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Mary Cattan ’60: A Mission to Write

Mary Turner Cattan ’60, a psychotherapist and spiritual director, published her first book, Pilgrimage of Awakening: The Extraordinary Lives of Murray and Mary Rogers, in June. The biography follows the lives of two missionaries and their transformation into proponents of interfaith dialogue. We asked Mary a few questions about her own journey . . .


How did you choose your career path?

Graduating from college in 1964, I was blissfully unliberated, too busy tending to my firstborn to delve into Betty Friedan’s Feminine Mystique (1963) or to consider I might have a career path beyond matrimony. Yet that first calling—raising four children—was challenging and deeply satisfying. By age 40, I had learned that human relationships are much more complicated (and fascinating!) than I had ever imagined. Experiences of loss and failure propelled me to wake up and to learn as much as I could about the intersection of human psychology and spirituality. It led to my second calling—chosen much more consciously—as a spiritual director and psychotherapist. Awareness and life-giving human connection—with oneself, with intimate others, and with the loving, life-giving energy of the universe (that some might call God) became my passion. It was that passion, driven by curiosity, that led to my writing Pilgrimage of Awakening.

Did you have any teachers at Walnut Hill who influenced your passion for writing?

Actually, my passion was for the story that cried out to be told. Writing, which I find incredibly hard work, was the necessary vehicle. Of all my teachers at Walnut Hill, Miss Clark challenged me the most to develop writing skills. She was a very quirky, old-fashioned teacher. She had us reading James Joyce, and her writing assignments were tough. As was her grading! No messing around in Miss Clark’s class!

What advice would you give to someone tackling a major project or writing a book?

What I needed most for my project was structure. For me, the saving grace was a doctoral program that required me to meet deadlines. Through Andover Newton Theological School, I was provided with a loving but strict advisor who said, “Just Velcro your bottom to that chair and WRITE!”

What is your favorite memory from your time at Walnut Hill?

My favorite memories involve relationships with friends. Fifty-six years later, Christie Coon, my roommate for three years at Walnut Hill, is still among my closest friends! Back then, we would gather, with three or four others, in someone’s room, door closed. Some of us were knitters, and we would talk, talk, talk about our lives and gossip. Exploits with boyfriends—actual or wished for—were of great interest. Friday evenings were special for me. At most meals in the Eliot dining room, our every move was scrutinized by a faculty member at the head of the table. But Fridays we were allowed to sit for supper without faculty supervision! There was always ice cream for dessert and no rush to go to evening study halls. Just time to connect. Very occasionally a weekend dinner would be spiced up by some guests—a busload of “boys” from a neighboring prep school. A joint glee club concert and perhaps a dance in the gym would follow. We were to “mix”—just not too much! Spotlights were turned up for the walk between Eliot and the gym to be sure the strict rule of not stepping off the sidewalk into the shadows was enforced. Since the blueberry pie we’d all enjoyed for dessert left our teeth and tongues stained purple, the temptation for stolen kisses was kept in check!

Pilgrimage of Awakening: The Extraordinary Lives of Murray and Mary Rogers is available on Amazon.

Introducing Our Telethon Hosts

It’s almost that time of year again . . . time for the fifth annual Walnut Hill Telethon! Telethon has become a beloved school tradition since its inception in 2014, and we are looking forward to this year’s iteration, taking place from 4:30pm to 8:30pm on Sunday, December 9. As we are in the midst of our 125th Anniversary year, this Telethon will be extra-special as we celebrate the rich history of our School and raise vital funds to support our programs and students. Keep an eye on your phone that evening for a call from one of our student volunteers, and make a gift to support the Annual Fund. We also hope you’ll tune into the show on our Livestream channel and join in on the fun! Four wonderful alumni have agreed to serve as our hosts for the evening, each hosting one hour of the four-hour program. Read on below to get to know these distinguished Walnuts!

Jennifer Caudle ’95, also known as Dr. Jen, is a family medicine physician and associate professor at Rowan University–School of Osteopathic Medicine. After graduating from our music program, Jen graduated with honors from Princeton University and earned her medical degree at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey–School of Osteopathic Medicine. Prior to her current position at Rowan, she was a faculty member at Johns Hopkins University. Jen frequently appears on-air as a health expert for many local and national news programs, and has been seen on programs such as Megyn Kelly Today and The Dr. Oz Show, as well as on HLN, FOX News, and CBS Philly 3 News.

Joshua Holden ’01 graduated from Walnut Hill’s Theater Department and went on to receive his B.F.A. in acting from the Chicago College of Performing Arts, Roosevelt University. He is an award-winning puppeteer based in New York and recently toured the country with his one-man puppet show, The Joshua Show. Named one of “20 Theatre Workers You Should Know” by American Theatre magazine, Joshua has toured with Avenue Q, served as Lead Puppeteer for Peter Pan 360, and even collaborated with international street artist Banksy. You may remember Joshua as the host of our second annual Telethon in 2015, and he’s back this year for more!

Nicole Gakidis ’81 is a graduate of our former gymnastics program. After graduating from Walnut Hill, she earned her B.S. in mass communications from Emerson College with minors in theater and psychology. After a successful career in healthcare marketing and communications, Nicole launched her own executive search practice, helping nonprofit organizations with their recruitment needs. Nicole is a recent addition to our Board of Trustees, as well as a member of our Ambassador Circle. In addition to these roles, Nicole has another important connection to our School: she is the mother of Tori Cargill ’18, who graduated from our Theater Department this past spring.

Nicholas Christopher ’08 might be a familiar face to anyone who has seen the national tour of Hamilton, which performs at the Boston Opera House through this weekend. Before his current stint as Aaron Burr, Nick also appeared in the Broadway version of the show as George Washington, replacing Christopher Jackson, and was even part of the early readings and workshops of the show before it hit the stage in 2015. Other credits include the national tour of In the Heights and the Broadway productions of Motown and Miss Saigon. Nick recently visited Walnut Hill to speak to our student body about his career and time at Walnut Hill, and we are thrilled to welcome him to campus yet again on December 9.