Category Archives: Education

Bedford Middle Schoolers Head To Olympics

In just their 2nd year of existence, Bedford Middle School’s Science Olympiad team won the state championship.

There’s no telling how far they’ll go now.

Well, actually there is. They’re headed to University of Nebraska, for the national tournament next month.

The 21 middle schoolers compete in a grueling “academic track meet.” They are judged in 23 events, covering topics like earth science, epidemiology, ecology, topography, chemistry, anatomy, entomology, forensics, physics, geology, environmental science, robotics, and mechanical/engineering construction.

The youngsters designed a wooden glider launched by rubber bands, as well as a robot that can pick up small objects and move them around. They’ve also studied a crime scene (including chromatography, fingerprints and soil patterns), then written an essay about who did what (and how).

The Bedford Middle School Science Olympiad team. (Photo/Casey Donahue)

The Bedford Middle School Science Olympiad team. (Photo/Casey Donahue)

The Science Olympiad program was introduced at Bedford by principal Adam Rosen — a former participant himself.

Teachers Art Ellis and Rebecca Kaplan run it as a club. Students put hundreds of hours into preparation — after school nearly every day, and some Saturdays too.

They’ve accomplished a lot. But they can’t do everything alone.

Now — as they prepare for their trip to the nationals — they’re trying to raise $30,000, to cover airfare, buses, accommodations, meals and supplies for the Olympians and chaperones. A GoFundMe webpage has started them on their way.

Team members include Mark Ballesteros, Ethan Chin, Genevieve Domenico, Tyler Edwards, Chet Ellis, Tommy Fabian, Anna Hill, Angela Ji, Vignesh Kareddy, Zach Katz, Charlie Kleeger, Augustin Liu, Maria Maisonet, Aniruddha Murali, Nishika Navrange, Swami Parimal, Sirnia Prasad, Jory Teltser, Alex Tsang and Derek Ye.

Alex Siegenfeld: A Name You Should Know

On Monday evening, I posted a brief story about actress Linda Fiorentino’s Westport house being on the market. Longtime “06880” reader and frequent commenter Nancy W. Hunter weighed in from her home in British Columbia: “06880’s name-dropping has become so, so tiresome.”

I haven’t heard her reaction to a couple of stories I’ve done since, on Mark Naftalin‘s induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and Kyle Martino joining “Top Chef” star Kristen Kish on a New York Times “36 Hours” TV venture.

Maybe Nancy has sworn off my gossip site forever. If so, too bad.

Nancy: This one’s for you.

Alex Siegenfeld

Alex Siegenfeld

You’ve probably never heard the name Alex Siegenfeld before. He’s not a TMZ/Page Six boldface name, despite winning (at 17 years old) a gold medal in the International Chemistry Olympiad.

Now Alex has done something even more impressive. The Westport resident and Hopkins School graduate — today a student at MIT, heading toward a Ph.D. in physics (experimental condensed matter) — has won a $250,000 grant from the Fannie and John Hertz Foundation.

It’s good for up to 5 years of graduate study (with the encouragement to pursue science “for the public good”).

Alex was 1 of 12 honorees. The original pool of over 800 applicants was whittled down to 150, for a 1st round of interviews with national leaders in science and technology. Each candidate was tested on knowledge of broad scientific principles.

50 finalists were then selected, for a 2nd in-depth interview.

Hertz_logo_115h_02Hertz Fellows are free to innovate in their doctoral studies. They are not bound by traditional research funding restrictions. They have complete financial independence, under the guidance of top professors and mentors.

Hertz Fellows have gone on to win Nobel Prizes, found over 200 companies, register more than 3,000 patents, head major universities, and hold senior positions in the U.S. military.

Take that, Linda Fiorentino, Mark Naftalin and Kyle Martino!

(Hat tip: Mark Mathias)

It Was 20 Years Ago Today: Coleytown Consoled Oklahoma City Kids

In April 1995, online providers like CompuServe and Delphi charged by the hour, and by modem speed.

So it took a tragedy like the Oklahoma City bombing — on April 19, 1995 — for Westport realtor Mary Palmieri Gai to spend time on the fledgling internet. She felt compelled to see what other people were thinking, and find emotional support.

Many in the Oklahoma City area flocked online too. Students in particular were very afraid.

Suddenly, Mary had an idea: bring together local youngsters, and those 1500 miles away. Her daughter Melissa helped facilitate an important, human connection, through the computers at Coleytown Middle School.

To see what happened, click the YouTube video below:

(If your browser does not bring you directly to YouTube, click here.)

Westport Arts Center: Susan Malloy’s Living Legacy

In her 91 years, Susan Malloy was an exceptionally generous presence in Westport. Her time, energy and financial contributions aided countless organizations in town. The accolades pouring in after her death yesterday morning are heartfelt, well deserved, and broad in scope.

It’s hard to quantify which of so many institutions benefited the most from Susan’s generosity. But at least one most definitely would not be here today without her.

In 1947 a group of Westport artists began meeting informally — “and riotously,” according to a 2002 New York Times story — at various locations in town.

By 1969 they’d evolved into the Westport-Weston Arts Council. Their home was a tiny office in Town Hall.

In 1984, Joyce Thompson told the Times, the group needed its own home. They asked to use the former Greens Farms Elementary School — shuttered a few years earlier, when the student population declined.

After a year of negotiation, they agreed on a lease: $1 a year.

Greens Farms Elementary School was the Westport Arts Center first real home.

Greens Farms Elementary School was the Westport Arts Center’s first real home.

The newly named Westport Arts Center had to raise plenty of money, though. An oil tank had to be buried; steps needed to be installed — in addition to classrooms being converted into studios, halls painted white to use as a gallery, and the auditorium converted into a performance space.

The new center hosted art exhibitions, chamber concerts, children’s sculpture workshops and jazz jams.

But in the 1990s, the Times reports, the school population rose. The town wanted its school back. The Arts Center countered that they’d invested plenty of money in the building.

WACAfter heated negotiations the town paid the WAC over $500,000 to break the lease, and reimburse them for their improvements.

The Arts Center went on the road. They held concerts at the Seabury Center, the library and school auditoriums. They hung paintings wherever they could.

What they really needed was a home.

Heida Hermanns, a concert pianist who settled in Westport after fleeing the Holocaust in World War II, had set up a foundation to fund the Arts Center. But it wasn’t enough. And the settlement from the town had been designated for programs.

Susan Malloy stepped into the breach. “I could see the search was going nowhere,” the Times quoted her as saying. “Nothing was right. This place was too small, another wasn’t even in Westport, so I finally said, ‘OK. I’ll stake the arts center.”

Susan Malloy -- an artist herself -- helped the  Westport Arts Center survive.

Susan Malloy — an artist herself — helped the Westport Arts Center survive.

Her funds covered the rent for 2 years. It also inspired more donations. The result: In June of 2002, the Westport Arts Center opened its own home, on Riverside Avenue.

It’s been there for 13 happy, fruitful, artistic years. The WAC is now as permanent a part of the town as the library or Historical Society (2 other beneficiaries of Susan Malloy’s largesse).

It’s easy to forget the past. In Susan Malloy’s case, she wasn’t looking for praise, or even thanks. She simply saw a need, and filled it.

Think of that the next time you go to the Westport Arts Center. Or drive past it.

Or the next time someone asks you to help out your town, in any way you can.

The Westport Arts Center thrives today.

The Westport Arts Center thrives today.

Leaving Childhood Behind

Among his many gifts, Staples High School principal John Dodig has mastered the art of communicating important truths with simplicity and grace.

Recently, he sent a note to parents of graduating seniors. But its message is far broader. It should be read by anyone with children, of any age — and anyone who ever was a child. Dodig wrote:

Each year at this time I send a message to senior parents warning them to be ready for the feelings of loss as graduation day nears. This year, you and I are in the same boat. Both of us will face the end of our involvement in our child’s/student’s school life. Whether you have only one child or several, you will be hit with this intense sense of “the end” at some point between now and graduation day.

Graduation is a time for looking ahead -- and back.

Graduation is a time for looking ahead — and back.

What makes the American high school experience unique in the world is that high school is so much more than simply a place to go each day to learn. In most of the rest of the world, if you want to learn to play the cello, learn to draw or cook, or be competitive at a sport, you do so on your own time on weekends.

In America, all of these experiences are wrapped up in the same package. Our children leave home each morning and return sometimes late at night having studied French and calculus and then done something after school.

Chances are, you and I were on the sidelines to watch the team, or in the audience to hear the concert and to support our child/student. We become so much a part of their lives that facing the end of this experience is difficult to imagine.

Parents support many activities -- including the annual pops concert in the Staples courtyard.

Parents support many activities — including the annual pops concert in the Staples courtyard.

Think back, for a moment, on the 1st day of school for your child. Try to imagine holding his little hand as you walked him to the bus or to school or even to the classroom.

You might remember your child not wanting to let go of you, maybe even crying. You knew you had to let go and allow her to begin the 12-year journey through public school.

That journey was sometimes difficult and sometimes easy. Those little hands got bigger and, at some point, didn’t want to be held in public any more.

Growing up

Once in high school, these little boys and girls began changing into young men and women. Their bodies changed, their minds changed, their emotions changed, and they began to become somewhat independent people.

You still fed them. You still washed their clothes. You still paid for everything, but you sensed that they were beginning to separate from you and to prepare for a life apart from you and family.

On graduation day you will share in an emotional experience with your son or daughter. You will hug, get photos taken, have a party with family and then face a long summer where they will start preparing for what will come after high school.

They will always be your children, but you will never again be a part of their lives in the way you have been for the past twelve years. That will come to an end.

blog-eitan1

Among the “graduates” this year: principal John Dodig (right).

I will share your sense of loss, because I have watched thousands of young kids walk into our high school and begin to grow into competent, well-educated young adults only to leave us on graduation day. This will be the last graduation day for me, and I am grateful to share it with your child.

Use the next few months to revel in your beautiful creation. Your son/daughter will take a part of you into the future and perhaps create a new generation. Make that last hug in school at graduation tighter and stronger than normal, so that the feeling of that hug will last forever.

New Staples Principal Named

當然有斯台普斯高中沒有新校長。教育委員會仍在尋找之一。今天是4月1日你是一個很容易上當的愚人節。

Конечно, нет никакой новой директором Staples High School.Совет по образованию по-прежнему ищет для одного. Сегодня 1 апреля Вы очень доверчивы первоапрельская.

بالطبع ليس هناك مدير جديد للستابلز في مدرسة ثانوية. مجلس التربية والتعليم ما زال يبحث عن واحدة. اليوم هو شهر أبريل 1. أنت كذبة السذج جدا ابريل نيسان.

Isi John Dodig ga-akwụsị a June.

Isi John Dodig ga-akwụsị a June.

Φυσικά, δεν υπάρχει καμία νέα αρχή της Staples Γυμνάσιο. Το Διοικητικό Συμβούλιο της Παιδείας είναι ακόμα ψάχνουν για ένα. Σήμερα είναι η 1η Απριλίου Είστε ένας πολύ αφελείς Πρωταπριλιά.

כמובן שאין מנהל חדש של בית ספר תיכון סטייפלס.מועצת החינוך עדיין מחפשת אחד. היום הוא 1 באפריל אתה אחד באפריל מאוד פתי.

ඇත්ත ස්ෙට්පල් උසස් පාසලේ නව විදුහල්පති පවතී. අධ්යාපන මණ්ඩලය තවමත් එක් සඳහා සොයමින් සිටී. අද දින ඔබ ඉතා රැවටිය අප්රේල් මෝඩයාගේ වේ අප්රේල් 1. වේ.

Kumene kulibe latsopano yaikulu ya zakudya zamtundu High School. Komiti ya Education akadali kufunafuna. Lero ndi April 1. Inu ndinu kwambiri amangokhulupirira April wakupupwa.

Wrth gwrs mae yna cyfarwyddwr newydd o Ysgol Uwchradd Staples. Y Bwrdd Addysg yn dal i chwilio am un. Mae heddiw yn Ebrill 1’re ffwl hygoelus iawn Ebrill.

Staples High School se toujou pou chèche yon direktè lekòl la.

Staples High School se toujou pou chèche yon direktè lekòl la.

Auðvitað er engin helsta ný af Staples High School. Stjórn Menntun er enn að leita fyrir einn. Í dag er 1. apríl Þú ert mjög gullible fífl apríl.

Natürlich gibt es keine neuen Rektor der Staples High School. Das Board of Education ist immer noch auf der Suche nach einem. Heute ist der 1. April Du bist ein sehr leichtgläubig Aprilscherz.

Naturalmente non vi è nuovo preside di Staples High School. Il Board of Education è ancora alla ricerca di uno. Oggi è il 1 aprile Sei un pazzo molto credulone aprile.

Bien sûr, il ne est pas nouveau directeur de Staples High School. Le Conseil de l’éducation est toujours à la recherche pour un. Aujourd’hui, ce est Avril 1. Vous êtes un imbécile très crédules Avril.

Por supuesto no hay un nuevo director de la Escuela Secundaria de Staples. La Junta de Educación aún está buscando una. Hoy es 1 de abril Eres un tonto de abril muy crédulo.

Luis Cruz Dreams Big — And Makes Us All Proud

Every March, the A Better Chance “Dream Event” is one of the greatest feel-good galas of the year.

Each time, the graduating seniors’ speeches are the highlights of the entire evening.

But Luis Cruz’s speech Saturday night to an overflow crowd ranks among the best ever.

The only senior among this year’s 8 ABC scholars, he wowed the crowd with his insights, passion and compassion. Here is an edited version of his remarks:

This program has meant a lot to me and my family. It is because of people like you that I was given this opportunity — to live in one of the best communities in the entire country.

The 2014-15 A Better Chance scholars. Luis Cruz is 2nd from right.

The 2014-15 A Better Chance scholars. Luis Cruz is 2nd from right.

Leaving Newark to see the A Better Chance program for the 1st time, I was filled with mixed emotions. I wasn’t sure if I was ready to leave the life I knew — the ice cream trucks marking the rhythm of the day as they repeatedly passed my apartment; seeing and hearing kids playing in the open fire hydrants, and watching the sea of kids riding their bicycles toward the park, which I used to do every Friday with my friends, until my mom took away my bike because she didn’t want me to get hit by a car.

Pulling into Westport I saw big homes, with big yards, with big cars, parked in front of their big homes. There was grass everywhere — green and perfectly trimmed. Instead of crowds of people, there was a parade of SUVs. Joggers and deer shared the roads.

I remembered my middle school, with its security guards in every hallway. In Newark there were fist fights, food fights and paper fights. My classmates cared only about their reputation and looking fresh. No one really cared about school.

In Westport, it’s pretty funny to me that the richest kids come to school looking so ruffled. Kids in Newark wouldn’t be caught dead looking that poor.

When the principal visited a class in Newark, that meant another lecture. In Westport, it means that Mr. Dodig wants to know how I’m fitting in and what I did last weekend.

A Better ChanceThe A Better Chance program has allowed me to take advantage of many opportunities in Westport. I have grown a lot from all of these experiences, especially from joining the great athletic programs at Staples.

Luis explained how — although he was “a bad soccer player and a terrible runner,” and had a very difficult time with the fitness demands — freshman coach Chris O’Dell took him aside.

He asked me the most important question of my teen life: “Do you want to keep going? It won’t get any easier from here.”

I hesitated, as I was in such pain and agony.

I just went with my gut.

“Yes, Coach O’Dell. I’ll take that challenge.” From that day on, I never looked back.

Luis fell in love with running. He joined the indoor and outdoor track teams. He worked hard, and improved steadily. The next fall he ran cross country. To laughter, he said, “I didn’t even know that was a sport.”

Luis Cruz: cross country star.

Luis Cruz: cross country star.

At the New England Outdoor Championship, in spring of sophomore year, Luis earned  All-New England status.

I was so proud of myself. I wanted to tell everyone what I had just accomplished. The only sad part was that my parents weren’t there to see it. All I could do was send them a video and show them my medal. But what really counted is that they knew I had worked hard for this.

That day marked my growth as a runner, from the slowest to the fastest. That is the physical evidence of the powerful impact of A Better Chance. I learned something these past 4 years: “If no one else sees it for you, you must see it for yourself.”

Luis Cruz at the A Better Chance Dream Event, flanked by his teammate and great friend Oliver Hickson, and his track coach Laddie Lawrence.

Luis Cruz at the A Better Chance Dream Event, flanked by his teammate and great friend Oliver Hickson, and his track coach Laddie Lawrence. (Photo/Jessica Sochol)

Luis traveled to Costa Rica, for a summer program. It opened his eyes to even more possibilities.

I realized that humans have the power to make a difference. This is why I am considering becoming an engineer. Solving real-world problems, using my talents in mathematics, is how I want to effect positive change in the world.

On the surface, it was an easy decision to join A Better Chance, to go to a school with all the resources a student could possibly need. My mother and father were proud of me for making the decision to explore a different way of life, yet they were silent on the car ride to Connecticut. We all knew that the next 4 years were ones we wouldn’t get back in terms of being a family.

My parents never got to see me pick my first pumpkin. They missed the chance to see me break the 5-minute-mile barrier. They never got to see me play soccer on a team with uniforms and real cleats. They weren’t there to comfort me when I lost a race for my team because I dropped the baton.

But they will be there when I graduate high school. And I know they will be there when I graduate college!

A proud Luis Cruz, and his equally proud family.

A proud Luis Cruz, and his equally proud family. (Photo/Jessica Sochol)

It has been difficult at times, living between 2 very different communities and cultures. But the sacrifice has paid off in my achievements, both academically and socially.

I will have more choices than my parents had. I marvel now that my parents have survived in a country where they barely speak the languages. I am also amazed and thankful that they realized that education is the key to a better life.

After thanking his parents emotionally — “Te amo Mami y Papi. Gracias para todo” — Luis concluded:

My parents and I talk nearly every day. They are nothing like typical teen conversations. I have so much to say to them, because all of my experiences are new to all of us. I remember buying my 1st pair of Sperry Topsiders. While that is not an event worth discussing for some, for me it was a milestone. My parents and I talked about it forever — once I told them that they were shoes.

Now, in less than 3 months I will become the 1st person in my immediate family to go to college. Just like Forrest Gump, I went from being average to being a winner.

I am Luis Cruz, aka Papi, your friend. Thank you!

(To learn more about A Better Chance, click here.)

Frank Bruni: “A Generation Of High School Kids Throws Darts At The College Dartboard”

An overflow crowd filled the Westport Library yesterday, to hear Frank Bruni talk about college admissions.

Go figure.

The award-winning New York Times journalist — who has covered presidents and popes, served as chief restaurant critic, and now writes a wildly popular Sunday column — was here to talk about his new book.

Frank Bruni bookIt’s called Where You’ll Go Is Not Who You’ll Be: An Antidote To The College Admissions Mania. On this topic, of course, Westport is one of the most manic places on the planet.

Bruni, who is 50, grew up in an area similar to Westport — a place that could give us a run for our (college-leads-to-Wall Street) money.

But even though there was an implied competition back then, based on college stickers on the backs of cars — and even though Bruni joked about going to a school (the University of North Carolina) supposedly less prestigious than those of his siblings — he said things today are far, far worse.

Which is why he wrote his book.

Bruni said that as he realized he knew so many contented and accomplished people — and that they’d gone to an enormous range of colleges — he understood that all the admissions talk has been focused on the wrong thing.

“We should focus much more on how students choose and use college, than on how to get in,” he said. “‘Success’ comes not from where you go, but from figuring out a school’s landscape, and how to till it.”

Frank Bruni

Frank Bruni

Citing examples from his book, Bruni talked about schools like Rhode Island School of Design (where the founders of Airbnb went), and the University of Waterloo (which produced the most number of graduates with successful Y Combinator venture capital pitches).

Last year, Bruni taught a course at Princeton. Though he was “in some way in awe” of the school, he realized that many students were tone deaf about their place in it, and the world.

One eating club tradition is “State Night.” Students dress, and act, “as if they went to a state school,” he said.

Part of the reason is that high school students in places like Westport hear messages about the perceived differences between private and state schools (and see “rankings” of every private school too).

College pennantsPart of the reason too is that some students spend so much time trying to “get in” that they don’t care much about what happens once they do.

“We have a generation of kids applying to 18 or 20 different college. They’re throwing darts at a dartboard. They can’t understand what all those schools offer. So once they get there, they don’t know what to do,” Bruni said.

Audience members had plenty of questions.

They wanted to know what Bruni thought about the importance of “making connections” at highly competitive schools. (He thinks that students at those college are already on the path to success. “If you’re someone who reaches far, it doesn’t matter which school gave you its imprimatur. You’ll get there.”)

There are plenty of reasons for this admissions mania, Bruni noted — and it’s not only parents who share the blame. Colleges “cynically” take measures to drive down their acceptance rates — like not requiring SATs, or sending information to students who are clearly not qualified — so their yields will look more impressive in the US News & World Report rankings.

The overflow audience at the Westport Library.

The overflow audience at the Westport Library.

Bruni says it’s important for “influencers” — teachers, counselors, anyone talking with students — to change the tone of conversations.

Of course, those conversations often begin at home. “Kids should not feel that where they go to college is a validation — or repudiation — of their parents.”

The crowd was large and appreciative. Bruni’s message was especially important for teenagers to hear. But there were very few of them in the audience.

I guess the sophomores and juniors were at SAT courses.

And the seniors were home, waiting to hear from 18 or 20 colleges.

Pedro Da Silva’s Legacy

Two years ago — as a Central High School sophomore — Pedro Da Silva heard an announcement about Open Choice.

“I think I was the only one who listened,” he says, referring to the lottery that brings Bridgeport students to Westport.

Though he was in Central’s magnet school program, Pedro wanted more. “It was a tough environment to learn in,” he explains.

He was accepted. Even before his 1st day as a Staples High School junior, he noticed a difference.

Staples sealWhile registering for classes, guidance counselor Deb Slocum  “ran over the entire building, looking for an AP US History textbook for me,” Pedro says. “She went to such a huge extent to help.”

When school began, he noticed a great academic difference. He had to drop a couple of AP and Honors classes. Even so, he struggled to keep up.

“In Contemporary World Issues they were talking about the Ottoman Empire,” Pedro recalls. “I had no idea what that was.”

He wrote down everything that was unfamiliar. At home each night, he researched what he did not know.

The first month was tough. Fortunately, Pedro found his new classmates very friendly. “I thought they might be snobby,” he says. “But everyone was so nice. I noticed the atmosphere immediately. It’s so warm and inviting. Mr. Dodig (the principal) has built such an accepting school.”

Joining Staples Players and Choir helped too. “At Staples you’re not judged for liking the arts,” he says with relief.

Pedro Da Silva, standing proudly at Staples.

Pedro Da Silva, standing proudly at Staples.

Pedro acted in “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” and last year’s One-Act Festival. Next month, he’s directing a One-Act. In the winter he’s on the swim team. He’s vice president of the St. Jude’s Charity Club.

Now — as he prepares to graduate in June — Pedro wants to do one more thing.

He wants to leave a legacy.

Through a college application Facebook group, he met a boy in Kansas. “He lives in an area like Fairfield County, where some communities are much more affluent than others,” Pedro says. His friend created an inter-district student government. Each school sends 2 representatives. They meet monthly, sharing ideas about connecting their schools while breaking down barriers and social stereotypes.

Pedro would love to do the same thing with Westport, Fairfield and Bridgeport.

“Stereotypes are not real,” he notes. “There are really nice people everywhere.”

Central HSWhen Pedro announced he was leaving Central, his Bridgeport friends warned him that Westport kids could be snobs. Staples students have their own ideas about Bridgeport students.

“We’re all just teenagers going through the same issues,” Pedro says. “We should be able to advocate together, and learn from each other.”

Pedro has already made a start. He’s brought Central friends here, to see Players shows. Now, he’s talking to Dodig and the Student Assembly to move his idea forward.

Meanwhile, he’s waiting to hear back from colleges. And he’s gearing up for his senior internship, at the Southwest Regional Mental Health Board in Norwalk.

Pedro will leave Staples with many good friends, wonderful memories, and an important lesson.

“No matter who you are, or what your background is, you can excel,” he says. “At Staples, I’ve been able to set my sights high, and learn how to accomplish as much as I can.”

Westport Y: Suddenly $40 Million Richer

A capital campaign for a new Westport Weston YMCA  fell short of its goal earlier this decade. So the Mahackeno facility — called the Bedford Family Center — was broken into 2 phases.

Phase I opened last fall, with an airy fitness center, gleaming new pool, well-lit exercise rooms, nice new gym and a much-needed child’s play space. The site was purchased decades ago — with the generous help of Frederick T. Bedford, Ruth’s father.

The new YMCA -- known as the Bedford Family Center -- at Mahackeno.

The new YMCA — known as the Bedford Family Center — at Mahackeno.

But the new Y lacks other amenities, like childcare, gymnastics and racquetball. And the locker rooms are badly cramped. Y officials promised they’d be added some vague time later, during Phase II.

Phase II suddenly seems a lot closer to reality.

The Y announced today that it has received $40 million from the estate of Ruth Bedford. The last surviving granddaughter of Edward T. Bedford — a director of Standard Oil and founder of the Westport Y, among many other philanthropic projects — died last June, at 99.

Norwalk Hospital logoYet this is not Ruth Bedford’s only astonishing gift. She also left $40 million to Norwalk Hospital. She loved that institution too — and volunteered there, logging almost 17,000 hours in the gift shop, over 5 decades. (A previous gift from E.T. Bedford, decades ago, enabled the hospital to double its patient capacity.)

But wait! There’s more! Another $40 million bequest — believed to be the largest ever to an all-girls’ school — went to Foxcroft, a tiny private girls school in Virginia that was Bedford’s alma mater.

The Y’s plans for the fallen-from-the-sky money are not yet set.

Officials say they will use it for “current and future capital development needs” — perhaps including new locker rooms? — and “to endow programs for wellness and youth in a way that honors the tradition of the Bedford family legacy.”

For nearly a century, that legacy has enriched Westport. It continues to do so, even after death.