An interview with Stephen Moyer ’82 conducted by Chloe ’16. Check out some of Chloe’s other posts on the blog including: Pumpkin Spice Oreos, Filling Your Empty Canvases (Making a Dorm Room Feel Like a Home, Not a Box), and Speaking of Squirrels.
What’s your position here at George School?
I am a member of the Religion Department teaching Essentials of a Friends Community and Holistic Health. I have taught Spiritual Practices and Quakerism as well. I’m also the faculty sponsor to the Model United Nations club. I coach all of the running sports–boys and girls cross-country and boys and girls indoor and outdoor track so I’m coaching all three seasons and I’m the head of Drayton Dormitory with my beloved wife, Laurie.
Do you have a preferred pronoun?
I prefer masculine pronouns.
Do you have a nickname?
Um…lots of people call me “Coach”… some people call me “Smoyer.”
Yeah, because of our George School faculty email addresses: first initial, last name, so I’m “Smoyer.”
Favorite Bettye’s Place food?
Anything my wife prepares. (Stephen’s wife, Laurie is the brains behind Bettye’s Place.)
What do you do in your spare time?
As most people would probably expect, I run a lot in my spare time. What people probably would not expect, I enjoy playing piano as well.
What do you most enjoy about working at GS?
I like being part of a community. The reason I’m at George School is because this is a school community so it’s not like in the public schools where I come in and teach and then go home at the end of the day and be done, or come in and coach at the end of the day and be done. At George School, it’s a twenty-four hour a day, seven day a week job, which can be draining, but that’s why we do it, because we want to be part of a community. That’s why I’m here.
What do you think is George School’s best quality?
I’m gonna say that it’s changed over the years and that when I was here as a student and years before that I would have said that its best quality was its Quaker history and that commitment to Friends testimonies. Now I’m saying that ‘best quality’ is being challenged–not that our commitment to Friends testimonies has wavered, because I don’t think it has– but because our commitment to diversity and to modeling our school in the manner of the world…and having a mix of different ethnic groups, and gender balance, and religious balance, and socio-economic balance, I think we do a pretty good job of putting together a really diverse mix of people.
How did you end up in your line of work?
From the time I was in high school, people said I should be a teacher, because I was really good at working with people and I was very patient in a lot of ways. And I’m very outgoing, so I don’t mind sort of putting myself out there. But I also wanted to be in business in the worst way, and go out and make my millions and all that kind of jazz. So I took a circuitous route.
I graduated from George School in 1982, and from 1982 to 2006 I only returned to campus once. I came back for my fifth year reunion, and I didn’t actually get on campus. I ran into one of my old roommates across the street at Summit and so we just had lunch and chatted for four hours and I missed all the stuff for Alumni Day! And then I didn’t come back to campus until my daughter was applying, and it happened to be at the same time as my 25th reunion. So I really had not even been on campus for about twenty years, and when I came back and saw the campus and toured it with my daughter during Alumni Day I said,
“…I should really teach and if I’m gonna teach, this is the place I would like to do it.”
So I had, in fact, gone out and been in business for a number of years, and I was in a position to make a career change, so it worked out.
So, you were class of ’82?
What’s your fondest memory of GS?
Fondest memory… that I can share with you? (laughter)
Let’s see…I’m gonna say our undefeated season in cross country was my fondest memory. That was…19…’80 or ’81, and Dave Satterthwaite was the coach at the time–he’s a long time George School coach and former athletic director. He had been coaching cross country for a while and was a pretty good runner in his own right when he was at George School in 1965, I wanna say. We didn’t lose that year. By today’s standards we would be going to nationals. My personal record that year was a 16:54 in the 5k and that put me eighth on the team, so we were pretty dang good…
I don’t know what a 16:54 means, but it sounds good!
Ha! I also have very fond memories of just my friends and the diversity of friends I had. I would hang out with artists and I would hang out with musicians and I would hang out with athletes and boarders and day students, so my fond memory, if we’re looking collectively, was just being able to spend time with a variety of different people.
Do you have a favorite spot on campus?
My favorite spots on campus aren’t on campus anymore. Back in the day there were fields across the Newtown Creek and those fields were owned by George School. So it was–depending on what they were planting–if it was, like, hay or something, you could just walk right up to that field, and it was like South Lawn except twice as big.
Are you the best dancer in your department?
Oh gee, well I guess it depends on the department I’m in… If it’s Religion, I got that. I am most definitely the best dancer in there. LoStracco has got nothin’ on me. LoStracco is goin’ down. But if it’s dorm heads or general residential life, then it gets complicated because, you know, we’ve got some suave dancers. You’ve got Kwame, you’ve got John Stevens in the dorm–and I’m not even sure if I’m the best dancer in the dorm, let alone all the dorms…
So who’s the best dancer out of the dorm heads?
…Hm… I think it’s gotta be a toss-up between Valerie Folk and Kevin Davis. I think Kevin Davis can groove.
I guess we’ll see.
Yeah… wait, what?
What would you DooOOOOoooo for a sticky bun?
Dude, George School sticky buns… you know, there was a time, a period when the pendulum swung, and the sticky buns were just not what they used to be. But I must say that the sticky buns are back. They are really good. And I am sure they have somehow become calorie free as well, but…
Nah, that’s a lie we tell ourselves so we won’t feel bad after 20 of them
Oh yeah. I had four of them at lunch the other day and… well, that was a good day.
What was the craziest thing that happened at GS in your memory?
Again, that I can tell you? (laughter)
Hm… craziest thing… Um, yeah, I think stealing the Moose was epic. It was the first time it had been done and… that was… that was crazy. And I think I wanna say (and my brain may be getting fuzzy), but I think one of the last times we beat ANC in football was during a time I was here. They were heavily favored, and we beat them… at least, that’s my recollection, and the campus was crazy that night. Epic. Stealing the moose was crazy, though. Even though it was a relatively small group that pulled it off, the whole school just owned it. “Yeah, that’s right! We all stole that moose. Collectively,” they said after the fact. It had already been done and no one had gotten expelled, so we owned it.
So you went to GS. Did you have a favorite teacher?
Um, I have to be careful because a number of the teacher that I had are still here, and are now colleagues. I had Tom Rogers for Geometry; I had Paul Machemer for Statistics; I had Jane Dunlap for Latin…but I would say—and I’ve said this before in other interviews without a doubt—my favorite teacher at George School was Jane Dunlap. Jane was… well, first of all, I had her for four years: Latin 1, 2, 3, 4, and so I saw a lot of Jane the four years I was here. She was my favorite teacher because she was light-hearted, but she would also somehow manage to get you to work despite the fact that it was Latin. Yeah, she was and is a great teacher…
Wanna send a shout-out to any other teacher on campus?
Yeah! Shout out to Dave Satterthwaite because he was instrumental in my time here. He was a big mentor. Shout out the whole Religion department. It’s been great fun coming back to George School at the same time Hoopes came back to George School, you know, being from the same era in George School, that’s very nice. Shout out to “Early 80s Crew”
Do you have a favorite morning drink?
Yeah, but it’s boring: water. I don’t drink coffee; I don’t drink tea; I used to drink a lot of soda in the morning and I’ve gotten away from that so now it’s mostly just water…with lemon. I jazz it up.
Are you a quaker?
What do you think about George School’s Quaker values?
I touched on it a little earlier: I think it’s difficult to be a Quaker school in this day in age because so many schools are fighting for a smaller pool of students, and so there are trade-offs that you have to make, and George School has launched a number of academic initiatives that challenge our ability to maintain our Quaker values. That’s not to say that, you know, having international students challenges Quaker values or that having IB challenges Quaker values, but it makes it more difficult… If your only goal was to raise proper Quaker kids, that’s easier than the goals we have now, which are we want to get kids into a position to get into the colleges of their choice, and we want to prepare kids for a global world, and we want to, you know, we want to be all things to all people. That starts pulling at our resources to direct our attention to Quaker values. So there is that constant balance between wanting to do a lot of things as an institution and knowing that it will make it more difficult to do things well.
Have you had any nutty experiences with a George School Squirrel?
YES. I have several. I will say, it wasn’t my direct experience, but about five years ago there was a young squirrel..
…who was disoriented, and um…
Is this a metaphor?
No! Anyway, this squirrel was really over-friendly…
The squirrel is me, isn’t it, Stephen?
(laughter)…so he started coming up to people on campus, and it got to the point over a couple days where kids were starting to pick him up, and there was one particular student who started taking the squirrel to classes with him on his shoulder like a parrot. A number of people thought that that was probably not a good idea, because the squirrels carry all sorts of viruses and diseases and stuff. So we had to put a stop to Mr. Friendly Squirrel. I think they eventually took him somewhere and set him free in a forest far away.
The other story I have is that our cross country team meets under the trees near the picnic table on the north side of Drayton, and last year there was a particularly abundant supply of nuts in the trees. What squirrels like to do is to shake the branches or actually throw the nuts to crack them on the pavement, and so I was pretty sure that last year there was a squirrel who was specifically trying to hit me with nuts. I got hit with at least fifty nuts, and there was a group of us there–but I was the only one getting hit with nuts! So I think one of those squirrels had it out for me.
Nancy Starmer has declared an interdepartmental Four Square competition. Which department would win the cup?
Interdepartmental…uh… hmm…It’s not going to be languages! And I don’t think it’s going to be English… I worry though, because Shantel could bring it, right? So I don’t know, maybe English…I mean, I’ve got to think Religion would have a shot. Right? You know who else? Admissions. Admissions would have a shot. Admissions might be on point for Four Square. So I’m going to say a toss-up between the Religion department and Admissions. And I’m gonna call out the History department and say they have no shot. History’s going down.
Which faculty or staff member wins the award for most swag?
“…Swag?” You mean in the traditional sense, like the way they carry themselves? Like someone who walks in and just commands the room?
You are allowed to vote for yourself, if you think you have swag.
Oh, I definitely have swag but… hmm…Chris Odom would definitely get a lot of votes. He got the swag credibility when he marched the Appalachian Trail, and he has a printer that can make anything, so I have to say Odom.
What’s the best part of dorm living?
The best part about dorm living is that it keeps you young. You’re never at a loss for things to do, so if you’re trying to sit on a porch and rock yourself to sleep, that isn’t happening. So I think that’s the best part of dorm living for me. Never a dull moment.
If there was to be a bake-off between the dorm heads, who would win?
My wife. Hands down. Not even a discussion. “Bettye” Moyer.