Kiau Loi Interview:
This is file #83. This is jean McMillen. I am interviewing Kiau Loi who is going to talk about his time teaching at Salisbury School for boys, as well as Hotchkiss School. Today’s date is Oct. 20, 2014. We’ll start with the genealogical information.
JM:What is your name?
KL:Kiau Moi Loi
JM:Where were you born?
KL:I was born in a town of Gemas which at that time was in a country called Malaya, but is now it is known as Malaysia.
JM:What is your birth date?
KL:October 4, 1940
JM:Now you have a very unusual educational background and I am going to pick up with a Fulbright Scholarship which got you to Trinity College in Hartford, Ct. Tell me how you got the Fulbright Scholarship.
KL:Actually the scholarship consist of three components: the academic scholarship was given by Trinity College, the room and board scholarship was given by a fraternity at the college named Sigma Nu, and the travel component of the scholarship was a Fulbright grant. I was one of two students who came under this sponsorship. The other one was from Malaya. The year that I came, it was the first time that a fraternity had ever joined forces with a college to do such a thing. I don’t think they ever repeated it.
JM:You broke the mold. What was your degree, what were you working toward?
KL:Toward engineering, mechanical engineering.
JM:For how many years was the Fulbright Scholarship good?
KL:Four years, the grant, now the scholarship was actually circumscribed by the travel grant. The travel grant allowed me to be in the states for four years. It was tenable for 4 years, but I managed to stay 5 years at Trinity because of the engineering program where they would grant a degree in engineering in 5 years, after 4 years I would get a BS degree. To get the engineering degree I had to request the Fulbright people to extend my travel program so I would not lose it. Under the Fulbright grant I was obligated under the Congressional statutes to leave the country for 2 years before I could apply for reentry to the United States.
JM:How did you get to teach at Loomis School which is now Loomis Chaffee?
KL:It is a very long story and I could relate it in 2 minutes. When I finished my fifth year at Trinity, at that time I was dating my wife. So I tried to find a way to extend my stay to convince Immigration to extend my visa. I found out from my research that it was very hard to do because of my travel grant restrictions. I was told that if I could find something that would be contributing to the advancement of this country…
JM:The welfare of the US
KL:Short of becoming a scientist, I thought maybe I could teach science. Luckily a position opened up at Loomis. The physics teacher was going to take a sabbatical for one year. So I applied to fill in for one year.
JM:That year was?
JM:From there I assume you came here to Lakeville to work at Hotchkiss,
KL:Again I had to reconfigure how I could get another extension because the first extension was only for one year at Loomis. I had to get immigration to extend the time for another stay. I again sought out another school. At a private school conference I happened to talk with people and I was told that Hotchkiss might have an opening in science so I applied. I got it. I have been blessed with many happy events.
JM:You have been very well blessed and I am delighted. Who was the Headmaster at Hotchkiss when you came?
JM:What was it that you taught?
KL:I taught chemistry and physical science.
JM:Did you do any coaching?
KL:Yes, I think in a boarding school it is a very standard type of teaching responsibility. You teach and you also coach and you also run a dormitory. I coached three different seasons: in the fall I coached soccer, in the winter I coached, I didn’t really coach because I didn’t know how to skate, but I opted to supervise ice hockey. When that was going some students would take me by the hands and teach me how to skate.
JM:Not too much ice where you were born, I don’t think!
KL:In the spring time I coached tennis.
JM:So that is where the tennis comes in! How long did you stay at Hotchkiss?3.
KL:Three years, I left in 1969.
JM:Then you had a spell where you worked at Weabotuck over in Millerton, New York.
JM:Then you came to Salisbury School for boys.
KL:After 15 years at the public school, I decided to look for a position in a private school because of the experience I had had teaching at Loomis and Hotchkiss where I could actually interact on more different levels that just being in a public school.
JM:How did you know that there was a position open at Salisbury School? Or did you just guess?
KL:No, I at that time has known and made some friends at Salisbury School and these friends heard that I was looking for a private school position. With their encouragement I applied, knowing that at that time Carl Williams was the head of the Math Department and he was about to retire. So the promise of the possibility of being chairman of the Math Department was an attraction.
JM:Who was the Headmaster at Salisbury then?
JM:What year did you start?
JM:What did you teach?
KL:I taught mainly math. At Weabotuck I had started to teach math; it was a no brainer.
JM:But that was a composite of your engineering background anyway.
KL:Right, but also with the experiences that I had had at Weabotuck, it was a natural transition to Salisbury to teach math.
JM:Did you become Head of the Math Department?
KL:Yes, two years later when Carl retired, I became the Head.
JM:When did you retire?
KL:2004, but before I retired I had always had this plan to teach in a different culture. The year of 2003 I had applied for a teaching position with a school organization called “School Year Abroad”. I had originally applied to teach on the campus at China, Beijing in math, but that didn’t pan out because there was no opening. I was offered a position either in France or Spain or Italy; so I decided to go to
Italy because it has many of the qualities that I was looking for: being close to Rome and living in a very ancient town, a walled city. That was really a big attraction for me and my wife.
JM:You had to learn Italian didn’t you?
KL:No, it was a school of American students who would come to Italy. It was the equivalent to “A Junior Year Abroad Program” for college students. They take primarily junior from high school and these students have an interest in the classics. They would study Latin, Greek, and of course they also would learn Italian. They also have to fulfill the high school requirements for credit. That is where I came in to teach them math. I taught math.
JM:Did you find it as interesting as you thought you would?
KL:Oh yeah, I think the whole experience was very exciting to see a new country and to be with a different group of students. Best of all my residence was on a floor on top of the school. It was the only school where I didn’t have to drive to go to work: all I had to do was walk down stairs.
JM:Now because you have taught both at Hotchkiss and Salisbury could you give me some similarities of the school? You listed 4 when we talked before.
KL:I have to preface it by saying that when I taught at Hotchkiss, it was in the 1960’s. There was an interim of 15 years where I taught at public school so I did not get into the Salisbury position until in 1984. The similarities would have to take this into account of the difference in era. I have to talk about similarities when I was teaching at both schools. Both were boys’ schools, largely boarding. Hotchkiss was larger in compilation that Salisbury School. Both schools tried to reach different markets of students.
JM:We’ll get into differences later. I just want similarities.
KL:The faculty at Hotchkiss was larger than Salisbury School.
JM:Again I want similarities. Did they both have day student?
KL:Oh yeah they had day students who came largely from the Salisbury area, Lakeville and Salisbury, Taconic and Falls Village.
JM:Was there a dress code?
KL:Yes, I am glad that you mentioned that. Both still have dress codes. They both have sit down meals, all three.
JM:Was there a standard of behavior that was expected of the students in both schools?
KL:The standards are defined by school rules for example students were forbidden to smoke. They had off-campus weekends where they had home visits. They had a faculty advisor, a faculty member as an advisor to the students, besides being classroom teachers.
JM:It is actually easier to do the differences than the similarities. Tell me some of the differences between Salisbury and Hotchkiss.
KL:Hotchkiss went co-ed, and Salisbury still retains a single sex nature, being a boys’ school. I have always known that the quality of students would be a little different: Salisbury has always helped student, Hotchkiss has always been known as a pressure cooker. In that sense the ability level of students is different.
JM:Hotchkiss goes for the higher IQ level.
KL: Salisbury seeks students at a lower IQ level.
JM:An average or challenged student?
KL:Yeah, challenged students who need academic help.
JM:They would get it at Salisbury, wouldn’t they?
KL:Yeah because it is set up for that. I would say that we also have courses that would be geared to students with learning disabilities, whereas Hotchkiss was not set up for that.
JM:No, Hotchkiss has always been top of the line and more of the accelerated student. Salisbury has been taking a well-rounded student or student that has academic deficiencies, but strengthens those.
KL:Right another way of saying that there is a basic different educational philosophy. The philosophy of Salisbury School is what I would subscribe to very much in the sense that Salisbury School tries to seek the strengths that a student has and then develop that strength. It could be academic, or sports, but they believe that by exploiting the strength, the other areas will come along. That means actually that it uses the strength as a motivation. I have seen students with weak academic background but they are very good in sports. I actually dealt with one student who was described as a klutz, very uncoordinated. When he came to Salisbury, he really latched on to rowing. He was over 6 feet tall and he didn’t have the fine motor skills that some sports might need. He did have the gross motor skills that rowing needs. He could work with people, and he has the congeniality that fits into his rowing. With that as an incentive, his other strengths came along too. That is a very different part of an academic institution that I really like.
JM:You have already mentioned that is a size difference between the schools. Did you find with a smaller school you were able to know the students better?
KL:Yes, this was an advantage. Well I think that at the time I taught at Hotchkiss the size difference was not that great.
JM:Not then, but it is now.
KL: Salisbury was about 250 students when I left. At Hotchkiss when I left it was over 300. Another difference would be that Salisbury has daily chapel and also one thing good about the daily chapel is that not only faculty would be asked to give the chapel talk, but students would be asked to talk in chapel on whatever topic they liked. That is a sense I think is also a kind of situation for especially students to grow because they have the opportunity to do public speaking. Some might be very timid about talking and given that opportunity they really develop.
JM:Did both schools have drama clubs or put on plays? That was something I meant to ask you before.
KL:Yeah both school had plays. Now because of Salisbury School, I keep on thinking about Hotchkiss being co-ed, but when a female role is required at Salisbury they would actually reach into the high school.
JM:Community outreach, they borrowed girls for that. They did not make the boys do girls’ parts.
KL:But in a sense it was a very positive thing because it allowed the community to get to know the private school.
JM:When you were at Hotchkiss was there a great deal of interaction between the town and the school or not?
KL:There was greater interaction between Salisbury School and the town because we had programs; as for example we have students going to into Noble Horizons to talk with the elderly citizens that were there. They could play games with them as a kind of community service. At Hotchkiss there was, Hotchkiss tried to surround itself with mystic.
JM:Yeah, it was the school on the hill that we didn’t know very well?
KL:Right. It gets to the point that people would get the feeling that there was always something to hide by Hotchkiss. They did not want the public to know what was going on. There were scandals that have come out as a result.
JM:That is another issue. The other thing I wanted to ask you as your opinion. Now you have worked in boys’ schools and you have worked in the public schools. Do you feel in today’s circumstances that there is a place for a boys’ school, still, a single sex school?
KL:Yes, from my experience at Salisbury School the students who came to Salisbury School had had a co-ed situation, a co-ed experience. The reason why they came to a single sex school was that they
couldn’t study in a co-ed situation for different reasons. Of course they were distracted, but they could be distracted by the fact that they were not able to do as well as the girls.
JM:That is a distraction.
KL:Our society keeps saying that you ought to be better than girls. There are other distractions to such as social and peer pressure. They could not really concentrate on their studies as they could have in going to a single sex school. I think that is a big thing.
JM:I do too, particularly at that age. Boys do not necessarily develop as early as girls do, and this gives them an opportunity to develop without as you say distractions or being told” you are not as good as” or” why aren’t you better than”. It frees them up quite a lot to concentrate on what they wish to concentrate on.
JM:Anything that you would like to add to this that I haven’t covered?
KL:I can’t think of anything right now.
JM:You will as soon as I shut the tape off. Thank you very much. You are in a unique position to have been in both schools, granted there was a 15 year time span, but you were the best person to do this. I thank you very much for doing it.
KL:You are welcome.