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A History of Princeton Day School in 12 Stories: Hank Bristol '72
A History of Princeton Day School in 12 Stories: Hank Bristol '72

Twelve senior members of our school's faculty and staff have shared plans to retire in June from Princeton Day School. As Head of School Paul Stellato wrote in the most recent issue of the Journal, "Consider the impact of a group whose years of service on our campus reach into the hundreds, whose guidance, care, and direction have enriched the lives of thousands of students, parents, colleagues, and friends, and whose influence on the course and culture of our school can be measured in her unbridled prosperity, her national reputation, and her unwavering optimism." Here are stories of these esteemed members of our faculty and staff as told by their colleagues. Mr. Hank Bristol '72, by Beth Yakoby, Middle School History teacher.

"Staring deep into a watercolor painting of pastel hues, I behold waves crashing violently along a jagged coastline of moss-covered boulders. Nestling further back among conifers, a Maine home provides the idyllic vacation spot. The painting is the work of the Reverend Henry (Hank) Bristol II '72, and either he or his wife Susan could have easily designed the house. The two met studying architecture in graduate school at the University of Virginia. A man of multiple talents—artist, architect, sailor—to name only a few, Mr. Bristol has served Princeton Day School as a 7th and 8th grade history teacher for just over a decade and spearheaded the Middle School squash program. For five years, he coached our squash teams. But if asked about his greatest interest, Mr. Bristol would undoubtedly and affectionately reply, "Fatherhood." He and Susan are the proud parents of three PDS alumni: Clark '06, Rachel '09, and Benjamin '13.

Mr. Bristol found his second home in Room 122 and, just as within the walls of a home, warmth and compassion have permeated his classroom. Mr. Bristol cares about not only his students' academic growth but also their emotional wellbeing. It is only proper and fitting that when interacting with his pupils, he wears his heart on his sleeve. When I asked students for their thoughts on Mr. Bristol, I received a wide-range of responses: "Mr. Bristol is always calm, and he provides strategies for different learners," "He teaches a topic like it is a story," "He is soft-spoken, but when he speaks it's deliberate and powerful, and he has intelligent humor," "Mr. Bristol is so cool; he wears totally weird sneakers for the grade eight versus faculty basketball game," "Mr. Bristol really gets into the Gettysburg Mini-Course Week, like really gets into it."

Having witnessed Mr. Bristol in action as a guest in his classroom, I have come to appreciate two hallmarks of his history lessons: they come complete with rough sketches covering the chalkboard, providing visual enhancements of study topics, and they somehow unwaveringly include a mention of Bowdoin College, Mr. Bristol's alma mater. More importantly, his lessons reflect his acute awareness that students acquire knowledge in different ways. Indeed, Mr. Bristol successfully meets the needs of all learners by varying his lessons. One distinguishing component of Mr. Bristol's classes is that they involve an interdisciplinary approach to the past. For example, his 7th grade students create detailed drawings of the thirteen English colonies and put them on display so that others can learn about the geography of our nation's early years. His 8th grade pupils adore their project on the Roaring Twenties in which they explore their individual passions while at the same time learning about the life and culture of the United States during the 1920s.

For me, Mr. Bristol has been far more than a colleague. He has been a close friend and confidant. With a gentle and compassionate heart, he has a sixth sense for knowing when a co-worker could use supportive and loving words. He offers wisdom and logic to help others gracefully face life's complex challenges. This is an innate gift that he has developed further with his recent appointment as a Deacon at St. David's Episcopal Church, allowing him the official title of Reverend Hank Bristol II. Indeed, Princeton Day School has benefitted greatly over the years by Mr. Bristol as he sailed through his threefold role: student, parent, and educator. He will be deeply missed by the whole PDS community but particularly by Middle School students and faculty, his extended family."