Category: Alumni

The Flame that Keeps Burning

Submitted by Gina Napolitano ’16

After a day of festivities, the MacDuffie community came together to welcome its newest members in the nearly seventy-five year old tradition of Candlelight. This ceremony closes out the school’s annual Mountain Day- a day in which students and faculty members participate in Club Fair and hike up Mount Holyoke together. The point of this celebration is to make everyone feel as though they are included and comfortable by having new members of the school stand in a circle inside of a circle of returning members and eventually becoming one giant circle. After several speeches made by student leaders, a musical selection, and a dance piece, the inner circle is asked to step into the outer circle, officially making each new student and teacher a part of our community.

Photo courtesy of Ms. McNerney

After a brief explanation of what Candlelight was and what it meant, each student and faculty member was asked to take a candle as they processed out of the gym, led by the seniors. As I walked past lit torches to the open field where the ceremony would be held, it sunk in for the first time that this would be my last of seven Candlelights. But as I looked around, I saw ninety-six students and twelve faculty members who were just experiencing the joys of this day for the first time. This reminded me of my very first candlelight in sixth grade at the old Springfield campus; I remember being nervous, confused, and just not knowing what to expect. I also recall how welcomed I was when I first came to MacDuffie. How, even over the course of my first week here, it felt like a second home. That feeling of acceptance and lack of judgment was so comforting, and, as a senior, I want nothing more than to spread it around the rest of the community.

Photo courtesy of Tira ’17

When we approached the field and formed two circles, I was already getting teary eyed. Flags of each country represented at MacDuffie waved in the cool breeze and a large stack of wood sat in the middle of the meadow. Beautiful music played on the violin by Charlie Lee, ‘16, seemed to beckon and sooth the mass of people. After several speeches by our valued student leaders about the school’s six CIRCLE values, (Community, Integrity, Respect, Creativity, Leadership, and Excellence) an impressive musical performance of Stand By Me by the MacDuffie Singers, and an elegant, well-choreographed dance by the MacDuffie Dancers, Dean of the Boarding and MacDuffie Alumni Dina Lyman stepped forward and asked the inner circle to step into the outer circle. It was such a breathtaking spectacle- I was lucky enough to be able to stand back and see a circle of over three hundred and fifty people holding lit candles and lanterns in the darkness. I then stepped forward to lead the school in singing Summer Suns as everyone made their way to the grotto behind school for final remarks.

Photo courtesy of Tira ’17

It was surreal to me, taking that last walk back to the grotto with all of my friends and teachers. So many people here have become family to me over the years, and Candlelight, as Mrs. Lyman always says, is one of the seniors’ first goodbyes. But I also got that same feeling of comfort that can only be described as pure happiness, knowing that everyone at the ceremony was now a part of this community that I have come to love so much.

Photo courtesy of Tira ’17

After we arrived at the grotto, Mr. Steven Griffin, Head of School, gave an eloquent speech that only furthered my sentiments. In the minutes during which we sang our Alma Mater, The Magnolia Song, I realized how proud and privileged I am to be part of such a strong, unified, diverse group. I knew that, even when we dispersed, graduated, or moved on from the school, everyone could say that they were once part of a school as close-knit, unique, and welcoming as MacDuffie.

Meghan’s Light

Meghan’s Light was established to commemorate the life and legacy of Meghan Hukowicz Zoll, Class of 1993.


One day after her 39th birthday in September 2014, Meghan succumbed to cystic fibrosis (CF) after a valiant 78 day fight against the disease in the ICU at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Meghan was a mother, wife, daughter, daughter-in-law, soul sister, niece, cousin, godmother, friend and colleague. Meghan lovingly inspired family and friends by her courage, strength, and determination in her day-to-day battle against CF for 39 years. She was feisty, radiant, warm and caring.

Friends and family were devastated by her loss and came together a few months after her funeral to celebrate her. Their December 2014 meeting evolved into Meghan’s Light whose mission is to support finding a cure for cystic fibrosis and to inspire hope and courage in patients, families and communities impacted by the disease. Meghan’s Light remembers the light without and the light within that radiated from Meghan during her earthly journey and the continued presence of her light that shines brightly today.

The MacDuffie School is proud to be a sponsor of the First Annual Meghan’s Light 5k and Family Fun Walk.

Please join us in supporting Meghan’s Light at Look Park on Saturday, October 3rd.

For more information visit:

To register for the race visit:


MacDuffie Celebrates 125 Years


On Saturday, April 25, 2015 The MacDuffie School will host a 125th Anniversary Gala at 6pm on its Granby, MA campus. The gala event will feature a cocktail reception, silent auction, dinner, dancing, and student performances. Funds raised during the evening will go towards the school’s new performing arts center.

Friends of MacDuffie are more than welcome to join alumni, faculty, and current parents in the celebration. Tickets for the event can be purchased online at

The 125th Anniversary Gala is part of Alumni Weekend 2015. During the weekend festivities, MacDuffie will honor this year’s Distinguished Alumna, Tracie Gardner, Class of 1983. “Ms. Gardner has truly distinguished herself in her field, and we’re thrilled to be able to honor her with this well-deserved award on the occasion of our 125th Anniversary,” Head of School Steven Griffin. A special all-school assembly will be held on the afternoon of Friday, April 24, 2015 to present Ms. Garner with the Distinguished Alumna award after which she will address the student body.

tracie gardner

Ms. Gardner was recently appointed by Governor Andrew Cuomo to be Assistant Secretary of Health for New York State. She previously served as Co-Director of Policy for the Legal Action Center where she conducted and coordinated the Center’s New York State public policy advocacy in the areas of substance use disorders, criminal justice, and HIV/AIDS. Ms. Gardner has worked on a wide array of city, state, and federal health and social service policy issues since 1989. She has also served on the New York State AIDS Advisory Council for the past nine years. Her advocacy work and leadership have been honored by the Gay and Lesbian Independent Democrats, New York City Council, and the Young Women of Color HIV/AIDS Coalition. After graduating from MacDuffie, Ms. Gardner went on to earn a B.A. in English from Mount Holyoke College.

Alumni Updates

Some of our young alumni came to visit campus earlier this month.

They visited with former teachers, and shared with us the success they’ve earned since graduating MacDuffie.

We encourage all alumni to come visit and hope you’ll join us for alumni weekend, April 24-25, as we celebrate 125 years of excellence in education!

From L-R: Casey Placek ('12), Jordan Liderman ('10), Keila Sole ('10), Lindsey Placek ('10)
From L-R: Casey Placek (’12), Jordan Liderman (’10), Keila Sole (’10), Lindsey Placek (’10)

Submitted by Jordan Liderman (’10)

Lindsey Placek (’10) graduated last May from Connecticut College with a double degree in Neuroscience and Molecular Biology.

I am graduating in May from Northeastern University’s Nursing School. I have worked in the Emergency Department at Mass General Hospital and in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Beth Israel Deaconess Medial Center (BIDMC), and plan to continue working at BIDMC as an RN before continuing my education to become a nurse practitioner. I am also a member of Sigma Theta Tau International Nursing Honor Society.Keila Sole (’10) graduated from Hofstra in May and is in the process of interviewing for medical schools. She has been accepted to New York Institute of Technology and has two more interviews this month.

Coming back was really rewarding, being able to see all of our former teachers and mentors. I always knew I was lucky to attend MacDuffie and that I had great teachers, but I wasn’t aware of how phenomenal they all were until I arrived in college my first year and was far more prepared than my fellow peers.

Mr. Polga, Mrs. Hill, and Ms. Tomkiel made me an excellent writer which helped me excel not only in my writing courses, but also in my everyday life writing application letters and emails to professors and employers which have gotten me jobs in the top hospitals in Boston and in the country.

Ms. O’Brien taught me history, but also compassion and drive, and Mr. Vennell taught me how to be a leader and positive force in others’ lives, whether it be friends, mentors, or strangers. MacDuffie is truly a family, and I am thankful for how it shaped me as a student and as an individual.