Meet the Borgenichts, one of Rowland Hall's celebrated four-generation families, proudly representing our legacy of academic and personal excellence in Utah. During the 2017-2018 academic year, Rowland Hall will honor its 150th anniversary with a yearlong celebration. Leading the charge is Sesquicentennial Committee Chair Nancy Borgenicht '60. Serving as co-chairs are Nancy's son Joe and his wife, Melanie, whose sons Eli (seventh grade) and Jonah (a junior) proudly represent the fourth-generation Borgenichts. They invite you to connect, reflect, and kick up your heels with fellow Rowland Hall-St. Mark's School alumni.
And who better to lead the celebration than this colorful group: an alumna whose political satire career got its start at Rowland Hall; a multitasking mom of two current students with "polar opposite" pursuits; and an alumnus who parties with his third-grade teacher.
It all began with Helen Frank Sandack '35 (1917-2010), Nancy's mother and first family member to graduate from Rowland Hall. Helen and her husband Wally Sandack (married in 1940) made sure all five of their children graduated or had the opportunity to attend Rowland Hall or St. Mark's School. Together, they established a family canon of academic achievement and self-sacrifice. The extended Frank/Sandack/Borgenicht family tree is rooted in "curiosity and a love of learning" with brothers, sisters, cousins, and grandchildren nurtured and nudged by Rowland Hall-St. Mark's.
Their spirited stories are best shared aloud around a large dining room table—so Rowland Hall writer Kathy Adams met with Nancy, Joe, and Melanie to talk about the enormous job of co-chairing the Sesquicentennial and their ongoing dedication to their alma mater.
Nancy, Melanie, and Joe each gave their elevator pitch on what makes this the can't-miss celebration of the decade!
Nancy: My grandparents were first-generation immigrants from Grudnia, Polish-Russia, in 1903 and they knew that education mattered. They first settled in New York City, and according to family lore my grandmother said, "I didn't come all this way from Russia to live in a ghetto. Get me out of here." So through a series of circumstances and a relative that lived in Utah, they moved here. My mom was active in the synagogue they belonged to—B'Nai Israel located on 4th East between 2nd and 3rd South—and her dad (my grandfather) built a successful high-end men's clothing store called Arthur Frank's on Main Street.
What I think is interesting about being Jewish at Rowland Hall was that my favorite part of the day was chapel. I was in the choir and still know and love every Episcopal hymn in the book. Just like today, religion at Rowland Hall was about our similarities, not our differences.
I love the school because it made me what I am today. I've been writing the political satire Saturday's Voyeur for 39 years and with co-writer Allen Nevins (whose wife, Kate Nevins, teaches 4PreK in the Beginning School) for 25 years for Salt Lake Acting Company (SLAC). When I look back, the first musical satire I ever did was for a class competition at Rowland Hall. As freshmen we did a parody of My Fair Lady. It was really funny and we won the competition. Even as ninth graders, we won!
The only institution I feel similarly dedicated to is Salt Lake Acting Company. Rowland Hall helped form who I am and who my sons became, and now that my grandchildren are here it continues to shape our futures.
Melanie: I didn't attend Rowland Hall. My family moved to Utah when I was a child so my father, a kidney specialist, and my mother, a nurse, could open the first dialysis center at St. Ben's (now Ogden Regional Medical Center) in Utah. But I didn't hesitate to take on the role as co-chair, as I didn't when they asked me to be head of the Lincoln Street Campus Home and School next year, because I want to repay in any way I can what this school has given my sons, Jonah and Eli. They are individuals whose strengths as students and as social beings are the polar opposite of one another, and yet Rowland Hall has said to them, "We want to see who you are, and what you can do, and we are invested in you and will give you the time and a place to become comfortable—to strengthen your weaknesses and appreciate your abilities."
For each of the boys, since they are so different, the journey was different but the process of building expectations and preparing for the next step or hurdle is rooted in the same environment of feeling respected and valued, yet challenged. So whether you're the kid who wants to be on America's Got Talent, or the one who gets a quiet kick out of solving a math problem, we've got a spot for you. The only other place that is similarly close to my heart is The Children's Center.
Joe: Why am I willing to take on being a co-chair? I guess it's the glory. On a tangible level, I think Rowland Hall plays a vital role in bringing diversity to our state. We serve the families of business, academic, and medical professionals who come to work at the University of Utah, contributing greatly to the intellectual vigor and economic vitality of the city. On an emotional level...I'm still in touch with my second- and third-grade teachers: I partied with Susan Culversten, and Sylvia Hendricks sold me a sink. My son is now taking French from Doug Wortham, who also taught me. And [Joe playfully nudges his wife] I wouldn't mind running into my first-grade teacher, Jenny McPeek!
So much of why this is going to be a great celebration is the memories—seeing the tree you fell out of and you still have that scar, or the bush you kissed Carol Felton behind for the first time. It really is time we got together as a school and shared those memories. I can't think of any other place I'm this devoted to—maybe the golf course.
Photo (left to right): Nancy Borgenicht, David Borgenicht, Joe Borgenicht, Melanie Borgenicht