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Anna ’94 and Lair Kennedy

ANNA: I didn’t know it at the time, but kindergarten at Seven Hills launched what would become some of my lifelong and closest friendships. It’s now been 40 years, and we all just went on a trip together a few weekends ago.

Part of what Seven Hills has always done well is matching the right teachers and the right experiences with the right age. I think about Mrs. Vitz, who is exactly the person you want your first grade teacher to be. Mrs. Driscoll also stands out. She had a kind of a Julia Childs quality about her, which I say as someone who loves Julia Childs. Mrs. Driscoll would lead the charge during our weekly Monday morning assemblies enthusiastically singing the “Lotspeich Song,” drumming up our excitement for the great week ahead. We’d pile into her office, drape ourselves on and under her furniture, and she would read to us, books like “Where The Red Fern Grows” and “Charlotte’s Web.”

Because so many Seven Hills teachers taught at the school for a very long time, it made you excited, years in advance, about having them as your teacher when you got older. You’d look ahead and think, “Someday I’m going to get to do this tradition in that teacher’s classroom” . . . like Pioneer Day with Mrs. Blocksom, the sixth grade play in the Red Barn, and the dunking booth at May Fete.

Later on, I think about Mrs. Beaver, who was so tender and loving with all of her students; and Mrs. Sittenfeld, who I can picture with her slide projector bringing art history to life; and crowding into Patty Flanigan’s tiny office with her two dogs while she smoked menthol cigarette after cigarette preaching about performing theater the way the Greeks would have done. I was also lucky enough to have Tim Drew as my tennis coach for four years, as well as adviser and science teacher. I would call him a friend to this day.

My mom didn’t start teaching at the school until after I’d already graduated from Lotspeich, but I can vividly picture the arts and language building she shared with Mrs. Clajus and Mrs. Knoop. Her idea for teaching elementary school French was to hook children with culture, the food, the cafe lifestyle, the artwork. If you’re able to hook a student with the culture, they’re going to want to learn the language.

My mom would also arrange cultural assemblies at Lotspeich. After she died, it was very touching that the faculty put together a fund to keep those assemblies going in her honor. They’re now called “The Bonnie Binkley Assembly” and take place annually to this day. All of her grandchildren attend and it’s very special for them as most didn’t have the chance to know her. They’ve had everything from musicians to plays and puppet shows, and it’s a beautiful celebration of her teaching and parenting style, creating memories, laughter, and interest through exciting, new experiences.

It sounds cliche to say, but Seven Hills really was like a second home. We spent so much time there. The teachers felt like an extension of our own parents. My parents also became good friends with my friends’ parents. Everything was very happily intertwined.

LAIR: I think the decision about what school our kids would go to was made when I decided to marry Anna — before we even had kids! I understood very quickly what Seven Hills meant to her family.

I had attended a pretty homogenous elementary school in Indianapolis, so for me, the diversity and inclusion and acceptance that Seven Hills represents is pretty awesome. I’m so glad that’s the environment that my kids are growing up in — one that allows kids to be who they are. The more that they embrace it and grow with it, the more it’s going to equip them for life.  

I also marvel at the transformation in facilities over a really short period of time here: The Schiff Center, the Early Childhood Center, the new Middle School, the Field House, all new tennis courts, better parking. That’s an unbelievable amount of building and improvements. And yet, while that’s what has happened with the physical campus, one of my observations is also about the good ways in which the school hasn’t changed, the positive continuity that’s been maintained.

Head of School Chris Garten has been such a steady leader for so long, and the entire time I’ve been involved as a Board member, as well as a parent, he’s made it look easy. He’s remained ambitious every step of the way, constantly pushing the Board, pushing the community, pushing the faculty to keep improving. Being a Head of School is one of the hardest jobs in the city. You have alumni, students, parents, faculty, and the Board, and they each have a lot of power. His ability to keep all those people happy, while at the same time moving the institution forward is spectacular.

The journey we’ve been through during COVID is such a reflection of our community. There was not the tension, the animosity, and the division you saw so many other places. Everyone came together, got comfortable with rules that kept each other safe, respected each other’s boundaries, and the Seven Hills community came out stronger. You see it in our enrollment numbers; the school is thriving.

As I’ve gone through the journey of being a parent, and you’re trying to understand your kids and mold them and support them, you spend so much time on the campuses, and you watch the faculty and administration who are dedicating their lives to doing that alongside you. Like watching Head of Middle School Bill Waskowitz, for example, and seeing his love and appreciation for Middle School kids. The passion and appreciation and understanding that Bill and the Middle School faculty and staff bring to those kids is inspiring. One of the most important things to us in life is to be good parents, and to have the school and the faculty be such devoted partners in that effort means a lot.

ANNA: On Beatrice’s first day at Lotspeich, we ran into Harold Boyd, who has been an amazing part of the school’s maintenance staff since the time I was a student. I introduced my daughter to Harold and thanked him for looking out for her. All these years later, Harold immediately remembered that he and I have the same birthday! That’s the continuity Lair is talking about — people join this institution, and they stay a part of it.

LAIR: Two nights ago, I was standing under the Pavilion watching our daughter Grace in a lacrosse game. At the same time, Bea was down on the lower fields having lacrosse practice. The food stand was open, kids were playing on the Lotspeich playground, there was a track practice going on, and people were coming and going from the Field House. I looked around and thought, “What a beautiful thoroughfare of community.”

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