On Monday, January 30, the Winsor Board of Trustees hosted a dinner with the faculty and staff. The centerpiece of the evening was the awarding of the Pennypacker Prize for an outstanding faculty member between their 2nd and 7th year at the school, and the celebration of four 20-year veterans of the school: Associate Director of College Counseling and English Faculty Jennifer Graham, French Faculty Laura Houlette, Cross Country and Track Coach Moriah Musto, and Squash Coach Szilvia Szombati.
The evening began with Alison Pellegrino, president of the Board of Trustees, welcoming everyone and honoring the faculty and staff who were celebrating 5-, 10-, and 15-year milestones at the school. The 5-year club included Spanish Faculty Gabriella Gangi, Mathematics Faculty Emily Moran, Athletic Trainer Adam Newell, Theater Tech Director Andres Puigbo, and Administrative Assistant to the Division HeadsDanica Villanueva. Honored for 10 years of service were: Director of Facilities and Construction John Crompton, Theater Faculty Jeremy Johnson, and Facilities Technician Richie Waite. Rounding out the honorees were two 15-year teachers: Visual Arts Faculty Erin Calamari, and Mathematics Faculty Tom Wensinck.
Ms. Pellegrino introduced Head of School Sarah Pelmas, who offered a surprise tribute to honor retiring Library Assistant Helen Doggett-Plante P’16, whose last official Winsor event was the evening’s celebratory dinner. Ms. Pelmas noted that “Ms. D-P,” as the students always call her, will be remembered for “her clear love for [the students] and her commitment to ensuring that each and every one of them was doing well.”
Ms. Pelmas then turned to award the Pennypacker Prize, which is “given annually in the name of Henriette Pennypacker Binswanger ’52, with respect and admiration for the educational excellence of the Winsor School.” Established in 2002, this prize is awarded to a faculty member in at least their third year of full-time teaching and “is intended to encourage the recipient’s continuing educational growth and development.”
This year’s winner was a closely-guarded secret until the dinner. Ms. Pelmas characterized him as beloved by students and colleagues alike, and quoted Head of Performing Arts Felicia Brady-Lopez who said he is “a soulful, inspired musician; a dynamic conductor; a humble, hard-working and beloved member of the department; someone who lights up the stage when accompanying his singers.” The room erupted in cheers when Ms. Pelmas announced the winner to be Choral Director Andrew Marshall.
After a wonderful meal prepared by Winsor’s own Chef Heather Pierce and her culinary team, Ms. Pelmas returned to the podium to honor two educators in their 25th year, facilities team member Bob Anderson and English Department Head and teacher Courtney Jackson, and then to celebrate Facilities Staff Member Kevin Lynch for an amazing 35 years at Winsor!
In celebrating the four honorees for the evening, Ms. Pelmas noted that “Winsor is uniquely privileged in having a faculty and staff with such remarkable tenure. At most schools, a few brave souls make it to the 20-year mark. Here, it is only the first milestone for many, and a relatively early one at that!”
College counselor Jennifer Graham began at Winsor as the director of college counseling for her first seven years at Winsor before stepping slightly back to add class dean and faculty member to her roles. Ms. Pelmas celebrated her “for being a wonderful teacher, colleague friend, advisor, and dean; for being someone we all delight in spending time with, a the lunch table or on the fly in the hallway or at a celebration like tonight; and of course for being ‘unflappable’!”
French Faculty Laura Houlette similarly has taken on many roles in her time at Winsor, including trip coordinator, department head, advisor for the community service club, and SEED meeting facilitator. She was praised for “always stepping up and saying yes, for [her] energy and creativity, [her] tremendously varied pedagogy, [her] generosity with colleagues…and [her] remarkable ability to spark a lifelong love of French in all [her] students.”
Coach Moriah Musto started coaching cross country and track at Winsor only three years after graduating from college, and pretty quickly created winning teams. She also works at Fidelity for her day job, so she is a model of multitasking. Her records include 18 EIL League championship titles, and being named coach of the year 13 times. She is so adored by her team that they created a 26-minute video celebrating her, part of which was quoted in Pelmas’ remarks. Coach Moriah was honored for her “dedication, expertise, commitment to running, food and traditions, [her] obvious talent for managing a million things at once, and [her] clear love for all [her] runners past, present, and future.”
The final honoree of the evening was Coach Szilvia Szombati, who runs the squash center at Winsor, and who began her own athletic life as a nationally-ranked badminton player in Hungary. Switching to squash gave her a new passion for both playing and coaching, and her team captains were quoted characterizing her approach as “mean strokes, nice demeanor.” Universally recognized as kind and supportive of every single player, she was celebrated for her “incredible competitive spirit combined with graciousness and generosity, for [her] remarkable talent in badminton that translated so well to squash, for bringing the love of squash to literally hundred of people each year, and for showing [Winsor] athletes how fun it is to play hard and win often.”
This annual dinner is a highlight of the year for the faculty and staff, a chance to celebrate their colleagues and to enjoy time together getting to know the trustees and enjoying the joyful focus on educational excellence, and the dedicated colleagues whose long careers at Winsor have made it such an extraordinary experience for our students.