John Booth ’83 credits Williston for many of the fortunate turns in his life—rescuing him from the anonymity of his 4,000-student high school on Long Island; spring-boarding him to Williams College, where he met his wife and developed his love of history; even providing him with the nickname Boother, which the 2016 Founders Award winner, Williston Trustee, and independent school dean still carries today. And none of this would have happened, he says, without the school’s financial assistance.
“For a time, we received food stamps and government-issued cheese, eggs, and powdered milk,” he recounted in his 2015 Williston convocation speech, describing his family’s financial struggles. “In fact, the only job my father could land was in Alaska, working the oil pipeline. At age 15, I saw him only once every few months.”
Williston’s generous grant allowed him to transfer to the school, although he still worked summers as a plumber’s apprentice in New York City. (“To protect those who helped me at the time, I cannot fully divulge how I landed a union job at age 16,” he quips.) And he continued working at Williston through the work-study program, assigned the job of picking up attendance slips and delivering them to the Schoolhouse. “I was given 45 minutes to complete the task—sun, rain, or snow,” he recalls. “I was paid the minimum wage at the time, $3.35 an hour. That totaled to a whopping $12.56 a week. And with that money, I did my laundry and, hopefully, had a few bucks left over to go to the 7-Eleven one night a week after study hall.”
Williston’s investment has clearly paid off. At Williams, John earned his B.A. in history and was a Herbert H. Lehman Scholar, and later earned his master’s in American history at Fordham University. He taught in Japan before returning in 1991 to teach at the Brunswick School in Greenwich, CT, where he was chairman of the History/Social Sciences Department from 2000 to 2013. He became a Williston trustee in 2013 and serves as the head of the Strategic Issues Committee. “John’s educational experience is a tremendous asset to the board,” notes Head of School Robert W. Hill III. “When school-related issues come up, he is the trusted voice in that room.” In 2007, John and his wife, Laura, also established The Booth Family Scholarship, in honor of the Class of 1983 and in memory of John’s classmate Brian W. Jopling ’83, who passed away in 2005. The fund provides need-based financial assistance.
At Brunswick, John now teaches AP U.S. Government and Politics, Understanding 9/11, and Modern China and Japan, and serves as the Upper School Academic Dean. “I have the best job in the world,” he told the gathered students in 2015. “I get to hang out with kids and try to help them reach goals they never thought imaginable…all because of Williston.”