In celebration of Rutgers Preparatory School’s 250 years of academic service, we are collecting stories about RPS. They can be stories of lasting friendships; of lessons learned; of goals achieved; of experiences enjoyed. We expect that the RPS community has plenty of stories to add to our memories of the school and we invite you to share yours.
The challenge is to write your story in 250 words or less. If you'd like to collaborate with a friend or family member in telling your story, that would be great. Write your 250-word story and share it with us.
Enjoy the first selection of stories, below, as we celebrate the milestone of 250 years as a school.
Leonard Bethel P'89, P'93 Open or Close
My wife Veronica (retired Professor from Raritan Valley Community College) and I (retired Professor from Rutgers University) enjoyed the many years (1970's-1990's) associated with Rutgers Preparatory School. Our son Amiel (1-12 grades), and daughter Kama (K-12 grades) developed into fine and productive adults as a result of their educational, athletic, and social years at RPS.
In their high school experience at RPS (1980's), Amiel and Kama became the first and only brother-sister student body presidents (i.e. Amiel four years ahead of Kama). I had the privilege of serving on the RPS Board of Trustees for fourteen years and played a major role in the school's development during the 1980's and 90's. The major part of any school's progress always depends on the teachers and administrators who are involved with their students. Our son Amiel and daughter Kama can give credit to RPS's outstanding teachers and administrators who played a major role in their development. Amiel is now a chief Neuro-surgeon at the University of Maryland Medical hospital and school, and Kama is a law Professor and Assoc. Dean at the Charlotte Law School, Charlotte, NC. They both are happily married (i.e. Amiel Bethel to Kelli, and Kama to Atty. Joseph Pierce) and have productive teenage children (i.e. Amiel- two sons- Maxwell and Henry, and Kama- two sons and a daughter- Marco, Julian, and Jasmine). The teachers and administrators who have passed on and/or retired have left a legacy of hope and productivity with their students.
Harish Bhatt P'01, P'03, P'06 Open or Close
As parent of 3 children in Middle and High schools, Parents Teachers meeting was exciting, fun and run from one class to another, from one teacher to another, from Middle school to High school. One thing was definite - meet all teachers. Sometimes, mix up was about who is teaching which child what subject which class but fun was to run to each meeting. Often short of breath, always full of joy. Meeting teachers and talking with teachers was soothing. There was one common theme with teachers, Principal, Headmaster - their love to teach and motivate and engage parents.
Barbara Carcich (Faculty 1980-2012) Open or Close
THE JOY OF BEING A TEACHER AT RUTGERS PREP FOR 32 YEARS
It is said that if you love what you do you’ll never work a day in your life. This statement was so true for me for many reasons. I started teaching First Grade at Prep in April of 1980 the day after my mother died unexpectedly. When I finally started, a week later, I discovered the great faculty and staff who were sympathetic, kind and genuinely caring even though they didn’t know me. That’s just the way they would be even after 32 years.
When I started teaching, the Lower School consisted of the Annex and The Elm Farm Building which housed our LS Library, which was small, but cozy.
Art classes were held in the old Maintenance building which is long gone (no Art Studio then).
Many cherished memories flood my brain. I will attempt to itemize a few:
• Field Trips – to the Jersey shore, Grounds for Sculpture, RVCC Planetarium, various museums, Bronx Zoo and Terhune Orchards.
• Parent involvement – Dr. Herbstman presented a lesson about not being afraid of the doctor, Dr. DeSilva gave a lesson on preventing Lyme disease.
• Hearing the woodpeckers and seeing the shimmering Raritan River as I walked down the path in the early morning, Thumper, my class rabbit for 9 years, the joyful Holiday Sing, graduation under the Beech Tree and the Lower School Closing.
Congratulations on your 250th year. You continue to be a great place.
Tyler Chandross-Cohen '18 Open or Close
I was born into a new millennium; a time when we must remember to look up from our devices and appreciate our surroundings. This moment in time, compared to the last 250 years, fills me with lasting memories. Since kindergarten, I’ve seen teachers come and go; some started families while others passed too soon. First experiences, including 1st grade Cloud play, where we performed in front of our parents, 2nd grade at Maggiano’s restaurant, where we practiced good manners, and 3rd grade Pioneer day, where we acted out early settler experiences. Fourth grade was about taking action with ethnic pride day, where I researched my Scottish heritage, and running a ballot, where our class nominated Obama before he became the first African American president. Fifth grade was about challenging ourselves, including the Farm Trip and requirement to self-publish creative writings. Sixth grade was a time when history lessons became animated around ancient times. And let’s not forget the RPS tree etched with “R” that had weathered many storms only to be lost to super-storm Sandy. The Boston trip and Middle School graduation was a time for celebrating our growth and years of friendships. Transitioning into high school was eased with a trip to the PEAK and ended on the baseball field. With trumpet and languages from the beginning until now. RPS embraces and celebrates our different cultures and I’m thankful for the opportunity to learn among friends on a campus surrounded by wise old trees and the bustling of students.
Bill Cramer '52 Open or Close
In the 40's and 50's, Cramer Fuel Oil Co., 0wned by my family, serviced the heating needs of the Prep School on Somerset St. When needed, my older brothers, twins Bob & Joe (Prep alums, as well, '41 and '42) would answer a service call for furnace/heat work. If i saw our truck outside during study hall, I would ask to use the bathroom. Since the furnace room was adjacent to the boy's restroom & accessed by a door, it was an easy matter to visit "the family" for a few minutes. Being over 60 + years ago, those escapades still provide me with fond memories. Do you think that Mr. Holley or Mr. Blake ever caught on ?
Bern Crowl '50 Open or Close
I remember arriving at a small building at the end of College Avenue in September 1949. I had failed to graduate with the New Brunswick High School Class of 1949. My major accomplishment had been to be named Class Clown in the 1949 NBHS yearbook.
I drove in with two classmates from what is now known as Edison and parked right outside the school at a meter. One of my classmates- I believe Jim Jensen- would alert me when he saw I would be ticketed if I didn’t run out and make a deposit in the meter.
Other than my brief departure from class to the parking meter I must have been on my best behavior because I recall AZ Holley passing me on the stairs at the end of the first marking period and saying “Mr. Crowl, we are proud of you”.
By the end of the school year I was accepted by the University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School of Finance among others but chose Notre Dame.
Decades later at an RPS dinner I was given an Achievement Award. My response was that the award should be given to whomever at RPS in 1949 had the courage to accept me.
RPS can make a difference. In my case it certainly did.
Rahul Desai '13 Open or Close
Severa res est verum gaudium. Deep meaning embeds itself in the simple phrase "hard work is true joy." Initially, I thought the Prep motto simply referred to cultivating a love of what you do. However, as I've contemplated that phrase over the years, it has dawned on me that our motto offers a guide to life; it teaches resilience, dedication, the ability to fail forward. It serves as a call to action, a reassurance that achievement is its own reward. Ultimately, it tells us that, while we may stumble and fall as we climb to great heights, it will all be worth it.
I've certainly found this to be true since my graduation from Prep in 2013. Though I began my writing career at Rutgers Prep, I can't say that I attained any level of success or fame with my first work. In fact, it was a complete flop. However, RPS taught me to dedicate myself to my craft, regardless of trials and tribulations.
I ended up writing my next book, a work of nonfiction about startup companies entitled The First 30%, with the blessing of Y Combinator, one of the most powerful venture capital firms in the world. It has moved over 3000 copies with zero marketing effort and collected thousands in donations. Without the support of the Prep community, I would never have continued to write in spite of my initial failure. I would have taken the easy road and given up. Hard work is indeed true joy.
David Dixon '87 Open or Close
When you are a freshman in high school you fantasize about how great it would be if your school burned down until your school burns down. In November 1983, the news spread early one morning that a portion of RPS did burn down subsequently displacing our community into mobile trailer classrooms strategically placed around the RPS campus. I distinctly remember the first winter. When the trailer doors opened it was cold. But eventually the cold gave way to spring’s warmth and the smell of fresh cut grass wafted through the temporary classrooms. And for the next couple of years this became our new normal. It was far from the idyllic environment promised from a prep school but we got by and ultimately the uniqueness of the experience served to bond us. It made our story richer.
Once we moved into the beautiful newly constructed upper-school, circa 1985, we were all very excited. The student lounge where we would convene to begin school each morning was perfect.
Kurt Epps P'06, P'09, P'12 Open or Close
As a veteran teacher in the public school system, I took education very seriously. So seriously, in fact, that we homeschooled our three sons up till eighth grade, because I felt the public schools were not sufficiently focused on educational growth. Our decision to enroll them at RPS, therefore, was not made lightly. We wanted their education to be rigorous, and it was.
Because they were homeschooled, the transition to classroom learning was not an easy one. Fortunately, the staff at RPS was extremely helpful in getting them acclimated, offering them extra help when necessary and displaying an uncommon level of concern. And they all succeeded.
But the value of RPS, for us, went far beyond academic rigor.
There is a palpable sense of “family” at RPS, and it is regularly evidenced in interaction with staff and students. That sense of family was made abundantly clear to us when our oldest son (RPS ’06) was suddenly stricken with an insidious kidney disease eight years after graduating RPS, despite never having been sick a day in his life.
His time away from RPS mattered little to the RPS community, and everyone, from the headmaster to teachers to students—even custodians—rallied to his side. The RPS community sponsored fundraisers to offset some of his expenses, even reaching out to graduates to inform them of Brett’s condition.
Simply put, the love that RPS showed him was all-encompassing, and it made our family’s burden much easier to bear. We are—and always will be-- forever grateful.
Roy Eskow '64 Open or Close
On Saturday evening October 25, 1975, the credits began rolling following an extremely clever episode of the Mary Tyler Moore Show. In fact, it was the iconic “Chuckles Bites the Dust” episode. As I watched, one name caught my eye, David Lloyd. I thought for a second, could this be the same fellow who was my freshman English teacher at Prep? The one who made even pop quizzes funny? Was this the same guy who would run out of the building on the corner of College Avenue and Somerset Street early in the afternoon to catch the train from New Brunswick to New York to write monologues for Johnny Carson? The Tonight Show was being broadcast from NYC at that time. Intrigued, I wrote a letter and sent it off to the Mary Tyler Moore studios in Hollywood. Within days a long and wonderful letter came back from David recounting his days at Prep. We continued to correspond and he even extended an invitation for me to visit if and when I was to visit California. He was a wonderful addition to our school. He brought humor and enthusiasm to frightened freshmen English students. Unfortunately for Prep, his tenure was brief, lasting only one year, as his career propelled him to greater heights, including an Emmy award for the Chuckles episode. Just one more example of the wonderful memories of an inspiring faculty member at Prep.
The 1961 Ye Dial has a short blurb and picture on page 13.
Franceen George '69 Open or Close
I will always remember Dr. Sperduto! I was afraid of him, disliked him - because I wasn't the best student - both socially and academically. I did not pass Mr. Miner's calculus class and needed the credit to graduate,. Dr,. Sperduto called me into his office and told me that if I went to summer school at the college that I was going to in the fall, and took any two classes and got a B in both, he would mail me my diploma with the original date of 6 June on it - no one would ever know. I was able to participate in the graduation ceremony and I got a blank sheet of paper at that time., I too two classes at Nasson College, got B's in both, and got my diploma directly from Dr. Sperduto in person at RPS in August,. As I aged and went on to get several advanced degrees I will always remember Dr. Sperduto for teaching me a valuable lesson in "negotiation" and trust. I would never have gotten to where I am now without that act of trust and confidence given to me by Dr. Sperduto (and Dr. Heinlein too, of course!).
Rob Kaufelt '65 Open or Close
In 1962, we were enduring french class with Mr. Gagini, who never failed to make the most precise movements, and arrange his desk in the most meticulous way.
Our class genius, Paul Weiss, equally brilliant in art and literature, chose to immortalize him in the Argomag as Mr. Primm.
Mr. Primm folded the paper's twice and then ripped them neatly in two and dropped the white pile into the wastebasket. He arranged the books at the front of his desk into a straight line between the two bookends and blew tiny forceful puffs of air at their tops ridding them of any dust. He arranged papers into separate square neat stacks, put writing paper under the small heavy weight, and placed urgent papers into the green carrying case on the left side of the table top. He spread his clean white hands on the center of the table, then rose and replaced the chair, took his briefcase, turned off the light, descended the stairs, and out the door. He crossed the street to his home, opened the door, ascended the stairs, carefully removed his high boots and long blue overcoat, placed his case precisely on the side of the bureau, removed his glasses, folded them and placed them in their case, walked to the bureau, removed the small square box etched with Chinese goal dragons, folded his legs, and his arms, bent his head to his chest, placed himself inside the box and neatly closed the top with a click.
Chris Hlavka '66 Open or Close
Things change, but not much. I remember being assigned 250 word English papers while at RPS, and now you are specifying that length, albeit as a maximum rather than a approximate length. While in college, I listened to a talk by a writer who said that he found that writing something that length particularly difficult. So maybe that explains my difficulties with the writing assignments - or not. I suppose that writing or reading 250 word papers takes less time than longer papers, while shorter papers ay preclude depth or breadth. So the 250 word assignment lives on.
Richard Kluft '60 Open or Close
Among the best qualities of the RPS faculty was its tolerance, even its reverence (within limits), of irreverence. Confronted with foolishness, their reactions could verge upon the insurrectionary. Leading the charge against arrant nonsense, but certainly not alone, was Thomas G. Dumarae, Jr., the scarf-wearing, pointer-swinging, myth-busting master of Dumarae’s dungeon, the sole basement classroom.
Gifted teachers and young minds together, plus the role model of Mr. Dumarae, encouraged thinking unfettered thoughts. From the venerable chalk dust of the old campus arose the Clowns’ Club, a sextet of classmates dedicated to fun, and to the extension (some might say perversion) of classroom knowledge into play. David Blanken, Henry Gurshman, Bardy Levavy, John Torrey, Peter Wintersteiner, and I, often joined by others, pushed, teased, challenged, and taunted one another to make something funny out of one intellectual challenge after another, usually related to current classwork. Our encounters became a crash-course in creativity.
The quintessential Clowns’ Club moment was a David Blanken masterpiece. In studying Beowulf, we discussed the Anglo-Saxon concept of Wyrd (fate). One lunch time we found David putting the final touches on a study hall blackboard he’d covered with neat print. It read, “Wyrd was worried when Wintersteiner went weeks without washing, working, walking, wanting....” David spun his celebration of exuberant and inexorable Ws out to 84 successive words before space and lunch hour were exhausted. Prepsters laughed or applauded, teachers’ jaws dropped before they chuckled.
Some act for Pete to follow! That’s RPS as I remember it.
Barbara Kurzweil (class of 1965) Open or Close
My first day at Rutgers Prep was the first day of the opening of the new campus for the lower school. We were in the old mansion. At lunch when we were outside by the canal and exploring the front yard, someone came running back to announce they found the old family cemetery. Now that was a memory that will stay with me for life! That was September 1958. I was starting 6th grade. It was a beautiful, sunny day. What fun we had! I didn't graduate from Prep, but i remember I was in the 199th graduating class, the class of 1965. The upper school was still on the Rutgers campus. But the future was there by the canal. From the carriage house makeshift gym, to the long walk to Easton Avenue where the buses picked us up, we were the first in everything we did on that campus. And we did take special pride in that. My sister Jean was class of 1962. She loved the Rutgers campus, but I am grateful to have enjoyed those 3 years by the canal.
Robert Linders '32 Open or Close
My dad graduated from Rutgers Prep in 1932. He won Dorr Prize as best all around student in graduating class. He won five State Championships in Track, setting a State Record in 220 Yard Dash. He went on to run for Cornell, coming within 1/10th of second of World Record in 60 meter Dash.
After graduating in 1932, he drove his 1932 Ford to LA Olympics with Dr. Donald J. McGinn, his English teacher and track coach.
After my dad died in 1984, I visited McGinn at his home in N.J. McGinn told me that my dad asked to see McGinn's watch one day on shore of Raritan River. McGinn showed my dad his watch. My dad threw in in river and gave him a new watch.
I was present with McGinn when my dad was inducted into Rutgers Prep Hall of Fame. I visited McGinn several times in Indian Lake and New Jersey.
I also was NJ State Champion in 880 Yard Run in 1960. I attended Georgetown on Track scholarship, later transerring to Gettysburg where I still hold Half Mile record after 51 years. I later earned MA in English from Monmouth College, and masters and doctoral degrees from Princeton Seminary. I am presently senior pastor of St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Doylestown, Pa. Robert H. Linders
Rick Marcou '85 Open or Close
What’s the measure of friendship?
Is it years? Is it memories? Is it shared experiences? Is it the length you go to on someone’s behalf?
It’s all of these things. And it’s what Rutgers Prep means to me. It’s where I learned to be a student, it’s where I experienced some success on the field. But the real measure of my time at Prep is the friendships I made which are even stronger today, some 36 years later. It’s the memories of those days, and the many days since. It’s the shared experiences, positive and negative, as we started careers, got married, had kids, and then had the devastating experience of burying one of our own. So as we toast to his memory every year, we also toast Rutgers Prep, for making all of this possible.
Stuart Nixon '64 Open or Close
As a boy born and raised in the South, I experienced a certain amount of culture shock when my father moved our family to New Brunswick to take a new job. More specifically, I became aware of three things that we didn't have in the South: bars, Army/Navy stores, and soccer. I learned how to play the last at Rutgers Prep and thoroughly enjoyed it. It was also that time in life when I discovered how much fun it is to kiss girls, but that's another story.
Lauren Wink '08 Open or Close
Rutgers Prep, not just a school but a family. I was not just a student at the school but a member of a community. My final game as a varsity soccer player was the state finals, and was against one of our biggest rivals, Gill St. Bernard. Aside from being in denial that it was my last high school soccer game, I was not walking off the field without a win.
Although the game was played at Gill St. Bernard, since they were the higher ranked team, the environment created from the Prep family, made it feel like a home game. Friends, parents, peers, faculty members, and more, traveled the distance to support us in our championship game. Looking over at the sidelines, I saw my family, friends, and fans bundled up on the brisk fall day. Additionally, friends stood shirtless with P-R-E-P across their chest, and dressed up like an Argonaut.
After two scoreless halves, it was time for overtime; first goal, and the game is over, our team was determined it was our game to win. Five minutes into the first overtime, the ball was in the back of the net by my co-captain. I will never forget the feeling of excitement we felt at that moment of victory. Fans on the sideline running onto the field to help us celebrate this momentous occasion. There was no better way to end my soccer career than to hold that championship trophy, and standing with my teammates, and Prep family.
Peter Wintersteiner '60 Open or Close
Prep was an odd place in the 1950s, maybe even weird. What made it a great school was the faculty. (It certainly wasn’t the physical plant.) This is about one standout teacher.
Frank Sperduto loved history: American history, New Jersey history, the history of Prep. And he loved teaching. He arrived fresh out of the Army in 1952, and I—a Prep lifer—was in his 7th grade class two years later. He was the first male teacher I ever had; or, for that matter, had even seen. His reputation as a disciplinarian, spread with fearsome whispers among younger students, was considerably exaggerated but useful. His class was orderly but not rigidly so. He kept everyone’s attention, dispensed his own equally, and managed to make inherently boring subjects, like diagramming sentences, tolerable. At the Upper School, where he moved the same year I did, his senior American History course was a classic. He good-naturedly punctured grade-school myths. He mocked clichéd thinking. He wove stories into his lessons. He had amusing pet phrases (“Let it be pointed out...”) that he purposely overused, knowing they were attention-getters. Some students even counted them. He tolerated just enough nonsense to keep his classes loose and attentive. And he entertained. The Panic of 1892 was made memorable by his drawing stick-figure financiers jumping off a cliff, which he further conveyed in pantomime.
My class dedicated its senior yearbook to Mr. Sperduto. When the announcement was made in assembly, the applause was, fittingly, instantaneous and unanimous.