Salisbury lost one of its true guide stars last Friday. Dr. Geoffrey Rossano was a man of immense and eclectic talents. He was a historian, builder, innovator, pioneer, author, parent, and show tune aficionado. He could have taught anywhere in the world, and Salisbury is fortunate that he chose to work here for over four decades.
All good historians need good stories. Goeff knew them, because he knew where to find them – right under our very own noses. He pioneered placed-based experiential teaching. His students wrote their own history textbooks decades ago. They’d transcribe tombstones in local graveyards and behold blast furnaces from the banks of rivers. He didn’t simply teach students history, he made them historians.
His innovation with the boys wasn’t just confined to the northwest corner. He would scour Ebay and buy authentic ancient Greek coins to reward excellent student work with a challenge to research and present the stories engraved upon them. His assignments would also frequently carry mischievous traces of his humor. A personal favorite was students scripting the very complicated familial dynamics of Greek deities as if they were guests on Dr. Phil.
As dedicated as he was to his students, he was just as committed to Salisbury School. Up until his open-heart surgery, he had never missed a day of class. I’ll never forget the widened eyes of his Third Formers as they arrived for Monday class to the site of the Doc sitting on his desk with a series of pronounced staples down the back left side of his head. Over the weekend he just happened to have had brain surgery – no big deal.
Out of all Geoff’s attributes, my favorite is how loving he was to Joan and his two very different daughters, Chloe and Margaret. I remember the look of raw pride in his eyes whenever I was fortunate enough to sit around a table with them. His girls were his joy, and a testament to him as a father.
Salisbury School and generations of his students were blessed to have him in their lives.