Distinguished Alumni: 2017 Honorees
The Distinguished Alumni Award was established in 1997 to pay special tribute to alumni of the Dwight School, the Englewood School for Boys, and the Dwight-Englewood School. The award is presented for exemplary professional and/or volunteer accomplishments. It honors alumni whose achievements deserve special recognition by the School and by fellow graduates.
Richard “Dick” Totten Button ESB ’47
is widely considered one of the premiere male figure skaters of all time. He dominated the world of figure skating for a seven-year period, winning two Olympic Gold medals (1948 and 1952), five consecutive World Championships, seven US National titles, and four North American and European Championships. He is also the only skater ever to make a Grand Slam sweep of all the major titles: United States, North America, European, World and Olympic Championships.
Dick invented the flying camel spin, which was originally known as the “Button Camel.” He was the first skater ever to land a double-axel and a triple jump in competition. In 1976 he was inducted into the World Figure Skating Hall of Fame.
Dick has also had a long and illustrious sports broadcasting and production career. He was the lead commentator on figure skating for four Winter Olympics: Squaw Valley (1960); Salt Lake (2002); Torino (2006); and Vancouver (2010). He also served as a figure skating commentator on all three major television networks—ABC, CBS, and NBC—for more than 50 years.
In 1959 Dick founded Candid Productions, a television production company that later created and presented many professional skating competitions such as the World Professional Figure Skating Championships and what is considered the first “reality TV” program, The Superstars, followed by The Junior Superstars, The Woman Superstars, The Team Superstars and The Battle of the Network Superstars.
Dick earned an Emmy Award for Outstanding Sports Personality in 1981, and in 2015 he was the first honoree inducted in the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame in the Sports Analyst Category. He continues today to be a skating analyst for United States Figure Skating Association (USFSA) and International Skating Union (ISU) events.
Dick’s legacy in the sport of figure skating extends beyond competition, performance, analysis, and production. He is a national spokesperson for the Brain Injury Association of America. He has also built a diverse and distinguished collection of paintings, prints, posters, sculptures, costumes, and folk art that honors the long history, evolving artistry, and cultural impact of skating.
Dick is also a published writer, including authoring most recently the best-selling Push Dick’s Button: A Conversation on Skating from a Good Part of the Century—and a Little Tomfoolery.
Following his graduation from the Englewood School for Boys in 1947, Dick graduated from Harvard University with his B.A. (1952) and then went on to earn a Bachelor of Laws degree from Harvard Law School in 1955. No stranger to honors from the School, Dick was inducted into the D-E Athletic Hall of Fame in 1996, the year that the Hall of Fame was created.
Susan Law Dake D ’67
serves as president of the Stewart’s Foundation, a position she has held since 2002. In this role she oversees the allocation of approximately $2.5 million in funds to hundreds of non-profit organizations in the communities where Stewart’s Shops are located. The Foundation is committed to making the maximum positive impact in the following areas: education, health, arts, recreation/kids, social services and civic groups.
Susan shares, “It has been a long and successful road for Stewart’s Shops employees and the Dake Family. Working together, we have grown the business over the last 65 years. [Hard work, dedication, and business savvy have generated this value.] Those of us at Stewart’s Shops take pride in giving back to the communities where our shops are located. Our donations include the very successful Holiday Match program, where Stewart’s doubles the money that customers contribute to the campaign. Stewart’s Shops is 1/3 employee-owned and 2/3 family-owned. The Dake Family has also established foundations that make additional donations to local charities, and recognizes that loyal Stewart’s partners and customers make their generosity possible.”
Prior to being named president of the Stewart’s Foundation, Susan was a teacher with the Saratoga Springs School System and then served as public affairs director for Stewart’s Shops for more than 20 years. Today she also serves on myriad non-profit boards, including Siena College, Empire State College Foundation, the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, the Saratoga Foundation, the Arnold Cogswell Foundation and the Dake Family Foundations.
A volunteer extraordinaire, Susan has been instrumental in raising funds for the YMCA of Saratoga, Skidmore College, the Community Hospice, Saratoga Hospital, Emma Willard School, Wildwood Programs, the National Museum of Dance, St Peter’s Health Partners, Home Made Theater, the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, and Siena College. For these and her other outstanding charitable activities, in 2013 Susan was presented by SUNY Empire State College with The Presidential Medal, the highest honor awarded by that institution. She also received the Volunteer Award from Hospice and Palliative Care Association New York in 2006 and has been recognized with an Outstanding Volunteer Fundraiser Award from the National Society of Fund-Raising Executives (NSFRE).
Susan tells us. “My most fond memories of Dwight revolve around being a student government leader. I still remember the thrill of receiving the citizenship cup at graduation… My ‘career’ of giving and volunteering started with the skills I learned at Dwight, so this recognition is especially significant. I would advise future graduates [of the School] to give their time, treasure and talent to missions and organizations that resonate with who they are. In the beginning the act of giving is as important as the amount, so start right away!”
Following her graduation from the Dwight School in 1967, Susan earned her B.A. from Skidmore College and her Master’s of Reading from the State University of Albany. Today Susan resides in Saratoga Springs with her husband, Bill; together they have six children and twelve grandchildren.
Athletic Hall of Fame: 2017 Inductees
The Dwight-Englewood School Athletic Hall of Fame (AHF) was established in 1996 to honor those individuals who have achieved a high level of success during their careers as student athletes and coaches, or through significant contributions to the School’s athletic program. Its purpose is to perpetuate the memory of those who have brought distinction and excellence to the Dwight School, the Englewood School for Boys, and the Dwight-Englewood School.
Anne Meserole Cookman D ’32
While at Dwight, the late Anne Meserole Cookman D ’32 played on the Varsity Basketball and Field Hockey teams as well as the intramural Baseball, Volleyball and Tennis teams. She was President of the Student Government her senior year and on the Board of The Dwightonia. Anne wrote the Dwight School prayer. After graduation from Dwight School Anne played on the Varsity Field Hockey and Basketball Teams at Vassar College.
Anne was a Dwight School Trustee in the late 1940s. She was the female golf champion for 15 years at the Knickerbocker Country Club in Tenafly, NJ, as well as the Bergen Country Golf Champion in 1964. She was a part of a three-generation “Legacy” family and is related to more than 14 alumni who attended the School over the past 80 years.
Shirley Cookman Babington D’56 will be present during the Alumni Awards AHF ceremony to accept this posthumous award for her mother Anne.
Michael Vessa ’77
Michael “Mike” Vessa ’77 earned a total of nine varsity letters in baseball, football, wrestling and lacrosse from 1974 to 1977, and he captained three teams at various points during his time at D-E. He was a member of the 1975 MAAPS Football Champion team. In wrestling, Mike garnered many achievements including 1st place in the Fairfield Invitational Wrestling Tournament in 1976, 1st place in the Locust Valley Invitational Wrestling Tournament in 1977, and 4th place in the NJ State Prep School tournament in 1976. Mike received a 1976 All-State Honorable Mention in the B Division and then in 1977 he was All-State 1st Team in the same division. Mike was awarded the Umps & Dux Award, the Luke Ward Award and the Balakian Sportade Award while attending D-E.
Mike went on to play varsity lacrosse for Skidmore College from 1977 to 1981 and was named Most Valuable Player in his senior year. He is currently a senior vice-president for Lakeland Bank in Bernardsville, NJ.
Under the leadership of Captains John Keating ESB ’66 and Jonathan Granoff ESB ’66 and the coaching of the late Karel “Charlie” Lender, the ESB Fall 1965 Varsity Soccer Team was the school’s first undefeated soccer team after only seven seasons playing as a team. The final record showed seven victories, no losses, and one tie. In nine games, the team allowed only two goals due to stellar goalkeeping by Phil Marchbank ESB ’66 and a very strong defense.
The 1966 ESB Varsity Soccer Team
The 1966 ESB Varsity Soccer Team went undefeated for all nine games in regular season bringing the string of regular season games without a defeat to 24 for the school’s soccer program. Captain and center-forward John Pisani ESB ’67 broke the Bulldog scoring record for one season with 12 goals, earning him an Honorable Mention on the All-County team. The zenith of the season was the team’s being named State Champion for the Class B Independent Schools in New Jersey.
Editor’s Note: D-E’s Cookman Award was created in 1974 when the Dwight School merged with ESB. It was named for Anne’s daughters, also past AHF recipients Shirley Cookman Babington D ’56 and the late Martha Cookman Kimberly D ’62. They were NJ Paddle Tennis State Champions from 1973 to 1975 and in 1974 National Champions of the American Platform Tennis Association. The award is given to a sophomore girl who is outstanding in athletics and displays sportsmanship and character.