Alumni Success Stories

Westfield Friends School alumni have news to share!

CONGRATULATIONS! Exciting news about Westfield Alum, Will Coleman's '99, appointment to a newly created position of Curator of the Wyeth Collection at Brandywine River Museum.

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The Philadelphia Inquirer*
*Subscriber-reproduced copy of Philadelphia Inquirer Article
ARTS & CULTURE
First curator for huge trove of Wyeth-related artwork selected by Brandywine River Museum
In collaboration with the Farnsworth Art Museum in Maine, and the Wyeth Foundation, the Brandywine will oversee a new era of Wyeth exhibitions and scholarship. 

William L. Coleman
William L. Coleman
Courtesy Brandywine River Museum of Art

by Stephan Salisbury
Published Sep 8, 2022 

The Brandywine River Museum, in Chadds Ford, which announced a plan earlier this year for joint management of a trove of Andrew Wyeth-related art work, has hired a curator to oversee the vast collection, as well as a study center for scholarly exploration of the Wyeth family legacy.

William L. Coleman had been the director of collections at the Olana Partnership in Hudson, N.Y., the organization in charge of the artistic and architectural legacy of painter Frederic Edwin Church, including the 90,000-object Church collection and archive.

Coleman will become the first Wyeth Foundation curator of the 7,000-object Andrew and Betsy Wyeth Collection and director of the Andrew and Betsy Wyeth Study Center.

The Brandywine River Museum, where Coleman will be based, and the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland, Maine, where Wyeth spent his summers, are partners in the endeavor, largely worked out by Betsy Wyeth prior to her death in 2020. Her husband, Andrew Wyeth, died in 2009.

The Wyeth Collection was put together and maintained by Betsy Wyeth, and consists of works from across Andrew Wyeth’s seven decades as a working artist, including rarely seen paintings, watercolors, sketches, and sketchbooks.

Coleman will work in both Pennsylvania and Maine with a staff of three to develop exhibitions, make works available for loan to other institutions, and to foster new research and scholarship on the life and work of Andrew Wyeth. One of the his projects will be the production of a catalogue raisonné for Andrew Wyeth — a complete catalog of the artist’s work. Coleman will also curate displays of work for both the Brandywine and Farnsworth dedicated Wyeth galleries.

Thomas Padon, director of the Brandywine River Museum, said the goal of Coleman’s effort will be “activating Betsy Wyeth’s estate plan in which her remarkable collection of Andrew Wyeth’s works would be accessible to the public and future generations of scholars in perpetuity.”

The project is expected to cost between $750,000 and $1 million annually, according to Brandywine officials.

Coleman, who hales from the Philadelphia area, attended Haverford College, and holds a doctorate in art history from University of California, Berkeley, said he has already begun to discover intriguing aspects of the Wyeths’ various endeavors.

It is virtually impossible to know Andrew Wyeth, for instance, he said, without understanding Betsy Wyeth, who served as the painter’s business manager, marketing czar, companion, and much more.

“What I’m fascinated by is how she is this really crucial, not only archival and managerial, but also creative force behind the scenes,” said Coleman, who officially starts his new job at the Brandywine Oct. 17, but is already digging in.

“I think it’s been understood for a long time that she was a key driver behind Andrew’s career, giving titles to his works and meticulously documenting process,” he said, adding that the collection “is a trove of work in progress like no other that helps us to understand how these masterpieces took shape.”

While Betsy Wyeth’s business acumen may have been well known, Coleman said, “what has not been fully understood is that she was also an American creative force in her own right, shaping these environments that inspired her husband’s work, shaping landscape in three dimensions in Maine.”

Coleman said Betsy Wyeth’s creative drive is ”a really intriguing part of the story.” Conversations with museum staff members in Maine and at the Brandywine has led him to “understand there’s more beneath” the surface.

‘I’m just beginning to learn about that Betsy’s own textile art practice,” Coleman said. “I am tremendously fascinated by this body of knitting work she was doing that remains on these islands in Maine.

“The case I heard specifically was, she was making abstract textiles in relation to the colors and forms of tide pools on the coast of Maine. Really unusual stuff. So I can’t wait to sink my teeth into that.”

Published Sept. 8, 2022

To read featured interviews with more of our Westfield Friends School Alumni, click on their names below.

Kendall BorbiKendall Borbi '18
Interview: via Email, May 2022
 

MH - Tell me briefly about your journey from Westfield Friends to today.

KB - From Westfield Friends to today, I have grown as a person in so many ways. I am currently a senior at Moorestown Friends School, and in the fall of 2022, I will be attending Palm Beach Atlantic University. At PBAU, I will be majoring in education and minoring in special education. As well as getting my degree, I will be playing on the lacrosse team. Throughout my middle school, high school, and soon-to-be college journey, Westfield Friends has been the fundamental building block of my educational career. 

 

MH - What are the two or three events, people, experiences you most remember from your Westfield years?

KB - One event I remember the most while attending Westfield is a meeting for worship in eighth grade. This event is significant because sitting on the leading benches was monumental to my career at a friends’ school. Ever since I was little, I was excited to sit on the leading benches, and the year I was finally able to, it felt like an accomplishment. One person I remember the most while attending Westfield is Mrs. Parry. She was a crucial part of my memories at Westfield because she was my teacher for seventh and eighth grade. Mrs. Parry helped my transition from middle school to high school be easier academically and mentally. Mrs. Parry is one of my favorite teachers because of her immense support and enthusiastic personality. 

 

MH - How do the values you learned in school continue to shape your life and the way you make choices for yourself?

KB - The values I learned in school consist of the quaker spices. The spices are simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equality, and stewardship. These values shape my life and the way I make choices for myself because the values enable me to make positive and well-thought-out decisions.

 

MH - What do you hope for Westfield students today?

KB - For current Westfield students today, I hope they are able to achieve the same level of happiness and success that I feel as if I got from attending Westfield. Westfield is a small and well-knit community that thrives for the success of themselves and others. I hope every student appreciates the moments and memories that they make in school because Westfield is unlike any other school they will ever attend in the future. 

 

MH - What do you hope for Westfield alums as they think about Westfield today?

KB - I hope that Westfield albums think about Westfield as a place where they made memories and friendships that will support and encourage them for the rest of their lives. While attending Westfield, the development of friendships flourishes, and after attending Westfield, the friendships last forever.

Abby TaylorAbby Taylor '18
Interview: via Email, May 2022
 

MH - Tell me briefly about your journey from Westfield Friends to today.

AT - I graduated from Westfield Friends in 2018 and went to Moorestown Friends School, where I’m about to graduate from. Throughout high school I have been involved in my school community by playing field hockey and basketball and having leadership roles in service committee and worship planning committee. I’ve also been very involved in the visual arts programs at MFS, taking elective courses in lots of different mediums as well as the studio art major class. For my senior project I am doing an internship at Studio Sustena, a Philadelphia-based landscape architecture firm. Next year I will be attending McGill university in Montreal, QC.

 

MH - What are the two or three events, people, experiences you most remember from your Westfield years?

AT - I remember my art classes at Westfield taught by Teacher Deborah, who really encouraged my continuing love for art. I always enjoyed art, and these classes allowed us to explore our creativity while teaching meaningful artistic skills. I remember the class being very social and feeling like I was in an environment where I could produce art I was proud of and enjoy what other people were creating as well. I took art lessons after school because I liked it so much, and I was able to think more deeply about what interested me creatively and develop my artistic voice.

I also remember my favorite field trip at Westfield was in grade six when we went to Pocono Environmental Education Center. I loved the bonding we were able to do on that trip with such a small group and we could bring the energy from that experience back with us to school. The trip had different aspects of nature and ecology that were so cool and interesting to me back then, and I am still interested in today. It was related to what we were studying in Ms. Cope’s science class and I just remember being so into it, along with the other kids in my class. We could get excited about what we were learning about. It never felt forced because we were encouraged to explore whatever we were interested in, above and beyond the straight up “textbook” material.

 

MH - What do you hope for Westfield students today?

AT - I hope that current students can take advantage of the school structure at Westfield that encourages them to find things they’re passionate about. Westfield teachers are always going to encourage you to get excited and involved in whatever you’re doing, so pay attention to what interests you, because it can come from anywhere.

Also, I know it can be difficult, but please try to appreciate Meeting for Worship! I had it in high school too, and now I’m going to miss having that time to just be still and feel the presence of the community. It seemed very strange and unappealing to me at first, but I figured out that quiet reflection is such a valuable thing that very few schools offer to the extent that Quaker schools do. At Westfield, Meeting for Worship is very personal and friendly with the small meetinghouse and the song-singing. Looking back, it was a lovely way to begin our Wednesdays. 

 

MH - What do you hope for Westfield alums as they think about Westfield today?

AT - I hope that Westfield alumni can appreciate the impact that going to a small school with strong Quaker values has on their lives, regardless of how long they were at the school for. Westfield students are treated with kindness and respect at any age by their teachers and classmates, and people are celebrated as individuals who all contribute to the community in some way. This gives alums a sense of belonging that they can carry with them after they leave Westfield and throughout their lives.

Armeen Kazemi
Armeen Kazemi '18
Interview: via Email, May 2022
 

MH - Tell me briefly about your journey from Westfield Friends to today.
AKSince I graduated from Westfield four years ago, my journey has been one filled with surprises. First of all, I went from a Friends school environment, with which I was very familiar, to a Catholic education system, at Bishop Eustace, that was quite foreign to me. Apart from being in a class that was ten times the size of my graduating Westfield class, I also had to get used to the religious aspect of my high school, which included a daily prayer and masses on special Catholic holidays. I also had to adjust to an increased rigor with my courses, as I was immediately thrust into the honors track at Eustace. 

Thankfully the workload given at Westfield prepared me enough to have a head start on the other kids in my class, who had a much steeper learning curve than I did. I also had to get used to the intensity of high school athletics; I went from being the captain of the Westfield co-ed soccer team to barely scraping through the tryouts at Eustace to even make the JV team my freshman year. It was definitely a humbling experience! Sophomore year for me, the 2019-2020 school year, was not exactly one I look fondly upon, as I didn’t do much except go for walks after I finished my schoolwork after virtual schooling.  

Junior year was a pretty big year for me, since we were back to in-person learning, which was great. By then, I was pretty well-adjusted to the Eustace community, and really began to see myself thrive within the school community. I made varsity soccer for the first time, began taking AP classes, and the college application process. This past year has been a whirlwind of adventure, and I find it hard to believe that I’ll be graduating from high school next week! I went in with the expectation that senior year was going to be easier than junior year, but it turned out to be anything but that. Most of the year was filled with nervous anticipation of solely waiting to hear back from the colleges and universities that I applied to, let alone whether I got in or not. Since I am the older sibling, this was the first time that my parents had experienced this process since they applied some time ago, so I know they felt the same way. Thankfully, I did get into one of my top-choice schools, and will be attending Boston University this September!

MH - What are the two or three events, people, experiences you most remember from your Westfield years?
AKI look back upon my Westfield years very fondly, because believe it or not, the experiences that I had during my time at Westfield did begin to shape the young man that I am today. The first key event that I remember is the when I had to lead a Quaker Friday group for the first time. I remember that the eighth grade class before mine was not that big, so sometimes the seventh graders would be the “leaders” of the groups instead. I did not get this honor until about midway through the school year, which I believe was around Christmas time. I’d rather not go into too much detail, but I do remember there being glitter all over the floor of Senor DiClaudio’s room instead of on the Christmas decorations like it was supposed to be. Needless to say, I learned the importance of responsibility, and although I was not a great leader at the time, I chuckle looking back on it now, since I ended up being recognized for my leadership by the University of Rochester last year. Quite a contrast from the glitter-infested room I had to cleanup that day!  

Another key event that I recall from my time at Westfield is my eighth grade graduation. Apart from being the end of my journey at Westfield, graduation was significant because I got to deliver a speech for the first time. I remember the process of developing, and then practicing my speech, before finally delivering it to the audience present at the meeting house that afternoon. This helped to begin the development of my public speaking skills, and I had the pleasure of delivering a couple of speeches during my senior year. Of course, none of this would have been possible without Mrs. Valerie Parry, who not only did a wonderful job of preparing us for our speeches, but for high school as a whole. I was always told that she gave copious amounts of homework, but the truth of the matter is, that by the time I got to Eustace, I was already used to having multiple hours of homework, when other incoming freshmen were used to barely having any. Apart from that, she was also just a wonderful person all-around, and it was a pleasure to have her as a teacher for two years. 

MH - How do the values you learned in school continue to shape your life and the way you make choices for yourself?
AK – The Quaker curriculum has continued to be a touchstone for my education since my graduation from Westfield. Although I switched to a Catholic-based education, I continue to use the Quaker philosophy in my everyday life. In fact, I even wrote college essays about the value of tolerance, which is an important philosophy that I learned from my time at Westfield. Because of how diverse the student population was, I was able to learn about all types of people and their cultures, which helped me, learn more about the world. I try to promote this belief especially, since I believe tolerance would go a long way in easing the tensions permeating the world today. 

MH - What do you hope for Westfield students today?
AK – One thing that I primarily wish for Westfield students today is for them to appreciate the lessons that they are learning, and to apply them to their everyday lives. This mostly pertains to the eighth graders, since I know they are taking their next steps into the unknown just like I am. Because this value system has been engrained in them since the beginning of their time at Westfield, continuing to practice the Quaker education system will help provide a constant in a time of so much change. For the younger students, I hope that they participate actively in the Westfield community and embrace the traditions that have persisted for so long. Field day and Quaker Fridays in particular, are exciting, but also help build school spirit, which invigorates the school community as a whole. A more united school community will undoubtedly lead to a better experience for all of the current Westfield students.  

MH - What do you hope for Westfield alums as they think about Westfield today?
AK - I still keep in touch with some Westfield alums, so I know that the connection still exists today. I hope that the alumni network being created by the current administration will help to bolster these relationships, and create new ones, even between alumni that perhaps weren’t even at Westfield at the same time. I hope that they too, like I encourage for current Westfield students, maintain the lessons they learned from their time at Westfield, and continue to apply them to their everyday lives. I would also encourage them to visit campus sometime, to reminisce, and remember the memories they developed during their time at Westfield. I also hope that they would encourage friends and family to look at Westfield as a potential school for their children, as I have found that the relationships I developed with the teachers and students at Westfield became some of the longest-lasting and strongest that I have developed throughout my life so far. 

Joe Beideman

Interview: January 27, 2022

 

MH: Tell me briefly about your journey from Westfield Friends to today

JB: After I graduated from Westfield Friends, I went to Moorestown Friends. I’m still best friends with my 6 best friends from high school. After Moorestown Friends, I went to Elon University. I majored in business management and minored in finance. I felt like the business management major would be general enough to give me lots of options after graduation. The finance minor has been very helpful in my current job. 

 

I graduated from Elon in May 2019 and got a job at a technology startup in Philadelphia. When that company was acquired, I left to work for a venture capital firm. Venture capital is seeing the startup business from the other side. It's been awesome to see an array of ideas in my position and how to decide exactly which was to make an investment in. My company invests in mobility startups, including electric vehicles and autonomous technology. Typically, we’d like to see proof of concept and then help scale up the business. Eventually I plan on joining my family’s business in the automotive industry, so my current experience will be beneficial in the long term. 

 

MH: What are the two or three events, people, experiences you most remember from your Westfield years?

JB:   I loved the traditions. One of these traditions was Quaker Fridays, I was a big fan of switching up the normal routine and participating with other grades. Getting to interact with older grades was always a lot of fun and a great experience. I think it may have been even better when I was an older kid mentoring younger kids. The whole dynamic of the various activities and interacting with other grades was awesome.


I really enjoyed the smaller class sizes where I got more attention from teachers. The teachers are some of my best memories. For instance in third grade, Pat Lyons and Molly Cope were an awesome team. Molly was the third grade assistant and Pat Lyons was the lead third grade teacher. We used to write creative stories every week and read them in front of the class. I remember being “forced'' to be creative and then having to stand up and read. Both aspects were out of my comfort zone, but I still have this memory of enjoying both.


Mrs. Culcasi was the 7th grade assistant teacher. I credit her with helping me with improving my command of grammar. I had always struggled with it and she somehow made learning grammar fun (a previously impossible task). She helped make it more enjoyable and in the process, I became a better writer. One of my co-workers mentioned that he thought I was a really good writer - it's nice to think Mrs. Culcasi’s work paid off.


MH: How do the values you learned in WFS continue to shape your life and the way you make choices for yourself?

JB:  I think that one thing that stands out for me is Meeting for Worship. I can’t sit still – I have been walking and talking through our interview. As I get older, reflecting on the good and bad of our days or even life in general is really helpful. I always understood this was what I was gaining from Meeting for Worship. I didn’t love it at the time, but now at least once a week I try to reflect (even if it’s not sitting down). 

 

Learning how to interact with my teachers and developing relationships with them continues to shape me. I learned how to develop relationships with teachers, students, and co-workers. For instance, I understood that my Elon professors' office hours were there for me and I took advantage of them.  I think this understanding began at Westfield. The small school, personal relationships were what I sought and appreciated at Westfield, Moorestown Friends, and eventually Elon. Personal relationships are one of the more important factors in my life and I try to continue to work and develop them every day. 

 

MH: What do you hope for Westfield students today?

JB: When I was younger, I was definitely on the shy side. My Westfield teachers encouraged me to be curious, ask questions, speak up, share my ideas, and take risks. I hope that Westfield students today have the sorts of relationships with their teachers that help them take risks and try things that might feel uncomfortable at first (or even the second and third times!) Some of my greatest successes in life have come from taking an uncomfortable step into something new.

Kera Armstrong
Interview: December 9, 2021
 
Margaret Haviland spoke with Alumni Kera Armstrong ‘96 about her journey from her days as a student at Westfield Friends School to her life today.
 

MH: Tell me briefly about your journey from Westfield Friends to today.
KA:  I grew up in Delran. My family owns Jim’s Harbor Deli and Lawn & Garden Center on River Road so Westfield was close to home. I started at WFS in Kindergarten. After WFS I went to Bishop Eustace and had four great years. I then went on to St. Joseph’s University where I majored in Political Science, met my husband, and made some connections and relationships that led me to an 18+ year career in communications, so far. 

After college, I spent about 12 years with a public relations firm in Philadelphia where I worked on reputation management and crisis communications efforts for corporations, non-profits, coalitions and more. Currently, I work at Comcast where I am Vice President of Internal Communications helping to lead our company-wide employee engagement efforts. Our group is responsible for communicating the company's business priorities and culture to all of our 100,000+ employees. Always important, this work took on even greater urgency when so many employees shifted to working from home within the last two years. Maintaining company culture and connection to the mission needs extra attention when in the midst of so much change. Equally, it’s vital to keep employees who need to be out in the community safe and feeling well taken care of. The work our technicians have been doing became especially critical when so many shifted to learning, working, and connecting through technology from home. We focused on making sure everyone understood how to work safely with new protocols. Just as important, we are communicating with them all the time and letting them know how much of a difference they are making for our customers at this moment. 

I am proud to work for a company whose mission is “Bringing people the moments that matter the most”. As a company, we are very focused on innovating for our customers and anticipating their needs. I also work with an incredible and talented team, who really cares about our employees and doing excellent work. 

MH: I know that you credit Mr. Probsting with your coming to Westfield and setting you on your life path. 
KA: Mr. Probsting had a profound impact on me and the course of my life. He would drive past my parents’ garden center all the time. He got to know my parents and me and made it possible for me to come to Westfield. He helped my parents see what Westfield could do for me. And I firmly believe that spending K – 8 there gave me the foundation to do well in many phases of my life, both personally and professionally.

I have so many fond memories of Westfield. The Christmas holiday was always a favorite time of mine at school and I loved being a part of our annual play, practicing the music in music class, and being creative in art class with Mrs. Vollmer. My parents still have many of the tree ornaments I made in those classes and every year when we trim the tree they point them out. Our favorite is a grandfather clock with a little mouse on it that I made in fourth or fifth grade. 

I also really fondly remember Mr. Probsting clicking through his once a month Art History presentation during Meeting. He showed us so many things that I had never seen before and he loved helping us see the beauty in the world.

I always felt like Mr. Probsting was looking out for me even after I graduated. I remember calling upon him to help me with a high school art history paper on the concept of anthropomorphism, after I graduated from Westfield. He was always there when I needed support and he cared about us as whole people, not just students. I feel really grateful for all that he and Westfield has done for me. 


MH: How do the values you learned in school continue to shape your life and the way you make choices for yourself?
KA: I’m not sure where best to start, but I think I have a lot of curiosity about things - learning about new things especially - and I believe that was really nurtured at Westfield through many things like our school field trips and the plays we put on every year. Our teachers always encouraged us to ask questions and to be thoughtful and considerate. And we spent time on music, art, language, and meditation, which has really stuck with me. I recall we wrote our own play in 4th grade - the “Smoke Free Class of 2000” - which was a pretty fun and ambitious thing to do as a 4th grader! I also remember our trips to New York, Washington, D.C. and Williamsburg - the first time I had been to those places. 

I also think my lifelong love of words and writing started at WFS. This love has informed my entire career … my work at Comcast included. Every teacher challenged and guided me in different but important ways, and I can still name all of them. I genuinely felt seen and loved throughout my whole time at WFS. And I came to value the importance of community there. 

While I am not a member of any faith community, starting my school day with Meeting for Worship meant a great deal to me. When my friends today talk about their kids going to Quaker schools and the Meeting for Worship experience, I always jump in and talk about how much it means to me still - sitting with myself in silence and yet being present with my community at the same time. 

And who can forget about Field Day and Quaker Fridays! They were always fun and it brought the whole community together.

MH: What do you hope for Westfield students today?
KA: It’s such a complicated time to be growing up and to be a student, but I really hope they have as good and familial an experience as I had at WFS. I hope they will look back after 20 years and see how Westfield set them up for a great, bright future and happy life. I talk about this with my parents all of the time. I had so many wonderful relationships with teachers starting on my first day in Kindergarten to my last day in 8th grade. 

Klein Aleardi '08Interview: December 7, 2021

Margaret Haviland had the opportunity to connect via Zoom with Klein Aleardi ‘08 and chat about her experiences as a student at Westfield Friends School and how it has impacted her life today. 
 

MH: Tell me briefly about your journey from Westfield Friends to today.
KA:
  After Westfield, I attended Moorestown Friends for High School. Then, I went to New York University where I majored in Journalism and Africana Studies. NYU requires all Journalism majors to complete a second major, the idea being that you learn how to report, but also learn about a beat you can report on.

Today, I’m the Digital Editor at SJ Magazine, where I produce and edit two video series, run the e-mail program and will be launching a new podcast next year. The magazine is run by my family, so I have been working there on and off since 7th grade, when I would write calendar entries in my parents’ makeshift office in the attic. After graduating from NYU, I worked at SJ Magazine writing web stories and running social media. I then returned to New York for a marketing job and left that company to work for the magazine again in Fall 2019, with a plan to move to Philadelphia sometime the next year. 

My plan was moved up when the pandemic hit. When everything shut down, the magazine began to add more digital content and we ventured more into video. I produced and edited video interviews with local health professionals, business owners, and with Governor Phil Murphy, which we shared on our Facebook page. That summer, I produced a gardening series hosted by my mom and Moorestown’s Toni Farmer called “The Goal is to Become a Gardener.” 

This summer we published the second season of “The Goal is to Become a Gardener.” I also hosted a series with my co-worker called “It’s a South Jersey Summer.” We completed a swamp ropes course, put together a South Jersey brewery tour, and brought viewers along as we tried lots of other South Jersey experiences. Next up, we’re working on a podcast that I’ll host with my co-worker. We’ll be talking with professionals about their career journey. Our first guests are a food writer from Collingswood and the VP of Marketing/Media for the Philadelphia Eagles (since my father grew up in South Philly, we’re BIG Eagles fans). The first episode premieres January 5th.  

When I was younger, my mom’s career as a journalist piqued my interest in writing and reporting, but the job of video producer/editor/on-air talent looked very different from what it is today. I actually used to think a producer really didn’t do much, that it was just a fancy title. And podcasts barely existed. Luckily, I sort of fell into this line of work and it’s quickly become a passion of mine. 

MH: Currently you are the Digital Editor at SJ Magazine? What drew you to this field (besides your parents)
KA: Why journalism -  Early in college, I realized that I wanted to tell stories. Specifically, I wanted to tell other people’s stories. I’ve realized now how much of a role WFS played in developing my love for storytelling. There was so much of it: everyone participated in their grade’s play, we had regular storytimes in the library, they were even baked into our lesson plans. It was natural to move from listening to stories to acting out stories to writing them.

MH: What are the two or three events, people, experiences you most remember from your Westfield years?
KA: If we had more time, I could definitely name every teacher, plus a project we worked on, in each grade. 

Mr. Probsting played a huge role in my time at WFS. In 7th and 8th grades, I took his honors math class with five or six other students. It was such a unique and special experience to have grown up with him as our principal and then to take his class and have conversations with him. I think I felt grown-up when that happened. Math was my best subject through grade school, then in high school, it wasn’t. Maybe that had something to do with Mr. Probsting. 

Of course one of the biggest parts of WFS was Quaker Fridays - getting to spend time with kids of all ages and stepping outside of your comfort zone to get to know your peers. To this day, 50 to 60 percent of the ornaments on my parents’ Christmas tree come from our time at WFS. My art teacher was Mrs. Vollmer, whose grandchildren also went to school with us (her granddaughter, Paige Propp, was in my sister’s grade). 

The teachers at WFS left a lasting impression on me and my family. My mother always tells the story of how my second-grade teacher, Mrs. Martino, would give each of her students a hug at the end of the day. We still hear from Mrs. Martino today. There’s something very comforting about remembering that 2nd-grade experience. 

I was lucky enough to have Mrs. Parry as my 3rd grade and my 7th-grade teacher. I remember in 7th grade, at the end of the day, she would play music and we would all dance. At that point we had been together for nine years, so we could all be silly with each other and ignore some of those self-conscious feelings that come with middle school. 

MH: How do the values you learned in WFS continue to shape your life and the way you make choices for yourself?
KA: Aside from my interest in storytelling, I also realized that the way I interact with people came from my time at WFS. I learned to treat people with kindness and to make people feel included. It’s interesting though because I can’t point to a single moment or class. It’s something that’s baked into everything at WFS - like learning a language, you just live it. 

MH: What do you hope for Westfield students today?
KA: I didn’t realize until recently how much the WFS community was intertwined with my own community. I have three older cousins who went to WFS and my two younger sisters attended also. I was visiting the campus and attending school plays from when I was a baby. My grandparents lived around the corner (they lived in the house at the back left corner of the playing field) and my sisters and I would stay with them sometimes and then they would walk us to school the next morning. I want others to have the same experience of that close-knit community. Especially in middle school, WFS didn’t have the same feeling of cliques that many schools can have. We had been together for so long, we had grown up together, at the core we were all friends. 

Nicole Jung
Interview: June 14, 2021
 
Margaret Haviland had the opportunity to speak with Nicole Jung '20 about her experience as a student at Westfield Friends School and how it has impacted her life today.
 

MH: Tell me briefly about your journey from Westfield Friends School to today.
NJ: In three words my transition from WFS to MFS in the middle of the pandemic was chaotic, an experience, and fun. I really like how many extracurricular activities there are at MFS. While field hockey wasn’t available, I did a woodworking class last year and made my first box. I was really interested in it. The Teachers are really kind. I felt well-prepared by WFS. Mrs. Parry’s teaching me how to write helped a lot. The Quaker values learned at WFS set me up for Quakerism at MFS. For example, the topic was Equality and we would watch a video and then we would write about our opinion. Mrs. Parry demonstrated the Quaker SPICES more than talking about them. In Math, I was switched to honors Geometry!  MFS is a Physics-first school. I wasn’t as interested in physics as other subjects, but I did learn many new concepts.

MH: What interests you the most to study now or look forward to doing in your future?
NJ: This past year, History was my favorite subject. US History was great. I was able to apply what I learned at WFS to what I learned at MFS. We hopped between topics and managed to get as far as WWII. Next year I am taking World History. I didn’t take Art this year, I took Computer Science and Model UN instead. Model UN boosted my speaking confidence. In the future I want very much to take art and literary magazine; I want to be one of the artists exhibiting. I am taking Chemistry over the summer. Next year I will take Acting as a minor.

MH: What are the two or three events, people, experiences you most remember from your Westfield years?

NJ: I remember Teacher Deborah’s Looking at Art slideshows. I loved the exposure to other artists, places, and seeing the work as inspiration for my work.

 

I loved all the plays. In 3rd grade, our play was about how Thanksgiving was canceled when the turkeys went on strike. I was the dwarf “Happy” from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in another play. Miss Lyons was our teacher for that play. In 5th grade, we put on Charlie Brown’s Thanksgiving and I was a minor character.  In 7th grade, our play was focused on Physics and I was “Normal Force” the motion that pushes objects up. I remember we choose the roles by picking names out of a hat.  No one wanted the main role.

In 8th grade, we put on Christmas with the Cranks. I was the daughter and had a lovely solo “I’ll Be Home For Christmas”

I loved Field Day. I am on the blue team. I liked that we trained for Field Day and cheered on our friends regardless of whether they were Garnet or Blue. 

MH: How do the values you learned at WFS continue to shape your life and the way you make choices for yourself?
NJ:  I learned to think of myself as a member of a community. Learning to work together as a community helped me work on a float at MFS. I feel like Equality was another value I explored and made my own. At MFS I was able to bring my belief in equality with me to my discussions in Quakerism, Diversity Club, American History, and Model UN.

MH: What do you hope for Westfield students today?
NJ: I hope they are able to bring their hopes and dreams and values into their new high school life.

Westfield was a great experience. I miss everyone here. I held WFS within my heart all through my first year in high school.

Ethan BirchardInterview: February 4, 2021
 
Margaret Haviland had the opportunity to speak with Ethan Birchard '91 about his journey from his days as a student at Westfield Friends School to his life today.
 

MH: Tell me briefly about your journey from Westfield Friends School to today.
I went from Westfield to Friends Select in Philadelphia and graduated in 1995. I was given a choice between Friends Select and Cinnaminson High, and my parents pointed out that FSS would have more diversity than CH, which appealed to me. Both my parents worked in the city, so they dropped me off at school in the morning, and then I would ride the bus home after practice, through Camden to River Road. There I would walk the ½ mile down the dirt lane to the farmhouse where I grew up. My parents promoted independence: almost as soon as I started playing soccer at age 7, I would walk from WFS to soccer practice at Wood Park. I still remember the clacking sound my cleats made as I walked down those sidewalks.

I liked Friends Select, although adolescence hit me hard in 9th grade and my first couple years there were challenging. But by my junior and senior years, I had a great experience. I had excellent Math and English teachers, and a couple of great varsity soccer and baseball seasons where I was able to take a leadership role on our teams.

After Friends Select I went to Amherst College, graduating with the class of 1999. There were so many opportunities at Amherst, and I made lifelong friends there. I arrived with this conviction that I was going to learn useful things, so for instance I took Chinese for two years. I double-majored in English and Computer Science, and while Comp Sci was very concrete, in English my version of “useful” was the novel I wrote as my senior thesis. I had a wonderful work-study job in a local daycare throughout all four years at Amherst. Much later, I went back to school and earned a Masters Degree in Fiction Writing at the New School.

I began my career as a consultant and programmer in Silicon Valley, ultimately moving into IT management and leadership roles. More recently, I made the shift from IT to Finance. I now work for a sustainable investment firm, Prentiss Smith & Co. Along with leading our Marketing and Business Development efforts, I spearhead our growing corporate engagement around environmental and social issues. The conversations we have with massive, global corporations, using our leverage as investors, have shown me that we can be effective partners to consumer movements, boycotts, protests, and political activism as we push for change.

MH: What are the two or three events, people, experiences you most remember from your Westfield years?
I still sometimes list in my head my 8th-grade classmates, some of whom I remain in contact with on social media. We had a great class, and I still have fond memories of all of them. Every class has a reputation; our class seemed to be known as a “good” class. We got along well with each other, and by eighth grade, we felt like quite a band.

There’s so much to remember. There were Quaker Fridays; recently I was thinking about the scavenger hunt. We hunted for 4-leaf clovers in the cemetery, which was usually off-limits. In extended day, we would sometimes dare each other to run around the school and through the cemetery, which was very taboo.

In our eighth grade production of “A Christmas Carol,” I was Tiny Tim. I had secretly planned to throw my crutches down as I said my final line, but in the end, I didn’t have the courage for it. Holidays were always an exciting time at Westfield. Every year Mr. Probsting took a group of one or two kids from each grade to go cut a Christmas tree, and I got chosen when I was still quite young. That was very memorable.

The summer after my senior year at FSS, I took my girlfriend to see WFS one night. In the back by the cemetery, I found an open window, and we climbed through. I took her on a midnight tour of the school, which was a thrill until we saw the reflection of blue and red lights on the ceiling of the auditorium. A police car was outside! We ran back the way we’d come and crept out the same window, darting from bush to bush through the cemetery and away from the school building. Eventually, we reached some dark bushes, where we crouched while she whispered how angry she was with me. Miraculously, the police never found us, and her car was still where we’d left it in the parking lot when we finally circled back to it after they’d left.

MH: How do the values you learned at Westfield Friends School continue to shape your life and the way you make choices for yourself?
I got a wonderful early education, especially from Mrs. Holcombe in Kindergarten, Mrs. Callahan in Second Grade, and Mrs. Goerke in Third Grade. And I had this strong, consistent experience of community, which was a huge part of being at WFS. The close community was expressed through small class sizes, and through how many of us were there for seven, eight, nine, or more years. It was also in the details, like the way we would sing two songs every morning, every day. Later I sang at Quaker Camp, and now I still sing to my kids every night even as they’re getting older (4 and 7).

When kids are fortunate enough to feel safe, I think they’re freer to learn and more willing to take risks. For me, being grounded in a community like WFS was invaluable in forming an ability to strike out on adventures, like moving across the country without a job to ultimately become part of the first Silicon Valley boom, to starting and running my own digital consulting business for many years, to the year my now-wife and I spent living abroad in Guatemala and China, to long wilderness trips and marathon running, and the ongoing adventure of fiction writing. In the end, I’ve had the great privilege to be shaped by these experiences, but without a strong social and emotional foundation, I still might have lacked the courage to tackle them, or the mindfulness to truly live them as they came.

Samantha Bastien
Interview: January 6, 2021
 
Margaret Haviland had the opportunity to speak with Samantha Bastien '16 about her journey from her days as a student at Westfield Friends School to her life today.
 
 

 

MH: Tell me briefly about your journey from Westfield Friends to today.
SBMy home is in Hainesport, New Jersey. I have been in Friends schools since I was three. Syracuse University is the first non-Quaker school I have ever attended. In third grade, I moved from another Friends school to Westfield Friends School. It was a very smooth transition. I had the same easy transition from Westfield to Moorestown Friends School, where I went to high school. Like Westfield, Moorestown had Meeting for Worship, queries were an important part of our learning, and the values of Peace, Simplicity, Equality, Integrity, Community, and Stewardship shaped both schools. 

 

My foundation at Westfield made the move academically smooth too. At Moorestown, I took lots of math and physics. I applied to colleges all over the country. But due to COVID-19 I decided to limit my final choice to a school close enough for me to drive to in a few hours.  Syracuse’s virtual admissions process went well. I felt that if they did this well, then by the time I got to school in the fall they would be ready to handle the in-person college during the pandemic. My expectations have held up for Syracuse.

MH: What interests you the most to study now or look forward to doing in your future?
SBI am a computer science major.  Syracuse has core requirements for all students. To satisfy one of my core classes, I took sociology. I really like it!  I believe it's important for a STEM major like me to have a background in the Social Sciences. STEM people make the stuff for people which means you really need to know about people. I think you need to know how society works and how people work and what they need.

 

In high school, my big passion was current events, which I pursued through the Mock Primary and Model UN. So far in college, I have joined the National Society of Black Engineers. Looking ahead, I may join the pre-law group, a professional fraternity. I want to continue to work on presenting arguments well.

My biggest take away from my first college semester is that we have to learn to be adaptive, none of us are in control. My friend circle in college is limited to people in my dorm as we aren’t allowed in other people's dorms. The QUAD has been too cold since mid-fall for sitting outside, getting to know new people. I know I am not getting the whole winter experience this year as we have been home since Thanksgiving and won’t return to campus until February. 

I like the city of Syracuse a lot. It's a small city, not like Philly. It has a more suburban feel when you walk off campus for apple picking. It's just like South Jersey apple picking.

MH: What are the two or three events, people, experiences you most remember from your Westfield years?
SBQuaker Fridays were one of my favorite things. I enjoyed the once a month change of pace and chance to be with the whole community. The mixed age groups were great. I know I enjoyed it more as a younger student. Looking back, the younger students had all the fun without the responsibility. As an eighth grader, we were responsible for the younger students. I remember it being nerve wracking to guide younger children in carving pumpkins safely. That responsibility made it less free and joyful. I loved the annual scavenger hunt and the picnic that happened at the end. I remember dying and hiding eggs for the Easter Egg Hunt. 

 

I loved the class plays. In High School, plays were optional. At Westfield, each class play, and the time we put into rehearsing, helped prepare me for speaking in public. One of my favorite roles was as Nick Bottom in Shakespeare’s  A Mid Summer’s Night’s Dream.  I carried my confidence built through these experiences into high school where I joined Model UN and the Mock Primary. For the Mock Primary I spoke in front of 300 high school students. 

My favorite teachers include Mrs. Martino from 4th grade. I still talk to her once or twice a year. She tutored me in high school. From Mrs. Parry, I learned to approach current events with a critical eye and open mind.

MH: How do the values you learned in WFS continue to shape your life and the way you make choices for yourself?
SB: These values, I learned from an early age, continue to shape my life greatly. Prior to Westfield, I was very quiet and shy. Equality, integrity, justice, community, peace, stewardship of our natural world are foundational for me. Westfield taught me that I need to stand up and speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. When you are silent, nothing gets done.

 

MH: What do you hope for Westfield students today?
SB: I hope they have the same values instilled in them that serve me. I want them to discover their voice. I want them to test their values and graduate with their moral compass firmly in place. I also want them to learn new things they love, and to have fun.

 

MH: What do you hope for Westfield alums when they think about WFS?
SB: I hope they remember all the good times we had at Westfield. My classmates were a group of 20 people, very passionate about at least 20 different things. We had fun together. We argued with each other. We learned to listen to each other. For those who have children, I hope they will send their children to Westfield, I want Westfield to have a robust enrollment.

Udai Singh '17
 
Interview: December 21, 2020
 
Margaret Haviland had the opportunity to speak with Udai Singh '17 about his journey from his days as a student at Westfield Friends School to his life today.
 
 

 

MH: Tell me briefly about your journey from Westfield Friends to today.
US:  I am a senior at Lenape High School. Before coming to Westfield for Middle School, I was in public school. My parents heard about Westfield and asked me what I thought about it. I applied and was accepted. I think the transition was weird at first. Who chooses to move schools in Middle School! But I know it's one of the best decisions me and my parents have made.

It was a Big adjustment to go from small Westfield Friends School to large Lenape High. Westfield Friends is a really close knit environment. Because it was small, I really settled into the school routine quickly. This even included Wednesday Meeting for Worship. As a Sikh, Meeting was a new experience for me.  

Westfield's size gave you the ability to build community and get  to know people and have a sense of intimacy even in larger settings like all-school Meeting for Worship.  

I had public school and neighborhood friends from before Westfield who I was with again in high school. But it was still like starting over in Lenape. I found new friend groups. Westfield encouraged me to get out of my bubble and be open to new sorts of people. Because of what I learned at Westfield I found it possible to build relationships and community in my larger high school.

I think a lot about what I would be like if I hadn’t gone to Westfield Friends.  Westfield really emphasized kindness and simplicity. Westfield made these values really easy to practice and encouraged me to talk things through and listen to others. I think this was much easier to learn at Westfield than in a larger setting.

MH: What interests you the most to study now or look forward to doing in your future?
US: I am still waiting to hear from all the colleges I have applied to. Maybe I will be in Massachusetts, maybe Michigan. I am originally from Grand Rapids, MI.  I play ice hockey and think playing on a club team or recreational team might be fun. I also play golf! Sports will be a part of my college experience but playing interscholastic sports would be tough. 

In High School, the most interesting classes are some of the ones I work hardest in such as Math and Science. They  always provide challenges to me. With Math I enjoy having to get creative in approaches to solving problems. 

My love for English started at Westfield Friends. I was a terrible writer before meeting Mrs. (Valerie) Parry. She helped me grow and think differently about my approach to writing. Before I was trying to write in a very formulaic, uniform style without connecting my ideas. She suggested “Why don’t you write the way you speak”.  I found my voice and expressed it in my writing. I love that in English class nothing is in black and white. A lot of books I read in high school, I first read with Mrs. Parry in 7th & 8th grade like Lord of the Flies or Midsummers Night's Dream. We also read Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice and I remember Mrs. Parry asking us to consider anti-semitism in England at the time Shakespeare was writing the play. She encouraged us to think about context even as we connected the text to our own lives. This year I am reading Hamlet in English and it really resonates with me. 

For college I am looking for a really strong English Program. I love reading and want to continue to grow as a writer. I will also want to continue to take more Math. After college I intend to go to Law School.

MH: What are the two or three events, people, experiences you most remember from your Westfield years?
US: Everyone I met at Westfield Friends School, I admire. Every teacher helped me as an individual learner. To this day, I can text Mrs. Parry and Mrs. Peak with a question and they will respond with an answer or a suggestion for how I can find my own answer.  My best friend, to this day, is someone I met my first day at Westfield Friends. 

I remember loving Quaker Fridays. They are some of my biggest memories. I loved being together in groups with kids of all ages. These cross grade groups helped keep me young and see that even a PreK student had something important for me to hear. These cross grade days encouraged me to always keep an open mind. One Quaker Friday we started working on arcade games and each group had to figure out how to build and create a game. My group created an air hockey game out of cardboard. It was a lot of fun. The younger members of our group had really creative ideas for us to put into place.

MH: How do the values you learned in WFS continue to shape your life and the way you make choices for yourself?
US: One of the most important ideas was that of discussion. This is SO important, especially today. All of our Westfield classes, including Math and Science, were discussion based. We talked through ideas, and teachers encouraged our curious natures. I learned how my (our) perspective changes through discussion, through listening. These experiences helped make me who I am today--willing to voice my opinions and to listen to others with an open mind.

MH: What do you hope for Westfield students today?
US: I hope kids learn that stepping out of their comfort zone is one of the most important things they can do.  Meeting for Worship was a foreign concept to me. First there was the sitting in silence and waiting… for something. Then there was listening to other people’s messages. I was inspired to start speaking in Meeting which took courage and helped others get to know another side of me ...my inner voice.

I hope Westfield kids stay young and maintain their youth. There are so many pressures to grow up fast. I remember every detail down to a T and stay nostalgic for what I had at Westfield. 

Will Coleman

 

Margaret Haviland had the opportunity to speak with Will Coleman about his journey from his days as a student at Westfield Friends School to his life today.

 

MH: Tell me briefly about your journey from Westfield Friends to today.
WC:   Westfield Friends, which I attended from Kindergarten through 7th grade as a member of the class of ‘99, shaped my life in unexpected ways and instilled empathy. I’m now a curator and art historian specializing in 19th-century American landscape art. As Director of Collections & Exhibitions for The Olana Partnership, I oversee the curatorial and research enterprises for the 90,000 object permanent collection and iconic buildings of the artist Frederic Edwin Church’s 250-acre estate in Hudson, New York, working closely with the New York State Parks system.  

This has been a dream job after a winding path through teaching and museums: sharing the stories of a global collection of art and artifacts, formed and used by one of the most interesting creative minds of the 19th century, with diverse 21st-century audiences. There are unique opportunities here to understand the values of the past and the possibilities of the future.

After 7th grade, my family moved to Cambridge, Mass., where I attended a mainstream independent school that was quite a bit less nurturing than WFS.  Upon graduation, I promptly returned to the Philadelphia area and Quaker education to attend Haverford College. I studied art history there and in a master’s at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London, followed by a master’s in musicology at Oxford and completed my formal studies with a Ph.D. in art history at Berkeley in 2015. While there was a fair bit of pure research and teaching along the way, the social role and potential wider impact of museums long beckoned so I’m delighted to have landed at a particularly unique American museum. 

MH: What are the two or three events, people, experiences you most remember from your Westfield years?
WC: Principal Bill Probsting’s regular art lectures to the full school community are still fresh in mind and had a lasting impact. I can see his laser pointer tracing out the diagonals of a painting’s composition from a good old fashioned slide tray in the auditorium. Other memories include Mrs. Chesson’s 6th-grade class visit to a mosque during Ramadan, where the kind and welcoming members of the community prepared a lunch for us they could not enjoy themselves at that time of day. Long before it was fashionable, that class had a powerful inoculation against the racism and xenophobia of the early 2000s. 

I have warm memories of the physical campus and appreciate the incredible socio-cultural diversity of my class of 24 students. There are clear and fond memories of the meetinghouse, where I spent Sundays too as a member of the First Day School class. I have continued to be involved in Quaker organizations as a member of Moorestown Monthly Meeting and of the Advisory Committee of the Corporation of Haverford College. Intriguingly, there’s lots of Quaker history close at hand in this neck of the woods. Hudson, NY was founded by Quakers and still has a vibrant community. 

MH: How do the values you learned in school continue to shape your life and the way you make choices for yourself?
WC: The values that Westfield instilled are so deep-seated and so central to my character that it’s a challenge to spell them out. I learned compassionate awareness of my own privilege in a remarkably diverse community, even then, patience in decision making, working to make sure every voice is heard because there is that of God in all, and the overarching mission of practicing peace and tolerance. 

MH: What do you hope for Westfield students today?
WC:  I hope that they can return to in-person learning in a difficult time because there is no substitute for the physical environment I remember so fondly. Until then, I hope that the technological tools will help students to enjoy a powerful sense of community like I experienced, even if remotely. 

MH: What do you hope for Westfield alums as they think about Westfield today?
WC: I am still in touch with some friends from Westfield, and would like to be in touch with more. There have been unexpected encounters in years since, like bumping into Andrea Horbinski ‘99 in the stacks of the central library at Berkeley, where it turned out she was pursuing a Ph.D. in East Asian Studies. I am proud to see peers going on to fulfilling careers of purpose. Westfield is precious for the rare intimacy that makes it potentially fragile, even in the best of times, and deserves our special care in 2020.  It is really the perfect school environment imaginable for a certain kind of learner and I’m so grateful that my sister Anne ‘01 and I had the ability to grow in that special community.

David Beal and childrenMargaret Haviland had the opportunity to speak with alumni David Beal ‘89 about his journey from his days as a student at Westfield Friends School to his life today.

MH: Tell me briefly about your journey from Westfield Friends to today.
DB: I came to WFS in second grade with my sister, Christy ‘86. There were 19 in my graduating class at WFS. Most of my class was together for the entire ten years. A few kids came in 7th grade from Haddonfield Friends.  I graduated from Westfield and went to Moorestown High School with six or seven of my WFS classmates. After high school, I was only ever back in the area for short visits. For instance, I was back for two weeks over Christmas to help my parents pack up the house.  

My parents still live in Moorestown in our old family home. They were very involved with Mt. Laurel Monthly Meeting helping with the landscaping and redoing the furnace and regularly attending Meeting for Worship. 

For college, I chose Miami of Ohio. I wanted a bit more rural of a setting and my mother was a graduate of the school. After a few years I bought a boat I named “SkarkBait”. Me and two friends traveled from Cincinnati on the Ohio River through the Ten Tom River and Canal system all the way to Mobile, Alabama. This was a two summer adventure. We would pull into a marina find odd jobs to cover our fuel and slip fee. I met my wife along the way. I sold the boat in Alabama. We decided to head west and bought two train tickets to Astoria, Oregon. I finished my BA degree at Portland State.  In those years our daughters Cassiopeia and son Orion were born. From Portland State, I went on to Willamette University College of Law. After law school, I practiced legal aid immigration law. After that, I did ten years as a public defender. Now I practice private criminal defense law in a small tourist town along the coast in Oregon.

MH: How did you decide what to study in college?
DB: When I was in college I went to Alaska and worked in a cannery. College was one thing but the world was the real thing. I started in physics but ended with Poli Sci and History.  I discovered I was more interested in people and their problems. I liked to debate both sides of an issue. These are good attributes for a lawyer

MH What do you like about living and working in a small town?
DB: At the moment, the stay at home order has slowed down the need for a defense lawyer. Today at noon, I had my coffee in my car looking at the ocean. A  person knocked on my window. It was this homeless lady who has been my client. I didn’t give her money but I did load her and all of her belongings into my car. I drove across town to the grocery store and helped her with groceries, ripping my pants in the process. Small towns give me the chance to know those in my community. 

David Beal and alums
MH: What are the two or three events, people, experiences you most remember from your Westfield years?
DB: I remember going on a field trip to Independence Hall. We were assigned roles for and against the revolution. I was a pro-England farmer. I loved it. While in middle school the US celebrated the 200th year of the Constitution. This celebration was so important to me and the choices I made about my work. Who knows, maybe I got stuck in the 1780s.

Mr. Probsting was our principal. He had this marble machine in his office. I always wanted to play with it, but the only times I was in his office, I was in trouble so I never got to play with the machine. 

I remember loving second grade. Mrs. Callahan was great and would do art history lessons with us. Then in third grade, we started having art history slides on Mondays. Mr. Probsting would bring in a tray of slides and teach us to see. I remember one spring day he had a whole wheel of wildflower slides.

Mrs.Califf was our fifth-grade teacher; she moved with us up to seventh and then eighth grades. She knew us so well and we knew what she expected of us. She was tolerant of our 8th-grade swagger. By the end of the year, we were calling her Betty Ann and we were calling Mr. Probsting, Bill. He did not appreciate this. 

For my Eagle Scout project, I painted the windows outside of 3rd and 4th grades.

David Beral '89MH: How do the values you learned in school continue to shape your life and the way you make choices for yourself?
DB: I discovered from my teachers that I like having to argue. To make a good case, I have to listen carefully to the other sides; I learned how to do this at Westfield.  Equality is also important to me. I have to deal with all kinds of people in my work. I try to treat everyone with the same respect. 

I learned that it is a gift to be simple; to live a simple life. For instance, I drive an old car with more than 280,000 miles on it. In this car, I am comfortable picking up hitchhikers and homeless people. And they are comfortable getting into my car. The Pacific Northwest is damp and rainy but not bitter cold. This is one reason for the high number of homeless people. One-third of my caseload in the public defender's office were homeless or mental health cases. I didn’t study mental health in college or law school.  I didn’t anticipate the mental health aspect of being a public defender but it became a specialty for me. Other public defenders would trade cases with me to give me their mental health clients.

MH: What do you hope for Westfield students today?
DB: I think of WFS as a safe little place to start the world from. I hope they experience it as I did, comfortable and homey.  I hope they take this sense of friendship and comfort with them when they venture out beyond WFS. I hope they come to love the history of the school and the palpable sense of connection to the past, present, and future.

 
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Margaret Haviland had the opportunity to speak with alumna Angela Garcia ‘80 about her days as a student at Westfield Friends School and the ways her education has carried her through her life.

 

MH: Tell me briefly about your journey from Westfield Friends School to today.
AG: My parents enrolled my older sister in Woodbury Friends because they thought a Quaker school would be a good partner in the education of their children. Eventually, she went to Haddonfield Friends and I joined her there when I was in first grade. In third grade, my parents moved me to Westfield Friends School. Margaret Lord was my teacher. French was my favorite subject and I have fond memories of singing in French with our French teacher who played the guitar. It was in third grade my love for French began. At WFS, I learned to love sports, especially field hockey which I played throughout middle school and high school.

I graduated from Brown University, where I pursued political science but developed a love for teaching. Between my sophomore and junior years in college, I had this summer job tutoring newly accepted students to Trenton State. I was horrified that these young people who were just a few years younger than me had not received the education I had. That experience inspired me to become an elementary teacher and determined to give all of my future students an educational experience similar to what I had at Westfield Friends School. As I advanced in my career and school leadership roles, I knew that if I was ever given the opportunity, I would lead a Friends School. After a career in education, I now lead Friends Community School in College Park, Maryland.

MH: What are the two or three events, people, or experiences you most remember from your Westfield years?
AG: I have so many vivid memories. I remember WFS being diverse and that there were at least six students of color in my class from third grade to sixth grade. It was nice to see my reflection in the faces of some of my classmates. 

Mrs. Stanley was my fourth-grade teacher. In her class, we created books about our goals and aspirations for the future. My mother kept that book until she died and I have it now. Some of those early plans have come true. In fifth grade, we did research on historical figures. I selected Amelia Earhart, who I researched and I remember we had to assume the role and dress like our research subjects. In sixth grade, I had Bill Probsting. Mr. Probsting fostered my love of current events. We had subscriptions to Newsweek. On Mondays, he would give each of us an individualized list of names and countries. We each had to write our own summaries of what we learned. I think I ended up majoring in Political Science because of that weekly research. 

I was very shy as a child. All of the performances and speeches we had to give were so important in developing my self-confidence. 

MH: How do the values you learned in school continue to shape your life and the way you make choices for yourself?
AG: Meeting for Worship meant so much to me. Every Wednesday, the whole school went to the Meeting House for worship in the manner of Friends. We gathered in silence and waited for the spirit to move different people (including children) to share messages. The other days we gathered in the auditorium with Bible reading and chapter book reading. All of my life I have carried with me this appreciation for quietness and the importance of reflection. 

I have been really blessed in my career. When I was looking for where to lead, I was drawn to a Quaker School because the values I learned at Westfield Friends School were so important to me personally and professionally. There is something powerful in being able to talk with children about the Divine and that of God in all of us.  Now I am honored to be head of a Friends school, Friends Community School in College Park, MD.

For thee years, I examined ways in which education could change in order to prepare children for a “VUCA”  world, which stands for volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. The term aptly describes the world we live in (even before the COVID-19 pandemic. I know a Quaker education gives children and adults a moral and intellectual grounding in this world.

MH: What do you hope for Westfield students today?
AG: I want them to enjoy every moment they are there. My other advice is don’t be comfortable, try something new!  WFS lit a passion in me and a sense of myself that remains at the core of my being. 

MH: What do you hope for Westfield alums as they think about Westfield today?
AG: I want them to appreciate the education we received and find ways to share their talents and resources with WFS.

Julie Martin '04

 

 

Margaret Haviland had the opportunity to speak with alumni Julie Martin about her journey from her days as a student at Westfield Friends School to her life today.

 

MH: Tell me briefly about your journey from Westfield Friends to today
JM: After graduating from WFS in 2004, I went to Moorestown Friends School for high school.  Then I attended Lafayette College, where I studied psychology.  After college, I went to Duke University and completed a PhD in Social Psychology in 2017. After graduating from Duke, I moved back to the area and worked as a researcher in the Office of Institutional Research and Assessment at Temple University. Now I work as a learning researcher for a leadership organization for chief executives called YPO. 

MH: What interested you in Social Psychology? 
JM: I took a class in the subject in college and was drawn to it. I was especially struck by the fundamental role that belonging plays in people’s well-being. As a student at WFS, I don’t think I realized how special it is to grow up in such a caring and supportive school environment. But as an adult, I have a deeper appreciation for WFS and for everyone who has made it the community that it is for students.   

MH: What are the two or three events, people, experiences you most remember from your Westfield years?
JM: I remember each of my teachers and appreciate the work they did every day to help us grow as students and as people. Teaching is a labor of love, and WFS teachers are the best! I remember the school plays every year and getting to help create them in the later grades. I remember going to cut the Christmas Tree one year, and I remember the specialness of the second grade Christmas Play. I remember being an angel in the nativity scene in second grade, a queen in a sixth grade interactive medieval fair, and Wendy from Peter Pan in an eighth-grade play we wrote called “Mixing it Up” (a mashup of Disney movies). I think part of what made events and experiences at WFS so special was that the whole school was involved, which created shared experiences for the community.

MH: How do the values you learned in school continue to shape your life and the way you make choices for yourself?
JM: The values I learned at WFS were embedded in the way we operated as a school, and now how I try to live my life as an adult. I think leading with kindness and acceptance is an important foundation I gained at WFS and also at home. Also, seeing the Light in everyone, especially in the moments when it’s difficult.  And I try to allow space in my life for quiet and reflection.

MH: What do you hope for Westfield students today?
JM: I hope they are equipped with tools and resilience to lead happy, productive lives. Exploration is an important part of childhood, but children need a safe base from which to explore. So I hope WFS students today feel safe to grow and explore and that they know they belong no matter what.

MH: What do you hope for Westfield alums as they think about Westfield today?
JM: I hope they remember WFS was a nice place to grow up and learn. My re-engagement with the school came about through moving back to the area and through my family’s engagement. My mother is on the development committee and my sister teaches at WFS now. I hope alums will re-engage with this place that was such a big part of our lives for so long and at such a formative time. Coming to alumni events like the recent one at Double Nickel is a great way to begin. Two of my classmates came and we had a great time. Once you go to one event, you see it’s a lot of fun, and it feels easier to go to the next one. Maybe we need to have a class connector/representative for each class who reaches out and invites alums to events or to volunteer.

Rylee Fennell '12

 

Rylee Fennell, class of 2012 and daughter of Phys Ed teacher Mrs. Fennell, accepted an offer to the University of Virginia to get her Masters in Speech and Language Pathology with a partial academic scholarship.

 

MH: Tell us briefly about your journey from Westfield Friends to today
RF: I attended Westfield from kindergarten through eighth grade (2003-2012). After graduating from WFS, I went to high school at Moorestown Friends School for the next four years. I then transitioned to Haverford College in 2016 for my undergraduate degree, which will be completed this May. Next fall, I will begin my master’s degree in speech-language pathology at the University of Virginia.

MH: What are the two or three events, people, experiences you most remember from you Westfield years?
RF: Two of my favorite memories of my time at WFS are from second and third grade. In second grade, Mrs. Martino periodically read us a book called No Flying in the House by Betty Brock. After we finished it as a class, she gave (and personally signed) a copy of the book to each student. My copy has had a permanent place in my bookshelf for the past 14 years. In third grade, Ms. Lyons played a pivotal role in developing my love of reading through her ingenious creation of the reading loft. For every book we read, we earned points that we could trade in for time to read in an elevated loft that looked over the classroom, complete with pillows and blankets. I owe my love of reading and language to Ms. Lyons and the loft.

MH: How do the values you learned in school continue to shape your life and the way make choices for yourself? 
RF: Westfield’s emphasis on Quaker values and the strength of community have impacted all aspects of my life. Westfield’s commitment to intentional reflection via Quaker traditions has enabled me to make decisions with clarity and confidence, a skill that neither comes easily nor is often taught. The school’s prioritization of community building and collaboration have shaped how I view education and ultimately played a large role in choosing where I furthered my education. I have repeatedly chosen to replicate the sense of mutual trust and respect I felt at WFS in all relationships I form, professionally and otherwise.

MH: What do you hope for Westfield alums as they think about Westfield today?
RF: I hope alums, no matter how long ago their time at WFS was, take the time to recognize how dedicated our small school is to continuously evolving to be better than it was the year before. So many advancements have been made since my time as a student, and more will undoubtedly occur. One constant that I hope they see regardless of these improvements is that their mission remains the same: to guide students into becoming their best version of themselves, inside and out of the classroom, through kindness, commitment, and reflection. 

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