The Student News Site of Harvard-Westlake School

The Harvard-Westlake Chronicle

The Student News Site of Harvard-Westlake School

The Harvard-Westlake Chronicle

The Student News Site of Harvard-Westlake School

The Harvard-Westlake Chronicle


Notable families in the school community discuss their various impacts and their presence among students and faculty.
Illustration by Iris Chung/original painting by Martin Van Meytens, PD-US-expired

It is 1997. Upper School Dean Sharon Cuseo walks into Rugby Auditorium as she searches for a seat at “West Side Story.” Spotting the Platt family, she goes to sit next to them. Cuseo and the Platts have not known each other for long — in fact, they met for the first time the week before when their oldest child, Samantha Platt ’01, came to campus for her applicant interview. In years to come, the Platts would send all of their children to the school, forming an unofficial “dynasty,” and remaining a prominent name in the school community. Cuseo said she enjoyed being able to make more memories with the Platt siblings as their dean.

“I vividly remember my interview with Samantha Platt,” Cuseo said. “It was like the universe introducing me to the amazing Platt family. She and I had the most intense conversation about the musical ‘Rent’ because she and I had both just seen it. There was a musical at Harvard-Westlake that next week, and the Platt family was there, [though] they hadn’t been admitted yet. From the very beginning of their time at Harvard-Westlake, we sat in the auditorium and watched musicals together. That experience happened many more times over the years, which made it even more meaningful.”

Marc Platt is a renowned producer in film, television and theater, best-known for his contributions to “Dear Evan Hansen,” “Wicked,” “Legally Blonde” and “La La Land” according to Playbill. He and his wife, Julie Platt, sent their five kids to the school over the span of 20 years. All the Platt children were extensively involved in theater during high school with Ben Platt ’11 later becoming prominent in Broadway and television. Cuseo said a family becomes a dynasty when they stay connected with the school for an exceedingly long time.

“If [parents] like the school enough to invest so much time and money into their kids going here from the beginning to the end, that’s a long time to be connected to an institution,” Cuseo said. “That’s what makes [a dynasty] more than anything. The only type of people who have a historical connection like that are people who work here, so those families are entering that level of connection. A group of siblings would be less of a dynasty if they were each one year apart, even if there were five or six of them. But if you have a kid at the school over the course of 20 years, then you become a dynasty.”

The Platt family and relatives (printed with permission of Sharon Cuseo)

The definition of a dynasty is a “powerful group or family that maintains its position for a considerable time,” according to Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

From a business perspective, the word means a cohesive economic entity in which family values last for generations, according to Private Wealth Advisor John Thompson. While families at the school are often not more than two or three generations of students and alumni, there can be values and interests that are passed down through a couple of siblings who have attended the school.

Cuseo said that a student in a prominent family may feel pressure when their siblings are all successful in a single extracurricular.

“Sometimes, it’s hard when you have an extreme talent in something,” Cuseo said. “If a family is just a bunch of nice, well-rounded kids, then there’s less pressure. But when you’ve got siblings who are all talented at something, you could come and be a strong student who’s involved and is a leader on a normal level, and you would feel disappointed because you weren’t nationally recognized or Head Prefect.”

The Cosgroves, another large family at the school, is made up of Julia Cosgrove ’18, Jonathan Cosgrove ’21, former Editor-in-Chief Natalie Cosgrove ’23 and Caroline Cosgrove ’26. Julia and Jonathan Cosgrove both served as Head Prefect, and Caroline Cosgrove is currently a Sophomore Prefect. Like the Platt siblings, all Cosgrove siblings had Cuseo serve as their dean. Cuseo said some dynasties are recognized because of a certain brand they embody.

“Another dynasty is the Thomas [family],” Cuseo said, “There was Lizzie Thomas, Matt Thomas, John Thomas and Mike Thomas. They had strong athletes, leaders, math, science and humanities, but there was never a particular thing. But there is a Platt brand, and there is a Cosgrove brand.”

Caroline Cosgrove is closest in age to Natalie Cosgrove, but the two were never on one campus at the same time. Caroline Cosgrove said she does not perceive her family to be a dynasty because they do not have many mutual acquaintances.

The Cosgrove family (printed with permission of Caroline Cosgrove)

“We didn’t have much overlap as a big family,” Caroline Cosgrove said. “Some teachers and deans know all of us, and they see our similarities and our differences, so sometimes they’ll comment on it. I wouldn’t say that people think we’re a dynasty. I know that because there are a lot of us, it might seem that way, but we’re all separate people. My oldest sister and I are seven years apart, so we don’t have that many people [that we know] in common. But it’s well-known that all of us were present in the school community.”

Students are represented by four Prefects from each grade in addition to two Head Prefects who oversee the entire council. These students are elected through grade-level elections held in the spring. Caroline Cosgrove said she and her siblings all found an interest in serving the student body.

“It may seem like there’s some sort of driving force or pressure to be successful academically or with activities, but our parents’ main focus is for us to be happy with what we’re doing,” Cosgrove said. “Just because of the way things turned out, we all happen to have similar paths, but it wasn’t a calculated thing. It just happened, and they happened to be similar. I don’t think they [thought] we should all run for Prefect. It just happened to be that we all gravitated towards helping the student body in that way.”

Caroline Cosgrove said having multiple kids who have attended the school can make it easier for parents to navigate the experience.

“There’s only so much [a parent] can know by having one kid at Harvard-Westlake,” Caroline Cosgrove said. “We’re all similar, but we still look at things in different ways sometimes, so having that adds perspective and helps them get the full story of the school.”

When Jonathan Cosgrove first came to the school in seventh grade, his oldest sister Julia was in her first year at the Upper School. When he became a senior, his youngest sister Caroline Cosgrove started her first year at the school. Jonathan Cosgrove said he was able to witness his family become a dynasty because he was a student at the same time as all of his siblings.

“When I was at Harvard-Westlake, I felt like our family was a dynasty in the making,” Jonathan Cosgrove said. “I was only the second one, so it’s not like we’d had many siblings go though already. I know the Platts finished up Harvard-Westlake a few years before I got there, and that was a big dynasty. For us, I was there during the process of it happening because I had one older sister and two younger sisters starting. By my senior year, I started to see a dynasty take shape because that’s when Caroline started.”

In addition to the four Cosgrove siblings, their mother, Rona Cosgrove ’85, attended the Westlake School. Jonathan Cosgrove said his family has always made sure the school is a part of his life since childhood.

“My mom went to Westlake as well, and she loved it,” Jonathan Cosgrove said. “Those were formative years of her life, and a lot of her best friends to this day are people she met at Westlake. I’m also friends with her friends’ kids. I feel like Harvard-Westlake is something we all grew up with because our mom went there and loved it.”

Leila Mercado-Quinn ’25 said dynasties emerge from a group of siblings when they have a well-known brand.

“There are definitely groups of siblings that everyone just knows about because they’re so involved in the community,” Mercado-Quinn said. “In some ways they can feel like dynasties because everyone knows of them and what they do, but not everyone knows them personally. Especially when they all do the same extracurriculars or they’re just similar people personality-wise. It doesn’t happen with everyone, but at Harvard-Westlake, there is a pattern of younger siblings following in the footsteps of the older ones, which can lead to people recognizing them as a dynasty.”

Mercado-Quinn said the concept of a dynasty would not exist if the culture of the school was less self-interested.

“I also think it’s just so [in character for] Harvard-Westlake people to call these families dynasties,” Mercado-Quinn said. “The word ‘dynasty’ is a little pretentious in nature, and even though the concept of dynasties exists at Harvard-Westlake, I don’t think it would exist in a more relaxed and less tense setting. When people think of themselves as being a dynasty, I think that comes from a sense of self-importance.”

The Dees siblings—Kendall Dees ’19, Taylor Dees ’21, Deven Dees ’22 and Jordan Dees ’24—are another large family in the school community. Jordan Dees said she is often recognized at school by people who knew or taught one of her sisters.

“Every time I walk into a department, and I’m like, ‘Hi, Dr. [Yanni Vourgourakis ’90]’ or whoever it is, all the teachers will turn their heads, and they’re like, ‘Oh my God, are you a Dees? I taught your sister.’” Jordan Dees said. “There’s a lot of those connections. This also happens amongst the students as well.”

The Dees sisters (printed with permission of Jordan Dees)

Due to their smaller age gap, Jordan and Deven Dees spent a year at the Upper School together. Jordan Dees said even after her siblings have graduated, she still feels their presence because they all played prominent roles in the community.

“My family makes merchandise sometimes, so we’ll have something like ‘Deven Dees’s 18th Birthday’ sweatshirts,” Jordan Dees said. “One time, I was walking on the Quad after Deven graduated, and I saw a random person that I didn’t know who was wearing the sweatshirt. I was like ‘You know my sister?’ and he was like, ‘I love your sister.’ Sometimes, I walk into a classroom, and someone that I don’t know hears my voice and turns around and is able to identify that I’m a Dees kid. In those senses, I do feel the presence of having sisters who went here because they left such a big impact on the school.”

Taylor Dees was involved in theater, improv and was Head Fanatic at the school. She also served as a Peer Support Coordinator, one of four overseers of the program. Like her older sister, Jordan Dees is also a Peer Support Coordinator this year. Taylor Dees said there were certain activities that she encouraged her younger siblings to participate in because of how much she enjoyed them.

“My older sister and I were dramatically different in terms of our interests,” Taylor Dees said. “For the most part, we were on separate paths, but it was nice to have her as a source of support and to turn to her for questions about social things. But for my younger siblings [and] the things that I was passionate about like Peer Support, it was a no brainer for me to make sure that they did it.”

Taylor Dees said she enjoyed being able to watch her younger siblings grow throughout their time at the school.

“I’m probably Harvard-Westlake’s biggest fan,” Taylor Dees said. “It’s such a magical place. From the perspective of [an] older sibling, getting to watch my two younger sisters fall into their place at the school was an amazing experience. I’m different from Kendall, and Deven and Jordan are different from me. But I loved getting to watch them figure out who they were in the context of the school.”

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