Richard Ferguson ’63 HGS Receives the Hopkins Medal

For his unparalleled commitment, loyalty and devotion to the School, Kai Bynum, Head of School, awarded Richard (Dick) Ferguson ‘63 HGS the Hopkins Medal at a special reception in Heath Commons on May 19, 2019.

Joining the celebration were seven previous Hopkins Medal honorees, eight of Dick’s ’63 HGS classmates, and an appreciative gathering of family and friends of the Hopkins community.

Vincent Calarco, President of the Hopkins Committee of Trustees, cited Dick for his unwavering twenty-year commitment as a trustee. “Dick is kind, generous and an outstanding trustee.” Calarco relayed two legendary stories about Dick’s generosity as an alumnus and his tenacity as a fundraiser: at a raffle for another organization, Dick won a BMW and immediately signed the car over to Hopkins so the proceeds could go toward financial aid, and while recovering from surgery, he made solicitations for the Senior Parent Fund from his hospital bed, wishing to add a live-streamed video component to the call.

Classmate and fellow Hopkins Medal recipient, Mark Sklarz ’63 HGS recalled their days of 66 boys on the Hill when the campus consisted only of Baldwin Hall, Hopkins House and the gym. “Whether working at a radio station during your Junior School years or serving as the Editor-in-Chief of the Razor, your passion, empathy and principles created an environment of leadership that permeated all of your actions.”

Addressing those gathered, Dick stated simply and with emotion, “Hopkins was a life changer for me. My Hopkins story and experience would not have existed were it not for the financial aid I received as a student here.” Citing the deep and lifelong friendships he developed with his classmates and the influential teachers who gave him a first-rate education, Dick said “my mission was and continues to be making sure that other hopeful youths can experience the life changing impact of a Hopkins education.” (Read entire speech below.)

Dick has actively championed and supported Hopkins for more than 30 years, not only through his generosity but also through his time, involvement, initiative and good will. He served as a Trustee from 1984-1994 and 2011-2018. He founded the Hopkins Senior Parent Fund in 2011 and chaired the Development Committee from 2011-2018. He was instrumental in founding the Hopkins Distinguished Alumni/ae and Fellows Committee in 2005, and is a long-time member of the Class of 1963 Reunion Committee. Dick founded the Donald P. Ferguson Memorial Fund in honor of his brother, who died in Vietnam. He also established the Franklin and Virginia Ferguson Fund and his generosity helped establish the Karl Crawford Scholarship Fund, Ib Jorgensen Scholarship Fund and Class of 1963 HGS Scholarship Fund. Dick was also honored by Hopkins for his professional accomplishments in the field of radio and television broadcasting when he received the Distinguished Alumnus award in 1998. Dick lives in Westport with his wife Marissa. They have three children, Ben, Callie ’11 and Quinn ’14.

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Photos by Steve Walter

by Richard Ferguson

Thank you Kai, Vince and Mark…

Thanks to all of you for taking the time to be here this afternoon.

It is a great honor to receive the Hopkins Medal. What it represents means a great deal to me, and I truly appreciate it.
As noted in your program, the Hopkins Medal has been awarded 21 times prior to today’s ceremony. I’ve had the privilege to know all but two of the recipients and to have worked on behalf of the school with many of them. This afternoon, eight Hopkins Medalists are here with us.  

As I look around the room, I see fellow alumni/ae, classmates, parents, past parents, Trustees, faculty, staff and friends who have also made and continue to make significant contributions of their time, talent and treasure to make Hopkins the place it is today. Thank you for all you have done and continue to do for our school.

In 2009, on the eve of the school’s 350
th anniversary, Barbara Riley awarded the Hopkins Medal posthumously to the Reverend John Davenport, Executor of Edward Hopkins’ will and founder of the Hopkins Grammar School, as it was then known.

There are precious few enterprises founded 359 years ago that still exist today. Consider that companies that were once household names and listed on the Fortune 500 are no longer in existence. When you consider how precariously funded Hopkins was for the first 330 years of its history, it is something of a miracle that we can be together on this beautiful campus this afternoon.

So .. let’s for a moment go back in time and imagine, if you will, Hopkins as a 1660 “start up.”

If you were an investor in this small, one room school back then—a school that specialized in teaching Latin, Greek and some Hebrew—with a business strategy focused on the idealistic goal of bringing up young people with the goal of service to the country in future times—you probably would have been labeled a high-risk fund manager.

Founded more than 100 years before the birth of our nation, this start-up would go on to survive two wars fought on our own soil and two devastating world wars. It would navigate periods of great financial upheaval and numerous financial market crashes including the Great Depression, and unprecedented social upheaval and change.  

Yet somehow it would not only survive, it would emerge stronger than it has ever been and still very much aligned with its original mission.

And what makes this story more incredible is that up until the mid-1990s, literally centuries after its founding, it managed to accomplish all this and survive, without any endowment or significant money in the bank.

So I’ve often wondered—how did it manage to survive?

Certainly there were many factors that contributed to Hopkins’ longevity and resiliency, but I would argue that it is the timeless statement of purpose—it’s mission—lifted from Edward Hopkins’ will and its guiding principle today—to be a place
for the breeding up of hopeful youths … for the public service of the country now and in future times—is what guided and motivated those in whose care the destiny of Hopkins was entrusted.  

But perhaps there is an additional ingredient to the Hopkins secret sauce or competitive advantage, without which our powerful mission statement would be just words originally inscribed on a piece of parchment and now electronically communicated on our website.

Perhaps, what kept Hopkins alive in difficult times and thriving in better times was the result of generations of hopeful youths who recognized and credited the important role Hopkins played in their lives, and then found or made the time and effort to do what they could to make sure Hopkins would be prepared, ready and capable to inspire and educate the next generation of hopeful youths who would become the leaders of our communities, our country and the stewards of our school.

When I look around the room, I see so much evidence of this explanation: members of the Hopkins community who graduated from Hopkins or whose children graduated from Hopkins and became advocates and supporters, volunteers and ambassadors for the school and for whom the development of those hopeful youths is more than a task or job—it is a mission.

That is in part my Hopkins story.

Hopkins was a life changer for me. When Vince Calarco speaks of Hopkins he talks about Hopkins as a place that transforms lives.

Hopkins certainly did that for me and if I were to share the podium this afternoon with so many of you, I know we would hear many stories about how Hopkins made a meaningful difference in the trajectory of  your lives, and/or the lives of your children and grandchildren.

My Hopkins experience was also about deep and lifelong friendships, especially with my classmates from 1963.

Many of them are here today and many reached out to me this past week. My life would be so different and less fulfilling without these friends in my life.  
My Hopkins experience was also shaped by my teachers—individuals who loved teaching and mentoring and for whom you never felt that being a Hopkins teacher was a just a job.

When I get together with Hopkins alumni and we share our experiences here on the Hill, the conversations almost always center on the faculty, the coaches and members of the Hopkins staff.

When I meet with Hopkins alumni, the stories inevitably turn to interactions and memories of faculty members and staff, and when alums come back for reunions, a highlight of their visit to campus is to reconnect with their teachers and mentors.  

My teachers at Hopkins were among the most influential adults in my life. They could be tough and exacting, but they were “all in” when it came to giving us a first rate education.

They worked long days, and many of them were our coaches on the athletic fields and advisors in extracurricular activities. Many of us experienced class trips organized and led by them.

In the belief that their spirits are never far from this place, in the belief that many in this room knew or knew of them and at the risk of not mentioning all of them I would like to call out their names, the names of my Hopkins teachers who made a difference in my life:

Helen Barton, Founder of the Junior school, who also taught my father when he attended Hopkins in the early 1930s.

Ken Rood, Edward DeNoyan, Victor Reid, George Gillespie, Les Wrigley, John Heath, Commander Peterson,  Bud Erich, Ken Paul, Sr., Austin Albert, Paul Kittredge, Cory Kramer, Sara Fought, Herb Richmond and two men whom I knew first as teachers and mentors but became lifelong friends until their passing, Ib Jorgensen and Karl Crawford.

Perhaps at this moment, many of you are adding names to my list, remembering them and all they did to help you become the person you are today.
Without them, their predecessors and those who have followed in their footsteps, there would be no breeding up of hopeful youths.  

My Hopkins story and experience would not have existed were it not for the financial aid I received as a student here.  

In my day, most kids who received financial aid were work scholars.

As the school had virtually no endowment when I attended, those of us who received scholarships worked in the kitchen or with the grounds crew as a way for the school to reduce its operating costs.

I have to say that while I’m glad we no longer have that program, in large part due to the school’s ever increasing financial aid budget and the endowed scholarships that make that possible, my experience as a work scholar was an important and positive part of my time at Hopkins.

It instilled in me a sense of service—of partially paying my own way—of helping my parents who made significant financial sacrifices to send me and my brother here.

It exposed me to caring and inspiring adults outside of the classroom — and I’m thinking right now of the dining room and kitchen staff. Charly Billings, Freida Gould and Mrs. Anderson, who treated us like we were their own kids, which meant calling me out when I broke a dish but also giving me an extra ice cream at the end of my shift.

The primary focus of my time as a volunteer for Hopkins has been about increasing the school’s financial aid budget and increasing our endowment in support of our faculty.

And that means fundraising.

As an alum manning the phones with classmates—calling classmates back when we had Annual Fund telethons—as a Trustee on the Development Committee and later following in Vince’s footsteps, as a Campaign chair, my mission was and continues to be making sure that other hopeful youths can experience the life changing impact of a Hopkins education by increasing the size of our endowment designated for financial aid.

I think most people will tell you that it is difficult to ask others for money. It might come as a surprise to many of you who’ve had a fundraising conversation—or two, or three with me—that the same is also true for me.

But asking for support for something you really believe in, a cause that transforms the lives of young people—that makes it a different conversation—a conversation you are eager to have with others in our shared community.
Thanks to all of you who have helped me in that work.

A special thank you to the professional team in the Hopkins Development Office: Lauren, Dan, Donna, Carol, Charlie, Katie and former members of the team, Deena Mack, Pat Borgeshan, Jedd Whitlock, Barbara Monahan, and more recent members of the office whom I look forward to working with, Tom and Beth Ann, and to my Development Chair mentor, Ken Paul, who was always there with advice and encouragement and who set the fundraising bar for me and for Hopkins.

And my last thank you is the most important one, to my wife Marissa who has supported me in my  work at Hopkins, which meant a lot of time away from home—evening and weekend meetings, out-of-town trips to meet with alums and donors—and for being a good and patient listener when I was telling Hopkins stories and anecdotes, often the same ones, to friends and family.

I have to say she probably had fair warning when she married me that she would be sharing me with Hopkins—our second date was attending one of my Hopkins reunions.

Thank you Marissa.

Thank you Kai and Vince.

And thank you all for being here today. As we say here at Hopkins… Tibi Gratias Ago.
    • Dick Ferguson '63 HGS and Head of School Kai Bynum

    • Hopkins Medal Recipients (L-R): David Newton '67 HGS, Vincent Calarco, Barbara Hanscom, Dick Ferguson '63 HGS, Mark Sklarz '63 HGS, Linda Calarco, Ken Paul, Jr. '68 HGS

    • Classmates from 1963 HGS (L-R): Dana Blanchard, Bob DeLucia, Mark Sklarz, John Gesmonde, Dick Ferguson, John Farnham, Alan Fairbanks, Fred Martz and Vining Bigelow

    • Dick Ferguson '63 HGS and Marisa Ferguson