By Terry Dubow, Associate Head of School
I’m not sure everyone is aware that, among its various roles, Westtown is a landlord. Over the course of its 214 years, Westtown has built and maintained dozens of homes that it provides faculty and staff whose roles require them to live on campus. When someone like me moves to Westtown, someone like me feels like he won the mortgage lottery.
This summer, my family and I moved in from Cleveland, Ohio, which, despite rumors to the contrary, is really a wonderful place to live. We left a dozen years of history, best friends, and a community we loved. We also left the first (and only) house my wife and I ever bought. It wasn’t easy. It still isn’t.
But we got lucky. Westtown provided an amazing place for us. We’re in the Farm Manager’s house. Ted Lutkus’ family used to live there. So did Joe Marchese’s. It sits right above Pete’s Produce farm, which means that August through October, we walked that dirt path to the produce stand. Watching my 10 year-old walk home with a bag of corn made me feel better about uprooting her.
In the mornings this fall, the farm was blanketed by a fog so thick that at least three times, I put on a jacket and considered an umbrella before heading out to walk to campus. It carried that misty scent and portended something dreary.
It reminded me of my own home. I grew up by the beaches in Southern California, which disappeared each spring under fogs that rolled in from the Pacific and converted postcard settings into nothing but billowy gray. I left my home when I was 18, and now I only visit.
And so each day this fall when I’d walk out of the Farm Manager’s house and into the fog, I’d think about my childhood and my kids’ childhoods and all of the childhoods that took place on this majestic campus.
In some ways – but, by no means, in all ways – it’s been a rough spell here at Westtown. I entered the community in a time of some strife and confusion. In my role as Associate Head, I’m trying to help the school build bridges to connect our school to alumni, parents and friends. Sometimes it’s felt almost impossible. People love this place so much that, for some, pain has released anger.
I can tell you that, as a newcomer, that pain and anger have created a kind of fog that’s sometimes made it hard to see Westtown.
But here’s the thing about fog. It’s the most temporary weather that I know. In the mornings of my youth, fog just meant I didn’t have to put on sunscreen until noon. Fog burns off, and there’s nothing quite like it when it does. All of a sudden, the sun announces itself, and all that had concealed beauty burns away, and what’s left is what’s been here all along.
Westtown’s going to get through this time. It’s going to come out the other end stronger because our alumni, parents, students, faculty and staff will ensure that it does. The fog will burn off. The campus and the school’s soul will persevere.
At some point, my family and I will leave the Farm Manager’s House. Someone else will move in. If I’m lucky, people will tell the newcomer that he or she is moving into the house where the Dubows used to live.
It’s a good reminder that we’re all occupying space that’s been occupied by others. We belong to a long train of people who’ve cared about this place for a very long time. We’re just lucky to be a part of it, and we’re required to make the most of our time so that it’s ready for the next generation to take the reins.