Baylor Newlyweds Opt for "Mini-mony"
by Sara Stockett '13
Community Service director Elin Bunch ’09 originally planned to marry Paul Dickenson over Memorial Day weekend in North Carolina, but as the pandemic intensified, they knew they would have to cancel their May plans. With their immediate families living in Tennessee, the couple struggled to find a reason to wait.
“By the time we chose to move the wedding up, the courthouse in Chattanooga had closed for the city’s shelter-in-place orders,” Bunch explained. Instead, the couple traveled 20 minutes to Catoosa County, Ga., for their marriage license, requiring them to also marry in the area. Fortunately, a friend offered her family’s property in Ringgold as a venue for the April 3 ceremony. Their parents, including Van Bunch ’75, and siblings, including Taegan Bunch ’19, were in attendance; and their dog, Luna, served as the flower girl. Her father made lemonade to celebrate positivity even “when life gives you lemons,” and Bunch wore her grandmother’s wedding dress and her sister’s blue shoes. “There ended up being plenty of funny pictures with donkeys and goats that were also on the property,” she laughed, adding that despite the change in plans, the ceremony and venue did not disappoint. “It was beautiful. It was on a large farm with a pond, and the weather was great.”
Three weeks later, on April 24, faculty members Robin Fazio ’92 and Regan Phillips were married on campus, with Baylor chaplain Rev. Dan Scott officiating a ceremony on the banks of the Tennessee River. They too saw a drastic change from their original plan
for a June wedding at the Church on Main with over 100 people. Though the couple pushed the large celebration back by a year, they chose to move their official wedding up by two months.
“We made the decision in about 25 minutes after breakfast one morning,” recalled Fazio. “The day of the wedding, the weather was terrible." Yet, right before the ceremony began, the clouds parted, and the sun began to shine. To add to their luck, Baylor faculty members Henry and Averil Blue were picking up vegetables from the Baylor’s organic garden, managed by Fazio, and agreed to film the wedding. Both sets of parents, as well as close friends, including faculty members Julian Kaufman, Eli Anderson-Barrera, and Laura Willett ’92 “attended” the ceremony on Zoom. Their decision to marry early was “the right thing to do at the right time,” said Fazio. “It was just a fun day.” They now plan to celebrate with friends and family on June 27, 2021.
Campus Closure Upsets Normalcy for Boarders
by Eddie Davis
The announcement of the campus closing due to the pandemic hit Baylor’s boarding community especially hard and fast. What is usually a slow-paced, methodical move-out process turned a bit chaotic despite the heroic efforts of residential life staff Garrison Conner ’05, Takisha Haynie, and Anne Stover.
“The saddest part of this situation is that I didn’t get to say goodbye to most of the boarders. Most of the domestic students left very quickly that Thursday afternoon,” recalls Stover. “Some of the senior international students came by the Res. Life office to say goodbye and take pics. For me, those were the calming and memorable moments. It makes me sad that there was no closure to this school year.”
“It was difficult to watch students pack up from behind a mask, unable to embrace these young people I’ve watched grow right outside my door for years,” said Haynie. “The boarding experience has meant so much to students and their families, and they mean so much to us. There is comfort, however, in knowing that the bonds created here will last.”
Distance Learning is a Family Affair
by Sara Stockett '13
When Baylor shifted to distance learning, faculty member Neil Hetrick witnessed the changes students faced in every facet of the school. As a Middle School German teacher and Upper School dorm parent, Hetrick had just days to transfer his curriculum online while assisting almost forty boarders on their moves out of Lupton Hall.
“The process was quick and efficient,” he recalled as he discussed the period between the decision to close campus and begin distance learning. “I really appreciated how Baylor gave us extra days off – just to take a break and determine our goals for the
remainder of the year, to choose a format that is engaging and important for our students.”
After helping boarders return home and creating his new curriculum, he found that students from all grade levels faced different challenges. Some students whose parents worked in the healthcare industry moved in with friends as a precaution while others needed time to recover from the jetlag that accompanies a 50-hour trip home. Despite the difficulties, Hetrick acknowledged that Baylor’s commitment to community made the process manageable for all. “It wasn’t just about grades. It was checking in on how our students were doing, asking if they were getting outside, making sure they were doing something they enjoyed every day.” As he communicated with his students about their well-being, Hetrick considered his own situation – one that became rather monotonous in an empty dorm. His sister, Jackie Hetrick, who works as a sales and marketing representative for Disney Springs in Orlando, Fla., soon joined him in Chattanooga to drive twelve hours to quarantine alongside their parents in their home outside of Cleveland, Ohio.
Unbeknownst to his family, they were soon to become recurring participants in his lesson plans. Hetrick admitted his Zoom meetings became far more interesting once he arrived in Ohio. “I was able to use my family members as actors for the different stories I told my students in German. I had my dog come in, and we talked about our different pets. We had cooking lessons where I was able to show my students how to make German bread dumplings.” Despite every effort to engage his classes from afar, he added that he still missed his students. “This situation is less than ideal. However, I am grateful for the support from the community – from the students, the parents, the administration – to make this transition as seamless as possible.”
Baylor's Science Lab at the Front Lines of COVID-19 Testing
by Barbara Kennedy
As COVID-19 began creating testing backlogs in labs across the country, Baylor School faculty member and research scientist Dr. Elizabeth Forrester was determined to find a solution for Hamilton County and immediately reached out to her colleague, Dr. Dawn Richards, to formulate a plan.
Within days, the two developed a testing protocol using the equipment in Baylor’s molecular research laboratory that cut the average test down to less than 24 hours in a process that was taking as many as seven days. Mary Catherine Robbins, Baylor’s Health Center director, was instrumental in establishing a partnership with Hamilton County. “The question wasn’t, ‘How can we do this?’ It was, ‘How can we not do this,” said Forrester.
On March 25, 2020, Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger announced that the molecular research lab at Baylor School had been certified as a clinical lab to test COVID-19 samples and would be leased by the county to help with efforts to diagnose and prevent the spread of the virus. “It’s truly a remarkable thing that Baylor is doing,” Mayor Coppinger told the Chattanooga Times Free Press that day. “It’s the best example I can think of where a private and public partnership will do something to help the community be safer.”
Their work was featured in national media, including the Wall Street Journal and MSNBC, and provided all three Hamilton County hospital systems and community organizations a rapid testing option and increased local capacity for testing significantly. Test specimens were collected each morning at local hospitals, doctors’ offices, community organizations, and drive-through testing sites and brought to the Baylor lab. At the project’s launch, the lab was able to conduct about 65 tests daily, giving hospital workers and patients priority. As more equipment and supplies became available, the testing capacity grew to 300-500 per day. Grace McKenney ’18 joined the team for administrative support. By June 10, the Baylor lab had completed over 14,000 tests, and Hamilton County notified the school that it would be ending the contract (see related story on p. 20). When students and faculty return to campus in the fall, Baylor will be the only area school – and perhaps the only school in the country – that will have the ability to test COVID-19 samples and with expedited results.