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A Salisbury Gentleman

Matt Wesson '20
Kristina Miller

SALISBURY GENTLEMAN MATT Wesson '20 SHARES HIS STORY of life on the hilltop  

Originally from Hoboken, NJ, after moving towns at the end of middle school my family and I searched to find the right public high school. After touring several local schools, we shifted our search to boarding schools. Upon interviewing at Salisbury School, I met with Former Faculty Matt Corkery and History Faculty Mr. Mokriski, whom I made an immediate connection with and felt like I had found my place.

I came to Salisbury for the college preparatory school experience, and was especially drawn to the community, the opportunities, extracurriculars and clubs, classes, teachers, and sports. In my four years on the Hilltop, I’ve been able to find a good balance and passion for academics, college preparation, and sports.  

My favorite place on campus to unwind is the Boathouse, especially in the fall as it’s particularly beautiful that time of year.

My favorite subject is history. I really enjoy connecting the dots between our past and the present and seeing how things used to work compared to how the same things have taken shape today. Last year, I worked on a project with Art Department Chair Mr. Johnson and Mr. Mokriski regarding WWI and my grandfather’s involvement in it. I was able to document my grandfather’s photos and archival items from the war, which culminated in a project display for the Salisbury community.

Upon completing my project, Mr. Mokriski approached me about a fellowship that was available to Salisbury students to use to study abroad in the summer. This past July, I traveled to England to study the history of the World Wars thanks to the David Charlton Perkins Class of ’33 Fellowship. I spent a week in London and a week in Salisbury exploring multiple history museums and used my passion for film and digital photography to document my fellowship. This semester, I am compiling all of my photos and pieces of history that I gleaned from my trip to pull together a book on my experience, which will be given to the donor family, as well as shared with the faculty and students that helped make my journey possible. I also hope to turn my project into a great college application essay!

I’m thankful for my experiences on the Hilltop and beyond, and while I am sad that my time at Salisbury will soon come to an end, I know I am prepared for my next step on my journey through life.

Graham Turner '15
Kristina Miller

SALISBURY GENTLEMAN GRAham turner '15 SHARES HIS STORY with the salisbury community 

I grew up in a small town an hour south of Salisbury. I didn’t attend the local school and spent most of my time in Waterbury on the Chase Collegiate campus until I left for Salisbury in 2011.  When it came time for high school the idea of leaving Chase was foreign. My Grandfather, Tony Hoag ’57, suggested a tour and I stepped into a world to which I had never been exposed. I remember the great sense of pride, excitement, and anxiety that came with my acceptance.

Going into my junior year I discovered an interest in film. I made a documentary on the hockey team in the winter of 2014 and followed their journey to the New England Championship. At that point, the School had no established outlet for film work. So, I fought to pursue my documentary in place of a winter sport and eventually used that first outing into filmmaking to gain acceptance at Syracuse University's Visual Arts School. I used the skills I developed at Salisbury as a base on which I could develop and grow my craft. Four years later, a short film I wrote and directed in Prague, Czech Republic has screened at several festivals around the country and overseas.

The curriculum at Salisbury forced me to write.  Looking back on the hours and hours spent reading texts and writing reports, I can confidently say that the greatest skill Salisbury gave me was the ability and desire to write. Those essays fostered in me a love for writing that greatly supported my endeavors in college. As a filmmaker, I accredit my love for screenwriting and fiction writing to my exposures in Salisbury classrooms.

There were many faculty members who guided and supported me through my time at Salisbury, and I remember them all very fondly. There was one teacher in particular who I can confidently say had the greatest effect on me over my four years. Latin Faculty Jon Gottsegen undoubtedly knew I was no Latin scholar after three years of incremental progress, but I don’t think that mattered to him. He was hard on me when I didn’t give my all, but empathetic when I was struggling. Knowing a teacher is truly invested in you and your endeavors is the greatest gift they can give you, and I always felt Mr. Gottsegen had out some stock in me.

Outside of the classroom, the four members of the community who did the most for me during my time at school were the nurses in the health center, to whom I will forever be indebted.     

I think my last time on campus was three years ago when I was visiting my classmate Ryan Phelps. As far as my favorite places, I spent a lot of time in the visual arts center and when I come back, I think that will be my first stop. 

In May, I graduated from Syracuse University with a B.F.A in Film Production and a minor in English and Textual Studies. I am interning for a film finance firm in Los Angeles, CA while pursuing my projects. My film education was primarily based on production and theory, so experiencing the financial side of the industry this past summer has been an invaluable experience. When I am back in New York I will join some close friends in developing a production company we founded in our sophomore year of college.

I was fortunate enough to write and direct a short film, “I Remember Ashes”, in Prague, which has screened around the world and will screen this fall at the 20th annual Woodstock Film Festival—a beloved event of independent film. 

I was very sorry to hear that D.A. Pennebaker ’43, a champion of documentary film and alumnus of Salisbury, passed away over the summer.  He was honored at the first inaugural Woodstock Film Festival, and I was fortunate enough to see one of his most famous works, a documentary on the Monterey Pop Festival, restored in the Piazza Maggiore in Bologna, Italy in 2017.  I believe he said "I discovered how to write fiction and particularly how to write poetry, which has been the guiding spirit of my life. For that, I will always thank Salisbury School." When I was at School, I and other creatively inclined students sometimes felt in the minority. To know a man I revered was shaped, as I was, at Salisbury School was deeply moving.

Find what you love and work at it. If Salisbury doesn’t have an avenue for you to explore something you’re interested in, make one. 

Peter Gilbert P'18, P'20
Kristina Miller

Learn More About Salisbury Gentleman Peter gilbert p'18, '20

I grew up in Detroit and Chicago and went to a big public school. In the Midwest of my youth, one did not even know that a school like Salisbury existed! Following my high school graduation, I attended Dickinson College, a liberal arts college with great access to the professors. It is at Dickinson where I learned intellectual curiosity and began to consider education as a profession. 

I worked in a variety of types of schools for 10 years before coming to Salisbury--coed middle school, coed day school, an all-girls school, and coed boarding. I got my introduction to Salisbury by working at the Salisbury Summer School in 1995. It was clear that this was an area we as a family wanted to live.  It’s a really unique, special community with an orientation to the outdoors. That summer we started a conversation with Former Headmaster Dick Flood about the potential of working on the Hilltop. I had done a lot of research about the advantages of single-gender schools while in graduate school at The University of Virginia and, as a result of my graduate degree and good conversations with Headmaster Flood, I started on the Hilltop in July 1998 in the admissions and college advising offices and as a coach.

When I arrived on campus, I was lucky as a young faculty member to be mentored by some of the Salisbury faculty legends: Flood, Corkery, Rutter, and Menconi. I have also become lifelong friends with some of our graduates and parents of the first classes with whom I worked, from 1999 until now; Rallis, Childs, Friedman, Greiner, Chafee, and Wong to name a few.

I have found throughout my years on the Hilltop that the most important thing about Salisbury is the relationships—with the boys and my peers on the faculty and staff. It is said that one should surround yourself with good people. This is easy to do here. I’ve also found that the most “successful” graduates I see carry the core character values they experienced on the Hilltop; they are “other centered” men. 

My favorite place on the Hilltop is the senior mound looking west at sunset. Or, the lake at any time. Those moments get in your bones. Also, the Chapel experience can be profound if you open yourself up to the possibility.

A special note to the graduates we have not seen or connected with in a while: Salisbury is a better place because you were here. Adolescence is a universally tough time. The Hilltop will take great pride in you reaching back out to us, even if it is to share just a snapshot of your life since Salisbury or a story of growth from your time here.  It is a simple validation of connection and meaning. “To be rather than to seem to be” is aspirational for all of us.  It does not mean we have been perfect or are perfect.  Being a Salisbury grad is “perfect” enough.