At Hotchkiss, students learn together, dine together, and live together 24/7 — and in the process, they form deep and lasting bonds. Sometimes, these connections endure well after graduation, laying the groundwork for lifelong friendships. Here, two sets of alumni friends from different eras talk about what drew them together and how they've kept their friendship alive.
By Wendy Carlson and Chelsea Edgar
A love of music first sparked a friendship between Clayton "Peter" Westermann and Jonathan Bush, both from the Class of 1949. On the surface, they might have seemed an unlikely duo: Westermann, an aspiring musician, was shy and reclusive; Bush was a varsity athlete with a magnetic personality. But the two hit it off when they started a singing group, the Eight Flats, in their upper-mid year at Hotchkiss. According to Westermann, it was Bush's ebullient personality that inspired other boys to join. Bush demurs, insisting that the group wouldn't have succeeded without Westermann's musical talent. "That was in 1949," Westermann says. "We've been friends ever since." Their bond strengthened when both men attended Yale, where they joined the venerable a capella group, the Whiffenpoofs. After Yale, both men went on to pursue very different careers: Bush as a successful businessman (his brother is President George H. W. Bush and his nephew is President George W. Bush); Westermann as a distinguished conductor. Here, the two friends reminisce about their Hotchkiss days and reflect on what has kept their friendship going strong for the last 68 years.
How are both of you doing?
Peter: Jon, how are you doing with your pneumonia?
Jon: Oh, I kicked it in the pants. I'm fine.
Peter: Good man, good man.
How did your friendship begin?
Jon: It really started when we began a singing group together at Hotchkiss.
Peter: It was Jon that started the Eight Flats. I'd say everyone in the class was a friend of his. I was completely secluded with my music books, and I sang in the choir and the glee club. I was studying music, learning piano. I was buried in my music. We were just in two different worlds. He's the only one that I can think of at Hotchkiss who could possibly have put together an octet of such disparate members.
Jon: It was a pretty good group.
Peter: It was a pretty good group, Jon. Nobody could put it together but you.
Jon: No, no, no, don't be silly.
Peter: No, it was your thought, your idea. You started that.
What were you two like in your Hotchkiss days?
Peter: I didn't do much in the way of sports, except embarrass myself, but I certainly did like music. Jon was a fullback for the Hotchkiss football team, and he was also the kicker. And he played both football and baseball at Yale.
Jon: The big thing was music though, because football ended for me in my sophomore year at Yale. I had a skiing accident and I was finished, for which I was thankful, because I hated it. But then I got really into the singing. All the way through Yale, Peter and I were singing together in the Whiffenpoofs. We were rehearsing together and singing together all the time. And Peter was going on to greatness in music. He got a doctorate at Yale and conducted for Robert Shaw. He was just a great, great musical talent. Over the years, Sunny's music has been inspiring to me. Still is. He's a brilliant conductor.
Why do you call Clayton "Sunny"?
Jon: Does anyone else call you Sunny?
Peter: I am honored to have my own special name from Jon Bush. [They both laugh.] He's the only one who calls me that, and he's entitled.
Jon, did you keep singing after college?
Jon: I spent about five years in show business, did some singing there.
Peter: He traveled around the country with a touring group.
Jon: We sang at the State Fair of Texas and the Chicago Starlight Theatre and lots of other places. I did Oklahoma, Showboat, and South Pacific. I was Will Parker in South Pacific.
Does that mean you can still belt out "Oklahoma?"
Jon: Sure. I did last year. But Sunny can sing that better than me. I'll defer.
Peter: [laughing] Nah. No way.
Jon: Peter is in a different league. He has a beautiful, strong voice. My voice is not that good.
Peter: One thing you should know is that throughout my conducting career, Jon Bush would show up for my concerts wherever I was and support me. So he's been a real friend all the way since Hotchkiss.
Jon: For me, it was a thrill to be a part of it — to see this wonderful man doing these great things. [Editor's note: Jon was honorary chairman of the board of Hunter Symphony, which Peter conducted from the 1960s until 2002.]
How often do you get together?
Jon: A couple times a year, probably. I probably keep in closer touch with Peter than with anybody else. He comes down from Long Island and we meet at The Homestead in Greenwich for lunch.
Do you sing when you're together?
Jon: I think we try to be very considerate and don't [sing].
What do you two like most about each other?
Peter: Jon Bush is the most loyal person I ever met. I've learned from him how important loyalty is.
Jon: Oh —
Peter: Yes, I have. When my son graduated from college, who offered him a job? Jon Bush. He's right there to support you all the time. He's as loyal as they come.
Jon: Holy mackerel...Well, Peter — he's a thoroughly ingenuous person. As nice a person as you could ever hope to meet. Secondly, I admire his talent, his ability to impart musical knowledge. I admire his ability to lead an orchestra. He goes over to Germany every summer and helps tune the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. I admire anybody in that field — to make a living and make a success in a very difficult field is totally admirable. He's given so much joy with this talent. I've always admired his unique devotion to music.
Peter: Well, Jon, you've got me in tears over here. Cut it out.
You two are like the odd couple.
Peter: Probably, but I don't think we fight. That's the thing. We never fight. So we don't quite make it into the odd couple category.
Peter: Jon Bush doesn't slow down for a moment. He's the most energetic guy I can think of.
Jon: No, no, come on.
Peter: And all I do is sit at home and write my stories.
Jon: He writes wonderful stories.
Peter: I think the thing is that while I have a few friends that I would call as close as Jon, I think Jon Bush knows more people and has more friends than anybody I know of. So the whole world seems to know Jon Bush.
Jon: Sunny, that is absolutely the worst kind of horseshit.
A Prep, a Senior, and the Winning Season that Brought Them Together
Charlotte Schmidlapp '04 and Chase Delano '07 may have only overlapped for one year at Hotchkiss, but their friendship encompasses three sports, two coasts, and countless laughs and shared experiences — plus (at least) one day of hooky. Today, Chase does marketing for SoulCycle in New York City, and Charlotte works on utility power projects for the solar energy company SunPower in San Francisco, but the two of them make an effort to get together — and get back to Hotchkiss — as often as they can. Here, the two former teammates talk about how they keep in touch.
How did you two meet?
Chase: We met during our field hockey preseason. Charlotte was a senior captain and I was a prep. What did you think of me as a little prep, Charlotte?
Charlotte: I think I saw a lot of myself in you. I had been one of two preps on the field hockey team in my prep year, and Chase was the only one on the team in her prep year. I remember the seniors on my team really welcomed me, so I tried to do that with Chase.
Chase: From day one, I definitely looked up to Charlotte. She was an incredible field hockey player and athlete, and she was an amazing captain on our team. I was grateful that she took me under her wing and helped me develop as an athlete.
Charlotte: Chase was a very talented athlete as a prep, but maybe didn't know exactly what her role would be, and I kind of felt that way at her age. So I tried to help her with the mental part of the game. But I also probably played too many pranks on her.
Chase: After one practice on a cold fall day in my prep year, I was showering and just starting to warm up when out of nowhere, this huge garbage can of ice water got dumped over the stall. They were always keeping me on my toes. But I never felt picked on. If anything, it made me feel more loved.
Chase Delano '07, front, and Charlotte Schmidlapp '04, back
How did you develop such a strong friendship in a relatively short time?
Chase: We also ended up playing ice hockey and lacrosse together, so we got to know each other really well with those three sports. One thing that was amazing about Charlotte is that even after she graduated, she still took an interest in the friends and teammates she left behind at Hotchkiss. Me in particular — if you've heard the expression "sophomore slump," at least in athletics, I went through that a little bit my lower-mid fall. Even though Charlotte had gone on to Cornell and was playing a D1 sport and getting acclimated to college life, she still took the time to check in on me and help walk me through difficult things. She gave me an inspirational quote that I'd read before games, and it made me remember Charlotte and my freshman year of field hockey and what it felt like when we won the New England championship. She looked out for other teammates, but we definitely shared a special bond. She passed down her number 11 to me.
Charlotte: Even though it was only a year, the teams I was on were always very close — especially the field hockey team. That was also the first year we won the field hockey championship, and the beginning of a years-long winning streak for the team. So that year was really special in a lot of ways. We all had a tight bond with each other, and I think that's why the team has been so successful over the past few years. [Coach Robin Chandler's] attitude is that the team is stronger than the individual, which has created a lot of close friendships, especially mine and Chase's.
Chase: Yeah, I'd agree with that. Robin helped foster this environment of development and openness and fun. And for that reason, I think the field hockey team had something unique. We wanted to go hang out at dinner together after a long, hard practice, and laugh and joke around together in the hallways. It was the whole experience she created that made us want to be together.
What's the bond that keeps you together now?
Chase: We started off with this sports friendship, but Charlotte and I share a lot of other things. We both love music, and we'll send music back and forth. Or we'll have an hourlong catch-up on the phone. I moved to San Francisco after graduating from Middlebury, and Charlotte was in New York, and today, Charlotte's in San Francisco and I'm in New York City. And we've stayed in touch throughout that and overlapped friends and experiences. And we definitely always make an effort to get back to Hotchkiss and see Robin and the Coopers and the Wynots and all the incredible faculty members who were huge parts of our lives. Hotchkiss is the common thread that keeps us coming back together and staying in touch.
Charlotte: One day, I played hooky from work, and Chase and I went and saw a Hotchkiss hockey game in Greenwich and saw Robin and Mr. Cooper.
Chase [laughing]: That was fun.
What do you two like best about each other?
Charlotte: I really value Chase as a friend, because I know she'll always be straightforward and honest with me. Chase is a phenomenal athlete, and she has a great work ethic. And she's pretty positive.
Chase: Charlotte is one of the more determined people I know. She can accomplish whatever she sets her mind to. She's very strong-willed. She's taught me to be more decisive and go after what I want. She's always been a form of courage or inspiration to me, and she makes me laugh.
This story appeared in the Winter/Spring 2017 issue of Hotchkiss Magazine.