Liggett Legacies

Each Thursday, we devote Liggett Life to news about our alumni.

Class notes have been sent in for our Spring 2013 edition of Perspective, and I couldn’t believe how many cute Liggett legacies were born this year! I thought it would be fun to give everyone a sneak peek at some upcoming class notes, and show off these precious little ones!

Anne and Elise

Anne Tranchida ’92 and husband, Paul, welcomed Elise Marie Tranchida on July 2. She is a welcome addition to big brother Alexander as well as mom and dad. Take a look at this adorable photo of Anne and baby Elise!

Katherine Leleszi Carbo ’96 shared that her sister and fellow alumna Elizabeth Leleszi ’94 and husband Eric are now the proud parents of baby boy CJ Cuneo.

Class of 1995 is having a baby boom! I received two notes from this class for Perspective.

First up, Matthew Corona ’95 and wife, Kathy, welcomed Avery Grace Corona into their family

Matt, Kathy, Ethan and Avery Corona

in September. Avery was welcomed to the family by big brother, Ethan, as well. Here’s a look at the whole Corona clan!

I also got a very excited phone call from alumnus Chuck Wright ’66 GPUS asking if I would share news about his new granddaughter Grace Anne Porter. She is the newest addition to the family of Adena Porter ’95 and husband, Jim. Grace is the third child for the couple who also have big brothers  Patrick, 5, and Henry, 2. Check out this absolutely adorable photo of Grace in a Liggett onesie!

Grace Porter

Tiffany Buescher March ’03 had the same great idea. Here is a photo of her adorable little one in a Liggett onesie as well! Tiffany and husband Eric welcomed their first child, Carter James March on May 7. Proud grandma Melissa Buescher, our school registrar, sent in this snapshot. Thanks Melissa!

New grandma and alumna Kathy Getz ’70 sent word that son Mike ’99 and his wife, Sabrina, just welcomed their first baby, Leela, on December 18, and now daughter Allison Getz Sullivan ’97 and husband Kevin are set to welcome their first little bundle in July 2013. Congrats to the Getz family!


Carter March

What an exciting time for these and so many other University Liggett School families. If you have recently welcomed a new member of the family, or are expecting one soon, send in the good news! We love sharing photos of these little Liggett babies!

By Savannah Lee
Alumni Relations Manager 

The Spring Raffle Begins

The volunteers showed up at 9 a.m. to start decking out the dining room in red, white and blue. They taped posters throughout the school. Streamers spiraled up poles in the lobby. Sadly, the balloons had to be nixed thanks to the great helium shortage (it’s true, look it up).

Parents, check your youngest child’s backpack: Your tickets to buy or sell are there.

The table tents and the posters and the 2013 Jeep Wrangler Sport Unlimited courtesy of Ray Laethem Motor Village parked on the front lawn of the school, even the Liggett Knight, who met Lower School parents at pickup with a sign reading “Raffle Tickets in Backpacks!” explain all the hoopla: It’s Spring Raffle Kick-off Day.

The raffle is a longstanding Liggett tradition. Aside from our auction, Liggett Knight, held in November, this is our biggest fundraising event. (The Annual Fund drive raises more money, but is more of a yearlong project than an event.) We hope to raise right around $50,000 in this 11-week event that ends with a drawing of winning tickets on May 18. All proceeds are used to enhance academic and extra-curricular activities and support initiatives designed to enrich and engage the entire school.

Can you resist this little saleswoman?

And because everyone at the school benefits, we try to make it easy — and profitable — for everyone at the school to participate. First, someone will win a two-year lease on the previously mentioned Jeep. It’s the first prize and its total value is $13,765. Second prize is Ippolita Scultura Mother-of-Pearl and Diamond earrings, bracelet and necklace courtesy of edmund t. AHEE jewelers. Third prize is $2,500 cash courtesy of Beline Obeid Realty. But there are also other prizes — bonuses if you will — for selling tickets and those include an Apple MacBook Pro, Xbox, Beats headphones, and gift cards to lots of different stores, restaurants and more. Students who sell tickets will be entered into drawings for these sales incentives.

Tickets are only $10 and are available at school or through your kids. We can’t sell raffle tickets online because that’s against the law in Michigan, but you can get an order form here. And visit for more information about the whole thing including how you can help make the raffle a big success.

Lots of people have already volunteered, but the work is a lot easier the more hands we have, so we urge you to consider joining in the fun. Contact Katie Durno for more information.

By Ron Bernas

Love and basketball

Today, Liggett Life is written by Holli Birgbauer, mother of two Middle School girls. Do you have a story about Liggett you think might be part of this blog? If so, contact Ron Bernas

The Middle School girls basketball team with Liggett alumna Madison Ristovski, who now plays for the University of Michigan.

School spirit and a love of basketball were the themes of the day on a Middle School outing last week, as the girls varsity squad traveled to Ann Arbor to watch the University of Michigan take on the Spartans of Michigan State. Whether the girls wore blue or green, they all cheered for University Liggett alumna and freshman Wolverine, Madison Ristovski.

The Knights were treated to some thrilling action, as the in-state rivals battled to a one-point finish that broke a streak of 12 Michigan losses to MSU. Ristovski came off the bench and played for several minutes before taking a blow to the eye that sent her to the locker room. She emerged after the game with stitches, but that didn’t prevent her from thanking the young Knights for their support. Donning their Liggett jerseys, the girls posed with the 2012 Miss Basketball on the floor of Crisler Arena. Then, with a photo op and a fun afternoon behind them, they headed home with a better understanding of what is possible when talent and dedication meet.

Coach Bachman enjoyed the day as much as her players did. “It was a great opportunity to spend time with this wonderful group of girls and parents, bonding over a game we have come to love over the course of this season,” Bachman said. “Watching and cheering on a former Liggett player and enjoying some friendly rivalry between two of Michigan’s top basketball teams all made for a fantastic day!”

The girls were inspired by the experience, closing out the season with a win over their own rival, Grosse Pointe Academy, and a home victory against the Academy of the Sacred Heart.  With only two players moving on, the young team hopes to come back even stronger next year.

By Holli Birgbauer

Artful thinking

It may be a current educational buzzword, but Caitlin Talan and Lisa Cornell have been thinking artfully with their kindergarten students for years and years.

Inspired by Claude Monet

It’s been going on so long that Cornell thinks every student currently at this school who started here in kindergarten, took part in this project, which includes creating work done in the style of artists they study.

Tonight, their annual Kindergarten Art Show — the culmination of a year’s worth of art study — opens in the Manoogian Arts wing with a reception for family and

In the style of Jackson Pollack

friends. The walls are filled with kindergarteners’ work done in the style of, among others, Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, Grant Wood, Edvard Munch and Tyree Guyton.

Over the course of the project, students learn about the artists’ lives — with some glossing over of the more challenging bits like, say, insanity — and learn about what the artists are most famous for, the artists’ style and then students create

Who else but Andy Warhol?

something in that style. The artists rotate every year, and are chosen for their diversity and, often, because they have artwork in the Detroit Institute of Arts, where the students will visit. They also stick to more modern artists whose styles are a bit easier for the children to emulate than those of the old masters. Though most of the smaller pieces are done in the classroom, Lower School art teacher Patty Logan supports the teachers in this work and creates a larger work with all the students.


A rethinking of Grant Wood’s “American Gothic.”

Cornell said the reason for this intensive art project is that the study of art includes so many different disciplines. Students can decide whether they like a style and explain why. They can describe how it makes them feel. They learn that artists are trying to say something and that they, the students, can make a statement with art, too.

“The kids love this project,” Talan said. “Because everyone can connect with art in their own way.”

This year, thanks to a connection of a parent, the students took a trip to the Ferndale studio of portrait painter Charles Pompilius, who recently painted the official portrait of Gov. Jennifer Granholm. Pompilius showed the students his

Students lined their version of Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” with pictures of things that make them scream.

process and let them paint.

Tonight, an adoring audience will view these creations for the first time. The exhibit will be up for anyone to see until Spring Break, when the artwork will then be absorbed into the private collections of the artists’ families.

By Ron Bernas

A bus trip across disciplines

In a social studies unit on the struggle for civil rights, fifth-grade teachers Maureen Zamboni and Therese Chouinard chose to read the book “Rosa Parks: From the Back of the Bus to the Front of a Movement” by Camilla Wilson.

Many schools might stop there. Teachers lead a discussion on equal rights, lesson learned. But Chouinard and Zamboni took a simple lesson and turned it into an example of what we are trying to do with the Curriculum for Understanding.

In addition to the reading and resulting discussion, the students were asked in teams to summarize each chapter, then reduce that summary to one sentence and to reduce that sentence to one word. Some of those words students found to describe her are brave, determined, encouraging, passionate and hardworking. This is a technique used by Harvard’s Project Zero to help students understand and distill concepts. Those summaries, sentences and words are part of a Rosa Parks display outside the fifth-grade rooms.

“The point of that is that if a kindergartner comes down the hallway, they can see Rosa Parks and read the single words and learn something,” said Zamboni. “Older kids will read the sentences and learn something and even older students will read the chapter summaries and learn something. It’s a learning board for all ages.”

Rosa Parks’ bus, as seen from above, is part of the visual display of learning outside the fifth-grade classrooms.

The large bus depicted on the display helps visual learners understand the story, too. “What this display does is make the students’ thinking visible,” Zamboni said.

But it didn’t stop there. Chouinard, who takes on much of the English duties for the fifth grade, was working on a punctuation unit on quotation marks. Students were asked to write a story in which they interviewed Parks. The stories are full of detail showing what they learned about the civil rights leader and other details that make the stories grounded in local reality: In one, a student finds her at the Pancake House, in another, she’s at TCBY eating “an ice cream Shiver (Rocky Road).”

And what did the students discover during their interview with Mrs. Parks?

“Rosa Parks was determined to change the world around her,” wrote one. “People that want change, can change the world.”

By Ron Bernas

Countdown to Alumni Weekend

Each Thursday we devote Liggett Life to information about our alumni who are, after all, a major part of Liggett Life.

All alumni are receiving a special save-the-date postcard in the mail this week. It marks the kickoff of our Alumni Weekend planning.

This year, Alumni Weekend is May 17-18. The weekend is filled with events for all alumni to enjoy. We have family events, events by class year, and events for all alumni. The big highlight of the weekend is our class reunion dinners, which will take place on Saturday, May 18 from 7-9 p.m. on campus. This year, classes ending in 3 and 8, such as 1983 and 1948, are celebrating milestones. We invite these groups to come back to campus and enjoy a private dinner with your fellow classmates in various locations around the school. It is a lovely event, filled with laughs and memories. Each room is decorated with memorabilia significant to your class.

When planning these dinners, I look for a leader from each year to help coordinate the festivities. This person tracks down lost alumni from their class, helps select décor for the room where their dinner will be held, and spreads the word to their classmates about the event and how to register. Many classes are still in need of a reunion leader. If you are interested please contact me at 313.884.4444, Ext. 415 or

Last year at the men’s golf outing.

The events held Friday, May 17, will take place at the Country Club of Detroit. These events include a women’s luncheon, men’s golf outing and men’s luncheon.

Other events include the alumni and faculty picnic on Saturday afternoon, an alumnae lacrosse game, and the All-Alumni Cocktail Reception on Saturday evening. Saturday’s events are held on the Cook Road campus. Check out pictures from last year’s events on our alumni Facebook page here.

Last year’s Distinguished Alumnus, Miles O’Brien ’77, received his award from Dr. Joe Healey.

The All-Alumni Cocktail Reception taking place on Saturday evening from 5-7 p.m. is a wonderful event that will include tours of the building and our new Middle School space, a picture slideshow of old photos and the presentation of several awards. These awards include the Distinguished Alumni Award, the Alumni Loyalty in Annual Giving award, and the Class Cup Competition award.

Invitations for Alumni Weekend will be mailed to homes the first week in April. Alumni, faculty and friends of the school can mail in their registration for the various events, or register online. Details for online registration will be included with the invitation.

I hope to see as many of you attend as possible! Last year we had more than 300 alumni join us for events across the entire Alumni Weekend. It was wonderful to see alumni reconnecting with each other and reliving their school days on the Liggett campus. Consider joining us again in May, and if you are celebrating a reunion milestone this year, please consider helping plan your class dinner. We hope to make the weekend a special one for all who attend!

By Savannah Lee
Alumni Relations Manager 

Videoconferencing — it’s not just for business

This week, the seventh graders and the sixth graders — on different days — chatted with students at Mate Masie School in Ghana, getting to know their lives, culture and even what movies they watch. Earlier this week, the sixth graders took an interactive tour of a University of Pennsylvania museum exhibit on life in ancient Rome, studying mosaics, busts and touring a home of the time. Upper Schoolers discussed women in hip hop with experts at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. Next month, Lower School and eighth-grade students will participate in Read Around the Planet, an international read in with skits, songs and more.

Our sixth graders, on the right, talked with students in Ghana over videoconferencing equipment Liggett purchased to help expand the classroom experience.

All this was done with Polycom videoconferencing equipment usually used by businesses: The students never left school.

“Basically,” says Information Technology Manager Phil MacKethan, “they took a bunch of inexpensive field trips. They also toured a museum they wouldn’t have been able to see.”

This morning the sixth graders from Ghana learned about baseball, that Michigan has the longest freshwater shoreline in America, is the home of the automobile, has a pretty darn solid Bill of Rights and heard our students sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”

Our students learned — through a pretty elaborate presentation that included a green

Students learned how to tie a toga during a private, interactive tour of a museum at the University of Pennsylvania.

screen — that the students say they are direct descendants of Abraham (even quoting the Bible verse), that Ghana is one of the biggest producers of cocoa in the world, that soccer is the favorite game there and that the Super Bowl started at 11:30 p.m. their time. They ate chips and cheese curls while watching it, just like we did. The presentation began and ended with a traditional Ghanian song.

Technology integrator Autumn DeGroot sees this technology as a giant step up from Skype, because the quality of the picture and connection is so much better. She says it’s a way to bring the world to our students and our students to the world. She, in collaboration with Lower School technology integrator Carol Kissel and Director of Technology Jay Trevorrow,  finds the opportunities to connect through a website that connects schools with the technology who want to learn about the wider world.

“This technology makes global learning possible,” DeGroot says.

It brings everyone closer together to learn, and that’s a good lesson in itself.

By Ron Bernas

Math and art: Together at last

The art display in the main lobby includes drawings of robots and other fanciful creatures, intricate patterns, outdoor scenes and animals. And they were made by second-, seventh- and ninth-graders and they were all made in math class. Wait, what?

How does math, specifically writing linear line equations, become artwork, you may ask. Well, this is what Upper School math teacher Kim Galea wrote to answer that question:

“My algebra classes began working on linear equations at the beginning of second semester this year. The first thing they learn is how to determine the slope of a line. Last year when I was looking for a project to help make this concept more hands-on and fun, I came across a ‘slope art’ project and found that the students really enjoyed working on it, so I used the project again this year.” (Slope art is figuring out equations and drawing lines of various slopes and lengths as defined by those equations on graph paper and seeing the artwork that develops.)

Galea again: “On the day that I had my classes work on the project, I happened to wander down the Middle School hallway and came across the display of from Ms. Alles’ seventh-grade class. I stopped to ask Ms. Alles about the project and found out that her seventh-grade class had done a very similar project to the one my class had done that very day. In addition, she informed me that she was going to be discussing the project at our best practices dinner that evening.” (The best practices dinners are evening events in which faculty get together and discuss Curriculum for Understanding techniques and tactics they are using in their classrooms.)

Ashley Alles, the seventh grade teacher, said she told the students in her class that they needed to graph 15 to 20 lines, creating a design on paper, then let them run with it. “I wanted them to see patterns, then ask themselves ‘What do I need to do to create it?’ They loved it,” she said. One student created an intricate rhinoceros, graphing over 35 lines. One student told her “It’s math, but it’s fun.”

Back to Kim Galea: “At the dinner, Mrs. McCoy (second grade teacher) was also there, and we discovered that all three of us were using similar projects to teach slightly different concepts across all three divisions.” McCoy was showing how shapes can unite to form different pictures. McCoy’s second grade class had been exploring congruence and symmetry while immersed in their geometry unit.  While walking the halls of the school one day, they explicitly looked for objects that were congruent as well as objects that had symmetrical shapes throughout the building.   The students were amazed to see that the Middle School had artwork up portraying the same geometry lessons they were learning in second grade.

The next day, Galea took her class through the Middle School hallway to view the projects done by the Middle Schoolers, and onto the Lower School to share the projects we had completed with the second graders who had just begun working on their projects.”

As a result of the discussions and sharing that went on, the teachers decided it would be a great idea to share the connections with the entire school by setting up the display in the lobby.

We’re glad they did.

By Ron Bernas


A talent for support

There’s something really special about the annual Liggett Upper School talent show and it’s not the talent. Well, not just the talent.

Cole Zingas played Massenet’s “Meditation” from “Thais.”

And there is plenty of talent. This year we saw solo instrumental performances from a violinist, a pianist and an accordionist. The show closed with a jazz trio with saxophone, drums and piano. There were skits, solo and group songs, even a laser light show, during which the power went out and everyone had to hold tight as the crack technical team quickly found a way to feed sound to a different speaker. Hey, the show must go on, right? It was only a few minutes and the students were respectful of the work done on their behalf.

Armaity Minwalla nailed a tough number from the musical theater repertoire.

It’s generally a shaggy affair, but that’s what gives it its charm. This year, a gang of students was the emcee and they kicked off the show in style with a video that brought down the house. Good-natured teacher impressions and student in-jokes kept the crowd entertained between the acts and at the end of the nearly 90-minute presentation, awards were given to the jazz trio of Kevin Allen, Joe Pas and Jonathan Valente for first place; pianist Tommy Fair (who played a prelude by Rachmaninoff — “he’s a good composer” he told the audience) came in second and Nina White got third place for her performance of “Girl on Fire.”

Yuki Yamasaki sang a Michael Buble-inspired version of “Save the Last Dance for Me.”

So with all that talent, what is it that makes this annual event so special? It’s the audience, one of the most supportive you’ll ever see. Sure, they clap for technical glitches, but they also clap and hoot and cheer and whistle for every performer. Even if that performer goofed up, or hit a sour note or tried a piece that was a bit beyond them. Even if the audience couldn’t hear. Everyone received an ovation to be proud of. But it wasn’t a gift. It was genuine support and caring for their fellow students.

Performers can’t help but shine in front of an audience like that.

By Ron Bernas

Love is in the air

PreK students created artwork in the style of artist Jim Dine, exploring how art makes us feel.

Kids love Valentine’s Day, and not just for the chocolate, though that doesn’t hurt. Here are a few things Liggett’s Lower School did to mark the special day. And that doesn’t include the parties.

Bravo, Mrs. Brown

Yesterday, Liggett’s third grade put on a play based, in part, on the book “The Ballad of Valentine,” which explored all manner of love. It was written by third-grade teacher Linda Brown, who has written several plays over the years, including “Bones of the Body” and “The Museum.”

The lovebirds from the third-grade play.

She has done these shows for several years now but each year they are changed a bit to cater to the personalities of the kids. This year, little drummer and showman Julian Pavone led a Temptations style “My Girl” backed up by the third-grade boys.

Brown teamed up this year with Lower School music teacher Grace Fenton, who

Walter the Whistler showed off his wolf whistle in the play

wrote the words for some of the songs, and Lower School art teacher Patty Logan, who helped create the set.

Brown says she writes the plays because it’s fun and the kids love to see them. Sometimes Upper School students remind Brown that they played a spine or an ulna in one of her plays, years ago. And she remembers. As she watched a video of this year’s production she said, “I was so nervous I didn’t notice all the laughing and clapping.” Also, among the proud parents, were a few tears.

Friendship is love

First-grade students recently compiled tips on how to be a good friend. Here are some of their tips.

  • Annalisa: Be nice.
  • Kevin: Play Legos.
  • Avery: Help her with words and math.
  • Ben: During indoor recess you can make paper snowflakes with him.
  • Meg: Say ‘Sorry’ when you accidentally hurt someone.
  • Owen: Instead of saying ‘No,’ you can say ‘yes’ to letting someone play a game.
  • Blake: Give.
  • Gerrit: Even if it’s not my job, I always push in everyone’s chair in the classroom.

Lower School science students made what teacher Kristie Jones called “colorful scientific valentines” by watching what happens when food coloring is added to milk.

The students also posted Valentine riddles on the windows. Myles asks, What did one heart say to the other? Nothing, organs can’t talk! And several students asked How do you say chocolate in French? The answer, of course, is ‘chocolate in French.’

Here’s hoping you have lots of smiles and love today and always.

By Ron Bernas