A long day of celebration

The prekindergarten entertained early in the morning.

The prekindergarten entertained early in the morning.

This is how we celebrate Halloween at Liggett.

The PreK and Kindergarten, in front of an adoring group of parents, faculty and friends, paraded in their costumes and performed songs — one of which they wrote the lyrics for. The little ones were a little shy of the cameras, and sometimes unsure of their words, but when the song ended with a “Boo,” they knew just what to do.

The scariest pumpkin.

The scariest pumpkin.

In the Upper School, Community Time was dedicated to a pumpkin carving contest. Advisories competed in the categories of Scariest, Funniest,  Most Liggett and Most Creative. Each category was up to interpretation: “College Apps” was carved into one of the entries in the Scariest category. In the Most Liggett category, a stack of several smaller pumpkins spelled out LIGGETT and the sign above them said: “At Liggett, we lift each other up.” A nice sentiment among the other jack-o-lanterns that looked like monsters eating cute little ducks. The entry deemed the funniest pumpkin was actually an orange, identified as “The Incredible shrinking pumpkin.”

kiss for blogNot all Upper Schoolers dressed for the occasion, but two came in outfits — one a sailor, one a nurse — so they could recreate the famous kiss photograph taken when World War II ended.

In the Middle School, six classes of Spanish students contributed to a Day of the Dead altar — or ofrenda in Anne Serratos’ class. (Hey, you didn’t think the WHOLE day would be devoted to candy and fun, it’s still a school day.) Day of the Dead is primarily a Mexican holiday, adapted by early Spanish colonists from an Aztec celebration. People believe spirits come back to earth on that day to enjoy life for one day each year. The ofrendas are filled with handmade crafts like cut paper and flowers, and hold items like skulls made from hardened sugar and other treats for the returning loved ones.

Eighth graders put the finishing touches on an ofrenda.

Eighth graders put the finishing touches on an ofrenda.

Other traditional offerings on the altars are candles, food, chocolate, religious decorations, incense and even soap and water so the spirits can clean themselves off after their long journey. There were even beautifully decorated loaves of Dead Bread — a sweet treat traditionally made for this event — that the students baked.

“It’s not a scary thing,” Serratos says, “It’s a way to celebrate those who have passed on.”

On Monday, Serratos’ class will Skype with a class in Montana, and will share their reflections and crafts made for their ofrendas.

But the day leads up to the big event, a Lower School costume parade and performance. All classes stop and the Middle and Upper Schoolers come out to watch the Lower Schoolers march through the hallways, the first graders with their senior buddies in the lead. The seniors, good sports as always, let their first-grade buddies choose what they should wear for the day and there’s some good-natured oneupsmanship going on.

A little Paul Bunyan had his senior buddies dress up as trees and Babe, the blue ox.

A little Paul Bunyan had his senior buddies dress up as trees and Babe, the blue ox.

The performance included a demonstration of the results of the Lower School’s new Orff music instruction, a Spanish song and a singalong to “Dem Bones.” Then it was off to classes for parties and crafts and then off to home, where they will hope the rain will stop so things start drying out, before the real event begins.

By the way: In a really smart bit of scheduling, the Lower School does not have classes tomorrow.

See a whole gallery of photos.

By Ron Bernas

A little insight from an expert

The Liggett family is a connected one and those connections benefit our current students in many ways.

Videogame designer Shyam Guthikonda gives advice to Henry Duhaime and Nina Hampton, who are studying aspects of videogames for their Advanced Research Project.

Videogame designer Shyam Guthikonda gives advice to Henry Duhaime and Nina Hampton, who are studying aspects of videogames for their Advanced Research Project.

Take, for instance, our alumnus, Shyam Guthikonda ’02. He was, until recently, a video game developer for the Konami Corp., but recently left to form his own software and company Digital Uzu. After graduating from Liggett he earned a bachelor’s degree from Wittenberg University and a master’s degree in computer science from the University of Southern California.

He was in town on a visit from Tokyo, where he makes his home, and Liggett mom Vicki Diaz, who has known Shyam for years, thought the Upper School students would enjoy hearing him speak at Community Time.

His talk described how the gaming industry works, what kinds of skills are needed and the great blessing it is to be able to live in a foreign country: “It opens your world up to so many things,” he told the students.

Afterward, two Upper School students got some expert advice from Shyam regarding their Advanced Research Projects, both of which are based on gaming. Nina Hampton wants to explore why the game Dragon Age draws more female players than typical role-playing games and Henry Duhaime is examining which side of the debate between narratology and ludology is more applicable to contemporary gaming. Ludology being the study of videogames. He helped both of them shape their questions and look at them from different angles, leading them to a deeper conversation.

Afterward, Henry said he had more direction as to how to proceed with his research and stronger ideas on how to present his research. Nina said she was encouraged by hearing that there are careers in the gaming industry for people who are not programming whizzes. She also was reassured about her project and received a couple new sources from Shyam.

For his part, Shyam said he’d be willing to work with the two to answer any questions and offer advice about the project in its later stages.

It’s all about the connections in life. And Liggett is connected to the world.

By Ron Bernas

We’re headed East

It’s travel season in the Alumni Office!

From left, Susan Latos, Rick Latos ’65 GPUS and Toni Slotkin ’65 GPUS, attend last year's New York City event.

From left, Susan Latos, Rick Latos ’65 GPUS and Toni Slotkin ’65 GPUS, attend last year’s New York City event.

The invitations have been sent, and alumni are buzzing with registrations for two east coast events. The trips kick off in November with an event in New York City on Nov. 12 and a morning reception in New Canaan, Conn., the next day. University Liggett School has some 300 alumni living in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, and we make the trip each year to keep them connected to the school!

Our alumni event in New York City is being hosted by alumna Mary Warren ’81 in her home. This is the second year in a row Mary has opened her home to us, and welcomed University Liggett School to share updates on the school and opportunities to network for our regional alumni.

The New Canaan, Conn., event is new this year, and will be hosted by alumna Elizabeth Kontulis ’79 at the Country Club of New Canaan. This event is a new format as well. It will be a morning reception featuring coffee, fruit and pastries. Head of School Dr. Joe Healey will give an update on the school and answer questions.

Both events are free and we encourage alumni to attend for networking with fellow grads and our school leadership. Registration is required for both events and can be found online at www.uls.org/alumni.

If you have any questions about our east coast trips, or the rest of the 2013-14 alumni regional event schedule contact me at 313.884.4444, Ext. 415 or via email at slee@uls.org. We can’t wait to see you!

Savannah Lee
Alumni Relations Manager

Thoughts from Walled Lake

Last week our seventh-graders took their annual trip to Walled Lake for an outdoor education experience. During the trip, they kept a journal, detailing their experiences. Here are some of their reflections. 

blog 1The main thing I am looking forward to is activities. … I’m mostly nervous about the food. I really don’t want to have green unknown food, goo thing. — G

My brother told me the food here is AMAZING! — D

My first impression of the camp, well, cozy. The great hall is filled with animals that are stuffed. It’s sooo cool! — K

blog 2Today I tried something new! I did sort of an acrobat-like activity. Here’s how it went. I was harnessed with a backpack-like thing. Then as soon as I got that fastened, I climbed up a horse-shoe-like step and slowly walked up the plank with my feet half off of it. My heart was racing like a bomb that’s about to go off. Then I jumped like a bird! I made it! I didn’t know I was afraid of heights. … But I got over it being 40 feet up in the air! I mean who wouldn’t? — S

blog 5I did so many new things today! To begin with, I looked at pond scum, climbed up three climbing walls in one day and touched a real, living, breathing bird. — K

I would describe the Birdman to someone who never saw him like this: He has a messy beard. A really messy beard. … He talks very fast and tells lots of jokes. he is very energetic. … He is able to make the dry topic of birds interesting. — D

blog 4Something interesting i heard someone say today was about birds: An owl can almost turn its head into a 180-degree spin. — T


A new skill that I learned at Walled Lake was how to climb a ladder with gigantic spaces in between each log. I had to somehow swing my leg over the top of the log, then hooked my leg around the wire, and pulled myself using the wire. — K

Thrill: During Capture the Flag, I got the flag both games for our team. When I was running back, I had nine people chasing me and i love the rush you get. I never ran that fast in my life. — D

blog 3I jumped off a 40-foot tower and grabbed a bar. It was the Leap of Faith. — J

During geocaching there was a corn field with a dead tree in the center. It was large, greyish-brownish and had a possom skeleton next to it. — C

The thing I enjoyed most was being away from everything and everyone. It was quiet with no cars or people. Just nature. — S

A new thought that came in my mind at camp was that sometimes you have to push yourself very hard to get to your goal, you can’t just make an excuse like “I’m too short,” you can do it! — T

I learned that I can do anything if I talk to myself. Almost like a personal pep talk. — A

I learned a lot of new things at Walled Lake. But most important I learned to be resourceful. I had to layer a lot even if it looked weird. I also had to somehow dry my clothes so I ended up using the hand dryers to dry them. — K

See more photos of the Walled Lake trip here.

Community: Liggett for the Whole Family

Kelley Hamilton, Associate Head of School for Advancement

Kelley Hamilton, Associate Head of School for Advancement

I have three daughters enrolled at Liggett — one in each division. Each of my girls is thriving in small classes with a curriculum that challenges and inspires.  They shine because this is a community that values excellence, celebrates the individual, and fosters a kindness and sense of connection that is invaluable.

I am grateful for this community for my girls — and for me.  On a daily basis, I am struck by the people that make this school special.  Engaged parents who care about their children — and each others’ children. Faculty and staff who are engaged with kids, passionate about their fields, and accessible to parents. Alumni who fondly remember athletic victories, math tests, and first kisses while students here, and who remain connected to their alma mater and support the school today.

As a parent I go to the concerts, sporting events, parent-teacher meetings and more.  My professional role at school has also brought me to more community engagements than many parents:  I have attended most of the new parent dinners, Homecoming, the Athletic Hall of Fame, Liggett Knight planning work, various committees and Board of Trustee meetings.

I get to meet many of our parent volunteers as they come into the school.  These are wonderful people, many of whom will remain dear friends when our children are grown. Smart, thoughtful, kind, engaged, and open — people who care about children and who are invested in Liggett.

Our recent parent survey told us something that should come as no surprise: The parents who are the most engaged are the happiest. The more you know Liggett, the more there is to like! Beyond that, as social scientists have told us for years, being a part of a community is an important key to happiness and provides a myriad of benefits. Being part of your child’s school community brings the extra benefit of better knowing your children’s friend’s parents, of opening lines of communication, of better understanding the rhythms of the school that can be hard to tease out of your child or fully grasp no matter how diligent the school is with communication.

Liggett has an open door for parents. I know that busy work schedules, personal commitments, long drives, homework, and extracurricular activities can make it hard to find the time to add one more commitment. I would just encourage you: if there is something you are thinking of doing, do it. If you have time when dropping your child off or picking him up, stop by and say hello. Check out the parent organizations, the special events and volunteer opportunities.

This is a wonderful school. Let’s make the most of it together. And if you haven’t seen the more complete description of the parent survey results, be sure to read about them.

By Kelley Hamilton
Associate Head of School for Advancement

A little taste of France

cuisinerYou may wonder what our clubs do for activities. Here’s what one group of students and their advisor did on a recent evening for fun that was educational, and tasty, too.

Eighteen members of the Cercle Français, aka the French Club, gathered on a recent Friday evening at Madame Kriste Karolak’s house for a cooking demonstration, dinner and a movie.

croque monsieur 2The students learned how to make Croque Monsieur sandwiches — grilled ham and cheese, a classic staple of any French café. The students first learned how to make a béchamel sauce, one of the basic sauces in the French cuisine. They then assembled their own sandwiches, grilled them, and topped them off with béchamel sauce and more cheese. After broiling them, the students enjoyed these great grilled sandwiches with salade verte, green salad.

croque monsieurWhen the cooking and dinner ended, everyone watched the French movie “Heartbreaker,” starring French singer and actress Vanessa Paradis.  Everyone appreciated the good food and company, but is ready for the next lesson — chocolate soufflés!

The group’s  next event will be a movie at the Grosse Pointe Woods library, hosted by the Alliance Française of Grosse Pointe followed by a holiday party in December with a traditional Bûche de Noël.

By Madame Karolak

A legacy of art

McGee demonstrates for a rapt artist.

McGee demonstrates for a rapt artist.

The results of the Hoag-Bicket Artist-in-Residence program can be seen around campus.

The tile installation outside the dining room is one place. The tiles, made by long-graduated students, still draw the attention of passersby who see in some of them the tentative strokes of a student learning a new skill and in others, the work of a bolder artist.

Eighth-graders helped the youngsters with ideas.

Eighth-graders helped the youngsters with ideas.

The whimsical suns that shine down on the lunch line used by the littlest kids is another place. And last year the work done — tables with underwater scenes in ceramics — was auctioned off at our Liggett Knight fundraiser. This year, the results — jack o’lantern tiles — will adorn the houses of our little artists.

The Hoag-Bickett program was created in 1985 by the family of Julie Hoag-Bickett, ’75, who loved ceramics and the studio arts. Every year since then a noted ceramicist has spent two days in the school working with students, sometimes toward an installation, other times on a personal project.

A dedicated artist.

A dedicated artist.

This year, the artist was David McGee who, since 1996, has been a senior designer at Detroit’s legendary Pewabic Pottery. McGee came to the attention of Lower School art teacher Patty Logan and Upper School art teacher Karen Katanick when they took a class with him at Pewabic Pottery. It’s McGee’s second stint as an artist-in-residence here and he returned because he enjoyed it so much the first time.

The results, before glazing and firing.

The results, before glazing and firing.

“The youth is our future,” he said. “It sounds so cliche but it’s true. Technology is so predominate in our kids’ world that it’s important they get to be digital in another way. They get to use the other side of their brain.”

And the students seemed to enjoy it. He worked with the kindergarteners, showing them how to transfer a drawing of a jack-o-lantern onto their clay as a pattern for carving. When they had finished, they got extra clay they banged on with their fists, a smile on their faces.

McGee also worked with the Upper School ceramics students.

“Sometimes you get a new perspective from somebody who’s not their everyday teacher,” he said. “It’s good to incorporate a lot of different ideas.”

That way, they come into themselves as artists.

By Ron Bernas

A celebration of talent and dedication

One day a week we turn this space over to news for and about our alumni, such a big part of life at Liggett.

Inductee Gene Overton

Inductee Gene Overton

The Third Annual Alumni Athletic Hall of Fame ceremony took place last Friday, and it was a night filled with wonderful stories of athletic triumphs and reflections on teams and coaches from over a century of players. Five honorees were inducted this year. These athletes included John Neil Patterson ’06 DUS, David Rentschler ’52 DUS, George Perrin ’64 GPUS, Laura Khelokian Byron ’87 and faculty emeritus Gene Overton.

Each year a committee made up of coaches, faculty, staff and alumni meet to vote on nominations sent into the Alumni Office. Anyone can nominate someone for the Hall of Fame, and you can find out more on how to do that by contacting me at 313-884-4444, Ext. 415 or by email.

George Perrin and his wife Dominique.

George Perrin and his wife Dominique.

After a few words from Head of School Dr. Joseph Healey and Athletic Director Michelle Hicks, a new category was introduced for this year: the historical honoree. University Liggett School, being a product of four predecessor schools, has a long history of impressive athletes. We created the historical candidate to celebrate this history and induct athletes who deserve recognition from the early years of our school. The first recipient was John Neil Patterson, an alumnus of the Detroit University School who graduated in 1906. Staff emeritus, Phil Langford, gave a brief overview of Patterson’s career at DUS which included multiple district and state trophies in track and field. Patterson also competed for the United States Olympic team and won gold and silver medals in high jump.

Laura Khelokian Byron, left, Shelly Tucker '87 and Meri Dembrow.

Laura Khelokian Byron, left, Shelly Tucker ’87 and Meri Dembrow.

After the induction of our historical nominee, each inductee was introduced by a special coach, teammate, colleague or family member of his or her choice who shared the inductee’s athletic highlights and personal stories.

David Rentschler’s classmate, Paul Brown ’52 DUS, highlighted David’s tenacious spirit on the football field and a humorous story in which David won a steak dinner from coach Earl Kimber by going out for the track team. David passed away in May and this event became a heartfelt moment to celebrate David, with his wife Dianne, his children, grandchildren, siblings and friends.

George Perrin ’64 GPUS was introduced by former coach, and longtime GPUS faculty member, Richard Trim. Mr. Trim shared George’s impressive stats including 12 school records in football. Mr. Perrin was delighted to accept the award, and reflected on the great teams he was a part of that included fellow alumni Chuck Wright ’66 GPUS and Charles McFeeley ’64 GPUS. Both Chuck and Charles were at the ceremony to cheer George on.

Laura Khelokian Bryon ’87 was introduced by her sister Sara Coyle, who talked about Laura’s years on the soccer team and field hockey team, and how they led to an impressive career at Dartmouth. Laura discussed the importance of being a female athlete, and how she felt privileged that Liggett provided so many opportunities to women to be empowered in a variety of sports.

The evening concluded with a wonderful speech by faculty emeritus, Jim Schmidt, about honoree Gene Overton. Jim shared many amazing stories of Gene’s tireless commitment to the athletics department for more than 36 years. Gene filmed thousands of hours of softball games, and managed the scorebook for boys and girls basketball for three decades at GPUS and then University Liggett School.

All in all, the ceremony was a special evening for guests. About 90 alumni, faculty, staff and friends were in the audience to congratulate the inductees and celebrate University Liggett School. Congratulations to all of our 2013 inductees!

By Savannah Lee, Alumni Relations Manager

Coming together as a team

The one thing everyone can agree upon is that University Liggett School needs new athletic facilities.

The fields are not in the best shape and a few of them need better drainage. Plus, they’re not always easily accessible for people who need wheelchairs or walkers and, now that we’re on one campus, we need space for the Middle School athletes.

Our gym is being used at capacity now and our programs would benefit from more space for teams to practice and play games.

Yesterday and today, architects from 360 Architecture of Kansas City were on campus leading a series of discussions to understand our concerns and help us realize our hopes. At this stage we have created a small number of site plan options and initiated the discussions of what kind of athletic building would enhance our campus.

It’s their fourth visit to campus. They have met with students, parents, trustees, coaches, teachers, administrators and alumni to develop a plan for this major upgrade of our athletic facilities. It’s important, says Douglas A. Barraza, with 360, to collect the ideas of those who have a history with the school and those who expect to be part of its future.

When they conducted the student workshops, the architects had large aerial drawings of the site without any buildings and gave the students blocks to place the soccer, football and field hockey fields, two baseball diamonds, one softball diamond and a fieldhouse. It was, for the students, a bit like a Rubic’s Cube, but their enthusiasm for the project was boundless, as were their ideas for what they wanted to see in the field house. Meetings with the adults used similar hands-on tools and the enthusiasm was just as palpable.

“We’re in the early planning process and we want to know what the priorities are,” Barraza said. “It’s important to listen to everyone so we can address the athletic and physical education needs.”

These priorities help the architects create a vision that leads to a final plan. That should happen in the early parts of next year.  We hope to begin construction during 2014.

You can hear more about the subject at a Town Hall meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 17, in the Auditorium, where you’ll also hear about the results of our recent survey of parents. Come on out and share in the vision of Liggett’s future.

By Ron Bernas

The importance of becoming a patron

If you love the arts, Liggett has a great way for you to help our student artists reach their full potential: Become a patron of the arts.

The cast of the fall comedy "The Butler Did it" rehearses. The show goes up in November.

The cast of the fall comedy “The Butler Did it” rehearses. The show goes up in November.

Our Patrons Program started in the 1980s but fizzled out after a while. When the performing arts department started encouraging students to attend and showcase their talents at state and national festivals, the program returned, stronger than before.

“We wanted the students to be able to attend these festivals, and we thought we could help raise funds for that and at the same time treat some of our good friends to something special,” said Dr. Phill Moss, chair of the Department of Fine and Performing Arts.

So patrons get reserved seats at the school plays and concerts and will have voting rights for our arts awards at the end of the year. This year, a pre-show dinner is included for the fall comedy, “The Butler Did It” and the spring musical, “Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up?” You also receive invitations to all the art exhibits in the Manoogian Arts Wing. What does the school get? Funds to allow students to attend events like state and national festivals.

There is a third play being presented this year and in many ways it’s a direct result of the Patrons Program.

Aaron Robertson was one of our Liggett scholars who discovered a love of theater while here. He appeared in a couple productions and started writing for the stage. He took his play, “The Christian Soothsayer,” to a state competition, where he received such accolades, it went to the national festival where it was one of only a few student-written productions to receive a full staging.

Without the money raised by the Patrons Program, the state festival would have been out of Aaron’s reach.

And, of course, Aaron’s not the only one touched by their experience with the arts at Liggett. Moss recently received this email from an alumni who lives out of state, but wanted to become a patron for personal reasons:

“My time in Liggett theater was both affirming and enriching.  I am sure as a petulant teenager, I never adequately expressed the appreciation I had for all you did for me.  The email would quickly turn boorish if I were to share all of the stories from the past 30 years that I reflected on wisdom you gave me and how you influenced me.  Just know that you gave me one of the single most important insights into myself, and that as I work with my own daughters and their friends, I reflect on how you worked with and motivated me.  You were truly one of the guardian angels that made me who I am today.”

Download the form here and help keep Liggett arts strong.

By Ron Bernas