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Letter to Reno from Gay Elizabeth Longnecker ‘73

September 12, 2021

Dear Steve,

Thank you so much for reaching out. Fifty years later, I still have fond recollections of my junior and senior years at Northwood School. As you noted, “memory is a tricky thing,” and Shakespeare suggested the notion of memory “with advantages”; also, Hamlet remarked, “For nothing is either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” With all of these thoughts in mind, when I reflect on those long-ago days, I smile, knowing how lucky I was: without a doubt, my Northwood experience influenced and guided my path forward.    Fortunately, I had my best friend, Darcy, with me. Without her, I might not have been brave enough to go it alone. Together, she and I decided to take the plunge and applied to Northwood when the school announced its intent to “go co-ed.”  We both lived in town and were “day students,” not boarders, which made us outsiders just a bit, but not because we were female. Entering Northwood was a new adventure – academically challenging and socially unfamiliar, and exciting.  

At first, I think it is accurate to say that the female co-eds were an interesting attraction and distraction. I felt like I was in focus in the classroom, and I wanted to make a good impression to affirm that I was academically prepared and could match wits with the young men who surrounded me. Although I am sure I had moments of struggle and of feeling out of place in a school setting overwhelmingly dominated by male students and staff, and true, I remember feeling pressure or responsibility to be “on” as much as possible. I remember feeling “at home,” especially as the weeks rolled into months. I have warm memories of becoming friends very quickly with many of “the guys” and of our times together in classes and between classes sitting on the couches and oversized chairs in the grand living room. On weekends, we cruised Main Street together, went to the ice hockey games at the Lake Placid arena, and planned ways to sneak the boys off campus after hours – totally breaking the rules. Of these times, I have many memories, none of which are academic! Life then felt safe and relatively uncomplicated, and when juxtaposed to the life of today’s teenagers, it was simple and harmless.    In reflection, the two years I spent at Northwood gave me a certain confidence that helped me in the years that followed, although I am not sure I recognized this connection at the time.  Specifically, I remember the impact you and John Scott had on me – both of you had a gift for teaching and a passion for the humanities. You challenged students to think beyond themselves, not necessarily a natural state of mind for teenagers. I credit you both with my decision to spend 36 years in education as a high school English teacher and as an assistant principal in New Hampshire. I retired a handful of years ago and now live with wonderful memories of a rewarding career, and it all started with my Northwood roots.  Lucky, indeed!

I hope to visit Lake Placid in the coming months. When I do, Steve, I will give you a call. It would be so wonderful to tour the school and to reminisce about the glory days. Until then, take good care of yourself. 

Warm regards,

Gay Elizabeth Longnecker   ‘73