Alumni from the Waldorf School of Garden City know firsthand that Waldorf is more than just a School and more than just an education; it is a way of life that truly embodies the core of who our alumni are today. Since our first high school graduation in 1960, Waldorf has sent 990 graduates into the world. Our alumni work in a variety of professions and lead very successful and happy lives. Following are a few alums whom we have profiled in past issues of our semi-annual newsletter. Click on each slide to read about them - and be sure to visit this site as we add more alumni in the future.
Do you know an alum whom we should profile? Send your suggestions to Robert Ingenito at email@example.com.
Kenneth I. Chenault '69
Ken Chenault '69 grew up with his sister and two brothers in Hempstead, NY. Seeking a caring environment and an education grounded in their values and beliefs, his father, a dentist, and mother, a dental hygienist, chose the Waldorf School of Garden City for their children's education. After 14 years at Waldorf, Mr. Chenault went on to receive a BA from Bowdoin College and a JD from Harvard Law. In January of 2001, he became CEO of American Express, where he has been credited with leading the company through the financial and psychological setbacks brought on by the World Trade Center attacks and ushering in a period of solid growth. Mr. Chenault lives with his wife Kathryn and their two teenage sons, Kenneth, Jr. and Kevin, in New Rochelle. He has remained active in the life of the Waldorf School and recently served as the Honorary Chair for Opening Worlds of Opportunity, the school's first major capital campaign.
In the fall of 2005, Mr. Chenault shared his perspectives about business, leadership and Waldorf education at his company's headquarters. These are some of his insights.
Waldorf: As CEO of what according to Business Week is one of the top 20 most recognized corporations in the world, how do you remain grounded?
Mr. Chenault: One of the things that my father said to me when I was in college was that when you go off in your career, don't make the mistake of letting the job define who you are. That’s a trap that a lot of people fall into—including those who become CEO's. The job becomes their persona. The danger is that you can end up focusing on yourself, rather than the company or the people. To be a successful leader, you must have the willingness to make some sacrifices and take some risks and help the people around you succeed.
Waldorf: What role does intuition play in your decisions? Can intuition be developed or is it innate?
Mr. Chenault: I think it's a combination. It can absolutely be developed, and it can also be innate. It's important to do your homework on the issues. It's important to seek feedback and to evaluate what you've learned, and it is also important to listen to what your different senses tell you. You need to have balance. I get nervous if someone tells me that they rely 100% on intuition.
Waldorf: How has this balance affected your success at American Express?
Mr. Chenault: The reality is that if you go about making your decisions in the right way, people will trust you and they will follow you even though they may disagree with you. For example, there were difficult choices that I made in 2001, like the choice to move back to our headquarters in lower Manhattan, when a popular vote on the issue could have come out differently. Nonetheless, people believed that I made the decision fairly and for good reasons. Similarly, when we needed to lay off 13,000 people, it was a very difficult thing for the organization to come to grips with. We went about the process fairly. People trusted us because of the trust that was built up over the years. Often what someone might say is, "I don't know if I fully understand or agree with the choice that Ken has made, but what I do know is that given his values and beliefs and the criteria that he's based the decision on, if he's doing it, he's doing it for the right reasons."
Waldorf: Our society likes to label people, and you have been called the first African American to "break the glass ceiling" and run a Fortune 500 company. Is this distinction a source of pride or frustration?
Mr. Chenault: From a customer or shareholder perspective, it's not going to make a big difference. What the investors are going to look for are the returns and what we're doing for shareholders. The customers want to know the value of the product and whether it's working. On another level, if it helps inspire other people and give them confidence that they too can achieve, then it's important. It does represent progress and it gives people some hope.
Waldorf: To what do you attribute your success?
Mr. Chenault: Your upbringing, your parents, your school, your different experiences all contribute to success. A level of selfconfidence versus arrogance is also important. There is a big difference, but there is also a close connection. Certainly from my parents and going to Waldorf, I learned about the importance of adhering to certain values and beliefs in analyzing a decision. If you think you're right, you need to have the willingness to stand up, because there is always an easier course.
Waldorf: What motivates your continued involvement with the Waldorf School of Garden City?
Mr. Chenault: In today’s world, it is important to have an education that has a purpose and is focused not just on academics, but also on values and beliefs. An educational process that teaches principles and inculcates a real love of learning is a tremendous advantage. Waldorf education encourages individuals to face life's most important challenges and to be as authentic as possible. This promotes a level of consciousness and self-confidence in a world that has become increasingly uncertain.
Waldorf: You say that Waldorf grounds students in values and beliefs. Can you talk more specifically about this?
Mr. Chenault: The main lessons, particularly in the early years, were focused on stories. Whether it was mythology or different points in history, you were not only learning the facts and developing an appreciation of different cultures and perspectives, but also learning how to sift through what’s right and what’s wrong to understand the values and beliefs of the characters. You also recognized, at an early age, that the teachers were there because they believed in the underlying philosophy of the school and were very interested in the students. You saw that by their caring, their concern and the hours they put in.
Waldorf: Who were some of your most influential teachers at Waldorf?
Mr. Chenault: I was fortunate to have the same teacher, Lee Lecraw, from first until eighth grade. It takes an incredibly unique person to be able to stay with one class for that many years and handle the amount of change that you have to deal with. She was a very special teacher. In High School, Peter Curran was someone who had a major influence on me. His view was that if I really focused myself, I could do some amazing things. I remember vividly his taking me up to visit Bowdoin and walking me around campus. There is literally a long list of teachers that I could go through and name who cared about me and my development. The point I would emphasize is that the school overall—staff members, custodians and teachers—were really focused on the students.
Waldorf: You became CEO of AmEx at a very young age, reaching the pinnacle of your industry. Where do you go from here?
Mr. Chenault: Well, I think there's a lot more to do. I’ve been CEO for just over five years. It has been an eventful time and I’m pleased about the progress we've made as a company, but I believe that our best days are ahead. The first aspiration that I've set is for us is to become one of the most successful companies in any industry, not just financial services. But what I've also said, which is critical to both the values of the company and my personal values, is that I want us to be one of the most respected and admired companies in the world. And the two are interconnected. I don't think we can be the most financially successful company in the long term without being the most respected and admired. And I don't think we can hold ourselves out as the most respected and admired if we're not successful financially. But that dual objective is an important one. The people of this company want to be proud about where they work and want the company to be held in high regard. If we do this well, we can be a very positive influence not only in the business world but in the world at large. So, I'm not ready to close the books— I've got a number of chapters left.
Kathy Anderson '97
For the past two years, Kathy Anderson ’97 has been a pediatric physician at the Mid Dakota Clinic in Bismarck, North Dakota. The 55,000+ city located in America’s Great Plains wasn’t always home to Kathy and her family. Prior to joining this multi-specialty group practice in 2009, Kathy was completing her residency training at the University of Hawaii in tropical Honolulu. On a recent trip to New York, Kathy (and her daughter Ava) stopped by the Waldorf School to talk with her alma mater.
A stellar student throughout her years at Waldorf, Kathy served the community as Student Body President and played on Waldorf’s softball, basketball, and field hockey teams. She also played violin in the High School Orchestra, sang in the Waldorf Singers and Madrigals, participated in the School’s Mock Trial Team (precursor to the current Model United Nations), and volunteered as a “Waldorf Ambassador” during the School’s Open Houses.
Waldorf: Tell us about your earliest Waldorf memories.
Kathy: Well, I joined Waldorf in seventh grade. My parents felt that Waldorf would provide me and my brother with a safe and nurturing environment which would allow us to organically grow and learn. It was a very different place for me than I had been used to and it took a while for me to feel at home, but I did and I made some lasting friendships.
Waldorf: What are your memories from high school?
Kathy: I really enjoyed our history classes. We didn't just learn history. We also discussed the philosophy and social theory around a specific historical period which allowed us to understand the people and their lifestyles, and gain more appreciation for the products of that time - the artwork, architecture, and literature.
Waldorf: You attended Brown University and pursued medicine; but you also majored in sociology. What was that like?
Kathy: I also majored in African American Studies and participated in Brown’s Program for Liberal Medical Education which encouraged students to cultivate their other interests outside of medicine while fulfilling all their pre-med courses. I was interested in sociology and African American Studies because my passion for medicine was driven by a desire to provide services and care for underserved populations. Transitioning to the large lecture style pre-med classes in college was challenging at first, but there were skills that I learned at Waldorf that I was able to build upon. After undergrad, I completed my Doctor of Medicine degree from the Brown University’s School of Medicine (renamed the Warren Alpert School of Medicine) and my Pediatric Residency Training at the University of Hawaii at Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children (where President Barack Obama was born). While in residency, I participated in the forming of a medicolegal partnership. This program allowed physicians to work in conjunction with local attorneys to develop a comprehensive program of medical support, legal support, and advocacy for children and their families, and had a large impact on the quality of life and stressors of our patients.
Waldorf: That’s amazing! It seems like pediatric medicine was your calling.
Kathy: In medical school, we are given the opportunity to experience and practice different specialties, and really see what fits, and pediatrics was a perfect fit for me. Pediatrics is really about familycentered care. Through trying times, I can provide patients and their families with care, education, guidance, and support. And in times of joy, I can share in the celebration with the families. In my mind, anytime that you have to spend away from your family and your children has to be time well spent, and I am fortunate enough that I can definitely say that this is true for me. I know that I can do my work anywhere in the world, and be able to contribute positively to people’s lives, and find fulfillment in my daily activities. If there were any secret that I would hope to pass on to the current students at Waldorf that I have learned since my time away, it is just this: seek a profession that stimulates and fulfills you and it will help you cultivate joy and satisfaction within yourself.
Waldorf: This has been wonderful! Thank you for speaking with us!
Rachel Lindsay '00
Rachel Lindsay ‘00 entered the Waldorf School of Garden City in the 4th Grade; her class teacher was the late Mr. Tom Braden. She fondly remembered Mr. Braden as a creative and nurturing teacher, and said “Being in Mr. Braden’s class was the perfect fit for me. I admired how he did everything in a BIG way, from life-size murals to over-the-top play productions.”
Reflecting on her time at the School, Rachel enjoyed the wide variety of art and literature classes, as well as using different tools in the woodshop and model clay in the art room. Talking about Camp Glen Brook brought back memories of animal feedings, swimming in the lake, and bonding with her classmates while playing games in the living room in the evenings.
After Waldorf, Rachel went on to major in Cultural Anthropology at Wesleyan University in Connecticut. For Rachel, the transition from Waldorf to Wesleyan was a smooth one and she credits Waldorf’s main lesson structure with preparing her for rigorous college courses. And like Waldorf, Rachel found that Wesleyan encouraged and supported students to voice their own opinions. With the help of her college guidance counselors and her extensive background in German, Rachel created her own curriculum that allowed her to travel to Germany and spend a year fully immersed in the German language and culture.
One of Rachel’s most satisfying college adventures was co-founding Long Lane Farm, a one-acre, on-campus organic educational farm that is still in operation on the Wesleyan campus today. “I cannot pin-point the exact date or time where my appreciation for gardening started, but when I was little, my grandparents had a huge garden behind their house and my brothers and I always played in it,” said Rachel. “My interest in gardening and farming was further sparked by Waldorf’s nature trail and Camp Glen Brook. The purpose of Long Lane Farm is to teach current Wesleyan students about the process of growing food and about food security issues. To this day, the farm’s produce is shared by students and the local community.”
Getting her hands dirty at Long Lane Farm, coupled with her learning experiences as a Cultural Anthropology major, Rachel decided to move forward with a career in farming. In particular, she was interested in working with low-income communities. “Basically, I wanted to learn how culture can impact the food choices we make. What’s the interrelationship between food, its distribution, and human behavior?”
After graduating from Wesleyan University, Rachel received an apprenticeship at The Food Bank Farm in Hadley, Massachusetts where she learned about organic farming. For four years, Rachel worked on the farm developing her farming and gardening interests and further exploring the agricultural and developmental policies of food.
With an interest in Spanish language and culture, and taking a cue from her study abroad experience in Germany, Rachel applied and received a Fulbright Scholarship from the U.S. State Department to study in Nicaragua. Since 2009, she has been in Nicaragua working on different sustainable agricultural projects and practices as well as the educational and economic systems necessary for their implementation. By working closely with local community members, Rachel has been able to share her knowledge of how to economically and effectively grow organic food. “I love teaching locals about creating a healthy environment by not using pesticides and chemicals. AndI have become fully-invested in my Nicaraguan surroundings.”
Currently based in León, Nicaragua, Rachel is now the Sustainable Development Coordinator for SosteNica. As an American sustainable investment company, SosteNica supports small farmers who are interested in receiving advice from trained sustainable and organic agricultural specialists. Her responsibilities include collaborating with different companies to ensure Nicaraguan organic farmers not only have the resources to pay back loans, but also have the proper services that will sustain them and help them grow their business. “I am so thankful to my family and friends for always supporting me and encouraging me to stay true to what I would like to achieve in life.” In the next year or two, Rachel is considering moving back to the United States and relocating to New England where she hopes to continue teaching and sharing her knowledge about sustainable farming.
To keep up with Rachel’s adventures in Nicaragua and her on-going effort to teach farmers about sustainable farming practices, visit her blog at; http://sustainablenicafarming.wordpress.com.
Rick Schuhmann '77
Taking a queue from his Waldorf education, Rick Schuhmann ‘77 believes it's about quality over quantity. Rick Schuhmann's current role as Director of Engineering Leadership Development at Penn State University has distinguished him as an expert and as one of the leaders in his field. He humbly attributes much of his success and love of his profession to the Waldorf School of Garden City. Rick is thankful to the School for helping to shape his world-view.
Entering the Waldorf School in the second grade, Rick still has endearing and vivid memories of Waldorf activities such as Eurythmy, which Rick believes taught him balance along with fluidity and motion, art projects, and of course, Camp Glen Brook. In fact, Rick even considers himself a Glen Brook aficionado. After graduating from Waldorf, Rick's many class trips to Camp Glen Brook greatly influenced where he went to college and the career path he chose to follow. Glen Brook's surreal landscape and passion for nature beckoned him up north to pursue a degree in geology accompanied with extensive coursework in archeology and anthropology at the University of New Hampshire.
During his junior year at the University of New Hampshire, Rick worked with a group of archeologists. Through this experience he had the opportunity after graduation to work with the team and excavate three colonial-era ship wrecks, which confirmed his love for exploring and the sciences.
Rick has held many jobs in different areas of science that led to his now-prominent position as the Director of Engineering Leadership at Penn State University. In his role he realized that he would also need to teach leadership through a global lens that focused on the environment and the ever-changing climate. Rick's dream was to engage students in hands-on projects working with real communities that were disenfranchised. He wanted to teach his students that by learning and exploring, they had the ability to empower these communities.
In 2007, Rick began taking his students abroad to learn and work with Moroccan engineering students. The teams were given complex scientific problems to solve within seven days. These scientific problems mostly dealt with local environmental and agricultural issues surrounding the Moroccan community where the students were staying. It was the students' responsibilities to provide recommendations from their findings. In order to solve these problems, the students collaborated with each other and used the limited resources available to them. The American students learned basic Arabic, culture, and the roots of Moroccan poverty. The students left Morocco with new ideas, a better understanding of being an engineering student in a developing nation, and new friendships.
Rick's Moroccan exchange program continues to be a success and is now going on its fifth year. While Rick and his team have continued to perfect their Moroccan based engineering program, Rick is always on the lookout for new ways to learn and to teach.
Rick also teaches a virtual teaming class with Hungarian business students where they conference-in to work with his Penn State engineering students in the classroom on real world projects. This spring they will be joined by students in Pakistan and Gaza. Rick has also recently received a $1 million endowment to put towards future projects for his department.
The program has allowed him the freedom to push boundaries and try different strategies that would be difficult in other engineering programs. His program, which graduates about 50 students a year, was recently recognized by a global MIT study as an example of good practice in the field. Says Rick, "This program is an adventure for the students and also for me---that’s what makes it so much fun!”
Stephen Keith Sagarin ‘80
"After attending three different public schools through eighth grade, I attended high school at the Waldorf School of Garden City from 1976 to 1980. I had good teachers at all the schools I attended, and some not-so-good ones, too. But the Waldorf School felt, as I’ve said many times since, ‘like coming home.’”
And so begins the introductory chapter to Stephen Keith Sagarin’s recently published book The Story of Waldorf Education in the United States: Past, Present and Future (Steinerbooks, 2011). Representing more than a decade of research, Steve’s book is the first account of the history and development of Waldorf education in America. Looking at the past and present with an eye to how the understanding of the term “Waldorf education” has changed over time, Steve identifies key trends in education, both Waldorf and general education, to imagine the direction in which Waldorf education may move in the future. The book – a true labor of love – is the culmination of Steve’s doctoral dissertation, Promise and Compromise: A History of Waldorf Schools in the United States, 1928-1998, for which he received his PhD from Columbia University in 2004.
After Steve graduated from Waldorf in 1980, he went on to attend Princeton University – “intending to be an environmental scientist.” Four years later, he graduated with a double major in art history and fine art.
After a brief stent as an “archaeologist-in-training” in Cyprus, Steve returned to the United States and one day received a phone call from then-Faculty Chairman George V. Rose asking if he would be interested in helping out in the school’s main office, giving tours, and doing some maintenance work. “I was at home recuperating from knee surgery, and at that point I planned to go to graduate school in journalism the following fall. I readily agreed, thinking I could earn a bit of money, live at home, and fill out grad school applications. Barbara Ham, then the art teacher at the school, resigned to return to graduate school at the end of that year, however, and the School asked if I would make a two-yearcommitment to take her job, teaching art history, architectural history, and many of the art courses in grades six through twelve.”
The “two-year-commitment” ended-up lasting 13 years and Steve added a number of different jobs to his already impressive resume: teaching High School main lesson blocks in evolution and genetics, the physics of light and color, cultural geography, and economics – as well as daily math classes in the High School. His responsibilities didn’t end there. He also served as director of the Waldorf Summer Program, publication director, yearbook advisor, High School Coordinator, not to mention class advisor to the classes of 1991 and 1996.
Then in 1997, Steve, his wife Janis (who worked in Waldorf’s development office – then known as the “advancement office” as director of advancement) and their two children Kathleen ’08 and Andrew ’07 moved north to Great Barrington, MA. There he became a teacher and the faculty administrator at the Great Barrington Rudolf Steiner School, a kindergarten through 8th grade Waldorf school. He also became the director of the M.S. Ed program in Waldorf Teacher Training at Sunbridge College (now known as Sunbridge Institute) in Chestnut Ridge, New York. Since then, he has also taught a variety of courses at Teacher College, Columbia University, City University of New York, and Berkshire Community College.
Five years later, Steve co-founded and began teaching history and life science at the Great Barrington Waldorf High School. When he’s not teaching or fulfilling his administrative duties, Steve writes, lectures, mentors teachers, and consults with other Waldorf schools around the country on teaching and administration. His popular blog – What is education? has become a place to synthesize and focus some of his thoughts and ideas on these topics. Says Steve, “I think about education a lot. I write about it – sometimes for scholarly publications, and sometimes for school newsletters. Not everything I think and write suits these venues, however, and there has been nowhere, other than my mind and my conversations with others, that my “network of enterprises” has a focus.”
Reading the list of acknowledgements in the back of Steve’s book is like reading a “who’s-who” of teachers and administrators at the Waldorf School of Garden City. “Indeed, the Waldorf School of Garden City,” said School Administrator Susan Braun “is delighted to be so prominently mentioned in Steve’s book!” Join us for not only this discussion on “the history and development of Waldorf education in America,” but also a closer look at the history and development of our own beloved Waldorf School of Garden City.