A few weeks ago, I sent out a From the Archives… article featuring KUA graduates who had become college presidents for the years 1816-1880. One of the graduates, Herbert Marston Andrews, class of 1871, of Enfield, New Hampshire, was president of Woodstock College in Mussoorie, Uttarakhand, India. I wondered if Woodstock College might actually be the Woodstock School that has a direct connection to KUA today. Through a little more research, I now feel certain of it having read the history of the school on their current web page. I read under the year 1897, the following information:
The ruckus over Halley’s Comet – the day of the advent of Halley’s Comet was anticipated with much fear in Woodstock as elsewhere. As the school gathered for evening prayers, a sudden violent gust of wind tore the roof off the building, blew in all the windows, extinguished the candles and filled the room with dust and debris. “One little girl danced up and down screaming, ‘The comet’s tail come! The comet’s tail come!’ over and over. Girls clung to each other in tears – loud sobbing, screaming, wild running around the place.” Through it all the Principal, “Daddy Andrews,” continued his prayer.”
Many of you know that KUA’s Assistant Head of School and Theatre Director, David Weidman, attended Woodstock School and has taken several student trips to different places in India, including his old school. The coincidence of Herbert Andrews and David Weidman being at the same school in India, separated by 100 years is quite marvelous, considering time and distance. I asked Mr. Weidman to share a few thoughts with us of his early life growing up in the foothills of the Himalayas.
Your parents were missionaries, I believe. Did they choose
to go to India or did their church send them there?
In the old days missionaries committed themselves to the mission organization and were sent where they needed them to go. I think my parents were probably asked if they were willing to go to India, and they said “yes.” My Dad worked in education for twenty years and then for ten years in agricultural and rural development.
Were you born in India?
I was born in Kharagpus, West Bengal, near Calcutta or what is now called Kolkatta, in a railway hospital. My dad was horribly sick with dysentery in the bed opposite my mother when she was giving birth to me. So he wasn’t able to help her much.
I’ve read that Woodstock is among the best schools in India. Is that the reason your parents sent you and your brother and sister there along with its reputation as a school for children of missionaries?
When I was school age, my parents had three good options for our education. One international school in South India called Kokai Canal, one school in North India – Woodstock – or home schooling. Woodstock had an excellent reputation even back then, so they made the right choice!
How long did you study and board at the school?
I was a boarding student there from first grade through twelfth grade, save for seventh grade when I attended a public junior high school in Yakima, Washington. Missionaries take furlough every five years or so, when they return to their home country to rest and talk with churches about their work.
Was the faculty and administration mostly drawn from India itself? I imagine the native people you lived with were very warm and caring towards foreign students as well as their own. Did you feel that way?
Woodstock School is one of the first international boarding schools
in the world, educating students from all over the world, whether they are the children of resident or non-resident Indians, diplomats, missionaries or just international students looking for an excellent education, much like KUA. The staff is also international along with many Indian nationals.
When did you return to the States to live permanently?
In 1975 I returned to Wheaton College in Illinois. In 1982 I returned to India for a four-year teaching gig at Woodstock. I taught English, music, and theatre. It was my first teaching job.
Do you keep in contact or visit the school and people you knew there?
Yes, absolutely. I have many Indian friends. At the school there are very few people remaining that I knew, but some of my students have returned to work there now. And so the legacy continues.
How many KUA students have studied there since you’ve been at KUA? Have any Woodstock students come to KUA?
Five or six students have studied at Woodstock and they have sent three students to KUA as part of our GAIL exchange program.
I know you’ve taken KUA students to India? How many so far?
I have taken three trips to India: two cultural/service trips and one musical tour with “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” It was an amazing experience to return to my alma mater and where I began my directing career with a stage production that was done in collaboration with Woodstock. Their fifth grade chorus provided the children’s chorus, an integral part of this production. These children also traveled to Delhi with us for two performances in the Delhi metropolitan area. It was a huge task to organize this endeavor, and except for our cast getting quite violently ill with “Delhi Belly” while we were in India, we had a marvelous time.
Could you tell us a little about the school, the countryside and their goals as a school?
The school is an international school with a Christian emphasis. It serves students from as many as 40-50 countries. It is rated the number one school in India almost every year, competing with the Doon School, a nearby neighbor. The school prepares students for colleges throughout the world, with Indian certifications, the A and O levels for Commonwealth countries and the Advanced Placement as well. Woodstock’s website states, “Woodstock School strives for excellence in teaching and learning, offering an exceptional education in a
diverse international community. Inspired by our Indian Himalayan environment and our Christian tradition, we cultivate visionary, articulate and ethical individuals equipped to achieve their full potential in life and in leadership.”This amazing school is constantly updating its infrastructure and continues to keep pace with the needs of the modern student. It’s technological proficiency rivals KUA’s, though they don’t have access to SMART Boards and other similar tools.
Would you like to spend extended time in Mussoorie and India in
general as you did as a child and young man?
Absolutely. I would love to own a home in the Himalayas and spend a part of each year in India as part of my retirement. It is still very much like home, though I am also happy to reside and work in the United States. A “third culture kid” always feels an attraction to a place that is not necessarily his nationality. I am considering getting a dual citizenship. It is called, “non-resident Indian status.”
Thank you, David, for sharing some of your first-hand knowledge of India with us. It sounds like an amazing place to spend one’s childhood.
We have another interesting connection to the Woodstock School from Communications Associate, Kit Creeger, whose aunt and uncle also taught there. His aunt kindly sent us a few memories of her time at the school.
Jim and I were at Woodstock School from 1958 to 1961. We were sent [to India] by the Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church; Jim taught the four years of high school English and I the same group in math. We lived in the high school boys’ dorm where their supervision was our
job. The student body was largely missionary children but government aid workers’ children were also enrolled. I recall that students came from 35 different countries! From 1971-1981 we were in India again. Jim taught at Baring Union Christian College in the Punjab while, once again, I spent much of my time at Woodstock, again teaching math when they were short a teacher, but largely making a home for our three children who weren’t fond of boarding in the dorms. That must have been the time I remember David Weidman.
It is amazing to think of the historical connections between Kimball Union and Woodstock that continue to the present day.