Celebrating & Honoring Lawrenceville’s Departing Faculty
In The Lawrence’s Commencement Issue, the Features section pays tribute to faculty and staff, providing students the opportunity to celebrate members of the community who will be leaving at the end of the academic year.
Timothy Brown H’84 ’04 P’04 ’08, Mathematics Master. Ellie DeCarlo ’20: To be honest, I never liked math, and assumed I never would. After a year in Dr. Brown’s Honors Statistics class, though, I found myself looking forward to math class. I knew that as soon as I walked into his classroom, Dr. Brown would greet us with a smile, and I would leave the class the same way: smiling. Whether it was discussing his love for goats or actually doing math, Dr. Brown has never failed to teach us something new.
During our first week of class, Dr. Brown said, “challenges separate the goats from the sheep.” I thought it was something this odd statistics teacher was simply making up to convince us to do our homework, but I was wrong. That quote is something that will stay with me for a long time, and not just because of the never ending pictures of goats we were shown in class, but because Dr. Brown has truly taught me—as silly as it may sound—how to be a goat amongst sheep.
From making fun of me for asking a lot of questions—and I do ask an absurd number—to playing “trashketball” to review for tests, Dr. Brown always made class engaging. I’ve never laughed harder in any other class—especially that one day Dr. Brown got so excited about something, probably a goat picture, and fell out of his chair. He got up right away, though, and said, “The only thing hurt is my pride,” a much less embarrassed and composed reaction than we had expected. This just goes to show Dr. Brown’s character; no matter what happens, he always gets back up. He showed us that we can recover from anything, even something as embarrassing as falling out of a chair in front of 13 teenagers.
Beyond the laughs we shared, Dr. Brown taught me important life lessons that extend beyond the classroom. He emphasized that math is more than just numbers, but rather, a powerful way of learning more about ourselves. He taught us to never stop pushing ourselves and making real-world connections from problems, allowing us to come out smarter and stronger on the other side. Dr. Brown, on behalf of all students who have been lucky enough to have been taught by you or been in your company, thank you. Thank you for making us feel comfortable in the face of hardship. Thank you for making us smile even on the cloudiest day at school. Thank you for being one of the best teachers I have ever had the pleasure of being taught by. And finally, thank you for teaching me and inspiring me to be a goat every single day. I will miss you so much, and I cannot thank you enough for the impact you have left not only on me, but on the entire Lawrenceville community.
Devondra McMillan, Chair of the Language Department. Hannah Welsh ’21: On my first day of classes at Lawrenceville, I remember anxiously walking down the hallway of the main floor of Pop Hall for my F period Latin 2 class. A group of III Formers that I didn’t know huddled in front of the locked classroom door. Worried I was in the wrong place, I asked them if this was Ms. McMillan’s room.
“It’s DMac. And yeah, this is her room. Are you scared of her yet?”
Scared? What did they mean, scared?
Before my first day of school nervousness transformed into a full blown panic, a woman wearing a brightly colored outfit whisked past us and unlocked the door, ushering us inside. A few potted plants and an impressive collection of dictionaries decorated the middle of the Harkness table, and there was a bowl full of homemade muffins on top of a cabinet in the corner. I don’t remember DMac’s exact introduction, but I know it was enthusiastic and full of sarcastic jokes.
I later learned that DMac earned her notorious reputation by dress-coding students in the hallways, assigning challenging quizzes and infamous “pop tests,” and intimidating students during II Form meetings. Though I was mildly terrified to be in a classroom with older kids and a teacher who I was supposed to be afraid of, DMac made me feel instantly welcome.
Although I only had DMac’s class my II Form year, she stopped by my current classroom nearly every day to say “hi,” offer us some baked goods (or tell us “No, you can’t have any—they’re for my Latin 2 class!”), or to point out that someone was wearing leggings. I was lucky enough to travel to Morocco with DMac on a Harkness Travel program, which was one of the best experiences of my life. From sitting together during an eight-hour plane ride, to exploring Roman ruins, to eating lots and lots of bread, DMac’s infectious, adventurous spirit made the trip unforgettable.
As I’ve gotten to know DMac over the years, I’ve found that she is probably the most interesting person I’ve ever met. She is a dog lover, a marathon runner, a baker, a grammar enthusiast, a knitter, and so much more. She loves to mess with people, but don’t let that fool you—she is incredibly caring and empathetic. She never fails to make people laugh and is always there when you need her.
DMac, I know I speak for so many people when I say that we will miss you so, so much. What are we going to do without your muffins next year? Thank you for making the past three years infinitely more vibrant, exciting, and memorable, and I know you will do amazing things at your next school.
Christopher Cull P’20, Director of Theater. Zack Finnachio ’21: When I met Mr. Cull in my Foundations of Theater class, I thought he was insane. With crazy procedures about waiting in the “demi-lobby,” responding in red text, and properly formatting emails, it took me at least half a term to gauge the “method to his madness.” Everything he did was in pursuit of his “super objective”: to teach skills that students could apply to their “live lives.”
Every homework assignment taught the class to cater to one’s audience (the seventh element of theater) and every warm-up game—especially tag—was aimed at understanding conflict and relationship (under imaginary circumstances). I still cannot watch a performance without critiquing every design or acting choice, and remembering Mr. Cull’s silly memorization dances or mind tricks always makes me smile. Despite the late nights and endless rehearsals Mr. Cull has spent honing my acting, his dedication to preparing students for the real world has had the greatest impact on them.
I have treasured every moment hearing about Mr. Cull’s life, including his career as an all-star high school basketball player and homecoming king. In the infinite hours we have spent running Shakespearean monologues in the Periwig Office, Mr. Cull has readily spewed out sonnets and relayed tales of his work as an English Shepherd. He has told me about living in Hell’s Kitchen, transposing all of his audition songs, and has frequently mentioned his callback for Brighton Beach Memoirs on Broadway.
Most importantly though, Mr. Cull has made wonderful advancements for the theater program at Lawrenceville. When first adjusting to the School, Mr. Cull revived the annual musical starting with She Loves Me. Mr. Cull brought Winterfest to the Lawrenceville BlackBox and pushed for the raked seats we know today. He originated a masque troupe on campus that eventually became Impulse, and he has sent several students on their way to the country’s top theater schools. Without a doubt, everything Mr. Cull has done for Lawrenceville theater will leave its trace for decades to come.
Mr. Cull, it’s difficult to think about Lawrenceville without your offhanded jokes, firm critiques, or long-winded stories, and Lord knows how hard it will be to walk past your office, void of all its playbills, memorabilia, and assorted knick-knacks. From Hello Out There, to Shakespeare Competitions, to Sweeney Todd, you’ve created tender and transformative memories that will last a lifetime. Please, take a bow.
Vicky Santiago, Associate Dean of Admission. Coco Sandoval ’22: If you know Ms. Santiago, you are well aware of how busy she is. Whether she is taking her daughter to softball practice, going to Blair Academy to pick up her son, in the House with her younger daughter and husband, or at the Mackenzie Administration Building conducting interviews for prospective students, she is always on the move. Even with all she has on her plate, though, Ms. Santiago has always been there for me.
While Ms. Santiago was my advisor in my II Form year, I like to tell people that she was also like my second mom. She welcomed me to Lawrenceville on my revisit day, helped me settle into my room in Dawes, and even invited me into her home multiple times.
During preseason, I had planned to arrive on campus a day early to retrieve a couple of belongings from a friend’s house and asked Ms. Santiago if I could spend the night at her house. As always, she said yes. When I arrived on campus, I quickly got out of the car, excited to see her and her family. She rushed over, embracing me in a huge hug and whispered, “I have something to tell you.” She had a huge smile on her face before telling me that she was getting married. I asked her when, and she said, “Tomorrow!” I quickly realized I had arrived in the middle of a wedding, but the next day, I was both honored and thrilled to be the ring girl!
As the year progressed, I became closer with Ms. Santigo through Latinos Unidos. For the annual Community Potluck, a couple of friends and I decided to cook traditional Mexican food but we did not have enough time to buy the ingredients nor did we have a place to prepare the meal. Of course, Mrs. Santiago came to the rescue. She let us use her kitchen, and we spent a couple of hours cooking, laughing, and listening to Mexican music called Banda. We made gorditas and salsa, which turned out to be delicious, but we certainly could not have done it without her help.
Aside from the many personal moments I’ve shared with Ms. Santiago, I know others have also shared similar experiences.Her smile and positivity is infectious; whether a student catches her at admissions in between a class, on the softball field, or in the House, she makes everyone feel as if they belong in our community.
Ms. Santiago truly touched the hearts of everyone she met at Lawrenceville, and I know that she will continue to do the same moving forward. I wish you all the best in your future endeavors, Ms. Santiago, and please come visit often!
Josh Frechette, Assistant Dean of Admission & Boys Varsity Lacrosse Coach. Chris Heckel ’20: In August of 2018, I arrived at Lawrenceville for preseason, preparing to start my journey as a Lawrentian and as a member of the Varsity Football team. I had travelled many hours to get to campus, and I was ready to dive headfirst into a totally unfamiliar environment and culture. Similarly, Coach Frechette was also coming to Lawrenceville from across the country to be a Boys Varsity Football Assistant Coach. As a new IV Former, although I didn’t work with Coach Frechette one-on-one frequently, he was always a loud and energetic, and everyone on the football field knew how much he cared for us. It was also great to see him during the spring, albeit on the wrong sideline during our lacrosse games vs. Princeton Day School. Needless to say, I was surprised but excited to hear that he would be returning the following year both as an Assistant Football coach and the new Head Coach of the Boys Varsity Lacrosse team.
This fall, I changed positions, so I worked with Coach Frechette one-on-one more than anyone else on our football staff. Though practice and training were physically demanding, his coaching never made practice mentally exhausting, and he helped me through many stressful moments. Playing under Coach Frechette reminded me to focus on what I can control, and while he had few opportunities to coach us during the lacrosse season, anyone who has played under him can attest to how much how much our success means to him. Through preseason lacrosse meetings, Coach Frechette voiced the importance of being a great man and a role model before an athlete. He instilled the ideals of hard work and camaraderie, both on and off the lacrosse field. Coach Frechette, thank you for believing in me and reminding me to enjoy every moment out on the field.
Sunho Park, Science Teaching Fellow. Lily Schweinfurth ’22 & Mona Shetye ’22: Despite his first-class-of-the-year nerves, Mr. Park managed to establish an instant sense of comfort and trust in his classroom. His welcoming smile and sunny disposition always made class something to look forward to. He taught us more than just Newton’s Laws or intermolecular forces; he taught us to be excited to participate without the fear of being wrong. From posing his famous “Question of the Day” to getting so off topic that we discussed the theory of the universe instead of learning how the periodic table was organized, Mr. Park made every single class engaging and enjoyable.
He fostered relationships with his students and emphasized the value of patience and respect. Mr. Park was not only an incredible teacher but also an immediate friend to anyone who entered his classroom. Whether students were suffering from an existential crises in class (purely science-related) or crying over stress during Monday night study hall in the Cleve House, Mr. Park always responded to his students with genuine care and support that goes above and beyond his role as a teacher.
Mr. Park, you have profoundly impacted all of your students and Lawrenceville as a whole, and we want to thank you for inspiring us and pushing us to grow both in and out of the classroom. Lawrenceville will absolutely not be the same without you, but know that you are leaving the School better than you found it. We will miss your huge smiles and waves in the hall, your goofy jokes during class, and your contagious positivity. Even though we wish you could stay, we are confident that you will do incredible things wherever life takes you. Keep smiling, laughing, and befriending anyone and everyone you meet—and don’t forget to keep in touch! We can’t wait to hear of your successes!
Daren Starnes, Chair of the Mathematics Department. Kylan Tatum ’21 & Katie Li ’21: While we had seen his name at the top of Math Department emails, announcements, and reminders, we first met Mr. Starnes in person this year in B Period Honors Calculus-Based Probability and Statistics (HCBPS). From monitoring our homework peer review as the “notation police” to providing clear explanations in his entertaining Loom videos, Mr. Starnes has kept careful vigil from the corner of the classroom since day one. He constantly challenges us to think beyond the bare requirements of the course and question the real-world meanings and applications of our work. His wisdom as an accomplished mathematician and his tireless guidance throughout the year have been invaluable to our growth as students (There was a reason we kept calling him Dr. Starnes by accident!). Mr. Starnes has made Calc-Based Stats one of our favorite classes this year, and we’ve learned a lot about statistics––as well as the origins of M&M’s. He’s the smartest person we know who cites Wikipedia to teach his students about candy.
Mr. Starnes is truly an essential part of the Math Department and the Lawrenceville community. His dry and witty sense of humor made for a great start to our Thursday mornings, and we’re sad to see our time together with Mr. Starnes come to a close. We pity those who will have to go through statistics without him! Mr. Starnes, thank you for your kindness and wisdom, and for always entertaining us, even over Zoom. It’s been a great year in HCBPS. We hope you are enjoying the South Carolina weather, and we will miss you dearly next year! From B Period HCBPS 2019-20
Elbert Liang, History Master. Lina Olazabal ’22 & Yendi Foo ’22: When our class first learned that Mr. Liang would be our teacher for Forces That Shaped the Modern World, we didn’t know what to expect. We had heard about him from older students, though, and every single person spoke highly of him. When we walked into his class for the first time, all of those expectations were not only met, but also surpassed. From his kind, warm-hearted personality to memorable jokes, Mr. Liang is more than a teacher, but a friend—a person who we could joke around with on a more personal level.
Mr. Liang is loved by many for being a person to lean on during their existential crises, both in the classroom and life in general. His jovial attitude, witty personality, and signature deadpans never fail to make us laugh; in fact, when Mr. Liang heard the word ‘simp’ for the first time, he was amused by the specificity of the word and did not quite understand its context. He proceeded to ask a teacher nearby if he was a simp: she was taken aback, much to the amusement of all the students in the room.
Although Mr. Liang ran from House-to-House repping blue, green, and yellow, everyone—from the swimming pool to the classroom—loves him, and he will always have a special place in our hearts here at Lawrenceville. We wish you all the best for your future endeavors, Mr. Liang!
Felicia Aikens, Asst. Dean of Admission & Asst. Director of Multicultural Affairs for Campus Life. Esha Akhtar ’21: I was lucky enough to have started my journey on Diversity Council (DivCo) the very same year that we welcomed Ms. Aikens to the Lawrenceville community. Although I am sad to have only known know Ms. Kim-Senior for a few weeks before she left, I was excited by the idea of starting fresh and working closely with a brand new faculty member.
I first met Ms. Aikens during DivCo preseason at the beginning of my III Form year. Everyone on DivCo was nervous; we were unsure of what ideas and energy she would bring with her and how she would interact with us. Luckily, she won all of our hearts in our first meeting by greeting us with DivCo’s signature Indian food: naan, samosas, biriyani. Since then, Ms. Aikens has proven time and time again that she is incredibly dedicated to promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), and her energizing spirit has encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone, speak out, and be vulnerable around others. The doors to her office in the Mackenzie Administration Building were always open, and she has served as a constant voice for the student body.
My favorite memory with Ms. Aikens was attending the Student Diversity Leadership Conference the winter of my III Form year. In Nashville, five other girls and I bonded with her as we explored the city through tasting its staple Hot Chicken and Waffles, listening to life-changing speeches from people like Christian Picollini, a reformed white supremacist, and conversed endlessly about what we learned about both ourselves and each other throughout the conference. While I’m sad that we won’t be finishing our DivCo journeys together, Ms. Aikens, it’s clear that you have inspired every single member of the Council and left a powerful legacy at Lawrenceville.
Grace Megaffin, Associate Dean of Admission. Carolyn King ’20: I spent my first three years at Lawrenceville Megaffin-less, but I am glad that changed! Ms. Megaffin, known to many as “Megaff,” came to be my advisor and the Stephens Assistant Housemaster only this year. We welcomed Megaff to Stephens after completing a scavenger hunt to discover who would be our new Assistant Housemaster. We were all excited that night, but we had no idea how many amazing memories with Megaff we had ahead of us.
I could not be more thankful that our paths converged. As my advisor, Ms. Megaffin has been a source of constant support. Every advisee lunch, she’d ask us how things were going, and it was easy to tell how much she cared for us. She even welcomed her advisees into her apartment for a delicious home-cooked meal and watched The Office with us. In the House, Megaff and her dog, Ryman, have been a duty duo that everyone looked forward to. A few nights a week, she can be found sitting on the floor in the first floor hallway, smiling and ready to check us in. These check-ins, even now that they are held on Zoom, often lead to fun conversations about anything from child prodigies to birdwatching to Timberlane Middle School—our shared alma mater.
As a prefect, I often turned to Megaff to discuss how things were going in the House, and her dedication to making Stephens a home for every girl in the House often inspired me when I grew tired or frustrated.
Megaff, you truly know how to be there when someone is struggling and how to lift their spirits. You are an incredible motivator and bring out the best in every Stephenite, athlete, and advisee. You are as kind as you are fun, and you are both a comforting and an energizing presence in the House. We will miss you in Stephens and at Lawrenceville next year, but we wish you, Ryman, and all of your Sims the best!
Brent Ferguson, Mathematics Master. Marta Baziuk ’20: “Close your eyes, take a breath, and think about people that you love.” This was our usual mantra before taking any quiz in our Honors Calculus BC (Calc BC) class with Mr. Ferguson (or Ferg, as we called him). I imagined my family back in Ukraine, whom I deeply missed. Then, I thought of all the reasons that brought me to Lawrenceville as a new IV Former: intellectual challenges, academic rigor, and personal growth. Besides teaching us the intricacies of mathematical analysis, Ferg never let us forget why we are here and what we want to accomplish. Without a doubt, getting to know him has been an incredibly rewarding and humbling experience.
After my first class with Ferg, I knew I had never met anyone as passionate about math as he is, and more importantly, someone so dedicated to teaching the subject. He never limited our curriculum to what we needed to know for the Advanced Placement (AP) exam, but rather, he explained new concepts outside the context of math. I think everyone who took Calc BC with Ferg will be able to remember his class on the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus. “Who you will become in the future is who you are today plus all the changes that will happen to you tomorrow.” He not only taught us derivatives, integrals, and their proofs, but also provided us a new lens through which we could view the world.
Outside of class, Ferg had always been there to support us all. Whether it was conversations about the gaps in my academic coursework, difficulties interpreting calculus in a real-world context, or simply feeling homesick, Ferg never failed to give me the right advice for any moment of joy or sadness.Thank you, Ferg, for helping us problem solve outside of math class and teaching us to remember who we are and where we come from. We will miss you.
Stella Leach, French Master. Jacqueline Chen ’21: At the beginning of this school year, Carter took a House bonding trip to the Amazing Escape Room in Princeton. I, along with some of my fellow Hummingbirds, were in a room with Ms. Leach. As we scrambled for evidence to escape before the other groups, a piece of wood fell suddenly with a loud crack. Instinctively, I screamed while grabbing Ms. Leach’s arm as she jumped back, laughing as well. Throughout my time at Lawrenceville, Ms. Leach has been, both figuratively and literally, our support system.
As the Carter Assistant Housemaster, Ms. Leach has consistently put the needs of the House first. From cooking the Saturday night feed to lending an ear at the duty desk to dancing with us to the Jonas Brothers’ greatest hits, I know I can speak for all 45 of us that your dedication and love for our House is unmatched.
The Ms. Leach I came to know in the House became Madame Leach in French class. Even if French wasn’t your favorite subject, you loved French with Madame Leach. There was never a dull moment; a typical day consisted of watching a popular French music video, taking personality tests, fervently debating (in French, of course) the correct pronunciation of “bouteille,” and the occasional crawling inside of the hole in the middle of the Harkness table for discussions.
I’ll always remember the small moments we’ve shared from the House to the classroom. Whether it was a simple wave and a smile as she sped past on her bike to the casual conversations we had on our way back to the Crescent, Ms. Leach was always thinking of us and genuinely cared about how we were doing.
Ms. Leach, I’m lucky to have crossed paths with you, and your warm presence around campus is irreplaceable. Thank you so much for being an incredible Housemaster, teacher, coach, on-campus mom, and friend. I wish you the very best on your next adventure!
Sarah Pearl Heard, English Teaching Fellow. Bernice Hightower ’21: The first time I met Ms. Heard was at the first Stephens House meeting of the year. The first time I spoke to her, I referred to her as the “new Ms. Stitt” because she was a duty master in Stephens and taught dance. She immediately corrected me, saying “I’m not the new anybody. I’m just me.” I didn’t know at that moment that over the course of her time at Lawrenceville, Ms. Heard would grow to be one of my favorite people. In the fall of my III Form year, I had the privilege of interacting with Ms. Heard during her nights on duty, in the classroom, and in her Afrobeat dance classes. At a minimum, I saw her at least eight times a week, so I was bound to become close to her.
In English, she helped me cultivate my writing skills while occasionally satisfying my sweet tooth with Mexican candy. In dance, I heard some of my favorite Afrobeat music for the first time, often watching as Ms. Heard taught the class hip isolations to “Pana” and “Joanna,” and complex choreography to “Work It.”
In addition to learning from her in the dance studio, I also had the opportunity to spend time with her in the House. During her nights on duty she often discussed her passion for writing and poetry and even helped me practice for the Poetry Out Loud competition. I’ve gotten to hear about her time at Yale University, watch her knit scarves, and eat her delicious baked goods. I constantly tease her about going to Yale when another college in her hometown was offering her a full ride, but I know that Yale meant a lot to her because of its writing opportunities.
Anytime I complained about another teacher or needed advice on friendships, she always knew exactly what to say. From the duty room to the dance floor, thank you, Ms. Heard, for playing a vital role in my Lawrenceville experience. I can’t wait to hear about your future endeavors, and I will miss you very much!
Kayla Corcoran, History Master. Matthew Kutam ’22: While all students receive a 24-hour pass each trimester, I’ve never liked using mine. The same held true for my first paper in Forces that Shaped the Modern World, which entailed drafting an outline and writing two paragraphs about the Aztecs. Although the assignment wasn’t very difficult, I still couldn’t phrase together two clear sentences. Careful and considerate though, Ms. Corcoran helped me through my array of ideas and pushed me to write a more nuanced thesis statement during consultation. She even told me to not “let the perfect be the enemy of the good” and to focus on creating robust arguments, not the minor details. On that Friday morning, she genuinely tried to understand my struggles and offered advice that would help me move past my writer’s block.
I began to realize her compassion more and more as the year went on. Whether it be her classroom cookie jar or her decision to play “Heads Up” the day before Winter Break, she always took the extra step to brighten up our days. Even though classes are held online at the current moment, she still asks a “Question of the Day” in hopes of connecting with us despite our physical distance apart. Most importantly, she is deeply committed to her students, often offering to read papers on Sunday afternoons and hand back comments in the Kennedy pod during lunch.
As a dutymaster in Kennedy, she offered us Pop-Tarts, brownies, and other delicious treats that never failed to put a smile on our faces. Her generosity and caring spirit, without a doubt, goes wherever she goes. Ms. Corcoran, thank you for encouraging students to reach their fullest potential and for being a constant source of support beyond the walls of the classroom. We wish you the best for the future, and you will certainly be missed!