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Thoughts from Dr. Joe: Stepping into the past at Prep

January 22, 2014|By Joe Puglia

Art Stetson, the director of admissions at Flintridge Prep, fascinated me as he spoke about the brilliance of metaphor and the elegance characterized by wordsmith Thomas Hardy.

Stetson and I are colleagues of sort; I’m a substitute teacher at the school. We are also like-minded. He too has a habit of collecting quotes from others.

“Here’s a quote from Hardy’s ‘Tess of the d’Urbervilles,’” he said. He reached for an antique box, pulled out a piece of paper, and read: “‘The drops of logic Tess had let fall into the sea of his enthusiasm served to chill its effervescence to stagnation.’”

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“Who speaks that way?” he said.

It was an aha moment for me. I felt I was in an old castle-like preparatory school with creaky wooden oak floors sitting in a professor’s office that was laden with books, ancient mementos and the musky smell of antiquity. But the fragrant candle burning in his office kept the scents at bay.

Stetson’s office is a place of wonder. I sat and perused a kaleidoscope of antique memorabilia that sat silently and reverently paying homage to a philosophy that honors the past.

“Your office can be a great wonder instead of a mere place to do business,” he said.

“What is your favorite piece?” I asked.

He paused and pointed to an old steamer truck that had belonged to his grandfather’s brother, Ellery, who fought and died in World War I. “My father’s uniform that he wore in the Korean War and his sister’s prom dress are in there.”

Stetson has been at Prep for 19 years, facilitating the admissions process.

“What’s your criteria for admission?” I asked.

“Prep’s ethos is to recruit good students and nice kids,” he explained. “I want every kid to leave Prep feeling great about themselves and the school. I like to think I have a positive impact on the students.”

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