Keeping It In The Family-Nine Alumni Have Children Attending Saint James

Each year there are alumni who send their children to Saint James in hopes that they will have a similar educational experience. This year we have a higher number than average, with nine alumni children a part of the next generation of Saints. They are: 

  • Christian Asam ‘92 (Olivia ‘22 and Campbell ‘25)
  • Laura (Randall) Carpenter ‘89 (Brooks ‘25)
  • Jae Hyun Lim ‘93 (Nate ‘24)
  • Geordie Newman ‘93 (Tucker ‘24)
  • Carolyn (Burton) Owens ‘98 (Trevor ‘24)
  • Eric Riser ‘87 (Benson ‘22)
  • Don Risser ‘84 (Parker ‘24) 
  • Chris Schlotterbeck ‘91 (Lily ‘26)
  • Steven Secrist ‘86 (Courtney ‘25)

These alumni now get to experience Saint James as a parent and see what has changed over the years as well as what traditions have stayed the same.

Christian Asam ’92, president of the Bavarian Inn in Shepherdstown, WV, has two daughters at Saint James, Olivia ’22 and Campbell ’25. He graduated right before Father Dunnan took over as headmaster, and says Saint James is like a different school.  He was able to witness the beginning of that transition while his brother David ’94 was a student and feels the culture of the school has changed for the better. Olivia also recalls her father telling stories from his Saint James days that would earn a demerit or two today, but says the traditions and values appealed to the family.

“He’s always felt a connection to the school; he loved the environment, loved being dressed up and obligated to do things and staying busy,” Olivia said. “I think he wanted me to come here and have that experience and make the best out of myself.”

Christian and his wife Kerry ultimately thought Saint James would provide the best experience. 

“It’s a great place for them, especially in these formidable teenage years, where they build upon their character,” he said. “I think the Saint James experience has been essential for them to have—to prepare them for life and to prepare them for college.”

He feels the foundation of chapel is one thing that hasn’t changed, and also remembers other traditions like he dress code and standing when an adult enters a room. Being a Saint James parent has brought some of those memories back for him.

“I’m enjoying seeing it again through their eyes. Olivia has gotten a great education and a great foundation, and I’m really excited to see what these next few years will bring for Campbell,” Christian said.

If you tally the years cumulatively, Eric Riser ’87 is on his 21st, and last, year as a Saint James parent. Alec ’16, Carson ’18, and Olivia ’20 have joined the alumni ranks, and now Benson ’22 will follow this year.  Eric said the size and demographics of the student body and campus facilities have changed the most since his own time as a student. 

“Girls couldn’t live on campus, and there were only four girls in my graduating class, and only 135 students enrolled in the school,” he said. 

Eric said Saint James feels very familiar to him as a parent.

“The feel on campus remains a tight-knit community,” he said. “The chapel services I’ve attended through the years with my children especially remind me of my time as a student.”

Laura (Randall) Carpenter ’89 went to Saint James with her sister Leigh (Randall) Sappenfield ’89 at a time when the school was transitioning from Father Owens to Father Baker. Laura likes that some things she remembers from her experience as a student—the sense of community, time for reflection, and a high chapel service—are similar to what her son Brooks ’25 is experiencing now. She also said the student-faculty relationships are a hallmark of the SJS experience.

“The interaction with the faculty is so important. They have the ability to help kids through their struggles as teenagers and show them how to manage getting through life,” she said.

Laura lives in Hagerstown and has stayed in touch through the years. Her younger sister, Lesley (Randall) Evans, graduated in 1995 and Laura’s family would attend alumni events, services at the chapel, and later sports games for her nephew and niece, Colin ’16 and Maddie ’19 Sappenfield. Brooks was also baptized by Father Dunnan in the chapel. Even though the start of his time as a student has been disrupted by the pandemic, Brooks is happy to be a Saint.

“It is definitely different than I thought of it while I was younger. But it’s a good different,” Brooks said. “I particularly like the seated meals. It gives you an opportunity to meet so many different people.”

While Brooks plans to eventually board, Laura said being the parent of a day student has given her newfound respect for the amount of time her parents put into school, with the back-and-forth of getting to campus.  Brooks was involved in stage crew for Matilda, and Laura said she and her husband Stephen made it clear that if there was an activity he wanted to do, not to worry about late pick-up times.

“When you’re a day student at a boarding school, you are already instantly removed from some things, so the effort is on the student’s part to get involved. It’s a little more work,” she said.

Geordie Newman ’93 has a unique perspective on Saint James. He graduated in Father Dunnan’s first year as headmaster, taught environmental science on the faculty for two and a half years, served as a president of the Alumni Council, and is now an SJS parent. He also holds the distinction of being Father Dunnan’s first Senior Prefect.

“I learned a lot of lessons that year that I still abide by now in my professional career,” he said. “At the time I had no idea that I was learning lifelong lessons.”

His son, Tucker ’24, started at Saint James last year as a virtual student for three-quarters of the year because day students were not permitted to attend classes on campus. When the campus opened after spring break, Geordie said there was no question that Tucker wanted to go in person and interact with his classmates and faculty.

“Obviously, it was a challenge with Covid, but it was really interesting when he would continue to speak with his friends at his old school. The amount of work they were still doing at Saint James during Covid virtually was substantially more intense than what some of the other schools were doing,” Geordie said.

Like Laura, Geordie pointed out the importance of the student-faculty interaction. 

“The relationships that some of the students and teachers have is not what you typically see at other schools,” he said. “They enjoy each other’s company during sports practices or meals. Tucker mentions the interaction in the classroom is very relaxed yet intense at the same time. I think public school teachers don’t have the opportunity to get to know the students the way the faculty at Saint James do.”

Tucker will be joined by his sister Charlotte next year, who Geordie says is very excited and would “be there today if they would allow her.” Geordie and his wife Mandy have been bringing their children to campus their whole lives, attending the SJIT, chapel services at Christmas and Easter, and Dan Prete’s basketball Camp. Both Tucker and Charlotte were also baptized at Saint James.

“I’ve always wanted them to attend Saint James because I know they’ll have an experience that they’ll never forget and it really will prepare them for college,” Geordie said. “That’s really one of the many benefits of Saint James. It’s not only the relationships you develop with students and faculty but the time management skills, the sense of pride in your work, and not just trying to get by but really applying yourself, because you’re pushed at Saint James to do that.”
 

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