Senior Capstone Classes Experience Trips, Work on Projects

News Type:  Main Parents Date:  Wednesday, October 23, 2019
Student work in the Maker's Lab Springboard course

Members of Mercersburg’s senior class spent the day October 24 focused on their capstone work—either by spending the day off campus to meet professionals in the fields they are studying, or utilizing dedicated time to work on their projects.

Students in Mercersburg’s Advanced Program for Global Studies (MAPS) were busy with an “in-house” research day in the library. “They focused on their SEARCH topics, providing updates, fielding questions, and engaging in reflective sessions,” said Peter Kempe, director of MAPS. 

Some Springboard classes spent time off campus for field trips, while others remained  on campus for focused work. 

“The students took advantage of one of three opportunities during the capstone field trip day: they have an extended period of time to focus on their individual exploration of their topics, or they meet with professionals in the fields they’re delving into, or they have a day-long immersion that will deepen their knowledge or even shift their perspective,” said John David Bennett, dean of curricular innovation and director of Springboard. “Whatever they do, all students will hopefully finish the day looking at their coming work with brighter, newly refreshed eyes.”

Commarts students (taught by Kristen Pixler) had an intra-class mural battle on the Quad; Maker’s Lab students (led by Andy Brown and Franklin Bell) had the day to work in the Maker’s Lab in the Burgin Center for the Arts; and Rapid Application Development students (taught by Brown) spent the day in the lab to working on projects. 

The Entrepreneurship class (led by Todd McGuire) went to Washington, D.C., for the day to work with a number of Mercersburg alumni entrepreneurs, including Michaella Hoehn-Saric ’13, Lacy Rice ’79, and Alec Harris ’00; Fight Against Disease (taught by Eric Hicks) visited the Chambersburg Hospital; Parallel Histories (led by Doug Smith) participated in an off-site writing retreat to work on projects about racial integration in 1964 and Calvin Coolidge’s long relationship with Mercersburg Academy; Write Your Novel (taught by Bennett) students attended a writing retreat near Frederick, Md.; and Positive Psychology (taught by Brett Potash) visited the Shambhala Meditation Center in Washington, D.C.

Read more about Mercersburg’s Capstone Experiences.

Athletic Complex Named for Dwight Goldthorpe ’37

News Type:  Main Parents Date:  Wednesday, October 23, 2019
Goldthorpe Athletic Complex

Dwight Goldthorpe ’37 attended Mercersburg Academy for two years, and gave to the school throughout his life at a level similar to many alumni, friends and supporters. His support of Mercersburg was consistent and reliable, but not unique by any standard.

Watch a video announcing the naming of the Goldthorpe Athletic Complex.

In 2007, after Goldthorpe passed away at the age of 87, the school’s Office of Advancement and Alumni Relations received a surprise call that Goldthorpe had bequeathed an estate gift of nearly $14 million to Mercersburg. It was an unexpected gift that he gave as his final recognition of his commitment to Mercersburg Academy.

Usually, when donors give large gifts to the school, their intentions are known in advance, allowing the school to celebrate these gifts in appropriate ways. As Dwight Goldthorpe had no children or extended family, the school decided to wait for the right moment in which to honor him. 

That moment came earlier this fall, when Head of School Katie Titus announced to faculty, staff, and students that all of Mercersburg’s athletic buildings (including Nolde Gymnasium, the Plantz Courts, the Flanagan Pool, the Davenport Squash Center, the Hale Field House, and the new Lloyd Aquatic Center) would now be under one name—Goldthorpe Athletic Complex. 

Dwight Goldthorpe was born in 1919 in Bellerose, New York. He enrolled at Mercersburg in 1935 as an 11th-grade student.  While at Mercersburg, he was a member of the Mercersburg News staff and was involved in the Washington Irving Literary Society and French Club (Les Copains). He played baseball, track, squash, and tennis.

After Mercersburg, Goldthorpe graduated from Amherst College and spent one year at Harvard Business School before joining the military. He served in the United States Navy from 1942 to 1946 and finished his service as a lieutenant.

Goldthorpe became an independent investor and moved to Palm Beach, Florida, where he lived for the rest of his life. In Palm Beach, Goldthorpe became a champion tennis player and was a member of multiple tennis clubs.

Goldthorpe regularly attended regional alumni events in Palm Beach and qualified for all giving societies at Mercersburg: he was a Torchbearer and a member of the Via Lucis Society, the William Mann Irvine Society, the McDowell Society, and the Marshall & Irving Alliance.

Dwight Goldthorpe’s gifts allowed Mercersburg to think broadly about and act specifically on renovations of multiple campus buildings—the Simon Student Center, Nolde Renovations, 1893 House, and the Rutherford Health and Wellness Center.

We are honored to recognize Mr. Goldthorpe by naming the athletic complex in his honor, and we hope these facilities will continue to inspire our athletes to train to be their best and to compete while surrounded by “loud swelling cheers.”


Living as Dorm Parents in Tippetts Hall

News Type:  Parents Date:  Wednesday, October 2, 2019 Byline:  Chip Patterson, English Department Head
The 2019-2020 prefects in Tippetts Hall

The boy stepped out of his room into the hallway, pulling a small black suitcase on wheels. A ninth-grader in pajamas towing an evidently heavy suitcase down the hall on a Sunday morning in the first week of school.

My wife Laura and I were puzzled at first. But in a moment, Laura caught on. “Who’s in there?” she said, in a tone of voice reserved for just this kind of situation.

William stopped in his tracks. He looked at the suitcase. Then he looked at Laura.


You know the moment. You want to laugh, but it can be dangerous giving the wrong impression to a 14-year-old boy.

“Well, let him out,” Laura said. William unzipped the entire length of the suitcase and peeled back the vinyl flap, and Eric, one of the smaller ninth-graders, grinned as he slowly unfolded himself, emerging monarch-style from his carry-on cocoon.

“William, why is Eric in the suitcase?”

“I was the one who wanted to,” said Eric. “We just felt like trying it.” Of course. Doesn’t everyone?

Laura asked a few more questions and was satisfied that the situation was nothing nefarious. Then she sent the boys on their way with the firm understanding that this isn’t something they ought to be doing. Later, I commented to Laura, “Now that’s trust—letting somebody zip you inside a small suitcase!”

Laura is the dorm dean of Tippetts Hall, the largest male dorm on campus, with 82 boys spread over three floors. There is a faculty residence on each of the six wings.

In this environment, there’s a surprise every day, and in the words of Dave Barry, I am not exaggerating. When the doorbell rings, day or night, you just never know.

For example, it was a warm fall evening when I noticed Laura looking out the window at a few boys standing in the grass behind the dorm. Our apartment connects to the rear of the building next to the back doors. Boys are always passing by carrying cleats and backpacks on their way to and from soccer practice, the turf field, or to toss a ball or hang out on Tippetts Beach.

On this particular day, the boys took turns throwing something up high against the building.

“Check this out,” Laura said, nodding toward the grassy area behind the dorm.

I could see an open window in one of the third-floor rooms, and there was movement inside. “They’re trying to throw a shoe into the window,” I said.

A moment later, before Laura got the door open to say something to them, a sneaker arched upward toward the open window, bounced off the brick, and landed on the roof of the common room.

“Now the shoe is stuck on the roof,” Laura said.

“I guess that’s the fun of it.”

Recently, I asked her about some of the unique aspects of being a dorm dean. “When the boys put macaroni and cheese in the microwave but forget to add water,” she said, “it becomes a teaching moment because the small fire in the microwave sets off the smoke detector, and we evacuate the dorm on a cold, sleeting night.”

I’ve observed that they’re pretty good at evacuating, though. Maybe it’s the monthly fire drills.

It’s no surprise that these things happen: prefrontal cortex development and all. Occasionally, there’s a roommate dispute or an unkind word, but I’m impressed by the continual exhibitions of character, trust, and respect that pervade the dorm. The boys volunteer to shovel snow, unload cartons of Kit Kats and Skittles for the snack closet, or clean up the common room after a pizza party. They say “Hi,” even when they’ve had a lousy day. It sounds almost trite to say they’re nice to each other and to the adults who live here and/or have duty in their dorm.

Recently, as I cut through the lobby on my way to class, I heard beautiful piano music emanating from the common room. I poked my head in to see a student from Hong Kong, whom I coached in soccer, at the keyboard. He was playing a classical tune with no sheet music. I asked how he learned to play. “I just set up my iPad [on the piano] with videos and imitated them,” he said.

I’ve encountered dozens of boys playing that piano so capably. In fact, I wonder about a connection between playing the piano and academic achievement. Does it raise your SAT scores?

Even with the residents’ photos and nametags on every door, it’s a challenge getting to know everyone. Our apartment opens into the first floor, east wing. The wing houses 18 ninth-graders and a prefect.

All ninth-grade (junior) boys begin their Mercersburg careers in Tippetts, including ninth-grade day students, who are associated with the dorm their first year. After that, they can choose which dorm to be associated with and keep a locker.

Aside from making sure everyone in the dorm is accounted for and safe, the newer, younger boys are probably the most serious part of Laura’s job. When they arrive, these kids, barely out of eighth grade, can be nervous, scared, homesick, bewildered, or any combination thereof. They might be 80 or 8,000 miles from home. They don’t know the rules. Everything’s new to them: “Where’s Rutledge Hall?”

Most of all, perhaps, they don’t yet know the culture of the dorm and the school. They need careful guidance and someone they trust and feel safe with, a leader who establishes clear expectations. At the end of the fall term a few years ago, Laura had given some advice to a ninth-grader, after which he told her, “You’re my wing mom.” As in Top Gun or the dorm wing? I never got clarification.

Every Tippetts day starts when the housekeepers arrive, hours before classes begin. Laura posts pertinent information for the coming day in the lobby: times of athletic contests, rehearsals, birthdays (Happy Birthday, Clay!), special events such as guest speakers, which faculty and prefects are on duty, and often an inspirational quote for the day.

“The boys depend on it so much that if a mistake is made, it throws them off,” Laura says. Meanwhile, she’s making sure the dorm faculty members know their duty schedule, reviewing dorm reports from the night before, or corresponding with parents.

Chip Patterson and students in a Tippetts Hall common room

Dorm meetings, wing meetings, and prefect meetings happen on Monday nights with everyone gathered in the common room. That’s why I’ve been known to wander down there on Hot Dog Night, Nachos Night, Taquito Night, Chili Night, Pancake Night, Grilled Cheese Sandwich Night, Cereal Night, Root Beer Float Night, Meatball Mondays, Taco Bell Night, or Walking Taco Night.

Laura’s office connects our apartment to the wing and serves as a communications center (with three phone lines), a storage area for cans of cheese sauce and bags of plastic forks, a secure place for private conversations, a place for confiscated skateboards, a depository for hoodies found in the common room, and yes, a temporary holding cell if somebody gets into big trouble. This is also where our doorbell is located.

Half the time, the doorbell rings because somebody has locked his key inside his dorm room and can’t get in. But the reasons are as varied as the boys: Do you have any duct tape? I lost money in the drink machine. Can I borrow an AAA battery? Do you have any vinegar for my sunburn?

One time I answered the door to find three boys standing there. Two of them were holding up the middle one by his arms. There was a gash on the front of his thigh, the blood trailing down his shin. For whatever reason, they had hobbled past the faculty member on duty at the front desk and came to our door.

It’s unpredictable, but certainly, it keeps things interesting.

The appeal of living in Tippetts, for me, and I’m sure for Laura, is the opportunity to be part of the boys’ lives. It’s fun to get to know them and to do whatever you can to enrich their experience and help them find their way. When they walk across the graduation platform, whether they’ve been here for one year or four, I wonder where they’ll go, what they’ll do in life, what they’ll be. And when we take that final photo on the front steps, I wonder what they’ll remember about their dorm.

Editor's note: Chip Patterson has been a faculty member at Mercersburg since 2005. In addition to his role as English department head, he serves as dean of the dining hall and coaches junior varsity boys’ squash. He and Laura have three children: Mia ’15, Dean ’16, and Kat ’18. A version of his story first appeared in  magazine. Read that issue now.

Make Mercersburg Your Destination October 18-20

News Type:  Parents Date:  Wednesday, September 25, 2019
Family and Alumni Weekend 2019

A few weeks from now, Mercersburg Academy will welcome hundreds of parents, grandparents, siblings, alumni, and guests to Family and Alumni Weekend 2019. In fact, if recent history is any indication, it will once again be the largest on-campus event of the school year.

“This weekend is always tremendously meaningful, not to mention a lot of fun,” says Director of Alumni Relations Jason Bershatsky. “Our alumni and families share a common love of Mercersburg, and this three-day celebration allows us to recognize the Mercersburg spirit and build connections with each other.”

Although some programming and events will be unique to Family and Alumni Weekend, the real essence of the weekend is the opportunity for families and alumni to observe, experience, and participate in ‘normal’ school life—to see Mercersburg in action.

“Whether it’s visiting a class, seeing a Stony Batter performance, or cheering on the Blue Storm, Family and Alumni Weekend is meant to show campus guests how talented our students are—and how dynamic and formative the Mercersburg experience is for them,” says Bershatsky. “The energy at Family and Alumni Weekend simply can’t be imitated.”

2019-2020 represents the 30th anniversary of the school’s Black Student Union and the 55th anniversary of black student integration at Mercersburg. In recognition of those milestones, a BSU 30th anniversary celebration will be held during Family and Alumni Weekend; featured events will include an all-school meeting with Ernest Green of the “Little Rock Nine” and a BSU reception and Blue Storm tailgate with current BSU members to which all are invited.

Other weekend highlights include class-specific dessert receptions for early arrivals on Thursday evening, an all-school dinner in the Hale Field House and the iconic Step Songs at Main Hall and bonfire on Tippetts Beach on Friday evening, and a series of information sessions with the Office of College Counseling on Saturday morning.

All meals and events throughout the weekend are complimentary, and online registration will close at midnight October 11. Walk-ins will be welcome, but pre-registration is encouraged.

For a complete schedule of events, visit the Family and Alumni Weekend web page, and be sure to post on social media throughout the weekend using #mburgfamily or #mburgalumni.

First Class Ring Order of the Year

News Type:  Parents Date:  Wednesday, September 25, 2019

The first of two class ring orders for upper middlers (11th graders) and seniors will take place Tuesday, October 1, from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. in the Simon Student Center.
Rings must be paid for in full when the order is placed. Payment options include cash, credit card, check, or Blue Card. Rings cannot be billed home, and faculty and staff do not receive a discount. The cost (tax included) is as follows: 

  • Medium weight 10K Gold — $386.90 
  • Medium weight Ultrium — $259.70 
  • Heavy weight 10K Gold — $556.50 
  • Heavy weight Ultrium — $265.00 

There are many options for the class ring. Students should think about these options before placing the order and are encouraged to stop by the School Store with questions or to see sample rings. Options include:

  • Size: medium weight or heavy weight 
  • Metal: 10K Gold (white or yellow) or Ultrium (jewelers stainless steel) 
  • Seal: Traditional Seal (with cross) or Current Seal (with shield) 
  • Black Ink Inlay or No Black Ink Inlay (in the recessed parts of the seal) 
  • Initials to be engraved

Contact Barb Thorne at 717-328-6146 or with any questions.

Break Travel Opportunities for 2020

News Type:  Parents Date:  Wednesday, September 18, 2019
Students on a Global Programs trip to Italy in 2019.

Each year, approximately 100 students and 20 faculty members embark upon academic, outdoor, and service adventures all over the globe during the school's spring and summer breaks.

Rooted in our curriculum and owing to our longstanding ties to different regions of the world, Mercersburg Academy’s 2020 Global Programs offerings will help students deepen their connections to one another, to faculty members, to our curriculum, to Mercersburg’s alumni network, and to a world outside of Mercersburg. Applications open September 20 and stay open through October 9.

Spring programming consists of an alumni-connections program in San Francisco, California. June programming offers students opportunities to take part in our exchange programs in France or Germany or an arts-and-culture-based trip to London and Scotland. Mercersburg Outdoor Education will offer three different trips throughout some of the most beautiful landscapes in the eastern U.S. Students can apply to take a spiritual and historical journey to Japan or venture through the Andes Mountains and Machu Picchu in Peru. Though more details about programs and the application process are available for parents on the Parent Portal, here is a snapshot of all programs:


San Francisco Alumni Connections
February 28–March 7, 2020
About $2,000 per student 
Group size: 10 students

During this week-long trip, students will have the opportunity to make meaningful connections with Mercersburg alumni who live and work in the San Francisco Bay Area. Since many alumni work in the tech industry (and not just in coding), trip participants will examine various aspects of the tech world. This trip is one-of-a-kind in terms of the current student and alumni connection, giving students the chance to see alumni in action. The trip also includes day trips to Muir Woods, Golden Gate Park, and Haight-Ashbury, and lodging in Fisherman’s Wharf. Contact: Tim Crouch at


Germany Exchange
May 31–June 16, 2020 
Group size: 8-10 students

Students will take what they’ve learned in the classroom to the streets of Munich, Worms, and Frankfurt during a two-and-a-half-week exchange. In the true nature of an exchange, students will have the chance to live with a host family, study at Mercersburg’s sister school in Worms, and explore the unforgettable sights and sounds of some of Germany’s most beautiful cities. Contact: Peter Kempe at

June 3–14, 2020
$3,900 per student
Group size: 12 students

Students will experience a journey through some of the most beautiful sights that Japan has to offer. Accompanied by faculty members Brett Potash and Kristen Pixler, the group will take a mindfulness and artistic approach to sites such as Osaka, Kumano Kodo, and Kyoto. Contact: Brett Potash at

June 11–25, 2020
Group size: 14 students 

Arriving in Cusco, the ancient Incan capital, students on this trip will explore the elevated city’s winding streets as they learn about the local culture. Day trips include horseback riding, touring salt mines and ruins, exploring a cacao plantation and–of course–visiting Machu Picchu. The trip will conclude by witnessing the annual Inti Raymi Festival (the Festival of the Sun), one of the most important celebrations of the year. Contact: Todd McGuire at

June 8–18, 2020 
Group size: 12 students 

Led by history faculty member Nate Jacklin, the group will explore the toll the Cold War took on the city of Prague and its inhabitants by visiting Prague Castle and the underground city, among other sites, before heading to Budapest, where they will visit Momento Park and the famous Szeéchenyi thermal baths. Contact: Nate Jacklin at

United Kingdom: London and Scotland 
June 10–24, 2020 
Group size: 13 students 

Students will find a bit of culture around every corner during this two-week trip to London and Scotland. Led by arts faculty member Kelly Dowling, the group will explore Westminster Abbey and Parliament Square and even have English tea at the Library at County Hall. When in Scotland, the group will tour Edinburgh, the Scottish Highlands, and all the castles in between. Contact: Kelly Dowling at

New River Gorge
June 3–12, 2020 
Group size: 8 students 

Climb, camp, and swim during this 10-day trip with Director of Outdoor Education Pete Gunkelman. The group will climb for days on end at the famous Endless Wall and head back to camp each night at the American Alpine Club campground nestled into a hillside just north of the New River Bridge. Rest days include swimming at Summersville Lake and whitewater rafting. Contact: Pete Gunkelman at

Shenandoah Backpacking Trek  
June 3–9, 2020 
Group size: 5-8 students

Students will take advantage of the beautiful scenery right in Mercersburg’s backyard as they trek through the beautiful Shenandoah National Park. Trails will lead the group to beautiful mountain views and impressive waterfalls. Although the terrain and weather conditions may be challenging, the bonds made between peers and the fresh mountain air will make it all worth it. The trip concludes with a guided half-day caving adventure before returning to Mercersburg. Contact: Sarah Bozzi at

C&O/GAP Bike Tour 
June 4–10, 2020 
Group size: 8 students 

Led by avid cyclists and faculty and staff members Austin Curwen and Carol Ecton, students will have the opportunity to cycle their way through the beautiful Chesapeake & Ohio and Great Allegheny Passage for six days and five nights. Beginning in Washington, D.C., the group will travel through Maryland and Pennsylvania with a final destination of Pittsburgh, Pa. Contact: Pete Gunkelman at

Thanks to the Howard R. Flock ’40 Fund for Student Travel, students who are 16 years or older may apply for funding for travel (for summer programs only, no funding for spring) through a grant application process. These grants considerably offset the cost of programs to families and further the egalitarian spirit that we cultivate each day. Additionally, Mercersburg’s Global Programs strive to create within students their sense of place as part of the Mercersburg community through Outdoor Education programs and by showcasing our alumni connections all over the globe, most evidenced by this year’s program in San Francisco. 

Students and families are asked to apply for the 2020 opportunities on our online platform, Students are selected for programs based on their indicated program interests, relevant course content or area of study, and whether or not a student has traveled previously, with preference given to older students who have not had the opportunity to travel. A student’s behavioral record is also considered. For more information, parents can visit Mercersburg’s Parent Portal.

Applications open Friday, September 20, and stay open through October 9. Program selections will be announced on October 17, 2019. Once selected for a program, commitments are needed by October 24, 2019, with a $100 deposit. For general questions, please contact Justine O’Connell, director of Global Programs and Initiatives, at


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