Alumni Look Back
I learned valuable skills— such as clear criticism on all subjects, and the ability to write a good essay right off the cuff. More valuable than all this, however, was the clear thinking which I enjoyed thanks to the lack of academic pressure. In all work, unlike in the States, it was a question of quality over quantity, contemplation over cramming.
The tremendous amount of free time I have had has enabled me to write poetry, essays, work behind the stage for a school play, join the 1st XV Rugby squad simply for the enjoyment, work with the Cyrene Society in a mental hospital and on the street to collect money for the rehabilitation of addicts, discuss films and essays in the Senior Film Society and just wander through the museums and buildings of Cambridge.
I felt I had really accomplished something to be proud of and that none of my friends at home had.
At the risk of sounding bombastic I can honestly say that my year at Winchester was the most important one of my life. Yes, the lawn tennis was elegant, the trips to Covent Garden memorable and the long vacations in Europe more than I deserved. But my admiration for Winchester goes deeper than all this. It was in no way a summer camp or a resort. Rather, I think of it as a temple.
Winchester was more important to me than any of the other educational institutions I attended: viz., Brown, University of Chicago, University of London and Northwestern Law School. Winchester taught me how to think critically, how to analyze and discriminate. Without those skills my life would have taken a far more dreary course.
In the suburban New York high school I attended I was an academic success. I graduated in three years and took a few prizes at commencement. I was particularly fond of my skills as a seventeen year old historian. However, soon after arriving at Winchester, I realized how little I knew. The saying goes that small minds talk about people, mediocre minds talk about events and great minds talk about ideas. When I arrived at Winchester I was strictly a mediocre mind and when I left at least I knew how to talk about ideas.
I remember my history tutor well— Peter Gwyn, the college archivist and specialist on Wolsey. In a kind though critical voice, Gwyn made it clear to me that I knew lots of facts and how to tell a story but very little about how to analyze the significance of the past. Week after week I submitted chatty pieces on Napoleon, Bismarck and the like. I couldn't seem to break the habit of telling innocuous stories on historical subjects. Finally, a few weeks before sitting for the A Level examinations I made the break and produced an essay. I believe it was on Hitler's rise to power in Germany. Finally, I had learned the analytical method!
Winchester opened my eyes to the vast difference between American and British public education. Winchester was my first exposure to that quality of life we hear a great deal about and all hope to experience— the quality of excellence.
It was the most vital year of my life, a transitional year when I found out what I was about. . . . I faced up to a lot of things and gained confidence in myself. . . . I developed an interest in travel, culture, more creative things.
Going to Winchester changed what I wanted to do in life. . . . I thought I'd wanted to go into medicine but discovered my ability in architecture. It was a busy year. I built myself a bass guitar in the wood mill and studied art and drawing. It was my first time at a boarding school, and I had a lot of free time to explore what the school offered. I've urged my brother to go, to focus on his studies with greater application and intensity. After being there, going to Brown was easy. I could be productive from the start versus those who were away from home for the first time.
London in preparation for Christmas, Joe Allen's restaurant, Vivoli's ice cream parlor in Florence, and a midnight drink in a Paris cafe have charmed my imagination and reshaped my outlook on the world.
It's the best of school without the bad bits: not too much pressure or homework, but a good laugh with people who are interested and interesting.
BAEF Scholar at Repton ('03-'04)
BAEF Scholar in front of Art Building at Bryanston
BAEF Scholar at Repton
BAEF Scholar at Harrow