Providence Day Magazine
FALL 2017 - On the cover
The new Academic Center and DeMayo Gateway Center as seen from above campus. The new facilities are a result of the ongoing Charging Forward comprehensive campaign, which represents an enduring approach to safeguarding PDS's future.
Read the full edition by clicking here (PDF file), or read selected Highlights below:
Charging Forward Campaign Transforms Teaching and Learning on Campus
New facilities. A changing landscape on campus. The future of Providence Day School continues to take shape.
“Our school is a dynamic one, constantly evolving to meet the needs of our students, faculty and staff to uphold our vision for Providence Day as a world-class learning environment,” said Dr. Glyn Cowlishaw, Head of School.
Now in the final stretch of a five-year journey, the Charging Forward campaign represents an enduring approach to safeguarding PDS’s future, both within and beyond the classroom.
The $27 million comprehensive campaign, the largest fundraising initiative undertaken in PDS’s 48-year history, entails three investment priorities: capital projects, doubling the school’s endowment and growing the Annual Fund, which supplements each year’s operating budget in support of student programs, campus resources and faculty professional development.
“The Charging Forward campaign is indeed a bold effort for our school community, whose passion for Providence Day and investment in its future continues to amaze me,” said Dr. Cowlishaw. “At its successful conclusion, the campaign will be transformational for our campus and for future generations of students.”
Much of that transformation is already apparent.
“You only need to come on campus and look around to see the power of what we’re able to accomplish together as a Providence Day School family,” said Cathy Bessant, Charging Forward’s campaign chair.
More than $25 million has been raised toward the $27 million goal, due to the generosity of so many within the PDS community.
“The tremendous progress of the campaign is attributed to the incredible support and dedication of our entire Providence Day community,” said Jeffrey Appel, Associate Head of School for Institutional Advancement.
“We are sincerely grateful for all who are helping to shape the future of the school,” he said.
It was fall of 1991 that eight modular units, known as ReLos (relocatables), became a “temporary” home to various classes. Fourteen years later, in fall of 2005, the aging ReLos were replaced with the 19,040-square-foot building comprised of 24 modules that became known as the “West Wing” due to its location on the western part of campus.
Fast forward to May 2013, when the Board of Trustees voted and approved launching the quiet phase of a new campaign. PDS celebrated the public launch of that campaign in September 2015 with more than $15 million in commitments.
With more than $18.6 million raised by April 2016, a groundbreaking was held the following month.
Then in December 2017, PDS held a celebratory ribbon cutting for the new Academic Center, DeMayo Gateway Center and split-level parking deck.
The four-story, 80,542 square foot Academic Center features 32 learning labs, a 150-seat lecture theater, flexible learning space, faculty hubs, conference rooms, student lounges, Global Café, Spirit Store and more.
The building was designed with input from faculty and students. Classrooms, known as learning labs, have been structured and furnished as flexible, mixed-use spaces to facilitate research study, student interaction and creativity. Faculty benefit from collaborative meeting rooms and interdepartmental groupings that foster cross-discipline programming and planning.
“We already have the highest of standards, but with our new learning labs here; the emphasis on collaboration, creativity and small-group learning will be so very powerful in all that it can do to enhance our teaching and learning,” said Dr. Cowlishaw.
The World Language Department’s new home on the fourth floor definitely inspires, according to chair Mary Jo Adams.
“Natural light pouring in, ‘writeable’ walls, portable technology — all of which allow us to change our learning space based on our goals for the day,” she said.
And the four new language labs are “an incredible teaching tool to increase listening and speaking skills,” she added, “and a source of excitement and motivation for our students to continue their language practice and learning.”
The language labs each employ 24 headsets that can connect students with individual or multiple partners for interpersonal communication and with small collaborative groups for presentational communication. Classroom teachers can monitor, coach and assess students as they progress from performance to proficiency.
“I am thrilled that we have modern, healthy, flexible and agile spaces that support multiple configurations and active learning,” said Derrick Willard, Assistant Head of School for Academic Affairs.
“I love to walk down the halls any given morning as I rarely see two rooms set up the same way,” he said.
Their new home on the second floor has made Connie Scully’s Middle School English classes a “happier, more effective group.”
“The flexibility of working with students in small or large groups in wonderfully comfortable furnishings enhances all that we do,” she said.
Often, she said, activities comfortably spill out to the collaborative spaces at either end of the hallways or to the wooden benches.
“Students read, collaborate, write and discuss in every space of the second floor … they chat, they study, they laugh,” said Scully. “I know they appreciate this space and all it offers. (They) are comfortable in this space. This becomes even more clear with each passing day.”
“I am excited for the students to have these incredible resources at their disposal,” said Nancy Downing, Advancement Committee chair of the Board of Trustees.
“What this means to the school is that it will launch us forward in a lot of ways,” she said, “but in a lot of ways it will ensure that Providence Day will stay the same special community and great place that it’s always been.”
The Academic Center also allows PDS to make better use of current space, re-purposing existing buildings to more strategically serve the student community. The West Wing, which was removed from campus this spring, will be repurposed to serve a charter school in eastern North Carolina.
“Although no longer part of our campus, the West Wing will continue to serve as a source of teaching and learning,” said Appel.
“I am excited for the possibilities the space affords our campus life,” said Dr. Cowlishaw. “In the short-term, plans are for practice and playing fields to be created for use by our students, very similar to the adjacent upper field.”
Long-term use will be determined as part of the upcoming campus master planning process.
Gateway to Greatness
The two-story, 7,200 square foot DeMayo Gateway Center, and the two-story parking deck outside of it, combine to create a more welcoming entrance to campus.
With both the Admissions and College Guidance offices located in the building, students begin and end their journeys at the same place — a powerful symbol of PDS’s TK to 12th grade education.
“We have noticed that visitors and families sense a balanced experience as they enter the DeMayo Gateway Center,” said Cecil Stodghill, Admissions and Enrollment Management director. “I think that they appreciate the new, more formal vibe, yet still garner a sense of comfort and cozy.”
The building provides ample space for meetings and events.
“With all due respect to the ‘old house,’ Providence Day's original building, our new College Guidance suite on the second floor of the DeMayo Gateway Center have revitalized and transformed the way we serve students, families and colleges,” said Jack Whelan, College Guidance director.
“Our new roomier, and certainly sunnier, offices are proving to be perfect spaces for individual and family meetings, and the increased number of conference rooms enable visiting college representatives to meet easily with our students,” he said.
The new grassy courtyard between the DeMayo Gateway Center, Academic Center and Thompson-Jones Library is reminiscent of a collegiate-style quad.
But the campaign’s success is more than just the facilities.
Since 2012, the school’s endowment has grown from $5.4 million to $12.7 million (as of February 2018). The Annual Fund continues to be successful, raising almost $1.375 million in 2017.
“With another record-breaking Annual Fund campaign, it is evident than our Providence Day community believes in the school’s mission to enhance teaching-learning opportunities and inspire our students to succeed,” said Appel.
The Annual Fund’s 2017-18 goal is $1.35 million, and “we are thankful for the enthusiastic support we’ve already received from our community for this year’s effort,” said Appel.
And there is still time for the PDS community to contribute to the success.
The Charging Forward campaign officially ends Dec. 31, 2018, and all are encouraged to show their support.
“We are tremendously grateful to the enthusiastic support of all in our community who have and will make a positive impact toward the success of the campaign and the future of Providence Day School,” said Bessant. “Thank you for believing in our mission, and doing your part to enhance the teaching and learning environment for future generations of Chargers.”
New Facility Highlights
4 stories / 80,542 square feet
32 learning labs, 150-seat lecture theater, flexible learning space, faculty hubs, conference rooms, student lounges, Global Café, Spirit Store and more.
DeMayo Gateway Center
2 stories / 7,200 square feet
Admissions suite, College Guidance suite, conference rooms, outdoor balcony, covered arcade walkway.
split level / 200 parking spaces
Expanded parking serves as a catalyst for greater student and pedestrian safety on campus, and improved pace of life.
English Faculty Offer New Perspectives on Old Classics
Donning wardrobe items and props. Popping balloons. Standing in circles. Standing on your hands. Not quite your average English classes.
While English at Providence Day certainly includes and concentrates on the basics — reading, writing, literary analysis — there’s so much more to it than that.
The curriculum regularly involves interesting classroom activities and unique approaches to teaching and learning by passionate faculty dedicated to fully engaging students in the work and words at hand.
Dr. Clint Crumley, Upper School English Department chair for the last 15 years, not only hopes to “create and maintain the conditions for a culture of high intellectual expectations — toward each other and our students — but also a culture of warmth and understanding, one that learns some of the lessons of the literature that we teach.”
Namely, he said, that “stories are fundamental to making sense of things, that the observable world is crackling with meaning, that every person has dignity and a rich interior life.”
While PDS students are not all penning stories and poetry, writing is still an integral component of their academic careers.
“Our students write an awful lot by the time they graduate, more than most American high school students,” said Crumley. “They also receive a lot of careful feedback from English teachers, not only about the content of their work but also about its rhetorical effectiveness, its logical cogency, and its degree of stylistic elegance and panache. They're held to a high standard, and they learn to respond to feedback through revision.”
The Middle School English department works closely with students as they transition into more analytical writers, said chair Amy Bynum.
“We push them to prove arguments with evidence from the novels they read; we help them make connections and learn empathy through the characters they get to know during the course of the year,” she said. “We want to help them develop their own voice in written work and to ultimately communicate ideas effectively in writing.”
In a world of texting and tweets, said Bynym, “the appreciation of prose, complex sentence structure, and figurative language is becoming a lost art. We hope to develop readers, writers, and thinkers who recognize the beauty and importance of rhetoric and writing.”
Katherine Currier’s Upper School Writing Seminar class occasionally gets pretty loud.
As part of an in-depth lesson plan on connotation versus denotation to help students grasp the undercurrents of their word choices, inflated balloons are introduced — and then popped.
“We discuss how in speech and in writing, certain words can alienate an audience,” said Currier. “We also rank descriptive words in categories from harsh to least harsh: gaunt versus thin, obese versus plump.”
The students each write one word on a piece of paper that can have many different connotations — for example, ennui, consternation, freedom, zealous — and then roll it up and put it inside a balloon, which are scattered about the floor. Then, using a pencil as a dart, they each pop one of the balloons.
“Once they do, they pull out the word, read it out loud, and then their homework assignment that night is to write a one-page essay defining that particular word using a narrative,” said Currier. “The narrative is derivative of their life experience, so the definition depends on how that personal experience drives connotation.”
The balloon popping in itself, she said, “is a kinesthetic activity that simultaneously creates movement and the excitement of chance. If they cannot pop a balloon with the pencil, they have to jump on it.”
Christine Marshall takes a softer — yet one could say “upside down” — approach in her English II classes, in which she sometimes stands on her head.
“The headstand typically happens a bit later in the semester and accompanies the reciting of a poem,” she said. “I require students to memorize a poem, which they tend to balk at, so I recite one on my head to demonstrate how easy it is.”
“It’s really easy for me to do, but students get a kick out of it,” she added.
Creativity and Collaboration
The English Department once spanned 6th to 12th grades. Five years ago, to better serve student needs, several Middle School-focused departments were formed, including Middle School English with Bynum as chair.
Both Upper and Middle School English departments still actively collaborate to foster success.
“(We) have worked together often over the years to align, vertically, the curriculum,” said Crumley. “Naturally, we've especially focused on the transition from 8th to 9th grade, on grammar (usage and mechanics), on paragraphing, on overall essay structure.”
“Recently, we combined with the librarians and the Middle and Upper School history teachers to form a research task force, creating standards and expectations for all students in 6th to 12th grades,” said Bynum.
The courses and requirements have evolved and changed over the years, as well. Once needed for graduation were semester-long American and British Literature surveys.
“We've since developed more than 15 different electives, some that focus on literature, others on composition (all of which involve writing assignments), enabling teachers and students to explore topics that interest them, from philosophy, poetry, and graphic novels to geo-politics, magical realism, and Shakespeare,” said Crumley. “We offer more electives than most English departments I know of.”
The classics are still there, said Bynum, but “we have added texts that make our curriculum more multicultural and diverse.”
Middle School English’s one elective course, Creative Writing 6, has become so popular that creative writing courses for 7th and 8th grades are being added. The department also has incorporated more project-based learning (PBL) in lieu of traditional assignments.
7th-grade teachers are trying a PBL approach with Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, which stems from Middle School Head Michael Magno’s approach regarding professional development — teachers were given a choice of joining one of four cohorts: problem-based learning (PBL); mind, brain, education (MBE); experiential learning; and design thinking.
Three English Department teachers joined the PBL cohort and devised a way of using the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel for the PBL approach, a student-centered pedagogy in which they learn about a subject through the experiences of solving open-ended problems. The process doesn’t focus on problem solving with a defined solution, but allows for the development of other desirable skills and attributes.
“While we are reading, students are taking notes on three main arguments for teaching the book,” said teacher Kristin Santo — that it is historically relevant, has relevant connections to current issues, and offers “amazing life lessons and words of wisdom that transcend the fictional world of Maycomb (where the story is set) in the 1930s.”
The approach helps students see the novel’s significance and that literature is a model for real life, said Santo.
“By stepping away from the traditional reading comprehension questions approach, we can foster a deeper, more critical understanding of the novel,” she said. “What can we learn about life? What can we learn about ourselves?”
The hope is to shift the focus from content to impact, away from “What happened?” to “Why does it matter?”
“This deeper analysis of events and character development goes beyond the pages of the text to create real, meaningful work,” said Santo. “The creativity and collaboration that can come out of a project never ceases to amaze me.”
Middle School has added a cross-curricular unit this school year, collaborating with history teachers as the students read Margaret Peterson Haddix’s teen novel Uprising about women’s suffrage and the Shirtwaist Factory fire in 1911.
“We also partnered with the theatre program while reading Romeo and Juliet in 8th grade … to create a deeper understanding of the play,” said Bynum.
Middle School theatre teacher Jamie Hutteman led Kristen Friedman’s class through a series of activities as a precursor to reading Shakespeare’s tragedy —using true/false statements relating to the play’s themes such as “I believe in love at first sight” and “religion guides my decisions in life.”
“The students walked to a new location in the room if they agreed with each statement and remained if they disagreed,” said Friedman. “Each student moved at least once, showing that the play is applicable to events in their lives and opinions they have.”
Hutteman turned reading the prologue into an interactive activity — students stamped their feet whenever there was punctuation.
“This helped them understand not only how the play should sound when lines were being performed, but also how to recite them properly,” said Friedman.
“Students came back to English class not only having a greater understanding of the play itself but also how it should be performed and how its themes are still relatable in their modern lives,” she said.
While ensuring students are mastering the necessary reading comprehension and writing skills, English teachers will continue to make the literature and work they love relevant to their students’ lives, such as by making connections to other subjects or interests outside of school.
“When students make meaningful connections for themselves, the content sticks,” said Santo. “We just have to give them the tools to make those connections.”
Student-Led Initiative Provides Mentorship, Instills Positive Traits in Local Children
Sports can bring together people together from all different walks of life — they have a unique way of connecting those who might never have met otherwise.
Not all sports are easily accessible for everyone, however, and two former Providence Day athletes decided to do something about it. Their desire as Upper Schoolers sparked an enduring initiative that has made positive impacts in the community.
It was during the junior year of Kyle Asher ’15 and freshman year of Reed Baker ’17 that they, along with the support of their varsity lacrosse teammates, began collecting sports equipment to distribute to in-need kids within the community.
“I think everyone who wants to play lacrosse should have access to the sport,” said Reed, now a freshman studying economics at Bowdoin College in Maine, who credits the sport with helping to further his academic career.
“I am aware of the opportunities lacrosse can provide, and I don’t believe income levels should limit kids from accessing these opportunities,” he said.
One of their coaches, Ken Loeber, had worked with Greater Enrichment Program (GEP), which serves at-risk elementary-aged children by providing quality afterschool enrichment involving academic, cultural and social instruction. The goal is to help children gain knowledge, confidence and character to achieve their personal bests in school and in their communities.
Loeber thought GEP would be an ideal organization with whom the student-athletes could partner. With a solid flow of equipment coming in and a community partner in hand, Baker and Asher officially started the Upper School club known as Everybody Loves Lacrosse in 2013.
The club has continued to thrive. Today, 8 to 10 members spend time twice a week with GEP students, many of whom come from neighborhoods where lacrosse isn’t prevalent. They impart not only the fundamentals of lacrosse, but the importance of teamwork, physical fitness and giving back.
The initiative showed Head Coach Bobby Thompson that his players were living the team’s motto of “commitment, class, character.”
“It is great to see Providence Day’s mission of social responsibility coming to life through our players,” he said. “What our guys have been doing ever since the program was started has really shown their desire to not only give back to the community, but help grow the game as a whole.”
“They truly care about the work they are doing, and it shows in the relationships they have with the kids they support,” he added.
The Providence Day students have been the “best role models for our kids,” said Bronica Glover, GEP executive director.
“They’re friendly, very mature and they want to give back,” she said. “It gives the students hope and it makes the students feel good. It builds their confidence, because someone is taking the time to teach them something.”
Interacting with the kids is the highlight. “The kids are always smiling and laughing,” said Baker. “It’s been incredible.”
Michael Nole Studies Seismic Activity Beneath the Sea
After Commencement, many alumni often pursue interesting courses of study and careers.
For Michael Nole ’09, his path has led to drilling holes deep below the ocean’s surface off the coast of New Zealand.
While pursuing his Ph.D. in geosystems engineering at the University of Texas at Austin, Nole decided to hop aboard a research vessel sailing the southwestern Pacific Ocean to investigate potential causes of seismic activity in the region.
“It was a challenging but incredible experience,” he said.
The expedition was through the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP), a marine research collaboration dedicated to advancing scientific understanding of the Earth through drilling, coring and monitoring the subseafloor.
The research enabled by IODP samples and data improves scientific understanding of changing climate and ocean conditions, the origins of ancient life, risks posed by geohazards, and the structure and processes of Earth’s tectonic plates uppermost mantle.
“I got involved with the program because the expedition’s goal was to try and characterize any linkages between submarine landslides off the coast of New Zealand and gas hydrate systems associated with these events,” said Nole. “I saw this as an opportunity to collaborate with researchers from around the globe across different disciplines of geology and engineering.”
As a geosystems engineer, Nole uses math and science to develop models of how different components of earth systems interact, which can be used to predict how the systems can change as a result of different processes, such as climate change.
His particular focus is on systems beneath the seafloor.
“Water can actually move around quite a bit beneath the seafloor, and the interaction between water and sub-ocean sediments can trigger or exacerbate submarine landslides and earthquakes” such as in Japan and Christchurch, New Zealand, he said.
Japan, which is situated in a volcanic zone on the Pacific Ring of Fire, experiences about 1,500 earthquakes every year with minor tremors occurring on a near daily basis. In 2011, an earthquake occurred in Christchurch, the largest city on New Zealand’s South Island, registering 6.3 on the Richter scale and causing widespread damage — it is considered the nation’s fifth-deadliest disaster.
Nole was drawn to this field after studying hydrogeology as part of his undergraduate studies in civil and environmental engineering at University of California, Berkley. He then achieved a master’s degree in petroleum and geosystems engineering before pursuing his doctorate.
“Developing numerical simulations to better understand fluid flow and geochemistry in ocean sediments appealed to me,” he said, “because it combines my penchant for coding with studying complex processes that happen all over the world.”
He is grateful for his AP Computer Science class at PDS, which “really gave me a leg up on the other students when learning different programming languages in college,” he said. Now, “I use computer programming and calculus every single day.”
He also credits PDS’s Global Studies Diploma program, which “prompted me to think globally and fostered a curiosity in me about the world, which I think has led me to what I do now.”
His interests led him aboard the research vessel JOIDES Resolution, one of the state-of-the-art scientific drilling ships used by IODP, featuring analytical equipment, software and databases that allow shipboard scientists to conduct research at seas as soon as cores are recovered.
The ship sailed from Australia to a spot east of New Zealand’s North Island from December 2017 to January 2018. The endeavor consisted of drilling five holes beneath the seafloor in an area of submarine landslide activity to sample the physical properties involved.
“We drilled in water depths that ranged between 700 and 3,000 meters, and the hole depths ranged from 250 to 1,400 meters,” said Nole. “In some holes, we brought up samples of sediments from beneath the seafloor, and in other holes we deployed remote sensors to detect different physical properties of these sediments without significantly disturbing them.”
“Used together,” he said, “these measurements can give us a picture of how sediments might respond to perturbations, like fluid flow and shaking due to earthquake activity.”
Nole was in charge of characterizing the physical properties of the sediments retrieved. Now back on dry land, he is running more sophisticated tests and in-depth analyses of the collected data and samples.
“There is a yearlong moratorium where only shipboard scientists can use the data that has been acquired from the expedition before it is made public, so this is where the most important research plans get started,” he said.
Next year he’ll travel back to New Zealand, where the scientists will update each other on their progress.
In the meantime, he plans to finish his doctorate in May and do some postdoctoral scholar work before applying for academic positions.
“I hope to work on better understanding the interactions between marine and arctic geologic systems and their environments through the use of numerical simulations and field data analysis,” he said.
Alumni Credit PDS with Helping Prepare Them for Military Service
Providence Day exists to inspire its students to excel and to serve — as leaders, athletes, artists, innovators, global citizens. And many are inspired to do so as part of the U.S. Armed Forces.
“I never imagined I'd serve when I was younger,” said Eric Cal ’16, “but after being recruited by Navy for football, I saw all of the opportunities available if I chose to attend the U.S. Naval Academy (USNA) and serve in the Navy.”
Now a Midshipman Third Class in his second year at the academy, Cal balances more than 20 credits-worth of classes with military obligations while also playing on the Navy Midshipman football team. Majoring in chemistry, he aims to get a medical degree to serve in the Navy Medical Corps.
Academy life places much responsibility and a large burden on one’s time, said Cal, who credits Providence Day with helping him prepare for his many obligations and duties.
“To be a good service member and officer, you have to be a jack of all trades. There are specialists in every field, but as a leader you are expected to be able to assess any situation and handle it correctly,” he said.
“Providence Day pushes their students to expand their knowledge and skills and provides the vast array of opportunities to do so,” he said. PDS’s goal to “create well-rounded students, who are dedicated to learning and improving themselves helps prepare them for every aspect of life, including the military.”
Jonathon Conlan ’15, a Coast Guard seamen apprentice, said the way PDS helped prepare him for his SATs allowed him to ace the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB), a test administered by the U.S. military to determine qualification for enlistment in the Armed Forces.
“My ASVAB was high enough that I qualified for all the jobs classifications within the Coast Guard,” he noted.
Currently he serves aboard the Coast Guard cutter Sea Fox, a patrol boat that protects Navy ballistic submarines in the waters off the coast of Washington.
“Once I pass all of the exams for operating the ship, I begin the process for law enforcement and boarding team,” he said. “These qualifications will allow me to board other vessels suspected of wrongdoing, mainly drug transportation, and to make arrests.”
After his two-year assignment, Conlan plans to become an intelligence specialist working with Homeland Security.
“PDS helped prep me with critical thinking and communication skills, and by helping me figure out I can do just about anything if I work hard at it,” said Robert Johnson ’00, an Air Force major stationed with 437th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Joint Base Charleston, S.C.
Having started his career in Charleston doing aircraft maintenance, Johnson was soon leading a team of instructors. He then worked as a project manager outside of Boston, helping to sustain the U.S. air defense system while managing base security systems and installations.
He went on to study military operational planning and leadership with the Army in Leavenworth, Kan., and spent six months at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, serving as a liaison between U.S. project managers and the Iraqi Air Defense Command working to rebuild the country’s air defense system.
“I gained a real appreciation for the Iraqi people during my time there, and it helped me realize that almost all of us want the same thing — security, the opportunity to take care of ourselves and our families and to have a chance at living better lives,” said Johnson.
“I think the sense of social responsibility was something that really resonated with me from PDS, said Matt Nole ’07, a Marines captain and helicopter pilot currently stationed at Marine Corps Air Station New River in Jacksonville, N.C.
Nole oversees the training of pilots in HMLA-167, a light attack squadron, ensuring the entire unit is combat ready.
“I try to remind my Marines as often as possible how important the words ‘service’ and ‘responsibility’ are,” said Nole.
“We truly have a responsibility to the American people to support and defend the Constitution and be the best versions of ourselves every day,” he said. “It's sometimes easy to lose sight of this in the day-to-day grind. I try to take time out of the work day as often as possible to remind Marines of our values and heritage.”
When it comes to serving your country, its flag and way of life, “you cannot replicate the sense of duty and selfless service that soldiers have in the Army, or in any branch of service,” said Ashley (Dieter) Towns ’03, who transitioned out of the Army as a captain in 2015 after 10 years of service.
“The intrinsic motivation soldiers and leaders have in the Army is unparalleled,” she said. “Greater love has no one than this: that he lay down his life for his brothers.”
Towns’ service included two deployments to Afghanistan and one deployment to Liberia, Africa, in roles such as a Brigade Engineer Office, Assistant Operations Officer, Battalion Airborne Operations Officer an Company Commander. Since leaving the military, she has gone on to work as a Chicago regional operations director for Veterinary Centers of America, an operator of veterinary hospitals in the United States and Canada.
“I have always grown up with pets and currently have three dogs,” she said. “It allows me to still lead and focus on operations, while working for a company that provides the best pet care and quality medicine.”
Russell Bowers ’10, an Army captain, said both PDS’s academics and faculty left lasting impressions on him.
“The teachers at PD are incredible, something you don’t appreciate until later in college,” he said. “I learned so much about how to learn from them.”
Bowers now serves as a battalion engineer officer with the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment at Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Seattle, Wash. Duties range from managing military construction projects and airfield repair teams to running demolition ranges. While deployed with the battalion, he worked as a night operations officer, coordinating, resourcing and battle tracking nighttime operations.
He credits Assistant Head of School for Academic Affairs and former science teacher Derrick Willard, who served as an Army cavalry officer and earned the rank of captain, as a “great resource of mentorship for military service, inspiring me to really explore the opportunity post-Providence Day.”
“The military — especially on the officer side — values how to learn much more than breadth or depth of knowledge,” said Bowers. “At Providence Day, with so much going on and so much to take advantage of, I feel like I practiced learning something new every day.”
Conlan played varsity football for four years under head coach Bruce Hardin, who once served as assistant football coach at West Point, the U.S. Military Academy.
“Coach Hardin suggested that I would be a good candidate for one of the military schools,” said Conlan, who credits PDS athletics with helping him prepare for the intensity of boot camp.
Influential for Towns were basketball coach Barbara Nelson and physical trainer Dodi Montgomery.
They “helped me to be physically and mentally strong,” she said. “They constantly pushed me to work harder and be a leader, on and off the court and field.”
Influential teachers for Johnson were “coach John Patterson, who really inspired me as a nerdy kid to give it my best in a weightlifting class; (lacrosse) coach Mark Fader, whose outgoing and energetic leadership style I try to emulate, “and (English teachers) Mrs. Patsy Stimer and Dr. Clint Crumley, who really challenged my critical thinking and coached me on my writing skills.”
“Rhea Caldwell remains a formative figure from my final years at Providence Day,” said John Horne ’07, a Navy lieutenant stationed with Carrier Strike Group 15 in California.
Horne, whose group trains and certifies deploying ships to meet forward fleet requirements, recalled Caldwell asking students to write the answers to their calculus homework on the board in front of the class.
“The true lesson from this had nothing to do with calculus,” said Horne. “Instead, you must always take pride in what you do and what you produce. You also can't wait until the last minute, lest you let down yourself and others.”
“Knowing that the training and evolutions I provide now has a direct effect on ships and sailors deploying means I can't wait until ‘homework is due’ to start solving the problem,” he added. “Rhea Caldwell wouldn't accept it; neither should I.”
Nic Iannorone ’05, a Coast Guard lieutenant, credits Kenna Powell, PDS’s Safety and Security director and his mother, as the person who most prepared him for service.
Iannorone is a team leader with Maritime Security Response Team West, a tactical unit that specializes in maritime counter terrorism and high-risk law enforcement, based in San Diego, Calif.
Iannorone is grateful to the faculty and staff at PDS.
“I cannot begin to describe my thankfulness to them. They care. They invest. They inspire and they challenge,” he said. “They come alongside you when you’re struggling, celebrate your victories and help you dust your boots off after defeats. I can honestly say now … (they) helped prepare me for not just service, but for life.”
A look at some alumni who’ve chosen to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces.
Bob Johnson ’00
Major, Air Force
Currently squadron commander of 437th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Joint Base Charleston, a joint civil-military airport in South Carolina.
“Our 650-person unit maintains 48 C-17 cargo jets that move people and equipment all over the world. We flew over 200 flights to deliver humanitarian aid to Texas, Puerto Rico, Haiti and the Virgin Islands after this fall's hurricanes,” said Johnson. “I feel really lucky to work with some extremely talented, smart and motivated Airmen every day.”
Other posting/deployments include Boston, Mass.; Tuscon, Ariz.; Omaha, Neb.; Leavenworth, Kan.; and Baghdad, Iraq.
Inspired to serve by his father and grandfathers, who all served in the Air Force.
Best part of service? “One of the great things about the Air Force is that you can have a lot of different jobs during a career, and every job focuses on developing you as a leader or manager.”
Ashley (Dieter) Towns ’03
Captain (retired), Army
Currently a Chicago regional operations director for Veterinary Centers of America. 10-year military service included serving as a Brigade Engineer Office, Assistant Operations Officer, Battalion Airborne Operations Officer an Company Commander.
Postings/deployments included Fort Bragg, N.C.; Fort Hood, Texas; Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri; Fort Rucker, Ala.; two deployments to Afghanistan and one deployment to Liberia, Africa.
Inspired to serve both grandfathers who served in World War II, and family members who are in public service.
Best part of service? “You cannot replicate the sense of duty and selfless service soldiers have in the Army, or in any branch of service. The intrinsic motivation soldiers and leaders have in the Army is unparalleled.”
Nic Iannarone ’05
Lieutenant, Coast Guard
Currently leads a deployable action section with Maritime Security Response Team West, a tactical unit that specializes in maritime counter terrorism and high-risk law enforcement, based in San Diego, Calif.
“Our unit was established to conduct short-notice maritime response to terrorism. Essentially, if there is any terrorist activity in the Pacific, our team would be available to respond and neutralize the threat. In addition to close quarters combat, we’re also equipped to combat chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosive threats.”
Other postings/deployments include Honolulu, Hawaii, and aboard the USCGC Jarvis.
Inspired to serve by the desire to give back to his country and community.
Best part of service? Saving lives. “We’re responding to distress calls, and we’re preventing those calls from being made. To see families reunited after they had all but lost hope for their loved ones, and to know that you had some small part in making that reunion possible, is simply amazing.”
John Horne ’07
Currently serves with Carrier Strike Group 15, based at Naval Air Station North Island in California, which trains and certifies deploying ships to meet forward fleet requirements.
“This involves spending weeks at sea on aircraft carriers, cruisers, destroyers and amphibious assault ships.”
Other postings/deployments include Southeast Asia.
Inspired to serve by several great uncles who served in World War II.
Best part of service? Traveling to five continents and watching sunsets and sunrises at sea. “The best part remains the experience the Navy has provided me.”
Matt Nole ’07
Currently an AH-1W SuperCobra pilot and pilot training officer for HMLA-167, a light attack squadron, stationed at Marine Corps Air Station New River, a helicopter base in Jacksonville, N.C.
“I'm responsible for directing and coordinating all of the training for Cobra pilots in the squadron and ensuring that the unit is combat ready to deploy in any clime and place. Transitioning to becoming a teacher has been one of the highlights of my career.”
Other postings/deployments include Quantico, Va.; Pensacola, Fla.; and Okinawa, Japan.
Inspired to serve by his father and grandfather, who both served as Marines.
Best part of service? “The sense of purpose and job satisfaction, the Marines I serve with and shooting rockets from a Cobra helicopter.”
Russell Bowers ’10
Currently a battalion engineer officer for 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment out at Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Seattle, Wash.
“I get thrown anything engineering-related — project management on military construction projects, managing an airfield repair team following an airfield seizure, running battalion demolition ranges.”
Other postings/deployments include Iraq and Afghanistan.
Inspired to serve because of the camaraderie and sense of adventure offered by the Army.
Best part of service? “It’s the people, hands down. I’m certain I will never be as lucky to work with the quality of people I do now at any job in the future.”
Jonathan Conlan ’15
Seaman Apprentice, U.S. Coast Guard
Currently assigned to USCGC Sea Fox, a cutter based out of Naval Base Kitsap in Washington whose primary responsibility is protecting Navy ballistic submarines during transit to and from the base.
"In addition … the Sea Fox also performs search and rescue and drug interdictions up to 200 miles off shore. I have to be qualified in everything related to the ship.”
Inspired to serve by family members in the Air Force, Marines and Navy.
Best part of service? “I know that I cannot change the world by myself, but along with all the other now Coast Guard men and women, we cast the stone across the water to create many ripples of change throughout the world.”
Eric Cal ’16
Midshipman Third Class, Naval Academy
Currently in his second year at the U.S. Naval Academy majoring in chemistry and an offensive guard on the Navy Midshipman football team.
“My roles are to continue to develop my leadership style and goals in preparation for when I commission and for next year as I train and mentor the plebes (freshmen) and help them assimilate to the academy and military life.”
Inspired by father, who served as a Marine, and brother, who serves in the Army
After graduation? “I want to service select Medical Corps. I would go directly to medical school after graduation and earn my medical degree and, afterward, serve as a military doctor or surgeon in the Navy.”