<img height="1" width="1" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=1420873894639245&ev=PageView &noscript=1"/>

A Salisbury Gentleman

Andrew Mager and Patti Stevens
Kristina Miller

SALISBURY GENTLEWOMAN PATTI STEVENS SHARES HER STORY WITH THE SALISBURY COMMUNITY 
-Written by Andrew Mager '22 

When Ms. Stevens started her job in August of 2019 as head of housekeeping for Salisbury School, she had no idea that eight months later she would be on the front line of the worst pandemic since the Spanish Flu. Salisbury School, like most schools around the nation, shut down in March of 2020 because of the COVID-19 outbreak. She describes a meeting with her supervisors when she and her staff were warned, “it's here, it's coming.” It was instantly a different gear and a different mindset. Her staff had to be trained on all necessary CDC protocols to quell the virus including social distancing, disinfecting all touch surfaces, and restocking supplies such as hand sanitizing stations throughout the campus and individual disinfectant for each classroom. Beginning in late March, the housekeeping team began to work staggered shifts. Following a thorough cleaning, the buildings on campus that were not in use were closed, allowing the team to focus on the one dorm that remained open, as well as the few other buildings that remained open. At this point, Ms. Stevens was working ten hour days, often arriving at 5:00 a.m., to support her housekeeping staff. According to one of her staff members, Ms. Stevens “works really hard to ensure our safety and the safety of the students.” When I asked Director of Facilities, Grounds, and Safety Mr. Boyer, he had a very similar response, “She does her job very efficiently.”

I first met Ms. Stevens on April 23rd, 2021. She walked into the second-floor Centennial classroom smiling, and I greeted her by introducing myself. She sat down and I began my interview nervously. At first, she gave short answers only a few words long. As the interview progressed, it gradually became much more of a friendly conversation. Time passed quickly and before I knew it we had been talking for forty-five minutes. At the close of the interview, she invited me to visit her department.

Two days later, when I arrived at the housekeeping office tucked away in the Dean Family Performance Training Center, there was a whiteboard on the door that said “welcome to housekeeping! Grumpy people are not allowed.” Ms. Stevens was standing behind the counter. She said hello with a quick smile and welcomed me to sit down. Three of her staff members were sitting around the room. There was a sizable whiteboard hanging on the cinder block wall, with a weekly schedule outlining tasks for each of the nine staff members. The atmosphere, casual and friendly, showed the camaraderie between Ms. Stevens and her staff. I asked how their job and their lives had been affected by the pandemic. One replied, “I always go to the grocery store early in the morning on Sunday when no one is there.” This shows the team's dedication to minimizing risk of exposure to COVID-19. 

When the Students at Salisbury left campus for spring break during the 2019-2020 school year, everyone thought they would be returning shortly. However, COVID-19 concerns kept the campus closed for the rest of the academic year. Even though the campus was quiet, the housekeeping team of six people continued to work alternating ten hour shifts and rigorously followed State of Connecticut guidelines to ensure the campus was properly sanitized. At this time, they also had to implement new cleaning standards for a possible return. At the outset, the staff worked diligently cleaning the dorms, including power washing the bathrooms. Disinfecting work continued in all eighteen buildings on campus, according to Ms. Stevens. When the hand sanitizing stations arrived, Ms. Stevens assembled each dispensing stand that students have used since returning to the campus in September. With a look of comedic resignation, Ms. Stevens confided the busiest and messiest hand sanitizing station on campus is in the dining hall. When I asked Max Capatides, a third former from New Jersey, what he thought of the hand sanitizing station in the dining hall, he instantly said, “It's disgusting... It's slimy and it smells gross.” There are sixty touch-free sanitizing stations throughout all campus buildings. While most people were having problems finding toilet paper, the only shortage the school experienced was a lack of disinfecting wipes. As a result, Ms. Stevens bought vast quantities of disinfecting solution and the staff submerged paper towels in it to make their own disinfection wipes. When I asked about the price increases her department faced during the pandemic, Ms. Stevens shared, “As far as spending, the added cost for all our extra supplies specific for the pandemic is 100% more than what is usually spent.” Coming out of the pandemic, Ms. Stevens has a few new ideas that she would like to implement into campus life. “Lastly, one of my other goals on campus is that I would like to have campus-wide cooperation and participation in recycling. I am hoping to spearhead this in September.” 

Using Covid cleaning protocols in all their work, the cleaning staff continues to clean the classrooms and dorms. As a student, I know that the dorms can get very messy. Max Capatides says it best: “The cleaning staff are excellent at their job, I feel bad that they have to clean all the stuff boys do in the dorm.” Meanwhile, in the classrooms the cleaning crew makes sure that every room has hand pump sanitizers and disinfectant wipes. For example, French teacher Mrs. Barbato uses her wipes to clean off the desks. Ms. Hussey, a tutor in the Rudd Learning Center for Growth and Academic Potential says, “I don’t know where the wipes come from, the containers just magically appear.” 

When she isn’t on the Hilltop fighting germs, Ms. Stevens focuses on being a single mother of a son and daughter, an avid equestrian, and proud owner of a spotted geico. Her son and daughter have not been to school since March because she wanted to protect her housekeeping team and she did not agree with the local schools’ protocols. Luckily, since this interview, her kids have returned to school in-person. Despite the added responsibility and carefulness that her job requires, she has no second thoughts about leaving. “This job was meant to be for me,” she said. When I asked what she enjoyed most about her job, she replied enthusiastically, “Teamwork. Working with the team, as a team.”

Jean-Marc
Kristina Miller

Jean-Marc Togodgue '22: Student, Athlete, Artist and Salisbury Gentleman

What began as a simple thank you gift caused quite a stir in the art world and raised many legal questions. But this story ended in much the same manner as it began; with a simple thank you. Read more about the unique experiences of a promising young man who exemplifies the values of a Salisbury Gentleman.

Following Jéan-Marc's knee surgery in 2017, while he was an 8th grade student at Indian Mountain School, Jéan-Marc drew a diagram of the parts of a knee so that he could better understand how his knee works. He gave the drawing to Dr. Alexander Clark, his orthopedic surgeon, as a thank you. The drawing was in Dr. Clark’s office and was seen by the American artist Jasper Johns. Jasper then incorporated Jéan-Marc's drawing as part of his new work called “Slice.” This piece is on display at the Whitney Museum in New York City through September 2021.

Jéan-Marc grew up in the Republic of Cameroon in west-central Africa, where he did not have access to running water or even have his own bed. He arrived in the United States four years ago and currently resides on the Hilltop with his host parents Community Service Director Rita Delgado and her husband Instructor in Mathematics Jeff Ruskin. Jéan-Marc is a basketball standout on the varsity team, following in the footsteps of his older brother Samuel Dingba '14, who had come to play basketball for Ruskin in 2010. 

Jéan-Marc's story was recently published by the Washington Post in an article titled, "How did this teenager's drawing of his knee wind up in a Jasper Johns painting at the Whitney?" as well as by the New York Times in an article titled, "All the World in a ‘Slice’ of Art." 

A.J. Oster '99
Kristina Miller

SALISBURY GENTLEMAN A.J. OSTER '99 SHARES HIS STORY WITH THE SALISBURY COMMUNITY 

Currently, I own and operate a small restaurant in North Adams, MA called A-OK Berkshire BBQ (aokbbq.com). September marked our second anniversary. It's amazing how time flies.  

This business, for us, was about creating a chance to reshape the business model in which I spent so much of my career. This applies, however, to every field—especially during strange and uncharted times like these. 

It wasn't until much, much later in life that Salisbury became a huge part of my life. I was there, I competed in sports, I felt accomplished, but achievement without a sense of self is worthless. So it was at Salisbury, under the guidance of my mentors and teachers Reeves, Curtis, Wolcott, Buehner, Hinchey, Brown, and Smith that the seeds of determination and hard work were planted. I learned that I could do more than I thought, if I just pushed myself harder. If I knew and believed that I could do it, I did it. I failed sometimes, but those failures provided me with so much wisdom that the next time I knew it could be done, because of the shortcomings the previous attempt illuminated. It's not cockiness or ego, it's belief. Faith.  

Somewhere between June of 1999 and 2015, life tamped down that faith in me. That belief in myself that knew things could be done. Don't get me wrong, I still worked hard, but I was constantly left with a feeling of emptiness. It wasn't until recently that I sat down and thought about what I am to myself.   

And then, as corny as it sounds, I remembered: Esse Quam Videri. And suddenly I felt all those friends and mentors from the Hilltop with their hands on my shoulders. Their voices cheering me on. Then, with meditation, I realized those voices were in my head and my heart.  

The feeling of believing in yourself is, in my opinion, the singular goal that all Sarum boys should strive to attain for themselves. Not money, not better grades. Each teacher's job is to find each student’s heart and teach them how to hold themselves with care, with honor, and with humility.   

The advice I would bestow to Salisbury students to prepare to pursue a career in their field of interest, in my case, the restaurant business, is that everyone should ask themselves why. i.e., why do you want to cook?    

For me, and the reason I chose the field I did, the answer is to serve others. My job is not necessarily about food. Food is a tool used to communicate a vision. It's not about what I cook. For me, it’s about the joy I get from making others feel happiness. Gathering people together to do something greater than they'd considered possible. 

Food service and hospitality is about human connection. That's it. I chose to use food because I wasn't great in other academic fields, and food transcends all academia. It's a basic human need. Everyone in our species shares this need, so I can connect with anyone on the planet. Any language, any continent—food is there.   

And so, ask yourselves: why. And then ask: how. How can I be myself and do the thing that gives me joy. You have to love what you do.  

Earning money is necessary to live in society, but anyone who tells you that your financial gain in the short term is worth the sacrifice of your happiness is full of [garbage]. Yes, money is important, but think about your attitude. If I told you that you could work as a garbage collector and be happy, how would you go about proving me right?   

Sacrifice is only painful if you forget the dreams you are working toward. Your perception of suffering belongs to you. So what are you willing to do, to accomplish your dreams? And on that path, do you get angry or upset about growing? Learning? Being better? Did Michael Jordan get angry at the process, when he worked extra hard? No, he knew that in order to accomplish his goals (be the best, change the game) he had to work harder, and push himself and his teammates harder than anyone else would. In any field, mine or someone else’s, it’s about suffering with your eyes open to see opportunities and the doors that have yet to be opened. 

Lastly, on a side note, my favorite Hilltop memory is of shaking Former Director of Admissions Chip Wollcot's hand on my first day, and racing swans during an early morning practice sophomore year with Current Faculty Dick Curtis ’91 (Hon.), P’06. 

Sebastian Port '22
Kristina Miller

SALISBURY GENTLEMAN SEBASTIAN PORT ’22 SHARES HIS STORY WITH THE SALISBURY COMMUNITY 

I have never stayed in one place for more than three years. I was born in Chicago, then moved to Houston, then back to Chicago, to Germany, England, and then Hong Kong. The question “Where are you from” has always been difficult to answer, especially because in addition to moving all over, my mother is Norwegian, and my dad is British. It’s been hard to find somewhere that I belong, but after finding out about Salisbury School from a friend at Camp Dudley I knew it would be the place for me. It's always been important to me to be with my boys and finding a school that had that was exciting.

I enjoy playing music, and before arriving to the Hilltop, I used to keep my music to myself. I genuinely never really thought it was good enough. But I brought my equipment nonetheless and kept making music. I played some songs for my roommate and he would encourage me to keep going. The boys here have taught me to be confident in what I do, and to keep pushing myself to create something new. Pre-COVID-19 times, I would have the boys pile in the room to watch me create, and that was the best encouragement anybody could ask for. Seeing my closest friends really enjoy, and be intrigued by the things I made, gave me the drive to keep going and keep improving.

I have always felt overwhelming support from my advisors the Brandons and my tutor Ms. Hussey. They have been my go-to people for any issue I’ve had on the Hilltop. Whether it’s an overload of work, or just simply wanting to talk, I can always count on my Salisbury support system. I love planning my work for Ms. Hussey because I know that she’ll praise my accomplishments but will kindly express what needs to be worked on. They support me in everything that I do, and I consider them to be family.

I have always had a passion for music and have played a myriad of instruments growing up. I realized that playing pieces of music wasn’t for me. I wanted to create. My dad has always been a huge inspiration to me because he’s been making his own albums since before I was born. Growing up I would go to my dad’s studio to sit and watch him make music. It fascinated me and was something that I wanted to do myself. Now we work on projects together and share inspiration and ideas with each other. It’s always great to get a second opinion, especially when it’s your dad.

I started working on composing music digitally when I first got my computer in 2015. I feel like my skills have grown exponentially in the past year, partly due to COVID-19, and I discovered that it is the perfect outlet for my energy and emotions. At this point, it takes me about 30 minutes to put a loop together, but it took years of practice and over 700 different songs to master that. I make music by ear and by heart. When I’m composing, I think about how I can make it sound full? What energy do I want to give off? Is this a song I can get lost in or bob my head to? I ask myself all these different things in a split second while I’m putting it together. By far my favorite thing is sampling, which is taking another song, chopping the melody up into different parts, changing the pitch, rearranging it, and adding more sounds and different effects to compliment the sample. I add different drum patterns then split all the sounds and arrange it into something I like.

Sebastian recently completed his first album—from composition to production to artwork! He took the photo for his album cover around 2015 when he used to sit in the back of his car on long road trips and experiment with his DSLR camera. The name of the album, “Good Enough,” was thought of by Sebastian's dad because Sebastian would always say it’s not good enough, when it really was.

Meg Allen
Kristina Miller

SALISBURY GENTLE(WO)MAN MEG ALLEN SHARES HER STORY WITH THE SALISBURY COMMUNITY 

If you’d asked me ten years ago if I thought I would one day be working at an all-boys boarding school in northwest Connecticut, I would have thought you were crazy. In the fall of 2010, I was fresh out of graduate school with a master’s degree in special education, starting my first year of teaching as a middle school inclusion teacher at a charter school in Washington, DC. I loved the school, I loved the city, and I saw myself settling into that work long-term. My then-girlfriend, now-wife had other plans, though, and her life and work at a neighboring boarding school campus ultimately drew me north to this beautiful area I am now proud to call home.

I remember thinking in my interview that the Rudd Learning Center for Academic Growth and Potential was the perfect environment for me to continue honing my craft. I love working one-on-one with students to help them get to know themselves better as learners. I love finding and practicing new strategies to help students find success after sometimes years of frustration. And I love creating an environment where it is OK – encouraged, even – to say, “I don’t know” or “I’m struggling” or “I need help” and then to take the risk of trying something new, stumbling, and trying again. I'm a big believer in growth mindset.

My evolution into the role of Director of Inclusion and Equity Education was also a bit unexpected. I did not fully begin to realize the extent of the unearned privileges I held or the incomplete histories and biases our society had infused into me until I was a young adult. My process of awakening and unlearning/relearning started in college and will likely continue for the rest of my life. Working to build a more inclusive and equitable campus, helping our community to become better stewards of equity and justice for all people – especially those that are marginalized – and doing so at a time of social and political division, is no easy task. But hard work, when done alongside people you care about, in a place you care about, makes it not just a job, but a calling.

As the weather allows, I try to remember to take the scenic route back to my office in Centennial from the dining hall after lunch. I exit the doors that open onto the Carl Williams Terrace and slow my pace. I take in the mountain view. I breathe deeply. This practice grounds me, settles me and recharges me for the next task. The tasks are good, the people are true, and the place, well, it’s home.