Independent School Magazines: The Hotchkiss School - Bronze Medal

Category 19A: Independent School Magazines
The Hotchkiss School, Hotchkiss Magazine

Contact: Roberta Jenckes, director, communications, PO Box 800, Lakeville CT 06039, Phone: (860) 435-3122, e-mail:

Objectives: A year's cycle of the Hotchkiss Magazine began with the usual compendium of news and features. But plans for the year were soon upended by the head of school’s announcement in February 2006 that he would be stepping down in June 2007.

Every issue in 2006 reflected this most important news of the year, and the mailing of the magazines was delayed twice in order to get in the most recent news on the search.

April 2006: The newest building on campus also supplied plenty of excitement. For well over a year the school community buzzed over the construction of a new music center, an addition to our three-level Main Building.

There were many reasons for the excitement. This was the first totally new building on campus for well over a decade. The architects, Centerbrook Architects, were well-known for their designs. The lead donor for the building made the gift anonymously. And most important – the building was going up within earshot and partially within sight of classrooms and hallways. Construction barricades daily reminded us that something exciting was happening, something that in good time we would get to see and enjoy.

Teachers in the art department recognized the school community’s absorption in the activity just beyond our view. They directed art students in the creation of a collage incorporating segments of paintings by Edgar Degas and Toulouse-Lautrec featuring musicians and performers. The life-size figures in this vivid artwork wrapped around two tiny windows through which we could look beyond to the construction in progress.

Never was a place more eagerly awaited – not only by the music department and by music students, but also by those of us who passed by and by those in the community who could see the glass-walled music pavilion rising from a wide meadow on the campus.

By the time of the music building’s dedication in the fall, the classrooms, practice spaces, and especially the music pavilion had already become well used and loved. The building universally elicited pleasure and pride. Just before the dedication events the donor decided to make herself known, adding to the festivity and emotion of the evening. While the donor didn’t cry that night, at least two men in attendance did – the head of school and the president of the trustees.

Whether a publication can ever capture all that excitement is a good question. However, the photos of those beautiful spaces and the remarks by the people involved hopefully gave readers a sense of the momentous shift in campus life enabled by the Esther Eastman Music Center.

Leading the news section were the approved revised curriculum, a new alumni director, work on two new dorms, two alumnae athletes in the Olympics, and a clay festival attracting international potters. Other standing departments complete the issue.

December 2006: In this issue the feature section virtually wrote itself. Beginning in September, several students wrote their pages in Hotchkiss history. A senior from Kabul, Afghanistan gave a chapel talk about his life in Kabul that moved the audience to a standing ovation. His courageous story was one we wanted to share with alumni and parents. In October, another senior learned his essay had won a top prize among 1600 entrants in an NEH essay contest on First Amendment freedoms. When we described Bill Jung’s essay in our e-newsletter to parents and alumni, we heard, “Can we read the essay?” Another “Hotchkiss voice” for the magazine, we decided. The next month a senior girl moved many listeners, when she spoke about her long struggles with anorexia and bulimia. Her words were honest and scary; she advised her peers to look after themselves. “Take care of your body,” she said, “for it is your house for the rest of your life.”

These seniors gave powerful meaning to the feature, “Hotchkiss Voices.” A tribute to the school’s 2006 Alumni Award winner, trombonist Roswell Rudd ’54, also appeared in that section. The tribute came in the form of quotes from many Hotchkiss people around the globe, in response to Ros’ incredible artistry.

Outside of the feature section other voices were heard: a visiting Kenyan who gave a global perspective; a teacher and Hotchkiss graduate who reflected on the synchronicity of life; and two long-time teachers who talked about their careers. A frank conversation over coffee with a New York City high school principal became the first of three alumni profiles in this issue. Both the interview and the superb accompanying photos were contributed by alumnae who are friends of the young principal.

This magazine elicited more response than any we can remember in the recent past. This issue featured a wide range of topics. More than that, however, we concluded that the first-person voices of our students and alumni really affected readers. (See results below)

Staffing: The magazine has no full-time staff. The editor is the school’s director of communications. Two staff members contribute articles, as does one freelance writer. The design is done by a freelance artist.

Frequency of periodical: Three times a year

Average pages per issue: 72
Circulation: 10,300
Total annual budget for the periodical: $144,000

Average cost per issue and unit cost: $48,000 / $4.66

Response and/or results: Here are some of the responses to the December 2006 issue:

  • E_ _ _ _ O _ _ _ _ _ here, just sending up a flare to say that in my humble opinion, the magazine that just arrived separated itself from any other in recent memory by virtue of its inspirational content. Obviously, being a musician and having been around Roswell when I was very young, I was certainly heartened by his recognition, but really, the whole Voices section and considering my interests in cross cultural communication, giving Yama Noori such a significant forum to communicate his experience was very affecting. I could go on (the piece on Malcom, Bill Jung's, Wayne Gaynor, Charlie Noyes) … Kudos to you and the steady hand on the wheel that delivers all through the narrows, probably without enough of these thoughts coming back your way... Onward, E _ _ _ _ Class of 1967
  • Dear Roberta, You did it again. I tossed the new issue on the pile of reading thinking this time would be a quick perusal and then get rid of it, but as always I was hooked again and an hour later I had almost finished another magnificent issue. I edited a magazine for 25 years in my field, so I know your job is much harder. Keep it up. I hope you are submitting your work for awards in your area. There can not be a better Alumni Magazine on the planet. (Class of 53)
  • Dear Ms. Jenckes --Goodness! What a fine issue of the Hotchkiss Magazine!
    I especially liked "Hotchkiss Voices" -- the chapel talks of the students.
    But all the articles held my interest. Well done. And thank you. (Class of 49)

Aside from these e-mails and letters, we often receive compliments from alumni and parents as part of other correspondence and from members of the staff and faculty here at school. The alumni magazine at Hotchkiss has a valued place among alumni readers that dates back to its beginnings with a much-loved faculty editor.

Also of note, the e-newsletter has become a helpful complement to the printed magazine. We stopped producing a printed newsletter about six years ago and have found that the e-news, which is sent eight-ten times a year, helps to fill the need for timely campus news in between issues of the magazine.