On September 6th 2017 my wife Sarah and I brought our daughter Sydney to her first day of elementary school.
It was a special day for Sydney who had spent two years in the Downstairs Kindergarten and was now very excited to be starting First Grade. She talked about it all summer and couldn’t wait for this day.
As parents, we of course were both anxious and proud of her as we watched her take this next step through her journey in school and life. We climbed up the five flights of stairs to the first grade with anticipation and watched as she looked around in amazement at all the new sights and sounds in her new classroom. For me, it was especially touching to pass by old classrooms and have memories of my time at the Rudolf Steiner School rush through my head. There was one memory that I hadn’t thought about or anticipated as we arrived at the First Grade.
We entered the classroom and found Sydney’s cubby, were greeted by Ms. Zlatar, said hi to old and new friends and then looked for the desk with Sydney’s name on it. I looked over the desk and then at the other 24 in the classroom and quickly realized that my classmates and I had built all these desks as Seniors back in 1990 as a gift to the school. I’m already quite sentimental about having both of my daughters at the Rudolf Steiner School, but this was one of those realizations that made that feeling even stronger. I looked in amazement as my daughter sat at a desk that I quite possibly built, or at least assembled some part. I quickly texted a picture of Sydney and the desk to my former classmates and class advisor to make sure these were indeed the desks we had built. Very quickly people texted back confirming my suspicion.
Seeing those desks, I can’t help but reminisce about how they came to be. It was my senior year at Steiner and we were planning our senior trip. We spent the year raising money but unfortunately never wound up taking that trip and found ourselves with a large balance in our class account. The question of what to do with the money became a big topic of discussion, and not a simple one. Our advisor at the time, Ihor Radysh (Class of ’71), suggested that we donate the money to the school. This was met with some resistance…well actually a lot of resistance, but Mr. Radysh had a powerful influence over us and eventually convinced everyone that it was the right thing to do. Rather than make a simple financial contribution to the school Mr. Radysh suggested putting the funds to use in a more creative and impactful way, one that would leave a meaningful legacy of our class. Looking around at what the school needed, he came up with the idea that we build desks for the First Grade.
Mr. Radysh was a very talented carpenter and during our time at school, he oversaw the building of the sets for our plays and the games we built for the Fall Fair’s game room. For these desks, he had a particular vision and design-plan using a “tongue and groove” technique, which meant using glue and wafers instead of nails, screws, or metal of any kind. We bought all of the lumber needed with our class funds and the twelve of us and Mr. Radysh spent many weeks cutting, sanding, assembling and lacquering these desks in our spare time after school.
It was a very time consuming process. We had to carefully line up the wood piece-by-piece, glue them, and use large vices to hold the glued pieces together to dry. At times, we waited days for the glue to completely dry before we could move on to the next part in the assembly. I remember several of us asking why we couldn’t just use drills and screws, or nails to put the pieces together. To us, it seemed that would not only be quicker, and easier, but would certainly make the desks sturdier. Mr. Radysh explained why the construction method we were using would actually be much stronger than anything we could nail or screw together. Building these desks was in some informal way like the final project for us, with our teacher overseeing the process from start to finish and really understanding every step along the way.
I remember delivering the 25 desks to the First Grade with pride. I’m pretty sure we still had some funds remaining to cover a small celebratory night at Mr. Radysh’s house to make up for the lost senior trip.
Fast forward 27 years later and these desks are not only still in use, they are standing strong and one of my daughters is sitting at it every morning (and our other daughter will be in two years)!
I look at the desks today and their continued use as a microcosm of the influence the Rudolf Steiner School has on me. As they have stood the test of time, so have the lessons I learned at the Steiner School as they continually permeate my daily life both personally and professionally. I’m excited that my daughters will have similar experiences and learn about the world by looking at things from all angles and consider the world outside of themselves. I can’t wait to see what legacy both of them and their classes leave on the school.
I’m pretty sure none of us thought the desks would last this long when we built them in the spring of 1990, but here they are. I hope these desks make it another 27 years and beyond.
Alex Kadvan ’90
Father of Sydney (Class of ‘29) and Chloe (Class of ‘32)