Everything is just ducky in science class

liggett duck hatchingIt spread in the Lower School quicker than the flu bug, aided by a 24-hour webcam and some very excited kids: The ducks hatched.

It is the final science unit for the third graders this year — they study the life cycle of three different things. Usually it’s chickens, butterflies and plants, but this year, in keeping with the Every Drop Counts water theme, Lower School Science teacher Kristie Jones chose water animals — ducks and tadpoles, in addition to the plants.

The students kept journals about the stages they observed in the three different life forms. These journals include scientific observations, but also pictures and feelings. And, in the case of the tadpoles a bit of extrapolation, as they died before they made much change.

So all hopes were on the eggs. Students didn’t get to handle them much — though they weighed a couple times and came up with theories as to why the eggs were lighter at the second weighing than they were at the first. Then they went into the incubator and logged on from home to see the progress, but for weeks all they saw were eggs, doing nothing. Still, their journals say “the eggs can hear now” after a certain number of days under the lights and at the proper humidity.

Liggett students watch the incubator closely.

Liggett students watch the incubator closely.

That’s why students were abuzz Thursday with the news that the eggs were shaking, meaning something inside was trying to get out. The excitement of the first to hatch abated quickly when it was obvious something was wrong. The duckling had not absorbed all its yolk — the embryo’s food source, the students explain — and was weak. It died shortly after its birth. The students named it Miracle.

But news got around that another duckling had hatched (click there to watch the video, it’s pretty cool) just after school got out yesterday and everything looked good. In fact, it was very lively and students ran to the science lab to see the new life.

That was nothing compared to this morning before school when a line of students snaked through the room and down the hall. Parents came, too, to see the four more baby ducks that hatched overnight.

Because it was a third-grade project, they got to name them. There’s Hope, named because it survived after the sadness of Miracle. There’s Nip Nip and Pip and Mario (but oddly no Luigi). The class tied on the name of the last one, but there is still one wiggling egg so one may be named Flappy and the last one Buddy.

The ducklings are expected to be removed from the incubator today and put into a brooder. That’s a fancy name for a cardboard box, lined with a blanket, with a light for warmth and food and water. Next week, on the last day of school, some lucky volunteers will take the ducklings home.

By Ron Bernas 

Alumna makes music worldwide

Every Thursday we devote this space to news for and about our alumni, who are such a vital part of life at Liggett.

Carol Perry, Class of '05

Carol Perry, Class of ’05

Summer is upon us, and University Liggett School is about to end another school year. As we prepare for vacation, I got a wonderful email from alumna Carol Perry ’05 with some exciting news about her summer plans.

Carol is thrilled to announce that she will again be performing in Italy this summer. She will be singing Countess Almaviva in the Opera Tascabile production of Mozart’s classic comedy Le Nozze di Figaro. The opera will rehearse and perform in Orvieto, Italy. She will also have the exciting opportunity to serve as assistant director for the production.

After graduating magna cum laude from Liggett in 2005, Carol went on to study voice at the University of Miami and Colorado State University, receiving her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in performance.

Carol as the Countess Almaviva.

Carol as the Countess Almaviva.

In 2012, she moved back to Grosse Pointe to start her own voice and acting studio, which has flourished thanks to the wonderful community support of Liggett faculty, students, and parents committed to the performing arts.

After she returns from Italy, Carol will serve as the Music Director for the Liggett Day Camp, where she was once a camper herself. In addition to her active interests in performance and teaching voice, Carol works with both Middle and Upper School students as a substitute teacher in the arts and tutors Spanish, Italian, Latin, and French. She is grateful to the Liggett community for welcoming her home to Grosse Pointe with open arms.

Carol Perry can be seen this August in the “Puccini and Pasta” concert series in Pointe Aux Barques, Mich. Please feel free to contact her at cperryrun@gmail.com.

Also as Countess Almaviva

Also as Countess Almaviva

I have had the opportunity to get to know Carol this year at school, and she is a gifted performer as well as a patient, knowledgeable and enthusiastic educator. I am so excited that Carol shared this news with the Alumni Office, and I hope that you will tell us about your summer plans as well!

Contact Savannah Lee at 313.884.4444, Ext. 415 or via email at slee@uls.org to share your news, and your stories may end up as a feature on our blog too!

By Savannah Lee
Alumni Relations Manager

Thank you for the music, Mrs. Fenton

Tonight marks the end of an era at University Liggett School: It is the last spring concert presided over by longtime music teacher Grace Fenton. For 24 years she’s presided over concerts like this and tonight beginning at 7 p.m. she will conduct the Lower School choir for the last time.

The combined after-school choir rehearses with Grace Fenton

The combined after-school choir rehearses with Grace Fenton

If you have even a passing knowledge of our performing arts curriculum, you know Grace Fenton, even if you became a member of the Liggett family in the Middle or Upper Schools. At the All-School Holiday Concert and at commencement, she’s the one conducting the combined choirs. At Homecoming she’s the one in the funny hats leading the parade and the school in the fight song. She’s been known to join student string groups in the role of cellist. Her conducting can be a show in itself: Her arms sweep in wide arcs, her body swaying to the beat, her face demonstrating all the excitement she wants her students to display when they are singing.

And if you were lucky enough to know Grace Fenton as a teacher of music, you know that there are few people more committed to helping kids understand, experiment with and enjoy music.

Mrs. Fenton spends a lot of time picking out the right songs with the right messages. The songs need to challenge the students, students need to like singing them, they need to support the curriculum and they need to have an uplifting message. Tonight’s concert list is no exception. They are singing songs that relate to the Lower School’s water theme — a song about whales is one example that encourages being smart about protecting our water and the creatures that live in it. She wrote another to support the Michigan history curriculum of the third grade.

The students will also sing “Moon River.” She said she’s been wanting to include this song in a concert for years and with the water theme, and her retiring, it’s the perfect time.

“The line is ‘waiting ’round the bend, my Huckleberry friend,’ and you have to think that at that time in his life Huckleberry had no job and no home, but be wasn’t scared about what he couldn’t see beyond the bend in the river,” she said. “I want that for these kids: I want them to be adventurers, to not be afraid of what’s coming.”

It’s an old song, and its one the students probably have never heard, but Mrs. Fenton is gratified with the students’ response. “They know instinctively when something is valuable, and the children all sing that song with such dignity. It’s really beautiful.”

Mrs. Fenton started at Liggett as the vocal music teacher for grades two through four and the accelerated reading teacher. Over the years she taught more grades vocal music, added keyboarding to the curriculum then replacing that with a strings program. Though there have been changes over the years, there are just two things that kept her content in her job: “The kids and the music. It is that simple. It’s the kids and the music. Children making music is unlike anyone else making music.”

Mrs. Fenton hopes that from her teaching, students “will be open to the whole palette that music has to offer. I want them to love music and to be good listeners of music and to be careful that the words in the music they love uphold the best of humanity.”

Why leave now? Well, she says, it’s just time.

“I believe you should go when you still love it and when it’s never gone better. As hard as that is to do, that’s what you’ve got to do,” she said. She will miss the children, of course: “But I have to not dwell on it.”

Her life outside of Liggett is filled with six grandchildren and a rewarding position as choirmaster at Knox Presbyterian Church where she oversees a large adult choir.

Tonight’s concert will end with Abba’s “Thank You For the Music,” a fitting end to a concert and Fenton’s time at Liggett.

This story will end with something Mrs. Fenton said that needs to stand alone: “If you’re going to add something beautiful to the world, add music.”

More than a generation of Liggett students have added beauty to the world through music under the baton of Grace Fenton. Thank you, Grace, for the music.

By Ron Bernas 

Senior Project: Platz Animal Hospital, by Hannah Mason

Seniors are spending three weeks in the real world, working somewhere of their choosing as part of our Senior Project program, our 41-year-old capstone of a Liggett Education. We’ve asked a few to reflect on what they are doing. Here is another installment.

Hannah Mason

Hannah Mason

I am doing my senior project at Platz Animal Hospital in Grosse Pointe Park.

My day includes helping the veterinarians and technicians, observing their work, and playing with adorable animals.

I chose to do my project here because I want to be a veterinarian. Advisor Mrs. Jamett recommended this clinic to me because she used to take her dog there and they have welcomed seniors in the past. I have learned so much after just a week like how to run blood work, take and develop X-rays, and do dental work.

On my first day I walked in and Dr. Platz was examining a poodle named Abby. He asked, “How many vaccinations have you given?” to which I answered, “None.” He proceeded to hand me the syringe and said, “Well now is a good time to start!” I am getting hands on experience with the animals and all the veterinarians and technicians are wonderful teachers.Today I watched an enucleation (a removal of the eye) and assisted Dr. Ticcony with a neutering.

Hannah helps with surgery.

Hannah helps with surgery.

My project is going better than I ever imagined. I did not expect to be able to do so much with the animals, I had assumed that I would mostly be observing. By actually being involved I am learning much more than I would have if I were only sitting and watching. My two goals by the end of my senior project are to successfully draw blood and to intubate an animal. I am loving my project and am very thankful to the staff at Platz Animal Hospital for giving me this opportunity.

By Hannah Mason

A day with something for everyone

There’s always something happening at Liggett. Today was an embarrassment of riches. There was sublime. There was ridiculous. There was just about everything in between.

It was Teacher Appreciation Day and members of the schools’ various Parents Associations gathered to put together gifts for the faculty. A Starbucks gift card, a Pink Elephant cupcake and a helium-filled balloon were being tied together for each teacher. And then the fire alarm went off. (Can you see where this is going?) Somehow a balloon attached to a gift card escaped when everyone filed out of the building. So if you come across a gift card attached to a balloon string, you’ll know where it came from. By the way, the fire alarm was a false one.

It was yearbook day and as the distribution was going on, someone discovered that some of the inside covers were printed upside down. No big deal, but enough to cause confusion for some of the students.

The seniors prepare to file into the auditorium for the ceremony.

The seniors prepare to file into the auditorium for the ceremony.

It was also Ring and Founders Day, the traditional and symbolic transferring of leadership from the graduating seniors to the juniors. The junior girls wear white dresses and the senior girls wear black. The boys looked very cleaned up in suits and sport coats. The seniors file in holding candles and each of them presents a school ring to a member of the junior class.

Though it’s a solemn occasion dating back decades, the students find ways to make it their own. Choreographed, multi-part handshakes were the norm, some succeeding, others not so much when someone forgot a part. Two brothers planned a hug that looked more like a body slam. One boy knelt when presenting a ring to another boy, earning a great laugh. Another boy lifted and spun his ring recipient like they were figure skaters.

Seniors Ariana Castillo and Andrew Amine received the Betty Campau Award, chosen by their fellow seniors as the students who most consistently display loyalty and school spirit.

Abigail McIntyre, Class of 1991

Abigail McIntyre, Class of 1991

The Upper School students at the Ring and Founders Day celebration also heard from Abigail McIntyre, a member of the Class of 1991, who was the guest speaker. Though she said she wasn’t the best student while at Liggett, the attorney said, “Liggett was the place that provided me with beginnings.” And though she didn’t know where her life was headed after graduating, she knew that Liggett had given her the “foundation to pursue my different interests.” She was a social worker for nine years and, to her great surprise, is now an attorney who practices family law. She left the students with this bit of advice: “If you continually ask why, you will never stop learning.”

Finally, the day ended with the Middle School Talent Show which contained, perhaps, the oddest eight minutes of the whole school year.

Matthew Monsour, right, plays the drums while his assistant, Diego Rivera-Letcher, sat by to offer any assistance he may have needed.

Matthew Monsour, right, plays the drums while his assistant, Diego Rivera-Letcher, sat by to offer any assistance he may have needed.

There was solo singing, group singing in Mexican sombreros and a Gumby-like costume, drum and piano solos and a skit about an old lady wanting soup. But it was the Rubik’s Cube that featured in the opening and closing displays of talent at the show.

It opened with seventh-grader Michael Ellis solving the cube in just a few minutes, while reciting Pi to more than 100 places after the decimal point. The show closed with eighth-grader Nick Brusilow solving the Rubik’s Cube in just over eight minutes. With his bare feet. As the Middle School students say: True story, bra.

So if your child tells you “nothing” when you ask whether anything interesting happened at school, you now know better.

By Ron Bernas

Alumni Weekend Round-up

Each Thursday we devote this space to alumni, such an important part of life at Liggett.

Alumni Weekend was a huge success! After our post last week during the Ladies Luncheon and Golf Outing at the Country Club of Detroit, the Alumni Board of Governors worked feverishly to set-up the locations for Saturday’s festivities. Five reunion dinner locations, the Cocktail Reception location and the BBQ tent were all decorated with yearbooks, photos, trophies, awards and the like all to welcome back alumni!

Our alumnae lacrosse players.

Our alumnae lacrosse players.

Saturday morning, bright and early the alumnae played a six-on-six game of lacrosse with members of our current varsity girls lacrosse team. The alumnae team was comprised of graduates from 1982-2012. It was nice casual game with a small cheering section including coach emerita Muriel Brock! Enjoy photos from this event on the Alumni Facebook page here.

As the game was drawing to a close, alumni from various classes joined us for the Alumni BBQ under a huge tent on the field. There was a great showing from the class of 1963 GPUS, and families and alumni from the 1940’s through 2000’s in attendance. Guests enjoyed a meal hot off of the grill and plenty of giveaways for the kids to play with on the field like mini footballs and Frisbees.

As the BBQ took place, the Alumni Board of Governors were putting the finishing touches on the locations for our evening events, and the Cocktail Reception kicked off the evening at 5 p.m. in the Arts Wing. We gave two tours of the building and a special awards presentation where we honored alumni for loyalty in Annual Fund giving, we announced the Class Cup winner (congrats to the Class of 1963) and presented the Distinguished Alumni Award to Nita L. Stormes.

Eventually, reuniting classes split off and had dinner in various locations around the school. Photos from these events and class photos are all forthcoming. Keep an eye out for them online in the coming weeks.

All-in-all it was a nostalgic set of events that allowed alumni from all decades to reconnect with each other and University Liggett School. Thanks so much for coming to join us! We hope that you had as much fun as we did!

By Savannah Lee
Alumni Relations Manager

Passing the baton

Today we look back and ahead, through the eyes of two students. In the first piece, by graduating senior Victoria Chochla, reflects on her year as Student Commission president. The second piece, by junior Antonio Malkoun, has next year as its focus — Antonio will fill the seat Victoria is vacating.

A year of service, over too soon

Victoria Chochla

Victoria Chochla

As I look back on the 2012-13 school year, I cannot help but smile. When I won the student body presidential election last spring, I was overjoyed and excited to implement new changes within the Liggett Upper School Student Commission and incorporate new ideas to enhance student life at University Liggett School.

After meeting past student body president Kara Zymslowski last summer for a  “passing-of-the-torch” conversation, I learned that serving as student body president is extremely rewarding and that the commission should focus on planning a few extracurricular events well rather than organizing numerous functions and skimping on quality. Kara also mentioned that I should enjoy my role as president while it lasts because the school year passes by very quickly due to the eventful days in the classrooms and on the fields and stages of Liggett.

I took Kara’s suggestion to heart and dedicated much of my free time in the summer to creating a master plan for the Student Commission to execute once school resumed in the fall. This plan included dance theme possibilities, free dress day charity ideas, and fundraising programs to raise money for the first annual Upper School Field Day. During the summer, the entire commission met to discuss the master plan and elect members for the talent show, events and promotions, and Field Day committees.

In the fall, the commission began executing the plan. After the freshmen commissioners were elected at the class retreat, the commission began the year by planning Homecoming. In the winter, the commission was responsible for planning the annual talent show, helping the Liggett Service Corps (LSC) coordinate the yearly Giving Tree gift donation, and preparing for February’s Limelight dance. Throughout the year, the commission donated proceeds from Homecoming and the Limelight to local and global charities such as Focus Hope and Education Plus Nicaragua. In addition to these tasks, numerous commission meetings were devoted to planning the first annual Upper School Field Day. Thanks to the entire student commission, Mr. Hellebuyck, Mr. Pangrazzi, the Upper School faculty, and the Stahl family, the event sent the Class of 2013 off in style.

After receiving a standing ovation at the last Upper School announcements on May 9, I could not believe that my job as president was over — Kara was definitely right — the year flies by fast. Serving as the voice of the student body has been a great leadership experience. Maintaining my presidential poise and advocating for the students has influenced my personal growth as a leader and has prepared me to assume future leadership roles at the University of Michigan.

I would like to thank the Upper School students, faculty, and parents for entrusting me to serve as your president. Thanks to your never-ending support and enthusiasm, the Student Commission was able to have their most productive year during my tenure. I would like to wish Antonio Malkoun and his cabinet the best of luck as they embark on their journey to fill my shoes. Go Knights and Go Blue!

By Victoria Chochla
2012-13 Student Commission President

A spirited year is coming

Antonio Malkoun

Antonio Malkoun

Hi everyone, as the student body president, I have a couple of priorities I hope to address next year.

The first is prom fundraising: We’ve had trouble in the past, relying on the mums sale, which has been declining in popularity. In order to bolster these sales, the student commission will focus on other ways to raise money. Some students have suggested creative and exciting ways to do this, so the commission will try to make that happen.

The second is school spirit. Due to scheduling problems and a general decline in excitement, our school spirit isn’t what it used to be. I’m also the leader of Knight Hype, and so we’d like to use that to our advantage, with new student section shirts and, along with Knights Nights, more incentives to go to games. More on that soon!

Thanks to the great work of Victoria Chochla and the past student commissioners, the first annual field day was a huge success. We want to make improvements to it and keep it going. It was a lot of fun and a great release of energy as we neared the last month of school.

Of course, more ideas will come up as the year progresses, but my goal above all is to make sure that our student body continues its success while having tons of fun along the way! I’m really excited to be a knight!

By Antonio Malkoun
2013-14 Student Commission President

A writer explains her craft

Maria Dismondy, a Michigan-based author, received rave reviews from students, parents, and faculty after her visit to the Lower School on Monday.  Hosted by the Lower School Library and Lower School Parents Association, Maria presented during assembly, headed a writers workshop, and hosted the PreK and Kindergarten in the library. Themes central in her books – respect, empathy, responsibility, integrity, and forgiveness – were represented during each of her presentations.

Dismondy introduced students to the creative process.

Dismondy introduced students to the creative process.

A highlight of the morning was Maria’s fourth- and fifth-grade writer’s workshop. She began by sharing how she developed ideas from her own life into stories – for instance, the character Lucy, in her book “Spaghetti on a Hot Dog Bun,” was inspired by Maria’s experiences being teased as a child.

Maria then delved into the craft of writing, urging students to work on sentence fluency, word choice and voice, explaining that these give the reader

Dismondy discussed her themes of empathy and kindness.

Dismondy discussed her themes of empathy and kindness.

certain feelings. A student exclaimed that the word “said” was used too much – “It drives me nuts! It’s so boring!” declared Maria.  Students then brainstormed other words that could replace “said” to create a unique voice in their writings. Then, to demonstrate synthesizing, Maria invited the audience to read a Jack Prelusky poem aloud, while two volunteers drew what they were visualizing.

How should students know what to include in their writing pieces?  Maria shared a practical way to answer this conundrum by having a student come up on the stage, weed through her purse, and leave behind only items she MUST have (one pair of sunglasses? – okay; four pairs? – not necessary!)

Maria encouraged students to persevere by sharing the number of times (88!) her work was rejected  before she was finally published. She then wrapped up her encouraging presentation by discussing the publishing process – revising her work with editors and collaborating with different illustrators.

Maria Dismondy talked with the kindergarten and preK students

Maria Dismondy talked with the kindergarten and preK students

In closing, I’ll share what a fourth grade student, who had just participated in back-to-back sessions with Maria, gushed: “I love how she made everything so exciting and interesting!”

For more information about Maria Dismondy please visit her website.

By Sarah Diehl
Lower and Middle School Librarian


Alumni Weekend is under way!

It’s been a year’s worth of planning or organizing and now Alumni Weekend is finally here.

DSC00882 DSC00875 DSC00874

The men kicked off the weekend’s festivities this morning with the 2nd Annual Alumni Golf Outing at the Country Club of Detroit. We had a great turnout with golfers spanning the years from 1955 to 1996. The foursomes headed out for beautiful day on the course this morning at 8 a.m. and enjoyed lunch at the turn. Enjoy some photos of the group on our University Liggett School Alumni Facebook page here.

Right now, the alumnae are having a luncheon at the Country Club of Detroit. The ladies are reminiscing with fellow classmates and getting an update on the school from Joe Healey, Head of School. More details and photos are forthcoming from this event and the rest of Alumni Weekend. The remainder of our Alumni Weekend events will be held on the University Liggett School campus at 1045 Cook Road in Grosse Pointe Woods. Here are the current events coming up this weekend that we hope you can attend!

Saturday, May 18
Alumnae Lacrosse Game – Free
Alumni & Faculty Barbecue – $10 per person
All-Alumni Cocktail Reception – $20 per person with cash bar
Alumni Reunion Dinners – $60 per person
Dessert After-glow – Free

For additional details contact the Alumni Office at 313-884-4444, Ext. 415 or visit the event page at www.uls.org/alumniweekend.

Just a quick Alumni Weekend update. The ladies luncheon was a lovely end to our first day of Alumni Weekend! There were 20 alumnae in attendance from classes 1939-1993 and everyone loved catching up with their friends and meeting new fellow alumni! You can see photos from the luncheon on our University Liggett School Alumni Facebook page here.

By Savannah Lee
Alumni Relations Manager

Senior Projects: The capstone of a Liggett education

Monday marked the start of a new chapter for the Class of 2013; it was the first day of the senior project.

Since 1972, the senior project has been one of the defining features of a student’s final year at Liggett.  In order to encourage responsibility, independence and self-reliance in our graduates, Liggett requires that seniors complete an off-campus internship.

In recent years, Liggett seniors have completed projects as nearby as Monteith Elementary School and as far away as California.  This year, our project locations include several local hospitals and veterinary practices, the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Grosse Pointe Academy and StageCrafters, just to name a few.

Seniors spend 30 hours a week at their project site, and the range of experiences is as diverse as our students’ interests.  Some students choose a project that will help them to learn more about a particular professional field, while others gravitate toward community-based organizations that welcome student volunteers.  A fair number of the project supervisors are current or past Liggett parents.

While seniors may begin their project with at least a little trepidation, most emerge with a better sense of the profession or organization with which they work. Some Liggett alumni report that their senior project shaped their choice of major, and at least a few senior projects have led to offers of summer employment.

Independent schools often provide seniors with a sort of “capstone” experience in their senior year, but the Liggett senior project is unique in that it requires students to be engaged in a community outside of Liggett.  We will be asking a few of our current seniors to blog about their experiences in an effort to provide a first-hand account of what makes the senior project such a fitting end to a student’s time at upper school. Our first, below, is from Aaron Robertson.

By Elizabeth Jamett
Director of College Guidance

Senior Project: WDET Public Radio

Aaron Robertson

Aaron Robertson

I would not have guessed nearly four years ago that my senior internship would allow me to be in the same building as a spiritual adviser to the president, the daughter of Dean Martin, and a National Book Award winner in the same week.

I work at WDET, Detroit’s Public Radio Station in the city’s Cass Corridor neighborhood, where my assignments include writing daily web posts and “staging” (i.e. preparing) guests to be on The Craig Fahle Show.

I intend to be a writer and, unfortunately, I could not line up any print journalism internships. However, I thought a broadcast journalism internship would allow me to foster some of the skills necessary to work professionally as a writer, including the abilities to work on a deadline and distill a great amount of information in a limited space.

I’ve been afforded a good deal of creative freedom. My onsite project adviser, Amy Miller, told me to search for local suburban stories that might make interesting show segments. Knowing that I’m interested in the arts, she suggested I explore stories that could bring other artists to the attention of the public.

Additionally, every day around 1 o’clock, I’m able to sit-in on the editorial meeting, in which the WDET staff discusses the next day’s (or even the next week’s) program. It’s fascinating to hear the producers justify their decisions: which guests to include, why they’re included, how long to include them, where to place them in the schedule, etc.

Already I’ve learned more than I expected, and I hope strongly for this learning curve to continue during the next few weeks.

By Aaron Robertson