Oral Histories

Heather Taff, Kora Bongen, Garry Kennebrew, Jr., Amy Peterson, and John Stark

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Heather Taff, Kora Bongen, Garry Kennebrew, Jr., Amy Peterson, and John Stark



Four members of the class of 2004 speak to their experiences at IMSA in an interview recorded at their 10-year reunion. Heather Taff recalls that she heard about IMSA when her parents came home with information about it. Kora Bongen says her parents wanted to send her to boarding school and she said no, thinking they meant in England, only to later realize they actually meant IMSA. Garry Kennebrew, Jr. says he and his parents were always on the lookout for other educational opportunities and they had neighbors who had sent children to IMSA, which is how he found out about it. Amy Peterson was a 'shmen - she had done some of the summer programs in middle school and then she applied in eighth grade.

In terms of residential life and extracurriculars, Taff recalls being the only person on the women's junior varsity tennis team who had ever played any tennis before, a novel experience compared to her home high school where you had to actually be good at sports to play! Bongen joined the fine arts club, because she wanted to try something different. Kennebrew had played football before coming to IMSA, but instead joined the soccer team and ran track. He also joined the acapella group, Mod 21, as the beatboxer. Peterson didn't play sports, but managed the boys soccer and basketball teams. She also participated in the yearbook club. They all participated in work service during their time at IMSA as well - in the music department, the college and academic counseling office, and in the library. Kennebrew has particularly fond memories of the library staff.

Kennebrew first came to IMSA for the Excel program and his IMSA memories start there with his roommate. Bongen also recalls meeting her first roommate sophomore year, and while they didn't stay roommates, they ended up being good friends. Taff and her roommate lived together all three years, though by senior year it got rather messy. They also speak about pranks students would play on each other.

On the academic side of things, they recall the teachers all having a lot of character and not being afraid to challenge the students or experiment with their teaching. Bongen recalls how science teacher Don Dosch walked out when a class was messing around and it forced them to be more serious about their work. Taff recalls setting things on fire with lenses in Branson Lawrence's physics class. Peterson remembers Micah Fogel's creative Halloween costumes. Classes could also be very challenging and intimidating, as well as memorable in other ways. They all reflect on how difficult the classes were, even compared to their college experiences.

Asked how the IMSA experience changed them, Taff says it gave her a lot of motivation to go out and do things. Bongen says she probably wouldn't have ended up in her field, computer science, without the extra math classes she was able to take at IMSA. Kennebrew likewise says he wouldn't be a successful without IMSA because struggling with the academics made him a much better student and that helped him to well in college. Peterson ended up getting a PhD from the same lab where she did an IMSA Mentorship. Though they all ended up in STEM fields, they also speak very highly of the humanities and language classes. While some of them had intended to participate in trips abroad as part of language programs, in their sophomore year all trips were cancelled after 9/11 and in their junior year an intersession trip was cancelled due to airfares. Kennebrew had the opportunity to go to Mexico with a Spanish class.

To conclude, Peterson reflects on how unique and significant her IMSA experience was. Kennebrew also mentions how his RC, Quintin Backstrom, was an important mentor to him. At the time of interview: Taff held a PhD in microbiology and was finishing her third year in medical school; Bongen studied computer science and worked at Cisco; Kennebrew had completed medical school and worked as a physician and captain in the US Army; and Peterson got a PhD in chemical engineering and was an assistant professor at Worcester Polytechnic.

Duration: 33:34




faculty, extracurriculars, summer programs, sports, friends, residential life, careers, work service, international travel


Oral History


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Heather Taff, Kora Bongen, Garry Kennebrew, Jr., Amy Peterson, and John Stark