Alumni Stories - In Focus

Coming Home: Alumni Who Work at Dwight, Part I
Coming Home: Alumni Who Work at Dwight, Part I

With fond memories of their years as a Dwight student, alums come back frequently to their alma mater to visit. A few have come back to stay, helping to educate future generations of graduates! We asked each Dwightonian now on the roster of faculty and staff the same five questions. Because they had much to share, we will be bringing you their answers in two parts; stay tuned for our second installment!

Dave Brown '97, Director of Basketball Operations

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No doubt, you have many fond memories of Dwight. Please share one or two.

Born and raised in New York City, most of my early experiences were with children from my neighborhood with similar backgrounds. When I came to Dwight as a sophomore, I didn't know anyone. But after a few months, I became friends with a host of new people from all different backgrounds. At the time, I didn't think at all about how this experience would help me develop socially; however, looking back, the diversity prepared me for college, my profession, and for the rest of my life.

How did Dwight foster your spark of genius?

My passion has always been in athletics and at Dwight I had two influences in that arena: an Olympic trainer, Radomir Kovacevic, who taught me how a healthy body makes for a healthy mind; and Pee Wee Kirkland, my basketball coach, who instilled in me to not take any shortcuts. Academically, my history teacher, Arthur Samuels, demanded nothing short of excellence in the classroom. The combination of the three — all with very different makeups — helped ready me for college. Additionally, no one supported me like Chancellor Spahn did on the court in high school — and even after college when he motivated me to embrace my spark.

Where did you continue your education?

I received an athletic scholarship to play basketball at Colgate University. After two years, I transferred to Connecticut College, where I joined two other Dwight alumni with whom I played basketball in high school — my point guard, Mizan Ayers '98, and Aubrey Hodges '99. Mizan later teamed up with another classmate, Michael Roche '98, to open a real estate company. Two years ago, they found the apartment my family lives in today!

What brought you back to campus?

Prior to coming back to Dwight, I started a youth basketball organization in Manhattan, Basketball Stars. One of the things the organization offers is private training and I was working with a Dwight student, Alex Asciutto, who is now in tenth grade. Alex felt that I had made a great impact on his life and wrote about me in his Dwight Doris Post Oratory Competition speech. Selected as a finalist, Alex delivered his speech in front of the entire school. Mrs. Asciutto had invited me to the competition without telling me why. When I heard Alex, I was floored and humbled. Chancellor Spahn heard it as well and reached out about returning to Dwight to coach the Boys Varsity Basketball Team. The rest is history!

What's the best thing about working at your alma mater?

The greatest moment came two years ago when I presented our Boys Varsity Basketball State Championship trophy to Radomir Kovacevic's wife. On a daily basis, the best thing is coaching boys from different backgrounds who otherwise would not likely connect, and building them from a group of individuals into a team that functions as a family and supports one another. The support comes from the kids first; then parents get involved as well, which is truly special. We also have alumni returning to support the team, along with Chancellor Spahn, who takes great pride in our success and carrying on the tradition that was set before me.

Natasha Thompson-Ostrovsky '04, Kindergarten Teacher

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No doubt, you have many fond memories of Dwight. Please share one or two.

I remember participating in the Dwight choir and in many theater productions, including Three Penny Opera, Working: The Musical, and The Boyfriend. Through these musical and performance experiences, I made some of my closest friends and had so much fun!

How did Dwight foster your spark of genius?

During my years at Dwight, I was always encouraged by faculty and staff to explore my interests. For example, Terry Christgau would encourage me to audition in the School musicals. This supportive environment helped me to develop confidence to try new things and continue to challenge myself.

Where did you continue your education?

I attended Boston University for my undergraduate education. I then went to Bank Street College for my master's degree focusing on early childhood special and general education.

What brought you back to campus?

I decided to return to Dwight as a teacher because I believe in the IB program and its focus on student-led inquiry. I knew that at Dwight my students would have the opportunity to explore their own interests and find answers to the questions they ask and are interested in.

What's the best thing about working at your alma mater?

One of my favorite parts of working at Dwight is reconnecting with my former teachers — having the opportunity to catch up after so many years is really great!

Kirk Spahn '95, Governor, Dwight School Board of Governors

kirkspahn

No doubt, you have many fond memories of Dwight. Please share one or two.

For me, it was all about support and caring. When I left my old school it was because they didn't want to support my flourishing tennis career and passion. At Dwight, I, along with two classmates, tailored our schedules around our training, which allowed us to excel. We had an amazing amount of support from faculty and peers, and the three of us continued our love of the sport beyond Dwight. In fact, one, Max Mirnyi, had an exceptional professional career, including Grand Slam and Olympic glory, while the rest of us ended up playing on Ivy League teams. None of us could have achieved that without the School's help and guidance. We were also very lucky to have an exceptional coach and mentor at Dwight, P.E. Director Radomir Kovacevic. He was a two-time Olympian himself, and taught us about resilience, grit, and discipline. He is someone who will never be forgotten, as he touched the lives of so many students before his tragic passing some years ago.

Dwight is the embodiment of personalized learning. I had teachers who would give up their mornings and weekends to work with me and my friends. Looking back, that means so much; we were so unappreciative at the time, but as an adult, I understand what a magical thing that is.

How did Dwight foster your spark of genius?

Dwight teachers helped inspire me. I remember Arthur Samuels's history class, which I wanted to drop in the first week because I thought it would be so hard! By the end of the year, I was hooked on history and it carried all the way through to my college major and even to my graduate degree in international relations. I thank Dwight and Mr. Samuels for igniting that spark of genius! And, as mentioned, Dwight supported my spark for tennis, which has continued to be a lifelong passion.

Where did you continue your education?

I went to Dartmouth for undergrad and Columbia for my master's degree.

What brought you back to campus?

My love for the School, its great time-honored traditions, and legacy.

What's the best thing about working at your alma mater?

Convincing current students to stick with Mr. Samuels's history class! Also being part of the innovation across campus, seeing the ideas that were just percolating in the early '90s come to fruition, and now seeing Dwight as a global leader in education.