-garde theater at Catlin Gabel, influenced by teacher Alan Greiner, and was encouraged to read writers such as Eugene Ionesco. “In college and graduate school I was up to my eyeballs in creative theater,” says Ernie. In Los Angeles he immersed himself in avant-garde theater with great artistic freedom—until he turned 30 and was tired of being broke.
 
As a tester in the new field of interactive multimedia CD-ROM games and programs—rife with bad stories, film, and acting—Ernie saw how he could improve them. After a spell working in theater with gay and Lesbian homeless youth, and doing Shakespeare with inner-city youth—experiences he cherishes—he realized it was time for a new career. It seemed clear that he could do well as a producer for interactive games. And he landed jobs with companies including Jim Henson and Mattel.
 
When a position came up at Wagerworks (now IGT) to produce and design casino games, he snagged the job. He loves video poker and Vegas, and his theater work helps him grasp how to keep a player entertained. His science background helps him communicate with engineers, so the fit is perfect.
 
Ernie still works in theater whenever he can. “Casino gaming is one of my hobbies, which makes my job really fun. It’s like dessert,” he says. “But avant-garde theater nourishes my spirit. It’s a perfect balance.”
 

“All that I do was planted as seeds at Catlin Gabel—theater, science, English, history. I draw on all of it between my job and my art. My education has been so incredibly valuable to me. You can’t put a price on it.”  

Photo at right: Ernie Lafky '81 (left) and Lisa Wymore in Remote by Sara Kraft and Ed Purver