When Tom Iampietro—better known as the one and only “Mr. I”—retired this June from Hamden Hall after 17 years of service, he got some unexpected news in front of several hundred guests at 2019 Prize Day.
Head of School Bob Izzo not only presented Mr. I with a prestigious Hamden Hall Chair, but he also announced the establishment of The Tom Iampietro Scholarship to honor Mr. I’s contributions and dedication to our school.
“At Hamden Hall, Mr. I has experienced it all!” Mr. Izzo said. “Beyond teaching, coaching three sports, and chairing the history department, Mr. I has served as senior class dean and advisor and associate director of college counseling.”
Mr. Izzo described Mr. I’s retirement as “bittersweet,” especially for the seniors.
“The Class of 2019 will be the final graduates who will benefit from Mr. I’s tenable knowledge and insight,” Mr. Izzo said. “Tom has been the senior class dean for more graduating classes than I can recall, and he has been instrumental in coordinating our annual commencement exercises. ”
Mr. Izzo wished Mr. I the best in his retirement, telling the esteemed member of the Hamden Hall community that he will be missed.
For Mr. I, his years at Hamden Hall capped an industrious career in education spanning nearly five decades.
So it was no surprise that when he first arrived at Hamden Hall in Fall 2002 to take over the helm of the history department, it didn’t take him long to get acclimated. For starters, he just wrapped up a 25-year stretch at Stoneleigh-Burnham School, a private boarding and day school in Greenfield, Mass. As history department chair, he also taught, worked in college counseling, and served in a number of other administrative posts.
Mr. I launched his career in 1972 in college counseling at Colgate University, first as a student volunteer, then intern, and finally part-time staff member. He also started coaching in the 1970s, noting he was “fortunate to witness the progress Title IX brought.” Mr. I would spend the better part of his career coaching varsity women's sports—ice hockey, field hockey, soccer, volleyball, and lacrosse. He began his teaching career in 1975 in Chappaqua, N.Y.
At Hamden Hall, Mr. I leaves behind a lasting impact on hundreds of students and athletes.
Alumna Blake Acquarulo, Class of 2012, recalled his influence. “Mr. I is without question the best educator I have ever learned from, and he saw something in me that I did not see in myself,” said Blake, a 2016 Boston College graduate, Yale University MPH in 2018, who is now applying to medical school. “Whether it was on the lacrosse field, in the classroom, or in a college advising meeting, he encouraged me to be my best and to never give up. Under his wing, I became a confident young woman, and I owe a great deal of my success to Mr. I's extraordinary support and guidance during my time at Hamden Hall.”
For Alumnus Gabe Simerson, Class of 2016, Mr. I swayed his path to a political science major at American University in Washington, D.C. “Mr. I is one of the only teachers I’ve ever had who truly championed the concept of experiential education,” said Gabe, entering his senior year and also serving as communications director for Students for Free Expression. “Making history come alive in the classroom sounds gimmicky until you find yourself in a homemade boat in the Beckerman Athletic Center pool! And with Mr. I, even after you graduate, you’re never really gone—the friendship is permanent.”
As for Mr. I, his students have made all the difference.
“I've always treasured a line that John Keating, the brilliant, if esoteric English don in Dead Poets Society said to his students: You must strive to find your own voice, because the longer you wait to begin, the less likely you are going to find it at all. My students at Hamden Hall helped me improve my voice, teaching me something new most days, so I hope they knew I was committed to helping them find theirs,” Mr. I said.
As for his colleagues, Mr. I explained, “We often tell visitors that the secret of Hamden Hall are the people here. I was blessed to spend my days with individuals of courage, empathy, intelligence and a sense of humor. What more can anyone want?”
Sue Toole, a Hamden Hall college counselor and history teacher, said Mr. I was a valued colleague.
“Working with Tom, as both my department chair and my mentor when I went to UCLA to obtain my college counseling certificate, has been very rewarding. He taught me to think outside the box, to always look for the best fit for a student in the college process,” Mrs. Toole said.
Working closely with Mr. I, Mrs. Toole shared some fun facts about the educator.
Fact: Besides loving the teaching of history (A.P. U.S. History, A.P. Modern European History, and his “beloved” Maritime History), Mr. I feels most comfortable on the water.
Fact: He has done extensive research on Lord Nelson and will have an article published through Oxford University this fall.
Fact: Tom’s consistent attendance at women’s athletic events at Hamden Hall would place him in a fans hall of fame.
Fact: When it came to chaperoning proms and semi-formals, he always dressed the part, sporting a white dinner jacket.
Fact: During winter break, he packed the house (aka the College Counseling conference room) with enthusiastic alumni excited to “be back home.”
Fact: On the senior trips to Disney, he endured with the best of them unbearable heat, a tropical storm, lightning shows that put Disney’s fireworks to shame. Nothing fazed him!
Fact: A docent with Mystic Seaport and on its board, Tom was instrumental in bringing the Mystic partnership to Hamden Hall.
Next on the horizon for Tom is joyfully embracing a life of leisure with wife, Canny Cahn, who also retired in June after a long career in education. The couple (who met at Colgate, by the way) is moving to Wiscasset, Maine.
“Once there,” he explained, “I'll be working on a piece on Sir John Fisher and the development of the battle cruiser in the Royal Navy before WWI. I'll also inhale salt air, eat lots of fish and lobster, and bore people with tales about ‘what it was like when I was in independent schools.’"
Actually, Mr. I quips, some folks may maintain he’s got a jumpstart on telling those tales—from the profound to the playful.
“Tom can fill a room to be sure,” said Mrs. Toole, noting Mr. I’s Teddy Roosevelt look. “But he’s also a caring person, a fabulous and knowledgeable teacher, and most importantly a great friend. All those who have known and worked with Tom here at Hamden Hall will miss him greatly.”