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Friends, former students share treasured memories of MPH’s Baxter Ball

Baxter Ball, headmaster at Manlius Pebble Hill School in DeWitt since 1990, died overnight Feb. 13. Many have been touched by his leadership through the years, and The Post-Standard asked readers to share their remembrances. Here are some:

Carl, Michelle and Joe (class of 2012) Sopchak
Baxter was the ultimate headmaster … a lion and a lamb!

He was a gentle soul with the strength to stand behind his convictions. He’s assembled a top rate faculty and staff, and fostered a culture wherein the kids really do come first … rare indeed.

He was the head of a very large family and we’ll miss his cheerful, caring, unassuming demeanor on the MPH campus. He will forever be in those halls and in our hearts. A life well lived … may he rest in peace.

Edward J. O’Connor::
I remember when “Mr. Ball” and I met to get my list of colleges during my junior year at Albany Academy (Ball worked there before coming to MPH). It was an exciting day for me … thinking of applying to college!!

I am sure he was smoking and that the AC in his office was going as were his habits! He presented me with a list of 10 to 15 colleges that might be a good match for me. Some household names, some that sounded familiar, and a few outliers.

One school sounded like a radio station — WPI. I had never heard of it. Worcester Polytechnic Institute he said, in Worcester, Mass.. Now I had a lot of family in Massachusetts so I was surprised I never heard of it. Kinda like RPI, he said, but a bit smaller and away from home … so I said OK, I would check it out.

Not only did I wind up attending WPI, but now almost 25 years later I am the dean of admissions there. … Thanks for pointing me in the right direction, Mr. Ball.

Peter Shepley:
Since 1983, we had more fun than anyone should be allowed to have. The world is a bit dimmer today.
Baxter’s colleague, 1983-1988
Baxter’s friend, 1983- this week

Dan and Kathy Ruscitto:

Our daughter, Elizabeth, was at MPH from kindergarten through 12th grade. Baxter was the headmaster for the entire time. We learned to admire his dedication, enjoy his wit and learned from him what it is to be a passionate educator.

Over the years we referred many families to him who were looking for a unique educational experience. Whether children were gifted or challenged, Baxter took time to inspire them. We all feel a tremendous loss for the community.

John W. Johnson III, Albany Academy 1984:

I am saddened to hear of the too early death of Baxter Ball, my teacher, head of upper school and a mentor.

I, having pursued a life in education, have often reflected and modeled my work on Baxter as a teacher, advisor and school leader. He had a marked ability to impart knowledge, advise and comradery to young men.

I have a high school junior working on the college admissions process and I am following the Baxter approach with her. When I taught European and American History I would try to start and sustain dialogues on grand issues/concepts like Baxter’s class.

When I was a principal, I longed for the ability to teach a section of a course for a semester each year like Baxter did to keep connected and fresh. This is why I continue to work on my dissertation so I can teach again one course a year (part-time) at college level.

I spent my free hours daily in his office senior year sharing wit, wisdom, ideas and coffee. What I learned from Baxter Ball is a distinction that while not on my diploma I carry in my brain and heart.

Heather Wheelock-Alfreds:

I saw your article on Baxter as I learned of the news today. It pains me to think about it since I knew him since I was 14 years old. I was never a student of his at MPH but was very close with him through the years.

Baxter was my confidant and my mentor. He urged me to be the best that I could ever be without ever telling me that my dreams were never in touch.

He saw me through my trials and tribulations with my parents and with that I became a better person

He helped me through a rough time with my marriage and when I was having problems with one of my daughters. Without him I would of been lost.

I will miss him dearly along with the rest of the community.