Archives for May 2012

The Tourists are coming, the tourists are coming!

Above, Tourists take photos at the Lexington Minute Man Statue.

By Laurie Atwater  |

It’s National Tourism Week and like it or not the tourism season is underway in Lexington!

Over the past ten years tourism efforts in Lexington have increased and our offerings have been greatly enhanced. The Tourism Committee focused on creating and building the capacity of The Liberty Ride (a guided trolley tour that runs between Lexington and Concord four times daily) and the Historical Society has tackled the business of converting our historic houses from worn-out to welcoming. They are now impressive house museums with historically researched interpretations, climate controlled systems and visitor friendly program centers.

Ten years ago many tourists merely passed through Lexington on their way to Concord without eating, shopping or staying. Many felt that Lexington was missing out on the economic benefits of tourism, which most communities would embrace. Dawn Mckenna, Chair of the Lexington Tourism Committee was one of them. “Our mission is to create economic development opportunities through tourism,” McKenna says. The Tourism Committee was created a little over a decade ago by the Selectmen and placed under the umbrella of the Economic Development Office. “When we started with tourism ten years ago the issue was that everyone would come to the Battle Green and go directly to Concord,” she says. “We partnered with Concord precisely because The Massachusetts Department of Tourism (MOTT) released statistics that revealed that Lexington/Concord was the fourth most visited region in the state, but tourists would stop at the Battle Green and then go to Concord. We’d never see them again.” McKenna’s initial goal was to create a mechanism to capture that visitor and the revenue that he or she could bring to the town. The Liberty Ride was devised in direct response to that goal. McKenna says they have been very successful, increasing ridership and revenue each year. The Liberty Ride is fully self-funding and no taxpayer dollars have been used to fund the Liberty Ride.

In the intervening years the Lexington Historical Society, under the direction of Executive Director Susan Bennett, has worked very hard to restore two of their historic sites and is preparing to tackle the third. They have raised money through countless volunteer-run fundraisers, sought out grants and taken advantage of Community Preservation Funds (an assessment on Lexington property owners with a state match) to create a much richer set of tourism offerings in Lexington. Add to that the completion of two new state of the art hotels and a growing assortment of restaurants, and Lexington has a lot to offer these days! For the town that means hotel-lodging property taxes, sales tax, meals tax and revenue to support our businesses.


With increased success comes increased demand. Tourists need more time in Lexington to take in all of the sites and spend more dollars than they did ten years ago. The Liberty Ride, with only one trolley, has its limitations. The length of the trip from Lexington to Concord makes it difficult for tourists to get on and off the trolley to tour the historic houses. A quick read of the comments on the much-used website Trip Advisor confirms that—people want to get off but the 90 minute wait for the return of The Liberty Ride deters them from getting off the tour. However, The Liberty Ride has been very successful at capturing the visitor by offering them a service that is innovative and unique. And, we have to recognize that there are different types of tourists and many of them prefer this type of tour. Most importantly the tour originates in Lexington and ends in Lexington and that is something that has been invaluable to bring tourists to town.

What a great problem to have! We’ve gone from having too little to keep a tourist in Lexington for the day, to having so much to offer that we need to develop new transportation plans to make the most of the taxpayers and the Historical Society’ investment.

In this era of economic challenge, many cities and towns across the country would love to have this dilemma. In the quest to shift some of the revenue creation from the backs of property owners many towns seek to create tourism opportunities by developing attractions—but here in Lexington we have a significant historic resource that, if managed properly, could be a greater source of pride for Lexington and contribute even more to the economic well-being of the town with some savvy management.

People will come to Lexington whether we want them to or not—so the question is: What do we want to have them take away from a visit to our historic community and what do we want them to leave behind?


Lexington has a unique situation when it comes to tourism. Three entities the Town of Lexington: the Tourism Committee, The Lexington Chamber of Commerce and the Lexington Historical Society share responsibility for different pieces of the tourism puzzle.

Lexington is not a part of the National Park System having chosen to retain ownership of its historic Battle Green and therefore hasn’t enjoyed the benefit of federal dollars or federal marketing programs. The Battle Green is managed ultimately by the Selectmen with operation assigned to the town’s Tourism Committee which also has responsibility for hiring, training and managing the Battle Green Guides that provide information about April 19, 1775 to thousands of visitors each year.

The Visitor’s Center is owned and maintained by the town. Responsibility for providing staffing is provided by the Lexington Chamber of Commerce. The Tourism Committee works closely with the Chamber to improve the quality of the visitor experience to the Visitor’s Center.

The Hancock Clarke House and the Munroe Tavern are owned by the Lexington Historical Society. The Buckman Tavern is co-owned by the Historical Society and the town of Lexington. The Historical Society manages the property and houses its gift shop on the premises.

With so many parties involved it is difficult to develop a coordinated plan for tourism. While each group has its own interests, it is essential to look at the big picture and move toward a model that utilizes the individual strengths of each organization and nurtures collaboration for the ultimate health of tourism as a whole.


In looking at how Lexington may benefit more robustly from its considerable tourism assets, Town Manager Carl Valente takes a measured approach.

Valente has been watching carefully as he has gently increased the tourism marketing budget over the past few years from a meager $0 to $15K, to $25K this year.

According to Valente, the Tourism Committee has gotten support from the Selectmen and from town hall for a good reason. “You know, the Tourism Committee made a really good point about how much they have accomplished with no money and how much more marketing they could do with just a little money—like getting on different websites and participating in different events that promote tourism. So for real short money it made sense and we continued to see growth.”

The Town Manager understands better than anyone the importance of testing the waters and bringing the community along gently. And, in a town like Lexington he understands the great importance of thorough study and planning and community buy-in.

“We have to do it right. We can’t just let it happen and not have thought it through. We have to do this in a thoughtful and planned way and that’s what I see the Tourism Committee working on.”

McKenna sees a natural tension between town politics and tourism. “There is a dichotomy,” she says. “Towns are by nature conservative; tourism is by nature entrepreneurial. But, she adds, “Tourism [the Tourism Committee] has gotten support from the Selectmen year after year.”

Valente also admits that the receipts to the town from the hotel and meals taxes have surprised him. “It’s been really strong here,” he says. “Although it’s hard to get good metrics, the information that we are getting—and some of it is anecdotal—all seems to be positive.” Valente says that Chris Hartzell of the Aloft and Element hotels “has done a fabulous job building the business,” and he appreciates the shuttle that they send into Lexington Center.

But some of the information is more than anecdotal. The Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism has supplied McKenna with data that suggests that Lexington gained $50 million in total revenue from tourism in FY 2010. At the local level, $550,000 in room taxes was generated by the 6% local option room tax. Meal taxes in FY 2010 when the measure was approved in March by town meeting were $98,367 (for the remainder of the fiscal year) and the subsequent full year (FY 2011) the total was $338,449.

Of course, not all room taxes or meal taxes are attributable to tourism. “Whether its $50 million or $20 million, it’s a whole lot more millions than people ever conceived,” Mckenna says.

Tourism dollars are important to the businesses in town. According to Kathy Fields owner of Crafty Yankee, “A nice portion of our business is tourism… Summer and fall are the biggest months, but we do have year-round visitors because of our proximity to Hanscom, Harvard, MIT and Boston. Summer tourists include more families. Bus groups are mostly in the late spring and fall but they are allocated minimal time in the center, so they do not have too many extra minutes to shop. The tourists that come by car are generally good spenders and they love anything local. We try very hard to engage them and talk about the other businesses in town and always are recommending places to eat.”

The Visitor's Center- photos by Jim Shaw

Any increase in tourism would certainly not hurt the town’s bottom line as long as disproportionate infrastructure investments are not required. Of course striking that perfect balance is both both the challenge and the opportunity for Valente.

For the more adventurous, this toe-in approach is often cited as Lexington’s downfall. Too much talk, study and review often takes many a good project around the barn and back with nothing to show for the trip. However, in building a case for investment in tourism, Lexington has proceeded with caution and the results are piquing interest. According to McKenna, the town hosted between 100,000 (the number of visitors that actually signed in at the Lexington Visitors Center) and 1 million (the number of visitors clicked in at the National Park) visitors last year.

“Culturally, I don’t think the town will ever step back from what it sees as an obligation to educate people about what went on here in 1775,” comments Town Manager Carl Valente. “What happened here in Lexington is such a critical piece of what it took to settle this country that I think the town feels an obligation to bring the message to generations to come—I don’t see us ever stepping away from that responsibility.”

However, Valente is wary about moving too quickly. “If we had tour bus after tour bus tying up the center I don’t think that people would want to put up with that,” he says. Valente trusts the Tourism Committee to move ahead sensibly. “From that perspective, I have to credit Dawn [McKenna] and the Tourism Committee for going forward in a thoughtful, planned way. We want to do things in a way that will be supported by the community,” he says.

Valente acknowledges that tourism, and increasing tourism, could bring needed funds into the town. The down-zoning of much of Lexington’s commercial property in the 80s has placed a burden on the property owner that the town has been trying to manage ever since. Toward that end, a new economic development officer has been hired to replace Susan Yanofsky who left last year. Her name is Melisa Tintocalis. “The first thing on her list is commercial development, specifically Hartwell Avenue, then Spring Street and Hayden Ave.,” Valente says. “That’s tax base for us. We lost so much tax base when we down-zoned in ’86. That pushed the burden off onto the residential tax base. The second priority is the center because having a vibrant center is important to the community.”

Where does tourism fall on her list? “Its number three,” Valente says, “Just like I told the Center Committee—you come after commercial development.”

Valente acknowledges that tourism and the center have lots in common—one is good for the other. It’s also worth noting that both Lexington’s historic roots and its center are assets when trying to attract that all important commercial development.

Dawn McKenna says, “Building the tax base is only one leg of a multi-leg economic development stool.” She believes that the community is ready to “take it to the next level.”

The Historical Society is also ready for the next step. “We view ourselves as a real player in the economic well-being of the town,” says Paul Ross, President of the group. At their annual meeting he stated that the society wants to become more involved with generating tourism for the town.

Susan Bennett concurs. “We have made significant upgrades to the houses and reinvigorated our tours to attract more visitors,” she says.


Several exciting projects are in various phases of planning that will enhance Lexington for both residents and tourists.

The Battle Green Master Plan- In 2009 the Selectmen authorized the Master Planning process for the Lexington Battle Green. In 2010 the Community Preservation Committee appropriated $25,000 to hire a professional consultant (Past Designs LLC) to prepare a master plan that would fully explore the issues surrounding the use of the Battle Green. From interpretation, to signage, to management responsibility, the report outlines a course of improvements to what it calls a “complex piece of real estate” acknowledging that the many stakeholders who are involved in the stewardship of this “national shrine” make it a property that is “managed by committee” and therefore difficult to change. The repost also recommends that a professional traffic study be conducted to address bus parking and traffic flow around the Battle Green and its surrounding neighborhoods.

Visitor’s Center Needs Assessment- Prepared jointly by the Chamber of Commerce and the Tourism Committee, this report lays out three paths for improvement to the Visitor’s Center. The preferred plan will improve the bathrooms, allocate space for programming and create a back entrance maximizing the traffic from the bike path.

Buckman Tavern Restoration-The Historical Society has been awarded CPA funding to proceed with the first step of the project to restore Buckman Tavern which is a professional assessment of the needs for the building. According to Susan Bennett, the work on Buckman will not be as extensive as what they have done on the other buildings, and they are hoping for completion in 2013. “We want to make some changes to be fully ADA compliant and to improve wiring, fire suppression and climate control,” she says. They would like to make some minor changes to improve the flow for ticketing and the gift shop.

Lexington Center Streetscape Plan-Though not explicitly associated with tourism, the impressive work of the Lexington Center Streetscape Project team will work hand in hand to create a better Lexington experience for residents and tourists alike. Increased integration of the bike path, improved seating and signage, landscaping enhancements and historically integrated elements from lampposts to paving materials will improve the overall aesthetic of Lexington. Improved sidewalks, safety and circulation between the public and private spaces will create a more walk-able downtown.

Improved Marketing-Both the historical Society and the Tourism Committee have improved their marketing materials and the distribution of the materials throughout New England. The Historical Society has developed a partnership with the Historical Society has a very active program with the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History which is sending hundreds of teachers to Lexington each year. They have also redesigned their website and continue to utilize recommendations made by a group of Bentley College students that used the society as a case study.

The Tourism Committee has worked with Diamond Tours to supply walk-on tour guides to narrate a tour to Concord and return to Lexington for dinner. They advertise on various tourism websites, attend tourism conferences and work with the Boston Concierge Association to educate frontline hotel staff about Lexington tourism.

This summer the Historical Society will be introducing Living History programming to the Hancock-Clarke House including craftsmen doing colonial crafts that is sure to be popular with families.

Although there are overlapping interests when it comes to tourism in Lexington, it is fundamentally clear that close collaboration between the town Economic Development Officer, the Historical Society and the Tourism Committee is needed to solve transportation issues and develop a coordinated plan for promoting all tourism opportunities in Lexington as the landscape continues to evolve. Increasing tourism and prolonging the stay of tourists has paid dividends for the restaurants, shops and hotels in Lexington and has ultimately come back to the town in taxes and fees.

Both the Tourism Committee and the Historical Society are encouraged that the town is taking a greater interest in tourism. “I have the greatest respect for Carl and the professionalism that he has brought to town hall,” Bennett comments. “We are looking forward to meeting with Melissa and working with her. Professional expertise from town hall can only enhance the tourism efforts in Lexington.”

“As I go around the state,” McKenna says, “All these cities and towns are doing everything they can to convince people to visit their town. We don’t have to make that case—Lexington is in all the history books!”

“I think we’re moving in the right direction,” comments Carl Valente. “It’s typical of government—it goes in small steps, but I think that’s a good thing. It allows us to be measured. If I had a magic wand here, I would like to have a staff person to deal with both tourism and the center piece.”

Now, maybe that’s a logical next step.


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Memorial Day 2012 in Lexington


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Entering “No Skateboarding” Zone

By Ana Hebra Flaster

At noon and five each day I rub the skin over my left eye where the plastic surgeon sewed nine tiny blue stitches last month. Five minutes of circular massage twice a day is supposed to reduce the buildup of scar tissue, said the boy masquerading as a doctor in the ER. I’m in favor of reduced scarring. I don’t need more lines near my eyes, thank you very much. Ironically, it was that kind of thinking—of aging and waning youth–that drew me to the skateboard that caused the accident that resulted in sutures in the ER the Friday night of the accident. These things happen when one turns 50.

My husband and I had just finished cleaning up in the kitchen. He poured us each a glass of wine to enjoy during the movie we planned to watch on the big screen in the basement playroom. Older people spend their Friday nights like this and, dear Lord, it is exciting. When Andy, our dog and I reached the bottom step of the basement stairs I saw that our son, once again, had left his skateboard next to the stairs. The skateboard’s raggedy green wheels glistened in the dark. They almost talked, lopsided and dented, of thrilling rides and loopy fun. Could I have some of that again, I wondered.  Maybe. Yes. Why the Hell not? As Andy adjusted the lights and the screen and fiddled with the projector, I set my full glass of wine on the bottom step, put one foot on the board and scooted around.  Yes I glided slowly, matronly some might say, but, as a newly-minted 50 year-old, I had no problem with that.

Unfortunately, the ride was going so smoothly that I decided a little more oomph could only add to the fun. I pushed off a little harder that last time and the board went all Eavil Kenievel on me. The wheels turned wobbly. The board came alive and shot through the air over my head. Hey, why are my feet in front of my face? Does anyone know? The momentum flung me back and sideways and I heard a crack. I landed—face first—on top of the wine glass and, immediately after, the oak step. (We didn’t carpet the stairs because people trip on carpeted stairs. Don’t you know that?)

Andy heard the crack and the crash and turned away from the buttons and dials to look for me at eye level just as I stood up. Blood, glass and wine had splattered everywhere. I was afraid to reach for my face. Was there an impaled wine glass where skin had lain undisturbed just moments before?  I heard Andy’s too-normal voice, “Are you okay?”  To be fair, I’d have asked the same question if the wine glass were on the other face. For a few seconds we stared at each other, mouths open.  The dog’s whimpering snapped us out of our stupor. We bounded for the car and aimed for the ER.

Now, every day at noon and five, I massage my boo-boo and ponder how a Friday night went so wrong for an otherwise sensible 50 year-old woman. Misadventures almost always teach us something, if we listen. Funny, I’d been wondering how I might mark my 50th birthday, but I guess it decided to mark me.

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Great Moments in May!

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Supporting Family Caregivers

A new study from AARP on how well states support family caregivers who support seniors at home ranked Massachusetts 39th in the nation. Let’s just say that leaves plenty of room to improve.

According to AARP, the economic value of family caregiving was $450 billion in 2009 — four times the total that Medicaid spent on long term care. If family caregivers do not receive needed support, they’re more likely to burn out and reduce their efforts. The result would put greater demand on government programs that provide long term care.

In 2004, 72% of older people living in the community who received personal assistance relied exclusively on unpaid caregivers. These caregivers face physical, emotional, and financial stress that put them at risk. Services such as information and assistance, counseling, and respite care can help family caregivers navigate the service system.

In ranking states, AARP measured such items as: the percentage of family caregivers who say they usually or always get needed support; the extent to which the state exceeds federal and state requirements for family leave and mandatory paid sick leave; policies to prevent discrimination toward working caregivers; policies on financial protection for the spouses of Medicaid beneficiaries; and response to family caregiver needs.

Many caregivers are spouses — some with their own health issues. Others are daughters and sons, more than half (58%) of whom are trying to hold down a job, sometimes taking care of their own children as well. “It is critical,” AARP says, that states “recognize, respect, and support family caregivers.” States can help family caregivers by providing supportive services, respite breaks, education and training. In 2009, Massachusetts ranked 31st in the country for the percentage of caregivers who said that they usually or always received the social and emotional supports they needed.

In terms of providing legal and system supports, Massachusetts ranked 26th in the nation. Our state allows families the maximum federal spousal protection of $2,739 in monthly income and $109,560 in assets as the floor of protection when a spouse qualifies for Medicaid nursing facility care. The federal Family and Medical Leave Act allows workers to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a year to care for themselves or for a parent, spouse, or child with a serious health condition. There are no federal laws that require private sector employers to provide paid sick leave benefits – and only 2 states provide paid sick leave. Massachusetts is not one of them.

Finally, the AARP survey examined 16 home care tasks, including administration of various types of medications, ventilator care, tube feedings, and other kinds of help that many people with chronic conditions need. This help is critical for family caregivers. Allowing nurses to train and delegate these tasks to direct care workers can ease the burden on family caregivers. Massachusetts, which only allows nurses to administer medications, ranked 32nd in the nation on delegating tasks.

To read the full AARP Scorecard report on caregivers and supports, go to



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“It’s the ‘Everybody’ Thing of It” – Shirley Stolz establishes a legacy for Cary Memorial Library.

In addition to supporting the Library through planned giving, Shirley Stolz served on the Building Campaign, which helped finance the latest renovations completed in 2004. Photo by Jeri Zeder

By Jeri Zeder  |

In 1931, when Shirley Stolz was six years old, she borrowed her very first book from Cary Memorial Library. It was The Little Dutch Tulip Girl, by Madeline Brandeis. On the cover was a drawing of a girl in wooden shoes and a bright red skirt, sitting outside her tidy house, admiring the red and white tulips in her yard as a windmill turned in the background. It isn’t hard to imagine a very young Shirley, a reader before she even started school, skipping home with her mother, father, and sister on their weekly Friday night library outing, proudly carrying her brand new library card, eager to start reading about the faraway land of Holland.

But Shirley has another memory of books—a searing one. At the end of first grade, she fell ill with scarlet fever and was quarantined to her bedroom. When she got better, she faced what was then the practice to keep the illness from spreading: the burning of everything in her room. Everything. “I can remember looking out and seeing them burning my books,” Shirley says. “It just made books more precious than ever.”

Today, Shirley is making the ultimate gesture toward her life-long love of books and of Cary Memorial Library: she is providing for the Library in her will. “Cary Library has always been home to me,” Shirley says. “I feel so secure and happy here. It seems so important to support this one institution so it can go on forever.”

Her will establishes the Norman and Shirley Stolz Fund, named for herself and her husband, who passed away in 2010. Jeanne Krieger, president of the Cary Memorial Library Foundation, says she is grateful for Shirley’s planned gift. “Planned giving is the way to share your legacy with future readers,” she says. “Contributions are what make this great library extraordinary.” The Foundation raises needed funds to sustain and further the mission of Lexington’s public library.

Norman’s route to books took a very different path from Shirley’s. Where Shirley read voraciously from childhood, Norman had no time for reading. Growing up during the Great Depression, he always had to work. As a young man, he spent five years in the Navy during World War II and then decided to apply to MIT for college. To prepare for his college interview, Norman read The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin—only the second book he’d ever read in his life. In 1946, he and Shirley, who had graduated from Vassar, met on a blind date sailing on the Charles River, when Norman was a sophomore at MIT. “We hit it off on the first date, but I wasn’t ready to get married,” Shirley recalls. “I think he proposed on the third date or something. He wasn’t ready either, for goodness sakes.”

The couple settled down in Shirley’s hometown of Lexington and raised four children, whom they read to regularly. Norman made a career in insurance, while Shirley stayed home with the family, though she did earn a librarian’s degree from Simmons College when she turned 50. When their children were in college and graduate school, Norman and Shirley bought a 40-foot boat and lived on it for eight years, sailing up and down the East Coast, from Canada to the Bahamas. Books were always part of the adventure. Shirley learned to sail by borrowing books from Cary Library, and amassed a book collection of her own on women and the sea, whaling, and other nautical topics—interests that dovetailed with Norman’s background; his ancestors were sailors who settled on Nantucket. Shirley always made sure to check out the libraries along their sailing route. “I have to say, we’ve got one of the best libraries from here to Key West!” she says.

Eventually, books—and Cary Memorial Library—became a centerpiece of Shirley and Norman’s partnership. “When Norman retired, he decided that books were the most important thing in his life, other than me,” Shirley says. “It kept me busy just keeping him in books. I’d go to the Library all the time. He read whatever I picked out. He’d just go through the books like gangbusters.”

Shirley, meanwhile, became active in town affairs. She has served on the Conservation Commission, and has been a Town Meeting Member and member of the Capital Expenditures Committee for years. And, of course, she has been involved with the Library, first as a representative to the Library’s Board of Trustees, and later as a founding member of the Cary Memorial Library Foundation. Her friend and former Town Moderator, Marge Battin, says, “While Shirley has been productively involved in myriad community activities over the years, she has always been ready to drop everything else when a call for help came from the Library.”

Reflecting on her planned gift, Shirley notes that public libraries are facing considerable change, and says that legacy giving can help them adapt to future challenges. “How are we going to handle the 21st Century and the way people are reading?” she says. “What will be the result of technology, of e-books? Librarians are struggling to understand where that’s going to go. What better thing to do than support the Library?”

“I’d give up a lot to keep the Library open for everyone,” Shirley continues. “It’s the ‘everybody’ thing of it. There it is for everybody. And it’s free. What a deal.”

*Jeri Zeder is a member of the Planned Giving Committee of the Cary Memorial Library Foundation.*


Norman Stolz’s booklist – Two-and-a-Half Books

Back in the 1970s, Norman and Shirley Stolz took a number of boating courses to become proficient sailors. Here, Norman practices navigation using a sextant. Courtesy photo.

When Norman met Shirley on a blind date in the fall of 1946, she was already a Vassar graduate. Norman was a 26-year-old MIT sophomore who had spent five years in the Navy during World War II. At that point in his life, he had read only two and a half books.

His first book was a paperback that he picked up on his Atlantic voyage home from the war, Donald McKay and the Clipper Ships. It led Norman to dream bigger dreams for himself and his life. The second was The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, which helped get him successfully through his admissions interview for MIT. The half-read book was The Brothers Karamazov. He trotted that one out on his first date with Shirley both to impress her and to cover up for his own thin reading history.

Eventually, Norman also became a voracious reader. In 1998, he compiled the very first “Norm Stolz P&L [pleasure and learning] Booklist” for his children, their spouses, and his grandchildren. Over the years, the list grew to hundreds of titles, most in the category of biography, but including an impressive showing of volumes under the headings “Spies (Nonfiction)” and “Antarctica.” In a short history accompanying the booklist, Norman wrote this: “It would be a much better world if more people could be shown both the fun and value of reading. Norm knows that he undoubtedly would have been a better man if he had been exposed earlier in his life to the Pleasure & Learning of good books.” —JZ

The Maria Hastings CaryLegacy Society
Leaving Something Magical

The Cary Memorial Library Foundation has a comprehensive program of giving that allows everyone to support the Library in ways that are most meaningful to them. One of those ways is through legacy gifts. Koren Stembridge, the Library’s director, explains their impact:

“Gifts and legacies allowed for this library to be created and this building to be built. The future is uncertain and libraries are changing. There is a likelihood that legacy gifts made today will fund a new service or idea, allow us to maintain or grow a treasured collection, help us adapt our building to new uses. Legacy gifts have the advantage of providing a windfall—money that falls outside the normal operating budget and allows for something magical to happen.”

The Foundation created the Maria Hastings Legacy Society to recognize those who have provided for Cary Memorial Library in their estate plans. To join the society, simply inform the Foundation’s Director of Development, Kathryn Benjamin, that you have made arrangements to leave the Library a legacy gift. You can leave a legacy gift to the Library through your will, IRA, or life insurance policy. Or, you can invest in a charitable gift annuity or name the Library as a charitable beneficiary of your donor-advised fund. Find out more at —JZ



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Party Schools

Henry David Abraham, M.D.

By Henry David Abraham, M.D. | If your son or daughter is among the lucky 43% of high school seniors choosing a college this spring, your teen is on the edge of one of life’s more important decisions. There are the usual suspects to consider: location, size, faculty, strengths of various departments. But for some kids it’s which school has the best parties. This may sound wacky, but the quality of social life offered by a college can make or break the deal. Some kids a hot party school over a great education. But any parent who is willing to shell out $50,000 a year for a party school is either clueless, or must want to get that kid out of the house really badly.

Google “party school” and you will get 13.7 million hits. This degree of Internet interest in party schools rivals the number of hits for motherhood (14.6 million), ahead of apple pie (6 million) and chocolate chip cookies (5.6 million), though roughly equal to alcohol abuse (12 million hits). The esteemed Princeton Review publishes a list of party schools. So does Playboy magazine. Party schools tend to be big universities with great football teams, lots of fraternities, and locations near ski slopes or beaches.

Beer companies, which market heavily to the college crowd, like party schools. The campaign of linking spectator sports to beer is a marketing coup d’état. Campuses are not excluded. A number of college sites are proud to say, “Win or lose, we booze.” Ironically, some kids may actually need to go to one, the athlete in financial need, for example, or the kid who needs the security blanket of a fraternity or sorority. A regular octane school may also be right for the kid who is not ready for a place where the main school sport is high octane academics.

There can be an unexpected cost to the party school. Playboy advises that you can tell you’ve gone to one when you tell someone you went there, and the first thing they ask is, “Did you graduate?” Dropping out is one risk. There are more. The Imperial Wizards of research on college alcohol use are Henry Wechsler at the Harvard School of Public Health and Ralph Hingson at Boston University. Over the last two decades their teams have mounted a breathtaking series of studies of college drinking spanning 50,000 students and 120 colleges. Here is what they found.

Two million students a year are likely to drive under the influence. About 25 percent of college students report academic consequences of their drinking, including missing class, falling behind, doing poorly on exams or papers, and receiving lower grades overall. More than 150,000 students a year develop an alcohol-related health problem, while about one in a hundred say they tried to kill themselves while drinking or drugging. A half million kids will be injured due to alcohol, and 600,000 will be assaulted by a college drinker. More than 97,000 will be victims of sexual assault. 1,700 will die from alcohol related accidents.

Too much of a downer? Let’s get the party animals’ take on college drinking. One of my favorites is a site on the ‘net that tells you how to throw a keg party ( There is advice on trying to hide the party from the police, preventing theft and damage using padlocks, keeping a Taser handy for the rowdy, and not allowing any celebrants onto the roof, since , falling is “the #1 cause of alcohol related party deaths.” Sounds like fun to me. Pro or con, it may be handy to know a party school when you see one. Here’s what you can do.

No. 1: Visit the place. If your student guide winks and tells you he drove a beer truck for a job that summer, be grateful. He’s telling you something important. This guy is considered representative of the student body by the college administration. Friday is a good day to visit. If the college parties on Thursday nights, it means that partying has spread from the usual Friday-Saturday bashes and invaded prime time. Look around campus for telltale signs of the prior night’s activities- bottles, cans, kegs, puke, and that lingering beery smell of unbridled youth whose campus administration holds its nose and looks the other way.

No. 2: Do a fraternity count. Include sororities and ones off campus. Then calculate a fraternity to student ratio for each of the schools you’re looking at. A highly ranked party school, according to the Princeton Review, is the University of Florida in Gainesville. It has 46,000 students and 62 fraternities. Then there’s Haverford College in Pennsylvania, with 1,168 students and no fraternities. Haverford is not a party school. (It is also not easy to get into, as I can attest from personal experience.)

No. 3: Look for a national collegiate champion of Something Big. This means Div. 1 schools. Football is the biggie, but basketball counts. Any school that has more graduates playing in the NFL than it has Nobel laureates or great novelists on its faculty should raise a blip on your radar. Also, any school that gives its players cars, pays its coaches a multiple of what it pays its professors, or has a stadium that seats more than 75,000 people is in the entertainment business, not the business of education.

If you toss the Princeton Review of party schools, what‘s left? I asked Robert Putnam, who spent his career teaching at Harvard, how he’d choose a college. Not everyone goes to Harvard, or to college, for that matter. His idea is a shoe that fits a lot of feet taking the next step after high school. If it’s college, forget making a choice based on location, size, endowment and the like. What matter the most are the personal qualities that each kid brings to the campus. The best education comes from swimming in a sea of curious, creative students who are tickled to death to be there. The passions of roommates, brothers, sisters, and team mates are infectious. They teach lessons for a lifetime. It makes sense to choose wisely.


Dr. Henry David Abraham is a psychiatrist in Lexington MA. He has held teaching positions at Brown, Harvard and Tufts Universities, and has treated patients and their families since 1974. In 1985 he shared in the Nobel Peace Prize for his work with Physicians for Social Responsibility and the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War. He is the author of “What’s a Parent to Do? Straight Talk on Drugs and Alcohol,” New Horizon Press. Dr. Abraham is writing a book for teens, “The No BS Book on Drugs and Alcohol.”




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