Skip to content

Posts from the ‘Alumni’ Category

The Creator and the Story Behind Fluffy the Three-Headed Dog

I first met with Debbie Gantt (Performing Arts Coordinator), Alex Edwards (Lower School Music Teacher) and Andrew Luman (Music Teacher) at the beginning of October, and it was there that Alex showed me her drawings for the set and asked if I would be interested in making Fluffy the Three-Headed dog. In her drawings she had three heads coming out of the wall as well as the front legs. I was intrigued by the idea but asked if perhaps it could be the entire dog. Andrew gave me the parameters, and I went away to stew on the idea. Exactly a month later I presented them a scale model of my proposal. The model, made of pink foam rigid insulation, was exactly to scale and showed a five foot girl walking under the legs. They were sold.

December 6, a month later, I sent them a picture of the first head with my daughter Bimba standing next to it to show them how big it was going to be. My hope was at that time they would call me in and say it was too big and we needed to reconsider the project. Instead all I received was their praises. For the next two months all I did was work on Fluffy.

I used almost 1000 sq. ft. of two-inch rigid foam insulation to create the entire dog. Each head takes about 135 sq. ft. Thirteen cans of spray adhesive, seven bottles of Gorilla Glue, and three gallons of paint were used. The body has a core made of two-by-fours and plywood. The front legs have a steel frame which was then covered with the foam. In my studio I built the top half, the heads and top of the body first. I then took them off raised the body to the ceiling of the studio and built the lower half. After spray painting it a golden yellow, I took it all apart and delivered it to Brookwood in three trailer loads. It was there that Alex brought Fluffy to life with her paints. It took all of Friday and part of Saturday to assemble it on the stage.

The most difficult aspect of building this was figuring out how it was going to stand up and be guaranteed that it would not fall down. The solution was the steel used in the front legs and the triangular support I built behind the wall to carry the hind end. I needed to be sure that the dog could not fall forward or push the wall over backward. The other aspect of the project that required the most thought was the tail and how to make it wag. Debbie was determined that the tail had to wag. It is very simple, but it took me a long time to get there.

The sheer size of this could make it very scary to young children, so to tone it down I made the heads to resemble Mr. Peabody’s and gave the body the playful pose of a puppy about to spring forward. Alex then added to that with soft expression around the mouth.

 – Sebastian Carpenter ’79
and Parent ’13, ’14, ’17

Another First!

OPENING-DAY-VOICESblogSFWThis week will mark either the 57th or 58th FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL (FDOS) for me – a number that includes my days as a student; the fact that I can’t figure out whether it’s 57 or 58 is no doubt a reflection of the longevity suggested by the number.

But here’s the thing: It NEVER gets old. Every First Day of School is a beginning, one with far more import than the difference between December 31 and January 1.  It signifies an opening, a fresh start – rife with possibility and, of course, some potential for pitfalls along the way. I defy you to find a student or teacher who sleeps a wink the night before this momentous occasion!

In the early elementary years, the imminence of the FDOS brings with it jaunts exciting in themselves: Buying new clothes (or trying on hand-me-downs!), picking out new shoes, or the simple pleasure of organizing shiny new supplies – book bags, binders, clean notebooks of white paper, and the favored pens and pencils. The youngest among us are literally vibrating with excitement as they meet their teachers and very quickly make new pals; they are entirely “in the moment,” and it’s a gleeful thing to watch.

If I recall correctly and my young sources are telling the truth, the emotions get a little more mixed as one progresses through the middle and upper grades. Of course, there is a bit chest puffing over the placement in a higher grade, and the shoe and supply shopping are still fun. Kids are always excited to see their friends and kibitz about their summers, but the questions multiply: Who will be in my classes?; Will I like my advisor?; How hard will it be this year? And for the oldest matriculates, there is often a tinge of that adolescent dread of returning to daily early rising …

I think too that there is a bit of Proust at work on the FDOS. In Remembrance of Things Past (now apparently called In Search of Lost Time), the taste of a madeleine dipped in tea brings to the adult narrator a rush of involuntary memory and resurrects the past.  So it is with the sensory impact of the FDOS.  Wouldn’t the smell of fresh mimeograph ink bring a rush of memories back to you? Or shiny, freshly waxed floors? The flapping sound of the world map when it spontaneously rerolls itself? I used to love the clean blackboards (now they are white and the markers smell a little like the old mimeograph ink!) with the September date written in perfect cursive in the top right corner and the slightly musty smell of the cardboard boxes full of books to be distributed. This First Day of School will be no different; our kids will absorb smells and sights and sounds that they will never entirely forget.

For teachers, the FDOS carries many of the same butterflies and questions as it does for the kids, but it is invariably an occasion of great joy. While the noise and unceasing negotiating with small fry may have grown weary-making by June, in September, the sweet new faces and timid smiles, the hugs and high fives from past charges, the face-splitting grins as friends reunite, everyone talking at once … Truly glorious mayhem. It is primarily the love of kids, not courses, that motivates those of us who teach the 4 to 14 crowd, and we relish their return. For us, the First Day also signifies a fresh start, new hopes and dreams – this is OUR January 1.

Fall is definitely a poignant time of year. The leaves fall and the days shorten, and we experience it all as a kind of loss, I think. BUT it also brings the First Day of School, an open invitation to revel in childhood, to dream of possibility, and to . . . begin again.  Bring it on!

 – Barb Liston
Assistant Head of School




Brookwood School Eighth Graders Gain Wisdom from Alumni

alum-lunch1sfwI had the great fortune to sit with two fellow Brookwood alums, Jessie Long ’00 and Akshay Patel ’86, who returned to campus for our annual Alumni Mentor Luncheon April 14.  We spoke to a group of Brookwood eighth graders, soon to be Brookwood graduates themselves, on the topic of Leadership. Each of us on the panel had a unique story and perspective to share.

Jessie is a Brookwood Cup recipient, graduate of Governor’s Academy, and Dartmouth College and third year student at UMass Medical School with a path in Obstetrics and Gynecology. Akshay, a graduate of Phillips Academy Andover, the University of Pennsylvania and the Georgia Institute of Technology, is the founder and CEO of LeadKarma LLC and is currently working on the launch of a new marketing startup. He is also parent to Kayuri ’23.  I graduated from Brookwood in 1995, went on to Dana Hall School and then St. Lawrence University.  I recently returned to Brookwood to work in the Advancement Office after a decade of running my own event planning company – something I started with my best friend whom I met here in Kindergarten.

The three of us answered a variety of questions, from “How did Brookwood prepare you for where you are?” and “Did grades dictate your path?” to “How have you balanced your hobbies in times when school work or your career has been your priority?”  We also reflected on our 13- and 14-year-old lives and recalled feelings of uncertainty about moving beyond Brookwood’s comforting classrooms and hallways.

alum-lunch2sfwJessie spoke quite a bit about the importance of balance in life, adding that Brookwood, “laid the foundation that enabled me to move forward, allowed me to be comfortable in places with people who did not look like me and Brookwood took care to ensure my success.”

Akshay addressed the importance of “casting a wide web” and said that the students would “be the most successful once they find out what they are interested in … that they will find sweet spots.”

I talked about applying my skills to a place and a field I enjoyed. I also mentioned the importance of saving phone numbers because you never know when you will be calling on people you meet in life.

As an alum I remember fondly the feeling of anticipation in my eighth grade year of what is beyond Brookwood. I know the students, filled with that same anticipation, left the luncheon with exciting ideas of all the possibilities that lay before them.

We are so fortunate that our Alumni are eager to come back to mentor the young students, and we’re grateful to them for doing so. As Brookwood enters its 60th year we look forward to sharing many more amazing Alumni stories and bringing more Alumni to campus to talk about how Brookwood helped shape their lives.

If you are an alum and have a story to tell, make sure and let me know at I’d love to hear from you.

– Eliza Cowan ’95
Director of Alumni and Parent Relations