Award to Sawitz '75 highlights 2022 Alumni Weekend

Steve Sawitz ’75, the fourth generation in his family to run Miami’s iconic Joe’s Stone Crab restaurant, received the Head of School’s Award during an April 23 lunch that served as a centerpiece of an exciting and jam-packed 2022 Alumni Weekend, the first on-campus reunion event in three years. Head of School Penny Townsend presented the award, lauding Sawitz for his commitment to tradition and innovation and noting the parallels between the 109-year-old restaurant and Ransom Everglades, which she called “two pillars in our magical city.”
“With your leadership, commitment and service to the school, its students, faculty and alumni,” she said, “you are an inspiration for the entire school community.”

The weekend brought together the usual reunion classes and those that missed previous in-person celebrations because of the pandemic. It offered alumni a special open house for the Constance and Miguel Fernandez STEM Center, which many had not seen since it opened August 2020. The weekend attracted hundreds of alumni from as far afield as London and as far back as the 1950s, and it included a powerful Service of Remembrance that honored recently departed members of the RE community, including legendary teacher Mike Stokes. The April 21-24 event also included the usual mix of receptions and class reunions, alumni athletic events and the sailing regatta, a mangrove clean up, and more.

“It would be impossible to capture all the good will, good cheer and just plain goodness that was spread around both campuses during Alumni Weekend,” Townsend said. “Regardless of the event or the venue, the themes of the weekend were consistent: lifelong friends, inclusion, character, resilience, hard work, determination, disappointment and recovery, relationships with teachers, healthy rivalries, educating the whole kid, bonds that last a lifetime, academic challenge, and deep connections.”

Festivities began with the RE Athletic Hall of Fame inductions of Bert Irigoyen '12, Kevin Grossfeld '95, Jonathan "Joner" Strauss '00 and Carrie Walpole '96 at the Pagoda on April 21. Read more here. The weekend continued with a celebration of RE’s 50-year club at Joe’s Stone Crab on April 22 along with the Alumni Spring Reception, an evening gathering in the Touzet Quad. 

The busiest day of the reunion weekend opened with the Service of Remembrance for alumni, faculty, staff, trustees and special friends who had passed away since fall 2020. The event at the Posner Lecture Hall in the Fernandez STEM Center honored 36 departed community members, including Stokes – who was remembered by Mike Maisel ’68, Charles Seitz ’73, Peter DeMaria ’02 and Assistant Head of School John A. King, Jr.

That solemn event was followed by the Head of School Luncheon, which featured an address by Townsend, who shared updates on important initiatives at RE: the current expansion to the La Brisa side of campus; the recent launch of the Holzman Center of Applied Ethics; the addition last summer of Director of Inclusion and Community Engagement Wendell Graham ’74 and DEI Consultant to Ransom Everglades Victoria Beatty ’00; and increasing emphasis and attention at RE to environmental sustainability – evidenced in part by the new solar panels on the gymnasium roof – and health and wellness, illustrated by the new Lampen Family Wellness Center.

“The buildings are one thing,” Townsend said. “It’s people who activate the buildings and the programs we have, and who are most important.”

Chris Moore ’76, who nominated Sawitz for the award, offered remarks during the luncheon, emphasizing his former classmate’s vision: “Steve constantly strived to become better … He took the family business and he launched it to a completely new level … It means so much to everyone in South Florida … You make us proud. Steve, we love you.”

Sawitz thanked Moore and several friends, and shared particular appreciation for his mother, Jo Ann Bass; wife, Ross; and daughter, Julia, whom he credited with being “the spark that ignited my return to Ransom Everglades.”

The luncheon immediately preceded the Constance and Miguel Fernandez STEM Center Open House and Campaign Celebration. Current students and faculty under the direction of STEM Department Chair Doug Heller ’80 performed chemistry, biology, robotics, math, engineering and physics experiments and demonstrations in various classrooms and laboratories throughout the facility, welcoming and entertaining the alumni and other members of the RE community who flocked to the facility throughout the afternoon. Read more here.

The events on campus concluded with a first-time Black Alumni Reception, an event in the Pagoda hosted by the RE Alumni Association, and kicked off by the director of inclusion, Graham, along with Cheyenne Range ’14 and trustee James Weaver ’90

The day also included a number of special reunions, some of which had been delayed by the pandemic. Alumni had an opportunity to connect with Director of Alumni Engagement Vicki Carbonell Williamson ’88 and Director of Advancement Melanie Hoffmann throughout the weekend. They also heard from alumni board co-presidents Vanessa Chartouni-de la Serna ’90 and Todd Mestepey ’91, who urged their peers to stay in touch, give back to RE and invite fellow alumni.

“We always say that your time at RE doesn’t end when you graduate,” Chartouni-de la Serna said. “It really is just beginning. This is a community for life.”

Said Mestepey: “Once you are a Raider, you’re always a Raider. This alumni association will be here for you today, tomorrow and forever.”
Founded in 1903, Ransom Everglades School is a coeducational, college preparatory day school for grades 6 - 12 located on two campuses in Coconut Grove, Florida. Ransom Everglades School produces graduates who "believe that they are in the world not so much for what they can get out of it as for what they can put into it." The school provides rigorous college preparation that promotes the student's sense of identity, community, personal integrity and values for a productive and satisfying life, and prepares the student to lead and to contribute to society.