Alumni News and Stories
Coach Al Davis at the Buzzell Games in 2013. Photo by Robert Kenas '60.
Coach Al Davis, a decorated World War II veteran who began a legendary career at Riverdale in 1953 and worked at the school for most of his life, died early today at his home. He was 94.
Head of School Dominic A.A. Randolph called a special Middle and Upper School assembly this afternoon to announce the news to students and faculty. Here is a video of his remarks. A close friend of Al's, Kent Kildahl, the former head of the Upper School and a member of the English department, also gave a remembrance of Al as did Carol Pouliot, dean of the Class of '21 and a member of the Physical Education/Athletics departments.
Coach Davis was a beloved physical education teacher and coach. In his later years, he served as the school archivist. The Class of 1964 established an annual teaching award in his name and the Al Davis Scholar-Athlete Award is given annually to a male and female athlete. His life story inspired a video made in 2015.
"On this sad day, I thought it appropriate to share with you the words associated with the Al Davis Teaching Award: Al taught us that we are capable of great things but only with our fullest effort; that full effort is a joyous act and transforms failure into a kind of success; that community is a precious thing; that we are all individuals and that the highest act of an individual is to contribute to a team; and that teaching -- and learning -- at its highest level transcends the walls of a classroom and the demands of a curriculum and is finally an act of mutual respect, commitment, and love," Randolph said in a letter to the community.
A memorial service will be held at the school. Remembrances of Al may be shared with Robin Gottlieb, Director of Alumni Affairs and Institutional Engagement, at email@example.com.
In 9th grade history, students make trips to New York City neighborhoods to learn about globalization.
More than 150 educators from around the world who specialize in experiential education will gather at Riverdale Country School from Jan. 22 to Jan. 25 for the 14th annual Winter Institute of the Independent Schools Experiential Education Network (ISEEN).
The theme of this year's conference is “Beyond Borders: Experiential Education Through the Lens of Equity & Justice.” Dr. Elizabeth Pillsbury, director of experiential education at Riverdale, worked with ISEEN on the planning of the conference. "The challenge of taking on another's view is the heart of this conference's theme," said Pillsbury, a member of the history faculty who teaches a course on urban studies. Members of the Riverdale faculty will take participants to New York City neighborhoods that reflect the city's socioeconomic, cultural, racial, and ethnic diversity. They will lead discussions about how urban landscapes provide information about the people who live there.
Head of School Dominic A.A. Randolph will give the opening keynote address, and Dwight Vidale '01, Riverdale's director of community engagement, and Emily Schorr Lesnick '07, the former Upper School director of service learning who is now the social-emotional learning coordinator at University Prep in Seattle, will organize discussions along with Pillsbury related to the conference's theme.
One day will be devoted to group trips and activities led by Riverdale faculty and students that demonstrate some of the school's experiential learning opportunities. Examples include:
- Archival Research Project at the United Nations (Dr. Laura Honsberger)
- New York City Contemporary Art (Nicky Enright and Natalia Mercedes Rodriguez '19)
- Metropolitan Museum of Art Experience (Melissa Marturano and Jessica Shapiro-Weill '99)
- Theater as a Means of Connection with Verbatim Performance Lab (Emily Schorr Lesnick)
- Applications of Computer Science: Design Thinking to Mindfulness (Andrew Abate)
- Learning With Leather and Lasers (Jason Ruff)
- Exploring Landforms, Topography, and Erosion Through Augmented Reality and Maker Activities (Richard Brehl, John Mueser, Laurie Bartels, and Patrick Murray)
- Criminal Arraignments and the Innocence Project (Dwight Vidale '01, Kent Kildahl, and Jane (Tally) Pucher of the Innocence Project)
- Adaptations to Changing Ecosystems (Marshall Nicoloff, Dr. Rachel Cox, Maddy Noah '19, and Leo Pappajohn '19)
- Ebbs and Flows of Life: An Introduction to the Micro-Histories of the Brooklyn Waterfront (Dr. Elizabeth Pillsbury)
- Escape the Classroom: Escape the Room games for team-building lessons (Michael Sclafani)
- Black Brooklyn, Slum Clearance, and Gentrification (Dr. Elizabeth Pillsbury and Phyllis Dugan)
- Body and Soul: Exploring Afro-Latino Music and Dance (Jannely Almonte Ortiz and Milena Almira)
ISEEN represents educators working in outdoor/adventure education, global education/travel, community engagement/service learning, sustainability, leadership development, and classroom pedagogy.
Jake Poses ’02, above, recently launched Jumprope, an app designed to facilitate peer-to-peer knowledge sharing. Jake answers questions about his time at Riverdale, his career path, and the experience of creating a start-up below.
Give a brief overview of your app Jumprope.
Jumprope is the place to discover how it’s done. Inspiring creators from around the world share their knowledge and passion in a step-by-step format that you can tap through at your own pace. Explore guides for everything from the perfect dumpling-pinching method to your go-to glam to the killer kettlebell workout.
What was your experience in creating a start-up?
I really enjoy understanding what consumers need and designing and building experiences for them. Doing that from scratch with Jumprope has been a lot of fun.
I believe the best products are built iteratively. We had a working prototype in the hands of users a few weeks after starting the company and have continuously evolved it week-by-week as we’ve learned more about what people need.
I was lucky to join Thumbtack when we were 8 people and just seed funded. The experience of helping the company to grow to $1B+ valuation and 500 employees from 2011-2016 was amazing. Now as a founder, I feel very lucky to have first-hand perspective about the road ahead.
What are your goals for the app and its users?
Whether you’re inspired by discovering something new or need to get something done now, we want you to open Jumprope.
We’re building Jumprope to be a global community from the start. We already have creators sharing their knowledge and passion from all corners of the world. I believe that giving people an easy way to learn about other cultures and traditions can bring the world closer together.
In what ways did your time at Riverdale impact you after graduation?
Riverdale taught me how to think. I’m really grateful that the education was more focused on helping me become a critical thinker than stuffing my head with a bunch of facts.
I especially loved freshman and sophomore year world history. It was really interesting to start by understanding the current economic and geopolitical order and then getting to understand how and why we got to that place.
ILS was awesome too. I often think about my big ILS take-away: throughout history, scientific breakthroughs were the catalyst for changing worldviews. It’s clear we are in the middle of one of these seminal moments of scientific change right now and it’s fun to be part of it.
What do you miss most about Riverdale?
I miss the fall and spring days on campus when everyone’s spending time outside. People often ask me what kept me sane as a NYC kid, and I think getting out of the concrete every day was really important for me.
Bonus: Currently listening to:
Pod Save America.