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The View from Apthorp

Judy and Sean Palfrey

As Masters of Adams House, Sean and I are thrilled to welcome you to the Gold Coaster. Our sincere thanks go out to Michael Weishan and the other alumni volunteers, who have brought us all closer together through the remarkable means of the Internet.

We have been serving as Masters here at Adams House since 1999, following the extraordinary quarter-century tenure of Bob and Jana Kiely. These two had set a tone of tolerance and joy that we very much appreciated and aimed to maintain. As stewards of this marvelous House, with its magnificent architecture, unique resources, quirky and proud history, faithful staff, wonderful Senior Common Room members, talented tutors, and creative student body, we have seen it as our role to foster an Adams that cares about three things: learning, community and fun.

A House, at its best, is an intellectual sanctuary, a place where students are not tested, don’t have due dates and can ask less than totally formulated questions. It is an academic environment without the burdens of grades and critiques. Through formal and informal gatherings, we seek to foster the kind of intellectual exchange that brings students together from all the different disciplines. During the year, we revel in the “push back” moments in the Dining Hall, when the students finish their meals, push back their chairs, and chat about “the origin of life,” or Alexander the Great, or the federal ban on stem cell research. They even discuss the Red Sox… they had better! But the point is, wherever, whenever or whatever the discussion, we all learn from each other.

Building a sense of House community in the age of randomization has been an interesting challenge, but because of the strong traditions at Adams, this has not been as hard as you might imagine. The students value the House and consider admission to Adams as winning the lottery. We still rally around the flag that proclaims “Adams is the Best”. And we mean it! But this special sense is not just directed at the House – the students care about the Cambridge, Boston and world communities as well. They involve themselves in local homeless shelters, AIDS outreach, work for prisoners, Red Cross blood drives, and on and on. The history of Adams motivates: We make it a priority to let our students know about the brave Adams residents who once upon a time stood up against Apartheid abroad, or who fought for equal rights for women and minorities in this country, including those who struggled for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered freedoms. These are all part of the heritage of Adams House, and continue to provide proud examples to our current residents.

As for having fun, well that’s the easy part, with 450 undergraduates under your roof! We continue the traditions of Drag Night and the Winter Feast, with its annual black tie Pooh Reading (we believe this year was either 43rd or 44th occasion). Each year’s Chinese New Year tops the last one and every spring witnesses Strawberries and Champagne on the Apthorp lawn.

We hope to see you back here for the 4th Annual FDR Memorial Lecture and Reception, which this year takes place Saturday April 30, 2011. In the meantime, we look forward to keeping in touch with you through this marvelous new e-zine, the Gold Coaster.

Go Adams!

Judy and Sean Palfrey