On May 26, 2017, Heathwood Hall held its 40th Commencement ceremony at Trinity Cathedral and welcomed the Class of 2017 to the ranks of our alumni.
The members of the Class of 2017 will long be remembered at Heathwood for their accomplishments in the classroom, on our playing fields, in the fine arts, and more. As they move on to colleges in 12 states and the District of Columbia, we wish them all the best and ask them please to stay in touch!
More pictures from graduation are available at https://www.heathwood.org/graduation2017
Sanchit Kapur, ’11, just graduated from college in 2016 but has already built an impressive career in financial services. In addition to earning a B.S. in Economics and a minor in Political Science from the University of South Carolina’s Honors College, Sanchit completed internships in investment analysis and investment banking. Now he’s a Financial Services Consultant in Charlotte.
Here Sanchit talks about how his time at Heathwood helped him discover his vocation and develop the work ethic that has accelerated his career, and shares his advice for current Heathwood students who want to take the right steps now to jump-start their own future careers.
How do you feel your Heathwood experience prepared you for college and/or your career?
Heathwood challenged you to grow outside of the classroom through experiences like Winterim and Model UN. I felt Heathwood helped me develop into a well-rounded person.
What Heathwood teacher made the biggest impression on you?
I took Mrs. Norman’s Honors Biology in 10th grade and her AP Environmental Science class in 12th grade. Science was- and still isn’t- my strong suit. I feel like I can look back and credit Mrs. Norman and her class for helping me develop a strong work ethic because I wanted to get a good grade in her class and gain her respect.
What Heathwood classmates had an impact on you?
Thad Moore (class of 2011) and I have remained very close friends since our Heathwood days. We roomed together at USC for over 4 years and have travelled quite a bit together. I’ll speak for him as well, but I believe a good part of our friendship is challenging each other to grow and improve in our professional and personal lives.
What are you doing now? Tell us a little about your career path.
I am a financial services consultant based in Charlotte. During school, I fell in love with Economics as a subject due to its real-world applications. I started reading about the financial crisis and interned with a couple of banks and asset managers. I was fortunate enough to intern in different areas of finance- from digital strategy to asset-backed securities to portfolio management.
I enjoyed learning new areas of the financial world so I became a consultant due to its variety of projects that touched all levels of banks. I also really wanted to travel for work and consultants are typically on the road weekly.
What do you enjoy most about your job? What do you find most rewarding about it?
Consulting is dynamic because we have projects that require a steep learning curve and quick deadlines, so you are continuously on your toes with new subjects, new clients and new goals- almost on a daily basis. I enjoy the unpredictably of my job because it’s never boring and you cannot be complacent.
What advice do you have for current Heathwood students who might be interested in following in your professional footsteps?
Focus on what you can control and read continuously to gain expertise in your field. If you combine those two, you will gain the self-awareness to grow and gain a passion and work ethic that will set you apart from your peers.
Like mother, like son … the Draffins are making a family tradition out of coming through for Heathwood in the clutch.
Twenty-five years ago, as a sophomore on the Heathwood Girls Varsity Basketball team, Katherine Juk Draffin (’94) got fouled shooting a 3-pointer against Ashley Hall. The game was almost over and the Highlanders were down by three, so the three free throws Katherine was awarded were obviously going to be decisive: make all three and the game would likely go to overtime; miss just one and Heathwood would lose. No pressure, right?
Katherine stepped up to the line and made the first shot … and then the second … and then—as every spectator held their breath—the third. The game was tied, and in the few seconds remaining, Ashley Hall failed to convert. Thanks to Katherine, the game went to overtime.
Flash forward to January 19, 2017, and the Heathwood Middle School Boys Basketball team is down by two points to a much bigger Camden Military squad. With under a minute to play and the clock winding down fast, point guard Walker Draffin (’22) launches a three-point shot, and is fouled in the process. Once again, no pressure, right? Make two shots and you can force overtime, make three and you’ll probably win the game. Anything less, and the Highlanders will almost certainly lose.
Walker stepped to the line and squared up to shoot. In the stands, his father Stephen (’90) said, almost in a whisper, “Oh, he practiced this a lot this weekend.” As calmly as if he were still taking those routine practice shots, Walker released his first free throw—and it sailed right through the net. He took the second, and once again, it hit nothing but net. In the stands, all the Heathwood fans held their breath … and Walker shot his third … and it too swished right in. With just seconds left, Camden Military hustled up court but couldn’t convert—and after being down by almost double digits at the half, Heathwood went on to win the game.
Parents in attendance who heard Stephen Draffin mention that Walker had recently put a lot of time in at the free throw line might have been tempted to point out to their sons that the Highlanders won the game thanks to Walker’s work ethic, and specifically his willingness to work hard in practice to improve his game. But Katherine Draffin says learning what it takes to come through in the clutch was just one of many takeaways from her own Heathwood basketball career: “Basketball was by far my favorite sport that I played at Heathwood,” she recalls. “It taught me a lot, on and off the court.”
Allie Wall Mood’s Heathwood connections run deep. A 2002 alum, she’s married to 1999 alum Drew Mood, and is the mom of Poppy Mood, ’28, and two younger children, Henry and Edith. Her father, Hank Wall, started Heathwood’s wrestling team, and her husband is the nephew of former Lower School librarian Milly Hart.
Allie’s time at Heathwood was also predictive of her future career. The classmates who awarded her the “Best Dressed” senior superlative might not be surprised to learn that Allie is now a noted stylist and owns her own children’s clothing line, Poppy & Hen. Her work as a stylist has also earned her a ton of followers on Instagram—in fact, she was named a top Instagram mom to follow by Lonny Magazine, which said she “produces images that elevate mere cuteness into something more: a snapshot of the fleeting wonders of childhood.”
After graduating from Heathwood, Allie attended Auburn, USC, College of Charleston, Vanguard University and Columbia College, from which she graduated Summa Cum Laude with a degree in Social Work. We asked her what it’s like to be a social media influencer, and how she became both a stylist and a designer.
You have a very 21st-century career, the way you’ve carved out your own path, pulling different threads together, and especially the way you’ve become so prominent on social media. How did all of that come about?
My job as a children’s stylist, creative director, and media influencer really came about by chance. When Poppy was born, I struggled to find lovely, well-made, and funky clothing in stores. I began hunting for unique and inspirational brands, or vintage and hard-to-find pieces, and I was hooked. I quickly began to see that each piece of clothing tells a story. I would see a dress and instantly be taken to a location in my mind; I would imagine props, and accessories, and the perfect shoes. It was like I was dreaming in photographs. Little by little companies would notice my photos and reach out. I started small, blogging for fashion blogs and begging my friends to use their children as models. When I couldn’t take my own photos and was busy styling, I called on my cousin and Heathwood alum Mary Royall Wilgis (Class of 2016) to shoot for me. It has been a long road of working really hard to prove my vision, and I loved (and still love) every minute of it.
So how did your hunt for unique children’s clothing lead to Poppy & Hen?
My mother is an amazing seamstress and she taught all of us to sew (my sisters and I). As a new mother, if I couldn’t find that piece I was dreaming about, we would search out the pattern, pick out the fabric and get to sewing. My sisters, mother, and I ended up creating a company, Zippity Do Da, in 2010, and we sold one-of-a-kind vintage-inspired pieces via Facebook. We sewed them all by hand and found that the market and demand was huge. Our pieces would sell out within hours of a release. After I had my second child, and my sisters married and moved away (they both work in fashion too), we took a break from sewing. I guess I couldn’t fight the urge to create and design, because in 2016, I created Poppy & Hen.
Where has your work been featured?
I have worked on styling projects with various small companies like Pink Chicken, Vendue Inn Hotel, and Marysia Swim and larger companies like Gap Kids, Royal Caribbean, Toys R Us. And my work has been featured in Babiekins Magazine, Gurgle Magazine (UK), Mini Maven Magazine, and various magazines in South America.
You’ve accomplished so much across multiple platforms—has any of that been more challenging than you’ve made it look?
When it comes to my photos on Instagram and my job as an influencer, my life is definitely not as pretty or curated at the little squares you see. My job is to capture the "happy" though, so the photos people see are usually one shot I have taken out of 300 that happen to work. When collaborating with companies via social media, the pressure to get the best shot and represent the company to the best of my ability can be stressful. When the stress becomes too much, I lessen the load of collaborations and just focus on taking photographs of what I enjoy.
You were a Heathwood student and now you’re a Heathwood mom. Looking back, which Heathwood teacher would you say had the biggest influence on you?
Dr. Plowden. She was the first teacher to tell me, "You can really write." She urged me to use my writing abilities to create essays for college acceptance. Without those essays I would have never been admitted to college. I was a horrible standardized test taker, and my SAT scores were low because of it. Auburn University told me my essay was what got me into college, and that's all because of Dr. Plowden pushing me academically and creatively to use my writing. Because Dr. Plowden believed in my writing, I believed in it too. Many of the books we read in her class are still my favorites today.
What can we expect from you next?
Poppy & Hen will release a summer collection online, and while we focused on just girls' clothing before, we will be tapping into the world of little boys this time with some fun vintage-inspired pieces. I hope to continue my work as an influencer as long as I enjoy it, and as long as my children allow me to have a camera around. I look forward to collaborating with new companies and businesses. I would love to work with some local Columbia businesses, as I would love to help them grow their audience online. We have an amazing group of talented artists, makers, and shakers in Columbia and right here at Heathwood; I look forward to meeting them.
The Heathwood Class of 1995 had an absolutely fabulous reunion weekend in September! We began with a Friday afternoon/evening informal Happy Hour gathering at Tazza in Trenholm Plaza. We had between 15-20 people attend.
The next morning, we invited all of the families to come out and participate in thePEAK courses, led by Stan Wood and Brice Spires (’09). About 8-10 families were represented on that morning, and I also took some folks on a quick tour around campus to see all of the changes that had taken place since they were last here. The Plaid Peddler staff were also kind enough to come in and open the bookstore for an hour on Saturday morning so people could purchase Highlander attire. We were extremely grateful for that opportunity as well.
The “big event” kicked off at the home of Chris Alessandrini Carrington in King’s Grant. We had the most fun! Our classmates came into town from Charleston, Rock Hill, Charlotte, Georgia, Connecticut, Florida, and California!
There were some people who hadn’t been seen or heard from since we graduated. Throughout the night, we all talked about what an amazing experience we had at Heathwood and the influence that our Heathwood education has had on all of us throughout our lives. Of course, we couldn’t end the night without a toast to Mr. Gasque. We had somewhere between 40 and 45 people in attendance.
We are already planning a Christmas get-together because we can’t let another 5 years pass before we do this again. And we encourage other classes to do the same, because it was so great to catch up with so many classmates all at once.
If you want to plan a reunion for your class and need help tracking down contact information etc., Alumni Relations Coordinator Meredith Walker can help. You can reach her at Walkerm@heathwood.org or 803-321-7730.
Heathwood lifer Peyton Bryant, ’06, has just begun his tenure as the alumni representative on Heathwood’s Board of Trustees. In that role he is the voice for all Heathwood alumni. His goals include building a stronger alumni network and facilitating deeper connections between alumni and the school.
After graduating from Heathwood in 2006, Peyton attended Wake Forest University, where he majored in economics and minored in religion and entrepreneurship. After graduation, he returned to Columbia, beginning his career as a commercial relationship manager for BB&T. Currently, he serves as a commercial real estate broker for NAI Avant and focuses his business on office sales and leasing and investment sales.
A 2014 graduate of Leadership Columbia, Peyton serves on the boards of the Babcock Center Foundation, the Midlands Housing Trust Fund, and the Leadership Columbia Alumni Association. He also serves as Chair-Elect of the United Way of the Midlands’ Young Leaders Society and Immediate Past President of the Columbia Lions Club, and is an active member of Eastminster Presbyterian Church.
Peyton holds the distinction of being Heathwood’s second “graduate of a graduate.” His mother, Sharon Walters Bryant, graduated in 1979. His sister Paige, also a lifer, graduated in 2014 and currently attends USC.
—What was your most memorable Heathwood experience?
I was a student at Heathwood for 14 years and have tons of memories to choose from. However, I would say my commencement ceremony in 2006 is the most memorable. I sat beside Wills Bryan (Barbara’s son), who is also a Heathwood lifer. It seemed the reality of the occasion hit us both at the same time as we walked out of the church after receiving our diplomas. I remember feeling overwhelmed by the traditions of Heathwood and grateful for the relationships I had built through my time at the school. You can’t get much more traditional than our commencement service. Sitting in the audience during my sister’s graduation in 2014 and hearing the bagpipes took me right back to the feelings I experienced in 2006 and remain fond memories to this day.
—What Heathwood teacher made the biggest impression on you? And how do you feel your Heathwood experience prepared you for college and/or your career?
Heathwood’s all-time most impression-making teacher is James H. Gasque in Room 17. However, I have to give credit to someone still teaching at Heathwood, Nadege Keller, the Upper School French teacher, as the person who made a lasting impression on me as a student at Heathwood. Although I remember very little French now, and nothing about the French language has earned me a dime as an adult, Mrs. Keller (which isn’t nearly as intimidating as her then-maiden name Nadege Vauthier) was very tough on us. We were not allowed to speak a lick of English in her class. It was all French, all the time. She wasn’t simply a tough teacher; she truly cared and she wanted us to succeed. She taught us the value of working hard at something even when it seemed too difficult to master. As a result, I was more prepared to take French Grammar class at Wake Forest than any of my peers. I breezed through it all thanks to Mrs. Keller.
With respect to how my Heathwood experience prepared me for college and my career, generally speaking, I would say Heathwood helped me understand the value of community. There is a place for individualism, competition, and self-reflection. However, when members of a community support one another, the community as a whole functions much better and certainly Heathwood facilitated a community among its students, faculty, and administrators. I’ve tried to apply this same community-minded approach to the organizations and activities I have been involved in as an adult.
—What’s the most interesting thing you’ve done since leaving Heathwood?
Thanks to Stan Wood and the PEAK program, I became very interested in outdoor education and took that passion with me after graduating from Heathwood. In college, I took a sea kayaking and backpacking trip through Costa Rica and it was probably one of the most interesting things I’ve done.
—What do you think your Heathwood classmates would be most surprised to learn about you?
My jokes were much better received in college than in high school. Heck, I was even “cool” at times, and I haven’t worn a kilt since Heathwood Homecoming senior year.
—Why has it felt worthwhile to you to stay connected to Heathwood after you graduated?
Heathwood played a significant role in my childhood, so staying connected even after graduation was a no-brainer for me. It was also helpful that I moved back to Columbia after college and had a sister still enrolled at the time. Once Paige graduated, my good friend Meredith Walker started working in development at Heathwood, which made it easy for me to stay engaged and aware of what was happening at the school.
Although it has been easy for me to stay connected to Heathwood, maintaining relationships has always been important to me. Regardless of where I am or who I know amongst the staff, I will always want to see Heathwood prosper. I want to know that the students now are being challenged, motivated, and inspired in the same way I was as a student.
—What excites you most about serving as the alumni representative on the Board?
As I get to know some of the other Board members, I recognize that each of them brings something valuable and unique to the table. Collectively, the Board is an awesome group of very accomplished people. I am humbled to have been included within the Board’s ranks this year.
As an alumni representative on the Board, it is important to me that the other Board members realize the importance of alumni outreach. Heathwood’s alumni efforts have been minimal in the past, but that is changing. I am excited to help the Board understand the value in allocating school resources and time to building a strong and active alumni network. The benefits will be extraordinary in the long run.
—How does it help both alumni and the school and its current students when alumni are connected to Heathwood?
Wouldn’t you agree that when folks “speak from experience,” it’s often the most powerful review of a product, place, or experience? Well, alumni of Heathwood can, themselves, speak from experience in order to promote Heathwood to the broader Columbia community. It only makes sense that the more supported, engaged, and included the alumni feel, the more advocating they will do on Heathwood’s behalf. Also, as the alumni network grows and remains connected to Heathwood, they will, in turn, provide a resource for current students to build their own networks and call upon when searching for “Winterim” internships, applying to colleges, and looking for careers.
—How are you, as the board representative, available to support alumni?
Our alumni network isn’t very large, relatively speaking. If alumni want to know what’s going on at Heathwood or have a comment, question, concern, or even better, an idea, I would welcome a conversation anytime. The school can provide my contact information to anyone who needs it. Otherwise, I hope alumni know I am advocating on their behalf during my board term.
—How can all alumni help support the school?
We need alumni support. We encourage alumni to be as active as possible, whether through hands-on efforts or advocating from afar. Meredith Walker, Erin Pope, and the rest of the Heathwood development staff are working very hard to help grow the alumni network, but it takes effort from all of us to make sure that the network is meaningful and worthwhile.
2014 alum A’ja Wilson and Team USA captured their sixth consecutive FIBA U19 World Championship after their 78-70 victory in the title game over host nation, Russia.
The Americans (7-0) dominated throughout the tournament, before a close match in the championship final as the Russians (6-1) stormed out to early leads throughout the first half. However, as the Highlander faithful can attest, it’s only a matter of time before A’ja dominates in a big game!
Wilson collected 30 points (a USA Basketball championship record), 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, and a blocked shot, as she powered the Americans to an 8-point victory. Finishing the tournament averaging 22.3 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.3 assists over the seven games, A’ja was named the tournament MVP.in her second U19 World Championship appearance.
The rising South Carolina sophomore and Team USA U19 Coach Dawn Staley will look to lead the Lady Gamecocks to consecutive Final Four appearances this winter - Congratulations A’ja!
Thad Moore (’11) just graduated from college but already holds the distinction of being one of the most famous journalists in the country. Or at least, the most famous journalism intern in the country.
Thad was a month into an internship on the business desk at the Washington Post this summer when a software glitch caused the computers to go down on the New York Stock Exchange. Through a combination of journalistic instinct and luck, Thad was the first reporter at a major news outlet to break the story.
The computers were back up fairly quickly, and, except in business circles, the story ended up being less significant than it initially appeared. But Moore himself—the intrepid intern who scooped the likes of the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times—became a media sensation. In a story that took off like wildfire in the socialmediasphere, Buzzfeed gleefully recounted the details of Thad’s scoop and gushed “He’s now the newshound we all turn to in times of crisis.”
Buzzfeed also noted that Thad handled the whole hoopla with grace and humility. But to Thad himself, “It was nuts. I felt like I stopped being a person and started being an idea for a little while.” His editor at the Post suggested his story was so compelling in part because the photo on his Twitter feed looked like a stock photo of an intern, making him the perfect hero for a triumph-of-the-little-guy tale.
“People at the Post were really into it as an intern-made-good story,” he says. “I was a name around the office for a while, which was the coolest thing ever, because it’s the Washington Post.”
Even if he hadn’t become a media sensation, Thad says his internship still would have been a great experience. “When you intern at the Post, they pretty much treat you like you’re on staff. I was working on stories every day and got my byline in the paper a lot. It was great to see how a big national paper covers the news and to be in the middle of all that. It was great just to walk through the door every day. The history that’s in that building makes being there really cool.”
Thad’s interest in a career in journalism began at Heathwood, and, he says, he realized once he began his studies at the University of South Carolina’s Honors College that his Heathwood education had prepared him well for a writing-intensive vocation: “There was such an emphasis on writing at Heathwood. That’s fairly unique. It really takes a small-classroom environment and very dedicated teachers to provide good writing instruction.”
For current students who have journalistic aspirations of any kind, Thad’s advice is, “start writing. Find freelance opportunities, write for the school paper, or just start writing a blog. That’s the only way to learn.”
Now that his summer internship is over, Thad himself is freelancing regularly, for the Washington Post and elsewhere. While he continues to cover business news for the Post, he’s particularly interested in uncovering and telling stories about South Carolina for national publications. “There are a lot of good stories down here that aren’t being told,” he says. “So one of my career goals is to be in a regional bureau for a national publication—you’re reaching a wide audience while still maintaining a strong local understanding—that’s really valuable.”
His moment in the spotlight aside, Thad is excited about where his career has taken him so far. “What I love about being a journalist,” he says, “ is the rush you get from chasing after the latest story, and also the value that lies in trying to help people understand what’s going on around them. I also appreciate being able to tell people stories just because they’re interesting, or because they’re typical and illustrate challenges people in our community are facing. There’s a lot of value in reminding people to look around a little bit.”
Twenty-five alumni from the classes of 1994 to 2015 played in Heathwood’s first annual alumni flag football game on November 25, 2015. Officiated by Rip Blackstone, David Prezioso, and Ned Prezioso, the game was hard-fought but the Navy Team, featuring younger alumni, ultimately prevailed over the White Team, featuring members of the classes of 1994-2004, with a score of 84-42.
The game featured a celebrity guest, former Heathwood football coach John Day, and participants and their fan bases had so much fun that plans are already in the works for next year’s game. Stay tuned for details!
The Belsers have been strong supporters of Heathwood’s 2015-16 Fund-the-Need project, the Center for Strength, Conditioning, and Rehabilitation. Here Freeman Belser talks about why he and Maryanne believe these enhanced athletic facilities will have a transformative impact on many Heathwood students.
Maryanne and I were both student athletes in high school, so we know first-hand the difference the right facilities and the right training opportunities can make. All of that became even more apparent to me when I got to college. My decision to go to Davidson College was cemented when I was offered the opportunity to be a member of the football team. I loved playing football, and I was of course flattered that a college wanted me to be a part of the team. However, once the boost to my ego faded away, I must admit that I got a little nervous. Here I was, a 175-pound beanpole about to go head to head with older, stronger, and bigger guys. Maybe my new coaches thought the same thing, because shortly after I signed up they sent me a weightlifting book.
What I discovered between May and August of 1997 was that weightlifting, done properly, can not only change you physically, but also give you great confidence. When I reported for fall camp at Davidson, I had added 25 pounds of muscle very quickly. I was strong, quick, and, most importantly, confident. I earned the starting job at linebacker two games into the season and finished the year second on the team in tackles. Over the course of the next several years, I continued to train with weights. By my senior season, I weighed 215 pounds and was confident in both my mind and body.
With the new Center for Strength, Conditioning, and Rehabilitation, Heathwood has the opportunity to provide its students with a means to enhance their bodies and minds, giving them confidence that will yield results both on the field and court and in the classroom.
Heathwood Hall has been a big part of my life. As a student, I had the great privilege of not only receiving an excellent education, but also being exposed to opportunities and ideas that have shaped who I am today. As parents, Maryanne and I have had the wonderful pleasure of seeing our young sons thrive in an environment that provides both innovative and personalized education. As a trustee, I have learned how the School operates and what people and values make it such a special place. Because Heathwood has meant and will continue to mean so much to us, we are excited to be a part of the team that helps the school evolve and become even stronger.
To join the Belsers in supporting the Center for Strength, Conditioning, and Rehabilitation, or to learn more about the project, visit https://www.heathwood.org/support-hh/fund-need or contact Director of Development Erin Pope at firstname.lastname@example.org or 803.231.7717.