School hosts 800+ for celebration of Ted Walch’s career


Printed with permission of Ed Hu

Jacob Soboroff ’01 addresses the audience filled with hundreds of friends and family of Ted Walch in Taper Gym.

Davis Marks

Community members celebrated the life and career of former Performing Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies and Independent Research Teacher Ted Walch at an event at the Upper School on Sunday. Walch, who taught at the school for over three decades, retired in August after being diagnosed with brain cancer.

The event, organized by producer Marc Platt and the school, offered over 800 in-person attendees and virtual viewers the opportunity to honor Walch with him present. The Today Show on NBC is also producing a segment about Walch’s life and career and will feature footage from the event and testimonials from attendees.

Head of Upper School Beth Slattery said the purpose of the event was to celebrate Walch’s impact on the school community.

“This event really came out of the idea of what a blessing it would be for Walch to actually be there,” Slattery said. “I was in charge of his email because he couldn’t type, and reading tribute after tribute [people sent to Walch] showed he is emblematic of what good teaching can do. I love the idea of bringing all these people from different parts of his life, and [it is great for] him to be able to enjoy how much he means to thousands of people in his life.”

Upper School Dean Sharon Cuseo said students admire Walch because of the confidence he inspires in them.

“Walch is one of the most beloved and influential teachers who [has] ever taught at the school,” Cuseo said. “He believed in every student he ever taught. To have a teacher that thinks you’re brilliant in whatever way you are brilliant is an incredible gift that will be missed.”

Attendees were welcomed into Taper Gymnasium at the start of the event to watch a program honoring Walch. In addition to pre-recorded videos, the program featured live speeches and performances from President Rick Commons, actresses Allison Janney and Beanie Feldstein ’11, singer and actor Ben Platt ’11, journalists David Ignatius and Jacob Soboroff ’01, former President Tom Hudnut, members of Walch’s family and others. Following the program, attendees ate dinner from food trucks on Ted Slavin Field and socialized with each other and Walch.

Hudnut hired Walch in 1991 to create a theater program for the school. Walch directed the school’s theatrical productions and built up the performing arts department while serving as the Performing Arts Department Chair. In recent years, Walch taught Cinema Studies, a course that teaches seniors how to deeply examine and understand film, and co-taught Philosophy in Art and Science with Mathematics Teacher Kevin Weis, which examined various philosophical principles through a collection of works. Since 2016, Walch hosted Cinema Sundays, a Kutler Center program in which he screened a variety of films and hosted discussions about them.

Performing Arts Teacher Mark Hilt said Walch strengthened the school’s art program and became a close friend.

“It’s always wonderful to be able to celebrate the achievements of one of ours, whether student, faculty or staff; being able to do that while Walch can be with us is doubly satisfying,” Hilt said. “Even though [the school] had strong performing arts traditions before Walch’s arrival, he solidified and amplified the importance of the arts in the curriculum of every student. He is a generation older than me and is actually like a brother in many ways. I have become a better teacher because of Walch’s influence these past 25 years.”

Performing Arts Department Head Aaron Martin said Walch is a welcoming figure who is naturally able to engage with others.

“I’ve always viewed Walch as a mentor and a friend,” Martin said. “He is truly family, and it feels like he’s a part of us all. You always see Walch talking to somebody and he [can always] just immediately join a conversation or a table. Walch has touched almost everyone who has walked through these halls, and while in many ways he is the most welcomed person at [the school], he’s also the most welcoming.”

Shanti Hinkin ’22, who led the Westflix film festival and was involved in the school’s theater and choral programs, said Walch always supported her during her time at the school.

“Walch has only ever encouraged me in my passions and given me and so many others a really loving and comforting support as we navigated some really transitional points in our lives,” Hinkin said. “I hold him in such high esteem because of his vast experience in the arts and in teaching, so his praise means so much. He is such a charming and clever man that you can really feel like you are speaking with a longtime companion even when you haven’t known him for long.”

Commons said Walch’s legacy is rooted in his positive influence on people throughout his career.

“The greatest thing about Walch is actually not that he’s one of the best teachers that we’ve ever known –– it’s that his students mattered to him so much,” Commons said. “You would think the legacy of someone who spends his life in schools is that he was the finest teacher anyone had ever encountered, but that is somewhere behind the way in which Walch affects students and colleagues as a mentor and friend.”