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Louise Head H’56

The fact that our family has been part of this school for four generations — that’s shocking to me! My mother attended Miss Doherty’s School for Girls, though she didn’t talk to me about her experience there very much. I was Lotspeich Class of 1950
and Hillsdale Class of 1956. I started at the school in first grade, and at that time, Mrs. Lotspeich was the head. She was very physically imposing, and she was very definitely the head of the school. There were very few discipline problems because you’d look up at her and that was your motivation to behave.

I had a fabulous experience there. If it was snowing, instead of classes, there were sleds and we’d spend the morning sledding down the hill. Mrs. Lotspeich’s idea was that fresh air makes you think better. As I’ve understood it, that’s why every Lotspeich classroom today has a door into the room and also a separate door to the outside, so students can easily go outdoors. Mr. Wuerfel was the assistant Head of School then. If it was a gorgeous spring day, Mr. Wuerfel would say, “Fold your books, we’re going outside for a bird walk,” and we did that all the time. We’d walk around, the sun would be shining, and it would be a science lesson on foot.

We had assembly every day in the library. We’d sing songs and then Mrs. Lotspeich would give a little homily about life
experiences and how to deal with them.

My favorite teacher was Mrs. Sheffield. She was a huge supporter for me. I was dyslexic and stayed in during recess a lot, because they were giving me remedial reading. Mrs. Sheffield was the one who said, “You really have potential here.” She helped me love to learn.

All these years later, I’ve had 11 grandchildren attend the school. The youngest two are still there. I’m just wildly proud of how Seven Hills has maintained its core values. It’s an unusual school. It believes everybody has something to contribute.

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Henry Head ’13

I started at Lotspeich, and what stands out most are the projects and teachers who were connected to experiential memories. For Colonial Day in fifth grade, I remember we went to Lotspeich art teacher Mrs. Knoop’s farm, and she sheared a sheep right in front of us. Then we took that wool, threaded it into yarn and went back to school and dyed it.

Another thing that I’m pretty sure didn’t happen at a lot of schools was, as an elementary schooler, I took care of chinchillas in Mrs. Knabe’s science lab. I would come in before school started to feed them and change their wood chips. In a wonderful way, it kind of felt like a mad scientist’s laboratory. During class, we’d be learning and the birds would be in the corner chirping and the chinchillas would be running around. When we learned about animal biology or ecosystems from Mrs. Knabe, we could look around and see examples right there — that was a really fun experience as a kid.

I also had a lot of great teachers after Lotspeich — Ms. Ramsay in Middle School, and Ms. Driehaus in Upper School, who really helped me to discover the inherent joy in learning. Tim Drew was my high school psychology teacher and tennis coach, and he was a huge factor in my development as a person. He was also just such a character. I love that Tim would teach every student who took physics or psychology with him how to change a tire, because it was a life skill he thought everyone should have.

I liked how all the students were involved in so many things. In a small school, that’s the only way you can field a sports team and put on a play and have a science club and a chess club and a vintage gaming club. We would all support each other’s extracurricular activities. Everyone came to our soccer games and cheered us on, and we would then go to the basketball games and cheer them on, and we’d all go to the blackbox theater to see the play or attend Coffee House to see the artwork students had been working on. There was communal support for every discipline — both institutional support and support from your classmates. It never felt like one of those extracurriculars rose above any other in terms of importance.

I saw Seven Hills as being like a little liberal arts college before you ever got to college. I got to dive deeply into a bunch of different interests — soccer and tennis, student government, science olympiad. It was helpful because by the time you get to college, when you’re starting to make decisions about where you want to focus, Seven Hills has already given you that breadth. I knew I wanted to focus more granularly on the subjects that really interested me, all of which I had been introduced to at Seven Hills.     

When I was in sixth grade, I had a cousin or sibling in every grade above me all the way through 12th grade and two younger cousins in the two grades below me. That was the most amazing experience. There was never a time when I didn’t feel like there was someone I could go talk to if I was having a problem or wanted to ask their advice. I think the incredible thing about Seven Hills is that even those who didn’t have nine family members at the school at the same time, like I did, still felt that there were a lot of really strong support systems.

My grandmother — we call her Lou Lou — and I talk about Seven Hills, though of course we went there at such different times. When I was at the school, it was hard to see the big picture of what it means to be part of a four-generation family at a small school. But now, I feel like I appreciate that I got to experience Seven Hills because of the care and commitment of people like my great-grandmother and grandmother. That’s how a school keeps going.

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Kathy Richardson

I was 21 when I started teaching, so I really grew up at the school. I pretended I was at least 25, but I don’t know if I fooled anybody. A student later told me, “We knew you were about a minute older than we were.” Most of the Hillsdale teachers when I arrived in 1961 were formidable war horses, as I saw them. The students all wore uniforms and the uniforms had to come to the middle of the kneecap. The girls would try to pull the tunics up under the belt, so they’d be shorter. The teachers had to stand and watch them coming into the daily morning assembly, and we’d practically measure the skirt length. The students had to stand in the classroom until the teacher said, “Please be seated.” The levels of respect were intended to be quite visible.

I stayed home for a number of years when my daughters were young, and when I returned to teaching — this time at CPS in 1972 — it was shortly before the merger. The merger, to put it lightly, was not lovely. A lot of the CPS people always felt they’d gotten short shrift in terms of resources. The little gym at the Red Bank campus was subdivided into four classrooms, and they weren’t soundproof. We tried to merge departments, and there were differences in philosophies. One teacher told me it felt like an invasion. It took time for the school to really come together.

As a parent, of Lisa and Julianne, I just couldn’t have been happier with the school — the incredible caring of the teachers, the collaboration with parents, the lack of hierarchical thinking, the sense that every child really was precious.

In the 1970s, my daughters attended Doherty, which had become an Individually Guided Education, or IGE, school. It was wonderful in terms of having kids set their own goals, not just having goals superimposed upon them. Our daughters, even in second grade, would take responsibility for laying out their clothes the night before. By third grade, they were making breakfast for the family. We loved seeing self-sufficiency take root as a result of the education they were receiving. I felt that if I could be part of changing somebody else’s children’s lives the way my colleagues have shaped my daughters’ lives, then my life would be worth it.

In my classroom, I loved that kids really wanted to learn and were bright and fun and responsive. I don’t think I could have taught there for 42 years if that weren’t true; I would have burned out. I used to tell students when they complained about my being picky about sentence structure and punctuation and grammar, “I am teaching you to be future Justices of the Supreme Court and to write good opinions.”

I felt most alive when I stood in front of a class with a novel in my hand. The ideas in literature are just so profound. What you’re really teaching is life. That’s why I loved teaching books like “The Catcher In The Rye” and “A Separate Peace.”

I always thought my job was to help educate and integrate both the head and the heart — there’s my nod to Nathaniel Hawthorne. An “A” student is not necessarily an “A” person, just as a “C” student is not necessarily a “C” person. Seven Hills is constantly aware of that. Students appreciate that our feedback as teachers is coaching rather than judging. I think that’s one of the best things about the school. It’s never us versus them. It’s always we. Even at the end of my career, my attitude toward my students was, “I happen to be 50 years ahead of you in life, but I’m not smarter. I’m here to take you as far as you will go, and I know that you will go even farther.”

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Ellie Fabe ’78

I started at Lotspeich in preschool and continued on to Hillsdale — I was in ninth grade at the time of the merger and went all the way through, but we didn’t have the term “lifer,” which is more recent.

In kindergarten, my teacher’s husband set up a carpentry workbench in our classroom, so when we arrived at school, we could hammer and saw things before the day got going. This was the 1960s — we had a lot of freedom, and nobody seemed to be very worried about anyone sawing their hand off. Later, as older kids, we were allowed to walk wherever we wanted. We were very untethered.

The campus was more of a farm campus then. A pony lived on campus in a little enclosed yard next to the Clothing Exchange. There were fewer buildings, more trees, and the campus felt more spacious. The big hill, which leads down to the turf athletic fields now, back then was like the wilderness to us. At the top of the hill, behind the Pavilion, was the displaced mud leftover from when they built I-71, and we called it “the Rock Pile.” We were allowed to go there at recess, or whenever we were free, to hunt for fossils, especially in fourth grade when we studied them in science.

Lotspeich was a really creative place, maybe even in unintentional ways. There was this ritual where we each designed and made an elaborate cake for Valentine’s Day — it was sort of like sculpture class with cake as the medium. Then you gave it to somebody else, and somebody else gave their cake to you. After I graduated from Seven Hills and went to art school, I had an assignment to create a three-dimensional object out of food, and I was like, “Oh my god, it’s the Lotspeich fifth grade baking extravaganza all over again!” There were a lot of fun activities that were very fueling of the creative process.

When the schools merged, the way they explained it to us was that CPS and Hillsdale couldn’t make it alone if we didn’t combine. For the decision-makers, merging was the pragmatic thing to do, but I don’t think they had a true sense of what it felt like for the kids. I remember being in ninth grade, and the school had to bring in a psychologist because the seniors were so shellshocked they couldn’t get along. The school did try to have students participate in things like deciding the new logo and the name of the new merged school and even things like the school colors. The green and gold came from Hillsdale and the blue and white came from CPS — those things felt important to us.

In high school, I spent a lot of time in Hill Manor. Seven Hills has always done a good job of providing sanctuaries within the school — the places you could go if you were having a bad day or just wanted to get away. For me, that was the art room with Chris Hayward and also to Patty Flannigan’s theater classroom. Both of those teachers were always on our side, the students’ side. And they actually were our friends and made us feel respected and like what we were doing was significant.

Years later, before my own kids started at Seven Hills, I went back to see one of my nephews in the school talent show. That night there were some incredible student musicians, ones who were obviously very cool, followed by a girl who was singing a song that was a little more on the shaky side, and yet they both got the same huge encouraging response from the audience — whistling and raucous applause. I remember thinking, “Wow, how fantastic is that?” I liked that the school had doubled down on and codified a culture of kindness. You can’t make kids be nice, and not everybody is, but when it becomes part of the culture — what parent wouldn’t want that?

When my two boys, Georgie and Reed, started there, the school had evolved. I mean, when I was in seventh grade there was a senior smoking lounge. So, that’s probably a good change. Still, I miss the rough edges sometimes. I miss Hill Manor. But I think Seven Hills has done a good job staying strong in the arts while bringing athletics up to speed. By the time Georgie and Reed were there, the school had really pumped up its athletics. In the 1970s, when Hillsdale first began admitting boys, there were so few that they all had to play on every team — and Country Day was always wiping the floor with us.

As a Seven Hills parent, old friends who knew me as a teenager would be like, “You, Ellie Fabe, the arts-music-theater girl, have a sporty son?” And I did have a sporty son, who went on to play college lacrosse. So, that changed my perspective a little. I was a person who mourned the covering of the field with AstroTurf, but I could see that a lot of boys don’t want to go to a school if it’s not competitive in sports.

One of the most important constants has been the way the school values and nurtures curiosity. I used to tell Georgie and Reed that if you hit age 40 and you have an idea you’re excited about, often the world isn’t really that interested in hearing about it. But if you’re 15-years-old at Seven Hills and there’s something you’d like to do or create or explore, and you tell your teacher, they’ll do anything to support you and make it happen.

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Susan Marrs

I was hired at Hillsdale for a part-time English position in 1971. I worked Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays teaching American Lit to juniors and English electives to seniors. This was 1971, so it was still all girls in the Upper School. They were smart and chatty and engaging and open and warm and friendly. I thought it was great.

I joined a faculty with a lot of long-term teachers — many of them were single, older women who were very smart and very well-educated and who had given their lives to teaching at the school. I don’t know if those iconic teachers scared the students, but they scared me. Each of them was very certain that what she had to say was right, and they didn’t always agree. They were like knights on steeds, clashing in battle with armor clanking, but all the clashing and clanking was verbal. Nobody ever said anything actively rude to anybody else, but the tone of voice and the asperity with which comments could be delivered were powerful. I kept quiet.

What I remember about the merger is before it happened there had been the inevitable consultant, whose analysis was that there was a viable Cincinnati market for only two of the three independent schools currently operating — CPS, Hillsdale, and CCD — all of which were co-ed in their lower schools and single-sex in their Upper Schools. The consultant recommended that two of the three be combined, with the smallest of them essentially getting absorbed by one of the others. The kinder, gentler, more politically palatable way to affect a coming together was to present it as a merger, not an absorption. And that’s how it was presented to the faculties at Hillsdale and at CPS, even though Hillsdale was larger and CPS had some debt.

The merging of finances may have been easy, for all I know, but the merging of traditions was difficult. People asked each other, “How can we make this work for both of these student bodies? What traditions do we keep and what do we drop? We can’t keep all of them, there’d be no time to go to class!” I was an underling, so I was mainly listening to all of this, but things got a little testy among the faculty, at least for a while. We began to notice some student snippiness, a little, “Why should I listen to you?” directed at specific teachers. Finally, we were told in that first year that the former Doherty teachers were the only people who could discipline Doherty girls and the former Hillsdale teachers were the only ones who could discipline Hillsdale girls. By year three, I’d say, there was far less challenging of teachers from the other school, and more a feeling of, “We really are friends who go to the same school.”

One day, I was sitting in the office I shared with Dennis Reichelderfer, who taught history, when Neil Smith, the Head of Upper School, walked in holding a letter. He shook his head and said, “The guy we hired to be our new college counselor just sent me this letter saying he’s not going to take this job after all, so do you two want to do it?” This was August, probably too late to hire another experienced college counselor. Dennis and I looked at each other and said, “We teach seniors, so we know how to write recommendations. Why not!” And so, we did. In that far-less-stressful day, nobody — at least within our hearing — said, “These people don’t know what they’re doing. What are you doing giving them this job?”

How things have changed since then! The attitude used to be, go to college, find what you love, major in whatever appeals to you, and life will be fine. In those days, a huge portion of our graduates went to small liberal arts schools, mainly in the Northeast. Today, the majority of our kids say, I want a medium-sized school in a city, and I want a place where there are lots of good internships and research opportunities. The change came with the Great Recession of 2008. That’s when engineering and computer science shot through the roof. The economy and world events have played a dramatic role in what kids want for themselves and what families want for their kids. The college search tends to be more job and career and credentials oriented these days.

What’s special to me about Seven Hills — and this has always been true — is that as hard as it is to be an adolescent, I think it’s less hard here. At many, many high schools, you hear that to have any social capital, for a boy you have to be a jock, and for a girl, you have to be pretty. If you also have great grades, that’s well and good, although in some places maybe not because then you’re considered nerdy. At Seven Hills, it has always been true that kids have allowed each other and rewarded each other for great qualities well beyond the stereotypical. You can be a class star in the eyes of your age mates because you’re funny or because you’re in love with the environment or because you’re really sold on community service or because of any of a million other reasons. They’ve always given that to each other — that regard for individual talents and individual enthusiasms. Kids feel freer in this kind of atmosphere to really be who they are and explore the things that they’re interested in, not hide an enthusiasm because people might not think it’s cool.

I think working in a school like Seven Hills makes you a better parent and a more empathic human being because you witness the trials and tribulations and joys and successes of kids year after year after year. Upper School teachers gain a sense of the context of adolescence because they live with it every day. I’m sure the same is true for teachers of younger kids, too — that they come to deeply understand the challenges of the kids they teach. That context gives you an understanding and an acceptance and a perspective. Seeing kids make mistakes and learn from them, and then talk about what that felt like, makes you more empathic with them, and with people in general.

After former history teacher Mr. Turansky passed away, we got letters from nearly 100 of his former students, from his very first year of teaching to his last. And what they said, again and again, was: “Dear Mr. Turansky, you changed my life. You gave me a sense of how power works, and how and why to care for people who are the butt of other people’s power. And I went into my given field with that in mind.” It’s just stunning to read their letters. They talked about loving him. We are a school where students love their teachers and where the teachers love their students back.

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Marsha Williams ’77

My mother and father were both educators. They understood that if you’re Black, you’re going to have to work twice as hard to reach the same level as your white peers, so their thinking was, “Let’s give our children the best possible education we can.”

My oldest brother was the first member of our family to go to a private school — one that wasn’t Seven Hills or any of its predecessor schools. As my mother was driving me to my first day at College Preparatory School in seventh grade, she told me about when she and my father had received harassing and threatening phone calls because my brother had been a Black kid attending a different almost all-white private school. The harassment and threats went on for months. I had never heard any of this before because my parents intentionally kept it from us, but it made a lot of the weird things that had been going on at home finally make sense, like why, seemingly overnight, we kids were not allowed to answer the phone anymore. As my mother is telling me this, driving me to my first day at CPS, I’m getting more and more afraid, and I don’t want to get out of the car.

My mother said, “I’m just telling you this because I need you to be careful. It’ll be fine, but I need you to be careful.” She knew Hillsdale was a safe environment from my older sisters going there, but she didn’t really know College Preparatory School. I got out of the car that morning, and it was the longest walk of my life from the car to the front door of the school. I opened the door looking for Black faces, thinking the more Black faces I saw, the safer I would feel. To my relief, once I got past those beginning jitters of wondering, “Am I going to feel safe here?” I loved it. I loved that it was small, that the size created a sense of closeness and a level of intimacy. The grades were almost too small to break off into cliques.

The teacher who still stands out most in my mind is Leslie Oganowski, “Mrs. O” is what we called her. She was a gym teacher, a coach for several teams, and she also taught health. In seventh grade, we had to take health class — puberty and sex and all that stuff. The reason Mrs. O stands out is that very early on, maybe the second week of school, we were in health class, and one of my classmates raised her hand to answer a question, and in the classmate’s anecdote said a variation of the n-word. When you’re one of only two Black kids in the class and that happens, you just kind of freeze. Mrs. O swooped in so quickly and shut it down so fast! She said, “We do not use that language in this classroom or in this school!” She shut it down so firmly and so swiftly, and she became my hero. It was a big exhale. I thought, “This place is safe. The teachers will look out for you.”

Over time, I became diehard about CPS. It felt like one supportive community. Hillsdale was our biggest rival, and we joked about how we looked down on them, because we went to school in these beautiful old ivy-covered buildings and their school used to be a farm and their classrooms were still in barns.

Then, when I was in ninth grade, the merger was announced. They announced it in morning assembly, and I was devastated. None of the students saw it coming. I remember going outside to the bleachers by the hockey field with my friend Julie Ziegler Perry and a few other girls. We just needed to process it, to lament. The administrators weren’t sure about a lot of things, but they told us the new unified Upper School would definitely be at Red Bank.

When I started at the new Seven Hills in 10th grade, I wasn’t very happy about it. In the beginning, there were so few CPS girls compared to Hillsdale girls. For them, they were staying on the same campus, so their lives didn’t change that much. For us, our lives changed a lot. We were the newbies. We were small in number. It was pretty clear who was a CPS girl and who was a Hillsdale girl. Everything felt more cliquish. And all of the sudden, we had eight or nine boys in our class of around 60 students. It was just enough to disrupt things. The girls would have crushes, but there weren’t even enough boys to go around.

If you’re a Black kid, and you’re going to a private school, you learn early on that you’re going to have to figure out how to deal in a white environment. That was not specific to Seven Hills, but it’s something I had to learn at a young age. The whole culture at the school at that time was almost like everyone was going to pretend that race doesn’t exist. No one was having open talks about race and privilege then.

Almost three decades later, I attended a Seven Hills graduation ceremony for my nieces, and I was glad to see a lot more Black students on that stage, even if it was still just 10 or 15 percent of the class. I’ve had conversations in more recent years with a friend who was on the Seven Hills board about how the school stopped reporting percentages of students from specific ethnic backgrounds and moved to the more general, catch-all language of “people of color,” but that doesn’t always tell the more specific story.

Just recently, I was talking with one of those nieces who’d attended Seven Hills. She lives in New York now and is a mother herself, and the challenge still remains for a lot of Black families — how do you give your child the best possible education without having them be one of the few kids who looks like them?

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Glenn Shillinger

I was hired in January of 1973, the year before the merger, to be a school bus driver for College Preparatory School. The school had a great faculty, great staff, great students, but you could tell it was struggling financially. I thought, “This is going to be a temporary job for me.” Then 45 years later, I was still there.

My whole thing was, when somebody gets on that bus in the morning, you greet them with a smile and a hello, and you make the start of their day the best part. The families were always so nice. I still remember one of the parents, Sally Monroe, bringing me out a piece of toast and a hot chocolate most mornings.

The Middle Schoolers and Upper Schoolers were groggy and sleepy at the beginning of the day. In the afternoons, you could get a little bit more out of them. It was the little guys who were the ones who liked to talk. When I drove, I made it fun. I was pretty good at doing voices, so I’d get on the microphone and be chirping at them. The Shuttle wasn’t established until about 1980, and it was the best part of my job, sharing with the students that 15 minute ride each way between Doherty and the Hillsdale Campus — sitting behind that big wheel with the mirror where you can look back and see all the kids. I loved it. The Shuttle is a part of me.

I probably had five different ways to get between Doherty and the Hillsdale Campus. A lot would be determined by the weather. If the weather was bad, I’d go right down Madison Road. If it wasn’t bad, maybe I’d go down Wold Avenue and hop on I-71. The Madison Road route was my favorite. I could do that with my eyes closed — though I promise I never did!

I began driving players to away basketball games, and Duke Snyder and I started talking and getting to know each other more. A few years later, he asked me if I would coach golf. I said sure and did that for 13 years. Then he asked me a few years later to run the clock for basketball games, which Mrs. Brestel trained me to do. I was very into sports and loved helping out, so I’d be the starter for some of the track meets, an umpire for baseball games, whatever was needed. Duke was doing so much, and I had a whole lot of respect for him, so I wanted to mimic that as much as I could and put everything I had into the school.

When Duke stopped coaching basketball, he started keeping the scorebook at games, so we were there at the scorer’s table together for at least 20, if not 25 years. We also ran together every morning or afternoon for about 10 years and went to lunch pretty much every day. We were good sounding boards for each other.

One of the best things about the school is how we rallied around people when they needed it. When Middle School physical education teacher Beth Leonard got sick, she hated not being at the school, but the school really took care of her. Another person was Dave Sharpe — whom we all called Sharpie. The school ended up helping take care of his funeral expenses. It shows what a loving, caring place this is. Anyone who was in any sort of a situation — faculty or staff or a student — we’d do whatever we needed to do to make it right.

I still live five minutes from the school, and I miss the day to day. I miss driving the Shuttle, walking the hallways, greeting the teachers and kids. Every month or two, I’ll help out with a field trip, so maybe I never fully retired.

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Carolyn Fox

It was 1973, and I met Ophie Wheeler, who was the first grade teacher at Lotspeich. I hadn’t heard of Lotspeich before that. Her description of the school sounded almost too good to be true. Ophie encouraged me to visit for a day, so I observed in Ophie’s classroom, where I watched her delightful, free-spirited, fun, inventive teaching.

I was invited to visit the faculty room and other classrooms throughout the day. I was enamored with the camaraderie I saw at the school, the support, the respect for the teachers. There were so many aspects that reinforced my more idealistic view of teaching. What struck me most was the joy that the children were exhibiting. They could just be kids. Outdoors has always been a source for fun and for learning beginning with Mrs. Lotspeich’s vision for the school. I observed children learning academic subjects outside and playing during recess. The teachers were so devoted to the children, knowing and respecting them as individuals.

I had the privilege of meeting Ted Wuerfel, the principal who succeeded Mrs. Lotspeich, during my visit. It was his last year as principal. He invited me to his tiny office and said, “How was your day?” I told him what an amazing school I thought it was, and, after some conversation, he said, “Would you like to be a third grade teacher here?” The following year, I started teaching at Lotspeich in the third grade. I have never forgotten how I felt entering the building, as though I had walked through a doorway and on the other side was a rainbow — that at Seven Hills I could be the teacher that I aspired to be.

The curriculum was structured but not prescribed, as was my previous experience. I had developed a reading program which I wanted to continue. I wasn’t discouraged or directed to another program. The teachers were able to individualize more, and I learned from the master teachers at Lotspeich how to balance a sequenced program while meeting individual needs. Colleagues were open to classroom visits, so I could gain teaching insights to implement in my classroom, particularly as a relatively new teacher. They, too, were interested in my ideas, and I felt free to have professional discussions about possible innovations for the curriculum. The culture here is driven by the respect that everyone shows for each other. I experienced that at Lotspeich, in the Middle School, and as an administrator. Seven Hills fulfilled so many of my teaching dreams.

When I became the Lotspeich division head, I realized that we begin teaching respect and empathy for others beginning in early childhood. I quickly learned from the faculty how to approach our littlest learners in resolving a conflict. I recall my first year seeing two 3-year-olds struggling with sharing the same play space, which ended in hurt feelings. The teacher assisted through leading a conversation to help the children respond with more empathy by saying, “How would you feel if this happened to you?” and “What can we do to make your friend feel better?”

We would always say that we do quirky kids well — kids who might have found less understanding in another school. Not that Seven Hills is a utopia, but we acknowledge and celebrate those quirks, special interests, and gifts that make each student unique, appreciated, confident, and self-reliant. I have been honored to be a part of this incredible community and proud that the warmth and joy in learning has endured over these many years.

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Patti Guethlein

I first volunteered in a classroom under the legendary Linda Wolfe. That’s when I knew, this is the kind of school I want to be in. I was hired in 1974 as a first, second, and third grade teacher in Unit I.

In 1976, the school held a big celebration for the country’s bicentennial. Judy Arnold, who really created the school’s counseling program, knew a parent who owned a funeral home and that parent donated a concrete vault to Doherty, which Judy used as a time capsule. The kids put all kinds of stuff in there — bellbottoms, tie dye clothing, albums, personal notes that they wrote. We buried it behind Brooks Hall, and we’ve never been able to find it since. We’ve had alums tell us, “We’re going to go in the middle of the night and dig it up,” and Judy and I said, “Call us, because we’re coming with you!” It should be sealed, so what’s in it should have survived. Someday, the school is going to find a weird vault in the hillside.

I remember the energy crisis of 1977, where many schools had to close down. In typical Seven Hills fashion, we didn’t close; we moved classes into parent homes. I was in the Horowitz house at the corner of Keys Crescent and Madison Road. It was the first time I thought, “Nothing is going to bring this school down!”

By 1982, I’d been teaching for eight years, clipping along, when the head of Doherty left in August for a different job in Texas. I was 29 years old, and I never aspired to administration. Peter Briggs called me over to his office on the Hillsdale Campus. He said, “You’re who the parents want. Would you lead Doherty for one year?”

After two years as interim head, Peter asked me if I would be permanent head. I was having fun by then. When you’re a division head, a lot comes to you, and you have to sort out all the pieces. Sometimes you get the glory, and sometimes you take the heat. What I thought made Doherty different was the extent to which we worked in teams — first through third grade all as one team, and fourth through sixth grade all as one team. As a teacher and then as principal, I was never alone. There was a lot of collective wisdom. We were able to figure things out together and figure out students together. It was a collaborative effort before that was as hip in education.

The physical campus of Doherty is such a special place. That area is just filled with so much history. Certain times of year, you can see the river; other times of year, it takes a little more imagination. The courtyard is the heart of that campus. You walk through it no matter where you go, and it was the site of so many of our special traditions, including the June Program to celebrate our fifth graders. Faran Hall had so much character. When it housed the Middle School, I can’t figure out how seventh and eighth graders got through those hallways, bouncing around each other. We later moved art, science, and drama classes into Faran Hall. From when I started teaching there, a dozen years later, not one single thing was in the same place. I think that shows creativity. We didn’t have an attitude of, “You have to do this there,” or “You have to do this that way.”

At Doherty, we would always invite the 12th graders to come back. I noticed how they didn’t talk about the day they defeated long division, they talked about the Mini Pig Run and the Winter Program and the June Program and Cultural Connections Week. They talked about the things that impacted their heart.

I was at Doherty for 44 years. That’s a long time. We think we’re going to remember everything, but we don’t, so I kept a file called “Cute Kid Stories.” I remember one little guy coming into my office when I would read to the students. And he said, “Mrs. Guethlein, I’m going to be a principal one day.” I said, “You are?” I was thinking, I’ve inspired him, this is great. So, I asked him, “And why is that?” and he said, “Because you don’t really have to do anything, and I bet you get to put your feet up on the desk.” What I miss most — that’s easy, it’s the kids. It’s how they make you laugh.

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Duke and Marcia Snyder

DUKE: When I had graduated from the University of Wisconsin, Doug Stenberg, the head of Seven Hills at the time, put out a job notice through my college for a P.E. teacher position at Lotspeich. I contacted him and sent my resume. He ended up interviewing Marcia, as well as me, because the Lotspeich librarian position was going to be open the following year.

MARCIA: Our daughter, Jen, who later went to Seven Hills, was two at the time. I think Doug hired us because we brought Jen to the interview, and she was such a perfect toddler the whole time, so he thought, These two must be pretty good with kids.

DUKE: I got to Seven Hills the year of the merger, but being at Lotspeich, instead of in the high school, I missed all of the anxiety and the hard feelings that people felt. Just a few years before I got there, they had discontinued the Lotspeich Lions football team. When I first arrived, there was a shed packed with old football gear, shoulder pads, helmets. I think we just ended up throwing it all away.

I always wanted football at Seven Hills. I thought it would bring more students into the school, but it seems like I was wrong about that. We continued to grow during the years I was there. I thought it would bring more athletes who could help the other sports teams. We didn’t consider football right after the merger because we didn’t have enough boys. Once we started having bigger classes and more even girl-boy ratios, we started thinking about it. But Peter Briggs thought football wasn’t part of the school ethos, and there were Board members who didn’t want it.

Immediately after co-education, boys athletics struggled. But I think some of the boys felt like they were pioneers, and it gave them a chance to play when they otherwise might not have had the opportunity. One of my first years of coaching boys basketball in the Upper School, I called up Country Day to see if they would play us, and Country Day basically said, “No, you’re not good enough.” So, I went to Peter Briggs and mentioned it to him, and he wrote an editorial for the newspaper saying that Seven Hills wanted to play Country Day, and Country Day said we’re not good enough. I got a call from Country Day the day after the editorial ran, and they put us on the schedule.

I remember the game like it was yesterday, even though it’s been 40-something years. We were down by 10 with about two minutes to go. We tied it up with about 30 seconds left and went into overtime. Our boys were so excited that we had tied it up, and then I don’t think we scored a single point in overtime. Over the years, Country Day became a good rival.

A highlight for me was the first year we won the league basketball championship in 1990. I was the coach, and some of the players on the team were Craig Johnson, Pete Matthews, Craig Jones, Aaron VanderLaan. It was great because, remember, we’d gotten throttled over the years. One year, we lost a game to Summit 107-27. When we beat them to win the league championship, it was in their brand new gym. After we won, the kids poured the cooler of water over me. The water went all over the floor, so then we spent time after the game cleaning it up. It was worth it.

One of my philosophies as athletic director was that I wanted anybody who wanted to be on a team to be able to. The school adopted a “no cut” policy. In elementary and Middle School, you’ll get a chance to play. Once you hit Upper School, then it changes. We can’t guarantee playing time, but you can still be on the team.

The other driving philosophy was sportsmanship. I wanted our students to learn how to win with class and lose with class. It’s part of the character of the school, and part of being a good person in the world. In his senior year, I remember Grayson Sugarman had 99 goals for his soccer career, so he needed one more goal to make it a hundred. It was one of the last games of the year, he broke away, the goalie came out, Grayson flipped the ball over the goalie, went up to the goal line and then he passed the ball off to a teammate who hadn’t scored that year, and the teammate scored. Now that’s class.

Another important part of how we did things was that boys and girls athletics were always treated equally. Simple as that. That’s why we had games on Friday nights for girls teams, too, and when we started the cheerleading program, the cheerleaders cheered for both the boys and the girls teams. We’re one of the only schools that does that.

MARCIA: I loved that Seven Hills felt like a family. When Lotspeich burned down, it was during the summer of 1987, and we were home visiting family in Wisconsin. After getting the news, I remember shaking. And I remember thinking about how many books were lost. I thought, “We’re not going to have a library, so how will there be a librarian?” But I don’t think one person was let go because of budgets. The school carried on with the same excellence.

I worked the rest of that summer ordering books. When school started, the library was in a triple-wide trailer. I think I joked that at least with the overdue books that were still out, we had something to start over with. In the trailer, we had all of the book covers facing out on the shelves, because if we put them with the spines forward, it looked so empty. We started with 500, and, by the end of the year, we had 5,000 books.

My favorite part of being Lotspeich librarian was reading to the kids. I would read something and say, “Oh, this is my favorite book,” and they’d say, “Mrs. Snyder, you say that about every book!” The school supported a yearly author or illustrator visit, and it was a pleasure meeting and introducing the students to a wide variety of children’s book authors. The library was meant to be a happy, relaxing place to choose something that you wanted to read.

DUKE: Marcia saying that Seven Hills is like family — that’s literally true for us. After we each spent more than 40 years at the school, our daughter-in-law, Sarah, now teaches at Lotspeich. Her mom, Judy Davis, was the language specialist at Doherty, and her aunt was Patti Guethlein. Our son-in-law, Pete Ceruzzi, is working in maintenance for the athletic department. Our daughter Kristen coaches Middle School volleyball, and our son John is now the school’s new chef.

MARCIA: We always said we’d be in Cincinnati for one year and then go back home to Wisconsin. But Duke loved his job, I loved mine, and now that’s carrying on to the next generation.

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