This is Jean McMillen interviewing Michael Brown at Indian Mountain School about Indian Mountain School. The date today is October 1, 2012.
JM:Would you give me your full name?
MB:Michael Kristop Brown
JM: Your birthdate, please?
MB:June 4, 1947
JM:Your birth place?
MB:Westmont, New Jersey
JM:Your parents’ names
MB:My mother’s name is Alma Guille Brown and my father is Harry Brown.
JM:Do you have siblings?
MB:Yeah, I have 6, three brothers and 3 sisters.
JM:The sisters’ names?
MB:Kathy, Pat, and Sue, and the brothers are Greg, Tim and Jeff.
JM:Tim taught here for a while, didn’t he?
MB:Oh yeah from approximately 1980 to 1990 or something like that.
JM:What is your educational background?
MB:I went to Triton High School in Runnemede, New Jersey. Then I went to Rutgers University, in New Brunswick, New Jersey, and got my Masters at Bard College in Environmental Studies.
JM:How did you come to this area?
MB:My sister-in-law, Susan Davy at that time taught at Salisbury Central and then she did teach in Cornwall.
JM:It was at Cornwall because I was at Salisbury Central at that point.
MB:1972? Her husband might have taught in Salisbury.
JM:Oh yes. So that is how you came here?
MB:We came to visit her; she lived in Lakeville and we fell in love with the area. After my third year of teaching in New Jersey, I was ready with to move to New England. We found this opening here to teach science in 1972. I got that job and came here.
JM:What was Indian Mountain like when you came? I want to know about building, curriculum and students. So let’s start with buildings. What were the buildings at that point?
MB:It would be easier to say what was not here. What was here we had this whole main building complex without the library/science area that we now have. There was an art room that was out in the old barn which is no longer there. The maintenance barn is there and above that barn was a major barn where they had nature activities that was becoming decrepit even in 1972. A lot of the out buildings were falling apart; they hadn’t been kept up very much. I did take that room over. Then those dormitories were not there. The only dormitories we had was the one we had above the main building; we had Osgood dormitory that was for boys. We had no girl boarders. There was Haddon House which had some 9th graders.
JM:That is the headmaster’s house, isn’t it?
MB:No, Haddon House is down the road, a separate building. The headmaster’s house was there. There was no Stockton, no Doolittle, and no upper part of Osgood. Then there is a new dormitory for girls out in the field, so none of those were built. We had no place for girls at that time as there were no girl boarders.
JM:How many students were there in the 1970’s?
JM:And it was all boys.
MB:No, there were no girl boarders, but there were girls.
JM:There were girl day students. Who was the headmaster when you came?
MB:Dick RouseJM:Tell me a little bit about him, please.
MB:Dick Rouse was actually a very good headmaster. People were surprised he left. He was well liked by teachers and students. He was very congenial; he loved to sing like so many headmasters. He had great parties.
JM;I am assuming faculty parties. Did he teach?
MB:Yes, faculty parties. He taught; I believe he taught English. A lot of headmasters teach and many of them teach English because of their verbal acuity.
JM:What is the Rouse Prize given for? (The Rouse Prize is given to the graduating senior who most exemplifies the ideals of Headmaster rouse. These ideals include vital leadership within the school community and a respect for each member of that community. Other prizes given are: the Shutte, the Doolittle, the Triangle and the McMillen. Ed.)
MB:The Rouse Prize? You are going to have to look that up. It says right on the Rouse Prize.
JM:Do you remember who followed Dick Rouse?
MB:Yes, Peter Carlton followed Dick Rouse
JM:Tell me about Peter Carlton.
MB:Again a very congenial guy, who loved the students, was dedicated to the students. He was fairly friendly with the faculty but at the end his time here some things had gone wrong.
JM:I remember he prided himself on knowing the names of every student, and if he didn’t know their names I think by Christmas, he would give them a quarter.
MB:That’s right. He would.
JM:His wife has a position here, too, didn’t she- Kitty?
MB:Yeah she did; I don’t remember what her position was.
JM:Development perhaps or Alumni Relations, something along those lines? Then came whom? Do you remember?
MB:Well we had some interim headmasters Lamfere was one, and I think Tom Attics was an internal Headmaster.
JM:Yes, he had been Assistant Headmaster hadn’t he or Business Manager?
MB:No, he was a math teacher. He and his wife were both math teachers. It was an interesting change because now I had a peer as a Headmaster. Sitting with the Headmaster in his house having a drink, or maybe a glass of wine or beer, I just was sort of careful of the conversation which was not that of a colleague. That only lasted about a year. I guess that’s when Dary Dunham came.
JM:Was Mr. Fish an interim?
MB:Oh yes, I am sorry then there was Mr. Fish. He must have been after Tom Addicks. So Mr. Fish had a family of seven.
JM:He did; I had some of his children in my class.
MB:I liked him; I got along well with him but there was some conflict with the faculty there. There never seems to be a good connection. I guess it was a harder time at Indian Mountain.I guess he taught; he was only Headmaster for 2 or 3 years before he finally left. Then Dary came. There was a big turning point in the school. The school changed in terms of its ability and progress. He brought energy and confidence to the school. He got the school working well. He, the faculty, and the students worked together well. There was a lot of progress and a lot of building. He had a good connection with students. He was another headmaster who loved to sing, and that was a good part of his morning meetings. We would often sing some songs, and he would lead them. There was good comradery that was felt between faculty and students and the administration.I think partly because of that singing. It was his whole style. He was more of a disciplinarian in the sense that he would expect a lot of the kids. He was more old school.
JM:He expected things to happen and they did.
MB:Plus he was not cuddly.
JM:No, there was a distance between him and the student as far as discipline was concerned in that he had expectations that he wanted fulfilled.
JM:Then when he retired, who came?
MB:Now we have Mark Devey. Mark is a great guy; he also has a lot of vision and expectations. His style is different in that he gives a lot of ownership to other people in terms of now the assistant head has a lot of power. The Upper School disciplinarian, the head of the Upper School has a lot of power. All these people are given the power to take on their position and determine what is done here.
JM:He delegates and leaves them alone.
MB:He delegates, but doesn’t necessarily leave them alone.
JM:But doesn’t micromanage.
MB:He is very open to discussion and sharing ideas which has not always been the case. But you know there is always attention to the faculty and Headmasters in which the faculty never feel that they are getting their say as much. Sometimes I can differ with Mark, but even more so with Dary.
JM:How many students were on campus at the time that you left which was last year?
MB:Well, you see it gets confusing because now we have the Lower School. (This used to be Town Hill School. Ed.)
JM:Well, let’s just talk about Upper Campus in this part. Any idea?
MB:You’ll have to look it up. We totaled about 200 and some. That seems large.5.
JM:When did girls come as boarders? In the 1980’s?
MB:Yeah, it was in the 80’s I guess.
JM:I would have said earlier because my husband was teaching here from 1979 to 1982, and I thought there were day boarders, but I could be wrong.
JM:Girls, girl boarders.
MB:You’ll have to look it up, I don’t remember. I know that at first I was, in terms of girls boarding, not so sure it was a good idea, but I went along with it. I found that most of the time that we had girls boarding here, it really helped to mellow out the entire community, and to get a better balance and less aggressive craziness among the boys. It seemed to add moderation to that aggressiveness in the feel of the residential community. So I think it was a good decision in the best interests of the school.
JM:I am going to call this Upper Campus, the Indian Mountain School that I know, is from grades 5 to 9. When did Indian Mountain School acquire town Hill which was kindergarten through grade 4. When did that merger take place?
MB:Probably around seven years ago about 2005 which was a very traumatic birth. It was tough. The people down there had not really experienced an administration in which they completely responsible.
JM:They were not used to being held accountable?
MB:Yeah, I am not saying that they weren’t accountable, but they did not look favorably at the administration. The Headmistresses did not last long because of the conflict. Then the parents are involved, too. You have the headmistress, the parents have expectations, and you have the teachers so when Dary took over, they didn’t want to be held accountable for things that we were doing up here, like faculty evaluations. They did not want to hear about that. People just left; they walked out. It was tough on Dary and that was part of the reason he left when he did.
JM:It would be very traumatic to try to fuse the two that had been so different in their beginnings and then to try and merge the two. Tell me about some of your colleagues that you particularly remember.
MB:Well, going back to the old days because I remember them well. The first people I knew like Steve Carver, the Assistant Headmaster. He was just a great guy and school disciplinarian, full of energy and life, a great history teacher. He was largely responsible for the demise of Peter Carlton, largely because of his reports as to what was going on. Because of that there was retaliation from the board and Steve Carver was let go a year or two after Peter Carlton left. So there was Steve Carver. Oh boy, Windsor Copeland who ran into trouble later. He left at a point when another teacher got into serious
trouble, and fingers were pointed at Windsor Copeland who was a great teacher and colleague. The kids loved him; he was a French teacher. Bob Sohrweide was in charge of the dormitory for many years. He was a Latin teacher and eventually he was hired at Hotchkiss and moved there. Marge Reed, the art teacher, she also went on to Hotchkiss to become an art teacher there. Well there were lots of people. More recently in the science department we had my brother who taught here for many years.
JM:What did Tim teach?
MB:Tim taught physical science and we worked together pretty nicely.
JM:What did you teach?
MB:I taught biology and physical; Tim taught earth science and physical science. I sometimes taught life science.
JM:Didn’t you have a snake in your classroom?
MB:Oh yeah we had a huge snake for years, Kah! She was a big boa constrictor. The kids loved to see that; they were intrigued until the snake bit somebody. I got bitten sometimes too.There was john Hoffman who was another science teacher. He and I worked for many years together.
JM:What did John teach?
MB:John taught earth science and physical science.
JM:How about Jim Heath?
MB:Jim Heath was an English teacher, a good English teacher. I remember him pretty well; he and his wife taught here for a few years. Then he moved on to teach in public school near here in Avon.
MB:Art Stein was the dorm master at Osgood; it was all boys at that point. He was a great guy; he was in his waning years in terms of just prior to retirement. So I came in at the beginning of my tenure here was the end of his tenure. He and his wife were wonderful people. My main contact with Art was that he was in the same dormitory where I lived, and also we coached Lacrosse together. That was fun.
JM:What were the responsibilities that you had besides teaching? You coached and dorm? Tell me a little bit about the responsibilities that you had.
MB:In the beginning and they are still quite extensive, but back then it was even more so because we didn’t have. I think we coached three sports a year, dormitory duty two or three times a week, and weekends. So you taught. If you lived in a dorm, you had about every third weekend off.
JM:Did it actually work that you had a weekend off?
MB:Oh yeah. We had a full weekend off about every third weekend, but the other times you were responsible.
JM:It was a 24/7 job.
MB:Yeah pretty much which was good and bad. It was good that you got to know the kids better, and you could develop a good rapport with them outside the classroom so it was a community. It’s just work, but it’s…
JM:It is pleasure, too.
MB:Of course it’s pleasure but it’s concentrated. At that time being a younger teacher the responsibilities are a new thing. You have been free, and…
JM:And all of a sudden you are restricted.
MB:You are an adult even though you are 25; the responsibilities are tough for any person.
JM:Sure, because you are not used to handling responsibility. How about Gretchen Doolitttle? Do you remember her?
MB:Oh god yes, Gretchen- a wonderful woman, a math teacher. She taught here for many years, her sons went here, two of them. Did they share the Triangle Prize; they probably did; the two Mike and John Doolittle. They were great kids, and the other son Matthew graduated from here. She had five boys. Matthew went on to receive his doctorate in several different areas. He was quite a student.
JM:What did you like best about the job?
MB:Living here and as I said before the community spirit and the closer relationship to the students and of course the faculty; the whole community of faculty working together to help each other, getting to know each other. Sharing both the good times and the bad times, and living here in the summer is like living in a resort for me because I like the mountains. The whole wilderness experience, not that it is total wilderness but to be able to walk up into the mountains, feeling that no one else is there.
JM:is there anything that I haven’t covered in this interview that you would like to add?
MB:Oh it is just interesting the way the school is changing and becoming better all the time and more attuned to kids. My wife has been a tutor here, and that whole department has blossomed over the past 20 years with Priscilla Wolf in charge. The way we look at students and their abilities and their learning differences it didn’t used to be that way.
JM;I didn’t ask you about Danny Carlisle.
MB:Well, she also was a tutor; we used to use her as a tutor but that was 20 years ago.
JM: It was.
MB:I can’t remember that much, but she was wonderful. She did a lot for promoting tutors. Still since then there has been so much progress, continuing testing and so on uncovers deeper problems in the learning process that the students have so that we are not looking at students as deficient but as having different abilities. So it is sort of a positive progress in helping the students.
JM:What a wonderful summation. Thank you so very much.
MB:You are welcome.