Tradition Spring 2021
Tradition Spring 2021

President’s Point of View

Dominic DiMarco, President, Cranbrook Educational Community

Dear Cranbrook Schools Families and Friends,

When our founders first opened the School for Boys in 1927, they entrusted Cranbrook’s future, with confidence, to those who would follow in their footsteps:

“We have blazed a new trail; it will be largely the work of others to extend, to widen and to improve it and make it into a highway on both sides of which may be reared lasting and beautiful edifices on a foundation which I trust will be found imperishable.”

Today, I share that same trust in our next President, current Director of Schools Aimeclaire (AC) Roche, incoming Director of Schools, Jeff Suzik, Ph. D., and incoming Director of Horizons-Upward Bound (HUB), Lisa Reynolds Smoots. I can say with all certainty that all three of these extraordinary individuals will lead with the imperishable spirit of the Cranbrook Educational Community.

As my career at Cranbrook draws to a close, I am delighted by the result of Cranbrook Educational Community’s search process and these outstanding appointments. In welcoming AC, Jeff and Lisa to their new roles within the community, we build upon a long legacy of committed leadership, beginning more than one hundred years ago with our founders.

While some of our team transitions this year, the museums, grounds and cultural programs remain open to you and yours in innovative and exciting ways, including special programs and private viewings. We will also be launching a milestone art exhibition and offering virtual lectures on a wide range of topics from art and architecture, to science and gardening.

If you are in the area this summer, I hope you will visit the landmark exhibition, With Eyes Opened: Cranbrook Academy of Art Since 1932 at Cranbrook Art Museum. Surveying the history of the Academy since its founding, this remarkable exhibition will feature more than 250 works and occupy all the Art Museum’s galleries.

At the Institute of Science, a new self-produced exhibition featuring the Institute’s life science collections is now installed for you and your family to enjoy. Life on Earth can be found in the Institute’s Wasserman Gallery and is among the most visually appealing and in-depth exhibitions the Institute has ever produced.

As mentioned previously, I will be retiring at the end of this academic year. Each of you has my sincere gratitude for making my time at Cranbrook the most fulfilling of my professional life. It has truly been an honor to serve Cranbrook first as Chief Operating Officer and then as its eighth President.

I find myself overwhelmed with gratitude for the special relationships that have formed with so many of you and will be forever grateful for your trust and support.

Please stay safe, be well and continue to Aim High and Go Forth and Serve.


Dominic A. DiMarco, President
Cranbrook Educational Community
248.645.3100 |

Director’s School of Thought

Aimeclaire Roche, Director of Schools

When I am asked to describe the 2020-2021 school year, I characterize it as both extraordinary and arduous.

One has only to look at a local or national paper to understand the burdensome and laborious nature of our work in education this year: from discerning what precautions and protocols would allow all Cranbrook students to have in-person instruction, every day, this school year; to the pandemic-related burdens placed on our teachers and their newly upended and vastly multiplied professional responsibilities; to the physical fatigue and—more important—mental stress of pandemic-related isolation we all have felt and which has affected young adults in disproportionate numbers. Add to this the pain felt by our constituents—alumni, current families and colleagues—in the midst of economic uncertainty, racialized violence, and political polarization. This has been an arduous year.

It has also been an extraordinary one where we have seen Cranbrook community members rely upon each other for strength and support and where we have kept our institutional eye on a very clear objective: to sustain in-person instruction every day possible, for all our students, because the academic and social-emotional health of our students and teachers depends on it. Indeed, Cranbrook Schools plays an essential role in teaching far more than reading and arithmetic: how to care, share, and collaborate in an increasingly complex and diversely populated world. Pre-pandemic, did we take that for granted? Post-pandemic, we never should.

My colleagues and I are proud that we have continued to deliver in-person instruction at every grade level, for the near-entirety of this school year. Notwithstanding a handful of no-class days afforded to our faculty to mitigate the burdens of the unusually demanding workload this year, to date we have experienced only one state-wide pause in in-person upper school instruction (between Thanksgiving and the new year) and our own, planned moments of online instruction to facilitate all-school PCR testing for active COVID-19 virus after each major school holiday. Throughout, we have run as many programs as logistically possible, including a successful Wilderness Expedition, which returned safely to campus in late March. Too, we have discovered that, for many Cranbrook events, Zoom and video meetings can be wildly successful, allowing constituents worldwide to gather and stay informed, as well as to discuss and reflect upon important issues affecting our community.

As the spring quarter opens, only about 3% of our students access class solely through online means. Cranbrook’s teachers and students have embraced necessary precautions—the altered daily schedules, daily health screenings, face coverings and physical distance that allow in-person instruction to thrive— and the whole community has remained, largely COVID-free. Yearlong, Cranbrook’s positivity rate for both teachers and students has remained consistently below 2%.  

Certainly, inside Cranbrook schoolhouses, teachers and students all ache for the parts of school that we cherish but have had to forego:  the in-person assemblies and live performances; the shared meals; unfettered use of our full campus; and bustling in the hallways, common rooms and corridors; physically distant, we miss the casual highfives and the heartfelt hugs.  

For these reasons, we are making tentative plans for in-person graduation festivities for the class of 2021, and our objective for the 2021-2022 academic year is to return, in every way possible, to a pre-pandemic class configuration and daily schedule that allows for more personal interaction in and outside of the classroom and a sustainable pace of the day. Thankfully, we estimate that nearly 90% of our teachers have availed themselves already to COVID vaccines, and we are buoyed by robust number of applicants for admission. 

Joining our ranks and helping to navigate our course are leaders who will ably guide Cranbrook Schools in this next chapter. We will welcome this spring Ms. Lisa Smoots, the incoming Director of Cranbrook’s Horizons Upward Bound program. We will also welcome this July Dr. Jeff Suzik, the incoming Director of Schools. Both are introduced to you in this online edition of Tradition and both are thrilled to add their care and passion to all that we do. In my new role as President of Cranbrook Educational Community, I am eager to learn from Lisa and Jeff’s new perspective and ready to support their work in every way possible.  

We are optimistic about the future because a robust and caring community is the only medium through which any educational content is effectively delivered, and Cranbrook Schools is where wonderful young people grapple with and discern what confidence and skills are needed to navigate not merely a syllabus but the world at large. Undoubtedly, this is why George Booth said early on about Cranbrook, “The pupils…must be led by read student-teachers who are students of life as well as of book lore and facts.” As my colleagues and I have said repeatedly this year: it’s not really about Latin. This is the curriculum: how we make sense of a chaotic moment; how we build relationship and demonstrate care, dedication, thoughtful engagement and respect in foul as well as fair weather.

Whether you see it as arduous or extraordinary—or a combination of the two—the 2020-2021 school year has challenged and stretched and galvanized Cranbrook Schools, allowing us to join in common cause and face exacting circumstances, supporting our students and teachers in the most meaningful way possible: with unfailing passion and tireless care. 


Aimeclaire Roche, Director of Schools

Steward’s Table

Charlie Shaw, Director of Stewardship

The protocol of spring at Cranbrook is timeless: the quickening of life around the parking lot at 550 Lone Pine, the babbling of campus fountains resumed, the notes of well-loved songs drifting from the PAC and the music building, the ceaseless march of teams across the Oval and the Lower Fields, the circuit of joyful walkers and joggers around Kingswood Lake. 

Over the course of 45 springtimes I have taken equal measures of wry satisfaction and wry disapproval as a new senior class re-enacts the comic drama of entropy that leads to graduation. Inexorably, their torpor must surrender to the stern offices and duties surrounding graduation. As I observed annually to my colleagues, the ageless June contest must always end the same way, with faculty yielding to victorious students headed for summer. 

This year I am the one carried along by the recessional, however atypical this one might be. An English teacher never fails to pay special attention to the confluence of beginnings and endings. Among the most vivid of my memories are those indelible lightning strikes of years one and two. Yes, a sideways glance from an older faculty member could cripple the soul. But at that time Cranbrook was all of one sunny piece to me. Cranbrook was a world unto itself. 

As dorm master of Marquis Hall, my mission was to make this venerable space a microcosm of the surrounding splendor. Marquis would be a space of concord and beauty. Plants and hallway hangings were thoughtfully arranged. Work duty was to be a scrupulous and joyful gospel. The third-floor lounge was appointed with the furniture of a cozy study. Wondrous dishes would emerge periodically from my wife Sandra’s kitchen. 

Never for a moment was I forgetful of a past quite alive in all the nooks and crannies. The original barber shop (that preceded Ev Arthur’s site off the bookstore) with all its original tile work had been incorporated at some earlier moment into the first-floor apartment. It astonished. The steam tunnels could be accessed from the basement laundry room. The windows of Marquis Hall were endlessly fascinating and each seemed unique. In the attic of Coulter Hall I came across the original plaster molds of Eero Saarinen’s gargoyle masks that adorn the vertical striping of Page Hall. 

As my own graduation has loomed, I am potently reminded of the twin mottos of Cranbrook Kingswood Upper School, “Aim High” and “Enter to Learn, Go Forth to Serve.” Much energy has been expended over the years trying to decide which school symbol, motto, or culture was in the ascendant at any one moment. As I bring closure to a career that has included the roles of teacher, coach, director of residence, dean of faculty, head of Upper School, and now director of stewardship, I am persuaded that George and Ellen Booth were very thoughtful in their choice of mottoes. In fact, here I see only more evidence of the Booth genius. 

“Aim High” of course is the world of the epic poem, in this case, the Aeneid. It speaks to the individual, to contest, to glory and perhaps perfectibility. “Enter to Learn, Go Forth to Serve” speaks to community, to shared values, to serving and sacrifice and perhaps process. While the two mottoes would appear to be differentiated by the gender and architecture with which each is associated, my belief is that the Booths saw the two as interdependent and inseparable. Everything about my 45 years suggests that neither motto can represent Cranbrook Kingswood in the absence of the other.

Perhaps my first intimation of this was at Marquis when I discovered the depth of the bonds of caring that bound the boys and me together. I saw that some of the boys were very adept at bedside visitations at the nursing home on Square Lake. Traditional prep school culture enshrined physical exertion and athletic contest as the domain of boys. What was sweeter than victory over a bitter rival? But over the course of a 20-year coaching career, I learned, sometimes painfully, that a coach with no vision other than winning will soon falter. Good coaching was as much about serving as aiming high. 

I learned over time that a classroom was not an indoor version of the athletic field. The creation of gladiatorial spectacle was natural in the all-boys classroom. Leading students through the rigors of scholarship in such a way as to offer some honor and victory to each was a slower, more difficult discovery. The best teachers did not create winners and losers. And what more clever alchemy of winning and serving was to be found than the Wilderness Expedition! 

The second half of my career acquainted me with school administration. In this context “Aim High” meant bringing honors and national preeminence to Cranbrook Schools: creating the most innovative and exciting of school programs, carrying off athletic championships, winning distinction for our performing and fine arts students. And constantly boasting of our faculty. However, I quickly learned that only a happy faculty was up to the herculean labors that the school year sets. A successful school leader always looks for the right opportunities to serve: listening, compromising, sharing the work of decision-making. As I experienced each spring, our student awards equally measured both raw, individual achievement and the genius of community-building. Also, I would venture to say that, as the merger of Cranbrook and Kingswood receded into memory, we became, as one school, more nimble, more balanced. We learned the arts of building up rather than taking down. 

 Cranbrook Kingswood proved to be one classroom in which we all—students, faculty, staff, and administrators alike—were pupils. At even the most challenging and lonely moments of a long career here, I was always both child and parent, forever entering to learn. I am, and always will be, forever grateful to this place of wonder.

Charlie Shaw