Annual Reunions 1973 – present

Initially prepared by Jon Thoreau Scott, maintained by Alexander Khost

Ruth Clonin, JoAnn Wheeler Scott, Jim Dick (rear) and Paul Avrich (right) at the 1973 reunion.

From 1973 to 1990 the Secretary and organizer was Abe Bluestein.  The topics shown for that period are not those specifically printed in the announcements since we had no explicit record of those. Jon Scott volunteered as Secretary and did the organizing work from 1991-2017. In 2018 Alexander Khost volunteered to take over as Secretary and has been doing the organizing.

1973-1975 at Alexander Library Rutgers University

Sally Axelrod and JoAnn Wheeler Scott at the 1973 reunion.

1973 – Keynote Address by Paul Avrich on The Friends of the Ferrer Modern School, How and Why They Were Founded, and the History of Modern Schools. This was followed by a discussion about the Modern School Archives at Rutgers led, probably, by Harmony Coppola.

1974 – Lawrence Veysey (U. Cal. Santa Cruz) on his book Communal Experience: Anarchist and Mystical Counter-cultures in America and Arthur Mark (Stroudsburg St. Col, PA) on his book Two Libertarian Educators: Elizabeth Byrne Ferm and Alexis Constantine Ferm 1857-1971).

1975 – Jo Ann Wheeler Burbank: Remarks about the Modern School and Stelton Colony; panel: Remembrances of the Modern School and How it Affected Us (Rina Winakour Garst, Sava Kenner Leffand, Victor Morris and Jon Scott).

1976 at Teachers College of Columbia University

1976 – Joel Spring Author of A Primer on Libertarian Education.

1977 and 1978 at Rutgers Library, Voorhees Hall

1977 – Panel discussion on The Ferrer Colony of Stelton (how it ran, cooperative services and factories etc.)  Panelists not known at this time.

1978 – Nellie Dick on Life at The Living House in Stelton.

1979 to 1982 at the Log Cabin & Picnic Grounds, Rutgers

1979 – “Little Jim” Dick on Summerhill Schools in England and in the U.S.

1980 – Paul Avrich on Francisco Ferrer and the Modern School of Barcelona.

1981 – Panel: The Stelton Colony with Abe Bluestein, Jim Dick, Leo Kolodny, Helen Kenner Pollack and Victor Sacharoff.

1982 – Panel of three students who had written honors theses on the Modern School and Stelton Colony.  They were Sydni Rozenfeld (Barnard, 1981) Sharon Kleinbaum (Barnard, 1982), and Barbara Demick (Yale, 1982).

1983 to 1994 at the cafeteria of New Brunswick Scientific Co. Inc.

1983 to 1988 – Topics unknown.  I do remember one dealing with art and artists from the colony where we brought in artwork of our children and following one of the meetings we met at the home of Dave and Phyllis Freedman for a piano recital by Clara Freedman Solomon.  Other topics may have been John D. Rockefeller and the Modern School (possibly Paul Avrich as speaker) and The Stony Ford School (speaker unknown).

Victor Morris, Sava Kenner Leffand and Rina Winokour Garst, panelists at the 1975 reunion.1989 – Federico Arcos and Pura Perez on The Ferrer Schools in Spain (Pura was a teacher in the Barcelona Modern School in the 1930s)

1990 – Paul Avrich on Celebrating the 80th Anniversary of the Founding of the Francisco Ferrer Association and Nellie Dick, at age 97, with Memories of “Big Jim” Dick and Modern Schools in England; flutist Andrew Bolokovsky.

1991 – Edgar Tafel: Learning by doing from the Modern School to Taliesen; short comments by John Froebel Parker on Froebel;, Susan Spayth Riley on A Proposed book of Anecdotes from People Who Attended the Modern School; Zack Shaw on Remembering Lovet Shaw and the Peninsula School;  Anne Price, singer and guitarist.

1992 – Mary Leue on Free Schools, Jerry Mintz on The Current Status of Free Schools; John Maryanopolis on Innovative Public Schools.

1993 – Jim and Nellie Dick discussed: Three Modern Schools: A Brief History; remembrances of Nellie by former students and some comments by Nellie.

1994 – Harmony Coppola and Fernanda Perrone on The Modern School Collection at Rutgers followed by a discussion of Issues of the Day including limits on free speech, vouchers for students to attend any school of their choice and several others.  We got to only one or two!

1995 at Goddard College, Plainfield VT

1995 – We had a very successful three-day Symposium on Modern Schools and Freedom in Education with many speakers and discussion groups. Dan Chodorkoff led us on a great tour dealing with the anarchists of Barre, VT and of a cemetery where the granite workers (mostly Italian anarchists) put up monuments for their families.

1996-2015 at Brower Commons, Rutgers

1996 – Jim Dick on Some thoughts about Nellie; Fernanda Perrone on The Modern School Collection and Exhibit; Paul Avrich on The History of Reunions of the Friends of the Modern School; Alfred Levitt on Plans for a New Modern School.

This meeting was the day following a reception for the opening of an exhibit about the Modern School prepared by Fernanda Perrone and sponsored by Friends of the Rutger’s Library.  There were several speakers and Dave Freedman showed slides of Modern School students and Stelton colonists.

1997 -Jon Bekkon (Univ. of Mass. Lowell.) on Labor Unions and Education; James Wechsler on The Art and Activism of Hugo Gellert.

1998 -Dan Chodorkoff (Inst. For Social Ecology, Goddard College) on Education for Social Change: Journey toward a Utopian Society; Chris Mercogliano on his book about the Free School in Albany, Making It  Up As We Go Along.

1999 – Paul Avrich on Alexander Berkman, Henry Clay Frick and the Homestead Strike of 1892; Kevin Van Meter on Youth Activism in the 1990s.

Modern School Alumni at the 2003 reunion2000 – Panel: The learning process at Modern Schools with Fernanda Perrone as Moderator (Styra Avins, Sally Brown, Jim Dick, David Freedman, Ben Frumkin, Bill Giacalone, Leonard Rico, Leonard Sacharoff and Yash Shapiro).

2001 – Talk by Tony Scara  on A View of Stelton From a Long Time Resident; Kenneth Freedman on Freedom Radio and Pacifica; Panel discussion: Children of the Children: Growing Up With a Modern School Parent (Deven Belden, Maxine DeFelice, Sam Freedman, Jonah Giacalone, Ellen Rosner, Susan Scara, Sioban Walsh Feyler and Steve Shapiro).

2002 – Music by the Zephyr Trio; Eliot Washor on The Big Picture Company and Met School; Melanie and John Hiner on The New School of Newark Delaware; A panel discussion: Contemporary Free Schools (with graduates of the Met School, Providence, RI, Free School in Albany, NY, Goddard College, Plainfield VT, the New School of Newark DE, Summerhill in England and the Organic School in Fairhope AL).

2003 – Panel: The Decline of the Labor Movement with Rina Winokor Garst as Moderator and panelists Paul Avrich, Norman Markowitz and Leonard Rico. Peter Goodman was invited and gave us some insightful commentary about the present day labor situation.

2004 – Panel: Settlers of Utopian Colonies in the Early Part of the 20th Century with panelists David Freedman, Jay Garland, Rina Winokor Garst, Bobby Pearl, Joan Scott and Joel Trupin talking about their parents.

2005– Presentation: Future of the Friends of the Modern School; A Picture History of Modern Schools and Colonies (a Power-Point presentation of pictures from the Rutgers Archives and several of the Friends).

2006 A tribute to Paul Avrich, by Sam Freedman.  Remembering Jim (“Little Jim”) by Marino Amoruso and Jim’s daughters. Memories of Siggy Freedman by Jack Shapiro. Some thoughts about Susan Spayth Riley by Jon Scott. Remembering Emma Goldman, a talk by Barry Pateman of the Emma Goldman Papers Project, Berkeley CA.  This was followed by a long discussion by those attending the meeting dealing mainly with how “anarchistic” those who lived in the Ferrer Colony became after they left Stelton.

2007 Bernard Sernaker and his deportaion from the U.S. by Ralph Coppola, Janet Goldner and Bob Vinik.
The showing of the film documentary SACCO AND VANZETTI produced by Willow Pond Films.  Director Peter Miller presented an introduction to the film.  Much discussion followed both presentations.

2008 – Introducing Utopia, New Jersey: Travels in the nearest Eden, by the author Perdita Buchan (the book includes a chapter about the Ferrer Colony of Stelton). A talk on Hippolyte Havel by Barry Pateman of the Emma Goldman Papers Project of Berkeley CA. Panel Discussion: Free Schools of Today by Mary Lois Adshead (School of Organic Living, Alan Berger (Brooklyn Free School), Isaac Graves (Harriet Tubman Free School) and two members of the Manhattan Free School who were attending the meeting.

(1)Speakers for the years 1973 to 1990 were from Paul Avrich’s History of Reunions of the Friends of the Modern School, a talk he presented at the 1996 meeting.  Topics for these years may not be precisely as stated at the original meeting.

(2) Fernando Perrone of the Special Collections, University Archives of the Rutgers Library provided a list of some of the speakers and topics.

2009 The Ferrer Modern School and Colony by Film by Bryan Welch; Cooperatives in the Stelton Colony by Ralph Coppola; Future of the Friends of the Modern School (General Discussion).

2010 Harry Kelly by Barry Pateman; Panel on the Centenary of the Execution of Francisco Ferrer I Guardia held in Barcelona Oct. 9, 2009 by Styra Avins, Rina Winokour Garst, Jon Scott, Steve Shapiro and Bob Vinik.

2011 The Art of Sam Goldman by Susan Smith-Peter; A discussion of Environmental Activism and the excess penalties led by Bianca Franchi; More Powerful than Dynamite by Thai Jones.

2012 Special Panel: From Modern School to Occupy People, Goals and Radicalism of the Modern School Movement – Barry Pateman, The Occupy Movement – Jackie DiSalvo and The Hundred Years’ War: Occupying Wall Street from 1914 to 2012 – Thai Jones.

2013 The Modern School of Mohegan, by Virginia Pastor; Special Panel: Stelton and the Modern School Movement, Ahead of their time? (Panelists were Robert Rosen, Rina Winokour Garst, Ralph Coppola, Jon Thoreau Scott and jerry Mintz).

2014 The Lakewood Modern School by Neil McKelvie; Camp Kilmeer and the Modern School, by Elizabeth Reeves; Endowment for the Friends Program by Bob Rosen.

2015 Francisco Ferrer: The Anarchist Behind the Modern School by Mark Bray; Sash and Emma: The Anarchist Oddysey of Alexander Berkman and Emma Goldmanm by Karen Avrich; Panel on the Goldman House Project by Bob rosen, John Weick, Jeffrey Aaron and Leo Goldman.

2016 The meeting was cancelled due to a mix-up in the date and venue. The speaker was to be Mark Bray on Translating Anarchy: the Anarchism of Occupy Wall Street; Bernard and Harmony Sernaker by Bob Vinik and Ralph Coppola; Anna Sosnofsky and Abe Winokour, by Rina Winokour Garst; Sam and Gusta Goldman, by Leo Goldman.

2017-2018 at Alexander Library Rutgers University

2017 It Is Not Idealism If It Is Lived by Alexander Khost speaking on the topic of unschooling and anarchist education (video here).

2018 Performance of Mother Jones in Heaven and a talk by Amanda Kolson Hurley on her forthcoming book, Radical Suburbs : Experimental Living on the Fringes of the American City.

2019 at rooted us unconference, Sixth Street Community Center in New York City

2019 a social justice gathering striving to bring together anarchists and others striving to create a more liberated world for all people engaged in anti-oppression and grassroots work. Jon Thoreau Scott spoke on his recollections of Stelton and Fernanda Perrone gave a broad overview of the history of Modern Schools.