‘Possibilities We Can’t Even Envision’

On his first trip to China and India as Country Day’s emissary, Head of School Steve Lisk experienced a taste of the rich cultural bounty open to students.

While this was Lisk’s first trip to Asia on behalf of the school, it was the ninth for Special Projects Administrator Shelly Landau and International Student Liaison Helen Najarian. In addition to reaffirming existing relationships in China, the trio also deepened our newest one, with an independent school in India. The goal was to expand Country Day’s connections to schools abroad, increasing the opportunities for LCDS and international students to benefit from the exchanges. The resounding success yielded “possibilities we can’t even envision,” Lisk said.

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“We want to build out our Global Program depth to offer our students a richer experience as they go through LCDS, and foster increased trust between schools and understanding between cultures,” Lisk said.

As part of that effort, Lisk’s first destination was Shanghai, home of one of our global partner schools, SMIC, as well as the parents of several current international students. One of the things that struck Lisk most in meeting our Chinese parents was the similarity to the value our American parents put on education.

“These families recognize that our [school] system is vastly different than theirs. The strength of American universities and colleges is also well understood and so parents who want to provide their children the best undergraduate opportunities know that attending a secondary school like Country Day is the best way for them to accomplish this. The Chinese families feted Lisk with gifts and meals, and conveyed gratitude and warmth about their children’s experiences at LCDS.

“One of the things we have going for us as a school, and there are many, is a remarkable name brand,” Lisk continued. “The word-of-mouth advertising that happens among similarly education-minded families is an asset that you can’t put a price on.”

He continued, “Trips like this one in October are emblematic of the evolving role of independent school heads. The rising tide of globalization has made foreign travel and education attainable for an ever-increasing number of people around the world, and Country Day is poised to reap that benefit both for our own students and those of partner schools as well.”

Our newest partner school is the Navrachana International School Vadodara, in Gujarat, India. NISV shares values and a mission remarkably similar to Country Day’s, though Lisk was fascinated by the many ways those shared fundamentals animated a distinct and different school experience.

Our introduction to Navrachana came thanks to Peter and Leigh Rye, parents of Caitlin ’06 and Oliver ’13, whose international business gives them close ties to the area. This beginning with NISV continues a tradition of serendipitous global connections for LCDS, beginning with John Jarvis’ alma mater Kelvinside Academy and continuing with the retired headmistress of SMIC, who happens to be Najarian’s aunt.

On the last Friday of their trip, Lisk, Landau and Najarian took in a genuine treat.

“We’re sitting in the audience and they’re staging a performance of ‘Don Quixote’ with a thousand students on a stage made of bamboo and rope. The feeling of community was overwhelming and the show of school spirit was truly impressive. It just drove home that people around the world live lives of meaning, but it’s different, it’s rich and it’s enriching. I’m excited for our students who’ll be exposed to this wider world,” Lisk said.

He wanted to give special praise to Shelly Landau and Helen Najarian, or “Shelen” as the globetrotting pair are affectionately known. Without their efforts, whether driving students to visit colleges or calling on families half a world away to let them know their kids are in loving hands, the school would quite simply be a different place, and not for the better.

“They’re extraordinary. It’s hard work what they do, and they take on their roles guided by a clear love of our school,” Lisk said. “I’m incredibly grateful for both of them.”

A Week in the Life — Vol. 4

In addition to the usual day-in-the-life series of photos, this edition features Middle School overnight trips, as well as the Montreal and Quebec City voyage. Meanwhile back here at home, the head of school played a little impromptu squash on our newly opened courts. Finally, we present the striking photographs of German international student Max K. ’19. They are images of the school as you’ve never seen it.

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PE & Athletics Center Grand Opening

The community turned out in great numbers to be the first to tour the new Physical Education & Athletics Center, the most significant addition to the Country Day campus in more than a decade. Thank you to the Room to Grow donors and volunteers who made the building possible!

Also on Saturday, maintenance team members Ty Book and Kevin Cotchen won the John A. Jarvis Competitive Croquet Tournament. They played as Team Maintaining Bonner, to honor math teacher Jeanine Bonner who was injured in the previous week’s Cougar Bowl. The tournament began with a moment of silence in memory of Sally Jarvis.

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Two Days of Bonding Over the Civil War

Communications Department Intern Chandler S. ’17 and eight of her fellow upperclassmen joined Head of School Steve Lisk and Upper School American history teacher Todd Berner for a two-day trip to the Antietam National Battlefield in early August.

“I definitely didn’t think the trip was going to be as much of a bonding experience as it ended up being,” Chandler said. “I figured we’d go and come back and that would have been fine because the trip itself sounded cool.

“It was just nice; everybody talked and whether you were a freshman or a senior didn’t matter.” Chandler didn’t walk into the experience a blank slate; she loves history, and the Civil War in particular. “I’m familiar with the generals on both sides and all the main battles, and obviously I knew about Antietam,” she said.

“But I had no idea how much I didn’t know until Mr. Lisk started talking. He would get chills talking about certain aspects of history,” she continued. “I’d never seen it before, but he’s obviously in his element teaching.”

The group rode in two vans and traversed the 3,000-acre national park guided by an audio tour. Antietam was the first major Civil War battle fought in Union territory, and the single bloodiest day in American history. Robert E. Lee withdrew his forces to Virginia and Union General George McClellan could claim victory, albeit a decidedly pyrrhic one: More than 22,000 soldiers, split about evenly between North and South, were killed or wounded on September 17, 1862, and the war would continue for almost three more years.

Where the audio tours ended, Lisk was just getting started, Chandler said. “The program would end and we’d get out of the vans and he’d go into more and more detail. We’d ask questions and have discussions and wouldn’t leave until no one had anything left to ask about. We literally spent hours on the tour after the ‘official’ audio tour ended.

“It’s mind-blowing that he could talk about so many different things and just be at home doing it. It’s obviously what Mr. Lisk is passionate about.”

Ice Festival Slideshow

The Ice Festival set a new record for charitable warmth this year, besting last year’s historic high by raising almost $2,900 for Lancaster Area Habitat For Humanity.

“This is a great event,” said Upper School dean of students and festival co-coordinator Rob Umble. “It brings the whole community together like the All-School Picnic, but with the added benefit of raising money for such a good cause.”

Along with the Race For Home and efforts of the Upper School Habitat For Humanity Club, the Ice Festival completes the trifecta of Country Day endeavors that helps support Lancaster Area Habitat For Humanity. The school’s sustained commitment to the charity goes back more than a decade, and continues to strengthen with age.


Umble extended special thanks to Chris Starzyk and the entire Parents Association “who put in a lot of time and hard work each year to bring the Ice Festival together.

“And of course we couldn’t do this without Diane Wilikofsky,” Umble added. The Ice Festival’s Chili Cookoff is Wilikofsky’s baby, and no mention of the event would be complete without bestowing laurels on the chili champs.

Judges Choice Awards: (decided by our panel of three judges)
3rd Place —The Foreign Language Department
2nd Place — “Baxter’s Chili” (The Starzyk Family)
1st Place — The Business Office Chili

People’s Choice Award: (Popular vote tallied by number of tickets collected)
3rd Place — “Chili Shooters” – The Athletic Department Chili (182 votes)
2nd Place — The Business Office Chili (209)
1st Place (for the third-straight year) — The English Department Chili (239)