Rivers Celebrates Jarzavek

Nearly 450 alumni, parents and friends joined the festive celebration of the 40-year teaching career of Jack Jarzavek on Saturday, May 14.
Nearly 450 alumni, parents and friends joined the festive celebration of the 40-year teaching career of Jack Jarzavek on Saturday, May 14. The evening gala celebration, which was part of Rivers' Reunion 2005, was held in the MacDowell Arena.

Attendees enjoyed a taste of Italy at food stations, shared reminiscences, and viewed a slideshow reflecting on his teaching career. Former students, colleagues and friends waited nearly two hours in the receiving line following the program to give Jack their best wishes. Jack is retiring from the classroom this spring after 40 years of teaching French, English, Shakespeare and Art History at Rivers. He will continue to serve as the school's alumni liaison.

The program included remarks by Alumni Council President Alan Rose '87, Samantha Kobrick '95, Jared Gerstenblatt '93, Chris Wilson '75, Louis Grossman '67, former headmaster Richard Bradley, Acting Head of School Jim Long, Hank Miller '77, Dave Davis '70, and ceramics teacher Eleanor Mahoney.

Rivers announced two dedications in Jack's honor. The John B. Jarzavek Teaching Chair will be reserved for the most senior and deserving faculty. It will recognize extraordinary accomplishment in one's discipline and teaching career. This chair is the first ever at Rivers that will provide salary and a fully funded, career-long stipend for its recipient. This chair gives Rivers another tool to attract and retain qualified faculty to follow in Jack's venerable footsteps. To date, a committee of alumni and friends has raised more than $260,000 for the chair. In addition, the John B. Jarzavek and Class of 1970 Scholarship Fund will provide financial aid to a Rivers student who has shown a strong interest in the arts. This opportunity will become a way to honor Jack and keep his love of the arts alive at Rivers.

Jarzavek joined the faculty in 1965 as a French teacher. He has also taught English and served as head of the English department. His art history class is a unique legacy, an opportunity to share with his students an enthusiasm for art history and its far-ranging connections to music, philosophy, religion and culture.

As part of the program, speakers read quotes and memories that former students and parents sent in to the Alumni Office. Alan Rose '87 read a quote from one of Jack's oldest and dearest friends and long-time Rivers librarian and French scholar Mida Dunn. She said, "Jack has often told us that his definition of Shakespeare is that he had his finger on the pulse of mankind, well it seems certain that Jack has his finger on the pulse of Rivers. He has helped so many of us and always reached out to meet our needs."

Sam Kobrick '95 said, "As we all know, Jack's bags are stuffed full with an encyclopedic knowledge of everything. Nuggets of pop culture, literature, world events, politics, music, and, of course, the arts are neatly folded in Jack's head. His passion for sharing this knowledge has encouraged all of us to deepen our own love of learning."

Chris Wilson '75 said, "Jack finds a way to connect with everyone. I have many memories of Jack from the classroom, but what stands out the most was his genuine concern for each of us as an individual." Lou Grossman '67 read a quote from a mother of an alumnus who wrote, "As we get milled through the education process, once in a while—if we are lucky—there will be a teacher who with his infinite love, knowledge and gift of illumination will kindle a life long love of learning in his students. Your interest and enthusiasm were contagious."

Alan Rose '87 concluded with a quote from another alumnus who succinctly summarizes how many feel about Jack, "Inspirational, challenging and creative. Jack Jarzavek was everything a teacher should be."

Jarzavek graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Wesleyan University with a bachelor of arts in comparative literature and a minor in intellectual history. He spent a year abroad at the Sorbonne, studying French literature and art and earning a Carte d'Assiduite. Following graduation, Jarzavek attended Yale University on a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship to pursue a master's in English. During that time, he also researched 17th century English literature and art on a Fulbright Fellowship at the University of Bristol in England.

The Rivers School recognized Jarzavek's commitment to teaching on many occasions. First, he was selected as the recipient of the William F. Gallagher Teaching Chair in its inaugural year in 1983. The honor was repeated for a consecutive term in 1986. In 1997, the Rivers Alumni Association awarded Jarzavek the Rivers Cup, traditionally reserved for alumni, for his extraordinary dedication to the school.