Keith Moon P’13,’16 had no intention of settling down in New England after he finished graduate school at Harvard. He had spent a decade on the East Coast, graduating from Phillips Exeter, then from Dartmouth with a B.A., and finally from Harvard, where he earned his M.A. When he was growing up, his life was far from provincial; his father worked for the U.S. Department of State in U.S. embassies around the world, and the family moved frequently, living 14 years in Latin America.
Before graduate school, he had taught for two years at the Gilman School, a private K-12 boys school in Baltimore, MD, and the experience inspired him to pursue a career in education. At Harvard, he heard that Hotchkiss was seeking to establish a Russian history program, which piqued his interest even though the School appeared to be in the middle of nowhere. He interviewed on a damp, miserable spring afternoon, which did little to entice him, until he took a walk down to the Lake Wononscopomuc. For Moon, a swimmer, the shimmering expanse of water sealed the deal.
That was in 1989. Since then, Moon has spent the last 31 years at Hotchkiss teaching an array of subjects, including Russian history, literature, and language, English, U.S. History, and Spanish. Since he arrived in Lakeville, he has coached varsity swimming every season and varsity water polo for nine years, and served as Class Dean for the Classes of 2003, 2006, and 2017, and as director of student activities for 12 years. He and his wife, Bridget, instructor in math, lived for 15 years in residence halls, where he served as a Dorm Head in Coy, Memorial, and Van Santvoord, and they raised their two sons, Peter ’13 and Stephen ’16. In 1994, Moon started the annual Hotchkiss Swimathon, which has raised more than $200,000 for CT Special Olympics since its inception. He is in charge of the Beal Lecture series and has led at least a dozen student trips abroad, including to Russia, Poland, Cuba, Argentina, Thailand, Colombia, and Puerto Rico.
Despite his early ambivalence about staying in New England, he has come to love the rural life and is active outside the Hotchkiss community, serving as a member of the Special Olympics CT board, volunteering on various local boards, including serving on the Salisbury board of education and Democratic town committee, and teaching courses in Russian history and literature at Noble Horizons, a senior living community –– an experience he finds especially rewarding.
“When I taught Anna Karenina at Noble, I was simultaneously teaching it to Hotchkiss seniors,” he says. “It was a magnificent gift to see this work through the eyes of two sets of seniors –– one at 18 and the other at 70 or 80.”
But his deepest connection is with the School, and especially with his students, many of whom he keeps in touch with long after they graduate. He learns as much from his students as they do from him. “I learn from the kids every day, from teaching, from coaching. We have such a remarkable collection of students here from all over the world, and I have amazing conversations and moments with them, sometimes even just in the hallways at school,” he says.
Moon holds the E. Carleton Granbery Teaching Chair, and with his versatile and lively classroom presence, it came as no surprise to Ana Hermoso, 2018 Lufkin Prize recipient, that he was awarded the 2019 Prize last June.
The annual prize, established by Dan Lufkin ’49, honors “faculty members of character, commitment and skill who serve as role models to Hotchkiss students.” Lufkin’s goal in establishing the prize was to recognize those who “consistently demonstrate excellence and strong moral leadership through teaching, advising, coaching, and overall service to the community.”
“Keith is a great friend and colleague who, from the moment I met him, struck me by his dedication to the school and students, as well as his professionalism,”
“Always there for anybody who might need him, Keith is incredibly selfless, funny, smart and engaging.”
Moon is also measured and thoughtful, with an unruffled demeanor, which makes it hard to imagine him on the dance floor, cutting a rug to Meat Loaf, or spending his summers at Harvard, where he is the associate dean of the Harvard Summer School, a job he describes as being the no-nonsense sheriff of on-campus life. But he loves the temporary switch to a more urban, if sometimes chaotic, lifestyle –– and the chance to go to as many Red Sox games as he can fit into his schedule.
But Hotchkiss remains home base for him, where he has developed deep, long-standing friendships within the Hotchkiss community.
“Keith has been a cherished friend since we joined the Hotchkiss community over 30 years ago. His capacity to give is limitless, and the joy he derives from it is infectious,” says Caroline Kenny-Burchfield ’77, P’08,’10,’18, who is the director of community relations, marketing and development at Noble Horizons and also serves as the coordinator of student volunteer programs at Hotchkiss.
English instructor Charlie Frankenbach P’12,’16, who chairs the English department and arrived at Hotchkiss the same year as Moon, compares his multi-talented colleague to a Swiss Army knife: “equipped with so many tools with which to contribute to a boarding school community.”
“Note how he has moved fluidly between departments,” says Frankenbach. “Fluent in at least three languages (maybe more?), Keith can talk about and teach the magical realism of Marquez or the worlds created by Nabokov and Dostoevsky. He can teach (and critique) the translations, or work from the originals. He has boundless range, and he brings energy to not only modern language classrooms, but also history and English classrooms.”
Head of School Craig Bradley adds, “In one of the many emails we received nominating Keith Moon for the Lufkin Prize, a nominator recognized that Keith ‘cares deeply about the well being of Hotchkiss - he puts others before himself, and has given so much of himself to the school as a teacher, swimming coach, director of student activities and StuFac, representative on Round Square, etc. He is also a genuinely kind person whom students gravitate toward and look to as a steady and compassionate role model.’ Those are the very values and qualities Mr. Lufkin sought to honor in establishing the Prize. Keith is a most deserving recipient of the Lufkin Prize.”
The ceremony honoring Keith Moon has been postponed until October.