In addition to remembering September 11, 2001, this year's speakers offered their perspectives on uncertainty, trust, integrity in the classroom, and the importance of accuracy.
Having seen his children pursue their diverse interests and make lifelong friends at Pingry, David has given back to support the Basking Ridge Campus. “I believe whole-heartedly in Pingry’s educational mission, and I think the institution is a powerful force for good for its students and for our society. The gift is made from my deceased wife’s charitable trust, and she would greatly value (and, I believe, greatly values) the education that Pingry provided her children and all of its other students.”
David chose to give a Harkness classroom for a number of reasons. “First, it represents a collaborative approach to education that I believe in,” he says. “Second, all three of my children have told me that their teachers at Pingry were amazingly talented and dedicated educators. I believe Harkness classrooms will be important for Pingry because they will facilitate the development of closer bonds between the outstanding Pingry teachers and outstanding Pingry students. I also believe the informality and intimacy of the Harkness approach will give students confidence to explore issues more openly and with deeper intellectual curiosity than is facilitated by a larger, traditional classroom.”
“Our children had a great start at the Lower School,” says Mary Anne. “Our oldest, Stewart, was a member of the first Grade 6 class to move up to Basking Ridge from Short Hills. He took German for seven years, and was also part of the first class to have that opportunity.” Mary Anne attributes the success of the program to magistri faculty member Norman Lavalette. “He is a gifted and inspiring teacher and mentor, both at the Middle and Upper Schools,” says Mary Anne. “We dedicate this classroom to honor him and all the other excellent faculty at Pingry.”
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.”
The Chens, who have supported the modernization of the Lower School, felt it only natural to help modernize the Upper School as well. “We wanted to balance the apportion of our support toward both campuses,” says Daniel. “We truly believe that the donation to Pingry would make it even better in every way.”
The Chens’ belief in building fundamental skills, as well as learning language and cultural competency, drove their decision to give both a math and Chinese language classroom. “As a former engineer, I strongly believe that the fundamental skills of mathematics, logical thinking, and systematic problem solving are critical for a student’s future development,” says Daniel. “I still rely heavily on these fundamental skills as an investment banker and as an asset manager. Equally important are the understanding of and appreciation for different cultures. The more we understand about diversity in the forms of language, ethnicity, and culture, the more we realize how crucial it is to embrace and appreciate it. With that in mind, we wanted to provide Pingry students with an important key to open the door for future opportunities.”
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.”
Throughout his professional and personal lives, John Boffa ’72 has cultivated and maintained a deep personal connection to Pingry—he has consistently supported The Pingry Fund for decades, volunteered for events like Reunion and Career Day, and included Pingry in his estate plans.
Early on, Mr. Boffa learned the value of hard work and how to manage a multitude of priorities—like all Pingry students. Perhaps balancing his school work with cross country, Glee Club, The Pingry Record, and founding the Pingry Ecology Club is what taught Mr. Boffa to manage his time so effectively—though his connection to Pingry did more for his career than that. “I leveraged my Independent Study Project (ISP) to get a job after college,” he says.
For Mr. Boffa, including Pingry in his estate plans was one of the easiest decisions he has ever made. “I decided that I would leave a portion of my estate to Pingry. It’s my way of thanking the School for the excellent education I received—and since the biggest mistake people make is to put off planning their estates, I decided to make that gift years ago.”
With nearly 55 years connected to The Pingry School, John Sprague ’70 is a constant participant in The Pingry Fund and has supported the modernization of the Basking Ridge Campus as well. John and his late brother, Charles, attended the Elizabeth campus and learned from legendary Pingry teachers like Albie Booth and Herb Hahn. Booth, a Latin teacher and the longest-serving member of Pingry faculty in the School’s history, is remembered for his dedication to his students as well as his fiery demeanor, which “harked back to the ways of a typical Roman orator.” Hahn, on the other hand, was nearly his opposite; the English, religion, and philosophy teacher was so soft-spoken that walking into his classroom “was like walking into a church.” Students remember his philosophy, that “good teachers don’t teach subjects, they teach people,” with alumni attesting: “It didn’t really matter what his class was called. Dr. Hahn taught life.”
These two campus sages had a profound impact on many students, John included. It was with them in mind that he decided to gift a humanities classroom to Pingry’s Upper School. “If I were to remember anyone with my gift, it would be two of Pingry’s great teachers from my era, Albert Booth and Herbert Hahn, who did this for me,” says John.
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.