"This place means peace to my soul."
– Theodate Pope Riddle
Sometimes, a soul yearns for peace – to find a place of permanence in a world of movement. A place to settle; a place to call home. For Peter Reed '88, a youth accustomed to traveling the world, that became Avon Old Farms School.
"As a child, I moved every few years – Iran, Connecticut, London, Hong Kong, Washington D.C. – because my father worked for the international division of IBM," Reed began to explain. "At the time when we were living in Connecticut, my older brother enrolled at Deerfield Academy, and the idea of a boarding school emerged for me, too."
In the eighth grade, Reed enrolled at Rectory School in Pomfret, a boarding school for fifth through ninth graders.
"Headmaster John Green at Rectory School took me under his wing and I really started to enjoy the boarding school life," he explained. "Our varsity teams would sometimes travel to Avon Old Farms School to play Avon's thirds teams. It was those visits that inspired me to consider Avon for high school."
Beyond athletic matchups, there was a strong connection between Rectory and Avon. When it came time to look at high schools, Reed and three of his Rectory classmates (James Patten, Bear Smith, and David Stichter) all chose to enroll at Avon as first-year sophomores.
Reed said he quickly assimilated to life at Avon. He recalls living in Elephant Dormitory, and making the varsity lacrosse team his first year on campus. He also has fond memories of European History class with Mr. Tom Giella, who was also his football coach, and studying D-Day with Mr. Narsipur.
"The relational learning that happens at Avon – knowing your teachers also as coaches and dorm heads – makes a strong impact on young men," he said. "When my mentors had more confidence in me than I did in myself, it inspired me to push harder, and good things tended to happen."
Reed thrived at Avon. He became a monitor in Pelican Dormitory, and received the Skip Flanagan and the Louise B. Adams awards his junior year. As a senior, he was elected Vice Warden of the school. At graduation, multiple awards were bestowed upon him, including the F. Reed Estabrook Award and the Order of Old Farms.
While Reed was a strong athlete and loved lacrosse and football greatly, he also was a founding member of the Riddlers, recognizing that students needed to actively rally against the idea that Avon was just a school for athletes. Working with leaders of the Avon fledgling music program at the time - Jim Balmer and Mary Nelson, Reed helped to solicit the interest of a number of singers who may have otherwise thought competitive athletics and a capella singing didn't mix.
"Peter Reed has surely left a lasting mark on Avon Old Farms," commented Coach Kevin Driscoll, who Reed says was such a pivotal figure to him during his Avon years. "During his schoolboy days, Peter was an incredibly hard-working student, excellent athlete and a leader among his peers. He has lived his life by a strong moral code much of which he credits to his strong family bonds and the faculty, coaches, and advisors who served as the role models that he admired as a student. Peter is a great husband, father and a positive and giving member of his community. We are so fortunate to have a man held in such high esteem as a graduate and loyal individual as a member of the brotherhood. Peter Reed is what we consider truly to be a Man of Avon."
When it was time to choose a college path, again Reed demonstrated his well-rounded character.
"I wanted to play sports in college," he began. "I considered both Division I and Division III schools, but was certain that I wanted to strike the right balance between academics and athletics. Hamilton College, a D III school not well known for its lacrosse program, was the strongest school academically and I knew I could have fun playing there."
In making that choice, Reed followed in his father's and both brothers' footsteps by matriculating to Hamilton, where he ultimately become captain of the lacrosse team. He majored in government relations, minored in history, and credits the liberal arts experience with teaching him how to effectively communicate in both the written and spoken word and to think critically.
"Right out of college I began in a training program with the Fireman's Fund Insurance Company, and moved from there to the Chubb Group," he said. "Then, one day, something serendipitous happened."
Reed was working for Chubb in their Chicago office. He was newly married to his wife Elisabeth of Southport, Connecticut, and they were thinking about settling down and starting a family. One day at work, the elevator opened and before him stood his old History teacher and football coach from Avon, Tom Giella.
"Tom was a larger than life guy, and even as his student I recognized him for the great role model that he was," shared Reed. "After a couple of years of teaching, Coach Giella left to pursue an MBA from the University of Chicago. We hadn't stayed in touch. Years later, he was working right there in the Sears Tower with me."
The two men decided to reminisce over drinks. It turns out that Giella was a partner with the executive search group Korn/Ferry International – and he just happened to be looking for an Associate who could work alongside him, in effect, a mentee who he could teach the business to...someone like Reed.
"I worked with Korn/Ferry, thanks to Tom's introduction, for ten great years," Reed said. "I gravitated toward the insurance division, as that was my background, and eight years ago made the move to Cardwell Partners, a premier provider of executive search, where I am now the managing partner of the Global Insurance Practice."
Today, Reed lives with his wife and three children in Southport, where he says he found the permanence and continuity of community that his soul yearned for. Their family home, luckily, is not too far from Reed's original oasis: Avon Old Farms.
"The class of '88 is a tight-knit group of men, many of whom share my sentiments about Avon," he said. "We stay in touch, we had a strong showing for our 25th reunion, and many of us are actively involved with the school on a regular basis."
In fact, Reed, along with classmates Shawn Atkinson and Rob Gryboski joined the National Council, an important leadership and advisory group of alumni, parents, and friends of the school. They signed on in the formative years of the council, and Peter remains active with the group today.
"The biggest thing I can do as a National Council member is to be an advocate for the school in my community," shared Reed. "Through my work and my community, I get to meet a lot of people, and sometimes I am able to share with them my connection to Avon. If I can help another boy receive the Avon experience I had, I consider my role as an ambassador a success."
As November rolls by and the new year grows ever-closer, Reed looks forward to his 'third 10th reunion.'
"At our last milestone reunion we celebrated with the installation of the flagpole for the athletic fields as well as the relocation of the massive wooden seal that was our class gift in 1988," he recalled. "We'll have to organize our class and start to think about what we can do this year, but I have no doubt we'll come together once again to bring something great to Avon."We hope that all members of the class of '88, near and far, return for reunion this May 11-13, 2018, to recover their own sense of peace at Avon. For more information on this spring's reunion, visit www.avonoldfarms.com/reunion or contact Liz Abramson at (860) 404 – 4268.