Peter V. Buttenheim '60, P'84, "Paying It Forward"—from 2014
When I was sent away to Taft School as an Upper Mid in the fall of 1958, I reacted to a new school just as most other teens have over the years. I asked myself questions such as: Will I make friends?, How hard is the academic program going to be?, What kinds of sports and activities will be available?, and, most of all, Will I be happy in a boarding school?
By the time I graduated twenty-one months later, the answers emerged—I made friends, the courses were challenging, and the faculty excellent. I found my way to club soccer and club ice hockey plus stage crew and the dance committee, and I enjoyed thoroughly the entire Taft experience—leaving Watertown as a proud member of the Class of 1960!
After I graduated from Williams College in 1964, Bob Woolsey, one of those excellent Taft Greek and Latin "master" teachers, hired me to instruct English and coach soccer at the Casady School in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, where Bob had become the new head of school. This was the first of many ways that I stayed in touch with Taft after graduation.
During my forty-four years in education, I found a number of other unusual ways to remain connected with the school. Some of these included:
- Benefiting from John Esty and Lance Odden as professional friends and mentors
- Giving a talk at Vespers about my summer volunteer work in Alaska
- Serving as associate director of the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies Program at Wesleyan University and recruiting Taft faculty, including Ferdie
- Directing the Connecticut Association of Independent Schools' Beginning Teachers Institutes for many years, which involved many Taft "rookie" teachers—including Willy
- Writing an article for the Taft Bulletin
- My older daughter Jennifer's graduation from Taft in 1984
- Walking one hundred miles from Williamstown, Massachusetts, to Watertown, Connecticut, in honor of Taft's 100th anniversary
Continuing a Family Tradition
Since I retired from education in 2008, I have become more directly involved with the Buttenheim Family Scholarship at Taft. My father Don, my uncles Curtis and Greg, and my aunt Connie Swain established this family scholarship in 1991 in memory of their parents, my paternal grandparents, Marion Voorhees Buttenheim and Edgar Joseph Buttenheim.
I was pleased to earmark half of my fiftieth reunion gift to the Buttenheim Family Scholarship and the other half to the newly established George M. Hampton '60 Memorial Scholarship Fund. These named scholarships help Taft attract exemplary students who might not otherwise be able to attend our exceptional school.
Now that I am a member of "The Old Guard," a post-fiftieth reunion alumnus, my thoughts about Taft have become more and more long-range. I want the Buttenheim Family Scholarship and all the other named scholarship funds to grow annually. I do not want to see these funds undermined by inflation. I want there to be a long line of extraordinary recipients of the Buttenheim Family Scholarship and other such funds in perpetuity.
Paying It Forward
After thinking about this need during the fall of 2013, I asked my attorney to draft a codicil to my will—which was easy to accomplish—directing a bequest to Taft for the Buttenheim Family Scholarship. With the completion of that codicil and a copy of it sent to the school, I now feel that the wheel has made the full turn and aspiring Taft students in the future will come to Watertown and benefit from Taft just as I did. This bequest is a small way for me to pay it forward and to say thank you to Taft for the many inestimable bonds that have been a part of my life for the fifty-four years since I graduated. Now, through this bequest to the Buttenheim Family Scholarship, those bonds will exist in perpetuity.
I am proud to be a new member of the Horace Dutton Taft Legacy Society and to know that I am carrying on the tradition of giving to Taft established by my father, his two brothers, and his sister. Nothing can be more satisfying than for me to know that many remarkable students, regardless of family income, will continue to attend Taft for many generations to come.
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