Nicole Vanasse '20 leads Big Blue to another impressive showing.
The Bhavnani family has been involved with Pingry squash programs for over 10 years, so a gift to support the construction of eight squash courts in the new Miller A. Bugliari ’52 Athletics Center (BAC) was an exciting prospect. “Our oldest two boys, Shivan and Avinash, initially played tennis,” explains Anita Bhavnani P ’09, ’11, ’18. “But once they found squash, they found their passion and played all throughout high school and on into college. It was only natural for our youngest, Krish, to pick up the racquet—at seven years old!”
“Our experience with the sport has been gratifying,” Anita adds. “The level of athleticism and sportsmanship that squash has imparted has had a profound influence on our children. It has taught them to train hard, to trust themselves, to reach deep, to referee fairly, and to both win and lose gracefully. . . lessons that will serve them well their whole lives.”
With Head Coach of the Boys’ Varsity Squash Team Ramsay Vehslage as a consistent driving force, Pingry's team has done very well, finishing as high as 10th in the nation at the 2017 National High School Team Championships. “On our recent college tour for Krish, we realized for the third time how highly regarded Pingry's reputation is by the college squash coaches; and this was with no home courts to practice on,” says Anita.
“From our perspective, a facility like the BAC is a huge bonus. We have a great team already and with this facility, there is no limit. We are very grateful to Pingry for providing not only great academics but for allowing the boys the opportunity to be part of the squash team and grow as sportsmen.”
One family, through their gift to the Lower School, is returning the favor—leaving a permanent testament to a Pingry teacher who has had such a positive influence on their daughter, and so many other young learners, through their gift of a named classroom.
Thanks to the recent modernization of Pingry’s Short Hills Campus, students and faculty are reaping the rewards of upgraded and flexible learning spaces and classrooms. One such room was given by Jerry Masoudi and Lisa Hamako, parents of Samantha ’27 and Gabrielle ’25. Impressed by the modernization of the School, which was already underway when their daughters first began Pingry, they decided to contribute a classroom in honor of Mrs. Kathryn Brintnall, Gabrielle’s third-grade teacher.
Mrs. Brintnall, who has retired and was traveling in Kenya at the time that the classroom was dedicated, composed a letter to express her deepest thanks for the generous gesture. “I was rendered speechless. . .It also immediately brought me to tears. . .I was so emotional because, for years, I have lived and breathed ‘teaching’ with a passion fueled by my desire to make a significant positive difference in education. But I never dreamed I would be recognized in this way. . .Our new spaces at the Lower School are truly a manifestation of many great ideas about all the different ways in which students learn.”
For Owen and Anna Ryan P ’20, the decision to give was based heavily on their daughter’s five years of experience in Pingry’s Lower, Middle, and Upper Schools.
“Since Jennifer '20 has been at Pingry, I’ve been so impressed with the mission of the school, the caliber of students I’ve met, the caring nature of the teachers, and the dedication of the administration,” says Owen, “Every day when she comes home, she likes to share what happened during the day. She feels like she’s part of the fabric of The Pingry School, so if I can give money to help the School or to allow someone else the chance to come here, I relish that opportunity.”
The Ryans have a history of philanthropy. Owen acts as Chairman of the Board for College Summit, a philanthropic organization devoted to providing college access for low-income and minority students. When it came to Pingry’s Blueprint for the Future Campaign, he says the decision to give was an easy one to make.
“We’ve supported the School through The Pingry Fund, even before the Campaign. When I read the plans for the School and what Pingry intended to accomplish, it made good sense to support that mission. Since we’re in a position to be able to support the School, my wife and I made the decision together that we would.”
Mr. Ryan adds a final note of support. “I encourage people to spend a little time with Pingry faculty, with the administration, and with some students other than your own children. You’ll find that your money is going to go to an exceptional, extraordinary use.”
Thomas Diemar ’96 and Lauren Gruel Diemar ’96 have remained connected to Pingry for most of their lives. “My two older brothers went to Pingry,” says Thomas, “So when I left Far Hills [Country Day School], it was pretty high on my list.” Thomas jumped into the Pingry life with gusto, playing hockey, lacrosse, and running cross country all four years, and taking an active role in the Young Republicans Club and the Outing Club; Lauren swam and played tennis. “I had such a great group of friends,” says Thomas, “and so did Lauren. They’re all still involved in our lives today.”
“The most important part of my experience,” says Tom, “was getting to know the teachers. To me, the teachers create the soul of the school—they provide continuity as each class comes through Pingry, and they perpetuate the culture of excellence and honor at the School. My interests and values today were largely taught and reinforced by teachers like Mike Webster, Adam Rohdie, and Miller Bugliari, who continued to mentor me long after I left Pingry.” Tom has worked with PAA Boards and the 21st Century Leadership Society, acting as an “ambassador” for Pingry, and following in the footsteps of John Hanly and Mr. Bugliari.
Tom and Lauren have also joined the C.B. Newton Society by making a planned gift to Pingry in their wills. “Education has always been of the utmost importance to our family,” says Tom. “We wanted to make this gift to give people who might not have been as fortunate as we were the same opportunities and experiences that we had at Pingry.” The Lauren G. Diemar ’96 and Thomas Southworth Diemar ’96 Scholarship Fund, as named in Tom and Lauren’s wills, will provide a one-year scholarship to a student athlete who “achieves, under the current grading system of one through five, more ones than twos in effort, without regard to achievement.” “The only thing that is under your direct control is your effort,” says Tom, “whether it’s athletics or academics. As long as you are giving your very best effort, you’re going to get the most out of whatever you’re doing.”
“The biggest and most obvious benefit to us is the satisfaction that Lauren and I have in knowing that we will be able to help a student who demonstrates remarkable effort to attend the School, and promote the values that our family believes are most important.”
When it comes to sheer number of family members who have attended the School, few Pingry families can match the Apruzzeses. Siblings John ’76, Don ’78, Lynn ’80, and Kathy ’85 all graduated from Pingry, as did John’s daughters, Dana ’06 and Alexandra ’08. “It’s difficult to encapsulate our family’s history with Pingry in just a few words,” says Vincent “Vin” Apruzzese, father to the four siblings.
Starting during his children’s time at Pingry, Vin served on the Board of Trustees for 17 years, assisting in the ambitious move to the current Basking Ridge Campus. His late wife, Sandy, helped found the mothers’ association and personally designed and handstitched the original “Big Blue” bear mascot.
To the Apruzzeses, “giving back” has always meant more than financial generosity. That being said, philanthropy is important to them; most recently, they contributed funding for a water fountain that will be placed between the Miller A. Bugliari ’52 Athletics Center and the track and football field. They have also created and named an award in Vin’s wife’s honor: The Sandy Apruzzese Big Blue Award, which recognizes the spirit of enthusiasm, leadership, and community-centeredness that Sandy embodied.
“We have done a lot, but, quite frankly, Pingry has done so much more for us,” Vin says. “The Pingry experience is a very, very special one, and that’s why we feel so dedicated.”
Seth Flowerman ’04 has given back to Pingry every year since graduation. A lead supporter of The Pingry Fund, Seth also has made significant contributions to Pingry’s new athletics facility. Named on Businessweek’s “25 Entrepreneurs Under 25” list in 2008 and one of the “Twenty Hot Young Entrepreneurs Under 30” in 2010 by Blogtrepreneur.com, Seth has built an extraordinary reputation in the business world at a very young age.
In 2010 and 2012, he came back to campus to share some of his business experiences as a Career Day speaker. In the summer of 2012, Seth welcomed a Pingry student from the Class of 2013 to intern at his company. The student shadowing him reported that, during this experience, she “acquired some fantastic contacts and gained great opportunities.”
When asked about what motivates him to support Pingry, Seth commented, “Pingry sets the standard for excellence. I was fortunate to be the 13-year beneficiary of a Pingry education and am pleased to play a small part to support the next generation of students. Blueprint for the Future will ensure they receive the outstanding education Pingry is known for.”
Jan Kennedy ’59 is a firm believer in the kind of education that transcends memorization and recitation. Although he has cultivated a lifelong passion for engineering, he also, as a Pingry student, involved himself with glee club, soccer, wrestling, tennis, and the works of Shakespeare. It was with this holistic view of education in mind that Jan recently made a gift to Pingry in the form of a bequest.
Jan has never been one to take learning lightly. After his first application to Pingry was not accepted, he worked diligently to improve himself and achieve his goal of admittance. This hard work has made him especially thankful for Pingry’s legacy in his life and especially eager to afford that same opportunity to others. “I want to help underprivileged students,” he says, “those who might want to attend Pingry, but don’t have the financial ability.”
As Jan describes, his own education was multifaceted, teaching him to see the connective thread between seemingly different fabrics. His time in glee club, for example, not only seeded his lifelong interest in music, but also contributed to his career as an engineer. “So much of testing an engine involves listening and being sensitive to its sounds,” he says.
Jan encourages others considering a gift to think about the legacy of their own Pingry education. “I’m always asking myself: What would life be like if I hadn’t attended Pingry?” he says. “What has stayed with me? What has endured?”
When deciding where to direct their gift to Pingry this year, Matt and Paige Guest P ’20, ’23, ’25 had not a moment’s hesitation. Their decision to fund the modernization of a Kindergarten classroom in the Lower School—one of the many important goals of Blueprint for the Future—was an outgrowth of their inherent appreciation for early education.
In describing the impetus for their gift, Paige remarked, “We feel that early education is essential in the formative years of a child’s life. It lays the foundation on which all subsequent life skills are built. We believe that supporting the enhancement of the facilities at the Lower School benefits all the children who come through Pingry, enriching the experience of both the teachers and students. Supporting this effort is rewarding for us, and we welcome the opportunity to participate.”
In the new classrooms, students will enjoy a more flexible, hands-on learning environment focused on building their skills in collaboration and problem-solving. With their generous gift, Matt and Paige have helped set the pace for the Lower School modernization portion of Blueprint for the Future.
The concept of students educating students is important to John H. Scully ’62 because he believes that students need to learn from each other. “Students from a broad range of socioeconomic backgrounds can educate each other in so many ways about our society, values, and issues,” he says.
Mr. Scully has previously supported financial aid at Pingry by providing funding for two SEEDS Scholarships, and his newest gifts expand those earlier efforts by permanently endowing two full-tuition scholarships for economically-disadvantaged, preferably African-American, students. Explaining the timing of his gifts, he says, “The problem of enabling these students to attend Pingry is probably getting worse, with tuition going up at a higher rate, and Pingry needs to be able to embrace other demographics. Less-fortunate students gain so much from a Pingry education.”