My Westtown Year

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.

About Westtown School

Westtown School is a Pre-K through 12th grade Quaker, coed, college preparatory day and boarding school in West Chester, PA.
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8 Responses to My Westtown Year

  1. Jenna Mehnert says:

    While this reads like a lovely illustration of change and struggle, the attempt to cloud the current lack of leadership in a developmental struggle story is simply wrong. Westtown has lost its way as it caves to weathly parents who never valued the true intent of the school. Westtown belongs to its alumni. Those of us who made the choice to make the school our home. We are its keepers as we are the ones whose very souls have been shaped by Westtown. I am so sad Westtown Quaker School has been replaced by Westtown Prep.

  2. Cathy Coate says:

    The alumni are, in fact, the soul of the school. Along with the non-administrative staff who actually have run the place for the past 200 years. Like Frank Rose.

  3. Mayland Reilly says:

    Often it is within the fog that we best learn to develop our other senses. Listen to the whispers of 200+ years of voices that have lived on that campus. For there are alumni who have had a family member there since 1799. Maybe instead of wanting the fog to lift, learn to navigate through it and realize that what you are expressing appreciation for, living there as part of a community, is exactly what the alumni want to ensure for future generations.

  4. Steve Coleman says:

    It is interesting that the pain and anger are seen as creating fog. Perhaps what is fog for some is speaking truth to power for others. When we studied Eliot’s “Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” under Tom Woodward, we found that there was animate power in the fog, tied to a deeper truth that was difficult to understand when spoken directly.

    Fog can be a gift if it is welcomed. There is a stillness, a serenity, and a focus that it can bring– even a magic in the alchemy of the dew point and conflicting temperatures of air, earth, and water.

    Westtown can be at its most beautiful in the fog. Can we find the beauty and truth in differing perceptions to do the work needed to achieve real unity and clearness for Westtown’s future?

  5. Wendi Grantham says:

    Steve Coleman speaks my mind.

  6. Kevin Gallagher says:

    Dear Terry,
    Thanks for sharing with us a personal and painful part of all of our stories—the part when we move from a place we deeply love to an unfamiliar place where no one knows us…at first.

    I too have faith that the fog will yield to clarity for you and your family and for all Westonians, because I have learned in my 30 or so years here that spirit-led community is about respect, acceptance, kindness, and an openness to listening deeply to those we don’t yet know. It’s my sense that the students here have gotten that message, as well as the teachers and staff. And though we are all at different stages of learning and acting on this, our continued work at cultivating such community at Westtown can lead us all beyond that horizon that limits the self.

    Thanks for bringing your family here and sharing them and yourself with us!
    Kevin Gallagher

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