Grayson Student Center Opens in Reimagined Rogers

Grayson Student Center Opens in Reimagined Rogers
Kristy Kerin

My high school history teacher was an incredible storyteller. She captivated us with stories of daring, adventurous, and sometimes outrageous historical figures. We would be on the edge of our seats, eager to understand how the decisions of these historic characters would play out, sometimes sharing uproarious laughter, other times crushed by the fates of people in whose lives we had become deeply invested. She shared individual stories of lives long passed and wove them into a broader story arc, teasing out the narratives and lessons that history had to teach us. Ever since that course, history has been like a tapestry for me—a collection of individual threads, each one a story that weaves beautifully and powerfully together to reveal deeper truths about community, values, and shared purpose.

In preparing for the opening celebration of the Reimagined Rogers building last week, I found myself reflecting on the tapestry that is Brewster. With 200 years of history and thousands upon thousands of individual student stories, our tapestry is vibrantly rich and colorful, full of our own bold figures whose decisions continue to impact our school and our students decades and even centuries later. And we are blessed with people today who share the same spirit of investment and desire to make a positive, lasting difference for students.

I want to share some of those stories with you, stories of past and present. 

I’ll start with the present. Last Friday, we were thrilled to unveil the name of the new student center in the Rogers building, “Grayson Student Center.” This gathering space will be a central focus of campus life for generations to come, welcoming students in with its floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the bay, delicious offerings from the new Palmer Cafe, and lots of space to gather, laugh, play, and connect. It was made possible thanks to the generosity of Peter and Josephine Grayson and their family (Bradley ’14), through the Fund for Individual Potential. The reimagination of the Rogers project would not have happened without the Grayson Family, who made the lead commitment to the initiative—the largest outright gift in the history of the Academy—which sparked the success of Brewster’s most ambitious capital project ever. 

Like every great historical figure, Peter was not afraid to be bold and to dream big. He urged us forward in the midst of the pandemic, prescient in his understanding of how much our students would want and need a space for community after being socially distanced and isolated for too long. The Graysons brought their incredible attention to detail to bear, helping us every step of the way: from conceptual design, to inspiring others to give, to reviewing details that would future-proof the building and allow it to serve our students and community extraordinarily well. The Grayson Family believes that the arts play an integral role in education, and their name is now synonymous with the arts at Brewster Academy with the Grayson Performing Arts Center in Anderson Hall and now the Grayson Student Center here in Rogers. They hope the reimagined Rogers Building, anchored by the new Grayson Student Center, will support rich engagement in the arts, add to our vibrant community life, and lead others to be inspired by Brewster’s breathtaking campus. 

Now, let’s go back in time to Vincent D. Rogers, headmaster from 1942-1959. Rogers Gymnasium was born out of his vision for the critical strategic and pedagogic importance of athletics for adolescents. Vincent was persistent in his vision, engaging the Board of Trustees, alumni, and even students in raising funds for the $250,000 project. According to The Brewster Story by Bob and Shirley Richardson, students were incredibly creative in finding ways to support this initiative. They sold painted trays featuring a picture of the main school building, held an auction, sponsored a senior carnival, canvassed the town in search of scrap metal to be sold to the local scrap dealer, and gathered pennies in local shops to make “a thousand miles of pennies” for the fund. At long last, the gymnasium opened in 1954 and was later renamed in honor of Vincent Rogers in 1979. 

We were thrilled to have Vincent Rogers’ daughter, Diane Rogers Quayle ’56 and her family in attendance for the opening of this reimagined space that will forever continue to bear the name of her father. As I looked out at the audience at last week’s celebration, where the Grayson and Rogers families were sitting in adjoining rows, I was struck by the power of history once again. These two families are forever woven into the fabric of the Rogers tapestry. Though they had never previously met, their stories are now permanently intertwined. In 1954, Vincent Rogers could never have known the life that his gymnasium would take on in 2022 any more than we can predict the future activities, events, and lives that will be shaped by the Grayson Student Center.

So many stories strengthen and add detail to that tapestry. Art and Cathy Coviello were also among the earliest supporters of the project. Art is vice chair of Brewster’s Board of Trustees, and he and his wife Cathy Coviello, a trained dancer and musician, are devoted to education and the arts. They have seen the benefits of their own family’s wide range of artistic pursuits and believe in opening opportunities for students to have new experiences as they grow into young adults. The pairing of Brewster’s new student center with its programs for arts and innovation is one that the couple believes will inspire students to push outside their comfort zones, discover new creative endeavors, and pursue their interests and talents to their fullest potential. We are proud that the name “Coviello Dance Studio” will forever be part of our creative endeavors at Brewster, for it speaks to Art and Cathy’s generosity, vision, and spirit. 

Karey and Bob Fix (Will ’11 and Keenan ’13) helped to make our new blackbox theater possible. Karey dedicated this space—“Faith Theater”—to honor her father's favorite creed, “Keep the faith.” Those three words were spoken by William Wirtz to his family as a regular mantra. A forthright directive, it spoke volumes of the man's stalwart conviction and optimism that no matter the obstacle, a steady focus and belief in one’s values would carry the day. His simple but caring advice, now a permanent part of Brewster's history, will remind generations of student artists to keep their faith in themselves as they embark on creative discovery and performance. 

I particularly love this story given the layers behind this name. Stories of Karey and Bob’s sons and their Brewster experiences, Karey’s long service to Brewster as a valued Trustee, and the impact of her father. Though he never stepped foot on Brewster’s campus, his spirit, optimism, and determination will serve as a lesson in persistence for students for years to come. 

The stories of this project go on and on. “The Palmer Cafe” honors Lynne Palmer, who faithfully served Brewster as director of admission and external affairs for an incredible 33 years. She admitted thousands of Brewster students to our campus over the years and the cafe that bears her name will continue to serve as a beacon, welcoming students, parents, and alumni alike. 

The inimitable Peter Mann, long-time instructional support teacher and staple on the sidelines of Brewster games and community events, will be recognized with the “Peter Mann Seating Area” on the new terrace. A group of his former students helped establish this area as a wholly appropriate way to honor his far-reaching work with students (and status as a devoted Bobcat fan!).

This past fall we learned of the unexpected and tragic passing of Tyler Balint, a member of the Class of 2021. Tyler, whose peers at Brewster referred to as a “hidden gem,” was an enthusiast of both arts and technology. Tyler’s creative pursuits and the impressions he made on his peers embody much of the spirit of this building. In recognition of this and his role as an influential founding member of the Brewster Robotics Program, we are proud to honor him with the naming of the “Balint Robotics Lab,” a space that will open in Phase 3 of the building’s renovations.

Our deep thanks and appreciation go to the more than 125 alumni, parents, grandparents, foundations, and friends who supported this project—all with stories that will be told for years to come thanks to their generosity. Each year, the Rogers tapestry will grow richer with each person who walks through its doors, as our student performers at the Rogers celebration made abundantly clear. We’ll be posting a video of the performances soon and I can’t wait to hear what you think of them. I don’t have the adjectives that would begin to do justice to the talent and power these young artists displayed last Friday evening. I have no doubt that we will be hearing more about each of these remarkable students. 

Now, channeling my high school history teacher, what is the broader story arc of these individual stories? For me, it’s about promise, persistence, and purpose. And above all, what is possible when we continue to grow and evolve together. 

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